Great news! We reached the first goal of 40 patrons, effectively enabling a weekly release of one chapter part every Wednesday for as long as we stay above that benchmark! Thanks to everyone who helped out to make that happen!
Currently we’re at exactly 40 supporters, and as you can see above, I wrote down the next goal (current release rate = ~ 2 LN volumes per year => next goal = ~3 LN volumes per year).
As an addition: As long as we stay above 40 patrons, I’ll immediately continue with translating Mila’s Spin-Off (Volume 8 in the raw will be released in April iirc) once the main series is done.
If you wish to support the translation of this wonderful series, consider becoming a patron. As bonus you also get to read ahead. 🙂
There was a huge archive deep inside Brune’s royal palace. Documents putting together the achievements of successive generations of kings; records of famous knights and civil officials; documents composed of poetry, prose, legends, and various events that took place in the kingdom; books; scrolls; and letters were stored there in all kinds of shapes. Additionally, there were documents pertaining to stories about events that took place in the neighboring countries and folklore handed down in those lands. Given that Brune had been a stopover for the trade between various countries in the east and west since ancient times, travelers heading from east to west, and on the other hand, caravans departing from west to east had imparted those stories, or had left written recounts of them behind.
Finishing his simple breakfast consisting of just milk and bread in the morning, Tigre visited the archive together with Elen, Lim, Mila, and Sofy. Lim and Sofy had prepared pots filled with painting materials, pens for everyone, and bundles of parchments. Because Regin had given them permission, Elen and the other Vanadis could use the archive as foreigners. Prime Minister Pierre Badouin had pulled a cramped face when he had heard about it, but after being persuaded by Mashas, he gave up his resistance and approved of it.
Mashas had seen Baba Yaga at Zhcted’s Lebus. Moreover, Mashas and Badouin, as well as Viscount Augre had heard about the abnormality of Ganelon from 『Illusory Princess of the Hollow Shadow』 Valentina. If Tigre and the Vanadis said that they wanted to investigate those things, he had no reason to refuse it.
Tigre, who had pushed open the heavy double door, stood stock still in a daze, overwhelmed by the majestic view flooding his visual field. Bright light poured into the room through several holes in the ceiling. What this illumination allowed to see was a huge space completely packed with many bookshelves. No matter the shelf, all of them were stuffed with books, leaving no gaps. Fine dust particles could be seen dancing within the rays of light.
Chests with beautiful ornaments had been placed on the floor, storing many scrolls and letters. It was unimaginable just how many hundreds or thousands of documents they contained.
Probably for those studying the documents, a huge evergreen oak table and many chairs had been set up in the center of the room. There also were several candlesticks to provide additional illumination, and a few books crests. The candlesticks had the part with the candles to be lit covered by glass globes. Likely a measure so that the books wouldn’t catch fire if something were to happen. The book crests also had imposing forms with their leg parts being gilded.
A sigh of admiration escaped Sofy’s lips as she stood behind Tigre. Lim surveyed the archive with her face tense in nervousness. In contrast to those three, Elen and Mila looked bored.
It’s great that there are many things to examine, but this is way too much. We only got five people here.
“Sorry to disturb your fascination, but how are we going to look things up? If we were to go through each and every single document, even one year wouldn’t be enough.” Mila asked Sofy while pushing the back of the youth, who was still staring in wonder, up to the center of the archive.
Making her wavy, golden hair sway, Sofy looked all around her with a serious expression.
“Let’s narrow down what we will investigate. Black bow. Tir Na Fal, Goddess of Night, Darkness and Death. And demons. Please only pick up records that seem to be related to those three. Ignore everything else. However, only when there’s something that piques your curiosity no matter what, you may add it to the pile.” Saying so, Sofy took something into her hand which had been placed on top of the bundle of parchments. Those were similar to bookmarks made out of big leaves and pressed flowers. “I will now give everyone of you three of these. Have a go with these today, and we will consider how to proceed tomorrow after seeing today’s outcome.”
And then Tigre and the others each decided on the bookshelves they would be in charge of. Books written in languages they couldn’t read were taken to Sofy because she was well-versed in languages other than Brunish and Zhcted.
Tigre stood in front of his bookshelf, took out each book one-by-one, and scanned through them. However, given that he wasn’t accustomed to this kind of work, he didn’t make much progress. In addition, whenever he spotted traces of heroes, calamities of ancient eras, and farming methods that seemed adoptable in Alsace – in other words, things unrelated to their current research topic – his eyes were unconsciously drawn to them, despite knowing that he should abstain.
“──How is it going?”
Being suddenly called out from behind while completely absorbed in reading and having lost all sense of time, Tigre’s shoulders jumped up with a start. Once he looked back while swallowing his breath, he found Mila standing there.
Even while being suspicious of the youth’s reaction, she said in a whisper, “Since you’ve been so immersed in reading, I wondered whether you’ve found something interesting.”
Even though a cool air was dominating the archive, beads of sweat formed on Tigre’s forehead. He tried to get out of it by being evasive with a vague answer, but the blue-eyed Vanadis wouldn’t fail to notice that. Revealing an evil smile on her lips, Mila went around to the right side of Tigre, and peeked at the book in his hand.
“Hmmm, 『The Life of Sarah, the Divine Official of God Perkunas, who Served Founder Charles』, eh…? I wonder what part of it piqued your interest.”
Because Mila had lowered her voice’s volume, the other three apparently hadn’t noticed yet. Partly resigning himself to his fate, Tigre replied in a whisper while pointing at the part he had been reading, “It says that this person had traveled from Brune’s north to the east. It was apparently for the sake of building temples in the villages and towns at scales befitting those places.”
“So you imagined that she might have passed through Alsace or something?” Mila sighed and drove her elbow into Tigre’s side. As she had used more strength than expected, Tigre reflexively had a coughing fit.
“Was I able to reset your motivation? Leave such things for another time.”
Saying so over her shoulder, Mila walked towards the table before Tigre could give an answer. The youth ransacked his hair while reflecting, and returned to their research target.
On the other hand, Mila, who had returned to the table, resumed her work by opening a book that she had placed on a pile.
Sofy, who had been investigating in the same way, leaned herself slightly forward as she sat close to Mila, and asked quietly with a gleam of expectation dyeing her beryl eyes, “What did you talk about with Tigre?”
“I just scolded him for slacking off.” Mila curtly replied without looking at the blond-haired Vanadis.
Sofy probed further, “You scolded him, and then?”
Once she understood from Mila’s tone and expression that she wasn’t hiding anything, Sofy pulled her body back, entrusted it to the chair’s backrest, and sighed.
“It looks like this will drag on longer than I had expected…”
“Shut up. Do your work seriously. It’s your field of expertise, no?”
Once she retorted with a voice that would only be heard by Sofy, Mila turned the page with a sullen look. But then again, her irritation was mostly turned at herself. Mila had fallen in love with Tigre. It happened a good while ago. However, with Tigre and Elen having a romantic relationship, there was already no room for Mila’s feelings.
It was Sofy who spoke up to Mila without even adding any encouragement or incitement to her words. Sofy also considered Tigre romantically as an ordinary girl. Even though she knew about the relationship between Tigre and Elen, she didn’t mind it overly much. And Sofy told Mila that she would give Mila a chance to confess her feelings to Tigre first.
As for Mila, she was simply in a mental state where she didn’t know what to do. Mila herself thought she possessed discernment and decisiveness. She believed that she could come to a clear solution by mulling things over calmly, no matter what problem it might be. She should be a person capable of giving up on things that were out of her reach.
A sigh escaped her lips when she thought back on her own actions. She had talked to him even though there was no need to do so, and yet she was slightly elated over such a silly conversation. It wasn’t just now either. Even during the celebratory banquet, her eyes followed Tigre whenever there was a sudden break in the conversation.
──I wonder whether it’ll become easier if I confess to him and get to hear the negative reply out of his mouth.
She had thought about this several times, but as soon as she started concretizing her plans, she became irritated. She didn’t feel inclined to put them into practice. In the end, Mila didn’t do anything even after several days passed since the instigation by Sofy.
──I shouldn’t think about anything unnecessary, but instead focus on the things in front of me.
Once she cleared away her idle thoughts by shaking her head, Mila scanned the current page once more. This book was about the fairies of Brune and Zhcted. It was so elaborately made that it even included colored illustrations, but its writing style that seemed very fairy-tale-like made Mila feel anxious.
──I guess I can’t expect too much out of this.
Yet she continued to turn the pages while believing that she should read the book to the end, even if only skimming through it roughly. And then, when she reached a page at around halfway through the book, Mila’s hand stopped.
The page depicted a frog fairy called Vodyanoy.1
Mila had fought a demon called Vodyanoy twice in the past. On both occasions she had cooperated with Tigre as he was such a formidable enemy that she probably wouldn’t have been able to defeat him by herself. Seeing the left side of the page, Mila grimaced. The picture of a frog standing upright on its hind-legs and stuffing its cheeks with something like a gold coin was drawn there. This frog was likely a Vodyanoy.
What piqued Mila’s interest wasn’t the frog itself, but the picture’s background. The frog looked down at the ocean while standing ashore, but the ground was violet, and the ocean green. A black circle and a red circle floated in the sky.
──What’s with this!?
She thought that the pages might have changed its colors over the many years of preservation, but according to the text written on the right side of the page, the black circle was apparently the sun, and the red one the moon.
──So it was just a fairy-tale after all. Still…
Mila looked at the illustration once more. Frankly said, it was disgusting. Unable to feel any of the fantastic atmosphere she would often encounter in the illustrations of fairy-tales, she felt as if she was shown a world where just about everything was different. Mila closed that book, left her seat, and put the book back into its shelf. There were tons of other books she had to look through.
