The Sun Festival was a festival held since ancient times in the Zhcted Kingdom.
To celebrate the end of winter, the beginning of spring and the beginning of the New Year, bread smeared with honey and vodka were served, and candles were given to people in the capital Silesia.
“Satiate your hunger with bread. Quench your thirst with vodka. Repel darkness with candles.”
While humming as if singing these words transmitted from old days, government officials went around distributing bread and vodka. By the way, kvass  was given to those who couldn’t drink vodka.
The Sun Festival was carried out over a period of three days, but the population of the capital at this time was more than double of the usual one. In addition to those coming for festival sightseeing all the way from towns and villages, this was also because peddlers, itinerant entertainers and female dancers from inside and outside of the country gathered.
No matter which street one walked, minstrels and clowns were conspicuous; they sang, danced as if competing and exhibited rare shows. Applauses resounded, cheers flew, and copper and silver coins danced in the sky.
Words flying about were not just the Zhcted language. There were also languages of neighboring countries including Brune and also the language of far-off countries such as Yafa.
The Muozinel people with dark brown skin spoke the Zhcted language with a strong accent, and the red-haired and blue-eyes Sachstein people lined up some poor foreign words. If there were those who quarreled there, there were also those hitting it off with others with only gestures.
There were also more stalls than usual, spit-roasting of meat and fish let a savory smell drift and multicolored accessories and handiworks lined up on carpets spread on the ground. If there were those who displayed various articles and received games of chess, there were also figures of fortunetellers who put a crystal ball on a table.
A martial arts tournament was held in the royal palace’s front yard. It was a competition for sword, spear, bow and a horse’s ability. It gathered participants widely, ranging from a widely known knight to a certain soldier with a familiar skill, and from a traveling mercenary to people from cities.
The knight struggled hard so that he won’t fall behind the soldier and mercenary, and the soldier desperately fought so as to not miss the opportunity which presented itself. The mercenary too, as he wanted the reward, stayed close to them in order to embellish himself up.
The people of the capital sent them cheers, some people also amused themselves in secretly betting, and the martial arts tournament was greatly enlivened.
Domestic nobles and knights, their wives and daughters, their attendants, well-known scholars and craftsmen, and ambassadors of neighboring countries were gathered in the royal palace. If there were those resting in guest rooms until the banquet, there were also those who were pleasantly chatting as they gathered in the very long corridor. There were also those who were busy going around greeting people.
“Somehow, I can’t calm down…”
While standing at the edge of the corridor and looking at the banquet hall, Tigrevurmud Vorn could not get rid of his discomfort. If he had not made a promise to meet here, he would have long left.
The youth was called by his nickname Tigre from those close to him. Entering upon a New Year, he turned 18 years old.
Currently, Tigre wrapped his body in black formal clothes. His darkish red hair was also carefully arranged. If he stood with a dignified attitude, he would probably look like a gallant and noble young man.
However, as he was absentmindedly looking at the banquet hall with a puzzled face, he looked at best like an ordinary countryside noble.
In fact, Tigre was only a mere countryside noble until two years ago. He was an Earl of the Brune Kingdom and was governing a small land in the frontier called Alsace.
Two years ago, there was a civil war in Brune. Duke Thenardier and Duke Ganelon, the great nobles who represented Brune tried to eliminate King Faron and grasp real power. Having stopped their plot was Tigre.
Tigre got the cooperation of Eleonora Viltaria, one of the seven Vanadis of the Zhcted Kingdom and defeated Duke Thenardier’s army. He protected Princess Regin whose whereabouts were unknown and brought peace to Brune.
Afterwards, there were negotiations between Brune and Zhcted and it was decided that Tigre would stay in the Zhcted Kingdom as a guest General for three years. It was decided that he would stay in the LeitMeritz dukedom governed by Elen.
But, his daily life as a guest General only lasted for half a year. This was because after receiving a request of the Zhcted King Victor, Tigre proceeded to the Asvarre Kingdom as a messenger.
Tigre who visited Asvarre was rolled up in the quarrel between the two Princes for the throne. After twists and turns, Tigre cooperated with a young General called Tallard Graham and they brought the civil war to an end. In that way, he was going to return to Zhcted with his companions.
However, the return ship was attacked by a demon and Tigre was thrown into the night sea. Although his life was saved by a frightening existence beyond human knowledge and he was washed ashore to Zhcted, he lost his memory.
It was really just recently that he regained his memory after meeting with Elen.
A guest General is not a subordinate of the King. Setting him up as a messenger to a foreign country and moreover because he almost died was a serious matter. Mashas Rodant, a noble of Brune, demanded an audience with King Victor in order to question about this matter.
King Victor apologized about two points namely the clumsiness of the message to Brune, and the fact that the cooperation to Tigre was insufficient, and in addition to indemnity, consented about letting Tigre return to Brune without waiting for the three years of the promise. This was an apology within the possible range for Zhcted.
At this time, Victor made one suggestion.
“How about Earl Vorn returns home after the Sun Festival is over? I would like for him to enjoy this festival. Also, in the middle of the Sun Festival, I will be able to get time to talk with the Earl.”
Mashas accepted that suggestion. In the current Brune, there were also other people whom they should be wary of. He had to avoid doing something like crushing Zhcted’s honor and making an enemy out of it.
Tigre too had no objection. This was because they were things he should do while he was in Zhcted.
Thus, after seeing off Mashas who returned to Brune one step earlier, Tigre visited the capital together with Elen, her adjutant Limalisha and his maid Titta.
Probably because he was standing idly, Tigre was called out by young noble men and women several times. After responding each time with a short greeting and forced smile, he saw them, who walked away, off.
After standing here and counting to about 1000, at that time the person he was waiting for appeared.
When he wondered about why commotion occurred in a slightly remote place, one girl showed up as she slipped out between people. When she found Tigre, she revealed a shining smile.
“Sorry for having kept you waiting, Tigre.”
“Yea”, the youth could only give such a vague reply. As he was fascinated, other words did not come out. Even the nobles present in this place, regardless of men and women, leaked sighs of admiration.
Her silver hair which reached up to her waist was carefully done up, makeup was lightly applied on her well-featured face and her shiny lips let one feel a feminine charm. Her pupils which harked back to rubies were full of vitality and furthermore increased her beauty.
She wore a blue silk dress and both her shoulders were bared. Though her cleavage slightly peeped out, her necklace which imitated spreading wings shone on her chest and gave a calm atmosphere.
She did not wear gloves but a silver bracelet on which a hunter was carved shone on her left arm. That arm was trained and firm, but it was by no means boorish, it gave a flexible impression. Her threefold skirt which used frills abundantly was loosely made and was long so as to reach her feet.
On her waist, there was a long sword sheathed in its scabbard. There was a thin silver belt to the waist of the dress and the sword with a blue obi around it.
Bringing a weapon into such a place was strictly forbidden. Only knights and soldiers guarding the royal palace were allowed to have one.
But, this weapon and she were an exception. This long sword with the name of Silver Flash Arifal was called a Dragonic Tool, and she was one of the proud Vanadis of Zhcted.
Her name was Eleonora Viltaria. She, who was called by her nickname Elen, turned 18 years old like Tigre in this New Year. She continued growing up both as a warrior and a girl.
“No… I didn’t wait that much.”
What came out from the mouth of the youth who finally pulled himself together were such silly words. Then, Tigre noticed the bracelet that Elen wore on her left arm. When he went to Asvarre, he bought it as a souvenir for her.
He said so unintentionally. Elen seemed to have noticed what the youth was talking about from his gaze. As her cheeks dyed red, she revealed an embarrassed smile.
“In such times, you should say something like ‘it suits you very well’. By the way, how do you find it? Your first Sun Festival.”
Tigre did not attend last year’s Sun Festival.
He’d also received King Victor’s invitation and intended to attend it, but his departure was one day later than Elen and Lim’s as he was pressed by the preparations of beginning his life in LeitMeritz, and moreover the highway leading to the capital couldn’t be used due to a snowstorm and he finally desisted from attending it.
“I can’t quite say anything yet, but I’m more interested in what is outside than inside of the royal palace.”
The state of the capital that he saw before entering the royal palace was full of liveliness as to be overwhelmed. For Tigre who did not have too good a memory about banquets in a royal palace, he felt like the streets crowded with many stalls, street performances and the likes and the atmosphere brought about by people enjoying the festival suited him much better.
“Though it’s impossible today, I’ll take you outside tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. ──Now then.”
Elen approached Tigre and grabbed his hand.
“Let’s go, Tigre.”
“Go? Where to?”
Tigre stared at the silver-haired Vanadis with a wondering face. He thought about waiting here until the banquet begins. Elen answered while walking and pulling the youth’s hand.
“There are several guest rooms for resting over there. Lim and Titta are there.”
Tigre nodded as he understood that they’re going to meet the two girls.
Lim ── Limalisha was Elen’s close friend and adjutant. For Tigre, she was his teacher of politics and military affairs, and he was also taught various things other than that. They have also fought shoulder-to-shoulder on many occasions and she was almost as important as Elen.
Titta was the maid who served Tigre since a long time ago. When Tigre came to live at LeitMeritz as a guest General, she bravely followed the youth as she wished to stay by his side. She was an important existence for Tigre after all.
Tigre and Elen walked the very long corridor and stopped before a certain room. Urged by Elen’s gaze, the youth lightly knocked on the door. When he called out through the door, Titta replied.
The door was opened. Within the wide room where furniture and furnishings were put were Lim and Titta.
Lim turned 21 years old. She tied her dull golden hair on the left side of her head. Though she had an unsociable expression, Tigre knew that she possessed both gentleness and strictness.
Lim wrapped her tall figure in blue formal clothes. It was not a dress like Elen’s, but it was close to what Tigre was wearing. The area around her chest looked slightly cramped. The reason why she wore not a skirt, but trousers was because she gave priority to the ease of movement.
Titta was 17 years old. She did up her hair, which was usually done in twin tails, into a ponytail and she wore a dress dyed bright golden yellow. Dark blue ribbons without decoration were tied on her chest and cuffs, and it rather drew out her simplicity and loveliness.
“Both of you, your clothes look very good on you.”
When Tigre praised her, Titta hung her head down with a face which turned bright red.
“Lord Tigrevurmud. For Titta aside, I think that for me there is a slightly different way of saying it though.”
Lim’s talking was like that of a teacher admonishing her student’s mistake. It was not like she felt offended, but she warned him to be careful about his choice of words. Tigre shook his head.
“Of course, I’ll be careful in the case of other people. It’s true that I think it looks good on Lim. The range of good looking clothes is vast, huh.”
Lim silently bowed to the youth’s words. Elen revealed a nasty smile.
“Lim. If you’re happy for being praised, shouldn’t you say so?”
Her blond-haired adjutant raised her face and turned a blaming gaze to her lord teasing her. However, what Elen said was correct. After having shown a demeanor of thinking, Lim indifferently said.
“Lord Tigrevurmud too, you look good in that.”
“I-I also think that Tigre-sama looks great in that!”
Titta who was immersed in happiness after being praised pulled herself together and bounced her voice.
“Thank you, you two.”
Tigre returned a smile. If those two girls said so, it seemed that even these stiff clothes were not bad. Then, as she recalled something, Elen asked.
“By the way, Lim, have Sofy and the others already come?”
“Sofya-sama and Ludmila-sama came some time ago.”
“What, even Ludmila?”
Sofya Obertas and Ludmila Lourie were Vanadis like Elen. Sofya had the nickname of Sofy and Ludmila had the nickname of Mila; and Tigre called them so. For the youth, the two girls were important comrades in arms.
But, Elen who had a bad relation with Mila by no means called her so. It was also the same for Mila.
When Elen turned to Tigre, she asked with a happy smile.
“Tigre. Whose place do you want to visit?”
After regaining his memory and having returned to LeitMeritz, Tigre wrote a letter to inform those, whom he was close to, of his safety commencing with Mila. However, he had not met them yet.
If he thought about giving priority to someone, the other might be offended. Tigre who realized the intention of Elen’s question answered with a wry smile.
“Let’s visit in turns from the nearer room.”
“The one who is in the nearest room is Ludmila-sama.”
Lim answered and although Elen pouted and made a sour look, she immediately pulled herself together.
“It can’t be helped. I also have to meet her after all. Let’s quickly get it over with.”
As Lim and Titta also accompanied them, the four people headed to the guest room where Mila was.
The guest room, where Mila was, was only three doors away from the room where Lim and company were. Although only three, it was quite distant as each room was big.
When Tigre lightly knocked on the door and named himself, a reply came with a stiff voice.
Tigre pushed the door open. There were three people in the room. There was a blue-haired girl standing in front of a dresser mirror put at the back ── Mila and two court ladies standing beside her. Near the dresser mirror, Mila’s Dragonic Tool, a spear ── the Frozen Wave Lavias was leaned.
Tigre could not help but stand stock still on the spot. Mila wore a dress like Elen’s, she was so beautiful that he stopped moving and fixed his eyes upon her.
She wore her blue hair up and put on white and red corollas (flowers). The dress was composed of light blue and snow white colors and boldly exposed her shoulders, it would probably give an impression of purity more than lusciousness to the beholder. Red and golden ornaments given everywhere emphasized the white of the dress well enough.
