The Zchted kingdom held seven dukedoms in the inside.
One among them, Olmutz was in the southern part of Zchted.
Even in Zchted called the “country of snow and forest” and with long winter compared to other countries, the south had a lot of warm regions. But, Olmutz with many hills and mountains was an exception. The coldness of the wind blowing down from mountains covered with snow was to the extent that even the beasts of the field ruffled their fur and crouched.
The lord of that Olmutz was called Ludmira Lurie. She was currently 17 years old and one of the proud Vanadis of Zchted. With the nicknames of Snow Princess of the Frozen Wave (Michelia) and the Danseuse of the Spear (Peak Toss), she was called Mira by those close to her.
It was a day of winter when severe coldness continued that she received a messenger of LeitMeritz.
“It was hard to come until here at this time, right?”
To the messenger who was probably twice her age, Mira spoke words of thanks and offered him a chair.
There was a big brick fireplace in the drawing room where the messenger was led into, and the brightly blazing fire within was warming the indoor air. On the floor, a carpet woven with high quality wool was laid out. What was decorated on the walls was a tapestry vividly depicting the situation of harvest in autumn.
With her blue hair trimmed around her shoulders, Mira wrapped her small body in blue-dyed silk clothes. While having lovely features, in her behavior, there was a clear dignity as a person standing above others. The Frozen Wave Lavias which was her Dragonic Tool was put within her reach.
When the messenger bowed, he sat on the chair after putting the bag he was holding in his hand on the floor with prudent hands.
The room was not so bright. This was because there was no other light than the fire of the candlestick put on the table and the flame of the fireplace. The windows were shut with thick curtains so as to keep the heat within. That said, since the day was already sinking outside, there would be not that much meaning even if one could see through the windows.
Taking the iron kettle filled with hot water that was in the desk, Mira brewed black tea (Chai) for two persons. One was the messenger’s portion.
Something like this was originally the duty of a servant or maid. However, she decided to brew tea personally for people whom she judged proper to do so.
A white porcelain cup in which steam rose was softly put before the messenger. Strawberry jam was served in a small dish next to the cup.
“I gratefully received it.”
While wiping sweat which floated all over his face due to the indoor warmth and tension, the messenger was thankful and raised the cup. After drinking a mouthful, he put a little jam in and mixed.
“I thank you for having made time for me while you are busy. By the way, while coming here, I heard that the Muozinel forces which were along the southern border withdrew…”
“It’s true. My subordinates confirmed it, too.”
While tickling her chin with the steam rising from her tea, Mira answered with a disappointed voice.
“They just stayed at the border for one month. Even skirmishes didn’t occur. Not only with me, but also other nobles. Please tell so to your Lord.”
Your lord. In other words, it was the Vanadis Eleanora Viltaria of LeitMeritz. The messenger put the white porcelain cup on the table and expressed words of thanks.
While slowly savoring the tea, Mira waited for the messenger’s words. He would not come all the way here within the raging cold wind just to ask about the Muozinel troops. She was bothered by the bag at his feet. The contents should have been checked by the servant, so it was nothing dangerous.
The messenger stared at Mira with a serious expression and opened his mouth.
“It is because I would like to talk about Earl Tigrevurmud Vorn who sojourned at our LeitMeritz that I request an audience with Vanadis-sama today.”
Mira’s blue eyes were colored with surprise. As she began speaking his nickname “Tigre”, she promptly covered it by adding “vurmud”. She was bearing good will (kindness) towards Tigre as Vanadis as well as a young girl.
If that youth was in a predicament, Mira would probably help him out as much as possible. She could not speak of it though, since there was her position as Vanadis.
“Is there something up with him?”
Mira asked with a calm outward appearance. But, even that appearance was gradually torn off and fell while she was hearing the messenger’s story. Despite noticing the change of her expression, the messenger did not stop talking.
Around the end of summer, Tigre received a request of the Zchted King Victor and proceeded to the Asvarre Kingdom in the west across the sea.
At that time in Asvarre, two princes and one princess were fighting over the throne, and Zchted decided to cooperate with one of them, Prince Germaine. Tigre went to Prince Germaine as a messenger.
Afterwards, Germaine lost his life within various confusions; Tigre cooperated with a young General called Tallard Graham and it was Princess Guinevere who won the civil war. Guinevere wished for a friendship with Zchted, and Tigre was able to accomplish his duty as result.
It was afterwards that a problem occurred.
Under the return to Zchted, The ship which Tigre was boarding was attacked by someone.
“According to the story of the Vanadis Sophia Obertas-sama which was boarding the same ship, it seems that what attacked them was a sea dragon (Badva) as big as the ship.”
The sea dragon destroyed the ship and many people boarding it were thrown out in the night sea.
It’s said that Tigre’s figure was among them.
“Sophia-sama said that they desperately searched Earl Vorn, but they were not able to find his body in the end.”
Mira muttered only that and put the white porcelain cup on the table. Her hand faintly trembled and it made a louder sound than expected.
Diverting his eyes from the blue-haired Vanadis, the messenger carefully lifted the bag which was at his feet. Within, he took out something wrapped in a silk cloth and set it up on the table.
As he removed the silk cloth, small, porcelain bottles came in sight. There were four. They had a cylindrical shape, and the form and color of the lids of each bottle were different. Staring at the bottles, the messenger said in a businesslike tone.
“It seems to be something that Earl Vorn bought in Asvarre. A present to Vanadis-sama.”
Mira took one of the bottles and opened the lid. A unique fragrance which made one’s heart settled down tickled her nostrils. She immediately understood what it was. It was black tea.
“I gratefully accept it.”
Mira revealed a smile, but the messenger did not raise his gaze as he was still staring at the table. The blue-haired Vanadis did not blame him and changed the topic.
“By the way, do you know what His Majestic the King said regarding Lord Tigrevurmud?”
“No. I do not know.”
—I wonder what he intends to do.
Mira was inwardly puzzled. Such an incident could not be covered forever. Though weakened due to the previous civil war, Brune would not remain silent.
—There will definitely someone who has to take responsibility. I don’t think that the fault will be pushed onto Eleonora though.
Afterwards, as she asked some things about Zchted’s situation and the messenger answered again, Mira called the chamberlain. She told him to guide the messenger in a guest room. When the messenger stood up and politely expressed words of thanks, he left the drawing room.
Now alone in the room, Mira stared at the bottles lined on the table. She took one in her hand and tightly held it in her arms.
“I don’t think that you’re dead. ––But”
A mutter mixed with indignation and sadness leaked out from her trembling lips. If she came out of this drawing room, she had to behave as Ludmira Lurie who governed Olmutz. In this little time when she was alone, she spitted out all her feelings.
“If it’s a souvenir, bring it by yourself. Idiot…”
After that, Mira thought about the Vanadis who was in the far away LeitMeritz.
Eleanora Viltaria. She probably had bitter feelings like (her) or maybe more than her.
Only the sound of wood popping within the fireplace resounded in the drawing room.
From the white cloudy sky, snowflakes soundlessly fluttered down.
They immediately melted and disappeared when they touched the ground; and soldiers sighed with a gloomy mood. The snow made the wind colder and froze their breaths. Furthermore, they had to camp out here.
Exchanging idle chats between fellow soldiers while rubbing their hands together and praying to the gods so that the snow did not become severe was what they could do.
Radom’s plains were in the south slightly more than in the center of the Zchted Kingdom. In this ground which could not be said to be very wide, approximately 2000 soldiers had gathered.
About 1000 soldiers led by the Vanadis Eleonora Viltaria of LeitMeritz, and likewise about 1000 soldiers led by the Vanadis Elizavetta Fomina of Lebus. While also fluttering the battle flags of each dukedom besides the Black Dragon Flag (Zirnitra), the soldiers were busy with the construction of camps.
