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The celebratory banquet started at noon and lasted until dusk, turning into a full success. It was a feast for enduring the battle for several dozens of days after confirming the enemy’s retreat. Be it nobles or commoners, everyone got intoxicated by peace, celebrating the victory and letting their joy free reign.
While being treated to pastry, which had been lacquered with honey, and fruit wine, the people danced, sang, and extolled the heroes in the castle town. Now that summer was ending, a refreshing breeze lightly blew through the royal capital.
People clad in fine, expensive dresses held lighthearted talks in a saloon of the royal palace towering halfway up the Luberon Mountain. The tables here and there were filled with food and alcohol, which were continuously replenished with new dishes, and in a corner an orchestra played a gentle melody so as to not disturb the conversations. In spite of the sky having started to darken if you looked outside, the saloon was heated by the many attendees.
“──The thing called makeup is really troublesome.” Eleonora Viltaria let a soft sigh escape while walking through the very long hallway leading to the saloon.
She was one of Zhcted’s prided Vanadis, commonly called Elen by her close friends. Currently she was 18 years old. She had carefully put up her silver hair into a plait at the back of her head allowing her hair to spill down as usual. Her body was wrapped up by a snow white dress decorated with silverwork and pearls all over. On her left arm she wore a silver bracelet which had a hunter engraved into it. A faint makeup had been applied on her beautiful face overflowing with gallantry.
“However, showing up with makeup in a state of being only applied at spots would be rude instead, wouldn’t it?” The blond woman walking a half step behind Elen soothed with a gentle tone.
It was Limalisha, Elen’s adjutant and also her closest friend. With an age of 21 years that made her three years older than her mistress, she was referred to with the nickname Lim by several people, starting with Elen. She didn’t don a dress, but covered her tall figure in a military uniform. Her hair being bound on the left side of her head was no different from usual. However, just like her mistress, a faint layer of makeup had been applied on her face.
The two had friendly chats with several friends and acquaintances until just a little while ago, but since their makeup had started to come off, they reluctantly excused themselves, and then swiftly reapplied the makeup.
Once they entered the saloon, returning to the place where they had held their pleasant talks, they spotted three girls cheerfully chatting about something. It was Ludmila Lourie and Sofya Obertas, both Vanadis just like Elen, and Titta, Tigrevurmud Vorn’s maid. The three of them had dolled themselves up, just like Elen.
Ludmila had the same age as Elen. She, who was nicknamed Mila, had put up her blue hair and wore a light blue dress arranged with golden ribbons and cuffs. The ruby adorning her chest increased her radiance all the more, coupled with her dress.
Sofya was 22 years old. Elen and the others called her Sofy. Her loosely waving golden hair was tied by a hair ornament using white flowers, and spilled down from her shoulder. Her body was covered by a light green dress that boldly opened up at the back.
Titta was the youngest among the five ladies with her 17 years. Until a short time ago she had an adorable, childish face, but recently her cheeks had become shapely, endowing her with a beauty appropriate to her age. Her chestnut-colored hair was put together at the back of her head, bound by a light red ribbon. Her red dress exposed the area from her shoulders to her chest.
When she saw this attire for the first time, she refused wearing it with her face bright red up to the ears. After Elen’s insistent encouragement, she made up her mind and put it on. And, her having summoned her courage showed effect. After all she was told, “It’s lovely,” by the sole person she wanted to see her wearing it.
After looking at the faces of the three in turns, Elen asked Sofy while tilting her head to the side, “What about Tigre?”
This was the nickname of Tigrevurmud Vorn. Before Elen and Lim stepped out, he had been together with the three. In response to Elen’s question, Sofy turned her eyes towards another place. At the end of her look, Tigre in his ceremonial suit was surrounded by around five or six elegant men and women.
Mila explained the circumstances with an expression that showed her disinterest, “The nobles of Brune want to extend their greetings and congratulations by all means, he said.”
“It’s the difficult part of being a hero. I wonder whether he will be able to get back here at all.” Sofy revealed a sad smile.
Those wishing to exchange words and deepen their friendship with Tigre shouldn’t be just the five of them.
Sachstein’s army this year in spring, and Muozinel’s army in summer had each launched a huge offensive with big armies, targeting Brune’s land and wealth, but both were repelled by Tigre. It was also this youth who hindered Melisande in her rebellion, aiming for Princess Regin’s life.
The troubadours sang, “There’s no one with equal deeds of arms,” but this was also something many people had realized. This celebratory banquet was held to celebrate the newly-achieved peace and Brune’s victory. It was a matter of course that Tigre would play a leading role in this along Regin, Brune’s sovereign.
Elen didn’t say anything, but she narrowed her eyes like a pouting child, twisted her mouth slightly, and fiddled around with her hair.
Titta called out to Elen, trying to console her, “We will be able to talk with him tomorrow again.”
“──You’re right.” Elen formed a smile on her lips and nodded at Titta.
A girl who’s younger than I am is enduring it, so it’s not a place for me to let my dissatisfaction show.
“But, leaving myself aside, shouldn’t you go over to Tigre, even if you have to wedge yourself into that throng, Titta? Have that guy burn your charming figure into his memory on this very occasion.” Elen incited Titta with a mean smile.
That caused Titta to furiously blush, cover her chest with both hands, and hang her head in shame. Going by her expression, she apparently couldn’t muster a voice out of nervousness and embarrassment, and not because she hated it.
Elen and Titta had one point in common. Both were people who Tigre had confessed to and who joyfully accepted his feelings. The current Tigre ─ granted that there had been various troubles and circumstances until he reached that point ─ had become aware that he was a womanizer loving several women at the same time. Both Elen and Titta loved Tigre for what he was, including that aspect. And, while both have acknowledged each other, they harbored a competitive mindset of trying to steal a march on the other, but that held no relation to the current situation.
Just as Sofy had said, Tigre didn’t return to Elen’s group even after he finished his light chat with the noble men and women. Someone always called out to Tigre, replacing the previous conversational partners and keeping him surrounded by several people. Some people were courteous, others addressed him exaggeratedly.
Even for Elen and the others it was impossible to wait for Tigre to return while having a friendly chat. After all three Vanadis, who ranked next to the king in Zhcted, were among them. Moreover, Lim was known for her bravery in the battle against Muozinel, and Titta wasn’t just Tigre’s maid, but also someone trusted by Regin.
Above all, all of them were young and beautiful. There was no way that those women wouldn’t garner any attention. After one knight mustered his courage and chatted them up, more knights and lords followed suit, calling out to them.
It was only one and a half koku later that Elen and the others were finally released from all conversational partners. And it was also at that time when Elen noticed that Tigre had disappeared from the saloon.
Another advantage of having built the royal palace halfway up Luberon Mountain were the many gardens. Among the various places with seasonal flowers in full bloom displaying all kinds of colors, there was one quiet area where stone statues, which had been erected by artists while competing in skill, lined up.
Tigre was in one of those gardens. He wore a tunic with black as basic color atop white, silken clothes. His dull, red hair had been reined in with perfumed oil, but because he had unconsciously fallen prey to his habit of churning his hair when he arrived at this place, his hair style had returned to its usual messy state.
The nature of Luberon Mountain had been left untouched here as far as possible. Trees were towering along the gentle slope, and thickets were extending across this area. The hustle and bustle of the banquet couldn’t be heard from here.
