The cool spring wind blew through the grassy plain filled with gentle ups and downs. There were few clouds in the sky and the sunlight vividly showed the blooming flowers and the figures of butterflies dancing between them.
The highway which extended through the grassy plain was filled with iron, men and horses. They were going north on the highway with Brune Kingdom’s capital Nice as the destination.
Various battle flags were fluttering in the wind; if there were the Brune Kingdom’s Red Horse Flags, there were also the neighboring Kingdom Zhcted’s Black Dragon Flags. Moreover, even battle flags of local feudal lords and knight squadrons displayed their existence.
Weapons and armors being dirty with blood and mud, and wounded people being conspicuous among soldiers were because it was after a battle.
The name of this combined army was “Moonlight Knights Army”. They numbered approximately 10,000.
Tigrevurmud Vorn who acted as the supreme commander was 18 years old. He was the Earl ruling the land Alsace in the frontier, and was called by his nickname Tigre by those close to him. His darkish red hair was not particular well-arranged and there was a calm brightness as to let one feel one’s virtue in his black pupils.
The fact of him being a countryside feudal lord aside, he might look unreliable as a supreme commander leading an army of 10,000. Both his appearance of leather armor on hemp clothes and the aspect where he greatly yawned on horseback, wrapped in the warm air of spring, emphasized that impression.
But, there was no other person among the Brune people that has achieved as many distinguished military services as him. Two years ago, Tigre drove away the Muozinel Kingdom’s large army, which invaded Brune, with a small army. In addition, he defeated Duke Thenardier, who attempted to assassinate Princess Regin, in battle and quelled the civil war.
Moreover, he intervened in the civil war of the neighboring country Asvarre due to various reasons, cooperated with a General called Tallard Graham and defeated Prince Elliot’s army.
And seven days ago, Tigre fought against an army of the Sachstein Kingdom which invaded Brune and won. Although the Sachstein army attacked from the west and the south and the enemy of the west still remained, it was a valuable victory for Brune which had kept losing.
At the time when it would probably take another koku until the sun reached the zenith, the capital Nice surrounded by gray ramparts could be seen.
In a place approximately 500 Alsins (500 meter) away from the capital, Tigre stopped the army. He thought that it would probably make the people of the capital anxious if the army got too close.
“Set up a camp. And take a rest in turns.”
After giving such orders to the soldiers, Tigre turned to look at Mashas waiting next to him. He was a close friend of Tigre’s late father and the man whom the youth relied on the most. Now, he was acting as the mediator of the Brune nobles.
“Lord Mashas. Who do you think would be good to send as a messenger to the royal palace?”
“If we wait here, a messenger will come from their side sooner or later. The report of the victory has been made long ago after all.”
While stroking his gray beard, the old Earl, who turned 57 this year, replied.
After having killed Sachstein’s General Kreuger in the battle seven days ago, Tigre and company immediately sent a messenger to the capital. It was in order to dispel the anxiety of the people of the capital and boost their allies’ morale by means of the victory report. The battle was not over yet after all.
Just as Mashas had said, not even a half koku had passed and Tigre received a report from a soldier.
“Excuse me, Your Excellency Earl. A person named Gerard Augres who said to be a messenger from the royal palace demanded an interview with you.”
“Let him through right away.”
Tigre answered with a bright face. For Tigre, Gerard was one of his reliable comrades in arms. Before long, one man showed up as he passed through a swarm of men, horses and armor.
He wrapped his slender body in gray official clothes and his bronze pupils were filled with brightness. As he roughly smoothed down his quirky brown hair, he bowed to Tigre in a polite manner.
“It has been a long time, Earl Vorn. I was ordered by Her Highness the Princes to serve as your guide to the royal palace and thus came. ──I have heard various stories, but I feel relieved that there were no unusual events.”
“I’m also glad to see that you’re looking healthy, Gerard. How is Viscount Augres?”
“Thinking a little about his age, he looks unexpectedly full of vigor.”
Although Gerard’s words were merciless as usual, respect to his father could be felt in his tone. Then, he also bowed to Mashas standing next to Tigre. Mashas asked.
“Gerard. Does the fact that you came here mean that the preparations before our audience with Her Highness the Princess should be left to your discretion?”
Brune was currently ruled by a Princess. The Princess’s name was Regin Ester Loire Bastian do Charles. Although it was because of the late King Faron’s unexpected death, a Princess sitting on the throne was unprecedented in Brune.
But, the three men here have pledged allegiance to her as Brune’s retainers. So even if the Princess’s name was mentioned, there was no problem between them.
“Well, basically. But about that matter, I would like to ask something to you two.”
Gerard lowered the volume of his voice without erasing his smile. Tigre and Mashas swiftly exchanged gazes. Mashas called one soldier and briefly told him something. That soldier called out to the other soldiers and they went away from Tigre and company with very natural steps.
—If it’s an important talk, should I call Elen?
There were currently two Vanadises in the Moonlight Knights Army.
They were Eleonora Viltaria with the nickname of “Wind Princess of the Silver Flash”, and Valentina Glinka Estes with the name of “Illusory Princess of the Hollow Shadow”. They, who were prominent figures in the neighboring country Zhcted, were cooperating with Tigre by an order from the Zhcted King Victor.
Eleonora was called by her nickname Elen by those close to her, and Tigre was also allowed to call her so. For the youth, she was not only a comrade in arms, but also an irreplaceable existence.
Elen too should probably felt the same way towards Tigre.
On the other hand, he had just met Valentina for the first time the other day, and there were many parts that he did not understand about her personality. However, it was a fact that she lent her power to Tigre in her own way.