A few days ago, Bydgauche Duke Ilda which was a great noble moved his troops to attack Pardu Earl Eugene for a certain reason.
Receiving a royal order to stop Ilda, the two Vanadis left their territory accompanied by their soldiers. And the two girls accomplished joining forces in these Radom plains for information exchange.
But currently, the Vanadis were fiercely glaring at each other with pupils boiling with clear fighting spirit. Both of them had already unsheathed their Dragonic Tools, and it was literally a simmering atmosphere. The snow was flickering elegantly in the air as if not worried about the situation at all.
Eleanora was called Ellen by those close to her. Not only was she was an impressive, beautiful 17-year-old girl whose silver hair streamed until her waist, but she was also a superior warrior and commander with the nicknames of Wind Princess of the Silver Flash (Silvfrau) and Danseuse of the Sword (Meltis).
Wrapping her body in blue combat outfit, the red pupils of Ellen who set up her long sword were shining with anger which seemed to blow off those who met them.
Elizavetta who was confronting Ellen was likewise the owner of breathtaking beauty.
However, what gave a strong impressive to those who looked at her were not her vividly red hair or the purple dress which wrapped her rich body, but probably her pupils of different colors –– Rainbow Eyes (Laziris).
The golden right eye which held high spirits and the blue left eye which hid an intense atmosphere were both reminiscent to lightning crystals (Tourmaline) tinged with a modest lightning when holding heat.
A black whip was grasped in Elizavetta’s hand. Just like the long sword was so for Ellen, this black whip was her Dragonic Tool. It was called Thunder Swirl.
There was quite a deal of fate between these two girls and it would be fair that their relationship was dangerous, but it was not as if they thoughtlessly fight against each other. Nevertheless, there was a reason as to why they were hostile to each other like this. It was the existence of the youth standing on horseback beside Elizavetta.
With a medium build, he had features which left simplicity in his gallantry. He wore a padded undershirt of fur, carried a bow on his back and a quiver on the waist.
The youth was called Urz. It was probably not his real name. Because he lost his memory.
About one month ago, Urz fell down to the coast in western Zchted. He was saved by villagers who happened to pass by there, but when he woke up, he was not able to remember even one thing about himself.
The name Urz was the word which came out from the youth’s mouth after the villagers repeatedly asked him about whether there was not something that he could remember.
Afterwards, there were ups and downs, and Elizavetta took a liking to him and made him her servant. Since she kept him by her side as servant, it was something considerable.
Urz did not dislike Elizavetta, either.
—There are some troubles, but she doesn’t seem to be bad at bottom.
He had such an impression, and there was also the fact that he owed her about picking him who was an aimless person. He intended to serve her until his memory returned.
Ellen called that Urz by a different name.
“Tigrevurmud Vorn. It’s your real name” she said.
Even the baldhead knight following her let his beautiful face flush and called for him in a voice wearing heat in no way inferior to that of his Lord. “Lord Tigrevurmud”.
As Urz was dumbfounded at the sudden thing, Elizavetta broke in as she was unable to bear it any longer. She cried that Urz was her subordinate, and that she did not know someone called Tigrevurmud Vorn.
And, that led to the current situation.
Both Ellen and Elizavetta, without taking a stance, were fixed straight at the eyes of each other. The long sword Ellen possessed wore wind and the black whip Elizavetta set up was slightly tinged with lightning.
It looked like a clash was no longer avoidable. The two Vanadis adjusted their breathing, measured the distance between them and looked for an opening to strike a preemptive blow to the enemy before them.
But, there was someone who moved earlier than the two girls. It was Urz. With very natural movements, the youth broke in between the two.
The silver-haired Vanadis let her face, strained in tension, slightly become loose. On the other hand, the red-haired Vanadis tried to raise her voice, but no words came out from her mouth and she strongly grasped the black whip with both hands.
When Urz bowed to Ellen, he told in a calm, cold tone.
“I am sorry, but I cannot remember you.”
The snow which fell as if dancing looked as if it was frozen in the time.
Ellen stared wide-eyed, was at a loss for words and could not move even one finger. Even the baldhead knight was appalled and was not able to utter his voice. To both of them, the youth deeply bowed.
“But, please do not bully my master.”
Looking up, Urz turned the neck of his horse and returned next to Elizavetta.
Silence fell. The three people’s face, except Urz, turned pale out of too much shock. Even Elizavetta who was the youth’s Lord.
It was the silver-haired Vanadis who broke the silence, which continued for about ten seconds, with a calm tone.
“––I’m sorry. Elizavetta.”
Sheathing her long sword, Ellen got down from the horse. She went towards the red-haired Vanadis and bowed her head even deeply so as not to lose to that of Urz a little while ago.
“It looked like I have jumped to a wrong conclusion. I apologize for having taken an impolite attitude.”
Ellen’s hands were firmly clenched and her voice was shaking. Vast emotions which could burst at any time were confined within her heart.
Elizavetta was looking down at her head covered with silver hair in silence. It was not as if she had some kind of intention, it was just that words did not come out immediately. Both Urz’s actions and Ellen’s words were unexpected for her.
“…I’m glad that you understand. Eleanora.”
Loosening the strength of her hand holding the black whip, she slowly spat out these words with a sigh. Even though it was cold to the extent that it snowed, sweat was running on her forehead.
Likewise, she rounded her black whip and put it back to her waist in order to show that she no longer had any intention to fight.
“I also don’t intend to fight a useless battle. If you say so, then we shall call it on this issue.”
“Thank you. Elizavetta.”
Ellen raised her face. There was neither anger nor grief floating on her face, and though she regained her presence of mind, vitality was lacking in her voice.
“By the way, it would better to do a war council again after a half koku.”
“That’s right. I have no objection, too.”
Elizavetta nodded. There was still an awkward atmosphere drifting between the two girls. They needed time, even a little, in order to recover themselves.
“Then, we shall prepare a camp here. After all, the day will also sink after a half koku.”
“Shall our side bring a candlestick and a table?”
“We share; it will be troublesome if something is missing. Our side will prepare what is needed. ––Then, after a half koku.”
Ellen straddled her horse and both girls bowed. The baldhead knight also turned his gaze towards Urz, seeming to want to say something, but when the silver-haired Vanadis turned her horse, he followed her.
In a place where the figure of LeitMeritz’s Lord became small, Elizavetta took a breath of relief. After that, she looked back towards Urz with a face like that of a child who somewhere became sullen.
“I wasn’t bullied.”
It was her first utterance to her servant in a slightly overbearing tone. After blinking several times, Urz gave an evasive reply saying “well”. This reaction should be very disrespectful, but Elizavetta turned the neck of her horse without so much as blaming it in particular. Urz hurriedly followed her.
While advancing the horse to her army’s camp, Elizavetta called Urz’s name.
“I thank you for worrying about me. ––Thank you.”
Since she turned her back, Urz could not see her face. However, the Vanadis’ voice which rode upon the winter’s wind and reached him melted joy and embarrassment together.
When the two people reached the camp, the snow stopped.
In a place where they returned to LeitMeritz army’s camp and entered the tent prepared for the supreme commander, the baldhead knight asserted to Ellen as he could no longer bear it.
“Vanadis-sama. Why did you do something like that? That youth is without a doubt Lord Tigrevurmud.”
“Calm down, Rurick.”
Ellen rebuked in a quiet voice. While the knight called Rurick made a face showing that he could not understand, he prepared a chair for his Lord. It was a simple type which could be folded up when not used; he laid out a cushion on it.