Four days had passed since they begun to investigate. Currently they had no results to show that were worthy to be mentioned.
Around the time when the sun started to sink in the west on the fifth day, Tigre and the others left the archives with exhaustion plastered all over their faces while having their efforts go unrewarded. Walking next to each other through the corridors that were becoming increasingly darker as dusk infiltrated the castle, they chatted with each other about their future plans.
“Haven’t we already checked half of the documents by today?”
Sofy shook her head with a happy look next to Elen who sighed while dropping her shoulders.
“We’re still at around 40%. Things are going to start from now on, we got to take time by the forelock. Since you usually won’t receive permission to enter the archives of a kingdom unless it’s something quite urgent, it’s a precious experience, Elen.”
“It would be nice if that precious experience would be connected to happiness and fun, though. I feel like my head is fully stuffed with words.” Elen replied.
Just when Sofy was about to say something, Tigre, who had walked behind them silently so far, spoke up.
“About tomorrow, would you allow me to skip the investigation for one day?”
“Do you have some errands to run?” Lim asked while walking on the youth’s left side. On his right, Mila turned her eyes at him, looking curious.
“I considered trying to go to the temple on the summit.”
If you kept ascending the mountain road from the royal palace, you would arrive at a temple on the summit. The temple had been built by Charles as proof of his gratitude to the gods. Tigre thought that he might be able to find some clues there, seeing as Tir Na Fal was a goddess as well. Coming up with the idea to do something like this stemmed from the tenth-something book Tigre checked being a recount of Charles’ founding of Brune.
Tigre knew about the temple built by the founder even as someone at the lower end of nobility in Brune, but he had never drawn a connection between this investigation and the temple until he skimmed through the book.
“I think it’s a good idea. Are you going alone?”
“No… I think I will take Titta along.” Tigre answered Sofy’s question after hesitating for a moment.
Titta had been trained as a shrine maiden in Alsace, and thus possessed detailed knowledge about the gods. If it was her, she might know something he wouldn’t. The reason why Tigre hesitated was because Titta had been previously possessed by a being that appeared to be Tir Na Fal. Until today, the youth felt a strong resentment when he recalled how he had fired an arrow at her back then.
However, it was no mistake to regard Titta as reliable help in this. He decided to try to discuss it with her, first of all.
“Alright, me too ── is what I want to say, but I guess I will refrain here.”
“That’s only natural. It’s the temple built by the kingdom’s founder.”
Mila rolled her eyes in response to Elen’s remark. Compared to other temples, this one was treated differently. Even if they might be Vanadis, it wasn’t a good place for a foreigner to casually stroll in.
“Let’s leave the decision up to Lord Tigrevurmud here, Eleonora-sama.” Lim said, obviously smoothing things over.
Elen nodded obediently, “It would be really great if something good came out of it.”
“Pray for it to be so,” Tigre responded with a smile.
Morning of the next day, Tigre headed to the temple on the summit together with Titta. Tigre wore linen clothes beneath an overcoat. He was also shouldering his black bow. Just like the youth, Titta also wore an overcoat above her clothes. She had tied her chestnut-colored hair into a ponytail, and a basket filled with bread and a bottle of wine dangled on her elbow.
Once Tigre looked up, he saw how the sun was hidden behind an extent of ashen clouds. A cold wind was blowing down the slope. Tigre and Titta walked next to each other along the mountain road with its gentle ascent. Since they would arrive on the summit in less than half a koku, according to Regin, they had no need to hurry.
“It’s been a while since I last went somewhere with you, Tigre-sama.”
“Yeah, both of us have been busy since coming back to Brune.” Tigre nodded with a smile at Titta who was looking up to him with her hazel eyes sparkling.
The mountain road had been thoroughly maintained with the weeds removed, the ground tamped down, and stairways established at places where the inclination became steep. However, in places slightly away from the road, nature had apparently been left to its own devices.
Discovering white and yellow flowers within the thickets spreading out on the mountain’s slope, Titta pointed it out to the youth with a smile. While listening to her words, Tigre felt relieved in his heart. It was last night that Tigre had spoken to Titta about going to the temple. She had readily agreed without any hesitation, and today morning she had appeared in front of the youth with her usual smile.
──Did I overthink?
Whenever one of them recalled something, they brought it up as a topic with the other while walking. There were a plethora of things they could chat about. While Tigre spoke about the people he met on the battlefield and the celebratory banquet, Titta talked about a stray cat who had sneaked into the royal palace and how she had searched something dropped by the daughter of a certain noble together with everyone.
“Come to think of it, recently Mr. Gerard and Mr. Rurick have often visited me.” Titta tilted her head to the side in confusion.
Gerard was the Royal Secretary, and the son of Viscount Augre on whom Tigre had been relying. Rurick was a Zhcted knight under Elen. Both were men Tigre deeply trusted in regards to their abilities and personalities. According to Titta, both had apparently started to regularly come to see her after the Muozinel army withdrew.
“Both of them wanted to hear various things about you, Tigre-sama. Such as your future plans, and so on.”
“It’s odd, isn’t it? Even though they just need to ask you in person. And, as soon as they run into each other, it immediately develops into a fight.”
“It’s been like that with those two since their first meeting. It must have been hard on you as well.” Tigre lightly tapped Titta’s shoulder, who was smiling wryly, as thanks for her efforts.
Tigre had an idea when it came to Gerard. He wished for Tigre to become the king of this country. It was only natural that he cared about how Tigre planned to move from now on. In Rurick’s case, Tigre believed that it might be related to him being a knight of Leitmeritz.
──I have no doubt that he’s concerned about my movements from a standpoint differing from Elen’s and Lim’s. Elen and the others will go back to Zhcted before long, won’t they?
They had their own lives in Zhcted. Not to mention that a Vanadis couldn’t afford to indefinitely neglect the territory she ought to rule as lord of the principality. This applied all the more so for Mila and Sofy who were acting on their own decision, and not upon the king’s order.
And then, as they were continuing to climb the mountain road, the summit came in sight. When they spotted the temple, which silently stood there with the gray sky as backdrop, Titta’s face became slightly stiff, probably out of nervousness. It was just for a little moment, but Tigre didn’t fail to notice it.
Once he called her name, she looked at him, and immediately formed a stout-hearted smile on her lips.
“Tigre-sama. I will be fine. If you say something along the lines of going back after having come this far, or just me returning to the palace, I will get angry with you, okay?”
Tigre, who was indeed about to say something in that lieu, reflexively asked even while feeling startled by Titta’s remark, “You will get angry?”
“I will scold you as strongly as when I do to wake you up after you overslept, Tigre-sama.” Titta answered while throwing out her chest and pursing her lips. That example, which no one besides her could have used, lured Tigre into a light laughter, but immediately following, he put his arms around her back and pulled her frail body into his embrace.
He believed himself to be inexcusable and felt ashamed for his thoughtlessness to not have seen through her resolve. And above that, Titta’s existence was precious and lovable to him. He was happy that he could have her by his side. Thus he decided that he would protect her no matter what might happen.
Titta seemed to be surprised by the youth’s sudden action, but she immediately released any excess-strength from her body, fully entrusting herself to Tigre. Her feelings got all worked up due to his warmth that was transmitted through their contact, and as she whispered Tigre’s name, she shut her eyes.
The youth gently overlapped his lips with hers. They could faintly sense each other’s passionate, hot breaths. A cold wind was blowing along the mountain road, but neither of them took any notice of it. Before long, Tigre removed his lips. Titta’s moist eyes looked up to the youth with her cheeks flushed and an expression that looked vacant as if she was caught in a dream. If not for Tigre hugging her, her legs might have buckled, resulting in her flopping to the ground.
“So that’s how it feels…” Titta said with a faltering voice while casting her eyes down, obviously embarrassed. “Unlike what I have been imagining, it was far more…”
…Dreamy, gentle, and overflowing with emotions were the words that she spun into her hot sigh.
Tigre turned a gentle smile at her, and tenderly caressed Titta’s head as she giggled. The two kissed two, three more times with their bodies gradually heating up. Becoming unable to think of anything but the lover in front of them, they desired to connect in ways other than the lips, and thus grasped each other’s hands and entangled their fingers.
“──I think we should go.” Around the time when a hundred breaths had amply passed, Tigre called out to Titta after they pressed their lips against each other a last time, and separated without it being clear who made the first move.
Titta cheerfully and curtly confirmed.
Shortly thereafter, both arrived at the temple. First they headed towards a cemetery situated in a place slightly distant from the temple. Tigre got Regin to tell him the location of the grave of Black Knight Roland in advance. For Tigre, Roland was an unforgettable man. They met in battle during the civil war two years ago, but Roland had recognized Tigre and passed on the kingdom’s treasured sword, the Sword of Invincibility, to him. Moreover, it had been Roland who appealed to the knights to cooperate with Tigre.
Tigre reported at his grave that the invaders had been repelled, and prayed to the gods for Roland’s soul to rest in peace. And then Titta and Tigre left the cemetery.
──Durandal still hasn’t been found, has it?
It was said that the Sword of Invincibility had been stolen on a winter night, close to New Years. Regin had secretly started a search for it, but Tigre heard that the investigation was dragging on and difficult. Tigre wanted to lend her his help as well, but as expected, this sphere of work was beyond his abilities. He had no choice but to pray to the gods that Regin and Badouin would be rewarded for their desperate efforts.
