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Seeing the soldiers of the Vorn family descending the hill, Mila ordered her men to share a part of their own supplies, such as medicine, wine, and bandages.
“It is nice to see you again, Lord Tigrevurmud.” An elderly knight with a gentle face addressed Tigre.
He had a slender build, his gray hair had been attentively smoothed down, and his short mustache was kept neatly. The softness of his demeanor would easily allow him to pass as a male servant instead of a knight, if only he changed his outfit.
“Sir Galyinin, it pleases me to see you in good health. Thank you very much for coming to our rescue,” Tigre clasped the knight’s hand, his face beaming.
Galyinin was one of Mila’s trusted aides. Back when Tigre had stayed in Olmutz, the old man had looked after him in various ways.
“You are most welcome. I am serving as adjutant of Lady Ludmila in this unit, so if you need help with anything, please feel free to rely on me at any time,” Galyinin said with a respectful bow.
Tigre knew that his outward appearance was deceiving as Galyinin was also very capable as a warrior and commander.
“You haven’t changed in the slightest,” Tigre commented with a broad smile, and called Raphinaque to introduce him to Mila and Galyinin.
Calling Raphinaque’s behavior and way of speaking polite would be a stretch, but he didn’t cause the other two to feel displeased. Rather, it seemed like his bright smile that clearly showed his teeth gave them a good impression.
“Lady Ludmila, you must have many things to talk about with Lord Tigrevurmud as fellow commanders. Sir Raphinaque and I shall take care of the soldiers.”
“Thanks, I will leave that part to you,” Mila said to the elderly knight and exchanged a look with Tigre.
Tigre nodded his head lightly at Galyinin, before separating from him and Raphinaque with Mila. As they had entrusted their men to their adjutants, both left their troops behind as they walked away.
Once they were alone, Mila stared at Tigre with worry written all over her face.
“You’re wounded all over. Are you really okay?”
“It’s not as bad as it looks. I don’t feel much pain either,” Tigre reassured her with a smile, causing Mila to grin broadly at last.
“Your hair has grown quite long. It looks good on you.”
Even though they had a multitude of other matters to discuss, Tigre chose such ordinary flattery. Mila brushed a few strands of hair out of her face so as to hide her embarrassment.
“And you’ve grown taller. Two years ago we had almost the same height.”
Nowadays Tigre was about a head taller than Mila.
After answering, “I trained hard everyday,” Tigre shifted his eyes to the spear in Mila’s hand.
“Long time no see, Lavias. How are you doing?”
He called out to the spear as if talking to a living being with an independent mind.
Thereupon, white, cold air soundlessly gushed out of Lavias’s spearhead. As if to answer Tigre’s question.
Mila smiled sweetly, “She’s angry.”
“Angry, you say?”
“Or to be precise, she pretends to be angry. She’s hiding her embarrassment, but in reality, she’s happy.”
The two looked at each other and laughed. Meanwhile, the sentient spear scattered more chilly air as if to profess her reluctance to agree.
Limiting their joy over their successful reunion to this, Mila and Tigre’s faces returned to being those of commanders.
The Muozinel forces, which had fled earlier, might come back with reinforcements in tow. Hence it was necessary for them to vacate their current location before that could happen.
First Tigre explained his current situation. He told Mila about how they had pitched camp around Eleşkirt yesterday, got attacked at dawn, and escaped all the way to this place while using the darkness and fog to their advantage.
“Duke Thenardier had dragons…?” Mila blinked her eyes in surprise. “That’s hard to believe all of a sudden. Then again, I doubt you’d lie to me…”
Her reaction caused Tigre to become surprised and confused.
“Didn’t Duke Thenardier inform you of this? I mean we’re allies…”
“No, he didn’t. But, well, I would have stayed silent about it in his position, too. That way he’d have been able to surprise Zhcted, and it’s better when you consider a potential disclosure of such information. But――”
Mila turned a stabbing look southwards ― the direction of the Muozinel soldiers’ escape route.