The gloves extending to the elbows were also white and gold was treated on the cuffs. The skirt reaching up to her feet was two-fold, and light blue and white carefully overlapped there, too. The white obi wound to her waist was big and harked back to wings as it softly opened.
“She looks like a snowy fairy coming out of a fairy tale…”
Titta standing behind the youth muttered. Tigre was also of the same opinion, but at the same time he felt slight confusion.
Mila was staring at Tigre with a slightly displeased face. However, Tigre had no memory of having done anything which soured her mood. In the first place, it was their reunion for the first time in a half year.
For the time being, Tigre walked until before her. Elen and the others also followed later.
“It’s been a long time.”
Tigre said so with a smile, but Mila, not returning any words, intently looked at the youth from head to toes. After a short pause, she slightly nodded.
“It doesn’t look like you were seriously injured so as to lose an arm.”
“So that’s it” Tigre finally understood.
“Yes. As you see, I’m safe and sound, the very image of health itself. I’m sorry for having worried you.”
“…I wasn’t particularly worried.”
As she deliberately said in a cold tone, Mila turned her face away from the youth.
“I know you well after all. You aren’t the kind of person to die easily. I was just a little anxious.”
“What. I was sure that you would have hugged Tigre while crying aloud.”
Elen who was watching the two people’s exchanges from behind sarcastically said. Mila’s face suddenly turned bright red and she glared at the silver-haired Vanadis.
“T-There is no way I would do such a shameful thing before people!”
“Finding it shameful there is your shortcoming… No, wait. Would you have done it if it wasn’t before people?”
Not overlooking even one word, Elen frowned and asked. Mila opened wide her eyes as to say “oops”, closed her mouth and let her eyes swim. Her eyes meeting Tigre’s who was standing next to her, the blue-haired Vanadis abruptly changed the topic.
Not understanding the meaning of her words, Tigre fixedly stared at Mila whose cheeks flushed. She pouted in displeasure and spoke vehemently.
“I’m talking about the souvenir which you bought in Asvarre. It wasn’t bad. But, I wanted to receive such a thing from your hands properly.”
When Tigre proceeded to Asvarre, he bought souvenirs for people close to him. While the youth went missing, they were delivered by Sofy and Elen’s hands to those who should receive them. While thinking that she said something unreasonable, Tigre was happy about her words.
“I’ll do so at the next opportunity. I’m glad that it was to your taste.”
“Yes. Next time when you come to Olmutz, I’ll treat you with the one I brewed.”
As Mila finally regained her usual mood, Lim and Titta once again greeted the blue-haired Vanadis. Mila was welcoming towards Lim as usual, but she showed a somewhat different reaction regarding the chestnut-haired girl.
“Speaking of which, it was written in Tigre’s letter, but… It seemed that you went until Lebus to meet Tigre.”
Titta nodded with a wondering face.
It was at the time of Brune’s civil war that Titta and Mila got to know each other, but Mila has never spoke familiarly with her until now. This was because due to the difference of position between a Vanadis and a maid, Mila had not paid that much attention to Titta’s existence. Titta understood that, too.
However, now, Mila revealed a sympathetic smile and praised Titta.
“You really accomplished a winter trip even severe for an adult. It’s really admirable.”
“T-Thank you! But, it was because Mashas-sama and Limalisha-san were there. I couldn’t accomplish that alone…”
Although blushing with an embarrassed face, Titta showed an honest smile and bowed to Mila. Tigre too smiled broadly at the pleasant exchange. He was also glad that Mila recognized Titta.
Once again, Elen and Mila exchanged greetings. Though it was courteous, it was shameless to the extent that not only Lim, but even the court ladies standing beside Mila knitted their eyebrows.
“We’re done with the greetings. Well then, let’s go see Sofy.”
To the words of Elen who turned to Tigre and company, Mila, who was making a face as if to say “leave quickly”, reacted.
“Has Sofy already come, too? I’m going too.”
Elen and Mila had by no means a compatible relation, but Sofy was a common friend to them. Although the silver-haired Vanadis made a sour look, he did not refuse.
As Mila picked up Lavias which was leaned against the wall, she told the court ladies to take a rest. She left the guest room with Tigre and company.
According to Lim, the guest room where Sofy was seemed to be two rooms away from the room where Mila was. During their short walk, Tigre and company who increased to five people felt multiple gazes. The degree of attention increased as there were two Vanadis together.
Regarding Lim and Titta, they could guess that they were servant and maid from their attires. Then, it was natural that the question of, who was the man walking together with them (the two Vanadis), sprang out.
“We might as well walk with arms linked.”
Elen walking next to Tigre teasingly laughed, and Mila unusually agreed with her.
“It isn’t a bad idea. It looks like it’s necessary to properly seize him.”
“Give me a break. I’ll be unable to walk as I’d be afraid to step on the hems of your dresses.”
While they were talking about such a thing, Tigre and company arrived before Sofy’s room.
—I haven’t seen Sofy since that time, huh…
The last time when Tigre and Sofy were together was when they were returning from Asvarre. On the ship that the two of them were boarding, there were also the Vanadis Olga Tamm and the former sailor of Legnica, Matvey. It was around the end of autumn.
That ship was attacked by a demon and Tigre who fell into the sea lost his memory.
Tigre who regained his memory was worried about whether or not they were saved. When he heard from Elen that Sofy was safe, he heaved a sigh of relief.
By the way, he had met Matvey again in Legnica where he stopped by on his way returning to LeitMeritz. As he let his atrocious face distort, Matvey was glad about Tigre’s safety and the two of them that day spent all night long talking.
Knocking on the door of Sofy’s room, Tigre named himself. It was also the same when he knocked on Mila’s door, but this was Elen’s consideration. It was her idea that Tigre should meet them first so as to reassure the other party.
“It’s opened. You may come in.”
Sofy replied and Tigre opened the door.
It was a room with a calm atmosphere. Sofy’s Dragonic Tool, a bishop’s staff ── Light Flower Zaht was leaned against the wall and a beautiful woman was sitting on a chair put at the center. She was Sofya Obertas.
Sofy arranged her long golden hair in three braids and put on a leaf crown. Surprise and joy respectively spread in her beryl-colored pupils.
She, who held the nickname of “Brilliant Princess of the Light Flower”, also wrapped her body in a dress like the other Vanadises. It was a green dress and the chest and back were greatly opened. The skirt which reached up to the feet alternately piled up a deep green and a white color, and it reminded one of a calm forest covered with snow.
The gloves made of laces covered from the wrists to the elbows, and a golden necklace with the shape of her bishop’s staff was shining on her thin white neck.
Sofy stood up from the chair and silently walked towards them. She stood before Tigre and no sooner than she stared at the youth with moist eyes, she extended both her hands and strongly hugged him.
To this sudden event, Tigre stiffened as he was surprised; Elen, Mila and Titta were staring at the two with dumbfounded faces. As Lim, who was the one among the five people standing the very back, hurriedly pushed Titta inside the room, she also came in and immediately closed the door.
Thinking from an angle, if one did not try looking into the doorway, they would probably not see Tigre and Sofy’s figures. And, there were many people in the corridor. So, there was no need to be so cautious.
Sofy, showing no signs of noticing the girls’ gazes, was hugging Tigre with all her strength.
“──Thank god. I’m really glad that you’re safe.”
Sofy’s feelings were transmitted from her voice mixed with sobbing and at the same time that Tigre recovered from his confusion, he became fraught with emotion. He thought from the bottom of his heart that he was glad that he could save her.
However, as her abundant chest wrapped in the dress was pressed against him the whole time, as expected he was more preoccupied by it rather than being deeply moved. Sofy’s face and golden hair were touching his cheek. Mixed with some slight make-up, a sweet fragrance tickled his nose.
As a part of his body began to boil hot, Tigre softly tried to part from Sofy while feigning calm; but contrary to her graceful impression she was strong and it was futile to just push her a little.
—Have I no other choice than slightly changing my posture so that she doesn’t notice and leave it as is until she calms down…?
It was when Tigre thought like that.
“──Sofy. Isn’t it already time you let go of him?”
Mila said in a penetratingly cold voice. When she approached Tigre, she caught his left arm and pulled him back. The youth’s body staggered and Sofy finally raised her face. Still hugging Tigre as is, the golden-haired Vanadis squinted in displeasure and lightly glared at Mila.
“It’s the long-awaited reunion, Mila. I think that you may give me a little more time.”
“How long do you mean when you say ‘a little more’?”
“Let’s see. About all night long? If possible, I want to be together with him during the Sun Festival.”
Mila opened wide her eyes to Sofy’s answer. This was because Mila understood that she was not joking, but was seriously saying that. The golden-haired Vanadis calmly continued her words.
“Hey, Mila. I was saved many times by Tigre. Not only my life, but also my dignity. However, I wasn’t able to save Tigre. When he, who fell from the ship, was not found in the end, I even thought that I might as well jump into the sea.”
As she recalled about that time, Sofy’s expression got cloudy for only a moment. However, she immediately returned to a serious expression and held Tigre’s head in her arms.
“When I saw the letter from Tigre, I was really surprised and I was so glad that I wanted to cry. That’s why I want to convey my feelings like this.”
Sofy’s look was overflowing with a sincere light, but Mila’s reaction was cold. The blue-haired Vanadis twined her arm around Tigre’s left arm that she caught.
“I understand your feelings, but Tigre looks like he’s troubled.”
“Is that right?”
The beryl-colored pupils were turned towards the youth. When Tigre was lost at how to answer as he was fixedly stared at, Mila opened her mouth.
“I don’t think that it’s good to force the answer you want like that, Sofy.”
“I’m asking Tigre, Mila.”
The two Vanadis’ gazes clashed with Tigre in between them. The youth looked up at the ceiling with a troubled face.
He was happy about Sofy’s feelings, but he couldn’t afford to stay being hugged as is. After all, not only were Elen and the others looking, he also ended up remembering about what happened with Sofy in the large public bath in Asvarre. When he calmed down after taking a small breath, Tigre put his right hand to Sofy’s arm.
“Sofy. There is also something I want to tell you.”
To the golden-haired Vanadis staring in puzzlement, Tigre smiled somewhat awkwardly. As expected, he could not follow her example and hugged her in return. He should convey it with each of his words.
“I’m sorry for having made you sad. And for having exerted yourself in order to save me, thank you. I’m really happy that we were able to reunite like this with a smile. I also have many things I want to talk with you about. But, there are also other people I want to greet.”
As he said that in all sincerity, Sofy released her embrace speedily and without delay. She smiled at the youth.
“If you say so, then it can’t be helped. Well then, we shall slowly talk in the near future. I’m looking forward to it.”
Bending her head slightly to one side, Sofy said as she behaved like a spoiled child. Her smile seemed to have a mysterious charm which made one unable to refuse her every request. Tigre became somehow embarrassed and without matching his eyes with hers, he answered “I will handle it carefully”.
While Lim and Titta were quickly fixing their hair and clothes which became disheveled, Elen and Mila greeted Sofy. Elen eagerly suppressed her laughter and Mila was depressed.
As Titta bowed her head while mustering some rivalry, she mostly lost her fighting spirit after her head was kindly patted. Sofy was five years older than Titta, but the golden-haired Vanadis seemed to think of her like a younger sister.
After Lim politely bowed, she asked pretending to be casual.
“Sofya-sama, have you not brought court ladies or maids along with you?”
“Of course, I did. Slightly before you guys come, I told them to take a rest.”
If those court ladies were there, would Sofy have still done something like suddenly embracing Tigre? Lim thought so, but also considering that it might be precisely because of that she asked them to take a rest, she quietly watched Sofy’s situation.
The golden-haired Vanadis was smiling, but her innermost thoughts were unfathomable.
Then, when Tigre praised Sofy’s dress, she joyfully made a rotation before the youth.
“Would you like to dance with me later?”
Normally, a Vanadis’ invitation was the best one could ask for. However, Tigre rummaged his darkish red hair and apologetically declined it.
“I’m sorry. I’m not very good at such things.”
Tigre, who had almost never gone out from his birthplace Alsace, had no affinity with court dancing. Even if there were opportunities where he could learn it, he had no will to do so. Sofy took the youth’s hand with a smile.
“It’s fine as long as you learn it from here on. It might become necessary in the future. Besides ── if it’s with you, I don’t mind being laughed at together with you.”
“U-Um, I’ll think about it. By the way, did Olga come?”
Tigre blatantly changed the topic. This was because if he didn’t do so, he would have been led into Sofy’s pace and he really would end up promising to dance with her.
“Ah, the one that you said you want to greet was Olga, huh. I heard that she just arrived in the royal palace. I also intend to go see her, but may we go together?”
Tigre did not immediately reply because he recalled the situation between Sofy and Olga when they were in Asvarre. Even if he could not go as far as to say that Olga bore hostility towards Sofy, it was clear that she harbored unfriendly feelings towards Sofy.
But, Tigre reassessed. Perhaps, there might have been progress between the two girls that he was not aware of. Besides unlike Elen and Mila, Sofy was one of the few people who understood the girl called Olga to some extent.
“Yes. Let’s go together.”
Tigre and company which increased to six people headed to the guest room where Olga was. Nobles and knights loitering in the corridor and having friendly chats, and the soldiers patrolling turned gazes mixed with surprise towards them.
