Chapter 3 – The King of Magic Archery and the Vanadis


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Valentina received the report in her office after having finished breakfast and begun working on her official duties for around one koku. Adelaiyda’s army, which was supposed to head for Pardu, had actually appeared close to Silesia and was now requesting permission to swear their allegiance to Valentina.

Hearing those circumstances, the black-haired Vanadis couldn’t hide her surprise. Adelaiyda’s army consisted of lords who had joined together under the banner of making the girl, who currently held the fourth rank in the royal succession order, the next queen, but Chenbel and Eleck, who served as mediators of their allied forces and also as Adelaiyda’s guardians, had started to oppose each other merely three days after they had raised their army.

The reason for their animosity was a matter of form. Or in other words, they had different views on how Adelaiyda, whom both had elevated into being their leader, should be treated. Chenbel regarded the eleven-years-old girl as nothing more than a political tool to satisfy his own ambitions. On the other hand, Eleck favored Adelaiyda. Previously, he stood in contact with Adelaiyda’s father, Karl Rodina, and thus guilty consciousness might have also played a role here.

Both men had controlled the allied forces and headed for Pardu while slowly gaining more allies, but the hostility between both grew by the day. In the end, loud quarreling could be heard from Chenbel’s tent on the evening of the day when they were around two days’ march away from Pardu. Given that even screams were issued from the tent, soldiers rushed inside, just to find the two guardians collapsed on the carpet, bleeding. Chenbel had his forehead cracked open by a sword while another sword was stabbed in Eleck’s chest.

According to the report of a soldier, Chenbel had ridiculed Eleck for having a taste in little girls over his attitude towards Adelaiyda. Apparently Eleck had then drawn his blade in rage, but since both were dead at this point, no one knew the whole truth.

The ones being at a loss what to do were the lords and their soldiers who had lost both their unifying leaders. Adelaiyda’s army consisted of eleven lords and approximately 10,000 soldiers. However, among them was no one who could seize control over the whole army. Some definitely harbored intentions to do so, but they lacked the talent that would have been required to make the other lords agree.

After wasting a whole day on unproductive meetings, four lords left together with their 3,000 soldiers. The remaining lords decided to obey Valentina. They excused their actions by claiming that it had been Chenbel and Eleck who had blamed Ruslan while they had only joined the campaign out of animosity towards Eugene.

──So it’s because no one has been able to take over the leadership, huh? For them to be unable to come up with some better reason…

Valentina couldn’t help but snicker at their foolishness. Then again, it had been her who had given birth to Adelaiyda’s army which Chenbel and Eleck had commanded. Of course, she was well aware that both men had different views on Adelaiyda. She had considered the possibility of them bumping heads before attacking Pardu, but now that it had happened, she could only sigh at their uselessness.

On the other hand, this wasn’t the worst outcome among Valentina’s predictions either. Adelaiyda’s army was gone from the game field and she had obtained two thirds of its soldiers.

It was said that Adelaiyda had behaved herself submissively. But Valentina considered that to be inevitable. With the two guardians on whom she had depended gone, only adults with no sympathy for her situation remained around her.

──I should attack Pardu.

Valentina silently made this decision after having the civil official, who had reported to her, leave her office.

Ever since hearing reports about Arma Zirnitra having split its forces, with one part staying in Bydgauche and the other part moving south through the west, several days ago, Valentina had continuously pondered how she should move.

Defeat the forces in Bydgauche or defeat the forces which were currently marching south. Valentina believed that her enemies in Bydgauche wouldn’t attack the capital since they didn’t have the power to pull that off in the first place. The lords in the central and western north were supportive of Arma Zirnitra. Thus, if Valentina tried to attack Bydgauche, those lords would rush to Arma Zirnitra’s help. But, if Arma Zirnitra were to march on the capital, those lords would hesitate to assist them.

But, this didn’t apply to the southbound enemy forces. Valentina could clearly tell that they were aiming for Pardu. If they gathered up further soldiers in Leitmeritz and Olmutz, they might head for the capital. Thus Valentina had to crush them before they could increase their strength.

At this time, Valentina still didn’t know about Eugene’s death. But then again, it wouldn’t have changed any of her plans even if she had known.

“──Your Highness,” Valentina called out to Valery who was flipping through a book in a corner of her office.

Ten days had already passed since the young prince had started to read books here. At the start, the bureaucrats visiting the office had bowed at him while bewildered by his presence, but nowadays everyone had accepted the prince’s attendance as something very natural.

On the other hand, Valery never disturbed Valentina. He called out to her several times a day, but only when he couldn’t read certain words. Something of this level was no hindrance to Valentina’s work on governmental affairs.

Valentina herself didn’t understand whether she was trying to take care of the young prince as much as she could because Ruslan had asked her to do so, because she regarded this as an atonement towards Ruslan, or because she wanted to simulate some fake revival of her own childhood in this closed space. What she knew was that this type of exchange wasn’t unpleasant for her, nor did it cause her own ambitions to lose any of their drive.

Called by Valentina, the ten-years-old prince lifted his face from the book on his knees.

“What is it, Tina?”

Valentina left her seat and walked up to Valery.

“I feel like I should tell you without delay that I shall be gone from the royal palace in a few days. My attendants will take care of Your Highness’ needs until I return in a while.”

If it was just Osterode’s army, she could have departed today, if she felt like it. But, the same didn’t strike true for Adelaiyda’s army. Valentina had to reorganize its formation with her own hands. Plus, since some of the western lords had answered her call, it had become necessary for her to join up with them somewhere.

“Are you possibly going to war?”

Valentina was mildly surprised by Valery’s curt question. The young boy added with an apologetic look, “I heard several words which drew my curiosity…though it’s not like I planned on eavesdropping.”

“No, Your Highness, it is nothing you would need to worry about.”

Once Valentina shook her head, Valery’s cheeks relaxed in apparent relief. And then he said as if having suddenly hit upon something, “Tina, could you lend me a writing brush?”

When Valentina handed him a brush she had retrieved from her desk, the prince tore off one of the silver buttons attached to his sleeve. And then he wrote something on the button before giving it back to Valentina. Upon taking a look, Valentina saw that he had written a scrawly 『Good luckudáči』.

Valery said with a smug look on his face, “I saw this in the book I read yesterday.”

Valentina fixedly stared at the button, but then asked the prince with a smile, “Your Highness, do you like reading books?”

“Yeah. Thanks to you, Tina,” replied Valery with a carefree smile. “I understand a lot if I read books. Until now I didn’t know how I should put my own thoughts and feelings into words. I also didn’t know what many things were called. But, now I have comprehended many things. Only after they became tangible, I started to understand my own thoughts.”

Listening to Valery, Valentina’s eyes widened for an instant. The boy’s words, which he fervently spun so that they’d pass on his delight and excitement, allowed Valentina to realize something. Her own ambitions came into existence back in her childhood when she had read the tale of Asvarre’s Queen Zepheelia in her own mansion. Until then she hadn’t even known that queens existed in this world.

No, that’s wrong. My ambition took shape even earlier than that.

Having thin royal blood streaming through her veins and merely carrying the surname Estes as she had no more than a remote relation to the direct royal bloodline, Valentina’s environment consisted of nothing but a single, small house in the capital. Even in her early childhood, Valentina was able to assess her current situation and deem it as unacceptable. The tale then gave the vague dream nesting in Valentina a clear direction towards becoming a queen. But, the dream itself had taken shape within herself over a long time.

“…Tina?” The prince looked up to Valentina who had suddenly fallen silent.

At that moment, she tucked away that episode of her past in a corner of her mind and returned a smile at Valery.

“Thank you, Your Highness. I shall borrow some of your luck for a while then,” said Valentina, and then bowed respectfully at the young prince.

 

 

The central town of Pardu, Litomysl, had a townscape crying countryside from every corner. Many of the houses were made out of wood, and only the main streets were paved with stones. Most of the wares offered at the stalls were fish, edible wild plants, berries, and nuts. Even Eugene’s mansion was plain and rustic.