Those two women had the same rank in the Moonlight Knights Army. If he was to call just Elen and not Valentina for this important talk, a feeling of unfairness would emerge.
So, Tigre thought that he would judge whether he should call them after hearing the talk in detail.
As he confirmed that there was no longer anyone around the three of them, Gerard began to talk.
“We have heard the details of the battle from the messenger that you people have sent. In that regard, in order to spread around that victory, Her Highness Princess Regin and His Excellency the Prime Minister requested that they would like you to pass through the gate of the capital with a group of about 50 people including Earl Vorn. It is a little ceremony of triumphal return.”
“Among the 50 people, Zhcted people are also included, right?”
Gerard nodded at Tigre who asked as to confirm.
Only cheering up the residents of the city by victory was not enough. It was also necessary to have them understand that the Zhcted army was an allied force. With just the fact that a foreign army was inside the country, most people would be wary.
“A party will be opened at night, so after the audience is over, you will be resting in rooms that we have prepared for you. By the way……currently in the capital, an unpleasant rumor about you has spread.”
Gerard, unable to hide his displeasure, twisted his mouth and continued explaining.
“Something like Earl Vorn has betrayed Brune and has become Zhcted’s cat’s-paw.”
“It’s a rumor that we can’t ignore, eh.”
Mashas indignantly furrowed his eyebrows. Though Tigre did not say anything, he could not suppress the unpleasant feelings floating on his face.
“It’s probably the doing of the faction following Melisande. They must have spread such a rumor when they learned that Tigre came back from Zhcted after getting the cooperation of Eleonora-dono and company.”
Mashas spitted out so in a rough tone.
Melisande was a woman from Brune’s royal family, and like an aunt for Regin. She was also the wife of Duke Thenardier who took action: plotting the usurpation of the throne and Regin’s assassination.
It looked like she, who lost her son and husband in the civil war two years ago, had been quietly spending her days in a shrine located in Nemetacum that was once governed by Duke Thenardier. But, she was just pretending to do so, secretly gathering allies and waiting for an opportunity to overthrow Regin.
Because she was such a woman, it was no wonder that Mashas concluded so. However, Gerard shook his head.
“My father and I also thought so at first, but it looks like it is somehow wrong. They actively spread rumors for sure, but this rumor’s source is from a far-off location. Regarding the reactions about this rumor, outside the royal palace ── in other words, most of the populace has ignored it.”
“Was the report about the Sachstein army’s defeat effective?”
As Tigre asked so, Gerard revealed an evil smile.
“Yes. The fact about the victory was strong above all, after all. We have actively spread a rumor, too. That Earl Vorn would definitely defeat the Sachstein army and regain peace in Brune like when he suppressed the civil war before. Although, it would have been dangerous had the victory report been late.”
The youth held his breath to Gerard’s lines. If he had failed to kill Kreuger at that time and the battle had dragged on, it might have resulted in an irreparable situation.
However, it looked like it was still too early to feel relieved. Gerard made a grim face as if to say “let’s finally get to the difficult problem”.
“Enough about outside the royal palace, the problem is inside the palace. Aside from Melisande’s faction, there are also other groups who believed this rumor.”
As he let a strong disdain ooze into his bronze pupils, Gerard continued his words.
“There are people who are cautious of Zhcted and Vanadis-dono and those who simply don’t like Earl Vorn’s existence. Regarding the latter, they are quite diverse. If I were to cite those who despised the bow, those who looked down on Earl Vorn with the fact that he is a small noble as reason, and those who are jealous of his numerous distinguished military services, there would be no end.”
“Looks like I became quite popular during the time when I was away from Brune.”
“Except that you aren’t bathed in gazes of encouragement, but rather in the ones of disdain, jealousy and suspicion.”
Tigre shrugged his shoulders as Gerard returned his joke with sarcasm. The youth casually took off his gaze from Gerard and looked at his bow put in a slightly distant place.
In Brune, sword, spear and horsemanship were esteemed; and the evaluation of the bow was extremely low. It was to the extent that it was said that those, who used a bow in the battlefield, were weak people, who could use neither a sword nor spear, and were hunters or criminals. There was also a story of an archer squad which, although achieved big results in war, was not recognized.
Tigre was the owner of prominent ability in the bow, but he could not decently wield a sword or spear. Although a noble, it could not be said that he had a good pedigree. His territory was also Alsace located in the frontier.
For the Brune people who valued pedigree and lineage, and made much account of the sword and spear, the existence of a man such as Tigre was hard to understand; and they would not tolerate it.
He had imagined that, but when hearing the talk from Gerard, who knew very well about the circumstances of the royal palace, like this, a shock tinged with coldness once again wrapped Tigre’s body.
—No, my awareness was still naïve.
Hadn’t the Zhcted King Victor also said it? That even if the Brune people did not recognize Tigre’s bow skill, they could not ignore his war results.
“For the sake of the residents of the city, they want Tigre and Vanadis-dono to pass through the capital’s gate. But, there are many people, who don’t like Tigre and Vanadis-dono, in the royal palace. Is that it?”
Mashas summarized the talk like so while shaking his short and stout body. The brown-haired secretary nodded with an expression looking like he was enduring a headache.
“Yes. On the other hand, if Earl Vorn and Vanadis-dono don’t enter the capital and don’t have an audience with Her Highness the Princess, it will just emphasize the belief in the rumor of the betrayal. Besides, Her Highness the Princess wants to see Earl Vorn very much; so if you were to take your leave here, my head will be compromised.”