There were three Vanadis representing Zhcted. All of them beautifully dressed up and were breathtakingly gorgeous. Although not to the extent of their splendor as they were formally dressed respectively as attendant and maid, there were also Lim and Titta. Tigre who was surrounded by all these girls was also paid attention to.
Tigrevurmud Vorn was not that well known by Zhcted noble feudal lords.
Even if the great nobles who had interactions with Brune and Asvarre knew Tigre’s name, there were none who had seen his face. This was because even if he was called a hero, he was a person of a foreign county and someone whom they had not directly interacted with.
The three Vanadis walking together with the youth were all casual and revealed natural smiles. Tigre too was not timid; he was also exchanging words with them.
“You should get a little more used to women. No, isn’t it fun in its own way?”
“I don’t mind that you find it fun, but help me at least.”
“If you don’t get over it by yourself, you won’t grow accustomed to it, right? But, earlier was a sight to behold. It’s the first time I saw a scene where Sofy and Mila glared at each other.”
“Was that why you watched it without saying anything?”
Tigre looked at Elen who laughed while reminiscing.
“It’s rare that Sofy strongly insisted like that after all. As far as I know, it was as much as when she insists about Lunie.”
Lunie was a young dragon kept in LeitMeritz. It had the size of a fat cat and since it was let to run free, it willfully walked inside the Imperial Palace and sometimes hustled about.
Among those working in the Imperial Palace, it was the most attached to Titta who came not long ago. There were also times when Tigre brought it along when he went hunting. Sofy liked Lunie very much, but probably because her expression of love was a bit excessive, she was avoided by the young dragon.
Tigre suddenly stopped. From the other side of the corridor, a woman was walking towards them. Elen and the others stopped after seeing her.
“──Long time no see; or time hasn’t passed that much so to say, eh. Eleonora.”
Red hair. Blue and golden pair of eyes. She was the “Flash Princess of the Thunder Swirl” Elizavetta Fomina.
She was clad in a purple dress which exposed her shoulders and chest, wore a loose obi from the left shoulder to the right waist and fastened it with a butterfly-like decoration. There was a black whip roundly bundled on the left of her waist. It was her Dragonic Tool, the Thunder Swirl Valitsaif.
Her skirt was so long as to reach up to her feet, but there was a deep cut on the right side and her right leg was also boldly exposed. A decoration of a small cross could be seen on the shoe of the exposed right foot. It was a gorgeous dress like her.
“Thank you for having taken care of us the other day, Elizavetta.”
Although Elen revealed a complicated expression after seeing her, she returned harmless words. They seemed to find it difficult on how to approach each other.
Just recently, Elen and Elizavetta fought together shoulder-to-shoulder. At that time, the two girls certainly experienced each other’s feelings. But, it did not mean that they got to have a close relationship. This was because there were several connections between Elen and Elizavetta.
Mila and Sofy were staring at the two Vanadis with surprised expressions. The two girls knew the discord between Elen and Elizavetta. They were thinking that they must tear them off with their own hands should a dangerous atmosphere arise.
“Elizavetta-sama. I’m feeling extremely delighted that we can meet again.”
Unable to remain indifferent to Elen and Elizavetta’s clumsy attitudes, Lim calmly stepped forward. She bowed to the red-haired Vanadis. Following after, Titta also bowed her head to Elizavetta. The Vanadis of Rainbow Eyes generously nodded to both of them.
Waiting for Lim and Titta to finish their greetings, Tigre also stepped forward.
“I’m glad that you seem fine. Um, how is your right arm…?”
When he asked in a sympathetic tone, Elizavetta finally revealed a wry smile. She walked up to Tigre and held out her right arm.
“Try to touch it.”
As he was asked, Tigre softly touched her hand. Elizavetta lightly grabbed Tigre’s hand. From the fact that her hand was white, he could understand that she put strength into it as hard as she could. However, for Tigre it felt like the grip of a small child.
A demon’s curse was applied to Elizavetta’s right arm once. When that curse was lifted due to the demon’s death, she was no longer able to lift her right arm. She could not muster strength with it at all. In comparison to that time, it has improved quite well.
Before long, Elizavetta released her hand. She took a small breath and smiled.
“Now, it’s as far as I can go. I became able to take a writing brush, write characters and use spoons and forks. It’s only all I can hold though.”
“Don’t say it in that way. It’s really good.”
Tigre shook his head and gently grasped Elizavetta’s hand with both his hands. The red-haired Vanadis revealed a bashful smile.
Mila and Sofy were surprised at the two people’s exchanges. While Elizavetta was greeting Lim and Titta, Mila pulled Tigre’s sleeve and keenly asked.
“Tigre. What is the meaning of this? I knew that she sheltered you in Lebus, but you look quite close.”
“Speaking of which, I told neither you nor Sofy, huh.”
Since it would have definitely become long and because there were also many other things to write, he mostly omitted the part when he served under Elizavetta in the letter to them. He thought that he should talk about it in detail when they met at the Sun Festival.
“At the time when I lost my memory, I was taken care of by her. For about 40 or 50 days.”
Sofy muttered “Oh my” as she was surprised, Mila suspiciously frowned and they respectively stared at Elizavetta. The Vanadis of Rainbow Eyes, unable to conceal her confusion, shrugged her shoulders, but there was also something that she was concerned with.
“Wait a moment ── Lord Tigrevurmud.”
The red-haired Vanadis drew her face close to Tigre’s and asked in a low voice.
“Why are you calling those two by their nicknames? Also, they call you by yours as well…”
Tigre, not knowing what Elizavetta meant by her question, pondered for a moment. But, he lightly clapped his hands as he immediately understood.
“I told the two of them that it’s fine to call me Tigre, and the two of them also told me the same thing.”
The Vanadis of Rainbow Eyes stared in turns at Tigre, Mila and Sofy with an amazed face. From her viewpoint, it was something unbelievable.
She could understand that Elen allowed him to call her by her nickname taking into consideration her friendly personality. Sofy, too. However, she could not believe that Ludmila Lourie, whose pride as a Vanadis was strong, allowed a foreigner to call her by her nickname. And also that she would familiarly called Tigre by his nickname.
“What’s the matter?”
Elizavetta who was standing stock still in utter amazement came to her senses with Tigre’s voice. The youth anxiously looked into Elizavetta’s face.
“Are you feeling bad? Then, let’s find somewhere you may rest…”
“T-There is no problem.”
Elizavetta’s cheeks turned bright red and she cursed in a low voice. Then, she strongly grabbed Tigre’s arm with her left hand. After confirming that they went to a place slightly away from Elen and company, she quietly whispered with a voice so that only the youth could hear.
“I have a request.”
Retaining tension in her eyes of different colors, Elizavetta fixedly stared at Tigre. The red-haired Vanadis further increased her left hand’s grip.
“Please, allow me to call you Tigre, too. A-Also… I want you to call me Liza, too.”
It was the first time for Elizavetta to do such a request. Though Tigre looked at her with a surprised face, he soon nodded with a smile.
“I got it. Then since you have no objection of me calling you so, I will call you Liza.”
Elizavetta ── Liza’s face suddenly turned bright red. Perhaps her heart became light, she asked Tigre in a tone friendlier than earlier.
“Where are you guys going? It doesn’t seem to be the banquet hall though.”
“We’re going to see Olga. Why don’t you come with us, Liza?”
If anything, it was for Olga’s sake that Tigre asked so. After having become Vanadis three years ago, Olga was wandering various countries until just recently. She did not seem to know the other Vanadis, too. As for the youth, he wanted to let Olga meet with them.
Liza who heard Olga’s name sharply narrowed her eyes and revealed a displeased expression. Liza did not know about what kind of circumstances pushed Olga to leave the land of Brest which she should govern. But in Liza’s eyes, Olga’s action was reflected as the abandonment of her duty as Vanadis.
“──Yes. I will greet her, too.”
Liza said with a defiant attitude.
Tigre and company which increased to seven people, walked down the corridor in a long and narrow line so as to not hinder other people. People’s noises became louder than a little while ago. Moving at the seven people’s vanguard were unchangeably Tigre and Elen.
“There’re four Vanadis, huh. It looks like we can easily kick out even 100000 enemies.”
“It doesn’t sound like a joke.”
“I’m not joking. Although, it’s very improbable, for this number of Vanadis to make a common front.”
“Certainly, I don’t feel the need of Vanadis making a common front.”
Each of them was literally a Vanadis with power of being a match for a thousand, but not only were they outstanding warriors, but they were also commanders and lords of dukedoms.
Unless they faced an overwhelmingly large army or special existences like a swarm of dragons, or demons, gathering them at one place and making them do a common front would be inefficient.
However, the reason that Elen spoke about did not seem to be only that. As she broadly grinned, the silver-haired Vanadis asked.
“What do you think it is?”
While wandering his gaze to the corridor’s walls and the ceiling, Tigre thought.
“Is it the problem of the position of the dukedoms?”
“That’s right. For example, LeitMeritz which I govern is in the southwest of Zhcted. The threats to the west and south aside, it’s too far away to deal with the problems to the east and north. In addition, although I said the north, we can’t lay our hands to the sea.”
LeitMeritz did not face the sea and had no navy either. When using rivers or lakes, either they built a small ship or recruited from somewhere.
“Besides, it isn’t like it’s only the Vanadis who fight. If we don’t give noble feudal lords a place for distinguishing themselves, they will harbor dissatisfaction.”
There were not only those thinking that there was nothing better than if they could go on without fighting. Nobles also wishing for a battlefield in order to achieve distinguished military services could be find anywhere. If there was an opportunity where interactions with other nobles could be born from the activity in the battlefield, there were also a possibility where they might catch the King’s attention.
“Above all, I don’t think there will be someone who can bring us together. Even if there are four Vanadis, there would be not much meaning to it if each of them moves separately.”
“It’d be amazing if it could be realized.”
While they were exchanging such a conversation, they arrived at the room where Olga was. As Tigre knocked on the door and named himself, a reply came immediately; and he opened the door.
Within the room, two court ladies, who wrapped their bodies in peculiar clothes never seen in LeitMeritz, much less in Brune, and a small-sized girl were standing. The latter was Olga Tamm. The axe decorated with elaborate ornaments that was leaned against the wall was her Dragonic Tool called the Roaring Demon Muma.
The dress that Olga wore was of a structure which emphasized her loveliness rather than her beauty.
It was light red and the shoulders greatly swelled out. Gloves completely covered her upper arms to her hands and a design of floral embroidery was given on her round skirt.
The white hair ornament looked very pretty on her short, light pink hair. An obi with a strange pattern was wound around her shoulder and waist.
Olga was from the Horse Riding tribe which lived by hunting and nomadism. The various patterns coloring her dress and the court ladies’ clothes were peculiar to the Horse Riding tribe.
After the girl, who turned 15 as she welcomed the New Year, called Tigre’s name, she remained silent on the spot. Surprise and joy harmoniously floated in her pupils harking back to black pearls.
When Tigre walked up to her, he bent his body so as to match the height of their gazes.
“Long time no see. I’m sorry for having made you worry.”
She replied not with words, but action. Olga jumped to Tigre and clung to the youth’s waist. Tigre embraced her and kindly stroked her back. He did not stroke her head because her light pink hair was carefully arranged and a hair ornament was put on.
Among the six women who watched that scene, someone muttered that she was envious. One did not know whose voice it was.
Since Olga didn’t part from him even after 20 seconds passed, more than Tigre Elen and company began to get impatient. It was Elen who took action the foremost. Mila followed after her.
“Tigre. I understand that you want to indulge in the joy of a reunion, but shouldn’t you already introduce Olga to us?”
“That’s right. I think that there are many persons here who are meeting her for the first time.”
Even Tigre felt uneasiness to the two girls’ thorny voices and released his embrace. Olga also parted from Tigre and faced the Vanadis.
“Sorry for the late greetings. Nice to meet you. I am the Vanadis Olga Tamm governing Brest.”
The words “nice to meet you” were turned to all the women except Elen and Sofy. Olga had met Elen only once a few years ago. But, since both didn’t have that much interest in the other, the impression they felt from each other was light.
There was no fragment of amiability in Olga’s expression and intonation was also lacking in her voice. Mila frowned and Elen turned her gaze to the youth as to check.
Tigre gave a small nod so as to reassure Elen. It was neither because Olga was nervous as she was in front of her senior Vanadises nor because she deliberately took a businesslike attitude. This was just her usual self.
“It’s been several years since we met, but do you remember? I’m Eleonora Viltaria, the Vanadis of LeitMeritz.”
Elen took a step forward and named herself with a dignified attitude to Olga. Though Mila and Liza hesitated a little, they followed the silver-haired Vanadis.
Then, Sofy, Lim and Titta followed in turn with the greetings. When Sofy said “long time no see” with a smile, Olga slightly loosened her expression.
When the greetings ended, Mila asked at once in a cold tone.
“I heard that you left Brest which you govern and had been wandering for two years, but what were you doing?”
“In order to know about what being “King” means, I travelled to various countries.”
Showing no signs of hiding it, Olga answered. Not only Mila, but also Elen, Liza and Lim frowned to these words.
—Speaking of which, she also told me that.
Tigre who heard the story from her in Asvarre made a nostalgic face, and Sofy also smiled. Titta was looking at the Vanadises with a blank face.
