The air of the territorial capital is mingled with the fragrance of flowers even though it is winter.
The products of the northern region aren’t limited to horses only. They utilize the “Snow-white flower” as ingredient in a perfume. Its market scale is even comparable to that of warhorses. Comparing it to the perfumes consisting of southern flowers, its scent is lacking in depth and gorgeousness. However, as it contains a hearty charm hidden within its modesty, it is considered to cause a desire within men.
Even so, the scent currently surging forth and assailing the bridge of the nose successively isn’t that of the “Snow-white flower.” If you tried to describe it eloquently, it would be the aroma of many flowers blooming in profusion, but one cannot feel its disturbing intensity as anything but ripe fruits being thrown out.
(A hidden secret is certainly something that hints at the graceful profundity it has. The embodiment of misery is something unabashed. What a foolish thing.)
Even while the noble youth, who is especially prominent at luxurious and gorgeous balls, showed a beautiful appearance similar to that of a painting to his surroundings, displeasure was seeping through him.
Baron Daniel Hakkinen. (T/N: >> Danieru hakkinen)
Even though he himself is a nameless person bearing no responsibilities, the family name Hakkinen is holding a significance surpassing its court rank within the Asuria Kingdom. Despite being someone having been confined indoors in a remote region, he is a person that will be surrounded by women once he openly appears at social occasions in society.
Once there were 3 knights who made a name in military arts for themselves among the hero’s followers… their head was “Viscount” Hakkinen. Among the remaining 2, 1 was his eldest son. If you were to look at the appearances of the knights on the side of the hero in paintings depicting the hero as subject, you would doubtlessly observe that the one drawn as the eldest is the viscount whereas the one drawn as the youngest is his eldest son.
Many poems and plays about the tragedy of the hero’s death have been composed, but not a single among them fails to describe the famous scene of the Hakkinen parent’s and child’s volunteering. With a battlecry towards the Eberia Empire’s army approaching in droves, Viscount Hakkinen dies for the sake of cutting open a path of retreat for the hero. Even the eldest son, swinging his sword shoulder-to-shoulder with the hero up until the final moments, defeats the enemies and protects the hero. The hero weeps over their deaths.
But, this has absolutely nothing to do with the truth.
It’s no more than a politically-induced story created by the kingdom and the church.
The first task, once the young Daniel became the head of the Hakkinen household after loosing his father and elder brother, was to relinquish the rank of Viscount. 「Your father as well as you elder brother would feel ashamed to death for not having protected the hero. It would be the same for me」 was the king’s laudable vow… though that has only been noted down in the public records.
In reality it was a punishment. This disgraceful punishment was owed to Father, who attempted to escape with his troops from within the chaos of the predicament, and elder brother, who was killed by some small fry after being a drag unable to stand up out of fear.
Underneath the pretense of such a tearjerker, their territory was confiscated, their official position snatched away and they were sent off to the sticks in the name of independent penitence in a town close to the northern frontier. The king bestowed them what is considered to be “an act of him possessing admirable compassion”, leaving them with only the title of Baron and a severance pay. Daniel’s future prospects were wrapped in complete darkness whereas his father and elder brother have been beautifully drawn in splendid paintings that are sold for high prices.
(How dare they draw something magnificent that isn’t capable to show what has to be shown. People will only see what they want to see, but because it influences the society, such empty illusions hold a real power. It’s a foolish and frightening thing.) (Daniel)
A single oil painting is also hanging on the wall at this banquet. A single ray of light from heaven falls upon the hero’s crisis, a single knight, having used up all of his strength, is at his feet… it’s the man, who should have become the next head of the Viscount Hakkinen household after his father’s death, having collapsed and laying face up. There is neither tears nor drool on his face. Though Daniel thinks that the face was likely very sticky.
“Ho, this painting must be on your mind after all, I guess?”