“It’s definitely a nice place.”

And yet, Tigre liked what he saw when entering Litomysl. He felt that the ambiance closely resembled Celesta, the central town of Alsace, where he had grown up.

Then again, the current Litomysl emanated a heavy atmosphere, if one only looked outside the town. Countless tents were set up around the town with heavily armed soldiers patrolling the perimeter. Those were the soldiers of Leitmeritz and Olmutz which Elen and Mila had summoned. Up until today, more than 2,400 soldiers had gathered here.

As soon as they arrived in Litomysl, Lim immediately started to work on the organization of their joint army. Tigre, Elen, and Gaspal participated in Eugene’s funeral ceremony, but only Lim didn’t attend. Seeing how they didn’t know when Adelaiyda’s army would appear in Pardu, Lim immersed herself in her work, insisting that someone had to do it anyway.

Even late at night, Lim stared at maps while relying on the illumination of lamps inside Elen’s tent that had been erected outside the town. After finishing even Elen’s share of work and thus running out of things to do, she had tried to sleep, but couldn’t do so because of her high-strung emotions. Because of that she was now distracting herself by staring at maps and hypothesizing about various battlefields and enemy movements.

──We must protect Pardu at any cost.

It was at that moment when she heard a familiar voice outside the tent. At first Lim thought that she might have misheard, but since the voice called out to her once more, she answered, albeit being perplexed.

“I’m sorry about visiting at such a late hour, but please allow me to intrude upon you.”

The one entering was Tigre, just as she had expected.

“I thought you’d be staying the night at Lady Marina’s mansion.”

“I entrusted that part to Elen,” he replied and sat down on the carpet.

Once he took off his thick overcoat, two silver cups and a wine bottle came to light in his hand. He had apparently smuggled them underneath his coat.

“Want to keep me a bit company?”

“I have other things to do.”

Realizing that he had come here to console her, Lim’s face stiffened. Her voice was a lot more brusque than usual.

She tried to ask him to please leave her alone, but Tigre forestalled her, and said, “I wanted to hear about Lord Eugene from you.”

Lim was taken aback. After a short moment of silence, she asked Tigre, “…Did you hear something from Lady Eleonora?”

“She told me to help you forget your worries since she’d entertain Mrs. Marina and Alyssa for the two of us. I tried to come up with various ways to lift your mood on the way here, but to no avail,” Tigre revealed honestly without trying to hide anything while pouring wine into the two cups. “That’s why I changed my way of thinking. I’d like to hear what you know and have seen of Lord Eugene. I want to learn a lot more about that man. No, I feel I must know more about him.”

As the one who had inherited Eugene Shevarin’s will. He directly fixed his black eyes, which were filled with sincerity, on Lim.

Suddenly Lim breathed out. It can’t be helped, she thought while revealing a smile pregnant with an ample amount of sadness. It can’t be helped, allowed her to persuade herself. This is my duty. After all, I’m the only one who can talk about Eugene as I know him, and this man needs to know as much as possible about Eugene.

“Very well. What exactly do you wish to know about Lord Eugene?”

“Everything you know that you believe you can tell me. You don’t need to worry about talking in order or anything like that. Just throw everything you remember at me,” Tigre held out one cup to Lim while continuing, “I met Lord Eugene for the first time during this year’s Sun FestivalMaslenitsa. He said that he met Father…my father on several occasions and that he’d pray to the gods for my mother and father to rest in peace. He even gave me a few pointers about what King Viktor had told me.”

Lim nodded, accepting the cup.

“I understand. Then I’ll start from when Lady Eleonora and I met Lord Eugene for the first time, I suppose.”

Fragments of many scenes revived in Lim’s mind. Without being aware of it, a smile formed on her lips as she started to intermittently talk about their happy past.

 

◆◇◆

—————— End of Part 1 ——————

 

When waking up, Lim’s field of view was dim.

──Did I fall asleep at some point?

She guessed that her mind was hazy because of the remaining drunkenness. Apparently she had laid down while clinging to something. Warmth was emitted from whatever her body was glued to.

Lim strained her eyes in the mostly dark tent. But, once she understood what she was clinging to, all sleepiness was blown away at once. After all, it was Tigre who was softly snoring right next to her.

While taking a look at the sleeping face of the youth, Lim slowly recalled what had happened before she fell asleep. She had truly talked a lot about Eugene. Over all the time, Tigre had carefully listened to her while conversationally confirming her words every so often. The first wine bottle became empty in no time, and thus Tigre had procured another two bottles from somewhere.

It was around half a koku after she had started to talk when tears began to run down her cheeks. She had no doubt that the wine played a not so insignificant role in this, but when the face of the dead Eugene overlapped with her past memories of him, she couldn’t contain her emotions any longer.

“He was no one who should have died in such a place,” was something she had probably repeated countless times across the night.

She didn’t know when it started, but once she realized, her face was buried in Tigre’s chest. Her tears caused many stains on Tigre’s clothes. Meanwhile Tigre had gently caressed Lim’s head and back. As if telling her to cry for as long as she needed it.

 

 

She had cried like a child. Yet, Tigre had told her that crying wasn’t shameful at all, no matter how old one might be. However, he didn’t use words, but his warm, dry palm to pass it on to her.

──I have never done anything like that, not even with Lady Eleonora…

She didn’t believe it to be anything unbecoming, but now, after calming down and remembering it, it was a completely different issue whether it was actually embarrassing. Especially with Tigre being the other party.

Or, Lim pondered, maybe that’s the reason why Elen sent Tigre over.

Once she lifted her face and checked the situation, she saw that it was still night out. Lim laid down once more, snuggling up to Tigre. She wanted to stay like this for a bit longer. And while harboring that wish, she fell asleep.

 

 

The ones seeing Tigrevurmud Vorn’s proclamation first were the lords holding territories in Zhcted’s west.

“My name is Tigrevurmud Vorn. I want to become Zhcted’s next king after inheriting the will of Earl of Pardu Eugene Shevarin who lost his life to an assassin’s dagger after exerting himself to rule this fine nation until the other day. Some may harbor doubts about whether a foreigner has the qualification to become your king. But, I would like all of you to remember that the incarnation of the black dragon, the founder of this kingdom, was not born on this land either. What matters are the answers to the questions: whose trust have they gained and what can they do for the sake of the kingdom’s people. The Vanadis of Leitmeritz, Olmutz, Lebus, and Brest are already supporting my becoming the next king. Therefore I shall pour all my might into putting the current chaos under control, and after restoring Earl of Pardu’s honor, I shall take the crown. Those wishing to offer their power for the sake of Zhcted ought to rally under the black dragon’s flag hoisted by me.”

The western lords held a lot of information on Brune and Asvarre because of their geographical location. During times of peace, the exchange with the neighboring countries would increase, while their territories would naturally turn into contested zones during wartimes. Of course they were well aware about the civil war in Brune two years ago, the civil war in Asvarre one year ago, and the many battles that took place in Brune from spring until autumn this year. They also knew about Tigre holding the titles 『Star Shooter』 and 『Knight of the Moonlight』. And anyone who had attended this year’s Sun Festival would know how close Tigre had been to the Vanadis.

Conversely, the current state in the capital was difficult to grasp for them. Just as they believed that Ruslan might have come back, the prince collapsed. Eugene then served as proxy ruler, but he was soon to be thrown into jail due to some kind of accusation, just to be replaced by Grand Chamberlain Miron. On top of that, the Vanadis of Osterode became the First Prince Aide.

In the past, Eugene had worked as diplomatic envoy for Brune over a long period of time. Because of that, the western lords were well-accustomed to his character and capabilities. They had also agreed with King Viktor nominating him as the next king. That alone was more than enough for them to be suspicious of Eugene being ousted from his position as proxy ruler.

Furthermore, letters written by Elen and Marina reached the lords with territories close to Pardu together with Tigre’s proclamation. The shock they experienced from Marina’s letter was huge. In her handwriting, she informed them of Eugene having appointed Tigre as next king and Eugene himself having passed away. Of course, her letter had also been sealed by the Shevarin family’s crest. Elen’s letter was identical in content, but naturally bore Leitmeritz’s official seal.

