The moon rose highly with stars shining coolly as the background.
The night also wore on, there were no longer figures of people in the royal palace’s hall and only soldiers standing guard could be seen in the corridor. It was to the point that only a civil official who worked very rarely until late could be seen walking out.
This night, the first unusual event occurred in the pillared corridor on the royal palace’s first floor.
One man suddenly appeared before the soldiers standing guard. Although it was a strange thing to say he suddenly appeared, their eyes could only see it as such.
That man who was illuminated by the flames of the torches hung on the wall was small-sized. To the extent that one would think that he was a young boy if seeing only his shadow. The man wore good-quality silk clothes and put on a small hat on his bald head. His eyelids were big and his eyes were so thin as to make one wonder whether or not they were opened.
One of the soldiers, while setting up his short spear, raised a challenging voice. Those became the last words that the soldier emitted.
The next moment, the helmet that the soldier wore got squashed and its interior was reduced to a bloody lump of meat. The small-sized man jumped, caught the soldier’s head and crushed it from over the helmet.
The man, not exulting in his victory, attacked the other soldiers one after another.
Six soldiers were standing guard in this pillared corridor, but their heads were crushed with none of them able to understand exactly what was happening, and without even having room to call their comrades. Not even about ten seconds had passed before the one-sided massacre ended.
“I guess I’ll destroy one other place and then go.”
As he wiped his hand covered with blood and pieces of meat with a soldier’s clothes, the man left the pillared corridor.
The man’s name was Maximilian Bennusa Ganelon.
Although Tigre had long been in bed, he was not able to readily fall asleep. Though there was the fact that it was because he went to bed with his leather armor still on him, it was not only that.
After having left the bathhouse, Tigre returned to his room. And he engaged in idle talk with Gaspar, who showed up with a bottle of wine in one hand, and Rurick.
That was something of one koku ago. Rurick moved to the neighboring room, and Gaspar spread out a blanket on the floor of this room and was sleeping on it.
Gaspar was the guard that Mashas sent over as a precaution, just in case something was to happen to disturb the atmosphere in the royal palace. And Rurick came on his own will after having gotten permission from Elen.
By the way, Titta was not in a nearby room. Being called by Regin who said she wanted to hear about when she (Titta) was in Zhcted, she went to the princess’s room. The chestnut-haired maid was honestly happy that the blond-haired princess remembered her.
Looking up at the ceiling covered with a very dim light, Tigre was absentmindedly thinking about something. While recalling Regin’s talk, he was pondering what to do after this war was over.
He made the resolution to leave Alsace. He would be lying if he were to say that it wasn’t painful, but above all he had no choice but to do it in order to protect the land where he was born and raised.
If Brune itself was wrapped in war, a small land like Alsace would probably turn into ash in an instant. Tigre was made to realize it all too well in the civil war two years ago. After all, if he wasn’t able to get Elen’s cooperation, the youth’s hometown would have been burnt and destroyed.
If Brune was at peace, Alsace would be able to pursue its peace as well.
Of course, there was the thought of wanting to support Regin and also the feeling of being able to help Mashas, Augre, Gerard and company.
—But, as expected it’s quiet far from the capital……
The question to answer “which place is?” was very clear for the youth. He would probably think about it many times all this night. And, he would probably not reach a conclusion.
While understanding that he would not reach a conclusion, Tigre pondered about it for the Nth time──. 
Or so it should have been, but he instantly erased it from within his head. The sound of armor rubbing mixed with the sound of multiple footsteps could be heard from outside the room. His instincts and experience as a warrior and also as a hunter appealed to Tigre for danger. There was no way that only mere suspicious people would go out in groups in the dead of night like this.
Though there should be a soldier standing guard outside the room, it was also strange to not hear his voice.
As Tigre quickly got up, he stretched his hand under the bed. There was his black bow and a quiver there. There were 30 arrows in the quiver. It was something which he asked Viscount Augre about at the place of the banquet and had it prepare.
When he turned his gaze to Gaspar who was sleeping on the floor, he too was already awake. A long sword pulled out of its sheath was grasped in his hand. This was something he secretly brought with him.
Though their eyes got used to the darkness, just in case, Gaspar drew a candlestick put nearby and lighted it quickly.
The sound of footsteps stopped before Tigre’s room.
Immediately after, a hard crushing sound resounded and blades protruded from the door one after another. The lock was destroyed.
The door was vigorously opened and multiple figures of people with swords jumped in the room. At that time, Tigre had already nocked arrows to the black bow and drew the bowstring.
Three arrows flew, cutting the night air. Three of those figures, who vigorously invaded the room, were respectively struck by an arrow to the forehead and loudly fell down.
Tigre knitted his brows. The intruders’ outfits that were illuminated by the fire of the candlestick were the same as those of soldiers working in the royal palace. However, Tigre could not afford to brood over it now.
Even if the intruders were surprised at the fact that Tigre was awake, their movements did not stop. Pushing aside the three people who fell down, the men who were behind entered the room. They drew close before Tigre could shoot an arrow and intended to cut him down.
But, Gaspar jumped in there from the side. The sword grasped in his hand glittered dark gray as it reflected the fire of the candlestick.
When Gaspar cut down the enemy who stood at the vanguard, he returned his wrist and greatly mowed down his sword to the side. It was not to cut down the remaining enemies, but to prevent them from coming any closer. As planned, the men stepped back.
“What are you doing? Sneak around him!”
One of the intruders issued instructions while clicking his tongue. Only that man did not wear a soldier’s outfit; he wore silk clothes. And he, who wore silk clothes, slashed at Gaspar from the front.
Gaspar barely repelled the strong blow. From both sides of Gaspar who wasn’t able to move in the face of a powerful enemy, the men raised their swords and approached Tigre.
Tigre fired two arrows while kicking the bed and jumping. The two enemies who were approaching from the right respectively had their nose and throat pierced and fell down. Tigre also lost his balance and rolled on the floor. The blade of the enemy who sneaked around from the left approached.
Gaspar shouted as his face turned pale. But, if he were to turn his back on the enemy in front of him, he would be slain at that moment. He ground his teeth while stopping the slash of the man in silk clothes.
Tigre rolled again on the floor while holding his bow and barely avoided the sword swung down at him. The enemy’s blade grazed the youth’s leather armor.
At that time, when the enemy raised his sword again, a short scream was raised at the doorway. It was the scream of a comrade of the intruders. For a moment, their attention was directed there.
“Good grief. To think that men would creep into his room at night, I feel sorry for Lord Tigrevurmud.”
The one with a sword covered with blood and having cracked such a joke was the bald-headed Knight, Rurick. When he once again swung his sword and cut down one enemy standing stock still, he aimed at the man in silk clothes. To the appearance of an unexpected enemy, the man in silk clothes also turned his gaze there.
Using that opportunity, Gaspar moved. He fiercely charged at the man who was going to swing down his sword at Tigre. The man shrank as he was more overwhelmed by Gaspar’s spirit than the iron blade.
Along with a battle cry, Gaspar raised his sword and swung it down. A muddy voice along with fresh blood leaked from the man’s mouth. He dropped his sword and fell down on his back motionless.
Gaspar stabbed his sword at the man’s chest for caution’s sake. Though it seemed to be cruel, it was a fight within a very dim light. He could not possibly feel relieved if he did not surely kill him.
“Are you all right, Tigre?”
Then, Gaspar went down on a knee on the floor and held out his hand to Tigre.
“You saved me, Gaspar-niisan……”
While breathing heavily, Tigre borrowed his hand and got up. At that time, the fight between Rurick and the man in silk clothes was settled. His sword being knocked down and the tip of a blade thrust at him, the man in silk clothes hung down his hands as he gave up.
“But well, it’s quite something.”
While picking up the candlestick on which fortunately the fire didn’t go out yet and confirming that the intruders were certainly dead, Gaspar spoke in an amazed voice. Perhaps because the fierce battle with the Sachstein army was still fresh in his mind, he showed no signs of faltering even after seeing the corpses. Tigre asked with a wondering face.
“I’m talking about your bow skill. Although your eyes got used to the darkness and there was the light from the candlestick, is it that easy to splendidly aim at the forehead of someone, who suddenly entered, like this? And three people all at once at that.”
“I’ll say this for the honor of all archers, but I want you to think it’s a skill that only Lord Tigrevurmud can do.”
Rurick said so in a somewhat proud tone.
“By the way Lord Gaspar, are you familiar with these scoundrels?”
When Rurick asked that, Gaspar cocked his head in puzzlement as he groaned.
“I don’t really remember their names, but there are some young people of nobility of somewhere among them. Lord Gerard would probably recognize them immediately, but……”
As he spoke up to there, Gaspar’s eyes became sharp. He knew the man in silk clothes whom Rurick thrust his sword at. Not only Gaspar, but also Tigre knew him.
