With a sour look, Elizavetta Fomina scowled at the old man standing on the opposite side across the work desk. Although being a little skinny, he stretched his back straight and he had also carefully arranged his pure white beard. An unyielding and strong determination overflowed in his eyes.
“Lazare. Are you opposed no matter what?”
“By all means, please reconsider it.”
The old civil official called Lazare so deeply bowed that one wondered whether his forehead was stuck on to the work desk. Elizavetta pouted.
It was about this morning that she returned to the Imperial Palace of Lebus with the soldiers. As she thanked the soldiers for their service, promised them reward and then made them disperse, Elizavetta got through with a bath and took a meal.
After that, she called several subordinates to her office and talked about the conferral of honors regarding this battle, but her opinion and Lazare’s was opposed about the reward to Urz.
“Urz’s achievements are certainly not small. However, there are some issues.”
Regarding this war, Urz had two achievements to his credit. The fact that he had seen through about where Ilda was advancing (to Pardu). And the fact that he made the fleeing Ilda fall from his horse.
“Even with just only one of the two is a great achievement.”
Praising him without reservation were Naum and the captains who were leading each squad. They knew well the importance of grasping the enemy’s position. Especially this time, if they were even another day late, Pardu would have been attacked.
Come to think of it, although he came from the work of a stable boy, he should be properly praised.
It was about the fact of having made Ilda fall from his horse, but it was precisely because Urz was the owner of a tremendous bow skill that he could accomplish this. Moreover, he did not kill Ilda.
“Try to the best of your ability to capture him alive” was the royal palace’s request. Since he perfectly responded to it, he should be recompensed with a great reward.
However, this old civil official did not stubbornly agree.
“Urz is a person that Vanadis-sama let go to the front as an exception, and he was only a stable boy a few days ago before going to the front. In the first place, two months have not yet passed since he came to the Imperial Palace.”
As he cut his words for a moment and fixed his breathing, Lazare tightly grasped his fist and resumed his emphasis.
“Certainly the achievements that Urz built are splendid. However, if you highly evaluate him, it will be considered that Vanadis-sama is favoring Urz, right? I do not think that it will be good for Vanadis-sama as well as for Urz. In addition, there is also the relation with Duke Bydgauche. The Duke is a person widely known for his military prowess in the northern part of this Zchted. However, if you say that he was made fall from his horse by a servant who ascended from being a stable boy, his fame as a warrior will be ruined.”
“His Excellency the Duke had praised Urz’s ability.”
Elizavetta objected so, but far from faltering, Lazare did not shake even a little. He was like a steep cliff which continued to rise even if bathed in a blizzard.
“His Highness the Duke has surely said so. However, what will the people following the Duke think? What is important is that. Aside from saying that Vanadis-sama made the Duke fall from his horse after a one-to-one fight, this was accomplished by a man whose identity is not even certain.”
Ilda’s subordinates did not praise Urz; they would probably regard him as someone who made their master lose face. Lazare asserted so.
“It is probably by chance that Urz was able to make Duke Bydgauche fall from his horse. I thought it would be better to put it in that way. It was a battle done when the day just dawned; in that case, the Duke’s military prowess will not be stained that much too, right?”
The relations between Elizavetta and Ilda were not bad. It might be said that they were rather friendly. For this reason, Ilda also stopped by this Imperial Palace before visiting the capital and Elizavetta also warmly received him.
It was not yet known how King Victor would judge Ilda, either. It is not as if there was no logic at all in Lazare’s words.
As Lazare cut his words, the other civil officials nodded many times as to approve of his opinion. There were not only civil officials, but also several knights here, but they were silent and also seemed to be of the same opinion.
Then among the knights, one person raised his voice.
“What Lazare-dono says is quite right, but…”
It was Naum who had made an objection in a moderate tone.
“It’s a fact that Urz built achievements. The soldiers who participated in this battle understand it. If he isn’t rewarded with this, Vanadis-sama’s dignity will certainly be stained. If it’s you, you should understand at least that.”
“I did not say that we should not reward him.”
“Then, how much will be appropriate (as a reward)?”
“About 100 silver coins.”
Probably having already thought about it, Lazare immediately answered, which caused Naum to be amazed.
“Lazare-dono. Didn’t you get the wrong number? As for me, I think that even 1000 pieces of silver coins are few though.”
“Then, many people working at the Imperial Palace will harbor discontent. For them, Urz is still a man of unknown identity who works as a stable boy. When Urz has serve for a long time, it will be accepted by many people that his identity won’t be mind anymore, then you should reward him once gain.”
“You say that his identity is unknown, but it isn’t Urz’s fault, right? Many people know the fact that he had diligently worked as stable boy. Even in this battle, he did nothing which was susceptible to causing problems.”
Naum eagerly argued vehemently, but Lazare did not show signs of changing his stance. The grizzled knight changed his way of doing. With a sarcastic smile, he looked around at the people except Elizavetta.
“One does not evaluate someone who accomplished distinguished services by using his identity and position as a reason. I wonder what the aristocrats and Vanadis of the neighborhood will think if they knew it. Seemingly, there is a group of jealous and coward people formed in Lebus. Wouldn’t they laugh so at us?”
As expected, several persons changed their complexion to this utterance and glared at Naum. The grizzled knight did not break his buoyant attitude and looked back at them.
“––Naum. Just now, you said too much.”
Elizavetta’s calm voice swept away the serious atmosphere. Naum turned towards the Vanadis and deeply bowed his head. After confirming it, she moved her eyes to the civil officials and other knights.
“Let’s decide that the reward to Urz will be 100 pieces of silver coins.”
Elizavetta said with a solemn face, but her speech did not end by that.
“And then, I shall attach Urz under Naum as an apprentice Knight.”
“An apprentice Knight, you say?”
The old civil official made a bitter face. Elizavetta asked with a dangerous smile.
“Lazare. I have conceded this for you, you know? Given the achievements, even giving 2000 pieces of silver coins to someone of knight’s rank will not be enough.”
If they had let Ilda escaped at that time, the Bydgauche soldiers would not have easily surrendered. In addition, in order to capture Ilda, both Elizavetta and Ellen might not have yet returned to their territories.
“As you wish, Vanadis-sama.”
Although he made a displeased face, it seemed to be within the range of compromise for Lazare. He respectfully bowed.
And then, she moved the talk to what to do about the others’ rewards.
At that time, Urz was soundly sleeping in a room given to him. What was good in becoming an attendant was that one might be given a room and bed, three pieces of blankets and a change of clothes only for him.
By the way, he was also given a sword, but it was leaned against the wall and left as such. The bow which he also got from Elizavetta was next to the sword, but one could understand from the gloss of the surface and the state of the cloth wound around the grip that it was properly maintained.
“Being able to sleep without thinking about work is the best.”
After all, when he was a stable boy, it was non stop movement from before daybreak until sunset
Moreover, the more you get used to it, the more work was increased. One could not possibly wish for afternoon naps.
Urz, who was wrapped up in a blanket and was looked at the ceiling which got slightly dirty, suddenly remembered about Ellen and Rurick. About the two people who called him Tigrevurmud Vorn.
As Urz shook his head, he closed his eyes. He quietly fell asleep.
And it was about the evening of this day that the youth was woken up by Naum, was summoned in the office and given the rank of apprentice knight and 100 pieces of silver coins.