Half out of interest and half out of nastiness, Mila continued her inquiry.
“You said something interesting. Did you find what you wanted to know?”
Olga nodded and took the hand of Tigre standing next to her.
“Tigre here is the King I think of.”
Silence accompanied with surprise filled the room. Except Olga, the Vanadises’ and Lim’s gazes concentrated on Tigre. Even Sofy stared at the youth in utter amazement. It was only Olga and the court ladies accompanying her who were calm. Titta looked puzzled.
The named youth looked down at Olga with a wry smile. He was used to this girl’s erratic behavior. If Matvey of Legnica was here, he would agree with Tigre and heartily laughed.
However, as expected even Tigre was speechless at the lines which came afterwards out of Olga’s mouth. The light pink-haired Vanadis looked up at the youth and said this.
“Tigre. I want to have your child.”
Having unintentionally raised her voice was Titta.
“Ti- Tigre-sama’s child…?”
Lim promptly supported her (Titta) who shook her chestnut ponytail and almost collapsed to her knees due to too much shock. Tigre looked down at Olga with a face as if he seemed to be enduring a headache.
“Wait a minute, shorty. I mean, Olga Tamm.”
Elen gave off anger from her whole body and she advanced to Olga with long strides. Mila and Liza did not move, but their expressions did not try to hide their displeasure. Although Sofy sighed, she watched the situation without saying anything.
“What do you mean by you want to have his child?”
Even before the senior Vanadis’ coercion, Olga showed no signs of being daunted.
“It’s exactly what it means literally.”
“Tigre is an Earl ruling Alsace in the Brune Kingdom. Though he’s currently staying in LeitMeritz as a guest General, he’ll eventually return to his hometown. Even you shouldn’t be able to leave Brest. Do you understand that?”
“That’s why I said that I want to have his child. Otherwise, I’ll make a marriage proposal.”
Titta and Lim simultaneously shouted. Elen tightly grasped her fist, the edge of Mila’s mouth became cramped and Liza shook her shoulders. Only Sofy revealed an expression of admiration. She still intended to stand as a bystander, thus showed no signs of interfering.
Tigre was greatly perplexed. He could not come up with appropriate words about how to explain to the three Vanadises who were enraged. As he reluctantly turned his back on Elen and company as if protecting Olga, he once again bent his body and asked in a calm tone.
“Olga. Could you talk a little in detail? With only what you said, even I don’t understand well.”
The fact itself of marrying at 15 was not that surprising a thing in both Brune and Zhcted. Even about giving birth to children, although early, it was by no means unusual, either.
However, Olga’s declaration was too abrupt. The light pink-haired Vanadis let unexpected feelings ooze in her black pupils, but she immediately nodded.
“As Miss Eleonora said just now, Tigre and I can’t get married. Because we both have status, and I don’t intend to abandon it.”
Tigre nodded his head as he agreed. Olga continued.
“For the people of Horse Riding Tribe, a marriage attaches importance to the connection between Houses. There’s also the saying that the bond of Houses exceeds 10000 sheep. On the other hand, harvesting the blood of someone possessing superior skill is also promoted; regardless of whether the other party is someone of the same tribe, a passing traveler or a mercenary.”
—So that’s it.
Tigre finally understood. A long time ago, he had been taught by his father and Mashas that there were regions with such customs. Although Alsace did not have it, he was told that it also existed somewhere in Brune.
Tigre guessed that Olga who returned to Brest told and asked about Tigre to the people of her tribe and they agreed saying “only if he is such an outstanding bow user”.
“But then, wouldn’t it be a child without a father? From what you said, it doesn’t seem that those who become fathers stay there though.”
“Of course, children born in that way don’t usually have a father. But, they are brought up impartially by their grandfather, grandmother, uncle or aunt as children of the tribe. They aren’t scorned just because they don’t have a father.”
After having replied to Tigre’s question, Olga vehemently added.
“I don’t want you to misunderstand, but I’m not saying that I want Tigre’s blood just because he has a superior skill.”
Blushing, Olga, although hesitating, continued.
“As I also said earlier, tribal marriages emphasized connections between families. It also isn’t unusual to not be wedded to someone you love. Therefore, there are also girls who conceived the child of the one they loved, through the pretense of obtaining superior blood. In other words ── it’s like that.”
As soon as she finished talking, Olga averted her face which became bright red. Tigre was at a loss for words this time for sure. Elen and company also stood stock still with eyes wide open.
It was the first time for Tigre to be confessed to so frankly. But, there are too much problems with the other party. Even if it was proper as a person of the Horse Riding Tribe, it was bad as a Vanadis of Zhcted.
Tigre ran his eyes to the two court ladies. Though they were standing aside with a calm attitude, it looked like they were appraising the youth.
Silence once again filled the room. But, this silence was more awkward. Tigre fixedly staring at Olga, and put his thoughts in order. After a little less than ten seconds, he calmly took a breath.
“Olga, did you talk about this to somebody else?”
Olga nodded. As expected, she said that she consulted with the civil officials working in the Imperial Palace of Brest, the two court ladies whom she trusted and the people of Horse Riding.
“The people of the tribe were very glad. But, the civil officials said they will first talk with Tigre in an unofficial place.”
Tigre was thankful to those civil officials from the bottom of his heart. He had broken out into cold sweat, however if they were to properly listen to the story, it seemed to be a story like her. The youth smiled wryly and put his hand on Olga’s shoulder.
“I’m happy for your feelings, Olga. But, I can’t accept that request.”
Among the people of Horse Riding aside, the reputation of a Vanadis controlling a dukedom becoming an unmarried mother would not be good for the country of Zhcted. In addition, if it was to be known that the father was Tigre, a foreigner, neither Tigre nor Olga would get away with just that.
“Is it impossible no matter what?”
Olga narrowed her eyes and made a troubled face. When she made such a face, it would feel awkward to bluntly say that it was impossible. This girl understood that she did not have enough experience. After all, Olga has lived only in the world of the Horse Riding tribe until she was 12 years old.
“In that case, could you wait for five years?”
Olga tilted her head to the side to Tigre’s words.
“If your thoughts haven’t still changed even after five years, we will talk again about it.”
Tigre’s proposal was a clumsy escape. He could not think of something aside from putting it off.
However, the youth thought that it was the best plan for now. During the five years, Olga would probably learn many things as the lord of Brest. She should have various encounters. She would grow in both body and mind, so there was a possibility that her thoughts would change.
Tigre proposed that while taking all these thoughts in consideration, but Olga frankly nodded.
“If it’s three years, then I’ll wait.”
“…I feel like that’s a little short.”
“Then, four years.”
Since it was likely to become an argument even if they continued this conversation over, Tigre consented while praying for a change to happen during those four years. Behind the youth, some people heaved a sigh of relief.
Tigre and company which increased to eight people headed to the banquet hall. King Victor soon appeared in the banquet hall and the banquet began.
When they entered the banquet hall, noise and enthusiasm of the noble feudal lords wrapped Tigre and company.
The ceiling was high and the windows were small, but many chandeliers which gave beautiful decoration were suspended and the flames of numerous candles brightly illuminated the vast room.
If there were people who made a circle and amused themselves in pleasant talk, there were also people who called out to ladies or young women as they sought a partner to dance with. Bottles of vodka, wine, honey wine and the like were placed in a corner of the large hall and there were already people who have already begun to get drunk, too.
When they noticed the figures of Tigre and company, they interrupted what they were doing and poured their gazes on them. As he couldn’t afford to leave from here, Tigre called for help to Elen with a look while revealing a troubled smile.
“Be more dignified. You’re one of the main guests after all.”
Elen lightly struck the youth’s back from an angle where it was not visible to other people. Tigre softly sighed. He has never been exposed to so many gazes in Brune’s royal court.
“You should get used to it from now on. There will be many of such opportunities from here on.”
Mila who stood on the opposite side of Elen across Tigre smiled. Although also exposed to numerous gazes, she remained calm. She was used to it.
Tigre suddenly looked up at the back of the banquet hall. Eight flags were decorated there. There was the Zhcted’s Black Dragon Flag (Zirnitra) and the seven flags indicating each Vanadises’ dukedom.
This symbolized the founding myth of Zhcted.
A travelling man self-proclaimed the incarnation of the Black Dragon borrowed the power of seven tribes, defeated other tribes and founded the Zhcted Kingdom. The seven tribes which cooperated with him were respectively a dukedom.
Elen’s eyes were turned to Legnica’s flag. Her ruby-colored pupils were tinged with sorrow. The Vanadis of Legnica, Alexandra Alshavin passed away last year due to illness. Elen was her best friend and she tended to her last moments.
Since then, a new Vanadis has not appeared yet in Legnica.
When Tigre was thinking about words to console her, one feudal lord came their way. Tigre recognized that man. It was Duke Bydgauche Ilda Krutis.
“It has been a long time, Eleonora-dono, Elizavetta-dono.”
Ilda greeted Elen and Liza first. This was because among the Vanadises present here, he knew only those two. Liza bowed with a smile and Elen also responded to Ilda after pulling herself together. Then, Ilda turned his gaze to Tigre.
“I will ask, but would it be fine if I call you Earl Vorn?”
Ilda had met Tigre only once. It was when Tigre called himself Urz as he had lost his memory and was serving Elizavetta. When the army led by Elen and Liza and Ilda’s army clashed, it was Tigre who had made him fall from his horse.
Ilda’s attitude was cheerful and openhearted, so he showed no signs at all of dragging a grudge from the battlefield.
“Please call me like that, Duke Bydgauche.”
“Thank you. At any rate, your bow skill was really remarkable. There is no one in Bydgauche who can shoot an arrow like that. If there is an opportunity, I would like for you to teach it to me.”
Tigre was surprised, yet held a favorable impression at Ilda’s words. Tigre understood that he was not pretending, but that it was this man’s original disposition. Elen and Liza also introduced the other Vanadises and Ilda responded to them with an attitude which followed courtesy as a Duke.
At that time, the wave of people divided and the figure of one woman appeared.
“Oh my, I see that all of you are together.”
Another kind of gentle, calm voice different from Sofy’s.
Glossy black hair.
She was Valentina Glinka Estes, a Vanadis. She was calmly carrying a large scythe composed of a shining red and deep black color on her shoulder. Although, it was not necessarily heavy as its appearance suggested. This was because this large scythe was her Dragonic Tool with the name of Hollow Shadow Ezendeis.
Valentina wore a pure white dress and like Elen and Mila, her dress greatly exposed her shoulders to her chest. She wore a thin cloth decorated with small embroidery on top of it.
Her long black hair was tied to the back of her head, she decorated her head, chest and waist respectively with a white rose, a red rose and a blue rose. Although the right, left and the back of her skirt reached up to around her ankles, only at the center was the hem slightly lifted and from the knees to below could be seen. There were also decorations of red roses to her shoes.
She was also as beautiful as the other Vanadises. Not only that, she let an indescribable charm drift out. For example, like a whirlpool of darkness which swallowed all lights.
And, her large scythe which should in no way spoil her beauty strangely blended with Valentina’s dress’ figure without any sense of incongruity.
“Long time no see, Valentina. Are you feeling well today?”
If anything, Elen returned words with a courteous tone. For the silver-haired Vanadis, Valentina whom she has only met once or twice was a person whom she only knew the face and name. Unlike Mila and Liza, Elen had no connection with her.
There was also no interaction between each other’s dukedom as LeitMeritz was in the southwest of Zhcted and Osterode governed by Valentina was in the northeast.
“Yes. Since it’s the Sun Festival, I thought to overdo it a little and fortunately too, I’ve been feeling good since this morning.”
Having said that was Sofy. Though she revealed a smile, her beryl-colored eyes were tinged with the color of caution. Perhaps not noticing it or pretending not to, Valentina nodded without breaking her smile one bit and moved her gaze to Tigre.
“So you are Earl Vorn. I am Valentina Glinka Estes. Please to make your acquaintance.”
Valentina held out her right hand. Tigre too took her hand as he nodded.
“The hero, who rescued Princess Regin, defeated Duke Thenardier and brought peace to Brune. Your achievements have reached even my ears that are ignorant of rumors. I have by all means wanted to see you at once. My desire has finally been realized.”
“I am honored.”
To Valentina who bent her head slightly to one side and smiled, Tigre returned a somewhat awkward smile. He has many times experienced being praised face-to-face, but he was not used to it at all. All the more so if the other party was a beautiful girl like Valentina.
The black-haired Vanadis, gently grasping Tigre’s hand as is, slightly leaned forward. She quietly whispered so that only the youth could hear.
“In reality, this is the second time I meet you.”
Tigre unintentionally stared wide-eyed and fixedly at her. He wondered whether they had met somewhere before? However, it was also a strange thing to inform him about that matter after she seemed to have been hiding it.
When he was going to ask her about it in detail, one man appeared on the one step tall platform that was located at the back of the banquet. He was in his mid-forties. He had a slender face and grew a long gray beard under his chin.
Elen muttered as she saw the man. Tigre also looked up at the man with slight surprise.
—So that person is Eugene Shebalin.
For both Elen and Lim, Eugene who taught them about etiquette in the royal court was a teacher whom they looked up to.
After seeing Eugene, Ilda who was next Tigre revealed a complicated expression for a moment, but he immediately changed it to a stern one.