“Baron Celpet, right?”
With a bitter expression, Tigre called out to Celpet, the man in silk clothes. Celpet moved only his neck and glared at Tigre hatefully.
“Were you aware of our plan? No, you probably were. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have prepared comrades and weapons so conveniently and well.”
“If we weren’t prepared even without being aware of it, we wouldn’t have been able to survive on the battlefield.”
Rurick said so in an indifferent voice and Gaspar nodded. In fact, the three of them were not aware at all of their plan.
“Could you tell me? Why did you try to kill me?”
When Tigre asked so with a severe expression, Celpet arrogantly stuck out his chest and sneered.
“Isn’t it obvious? It’s because you bastard tried to sell this country over to Zhcted. In fact, isn’t that one of your Zhcted subordinates there?”
Celpet glared at Rurick. Tigre exchanged glances first with Rurick, then Gaspar. As he tore the clothes of one corpse, made it into a belt-shaped and tied both of Celpet’s hands on his back, Gaspar asked.
“Did these soldiers also think that Tigre betrayed Brune?”
“That’s precisely why we took action. In order to protect this country’s justice and peace.”
Celpet’s suntanned youthful face was distorted because of hatred. Gaspar criticized the young baron in a voice repressing his anger.
“Justice, huh. Is banding together and attacking someone asleep in his bed this late at night your so-called justice?”
“Are you trying to say it’s cowardly? Isn’t it something trivial compared to betraying your country?”
“I know several people who called things inconvenient for them trivial and played it off. Such people are called small villains without exception.”
The bald-headed Knight spitted out because of too much scorn. Tigre slipped through their side and went outside the room. He remembered that there was a soldier standing guard. If he was injured, they had to treat him.
However, what Tigre saw was an unexpected scene. The soldier who stood guard had dropped his buttocks onto the floor and was sleeping like a log, leaned against the wall.
—he was just shifted, so he should have been fine, but……
Tigre thought ‘maybe he might have not ended up sleeping, but was made to sleep’.
When Tigre looked back inside the room, he turned his gaze to the swords scattered on the floor. When looking closely, many of the swords that the enemies were holding had traces of blood roughly having been roughly wiped off on them. In the fight just now, no one among Tigre and company got injured.
In the first place, although they had disguised themselves as soldiers, there was no way that a group of ten people would arrive until here without being questioned by other soldiers.
Tigre suddenly shifted his gaze. He stared at Celpet and asked in a sharp tone.
“I wasn’t the only one being targeted, right? You have other comrades, right?”
“We don’t”, Celpet replied so; but his voice sounded hollow as he was daunted by the youth’s sharp gaze and tone of voice.
That reaction instead made the youth convinced he hit bull’s eyes. If they were going that far with their outrageous act, then it would be necessary to have someone to supplant Regin and allow all their acts.
Tigre did not question Celpet any further. He picked up his quiver containing arrows and called out to the two men.
“Let’s hurry to Lord Mashas’s room! Gaspar-niisan, please lead the way.”
Tigre did not know at all the structure of the royal palace. If it was the audience room and the banquet hall, he might go alone if it was daytime. He did not feel like being able to go to another place without a guide. All the more, in a situation where the royal palace was wrapped in the night’s darkness.
If it was Gaspar, naturally he would know the place where Mashas’s room was. He intended to head to Mashas’s room and then after having joined him, head to Regin’s bedroom.
With the voice of Celpet, who shouted in frustration, behind them, Tigre and company began to run to the corridor.
The room where Melisande was confined in was in the basement of the royal palace.
It was not small, but not wide, either. There was only the bare minimum like a table, a chair and a bed as furniture put in there; and there were not furnishings at all. As for the window, there was only a small hole which was near the ceiling in order to take in the outside light.
From the day when the Halo Festival was held, Melisande spent her days in this room.
Food, clothes, hot water for bathing and the like were carried in without problem. However, she was not allowed to go outside or call people close to her; when there was something she wanted, she would have to request for Prime Minister Badouin’s permission.
Considering what she has done, it was too lenient a treatment; but for Melisande, it was nothing other than humiliation. In her daydreams, who knows how many times she strangled Regin and Badouin to death. Probably 100 times would not be enough.
While burning with tremendous hatred inwardly, ostensibly Melisande spent her days quietly. She understood that the opportunity was not yet lost.
And that opportunity finally came.
Melisande just woke up to sounds which could be heard from outside the door.
Though she was 35 years old, she looked about five years younger than her actual age. Even within an unwilling, and inconvenient livelihood, her long golden hair did not lose its gloss; and without her well-ordered features collapsing, her beauty was not spoiled in the least.
What she wore were not night-clothes, but plain hemp clothes. Since those were given to her by the royal palace, she had no choice but to wear them.
As she got up from the bed, she haughtily glared at the door. If a subordinate of Regin or Badouin were to show up, she intended to shout, ‘what is it at such a time?’ at him. Though she was slightly scared and anxious, her pride painted over these feelings.
Following the unpleasant sounds of armor rubbing was a dull sound of something heavy being flung against the floor. And then before long, the locked door was slowly opened from outside.
At the doorway stood a big man wearing silk clothes and holding a large sword covered with blood. His voice mixed with great joy and tension called out to Melisande. It was a familiar voice for her. This time, Melisande was finally convinced that she was going to be rescued.
“Yes. I am sorry to have kept you waiting.”
The big man put his sword on the floor, went down on a knee and bowed his head as he desperately contracted his big frame. Then, three soldiers could be seen standing behind him. Among them, two were holding torches.
As Melisande left the bed, she walked until before Armand and haughtily declared.
“I forgive you.”
As far as she was concerned, this was quite a tolerant correspondence. After all, she directly addressed him without blaming him or giving him punishment. If the other party was not Armand, she would have reprimanded him as a matter of course.
Going through the side of Armand who stood up, Melisande went out to the corridor. The smell of blood assailed her nose and she frowned.
When looking, the abdomen of the soldier who was standing guard was dyed with blood and he was lying down on the floor. He was already dead. As she glanced at the corpse with eyes as if looking at a pebble on the roadside, she moved her gaze to Armand.
“How is the situation?”
Armand nodded as he shrugged his thick neck and briefly explained.
That they were a group of a little more than 60 people. That 50 people headed towards Regin’s bedroom in order to capture her and 10 people went for Tigrevurmud Vorn’s assassination. And that Armand himself accompanied by the remaining three people came for Melisande’s rescue.
Melisande who finished hearing the details pursed her lips in displeasure.
“There’s no way that only 50 people would be able to capture that fake, right?”
By ‘fake’, she meant Regin. Armand eagerly answered without being daunted by his master’s irritation.
“Though few, the majority of the 50 people are former knights who wielded a sword under Lord Steid. The soldiers working in the royal palace will not be a match for them.”
Steid was the knight who was Duke Thenardier’s close aide. He was a man in whom Thenardier had a deep trust in for both military arts and generalship on the battlefield, but he lost his life in the civil war two years ago.
“In addition, we poisoned the soldiers’ meals. Though, it was not a lethal poison, but the kind that causes headaches and stomachaches and puts one to sleep.”
Regarding the dishes provided in the banquet, the people supporting Regin strictly monitored it. It was a thorough enforcement where not to mention the kitchen, they posted soldiers even in the corridor connecting the kitchen and the banquet hall and any people trying to enter the kitchen, even if they were noble feudal lords, were driven away.
Thus, they were unable to bribe cooks or the people who carried the completed dishes until the banquet hall.
Therefore, they aimed for the soldiers’ meals. The soldiers’ meals were cooked in another kitchen. Naturally there were no poison tasters, too. And in this case, the fact that they were few worked in their advantage and they were able to made instructions spread out beforehand.
“We will now head to Regin’s bedroom. No matter what happens, I will protect you, Melisande-sama.”
As Armand said so, he took a torch from one of his comrades and began to walk down the corridor at the vanguard. Melisande followed behind him with calm steps. The three soldiers followed after.
In a place where the smell of blood faded, Melisande tasted the feeling of freedom as she breathed in the cold night air to fill her chest and then grandly breathed it out. At last, she revealed a smile full of confidence.
With Gaspar standing at the vanguard, Tigre and company ran in a corridor of the royal palace wrapped in a very dim light.
On the way, they saw several soldiers who were sleeping like logs lying down on the floor like the soldier who was standing guard for Tigre’s room. Though there were also soldiers not sleeping, they didn’t seem to know how to act when they saw some of their colleagues falling asleep and the others unable to move as they had a stomachache.
As for Tigre, while feeling apologetic to them, he had no other choice other than shouting like this.
“Her Highness the Princess is in danger! Hurry to her Highness’ bedroom.”