It was seven days after Urz was called by Elizavetta and was given the rank of apprentice knight.
“Ah, you came, Urz.”
Resting both her elbows on the work desk where documents were packed on the side and placing her shapely chin on her overlapping hands, Elizavetta looked up at the youth with a happy smile.
Urz who was led and brought by Naum politely bowed. It was the etiquette taught to him by the grizzled knight standing beside him.
“These several days, what did you do and how did you spend them?”
“I was taught various things by Lord Naum.”
“I taught him the characters and customs of our country. Urz has no memory after all.”
Urz answered and Naum supplemented in a polite attitude.
It was not a lie. It was true that he was taught Zchted’s characters and customs.
However unlike Urz, the amount of work which Naum had was not a little. It was another story if he was ordered by Elizavetta, but he could not only care about Urz. Therefore, it was decided that Urz would be taught various things by Naum for only one koku per day.
“It doesn’t seem like he could be taught under constant attendance from dusk till dawn though.”
It was Naum who hurriedly answered Elizavetta who tilted her head to the side.
“It seems that aside from that, he does training with the bow and take a nap.”
“A nap? Every day?”
The eyes which contained doubt being turned towards him, Urz got flustered. He did training with bow and also took a nap, but that was not only it.
Urz toured the town near the castle every day. He intended to investigate about Tigrevurmud Vorn in his own way, but he was interested in the town itself too.
With one piece of silver coin, one could buy a bag packed with as much wild oat as the length of one pair of arms. Or one bottle of first-class honey. One could also get good alcohol and meal in the bars.
Urz wrapped his body in a thick overcoat and walked around the town near the castle. He entered a suitable bar, listened to the poem of minstrels strumming Balalaika at the roadside, lost his way in the back alley and got involved in a quarrel.
Unfortunately, he kept failing to get any information about Tigrevurmud Vorn. It seemed that the hero of Brune was not so famous in one corner of Zchted. The traveling minstrels said that they had at least heard his name.
But although Urz was discouraged about that, he remembered Elizavetta’s face and was relieved at the same time.
As Naum also said, he did not intend to stay in Lebus. But, he understood that Elizavetta took a liking to him. If he was to regain his memory now and leave Lebus, he would make her sad. He was not inclined to do that.
“Nap, huh… Well, it’s fine.”
Saying so, Elizavetta did not to try to question any further. Urz bowed his head to his master with a face mixed with confusion and regret. As he thought that he would honestly answer if she had questioned any further, words did not come out.
Removing her chin from her hand and looking up at Tigre, Elizavetta changed the topic.
“I am sorry for not being able to reward you so much in the battle the other day. Weren’t you also dissatisfied?”
“You should be dissatisfied.”
Sulking as she was peevish, Elizavetta lightly scowled at the youth. Urz thought to say that he had her pat his head, but he stopped as he vividly envisioned the figure of Elizavetta who got angry with her face bright red.
Elizavetta, not seeming to realize about what Urz was thinking, stood up from the chair of the office.
“I will give you one mission.”
As she stuck out her chest, the red-haired Vanadis said with an exaggerated attitude. Usually, she gave an order with a high-handed attitude towards her subordinates, but she apparently felt like it was not necessary to do so towards Urz.
“As a mediator. I want you to solve a dispute between two villages.”
“…As a mediator?”
To the unexpected order, Urz asked back without hiding his confusion. As for Naum who was standing next to the youth, a feeling of fatigue had already drifted on his face.
—I have never done something like being a mediator, and I have never seen it, either.
He thought so, but when he saw her happy smile, he was not able to say that he could not do it.
Walking about three days along the highway from the Imperial Palace to the east, there were the villages Zabul and Tarnaba. There was a river streaming between these two villages, and the two villages had always quarreled about the use of the river.
They quarreled about the use of the small amount of water in the winter dry season, and during the flood of the river which happened around the end of summer, because the way of using that river was bad, they laid blame on each other. This petition had been sent every year by the village headmen of both villages, and each time, a civil official of the Imperial Palace went to deal with it.
If one had to say why a person of the Imperial Palace went out for just a dispute between villages, it was because these two villages were in a territory under the Vanadis’ direct control.
Just like other dukedoms in Zchted, in Lebus also, the persons appointed by the Vanadis become either chiefs or feudal lords and governed cities and towns of every place.
But, in case when quarrel arose in the boundary line of each feudal lord, the quarrel might be prevented by the Vanadis making the whole area under her direct control territory. By herself breaking in, she would avoid a direct conflict between feudal lords.
Urz who was given an explanation up to there cocked his head in puzzlement and asked.
“Why do these villages quarrel?”
Elizavetta chose some documents among those piled up to the side of the work desk and handed them over to Naum. The grizzled knight who quickly looked over them explained on behalf of his master.
“It is said that the Zabul village had extended a large wheat field from summer to autumn. If a field spreads, the amount of water from the river to use will also increase. That incurred the anger of the Tarnaba village.”
In addition, it could not be said that the Zabul village’s attitude was good. It was said that towards the complaint of the Tarnaba village, the Zabul village’s headman declared this.
“It’s all good since you have a mountain, isn’t it?”
There was a big mountain extending on the back of the Tarnaba village. The villagers picked edible wild plants and nuts and hunted beasts in warm seasons.
When the people of the Zabul village were going to the mountain, the people of the Tarnaba village accompanied them and collected from 10% to 20% of what they (Zabul people) got. This was not something rare, as for villagers, the mountain was a precious source of income. Despite being the neighboring village, it was intolerable to be damaged by strangers.
However, it was not necessarily a good thing to be near the mountain. If one was to farm on the foot of a mountain, deers and wild boars would come to eat it away. In a severe winter, wolfs and bears which failed to hibernate might also get down the mountain.
Therefore, the people of the Tarnaba flew into rage at the words of the Zabul village.
At the utterance of those among the villagers who tried to avoid every conflict, they decided first to ask for Vanadis-sama’s approval, but the two villages were in a situation where it would be not strange if they clashed anytime.
“The population of each village is about 100 people. It’s a territory under Vanadis-sama’s direct control. If you fail, Vanadis-sama’s influence will be damaged (tarnished).”
Naum said with a serious expression.
“Do I have to do it no matter what?”
Urz confirmed that first. He was taught various things, but he naturally had no experience as a mediator. It was too unreasonable to suddenly let him do it.
Elizavetta who sat down on the chair of her office generously nodded.
“Yes. This is an order. If you fail, I will personally deal with it. Do your best so that it doesn’t happen.”
Seemingly, he could do nothing but obey. Urz answered that he understood.
“Leave in four days at the latest. If there is something you don’t understand, ask Naum. Also when preparing what you need, you should refer to Naum.”
As for Urz, he wanted to ask Naum for teaching even right now, but it seemed that he had another assignment after this. He reluctantly bowed to Elizavetta and left the office.
It was the evening of that day that Urz was able to meet Naum.
In the small training ground in the outskirts of the Imperial Palace, they were talking while training with the bow.
Through the training ground, they were round targets standing at distances of 100, 150 and 200 alsins.
Urz was thankful for the fact that when other people entered the training ground during the training with the bow, there was the rule that they must call out to those who were using it earlier without fail.
This was a measure to prevent accidents where those with poor bow skill shot arrows to those who came to the training ground, but in this case, private talks were not difficult, too.