“Aren’t you exaggerating a little? I also want to see Her Highness the Princess, but……”
When Tigre said so, Gerard greatly shook his head.
“It’s not my intention to exaggerate. But, the fact that you fell in the sea on the way back from Asvarre to Zhcted had already made Her Highness so worried.”
Mashas who was listening to the talk next to Tigre made an expression saying that he did not know what to say. It was a fact that Regin was worried about Tigre, but this secretary calmly hid the fact that she showed anger, that she had never showed before, towards Zhcted.
“From the viewpoint of Her Highness the Princess, it won’t do any good not to give even a few words to the two Vanadises who have cooperated with our country. And, if she is to meet with the Vanadises and don’t meet you, the Vanadises will hold doubt towards the Princess, right?”
In Zhcted, the Vanadises had authority second only to the King, and were existences whom one should pay respect to. Moreover, although it was an order of King Victor, they led soldiers, fought for Brune and shed blood.
If Regin were to impolitely deal with Elen and company, it would greatly affect future diplomacy. And as a ruler, she would buy dejection and disappointment from the surroundings.
“──I understand. I’ll ask Elen and Valentina.”
Tigre replied while rummaging his darkish red hair. Regin would probably arrange for Elen and company’s safety. Still, though he felt bad about making them feel unpleasant, the situation would become more troublesome if they were to avoid the audience. The two girls should understand that.
To Gerard who bowed his head saying “yes, please”, Mashas asked as he remembered.
“By the way, Lord Gerard. What’s become of Melisande?”
Mashas’s voice was low; Gerard, who raised his face, let hostility ooze in his bronze pupils.
“She is still staying in a guest room even now. With the pretext that her punishment, about the matter which brought about unnecessary commotion, is under consideration.”
During the Halo Festival which celebrated the beginning of the New Year, Melisande aimed at sinking Regin’s authority. She, who knew that the “Durandal”, that was in the royal palace, was a fake, ordered Viscount Armand to destroy the fake Durandal.
Durandal was the kingdom’s sacred sword said to have been wielded by the founder Charles, and if they were to lose it, Regin’s reign would greatly shake. But, Melisande’s aim failed due to the trap that Regin had set and she lost face on the contrary.
“It’s also the same for Viscount Armand. Of course, they are in different rooms. He has been given freedom to walk around in the royal palace to some extent.”
“Do you intend to use them as bait?”
Gerard answered with a displeased expression to Tigre’s question.
“As expected, he seems to be careful, so we’ve obtained no results as of yet.”
In the royal palace, there were many nobles who supported Melisande. They were originally under Duke Thenardier’s umbrella, but after his death, they gathered under Melisande.
Regin and company have left their existences as is. This was because if she were to take measures such as evicting them just because they did not support her, it would give a bad influence on other nobles. Regin’s position could not yet be called firm, so she must aim to not further increase her enemies.
Besides, Regin did not like the way of coercing by fear. She understood firm measures were required at times, but she wanted to explore for another way of doing things before adhering to them.
“About the fact that it was Melisande, who drew in the Sachstein troops, what kind of measures does Her Highness the Princess and the Prime Minister intends to take?”
Mashas answered as he lowered the volume of his voice even more. Melisande’s act was clearly something which harmed the country Brune. Even her royal family lineage could not protect her anymore.
“Her highness the Princess concluded not to take any action at the present stage.”
Gerard’s face was covered in bitterness and his voice was tinged with irritation.
“She took out cautious that it would be suspected whether she isn’t going to take advantage of Sachstein’s invasion and use that to execute Melisande.”
The confrontation between Regin and Melisande became common knowledge with the matter of the fake Durandal.
If executing Melisande was considered to be something plotted by Regin, her popularity would fall. While Sachstein would inwardly be pleased with taking measures, they might ostensibly deny all relation with Melisande, and moreover blame Regin as a coward and justified their invasion.
“But, you can’t afford to leave them as is forever, right?”
When Tigre asked as to ascertain their intentions, Gerard shrugged his shoulders.
“We intend to decide about that after having completely kicked out the Sachstein troops, which are currently marching unjustly in our country.”
If they repelled the Sachstein army, Regin’s fame would increase. If they were to settle it at a stretch using that momentum, they would be able to prevent the rebellion somewhat. In so doing, they would not officially announce that Melisande was in contact with the Sachstein Kingdom. It was in order to minimize confusion.
“Certainly, there is only that way. So, who will play the role of repelling the Sachstein army?”
To Mashas’s question, Gerard moved his index finger and pointed to Tigre and Mashas. He wore an expression seemingly to want to say “who else other than you”.
“Her Highness the Princess has already given the order to other troops and military units; that they come under your command. Only Earl Vorn, who put Her Highness on the throne, can increase her fame. As I said just a while ago, we have already spread the rumor after all.”
“I’m grateful for the soldiers increasing, but…… how many does it seem to be?”, Tigre asked.
“About 20,000 to 30,000 will be added, so I greatly estimate your army to number 40,000. According to the reports, the enemy’s number is 50,000; but it’s considered that their number somehow decreased as they had fought twice. So I estimated that both parties would have about the same number.”
This time, it was Tigre and Mashas’s turn to shrug their shoulders.
After Gerard left and Mashas went away from this place in order to issue instructions to the troops, Tigre sent a soldier to the camp of the Zhcted army to call Elen, Lim and Valentina. While he was talking with Gerard, the setting of camp progressed adequately.
Before long, the three women showed up in Tigre’s tent.