Tigre laid down on the slope while still wearing his ceremonial suit, and gazed at the moon as it was climbing high into the sky. Fatigue was written all over his face, illuminated by the moonlight. He thought that he would like to fall asleep here just like this. Because summer was nearing its end, it was cool, but not really cold. At least not as chilly that he would catch a cold.
Tigre being able to rest here was owed to the concern of Mashas Rodant. Saying that someone was calling for him, he allowed the youth to escape the saloon.
Mashas wasn’t just an authority within the royal palace, but also someone wholeheartedly trusted by Tigre. There was no one who would doubt his words.
“I guess I should go back after a little while…”
There was a plethora of people in the saloon who hadn’t been able to speak with Tigre yet. It was troublesome, but it wasn’t as though he could allow Mashas alone to bear the brunt of this difficult task.
Suddenly Tigre noticed someone approaching his location. He could hear footsteps as they pushed their way through the grass. However, he couldn’t sense anything similar to hostility.
──Well, this is a garden, so it’s not unusual for someone to come here…
The youth only pointed his eyes in the direction with his body remaining laying down. Surprise dyed his eyes. The one who appeared from within the darkness was someone unexpected.
Golden hair that had been arranged carefully, blue eyes that made one recall a clear lake, white skin, and the features of a lovely girl. A pure white dress cladding her delicate body, and countless accessories shining as they reflected the moonlight.
Regin Estelle Loire Bastien do Charles. The seventeen years old princess ruling over Brune after succeeding her late father and king, Faron. Spotting the youth, she smiled broadly.
“Is it okay for me to sit down next to you?”
With the other party being a princess, Tigre couldn’t afford to remain laying on the ground. He lifted his body in a hurry, took off his black tunic, and spread it out on the ground. Regin walked over, and sat down on the tunic with words of thanks. It was likely for the sake of not wasting Tigre’s consideration.
“Are your guards not with you?” Tigre asked curiously.
It was difficult to imagine that she, the ruler of this kingdom, would walk around all by herself.
Regin showed a smile similar to that of a child that succeeded in pulling off a prank, “I lost them.”
Tigre burst into laughter with his shoulders trembling.
Regin continued without making him feel any of her usual ladylike dignity as ruler, “Just when I wanted to take a little breather, I caught sight of your back…”
Tigre fully understood. He felt sympathy with her guarding knights, but his sympathy towards Regin won out. The Regin he saw at the saloon was surrounded by many more nobles and lords than himself while carefully listening and returning appropriate words to every single one of them.
“Let’s pretend I invited Your Highness to this place then.” Tigre offered.
In such case, it wouldn’t be just Regin who would get scolded. After intently staring at the youth in surprise, a smile bloomed on Regin’s whole face.
“Very well, then allow me to take advantage of your kindness. And, please be at ease. It’s even fine for you to lie down as you had just now.”
“Doing something like that in front of Your Highness is…”
“If you keep humbling yourself, I won’t be able to rest comfortably either.”
It was a reasonable argument. Bowing with the words, “I shall take you up on your offer then,” Tigre lied down, using his arms as a pillow. Both looked up to the moon together. The night wind caused the grass to gently rustle. After spending around thirty breaths in silence like this, Tigre thought that he should probably talk about something. Deciding to go with some jokes he had heard from his soldiers while avoiding matters concerning the war or the royal palace, he quietly peeked at Regin’s face from the side.
At exactly the same time, Regin faintly moved her head, looking in his direction. Their eyes met, and without it being clear who started it, their cheeks blushed as they stared at each other. Thinking that he must say something, Tigre got more flustered than before. However, with his nervousness disturbing his thinking, no suitable words came to mind.
On the other hand, Regin put on a serious look, obviously having resolved herself, and turned her body fully towards Tigre.
“──Tigre.” She swallowed the word about two times, and each time she put her breathing in order, but then she called him like that. Not Earl Vorn, nor Lord Tigrevurmud, just Tigre.
Strong emotions that would cause any listener’s heart to throb were packed into her clear vocal sound. Sensing that, Tigre reflexively raised his body, and locked eyes with Regin after adjusting his sitting posture. Different from the one until just now, a suffocating tension fully assailed the youth.
“I like you. I’m in love with you.” Joining her hands together in front of her chest, she calmly confessed her feelings with a tone lacking any hesitation.
Tigre widened his eyes, swallowing his breath. It was so sudden that he was taken aback. Her feelings were so sincere and concise that it didn’t allow any room for misunderstanding. That’s why he couldn’t react in any other way.
It was fine to say that Tigre harbored good will towards Regin. The current Tigre was convinced that he had grasped just how much efforts she, who had become the ruler of Brune after her father passed away in an unforeseen tragedy, had invested until today. While believing that it was presumptuous, he felt empathy for her. After all, the youth was also someone who had succeeded his territory and peerage after losing his father to sickness.
He was guessing that this apparently might also be one of the reasons for her trust and feelings of love towards him. It was impossible for him to not be happy as a man and retainer. But, despite that, Tigre couldn’t answer her feelings.
Tigre had already made love to Elen, and confessed his feelings to Titta. And, leaving aside Titta, who was his maid and a Brunian, he couldn’t tell anyone about Elen, a Vanadis and Zhcted. If the relationship between Elen and Tigre came to light, both of them would probably lose just about everything, falling into the ravine of ruin. There was no doubt that it would also have a grave impact on Alsace and Leitmeritz, their respective territories. It was a relationship they could never allow to be discovered as lords.
At this time Tigre intentionally excluded everything else attached to her confession from his mind, only facing the feelings Regin had confronted him with.
Her blue eyes were fixedly locked on him, waiting for his reply.
“──I’m sorry.” Taking on her look, Tigre answered in a deliberately businesslike tone.
Seeing as she had told him her feelings as a simple woman, he didn’t have any words besides those to offer to her as a simple man.
Regin’s eyes widened. Tigre silently looked at her heartbroken expression. He had already given his answer. No matter what he would say in addition, he was sure it would just hurt her feelings.
──I wonder, should I possibly leave this place?
The judgment of Tigre, who thought something like that in a corner of his mind, could be called naive. The youth didn’t realize that things hadn’t come to an end yet.
Regin quietly shut her eyes. As if trying to appease the raging stream of emotions ravaging her heart with a prayer. And then, after a time of ten breaths had passed, she opened her eyes. A determination that wasn’t inferior in any way to the time when she confessed her feelings dwelt in her blue eyes.
“──Tigre.” Regin called out to him once more.
The youth faced her while repeatedly freezing over his own heart. He kept warning himself to stay calm no matter what he would be told.
Without a shred of hesitation, Regin said, “Won’t you please become the king of this country?”
The layer of ice covering his heart was easily blown away. His body stiffened because of the overwhelming shock, and both his eyes reflected confusion and bewilderment. Tigre looked at Regin with a face making it clear that he didn’t understand what he was told just now.
After letting a chuckle slip at his reaction, obviously amused, Brune’s princess slightly altered her previous words, spinning them anew, “Please become this country’s king, Tigre.”
“Why…?” Tigre finally squeezed out with a hoarse voice.
Even he hadn’t expected to have those matters, which he had deliberately excluded from his mind moments ago, bluntly and directly thrust at him from the front.
