“Well then, do as you wish.”
With this truly blunt and brief comment, Klaus was permitted to station the Sword Square Knight Order at the front line. The aroma of tea is wafting in the summer gazebo. Having it blended by the fragrance of flowers, his nose is itchy. Having the listless timbre of the melodies of wind and string instruments being shoved into his ears, it caused thoughts of mornings in a severe winter for Klaus. The atmosphere, where one loathes the morning while within one’s bedding, is close to the one here.
“You wanted to talk only about that?” (Eleonora)
The voice, which should be close-by, is distant. That woman faces in another direction and doesn’t cast a single glance at Klaus. Dozing off within the fragrant aroma, her beautiful profile is gazing at the brilliance of the garden’s autumn.
She is a woman holding the first place for the crown’s succession rights as a child of Asuria Kingdom’s king. She is the person that stands at the summit of the royal family with the king being bedridden. Being the king’s proxy in the current situation, it was recognised by everyone that this would change into her being called queen in the near and definite future.
“No… though I know that the progress of the war is being reported by the military authorities, do you have anything you’d like to know? Also, if you have any orders, I will gladly pass them along.” (Klaus)
“Did we win?” (Eleonora)
“Because of the esteemed authority of His Majesty the King as well as Your Highness, Princess Eleonora, we have more wins than losses in the small skirmishes in the Plain of Wandering Calamity.” (Klaus)
“I see. That’s great.” (Eleonora)
No intonation whatsoever could be felt from her voice. As usual that voice is flung towards the garden. Klaus could do nothing but repeat his words many times over.
“… A cause for concern is the delays in the transportation of goods to the front. Putting aside the overland route, the water route is of no use. The safety on water is unsatisfactory.” (Klaus)
There was no reply. However, it will be wrong if Klaus doesn’t tell her. She is listening with the long scroll of the report having been tossed away without its seal being broken. The characters and numbers revealed in the report are a record of the many risking their lives and their numerous desperations. There’s no way one can bury that in tales and scriptures which play lightly with words.
“I’ve been told that we can reduce the losses by shifting most of the traffic towards the land route together with an increase in the number of guards. Can I get your approval for that?” (Klaus)
“That’s no good. A war is controlled by the performance on water… add more ships. I like ships more than horses and cattle.” (Eleonora)
“… Ha. I shall comply.” (Klaus)
It’s this. Eleonora has this… Klaus stifled the anger in his belly. Even though she has entrusted most of the governmental affairs to Klaus’ Four Marquis’ and Six Earls, she sometimes persists on policies that don’t match reason by wielding the power of the state in strange ways. At the times when she does that, she’s always full of confidence. Even now she is smiling while gazing at Klaus.
“Then, although the phase has fallen behind schedule a bit, we will hurry with our preparations somehow. Taking into account the changes in the state of affairs, I wonder whether the season of spring will be early as well so that the chance for battle in the Plain of Wandering Calamity will arrive.” (Klaus)
“I see.” (Eleonora)
She isn’t interested, huh? Klaus once again swallows down the feelings of this being a fruitless effort. The trends of Eleonora’s curiosity and interest are completely incomprehensible for Klaus. It changes several times a day on top of being irregular. Even if she were to suddenly voice out a desire for battle and her hate for ships this evening, it wouldn’t surprise Klaus.
She is fickle.
That’s Klaus’ assessment about Eleonora. Now I have to lessen the range of her illogical whims so that they won’t influence the general situation. However, that’s only after having appeased her, Klaus judges. At any rate, at the time when she gets confronted with difficulty, that unsteadiness will likely take on a clear shape… That was his dark prediction. The kingdom might once again have to face a crisis. There was no way for Klaus to permit that.
“Ah, that’s right.” (Eleonora)
Suddenly raising her voice, Klaus returned his consciousness and sight towards Eleonora. And what he saw there were lively emotions. The atmosphere of her being somewhat half asleep and half awake until now vanished. Her crimson lips have taken the shape of a distinct smile.
“Send Paulina to the front lines.” (Eleonora)
“… Ha? Her Majesty Princess Paulina… you say?” (Klaus)
Due to it being far too erratic, Klaus wasn’t able to do anything but to merely ask back without consenting or refusing. The edges of Eleonora’s lips were raising increasingly and her teeth peeked out. Her cruel innocence emerged in the shades of the summer gazebo.
“Margareta and I went to the front lines. In that case it’s unfair, right?” (Eleonora)
A giggling laughter followed about. Klaus forgot his words. He simply listens.