Giving words of appreciation, Ellen sat down on the chair.
When looking at the palm of her right hand, blood slightly blotted. They were traces into which fingernails dug. If she did not clenched her fist so strongly, she would not have been able to restrain her feelings.
“Don’t bully her… huh. As expected, I endure that. So in his eyes, it looked like I was bullying Elizavetta.”
“Those words of him were probably meant to calm the atmosphere.”
Putting a candlestick which lit fire near Ellen, Rurick said in order to comfort her. In the first place, he was not a man skilled with speech. This was the utmost he could do. Although Ellen nodded, it was not as if she consented; it looked like a reaction in consideration for her subordinate’s concern.
A heavy atmosphere lurked.
It was then that wind blew in the closed tent.
A gentle breeze softly stroked Ellen’s cheeks and flickered the flame of the candlestick. It was the long sword at her waist which raised wind. This Dragonic Tool called Silver Flash was endowed with the power to control wind.
Ellen called her long sword’s name with eyes wide opened and lightly laughed. Her red pupils were filled with shine, and she regained her vitality. She tapped the scabbard of the long sword, which cheered her, as thanks.
—That’s right. It isn’t the time to feel depressed.
Ellen who put herself together folded her arms and looked up at Rurick.
“Rurick. I also agree with you. I think that guy is Tigre.”
“It’s simple. There is no proof.”
Ellen readily answered.
“We have no proof whatsoever that that guy which called himself Urz is really Tigre. To make matters worse, he came with memory loss.”
“But, Lord Tigrevurmud showed a reaction to our words. If we talk about various things, then surely…!”
“Even if we ask her to let us talk with him, Elizavetta will refuse. I don’t know what happened, but she is quite attached to Tigre. If we forcibly approach, a fight will occur this time for sure”
“Then, how about reporting it to the royal palace?”
As he came up with a bright idea, Rurick brightened his face. His slippery head in which the light of the candlestick reflected shone.
“Lord Tigrevurmud is a guest General whom we were entrusted with by the Brune Kingdom. Due to this incident, even the royal palace should be in tumult. If we report it there, won’t the situation change for the better?”
“It isn’t as if I didn’t think about it, but––”
Ellen spoke of an extremely ominous anticipation with a serious face.
“Supposing that he regained his memory, if by any chance… if by any chance, by our misapprehension, it’s really a different person, what would we do?”
Rurick could by no means laugh it off. Even when he tried to say something, his stomach was tightened due to anxiety and words did not come out.
Turning a sympathetic look towards the baldhead knight who wandered his gaze around, Ellen continued.
“I don’t know who said it, but he said that in this world, there are two or three humans with exactly the same face. It might just be a coincidence that the face and physique are quite similar. Even if he reacted to our words, it might just be that one trivial word was caught on. We might have unconsciously held a strange expectation when we heard that he lost memory.”
It was a story which one could hardly say with any finality that it was impossible. In the first place, Tigre fell in the sea of winter and at midnight at that, and was not found despite strenuous search. It was unreasonable to think that he was alive.
“If that guy is another person, Elizavetta won’t surely forgive me this time. The relationship between LeitMeritz and Lebus will deteriorate to the limit. To the extent that we will have to take war into consideration. One mistake and it will also spread to Legnica.”
Between LeitMeritz in the southeastern part of Zchted and Lebus in the northeastern part, there was Legnica. It’s the land which was governed by the Vanadis Alexandra Alshavin.
She, who held the nickname of Hidden Princess of the Luminous Flame (Falpram), lost her life due to illness and the Vanadis who would succeed her did not yet appear. If it was caught up in a conflict in these circumstances, it would probably suffer immeasurable damages.
“Even the royal palace should be desperately thinking about how to interact with Brune by now. After all, a guest General, who was left in their charge, has died under the King’s request.”
Only for an instant, Ellen’s voice was tinged with anger. As she restrained the outburst of her feeling by a slight silent pause, she floated a sarcastic smile.
“Trying to take that guy from there and then he turns out to be a different person. If it’s a misapprehension, we won’t get away with that. And Brune will probably think that we tried to prepare an imposter to deceive them.”
Rurick groaned low. If it was the case, a war might happen between Zchted and Brune.
As Ellen changed her smile into a soft one, she said in a calm tone.
“There is not that much time until the war council. Let’s forget Tigre for now and concentrate on the matter of Duke Bydgauche. Even if I, who flared up at Elizavetta earlier than you, say, it will lack persuasive power.”
“Such a thing is…”
“There is no such thing”, Rurick tried to say that, but he changed his thought and tightened his expression.
“Understood. I’m going outside to get some fresh air for a while and cool my head.”
“I will allow just one cup of wine if you want to drink. It’s this cold. Even Elizavetta won’t complain.”
As Ellen replied so, Rurick saluted and left the tent.
Ellen was now alone in the tent.
With her arms still folded and a serious expression, the Wind Princess of the Silverflash (Silvfrau) was motionlessly staring at the empty space.
On the other side, it was the camp of the Lebus army. In the tent for supreme commander, meeting Elizavetta and Urz was the knight Naum who served as the Vanadis’ close aide.
Though he was in his mid-thirties, he had many white hair mixed with black hair and deep wrinkles harking back to hardship (labor) were carved on his face which carefully shaved his beard.
Naum was one of the few men favorably received Urz whose identity was unknown.
Elizavetta did not break her proud attitude until she entered the tent, but when gazes other than that of Urz and Naum disappeared, she floated an unusually cheerful smile.
“Urz. Take a rest until the war council.”
“…Is it all right for me to attend?”
Urz reservedly asked. This was because it was clear that it was him the cause of the clash between two Vanadis. Elizavetta nodded with an expression saying “obviously”.
“If I take someone else, it would be rather suspicious. You should be stately as my attendant.”
While preparing a chair for her, Urz, somewhat puzzled, gave words of thanks. Naum who lighted a candlestick asked the red-haired Vanadis.
“Shall I get any fruit water (Kvass)?”
“It’s fine. I will immediately go out after resting for a while.”
“Understood. I will be outside, so please call me if you need something.”
Naum winked at Urz and left from the tent.
“I will also leave your side for a short while.”
Urz was also about to left the tent following Naum, but in a place where he turned his back to his Lord, he was suddenly called to stop. As he turned around, the Vanadis of Rainbow Eyes stared at him with an awkward face. Her dignity of commander who gave orders to soldiers one after another could not be felt from her now.
“Not a word to anyone about what we talked with Eleanora.”
Urz made a troubled smile. This was because Naum wanted to ask precisely about that. However, as a look similar to his master’s entreaty was turned, rather than because it was an order, he felt like she was pitiful and did not say no.
“Even if I explain the outline, how about I don’t go over all the subtleties such as what kind of words we exchanged?”
“Then, it’s fine.”
Elizavetta made a look which seemed dissatisfied, but her voice was not that much so. It seemed that she was trying to keep up her dignity now. Urz endured to smile wryly, bowed and left the tent this time for sure.
Cold wind suddenly blew through the youth’s body. The sky which he looked up at while shivering was gloomy, and the moon and stars were gradually increasing their brightness.
Campfires were built in various places of the camp and the soldiers began preparations for dinner. In a furnace which hardened and built the earth into a mass, they put a pan. From the pan, white steam rose and melted in the night air.
Around the pan, if there were soldiers who were holding out his hands towards the fire of the furnace, there were also soldiers who warmed their bodies by rubbing distributed distilled strong drink (Vodka) to their hands and feet. Seeing that, there were also soldiers who grieved saying “what a waste”.
—If I remember correctly, it was fish soup (Ukha) tonight.