Regin erased her smile, and looked at the youth with a very serious expression which made him feel the gravity.
“It’s because I think you’re more suitable as king than anyone else. There’s no one else who repelled domestic and foreign enemies while fighting as heroically as you did. Me being in this position right now, and Brune being able to greet today is all thanks to you.”
“I have been born as a humble, countryside noble. Besides, I’m also scorned by the other lords for having no other redeeming feature than archery.”
Something like becoming king was nothing he had considered. While remembering what Mashas told him a good while ago, Tigre replied, visibly struggling.
“So what about it?” Regin asked back calmly, or rather haughtily. “Duke Thenardier and Duke Ganelon were born into prestigious families, and yet they slighted the king’s authority, and aimed for father’s and my lives. Same for Melisande and those who supported her.”
Regin tightly grasped her hands which she had placed on her knees.
“Also, you said that you don’t have any strong points except for your archery, but isn’t it that very archery which led to victory in the most recent war?”
The fact that a single arrow shot by Tigre wounded Kureys Shahim Balamir, the supreme commander of the Muozinel army, was widely known by now. So much that rumors about Kureys deciding to retreat because he was injured were even circulating in the castle town.
The true reason why Kureys retreated was the death of Muozinel’s king, but people loved stories that put their own country’s heroes in a good light. At least towards Tigre as an individual, the contempt over him being good at archery had toned down.
“But, Your Highness. I’m someone unversed in the royal palace. I don’t have any experience concerning government affairs either.”
“I’m not saying that I want you to actively partake in the reign right away. Even I have received a lot of help from many people, beginning with Badouin. It will be fine if you continue learning it bit-by-bit.”
Badouin was the man who had been serving as prime minister since the reign of the previous king. Tigre was sure that she must have continued to think it over quite deeply. Regin thoroughly resolved each and every single of Tigre’s weak objections.
“There’s no doubt that there will be some people who will voice their dissatisfaction about you taking the throne. However, a king who’s unconditionally approved by everyone doesn’t exist. At least not in the current Brune. Even at the time when it was decided that I would take over from father and rule this country, there were many people who opposed it.” Having said as much, Regin loosened her expression, allowing for a complicated smile filled with many emotions to appear on her face. “I beg your pardon for suddenly springing something like this on you. However, everything I told you just now are my true feelings barring any lies.”
“You’re saying that’s how strongly you wish for me1 to become king? But…”
Tigre becoming king meant to take Regin as wife. That was owed to Brune not approving of a queen ruling the country. However, Tigre couldn’t reciprocate her feelings. He should have told her as much just moments ago. As if reading his inner thoughts, Regin revealed a smile filled with loneliness.
“Prioritizing the benefits of the Kingdom over one’s personal feelings; that’s what a royal’s marriage is about. I think you, as a noble, understand this as well.”
At that point, she stopped speaking for a moment. She took her eyes off Tigre, and looked up to the moon.
“Given that her feelings didn’t get through, she will get what she wants with force… You probably think that I’m such a wretched, despicable woman. And yet, no matter how it might look to you──”
I wanted to first convey my own words to you.
Regin spun her words towards the sky with a voice that seemed to fade away into the stillness of night.
After letting silence reign for a short moment, she turned back to Tigre. The blond princess kept her mouth shut as she had apparently said what had to be said. There wasn’t even the faintest wavering in her blue eyes, looking like a tranquil lake. She stared at the youth, and waited for his reply. Tigre couldn’t do anything but stare back.
He believed that he knew about Regin possessing a strong heart, contrary to the delicate, gentle impression she gave one. She was a princess who fearlessly lifted a sword and encouraged the soldiers even when in front of a Muozinel army exceeding 100,000 soldiers. In the same way she didn’t falter during the rebellion caused by Melisande.
And yet I have no doubt that she must still have mustered a considerable amount of courage to tell me her feelings as a simple girl. I wonder just how much willpower she might have needed to broach a topic like this as a princess without sorting herself in spite of her feelings not being answered.
Tigre clenched his fists tightly. If he considered Alsace and Brune, refusal was impossible. It would result in him denying the things he had protected, his cherished emotions.
However, if he took her hand, it would result in him letting go of something precious.
──Even if I say so myself, I’m really the lowest…
Tigre felt a gnawing irritation and disdain at himself for not being able to say a line that would make her, who’s feeling so strongly about him as a woman and as princess, feel happy.
And that’s not all of it. I’m about to give her a disgraceful and shameless response next.
He breathed in deeply and then breathed out calmly. Without changing his sincere attitude, Tigre asked, “Can you give me some time?”
After allowing silence to precede for the time of a single breath, Regin tilted her head to the side, and looked at the youth, “Time to think, you mean?”
“Not only that.” Taking on the princess’ look, Tigre replied with a composed tone. What Tigre had to face wasn’t just Elen, Titta, and his territory, Alsace. “It’s difficult for me to explain, but there’s something I must do, an enemy I must defeat. It might sound as though I’m prattling about something crazy…”
It was about the black bow, the heirloom handed down in the Vorn family, the demons, and Duke Ganelon who possessed a bizarre power and the same atmosphere as the demons. All of them were problems Tigre had to resolve by all means, no matter how he would continue to live from now on. Right now it was absolutely impossible for him to become king.
Hearing Tigre’s words, Regin averted her eyes from him as if pondering about something, and immediately looked back at him, apparently having recalled something.
“Is it somehow related to the incidents at Saint-Groel two years ago?”
Tigre pointed a look full of admiration at Regin. He hadn’t expected her to be able to guess it so precisely. He returned a nod alongside a short confirmation.
It was a time when Brune was struck in the maelstrom of civil war. In order to prove that Regin was descended from royalty, Tigre stepped into a historic ruin of an ancient era, called Saint-Groel. And there they fought against Duke Thenardier’s group who had laid in wait, predicting that Tigre and the others would show up.
During the battle, the ceiling caved in, and Tigre was buried alive. Moreover, the youth lost his close attendant Bertrand there. Bertrand gave his life to protect Tigre from an enemy’s blade. Tigre blew away the rubble that buried Saint-Groel with the power of his black bow, and came out to the surface while carrying Bertrand’s corpse. It was immediately afterwards that Elen and Regin came rushing over.
“I still remember well what I had seen back then. It seemed as if a jet black dragon had been released from the underground, flying away into the sky.” Regin talked about her impression with a weak, trembling voice.
Tigre remembered Bertrand, and yielded a part of his consciousness to sentimental feelings, but in another corner of his mind, he brooded how much he should tell Regin.
──No, I ought to tell her everything. Regin has seen something exceeding human intellect. Even if she won’t believe everything, I’m sure she won’t deny everything either. As long as I can get her to understand even a part of it, it will change matters. At least I should do so if I try to respond to her feelings a little bit.
“Your Highness, it will take some time, but I think there’s something I’d like you to hear.”
Tigre told Regin about the black bow, about how it reacts to the draconic tools held by the Vanadis, and about the demons and Ganelon.
At the beginning the princess pressed her hands against her mouth, looking bewildered, but around the time when Tigre finished his explanation, understanding dyed her blue eyes. Her own experiences at Saint-Groel apparently played a big role in that for her.
“I happened to hear about Duke Ganelon from Badouin. If I remember correctly, Badouin said that he had heard so from Lady Valentina Glinka Estes, though.” Regin narrowed her eyes, obviously rummaging through her memory.