Daniel was unable to do anything but grit his teeth over his own blunder towards the voice’s owner’s agreement. How dare you make a repulsive stab in a moment of negligence, he curses. Showing his unique appearance amidst the multicolored dresses, it was Earl Mathias Helrevi, who was the lord of the territorial capital as well as the organizer of this ball.
“Although it might be a scene making you think, you should be careful and enjoy the food and drinks forgetting about hero-sama’s suffering. I won’t accept anything else but that.” (Mathias) (T/N: Matthias uses a “you” of addressing someone of lower status)
“… Thinking about my elder brother’s regret, I’m only blaming myself for my own weak-minded nature.” (Daniel)
“Hmm, is that so? I guess, that’s the way it is.” (Mathias)
Even as he watches the smile of contempt on Mathias’ face with its buckteeth, Daniel does nothing but simply conducting himself meekly. This about 40 years old man knows about the other side of the hero’s legend. It’s quite obvious that he has decorated the wall with this painting with malice towards Daniel. Daniel is annoyed at himself for easily stumbling into that trap.
“By the way, you were invited as there is a task only you can do. It’s fine for you to follow.” (Mathias)
As soon as he said that, Matthias walks towards a small room at the side of the venue without even looking back. There are no other choices but to chase after him available for Daniel. He doesn’t stop while being tugged by the ladies either. Daniel deliberately shows an elegant walk as they are nudging against his shoulders and taking glances at his stature.
(It’s fine if you project your love with your eyes, you people who are dancing within an illusion.) (Daniel)
Daniel’s eyes are reflecting multicolored small birds dancing at the venue everywhere. They are just chirping without even realizing that they have locked themselves into a candy cage. Feeble birds which are unable to fly. Entranced by the dream of something like the bright light of a banquet.
Once he entered the small room that seemingly served only as rest room, he was immediately ordered by Matthias to lock the door. Matthias didn’t pick up sake from the shelves either. While he considered this to be the impatience of someone apparently having his head filled with business, Daniel found this difference in composure funny.
“The day before yesterday there was an attack by thieves in the outskirts of the territorial capital. Have you heard of it?” (Mathias)
“We have been conducting an investigation today and yesterday, but were only able to learn that the thieves are a group of mounted bandits. We still don’t know where their stronghold lies. The damage was no big deal, however… it has caused a slightly not so amusing motion in the city.” (Mathias)
While showing that he is listening to the state of affairs, told in disgust, by standing at attention, Daniel remembered an unpleasant premonition. This man called Mathias values progressing in everything following what’s written in a book. He is an honest man, but he doesn’t know the term of dealing with things flexibly and as result he carries out everything by the rules. Such a man is now talking about the details you could even call a tear in the territory’s government, going as far as preparing an informal location.
“Motion… it is?” (Daniel)
“Is there something you didn’t understand? Mercenaries linked up with escort units and such calling themselves a faction and even came demanding support funds from the castle. Even though they originally wouldn’t be recognized as proper conversation partners, those folks brought something like a petition from merchants.” (Mathias)
“Petition… you say? That is something quite…” (Daniel)
“Furthermore, it’s more than one. It’s sufficient if we fortify the security alongside the highway or if we subjugate the thieves. If we don’t do this, they are demanding from us to hand out money for the sake of protecting the distribution of goods within in the territory. They even included the trick of citing the law’s provisions… it has become slightly troublesome to deal with.” (Mathias)
It’s unbearable for Daniel after he sent his look over there by accident. He is certain that Mathias will push all of the troubles on to him. Every single of Mathias’ expressions had a tinge of hunting. This certainly was the snickering of a hunter who managed to entangle his prey in a snare. Daniel isn’t able to suppress his brows to crease.
“Aren’t you making much of being the role model of a knight and your noble’s pride of your parents and older brother?” (Mathias)
Daniel listens to his voice, with a joyful tongue, along a sense of defeat.