It was a dish familiar in Zchted, made by putting plenty of water in the pan and carefully cooking fish and vegetables cut into chunks. Today, they used salt cod, onion, potatoes and carrots. The seasoning was only the salt used on the cod, but it was enough since it was quite strong.
Urz who was absentmindedly staring at them was called and looked back at that direction. Naum was standing there. He was holding a bottle of fruits water and two pieces of big rye bread.
“We don’t know when the war council would be over after all. It isn’t something warm, but eat.”
Urz received the bread. Since he was hungry, he was honestly thankful.
“However, it’s cold. Let’s talk while walking?”
“Is it all right even if we are away from master’s side?”
“They are soldiers looking out, so it’s fine just a little. There isn’t much time until the war council, too.”
The two walked side by side while biting bread.
“Though I can guess, tell me what happened. Why was the war council reported at after a half koku?”
Urz briefly explained what happened. About the fact that Ellen and Rurick called him Tigre. That Elizavetta denied it and it turned into quarrel. That he broke in between them and answered that he was Elizavetta’s servant.
“––and, Vanadis-sama of LeitMeritz apologized to master and we start over again.”
Urz looked up at the knight who was probably about ten years older than him with an expression which seemed sorry. While he was talking, Naum had a sullen all along and he was deepening more and more the wrinkles of his face. Moreover, his white hairs which were not few might further increase.
Naum who finished hearing the story grandly sighed while patting the wrinkles of his face with a finger.
“I see. No, you did well. Anyway, the worst scenario was avoided.”
The time when Elizavetta said that she went to the war council with Urz, Naum was vehemently opposed to it. He was most apprehensive about the possibility that the two Vanadis would clash head on.
“Naum-san. There is something that I want you to tell me.”
As he swallowed his bread, took the bottle of fruit water and moistened within his mouth, Urz looked at Naum with a serious expression. Since Naum was in the midst of having stuffed bread into his mouth, he nodded his head silently.
“Do I resemble the person called Tigrevurmud that much?”
“…I don’t know.”
Naum who finally swallowed the bread answered while wiping his mouth.
“Both Vanadis-sama and I never happened to see That Tigrevurmud Vorn person. But, we have heard about him. If Vanadis-sama of LeitMeritz said so, you are probably as alike as two melons at least.”
Naum explained about Tigrevurmud Vorn. That he was the man who brilliantly end the civil war which occurred in the Brune Kingdom last year, and also the man who repulsed the Muozinel army of 20000 soldiers which had invaded Brune with only 2000 soldiers.
“They say that especially his bow skill was outstanding. He never misses a prey which he aimed at no matter how far it was: it seems that once she shot an arrow, he will surely bring it down. There is also the rumor that he kills a dragon.”
“It doesn’t look like it’s about me.”
Urz smiled wryly and shrugged his shoulders. Even this youth knew Dragon’s scales were of hardness that even a forged steel sword was not able to make a dent in it. Though Naum laughed, he put on a serious face right away.
“It’s also possible that you have only forgotten.”
Both of their feet were halted simultaneously. In a calm tone, Naum said.
“If you want, we shall try to negotiate with LeitMeritz after this matter is over. That they look after you and investigate about your identity. LeitMeritz has friendly relations with the Brune Kingdom. Information of that country should be available more abundantly to them than to Lebus.”
Urz did not immediately reply and looked downward as she was lost in thought.
“There is another thing I want to ask you, but may I ask about it first?”
While receiving the bottle of fruit water, Naum nodded. Urz asked, his eyes filled with pure doubt
“Why is master that much concerned about me?”
Judging from what he heard from Naum before, Elizavetta took a liking to him because she high evaluated his skill with the bow, and also because he was the first subordinate she chose herself.
However at the quarrel with Ellen, Elizavetta shouted “My Urz”.
Even considering the fact that her feelings were highly strung, would such words come out with just that? Urz found it strange. Moreover, only one month had passed since he came to work at the Imperial Palace of Lebus.
Naum who was threw the question stared in wonder and stared at the youth with an amazed face. Urz inwardly looked puzzled about whether what he said was so strange.
As Naum shook his head on both sides with a troublesome face and groaned while patting the wrinkles of his face, he sighed.
“Have you ever been told that you were slow (dense)?”
“You are slow (dense), eh. You’re truly slow. Well, let’s pretend that it’s because you lost memory.”
At Urz who blankly stood stock still, Naum who emphasized the word “slow” laughed as amazed.
“There is the fact that she highly evaluated your skill with the bow. Also the fact that for the first time, you’re a subordinate she chose by herself. I did say these two things before, didn’t I?”
Urz nodded. Suddenly, the figure of one girl emerged in his head.
It was that of the silver-haired Vanadis he met just a while ago. In order to let a person she met for the first time feel familiarity she brought out a bright smile, and said.
—You’re my prisoner. Come to think of it, you’re the first person I take as prisoner.
—I fell in love with your skills with the bow.
Being called, the youth came to his senses. Naum was staring at Urz with a wondering face.
“What’s wrong? Being absentminded.”
“No… Um, I was remembering about the time when I met master for the first time.”
Feeling for some reason like he must not talk about Ellen, Urz spoke of something he suddenly thought of. Naum floated a wry smile.
“Yeah. That was terrible.”
When he met Elizavetta for the first time, Tigre was at the beach with villagers. They were attacked by pirates. There were many pirates, Elizavetta who was out for a recreational walk did not happen to pass by, Probably, Urz and others would not probably have been saved.
That said, it was hard to honestly say it was fortunate. This was because Elizavetta who wield a Dragonic Tool and kicked about pirates made Urz and the others deliver a boat in order to run after the pirates who ran away and moreover and ordered them to row the boat. For Naum was accompanying Elizavetta at that time, there were memories which made his stomach hurt.
“Urz. When you met Vanadis-sama for the first time, she asked you what you think about her eyes, didn’t she? Do you remember what you answered?”
Holding in his laughter, the knight of pessimistic nature pointed at his own eyes with a finger.
After blinking his eyes several times as he explored his memory, Urz nodded.
“They look like cat’s eyes. I should have answered so.”
Because he had answered so, he was pushed in the sea by a villager who was in the same boat. Combining his personal experiences from before and after, there was no way he would forget.
As Naum floated a slightly bitter smile, he diverted his gaze from Urz. He looked at the soldiers who were surrounding the pan in a distant place. Their happy talking voices could be heard until here.
“Even if you ask the soldiers who are here… no, all people working at the Imperial Palace, there will probably no one who will give the same answer as you.”
With a faraway look, Naum drank a mouthful of fruit water.
“Those eyes of Vanadis-sama are called Rainbow Eyes. They are designated as a good omen in Lebus, and she is respected. ––But, in the place where Vanadis-sama was born and raised, it was the opposite.”
The latter half of the knight’s lines was mixed with bitterness and indignation.
“It’s called ill-omened. Something abominable. Misfortune. It seems to be considered so in that region even now… She was the illegitimate child of a certain noble, but because she was born with those eyes, it’s said she was brought up in a small poor village as an abandoned child who doesn’t know her parents.”
So Elizavetta had been abandoned by her parents. Urz held his breath and his face was distorted with anger. The grizzled knight continued his story.
“Her eye colors are different. But just because of that, she was despised, spoken ill (cursed) and bullied. From elderly, adults to children, there wasn’t a single person who became her friend. She spent such a daily until she was ten years old. She doesn’t talk about those days, but there is no doubt that it is because it was a life so painful that she can’t put it into words.”
“Then, why do you know since master didn’t talk about it?”
Naum quickly answered. To the youth who turned an accusatory gaze, he powerlessly laughed.