This put the western lords in quite a bind.

 

◆◇◆

 

Tigre’s proclamation also reached Valentina in the capital. Then again, if one considered the distance from Pardu to Silesia, one could easily describe her skill in information gathering as outstanding. For anyone else, it’d have likely taken another two or three days to learn of this.

And even Valentina couldn’t resist feeling shocked by this proclamation. She was also surprised about the news of Eugene’s death, but compared to Tigre’s candidacy as next king, this was nothing more than a sideshow.

──I guess I should put on a little act before departing.

On this day Valentina’s preparations for departure had been completed. Her large army, which what had been dubbed as Valentina Army, numbered 12,000 troops in total, consisting of 3,000 Osterode soldiers, 7,000 soldiers of the former Adelaiyda forces, and 2,000 soldiers of the western lords following her. It was scheduled for them to leave the capital tomorrow morning. And according to the information Valentina had obtained, the enemy, who had amassed in Pardu, now numbered something close to 10,000 soldiers. Of course, this was just an assumption since she didn’t actually know the real state of the enemy army. Plus, the circumstances might also change while she was heading for Pardu.

When noon had passed, Valentina held a war council as First Prince Aide. However, she called the various commanders to the audience hall instead of a meeting room. And when the commanders entered the audience hall, they all had their breath taken away.

But that was only natural since Valentina was calmly standing next to the throne which had been empty for a long time now. In her hand she held her scythe with its ominous form.

While exchanging looks amongst each other due to this sight, the commanders formed a line at a place slightly separated from the throne. Before long, all of them had assembled, and Valentina took out a parchment.

“The other day, this kind of proclamation was sent out from Pardu.”

Valentina dispassionately read out Tigre’s proclamation. Her listeners couldn’t believe their ears or bluntly showed their bewilderment on their faces, but Valentina assured them that she definitely hadn’t made it up.

Within the ensuing chaos and confusion spreading within the hall, only she remained calm and collected.

“It is extremely regrettable that the Earl of Pardu has passed away. But, what is even more regrettable is him having endorsed a foreigner to become the next king of Zhcted. I wonder just where his loyalty towards the royal family has vanished to.” Valentina shifted her head slightly, facing the empty throne. “After His Majesty King Viktor passed away, His Highness Ruslan became the master of this throne. All of you should remember that His Highness talked about obeying the mourning period during the winter, before holding the coronation ceremony once spring would arrive.”

She averted her face from the throne, and let her eyes wander across the commanders with a gaze that might as well be called frosty. What the commanders sensed from her look was cold rage.

“Tigrevurmud Vorn might be a hero in Brune. But, does he really have the qualification to demand Zhcted’s throne? While it may be true that the Earl of Pardu and four Vanadis have approved of him, is it truly the right conduct?” Valentina asked, just to clearly answer her own question in the next moment, “No. Based on morality and bloodline, His Highness Ruslan alone has the right to become the throne’s owner. We shall fight in order to prevent an outlaw from snatching his throne away. In order to protect the capital’s residents and Zhcted’s lands from the hands of an evil enemy. I expect all of you, as commanders of an army division and as soldiers, to exert all your power.”

Each and every of her words was calm and definitely not loud. But the tone of her voice certainly reached their ears, even as they were standing a distance away, and deeply touched their hearts.

At this moment, Valentina Glinka Estes was doubtlessly an aide standing next to the lord of the throne and the guardian of the capital who would resolutely oppose all enemies.

Vigorous cheers washed over her from the commanders. Those shouts overlapped manifold, turning into angry roars. After waiting for them to settle down, Valentina spoke up once more. This time it concerned military matters. She informed them that the army would depart tomorrow and gave them the details of which route they’d take to Pardu.

“There are concerns that Brune will send reinforcements if we pointlessly give the enemy too much time. We should crush a criminal like Tigrevurmud Vorn at once.”

She didn’t tell them, but Valentina had another reason for hurrying the battle. Since she didn’t know how long Elen and the others would remain unable to use their draconic tools, she had to slay all of them as quickly as possible.

And then, after reviewing the armaments and states of the soldiers under the various commanders, Valentina told them once more that they’d depart tomorrow morning, and ended the war council. One commander after the other left the audience hall.

In the end, only Valentina remained.

Without moving from the empty throne’s side, a monologue teeming with her determination oozed out of her mouth when it was just her in the audience hall.

“──I won’t hand it over.”

A faint tinge of passion dyed her voice. Tigre’s proclamation had been surprising, but Valentina believed it to be a golden opportunity for her. After all, she had been given the chance to publicly take down Tigre. On top of that, she’d be able to clean up all the Vanadis backing him, too.

Not even the slightest flickering could be spotted in the fighting spirit fiercely burning deep in her violet eyes.

‘It took me a long time, and I had to create a path littered with corpses while shedding lots of blood.

When this battle was over, the empty throne should welcome her as its new owner.

 

 

One group of soldiers after the other arrived in Litomysl, the base of Arma Zirnitra, from Leitmeritz and Olmutz. The morale of the soldiers was further boosted by the prospect of Mila, who led a joint force of a little less than 3,000 soldiers from Leitmeritz and Olmutz, arriving tomorrow or the day after.

The people of Pardu were also burning with a fierce desire to avenge their lord. For them, Eugene was a lord of whom they could be proud. In addition, with the wife of Eugene, Marina, having clearly shown her will to support Tigre on all accounts, the people heavily inclined towards cooperating with Arma Zirnitra.

But then again, it wasn’t as though everything was going smoothly. One example for this would be many of the neighboring lords sending responses that they wouldn’t assist Arma Zirnitra, even while sympathizing with Marina and stating that they’d pray to the gods for Eugene’s soul to rest in peace.

Tigre consoled Marina, who felt quite sorry about it, by telling her, “This much is plenty.”

In reality, he was already happy about them affirming that they wouldn’t become his enemies. Moreover, a part of Tigre felt that he’d be taking advantage of their pity towards Marina, and that would be inexcusable in the first place.

However, Tigre also managed to reunite with someone unexpected. At a time when noon was just around the corner, he came back to Eugene’s mansion after strolling through the town of Litomysl together with Gaspal and a few acquaintances among Leitmeritz’s soldiers, just to find a man and woman standing in front of the mansion.

Tigre unintentionally cried out their names in surprise.

“Your Highness Regin! Lord Mashas!”

He couldn’t say anything beyond that because Regin immediately ran over and tightly hugged him without a care that they were in public. Brune’s princess put her arms around Tigre’s neck and for a while didn’t show any signs of letting go.

Tigre looked at Mashas, implicitly asking him for help, but the elderly earl with his short and stout build shook his head, silently telling the youth to accept his fate.

At this time, Elen was out scouting with the cavalry and Lim had gone to Leitmeritz’s army camp in order to manage the soldiers. Thus, you might call this a fortunate coincidence for Tigre and Regin.

Gaspal tried to take a dignified attitude as befitting for a young noble, but once Mashas clapped his shoulder, Gaspal’s expression relaxed and he hugged his father’s shoulders. Father and son rejoiced over being safe and sound.

It was obvious at a glance that Regin and Mashas were wearing travel clothes. Their thick overcoats, gloves, and leather boots were dirty and had many smaller scratches, showing that they went through a long journey. Regin was carrying a hat with a broad visor while a sword was affixed to Mashas’s waist.

Tigre borrowed a guest room by asking Marina, and led the two there after having their overcoats dusted off.

The guest room sported a table with two chairs on either side in its center. They sat down so that Regin and Mashas were facing Tigre.

“Why are you two in a place like this?”

“That’s my line!” Regin barked back in response to Tigre’s simple question, unable to hide her anger.

With her happiness and delight over their reunion having abated, another emotion had apparently taken center stage.

“Do you remember what I had asked you when I ordered you to become the representative of the delegation?” She asked with an extremely disgruntled look that wouldn’t allow any ambiguity.