Tigre judged that their greatest priority was definitely Regin. Shouting so as to invite some confusion should have been effective in appealing to them.
“This man is Tigrevurmud Vorn! He is the hero who defeated the Sachstein army! Believe his words!”
Gaspar also shouted so in a loud voice. Though the soldiers’ reaction was slow, even so some of them followed Tigre and company. There were also those who went to call their comrades.
“Lord Gaspar. How many knights and soldiers are there in this royal palace?”
Rurick asked while being out of breath. Gaspar’s breathing, who answered, was also rough.
“It should exceed 10,000, but the royal palace is vast, so……”
With some important places as an exception, soldiers were posted sparsely and widely within the royal palace. Were something to happen, they would be contacted by a bell, chime or a shout and gathered.
If one was to cause confusion by poisoning the soldiers and divided them, it is possible to penetrate through the gap even if small. Moreover, the enemy knew very well the royal palace’s structure and acted under the cover of the night’s darkness.
When the passage divided into two, Tigre had the soldiers following them go the other pathway. He had to increase their comrades and have many people know about this abnormal situation.
They came out of the pillared corridor, turned at the corner, ran up or down the stairs.
“We’ve almost reached the room where Father is.”
When they came out to a wide corridor, the three people stopped all at once.
At the center of the corridor, the figure of a small-sized person stood there alone. The three people halted because an out of the common blood lust was released by that figure. A torch was hung on the wall and its fire was calmly burning, but its light did not reach that figure.
“Who is there?”
Gaspar set up his sword and sharply asked. Tigre stepped forward while nocking an arrow. The youth did not take his eyes off the figure. No, he could not take them off.
—This guy is……
Sweet oozed on Tigre’s forehead. Tigre felt an atmosphere similar to the one, which the inhuman beings ── demons such as Vodyanoy, Torbalan and Baba Yaga that he encountered and fought before were clad in, from that figure.
The light of the torch illuminated the figure who took about two steps forward.
It was a man. He wore silk clothes and put on a small hat on his bald head. His thin eyes under big eyelids were tinged with an indescribable eeriness and were staring at Tigre. Behind him, soldiers who were probably the guards of this corridor were lying down on the floor.
The man raised his right hand and smiled at Tigre and company. Tigre, not answering, drew his bowstring and aimed at the man.
“Who are you?”
It was quite similar to Gaspar’s question a while ago. But, the premise was totally different.
Although Gaspar asked thinking that the man was human, Tigre did not think so.
“That reminds me, this is the first time we’re meeting each other from the front like this, huh.”
The man happily shook his shoulders, laughed and named himself.
“I’m Ganelon, Maximilian Bennusa Ganelon. I know who you are, so there’s no need for you to name yourself. Tigrevurmud Vorn.”
As he muttered that name, about the time of two breaths was necessary for Tigre to remember the other party. Ganelon. The great noble who competed against Duke Thenardier in the civil war two years ago.
The one who shouted so was not Tigre, but Gaspar.
“Ganelon should have died two years ago! He lost to Thenardier and set fire on his own town.”
Ganelon just revealed a faint smile and did not answer. For him, both Gaspar and Rurick were existences not worth considering. Ganelon turned his very thin eyes to Tigre.
“Today, I came to have you show me your power.”
Tigre’s face was tightened in strain. He strongly pulled the bowstring further and the distance between Tigre and Ganelon did not reach 10 Alsins (about 10 meter). It should have definitely been a sure kill arrow.
A surprising scene appeared before the three people’s eyes. Ganelon caught the arrow shot by Tigre. By pinching the sickle with his fingers.
“Vorn. I didn’t come to see such child’s play.”
Ganelon revealed a cold-blooded smile on his lips and slightly moved the fingers pinching the sickle.
The arrow separated from Ganelon’s fingers and fell to the floor. The sickle was lost. Ganelon crushed it with his fingers. An iron sickle.
Tigre gave a small groan and newly nocked two arrows. He quickly shot them.
However, as expected the arrows did not reach Ganelon. When one thought that Ganelon had lightly waved his hand in front of his face, the next moment the two arrows were grasped in his hand. Tigre had also once grasped with his bare hand an arrow that came flying, but this was clearly in a totally different dimension from that.
“I guess I must somewhat have you go through a painful experience.”
Ganelon broke the arrows and threw them away. He kicked the floor.
Tigre stared wide-eyed. Before he knew it, there was Ganelon’s face before his eyes.
Ganelon raised up his hand. Tigre frantically threw himself onto the floor; something passed by next to his left ear.
The breathing of Tigre who rolled on the floor was awfully disturbed. Although he promptly raised his body, sweet didn’t stop gushing out from his face, streaming down his chin and making many black stains on the floor. His left ear ringed with heat and pain.
“You dodged it well.”
Ganelon who got down before Tigre threw words of praise. Two men slashed at him from behind. They were Gaspar and Rurick. Though the two men weren’t able to move even a finger as they were overwhelmed by Ganelon, they mustered up their courage and drove in a slash.
Ganelon did not even look back towards them. He just raised his right and left hands behind as if doing “banzai”.
A high-pitched crushing sound resounded and the sword blades which turned into countless iron scraps danced in the air. The two men’s swords were each blown into pieces from under the sword guard. The shock was so tremendous that the two swordsmen staggered as if being struck by something and fell down on their backs.
“Won’t you reveal your power?”
The youth silently glared at Ganelon who made a puzzled face. He was unable to answer.
The current Tigre could use the black power on his own will. But, he needed some time in order to shoot an arrow wrapped with the “power”.
There was no way he could talk about such a weakness of his. Besides, even if he talked about it, he did not possibly think that this man, who was in front of him, would give him enough time.
“In that case, it means that you’re of no use. It’s boring, but I guess I’ll kill you.”
Ganelon raised his right hand. Tigre set up the black bow and nocked an arrow. But, it was just the admirable intimidation of a pitiful small animal towards a ferocious wild animal.
The next moment, feeling a sense of discomfort at the back of his ear, the youth stopped. Ganelon also ran his gaze to the surroundings with the posture of his right hand raised as is. They felt with their skin that a foreign substance had stepped into this space where they were.
“──Void Corridor (Vol Dole)”
The calm voice accompanied with the distortion could be heard overhead the two of them. Faster than that could voice disappear, Ganelon kicked the floor and leapt back. A high-pitched sound similar to the clashing of a metal and rock echoed in the corridor. And a pure white cloth gently swooped down in front of Tigre.
“It’s been a long time. Duke Ganelon.”
It was a beautiful clear voice as if rolling a bell.
Being illuminated by the torch’s flame, her bluish-black long hair and white dress emerged in the darkness. A scythe with an ominous molding colored in red and black emitted a dull radiance.
The “Illusory Princess of the Hollow Shadow” Valentina Glinka Estes stood there as though to protect Tigre from Ganelon.
“Good grief, we meet in a strange place, eh.”
Seeing Valentina, Ganelon revealed a light smile.
“Why do you protect that boy? He won’t be a necessary piece for you, will he?”
“I was ordered by His Majesty King Victor to cooperate with Earl Vorn. So as a Vanadis, I have no choice but to obey a royal order.”
Valentina replied without erasing her smile, which made Ganelon smile wryly. He knew well that the black-haired Vanadis did not care at all about the order from the king. But, it seemed to be a fact that she intended to protect Tigrevurmud Vorn.
“I understand. Then, I’ll play with you for a little while.”
As soon as he finished saying that, light was born in both of Ganelon’s hands. The light swelled up in an instant and changed into fireballs as big as a human’s head, tinged with crimson flames.
Tigre who was watching their conversation behind Valentina held his breath. When he fought the demon called Baba Yaga in Lebus, the youth witnessed the same scene as now. That demon (Baba Yaga) too made a mass of flame appear in an empty space.
—As expected, this man too……
When Ganelon stuck out both his hands in front, the fireballs were released; they described an arc in the air and swoop down on Tigre and company. Tigre unintentionally faltered, but Valentina stared at the fireballs with a cool expression. Without even trying to dodge them, she raised the scythe, Hollow Shadow which she held in her right hand.
“──Black Haze (Tinker)”
Valentina made the Hollow Shadow flash. For an action which aimed at the fireballs approaching, it was too fast a swing. The curved huge blade made the atmosphere howl, and passed through the empty space.
However, it was not like the black-haired Vanadis had failed. Along the orbit of the scythe that she swung, a black fog-like thing gushed forth in the air. It spread in a blink of an eye and blocked the two fireballs.
The moment when they crashed into the black fog, the fireballs vanished while emitting a sound like when fire disappeared when sprinkled with water.
Ganelon raised a voice of admiration. With a sweet smile, Valentina received the dark glare of the small-sized former duke.
Ganelon stepped forward. At that moment, the smile disappeared from Valentina’s face; and the black-haired Vanadis set up her scythe with both hands and vigorously swung it out.