“Those Muozinel forces offered you to surrender, didn’t they? Their composure to do so means their surprise attack went smoothly, I think. Now then, I wonder where the dragons went and what they’re doing after not having driven away the Muozinel army.”
“Maybe something happened to Duke Thenardier. He should be the only one capable of commanding the dragons.”
Tigre also told Mila about his suspicion that the morning attack wasn’t aimed at the dragons but the human steering them. Mila expressed her agreement by nodding.
“Duke Thenardier getting injured, the dragons not moving, and the Brunian army inevitably retreating. That sounds like a plausible chain of events.”
In the past, Olmutz had had dealings with Thenardier and thus Mila knew about the duke’s personality. As such, she could guess that he wouldn’t want to enslave the dragons to anyone other than himself. Though he might have compromised if it was his son Zion.
“Things are graver than I expected…,” Mila groaned while holding her jaw with a hand.
“As for our side, I wonder where I should start… Did you know that there was a landslide in Salafan, the place where we planned to converge, making it impossible for armies to traverse the area?”
Tigre shook his head as he heard about this for the first time.
“Okay, I will explain from the start. Though it will take some time.”
On Zhcted’s side, Mila and Eleonora were scheduled to head south while leading an army of 10,000 men in total. However, their plans changed right before their departure. An equestrian tribe, which lived east of Zhcted, had invaded the kingdom’s realm, and Zhcted’s king had no choice but to order one of the Vanadis, Sofya Obertas, to intercept.
“If I remember correctly, wasn’t the principality governed by Sofy located in the southeast?” Tigre asked as he found this odd.
Sofy was Sofya’s pet name. During his stay in Olmutz, Tigre and her were introduced to each other by Mila. Sofy was a beautiful woman with a wide extent of knowledge and a broad-minded nature. She was called Sofy by those close to her and had allowed Tigre to do the same.
“Yep. Right now, the Vanadis ruling over the eastern Brest is absent. So there was no one else to handle it.”
Sofy quickly dealt with the equestrian tribe, but it produced a problem. Zhcted had intended to have Sofy protect the southern border while Mila and Eleonora would be invading Muozinel, but now that had become impossible.
“If His Majesty could have moved the other Vanadis, he would have done so, I’m sure.”
“So it was impossible?”
Upon Tigre’s question, Mila explained with an expression that made it clear that it was inevitable while counting down on her fingers, “Sasha ― we talked about her before ― Alexandra of Legnica can’t move because she’s sick. Elizavetta, the ruler of the northwestern Lebus, was on her way to subjugate the northern tribes. The one governing over the northeastern Osterode, Militsa, has been a Vanadis for just half a year, so it’d have been unreasonable to ask her. And Olga, the lord of Brest, has been missing for more than a year now.”
Many of these names he heard for the first time, but Tigre could grasp that the situation was dire.
“That Olga person having gone missing means that something happened to her?”
“It’s said she left behind a note, stating that she’d go on a journey for a while, and disappeared just like that. Sofy has apparently met her once, and said that there’s no need to worry about her. Maybe she left on her journey after being entrusted with a secret mission.
Zhcted’s king had Eleonora guard the southern border, appealed to the lords possessing territory in the south, and had them form a feudal army. Count Barshay was chosen as its commander.
――Wouldn’t that be beneficial for Mila?
Tigre was aware of Mila and Eleonora having a terrible relationship. All he ever heard about Eleonora from Mila was slander and badmouthing. Then again, Eleonora was apparently no better in this regard. Sofy had explained with a bitter smile that those two would start a contest of insults whenever they met.
“Count Barshay and I split out forces in two groups and invaded Muozinel. Each of us took several forts at the border. We planned to meet up afterwards and head south, but…”
But, at that point two unexpected incidents occurred.
First, the feudal army didn’t appear in front of Olmutz’s army even after their scheduled date for grouping up had passed.