“Don’t make such a face. I said a while ago, but she was the illegitimate of a noble. As a person who served in Lebus and served her, I had to investigate.”
“…You’re right. I’m sorry.”
Urz immediately reconsidered and apologized to the knight with a tired face. It was only about one month since he came to work in Lebus, but he could understand such a necessity. Naum did not mind it and attached the bottle of fruit water on his mouth.
“Of course, there is no way I would tell Vanadis-sama that I investigated. I pretend that I don’t know the details. Please, behave also like that in front of her.”
“Understood. By the way, did the people of that village know the master’s background?”
As Urz spoke of his question, Naum covered his face with his hands so as to hide his expression.
“You have good intuition… The main persons including the village chief knew that she was the daughter of a noble. That’s why they seemed to be careful so as not to let her die. They probably thought that it was fine to bully her, but the judgment was that the people concerned were to understand the situation only to an extent.”
Urz felt a chill down his spine. It was probably not due to the dark sky and cold wind.
“Back to the story –– At 10, she was taken over by her father.”
—There doesn’t seem to be a decent reason.
Although Urz looked at Naum’s face in profile, he carefully listened without voicing his thought.
“It seems that the child who was going to succeed him dies of illness, and she was the only one left who inherited her father’s blood. Besides, there are also lands like Lebus who are thankful for the Rainbow Eyes. He probably noticed that belatedly.”
—So he abandons her at his convenience and takes her over again at his convenience, huh.
Urz felt indignation at the too much selfish talk. The inside of the youth’s head heat up to the extent that he did not care about the night wind. As he perceived it, Naum became silent for a while. It was after ten seconds passed that he resumed the talk.
“It seems that her life under her father wasn’t that pleasant. It’s no wonder. It wasn’t as if her father himself accepted her Rainbow Eyes after all. And three years ago. She, who turned 15 years old, became Vanadis.”
“Three years ago…?”
Looking back at Urz who made a puzzled face, Naum nodded with a serious expression.
“When she had come for the first time in Lebus, anyone who could see her understood how much she was perplexed. It seemed to be a surprise for her above all else that we were especially pleased with the Rainbow Eyes.”
Those eyes of different colors were something ominous. Something disgusting which determined her circumstances (environment). Even she was living thinking so, it completely changed. For Elizavetta, there was no doubt that it was so much a shock as if the very universe was overturned.
“As she grew accustomed to life at the Imperial Palace, we came to be asked a certain question by her.”
You. What do you think when you see my eyes? Tell honestly what you thought.
“––I answered ‘they are beautiful like jewels’.”
While shaking the bottle of fruit water to check that it became empty, Naum distorted his mouth.
“I intend to reply sincerely despite my poor vocabulary, but it would be a lie if I say that I didn’t consider my position as retainer. It was not only me, but also the same for those who were asked the question. She probably knew it; whenever she heard an answer, she made a bore-looking face. However––”
Naum floated a somewhat happy smile unlike those until now and looked at Urz. However, an earnest color was dwelling in his pair of eyes.
“You appeared. Honestly, I was amazed at your answer, but I had never met such a smile of Vanadis-sama until now. I thought that that was surely what she had wanted from the bottom of her heart.”
Even looking at her Rainbow Eyes, he considered it them neither evil nor good omen.
Without even inquiring the complexion of Elizavetta whom he understood to be a person of high social status at first glance, he expressed his candid thoughts in a composed attitude.
Probably because it was Urz who lost memory, thus without did not know his identity, had no extra knowledge or prejudice and had no ties of obligation based on the status, he was able to do it.
Naum stretched out his hand and grabbed Tigre’s shoulder. He stared straight at the surprised youth.
“I asked you whether you want to go to LeitMeritz, didn’t I? I don’t intend to overturn my words. If you want, I’ll try all possible means. I will also persuade Vanadis-sama. But, speaking my mind, I want you to stay in Lebus and serve Vanadis-sama. I fully understand that what I’m saying is selfish…”
As he spat out all the air which had accumulated within his lungs, Naum span his words at a stretch. Though there was also the fact that his shoulder had been grabbed, being overwhelmed by the brightness of his more eager eyes than it, Urz was not able to divert his eyes from him.
“––She needs you.”
Naum’s hand which grabbed his shoulder was filled with power. Urz frowned and groaned. Naum came to his senses at the voice and hurriedly removed his hand. “Sorry”, he apologized in a low voice.
As Urz shook his head so as to say that he did not mind, he dropped his gaze to the ground. He quietly spilled a sigh.
—I was told something outrageous…
He did not mean to blame Naum. In the first place, it was something which Urz was curious about. Thanks to that, he understood why Elizavetta was fixated in someone like him.
He really did not think that he would find himself dragged into such a serious problem.
—What to do?
He did not dislike Elizavetta. He also owed her for having picked him up. If she had not asked him to serve her that day about one month ago, Urz would have probably been even now in that fishing village. There was no doubt that he would be helping with the village work and earning income little by little for travel expenses.
The figures of the silver-haired girl and the baldhead knight which was following her floated in his mind. Their shouts were desperate and acute. There was sincerity.
—I think that master called her Eleanora.
He tried to mutter it several times in his mouth. Strangely, that name sounded with a pleasant sound in the youth’s heart. If it was said that they once had a friendly relationship, he felt that it might have been to the extent of completely doubtless trust.
While Urz was troubled and conflicted, Naum was motionlessly standing in silence. Within the darkness, he was quietly waiting for the youth to give an answer.
Before long, Urz raised his face. He gave words of apology with an apologetic expression.
Naum did not react immediately; he finally dropped his shoulders after about five seconds passed and sighed.
“No, it’s fine. I’m sorry to have said something which troubles you.”
“No, I think that you have told me an invaluable story. And, I have one request.”
To Urz’s words, Naum put on a dubious face. He urged the youth with his gaze.
“Could you investigate about that Tigrevurmud Vorn person? About what kind of personality and what kind of position he had. The master said that he fell into the sea and died, but is it true? That person… Is it really me?”
Urz emitted word as he chewed them one by one, and finally concluded like this.
“Until I know it or until I regain my memory, I intend to serve master. I do not want to make any rash promise about master.”
Naum stared wide-eyed and looked down at the youth with a blank face. As he pulled himself together after about one minute, he asked with an evil smile.
“Is it all right? My thought is as I said a while ago. Even if I know a lot of things, I may not tell you anything. No, in the first place I may not even investigate about it.”
“I don’t mind.”
Urz chuckled and answered. Naum trusted him and talked about Elizavetta’s past. Therefore, he also decided to trust him.
When Naum stared at the youth for a while, he floated an amazed smile.
“I count on you from now on. I will do my best for you.”
“Likewise, I hope to get along with you.”
Under the sky in which stars twinkled, the two men exchanged a firm handshake. On the other hand, Urz said while scratching the cheeks shyly.
“By the way, there is one more thing I would like you to tell me.”
“What is it?”
Naum asked while releasing his hand. Urz frowned and asked with an expression like a wavering shooter in the next move in chess.
“Did something happen between our master and Eleanora-sama of LeitMeritz?”
“Why do you think so?”
“I somehow guess, after seeing master and Eleanora-sama…”
Urz rummaged his darkish red hair and equivocated, but looking at the face of Naum who immediately asked back, he guessed that there seemed to be something.
He did not know what it was. When going to the war council, Elizavetta’s profile could be seen somewhat hard-pressed. Besides, Ellen’s attitude was also strange. Although there was his existence (he was here), would that become so emotional?
“…Well. Before the war council, it’s necessary to know the other party more or less.”
Naum inclined his head, and returned his gaze to the youth after turning the bottle of fruit water upside down and drinking only one drop. His eyes were filled with darkness as if looking into a marsh.