Elen ── Eleonora Viltaria was 18 years old like Tigre. Her silver hair was long enough to reach to her waist, and liveliness and ambition dwelt in her ruby-colored pupils. She wrapped her body in a blue battle outfit and hung a long sword with a guard, which was modeled after wings, to her waist.
In addition to her beauty, her dashing attitude gathered attention just by her walking down the camp. As a warrior as well as a commander of an army, Elen was the owner of sufficient ability and she was also deeply trusted by the soldiers.
Lim has acted as Elen’s adjutant since the old days. She was 21, three years older than her lord; she tied her dull blond hair on the left side of her head and wore a blue battle outfit on her body. Although not even a fragment of amiability existed on her shapely face, people close to her knew well that Lim was a girl full of emotions.
Valentina was 23, two years older than Lim. She wrapped her body in a pure white dress unbecoming in a battlefield. Her long black hair looked very pretty in this dress which had roses everywhere.
Coupled with her bland smile, she would give off the impression of a neat and clean high-born lady to many people. Although she carried a large sickle of an ominous shape on her shoulder, the large sickle strangely blended into the atmosphere she wore and did not cause any sense of incongruity. This large sickle was her Dragonic Tool Ezendeis.
Unlike Elen, Valentina did not lead soldiers. Only she herself went ahead and stepped onto the land of Brune.
Though her ability as a warrior as well as a commander of an army was unknown, it was a fact that in the battle against Sachstein, Valentina’s ingenuity led the Moonlight Knights army to victory.
“I’m sorry to have called you as you’re busy.”
When Tigre thanked the three women, he looked back towards the girl waiting on the side. This girl tied her chestnut-colored hair behind her head and wore a white apron on top a skirt with long sleeves reaching up to her feet.
“Titta. Please, serve us some drinks.”
The girl called Titta lively answered “yes” as she brightened her hazel-colored pupils.
She was a maid who had served Tigre since he was a child. She loved Tigre, and even followed the youth when he proceeded to Zhcted as a guest General. Though she turned 17 this year, childishness still remained slightly on her lovely features.
Titta skillfully prepared something which diluted wine with honey and fruit juice squeezed, poured it into porcelain cups for the number of people and put them before the four people. After thanking the girl, Tigre turned around to Elen and company. He explained what he was asked by Gerard.
“Hmm. You are asking us to go to the royal palace while being fully aware that we will be exposed to unpleasant gazes, is that it?”
After drinking a mouthful of wine, Elen leaked such an impression with a cold smile.
“I’m sorry, but could you come with me?”
When Tigre put his porcelain cup aside, he deeply bowed his head to the extent that his forehead touched the ground. These women were on this land as friendly troops. No matter how many times you bow your head, it’s still an impossible demand.
Elen and Lim did not immediately answered and looked at Valentina next to them leisurely drinking wine. They intended to accept it with a smile since it was a request from Tigre, but what about this black-haired Vanadis?
“This is quite delicious, eh. Can I ask for another cup?”
Valentina asked Titta with a smiling face. While the chestnut-haired maid hurriedly prepared it, the pure white dressed Vanadis turned her gaze at Tigre.
“Will it end with just gazes?”
Would the people in disfavor with Zhcted’s intervention not think of causing harm to Elen and company? Valentina was asking about that.
When Tigre raised his face, he stared at the three women with a difficult expression.
“I can’t say that it’ll absolutely be safe. But, I swear on my life and honor that I’ll protect the Zhcted people. Her Highness the Princess should also share the same thought.”
If Elen and company were attacked in the royal palace, Brune would also end up making an enemy out of Zhcted. Regin should be trying to avoid such a situation by any means. As for Tigre, he did not intend to change his declaration. He did not want these girls, who were important to him, to get injured.
“Lord Tigrevurmud. How many days does it look like we will stay in the capital Nice?”
Lim who remained silent until then asked in an indifferent tone.
“I talked about it with Lord Mashas, and we will stay there for three days including today.”
It was a number which came out when they considered the time it would take for resupply of arms and food, reorganization of the army and intelligence gathering.
Tigre wanted to add another day, but if he were to do that, food and supplies would be necessary accordingly. In addition taking into consideration the fact that the enemy was approaching from the west, he could not spend more time.
“I don’t mind it. It’s impossible to escape such gazes on foreign soil. I can’t afford to worry about it each and every time. Besides as a Vanadis of Zhcted, it’s necessary for me to meet with Princess Regin.”
As she drank up the wine in her porcelain cup at a stretch, Elen said so. As if she was waiting for her words, Valentina also opened her mouth.
“I will go, too. I cannot decline it when being asked by a young hero.”
“How about you rest your body in the camp? It’s a quite tiring duty to go to the royal palace and meet with the Princess. Won’t it be painful for you whose body is weak?”
With folded arms, Elen turned a sharp gaze to the black-haired Vanadis. Although her words might sound like she was worried about the other party, it was clear that those were lines spoken from wariness towards Valentina. And speaking of Valentina, she eluded Elen’s glaring eyes with a smile.
“When you say that, I really want to take you up on your offer, but I am also a Vanadis after all. Besides, I have never met with Her Highness Princess Regin.”
Elen squinted her eyes as she searched for Valentina’s intention, but without inquiring any further, she turned her gaze to Tigre.
“Now then, Tigre. Let’s quickly get personnel’s selection over with.”
As a result from their talk, the 50 people who were entering the capital were as followed. It was a composition of 28 Brune people commanded by Tigre and Mashas and 18 Zhcted people led by Elen and Valentina.