While shooting an arrow aiming at the mark at the distance of 100 alsins, Naum explained.
“The senior civil officials recommended this matter as harassment to you. Vanadis-sama accepted it as she wanted to let you make a meritorious deed. Even if you fail, you may think that the situation could be settled when Vanadis-sama moved.”
As expected, Naum had examined the circumstances by this time. Standing next to him, Urz sighed while shooting an arrow aiming at the mark at the distance of 200 alsins.
“But, it will bad if I fail, eh.”
“There is no doubt that Vanadis-sama will be disappointed. The civil officials will probably take this opportunity to drag you down, too. As for me, I want you to succeed if possible.”
Returning a wry smile to Naum who let his bowstring resound while speaking in a way posing as a joke, Urz asked after a little thought.
“If they have recommended it by harassment, is it that difficult?”
“I said that they sent a petition every year, right? Last year and the year before last, the civil official who was dispatch each time wrongly deals with it and rather made the problem worse. Vanadis-sama immediately intercedes, mediated it herself and managed to avoid further problems though. From that, there was the tendency of making light of the civil officials.”
“I see”, Urz was convinced. Not only would they make Urz fail, but it was also a good opportunity to display Elizavetta’s dignity to the territory’s people.
“What do you say? Can you do it?”
A faint irritation was mixed in Naum’s voice. This knight did not seem to be that good in archery. Of the six arrows he shot, five stuck in the mark which he aimed at, whereas the nearly twenty arrows Urz had shot were all right on the mark. Sticking that many arrows would probably need technique.
Lowering his bow, Urz said while staring at the mark.
“So, I can ask you to tell me how to solve it.”
Naum smiled wryly.
“Normally, you might have used that hand. It isn’t shameful to follow successful examples of guide in such things. But when restricting to this time, if it comes to light by some chance, it will become troublesome in various ways.”
Those who harbored antipathy toward Urz would be going to evaluate the youth low using it as a reason. Urz changed his question.
“Does master think that I will succeed in solving this matter?”
“She probably expects it.”
To Naum’s answer, Urz shrugged his shoulders. If he said that she thought so, it was probably right. Even the fact that if Urz was to fail, she would directly settle it, there was no doubt that she said it seriously. At least, it was not irresponsible.
—Well, these several days, I played around and visited several places …
Besides, he should probably try to do anything in order to regain his memory.
Removing the arrow which he was about to nock on the bow, Urz looked at Naum.
“Was it Zabul and Tarnaba? I want to know a bit more about these two villages. Anything you can recall about the two villages will be all right, so can you show it to me?”
To Urz’s sudden request, Naum turned a gaze which mixed interest with amazement.
“You casually say anything, but for how many dozens of years do you intend to see? It will take quite time just to prepare them, you know?”
“If I want them by this time tomorrow, how many years would you be able to prepare?”
“…I would say about three or four years. I will be working all the day though.”
While patting the wrinkles of his face, Naum answered with a wry face. He must be already imagining himself fighting with a large quantity of documents. Urz turned around to Naum and bowed his head.
“Please. Even how I would answer to master will depend on it, so…”
Answering so, Naum gave the bow which he was holding to Urz. He smiled at the youth who was bewildered.
“Please put this away. You can do at least this much, right?”
As Urz nodded, Naum turned his back and left the training ground at a quick pace.
As his figure went away, Urz realized a certain thing. He turned his eyes to the direction where the target (mark) was. By tidying up in this training ground, he meant that Urz had to collect the arrows which pierced the marks and the arrows which fell on the ground. The winter sky was rapidly darkening.
It seemed that it would become an uphill task.
As he said, Naum prepared the necessary documents by the evening of the next day. His face was somewhat haggard, but Urz decided to act as if he saw nothing and received the documents.
The youth secluded himself in his room, lighted the candlestick which he had borrowed and looked over the documents. He checked the population of each village, the number of young men and the damages (harms) which occurred so far, and put his thoughts in order.
When he discovered the information which he wanted to know above all, Urz unintentionally shifted his attention to the bow which he had leaned against the wall. The prospect of a solution was in sight.
The next day, Urz visited Naum and asked for the necessary things.
Twenty old soldiers. Enough equipment and outfit for cold weather for them. Food as well. As he finally remembered, the youth added.
“Oh, and five arrows made of iron sickles… No, can you prepare ten of them?”
And the morning of the next day. Urz left the Imperial Palace with 20 old soldiers.
Elizavetta wanted to see off the youth, but she restrained herself. If she, who was a Vanadis, was to come see off a specific retainer, she would have to do the same also when other people would leave the Imperial Palace on an official business. The circumstances would be different if Urz was not a retainer.
—Do your best, Urz.
While processing the state affairs in her office, the red-haired Vanadis sent him words of encouragement from the bottom of her heart.
“By the way, how many days did you give to that youth to finish the mediation and return to the Imperial Palace?”
It was in the afternoon of the day when Urz left the Imperial Palace, that Lazare who visited the office asked Elizavetta so. “That youth” he referred to was of course Urz.
“It’s unusual for you to be interested in such a thing, Lazare.”
“Among the civil officials and knights, there are some who get excited.”
The old civil official answered with a bitter face as tough as it was deplorable.
“In addition, the amount of trouble he will have or what sort of failures he will cause, that’s called worthless interests. What on earth do you think political affairs to be?”
A vein popping on her forehead, Lazare looked at the Vanadis who was his master with a disappointed face.
“I also have a responsibility in it for not stopping them, realizing their folly, but there is also you, Vanadis-sama. Why did you leave it to that youth?”
“Of course, it’s because I think that Urz will be able to do it.”
“Even if he skillfully handles a bow, it won’t help him this time. In the first place, something like mediation eagerly soothing both opposing parties, hears both claims well and examines them closely, starts appealing to reason and persuades them, displays gains and loss and calls for compromise and consent. If there are those who don’t hear the story, or those who come in a group and threaten, there are also those who will send a bribe. Moreover, when it comes to a petition of those two villages, for that youth who had no experience as mediator, it will be more than being burdensome, won’t it?”
To the old civil official who insisted lengthily, Elizavetta turned a surprised gaze. It sounded to her like Lazare was sympathizing with Urz.
“But, Urz says that there is a chance of success. He said that he will return in ten days.”
As Elizavetta answered in a bullish tone, Lazare narrowed his eyes suspiciously.
There was a distance of three days on foot from this Imperial Palace to the two villages. So, it would take six days by going and coming.
In other words, Urz intended to end the negotiations in four days.
“He takes mediation too lightly. At least, I want him to make this failure a source of encouragement.”
Lazare shook his head and sighed.
He seemed to think that four days would be enough time, but it was not like that. If it was something which could be discussed for several days and come to an agreement, then there was no way the petition would have arrived until Elizavetta.
“I believe in Urz. If he really settles it in ten days and comes back, I will give him a reward that I want this time for sure.”
“If that happens, we will have to recognize his ability, too.”
After Lazare left, Elizavetta who, as expected, felt anxious called Naum.
“I hear that the topic about Urz’s mediation is now the hot topic in the Imperial Palace.”
“Yes. I bet on the fact that he will settle it and return in ten days.”
The grizzled knight plainly answered, leaving the Vanadis who was his master dumbfounded.
“Are you doing a bet?”