When both arrived at the temple once more, they were guided to a guest room, and then received by the elderly head priestess of the temple.
Tigre and Titta exchanged polite greeting words with her, and then immediately moved on to the main topic. After the preface that he couldn’t speak about the concrete details, Tigre explained that they were investigating Tir Na Fal. Even after hearing the name of the Goddess of Night, Darkness, and Death mentioned, the head priestess didn’t show any visible reactions.
“We will be very careful so as to not become a nuisance for you. Could you allow us to take a look, if there are any documents handed down from the time of the Founder Charles?”
“You won’t find anything as significant as that in this temple, but feel free to research as long as that’s still fine with you. However, there’s one thing I’d like to ask.” The head priestess put on a serious expression, and continued, “Your Excellency Earl Vorn, what kind of existence do you believe Tir Na Fal to be?”
“If you allow me to state my true feelings, I do not like her.” Tigre answered clearly.
He didn’t understand the intent behind that question, but those were his true feelings which he couldn’t falsify.
The head priestess took on the youth’s look, and said in a quiet tone, “When standing in front of the gods, you have to face them impartially.”
No different from until now, there was absolutely no coercive demeanor to be found in the priestess’ face, but her words rang in Tigre’s ears, possessing a mysterious dignity.
Tigre bowed silently. He was aware himself that he very likely hadn’t been able to understand even half of the meaning behind those words, but he decided to keep them in mind.
“Umm, Head Priestess, I have a request, if that’s possible.” Titta stated shyly. Telling the priestess that she was someone who had piled up training as a shrine maiden, Titta spoke of the wish to pray to the gods after they finished their investigation. The priestess agreed with a gentle smile, and Titta bowed after expressing her thanks.
And then the two had the priestess guide them to the temple’s archives, but it was far smaller than they had expected. It was a windowless room with a width and length of thirty chet. The old bookshelves in front, to the left, and right were crammed. Books and letters only filled the shelves on the sides. The shelves in front housed small idols and ritual objects that were not in use right now.
Tigre and Titta entered the archive while holding burning candlesticks for illumination. The candlesticks had the same structure as the ones used in the royal palace’s archive, covering the part with the burning candle with a glass globe.
“Most of it seems to be temple logs.” Titta muttered as she gazed at the spines of the books lining up in front of her.
Tigre looked around the small room and thought that they couldn’t expect much out of this, but he encouraged himself and Titta, “At any rate, let’s try to systematically go through all documents here. If there’s even one book that writes about something that could help us, it will already be a gain.”
“You’re right. I will do my best, Tigre-sama.” Titta clenched her small fists and answered with a smile that appeared to encourage Tigre instead.
When Tigre and Titta finished their search, the sun was about to go down outside the temple. Fatigue, faint discouragement, and disappointment dyed their faces. They had kept at it and gone through all documents, but they didn’t find any text that might serve as a clue. Or to be more precise, the two couldn’t find any.
──I guess around this much is the limit…
Tigre dropped his eyes on the three parchments he had filled out as carefully as possible. They contained a summary about the first Duke Ganelon. He had been a priest to begin with, and was said to be a trusted, faithful retainer of Founder Charles, a close friend of the king. Although he was called a priest, he didn’t only pray to the gods, but also spoke to spirits and fairies, and was well-informed about sorcery. And thus he was entrusted with the management of Saint-Groel, said to be the place where Charles received his divine revelation, and the rule over the city of Artishem located above the underground temple.
However, while such things were recorded, Tigre didn’t find a single anecdote about the first Ganelon. It was just something about him fighting a monster that was neither old nor did it possess a skeleton, but there was nothing about him performing special ceremonies as a priest or him accomplishing something as Charles’ subordinate.
Tigre had no choice but to hope that Sofy would be able to make use of this little amount of information.
“Thanks, Titta.” Tigre smiled and lightly placed a hand on her shoulder. He thought that he should properly express his gratitude to her before getting all depressed.
Titta nodded and answered with a sweet smile, “No problem. But it didn’t go as we wanted, Tigre-sama.”
“No helping it. We have to hope that Elen and the others had more luck at the palace.”
Just when the two left the archive, Titta looked up to the youth as if having remembered something.
“Tigre-sama, is it fine for me to go pray?”
“I will go with you as well. Though I can’t pray as well as you can, Titta.”
They had already obtained permission from the head priestess. And thus they walked through the hallways, and entered the prayer hall. It was the second-biggest room in this temple. By the way, the biggest one was said to be the room where the things that belonged to Founder Charles had been stored away.
The hall had a circular shape, and a high ceiling. It looked like the light from outside was guided into the room through an ingenious setup. The floor was sparky clean. Not only the statues of the ten gods worshiped in most of Brune, but also statues of aboriginal gods that were only worshiped in a single, small region were lined up along the walls. Anyone experiencing that sight would inevitably be able to sense the solemn atmosphere.
Titta went down on her knees in the center of the hall, praying to the gods, whereas Tigre stood at the entrance of the hall, gazing at her. Eventually, Titta finished praying and stood up. Tigre quietly muttered a prayer to the gods, and entered the hall. Smiling at her, who was quickly coming his way, Tigre invited her.
“Titta, is it okay for us to look at the statues of the gods for a bit?”
While she had been praying, Tigre had looked at the statues for no particular reason, but they piqued his curiosity. Although he talked about taking a look, it was just about going around the hall. Titta nodded with a smile.
There were small slates with the names of the gods engraved placed at the feet of the statues. If there were names he had never heard at all, there were others he remembered having been mentioned in folklores and such. Tigre was honestly full of admiration. He was very interested in their figures as they were similar to trees or no different from beasts.
Seen from the entrance, the ten gods were lined up deep inside. Even though there were small differences in the ornaments, the gods here were just like the ones in other temples. While paying special respect to just Eris, the Goddess of Wind and Storm, Tigre tried to pass the ten gods’ statues.
Suddenly something queer jumped into their eyes, and the two stopped. Tigre and Titta stared at those statues while frowning. At the end of his eyes was the statue of a goddess who held a bow. The name 『Tir Na Fal』 was carved into the slate at her feet. Also, at the feet of the goddess next to her, and the one following after, were slates with the same name of Tir Na Fal. In total, three statues of Tir Na Fal had been lined up. Moreover, all of them had appearances completely different from the Goddess of Night, Darkness, and Death which Tigre and Titta knew.
“What does this mean…?” Tigre groaned deeply. Titta had also lost her voice, and was merely staring at the goddesses in a daze.
The hall began to be wrapped up by dusk, creeping in from outside.
When Tigre and Titta left the temple, one and a half koku had passed since their discovery of the Tir Na Fal statues. As they listened to the head priestess’ stories, time flew by before they even realized. Since the curtain of night’s darkness had long ago overtaken the sky leaving only the stars and moon as scarce light sources, Tigre and Titta went down the mountain path after receiving a torch and lighting it.
While they walked through the darkness with their hands linked, Tigre remembered their conversation with the head priestess. When Tigre had asked why there were three of her statues lined up next to each other in the prayer hall, the head priestess had answered that all of them represented Tir Na Fal with a calm expression and a firm tone.
“What does that mean?” Tigre had asked while frowning.
In response, the head priestess answered like a grandmother who was teaching her grandson, “It’s said that Tir Na Fal represents the general name of three goddesses from an ancient era long before Brune came into existence. Later on those three goddesses were turned into one.”
The mural Tigre had seen in Saint-Groel in the past revived in his mind. Three goddesses each placing their hands on one of the necks of a three-headed dragon. Tigre remembered Regin explaining it as a battle between dragons and gods. One of the goddesses had held a bow.
The head priestess’ explanation continued, “The ten gods who are being generally worshiped in Brune and Zhcted…King of all Gods Perkunas, God of War Triglav, God of Fame Radegast, God of Livestock Vohloss, God of Wealth Dirge, Goddess of Wind and Storm Eris, God of Hearth’s Fire Svarkass, Goddess of Harvest and Lust Yareelo, and the Goddess of Night, Darkness and Death Tir Na Fal. Just going by her name, it already sounds different from the other gods, right?”
Tigre nodded. It was something he had considered strange as a child as well. However, since it had been like that long before he was born, he stopped wondering about it at some point.
“Tir Na Fal governs the night, darkness, and death as wife, elder sister and younger sister of Perkunas. If you consider that the three goddesses have become the foundation for this, it’s understandable.”
“Why didn’t you tell us of this…?” The tone of Tigre’s voice unintentionally turned bitter.
The priestess should have told us when we extended our greetings, telling her that we came here to investigate Tir Na Fal.
The head priestess answered while remaining as calm as before, “Even if I had told you back then, I don’t think that you would have listened to me obediently. As someone serving the gods and working in the temple, it would be impossible for me to impose on you.”
The youth had no choice but to admit that she was right. The head priestess thought of Tir Na Fal as one of the gods. With Tigre unable to cast away his negative feelings about Tir Na Fal, it might have been impossible for him to listen to her words in earnest. But then again, that was all he could learn about Tir Na Fal from her. Even the head priestess didn’t know how it came to be for the three goddesses to be called like that.
──But, we did gain something from this for sure. At last it feels like we’ve got hold of a clue. If I talk about this to Sofy, there might be some new findings.
The youth couldn’t help but to hope for this to come to pass. Also, he was able to hear an unexpected story from the head priestess, about his mother.
At the time when he was about to leave the guest room after politely thanking the head priestess, she asked Tigre with a tone as if she had suddenly remembered something, “I’d like you to tell me one thing: Isn’t Diana the name of your mother?”
Not just Tigre, but even Titta looked back at the head priestess in surprise.