After sending out several scouting parties, Mila finally found them. They had received several raids by the enemy, and while repelling and pursuing their attackers, they had widely veered off their planned route.
“Are you saying the Muozinel army used decoys to lure them away for the sake of preventing you two from meeting up?”
“Looks like it. Count Barshay is a careful man and he won’t recklessly charge into battle. The Muozinel handled it quite cleverly.”
Second, a major landslide took place at Salafan where they had planned to join up with Brune’s army. While waiting for Count Barshay, Mila had also dispatched scouts to Salafan as she was vigilant of enemy ambushes. The reconnaissance party returned several days later, bringing with them astonishing news.
“The river flooded and triggered a landslide. Now it’s hard to even walk in that area.”
2,000 Muozinel soldiers had lurked in Salafan as ambush troops. But, according to the scouts ― they succeeded in catching a survivor and interrogating him about what happened ― most of them were killed by the sudden landslide.
Hearing their report, Mila sensed that something dangerous was afoot.
Muozinel’s army having guessed their meeting place wasn’t overly surprising. After all, the locations allowing large armies of more than 30,000 soldiers to be deployed were limited. At the same time, it was a heavy blow that Salafan had become unavailable as a meeting spot. If they were to force it and head over anyway, it was quite possible that they’d be targeted as soon as moving around became hard because of all of the mud and quagmires.
It had become necessary to urgently contact Brune’s army and decide on a new meeting place. If Mila let things go their own way, the danger of both armies getting crushed separately was quite viable. She suspected that Brune’s army had faced some kind of obstruction like Zhcted’s side had. Accordingly, Mila formed ten squads consisting of forty to fifty cavalrymen. The duty of those squads was to find Brune’s army and contact them. Mila herself led one of those squads.
And then she witnessed how Tigre’s forces were cornered by Muozinel’s army.
“…It was a close call then, huh?” One thing bothered him, but without voicing his doubts, Tigre smiled. “Guess it was worthwhile for us to frantically continue fleeing.”
“I was surprised when I found out about it being you guys. It’s great that you’re safe, seriously.”
Tigre was charmed by Mila’s lovely smile, and had to force down his stinging desire to hug her. He and his men had been in a desperate situation. If Mila and her soldiers had appeared a little bit later, Tigre and his men might have been taken away as slaves.
Even so, Tigre suppressed his urge with all his might as they were still in the middle of talking.
“Mila, what are you going to do from now on? Our situation ― or rather, the situation of our army ― is as you’ve heard.”
It was feasible to think that great numbers of Muozinel forces were present in the area. Assuming they were to try heading back to Brune’s army, it was likely that they’d run into those forces more than just once. Moreover, it wasn’t said that Brune’s army was still encamped at Eleşkirt.
“…Tigre, could you first let me hear your thoughts on this matter?” Mila asked while stroking the spearhead of Lavias.
Tigre stared at her while clearly baffled.
――Even if she talks about my thoughts, having no other choice than relying on Mila…
When he thought up to that point, he was suddenly taken aback and unintentionally lowered his head due to his own foolishness.
Less than fifty infantrymen were stranded in enemy territory while wounded all over. That was their current state. If Tigre asked for her protection, Mila likely wouldn’t refuse. But, what would the soldiers under her think? If they had to move through enemy land while dragging a burden along, their marching speed would drastically fall. The probability of having encounters with the enemy would increase, too. The discontent of the Zhcted soldiers would first be directed at the Vorn forces and then at Mila.
Thus it was necessary to come up with some kind of reason to get Olmutz’s soldiers to agree in order to avoid things developing in such a direction. Tigre was about to push that duty on Mila.
――Having no other choice than relying on Mila is inevitable. But, getting her to even come up with a method to guarantee our safety would be way too embarrassing, wouldn’t it?
When he stopped dwelling on it, he noticed Mila looking at him with a serious expression. Her blue eyes, reminiscent of unblemished ice, were silently waiting for his answer.