“As you guess, there is a connection between the two girls. In the autumn about two years ago, a plague occurred in a village which is in a territory under the direct control of the royal family. That village was immediately near to the border of Lebus. Vanadis-sama had burned down all the deceased of the village and isolated those who didn’t suffer from the plague for a while.”
Urz nodded with a serious face. He thought that though Elizavetta’s coping method was seemingly cruel, it was correct. Even if he was in her position, he would have probably done the same thing in order to prevent the expansion of the plague.
“That village seemed to be a land of memories for Vanadis-sama of LeitMeritz. She offered to take care of those who were isolated.”
“Isn’t it something to be thankful for?”
“But, our Vanadis-sama refused. Saying that two or more Vanadis should not intervene in a village located in a territory under the direct control of the royal family. Actually, the royal family seemed to be dissatisfied about the fact that our Vanadis dealt with it in various ways. They asked whether she doesn’t trust His Majesty the King.”
Naum laughed sarcastically and Urz was dumbfounded.
The dealing with the plague was a match with time. Damage would spread as it was delayed. On that point, the persons who could move should be dealt with more early; he had nothing to do with either the King or trust.
“It isn’t as if Vanadis-sama left those who were isolated. She prepared materials and food so that they could pass winter, and she also went as far as to send doctors. She also promised assistance about the rebuilding of the village. And that, I will say it again, even though it’s a village located in a territory under the direct control of the royal family. But, most of the peopled weren’t able to pass winter.”
Urz strongly bit his lips unintentionally. Just by sympathizing with Elizavetta at that time and Ellen’s feelings, an anguish voice seemed to leak from between his teeth
“Vanadis-sama of LeitMeritz blamed our Vanadis-sama. There is no help for it. After all, although she tried all possible means, she turned down an offer and it resulted to this. This is one of their connections (bonds).”
At Naum’s last lines, Urz made a wry face.
“…Is there still anything?”
“Yes. It was at almost the same time (period).”
Naum floated a tired smile and began to walk. It was time when he should go back to the camp soon. Urz also walked beside him.
“I told you about the fact that Vanadis-sama’s father was a noble, didn’t I? It’s a person named Rodion Abt, but this person caused problems. He embezzled (pocketed) the tax paid the people and gave a false report in the Capital, saying that this year was a poor crop and that it cost a lot of money to repair the bridge. Moreover, he gathered the bandits of his territory and attacked villages and towns of the neighboring feudal lords.”
Naum cut his words for a moment there. The two men looked at each other’s faces filled with discomfort. They could not imagine someone like that being Elizavetta’s father. Naum resumed the talk with depressed face.
“The territory of this Lord Rodion is near LeitMeritz. Naturally, Vanadis-sama of LeitMeritz was ordered his subjugation by His Majesty the King, but our Vanadis-sama requested to be entrusted with this matter. That she will persuade Lord Rodion and makes him atone for his crimes. Vanadis-sama of LeitMeritz accepted it, but––”
“Then, what happened?”
“Lord Rodion didn’t even show up in the place of the negotiation and ran away. And he was killed by Vanadis-sama of LeitMeritz.”
Urz was at a loss for words at the too cruel story.
“Afterwards, our Vanadis-sama challenged Vanadis-sama of LeitMeritz to a duel. She lost. It was a complete defeat.”
Probably due to the fact that he was holding his feelings, Naum’s voice was serene. As for Urz, he was in a state of mind where he wanted to bury his head in his hands. This could no longer be put in order (described) with the word fate (connection).
Wanting to calm down his feelings, Urz asked something trivial.
“Then, did the master inherit the Abt House?”
If he remembered correctly, he explored his memory that there should have been a person named Valentina among the Vanadis. Since she was born of a noble, she had two family names. He wondered whether it should not become so also for Elizavetta.
“On the suspicion of having gone against a royal order, the Abt House was taken and destroyed. Vanadis-sama didn’t deign to defend the Abt House. I understand her feelings. And the, in the autumn of last year––”
To his great surprised, Naum’s story was not over. Urz looked at him with a face saying “is there still something?”, but the grizzled knight continued his story as if it was a matter of course.
“You know Legnica which is in the south of Lebus, don’t you? The Vanadis Alexandra-sama which governed there seemed to hold a relation with Vanadis-sama of LeitMeritz to the extent that you could say that they are close friends… Our Vanadis-sama had advanced our soldiers to that Legnica.”
“Give me a break”, Urz inwardly grieved so, but he could not stop after coming so far. He put strength in his feet which began to lose strength and firmly stepped on the cold earth.
“At that time, Vanadis-sama of LeitMeritz was in Brune, but she came back with an astonishing speed. She stood before us instead of Alexandra-sama who was lying down due to illness.”
“Why did the master attack Legnica?”
“There were political circumstances. If you want to know in detail, you should watch for an opportunity and ask Vanadis-sama.”
Naum gave an ambiguous answer by saying so. It isn’t like he could not answer. However, multiple explanations were needed in order to explain it and no matter how he put it, there would be not enough time.
“The fate with Vanadis-sama of LeitMeritz is something like this. We somehow made it in time.”
“Um, could you replace me for the war council?”
With an extremely serious countenance, Urz entreated. Even if Elizavetta took a liking to him, there was nothing more unlucky than to participate in a war council where those two girls met each other. He thought that they endured well not to fight against each other at that place.
The knight and the youth stopped. Silence wrapped the two people. While shaking the bottle of fruit water which became empty, Naum exaggeratedly shrugged his shoulders.
“Sorry, Urz. If I could, I would also like to replace you, but I can’t come up at all with words to convince Vanadis-sama.”
“Um, a while ago, you said that you will do what you can, didn’t you?”
“What I can do, that is. It is somewhat impossible for me to do this.”
“Isn’t there considerable composure in your voice?”
As Urz pointed out, even though Naum’s voice was tinged with a breathtaking (like) seriousness until just a while ago, now it was calm as if being released from a heavy burden.
“A youth like you needs experience. Good luck.”
“I think that in a place where troubles are expected, an experienced expert is necessary.”
“Even if you run away now, you will someday be entrusted with a big task. Above all, no matter how you think about it, there is no one more qualified than you for this matter. You have eaten the meal and cultivated an excellent disposition, right? It’s all right, if it’s you, you can do it.”
“If I came to have a stomach ache when eating the bread Naum gave me, I will complain to the master.”
The two men did not glared at each other for a long time and floated bitter smiles. Though he was amazed, Urz could not bring himself to hate Naum’s determination (stubbornness).
As Naum put his hand on Urz’s shoulder, he rounded his back and deeply bowed his head.
“Please. Take over here. You might say that the war council is Vanadis-sama’s monopoly. She doesn’t request the opinions of her close aides and there will be instructions/indications beforehand for when you would be allowed to speak. As Vanadis-sama said, you should stand in silence.”
“But, what should I do if quarrel occurred between the master and Vanadis-sama over there?”
“Coax Vanadis-sama somehow. If compelled, I don’t mind even if you think of her as a whining child opponent and scold her. I will take responsibility.”
“…Please, pray to the gods so that it doesn’t happen.”
Imagining the figure of Elizavetta downhearted like a child who was scolded, Saying so with a fed up face was the utmost Urz could so.
Exactly at the middle of the camps of both armies, one tent was set up. It was something Ellen prepared.
Now within that tent, four men and women were facing each other across an old table. The flame of the candlestick illuminated several maps which were opened on the table to the four people’s faces.
The persons attending were Elizavetta and Urz from Lebus side, and Ellen and Rurick from LeitMeritz side.
“––Once again. I am the Vanadis Elizavetta Fomina of Lebus.”