The Zhcted people were all Elen’s subordinates and LeitMeritz’s soldiers; it was Lim and Rurick who gathered them. Rurick was the man among LeitMeritz’s knights that Tigre trusted the most. Rurick also trusted Tigre and was even proud of fighting together with him.
Among the Brune people, there were Gaspar, Mashas’s son, and Scheie who led the Lutece Knight Squadron. In addition, Titta would also accompany Tigre as an attendant.
“Earl Vorn, do you take only one maid along with you?”
Having asked Tigre that with a wondering face was Earl Bouroullec. He was a Brune noble who came under the command of the Moonlight Knights army and fought hard in the battle against the Sachstein army. He had the position of representative of the various nobles who joined the Moonlight Knights army, and he took five attendants with him.
Tigre answered with a wry smile.
“There are people that I brought from Alsace, but they haven’t received an attendant’s education.”
Bertrand, who had acted as a personal attendant since Tigre was young, lost his life in the civil war two years ago. Of course, there were people other than him that had also received the education for being a personal attendant; but those who had the ability that would pass in a royal court had died in the civil war.
Still, the fact that it didn’t become a pressing matter was because Tigre has been staying in LeitMeritz as a guest General until recently. When there was a situation where he needed an attendant, those close to him such as Lim or Rurick would fill in.
“I see. But then, it won’t look good enough. Shall I lend some of my attendants to you?”
Bouroullec said so with good will. Although understanding that, Tigre politely refused it after expressing his gratitude.
As soon as they passed through the castle wall and entered the main street, Tigre and the 50 horsemen were flooded with amazing cheers.
Soldiers stood on both sides of the main street at regular intervals, standing guard so that the people crowding there did not step on the street. As expected, they had been frightened by Sachstein’s invasion. In addition, the rumor that Gerard and company had spread probably made them have hope, too.
Tigre tightened his face in tension and advanced straight looking only at the front. Only he wore formal clothes which Gerard had prepared.
Tigre himself was reluctant to wear it, but when being told that a supreme commander should not meet the Princess with a shabby outfit, he was not able to reject it.
Although Gerard who was riding a horse next to the youth revealed an evil grin when he looked at Tigre, if he were to tease Tigre and the youth were to display a strange reaction here, there was the fear that the illusion of the young hero might collapse. So, he just devoted himself to his role as the guide with a face as solemn as possible.
There were people who turned complicated gazes to Elen, Lim and Valentina who were Zhcted people, but they were very few. The great majority of people welcomed them as cooperators, and moreover poured looks of longing and admiration to their beauty.
Tigre who finally relaxed his tension whispered to Gerard next to him.
“It looks like there are no people holding hostility towards me here.”
“There’d be no meaning in making a racket here after all. By throwing cold water on the joy of victory, they’d only stir the hostility and antipathy of the people.”
While listening to Gerard’s words, Tigre turned his gaze to the outside of the main street. He had the feeling of having heard something like singing voices mixed in the cheers.
When the battle flag of a meteor flutters in the battlefield The Goddess of wind and storm snuggles up to him with a smile
No matter the season or the sky
If the Knight of Moonlight draws his bowstring It’s impossible to escape from his arrow
There are no means preventing it no matter the armor or the shield
He defeats the most ferocious enemies And drives away the disaster to befall
He saved the Princess held captive by evil soldiers And becomes an arrow promising victory
Oh, Knight of Moonlight Your bravery is for justice
Your benevolence is for the people Your loyalty is for the Princess……
“──What the hell is that?”
“It’ll be quick to advertise like that, won’t it? The fame (popularity) will be excellent.”
To Tigre whose face became stiff, Gerard answered with an unconcerned face.
“We had a hard time, you know? After all, there were only old poems that praise the bow in this country.”
Tigre said nothing after that and only stayed quiet so as to not expose his feelings. Judging from Gerard’s words, that poem must have considerably spread out. There was no means of stopping it. At best, he could only have them revise the contents of the poem to some extent later.
Tigre turned his gaze ahead of the main street ── to Luberon Mountain rising in the center of the capital. The royal palace was halfway up this mountain. Regin should be waiting there.
It was about seven days later after meeting the Dragonic Tool that Figneria arrived at the Zhcted Kingdom’s capital Silesia.
The capital was wrapped up in spring weather, and warm sunlight poured from the early afternoon sky. Even though the Sun Festival celebrating the New Year was over and a dozen of days have passed, its remaining heat seemed to be left here and there in the capital.
Figneria was 25 years old. Although she continued her mercenary work, she was not seeking battlefields as much as before. It was now to the extent of wielding her blade if there was a battlefield ahead of where her feet led her.
She was the owner of a balanced tall figure, and on top of her black clothes, she put on an overcoat which got dirty by the long journey. The left half of her face was covered with her long black hair, and only her long slit like right pupil indifferently gazed at the cityscape of the capital wrapped up in liveliness.
There was a pair of swords decorated with splendid ornaments on both sides of her waist.
Luminous Flame Bargren. This Dragonic Tool, which had the nickname of “Twin Blades of Demonic Force”, was a pair of blades consisting of a golden blade and a vermillion blade that led Figneria to the capital.
—such a lively place doesn’t match my character after all.
As she inwardly muttered such an impression, she walked straight through the main street leading to the royal palace. For Figneria, who moved from battlefield to battlefield for a decade, towns and cities were only places to rest her body, resupply arms and food, and collect information.
The royal palace could be seen before long. Figneria stopped and looked down at her figure covered with dirt from her trip. It was not an appearance with which she should be going to have an audience with the King from now on.
But as she shook her head so as to say that there was no problem, she returned her gaze to the royal palace and began to walk again. She did not have any spare clothes and, above all, it was not like she wished for the audience.