A dreadful clashing sound harking back to a thunderbolt roared in the corridor. The right hand of Ganelon who attacked from overhead of Valentina was blocked by the Illusory Princess of the Hollow Shadow’s Dragonic Tool. Ganelon, not taking pursuit, kicked the scythe, danced in the air and landed on the floor.
While breathing on his right hand unnaturally, Ganelon took a sidelong glance at Valentina.
“As expected, I have bad affinity with you. A very bad one.”
“If your body was a little bigger and your arms a little longer, it’d have been dangerous.”
Valentina recovered her smile and replied so. She was going to speak further, but she held her tongue after noticing the change on the scythe in her hand.
The Hollow Shadow, which should be her Dragonic Tool, independent of her will, wore a black brightness on its curved blade. Then, that brightness drew a gentle spiral and streamed behind Valentina through her side.
There was Tigrevurmud Vorn there. He stood up, stepped firmly to the floor with both his feet, set up the black bow and has nocked an arrow. The bowstring has already been drawn to the maximum.
The youth was not just silently watching the fierce fight between Ganelon and Valentina. He had fixed his breathing while being captivated by the crimson fireballs and the Vanadis’ Dragonic Skill, braced up his body and called out to the black bow.
And then, the black bow answered its master’s appeal. Valentina’s Dragonic Tool similarly consented to help Tigre. Black brightness flowed into the tip of the arrow nocked by the youth, and an extremely strong power to the extent that even Valentina and Ganelon opened their eyes wide, was born.
“It’s that. What I wanted to see.”
Ganelon’s voice trembled with delight.
“Although your father might have been good, he was an ordinary man. Even your mother was also an ordinary woman. Since a person like you was born from those two, it’s really interesting.”
Spinning words as he was somewhat excited while laughing loudly, the former duke with an atmosphere looking more like that of a demon stuck out both his hands in front. As if trying to block with his hands the arrow which would be shot.
Tigre did not answer. The power of the Dragonic Tool was still pouring into the sickle. He intended to concentrate the black brightness until just before the arrow became unable to bear it. Burden was put on the youth’s body accordingly, but he could not compromise here.
—I’ll bring him down with this attack……!
If he did not shot with that intention, it would probably not work on Ganelon.
One. Two. Three. And when the time passed through the count of 4, Ganelon slightly moved his right foot. Along with a cry of fighting spirit, the arrow left Tigre’s right hand. These two actions occurred exactly at the same time.
Ganelon opened his eyes wide. The arrow shot by Tigre disappeared without sound.
Even if the small-sized former duke felt confusion, it was just an instant. But faster than he could recovered from confusion, the arrow, which should have disappeared, appeared immediately near him.
At one point of the space on Ganelon’s left, darkness was born. The darkness spread in a perfect circle and an arrow was shot out from inside it. Of course, the sickle wore black brightness.
Tigre’s and Valentina’s field of vision was filled with black brightness. Then, an earsplitting roaring sound similar to that of a sandstorm was mercilessly struck in their hearing. Although the black brightness disappeared almost instantly, a cloud of dust densely whirled up this time.
When that cloud of dust too cleared away and their field of vision finally opened up, what the two people saw were a horrible ceiling as if having been gouged by a dragon’s claws, stone pavements turned up, the floor where countless rubble rolled, and a huge hole opened on the wall of the left side. A cloud of dust fell clatteringly from the ceiling.
Valentina put her hand on her lips and finally said only that. As for Tigre, just standing was painful and just fixing his breathing was the best he could do.
When the black-haired Vanadis looked back towards Tigre, she inclined her head to the side and frankly asked.
“Was having the arrow bound/jump on the left side your aim?”
Although Tigre frowned to the sudden question, he gave a small nod while breathing heavily. He turned his black eyes to the large hole in the wall. Ahead of the hole was a garden blown off by the power of the black bow, and further ahead the night’s darkness lurked in deep (pitch) blackness.
Having made the arrow teleport was of course to take Ganelon by surprise. On top of that, Tigre considered it so that serious damage would not be given to the royal palace.
A smile appeared on Valentina’s lips. She seemed on one hand to be amused at the youth’s judgment, and on the other hand, admire it.
At that time, a groan was heard behind Tigre. Gaspar and Rurick woke up. While raising her scythe, Valentina said to Tigre.
“Earl Vorn. I’ll chase him, so I leave the rest to you.”
While Tigre was thinking about the meaning of her words, the black-haired Vanadis used a Dragonic Skill.
Like a ripple spread on the surface of water, the space around Valentina was distorted. The black-haired Vanadis’ figure became blurred as it melted into the distortion, and lost its colors and outline. Tigre had no leisure to stop her, either.
Just like when she suddenly appeared, the Illusory Princess of the Hollow Shadow suddenly disappeared.
Though Tigre stood stock still as he was dumbfounded, he came to his senses as he heard Mashas’ voice. When he looked ahead in the corridor, there was the figure of the old earl with a sword in his right hand and a lighted torch in his left hand. He had probably heard the roaring sound caused by the black bow’s attack.
Though Tigre was concerned about Ganelon and Valentina, there was a more important thing to do now. He briefly explained that they were attacked by Celpet and others. Mashas’ expression became serious.
“I understand. Let’s hurry to her Highness’s bedroom now.”
Gaspar and Rurick borrowed swords from the dead soldiers. The two men shortly prayed to the gods.
With Mashas standing at the vanguard this time, the four men hurried to Regin’s bedroom.
When the uproar occurred, Regin was in her bedroom. She was sleeping along with Titta in her luxurious bed with a canopy. This was the best method of listening to Titta’s story without being disturbed by people protecting her.
“──Your Highness. I am sorry to interrupt your sleep.”
Having brought back the Princess from the sleeping world was the voice of a tensed Auguste. He seemed to have called her over the canopy several times. When Regin replied, he breathed a sigh of relief.
“I am sorry. Please, change into easy to move clothes immediately.”
Regin knitted her brows. Was there ever a time when she heard his voice tinged with so much tension? But, she understood well that she should not asked questions at such time.
“Where is Serena?”
She asked about the woman knight acting as her guard. The canopy was turned over as if substituting for a reply and Serena, who held something like clothes under her arm, appeared. She already wore her silver breastplate with a sword at her side.
“Please, put on this quickly.”
As she shortly said that, she pushed the clothes to Regin. There were not only clothes for her, but also maid clothes for Titta to wear.
Regin woke up Titta who was sleeping next to her and handed the clothes to the girl with still half-asleep eyes. She took off her night-clothes on the bed and quickly changed herself. The consciousness of Titta became immediately clear as she was also changing her clothes. Meanwhile, Serena explained.
“It is a revolt.”
She briefly asserted. She said that dozens of soldiers were heading here while killing the soldiers standing guard one after another.
“Just to be on the safe side, please leave from here before it is too late.”
Regin was shocked. Because of too much shock, words did not come out at once. She greatly opened her eyes wide, half-opened her mouth and looked at Serena with a face which seemed like she would cry at any moment.
She had carefully listened to the words of people who held dissatisfaction and harbored animosity towards her. She had refrained from giving severe treatments and extreme instructions, and planned to settle it with time. She believed that it was for Brune.
But now, they were trying to eliminate her by sword. Was her way of doing things wrong? Or, was her existence itself not accepted?
Having called out to her with a voice containing determination was Titta who changed into maid clothes. Shutting up the uneasiness inside her hazel-colored pupils, she, the chestnut-haired girl revealed a smile to the best of her ability.
“Surely…… Tigre-sama will surely come. So, let’s escape for now.”
Regin came to her senses at Titta’s voice and Tigre’s name. That’s right. I’ll think and worry about it later. We must escape for now.
As she eagerly mustered her feelings that almost lost strength, Regin went out of the bed.
Auguste clad in a dark gray armor stood at the doorway and inquired about the situation of the corridor with a stern face. His splendid beard which grew from his cheeks to his chin slightly shook due to tension.
“Auguste. How is the situation in the corridor?”
“It will hold out for now.”
Judging from Auguste’s words and expression, the enemy has probably come quite close. Regin looked back towards Serena.
“Serena. Please lend me a hand. We will move this.”
What Regin indicated with her gaze was the bed where she and Titta were sleeping until a while ago.
“There is a path under this.”
Serena understood with these words. The three people Regin, Serena and Titta moved the heavy bed. Then when Regin touched the floor and strongly pressed a certain place, a square hole opened in a part of the floor while emitting a creaking sound. The hole stretched straight below and several iron handles were attached on the wall surface.
At that time another guard Claude, entered the bedroom. Similarly to Serena, he also wore a silver breastplate and a sword to his waist. He seemed to have grasped the situation while looking around the faces of Regin and company and then looking at the hole.