For most people present in this place, Eugene would be a local feudal lord whom the King had a deep trust in. But six people, Ilda, Tigre, Elen, Liza, Lim and Valentina knew it.
That Earl Pardu Eugene Shebalin has been determined as the King of the next era.
“Silence. Soon, His Majesty Victor will make his appearance.”
To Eugene’s words, the noise stopped immediately. Musicians holding musical instruments lined up to both sides of the platform and began to play an elegant music. Then one old man who wrapped his body in a luxurious robe showed up. It was Zhcted’s King Victor.
Eugene stepped aside and Victor stood on the platform. The music stopped in accordance with that.
His gray hair and beard were carefully arranged, but his skin turned dark and his arms coming out of the hems of the luxurious robe were thin. The fact that his blue pupils were tinged with some vigor might be because his mood uplifted as he welcomed the New Year.
“──Lords, thank you to have all gathered in this place on this day.”
Victor said as he glared at the nobles. Although it was not like he raised his voice, the old King’s voice echoed to every corner of the banquet hall.
Eugene received a golden cup from the Grand Chamberlain, went down on his knees beside Victor and respectfully held it out. That cup was filled with cold water. It was water fetched from the large river of Valta flowing through the north of the capital.
Victor took the golden cup and raised it very high.
“Oh Gods. Heaven God Perkūnas, God of Honor Radegast, God of Livestock Volos and moreover the many gods whom run Heaven. Oh Black Dragon which defeated all enemies and subjugated the Earth. For this new year, we promise glory, prosperity, triumph and crops of Zhcted without change!”
The noble feudal lords said in chorus. Only this time, even Elen, who did not think very well of Victor, followed the King and recited the words of prayers. Waiting for it to end, Victor drank only half of water in the cup and sprinkled the other half.
The golden cup symbolized the sun. Zhcted, namely the King receives half of the blessing that the sun brings and pours the remaining half to the earth. That was the Sun Festival.
The ceremony ended and cries to celebrate the New Year were raised. However, these voices subsided immediately as King Victor held them back raising his hand.
“I am sorry to have stopped your pleasure, but there is something that I should tell you now.”
The old King and Eugene who was standing by behind him until then stepped forward next to Victor. Victor looked at him and continued his words.
“Here I declare. I make Earl Pardu Eugene Shebalin, the King of the next era. You lords present here are witnesses.”
The banquet fell silent. Everyone was staring at Victor and Eugene, unable to hide their surprise. But, several people revealed expressions of comprehension and some others revealed relieved expressions.
Victor had a son named Ruslan. Had nothing happened, he should have become the King of next the era following the traces of Victor; but he had ended up suffering from disease.
Afterwards, Victor did not disinherit his son nor did he establish his successor. Many people were concerned over that.
Someone applauded. Following it, several people clapped their hands, many people followed furthermore and finally grand applause harking back to flood filled the banquet hall in the blink of an eye. Eugene only bowed so as to respond to it.
Waiting for the applause to stop before long, Victor said.
“Well then, you should fully enjoy the banquet.”
Accompanied by Eugene, King Victor left the banquet hall.
Noises of pleasant talks soon revived in the banquet hall. The musicians, so as to not hamper them, played a quiet and calm sound. Circular tables were displayed at a corner of the banquet hall and luxurious dishes were carried in one after another.
By just each and every one of the dishes such as barbecue piglets that used spices abundantly, bread packed with deeply fried mushroom and potatoes, beef and red turnip soup which let steam rise in a large pot, something which steamed shrimps as big as an adult’s arm, rolled eggs which packed with dried meat and cheese, finely sliced pickled salmon and the like, appetite welled up.
Tigre suddenly saw Valentina standing in a slightly distant place.
When Victor announced about his successor, she was the first one who applauded. For some reason, that left him with an impression.
Tigre enjoyed the banquet until nightfall.
He ate dishes with relish, danced and talked about various things with the Vanadises. Together with Sofy and Lim, he acted as an intermediary to the quarrel between Elen and Mila, he heard about Lebus’ situation from Liza and assertively brought Titta and Olga who did not readily joined the circle into it.
Unexpectedly, Olga and Titta immediately threw off all reserve with each other.
Judging from Olga, Titta was a maid serving Tigre, so she didn’t seem to brace herself so much regarding her. In addition judging from Titta, Olga, although a Vanadis, was a girl two years younger than her, so she didn’t seem to be so tense around her.
The two girls’ talk bounced and reached until where they talked about each other’s hometowns. When Sofy joined in their talk, Olga who burned with rivalry towards her set up verbal provocations several times; but they were easily dealt with.
Mila and Liza, who had not talked very much until now, perhaps thinking that this was just a good opportunity, exchanged words about various things. However, something which could be called friendship was not born between them. If anything, their intentions matched; but the difference in their way of thinking could be strongly felt, too.
It might also be said that the dukedoms which they were governing were contrastive. Olmutz which Mila governs is in the south of the Zhcted Kingdom; it has many mountains and shares borders with the Brune Kingdom and the Muozinel Kingdom.
On the other hand, Lebus which Liza governs is in the western part of Zhcted; it did not have that many mountains and it faced the sea. It had interchanges with the Brune Kingdom and the Asvarre Kingdom through the sea route.
Mila was born in Olmutz. Her mother was Vanadis and her father was a civil official who worked in the Imperial Palace. When her mother died of an illness and Mila became Vanadis, her father left the Imperial Palace and became the proprietor of a small inn in the castle town. He acted as such with the thought that the position as the father of a Vanadis would cause a bad influence.
Liza was not born in Lebus, she did not know much about her mother and her father was a noble who betrayed the country. Moreover, she knew about him when she was 10. Before it, she lived as an abandoned child in a poor village. With this, there was no way that they would be on the same wavelength.
In addition, the topic of Tigre brought about a strange feeling to the two girls’ hearts.
At first, it was a conversation in order to know how close the other party was to Tigre. Both of them also knew about Tigre’s temperament, his bow skill and the black bow. It was essential to know whether or not the other Vanadises knew about those in detail.
“I have secretly slipped out of the Imperial Palace and went out to the castle town together with Tigre.”
“Is that so? I too have eaten rice porridge together with Tigre. There are also many times when I treated him to tea.”
So far, it was a silly/childish talk.
“I have fought side by side with Tigre. Not Urz, but Tigre you see?”
“I haven’t fought side by side with him, but I have fought to protect him and I have also been saved by him. Tigre properly remembered it, too.”
“The Asvarre tea that Tigre gave to me as a present was delicious.”
“The clothes of when I went out incognito had been prepared by Tigre.”
“I heard that you made Tigre a stableman. Even if he had lost his memory, you saw his bow skill, right? I can’t believe it.”
“I heard that without even knowing Tigre’s temperament well, you fought against him. I understand that there are circumstances where you must respect the interchanges with other Houses, but weren’t there any other ways?”
The two Vanadises clashed fiendish smiles. It was not like they seriously got angry, nor was it like they have come to dislike the other party. They could probably eat together and engage in small talk. But at the same time, the two girls held onto the conviction that they could not have an amiable relationship together.
On the other hand, there were close resemblances in their way of thinking after all.
For example about Olga, though they knew the reason of her wandering, they both agreed on the matter that as a Vanadis, it was not something to do. It was also the same for the part where they did not usually defy Sofy so strongly.
No matter what one said, it was certain the common topic of Tigre was a hot one.
By the way, Mila deliberately avoided the topic of Elen. This was because when Mila bad-mouthed the silver-haired Vanadis, Liza looked openly displeased. While having such a reaction, the Vanadis of Rainbow Eyes didn’t make even one statement so as to cover up for Elen.
But, it was not like Tigre and the Vanadises were only enjoying the banquet. They also had to deal with the Zhcted nobles who came for greetings one after another.
As for them, the Vanadises who were lords of dukedoms were people whom they could not miss to greet. And, they could not be rude to Tigre who was close to them.
Besides, the Nobles were interested in him too. There was not even one person in Zhcted so close to this number of Vanadises. For example for a noble having a territory in the south, he had an opportunity to interact with Elen, Mila and Sofy.
But, Legnica and Brest, where Olga was, were far. Lebus where Liza was and Osterode, where Valentina was, were so far that they were as good as a foreign country. Just coming and going was not easy. Even a great noble like Ilda had no interaction with Vanadises other than Liza and Valentina.
Despite this, Tigre who was a foreigner was actually friendly chatting with 5 Vanadises.
Elen and company too seemed to enjoy it and they let Tigre keep them company whenever someone came to greet them. Even Valentina whom he’d just met rode on the opportunity. Although they were meeting for the first time, in his position, it was hard for Tigre to turn her down; and it was also hard for Elen and company to object since he himself agreed to it. They could only watch.
“Still, Tigre is quite popular.”
While watching Tigre speaking with noble feudal lords together with Valentina from afar, Elen sighed as she said that in a way that one didn’t know whether it was out of admiration or amazement. Then, Sofy walked up to her.
“Elen, I have a request.”
“No can do.”
While tilting a silver wine cup filled with wine, Elen replied in a curt tone.
“I haven’t said anything yet.”
“I can guess. You want me to lend you Tigre before he returns to Brune, right?”
As she chuckled, Sofy brought her shoulder near Elen. Her beryl-colored pupils were tinged with a faint heat and were turned to Tigre who was in a distant place.
“It’s fine, isn’t it? Even a detour is all right. Even though he saved my life, I haven’t thanked him at all yet.”
“When you say thanks, what do you intend to do?”
There was a sound of caution in Elen’s voice. Sofy’s nature was trustworthy, but she had the habit of being overly attached to what she loved. It was the case with Lunie the young dragon that Elen had. Even when she reunited with Tigre a little while ago, she un-hesitantly hugged him before people.
“I just want to invite him to my Imperial Palace and treat him to some food.”
“If it’s only to treat him to food, then there’s no need to go to your Imperial Palace, is there?”
“I want him to meet the people of my Imperial Palace; because everyone wanted to say thanks to him. Besides, I also want to talk with him, just the two of us. I have so much to talk about with him that one or two nights won’t be enough.”
Elen lightly glared at the golden-haired Vanadis with an astonished face.
“Sofy. Don’t tease me on this topic. There was also a time before when you asked me to lend you Tigre, but…”
She was speaking of about two years ago, when Tigre and Sofy met the first time. Sofy shrugged her shoulders with a smile.
“It’s really nostalgic. Certainly, it was a joke at that time. What would you do if I say that I’m serious this time?”
“I’ll also say to you exactly what I said to Olga. Tigre is a noble of Brune and you’re a Vanadis of Zhcted.”
“You’re right. But, he’s a man and I’m a woman. I don’t intend to disregard my duty as a Vanadis, but I don’t intend to lie to myself more than necessary, either.”
Elen sighed once again.
When he took a breather after finishing dealing with the nobles, Tigre was completely exhausted. Although he was trained by hunting and war, this fatigue was again something of a different nature.
Supported by Lim and Titta, the youth who drank some wine finally regained his composure. Looking at his state, as expected even Elen and company reflected (were sorry).
“I guess we went a little overboard?”
“But, it’s important for a noble to meet other nobles.”
Though Mila raised an objection, Liza cocked her head in puzzlement.
“Even so, weren’t there too many? In the first place, Tigre is a person from Brune, so wouldn’t it have been all right to narrow it down to the royal palace service and the nobles with a territory to the west?”
Then, Sofy shook her head.
“I’m sure about that, too. I can also say that it will be enough that even Tigre comes to Polesia which I govern in the future.”
Olga too silently nodded strongly to the golden-haired Vanadis’ words. Brest governed by Olga was in the east of Zhcted.
While listening to their conversation, Tigre vaguely thought about the future.
—I wonder what will happen to me.
It was at that time when one man approached Tigre.
“I am sorry. But who are you?”
Titta stepped forward as if protecting Tigre. The man, not giving his name, said this.
“Earl Vorn. His Majesty King Victor is waiting for you.”
Tigre nodded. Victor told him before that he wanted only the two of them to talk when the day went down.
“Is it all right? Shall I accompany you midway?”
Elen said anxiously. It was not only her, even Titta, Lim, Mila, Sofy, Liza and Olga also turned anxious looks to him. Tigre laughed and shook his head.
“It isn’t like we will have that serious a talk. I’ll come back right away.”
When he lightly stroked Titta’s head so as to relieve her, Tigre left the banquet with the man.
“You are being loved, eh.”
The man said as he laughed. Tigre rummaged his darkish red hair as he returned a wry smile.
“I myself don’t think so, but for them, I seem to be unreliable when they take their eyes off me.”
“His Majesty was extremely sympathetic.”
To these words, Tigre couldn’t help but fixedly stare at the man. Was it a joke? Or did that aged King really say that?
The man, cutting off there and saying no more, silently walked down the corridor.
The man stopped before a certain room. He urged Tigre to enter with a gesture. Tigre opened the door after knocking on it. Then, he stepped inside.
It was a large room. The interior design was luxurious and even the ornament of the fireplace provided on the wall was stunning.
There was a big chair in the center of the room and Victor was sitting on it. The luxurious robe which he wore was the same as the one which he had when he showed up in the banquet hall, but he did not wear the crown.
In front of Victor, there was one other big chair across a small table.
“You should sit down.”