Until Tigre’s explanation, it might be inevitable that she didn’t draw the connection between the youth and Ganelon in her head. Regin hadn’t personally experienced Ganelon’s unique power, after all.
Moreover, back then they were busy with coping with Greast, who had cornered the 『Moonlight Knight Army』 to the brink of annihilation, and once he had been dealt with, they had to take on the Muozinel army. No one had the time to spare a thought on Ganelon who had disappeared.
“Until these things are resolved…at least, until I find a way to resolve them, I can’t respond to Your Highness’ proposal. And that’s why I’d like you to give me some time.” Tigre appealed seriously.
Regin looked down, apparently considering something, but then she nodded slowly, and gazed at the youth, only moving her eyes.
“I think I’d like to have one year.” Tigre replied, believing that the limit might be around there.
In response, Regin sighed slightly while making her blond hair sway, “Well, I expected as much. Though, if it also concerns Duke Ganelon, I don’t think that it’s completely unrelated to Brune either.”
Regin was the ruler of Brune, and had to take a husband for the sake of the kingdom’s peace. The luxury to indefinitely keep waiting for the man she loved wouldn’t be granted to her.
However, if it was one year, it might be possible to use the reason that she gave priority to rebuilding the kingdom that had fallen into ruin due to the continuous chain of wars. In reality, there was already a mountain of things she had to do.
“Sorry to impose on you, but please make sure to not utter a single word about this to anyone.”
“I know. It’s nothing I could tell someone else anyway.”
Tigre breathed out in relief upon Regin’s reply. At the same time, he sensed how a part of his heart became lighter.
Regin looked at the youth with a sulky expression, “However, you have shared those secrets with all the Vanadis for a while now, haven’t you?”
Tigre was flustered due to the unexpected verbal stab, “No, that was the course of events, or rather, I mean, they didn’t know about the existence of the black bow until they met with me2…”
Regin glared at the youth, who answered in an incoherent manner, with an angry look, and sidled up to him. Suddenly she let her body fall, leaping into his chest. Tigre caught Regin’s frail body on the spur of the moment.
She lifted her face while leaning on the youth, and smiled sweetly, “I have also joined that circle of friends, right?”
At last Tigre realized that she had been teasing him, but he couldn’t regain his calm at once. Without showing an intention to separate, Regin buried her face in the youth’s chest. Because he had taken off his tunic, her warmth was transmitted through his thin undershirt. A faint aroma of perfume and her very own, sweet scent tickled Tigre’s nose.
Moving her head a bit, Regin stared at the youth with upturned eyes, “Very well, I will wait for one year. Also, I will have you allow me to assist you as much as possible in regards to those matters.”
“Thank you very much.” Tigre thanked her from the bottom of his heart while paying attention to not speak too loudly.
He was driven by an urge of wanting to hug Regin out of excessive joy, but he barely restrained himself. Even if she herself would have wished for that, he didn’t feel that he was qualified to do so right now.
Regin buried her face in the youth’s chest once more, and while putting her hands around his back, she spoke as if holding a monologue, “──Tigre. I don’t have any intention on sparing any effort to be loved by you.”
The youth had his breath taken away as he stared at the princess. Tigre couldn’t see what kind of expression Regin had. However, he was sure that her blue eyes were shining, filled with unwavering determination. Feeling like he could hear his heart shattering, Tigre shut his eyes in order to bear it.
Although he had no other option, he hid his relationship with Elen by using the black bow and demons as cover, and moreover, delayed the answer for one year.
Does a person like me have the right to be loved by such a girl?
Sooner or later he likely had to talk about those things to her as well. Until then, Tigre had no option but to “somehow handle things” about this matter with Elen.
The moon hanging in the night sky quietly illuminated the youth and the girl.
Once the festivities that lasted over a period of three days came to an end, the reconstruction work started all over the Royal Capital Nice. Many scaffoldings were built in the vicinity of the wall, and the craftsmen were busy repairing it.
All the gates were bustling with people returning to and departing from the capital, and the gatekeepers were pressed to deal with them. Their numbers had been increased beyond the usual amount, but they were still unable to catch up with processing all the work, resulting in long queues forming at each gate.
Once you shifted your attention towards the inside the walls, it was filled with housewives chatting happily after meeting on their way back home from shopping, and children running through the streets, staging race competitions. If there were soldiers patrolling the side roads, there were also troubadours singing at street corners.
Most of the people believed that peace had finally returned.
Among those departing from the capital were landed nobles returning to their own territories after gathering their soldiers, and knights of knight squadrons going back to their duties of defending their respective fortresses. The number of those, who had returned to their territories and fortresses before the victory celebrations were held, hadn’t been small, but even so, many had still remained in the capital.
“I feel proud that I could fight under you against Sachstein and Muozinel.” Scheie of the Lutece Knight Squadron exchanged a handshake with Tigre with a grim expression and smile.
“The pleasure was on my side. It was a big help that you guys protected the capital. After all, this place has many people who are dear to me.”
“The most important is that we’re all safe. Please send a messenger to the Lutece Fort should you ever need a large amount of knights. I will rush over while leading my troops.”
The ones bidding farewell from Tigre weren’t only those acquainted to him. Even the nobles holding territories in Brune’s western region requested handshakes with Tigre.
“Let me be honest, I had looked down on you. But, in addition to suppressing the civil war two years ago, you achieved considerable feats for your youth. I’m at your discretion from now on.”
“To plunge into that large Muozinel army while leading the charge; I admire your bravery. I’d like to be pardoned from war for a while, but on the next occasion, I want to fight together with you while galloping my horse next to yours by all means.”
Seeing off the various lords walking away after showering him with words of praise, Olivier, who served as vice-leader of the Navarre Knight Squadron, muttered with a fed-up look, “Good grief, what happy-go-lucky folks.”
Due to Tigre pulling a mystified face, Olivier explained with a bitter smile that those were the people who came to raise complaints and anxieties to him before the battle against the Muozinel army began.
“Harboring dissatisfaction and uneasiness isn’t anything shameful at all, but I really want them to bear in mind to keep their attitude a bit more moderate.”
“Thank you very much for having put them in order, Lord Olivier.” Tigre thanked the vice-leader of the Navarre Knight Squadron, and held out his hand.
Tigre had entrusted the role of mediator for the western lords to him for the battle against the Muozinel army. Olivier had reliably fulfilled that duty, and protected the capital’s wall to the end.
Olivier grabbed Tigre’s hand with a faint smile, “I watched your way of fighting from the wall. It was magnificent, Earl Vorn.”
Olivier let go of Tigre’s hand and changed the topic, “By the way, what do you plan to do from now on, Earl Vorn?”
“From now on…you ask?” Tigre cocked his head in puzzlement, inferring the meaning of the question.
After acting as though he pondered for a little while, Olivier spoke up with an unreserved tone, “I have heard talks about you serving at the royal palace. What I’m curious about is how far you intend to climb. No, to be more straightforward…do you plan to become king?”
Tigre stared at him in wonder. Olivier’s expression was the very definition of seriousness, lacking any signs of him having made a joke. He couldn’t believe that Regin had talked about their chat several nights ago to anyone.
Swallowing his saliva, Tigre cautiously asked, “Did I behave in such a way?”