Tigre somehow managed to answer despite being overwhelmed by Regin, “Umm, inform them of our victory in the war, thank them for having dispatched troops to support us, hand over the gifts, promise them friendship…”

“Indeed,” confirmed Regin with a smile, but rage was still flickering within her blue eyes. “On my way here, I heard that you pronounced your candidacy as next king of Zhcted.”

“…Would you be willing to listen to my side of the story first?”

Tigre had no choice but to earnestly beg here while prostrating himself. After all, it was correct that he had overstayed his visit in Zhcted, gone way beyond his station, and moved around as he pleased.

Marina bringing some beverage for them at that very moment was his salvation. Regin corrected her posture, and accepted the cup with fruit water while smiling. As soon as Marina left, she stared at Tigre again, the rage gleaming within reignited.

Tigre regretted that he didn’t have Gaspal join the meeting. After he finished his reunion with Mashas, he disappeared somewhere with the soldiers of Leitmeritz. Tigre was sure that he had foreseen that things would turn out like this.

“It’s going to be a long story,” with that as a preface, Tigre began to explain while holding his cup with fruit water.

It was still autumn when Tigre and the others had left Brune, so he had been in Zhcted for less than half a year. But, lots of things had happened during that short period of time. Hearing about Ganelon, Regin blinked in surprise, gazing at Tigre while dumbstruck.

“Certainly, many strange incidents took place in Brune as well. Even though I had the priests offer prayers to the gods, it showed no effect, so I worried what I should do about it, but…”

The story about Tigre having recovered the kingdom’s treasured sword Durandal delighted Regin quite a bit, but her face immediately darkened when she heard about Eugene’s passing.

“I see. The Earl of Pardu has…”

Once Tigre finished his explanation, Regin asked him with a serious expression, “Do you truly intend to become the king of Zhcted?”

Tigre nodded.

In no time, Regin hurled the next question at him, “What are you going to do about Brune?”

Being able to immediately answer stemmed from Tigre having anticipated that question.

“If Your Highness permits, I will try my utmost to wear the crown of both countries.”

This was something he’d devised on the day he decided to become king of Zhcted.

“What…!” Mashas cried out with his gray beard trembling after having silently listened so far out of consideration towards Regin.

Regin also stared at Tigre, dumbstruck once more. After the room was dominated by silence for five breaths, Regina finally pulled herself together, asking, “Why?”

“Because people dear to me live in both countries,” replied Tigre while squarely taking on Regin’s stabbing look.

He wouldn’t be able to concern himself with Alsace as king of Zhcted since Alsace belonged to Brune. But, for Tigre it was impossible to part with Alsace. Having said that, it’d also be out of the question to steal it with military might.

It was then that Tigre had recalled Foumar who was also known as 『Northern Sea Baron』. According to legends, he had served three countries, being granted peerage and land by each. Hence, Tigre thought that it might be possible to reign over two countries if one could serve three. Without either of the two annexing the other.

“I’m a greedy man.” Without even noticing that he had used a casual, more arrogant way of referring to himself while addressing the princess, Tigre continued with a calm expression, “I want to keep those I cherish by my side. I want to be able to help them if something happens to them. The people living in my birthplace Alsace, Lord Mashas’s Aude, Viscount Augre’s Territoire, and of course Nice are all important to me. It’s the same in Zhcted as well.”

Regin frowned because she had understood that Tigre was serious about this. If anyone other than Tigre had spouted such lines, she’d have curtly rejected them. But, Regin had been saved twice by this youth. The first time in Agnes, and the second time in the royal palace of Nice. And him saving the kingdom from danger wasn’t limited to just once or twice.

And yet, Regin deliberately responded harshly, “You make it sound easy, but do you really believe that you’ll be able to pull this off?”

“I don’t know.”

Disappointment washed over Regin’s face due to his answer.

Tigre resumed with a gentle tone, “But, I feel like trying. Won’t you lend me your strength to that end?”

Regin bated her breath lightly, staring at Tigre full of surprise.

“The words just now… Can you repeat them once more?”

Due to her request, Tigre racked his brain whether he had said something bad, but Regin’s eyes were gleaming as if she was expecting something. He assumed that it might not be anything bad after all, and repeated the words he had said just moments ago.

Regin crossed her hands in front of her chest and smiled at Tigre, “It’s the first time for you to ask me for help.”

“I beg your pardon…” Tigre lowered his head.

Considering it closely, asking a princess for help could be regarded as disrespectful. Although Tigre had been asked by her to become king, he was still no more than an earl at present.

But, Regin shook her head, “I’m happy. I feel like I’m finally able to stand close to you, although I can’t say yet that I’m standing at your side. Until now, I’ve been always watching your back.”

“Something like that…,” Tigre started to say, but swallowed his words.

She might be right, he reassessed. It didn’t change the fact that Regin was someone important to Tigre, but unlike Elen or Mila, she naturally didn’t fight next to him. This makes only sense since Regin is no warrior, but it might have been a source of frustration for her. No, I think it’s safe to say that it must have vexed her.

“If I were to become king of Brune…” Tigre spun his words for her sake while thinking, “You’d become my wife. But, I’m still very inexperienced as a ruler. I can’t say anything as grandiose as let’s support each other. Therefore, please stand next to me instead of saying that you’re close to me.”

Without answering, Regin stood up from her chair and looked at Mashas.

“Earl Rodant, make sure to keep your eyes shut until I tell you otherwise.”

“Should I step outside for a bit?”

Guessing what Regin was about to do, the elderly Earl displayed some tactfulness.

“No, that would take it too far. We have many important matters to discuss, after all.”

“As you wish,” Mashas answered solemnly and closed his eyes.

After confirming as much, Regin went around the table, planting herself next to Tigre.

“Please stand up, Tigre.”

Tigre looked up to Regin with a baffled expression.

I don’t believe that she’s taken my words literally, but still, what is she planning?

Even while confused, Tigre followed her demand, standing up. At that moment, Regin stood on her tiptoes in order to stretch herself, and pressed a kiss on Tigre’s left cheek.

“I took the liberty of immediately performing one act that would be expected of a wife.”

Looking at Regin who smiled like a child that succeeded in a prank, Tigre responded with a kiss on her left cheek. And then he noticed that she had called him “Tigre.”

 

 

After they waited for Mashas to open his eyes in an unnatural manner, the three resumed their discussion. Regin explained why Mashas and her had come here. Hearing that they had spurred on their horses during this season with the sole desire to tell him about the various things she had learned after investigating Saint-Groel, Tigre became dumbfounded. They told him that they joined the soldiers after hearing that many were heading for Pardu, once they arrived in Leitmeritz. As they didn’t know about Eugene’s death back then, they had planned to meet with him and request his cooperation. According to Regin, they had seen Tigre’s proclamation on the way to Pardu.

Tigre suffered a shock when he heard that a temple of Tir Na Fal was hidden deeper inside Saint-Groel. But, at the same time, it made sense to him. The demons having shown up on that land and Ganelon having ruled that land; all of it had a reason.

While showing him her right palm, Regin said with a puzzled look, “A crest shone on this palm until I exited Saint-Groel.”

“That might be a legacy of Ganelon,” Tigre stated humbly while remembering his battle against Ganelon.

Back when the goddess descended into his own body, just to be devoured by Ganelon right after, several scenes had flashed through Tigre’s mind as if he was watching them from someone else’s point of view. Tigre believed those to have been parts of Ganelon’s past. The Ganelon from back then had said that he lent his strength for the sake of the founding king, Charles.

“Tigre, what are you going to do about the bow that connects Tir Na Fal and you?”

“I’ll keep using it as my weapon and heirloom of the Vorn family,” replied Tigre without any hesitation. “I’m aware that Ganelon made the Founding King Charles throw it away. I know only too well just how dangerous it is. But, without the Black Bow, I wouldn’t be where I’m right now. Seeing how I’ve been using the powers of the Black Bow up to this point, it’d be ungrateful to simply throw it away. Instead, it’d be proper to pass on as much as I know about it to the next generation.”