“You know of my mother…?”
“I had considered the possibility when I heard the family name Vorn. So I suppose you are the child of Urs-sama and Diana after all.”
The two sat back on their chairs in a fluster. Tigre calmed his breathing, and said to the head priestess, “If possible, could you tell me about my mother? I believe I know all about my mother’s life in Alsace, but I don’t know anything about her life in the capital. Even when I asked other people, I only heard that she was a quiet, gentle person…”
“Still, it’s not like I can provide you that many details about her either.”
Even while being slightly surprised by Tigre’s face being a mix of tension and anxiety, the head priestess told him what she knew of his mother.
“Even though that girl’s body was weak, she loved to stroll through the fields and mountains. Because she couldn’t leave the capital much, she walked around the royal palace’s gardens or came up to this temple along the mountain road.”
Making the best possible use of her position as daughter of the gardener serving in the palace, Diana roamed the Luberon Mountain, and often visited this temple, the priestess said.
Diana’s father was recognized for his abilities after becoming an apprentice of the previous gardener, and was recommended by his predecessor to succeed the job. He apparently originated from an ordinary commoner family, and not a special lineage. However, his skills and sincere work attitude were appreciated in the palace, and even after Diana became a girl without a single relative when her father passed away, she was permitted to stay in the palace, and was granted the freedom to move around just as she had done so far.
“It looks like she encountered Urs-sama in one of the palace’s gardens. When he called out to her as she was resting after getting exhausted, they chatted with each other, and she fell in love with him in the process, or something like that.”
Maybe, Tigre thought, Mom was drawn to Dad because she sensed Alsace’s landscape in Dad’s words and behavior. Or, is this the child’s wish for its parents’ meeting to be dramatic, even if only a little?
“It’s a story from long ago now, so I can’t really remember what I talked about with Diana, but just her words when she left the capital to follow Urs-sama I remember as if it had been yesterday. Once I told her 『Please contact me as soon as you settled down in Alsace and had a child』, she laughed, saying that she would give birth to a healthy child, and added this: 『I hope for my child that it will find something to cherish, and be able to protect it』.”
Stopping to speak at this point, the priestess turned a gentle look at Tigre.
The youth clenched the fists on his knees, and replied with emotions as if being in front of his deceased mother, “I have found something to cherish. I plan to do anything that allows me to continue protecting it.”
The priestess stared at the youth, whose face and words were oozing with determination, with a kind smile.
“Please inform the two of it when you have returned home to Alsace.”
Tigre and Titta bowed deeply towards the head priestess, and left the temple.
After around the same time they needed to climb up to the temple, Tigre and Titta arrived back at the palace. Once they passed through the gate, entering a building, the coldness diminished as the wind disappeared. After extinguishing the torch’s fire, Tigre turned towards Titta.
“Titta, thanks for today. You were a big help.”
Titta responded, “Sure,” with a smile, but her hazel eyes flickered full of anxiety. What she had learned today apparently didn’t allow for her feelings to calm down as someone involved with Tir Na Fal.
While gently stroking her head in the hope to give her at least some peace of mind, Tigre asked in a deliberately cheerful tone, “I guess I have to show you my gratitude for having accompanied me today. Is there anything you want or something I can do for you? Please feel free to speak your mind.”
Upon those words, Titta averted her eyes, casting them down, and acted hesitant. Tigre silently waited for her. After a time of around ten breaths had passed, Titta said with a daring look, “Umm…is it also fine for me to stay in your room tonight, Tigre-sama?”
Her voice was quiet and slightly shaky. Tigre quickly looked around him, and once he made sure that no one was close, he gently hugged Titta. He pressed his own cheek against hers, and at the moment when Titta stirred, lifting her face, he went for a kiss on her lips.
After their lips separated, Tigre smiled kindly at her, “I will wait, so come over anytime.”
Titta’s cheeks blushed in embarrassment, and she cast her eyes down once again, but still nodded lightly.
Around the time when Tigre and Titta were descending from the summit, Regin had a conversation with Prime Minister Badouin in her office about who would be a good choice to send as envoy to inform Zhcted of the victory in the war.
“I think there’s no one as suitable as Earl Vorn.”
Regin looked bitterly at the elderly minister who wore the gray attire of an official.
“Is there no one else?”
“No one who has achieved as many accomplishments as him comes to mind.” Stroking his beard that extended erectly and reminded one of a cat’s whiskers while rejecting her entreating gaze with an indifferent look, Badouin continued, “──Your Highness, I also have plenty of matters I’d like him to handle in the capital. However, he’s the only person with whom Zhcted’s king would be pleased.”
The duty of an envoy wasn’t just the announcement of the war’s victory. As Regin’s representative, they would need to express their gratitude to the king for Zhcted’s dispatch of reinforcements, hand over presents, and promise a long, continuous friendship. It was needless to say that the promise of friendship was especially important.
“According to the reports delivered today, it wouldn’t be odd for infighting to break out any moment in Muozinel. Sachstein and Asvarre seem to be preoccupied with each other for a while as well…”
It was an event dating back a few days. Envoys from Sachstein and Asvarre visited the royal palace, asking for a non-aggression treaty with Brune. Sachstein had brought over gifts that could even be called excessive, such as silk, pelts, adorned water jugs and bishop’s staffs, numerous silver handiworks, and a jewel box crammed with pearls, as they had invaded Brune this spring.
“I understand Sachstein’s and Asvarre’s true intentions, but do they believe that we have this much leeway?” Regin asked her prime minister while tilting her head to the side.
Badouin narrowed his eyes like a cat, revealing a cynical smile, “It’s because Earl Vorn is on our side.”
Tigre defeated Krüger, one of the generals, in the war against Sachstein, and he also forced General Schmidt, who led the cavalry unit, to withdraw. Moreover, he repelled the royal prince Kureys in the war against Muozinel. Sachstein suffered a crushing defeat in a battle against Kureys roughly ten years ago. Even though they assaulted Muozinel with a huge fleet of a thousand ships, they were beaten back by Kureys who confronted them while leading a fleet of merely 200 ships.
The being called Tigrevurmud Vorn was turning into something close to a nightmare for Sachstein. Foreign countries that looked down on Brune as feeble and invaded, were sent scurrying back home with pitiful results once Tigre showed up while leading his military forces. Also, they couldn’t help being wary about the rumor that Tigre was close to Tallard Graham who was the de-facto ruler of Asvarre. Sachstein believed that they must avoid Brune’s intervention by any means necessary.
What Asvarre believed wasn’t all that different from Sachstein. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t as though they didn’t have any shortcomings either. After all, they tried to invade Brune alongside Sachstein. Seeing how they decided to battle Sachstein, Asvarre needed to get on the good side of Brune.
After listening to the end of Badouin’s explanation, Regin frowned her face in displeasure, “In that case we should keep Earl Vorn here all the more.”
“Is it fine, Your Highness?”
Given that he knew that the princess’ words were no more than grumbling, Badouin ignored them and requested her approval. Regin nodded reluctantly. She couldn’t help but smile at Sachstein and Asvarre. Just like them, the current Brune couldn’t afford to turn Zhcted into an enemy, no matter what might happen.
This was how it was decided for Tigre to head over to Zhcted.
Tigre woke up, feeling someone’s presence. His field of vision was wrapped up in darkness, but his left hand briskly extended for the black bow placed next to him. While embracing Titta, who was cuddling close to him in her sleep, with his right arm, he pushed aside the blanket, and raised his body. Both Tigre and Titta didn’t wear a single piece of clothing.
This was Tigre’s room in the royal palace. He knew from the darkness and the cold air that it was dead in the night. While staring in front of him, allowing his eyes to get used to the darkness, he searched for the presence, sharpening all other senses besides his vision.
He heard a cheerful laughter right next to his ear. All blood drained from Tigre’s face. Suddenly Titta’s right hand was lifted, and gently stroked the youth’s cheek.
“──It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”
Titta’s nude body was clad in a faint bluish-white light within the darkness. Her slender shoulders, the cavities at her collarbones, and her slightly bulging breasts stood out against the black background. Her chestnut-colored hair, which was loosely flowing down, was wrapped up by a dim phosphorescence. Her hazel eyes shone crimson, and the smile forming on her lips made him sense a womanly allure.
Tigre swallowed his breath in fear with a shudder, but without averting his eyes from Titta, he put strength into his right arm holding onto her. As if stating that there was no way for him to let go of her over something of this degree.
──I guess I shouldn’t have taken Titta along to the temple after all…!
While regretting his own decision albeit it being too late now, Tigre cautiously asked, “Which Tir Na Fal are you?”
“Try to guess.”
The something possessing Titta didn’t deny being Tir Na Fal. A faintly happy timbre dyed her voice.
Anger burned in Tigre’s black eyes, “Get out of Titta. If you want, you can possess me instead.”
“I don’t want to. This child’s body feels comfortable. Above all, it allows me to be embraced by you like this, and this method is also more convenient to talk with you.”
Tigre was puzzled by her unexpected remark. Enduring the urge to retort that it was Titta whom he was embracing, he waited for Tir Na Fal’s answer.
“It was you who looked for me. That’s why I descended. All that’s necessary has been assembled as well.”
“I guess you’re talking about the corpses that have been buried along the highway.”
There were two things necessary for Tir Na Fal to appear: 『Darkness of the deep night』 and 『Many corpses』.
Most of those who died in the war against Muozinel had been buried along the highway. It was rare for the corpses to have been buried together on a single hill like the soldiers of Leitmeritz. There was also urgency to finish burying the corpses as fast as possible because of summer.