“No, you didn’t,” Olivier shook his head. “That’s why I was curious. I can’t say so loudly, but as for me, I hope that you will become our king.”
“You mean in regards to the relation with Asvarre?”
In the battle against Sachstein’s army, Tigre forced them to retreat by winning Asvarre’s army over as an ally. He heard that Asvarre’s army had continued to invade Sachstein afterwards, proceeding through the battles predominantly.
For the Navarre Knight Squadron, which protected the western border, Asvarre and Sachstein were both enemies they had to be wary of. It was an extremely important issue what kind of relationship Brune would form with those two countries.
“Of course, there’s that as well,” Olivier narrowed his eyes, and continued, “What’s important for us is whether the person, who will become the next king, is someone deserving our loyalty. Her Highness Regin is a splendid person, but as you might know, our country doesn’t approve of a queen, unlike Asvarre and others.
Tigre nodded. That was the very reason why King Faron, Regin’s father, had raised his daughter as prince.
“Her Highness Regin is ultimately going to govern this country for a limited time. Someday the person who would become her husband will be the king of this kingdom. Everyone thinks so. Taking the various victories until today into consideration, it might be possible for Her Highness to become queen by overturning this mindset. However, it would very likely be accompanied by not a small degree of disorder. And above all, it’s not Her Highness’ real intent either.”
Tigre stopped at merely nodding once without returning any words. The youth knew about Regin’s true intent. However, that was something he couldn’t tell anyone.
“Earl Vorn, we want to spur on our horses, swing our swords, and fly our banners under a king who tries to protect his subjects and loves this country. The appearance of Her Highness Regin standing atop the wall gave us courage and pride, but just as I said, we can’t hope for that to last eternally.”
Olivier had been suppressing his voice, but his eyes looked at the youth filled with an intense zeal and sincerity. It was the fervent wish of them who had to always gaze at the kingdom’s enemies.
“I think you can give that to us. We will be ready to support you at any time.”
Those were Olivier’s parting words to Tigre. The youth saw off the Navarre Knight Squadron, who kept getting smaller as they advanced along the road, with a long face.
Around the time when Tigre wrapped up his farewell from Olivier, at a place slightly away from the northern city gate, Elen and Lim sent off the Leitmeritz’ soldiers. The silver-haired Vanadis had decided to keep thirty soldiers at hand, and have the rest return to their homeland.
“We will stay in this land for a little while longer, but you guys return to Leitmeritz ahead of us, and announce our victory anew. Of course the information of our victory should have reached Leitmeritz a long time ago by now, but hearing it from those, who have actually fought in the war, is something completely different, after all.”
The soldiers of Leitmeritz responded to Elen’s order with a salute. Zhcted’s black dragon flag and Leitmeritz’ banner, which depicted a slanted silver sword on a black background, flew in the wind next to each other. The number of soldiers that had formed up in ranks was a little short of 1,400. The number of those, who departed Leitmeritz in spring of this year while led by Elen after receiving King Viktor’s royal decree, amounted to 2,000. Meaning, more than 600 soldiers had actually lost their lives in the battles.
The dead had been buried on a small hill located northeast of the capital. That was owed to the fact that Leitmeritz was situated northeast from the capital. They were buried as brave soldiers of Leitmeritz, extolling their gallant way of fighting and securing the livelihood of their bereaved families. That was all Elen could do for those who had fallen on the battlefields.
Her decision for the majority of the soldiers to return to Leitmeritz was because she judged that there would likely be no large-scaled battles in Brune for a while. In addition, there was also the issue of food. At present Brune was providing the food of Leitmeritz’ troops as fellow war allies. However, feeding 1,400 people on a daily basis resulted in high expenses for Brune which had started on its reconstruction.
Of course, Leitmeritz’ side could continue to stay in the capital for many days, but Elen chose to have Brune owe them a bit over making them upset.
Besides, there was also the issue of the soldiers’ moral and order. As a matter of fact, this was the far bigger reason for Elen.
It was simply impossible that soldiers, who had too much time on their hands without any particular objectives and duties, wouldn’t cause any troubles in a lively place like the capital. Much less if you saw how they had been entertained and welcomed as comrades in arms by the people of the kingdom, who had celebrated the victory and peace until yesterday.
Sending them back home before any of them could cause any unnecessary friction with Brune by triggering a troublesome uproar was a measure she had to take as commander.
The 1,400 Leitmeritz’ soldiers continued to walk away along the road while being seen off by Elen’s group. At this time, the soldiers, who had been assigned to the wall’s defense, bid them farewell by saluting. Once the returning soldiers were out of sight, Elen and Lim turned around to the thirty remaining soldiers.
“I will have you guys keep me company for a bit longer. But then again, you will be on standby in the capital for a while. I won’t tell you to not enjoy yourself, but make absolutely sure to not cause any pointless troubles. Remember, the disgrace of one is the disgrace of everyone.” The Vanadis stared at her soldiers with a sharp glint in her eyes while saying so. Once Elen confirmed that the atmosphere had changed and that the soldiers had tightened their faces in tension, she revealed a smile and told them to step away.
Elen returned to her own room in the royal palace, accompanied by just Lim. She wanted to take a stroll along the streets with their lined up stalls, but there was something else she had to deal with first.
Elen leaned Silver Flash, which she had worn at her waist, against the wall, and positioned the table and chairs next to the window. Then the two sat down while facing each other across the table.
“Those saying they want to live in Brune numbered three?”
Lim shortly answered, “Yes,” with an expression that lacked sociability as always.
“Soldiers, who went on an expedition, deciding to leave the army after finding a local lover, eh? I had heard about this happening in stories, but for it to actually happen in my army…” Elen muttered with a deeply moved expression while gazing at the townscape visible through the window. “Still, my troops have visited Nice many times so far, so why did three soldiers turn up with such a story only on this occasion?”
“The recent battles were intense, and above all, the expedition lasted over an extended period of time.” Lim replied with a dispassionate voice.
The last battle had been a siege battle with a Muozinel army exceeding 100,000 soldiers as an opponent. If you were to also include the preparatory phase before entering combat, Leitmeritz’ soldiers spent more than 50 days in the capital. Although they might be foreign soldiers, it wouldn’t be strange for lovers to find each other. Among those, three appeared who had decided to embark into a new life.
“I don’t really mind if both parties, men and women, agree, but what do you think, Lim?”
“Yesterday I tried to ask Lord Mashas, and he said that such precedents exist. If there had been too many soldiers, it would have been necessary to meet and talk it over, but if it’s just three men, I’d say it’s just a procedural issue and a matter of both party’s feelings, as long as you give permission, Eleonora-sama.”
“In that case, I have no choice but to allow it, do I? However, since all three of them are brave men, it hurts to let them go.”
Lim nodded at Elen’s word with the intention to show her agreement. She believed that all three had grown so much that they could have been entrusted the command over a hundred or two hundred soldiers sooner or later. They were men with a promising future.
“They will be delighted to hear this, I’m sure.” Lim said, comforting Elen.
It might be a viewpoint that could be called soft-hearted, but exactly because Elen had such a character, Lim was serving as her adjutant.
“By the way, what about you?” Changing the topic, Elen looked at Lim with a teasing smile. “You received marriage proposals from one noble, and two knights, didn’t you?”