Figneria, who arrived before the royal palace, showed her twin swords to the gatekeeper looking dubious. Sure enough, the gatekeeper stared at her with an expression of surprise.
“I will go report immediately, so please wait for a short while.”
Although feeling perplexed to the gatekeeper’s change of attitude, Figneria nodded.
She, who was born a poor commoner and had lived as a mercenary in order to eat, had never received such treatment from others. Although she had been turned looks of respect by young mercenaries under her command in a battlefield, those again were ones of a different kind.
As she wondered whether she would be kept waiting for at least one koku, her expectation was off the mark. While a quarter koku hasn’t even passed, people who wrapped their bodies in official clothes appeared and respectfully bowed to Figneria.
“Vanadis of the Twin Swords. We are glad that you have come safely. We have prepared a room, so please relax there first. When the preparations are over, I shall guide you for the audience.”
Having been waiting for Figneria for the audience were two men. They were an old man sitting down on the throne and a man standing by his side. The one on the throne would be the Zhcted King Victor.
The figures of royal guards were nowhere to be found. Figneria, who wondered whether they had hid themselves, carefully searched for their presence; but she was not able to detect the presence of such people.
—Does this mean that they’ve been dismissed?
“Vanadis. Come before me.”
King Victor called out to Figneria. Although not loud, it was a well-projected voice without cloudiness that was peculiar to old men. Figneria walked on a red carpet and got down on a knee about ten steps away from the throne.
Although she felt a slight amount of discomfort, it did not show on her face.
Unlike knights or nobles, mercenaries served neither a kingdom nor a royal family. Not receiving anybody’s protection and on the other hand being free from anyone was what being a mercenary was. For Figneria, who had lived in this way, it was not fun at all to get on down on her knee before someone that she did not even recognize.
But, she at least had the judgment/discretion of ‘knowing her place’. With a face devoid of feelings, she looked up at the King.
—When looking closer like this, he’s a dead tree-like old man.
That was Figneria’s first impression of the King. But, she knew well the danger of judging others only from their appearances.
“I’m called Figneria. I was showed the way by these swords and came.”
Though the female mercenary’s way of speaking was rude, neither Victor nor the man beside him blamed her. The old King glared at Figneria and calmly told.
“Good. I recognize you as Bargren’s Vanadis. I bestowed to you the nickname of “Hidden Princess of the Luminous Flame”, the surname Alshavin and the Legnica dukedom. From here on, you shall proceed to Legnica, manage the retainers as a Princess and govern there.”
Victor’s tone was businesslike, and the atmosphere pleased with the birth of a new Vanadis could not be felt there at all. Figneria found that strange, but more than that, she was concerned about the fact that Victor did not doubt her words at all.
“Do you…… believe me? Even though this Bargren might be a fake?”
“If it is a fake, the true Bargren will not leave it as is. You are without a doubt a Vanadis.”
—He’s speaking as if the Dragonic Tool is a living thing, huh.
Figneria knitted her brows. That said, she understood well that Bargren was not just a pair of twin swords. After all, it has appealed to her consciousness not with words, but with a strange feeling that could even be described as thought and brought her until the capital.
“I expect a lot of activity from you as Vanadis.”
These were words which suggested withdrawal. With a disappointed face, the black-haired female mercenary stared at the old King’s face. Is that all? She thought.
It was not like she wanted to carry an only bombastic, empty conversation common among some noble feudal lords. This very concise one fit her nature.
But still she did not think that he would not ask anything about her background/identity.
To Victor sitting on the throne with an air of composure, Figneria frankly threw the question that she held so far.
“There is something that I would like to ask your Majesty. Why was I chosen as a Vanadis?”
“It is not my place to know that. Having chosen you as a Vanadis was the Dragonic Tool after all.”
The old King answered as if it was nothing. Figneria was perplexed. She had been thinking until now that Victor had ordered the Dragonic Tool to choose her. If not, wasn’t it strange? After all, the King was the existence which ruled Zhcted.
But if it was as Victor said, then it meant that the Dragonic Tool chose Figneria as a Vanadis from its own will. Moreover, only the Dragonic Tool knew the reason why it chose her.
Victor moved his head and turned his gaze to the man waiting beside him.
“This man is Eugene Shebalin. He is the person who will answer your questions, and the man who will become your next King. You should ask about things from here on to Shebalin.”
Waiting for Victor to finish speaking, Eugene stepped forward. He calmly walked in the audience room and stood before Figneria.
“Please stand. Vanadis-dono”
He should be in his mid-forties. He was a man of calm appearance that wrapped his slim figure in white official clothes. He had a slender face and there was a long gray beard under his chin. Figneria stood up and stared at him. This black-haired female mercenary was taller than Eugene.
“I will visit Vanadis-dono’s room later on. Let’s talk in detail there. If there is something that I can answer, I will do it.”
“I’ll be thankful if you do so.”
Finally regaining her usual demeanor, Figneria responded so.
The audience with the King was over.
Figneria, who returned to the guest room after the end of the audience, could not bring herself to sit on a chair, and leaned against the wall. She wanted to be away from the carpet spread out on the floor and the various furnishings decorating the room even if by a little.
She seemed to have formally become a Vanadis, but it did not feel like that to her at all. The King too, when seeing him up close, just gave her the impression of an old man. Even if now at this moment the door were to open, a clown appeared and said that this was a play, she felt like she would be able to consent.
Of course, there was no way that a clown would appear, and after about a quarter koku had passed, it was Eugene who visited the guest room. Although Eugene revealed a wondering face seeing Figneria standing alongside the wall, he bowed without alluding to it.