Following Victor’s words, Tigre sat down opposite of the old King after having bowed his head. It was so soft that his body sank in and he almost lost his balance.
The man who guided Tigre until here filled two silver cups with wine and put them on the table between the two. Then, the man bowed and left. Tigre heard the sound of the door closing behind him.
A tense atmosphere drifted in the room.
“It is about the matter of Asvarre.”
Without any introduction, Victor got straight to the point. Although Tigre was confused, he caught his breath and carefully listened to the old King’s words.
“I certainly requested that I would like you to become a messenger. But, I do not remember having forced you. What can I force on someone, who is not from my country? The fight in Asvarre was also of your own free will. The return ship having sunk was an accident and I have no concern about it.”
Tigre stared at Victor as he blinked several times. What the old King said was correct. However, it was obviously a speech which could be treated as nothing other than a provocation. At least, Mashas and Princess Regin would fly into a rage if they were to hear it.
As he was at a loss on how to reply, Victor continued speaking without changing his expression.
“──Or so I could have also said, but where do you think these words are bad/wrong?”
“…Wouldn’t they stir the anger of Brune?”
Although surprised at the abrupt question, Tigre carefully replied. The old King shook his head.
“That’s not accurate. It will be bad to stir up the anger of those close to you. Your acquaintances are not only limited to those in Brune.”
Elen and company’s figures floated in Tigre’s mind. He might possibly have more acquaintances in Zhcted. Seeing the youth’s expression, Victor twisted his mouth.
“Therefore, by no means can I make a statement like the one just now.”
Then, Victor brought down his body forward and deeply bowed his head to Tigre.
“I am very sorry.”
Tigre held his breath. He stared at King Victor’s back of the head covered with gray hair. He was speechless.
Tigre heard that he already apologized to Brune through Mashas. On top of that, it was inconceivable for someone like the King of a country to bow his head. If this were to be known by others, it would become an uproar that the King’s authority was disgraced.
Victor raised his body. It looked like no emotion appeared on his face. Tigre calmly and eagerly told himself.
Actually, Tigre bore no grudge against Victor. Certainly he had piled up harsh battles in Asvarre, but he encountered Olga and Matvey and was able to rescue Sofy with his own hands. In addition, he got to know many people including Tallard Graham.
What happened afterwards, as Victor also said, could only be described as an accident. Who could have guessed that a demon would lead a sea dragon and set up a night attack?
For the time being, Tigre spoke of words which he carefully thought about beforehand.
“The Asvarre Kingdom shares a border with my homeland Brune. Confusion in Asvarre would have a bad influence on Brune, right? It’s precisely because I considered my country’s peace and the friendship between Zhcted and my country that I consented to go there.”
Though Victor had bowed his head earlier, Tigre asserted anyway. However, not even a slight change could be observed from Victor’s expression. Tigre had no idea at all about what he was thinking.
“Your heart’s kindness is something valuable, but I cannot afford to let it end with just lining up words of apology and praise. After all, thanks to your hard fighting, you saved the life of one of our country’s precious Vanadis and moreover, a friendship between our country and Asvarre has been concluded. Thus, I intend to reward you.”
We’re finally here, huh, Tigre inwardly muttered. After talking with Elen and Lim, he had predicted about the fact that he would be given a reward.
—There will be no territory, but an honorable title or a mansion like a villa (Dacha )… Elen and Lim said that, I think.
Tigre also thought the same. However, Victor’s words took the youth aback.
“Well then, what do you want?”
To the unexpected words, Tigre could not reply at once. The old King continued.
“Let me hear it. If it is something which I can grant, I shall give it to you.”
“Is anything all right?”
Tigre’s voice was trembling. He did not ask that for confirmation, but he did it for buying time in order to regain his composure. Victor replied immediately.
“I do not mind. As I said, only if it is something which I can grant.”
Sweat ran on Tigre’s forehead. Sweat suddenly streamed down his back, too. It was due to this room’s warm air. Tension and anxiety wrenched the youth’s heart.
“When you say anything, I can’t quite think of something right away, so…”
“Then, for example how about the throne?”
Tigre came close to raising a loud voice. King Victor did not change his expression at all since some time now, and only the wrinkles and beard of his face moved when he spoke. He remained calm as if engaging in small talk.
“I am sorry. But, what do you mean when you say throne?”
“Of course, I’m talking about the throne of Brune.”
As if it was nothing, King Victor replied.
“I’d also investigated about your homeland’s state of affairs. If you desire to be King, I shall lend you soldiers and funds.”
Tigre was dumfounded. If he interpreted it exactly as stated, Victor is recommending usurping the throne for himself. Or might he be trying to draw a verbal slip from the youth’s mouth?
“I feel like I have somehow been told something which doesn’t match my stature.”
Tigre laughed and tried to dodge it, but Victor did not allow the youth to escape.
“Depending on your way of doing things, you might be able to choose a path with little bloodshed. After all, currently ruling Brune is a young Princess.”
Tigre held an illusion as if he was swallowed by the aged King’s deep marsh-like eyes. It was difficult to accept or refuse.
When Tigre picked up the silver cup on the table, he drank the wine and appeased his highly strung feelings. Then, he said.
“With all due respect, let me ask. Why did you speak about the throne?”
“You are close/friendly with the Vanadises of our country.”
King Victor too picked up his silver cup and drank the wine.
“There is no one like you in our country. Even among the previous Kings, there should only be a handful that was close to many this Vanadises.”
“For His Majesty, the Vanadises are his retainers; but for me, they are friends. Is there not that difference?”
“That’s why I recommend Brune’s throne to you. If someone like you becomes the King of a neighboring country, it will be easy to deal with him.”
The shade of perplexity reflected in Tigre’s black pupils increased its deepness.
“Do you intend to set me up as a puppet King?”
Although he hesitated, Tigre resolutely asked. He understood that it was a dangerous statement, but he thought that if he did not go as far as to ask this much, he would not be able to sound out this King’s real intention
As expected, Victor moved his eyebrows. This was the first time that he showed facial emotions.
“I will not do such a troublesome thing. Like you, I also think about my country’s peace. A puppet King will only bring about confusion.”
Saying up to there, King Victor somewhat changed his tone to a happy one.
“I would like to ask you one thing; do you not have any ambition? I won’t speak about the throne, but do you not desire a larger territory, a higher position? A preeminent bow skill. Brilliant and distinguished military services. In comparison to those, have you not thought of your position as insubstantial?”
“I am satisfied with my present position. Even after returning to Brune ── to Alsace, I don’t intend to desire such things.”
“That’s a pipe dream, eh.”
A sneer flashed on King Victor’s lips. His words went straight through Tigre as they became an immaterial gleaming sword. The youth opened wide his eyes and stared at the old King. This was because this was the first time that the old King clearly revealed his feelings so far.
Victor took his eyes off Tigre and shifted his attention to the fireplace.
“I like hunting, you see. At the time when I was as young as you, carrying a bow, I often rode a horse to the hunting ground under the royal family’s direct control. I raised a hawk that I’d ordered from Brune and also had a hunting dog.”
Victor’s face self-derisively distorted.
“But, when I passed 20 years old, my bow and horse were taken away. So were my hawk and hunting dog, too. I was told ‘you will become this country’s King’. A king should not personally carry a bow and arrows. Even when I proceeded to the hunting ground, many people came along, and there were always more than 10 soldiers around.”
Tigre was silently listening to Victor’s story. Victor’s way of talking was too much indifferent and it was uncertain whether he was speaking to Tigre or he was muttering about the old days.
“If I say that I want the bird which flies around in the air, the most prominent person with the bow will bring it down and hold it out to me. After I have taken a look at it, the master chef will cook it. That is the hunting of a King.”
As Victor took a small breath, he returned his gaze to Tigre.
“I, who was given a new position unconditionally, am different from you who seized your present position with your own power. But, are we not the same when it comes to the fact that we cannot return to our former position? You could not possibly seriously be thinking that once you go back to Brune, you will return to your position of Earl governing Alsace like before.”
Tigre was at a loss for words. King Victor’s words threw the anxiety lurking in Tigre’s mind into relief .
“You suppressed Brune’s civil war. In the midst of it, you repulsed Muozinel which attacked with a big army. And this time, you cooperated in ending Asvarre’s civil war…”
While folding his dead twig-like fingers one by one, King Victor enumerated Tigre’s achievements. The youth silently stared at the old King’s fingers.
“Those are not easy things to accomplish even with enough soldiers and funds at hand. You accomplished it mostly by your own effort. Brune will probably not acknowledge your bow skill. Besides, prejudice and narrow-mindedness are not things which can be fixed in a short time. But, your military gains cannot be disregarded. You cannot look away from the existence of those who will support you.”
“It is too great an honor for me to be highly evaluated by His Majesty.”
Tigre eagerly uttered these words. He feared that if he did not say anything, he would have been led into a direction, which he did not want at all, at this rate.
“However, I pledge allegiance to Her Highness Princess Regin. If something were to happen to the Kingdom, I intend to rush over as soon as possible. Above all, Alsace where I was born and raised is enough for me. I do not intend to desire greater status and territory than now.”
“Are you saying that you will not want the throne no matter what happens?”
To Victor who asked to make sure, Tigre strongly nodded. Those were his true feelings. When he would go back to Brune after this, he intended to decline even if he was told that he would be granted status and territory.
“Then, let’s see. Why don’t you serve me?”
Tigre blinked his eyes as the topic seemed to have suddenly changed. He wondered what Victor’s intention was this time? Seeing the youth’s expression, Victor said as if it was nothing.
“If you do not want the throne, I must grant another reward. If you serve me, I shall provide you a status or whatever is appropriate for your distinguished military services”
Tigre was puzzled. He should have clearly conveyed his intention just now.
“I, um, intend to return to Alsace, so…”
“Alsace is currently under the joint control of Brune and Zhcted. Also, if you agree, it will become a territory of our country. A feudal lord changing his stance along with his territory to another country is not something unusual since ancient times.”
As expected, even Tigre got angry at these words.
“Are you asking me to become a traitor?”
However, Victor calmly eluded Tigre’s anger. The old King was silently staring at Tigre, but his look suddenly became sharp.
“You will die, you know?”
Those words made Tigre regain his composure for a moment. He wondered whether his earlier words were overly impolite. However, there was no way that he could remain silent after being told to betray his country. Tigre tightly grasped his fists on his knees. He stared straight at King Victor and waited for him to continue speaking.
“You have no ambition. You have no desire. That is your greatest weakness, but openly revealing it too much is bad all the more. Many people will be rather suspicious of you. They will think: ‘he pretends to have neither ambition nor desire’, but in reality, he must have so much ambition and desire that he can’t say to anyone.”
Tigre sank into silence as he was caught off guard. Both his anger and tension vanished, and he stared at King Victor without hiding his bewilderment. After a silence of about five or six seconds, he timidly asked.
“Is having no ambition and desire a weakness?”
“It will do nothing even if someone with no talent and achievements were to have ambition, but it is also not good for someone like you to be unselfish. Retainers who do not know your nature/temperament will hold doubt towards the King. They would think ‘he did not righteously reward him for his achievements’. There is also the way of making an impressive tale about you as an unselfish person, but other people will turn eyes of jealousy to you. It is not like the territory people and everyone else will be pleased with an unselfish lord. If the feudal lord receives a reward, there will also be people who desire a small piece of it.”
Each and every thing that King Victor said was right. Unable to argue at all, Tigre could only stay silent.
“Now then, what do you desire?”
“Then… May I receive gold coins suitable for my work?”
“Very well. I shall prepare 20 two-horse carriages of large barrels filled with Zhcted gold coins. Of course, not only gold coins, but the carriages and horses are also yours.”
Tigre unintentionally spoke. Celesta, Alsace’s central city, and his mansion located there came to his mind. It would without doubt not fit in.
Even if the problem of gold coins was settled, there were 20 carriages and 40 horses remaining. Since he received from the King, discarding them would be outrageous. He would have to make large-scale garages and stables.
King Victor seemed to have interpreted Tigre’s surprise in a different meaning. He calmly asked without so much as making a wry face.
“Are you dissatisfied? I may double it if you want more though.”
Tigre deeply bowed his head in a hurry and expressed gratitude to the old King.
The talk was over and Tigre left from the room.
“It was quite meaningful. ──Lord Tigrevurmud.”
At last, King Victor hailed Tigre and said this.
“If it is fine with you, could you speak with Earl Pardu tomorrow before leaving our country? I do not think that it will be something bad for you.”
Tigre who left before Victor threw up a breath mixed with feelings of freedom and fatigue. He thought that he wanted to lie down in the corridor as is.
—King? King, you say…?
He did not utter it. He must not have it heard by someone. Though Olga also said something similar, Victor’s words were full of problems beyond comparison. He intended to frankly speak about what they talked about to Elen and Lim and consult them about it, but he had to give it up.
He suddenly remembered about Tallard Graham whom he met in Asvarre. He was a young man who, despite being born a commoner, piled up distinguished military services, ascended until the position of General and said to Tigre that he will become King.
—No, he and I are different.
Shaking his head, Tigre began to walk down the dim corridor.
It did not look like he would forget today’s conversation with Victor.