Receiving an unexpected surprise attack, Lim got angry at the silver-haired Vanadis, who was her lord and best friend, with her cheeks faintly blushing while lowering her voice. But then again, it wasn’t as though she had been truly offended.
Averting her eyes from Elen, Lim answered while looking sullen, “It’s obvious that I will turn them down. It’s not even worth considering.”
Lim had also been fancied by several men during the long siege battle. Showing up almost every day on the wall while wielding her sword among the men; there was no way that a gallant, female knight, who commanded the soldiers, wouldn’t stand out.
There was no doubt that her also being the adjutant of a Vanadis was one of the reasons for them to make up their mind to propose marriage to her. In case of a Vanadis like Ludmila Lourie, there might be no one considering proposing a marriage as anyone would be overwhelmed by the reality of the difference in status.
“This time it might be fine like that, but…” Elen erased her smile, continued her words with a serious expression, “I’m fully aware that it’s none of my concern. Still, I will deliberately voice it out. Isn’t it okay for you to consider such things as well?”
Lim had become 21 years old this year. One might regard this as late to think about marriage. But then again, she spent the time from the age of 13 to 17 as a mercenary. And if you were to consider that she had been working as a Vanadis’ adjutant up until today since then, you might say that it was inevitable.
“Rather than my circumstances, what about you, Eleonora-sama?” Lim tried to stop this topic through a counteroffensive, albeit a clumsy one.
However, contrary to her expectations, Elen let her eyes wander and started to fiddle with the ends of her silver hair, unable to calm down. Lim knitted her eyebrows at that suspicious behavior, but then immediately recalled a certain incident.
“Come to think of it, I didn’t ask you what happened with Lord Tigrevurmud, did I?”
This was about a matter before Tigre and Elen left the capital while leading a detached force in the war against the Muozinel army. Lim had asked Elen whether something had happened with Tigre. Elen’s answer was a request for Lim to wait a bit longer because she would tell her about the full account soon.
After pulling a face that made it obvious that she had messed up, Elen hung her head with a stiff expression. If she had anticipated Lim’s counterattack to some extent, she might not have exposed such a shameful sight, but now it was already too late.
“What happened?” Although she was unsure whether she should press on here, Lim proceeded onward without any vagueness. As there were only Elen and her in this room, they hadn’t any need to worry to be overheard by anyone else. The sense of security over the war having finally come to an end also powerfully fanned her curiosity.
Lim patiently waited for Elen to respond, and after a time of ten breaths, her close friend lifted her face at last. That face had become bright red up to the ears.
Although she was evasive and faltered to speak up, which wasn’t like her at all, Elen explained everything. And when she finished talking about everything, Elen revealed an expression which was a mix of a feeling of liberation, embarrassment, and a deep-seated remorse.
“Umm, I’m sorry for having kept it a secret until now. I think that I should have opened my heart to you a lot faster, but I failed to do so.”
“That’s alright.” Lim gazed at Elen with an indescribable expression.
Although the shock, which she had received, was quite big, her best friend had been able to form a romantic bond with the youth for whom she had harbored feelings over a long time. If she were to consider just that, she should probably bless this with a smile, as Elen’s best friend and her adjutant.
However, the words leaving the mouth of the frowning Lim weren’t anything like that.
“What are you going to do…?”
Upon that question posed with a tone that showed Lim being at a loss, Elen threw out her chest and answered in a somewhat proud manner, “Tigre told me that he will somehow handle it.”
“That Lord Tigrevurmud took Titta as his beloved concubine if I remember correctly, so…”
“Yeah, I have already heard about it. What, did he talk to you as well?”
“I heard so from Lord Mashas. In the style of a secret talk when we discussed the circumstances of the three.” Lim answered, and stared at Elen with a disappointed look on her face. “Eleonora-sama, you’re alright with this?”
Lim believed it to be only natural for Tigre to possess concubines. Nobles had the duty to carry on their bloodline to the next era. It wasn’t an issue of ranks either. It was necessary because it preserved the peace of the people living in a noble’s territory, and guaranteed the livelihood of those serving the noble house.
Even if Tigre had several concubines, it didn’t pose an issue as long as the concubines approved of each other. For her to think like that was an expression of her trust in Tigre.
However, once she heard that Elen might become one of those concubines, Lim couldn’t help becoming aware how her own heart turned clouded.
“──I want him to look at only me, love only me, and embrace only me.” Elen said while smiling gently as Lim had apparently fixed her eyes upon Elen by reflex. Due to Lim swallowing down her next words, the silver-haired girl continued speaking with a calm expression and voice, “If I said that I didn’t harbor such feelings at all, it would be a lie. But, I thought that only in regards to Tigre I will suppress those emotions.”
Elen took her eyes off Lim, and affectionately gazed at Arifar which she had leaned against the wall next to the window.
“I have no intention to abandon being a Vanadis on my own device. Until the day comes, I will have Arifar and the people of Leitmeritz keep me company.”
As if welcoming those words, Arifar blew a gentle breeze, making Elen’s silver hair gently sway. If this sword, which possessed its own consciousness, were to leave her side, it would likely be at a time when Elen lost her life in the middle of accomplishing her duty, or when she became so weak that she wouldn’t be able to carry out her role as Vanadis any longer.
“Tigre accepted my feelings. He has never said that he wants me to stop being a Vanadis. Even though the need for him to wrack his brain would disappear if I stopped being a Vanadis, he bluffed by saying that he will somehow handle it…”
“Is that the reason why you accept Lord Tigrevurmud’s circumstances as well?” Lim breathed out lightly with several complex emotions showing in her blue eyes.
It didn’t mean that she agreed with it. But, seeing Elen’s face as she was talking so happily, she became unable to say anything else.
What matters aren’t my own feelings, but hers.
“Even if you omit my feelings, it’s probably impossible to not consider Tigre’s convenience.” Returning to her usual tone, Elen said with the expression of a ruler who had been informed about a serious problem. “Try remembering how he was called out by many noble lords at the celebratory banquet’s venue. A hundred would be still a moderate assessment there. Besides, even before that, nobles mentioned their wish of wanting to place their relatives close to him as maids and requested formal marriage interviews.”
“You’re right, such things did happen.” Lim formed a wry smile on her lips while recalling the situation back then.
It was something that happened last year when Tigre headed to Asvarre after accepting the request of Zhcted’s King Viktor. Elen took charge of the bundles of letters addressed to Tigre that had been delivered from Brune. Their contents were full of things similar to what Elen had mentioned just now.
“We should take into consideration that such talks will increase even further from now on. There might be even situations where he has to welcome concubines because of political circumstances. It will be impossible for him to block all of these for my selfishness.”
Silence descended upon the room. The one who broke it after a time of three breaths was Lim.
“──I understand. I shall help you out in my own way, Eleonora-sama.”
“You’re going to become Tigre’s concubine as well?”
“W-Why did the conversation head in this direction!?”
Upon having been asked this by Elen with a solemn face and her arms folded, Lim yelled back with a bright red face while about to rise from her chair.
Elen laughed and shrugged her shoulders, “Don’t be so mad. Half of it is a joke.”
“That means the other half has been said seriously, doesn’t it…?”
“No matter how much the number of Tigre’s concubines grows, it’s not like his time is going to increase. If you and I occupy the timeslot he can spare for his concubines, it will effectively result in you and me being Tigre’s only concubines. That fact won’t change, even if there might be many concubines.”