“Although it’s to the extent of one or two cups of Vodka between several people. To state the current situation, I was the only one who thought that he will settle it.”
“…Do you think that Urz can do it?”
When Elizavetta asked with an anxious expression, Naum tilted his head to the side as if thinking.
“I cannot assert, but… I don’t think that Urz underestimates mediation as everyone thinks. I think that he has a firm idea and is acting based on it.”
This is not a means to make Elizavetta feel relieved, but what Naum felt after having talked with Urz. It was also so in the war against Ilda, but that youth had too much composure. Just like a General of one army who got through (overcame) many fighting scenes.
Naum thought. It was said that Tigrevurmud Vorn was a noble who had a territory. In that case, wouldn’t he have experienced mediation like this time many times as a feudal lord?
And, if Urz was Tigrevurmud Vorn and if that experience remained in the corner of the memory.
“We have already sent him out, so let’s wait for the result. Urz will not disappoint Vanadis-sama.”
Naum concealed the thought in his mind and said only that.
And ten days later. Urz returned to the Imperial Palace with the 20 old soldiers as planned.
One corner of the Imperial Palace was filled with astonishment.
Except Naum, there was no one among civil officials and knights who thought that Urz would return as planned. Even that Naum, when he heard the report that the mediation was solved safely, he was surprised to the extent that he had dropped the documents which he had in his hands.
“Thank you for your work, Urz. Could you tell me how you solved it?”
In the office, Elizavetta received Tigre with a smile on her whole face. Both Lazare and Naum were standing beside her. The old civil official stared at Urz with an expression showing that it was hard for him to believe it, and Naum’s face was filled with admiration.
When Urz bowed, he explained how he went through with the mediation.
Where the youth went with the soldiers first was in neither of the two villages, but at the river which flowed between them. In staying there, he stood watch so that the people of the two villages did not run wildly.
Moreover, he made two groups of three soldiers each go towards the two villages and summon the village chiefs and the village headmen. If he had visited either of the villages earlier, the other one would probably have harbored dissatisfaction and he might be suspected of whether they exchanged any secret agreement. Thus, he showed that he partially dealt with the two villages.
As he gathered the village chiefs and headmen of the two villages, Urz began mediation.
Meeting with the opposing partner face to face, they did not try to hide their displeasure to each other, but though old, twenty soldiers gave a quite overpowering feeling. They reluctantly followed Urz’s instruction.
Urz once again heard both sides’ claims and corrected them if there was a mistake.
“Don’t you have any more to say?”
Asking many times as to confirm, the youth declared when each other’s claims were all out.
“The Zabul village should hand over 10% of the harvest from their expanded field to the Tarnaba village. And when a person of the Zabul village entered the mountain, the Tarnaba village should keep less than 10% in the proportion of the prey which he got. About the use of the river, don’t we have to decide here on how many fishes, and up to how many cups of water for a bucket per day?”
The people of both villages shook their heads and declared that they would follow Urz’s decision.
But then, a person of the Tarnaba village said to Urz.
“Mr. Official. There is one request I would like you to hear.”
The villager’s request was that he wanted him to get rid of the bear which was in the mountain. It was said that this bear was an owner of a huge body, and when it occasionally came down to the foot of the mountain, it ate away the crops of the field and left.
“It settled only with crops for now, but we don’t know when it will begin to eat pigs and chickens. People of the village shudder in fear whether they might also be attacked. You have gathered this many brave soldiers. And you carry a splendid bow on your shoulder. Could you do it?”
The villager’s tone was provocative. The thought “as if we will bear to be underestimated by such a youngster” was overflowing from both eyes. The people of the Zabul village were also happily looking at this. They were also holding a similar thought towards Urz.
Urz, showing no signs of flinching, plainly nodded.
“Can you tell me the details?”
And, Urz who heard the bear’s concrete size and the place where he was often seen entered the mountain on the day and killed the bear in three days. By himself.
What Urz wanted to know to the point that he had Naum prepared documents was how much harm from the beasts the Tarnaba village which was near the mountain received. As expected, the Tarnaba village had received damages from a wild boar and bear several times per year.
Therefore, when mediating, Urz carried his bow on his shoulder so that they could see it.
They were people who made light of civil officials. If he displayed a bow like this, they could not help checking whether or not it was a bluff. Moreover, he was accompanied by a group of old soldiers.
The youth’s reading that they would surely request something as a trial of strength proved right.
He made the people of the Tarnaba village help drag the bear from the mountain and made the people of the Zabul village help with the work to deal with it. When the work of that was over, dissatisfaction vanished from their faces.
The people of the Tarnaba village knew the terror of a wild boar and bear as being a daily thing. The Zabul village by no means thought that it was somebody else’s problem, since they sometimes used the mountain.
Therefore, the hunter who killed a bear all alone became the target of respect and awe. At this point, youth and position were no longer a problem. Given the situation, even the old soldiers seemed to wear grimness.
The next day, when he made the people of the village swear once again so as to follow what they were told, Urz left the two villages with the soldiers.
As Urz said so and completed his report, Lazare leaked a groan of admiration.
When hearing the report, this government affair seemed to be something quite suitable for Urz.
But, it did not. This youth cleared it up in the easier way for him. If he was not good at bow, but with a sword, he would probably think about a method to solve it by utilizing it.
Elizavetta greatly nodded with a contented smile and loudly told.
“Now, I shall give a reward of 1000 pieces of silver coins to Urz. And, I decided to make the room next to my bedroom yours.”
Shock ran through the office. Not only Lazare, but also Naum stared wide-eyed.
Giving the room next to hers was a reward which showed the greatest reliance. Unless one was considered to excel not only in ability, but also in character, he would not be given a room immediately near that of the lord.
“Vanadis-sama. As expected, that is––”
Lazare appealed with a pallid face. However, Elizavetta shook her head and turned it down.
“I should have said it. That if he returns in ten days, I will give a reward of my choice. You have also consented to it, haven’t you? Isn’t it cowardly to raise an objection now?”
“Certainly, I made a wrong judgment about this youth’s ability. And I did not forget Vanadis-sama’s words and my words, either. However, that reward is too big. Please, reconsider it.”
A Sweat of distress blurred on the forehead of the old civil official who desperately bowed his head. The Vanadis with eyes of different colors were turned to the grizzled knight standing still next to Lazare.
“…What is your thought about this, Naum?”
Naum skimmed the wrinkles of his face with a troubled face. Even he was thinking that this reward was too much.
However, he also understood Elizavetta’s feelings.
She was desperate to hold onto Urz.
Besides, she at least went through the procedure of imposing on him a mission and rewarding him for his achievements.
Above all, it was clearly the civil officials’ blunder this time. Lazare underrated saying that there was no way that the mediation would succeed, and did not even propose to decide about a reward beforehand just in case it was to succeed.
But, it was not also good to leave it as is. He kept a tone calm as much as possible and said.
“Vanadis-sama’s feeling where she evaluates a retainer’s achievement and tries to reward him is noble. However, I also think, how about reconsidering the reward.”
Elizavetta’s expression turned cloudy. Naum continued.
“Then, I will suggest this. How about giving some assignments to Urz, giving the room next to yours for only three months and seeing how it will be?”
Elizavetta lost herself in her thought. While looking at such a master, Naum thought that this was probably far off. After talking with Lazare, she decided to assign various work to Urz for three months and the room was undoubtedly in a largely empty state.