Tir Na Fal let a chuckle slip at Tigre’s words, “That’s not all. The casualties of the foreign country are sleeping in great numbers in the buried moats, aren’t they?”
She was talking about the Muozinel soldiers. They, who had fallen on foreign soil, weren’t given a burial, but got buried at the same time as the moats were filled in.
By the way, Regin had invited a priest worshiping the gods of Muozinel from far away, and got him to pray to his gods while going once around the capital. She explained it to the capital’s residents with, “It’s so that the souls of the foreigners won’t rage, bringing about harm and misfortune.”
Of course there was opposition to that, but with this she could make a claim to the Muozinel that they had held a proper memorial service for their dead, albeit omitting some time and effort as they were pressed with work. It was something that had to be done in advance.
Tir Na Fal manipulated Titta’s body, making her put her slender arms around Tigre’s neck. Her body as she was glued to him felt somewhat cold.
“I’m repeating myself, but I will always answer your calls.”
“What…” About to lash back at her, Tigre swallowed his words.
Right now it was a situation similar to Titta being held captive. He couldn’t act thoughtlessly.
──However, what does she mean by my calls? How should I respond to this?
The youth pondered deeply while staring at Titta’s face. At that moment, the words of the head priestess flashed through his mind.
──When standing in front of the gods, you have to face them impartially.
Tir Na Fal looked closely at Tigre, who had suddenly sunken into silence, in amusement. As if seeing through all the conflicts the youth was facing.
Tigre closed his eyes, attempting to calm his highly strung emotions. When he had settled down to some extent, he muttered Tir Na Fal’s words in his mind. One-by-one he diligently retrieved scenes from the depth of his memories. When a time of around twenty breaths had passed, he slowly, and deeply breathed out.
“Certainly, you’re right.”
When using the black bow’s 『power』, Tigre always asked for strength. Although he had now reached the point of being able to draw out the 『power』 consciously, the power itself wasn’t Tigre’s. She had been answering Tigre’s requests.
“However, recently I haven’t asked for the black bow’s 『power』.”
“You and this child asked for me. And you got one step closer to me, to us.”
Tigre raised an eyebrow. Since he was persuading himself to remain impartial, he asked back in order to confirm, “Are you going to tell me what I want to know?”
“Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way.” Tir Na Fal laughed and added, as if having predicted the youth’s question, “What I’m going to tell you about will explain the objective of those children.”
“Their objectives…?” Tigre widened his eyes.
He certainly wanted to know about the plans, objectives and motivation of the demons.
“They are trying to change the world.”
Tigre grimaced. The goddess’ words were too sudden and abstruse.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean it literally. They’re going to change how the world functions to make it easier for them to exist here. The sun, moon, earth, and ocean; all of it will become something for their sake.”
Without answering back right away, Tigre frantically strove to comprehend it logically.
“Is it possible…something like that?” The youth asked as if squeezing out his voice.
“It’s something that took place many times so far. The ruins of those events also remain all over the world as proof.” Tir Na Fal laughed lightly, and continued her words as if singing, “You never heard stories about people encountering something non-human, or getting completely lost somewhere that’s not here? In myths, poems about deeds of arms, heroic tales, fairy-tales, and songs that have been handed down. Those are remnants of the worlds that existed in the past. Fragments of the dreams desired by them.”
“I still can’t quite swallow all of this, but…” Tigre shook his head in irritation, and ransacked his hair with the hand that held the black bow. “What will happen to the humans if the world changes in such a way?”
“They will become foreign elements. Just like those children are in this world at the moment.”
Foreign elements. Tigre tried to mutter it under his breath. In spite of not fully understanding the meaning, he felt a chill travel down his spine for some reason.
“It will result in you continuing to live while having lost the light. The sun’s light won’t reach a world that turned into ruins.”
I still don’t get it. However, Tigre could imagine that many of the people he cherished would be lost. Very likely there won’t be any peace for Alsace in such a world. Same for Brune, Zhcted, and the other countries. As well as their people.
“Is there any way to stop it…?”
“I told you, didn’t I? It’s something that took place many times so far. Same can be said about them being thwarted by humans, or them being overthrown. However, you must search the path yourself. It’s what the humans before you did as well.”
Tigre fixed his eyes on the black bow in response to the goddess’ words. Suddenly a bad suspicion welled up within him, and he asked Tir Na Fal with an uneasy look, “I certainly don’t think so, but me possessing this bow was fate or something along those lines?”
On that day two years ago Tigre should have grasped the black bow out of his own volition. However, maybe that had been decided to be so by someone else, a being exceeding human intellect, or a concept.
The red eyes of the goddess gleamed as she denied this by shaking her head.
“How silly. There’s no way for something like that to be true, is there?”
“…Thanks.” Tigre expressed his gratitude with a face revealing that he was relieved from the bottom of his heart.
Tir Na Fal continued, “Even if you call upon the gods’ names, you have never considered depending on them. Instead of surrendering yourself to the gods’ ruling, you believe in your own power. That’s a part I really like about you. Please don’t let me down.”
Tigre reflexively blinked several times, gazing at Tir Na Fal. Judging by what she was governing, she wasn’t a normal goddess, but all things considered, he couldn’t believe to hear those words from one of the gods. Probably because his feelings showed on his face, Tir Na Fal’s smile transformed into something close to a scornful laugh.
“We don’t exist for the sake of the humans. It just happens that we occasionally help them out on a whim.”
“Is that also the same for the other gods besides you?”
Tir Na Fal bent her head slightly to the side upon the youth’s question.
“All of them went somewhere a long time ago. One day they might suddenly come back here if they feel like it.”
Tigre wondered just how much time would register as a long time ago for a goddess. It probably won’t end at a range of several hundred years. I guess it’s several thousand years ago, or maybe even further into the past…
『Well then, it’s time for me to head back soon』
The goddess’ words resounded in Tigre’s mind, and not his ears. The bluish-white light wrapping up Titta’s body rapidly weakened in front of the surprised look of the youth. Her arms loosely dropped down, as if having lost all power, and the crimson light vanished from her eyes. At that moment, Tigre finally remembered. When the goddess had possessed Titta’s body in the past, her words reached his mind without her moving Titta’s lips or releasing a voice from Titta’s mouth.
Once the light completely left Titta’s body, darkness took back its reign over the room. Tigre safely caught Titta, who had started to collapse like a puppet that had its strings cut. Placing the black bow in his left hand next to him, he tightly hugged Titta with both arms.
A voice that seemed to fade any moment tickled Tigre’s ear. The youth answered back with a confirmation in order to cheer her up, and gently stroked Titta’s back repeatedly. Although words of apology were on the tip of his tongue, he swallowed them back down on the brink of voicing them out. On the way towards the temple on the mountain peak, he had accepted Titta’s feelings. Regretting to have taken her along would slight those feelings. The reason that it’d be owed to him cherishing Titta wouldn’t justify it either.
“Is your body alright?”
She answered his question positively. Her voice was as upfront as typical of her, without any hint of her acting strong. He unconsciously put strength into the arms embracing her.
“I’m glad that you’re safe.” Tigre whispered, placing all his feelings into those words.
This time Titta confirmed with a happy voice, and after taking a short breath, she said, “Tigre-sama, is it fine for me to ask one thing of you?”
The youth immediately realized the request she had whispered at his chest. Sliding his left hand across Titta’s naked body, he touched her face, he brought his face close after telling her, “Here I come.”
Their lips overlapped within the darkness, and both pressed their lips against each other many times over as if mutually exchanging their warmth. Once the umpteenth kiss came to an end, Titta dropped into Tigre’s chest once again.
“Should we go back to sleep?” The youth asked tenderly.
There was no hint of dawn breaking as of yet. Besides, even if not to the extent of Titta, whose body had been possessed by the goddess, Tigre also felt exhaustion weighing down on him.
Titta nodded curtly, quietly extended her left hand, and placed it on top of Tigre’s right hand. Both naturally entangled their fingers, and then laid down on the bed while embracing each other.
“If we are like this, it’s warm and slightly ticklish.” Titta joyfully rubbed her cheek against Tigre’s shoulder. She let her right hand glide on the youth’s chest as if hugging him from the side, and put her right leg atop the youth’s. Her thigh pressed against something. “Umm, Tigre-sama,” Titta lowered her voice while speaking up timidly, “I’m, umm, still fine, so…”
Without saying anything, Tigre grabbed her head, drew it to him, and forcibly stole her lips.
On the next day, Tigre told Elen and the others in the archive about last night’s events. By the way, he hadn’t brought Titta along on this occasion because he didn’t want to make her feel embarrassed.
“Those are big results, Tigre!” It was Sofy who raised her voice in delight.
Without minding the looks of Elen and Mila, she leaped at Tigre, and hugged him so tightly that the youth became flustered with his face bright red.
“Please enlighten us as to how those would be big results, Sofy.”
“I’m sure Tigre wants to hear about that as well, so get away from him, okay?”
Elen and Mila, who had put on grim expressions within a blink of an eye, believed that the blond Vanadis might even go as far as kissing Tigre on the spur of the moment if they didn’t tear her off with brute force. Lim prepared a chair for the youth, and had him calm down by making him sit down there.
“Well then, I’ll give a simple summary of what we know.” Sofy looked at Tigre and the others in turns while holding a bundle of parchments in both hands.
Those parchments were a collection of all the things they had investigated up until yesterday. Of course Sofy had looked through all of it, and sorted it in her mind.