“That’s an effective but foul move.” Lim scowled while reseating herself.
Lim knew that there were several historic examples where a single concubine lived in splendor with her family after hogging the affection of an influential person to herself.
It’s a valid method. But, with that way of handling things, you will likely draw the animosity not only of the other concubines, but also those who are backing those concubines.
Elen shook her head, “Having said that, even I don’t plan to resort to such a method. It doesn’t suit my personality, and above all, it wouldn’t be good for Tigre. Besides, I would feel sorry for Titta.”
“Speaking of Titta, why did Lord Tigrevurmud turn her into his concubine?” Lim voiced out an issue she considered somewhat questionable. Although she hadn’t been aware of it herself, she was convinced that Titta would remain Tigre’s maid for as long as they lived.
“If I had been in Tigre’s place, I would have happily made Titta my concubine. She’s cute, a hardworking girl, and very attentive. It might be limited to Tigre, but she even has the guts to follow him on the battlefield.”
“I won’t deny your impressions of her, Eleonora-sama, but I can’t believe that Lord Tigrevurmud made her his concubine for such reasons.”
Lim had also repeatedly received Titta’s favors. The bear dolls and stuffed toys, which she had secretly gathered in her room located in Leitmeritz’ official residence, were named and dolled up by her, but several of those had been created by Titta’s hands.
“If he kept Titta as maid around, it’s possible that she would be married to another man. Tigre likely hated that possibility.”
I guess that means he had a desire to monopolize her as a man.
Lim thought. Apparently reading her best friend’s emotions from the minute changes to her unsocial facial expression, Elen continued speaking with a gentle look, “It might be only natural for him to desire her as a man, but Titta knows about the Alsace from Tigre’s childhood. Alsace’s sky and earth, day and night, and the change in the wind’s smell accompanying the transition from one season to the next… I can fully understand the wish of a man, who loves his home so much, wanting to keep the almost only person, with whom he can share sceneries that don’t exist anywhere but in his memories, next to him.”
Even the residents of Alsace are probably not capable of replacing her in that, Elen thought. After all they can very likely only get in contact with Tigre as fief’s population. But, Titta is different.
For just an instant, a faint envy flashed through Elen’s red eyes. It was something unique to Titta, something Elen would never be able to obtain no matter how much she struggled.
“You’re right… I can understand that feeling as well.” Lim nodded.
Feeling that she could finally consent to it was likely owed to Lim sharing past sceneries with the close friend in front of her.
Lim and Elen spent four years together in the mercenary band 『Silver Gale』. After the mercenary band to which they belonged broke up, the two lived while supporting each other. Fortunately, that period was short though as Arifar appeared in front of Elen.
“──Let’s get back to the topic.” Elen gazed at Lim while showing a teasing smile once more. “Leaving marriage aside, isn’t there any guy where you think it’d be fine to speak of love if it’s him?”
Lim’s look became blank, and then her cheeks blushed in no time. Now that she mentioned it, this was their original topic.
Elen leaned forward with her eyes gleaming joyfully, “Going by that reaction, someone came to mind.”
“No, no one comes to mind here.”
Lim immediately regained her unsocial expression, responding indifferently. In a corner of her mind, a single scene surfaced. Lim was sitting at a table with a single youth across from her. As always, she was watching the youth study. There was no one but them two in that room. Whenever she saw the youth’s face bloom into a smile after splendidly solving a difficult problem, even Lim was drawn into smiling broadly, being happy for him. No matter how old the two became, the scenery of them sitting opposite of each other at the same table didn’t change, and before long…
Lim desperately shook off what vividly floated up next in her mind.
Elen’s words just now have been fictive. There’s no need to turn them into reality. She persuaded herself without voicing it out.
After finishing dinner on that day, Tigre visited Elen’s room. The silver-haired Vanadis ushered in the youth with a smile, but seeing that Tigre had an unusually formal expression, she smiled bitterly to cover up her disappointment. It’s because she comprehended that Tigre hadn’t come visiting her to spend some time with her as lovers.
“For the time being, sit down over there. I don’t know whether you came here to consult me about things worrying you or to let me listen to your grumbling, but it’s probably something that goes well with wine.” Saying so, Elen offered Tigre not a chair, but the bed.
She prepared two silver cups and poured the wine that had been placed on the table into them. With the cups in hand, Elen sat down next to Tigre. The youth thanked her and took one of the cups from her.
Muttering a toast in the respective languages of their countries, the two lightly clinked their cups, saying “Santé” in Brunish, and “Zdrowie” in Zhcted.3 After inclining his cup, Tigre stared in admiration at the wine of which around half remained in his cup.
“It’s a really good wine.”
“Indeed. Albeit being a present, that is. I had saved some, planning to drink it together with you.” Elen cheerfully responded while gulping down the wine in one go, emptying the cup. “You feel a bit more at ease now, don’t you? So, what’s on your mind?”
After standing up for a moment, grabbing the wine bottle, and coming back, Elen asked straightforwardly.
Tigre ransacked his dull, red hair with his free hand, and after pondering while staring at the empty wall and making a pause of around three breaths, he spoke up, “Her Highness Regin confessed her love to me.”
Elen, who had been in the middle of pouring the second fill into her cup, froze. Shifting only her eyes, she looked at Tigre next to her.
“In what way?”
The first time was as a simple girl, and the second time as the princess of a country. Tigre concisely explained that she had confronted him with her feelings in such a manner. He trembled in fear, wondering when Elen’s mood would take a turn for the worse, but unexpectedly the Vanadis remained calm.
“──Were you happy?”
That chilled voice sharply stabbed Tigre’s heart after entering his ears. The youth’s shoulders, who had only expected that she would ask him whether he had turned her down, reflexively trembled with a start after being caught totally off-guard.
While filling her cup with wine, Elen continued with a cold attitude as if holding a monologue, “Even in my eyes as a woman, she’s beautiful, and she’s honestly longing for you. On top of that, she’s the princess of a country. I suppose, it’s impossible for you to not be happy.”
“…I will admit that I was happy.” Reluctantly, Tigre answered honestly.
Thereupon, Elen peeked at the youth with a sulky look. “Isn’t it normal at such times to say that you weren’t happy, even if it’s a lie?”
“I wasn’t as happy as I had been when I heard about your feelings.”
Once he said so, Elen sighed unnaturally, and placed her head on Tigre’s shoulder, muttering with a curt tone, “Hmm, I guess I will forgive you. So, let’s hear how you answered her.”
Tigre honestly told her that he rejected Regin the first time, and asked for additional time the second time, and that he wanted to consult her about this.
Elen raised her head from Tigre’s shoulder, and said with a dispassionate voice, “Let me tell you in advance. You don’t need to have scruples because of me. My situation is…”
Tigre’s expression became serious. He brought his face close to his lover’s, and clearly stated, “I will tell you as often as you want to hear it. I want you.”
Elen cast her eyes down, swallowing her words alongside a sigh, and then apologized quietly.
“However, Tigre, I’m happy about your feelings, but… If it’s Regin, she probably won’t object to Titta becoming your concubine. Besides, in my eyes you’re suited to be a king.”
“Do you truly think so?”
Because Tigre’s voice was filled to the brim with seriousness and gravity, Elen stared at her lover’s face with a faint feeling of doubt.