“I will stand at the vanguard. After me will be her Highness and I will have Serena protect the rear.”
“We will also take Titta along. Stay behind me.”
Serena revealed a perplexed face as Regin said so. This was because the reason she gave maid’s clothes to Titta was because she intended to have her (Titta) pretend to be a maid working in the royal palace and have her escape into the maids’ room.
Serena exchanged looks with Claude, and then looked at Titta. The chestnut-haired girl strongly nodded.
“If you do not mind it, I-I will go together with you.”
There was no time to persuade her. Claude began to go down the hole as quickly as possible.
“Understood. We will also protect you as much as possible.”
Serena said so after reconsidering it. She knew neither the enemy’s numbers nor their character. For Titta, it might not be necessarily safe to have her go to the maids’ room.
At that time, Auguste walked to their direction.
“Titta. I leave her Highness the Princess to you.”
With a smile, Auguste put a hand on Titta’s shoulder. As this time, he was not a knight of the Calvados Knight Squadron, but has returned to the young man who took care of children in the land of Alsace. Titta looked up at Auguste and strongly nodded.
“Let’s meet again later, Auguste-san. Without fail.”
Regin also looked up at Auguste and said.
“Auguste. Fight in order to survive.”
This knight would by no means listen to her even if she asked him to surrender or run away. Though she was to the bitter end in the relation of master/servant with Auguste and they did not have so close an interchange, she understood at least this much. That this man was such a man.
“As you will” Auguste shortly answered. This was this man’s good faith/sincerity.
The sound of weapons was subtly heard. Fighting spirit flickered in both of Auguste’s eyes and it pressed Regin and company to act. When Regin crouched down on the edge of the hold, she placed her feet on the handles of the wall surface and went down carefully.
After Regin and company entered the secret passage, Auguste moved the bed with a canopy and covered the hole. He might earn some time with this.
—If only it was perfect, it would’ve proceeded without problem.
Auguste tightly grasped his fist and strongly gritted his back teeth.
The knights of the Calvados Knight Squadron serving as the Princess’ guards numbered 29 including Auguste. But among them, more than half were not available due to headaches or stomachaches. Far from holding a sword, it was doubtful whether they could even stand on their feet.
The enemy had numerical superiority and among them, there were more than ten people with ability equal to Auguste’s side.
“Those guys aren’t ordinary soldiers. They are knights who received training.”
He remembered his subordinates’ words. In short, the enemy had used the same move as them. Like when they were asked by Badouin and came into the royal palace, the enemy had also dragged knights into the royal palace.
When he received a soldier’s report that a great number of men with swords had appeared, Auguste gave up the plan of meeting the enemy in Regin’s bedroom which he used until now. He considered the situation that that couldn’t protect the princess.
He posted subordinates who could still move in the long and narrow corridor outside the bedroom. He tried to prevent the enemy from making use of their strong point which was their great numbers. But, by just assaulting them in the princess’ bedroom, the enemy would by no means become weak.
His subordinates were gradually forced to retreat, and fell one after another until Auguste remained alone.
When he shot a crossbow and killed one of the enemies, Auguste threw away the crossbow.
He set up his sword and shield.
“Come at me, small fries. I, Auguste of the Calvados Knight Squadron, will cut you down.”
The enemy raised their swords and jumped at him. Auguste cut down the first one and blocked the second person’s sword with his shield. He dodged the sword of a man approaching climbing over the first person’s corpse. The blade, which was already covered with blood, grazed Auguste’s armor.
He swung his sword and pierced the enemy’s abdomen. But, it was a failure. The man whose abdomen was pierced fell while holding Auguste’s sword. The sword came out of Auguste’s hand.
He bashed one of the approaching enemies with his shield. Immediately after that, the enemy slashed at Auguste with the momentum of bumping into him with their body. A dull pain ran through Auguste’s abdomen. He hardened his clenched fist and hit the man. There, a new enemy raised his sword and attacked him.
The pain on his abdomen made Auguste’s action dull. Though he avoided a direct hit, the man’s sword struck Auguste’s armor. Auguste broke his balance. Deep red blood spilled from his injured abdomen.
His body was heavy. His breathing was disturbed. The men charged at Auguste while raising shrieks.
Auguste bent his body with all his strength and cried as loud as possible. He struck sideway his shield on the enemy who drew the closest. That enemy was flung against the wall as he was sent flying and collapsed trailing. His face covered with blood deformed.
The men faltered and stopped their advance. As Auguste revealed a ferocious smile, he picked up the sword that a man had dropped. Even that movement alone was something extremely painful for this man now. His view shook and his breathing was disturbed.
—I have let all my subordinates die.
Auguste apologized to his subordinates who died. They should have been able to play a more active role in a battlefield more suitable for them. He inwardly muttered “I’m sorry for being a worthless superior/boss”.
He similarly apologized to his friends, colleagues and superiors who were at the Calvados Fort. But, he reported that he behaved like a knight until the end and did not stain the Knight Squadron’s honor.
—I wonder whether Titta was able to safely escape. Tigre-sama is……
Within his hazy consciousness, the two people’s faces floated in Auguste’s mind. However, it disappeared at once and the figure of one man appeared.
For Auguste, speaking of Alsace’s feudal lord, it was Urz after all.
It wasn’t like Tigre wasn’t suitable. Only four years have passed since Tigre became Alsace’s feudal lord succeeding his father. For Auguste, Tigre would truly become Alsace’s feudal lord after another ten years.
It was Urz who had written a letter of recommendation so that Auguste became a knight and it was also Urz who was happy that he (Auguste) was able to become one.
—I am sorry, Urz-sama.
While wielding a sword and bashing with the shield, Auguste apologized.
—As a knight, as a person from Alsace, I intended to serve Tigre-sama for a long time, but it seems like……
Auguste was not able to say more than that. Blood loss robbed him of his consciousness.
To Auguste who stopped moving, swords were stabbed one after another.
Auguste fell down, still tightly grasping the sword and shield.
The men did not immediately approached Auguste. They were afraid that he might immediately get up and swing the sword around.
When they were finally convinced that he‘d died after more than 20 seconds had passed, the men stepped over the fallen Auguste and achieved their invasion into the princess’ bedroom.
In a place quite far away from Regin’s bedroom, Melisande received a report. It said that although they defeated the enemy, Regin’s figure was no longer there.
“Our comrades have already gone ahead to the path leading to the back corridor. However, they said that she did not escape to there. I don’t want to imagine it, but I can only think that she ran from the window.”
To the subordinate who reported hesitantly, Melisande revealed a scornful smile.
“Let’s head to the audience room.”
To her words, the men looked at each other with wonder. Melisande said.
“There is a hidden passage leading from the bedroom to the audience room. Regin had definitely used it.”
It was something that Melisande was taught by her father before as a secret handed down only to royalty. She had not told this even to her husband Thenardier.
Melisande’s father probably told her for her sake. After all, depending on a change of the situation, there was also a future where Melisande might become the Princess. He must have not even thought that she would use it in order to corner the ruler.
Leaving behind a little less than 30 comrades’ bodies and the enemies’ corpses which were less than half of that, Melisande and company headed to the audience room.
Regin and company were advancing through the long and narrow passage with little light and touching.
Only Claude standing at the vanguard held a light. He was holding a sword in his right hand and a torch in his left hand.
Suddenly, Claude stopped and looked back to Regin.
“Your Highness. The path is divided into two……”
Regin looked over his shoulder ahead of the passage. The passage was certainly split or into left and right.
—If I remember correctly, we could go outside of the audience room if we go left and outside the royal palace if we go right……
It was one of the secrets taught only to the royalty that her father Faron told her. Now, they should leave the royal palace as soon as possible.
“To the right……”
When Regin said up to there, Titta, who was behind her, called out to her with a trembling voice.
“U-Um, Regin-sama…… I think that you should avoid going to the right.”
Regin looked back towards Titta with a dubious face. The chestnut-haired maid’s face turned white due to tension and fear. While looking at the passage to the right with eyes as if seeing something frightening, Titta said.
“I get the feeling that something really scary is waiting ahead of this side……”
Regin hesitated just for an instant, and then lightly tapped Titta’s shoulder as to let her feel relieved.
“I understand. Let’s go to the left.”
It is said that Titta has acquired the ascetic practices as a shrine maiden. She might have felt some kind of danger. And above all, there was no guarantee that it was absolutely safe to go to the right.
Regin and company went ahead through the left passage. There was another secret passage in the audience room. If they moved from a secret passage to another secret passage, they would probably drift away from the enemy.
It was something that Regin and company had no way of knowing, but Titta’s intuition proved right. At the exit of the passage to the right, Ganelon who disappeared before Tigre was waiting there. If they were to moved that way, Regin and company would probably not have escaped from death.