“The 『King of Magic Archery』, huh…?” Mashas muttered thoughtfully, and then fixed his eyes on Regin. “Your Highness, I trust Tigre. He’ll create a new legend of the 『King of Magic Archery』, different from the one being talked about right now. It might be handed down as a tale related to the Black Bow.”

Regin sighed lightly. But, the stir of hope and nervousness had been born in her heart.

‘Brune has shunned archery until now. This young man with his Black Bow might change that perception. I’m sure Brune will be able to take a step forward thanks to that. It might be a difficult path to tread. And it might be accompanied by bloodshed. But, there’s merit in going through with it.

Regin stared at Tigre with a smile, nodding. It was proof of her acknowledgment.

 

◆◇◆

 

Just as Tigre had predicted, the Valentina army confronted Arma Zirnitra in Zamberk. It happened around the time when the gradually climbing sun reached the middle point between horizon and zenith, shining down on the frozen earth as if to unravel the winter’s cold.

Zamberk was a flat prairie looking out on distant forests and mountains. As Arma Zirnitra somewhat fell behind in numbers, it was bitter that they couldn’t make use of the terrain. But, if they had gone into the mountains or forests, they wouldn’t have been able to amply capitalize on their 10,000 soldiers. Hence, they had no choice but to go with this location as a battlefield.

Arma Zirnitra took up position with the lords’ forces, numbering approximately 2,000, taking the center, Leitmeritz’s forces of 4,000 holding the right wing, and Olmutz’s forces of 4,000 taking the left wing. The central division was commanded by Tigre with Mashas as his advisor. Elen led the right wing while Mila led the left wing. Of course, Lim was with Elen. Moreover, Leitmeritz and Olmutz’s armies had split infantry and cavalry with the cavalry waiting in the rear.

Keeping the center thin was intentional. If the enemy charged the center, they could use the move of pincering them from both sides by moving the wings. Then again, it was hard to believe that Valentina would carelessly humor their invitation.

Regin, Titta, and Marina were surrounded by guards, remaining at a place separated from the battlefield. Marina had the obligation to observe the battle with her own eyes as Eugene’s representative. Regin and Titta had been insistent on their wish to watch Tigre’s battle.

On the other hand, the Valentina army adopted a surprisingly extreme battle formation. 7,000 soldiers of the former Adelaiyda army had been deployed in the center, the ring wing held 2,000 soldiers of the western lords while the 3,000 soldiers of Osterode formed the left wing. Valentina commanded the left wing, Viscount Lodion the center, and Baron Vladlen the right wing. By the way, the eleven-years-old Adelaiyda wasn’t with the former Adelaiyda army. Valentina had her stay behind in the capital.

──Valentina isn’t anywhere to be seen, huh?

Standing at the head of Leitmeritz’s army, Elen gazed at the enemy in front from the back of her horse. Having said that, the distance between both armies still amounted to 700-800 alsin, so she couldn’t tell for sure. But, even after straining her eyes, she couldn’t spot Valentina’s characteristic, pure-white dress and the big scythe.

The wind blew across the land from the north to the south, making their respective flags flutter violently. The blaring of their horns was carried away southwards with the wind. With their armors clattering and their weapons gleaming dully in the sunlight, both armies started to advance.

When they reached a distance of 300 alsin from each other, the archer battle began. Currently Elen couldn’t do much more than hold up her wooden shield with its leather-strapped surface to deal with the rain of arrows falling down on her and her men. She might have been able to knock down one or two arrows with her sword, but both armies shot so many arrows that the sky was filled with a swarm of flying twigs.

As her heartbeat sped up out of nervousness, Elen’s face stiffened up slightly. She thought that a Vanadis dying from a stray arrow would be too ridiculous to imagine. Fortunately for her, the shield managed to block all arrows coming at her.

The spear-wielding soldiers stepped in front at both armies. Raising war cries, their fear was swallowed by wild madness. That madness linked them to their war buddies all around them, compelling the soldiers to go forth.

Osterode’s soldiers kicked off the ground, charging while followed by a cloud of dust in their wake.

“Charge!” Elen brandished her longsword.

Her soldiers answered with angry bellows.

Elen met an attacking Osterode soldier from the front. After warding off the head of his spear with her blade, she cleaved open his neck. Blood sprayed into the air. But, faster than it could fully seep into the ground, a new enemy soldier approached Elen, brandishing a mace.

Elen observed his movements, and then launched a ramming attack by spurring on her horse. The Osterode soldier lost his balance just as he had lifted his mace, stumbling forward. Without missing that opening, Elen embedded her sword in her opponent’s chest. All that escaped his mouth was a short scream.

Elen tried to pull out her sword, but couldn’t. The sword had apparently cut deeply through the man’s flesh, getting stuck in the process. The enemy soldier struggled furiously due to the sharp pain in his chest, colliding against Elen’s horse with his shoulder. Having squarely received his ramming attack, the horse shook and staggered, retreating several steps. Just for another Osterode soldier to work his spear through his hands, stabbing the horse’s belly. This resulted in Elen losing her horse early on.

“I suppose you can say that it’s just what you’d expect of Osterode’s soldiers. They’re different from barbarians.”

Elen pulled her feet out of the stirrup, and jumped down on the ground without any hesitation. Immediately after landing, she leaped at a nearby enemy soldier who was holding a mace. In passing, she cut his flank open, just for her small sword to break. On the other hand, the enemy soldier collapsed, vomiting saliva mixed with blood.

Forcefully wrenching the mace out of the enemy’s hand, Elen slammed it on the head of another soldier who was charging her way. At the same time, her opponent’s sword grazed Elen’s head, causing a thin line of red blood to stream down between her silver hair.

Tossing the mace away, she snatched the sword from the soldier that had gone down moments ago. It lacked grace and exhilaration, but Elen didn’t consider it to be pathetic. It was impossible for a warrior to regard a warrior’s way of fighting as ridiculous.

 

 

──I’m not a Vanadis because I wield a draconic tool.

Her movements were the very reason for her being a Vanadis. She slew all enemies coming at her from the left and right with a single blow. Swinging a bloody sword, Elen yelled at her own soldiers. While the area from her forehead to her left cheek was dyed crimson.

“Your lord is over here!”

Leitmeritz’s soldiers responded to their mistress’s vigorous shout. And it was at that very moment that Valentina appeared in front of Elen.

She didn’t use a draconic art to do so. She simply showed up by pushing her way through Osterode’s soldiers. While shouldering her scythe, she steered her horse onward, facing Elen.

Elen gritted her teeth so as to endure the pressure. Until a moment ago, this place was actually dominated by Leitmeritz’s army. Elen’s brave fighting had boosted her soldiers’ morale. But, the instant Valentina appeared, the atmosphere changed completely. The feeling of oppression the black-haired Vanadis released from her entire body caused Leitmeritz’s soldiers to falter.

“I should have slain you before the likes of Sofia,” Valentina hissed with a frosty voice, looking down on Elen.

During the time of her leaving until arriving on this battlefield, Valentina had constantly wondered why things had developed like this, why Tigrevurmud Vorn had stepped forward, naming himself the next king of Zhcted, and why she had to step on the battleground herself.

As she had continued to carefully deliberate, a certain silver-haired Vanadis surfaced in her mind. Like a lightning flashing through the deep night.

Valentina despised Elen. Leitmeritz, the land governed by Elen, was the furthest principality from Valentina’s Osterode. Moreover, although Elen was regarded as an excellent ruler, her true character was that of a warrior. Valentina knew all that, and she had believed that Elen wouldn’t become an obstacle to her own ambition, except for a time when she had to face her on the battlefield.

One couldn’t call that conclusion wrong. Elen alone might not have been able to oppose Valentina. But, Elen’s existence summoned Tigre to Zhcted. Her existence made him decide to get involved with the disturbances in this country. In such a meaning, Elen doubtlessly stood in the way of Valentina’s ambitions. If not for Tigre, the Vanadis would have never banded together like this.