Though the sky of the Capital Silesia was wrapped in the night darkness, numerous multicolored lights glittered on the ground. Many people lighted the candles that were distributed, drank, sang and danced. The government officials and palace guards were also used to it as it was done every year. If there was no fight, they left it as is.
At the time when the Sun Festival’s first day would end in about one koku, seven people, one man and six women gathered in a room of the royal palace.
They were Tigre and the six Vanadises. Tigre had not taken off his formal clothes, and Elen and company still wore their dresses. A big round table was placed at the vast room’s center and the seven people were sitting around it. Tigre’s black bow and the girls’ Dragonic Tools were respectfully put near their master.
According to Elen, it seemed that this place was one of the rooms which the nobles used when they gathered and pleasantly chatted while relaxing. Tigre first thought about the fact that it was about the same size as his mansion in Alsace.
A blue carpet was spread on the floor and a brickwork fireplace was established on the wall. A fire was lighted in the fireplace and it warmed the indoor air. A circular-shaped chandelier was hung from the ceiling with fire lit on dozens of its candles brightly illuminating the room.
Other than the chairs where Tigre and company were sitting, a sofa and a short-legged bed were put and cushions where flowers and animals were embroidered were piled up on them.
Elen folded her arms, leaned her back on the chair and was staring at the fireplace’s fire burning bright red. She did not mind that her dress was wrinkled. Tigre who sat next to her noticed that slight loneliness blurred on Elen’s profile.
—It’s about Sasha, huh.
Alexandra Alshavin. She was the black-haired Vanadis who was Elen’s close friend and used the Dragonic Tool Bargren which held the power of flames.
Elen doesn’t usually show such an expression. But, when the Vanadises were assembled in the same room like this, she couldn’t help but remember her after all.
Although he hesitated, Tigre called out to her with a calm tone. If they were the only two people in this place, he would have left it as is, but that was not the case. As her name was called, Elen slightly opened wide her eyes and shook her silver hair, but she immediately revealed a smile and turned around to Tigre.
“It looks like I’m a little tired. Maybe it’s because I’m wearing clothes I’m not used to.”
“I too want to be quickly freed from these clothes.”
Tigre pulled the hem of his formal clothes while also returning a smile. It was half his true feelings.
“If you’re fine with loose clothes, I may give you advice.”
Along with a lively voice, a white porcelain cup was placed before Tigre. Tea was filled in the cup and a refreshing fragrance mixed with the rising steam tickled the nose.
When looking next to him, Mila holding a tea jar was standing with a smile. It seemed like she was the one who made it. White porcelain cups filled with tea were also put respectively before the other Vanadises.
“It won’t be a disadvantageous thing if you choose to stand together with me. What do you say?”
“If there’s such a thing, then by all means. And while we’re at it, if you could also do something about my hair──”
“Wait, Tigre. I can choose them for you too. You don’t expressly need to ask this of Ludmila.”
Interrupting Tigre’s words Elen said in a clearly displeased tone. Mila, still holding the tea jar as is, scornfully laughed as she glared at the silver-haired Vanadis.
“I don’t think you know that much about clothes like me though.”
Although Elen flinched for an instant, she did not just withdraw as is.
“Certainly I don’t know that much, but what is important is whether or not you understand what suits Tigre well, right? I think that blue clothes will look great on him. They’ll also match well with his hair.”
“That isn’t even worth considering, Eleonora. It’s obvious that white would suit Tigre better.”
As she shrugged her shoulders, Mila turned to Elen with a smile full of contempt.
Tigre who was sitting between them looked around at the other Vanadises with a troubled face. Sofy put her hand on her mouth and laughed. Olga looked their way as she seemed to be interested, and Liza and Valentina turned eyes of surprise and amazement towards them.
“I think that green would look good on Tigre. More precisely, the color of a grassy plain spreading through thick and thin.”
Olga spoke. Elen and Mila turned their heads which showed that they had found a new rival, at the pink-haired Vanadis. Sofy agreed with Olga as she slightly bent her body to the side, and put a hand on her cheek.
“You’re right. I think that green will be fine.”
“I won’t say that it isn’t fine, but it’ll be the same as the clothes which you always wear, right?”
“I also think that green would look good on him. But, there is a color which will suit Tigre better.”
“──Until when do you intend to continue with that?”
Liza butted in with an amazed face. Then, Elen and Mila finally pulled themselves together.
The blue-haired Vanadis sat down on her chair and picked up her white porcelain cup. She drank a mouthful of tea. This was to prove that there was nothing put in the tea .
Though Tigre had no intention at all of doubting her, gathered here were the Vanadises supporting Zhcted. Regardless of how much concern there was, it wasn’t to the extent of being too excessive.
“The reason why I had all of you gathered here is but for one thing.”
Having started the discussion was Sofy. She looked around at everyone with a serious expression.
“I would like for us to exchange opinions regarding the existence called demons.”
While lifting her white porcelain cup, Valentina cocked her head in puzzlement.
“Sofya. I was told that there will be a very important talk today, but that’s…”
“It may sound like a joke, but this is a serious talk, Valentina.”
Sofy answered without smiling. Valentina seemed to be perplexed, but as she saw not only Sofy, but everyone else having a tense look, she kept her mouth shut. She seemed to have decided to hear the story for the time being.
The golden-haired Vanadis talked first about her own experience. About the fact that last year, when she returned from the Asvarre Kingdom, the ship which she boarded was attacked by a demon called Torbalan. Tigre and Olga were also on that ship, so they supplemented Sofy’s explanation.
While Sofy was talking, the Light Flower which was put next to her was continually blinking, as if to guarantee the correctness of its master’s words.
Then, Olga explained.
“The first time that Torbalan and I met was in a fort of Asvarre. He had disguised himself as the human called Lester. According to the story I heard in Asvarre, Lester seemed to have existed for many years. I don’t know whether Torbalan had disguised himself as a human from the beginning, or he had replaced the human called Lester midway.”
At the same time that Olga finished speaking, the Roaring Demon which was put at Olga’s feet slightly shook. As if saying that it would protect its still too young master.
Having taken the role of explaining after her was Liza.
“The demons I encountered were called Torbalan and Baba Yaga.”
At that time, Tigre turned an anxious gaze at the Vanadis of Rainbow Eyes. Liza who noticed his gaze smiled so as to reassure the youth. Some joy was contained in her smile, and some Vanadises slightly knitted their brows.
Liza first talked about the fact that she fought against Torbalan on the sea together with the late Sasha. As to supplement that, Elen also talked about what she heard from Sasha.
Then, the red-haired Vanadis did not fail to speak about the fact that a curse had been placed on her by Baba Yaga. Thereby, she also told about the fact that her right arm was still inconvenient/disable.
Blue sparks scattered from the Thunder Swirl which was at her waist. As if to praise its master’s brave fight.
“I didn’t see Baba Yaga’s corpse, but I can tell that that demon died. Also that the curse has been lifted. In addition, I can wield the Thunder Swirl with my left arm without problem.”
Without breaking her dignified attitude until the end, Liza ended her talk. Without delay, Elen opened her mouth. It was also in order to blow off the atmosphere which became awkward due to the word “curse”.
“The demons I happened to meet were that Baba Yaga and a guy called Vodyanoy who was with her. About Baba Yaga, I too know nothing aside from what Elizavetta has told.”
There, Elen cut her words once. Her pupils which emitted the brightness of rubies were sharply narrowed.
“As for Vodyanoy, he had the appearance of a human. He was a man in his mid-twenties. His physique was average; he was neither tall nor thin nor fat. But, that guy blocked my Arifal barehanded.”
A shiver ran among the Vanadises. Elen’s Dragonic Tool, which held the nickname of Brilliant Be-header of the Fallen Spirit, was able to easily cut through even a dragon’s scales, let alone iron and armor. Mila, Sofy and Liza knew well the sharpness of Arifal’s blade.
Vodyanoy’s body was able to withstand a blow from it.
“Sorry to interrupt you, but I have also met Vodyanoy.”
Mila said with a depressed face. Elen surprised looked at her. Mila continued.
“When I heard about the name and appearance, I thought maybe it was the same person. I encountered him two years ago, when I was cooperating in Brune’s civil war. My Lavias did not work on him, too.”
The Frozen Wave which was in Mila’s hand wore a white chill, as if remembering her anger at that time.
“How did you drive him away?”
Mila did not immediately answered Elen’s question and turned her gaze to Tigre. Then, she returned her eyes to Elen. She revealed a nasty smile.
“Do you want to know?”
“I’ll say this just in case, but if it’s about the fact that you borrowed the power of Tigre’s bow, then I did it too.”
As Elen deliberately said with an indifferent expression, the Silver Flash which was in her hand proudly raised a gentle breeze. It let her silver hair and the hem of her dress flutter.
Furthermore, Sofy, Olga and Liza nodded too. With a dumbfounded face, Mila looked around at the Vanadises’ faces in turn.
“If not for that power, we would have been defeated by Torbalan.”
When Olga indifferently said that without changing her expression one bit, Liza shook her head as if reminiscing about an unpleasant memory.
“We would have also been eaten by a Double Headed Dragon.”
After Mila lightly glared at Tigre as she pouted, she shrugged her shoulders. Sofy turned her gaze to Valentina who has kept silent since a little while ago.
“Up to here, do you understand the story?”
“Thank you for your concern, Sofya. Please you can go on without minding me. If there’s something I don’t understand, I’ll ask.”
The face of Valentina who answered so was serious; so it seemed that she was seriously listening to the story of Tigre and company. Tigre, impressed, fixedly stared at Valentina.
If there weren’t that many “testimonies” in addition to his own experience, even Tigre would absolutely not have believed these fantastic existences beyond human knowledge.
However, unlike Tigre, Sofy seemed to have strengthened her wariness towards Valentina. The golden-haired Vanadis asked the black-haired Vanadis.
“By the way, Valentina. What about you? After hearing our story, haven’t you recalled anything? Like a story where you might have seen a demon somewhere.”
Valentina wandered her gaze in the space as if exploring her memory, but she slowly shook her head before long and slightly bowed her head to Sofy.
“I am sorry for not being able to help you.”
“──I see. It’s a shame, but it can’t be helped. Well then, Tigre, could you tell us your story?”
To Sofy’s words, the Vanadises’ gazes focused on Tigre. After the youth rummaged his darkish red hair, he picked up his black bow which was put at his feet.
“As far as I can remember, this black bow was in my mansion. I was told by my father that it is an heirloom bow transmitted for generations in the Vorn House. He also told me to use it when it was absolutely necessary.”
“Isn’t there anything else your father said about the bow?”
Tigre shook his head to Elen’s question.
“At least not that I know of. Besides, my father wasn’t using the bow that much. He taught me the basics though.”
“Thinking about it again, a bow being an heirloom in a noble family of Brune is a strange story.”
Mila said. There was a trend of despising the bow in the Brune Kingdom. It was said that a sword and spear were a warrior’s weapon and that the bow was a weapon used by those without redeeming features in martial arts and poor people. It wasn’t that they didn’t use the bow, but its achievements weren’t worth praising.
“It’s hard to think that a person like you grew up in Brune.”
Elen also agreed with Mila. Tigre revealed a wry smile.
“I was brought up in the countryside after all. The first time I went to the capital was when I was 10 and I was already used to the bow at that time.”
“Tigre. The first time you knew about the power of that bow was when you shot down Zaian Thenardier and a Wyvern, right?”
Sofy asked so as to confirm. Tigre nodded with a tense face.
“Yes. Until then, aside from when I maintained it, I had not touched it.”
Zaian was Duke Thenardier’s son. When dozens of days had passed since the battle of Dinant, he was ordered by his father to attack Alsace leading a Wyvern and an Earth Dragon in addition to 3000 soldiers.
But, he was defeated by Tigre and Elen leading LeitMeritz’s army.
Zaian tried to escape while riding the Wyvern, but at that time, the black bow called out to Tigre’s consciousness; saying to shoot the dragon. Power flowed from Elen’s Arifal and wore wind to the arrow that Tigre held.
That arrow which was fired by the black bow flew at a surprising speed. It shot down and blew away Zaian along with the Wyvern flying high in the sky. He had not forgotten the shock of that time even now.
“A voice from that bow? Do you have any idea about it?”
Mila asked. After a short pause, Tigre replied in a careful tone.
“I think it’s probably Tir Na Fa.”
When they heard that name, everyone could not help but frown. Brune and Zhcted believed in the same gods. Tir Na Fa was the goddess who ruled night, darkness and death; and it was said that she was the chief god Perkūnas’ wife, big sister, little sister and lifelong enemy.
It was often discussed among priests about whether she should have had her name entered to the ten gods.
The claim about whether they should remove a goddess, who ruled darkness and death, and was Perkūnas’ lifelong enemy, from the line of the gods worshipped had been advocated many times. But, the fact that this goddess was Perkūnas’ wife, big sister, and little sister repressed that claim.
By the platitude that both darkness and death would eventually come and the opinion which praised Perkūnas who took his lifelong enemy as his wife, the discussion was settled.
In that way, Tir Na Fa’s name has continued existing without being erased.
“It isn’t like I doubt your words, but why would Tir Na Fa help you? Tigre, was there a priest in your family lineage?”
Mila asked as she furrowed her eyebrows. It was a natural question.
“As far as I know, there were neither priests nor shrine maidens. It seemed that the Vorn House’s founder was a hunter. The fact that one day, he saved the King and was given a title and territory remains in the records.”