“Shall I have some drink be brought in?”
Figneria was inwardly impressed. While Eugene’s attitude was polite, he wore an easy to speak atmosphere as almost no stiffness could be felt there. He also held a favorable impression in the fact that there was no color of doubt or contempt in his eyes which looked at her.
“I’ll pass. I’ve decided not to drink alcohol when I talk about something important. I’ll get to the main point at once…… what should I do from now on?”
“Govern one’s dukedom and when there is an order from His Majesty, move soldiers. This is what a Vanadis should do. In your case, as His Majesty said, you will govern the Legnica Dukedom in the west.”
“To give me a dukedom like that so easily, how generous. Unfortunately, I have no experience whatsoever of being the chief of a town or a village, let alone a country. Is it all right to entrust it to such a woman?”
“I know some Vanadises, and almost none of them had the experience of governing a country. Besides, no matter which country, there are bureaucrats of literary and military arts who will support Vanadis-dono. Of course, in Legnica, too.”
Eugene’s reply was clear without hesitation. Figneria decided to try coming on strongly (T/N: not in a sexual way).
“Then if I were to do whatever I want without thinking with Legnica, what would you do?”
“That would be a problem, I guess.”
Because Eugene answered with a serious face, Figneria almost burst into laughter unintentionally.
“Just that? Wouldn’t you for example send an army or make me quit being Vanadis?”
To Figneria’s provocative words, Eugene remained silent for the first time. However, the black-haired female mercenary immediately understood that it was not like he was at a loss for words.
After a while, Eugene said.
“You may not believe me, but…… Only your Dragonic Tool is able to deprive you of your qualifications as Vanadis. Even His Majesty cannot do that.”
The edge of her mouth twitched. She failed to laugh it off thinking “what kind of joke is this?”
‘The Dragonic Tool doesn’t receive orders from the King’. Eugene was saying so. Judging from his serious expression, it did not look like he was saying some nonsense.
“The King said that he doesn’t know the reason why this guy chose me as Vanadis. Is it true?”
“Vanadis-dono. I am also a retainer of His Majesty, so could you at least change your way of talking?”
After rebuking in a gentle voice, Eugene answered the black-haired female mercenary’s question.
“It is said that the Dragonic Tool’s will is only transmitted to its master.”
Figneria shook her head as though to say that she could not believe it, and sighed.
Because a King was put on the throne, a Kingdom was formed. The Heavens where the gods lived aside, there should not be any existences above a King on Earth. Even a mercenary like Figneria knew that.
Wasn’t Dragonic Tools’ existence something which shook the kingdom from its root?
Unknown fear and strain gradually rose up from deep within her body. While softly holding the twin swords on her waist, Figneria asked.
“What is this?”
“It is something which has chosen Vanadises for generations since this Zhcted country came into existence. As far as I know, it holds mysterious power like those coming out of fairy tales and it has its own will.”
Figneria broadly smiled at the word “fairy tale”. She thought that it was a good expression. It was far easier to accept than exaggerated words like miracle or protection of the gods.
She had no intention of denying the fact that the Dragonic Tool had a mysterious power.
Figneria once again recalled what happened seven days ago. She was travelling in a wasteland.
When she heard a strange sound and the space in front of her suddenly shone, these twin swords appeared. And, being guided by the will emitted by the Dragonic Tool, Figneria came to the capital.
“I understood what you said, but…… I’m amazed that you guys haven’t yet shattered this thing.”
“Vanadis-dono, do you know the country’s founding myth?”
Eugene asked with a serious expression. Figneria nodded.
“A travelling man calling himself the incarnation of the Black Dragon gained seven clans as his allies and made this country, right?”
The founding myth brought about numerous poems and tales and was transmitted to the people in many forms. Even a child, who has never gone out of his small village in the countryside, would know what Figneria said.
“That’s right. Dragonic Tools are things that the founder King handed to his wives. There is no way it could be destroyed; taking into consideration that Dragonic Tools are looking for Vanadises for the King, then all the more so.”
“Even if it chooses someone like me as a Vanadis?”
“──I don’t know.”
After having made a short pause as he was thinking, Eugene continued his words as he prefaced so.
“I do not think that a Dragonic Tool chooses a Vanadis quite randomly. In addition, there had also been precedents where a Dragonic Tool suddenly left the side of a Vanadis, and that person stopped being a Vanadis. A Dragonic Tool has its own standards for choosing a Vanadis and it’s probably based on them that Figneria-dono has been chosen.”
“Did you think so even after having seen other Vanadises?”
When Figneria asked, Eugene calmly replied “yes”.
“I want to try asking about that to the other Vanadises.”
As she muttered so, Figneria remembered one Vanadis.
“Do you know the Vanadis called Eleonora?”
“Yes, I do, but…… Are you acquainted with her?”
Being asked so, Figneria was suddenly at a loss for words. It was not wrong to call them acquaintance, but that girl was the type that she wanted to live without meeting her.
Figneria thought that the fact of having killed Vissarion was something which could not be helped.
They clashed with each other as enemies in a battlefield. As none of the two of them had any way to avoid a fight, one of them couldn’t help but die.
But, that was Figneria’s circumstances and whether or not Elen would understand it was a different story. Furthermore, it was not like Figneria had completely come to terms with it. At the same time that the fact that “it couldn’t be helped” was a realistic recognition, they were also words in order to persuade herself.
“Well, I’m a mercenary.”
When she said so, Eugene revealed a consenting expression. This man seems to know that Elen was once a mercenary.