Elizavetta might be angry, but if Urz’s position stabilized by managing many assignments, dissatisfaction would subside sooner or later. Naum himself thought that he wanted Urz to be in this Imperial Palace. It was for Elizavetta primarily, but He did not dislike this youth, too.
As the issue was settled, Elizavetta turned her gaze to Urz.
“Then, Urz. I will give you the room next to my bedroom for three months from today on. Your duty –– your post will be, let’s see, how about something like the Vanadis adviser?”
Naum and Lazare looked at each other. Adviser in the Imperial Palace was an honorary post; it was not a regular work and it was similar to having no power. But in return, authority was given each time to the one acting as an adviser as necessary. In this case, it came from the Vanadis.
As for Urz, after finishing his report, he was standing silently. Since it was a situation where he received the reward, he was striving so as not to interfere needlessly, but he could not deny that his look which gazed at the three people was half amazed. He thought that he wanted them to at least decide it beforehand.
However, in those words of Elizavetta, as expected he looked at Naum with eyes containing confusion. He silently asked him whether he might accept it.
Instead of answering Urz, Naum bowed to Elizavetta with an exaggerated gesture. Lazare also followed it.
“We also think that it will be all right like that.”
“…I have the feeling that I was made to ride on this (tricked).”
Elizavetta muttered as she looked at the two men with a side glance, but not saying any more than that, she turned a smile to Urz. The youth felt grateful and bowed.
“I will gratefully receive it.”
Thus, Urz became an apprentice knight and the Vanadis adviser. It was an exceptional promotion.
On that day too, Urz quickly finished his breakfast and was going to go to the castle town. A few days had passed since he became the Vanadis adviser, but as usual, there was no work which looked like work.
It was when he was walking along the corridor to go outside that Elizavetta called out to him.
“Ara, Urz. Where are you going wearing an overcoat?”
As he looked back to the familiar voice, the red-haired Vanadis wearing a purple dress was standing. She was alone with no one following her. Urz was about to open his mouth to try to fool her, but Elizavetta cheerfully smile and said earlier than it.
“Speaking of which, it seems that you go out to the castle town almost every day.”
He intended to hide it, but it looked like he was found out. His master’s eyes were not laughing.
“I think that if I see various things in the castle town, I can get an opportunity to recover my memory.”
As Urz made an excuse, Elizavetta became silent.
She did not want more than anyone for the youth recovered his memory. This was because if he was to recover his memory, Urz would not be Urz anymore. But, she could not voice out her thought.
Urz misunderstood that his master’s silence meant that she was angry. After a little thought, he suggested.
“Do you also go out to the castle town, master?”
“For the inspection or something? No.”
Elizavetta who pulled herself together shook her head with a curt reply.
“If I am to go for inspection, then I will have certainly gone with 20 guards. Not only do I not allow those whom I’ve selected beforehand to come closer, (but) no one else can accost me either. Of course, I know the importance of inspection, but it is suffocating. A walk is far better.”
If she attached one or two horsemen for strolling, it could not be said that it was so noisy. Even though going out to the town was very free compared to the inspection. This was because the previous Vanadis liked to stroll by going alone on horseback, and they were a few points for which Elizavetta was thankful to the previous Vanadis.
To his master who made a displeased face, Urz said with an expression like a child who thought of a prank.
“How about slipping outside incognito?”
Elizavetta stared wide-eyed with her eyes of different colors.
That day also, Elizavetta was tidying up the documents in her office from morning. By the way, it was Naum who was helping her today.
When noon came, she said that she will rest a little and went back to her bedroom.
“Understood. Meanwhile, I will do the reception”
Naum saw off his master with a respectful attitude.
Elizavetta returned to her bedroom, but although she crept in the bed with canopy, she did not lie down like that. Her eyes were shining with expectation, excitement and tension.
In the bed as it is, she changed into clothes which she had prepared beforehand.
It was clothes for maid composed of a skirt with black long sleeves and which reached up to her feet, and a white apron. By wrapping her head with a dust cloth afterward, the first disguise would be completed.
As she firmly tied the black whip which was her Dragonic Tool on her thigh, Elizavetta slipped out from the bed. She walked up to the door and carefully inquired about any presence outside. Judging that there was no one, she went out to the corridor.
In the posture of looking down, she walked down the corridor at a quick pace. She passed by soldiers and maids on the way, but she was not hailed.
As she walked until near the rampart surrounding the Imperial Palace, Elizavetta stopped for a moment. Her breathing was rough. Her heart was beating fast. When she touched her cheeks, they took on heat.
When she looked up, the blue sky where clouds were sparsely dispersed spread out. Although the wind was cold, it was fine weather. The white sun and blue sky seemed like they were supporting (backing) her.
It was the first time that she disguised herself as maid and slipped out of the Imperial Palace. The only other persons who knew about this were Urz who originally proposed it and Naum who had cooperated with him.
When Urz recommended slipping out incognito, Elizavetta did not nod immediately.
“But, I will be scolded.”
The words which came out of her mouth at that time were quite childish. Urz laughed and responded. “Then at that time, I will be scolded in your stead”, he said.
Rather than the front gate, she went by the small gate of the Imperial Palace that the maids used.
Urz was waiting there. Catching sight of him, Elizavetta heaved a sigh of relief. The youth said with a smile.
“Well then, shall we go?”
It was in a small inn that she was taken to first.
“It’s because those clothes were necessary to slip out of the Imperial Palace, but once you come out to the town, those clothes will be rather conspicuous.”
Renting a room in the inn, Elizavetta changed into the clothes which Urz had prepared.
The hempen cloth with double weaving was slightly tight around her chest. On top of it, she put on a white overcoat which treated fur to the collar and cuffs. As expected, she also wore leather boots using fur.
—It’s been a long time since I’ve wear such a thing.
Before becoming Vanadis, such clothes were natural. While looking at the mirror which Naum prepared beforehand, she covered her left eye with an eye patch. The eye patch was white as to match with the overcoat. Since her Rainbow Eyes stood out no matter what, she decided to attach an eye patch after discussing.
She put on a woolen white hat and tucked away her red hair in that. A decoration which lined up many small balls on the hat was hanging. Seemingly, it was in order not to let the eye patch stand out.
“…This is me.”
Looking at herself reflected in the mirror, Elizavetta vacantly muttered. Probably because she got used to seeing herself dressed in a gorgeous purple dress, her sober appearance was fresh.
She came out of the room. Urz who saw Elizavetta’s figure smiled.
“How is it?”
“Let’s see. It’s slightly tight, but it isn’t as if I can’t bear it.”
Since it was embarrassing to speak about where it was tight, she dodged (skipped) it.
“With this, you will not be seen as a Vanadis.”
Urz said so and turned his back on Elizavetta. The red-haired Vanadis became displeased.
“Don’t you have anything else to say?”
She frankly vented her dissatisfaction. When Urz dubiously looked back, he cocked his head in puzzlement as he did not seem to understand. Elizavetta sighed. She walked quickly, passed Tigre and turned around.
“Take me quickly.”
They watched a street performance which blew up smoke of many colors from hands. They listened to a minstrel’s song and a heartwarming story of a villager and a fairy. They ate boiled potatoes and smoked meat at a stall.