“You have likely seen that magnificent painting. There is no one except me, the four marquis’ and the six earls, who knows that this is nothing more than a fabrication. Of course, the king knows as well. Isn’t it truly deplorable? In spite of being able to have pride in your noble blood, it’s only vanity without being based on any facts.” (Mathias)
Daniel hears the words he doesn’t want to hear. Daniel’s ears were reverberating with the voice mocking him as younger brother of a coward, as child of a coward. It’s something he has continuously heard for a long time, therefore it isn’t anything that will now stir his heart. However, all colors faded and vanished from his view. The voice is keeping at it from a distant place.
“You also know that I feel pity for your circumstances, Baron Daniel Hakkinen. If it’s the still young you, you still have a proper chance to rinse yourself from the stigma. Therefore… what will you do? I wonder if you won’t resolve such distress using your resourcefulness?” (Mathias)
Supposing there was one thing unfit to play its role within his hand, he will abandon it without a single shred of hesitation, if he is urged by necessity to immediately cut it off at some occasion. That one thing is definitely me. He would definitely dismiss and abandon me now… Daniel accepted that fact indifferently.
The story is simple. I shall hire an escort group with my own funds, lead them and destroy the thieves without the territory’s government becoming aware of it. The situation would result in likely obtaining fame adding to the substance of the Hakkinen household on that occasion… Such a swindle.
Daniel recognizes the plot. It doesn’t even matter if this ends in a success or failure. At the time Daniel goes into action, Mathias will already have removed the troublesome elements in the city. From the beginning it is something trivial to arrest thieves. It will be alright if I destroy the thieves, but even if I don’t destroy them, it will probably be fine either way since the territory’s army won’t lose, even if they waste a few soldiers. He just doesn’t feel inclined to move the territory’s army except for guarding military materials.
(Humph… Is the next rank, Viscount, and territory something that has to be paid with assets and lives?) (Daniel)
Even while harboring emotions that chill his interior due to those forceful methods, Daniel doesn’t consider this to be the worst. He knew of situations that had an even worse conclusion. Looking at it relatively, this degree is an unfortunate exaggeration.
While being shaken in the carriage heading towards the inn close to the castle, Daniel showed a sarcastic smile.
It was a pillar of flames he imagined. This was the worst for Daniel. Although it was a man, who lived the exact opposite life of his father and elder brother, he died on that day in those flames. That man, who bravely wielded his weapon from atop a horse plunging his enemies into the depths of dread and leading an army… hasn’t Salomon been killed by a vision of insanity?
There’s no mistake to it, Daniel has concluded. A person, dominating the reality of a cruel battlefield… even someone like that has ended up getting killed by the illusions of this country. It wasn’t something that bore reason or truth. If somebody thinks that they want to do so and if some people approve of it, it will form into a dream of death you can’t oppose. It’s definitely a nightmare.
(Ah… I live in an absurd period where dreams trespass on reality. Such emptiness.) (Daniel)
Even as he gazes out through the window at the city’s night, he doesn’t show any signs of something like longing towards the roads connecting to the high-class lodging houses or the territory’s castle. What Daniel desires is a woman. That doesn’t mean that any woman will do. Not one with the gorgeousness of a lady and neither one with the bewitchment of a prostitute. A woman nonchalantly keeping her own definite “innocence” with a neat and clean interior lacking any decorations… he wants to have a dream with a girl similar to snow-white flowers.
However, wild flowers are blooming in the fields. He has ended up being firmly cut off from nature in this small world confined by the walls. Even the moonlight is somehow cold in this grey world. It is harmful to the eyes giving him the impression of a tough block of ice being no more than a cage all over. Daniel touches the window’s curtains with his hand. But he doesn’t close it. He hits two times against the carriage’s roof with his hand.
It appeared as if he had seen a mysterious colour. It was something sticking out like a sore thumb. It disappeared into a building.