“Eleonora-dono governs LeitMeritz. It’s the dukedom to the south of Legnica that you will govern.”
The twin swords hung on her waist seemed like it was unpleasant to Figneria after all.
—I might as well just go to a far-off country without heading to Legnica.
In doing so, the Dragonic Tool would lose affection towards her and end up leaving.
Figneria dropped her gaze to the twin swords and sunk into her thoughts.
This was probably the only opportunity. If she were to miss this opportunity, she, who was only a mere mercenary, would definitely never have another chance to manage a state.
The face of Vissarion revealing a gentle smile floated in Figneria’s mind.
At the time when she was made to listen to the story of his dream, it was only once, but Figneria had wondered about what she would aim for if she were to manage a state.
Not only she was never gotten influenced, since the thought associate with it was too outrageous, she reveal it to Vissarion. It was something totally different from his dream, but the mercenary group’s leader listened carefully with great interest.
She has not forgotten. But, she put it away in a corner of her memory and thought that she would never take it out again.
Figneria’s eyes became steep. Did this Dragonic Tool possibly react to her memories? She was about to laugh it off as absurd, but after having heard Eugene’s talk, it was also certain that nothing beside that came to her mind.
—It might become an offering.
She did not inherit Vissarion’s wish. After all, there was no way that she, who killed him, would have such a qualification/right. But, it would become the tales of her travels to him.
—But, not yet.
“Shebalin… dono. I’ve one request.”
As she added an honorific which she was not accustomed to using, Figneria looked at Eugene. Before becoming a Vanadis, there was something that she had to confirm as a warrior.
“There is a place here that soldiers use for training, right? Could you tell me where it is?”
“I can guide you there, but…… What do you intend to do?”
To Eugene who revealed a puzzled face, Figneria answered with an indifferent face.
“I just want to try swinging this around a little. I won’t cause you any trouble.”
It was the nearest courtyard from the guest room that Figneria was guided to.
It was a small space surrounded by the colonnade, and where about ten people could train all at once. Respectively, six wooden swords and spears without spearheads were leaned against a corner.
The courtyard was empty right now as no one was using it.
“Is here all right?”
“It’s perfect. Thank you.”
As Figneria thanked Eugene, she advanced until the center of the courtyard.
She stretched both her hands to her waist and slowly unsheathed the twin swords.
Figneria has not wielded this Dragonic Tool after meeting it seven days ago until today. It was not particularly as if she thought that it was daunting. She just could not bring herself to trust it as her weapon.
—I shall test you as a weapon.
Even if the Luminous Flame accepted her as a Vanadis, whether or not she would accept the Luminous Flame was a different story. Figneria wanted to make sure of whether the Dragonic Tool was an existence suitable for her here.
The white handles with a smooth surface stuck just right to her palms; as if it had been made to fit in Figneria’s hands. The short sword of each side was by no means too heavy, and they were also not too light, either.
Figneria’s surprised face was reflected on the polished vermillion and golden blades. As a mercenary, she had handled various weapons, but such an experience was a first for her.
She lowered her waist and set up the twin swords. She slightly inhaled, then exhaled.
She raised overhead the vermillion blade that she grasped in her right hand and mowed down the golden blade in her left hand to match it. She pushed one up from underneath and swung the other down from overhead. The sound which howled the air with each flash tickled the ears and it felt comfortable.
She stepped forward as if dancing, letting the hem of her skirt flutter. She jumped to the side while mixing a kick with a slash. She mowed down, cut off, stepped forward and sharply thrust.
Figneria transmitted to the twin swords how she has wielded various weapons in many battlefields that she had gotten through so far, using her whole body.
There was a man with superior sword skill. There was a warrior with a big body who easily swung a huge ax around. There were also situations where she had been surrounded by soldiers with spears and there were also situations where she had confronted cavalrymen who charged head on at her.
In a wasteland, in a grassy plain, within a dim fortress, deep in snowy mountains, Figneria had continued fighting.
The twin swords greedily absorbed Figneria’s experiences. They continued depicting trajectories just as she wanted, and did not show even a slight gap.
Unconsciously, Figneria let her lips curl into a smile. Her eyes shone like those of a child who discovered a treasure. If there was what was called an ideal weapon, this Dragonic Tool was exactly as such for her.
Suddenly, the twin swords’ blades emitted a red brightness. The two blades were clad in crimson flames, scattered sparks and burnt the atmosphere. This time, the Dragonic Tool inquired about Figneria’s ability.
The smile which was floating on Figneria’s lips changed to a fearless one. Of course, she accepted the Luminous Flame’s challenge.
Figneria’s movements changed into those of a dance clad in flames. The red and golden flames sometimes became a straight slash, or overlapped innumerably and turned into a flower and that vividly colored her surroundings.
When a quarter koku had passed, Figneria finally stopped her movements.
Her breathing was so rough that her shoulders shook, and her face was covered with sweat. As her clothes which got wet stuck to her body, Figneria frowned in displeasure.
“──I got it.”
Figneria muttered inside her mouth. It was not that she admitted defeat. She just accepted it.
The flames have already disappeared from the twin swords’ blades. Figneria put the Dragonic Tool in their sheaths. In her pair of eyes, a calm determination flickered like a flame.
“I’ll at least try doing what I can.”
Figneria Alshavin has thus begun to walk her path as a Vanadis.
Translator and references notes
A person used by another as a dupe or tool
I think here is the rumor about Tigre who would definitely defeat the Sachstein army and regain peace in Brune like when he suppressed the civil war before
guide to the royal palace, that is