“The objective of the demons is to remake the world. They’re trying to borrow Tir Na Fal’s power for that sake. We don’t know why they chose this goddess, but I suppose it’s because a part of Tir Na Fal is close to them, or maybe it’s owed to Tir Na Fal being the only goddess left in this world… If it’s that part, we can only guess.
“That would mean they tried to abduct me…no, the one who can use the black bow to borrow Tir Na Fal’s powers. For the sake of getting in contact with Tir Na Fal through the black bow.” Tigre pulled a bitter face.
If it was like that, he could understand why Vodyanoy and Torbalan referred to him as the 『Bow』, and thus agreed with Sofy.
“I think you’re right. If you think of Torbalan and Baba Yaga, it doesn’t seem as if they follow the same intentions, but we can’t let our guard down.”
“Wouldn’t that mean that they can’t use the bow, in such a case?” Lim tilted her head to the side in puzzlement. “According to what we have heard from Ludmila-sama, they also tried to abduct Lord Tigrevurmud, and didn’t just attempt stealing the black bow.”
“I’m certain. At the very least Vodyanoy tried to take Tigre along.” Mila replied as she crossed her legs on her chair.
“Tigre’s father never used the black bow, did he? Taking that into account, I wonder whether it’s not something unrelated to lineage and similar, but instead simply requires the bow’s abilities.”
“Yeah, that’s definitely something I can agree on.” Elen consented while making her silver hair sway, and Lim and Sofy also nodded deeply.
In this world there very likely wasn’t anyone besides Tigre who could use the bow. And the youth’s archery skills weren’t just based on his bodily gifts, but had been forged through daily combat during wars and hunts.
“On the other hand, we’re Vanadis, and yet──” Sofy narrowed her eyes, looking uncomfortable. A faint anger dwelt in her beryl eyes. “──we’re treated as nuisances because we’re possessing powers allowing us to oppose them. It looks like it’s a safe bet to say that such battles between the Vanadis and the demons also took place in the past.”
“In that case, I really would have liked them to have left us some records so that we would know about it.” Elen let a sigh escape while folding her arms.
Mila shook her head, “Even if records were to actually exist, I don’t think that we would believe them. Usually you wouldn’t consider stories of having victoriously fought against demons as anything but fables to gain fame.”
Sofy asked for Tigre’s opinion with her eyes. In response, the youth said to the four with a serious look, “What we should investigate next are their numbers and the location of their stronghold.”
We will definitely bring them down. That was the firm resolution behind Tigre’s words as it echoed within the girls’ hearts like a powerful charm. All of them, be it Elen, Lim, Mila, or Sofy, looked at Tigre teeming with respect even as their lips formed smiles. Like generals revering their supreme commander on the battlefield. But then again, the bonds between the youth and the Vanadis were reared on the battlefield in the first place.
“However, if you consider the demons’ names and their connection with Tir Na Fal, not just Brune, but our country could possibly hold some clues as well, no?” Lim carefully voiced out her opinion.
Elen responded with a grim face, “It’s quite possible. The temple worshiping Baba Yaga was located in Lebus…”
“Then we must properly look through the rest before going back to our country.”
Sofy lifted her face, turning her eyes towards the bookshelves. At once Elen and Mila became visibly dejected. While it might be true that they felt the need, it wasn’t as though they were overflowing with will.
It was just then that salvation for Elen and Mila arrived in the form of a person. The voice of Mashas Rodant asking whether it was fine for him to enter after knocking on the archive’s door could be heard from outside. Of course Tigre had no reason to turn him away. Walking over to the door himself, he opened it and showed the old Earl into the room. Seeing Elen and the others after entering the archives, Mashas’ face broke into a smile.
“Ooh, all of you are here? Sorry for the abrupt visit, but I’d like to borrow a bit of your time.”
Mashas was 57 years old. Silken clothes covered the short and stout body of the old earl with his impressive gray mustache and hair. Without any particular prefaces, he directly informed them about the decision to dispatch a delegation of envoys to Zhcted, and Tigre’s selection as chief delegate. Furthermore he said that Gerard and Gaspal, Mashas’ second son, would act as deputy delegates.
“It looks like the investigation will take a few more days?”
“Let’s see, I think it will be five or six days when adding some leeway.” Sofy replied while bending her head to the side in contemplation.
“I guess you could call that perfect. Getting everything ready for the delegation will take us around that much time as well. By the way, what are you ladies going to do? It would be very welcome for us if we could have you accompany the delegation, but what do you think?”
The dispatch of a delegation of envoys would take place to suit Brune’s convenience, and thus there was no reason for Elen and the others to go along with it. Accordingly, it was necessary to propose it in this way.
“Hmm, Brune probably won’t experience any invasions from foreign countries for a while, so I assume we will go back as well.” Elen answered.
With Mashas joining them, all six talked about the schedule for some time. When it came to the topic of taking the sea or land route, Mashas said as if having just remembered, “Which reminds me, did you know about the inauguration of a new Vanadis in Legnica?”
He said it all too casually, but there wasn’t anyone not surprised by this piece of news. After Alexandra Alshavin, nicknamed 『Hidden Princess of the Luminous Flame』, passed away last year, Legnica had continuously remained without a new Vanadis.
Elen looked back at Tigre with an apologetic look. If they were to head to Zhcted over land, they could drop in for a short visit at Alsace. However, Tigre shook his head.
“Let’s go with the sea route. I’d like to also meet that new Vanadis.”
He was naturally curious as to what kind of person she was, but there was another reason beyond that. If the exchange with Zhcted should deepen in the future, it would be imperative to meet the new lord of Legnica, a principality facing the sea, as quickly as possible. Besides, if she was someone open to reason, he wanted to discuss with her the battle against the demons, and ask for her cooperation.
Mila and Sofy also agreed with using the sea route. The wish to meet the new lord of Legnica was the same for them as well. Elen nodded lightly to express her feelings of gratitude, and turned back to Mashas.
“Lord Mashas, let’s please do it like that.”
“Understood. I’d like you to leave the arrangement for a ship and the preparations of inns along the way to me.”
After thanking Mashas, who had replied so while holding his head high, Sofy gently tapped Mila’s shoulder.
“You did it, didn’t you?” She whispered with a voice that couldn’t be heard by anyone but the blue-haired Vanadis.
Mila deliberately put on a sour look without replying anything to that. However, her cheeks turned faintly red.
“That means I have to write a letter to Olmutz…,” was the only thing she finally muttered after a little while.
Damad was the sole Muozinel spending his days in Brune’s royal palace. He was twenty years old. As typical for Muozinel, he possessed a dark brown skin, a tall figure, slender nose and chin, and a fully trained body reminiscent of a black panther. He was a warrior deeply trusted by the Royal Prince Kureys of Muozinel, but after he was defeated by Elen in the previous battle, he had become a prisoner of war.
Afterwards Damad’s custody was transferred to an unknown place, and right now he had become Tigre’s prisoner. Even though it was a very short period of time, the youth had cooperated with Damad in the past, and now that the war had ended, Tigre wasn’t in the mood to take his life any longer. The room assigned to Damad was a place that could be described as a makeshift guest room. Nothing but a table, chairs, and a bed could be found within the room of moderate size. There was just one window, and it was so small that he couldn’t even fit his head through it. Still, you might call it a first class suite when it came to prisoner treatment.
Evening of that day, Tigre visited Damad in his room. While at it, Tigre brought in dinner for two, and lined it up on the table. Filling the table with various dishes such as carefully toasted bread with cheese and smoked meat in-between, bean soup using plenty of herbs, pickled cabbage and pork meat, grilled quail wrapped up in grapevine leaves, and stew with river fish, shrimps, and potatoes boiled in wine, aroma that whetted one’s appetite rose from the food alongside the steam of its hotness. As for beverages, they had wine, apple cider, and cold black tea.
Although Damad’s face broke into a smile, he didn’t forget to make a request to Tigre.
“I’m happy about the bountiful meal, but I’d be a lot more thankful if you were to bring up a talk about a job for me on this occasion.”
As a prisoner, Damad had no means to become free except waiting for someone to pay the ransom for him, or earn a sum of money equal to the ransom with his own hands.
Tigre answered joyfully, “I will soon go to Zhcted. Do you want to come with me? I will release you once I’m done with my business over there. I will also provide you with the travel expenses for the way until Muozinel.”
“To even pay for my travel expenses, that would be quite generous of you. Let me hear the details.” Damad said while looking at Tigre with eyes full of suspicion.
His expression clearly showed his belief that any story too good to be true always had some kind of catch to it. Without any particular wish to hide anything, Tigre told Damad about the objective of the delegation of envoys. The young Muozinel nodded, indicating his understanding.
“So you’re saying you will show the strength of the alliance between Brune and Zhcted to me?”
It’s no wonder that he’s trusted by Kureys. He grasps things quickly.
While smiling, Tigre replied with a somewhat serious look, “That’s a part of it as well, but if I’m not here, no one will take care of you.”
“Okay, now that’d be really scary…”
Right now Brunians still harbored deep hatred and anger toward Muozinel. It was even possible that a short-tempered person would beat up Damad for him just entering their sight. If he focused on the capital, Tigre could find as much work as he wanted, but Damad’s origin was the reason why Tigre wouldn’t be able to give him any decent work. Damad’s safety was guaranteed exactly because he was Tigre’s prisoner.
The two poured wine into the respective other’s porcelain cup, and began to eat. The bread combined with the properly melted cheese and the smoked meat brought out the flavor of all three. The soup had a simple taste, but it washed away the oiliness of the pork meat and the quail. And the flavor of river fish and potato had deeply permeated the wine stew.