“I’m the Vanadis Eleanora Viltaria of LeitMeritz.”
The two Vanadis along with unamiable faces noosed their mouths, stretched their backs straight and with folded arms turned a dangerous look to the other party. They stuck out their rich bosom to the front so as to provoke.
—It’s a beehive, eh.
While stiffening his body to strain, Urz who was standing still next to Elizavetta inwardly muttered such an impression. If it was also dangerous to be near, it was even more dangerous to nudge.
As Rurick who was standing beside Ellen also had the same feeling, his expression was painted out with anxiety and it was hard. Urz became worried about whether he was all right.
Urz and Rurick also respectively gave their names following their Lords and bowed. It was at this time that Urz knew Rurick’s name. To that sound, the youth recalled a sensation like something was stuck in the corner of his head, but since the war council had immediately begun, he concentrated there.
The war council smoothly proceeded as if dispelling Urz’s worry.
Both Elizavetta and Ellen spread the maps which they respectively brought on the table, and explained their marches until today and the situation of the reconnaissance units using small wooden pieces. The two girls were as expected veteran commander as they could immediately understand the other party’s intention without him even exposing it in detail.
“It’s around ten days if we go ahead through the away by horses from Bydgauche to Pardu.”
“But, Duke Bydgauche obviously deviated from the highway and is advancing. To arrive at Pardu, it will probably take him again several days.”
As she raised her face from the several maps put one on another on the table, Ellen looked at the red-haired Vanadis.
“Elizavetta. How many soldiers do you think that Duke Bydgauche is leading? Assuming that he gathered the number of soldiers who can only be gathered in a day or two, that is.”
“From 1500 to 3000. All cavalry. Of course, I think by the intention of 3000 though.”
“3000, huh… It’s as expected of the Duke.”
“Combining both our armies, we are about 2000. It will be tough, eh.”
Rurick groaned with a difficult face. However, his Lord casually shook her head.
“We can’t be careless, but if it’s only a difference of 1000 soldiers, Elizavetta and I will do something about it.”
“How many soldiers could Earl Pardu have?”
“He should have scraped up 1000 together. But, if possible, I don’t want to let the soldiers of Eugene-dono––Earl Pardu fight as a soldier.”
“Why? This is a problem between Duke Bydgauche and Earl Pardu, right?”
As Elizavetta discontentedly frowned, Ellen answered in a cold tone.
“As you said, it will be certainly right that the Earl’s soldiers should shed blood. But frankly speaking, the Earl’s soldiers aren’t strong. The Earl himself isn’t good at war, either. If they lose, their morale will drop and the morale of Duke Bydgauche’s soldiers will rise. It will be too much troubled.”
This was a fact. But, Elizavetta did not change her claim.
“Even if what you say is true, you should let Earl Pardu’s soldiers fight. But, if the Earl wants the shame of being a man who doesn’t send his soldiers to protect his territory, then it’s a different story.”
There was some truth in what Elizavetta said. They did not know what kind of end this matter would reach, but there was no doubt that Eugene was underestimated by the neighboring nobles.
Ellen also understood that, but since she intended to settle things before Duke Bydgauche entered Pardu, she did not request soldiers from the Earl.
If the battle was done outside of Pardu, the reason for Eugene to send soldiers would disappear. Ellen and Elizavetta who received a royal order prevented and stopped Duke Bydgauche’s rampage. This was because it was settled like that (They settled with that conclusion).
Ellen turned a severe look to the map on the table. Neither Elizavetta nor her could yet catch the figure of the Bydgauche army. They would have to assume the worst case –– the possibility of fight in the Pardu territory.
As she spat out one sigh, Ellen answered with a face which seemed to want to say “it can’t be helped”.
“Understood. However, I have one condition. Let’s assume that the soldiers whom the Earl sends are 30 cavalrymen. I will add those 30 cavalrymen in my army. And I will have the Earl stand by in his territory. That’s all.”
“Can you tell me the reason?”
“Both our armies are only comprised of cavalrymen. Even we add a unit of only infantry there, it will just get in the way. On the other hand, it will be impossible to immediately prepare a large force of cavalry. 30 will probably do. Besides, the soldiers of my army know the Earl’s soldiers, but your army doesn’t know them.”
“Why don’t you let the Earl command those 30 cavalrymen?”
To Elizavetta’s question, Ellen floated an amazed smile.
“Like I said a while ago, but the Earl isn’t good at war. Besides, if, in addition to your army and my army, the Earl’s army exists on the battlefield, a mediator will be necessary for moving smoothly. I will say this just in case, I don’t want to do it. Elizavetta. Can you perform the supreme command?”
“…Understood. Let’s get the Earl stand by in Pardu.”
As for Elizavetta, it was unbearable to command until a unit of weak soldiers. Depending on the situation, harm would reach the soldiers of her army. It was wise to leave it to Ellen.
“However, if the number of soldiers of the Duke is 3000, it will look good even if either my or your reconnaissance unit finds them. It isn’t as if they are still wondering aimlessly in the north, either.”
As Ellen said so while once gain looking at the map, Elizavetta looked puzzled.
“He may have also divided them into several units and made them advance respectively different highways. The Duke’s soldiers are skilled after all.”
“Do you know the Duke very well?”
Her red eyes blurring a feeling of surprise, Ellen stared at Elizavetta. The Vanadis of Rainbow Eyes knitted her brows as she was amazed.
“The Duke is a person who holds a great influence in the northern part of the Kingdom. There is no one among the nobles with a territory in the northern part that doesn’t have any interaction with the Duke.”
“I see… And in the south of the capital?”
Elizavetta shook her head.
“Since he is a person who holds the rights of succession to the throne, I think there are none …”
Ellen frowned at the word “rights of succession to the throne”. If she remembered correctly, Eugene should also have the rights of succession to the throne.
“When we heard about the fact that he went to the capital, should we have first thought about that point?”
To the mutter which unintentionally leaked, Elizavetta made a dubious face.
“What are you talking about? I don’t like too much that someone keep secret to me.”
After Ellen looked at Elizavetta with a overtly annoying face, she spoke with a attitude showing that it couldn’t help.
“Even Earl Pardu whom Duke Bydgauche aims at has the rights of succession to the throne. In short, I only thought that it something like that.”
A fight between those with the rights of succession to the throne. Though Ellen interpreted so, Elizavetta narrowed her eyes in displeasure as those words hurt her feelings.
“All this began because of the Vodka that Earl Pardu sent to Duke Bydgauche.”
Poison was contained in the Vodka he sent, and an attendant of Ilda lost his life. It was the reason why Ilda moved his soldiers.
“That poison was contained in the Vodka is to the bitter end Duke Bydgauche’s say (point).”
Ellen retorted immediately. For the silver-haired Vanadis, Earl Pardu Eugene was her teacher of etiquette. So, she knew well his temperament. There was no way that she would remain silent.
“Both of you, let’s put that talk aside from the time being.”
Sensibly understanding that the atmosphere had begun to become dangerous, Urz hurriedly broke in between the two Vanadis. Rurick also raised a loud voice and showed mind of agreement with Urz.
“He’s absolutely right. Determining the whereabouts of the Bydgauche army is the priority now. By the way Mr. Attendant, what do you think?”
Rurick’s utterance was intended to return to the topic, so it was not as if he was particularly waiting for an answer. Urz understood that, but if he did not think of anything, he would embarrass Elizavetta. In order to gain time, the youth said.
“I am sorry, but would you tell me a little more about the person called Duke Bydgauche?”
“That’s right. I don’t know that much about the Duke, either. It will help if you tell us about him.”