“Have her console the officers and soldiers at the front. That’s the duty of royalty. Have her go right away as well.” (Eleonora)
Klaus felt uneasy with the other side being devoid of reason. The tour of visitation in the kingdom’s northern territories by the princesses was suggested in this style as well. No, no matter what kind of idea it is, if it’s said by Eleonora, it will turn into a decree originating from royalty. As long as it isn’t too far removed from reason, the intentions of those, who are rulers, will move the country. Even if it’s a proxy.
The Third Princess Attempted Assassination Case… although the perpetrator was executed, Klaus was afraid that this was something done in order so that others won’t arrive at the truth of the incident. Possibly she will be targeted this time as well? It would be better if the person aiming for her was someone from the empire. It will be a crisis if disturbing elements have slipped into the kingdom’s ranks. Klaus was concerned about commotions in the army.
“… Let’s have her Royal Guard Unit accompany her as an escort.” (Klaus)
“Ah, there was that thing, too. Make them fight.” (Eleonora)
“Wh-, by no means, is your command to dispatch the Royal Guard Unit into the Plain of Wandering Calamity?” (Klaus)
“They are soldiers, right? My soldiers won. I wonder how that girl’s soldiers will do…?” (Eleonora)
Klaus had difficulties to understand what she was talking about, but he leaked a small groan after comprehending the meaning of soldiers mentioned by Eleonora. It’s the Sword Square Knight Order. Eleonora is talking about the Sword Square Knight Order, which was sent to the front by Klaus, as “my soldiers.” It’s a knight order of a noble who is part of her own faction. Her reasoning is coherent.
It was a battle to make Lukas experience his first campaign. The knight order paid dearly for that attempt, but even so they returned victorious. The Knight Leader demonstrated his resolution and Klaus piled up even more resolution on top of that. It resulted in the knight order having an arch-enemy against whom they will gamble their battle flag.
All of that was currently mentioned in a tone as if wondering whether a garden’s flower would bloom or not. The next sovereign, Eleonora, talked in such way. That person, where it’s doubtful whether she knows about the repeated sortie of the knight order, has decided to send 1500 soldiers, who were locked away in the hinterland, towards the front line with the reason of competing against the Sword Square Knight Order. That group, which was even told to break up at one point in time, in a lighter tone than pruning garden shrubs, as if she just now remembered them.
“For their preparations… let’s give them one season. Won’t it be necessary to give them additional funds to cover the costs for preparations and arrangements?” (Klaus)
Klaus spit out those words as if squeezing them out. Being sealed off for half a year in a discarded fortress, he didn’t believe that the Royal Guard Unit is sustaining its original scale. Although they had half the numbers even at the best of times, they were neglected without providing anything but small funds for operating. Klaus expected that they would remain in name only in the near future. And he believed that it was necessary for it to act out like that, too. In the current kingdom it’s far too dangerous for royalty to possess personal military forces.
However, soldiers were pitiful. Soldiers are abused by politics, but sending them to their deaths without even decent preparation is too unreasonable. Klaus knows about the reality of the battlefield. Unable to put armour on their bodies, without swords entrusted to their hips and wandering the front while hungry is equal to an execution. If a soldier is dismissed, that’s alright. But, they cannot be left to die miserably while still soldiers.
It won’t do if you don’t assemble the soldiers quickly once they are sent to the front line. This is not something that can be handled with a rationale originated from peaceful times. It won’t work unless one gathers mercenaries, screens them and carries out military drills with the troops after they agreed to being integrated into the remaining soldiers. Also, one must arrange equipment, provisions and means of travelling and transport. If they are fast, it will take 40 days, and twice that if they are slow, Klaus judged.
However, the reply was concise cruelty.
“Not allowed. It’s right away.” (Eleonora)
Without time to ask why, red and white danced beneath the joy filling both eyes.
“Make them fight before that girl arrives at the front. They are not allowed to meet. The meeting shall be after the battle. Have that girl hurry with the kid. Since they have no tasks or preparations to do anyway, make them depart by today. And, if they still didn’t fight by the time that girl arrives, charge them with labour as punishment. That will be only natural since they avoided fighting by going against the king’s decree, right? Have them dig up a pond. I will enjoy watching ships floating there.” (Eleonora)
She raised a loud laughter. It contained a sound that made Klaus’ blood run cold. Though he possesses the strength to face adversity, which was tempered on the battlefield, he wasn’t able to bear something like this. It’s poison. This is some kind of toxicity. As Klaus was overcome by a daze, the beautiful princess continued to expose words seething with venom.
It seems there was a rumour.
It was at first the scorn at the solitude of the Third Princess who wasn’t able to create something like a royal guard. Ridiculing her non-existing personal virtue, which caused her to be attacked by soldiers, let alone thieves, they sneer at her cowardice to put together an escort in panic. That Royal Guard Unit headed towards an abandoned fortress in the sticks without even being allowed to be stationed in the capital… they sneer at her once again as that’s suitable for a pack of stray dogs.