Housewives came and went in the main street and children ran with a dog. A man who looked like a craftsman was drinking vodka at the roadside. In the garden of a house, there was an old man who was maintaining a gusli. Merchants raised their voices by the way where stalls were lined up, and if there were lovers who bantered, there were also youths who seriously appraised.
It was lively and peaceful.
“You have really gone to various places, eh.”
Urz took Elizavetta to various places and showed her various things to the extent that she was amazed and said so. All the expenses were in Urz’s charge.
Elizavetta’s cheeks loosened and her heart was bouncing. No matter what she saw was fresh. One was not bothered even by the cold wind if he drank soup sold in a porcelain bowl.
Above all, Urz was next to her. He ate the same thing and watched the same thing.
When about one koku and a half passed, both of them decided to enter a suitable vacant land (lot) and rest a little. In a circular plaza surrounded by trees, things which were carefully shaved stumps were in place instead of chairs.
“I will buy some drinks.”
As she saw off Urz who said so and walked at a quick pace, Elizavetta leaned on a nearby tree. She exhaled a little and softly touched the eye patch which covered her left eye.
—Shall I take it off a little?
She understood that it was necessary, but this eye patch was a hindrance (in the way) after all.
She wanted to watch this scenery with both eyes.
—It’s all right. After all, Urz is there.
She took off the eye patch. It was at that time that a rude voice was applied to Elizavetta.
“Hey, you. Don’t you want to drink with me from now on?”
Footsteps were getting closer and an unknown man stood before the red-haired Vanadis. He was in his mid-twenties. He was wearing a slightly dirty overcoat and he hung many small bags (sachets) to the belt of his waist. Since he was speaking with the Asvarre accent, it looked like it was a traveler.
Elizavetta whose fun time was interrupted returned words in anger.
“I’m in a good mood now. So leave before spoiling my mood.”
The man seemed to be taking her words as bluff. He reached out his hand to Elizavetta with an indecent smile. The red-haired Vanadis violently brushed away his hand.
The man’s finger which was brushed away hit Elizavetta’s hat and the hat fell to the ground.
Her red hair rapidly spread, and her pair of eyes of different colors was exposed in front of the man. The man stared at Elizavetta with eyes as if looking at something strange and groaned low.
It was in an instant that her anger reached the outburst. Elizavetta tightly grasped the eye patch with her left hand and grabbed the man’s face with her right hand. She mercilessly flung the man against the ground.
A shout of surprise startled Elizavetta who heavily breathed. Urz who held porcelain cups in both hands rushed over. Running his eyes over Elizavetta and the man lying on the ground, the youth roughly guessed the circumstances. Fortunately, it seemed that the man only lost consciousness.
As Urz put the two porcelain cups on the stump nearby, he picked up the hat, removed the soil and put it on Elizavetta’s head. He put his hand on her back and left the place. Since the street was conspicuous, they entered a thin byroad.
“…Why? Why do I have to feel something like this?”
Holding her left eye, the girl of Rainbow Eyes shed tears. Dark, gloomy feelings wrapped her. The fact that it occurred at a defenseless moment when she was immersed in happiness further deepened her wound.
“Calling it a good omen is a lie. If I scoop out such a thing…”
Probably because her feelings were highly strung, she said such an absurd thing. Urz said while stopping her.
“I like master’s eyes.”
After a pause, Elizavetta timidly (nervously) asked.
“…How do you like it?”
“I think that you are you precisely because of those eyes of two colors.”
To Elizavetta who sank into silence, Urz continued.
“When I said before that master’s eyes were like that those of a cat, master laughed. If not for those eyes, I would not have voiced out my impression right? Of course, I think that there are also times when they gave you an unpleasant feeling. But…”
There, Urz cut his speech for a moment. This was because Elizavetta looked up at the youth with a serious look. There were traces of tears on her cheeks and the surroundings of her eyes turned red, but tears were no longer overflowing from her eyes.
“Urz. Why do you call me “master”?”
“Had I by any chance hurt your feelings?”
Urz cocked his head in puzzlement to the sudden question. Elizavetta answered without changing her expression at all.
“Then, you should have said it sooner. ––Other people don’t call me so, right?”
Vanadis-sama. Even Naum called Elizavetta so. It was also so with the Bydgauche soldiers whom they met in the battle the other day. It was rather Urz who was strange.
However, when Urz called Elizavetta “master”, there was not a condescending posture of a servant directed towards his master there.
“There is no particular reason (behind it). When I met master, I did not know about the Vanadis.”
Disappointment and discouragement floated in the girl’s pupils of different colors. Not noticing it, the youth continued.
“Besides, even if I have come to serve you, I did not know what happened after this. So, I decide not to think at all about (my) position or such things and just think ‘I will serve this person’. If it is about this way of calling, I call only master so…”
Again, Urz cut his words. This was because Elizavetta looked downward and shook her shoulders. As he thought that it was disrespectful after all, the young Vanadis adviser became anxious. She did not say that he hurt her feelings, but that was before getting to know the reason.
As he hesitated to ask what was wrong and was silently watching her, Elizavetta heaved a grand sigh after a long silence. And then, she strongly wiped her face with the sleeve of her overcoat.
When she raised her face like that, a smile had returned to Elizavetta’s face. The traces of tears had disappeared, but probably because she rubbed them with the sleeve of overcoat, her cheeks had dyed red.
“It’s time to go back, Urz.”
While being relieved for the fact that Elizavetta’s mood was well, Urz replied with a smile. There was still time until sunset, but if she was satisfied, then they should go back.
Coming out to the street, the two people began to walk. However, before they reached ten steps, Elizavetta turned her gaze to a certain stall, and she began to walk there as she seemed to bear interest. Urz could not help following her.
It was a shop which treated ornaments. Though ornaments, neither silver nor gold were used, wooden chips were sharpened, and it decorated with well polished stones and a small amount of copper. Therefore, the price was not so high.
On a blanket instead of a sheet, hairpin and necklace, and rings and bracelets lined up. The man of the shop friendly smiled at Elizavetta.
“Aren’t you a lovely young lady? Shouldn’t you buy her something here as a man?”
When Urz returned a smile to the man, he nodded to Elizavetta.
“Please, choose what you like”
It was a necklace which lined up nuts and small stones that the confused Elizavetta pointed at. The nuts and stones were well polished; the nuts were painted in blue and the stones in yellow.
“Thanks as usual. You should apply it on the young lady.”
While receiving a silver coin, the man handed the necklace to Urz. The youth thought that he seemed to be somehow misunderstanding, but Elizavetta did not deny in particular and silently looked at Urz.
“…I will put it on.”
As he said timidly, Elizavetta silently straightened her back and stuck out her chest. Urz took the hand holding the necklace to her neck. Her white throat looked charming. He put (set) a small clasp with a click sound behind her neck.
“It really suits you well.”
Urz said with a smile. It was not flattery. As soon as it was decorated around her neck, it seemed to shine to the extent that it could not be compared to when it was lined up on the blanket.
But, Elizavetta looked away in a huff.
“Even though you said nothing when I wore these clothes.”
By this time, Urz was made to realize his blunder. The man of the shop which was hearing the conversation burst into laughter without reservation.
When the day was about to set, Elizavetta was in her bedroom in the Imperial Palace. She had Naum opened the back gate of the Imperial Palace and she safely came back from there. Thanks to Urz having attracted the soldiers’ attention, she was not found by anybody.