――Is she giving me a chance? She’s telling me to prove to her that I’m someone worthy of being saved.
“Let’s see…,” Tigre folded his arms and brooded.
He immediately came up with one idea and suggested it without delay.
“How about it? Won’t you join up with Brune’s army together with us?”
Her eyes twinkled, a cheerful smile revealed itself on her lips.
“Does that mean you want us to babysit you until you join up with Brune’s army?”
“You could get Brune’s army indebted to you in case you protected a noble of Brune. Even if I’m a rural noble, it doesn’t change me being a nobility either way. Even Thenardier wouldn’t be able to ignore it with you as the other party.”
“Just that alone? From my point of view, it seems like it’d be better for me to leave you guys back here and return to my main force. I mean, I got to know that Brune’s army apparently got defeated.”
Being told so in a rejecting tone, Tigre groaned lightly. Apparently this much wasn’t enough.
Mila didn’t say so out of spite either. Rather, she was accommodating. If she had been talking to some random acquaintance, the conversation would probably be over at this point.
――Something else…to get Mila and her troops to agree…
Although he desperately worked his non-existent intelligence, he failed to hit upon a decent idea. More than thirty breaths quickly passed, and yet Mila remained waiting patiently.
Just when Tigre let his eyes wander across the vicinity, hoping that he might find something to serve as a trigger, the Black Dragon Flags and the flags of the Olmutz Principality fluttering above Olmutz’s soldiers caught his attention.
“Isn’t Brune going to owe Zhcted something if you join up with the Brunian army and fight together with us?”
He used a somewhat cautious tone as this was something he thought of just moments ago.
How would Brune’s army move afterwards? Would they attempt to join up with Zhcted’s army as initially planned? Or would they give up on it?
In the latter case, Zhcted would be able to claim that she made an effort to join up with Brune’s army under harsh conditions. Tigre suspected that it would become an effective card to play during future diplomatic negotiations.
Of course, it was also possible that Brune’s army would recover from its loss, succeed in contacting Zhcted’s army and join up with them. In such a case, Mila’s effort would be in vain.
“…It’s somewhat lacking, but if you add both ideas together, you barely get a passing mark, I suppose. Taking the time after the battles into account earned you some extra points.”
Mila shrugged her shoulders as if it couldn’t be helped either way, but the smile on her face betrayed her satisfaction. Tigre breathed out in relief.
“Had you already thought of both?”
“Just the first. I didn’t think of the second. Very well, Tigre. We will head towards Brune’s army together with you guys. However, I will have you work for fifty people.”
Her eyes gleamed, full of energy.
Tigre nodded deeply, “I’ll happily oblige. I think it’s unnecessary to tell you at this point, but I do have some confidence in my archery skills and my eyesight. Please put me to use however you like, be it scouting or whatever.”
“I’m going to take you up on that,” Mila held out her hand.
Tigre clasped it tightly.
————– End of Part 1 ————–
At the time when Tigre and Mila got back to their soldiers, the treatment of the wounded had already finished for the most part, and everyone was ready to depart on a beck’s call. The sun had passed its zenith by now, but the sky was still bright.
Raphinaque and Galyinin were just in the process of checking the horses they had obtained from the Muozinel forces. Most of the horses had run away after losing their riders, but two had remained behind, standing stock still as if waiting for someone to pull their reins.
“We decided on our plan. We shall head for Brune’s army together with the Vorn unit,” Mila announced to Galyinin with a dignified expression.
After glancing back and forth between Mila and Tigre, the elderly knight lowered his head respectfully.
Tigre asked the other two, “Some among the soldiers of Olmutz should still remember me, right? I’d like to go greet them before we head out, if that’s okay with you.”
Although they had agreed to act together, the burden on Olmutz’s soldiers would be bigger. Even if only for the sake to quell any potential arguments as much as possible, Tigre believed that he ought to bow his head in light of the strain that would follow.