After the carriage stopped before long, he got down on the stone paving. Telling the coachman to wait, he crossed the street with his cloak fluttering. A faint scent of sake is drifting from the store that faced out on the street. Among the bars of several certain territorial army purveyors, there is a single fairly high-class store. Without even hesitating, he enters it.
The inside of the store was deserted. If it is an lower-class store, they will also serve cheap sake, but it seems like they won’t serve anything but expensive sake here. Daniel recognizes the aroma. The quality of customers seems to be centered around non-commissioned officers and company officers without regular soldier even making an appearance here.
He understood this right away.
A single child sat at a table far in the back. Its body is wrapped in fine, tailored pelt clothes and it has a bundle arranged on its knees with proper manners. The chair is too tall, thus its feet don’t reach the floor. A girl… no, probably a boy? Although a child, I can’t even distinguish the gender. Daniel felt astonishment and confusion. And he considers this to be inevitable as well.
That child was far too much of a foreign object.
In this world, where dream and reality have become entwined and vague, only this child has a distinct and clear contour… it feels as if it is overwhelming its surroundings. It’s not an obstinate reality nor is it the devilishness of a dream, it’s an earthen image giving way and grasping tightly the reins of either, Daniel hallucinated.
(What… What’s this called? Why am I not able to be this strong? Is this small person, you don’t even know whether it’s a boy or a girl, really a human being just like me? Though it certainly isn’t some kind of witch or evil person either.) (Daniel)
The child’s black hair is flowing smoothly. Both blue eyes are turning towards Daniel. It’s going to open its mouth. What kind of sound and words will it spin? Daniel impatiently waited for that.
“… First Lieutenant-dono, would you introduce this Sergeant-dono? No matter how I look at it, I think he is obviously different from the story.” (Marko)
“No, well, he is different, however… he is a well-known person. What’s this about?” (Akseli)
Once he accidentally shifted his sight, he caught sight of the soldier sitting across the child. Daniel recognised that man. It’s Akseli Anel, First Lieutenant of the territorial army. He is a man making an appearance here and there for routine tasks, in spite of his rank. He also came visiting Daniel’s mansion.
“First Lieutenant Anel, huh?” (Daniel)
“Long time no see, Baron Hakkinen.” (Akseli)
Even as he tries to stand up to bow, this man somehow can’t conceal his happy facial expression. Daniel prompted him with his eyes to not mind. It’s not an act done out of pride as noble. He doesn’t have the slightest idea in his mind how to deal with this child as if was mesmerized.
“Baron, this child is called by the name Marko. He is the apprentice of a peddler. Marko, this esteemed gentleman is the head of the Baron Hakkinen household. Even you should have at least been told about his honourable family name, right? Fix your manners in front of him.” (Akseli)
He looked at Daniel. Descending to the floor, this child displays a flawless bow.
He smiles. It’s a really delightful smile. However, what kind of smile is it?
The lonely wind blowing within Daniel’s mind ceased. The ashen desert called desolation vanished as well. Everything ended up being reduced to ashes by this fearsome smile. The residue of the flames heats up my body a lot more than any sake. This might possibly be madness… Daniel smiled sincerely. He thinks that it has been a long time since he done that last.
(I see, this is the real deal…) (Daniel)
How much time swept by as they stared at each other without even a single word?
“Oyyy! I got here, Akseli! Calling me on my off-duty day!”
An aged, angry voice burst with a bang. The old soldier, who approached causing violent footsteps and having the rough nasal breathing of a drunkard, loudly opens his mouth towards Akseli… and suddenly shrivelled. With an appearance of peeking around restlessly, he now, after all that noise, asks Akseli in a whispering voice,
“Oy, Axely, what’s all of this about? To what place did I come? No, don’t laugh… oy. I came to scold the chap who instigated the mercenaries and merchants, but…” (Old soldier)
Daniel laughed. It was in an unexpectedly loud voice.
He felt that something old had ended and that something new had started.