Telling the maids that she took a rest early today, she crept in her bed that had a canopy.
It was a pleasant fatigue accompanied with joy. Elizavetta brought the necklace of nuts and stones (jewels?) before her eyes. She gently grasped the necklace with both hands and embraced it.
Before long, the Vanadis began to leak the breathing of a happy sleeper.
The day had already sunk and stars were twinkling in the sky.
In the corner of one bar, five men were around an old table and were putting on gloomy faces. Other tables were lively, but the atmosphere was different only here.
Four bottles of wine were put on the table, but three of them were already emptied. Besides, there was a big plate where dried fish, cheese and thinly sliced pork meat were put.
“Speaking of which, did you hear? It seems that he is an adviser this time. That boy.”
One tightly grasped a wine cup and spitted out a poisonous-looking voice. Some people sneered.
“So, he became adviser just by having settled only one mediation. It looks like he sold a great deal of flattery.”
“This is definitely a man of unknown birth. If I had settled the mediation, becoming a commanding officer of 1000 horsemen would be assured.”
“Even though he is just a stable boy. I wonder what the old knights and civil officials are doing.”
As they violently gulped down the wine, they severally cursed Urz while biting dried fish and cheese.
They were knights working in the Imperial Palace. There were people in their mid-twenties that seized their current position after overcoming many trials without missing training for sword and spear. All the more, their self-confidence was strong, and they harbored jealousy and antipathy towards Urz who had none of such things and whom the Vanadis took a liking to.
By the way, Naum knew that there were people like them, but as long as they did not state their complaint from the front, he would leave them alone without also blaming them. No matter how many deeds of arms Urz piled up, there would be always such people. This was because he knew that.
“He is good at archery, and then what? His skill with a sword or spear can be said to below that of a child.”
“Really, look at his mug like a countryman . His birth won’t surely be something anyway, too.”
Partly because they got drunk, they did not know how to limit their grumbling and complaints. Moreover, when the scope of their alcohol filled thoughts were lined up with slander…, they were suddenly called out from the side.
“––if you don’t like so much that man, why not get rid of him once and for all?”
They turned suspicious gazes to that direction. An old woman with a small stature, who wrapped her body with a comfortable black robe and put on a hood with the same color over her eyes, was standing there. She was so short as to be mistaken for a child and she was dragging the hem of her robe on the floor. Her face was not visible and only her long hooked nose stuck out from her hood. She was holding a broom of poor structure in her hand.
“What, it’s only an old woman.”
One of the knights looked at the old woman with unpleasant eyes. The old woman wore a strange atmosphere to the extent that one could understand even drunk. The old woman leaked a muffled laughter.
“If you hate him that much, you should just kill that Urz person.”
To the old woman that was lightly instigating murder, the knights look at each other. They were harboring hostility towards Urz and were thinking that they went through misfortune, but they had not arrived until the state of mind that they wanted to kill him.
But, in the old woman’s words, there was something which strangely made one want to listen to her. Not trying to leave their seats, they intently stared at the old woman and continued hearing her words.
And when they suddenly came to their senses, the old woman’s figure had disappeared somewhere.
The night of a day when many days had passed since they slipped out incognito, Urz was appointed the lookout of Elizavetta’s bedroom. However, it was limited to one night. It was by the arrangement of Naum and the old civil official Lazare.
To Naum who ordered the lookout, it was what Urz asked at the very beginning.
For the lookout for Elizavetta’s bedroom, someone who was steady in identity and ability was chosen. The youth knew at least that.
The pessimistic knight made an unusually serious face and answered.
“I cannot say it aloud, but Vanadis-sama does not seem to sleep very much these several days. According to the court lady, she has apparently been having dreams and nightmares.”
Urz nodded as he consented. Urz also noticed that Elizavetta’s complexion was not good recently. But, he once had inquired and he had seen her condition since his inquiry was dodged.
“I prepared medicine, but she did not drink it. Before she greatly upsets her physical condition, we would like to take measures. If you act as lookout, she may sleep soundly at ease. Lazare-dono also cooperated when I said so.”
“Understood. But, Will I, who cannot use the sword, be fit for a watch?”
To Urz who cocked his head in puzzlement, Naum answered with a face which seemed to want to say that there was no problem.
“If it’s a short bow, you can handle it in a small corridor, right? If someone suspicious approaches, you can call out to him to hail him. But if he still doesn’t do it, I don’t mind if you shoot at him.”
It was such a violent talk that Urz was amazed, but if it was lookout, that much might be better.
Anyway, by such circumstances, Urz stood in the corridor at midnight with a short bow. Since the corridor was cold, he had not worn armor, but a hat with fur and an overcoat. This overcoat was threefold; therefore it was a little heavy, but firmer than poor leather armor.
A torch lit with fire was placed on the wall immediately nearby. Not to let this fire extinguish was also the duty of lookout.
When there would be something up and when he would be called by Elizavetta, he was told to contact the court lady who was staying in a separate room, but time only passed by without such an opportunity. The cold became severe and silence increased.
Exactly how much time had passed?
Suddenly, Urz knitted his brows. It seemed that he hear a voice from somewhere.
—What is it…?
He reflexively lowered his waist and pricked up his eyes. He immediately understood. That voice was heard from behind him –– Elizavetta’s bedroom.
What was strange was that it did not seem to be clear words. For example, if she woke up at midnight and called the court lady, a more clear voice should be heard.
But, her voice seemed to groan and moreover, it was intermittent.
Naum’s words that Elizavetta was making nightmares crossed his mind.
He was perplexed as whether he should call the court lady or himself should take a look at the situation. However, Urz immediately changed his thought, lighted a spare torch and grasped it with his left hand.
He opened the door with his right hand and slipped his body in.
There was a bed with a canopy at the center of the bedroom. A candlestick was put on the side and a small fire was lit on the candles.
The answer was neither a reprimand nor an angry voice, but an inarticulate groan. Urz rushed over quickly to the bed with canopy.
“Forgive my rudeness!”
Urz who rolled up the shroud of the canopy stared wide-eyed in surprise.
Elizavetta held her chest and had an anguished expression. From her mouth, painful sighs (breaths) leaked with groans. Sweat blurred on both her beautiful face and body, and several red hairs stuck on her forehead. Her night-clothes opened and exposed her white skin.
As Urz hung the torch on the candlestick, he gripped Elizavetta’s shoulders and shook her.
He desperately called out to her. Elizavetta’s hands struggled in the air and she grabbed the edge of the bed. When the edge broke, Urz did not know right away.
Elizavetta’s right hand touched Urz’s face. At the same time, she thinly opened her eyes.
After a little while, the red-haired Vanadis leaked a sigh which contained puzzlement. Her gold and blue eyes vacantly looked up at the youth.
“Did you come to yourself?”
Urz took a breath of relief. Then, as he noticed that he was holding Elizavetta’s shoulders, he hurriedly released them. He was about to open his mouth to explain to her, who was dumbfounded, what happened, and unintentionally stared fixedly at her figure.
The fire of the candlestick was dimly lighting the bed with canopy. Her night-clothes which used black silk and treated laces were rolled up until her rich bosom were clinging to her body which got wet with sweat.
Her breathing was still rough and her somewhat languid expression let one feel fascination. Dregs (remains) of sweat blurred on her white skin and it looked extremely sensational (lascivious). Her shapely thighs which drew exquisite curves from her thin waists and continued down were dazzling to the eyes.