“Compared to the meals in my country, the taste is somewhat bland, or rather, it feels elegant, but considering that it’s Brune’s flavoring, it’s not bad at all. However, is it okay for you to eat together with me?” Damad looked at Tigre while stuffing his cheeks with the quail. “You probably raised quite a bit in rank due to the previous battles. Aren’t you busy dining with the big shots?”
“Right now everyone’s busy dealing with the aftermath of the war. Besides, it’s become my job to babysit you, right? I’ve got to check on you at least from time to time.”
Once Tigre answered in a joke, Damad laughed, looking like he wanted to tell Tigre to mind his own business. They chatted about silly stuff while chewing on bread, putting meat and fish into their mouths, and rinsing it all down with wine and apple cider. Seeing how they were born in different countries, both had different environments in which they grew up. There were a plethora of topics available to them. Both being only two years apart in age was also fresh for Tigre. Moreover, not having to take human relations and etiquette into account, and not getting blamed for somewhat bad eating manners with the other party being Damad was a nice change of pace for the rural noble Tigre.
Their topic shifted to the current situation of Muozinel. Tigre himself was curious about it as well, but he had been told by Prime Minister Badouin that he wanted to hear about the internal state from a Muozinel, no matter how trivial a detail it might be. Damad didn’t hide anything in particular either.
“His Majesty the King had several children. It was four, I think? Anyway, all of them are young. Even the first prince is still twelve years old. Due to that, the prime minister relied on His Highness the royal prince.”
“In short, you’re saying Muozinel won’t be able to avoid chaos?”
“I’m pretty sure no one had expected for His Majesty to pass away so early. Each of the king’s children has influential nobles and powerful families backing it as guardians. There ain’t no way for those guys to remain silent. It’s set in stone that other groups will make moves left and right as well.”
“After all Kureys would likely come out victorious if it were to turn into a civil war, huh?” Tigre’s tone was somewhat stiff.
Damad laughed while rolling his eyes, “There’s no way for me to know about something that far in the future, is there? Though, I personally feel that I’d want His Highness to win in such a case.”
“Still, if I listen to you, people who could oppose Sir Kureys…”
“There’s you.” Damad pointed his spoon, which had the soup’s grease clinging to it, at Tigre. “It’s not unrealistic for someone of the nobility or powerful families to ask for help from a foreign country. Even you somehow managed to defeat the dukes after borrowing Zhcted’s power, right? There might be some guy who’d pile up riches and beauties in front of you to get you to fight His Highness.”
Tigre stared at the black-haired Muozinel with his mouth gaping-wide open.
That was a blind spot. Such a possibility is certainly thinkable.
Damad continued while revealing an evil smile, “In reverse, it’s also possible that someone would attack Brune or Zhcted. Raising achievements is the quickest way to get the upper hand over the competitors.”
“No matter who moves how, it’s definitely something I’d like to be concluded within Muozinel.” Tigre shrugged his shoulders in an exaggerated manner.
He could have placed a distraction by using a joke, but those were words coming out from the bottom of his heart. They went on with idle chatter for a while afterwards, and then Tigre tried to confront Damad with something he had suddenly come up with.
“By the way, if you were told to become king, what would you do?”
“I’d go for it.”
Tigre looked at Damad, who had answered immediately, with eyes filled with a mix of surprise and admiration.
“Even if it’s just a hypothetical story, you’re quite confident there, aren’t you?”
“I mean, king is probably first on the list of things I can’t become no matter how much I want it. But if I could, I’d do it right away.”
“You won’t try to consider whether you’re suited for it or such?”
“You’ve got retainers for those things, don’t you? Kinda like Shahryar.” Damad answered with a look as if saying that it was pretty obvious.
Tigre titled his head to the side at the name he hadn’t heard before. Due to that reaction, the young Muozinel frowned, but immediately nodded in understanding.
“I suppose you don’t know Shahryar. It’s a famous tale in my country, though.”
Damad gave a simple explanation. It was a story handed down since old times in Muozinel.
Once upon a time, there was a prince called Shahryar. He was a prince branded as 「Careless」 and 「Frivolous」, but as he had some good parts to him, he was loved by many people. The reign of his father, the king, was firm like a rock thanks to the support of his loyal and capable prime minister. Eventually the king passed away, and Shahryar’s time to ascend the throne came. However, Shahryar entrusted the governing of the land to the prime minister, and went on a journey to search for a woman who would become his queen. Shahryar was attacked by bandits, monsters, and assassins on his journey, but each time he was saved by remarkable warriors or resourceful swordsmen. Shahryar persuaded them to serve him, wrote introductory letters to the prime minister, and sent them to the capital one by one while continuing his journey. Before long he met a beauty, took her back home to the capital, and made her his queen. The queen wasn’t just beautiful and of a good nature, but far smarter than Shahryar. Shahryar himself was regarded as 「Careless」 and 「Frivolous」 to the end of his life, but it’s said that he built a peaceful era with the support of the prime minister, his queen, and the loyal retainers he had discovered himself.
“That’s what I mean. If you gather excellent subordinates, you’ll somehow manage. This story of Shahryar is pretty popular in Muozinel.”
It was a fresh way of thinking for Tigre.
Regin said it as well, didn’t she? That she’s running the government while being supported by many people.
There was no doubt about the existence of things which only the king could shoulder. However, if they decided that Tigre’s actions were in the interest of the country and its people, others besides Mashas, Augre, and Olivier should appear with the wish to support the youth.
Several days before departing the capital Tigre was called over by Prime Minister Badouin.
“We want to hold a farewell party for you and the delegation.” Badouin informed Tigre in his office after they finished their greetings. He also added that Tigre should keep his schedule open for the evening before his departure. “It’s planned to use one of the royal palace’s rooms as a venue. There’s no need for you to fuss over your attires. I have already notified Lord Gaspal and Lord Gerard.”
And then, on the day before the delegation’s departure from the capital, Tigre, Gaspal, and Gerard headed to the room they were told about in advance.
“Is your body okay by now, brother?” Tigre asked Gaspal on his left while walking through the royal palace’s corridor.
Gaspal was 22 years old. He possessed black hair, which had a tinge of gray, and black eyes. He was a man endowed with a well-built body. He suffered a serious injury in the war against Muozinel, but now he had already recovered so far that he could walk around while laughing.
“As you can see. Rather, I laid around so much that my body actually grew dull.” Gaspal laughed openly while hitting his own arm.
Gerard, who was walking to Tigre’s right, cast a sidelong glance at Gaspal’s condition, and asked with a sarcastic undertone, “It’s wonderful that you’re brimming with motivation and all, but is it really okay? The destination is Zhcted’s capital, Silesia. It’s not like we’ll be able to go there and return within ten days.”
Gerard was a thin-looking man, possessing bronze eyes, and quirky, dark brown hair. He had been using his excelling abilities of crunching numbers, and managing provisions and materials to support Tigre.
“I have asked His Excellency the Prime Minister about the general schedule. We don’t have any urgent plans, so I believe it’s a good opportunity to visit Zhcted.”
Gerard shrugged his shoulders and grinned at Gaspal, who had replied to him with a deadly serious look.
“You just found a lover, didn’t you? It’s the girl who has been nursing you after your injury, no?”
“Where did you hear that?”
Gaspal looked at Gerard with a shocked expression. Tigre also turned a surprised look in Gaspal’s direction. Gerard’s shoulder trembled as he was obviously holding back his laughter.
“I have heard stories about you walking along the streets with a young woman on several occasions, you know?”
The young noble with the black hair groaned lowly without denying it. After congratulating Gaspal, Tigre looked up at him with an anxious look. Noticing that, Gaspal hit the youth’s shoulder while laughing.
“This is a private matter. If she were to stop loving me until I come back, it would just mean that she wasn’t the right one for me. It’s nothing you’ve got to worry about.”
“Understood. But, please don’t become too enthusiastic in your attempt to bring her back nice tales of your travels, okay?”
“Since he’ll be able to get her to nurse him again as long as he manages to return sound in wind and limb, I’m sure it’ll be alright.”
Tigre burst out into laughter against his better judgment upon Gerard’s dispassionate retort.
While holding such a conversation, the three arrived at their destination. It appeared to be one of the guest rooms, but one on the smaller side. A huge carpet was laid out on the floor, and there were neither tables nor chairs to be found within. The light of the silver-made chandelier hanging down from the ceiling illuminated even the corners of the room. The windows had been decorated with many tapestries very likely using harvests as motifs.
Badouin was already in the room. And not just him. Mashas and Viscount Augre were with him as well. The three of them were sitting on the carpet. A dozen wine bottles, silver cups for everyone, and plates carrying cheese, dried meat, and similar were placed around them.
“I’m glad to see that you made your way here.”
Badouin didn’t wear his usual, gray official attire, but plain hemp clothes. It was the same for Mashas and Augre. It was a declaration that they weren’t here in their functions as prime minister and leading authorities of the kingdom, but as friends. Even sitting on the carpet without providing any tables or chairs might follow the same intention. The three young men around Tigre responded to their seniors with polite greetings.
Waiting for Tigre and the other two to sit down on the carpet, Augre poured wine in the cups and passed them around. Once Badouin had ascertained that everyone held a cup, he made a toast.
“Well then, we’re praying for a safe journey of Tigrevurmud Vorn, Gaspal Rodant, and Gerard Augre.”
Matching with Badouin’s words, the five men hoisted up their cups.
“When I had heard about a farewell party, I had unintentionally expected something grandiose.” Gerard said with a relieved expression.