Ellen agreed, interrupted her enmity with Elizavetta and turned a fleeting towards Urz. As his yes met hers, Urz was for some reason shocked. His heart greatly jumped up.
Since she entered this tent, Ellen had never made eye contact with Urz. Even when Urz named himself, she did not even take a glance at him. Rurick on the other hand sent an anxious look several times his way.
However, as if she did notice Urz’s unrest, Ellen mover her eyes towards Elizavetta. The red-haired Vanadis also pulled herself together and explained.
“The Duke has a personality which is the very picture of honesty. Even you say that he is a person who fit the nature of running in the field leading soldiers rather than being in front of a work desk, but he isn’t someone who will try to settle anything by force.”
“Hou”, Ellen raised a voice in admiration. There seemed to be some sympathy within. Elizavetta continued her explanation.
“His command of soldiers is good, but the Duke himself is also an excellent warrior. Be it a sword or horse, I would say there is no one more skilled than the Duke in the north.”
“If he is such a man, his confidence as a soldier will be also deep. What are his most recent achievements?”
“He received His Majesty’s order about two months ago and subdued the barbarians who were damaging the north. There will be a lot of nobles feeling indebted to that.”
The existence of brigands and barbarians was a common, everlasting trouble to the nobles who possessed a territory.
Even if he subdued the bandits lurking in their territory, other bandits would come in from the outside of the territory. Those who committed a heavy crime and were banished from villages and towns and penniless mercenaries might degrade themselves to bandits. Even if they dispatched soldiers and dove them away, they would come back and attacked the villages and towns when it would cool down.
As for the hired soldiers that were few and the nobles who were not so strong, a great number of strong soldiers will be hired, the existence of someone like Ilda who was an excellent commander was extremely promising.
“Then, the Duke will let us pass through by going through the territories of friendly nobles; there is a possibility that Pardu may be targeted huh.”
“I cannot deny it, but isn’t it too dangerous?”
Elizavetta looked puzzled. Both Ellen and Elizavetta dispatched soldiers to the nobles which owned a territory along the highway to gather information along with greetings. If someone leaked the existence of Ilda even a little, it would be likely to be found.
Ellen, apparently not intending to adhere to her plan, too, quickly nodded when Elizavetta presented her question.
“That’s right. Then, where is he…?”
“Is it okay if I express my thought?”
It was Urz who said so and looked at Elizavetta and Ellen. While the two Vanadis were talking, this youth had been thinking over something while looking at the map, but he came up with a certain thing.
When he confirmed that the two girls nodded, Urz poked one point in the map with his finger.
That finger was going down the map to the south.
“Didn’t Duke Bydgauche go south in this way?”
It was the mountains and hills dotted from the north to the south that Urz pointed with his finger. Connecting them, he completed one line which reached from Bydgauche to Pardu.
Of course, he didn’t meandered it in a straight line, but if advancing just like that, it was also unlikely to be found by the reconnaissance units sent by Ellen and Elizavetta without encountering their armies. This was because both of them hardly sent reconnaissance units to the mountains and hills.
“It’s an interesting idea.”
Ellen brightened her red pupils and happily laughed.
“But, it’s difficult to pass through the mountains and hills in this season. It’s for that reason that both Elizavetta and I didn’t send reconnaissance units there.”
Even the snow which immediately melted in the plains remained on the mountains and hills without disappearing. It piled up little by little, covered the ground and made the pace of men and horses grow dull. The air which grew cold by snow took heat. While hiding important landmarks, one could let you get an illusion as if there footing there.
Stories about the fact that a party of powerful soldiers stepped on the mountains of winter, met with an accident and were annihilated were too many to count in snow countries like Zchted. Moreover, neither Ellen nor Elizavetta did think that Ilda who was referred to as battle expert would brave such a danger.
“Even if he chooses the lowest mountains as possible and advanced in a place with little snow, the soldiers’ fatigue will pile up. And their march will become dull.”
“Urz. Duke Bydgauche should have thought to quickly move and settle things at a stroke. Otherwise, he should have dignifiedly advanced the highway.”
Elizavetta spoke to Urz with an admonishing tone. She did not intend to scold him such as “don’t say unnecessary things”. In her eyes of different colors, the thought about how she should comfort this amnesic servant was blurring. However, Urz shook his head.
“Can’t they solve that problem if they use sleds?”
The silver-haired Vanadis stared wide-eyed and the red-haired Vanadis unintentionally dropped her gaze on the map. From the mouth of Rurick who was watching the three people’s exchanges, a groan of admiration leaked out.
“If it’s Duke Bydgauche, he may be able to immediately prepare about 1000 or 2000 sleds.”
“That’s right. If he loads armor, food and fuel and dare to choose a place with snow…”
Staring at the map, the two Vanadis discussed.
Even if he used sleds, the march through the mountains and hills would be hard (difficult), and it did not change the fact that it was dangerous. But, the March speed was fairly different. Urz said.
“Even on the plains, if there are no obstructions, smoke of campfire and cooking will be seen far away. If it was from above a mountain or hill, it could be seen more clearly. Especially in this season.”
It was winter now. So as not to let the soldiers freeze, it was necessary to light a fire no matter what. Not only the campfire was used as light, but it was also for soldiers to warm themselves. As for the meal, if they could not prepare warm soup and stew, the morale would remarkably fall.
“Conversely, the situation on the mountains and hills will be hard to see from the plain. We should hide ourselves amongst the many trees so that the opponents might not discover us here, all the more since we will light a fire within the shade of mountains.”
To Urz’s words, Ellen and Elizavetta looked at each other. The plan which they thought to be absurd was tinged with a touch of reality.
“It was a blind spot. However, you did well to think of the fact that they could use sled.”
Floating a smile which said “well done”, Ellen frankly praised Urz. The youth rummaged his darkish red hair as embarrassed.
“I was a stable boy until just the other day. Beside the harness such as stirrup and saddle, I was doing the care of sleds––”
Two shouts of surprise finely overlapped interrupting Urz’s words. It was Ellen’s and Rurick’s shouts. The silver-haired Vanadis stared at Elizavetta with a dumbfounded face. Although the Vanadis of Rainbow Eyes flinched to that gaze, she pouted and said.
“D-Do you have any complaints?”
“It isn’t really like I have any complaints, but…”
With an expression showing her hesitation to speak, Ellen alternately stared at the faces of the lord and retainer of Lebus.
“There is a limit to a great selection. Aren’t the soldiers anxious about it?”
“…There is no problem.”
Although Elizavetta stuck out her chest and answered, her voice was lacking in strength in any way.
“Well, it’s fine. It isn’t my hobby to interfere in others’ personnel affairs after all.”
Ellen did not try to pursue further and changed the topic to how they should move from now on.
“I… I agree with the present opinion. The Bydgauche army is advancing to the mountains and hills by using sleds. I would like to precede the thought on that premise.”
In a place where Ellen hesitated to say, Elizavetta narrowed her eyes. But, since the silver-haired Vanadis proceeded to talk as if there was nothing, she nodded in silence.
“From now on, I will head to Pardu while sending a reconnaissance unit to the mountains and hills. In order to borrow soldiers. What would you do?”
“I will go south, too. I will go by through a highway different from you. To find Duke Bydgauche’s army, it would be better than moving together, right? Besides––”
Although she hesitated for an instant, Elizavetta continued.
“If I find Duke Bydgauche’s army ahead, I want to persuade the Duke.”
Elizavetta had interactions with Ilda. Besides, the demand of the royal palace was to stop the Duke. Her proposal seemed to be very natural.
“…Understood. If it happened, I would leave it to you.”
Afterwards, the two girls began the examination of the details such as communication means and the war council duly ended.
Translator notes and references
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