“That makes sense. Please allow me to guide you,” Galyinin smiled kindly after guessing Tigre’s intention.
“Okay, then I will allow myself to go greet the soldiers of the Vorn family as well. Could you please lead me around, Sir Raphinaque?”
Hearing Mila’s words, Raphinaque answered with a smile that flashed his front teeth, “It will be an honor for me.”
Just like that, Tigre met with each soldier of Olmutz, and just as he met old friends with both sides having missed each other, he also expressed his gratitude to soldiers he met for the first time. Of course, some of them faced him with a distrustful expression, but he managed to finish greeting all soldiers one way or another.
When they had put some distance between them and the soldiers of Olmutz, Galyinin whispered, “Lord Tigrevurmud, what is your take on Lady Ludmila having taken command of one of the scouting parties?”
“So was it based on some circumstances after all?” Tigre stopped walking and stared at Galyinin with a serious expression.
This was the part that had bugged him when he heard about Zhcted’s side from Mila. Under normal circumstances, the commander of an army should run around carelessly. There ought to be no need for Mila to lead one of the units herself.
“Yes, it is an important reason for her,” Galyinin informed Tigre with a calm expression after stopping as well. “Lady Ludmila has been worried about your safety.”
Tigre couldn’t find any words for a moment.
“Lady Ludmila has been convinced that you would participate in this war. And she has been worried that you might find yourself in a predicament. She wanted to save you if it was possible. Thinking that, Lady Ludmila took command of one scouting unit.”
The hot wind swiping across the land caressed Tigre’s face. His eyes became moist, and he felt a heat burning deep in his chest. Of course, Mila might also have considered it to be necessary for her to be in a place where she could make swift decisions, if necessary. After all, it’d be essential for her to grasp the state of Brune’s army as quickly as possible.
But, at the same time, Mila had thought of Tigre. It was coincidence and luck that they were able to meet again in this place, but Mila’s decision had drawn this luck to them.
“Thank you very much, Lord Galyinin,” Tigre bowed deeply.
He would have never heard anything like this out of Mila’s mouth. If he hadn’t told Tigre, the youth had remained unknowing for the rest of his life.
“I ask you sincerely to cherish your life which Lady Ludmila tried to protect to such an extent.”
Nodding, Tigre roughly wiped his face. About a dozen strides away stood Mila and Raphinaque after having finished their greeting of the Vorn soldiers. The two walked up to them.
“Still, I have heard about it from the young master…no, Lord Tigrevurmud many times over, but Lady Ludmila, you are truly beautiful. My lord is a lucky man to have been able to become friends with you.”
Upon Raphinaque admiring her without any reservations, Mila cast a teasing glance at Tigre.
“Many times? Give me an example of what he told you about me.”
“At first he quoted from some poem, talking about skin as white as perpetual snow and eyes filled with a radiance like a lake during spring. Then he expanded on your personality, and how much he had fallen in love with you…ah, no, he meant it in the sense of a knight offering his devotion…,” Raphinaque immediately glossed it over after having realized that he had tattled too much, but it was too late.
Mila’s cheeks turned crimson and she turned her face away so as to not meet eyes with Tigre. Tigre, on the other hand, was slightly, no, quite embarrassed himself, but he acted bold about it as it merely reflected his true feelings.
Standing next to him, Galyinin used that moment to speak up next, “Thank you kindly for your precious tidbits of information, Sir Raphinaque. In that case, I shall also talk about how my mistress has been evaluating Lord Tigrevurm――”
“Tigre, let us quickly leave this place before new forces of the Muozinel army show up,” Mila rattled down, interrupting Galyinin who was acting like a good-natured old man.
She seemed so panicked that she didn’t even realize how she had called Tigre by his nickname in front of their adjutants. Without noticing it either, Tigre swiftly wrapped up their conversation, saying, “Got it, let us move right away then.”
Accompanied by Raphinaque, Tigre headed back to the Vorn soldiers and informed them of their departure. Before he got on his horse, the elderly adjutant lightly drummed on his chest.