Elen tightly clasped her iron sword, glaring at Valentina. Elen knew that Valentina would kill her in the blink of an eye if she only thought of running away. In front of Ezendeis, her sword was no more than a stick. It wouldn’t be able to block or ward off its blade.

“You guys, scatter!” Elen yelled at the Leitmeritz soldiers around her.

By no means was it a shameful act to run away when having a Vanadis as an opponent. But, only at this time, her soldiers didn’t obey her order. They felt a sense of duty, telling them that they had to protect their lord, and on top of that, taking down an enemy Vanadis was the highest deed of arms one could dream of.

Brandishing their spears, two Leitmeritz soldiers attacked Valentina from the left and right side. After a glance at both, Valentina casually swung her scythe cutting the approaching spears in halves. And, faster than they could take their next action, her scythe swooped down on them, blowing away the head and helmet of both soldiers. Their bodies, as they hit the ground, were completely missing the part above their necks.

Without even sparing a single glance at their corpses, Valentina advanced while brandishing Ezendeis. She reliably and surprisingly quickly cut apart the Leitmeritz soldiers coming at her. A scarlet squall colored her surroundings, but not a single drop of blood reached her pure-white dress with its rose decorations.

In her case, it might be more precise to say that she was blowing away her enemies rather than cutting them apart. As might be expected from a scythe, the trajectories of Valentina’s attacks were hard to grasp. One Leitmeritz soldier after the other was turned into a lifeless corpse, littering the ground. Broken armor pieces and weapons were scattered in the spaces between their dead bodies as blood rained down on all of it.

The soldiers of Leitmeritz were horrified. The overwhelming might of a Vanadis was leagues above the barbarians they had fought the other day. This whole battle was like challenging a dragon with toothpicks.

Valentina plunged onwards, creating a storm of blood around her. One Leitmeritz soldier, then another, and then another crumbled while Elen could only watch on, unable to even restrain Valentina. She threw a dagger when she spotted an opening, but Valentina pulverized the blade on the side without a single change in her expression. Even her horse neighed lowly as it treaded across puddles of blood and smashed corpses with its hooves.

And then, after countless dozens of Leitmeritz soldiers had turned into corpses, they finally ran out of courage. Their hearts had broken after being confronted with Valentina’s abnormal, destructive force. One of them screamed, threw his weapon away, turned around, and ran away. One became two, two became five, five became ten, and soon Leitmeritz’s army started to rout.

“Holy shit…” Elen groaned.

She couldn’t even blame her men. It was her own poor judgment that Valentina wouldn’t come onto the battlefield in person. Elen believed this sorry state to be completely owed to her own stupidity.

Elen, Mila, and Lima had considered countermeasures for everything else. But, without an opportunity to exhibit a single of their little plans, Leitmeritz’s army ── the right wing of Arma Zirnitra had started to collapse.

Elen resolved herself, kicked off the ground, and charged straight at the mounted Valentina. Her aim wasn’t Valentina herself, but the horse underneath her.

Valentina calmly raised Ezendeis overhead, and then swung it down on Elen.

Blood danced in the air.

The scythe’s blade had stopped at grazing Elen’s head. While half of her face was washed in blood, Elen looked up to Valentina, baring a daring smile.

“Is it really okay for the supreme commander to butt in at a place like this?”

Valentina swung her scythe without answering. Tearing apart space alongside the dust and dirt swirling through the air, the scythe drew a trace.

Elen couldn’t carelessly step into Valentina’s combat range. The complex movement patterns of the scythe played a part in this, but even more so, Elen had no means other than dodging while Valentina could easily block Elen’s slash with her draconic tool. And, if that should actually happen, Elen’s sword would most likely break into pieces.

──If only I could force her into a mutual stab…

Such an idea crossed Elen’s mind. If she managed to kill Valentina, the supreme commander of the enemy army, this battle would end with Arma Zirnitra’s victory. But, Elen immediately discarded that thought.

Elen’s existence was the reason for Tigre’s fighting. She couldn’t afford to die. Not only for her own sake, but also for Tigre’s.

Osterode’s soldiers, who had remained behind Valentina, flooded towards Elen with gleaming eyes, their swords and spear raised. Not a single ally remained around Elen at this point.

Elen corrected the grip of her sword, getting ready to fight to the bitter end. She thought that Valentina might save her own men, but Valentina didn’t move an inch, only glaring at the silver-haired Vanadis. Elen suspected she might follow the notion to avoid snatching her subordinates’ achievement.

At that moment, a single arrow cut through the air, penetrating the right eye of an enemy soldier who was on the verge of thrusting his spear at Elen. The soldier dropped his weapon after a short scream.

──A stray arrow?

Elen wondered. But she immediately perceived that she was mistaken from the change in the atmosphere passed on through her skin. She could sense the powerful presence of the one approaching this place.

Another arrow flew. Piercing the windpipe of an Osterode soldier near Elen.

Pushing away the fleeing soldiers of Leitmeritz,a single youth appeared while galloping on his horse. In his left hand he held a black bow, in his right hand three arrows between his fingers. In a flash, he shot all three arrows in succession. Three Osterode soldiers received those arrows with their bellies and throats, crumbling down on the spot. Not only was his nocking and firing of the arrows abnormally fast, but so were the arrows themselves.

The soldiers of Osterode stopped, their feet rooted to the ground by shock and fear. Their exaltation of a moment ago was gone like the wind as they looked up to the youth, engulfed in terror and awe. Valentina glared at him, her violet eyes oozing murder.

That youth was, of course, no one other than Tigrevurmud Vorn.

“Elen…!”

While nocking a new arrow onto his Black Bow, he steered his horse next to Elen. Even Elen was dumbfounded by Tigre’s appearance, but she immediately came to her senses, comprehending what she ought to do next. Running in tune with his horse, she synchronized her breathing with the horse, and then leaped behind Tigre.

Even during that short time, Tigre had shot another Osterode soldier to death.

Tigre turned his horse’s neck around, spurring it into full gallop. Taking heart at last, the Osterode soldiers chased after them, but because they were infantrymen, they couldn’t catch up with Tigre and Elen.

“──Space CorridorVordoll.”

Valentina appeared above Tigre. She swung her scythe down on Tigre’s head.

A strange clank resounded, similar to an iron blade being repelled by a big rock. Tigre had blocked Valentina’s slash with his bow. Valentina immediately understood her blunder. She had been too preoccupied with the Black Bow. She should have killed Elen first.

Elen threw a dagger. In response, Valentina leaped back, dodging the dagger and landing on the ground. The soldiers of Osterode caught up with Valentina, and formed a protective circle around her. Valentina didn’t launch a second attack, probably convinced of her having won this battle.

The collapse of Leitmeritz’s army spread to the center and then the left wing. It didn’t take that much time for the soldiers’ retreat to change into a collapse, and the collapse to even change into a rout. Even Mashas, who had taken over the command of the central unit, and Mila had to invest all their might into making their divisions fall back while somehow maintaining ranks and order. Of course, all of this boosted the enemy’s morale, and they decided to persistently pursue Arma Zirnitra.

 

◆◇◆

———— End of Part 4 ————

 

Arma Zirnitra finally managed to reorganize its formation in a location approximately ten belsta away from the battlefield. The casualties among the soldiers of Leitmeritz had exceeded six hundred, but close to two hundred of those were trampled to death by their fleeing comrades. The losses of the western lords’ army fell short of a hundred while around two hundred had died on Olmutz’s side. The center and left wing had fought the Valentina army on even terms.

Elen thanked Tigre rushing over to her rescue despite being angry about it. It made her realize once more that she wouldn’t have been able to deal with Valentina, if not for Tigre.

──Then again, just what would have happened if Valentina had seriously gone berserk then and there…

Elen couldn’t help but brood over this possibility. Personally she didn’t believe that Valentina’s attacks had been serious. Yet, if Valentina were to use the abilities of her draconic tool, it’d be possible for her to appear anywhere on the battlefield and throw the soldiers in panic by freely swinging her draconic tool. But, Valentina hadn’t used that tactic so far.