The youth asked once more, “Do you think that I…someone like me is fit to be the king of a country?”
As a person originating from the border land called Alsace without hailing from a particularly prestigious noble family, and without having any other redeeming abilities in martial arts besides his archery, he had never considered to become something like a king.
He could laugh it off when his old friend, Gerard, told him so. However, after being persuaded so devotedly by Regin, being confronted with a passionate speech by Olivier, and being told so by Elen now as well, doubts started to well up in Tigre’s mind.
Although I can’t put it off any longer, I wonder whether I’m truly suited to be king.
Reacting to the youth’s look, Elen laughed lightly, “If you allow me to tell you, I think it slightly differs from what you imagine.”
Tigre frowned. He didn’t really understand the meaning behind Elen’s words.
While pouring wine into Tigre’s cup, the Vanadis continued to speak as if it was nothing, “Kingship isn’t about being suited for it or not. It’s about what you want to do.”
“What you want to do…?” Tigre repeated her words in a whisper like a parrot.
It was something he hadn’t even thought about. Tilting her wine cup, Elen brought up a nostalgic story.
“Do you remember the time when you were my prisoner of war? You said that you want to study my territorial government in preparation for the time when you would get back to Alsace, didn’t you?”
“There’s no way that I would forget it.” Tigre answered with a laughter.
It was at that time that the relationship of Lim being the teacher and me being the student came to be. Besides, I have learned a lot from Elen’s behavior as a ruler.
“You were brimming with the wish of improving your Alsace even further and thoughts about what you want to do. In the end, that’s what it means to become a king.”
“…You mean, what it is I want to do as a king?”
“Or, what it is that you want to accomplish so much that you would become a king for its sake, to rephrase it.”
While holding the wine in her mouth, Elen’s ruby eyes reflected scenes from a distant past. A fragment of an old memory surfaced in her mind, turning into the form of a single man. That man was a mercenary and a being similar to a father for her. He was the man who had shaped her way of life. His name was Vissarion.
“There was something I wanted to do. Having said that, back then I spent my days wandering from one battlefield to another as a mercenary. I didn’t have any confidence in when I would be able to realize my dream. However, I didn’t give up on that desire. Because Lim was with me, too.”
Lim gave advice to Elen, listened to her complaints at times, and encouraged her. There were times where the two of them talked all night long about what they wanted to do. Even after Elen became a Vanadis, that didn’t change.
“It’s fine if it’s unreasonable right away. Keep shaping your idea while taking your time. Besides, there are times when the shape will change by the things you envisioned. Around four years have passed since I became the ruler of Leitmeritz, and yet there are many parts which I still couldn’t figure out.”
Besides, there are also times where you make revisions to your plans. It’s because every day brings about new discoveries and challenges. As long as you aren’t negligent in your studies as ruler, that will likely continue to be so.
“How about it? Was I somewhat of help to you?”
Tigre nodded deeply at Elen who asked jokingly. A flame of deep admiration flickered faintly in the youth’s black eyes. He felt as though the shape of something, which he had obscurely perceived as terrifying for some reason up until now, became more clear.
“Thanks. It was a good idea to have consulted with you.”
Once Tigre thanked her with a voice full of happiness, Elen leaned in close to him, and looked at the youth with passionate eyes.
“I’d like to have your thanks in a certain form, if you don’t mind.”
Tigre immediately grasped what his sweetheart desired. With his cheeks flushing faintly, he gently embraced her shoulders.
Elen closed her eyes. The youth did the same as he softly overlapped his lips with hers. The tenderness and minuscule heat of her lips sweetly stimulated Tigre. He had a hunch that he could clearly draw the shape of Elen’s lips in his mind, if it was now.
After some time had passed, their lips separated. Both were able to feel happiness with their hearts being wrapped up in warmth by just staring at each other’s faces. However, both weren’t satisfied with keeping it at one time.
“I might want to indulge in your thanks for a bit longer.”
“I was also about to think that it might have been slightly lacking.”
Putting their arms around the other’s back, they made their bodies cling to each other even closer. Their fragrances tickled their noses. Then, both kissed each other many times. And Tigre didn’t limit his kisses to just her lips, but also plastered her forehead, cheeks, ears, and neck, causing Elen to return tit for tat in the same way.
Quite a bit of time had passed when Tigre returned to his own room. He lit the candles on the candlestand by himself, and stuck two maps on the wall.
He thought that he would try to consider the things Elen taught him right away. Because the hallways had been filled with a fresh night air seeing how summer was nearing its end, he was able to switch over his thinking while cooling his head until he arrived at his room.
He sat down on a chair, and stared at the two maps illuminated by the candle light. One depicted Alsace, the other all of Brune.
What the youth desired above all was peace for Alsace where he had been born and raised. He believed that this wish wouldn’t change, no matter for how long he might live. If it came to a position controlling Brune, he couldn’t only look at his homeland. However, he could put in effort so that Alsace would be peaceful.
What kind of situations would bring about danger for Alsace?
For example, if a territory adjoining Alsace would be threatened by some kind of danger, that threat would sooner or later reach Alsace as well. Also, in the past, the troops of Zion Thenardier had attacked Alsace, but if something like that took place, the small, weak Alsace would be turned into scorched earth in no time.
Maintaining peace in all of Brune, making it prosper, making sure that no powerful nobles get ahead of themselves, and keeping a powerful army so that no foreign country would feel the urge to attack. Those things would result in a protection of Alsace. By complying with Regin’s wish and taking the throne, Tigre might be able to work on those things for the first time.
“…Mmh.” Releasing a murmur that didn’t turn into a word, Tigre frowned.
He was sure that this was what he was desiring, but he felt a sense of discomfort. Perceiving that something was lacking, he thought that his deliberations still were incomplete.
──Am I obsessing too much over Alsace?
Changing his way of thinking, he tried to at least probe his mind for what he wanted to do. What came up as the very first was hunting.
For the sake of hunting in Brune’s various mountains and plains, I need the kingdom to be peaceful. I need to maintain the roads so that people can freely walk all the way to the borderlands, and establish small inns at fixed intervals. Isn’t it possible to invigorate the trade within the kingdom even further, if you guarantee the safety during travel for peddlers so that they can use those inns?
Moreover, he could dispatch experienced hunters to all kinds of places to have them search for good hunting spots. And while at it, he could have them gather all kinds of local information. If he managed to organize it skilfully, it would advance Tigre’s hunting, and afterwards, his government. There was also the option to gather experienced hunters to form a special unit.
Keeping an eye on all of Brune and securing the people’s livelihood would naturally be a major premise in this.
──It’s fun to have tried pondering about it in jest. It also makes me all excited, but… I guess it’s far too nonsensical.
For the time being, I will keep it in mind since it’s definitely something I want to do. It might also be possible to make it come true in some sort of shape. Although I got Regin to give me some time, there won’t be enough time if I think of the many things I ought to do. Still, I shouldn’t rush and take my time to continue envisioning things.
He looked at the candles. The lit flames would probably last for another koku. He thought that he should try to let his thoughts wander until then. He thought of the land he had traveled so far, and recalled the people he had met. Once he looked at the names of the locations written on the map, various images flooded his mind.
What is it that I want to do?
Tigre continued to ponder about various things until the candles’ flames went out.