“It’s not like we can afford to get indebted all the time. I’ll work all those who can move hard.”
“Compared to being confronted with the two choices of death or slavery, that should be nothing.”
Raphinaque nodded with a laugh, revealing his teeth as if to express his happiness.
“But, young master, don’t think that Lady Vanadis is too ambitious a goal for you? I now understand why you kept talking about deeds of arms this and deeds of arms that, but I doubt it’ll be enough, unless you perform at the level of an earth dragon.”
“That much is easy peasy.”
Tigre’s reply was a prime example of bragging, but it was unmistakingly his true opinion. If he couldn’t pull off achievements at the level of an earth dragon, how would he be able to make his arrow reach a star twinkling in the sky?
The Vorn unit and Olmutz forces advanced north for around five belsta (approx. five kilometers), stopped their march on a patch of prairie located near a river, and started to set up camp. They ignited campfires, drew water from the river, and prepared dinner.
The Vorn soldiers actively did all those miscellaneous chores to lighten the burden on Olmutz’s soldiers. This happened upon Tigre’s order.
Dinner consisted of bread, cheese, resins, and soup with thinly sliced dove meat. The bread was something they had on hand while they bought everything else from a nearby village.
By the way, they came up with a little scheme for buying the food. Tigre and an Olmutz soldier, who could somewhat speak Muozinel, pretended to be Muozinel soldiers. After smearing their bodies with mud, they straddled the Muozinel horses, and rode into the village after waiting for sunset, managing to trick the villagers.
The Brunians, including Tigre, wolfed down the bread and soup. Since they had departed the battlefield after suffering a surprise attack at dawn, they hadn’t had any decent meal. At the most, they drank some water while shrouded by fog.
“There’s definitely some truth to the saying, hunger is the best spice,” Raphinaque commented while chewing on the sour resins, but no one reacted to his words.
All of them were preoccupied with their own food. Soaking the bread in the soup, they devoured it. They devoured the cheese as if savoring its saltiness. Each time a new bite passed through their throat, all of them rejoiced over being able to eat something.
“I don’t mind Muozinel fish, so I’d love to eat ‘fish soup’ (ucha),” one of the Olmutz soldiers said while chewing on his bread, and laughed.
Ucha was a common dish in Zhcted. They usually made it by pouring water into a pot deep enough to mistake it for a bucket, then throwing largely-cut potatoes and salt-pickled salmon into it, before adding onions for their sweet taste, and boiling all of it.
Once they finished their meal, half of the soldiers served as watch while the other half went to sleep early. The Vorn soldiers were completely exhausted and Olmutz’s soldiers knew that the march would become strenuous, starting with tomorrow. They had boldly lit campfires. It came with the danger of the enemy spotting them from far away, but without the fires, beasts would approach, and if something happened, they’d be unable to react at once.
Because they had only brought a tent to be used for the commander, the soldiers wrapped themselves in their overcoats and lay down on the ground. The bugs were irritating, but the cool air felt pleasant.
Tigre and Mila were inside the tent which had been built in the center of their night camp. The light of the lamp, which hung down from the ceiling, dimly illuminated the faces of the two as they sat next to each other. Both of them had removed their breastplates to be more comfortable.
Mila’s Lavias and Tigre’s black bow were leaning against the tent’s wall.
A small pot filled with hot water, two, silver cups, and three tiny jars were arrayed up in front of the two. White steam rose from the pot. The three jars were small enough to fit into Tigre’s hand. Each of the jars was closed with a cork while having characters carved onto its surface.
“Which will it be?” Mila asked Tigre with a cheerful expression.
She had told him that each of the three jars contained a different jam.
“Can’t you tell me about the types of jam contained in each?” Tigre asked hopefully.
Mila answered, “Nope,” with a smile.
“That makes it a fairly difficult question,” said Tigre, folding his arms.