After having turned several times to the left passage, they hit its end. Handles instead of a ladder were buried in the wall and they extended to the top. Claude handed the torch to Regin and climbed up. Regin and company followed him, too.
They finished climbing the ladder of handles. When they looked around while raising the torch, the throne was immediately nearby. There was also the fake Durandal.
“We seem to have properly come out in the audience room.”
Regin heaved a sigh of relief. It was the first time that she’d used the secret passage, so she was anxious. Following her, Titta and Serena also came out of the passage.
Behind the throne, there was a long and narrow corridor leading to the balcony. Though she thought about hiding there, Regin shook her head and turned her gaze to the wall of the left side viewing from the throne. There was a hidden passage leading to outside of the royal palace there.
“We do not have time to rest. Let’s hurry.”
It was at that time when Regin was about to begin to walk to the left wall.
The door leading to the corridor was vigorously opened, and men armed with swords and armor rushed in. Raising voices of surprise, Regin and Titta stood petrified. Claude and Serena quickly stood before them and set up their swords.
The intruders raised the torches and candlesticks which they had in their hands. The figures of Regin and company were illuminated.
“She’s there; it’s the Princess.”
Someone shouted and the intruders made a stir. There was not even an ounce of respect for the Princess in their voices. A shadow of despair floated across Claude and Serena’s faces. Though it was hard to understand in the darkness, the enemy numbered about 20. It was not a number that only the two of them could do something about.
“Regin-sama, I am sorry……”
Titta said with an expression like she would burst into tears at any moment.
“It’s because I said that we should take this way that……”
“You’re wrong, Titta. It’s me who decided to advance to this way.”
Regin turned gentle blue pupils to Titta and stroked her head to comfort her. The existence of someone whom she should protect made Regin recover herself, encouraged her and made her hold the determination to fight.
Regin and company were in a place one level higher than the soldiers. The blond-haired Princess coolly looked down at the intruders who stuck out their swords in the front and slowly shortened the distance and sharply roared.
“Know your place.”
The intruders stopped their movements as they were surprised. Regin continued.
“If you are also people who were born and raised in Brune, do you not feel ashamed to trample down the royal palace?”
Her voice was by no means loud, but it resounded in the audience room with reliable dignity and made the soldiers stagger. Although cornered, Regin showed no signs of being daunted at all. Judging that it was a good opportunity after seeing the soldiers faltering, Serena whispered to Regin.
“Your Highness. We will gain time. Please, go back to the passage and escape.”
“I will say this just in case, but you should not think about escaping by going back to the passage.”
But, Serena’s words were dispelled by a triumphant, loud laughter. Multiple figures of people entered the audience room from the corridor. The number of lights illuminating the large hall increased, and the figure of one woman was picked up. It was Melisande. Next to her, there was also a big man carrying a large sword on his shoulder, Armand.
“It’s been a long time. I wanted to see you, Regin.”
In a voice kneaded with a sense of superiority, Melisande smiled at Regin.
“Do you know why I am here? When I received the report that your figure was nowhere to be found, this place immediately came to mind. I thought that you, who are far from the words ‘fair and square’, would definitely run away shamelessly by using a hidden passage.”
Regin did not return any words. She couldn’t hide her surprise at the fact that Melisande knew about the existence of this passage. And, she also thought that her way of retreat was completely cut off.
Since she had anticipated this, it would be a fact that Melisande knew about the structure of the secret passage. Even if Regin went back to her bedroom, Melisande’s subordinates would be definitely waiting for her there.
But, she did not think that Melisande put this royal palace completely under her control.
—I must not give up.
There were Badouin, Mashas, Augre and Tigre. They would surely act in order to save her. Believing that, she gained time even if a little.
With sadistic feelings flickering in her blue pupils, Melisande said.
“I won’t kill you immediately. I will torture and thoroughly humiliate you to the extent that you will regret having been born in this world.”
“Isn’t it rather because I have value as a hostage that you won’t kill me immediately?”
Regin resolutely retorted. What was important was to not let them hurt Serena, Claude and Titta. In addition, Melisande must not realize that she was buying time.
“That’s right. It’s just as you say. I must take you as a hostage.”
Melisande put on a serious expression and easily admitted to Regin’s indication. However, she immediately revealed a cruel smile.
“But, it’s fine if the hostage is alive. I wonder if I should cut one of your arms or feet and show it to them. Scooping out your eyeballs wouldn’t be bad, too. That’s right; I might also demand Badouin’s head. Whenever they refuse it, I will cut your body little by little and give each part to them. I’m looking forward to which time Badouin’s head would be sent.”
“I wonder about that. Badouin is a firm person after all. He might think that dying would be better than the Princess of a country being thoughtlessly disgraced.”
While enduring the fear and chill running down her spine, Regin obstinately warded it off. Though Melisande turned an annoyed gaze, she sank into silence. Her reaction made Regin hold a conviction.
As expected, they did not reach the point of controlling the royal palace.
“Melisande. I would like to ask you something.”
While being careful not to break her dignified stance, Regin carefully spun her words. There was only one thing she was concerned about.
“After having killed me and becoming Brune’s ruler, what do you intend to do?”
Melisande frowned. There was also the fact that Regin’s stout-hearted attitude irritated her, but Melisande did not understand the meaning of that question. Regin further said.
“I’m asking about how you will govern Brune.”
“Ah, you mean that? Isn’t it obvious? I will restore things which should return to their original state and change everything to the right direction.”
Seeming to want to say that it was natural, Melisande scornfully laughed.
“I will break the alliance with Zhcted and take back Agnes. I will purge all the fools who toady to you and infest the royal palace, and take away the territories from the feudal lords who followed you and Ganelon. I will appoint the people with a right heart who truly pledge allegiance to the royal family and give them new territories.”
Regin held her breath. What Melisande was trying to do was only the folly of making enemies inside and outside the country. If she made an enemy out of Zhcted, the ones who would be happy would be the neighboring countries such as Muozinel. The noble feudal lords, whose territories would be taken, would probably raise a revolt. And Brune would definitely be destroyed.
But as if to say that her thoughts were not wrong, Melisande loudly said.
“Brune will regain its power. A fake like you would never be able to do that.”
“Do you think that such a thing will really go well……?!”
Regin’s voice was filled with anger. Melisande responded with a sneer.
“Please, don’t lump me together with a fake like you. I have been raised as a woman who inherited the royal family’s blood. Oh, speaking of fake……”
Melisande’s gaze was turned to Durandal leaned beside the throne.
When she called Armand’s name, the viscount with a big body began to walk with a ferocious smile. Regin’s face turned pale, but she had no way to stop him. One wrong move and the soldiers would probably attack her. Neither Claude nor Serena could move, too.
When Armand who stopped near the throne put the large sword, which he carried on his shoulder, on the floor, he grasped Durandal. He raised it with both his hands and slapped it onto the floor.
A metallic crushing sound resounded and Durandal’s blade was broken from the middle.
The blade’s broken pieces flew in the air while rotating and fell down on the floor. Melisande’s eyes shone tinged with a wild enthusiasm and her loud laughter echoed in the audience room.
“As expected…… As expected, it was fake! How dare you deceive me with boring tricks at that time, Regin! What will you do about this humiliation, this anger?”
Regin could not return any words. Her heart was also about to break. Just supporting her body was the best she could do.
Having been stirred were her guards Serena and Claude. Both of them looked up to Roland and they also knew the circumstances that there was no choice but to make a fake Durandal. With that alone, they could not forgive Melisande’s and Armand’s action.
Regin calmly held back Claude, who was about to charge into the enemy camp, with her hand. Tears slightly blurred on her pair of blue eyes. But, she softly wiped the tears with a fingertip.
It was certainly a shock that Durandal was broken. But, the act just now was proof that Melisande and company attained self-conceit beyond tolerance. No matter what they were up to, if she could gain time even a little depending on that, she would have endured it.
“Well then, let’s already go to the main issue. We will kill your guards one by one and finally cut off both your hands and feet.”
Melisande emitted cruel brightness and her soldiers began to move. Serena and Claude set up their swords, but however bravely they were to fight, it would be impossible to break through a thickness of nearly 20 people and come close to Melisande.
“Melisande. I haven’t yet finished talking.”
Regin said. She intended to let this situation drag on no matter what kind of humiliation she would received.
It was at that time. Cutting the air, something flew over Regin’s head. When Regin noticed the sound, it hit the face of a soldier of Melisande and came out to the back of his head.
It was one arrow. Although their attention was turned to Regin and Melisande, even Serena and Claude were not able to react at once.
The soldier whose face was pierced by the arrow fell while emitting a low groan. A high-pitched metallic sound resounded as his armor crashed into the floor. While the echo made the night air shake, silence containing a lot of surprise filled the place. No one understood what on earth had happened.