However, due to a new rumour having appeared, the circumstances apparently became unpleasant for Eleonora.
There’s the name of a single boy at the lowest seat of the Royal Guard Unit. Marko, a village child from a remote region. He has saved the life of the third princess by putting his own life on the line. Even boldly declining being adopted as noble’s child, he has unswerving loyalty to the country. Such boy said the following,
“It’s my greatest gratification being allowed to work for Her Majesty the Princess. This feeling isn’t only mine either, but something naturally harboured by anyone who experienced Her Majesty’s spirit. With Her Majesty being the true manifestation of a heart of respect and affection for the Royal Guard Unit, we want to do only that for the kingdom and there’s no greater honour than that. That which we are is a testimony of the bonds tying a sovereign and his people.” (Marko)
Listening to it after being warped by Eleonora, its contents still contained something touching for Klaus. A member of royalty receiving sincere and reverential acceptance by the people… That was too luscious even if it was a dream. And it harboured a hope which is shameful. Although he stopped their dissolution, it’s Klaus who sealed the Royal Guard Unit in the sticks. He anticipated them withering away. What did the boy think seeing the fortress? How is he spending his time and what is he dreaming of?
Even without knowing that, he was able to guess the displeasure of the princess in front of his eyes. The purity of the boy’s speech likely isn’t all that amusing for Eleonora. And neither is the Royal Guard Unit, for her, who encountered and came in contact with the population of the northern fiefs. There’s probably no necessity for her absence or presence, Klaus guesses. It’s jealousy. You might say that she’s asking for too much. Is she unable to stomach for the third princess to possess one thing that she doesn’t…? It demanded a great effort for Klaus to subdue his anger.
That’s because he understood that she wants to crush them. Eleonora desires it while harbouring childlike emotions. Declaring the Sword Square Knight Order, to whom she didn’t show any interest until now, as her soldiers, she wants to denounce the Royal Guard Unit with their victory. Their defeat is already a decided matter within her mind. She gave various orders for the sake of sneering at the appearance of their defeat. Or she might be already seeing it, Klaus thinks. He shivered due to her repulsiveness.
The sight of Eleonora being in a trance… is in direct opposition to Paulina and the Royal Guard Unit being reduced due to that cold-bloodedness. She intends to make a ceremony out of it while the officers and men at the front lines are watching. The contrast between the winning knight order and the losing Royal Guard Unit. The contrast between her own soldiers and those of Paulina. The contrast between her brilliance and Paulina’s wretchedness.
(Will you let soldiers… a boy with unswerving loyalty die because of such worthless motive?)(Klaus)
It was necessary to stop that. Klaus tried to protest against it in rage, but he was unable to. There was a ruthless gaze piercing him. Sticking out her finger, Eleonora showed her readiness to denunciate Klaus.
“You let Hero-sama die without helping him.” (Eleonora)
A sharp remark was stuck towards Klaus’ forehead.
“Because you didn’t protect father-sama and because you didn’t kill that man, Hero-sama ended up getting killed by imperial soldiers. I begged for his rescue. No one wanted to listen to me. That’s why I curse all of you. However, I will forgive you. With that man dying you have granted my wish. Don’t forget, Marquis Klaus Yurihalshira. You have to put in great effort for my pardon. Because there’s not one moment where I forgot about Hero-sama.” (Eleonora)
Is there something like emitting a feeling of freezing from a fingertip? Klaus feels the coldness. The power in his whole body was drained and continued with a feeling of dropping by and by. Inside him a flame of sadness and gloom burns brightly and quietly. His heart has crumbled down and yet he is staring himself at the gaze of a single man… and a voice, that can’t be heard, is audible. If I met this grudge sooner, he regrets.
Klaus parted with time. Having himself swallowed up by the forces in the past, he became someone who wouldn’t look gloomily at the present and future. Klaus raised a roar being sandwiched between cold and heat. But he wasn’t able to vocalize it. It was merely painful.
“Step back. It’s time for my prayer.” (Eleonora)
While trying to get a clear image how he might have answered, Klaus left the royal castle. Even getting on a carriage was troublesome. Even after he arrived at the mansion, he was unable to stand up for a while after the carriage’s door was opened. He was sluggish. His body refused going back to the scenery outside the carriage.
Klaus touched the small pouch containing a talisman hanging at his neck. Currently he thought about his deceased former wife. He thought about his sons who fell in the war. His current wife and her offspring didn’t cross his mind. His body was too heavy for him to think of them.
He closed his eyes.
Even so, it wasn’t allowed for Klaus Yurihalshira to cry.