Mila had a jam she wanted him to choose among the three, and told him to guess it. At a glance, it was a silly game, but Tigre knew about Mila’s love of ‘black tea’ (chayai). It went so far that she even brought tea leaves and jars full of jam to battlefields.
This is a game demanding seriousness. If I try to stand next to Mila, I mustn’t run away from this, and of course I cannot afford to guess wrongly either.
“Is it okay for me to touch the jars?”
“Sure, go ahead.”
Tigre first picked up the jar on the right side. After scrutinizing it from various angles, he put it back to its original place, and grabbed the jar in the middle next.
――I can’t really tell them apart by size, weight, or shape.
The only difference were the characters carved onto the surface of the jar. They were simple characters standing for sun, moon, and star.
He secretly took a peek at Mila while putting the jar back. She noticed his look and giggled, but it didn’t seem like she’d give him a clue.
After thinking it over, Tigre picked up the jar with the moon character, and passed it to Mila.
“Are you going with this one then?” Mila confirmed.
Tigre nodded, his face filled with nostalgia, “I remembered the time when you let me drink your chayai for the first time.”
While gazing at the new moon through a window in Mila’s room, he had drunk the chayai she had brewed for him. Back then, she had taught him the word for moon in Zhcted. He still could vividly remember it as if it happened yesterday.
“At that time I was truly happy. Lady Lana and Lord Galyinin had raved about the deliciousness of your chayai.”
“Galyinin sure loves to exaggerate,” Mila removed the cork of the moon jar while smiling wryly.
The aroma faintly tickling Tigre’s nose was that of grapes.
“I heard you can apparently harvest good grapes in Brune, so I made a jam with those.”
Once Mila brewed the chayai, she scooped up a small amount of jam with a small, wooden spoon, and let it melt in the tea.
Tigre thanked her while accepting the cup. As soon as he tasted it, he could sense the chayai’s fragrance, pregnant with the sweet aroma of grapes. The heat and sweetness slowly permeated his whole body, allowing Tigre to experience a sensation as if all fatigue was expelled from his body.
“What a bliss.”
“Of course. I’m the one who brewed it. Want to go with a cool tea next?”
Mila shifted her eyes to Lavias. She easily succeeded in creating cold tea with the ability of her spear.
“That’s way much of a luxury, isn’t it?”
The soldiers had drunk lukewarm water during today’s dinner. As might be expected, Tigre felt guilty.
“I think it’s been two years since I last drank your chayai like this.”
Even though we kept in contact through letters, we didn’t have a chance to meet. Ever since then I obtained all kinds of new tea leaves. I’ll treat you anytime once you come to Olmutz.”
“Allow me to look forward to it then. Come to think of it, how is Lady Lana doing?” Tigre asked, recalling something important.
Lana was Svetlana’s pet name.
“She’s fine. Last year, your father and you sent her a horse, didn’t you? She’s riding on it almost every day. What about Lord Urs――your father? Also, your little brother?”
Tigre explained that his father was bedridden due to sickness. Seeing Mila look worried, he said with a smile, “He’s absent from this war to take care of himself, but it’s no problem. Thanks to you, he’s been enthusiastic about improving Alsace a lot more. Dian is doing great, too. He races off somewhere whenever you take your eyes off him for a moment, so Bertrand has put a long leash around him.”
Dian was Tigre’s half-brother from a different mother. He turned two years old this year. His mother was one of the maids who had worked at the Vorn family’s estate in the past. He was born during Tigre’s stay in Olmutz, so Tigre got greatly surprised when he came back to Alsace.
“If Dian grows up enough in a few years, I’d like him to meet you. Father also said that he regretted not being able to meet you this time.”
“My mother also wanted to see you again. She said that you’re free to come over whenever you feel like it.”
“That lady isn’t thinking of the Vosges as her backyard or something, is she…?” Tigre said with a bitter smile, containing a tinge of astonishment, while thinking that it was so typical of her.
———— End of Part 2 ————
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