After having consulted with Lim and considered things for a bit by herself, Elen hypothesized with a cautious tone, “Maybe she’s aware of us having Durandal.”

“So it was that after all, huh?”

The Sword of Invincibility – the treasured sword that had been handed down in Brune. A blade possessing the ability to erase all draconic arts. This time they had placed it with the western lords army. For the sake of protecting Tigre, the supreme commander.

“In that case, we do have a means to handle her, I’d say. Besides, the number of excellent commanders is higher on our side.”

When the sun sank beyond the horizon, Arma Zirnitra began to set up its camp. They couldn’t afford to pull back just like this. After all, this would lead to Litomysl becoming the next battlefield. Thus they had no choice but to challenge the Valentina army for another battle here on the ground of Zamberk.

Once the camp building came to an end, Elen had Leitmeritz’s soldiers form lines in a corner of the campground. There was something she had to do as their commander.

“You showed me a terribly disgraceful side during today’s battle,” Elen declared dispassionately with an unusually stern expression. Several of her dejected soldiers had their shoulders tremble out of shame and frustration. “Even after you guys cast away your weapons and courage, running away in all directions, I remained standing on the battlefield to the bitter end. The one who saved me on the battlefield was King Tigrevurmud. I demonstrated that I’m a Vanadis and a commander while King Tigrevurmud made it apparent that he’s someone standing above others.”

It was the first time for Elen to speak in such a manner. Usually Elen followed the belief that the responsibility of an army’s defeat lay with its commander. But, right now she deliberately twisted that, reprimanding her soldiers.

“As you can see, we’re still in good health. The enemy is likely going to throw its army at us very soon again. This time to consign us to death for good. Until now I stood at the front while swinging my sword just like you. It did so because it’s my duty and pride.”

“──Lady Vanadis,” Rurick, who stood in front of the soldiers, stepped forward. “Won’t you give us just one more chance? We swear that we’ll keep fighting, even if our swords break and our spears snap, without ever retreating, no matter what enemy we might have to face.”

But, Elen shook her head, “I’ll call for new reinforcements from Leitmeritz, and I’ll continue commanding just them. Rather than being accompanied by more than 3,000 cowards, fighting while leading a thousand brave warriors bears more of a chance for victory.”

Voices similar to screams could be heard from among the soldiers. A dozen soldiers stepped forward, pushing Rurick aside. They appealed to be added to the battle line. Yet, Elen only stared at them without a single twitch of her eyebrows, waiting for them to stop talking.

Then she answered, “This is no battlefield, so you can run your mouth however you please without any consequences.”

The soldiers swallowed their breath, their heads hanging and their fists trembling.

Elen quietly announced, “Breakup.”

 

◆◇◆

 

It wasn’t as though Elen had forsaken the soldiers from the bottom of her heart. Far from it. In reality, she believed her to be responsible for their defeat. At night, she invited Lim to her own tent, her first question being about the soldiers’ state.

“It seems to have been quite a blow to them. They’re so quiet that it makes me actually worry.”

“Did I go too far?”

“No, I think that much was the right dose. If they didn’t regret it for anyone to see, they’d earn themselves the resentment of the other armies, beginning with Olmutz. By the way──” Lim changed the topic, “──as for me, I’d like you to be as angry with Lord Tigrevurmud as you had been with the soldiers.”

“Me?”

Elen stopped her hand just as she was to bring the silver cup to her mouth, frowning.

Lim nodded with an extremely serious expression, “He won’t hear anything but thanks from me. But, as supreme commander and the one leading our cause, it’s wrong for him to take such actions.”

“I thought you pushed him to become king while knowing his ways, though,” answered Elen, causing Lim to fall silent with her eyebrows knitted. Elen further added, “I understand what you want to say, but since he said he’d become king, Tigre must demonstrate that he’s fit to be our king. Many soldiers got a better view of him because of his rescuing me. I’d like you to keep valuing that part of him, instead.”

“In short, you’re saying that we ought to move in order to protect Lord Tigrevurmud while approving of his recklessness?” Lim groaned with an expression as if she was enduring a headache.

She comprehended what Elen was telling her, and it was indisputable that she liked that part of Tigre, but when she considered how she’d need to continue supporting his rash actions, countless scoldings surfaced in the sea of her thoughts.

Around the same time, Tigre welcomed Regin in his tent. She thanked him for his courageous fight, but that wasn’t why she had come to visit him.

“Could I have you stall for time?” She asked with a serious look.

After considering it, Tigre dispatched a messenger to the Valentina army the next morning, requesting a meeting. And Valentina agreed to that. Messengers kept coming and going between both armies during that day, resulting in a promise for Tigre and Valentina to meet alone in the morning of the next day. On the terms of neither bringing any weapons, attendants or soldiers.

 

 

Tigrevurmud Vorn and Valentina Glinka Estes faced each other on a plain roughly two belsta away from Zamberk.

“You seem to be doing fine, Earl Vorn.”

“Fortunately I suffered nothing but scratches during the battle two days ago. You have my gratitude for going along with my request, Valentina.”

Valentina was clad in a pure-white dress, carrying a large box in her arm. A bottle of wine and bread had been stored inside.

“Do you care to join me for a little brunch?”

After sighing lightly, Tigre removed his overcoat and spread it out on the ground. Without further ado, Valentina sat down on it, and Tigre took the place opposite of her.

Valentina poured wine into two silver cups she had quickly set up. Cuts had been added to the bread, making it easy to tear pieces off with little effort. Tigre turned down wine and bread, promptly broaching the main topic. He didn’t want her to snatch the initiative from him.

“Is your goal to become queen? After Ruslan has passed away, that is,” Tigre cut in directly without any prefaces.

Valentina answered with a little chuckle, “I’m just trying to accomplish my duty as Zhcted’s Vanadis. The other Vanadis have been gleefully supporting a false king like you, so I have no choice but to do it by myself, do I?”

“Just as it was written in my proclamation, I was entrusted with Lord Eugene’s will. They’re acting as guarantors.”

“Seeing how all of them like you, I think they will participate in any ruse for your sake. In the first place, are they actually Vanadis? Why did Eleonora, whom I fought the other day, wield a longsword and not her draconic tool?” Valentina took a stab at the crux of the matter with a tinge of sarcasm coloring her words.

Tigre believed that this had been the reason for her to agree to this meeting. If she could make sure that Elen and the other Vanadis were unable to use their draconic tool, it would immediately widen her tactical options. She wouldn’t be forced to invest dozens or hundreds of soldiers to take down a single Vanadis any longer.

“It’s because their draconic tools lost their powers during the battle against Ganelon.”

Valentina unintentionally widened her eyes. Most likely she hadn’t expected Tigre to give her such an honest answer.

Tigre smiled at her as he was able to return a blow.

“I thought you had already anticipated as much, but was I wrong in that assumption?”

“I’m certainly not all-knowing. ──So Duke Ganelon passed away?”

Tigre nodded at her seeking confirmation.

Valentina intentionally and artificially sighed, “If he could have at least taken one of you with him, it’d have been a bit easier on me.”

“In other words, you did know what Ganelon was planning to do.” Rage clearly dyed Tigre’s voice. “Do you know how many lives were lost for the absurd idea of making Tir Na Fal──”

“I do,” interrupted Valentina with a smile. “But, if you allow me to say one thing… Aren’t you trying to become this country’s king while knowing that you’re going to tread a path of blood?”

Tigre was lost for words. Valentina averted her eyes from him and continued, “I also have the will to keep walking a path drenched in blood. It’s just that I chose my means to stop Ganelon and hinder the demons’ ambitions after considering things in my own way.”

“To what end? Moments ago you said that you were accomplishing your duty as Vanadis, didn’t you?” Speaking up to this point, Tigre recalled a certain matter.

“His Highness Ruslan’s legitimate child’s──”

“Do you plan to wield your authority after installing His Highness Valery as king?”