Gaspal nodded at that, “From your mouth to the gods’ ears. Parties got to be enjoyable, seeing how rarely we do them. It’s no good to get stiff shoulders in their process.”
At first the six men chatted with each other all over the place, but gradually the talks between parents and child took the lead. Gerard and Augre, as well as Gaspal and Mashas. It might be only reasonable since they would depart on a long journey tomorrow.
However, once such pairs had formed, it inevitably resulted in Tigre taking on Badouin as conversation partner. The cat-faced, old prime minister was a lot more frugal with words than Mashas and Augre. Tigre tried to bring up various topics, but his responses were lacking.
──With things like this, it might be just fine for both of us to silently drink our wine.
Just when Tigre assessed so, Badouin suddenly spoke up.
“I heard Her Highness confessed her feelings to you?”
Tigre spontaneously stared at Badouin. Since the marriage of royalty was a serious matter for a country, it was correct to have informed Badouin of it. However, for Tigre there was no topic more awkward than this. Badouin didn’t try to pressure the youth who blatantly attempted to stall for time by remaining silent.
“Normally, things like this would follow a lot more elaborate planning. For example, ascertaining your will by Mashas and me probing the relationship between Her Highness and you… However, since Her Highness strongly insisted that she wanted to tell you her feelings in person, we decided to leave the decision to you.”
Seeing as he used the name Mashas and not Earl Rodant, Tigre could perceive Badouin’s intention that this was ultimately private talk. Tigre didn’t know how he should answer, and while stirring his apple cider, he honestly stated his thoughts by answering, “I was surprised. Your Excellency, what are your thoughts about Her Highness trying to take me as husband?”
“You can keep it to Badouin or Pierre on this occasion.” Badouin said and threw a piece of cheese inside his mouth. Even his way of chewing was just like that of a cat.
“You have plenty of ability. You’re also loved by Her Highness. In addition, you’re young. Your youth means that you will be able to implement things that might take ten or twenty years, and still ascertain with your own eyes how they turned out. Taking that into consideration, there’s probably no one more suited than you.”
At this point, Badouin formed a strange smile while letting both corners of his lips hang.
“Up to this point would be something I could even say on any official occasion. If I were to give you an unofficial reason, I guess you could describe it as me supporting you since I’d like Regin-sama to keep smiling.”
Tigre reflexively blinked several times as he looked at Badouin. That was indeed unexpected as a statement of a man who was doubted to ever smile in public places.
Badouin continued his words while sipping the very thick mead, “Her Highness having become aware of you dates back to eight years ago. She said you treated her to a bird, which you had just taken down at the hunting grounds of Vincennes.”
Tigre revealed a cramped smile. It was a story of the time when Regin was brought up as Prince Regnas. For the youth it remained in his memory as severe failure. Badouin quickly emptied his cup, and poured new wine into it.
“For you the events of that time have probably been no more than treating the prince to a bird. However, for Her Highness it was an event where she was treated by a boy whom she had hardly ever seen. That doesn’t mean that she’s been in love with you since then, but it was apparently an event that left a lasting impression she couldn’t forget.”
Badouin took his eyes off Tigre, and exhaled a breath tinged with alcohol while looking into the far distance.
“There was a time when His Majesty Faron had considered inviting you to the royal palace. Because Her Highness couldn’t forget about you, we deeply hoped that you would be able to support Her Highness even while knowing her secret, depending on your growth and character. Since Lord Urs unfortunately passed away around that time, this idea came to nothing. Her Highness was devastated.”
If it was the son of landed nobility, it was possible to invite them to the royal palace under the pretext of him accumulating experience. However, if it came to the feudal lord himself, that wouldn’t work. Not to mention that Tigre had just succeeded the Vorn House and Alsace.
“You rescued Her Highness many times over afterwards. And in addition to that, with miraculous efforts any normal person would consider impossible. And yet you never tried to demand anything from Her Highness. It’s only understandable that Her Highness fell in love with you, as a normal girl, and even as a ruler… No, considering the workings of human emotions, don’t you believe it to be very reasonable?”
Around the latter half of his remark, Badouin turned around, directly facing Tigre, but he had completely glazed eyes. He gave off a presence as if he would jump at Tigre if he attempted to voice even the slightest denial here. Tigre nodded silently while drinking from his cup, and Badouin shifted the topic. It wasn’t that he changed it.
“You need some time. It looks like that’s what you told Her Highness. From here on it’s based on rumors, but I hear that you have a lover.”
Badouin pulled two and then three empty wine bottles to himself. Him looking at them as if evaluating the bottles as weapons probably wasn’t just Tigre’s imagination. While paying attention to the hands of elderly prime minister, Tigre answered that he had two lovers. He told him that one was Titta and that he couldn’t reveal the other one. Badouin didn’t show any particular reaction when he was told about there being two, but he pulled a sullen face at Tigre remaining silent about the background of one lover.
“Is she a criminal? Or is she working in a profession that would make anyone, who heard about it, frown?”
Tigre shook his head.
Now that he mentions it, those would be the cases where you’d feel like hiding their identity.
Badouin showed a dumbfounded face, and said to Tigre, “Let me give you one advice, if you are ever asked something like this, it’s fine keep it at a vague nod. The answer will become apparent by crossing out the choices. Assuming my previous options don’t apply, it’s possible to guess that it’s a lady who can’t go public about her relationship with someone like you while in a suitable social position, or because she’s holding a suitable position.”
At that time Tigre had wine in his mouth, but he almost spit it out. He deeply regretted.
He’s right. It wouldn’t be odd to arrive at Elen by eliminating other options through questions.
“Is there any possibility that Her Highness’ feelings will reach you?”
Being confronted with a new question, Tigre seriously looked at Badouin, “I thought that I couldn’t turn her down?”
“I’d like you to think of it like that. Officially, neither you nor Her Highness have settled on a partner. If you turned her down in this situation, it would emotionally scar Her Highness. Our neighboring countries would likely jump in joy if it seemed like there was a crack in her relationship with you. ──However,” Badouin lowered his eyes at the patterns on the carpet, “it’s preposterous of me to tell you, but if there are issues after the marriage, that in itself will be troubling as well. Even if you won’t love Her Highness, I’d like to request from you to at least not wreck the marital relationship.”
“I don’t dislike Her Highness.” Tigre said. “I can’t tell you anything besides that for now. I believe that I don’t want to make Her Highness unhappy, but I have no intention to break up with my two lovers.”
“──Since a while ago now, you’ve been only talking very formally, haven’t you?” Suddenly Mashas interrupted their talk from the side.
His face was red, and his breath teemed with alcohol. Seeing how Gaspal was smiling wryly, he must have apparently drunken quite a bit. But then again, Tigre knew that Mashas wouldn’t get drunk from this much.
Probably because Mashas’ voice was surprisingly loud, Augre and Gerard looked this way, too. Badouin spoke up without changing his expression, “Come to think of it, there’s one thing I’d like everyone present here to keep in mind.”
The eyes of the five men gathered on Badouin, wondering what he had suddenly started to talk about. Tigre fixedly stared at the elderly prime minister, too.
“It’s about the title of Knight of the Moonlight bestowed upon Lord Vorn by His Majesty, the late King Faron. There’s only one person who was awarded with that title in the past.”
“Hoh,” Mashas raised his voice.
Badouin continued, “That person ─ later became the king.”
Without regards to the five others looking flabbergasted, Badouin drank his wine as if nothing had happened. Even though the five others were also drunk, it wasn’t to the extent that they would ignore the prime minister’s remark just now. Badouin’s words carried the following meaning: King Faron had identified Tigre to be suitable as king of the next era, and bestowed that title upon him to help him in the distant future.
It might be a postscript. But, Faron, who had granted him that title, wasn’t of this world anymore. And, if you excluded blood relationships, it also wasn’t a traditional custom powerful enough to say that Tigre had been acknowledged by the late king.
“There’s probably no one who knows of this in the first place. Even Her Highness, the Princess isn’t aware of this. You might consider it as only those being present here knowing of this fact.”
“In other words, that means Lord Tigrevurmud is going to become the king, huh?”
Augre cynically retorted at Gerard, whose eyes were sparkling, while shaking his wine cup, “Son, it’s fine to be expectant of your comrade-in-arms, but…make sure to never tell me to lay down my life as a shield for the sake of a youth, who might become king in the future, when push comes to shove, okay?”
Gaspal laughed at the exchange between the viscount and his son, and then lightly hit Tigre’s back.
“That’s an auspicious matter, I’d say. Well, it’s not set in stone that you must follow in the steps of your great predecessor, though.”
One half of his remark might have come from Gaspal seeing the youth’s expression. Tigre expressed his gratitude by lowering his head lightly. Gerard being delighted for him, and Augre and Gaspal being considerate of him, he was thankful for either.
Holding a beer bottle in the right hand and a cup in the left, Mashas sat down next to Tigre. While pouring beer in Tigre’s cup, the old earl asked in a casual manner, “Didn’t you have no intention to become king?”
“That’s right, but for a number of reasons, I decided to try considering it.” Tigre replied.
Mashas fixedly peeked into Tigre’s face. Seemingly satisfied, he started to laugh with his beard trembling, and poured beer into his own cup.
“It doesn’t sound like you’re thinking about it since you’ve accepted it as an inevitable fate, I suppose. If you decided on it out of your own will, I don’t mind. There’s just one thing I’m going to tell you.” Mashas put on a serious expression, focusing his black eyes on the youth. “──Don’t make the women sad.”
Although Tigre widened his eyes for an instant, he nodded at Mashas with a seriousness that didn’t lose out to his. Both smiled broadly, and lightly clinked their cups.