From behind Regin and company, footsteps were drawing closer vigorously. At the same time as the footsteps stopped, the atmosphere howled and a new arrow came flying and pierced through the nape of another soldier of Melisande. The soldier fell down and the sound of his armor striking against the floor once again shook the atmosphere.
A person’s black figure stood in front of Regin.
Everyone held their breath and gazed at that person. It was darkish red-haired youth holding a black bow. He wore leather armor and hung a quiver on his waist. Fighting spirit shone in his black pupils, he held an arrow in his mouth and stared at the large number of enemies without showing any signs of fear.
The youth’s name was Tigrevurmud Vorn.
We go back a little while ago.
It was about a quarter koku ago when Tigre and company entered the Princess’ bedroom. What the youth saw were many corpses lying down in a heap and walls covered with blood. He felt uneasiness since the smell of thick blood drifted in the corridor, but a ghastlier scene than what he imagined was spread out.
And then, Tigre came across Auguste’s figure, which completely changed, among the many corpses.
Tigre, without minding that his clothes would get dirty with blood, rushed over to Auguste and held him up in his arms. It looked like Auguste was already dead, but when Tigre repeatedly called out to him, he thinly opened his eyes. When his eyes met the youth’s, he subtly moved his lips.
That became the last action that he did in this world. Auguste’s eyes closed again and despite the youth’s desperate appeal, they never opened again.
Mashas called out to him. Tigre looked up at the old Earl with a suspicious face. Though a color of compassion appeared on both of Mashas’s eyes, the old Earl shook it off and said to the youth with a severe look.
“The figure of her Highness the Princess is nowhere to be found. She has probably escaped somewhere without a hitch.”
About several seconds was necessary before Tigre understood Mashas’s words. When the youth gritted his teeth in vexation, he softly lay down Auguste’s corpse on the floor.
Tigre knew what he had to do now.
“Sorry. I lost my composure.”
“Don’t mind it; anyone would be surprised after seeing so many corpses. Since there isn’t Titta’s figure, she has probably escaped with her Highness, but……”
“However, father. Where on earth is her Highness the Princess……?”
Impatience floated on Gaspar’s face.
It was then that Elen showed up accompanied by Lim.
“Tigre, huh. Looks like you’re safe.”
Seeing the figures of Elen clad in her blue battle outfit and Lim, Tigre breathed a sigh of relief. He asked them whether they saw Regin and Titta. Although Elen and Lim puzzled themselves about the sudden question, they seemed to have roughly guessed the situation after seeing the floor covered with corpses and dark red blood. Elen answered.
“Which reminds me, on the way to coming here, I saw nearly 30 soldiers. They were saying something about the audience room.”
It was Melisande and company that Elen saw. Though the fact that she didn’t attack them was partly because she was outnumbered, it was also because she wasn’t able to grasp the situation at that point. Both of them (Elen and Lim) were people from Zhcted, so it might become a problem if they imprudently fought against people from Brune.
“The audience room, huh…… If it’s there, it’ll take time to go there from here.”
Mashas shook his gray beard in vexation.
“Lord Mashas. Where is the audience room?”
Lim asked. Mashas indicated the floor at his feet with his finger.
“You could say that it’s right below us. But, all the stairs leading underneath are in quite remote places, you see……”
Even so, they could not help but hurry anyway. When Mashas was about to start running to the corridor, Tigre called out to the silver-haired Vanadis.
“Elen, I have a request.”
Tigre’s gaze was directed towards the window close by. Thinking ‘maybe’ to Mashas’s words “right below”, putting his hands on the edge of the window and leaning forward, the youth looked closely at the night darkness.
With the night sky as the background, the capital’s cityscape stood out as it became a jet black shadow. The outline was the same as the scenery from the balcony that he saw along with Regin on past noon of today. If not for today’s call by Regin, Tigre would not have immediately recalled it.
While holding onto the edge of the window, the youth looked around. Diagonally below, the balcony at the back of the audience room could be seen. Elen stood next to the youth and similarly leaned forward.
“What is it? Shouldn’t we hurry?”
“Launch me there.”
Tigre pointed at the balcony with a finger. His voice slightly shook.
Elen’s Dragonic Tool Arifal had the power to manipulate wind. I might be able to jump from here to there in one go if she used it. Tigre thought so.
“Are you serious?”
As expected, even Elen looked at Tigre with a face which couldn’t hide the tension.
“There’s nothing other than the balcony that you can grasp. So if you fail to grasp it (balcony), you’ll immediately fall, you know? There’s also the fact the sensation may be slightly off in the night darkness, and Arifal isn’t almighty. It isn’t as if its power can get through anywhere.”
The balcony was at a height of about 15 Alsins (about 15 meter) from the ground. In other words, if he failed, Tigre would be flung against the ground from that height. He would not escape from death.
“In the first place, there’s no guarantee that Regin is in the audience room, right?”
“I know. But in that case, I’ll know that she isn’t there. And I’ll also be able to send a signal.”
Tigre desperately appealed to her. There was no time to argue. Elen sighed and accepted the youth’s request.
“──I got it. But, it’ll be only you. I don’t have confidence to be able to launch many people there after all.”
Carrying the black bow on his shoulder and passing the quiver around his waist, Tigre stood on the window frame. The night wind which blew from below gently brushed the youth’s chin. Thanks to the light of the torches held the soldiers standing guard, he could vaguely saw the situation of the ground. How high is this place from the ground? He wondered.
He cried in order to encourage himself. Tigre stared at the balcony, kicked the window frame and let his body dance in the empty sky. Strong wind blew against his back and brought Tigre close to the balcony.
But, the fall was faster than that. Did he perhaps make a wrong measurement with his eyes because of the darkness?
The balcony approached under his eyes. He stretched out his hands. He felt like he would slightly not reach. His fingers touched the top of the fence of the balcony. And they were flicked.
His heart was grabbed by fear. Still, he stretched out a hand hard. His fingers reached under the fence.
Tigre narrowly held onto the fence and hung from it. Sweat suddenly gushed out and his breathing was rough.
But now that he was able to grasp it, it was his. When Tigre stretched out his other hand and firmly held onto the fence, he fixed his breathing and raised himself to the balcony.
When he got down from the balcony, he subtly heard a voice from the audience room. Tigre tightly grasped his black bow, took an arrow and jumped into the audience room.
With a dumbfounded face, Melisande was staring at Tigre who suddenly appeared. But, when she recognized Tigre accurately, her complexion completely changed.
With a face so tinged with anger that she did not turn even to Regin, Melisande cried.
“So, you’re the enemy of my son and my husband!”
Tigre opened his eyes wide. Be it the fight against Zion or the fight against Duke Thenardier, there was for him no place to feel ashamed. But, Melisande’s cry surprised Tigre.
Throwing away her composure until now, Melisande shouted. The soldiers brandished their swords and started moving.
“Regin, Titta, step back!”
While shouting, Tigre nocked arrows to the black bow. He shot them. Although three soldiers fell down after receiving each an arrow to the forehead from a short distance, the other soldiers attacked like surging waves without being daunted.
Claude and Serena stood in front of Tigre and swung their swords. Two enemies were killed at once and sank in a spray of blood.
But, they were outnumbered. Even if they defeated one or two people, three or four enemies would rush. Claude and Serena stood in a line so as to protect each other and swung their swords devoting themselves to defense, but even so several blades grazed the two people’s bodies.
When they were forced to retreat, Tigre could no longer step back; and the five people were cornered in no time.
Suddenly, wind passed. Letting silver hair brighten within the very dim light, a new intruder jumped into the battlefield.
Tigre raised a voice of delight. As if to answer it, Elen also raised her voice.
“I’m one of Zhcted’s Vanadises, Eleonora Viltaria! Is there anyone who is going to challenge a Vanadis?!”
The names ‘Zhcted’ and ‘Vanadis’ made the soldiers falter for an instant. And for Elen, that instant was enough. The Wind Princess of the Silver flash boldly jumped among the enemy and mercilessly swung her long sword.
The number of Melisande’s soldiers was decreasing one by one. Melisande stood stock still with a pale face. Until just a little while ago, she was unmistakably the victor. Or so it should have been.
Who would have imagined that only one Vanadis would literally completely change the battle’s progress?
“You bastards! What did you do to Melisande-sama?!”
Armand raised his large sword and attacked Elen. But, before he entered Elen’s range, the arrow which Tigre shot pierced Armand’s forehead. The viscount with a big body uttered a short scream as if his breathing was clogged up and fell forward and died as is.
There were people who somehow tried to aim at Regin, but Claude and Serena who fixed their breathing stood in their way. The two knights perfectly understood their role. They just had to leave the offensive to Tigre and Elen, and devote themselves to protecting Regin.