“And your mother?”
“I heard that my mother was the daughter of a gardener who worked at the royal palace. And that she met with my father when she was alone after losing her relatives.”
“If it’s a gardener who worked in the royal palace, I don’t think that she came from that distinguished a House, but…”
“I don’t know about my mother’s House. It was when I was 9 that my mother passed away, but I haven’t heard about such a story from her.”
To Tigre’s reply, Mila said “sorry” as she bowed down with an apologetic face. The youth shook his head so as to say that he did not mind it.
—About my mother, huh…
When asked about his mother, Tigre would immediately reply that she was a gentle, talkative mother. Also that her body was weak and she did not go out of the mansion that much.
However, Tigre could almost say nothing about his mother’s lineage.
Despite the fact that she was born and raised in the capital Nice, his mother hardly talked about the capital. Neither about what kind of life she spent nor about her family.
Instead of that, his mother liked to talk about fairy tales and folklores.
When he was a child, Tigre was told various stories until he fell asleep while having his mother sleep together with him in the same bed every night. More than 90% of the fairy tales and folklores that Tigre knew were those he heard from his mother and Mashas.
From the stories he heard from his mother, there was a story about a bow user and also stories about heroes fighting against demons. But, he has never heard a story concerning his heirloom, the black bow.
If there was something which he did not look over and which was written about his mother, it would probably be his father’s diary. Besides, he might hear some stories from Mashas and Augres who were his father’s friends.
“About my mother, I will investigate when I return to Brune.”
“Please, do so. But, don’t overdo it.”
As she worriedly said that, Sofy returned the main topic.
“The demons were calling us “Staff” and “Axe”. For them, we are probably just accessories of the Dragonic Tools.”
“And they also called Tigre, “Bow”. But, the attitude that the demons have towards us is clearly different to the one they have towards Tigre. For them, we Vanadises are just a hindrance. But, it’s not the case for Tigre.”
Waiting until Mila finished speaking, Liza opened her mouth.
“Baba Yaga clearly tried to take Tigre away.”
“Vodyanoy also tried to do so at the time I’d fought him.”
When Mila also responded so, Olga looked puzzled.
“But, it did not look like it for Torbalan.”
“I assume that even the demons ── though I don’t know how many there are, aren’t monolithic.”
When Sofy said that, Valentina interjected.
“I understand the story, but what do you people intend to do from now on?”
The black-haired Vanadis’ gaze was turned to Tigre.
“Earl Vorn will return to Brune after this, right? When that happens, he will not be able to frequently visit Zhcted, right? Rather, taking the matter of this time  into consideration, he might not be able to come to Zhcted for several years.”
What she said was rational. The reason why Tigre was to return to Brune earlier than expected was because the youth had almost died after Zhcted used him as a messenger to another country. Even if Tigre entreated, Regin would probably not let him get close to Zhcted.
Conversely, it would also be difficult for the Vanadises to go to Brune. They were princesses governing dukedoms. Unless there were either war or important negotiations, they could not be absent from their dukedoms.
“How do you think about it, Earl Vorn? Will you track down the demons and exterminate them?”
“I haven’t decided yet. After all, I know neither their purpose nor their number.”
Tigre’s words, rather than being a reply to Valentina, were turned to the Vanadises present in this place.
“The reason why everyone was gathered here was, as Sofy said, because we want to share the fact that demons existed. We wanted everyone to know what each of us knew. We thought that if there was something new that someone discovered, it would be better to tell us now.”
Saying up to there, Tigre looked at Valentina.
“If possible, I also want you to cooperate. May I ask you of that?”
“Yes. I will do what I can.”
Valentina nodded without erasing her smile. Elen looked at her with a dubious face.
“I’m thankful that you say that, but you consented quite easily, eh.”
“One or two aside, it’s something that everyone except me said. As expected, I can’t help but believe in it, right? It’s not like you people have hobby of conspiring beforehand to tease me.”
As she said so, Valentina quietly stood up. She carried her large scythe on her shoulder.
“If it’s over with this, I shall excuse myself. I have gotten a little tired.”
“Sorry. Thank you for having spared us your time today.”
When Tigre said so, Valentina nodded as she shook her black hair. Elen and company respectively threw greetings of separation, too.
The black-haired Vanadis left, Sofy silently stared at the door which she closed.
“Judging from our conversation, she looked like a good person.”
When Tigre leaked his impression, Elen sitting next to him extended her arm and lightly pinched the youth’s ear with a painless attitude.
“Your impression for women is unreliable. Your cheeks were loose the whole time, you know?”
“Is that so? I don’t think that at all though.”
“To think that you aren’t even aware of it; it’s quite a serious illness. I must firmly educate you so that you aren’t deceived by this kind of woman.”
“You’ve become quite jealous, too, Elen.”
Seeming to have pulled herself together, Sofy teased her with a smile. Elen blushed and hurriedly released her hand from Tigre. Seeing that, Mila let out a small breath. If Sofy have not said anything, they were about to throw sarcastic comments at Elen.
Olga who was silent until then opened her mouth with a difficult face.
“For me, too, as Tigre said, Valentina did not look like a bad person. Just…”
Although she hesitated for an instant, the pink-haired Vanadis continued her words as everyone’s gazes focused on her.
“I’m a little anxious about the fact that she didn’t ask us anything. She might not have believed it after all.”
If she had really believed in Tigre and company’s story, wouldn’t she have asked about the fine details? That was the doubt Olga held.
“Maybe she didn’t know what to ask. She seems to have never encountered a demon.”
When Tigre said so, Olga nodded, seemingly not intending to be fixated on her doubt.
“For the time being, we can’t help but be satisfied about the issue from the fact that we have said what must be said, right? It would be impossible to believe with just this much.”
As Elen said that while turning both her hands to the back of her head, Liza also agreed as she shrugged her shoulders.
“In fact, among the soldiers who saw the demon, those who want to think that that was a dream aren’t small in number. Nothing can be done about it even for a Vanadis.”
“Besides, the problem we should settle as of now is how to get in touch with Tigre who will return to Brune.”
Mila said so and the six people talked about it for a while. However, unable to come up with a concrete plan, they decided to talk about it somewhere once again before Tigre returned to Brune and ended the meeting.
While walking down the royal palace’s corridor, Valentina neither erased her smile nor say anything. Without breaking her slow pace, she entered the guest room which was prepared for her.
“Vanadis-sama, welcome back.”
There were a man and a woman in the room. They were the servant and maid that Valentina brought along from Osterode. The two were husband and wife and they both were 50. They, who were pleasantly chatting sitting on chairs, stood up and respectfully bowed to the black-haired Vanadis.
Fire was blazing in the fireplace and the room has been warmed enough. On the table near the bed, there was a bottle of Valentina’s favorite wine, and a silver cup turned upside down. Seeing that, Valentina smiled at her two attendants.
“Thank you for your hard work today. I’ll rest, so you two should rest, too. If there’s something you need, I don’t mind you guys using my name.”
The servant and maid expressed words of gratitude to their young master and left the room. The two people’s room was next to Valentina’s. As Valentina who was now alone sat down, she put her Dragonic Tool, which she was carrying on her shoulder, on the blanket. She gave a small sigh.
“As expected I’m tired.”
A happy smile was floating on the face of the girl who talked to herself.
There were a lot of harvests. One was that she was able to meet Tigrevurmud Vorn.
When he appeared surrounded by Elen and company, he looked somewhat unreliable; but when she saw his interactions with the nobles, she noticed that Tigre dealt with everyone with a composed attitude. While attending to him jokingly, Valentina was secretly impressed.
“Even at the place of the meeting just now, he wasn’t just playing a listener’s role; he also properly took part in the conversation. I wanted to meet him earlier.”
Personally, she did not dislike a man like Tigre. Honestly speaking, the fact that he was lacking ambition was unsatisfactory; but even if one deducted that, that youth was appealing enough.
“When this Sun Festival ends, he will return to Brune. It’ll be better to take action after that.”
If possible, she wanted to create an opportunity where she and Tigre were alone somewhere just the two of them; but it would be difficult while he was in Zhcted. Elen and company were by his side. Especially, Liza and Olga were quite attached to him and Sofy was cautious of her.
“Still, to think that that Elizavetta was so meek…”
As she repeatedly shook her shoulders, Valentina leaked a stifled laugh. From what she knew, the Vanadis Elizavetta Fomina was the kind of person who put on a bold front as she was always stubborn without breaking her arrogant attitude.
When she stood before Tigre, she looked just like an immature girl her age. Even her competition with Ludmila Lourie for some reason was somewhat childish.
The black-haired Vanadis did not think that it was their encounter with Tigre that changed them like that.
“It’s not that it changed them, it’s probably…”
A Vanadis was chosen by a Dragonic Tool. One suddenly became Vanadis one day without any previous notice. Mila’s mother, grandmother and great-grandmother were Vanadises, so Mila probably received training in order to become a Vanadis; but there was no guarantee that she would definitely become a Vanadis.
It was not like one suddenly changed just because they became a Vanadis. Even if one learnt how to behave as a Vanadis, it was not like their previous self was lost. It was just that they only stopped displaying it in public. Tigre might be good (skillful) at drawing out that part which they stopped displaying in public.
Valentina stood up and picked up the bottle of wine and silver cup which were put on the table. She poured wine into the cup herself. She drank a mouthful and spilled a sigh.
She switched her thinking. There were plenty of things she had to think about.
“──I unexpectedly met everybody.”
The existence called demons. Vodyanoy. Torbalan. Baba Yaga. These were the names of demons that came out of the talk from a little while ago. This was the second harvest for Valentina.
“From how it looked, I don’t think anyone was hiding something, but…”
With the bottle of wine and the cup still in her hand, Valentina once again sat down and lost herself in thought.
—Does nobody know about Drekavac and Duke Ganelon? Even though I thought that it wouldn’t have been strange even if Earl Vorn, Eleonora and Ludmila have encountered them.
Drekavac was the old man who once served Duke Thenardier. He disappeared along with Thenardier’s defeat, but his real nature was a demon with the ability to train dragons.
In Brune’s civil war, Thenardier used several dragons, but those were all prepared by Drekavac.
It was rare that even a wild dragon showed up before a human. There should be no one other than Drekavac who could gather many dragons to obey a human.
Duke Ganelon left Brune, not fighting against Tigre and company and also avoiding a decisive battle with Thenardier. He also burnt away his own mansion in Artishem. Taking that into consideration, it couldn’t be helped even if they didn’t know.
—There are as many demons as there are Vanadises. There should be another two demons, but…
Either they haven’t yet showed themselves before anyone, or they have been destroyed by the previous Vanadises or were consumed by Ganelon.
—It’s pointless even if I think about it. They will eventually make a move, so I shall just wait.
Now then, how should I move? She thought. Thinking about her duty as a Vanadis, she should cooperate with Tigre and the other Vanadises and exert herself in destroying the demons. She did not mind it. Valentina herself thought that she had to destroy the demons someday.
However, it was certain that there were still many mysteries about them. Among the other Vanadises, even Sofy who has probably investigated more about the demons said that she did not know their purpose. Valentina decided to watch their hard fight for a while.
Within the darkness, cold, dried air was drifting.
Quietly stirring up that air were one old man and one young man.
They were walking in a space, where not even one line of light shone, with calm steps. In their eyes, the scenery of the surroundings shut in darkness seemed to be natural. Even the walls which were cracked, the gray floor full of cracks and the high ceiling.
That place was a temple which had turned into ruins.
The old man wrapped his small-sized body in a black robe and put on a hood over his eyes. The young man walking next to him had a medium build; he wound a green cloth around his short black hair and he was wearing a thick coat which treated fur to the collar and sleeves. The old man’s name was Drekavac and the young man’s was Vodyanoy.
“Why did you let Yaga-baasan die without helping?”
In a tone as if engaging in small talk, Vodyanoy asked Drekavac. In fact, it was something like a small talk for them. Drekavac, without so much as looking at the young man, gave a short answer.
“Because it was Koschei.”
It was the name of the one who destroyed Baba Yaga. Though Vodyanoy did not seem satisfied with that answer, he did not inquire any further.
The two demons who reached the deepest part of the temple stopped and looked up at the gray wall towering before their eyes.
The image of a goddess riding on the back of a huge dragon was carved on the wall.
But, how many people were there who would understand that that was a goddess?
The goddess wore a thin cloth, but the part from her left shoulder to her breast was exposed. She placed the head of the dragon she was riding on her knee and put her hand on its mane. It looked like she was stroking it, and it also looked like she was holding it down.
One did not know what the goddess, who gazed at the dragon, was thinking about.
This was because the goddess had three faces. Three facial expressions lined up on the heads which were on her neck. The central face had a gentle smile, the right face was dyed in anger and the left face expressed no emotion at all. Those three faces were looking down at the dragon.
“…Probably because the “Bow” grew up, it looks good. If it continues at this rate, the day we wish for is not so far away.”
“Will our world come? A world where the black sun and red moon will shine in the sky, the purple earth and green sea will spread and where there will be humans, dragons, gods and creatures of fairy tales.”
Seeming to have finished what they should confirm, the two men turned their backs on the image on the wall’s surface. They quietly went back the way they came. Within the darkness, dried air once again settled.