When Elizavetta pinched and raised the edge of her night-clothes, Urz’s body finally moved. He hurriedly turned away his face which became bright red and put back the shroud of the canopy.
“Um… Are you feeling all right?”
Although he somehow squeezed out his voice, he was inwardly in a state of mind where he wanted to run right now. It seemed that she was having a nightmare. He should have left it to the court lady from the beginning.
There was no reply. As he could not leave without hearing anything, Urz stood near the canopy and quietly waited. After a little while, Elizavetta called Urz.
“…Urz. Did I say anything?”
“No. You seemed to have a nightmare, but you said no meaningful words.”
Urz was surprised and unintentionally stared at the canopy. He did not think that she would insist on it.
A tenuous voice saying “is that so” could be heard. While being perplexed, Urz asked.
“Shall I tell the court lady to prepare water or wine?”
“I don’t want it. More importantly, there is a towel there, right? Please wipe my back.”
Being ordered in a natural tone, Urz uttered an idiotic voice saying “huh?”. He blinked several times and timidly confirmed so as to accurately understand the contents.
“You mean calling the court lady to do that, right?”
“I’m fine with you. I’m cold. Do it quickly.”
Urz was at a loss for words, but he could easily imagine how he would incur his master’s anger if he was to leave here. He reluctantly picked up the towel on the table. A question suddenly sprung out.
—Why was something like this put here?
If there was no plan to use it, it would not have been expressly put there. “Excuse me”, Urz said and he quietly rolled up the canopy.
Elizavetta had already turned her back to him. She had apparently taken off her night-clothes, and her white back was naked. She also spread (threw) her red hair which reached to her waist from her shoulders to the front.
Urz unintentionally swallowed his saliva in strain and slight excitement, and he was inwardly confused as to whether that sound (of swallowing saliva) was not heard by Elizavetta.
And then, he was relieved in the fact that she had turned her back.
At least, she had probably not noticed about the reaction of his body. If he was noticed, he would not have got away with that.
While being careful so as not to put too much strength, Urz wiped around her shoulders. When the towel touched her, Elizavetta shook her body in surprise, but she immediately relaxed her shoulders.
Suddenly, Elizavetta called him.
“You mustn’t say to anyone that I had a nightmare. Some people already know though.”
Urz hesitated and was not able to answer immediately. Without resting his hands, he opened his mouth after a little thought.
“If you would like, Could you not tell me the reason?”
The towel was now wiping out the curve from her waist to her buttocks. So as not to touch somewhere awkward, he could not continue to look away. Urz wanted to concentrate on the conversation.
“It will make needless worry, won’t it? In the first place, saying a person like a Vanadis having a nightmare is a little…”
“A dream is something that anyone has. One may also have a nightmare when he is tired, isn’t he?”
Urz said in a soothing tone. He inwardly thought “perhaps…”.
—Is she sweating this much whenever she has a nightmare?
If she put a towel on the table for times like that, then he could understand.
Besides, even this attitude of hers. Although it seemed calm, it was somewhere odd (irregular).
He finished wiping her body. When he said that, the red-haired Vanadis turned only her profile towards him.
“…How about wiping also the front?”
Her voice contained abundantly charm and shyness, but Urz did not have room to notice it. Were Elizavetta’s cheeks red because of the dim light or…
As she chuckled, she turned her face away from Urz.
“It’s a joke. Thank you very much for your efforts, Urz. I will do the rest myself, so it’s all right.”
While being relieved at the words, Urz put the towel beside Elizavetta. He put back the canopy. The youth’s heart was still beating intensely.
“Well then, I shall take my leave.”
“I may seem to be persistent, but not a word about this to anyone. Promise?”
What is it?, Urz thought. What would this person mind it?
“Master. If you have some kind of trouble, then…”
“There is not such a thing.”
It’s was an immediate reply. But, impatience could be felt in her tone.
Urz decided to withdraw for the time being. He would probably not want to talk about it to anyone. When he bowed towards the canopy and was going to leave the bedroom, he heard Elizavetta’s voice.
“––Thank you, Urz. Go immediately.”
It was not a high-handed way of speaking like earlier, it was the voice a girl her age.
“I will rush over anytime.”
Urz left the bedroom. He quietly shut the door.
Within the darkness, there were two shadows.
One was that of a small old man who wrapped his body in a black robe. There was a crystal ball like a child’s head in her hand, and it was emitting light. The old man was silently staring at that crystal ball.
While boringly staring at the old man’s back, one youth was sitting on the floor and gnawing a gold coin. With a medium build, he was wearing a thick fur with treated fur on the collar and sleeves. He wound a green cloth around his head, and it was hanging down around his shoulders.
It was the basement of a shrine built in the old times. The illumination was only the light of the crystal ball which the old man was holding and the air was heavily stagnated. Dust had thinly piled up on the floor covered all over with stones.
The old man was Drekavac. And the youth was called Vodyanoy. Either of the names was known as the name of a monster or demon in old legends. In fact, they were not humans.
Suddenly, Drekavac stirred. Vodyanoy moved only his eyes, too.
In the darkness where there should be nothing, a small fire suddenly appeared. The fire soundlessly popped as it rapidly swelled up and a small-sized old woman appeared while scattering sparks.
Clad in a black robe covering her body entirely, she was dragging a broom of poor structure. From the hood worn over her eyes, only unkempt white hair and a hooked nose barely peeped out.
“Long time no see, Yaga-baasan. What’s the matter? Coming in to such a place.”
As Vodyanoy swallowed the gold coin which he was gnawing, he happily called out to her. The old woman called Yaga snorted in displeasure.
“I have a little request to ask of Drekavac. Speaking of which, it looks like Torbalan has perished.”
“Yeah. He was killed by the master of the Luminous Flame. The master of the Luminous Flame seemed to have died afterwards though.”
Vodyanoy answered in a tone which contained no traces of regret at all.
Torbalan was their comrade; he had disguised himself as a human and crawled into the Asvarre Kingdom. However, he had been destroyed by the Vanadis Sasha in the Olsina naval battle.
“We lost someone precious. He was a lazy man who liked playing, but he knew courtesy much more than you.”
“Baba Yaga. What do you want from me?”
Drekavac asked without taking off his eyes from the crystal ball. Baba Yaga made a small nod.
“Drekavac. Could you lend me one of your dragons? There is a Vanadis I want to meet, you see?”
“Yes. Do you speak of the Vanadis to whom you gave power to long ago?”
As he recalled, Vodyanoy asked from the side.
“Yes, her. It has been two years since we have met. I thought that even one present will be necessary.”
The old woman demon revealed a distorted smile in the interior of her hood.
“Afterwards, I will have you help me look for “the Bow” if it’s fine. I have completely lost track of him since Torbalan made him drop into the sea.”
At Drekavac’s words, Baba Yaga frowned.
“If you look for him and is not able to find him, then I think that he has already died. Well, if I can return the debt immediately, I don’t mind though.”
As soon as she finished saying that, Baba Yaga’s figure disappeared in the darkness. Afterwards, Only Drekavac and Vodyanoy remained in the same way as before she appeared.
Drekavac kept looking into the crystal ball. Vodyanoy was gnawing a gold coin.
Translator notes and references
 means grandmother, but old woman in this context