Regin held a torch, stood so as to protect Titta and watched over the battle’s progress. Though the spectacle, where bloodshed and death followed the sound of arms, was ghastly and it was hard to look straight at it, she did not avert her eyes.
“Fight! Do you think that we can surrender after coming so far?!”
Melisande desperately shouted at her subordinates who faltered. Just as she said, even if they surrendered now, there was no way that they would be forgiven.
The soldiers, who resolved themselves, attacked Claude and Serena all at once. There was no other way to survive than trying to hold the Princess hostage.
Claude and Serena respectively swung their swords and cut down Melisande’s soldiers. Aiming at that moment, Melisande moved. When she picked up a fragment of Durandal scattered on the floor, she attacked Regin with the momentum to bump into her.
Regin reflexively stuck out the torch to Melisande. Though Melisande did not falter, her view was burnt and she missed her aim. The fragment of Durandal only made a straight red wound on Regin’s flank. The two women fell down as they got entangled.
The first one to get up was Melisande, but she screamed and staggered. Fire coiled about on her clothes. When she fell down again, the flame of the torch spread.
Tightly grasping the fragment of Durandal as is, Melisande violently twisted her body. There was a hole immediately next to her. The hole of the hidden passage connecting the Princess’ bedroom to the audience room.
Breaking her posture, Melisande fell. The ears of Regin who finally got up heard a heavy sound as if something was flung.
Though not to the extent of Melisande, fire also spread on Regin’s clothes. After putting it out while strongly tapping it with her hands, Regin picked up the torch. She was so tense that she did not feel the pain of the burn.
When she looked into the hole, darkness was spreading. The flame of the torch did not reach to the bottom of the hole. Even the fire sticking to Melisande’s clothes seemed to have vanished due to the shock of the fall.
“──Your Highness. I will go look.”
Serena approached. The battle was over and there were only the six people of Tigre’s side in the audience room
Although she fell in the hole, it was not certain that Melisande had died. Considering that, what Serena said was right. But, Regin shook her head.
“Serena. I will go down, too.”
She said so in a strong tone in a way of saying that only that she could not yield. Serena consented on the condition that she got down first.
While the four people Tigre, Claude, Elen and Titta watched over, Serena and Regin went down to the hole using the handles. The two women reached the bottom of the hole before long.
Melisande had fell down to the bottom of the hole. Serena and Regin who saw her figure held their breath.
Her neck was twisted in a strange direction and her chest has been pierced by the fragment of Durandal. The blood which flowed out dyed her clothes red and spread even to the floor.
Melisande was not yet dead. While her hands shook and her lips convulsed, she moved her eyes and looked up at Regin.
In a blurred voice, Melisande continued.
“I…… just, wanted…… to return. In, those days……”
“In those days” probably meant the days when her husband and son were in good health and the Thenardier House built an unwavering position/status as a great noble of Brune.
Regin did not say anything. She just slightly moved her lips and uttered soundless words.
Regin, too, if she could rewind time, she would like to do so. To return it to the time when her father King Faron was still in good health.
To the time when there was no problem even though she lived as an inconspicuous Prince.
But, the deceased can’t be brought back to life. Even if one got back what was lost, it would never be as it was originally. The breath of many people are carved into it and become something different. Above all, now she had an ideal she wanted to accomplish.
She could only look forward and advance; even if it was a path full of hardships.
Melisande’s eyes were to the wrong direction and lost strength.
The revolt was over.
In a place after going down the slope a little from the royal palace, which was halfway up the Luberon Mountain, there was one man. It was Maximilian Bennusa Ganelon.
The slant of the area, where he was, was steep; it was a place where the foothold was also unstable because it was covered by trees and strangely twisted and tall grass, and thus no one, even the soldiers working in the royal palace, approached there. After having received the attack by Tigre’s black bow, he came straight here.
When looking up, there was the royal palace which did not lose its splendor even in the night’s darkness.
“Well then, how will it turn out?”
Ganelon bragged with an expression like an angler who hung down a fishing rod.
“How will what turn out?”
The question to his soliloquy was emitted from the side of Ganelon. Ganelon, showing no behavior of being cautious, turned only his gaze there. Space soundlessly warped before his eyes and Valentina carrying a scythe on her shoulder appeared.
When she got down on the ground while letting her skirt lightly flutter, she unusually frowned.
“My clothes got dirty.”
“Weren’t they already dirty?”
The outfit of Ganelon, who said so while laughing, was awful. His silk clothes were stained with black soot and were ripped here and there; especially the side from the left shoulder was completely blown off and his left arm became bare. His splendid bald head was laid bare without his hat. His trousers and shoes were visibly spoiled.
Seeing Ganelon’s appearance, Valentina funnily smiled.
“Your hand has been awfully burnt, eh.”
“Yea. It was more than expected. By the way, why did you chase me? Do you want to engage in small chats?”
“Something like that. Honestly, I didn’t think that you were there.”
Holding the scythe behind her back, Valentina bent her head slightly to one side. And she revealed a charming smile which would probably captivate most men. But, Ganelon only lifted the edge of his mouth.
“If you talk, I’ll also talk. How about it?”
Valentina easily consented and explained the reason why she helped Tigre.
Since the time when ten people including Baron Celpet attacked Tigre’s room, she has been watching the youth’s state.
After Celpet and his men were defeated, she followed Tigre and company while keeping a certain distance. The riot was not yet over. Tigre might use the black bow’s power somewhere.
Then, Ganelon appeared.
Ganelon who finished hearing her talk laughed while shaking his shoulders.
“Is it so funny?”
“Of course it is”, as he replied so, Ganelon revealed the smile of an accomplice.
“I came here for the same purpose after all. In order to see Vorn’s power.”
“But considering it was only for that, I feel like you went around killing soldiers more than necessary though.”
While looking up at the night sky, Valentina pointed out in an indifferent tone. Ganelon also smiled wryly as she seemed to have noticed him. He did not particularly intend to hide it. He only didn’t say it since it was an extra.
“It’s just a little help to Melisande. ──That I’m also here.”
“Help, is it? From you, who is always thinking about himself?”
“Next time, I’ll send you a mirror of good quality to Osterode.”
After returning sarcasm with irony, Ganelon asked.
“This revolt ── though it’s too small to call it a revolt. Do you think it’ll succeed?”
“I don’t know the concrete plan, but currently, judging only from what is happening in the royal palace, I’d say that either side has the possibility to fall down.”
“It’s as you say.”
Ganelon unnaturally sighed while being impressed by the black-haired Vanadis’ sense of observation.
“I rampaged just slightly in two places of the royal palace. It was in order to make it hard for the soldiers to contact their comrades while attracting their attention. If not for that, Melisande and her men would have been suppressed long ago.”
Having poisoned the soldiers’ meal was certainly an effective move. Having taken action tonight was also right. But still, Ganelon judged that they would fail. They are too few in number. At that rate, there would have probably been not even one person who would be able to reach Regin.
“So, I’ve connected their wish just a little.”
“You personally killing Princess Regin might have as well been fast/simple, right?”
“I have no reason to go so far as to kill her.”
Ganelon plainly said so.
Whether Regin survives or dies, either was fine for him. That’s why, even when Regin escaped from the battlefield to Agnes two years ago, he did not assertively chase her; and also the trap which he had set in the underground of Artishem was not something meant to certainly kill her.
“If she comes rolling before me, I’ll kill her; but there’s no need for me to bring myself to expressly go to visit her. After all, that girl is concerned with neither you Vanadises, nor those guys, nor the goddess.”
By “those guys”, he meant the beings called demons. If there was something which Ganelon were to think seriously and act about, then it would be only about something related to these three parties.
“You said that the fact that you’re also here was to help Melisande though.”
To Valentina’s words, Ganelon indicated with a finger a thicket in a slightly remote place.
“There are many secret passages in that royal palace, you see? Like one connecting from the Princess’ bedroom to here.”
“So, will you ambush them?”
“I wonder. As I said, there’re many passages. There’s no guarantee that they’d definitely come out from here.”
This meant there were plenty of possibilities that they would come out to a place, which was not here, using another passage. When Valentina nodded as she consented, she changed the topic.
“At any rate, your coming to check his power means…… that it’s near, right?”
Ganelon’s both eyes, which were so thin that one didn’t know whether or not they were opened, emitted a whitish light. But, he immediately released his caution and smiled.
“It’s soon. If you can bring Vorn in, I’ll protect him for you.”
“They are plenty enough of Vanadises who want to protect him.”
Letting her black hair flutter in the night wind, Valentina chuckled. Ganelon was about to return words, but she suddenly looked up at the royal palace. He boringly knitted his brows.
“Damn Goddess. She butted in……”
Ganelon sighed. As if seeming to have suddenly lost his motivation, he turned his back on Valentina. And he soundlessly walked away within the darkness.