Valentina’s voice carried a faintly gentle tone as she answered, “I don’t consider that boy to be fit for kingship. I’ve said it several times now, but I’m accomplishing my duty as Vanadis. I’ll destroy all those who could become enemies of the royal family. That’s all there is to it.”

“Isn’t it more like you’re making enemies of the royal family? Why didn’t you release Lord Eugene?”

The instant he mentioned Eugene’s name, Tigre’s voice clouded over with bitterness.

“This pertains to a secret of the kingdom, so I cannot give you an answer to that.”

Valentina’s reply was cold and ruthless.

“…Do you still intend to attack Pardu?”

“As long as you’re there, it’ll turn out like that.”

The two exchanged many more words, but they only managed to reaffirm each other’s unwavering will. As long as Tigre would try to inherit Eugene’s will, Valentina would try to defeat Tigre as enemy of the royal family. And Tigre had to eliminate Valentina for the sake of obtaining the crown.

When noon had passed, they called the meeting off. At this point it appeared as if only Valentina had gained some results out of this.

 

 

On the next day, Arma Zirnitra and Valentina army squared off against each other on the plains of Zamberk once more.

The Valentina army had to retreat deliberately, but this couldn’t be helped. Valentina had carefully investigated the terrain of Pardu in advance, but this was the only area allowing for a large deployment of troops. If she wanted to use another battlefield, she would have to make a big detour to the north or south. But, rather than investing time into something like that, she judged it to be better to completely annihilate Arma Zirnitra on this occasion.

Although the region was summed up in the name Zamberk, it was vast. Both armies had taken up position in a location slightly off their previous battlefield. Arma Zirnitra’s forces had decreased to 9,000, but the Valentina army had also fallen to 10,000 and some hundreds. It wasn’t that they had suffered many casualties. It was just that several people had withdrawn from her army. More than half of the 1,000 soldiers led by Baron Vladlen, a western lord on Valentina’s side, had left the Valentina army. The one commanding the break-aways was a man called Earl Bulat.

 

◆◇◆

 

Around the time when Tigre and Valentina held their meeting, two women had secretly visited the tent of Earl Bulat – Regin and Marina. Regin was acquainted with the earl since she had repeatedly met him for negotiations about the trade between his earldom and Brune.

When Regin spotted Earl Bulat’s banner among those of the western lords army on Valentina’s side, she had decided to take action for Tigre’s sake. Her first question for the earl was why he had joined this battle. And thus she learned that the earl had acted because he believed Zhcted might be merged into Brune, if Tigre won.

Regin strove to resolve this misunderstanding and also talked about Valentina’s ambitions. She told him that Valentina had murdered Eugene by using Miron and that she planned to to install Prince Valery as puppet in due time. One could find many examples of Vanadis wielding state power by installing convenient rulers within Zhcted’s history.

Marina furthermore explained that Eugene had been put into jail for a long time after being wrongly accused of a crime. As for this, it was already plenty for her to only talk about Eugene’s state at the brink of his death and what she had heard from Eugene.

At the end, Regin added, “You have already fought once, so didn’t you accomplish your obligation here?”

To begin with, many western lords harbored suspicions towards the changes of the affairs in the capital. Earl Bulat was one of them. And at this point, he had lost all reasons to participate in this war. The princess of Brune had declared so. Of course, it was also possible for it all to be a deception, but Earl Bulat believed her.

And then the earl explained the situation to several of his comrades in arms, and departed the battleground.

 

◆◇◆

 

Earl Bulat’s withdrawal was enough to cause Valentina to become cautious. His departure wasn’t merely limited to a thousand soldiers leaving. Rather, unrest was clearly spreading among the western lords’ army.

The former Adelaiyda army boasted big numbers, but they couldn’t be controlled well. Their current numbers amounted to roughly 6,600, but it was questionable at best whether they could move in a way befitting their numbers.

──Did I rush things too much?

Valentina asked herself in the rear of Osterode’s army. Delaying the decisive battle until she had rallied more combat forces under her command should have been possible for her. But, Valentina ended up acting, nonetheless. For the sake of defeating Elen and the other Vanadis while they were unable to use their draconic tools.

But, that might have been a mistake. Fighting at the head of her soldiers like they did wasn’t Valentina’s style. Wasn’t it rather Valentina’s style to take them down one by one with her own methods? Regardless of the question whether they could use her draconic tools or not.

The blaring of horns forced her consciousness back on the battlefield. The battle would begin any moment. She knew that right now wasn’t the time to think about such things.

A scout she had dispatched earlier returned, reporting to Valentina. He told her with a somewhat perplexed tone, “About the greatsword with the golden hilt and guard…I managed to spot up to three of them…”

Valentina’s eyes flew wide open. At the same time, she cursed bitterly in her mind.

──With such a childish trick.

Valentina accurately realized the measure adopted by Arma Zirnitra. During the last battle Valentina had only appeared in front of Elen after she had confirmed that Durandal was with the central unit. Even if Durandal had been carried over in the midst of her attack on the enemy’s right wing, she could have withdrawn under the cover of her soldiers since she’d know about its arrival in advance.

The black-haired Vanadis had absolutely no intention to attack the unit where Durandal was stationed. She didn’t feel like braving such a danger. Arma Zirnitra had read that and prepared counterfeits while buying time with yesterday’s meeting.

──It’s probably just to the extent of adding melted gold coins as decoration to a greatsword with a closely resembling shape, though.

Unless she didn’t check it from nearby, she wouldn’t be able to tell whether it was the real Durandal. And now that it had become like this, she could use the hand of surprise attacking the enemy commanders. And an assault like she had performed on Elen would be difficult as well.

As a matter of fact, this was a gamble for Arma Zirnitra. If Valentina concentrated her troops in one spot to steal the greatsword over there or gained control of the space with a Durandal, even if only temporarily, she’d immediately know whether it was the real Durandal. Given that only one real Durandal existed, she’d become able to freely rely on the power of her draconic tool after pulling off such maneuvers twice.

However, Tigre and the others suspected that she might not use such methods. It’d all depend on the question whether Valentina would be able to switch her thinking completely after having proceeded up until her by repeatedly taking extremely cautious measures.

“You can’t say that it’s out of the question, though,” Elen said.

Her ruby eyes had clearly told everyone that she would definitely settle their dispute if Valentina should appear in front of her once more.

 

◆◇◆

 

Arma Zirnitra took the same formation as during the previous battle. The western lords’ army in the center, Leitmertz’s army on the right wing, and Olmutz’s army on the left wing. Meanwhile, Valentina had deployed 5,000 soldiers of the former Adelaiyda army in the center while sending the rest to the right wing. Together with the western lords’ army, the right wing fell slightly short of 3,000 soldiers. A little less than 3,000 soldiers of Osterode lined up their spears at the left wing.

The battle began without any time to greet the morning. The hooting of the horns echoed through the air, and the flags fluttered in the morning wind. The advance of close to 20,000 humans, when combining both armies, caused the ground to shake.

Valentina would focus on the overall command without trying to make a move herself this time.

The soldiers clashed from the front, striking at each other with their weapons. The morale of Leitmeritz’s army was terrifying. Elen had called together the soldiers before the battle to give a speech.

“It depends on yourself whether you’ll be able to recover your honor today.”

It was unthinkable for any soldier to not get stirred up by those words. In addition, Elen stood at the head of her army and duked it out with Osterode’s soldiers, just like during the previous battle.

The attacks of Leitmeritz’s soldiers were like a fierce avalanche, bringing them close to crushing Osterode’s ranks. If not for Valentina taking command, Arma Zirnitra might have achieved victory at that point. But, Valentina skilfully made Osterode’s soldiers fall back, and send forth a detached unit right at the moment when Leitmeritz’s battle line had stretched thin, delivering a mighty blow to the right flank of Leitmeritz’s army. This caused Elen to frantically act in order to fix her army’s ranks by having her soldiers fall back.

The battle went on like this, both armies alternatively advancing or retreating.

In the back of the central division, Tigre suppressed the urge of wanting to rush out while receiving reports from each army division. At present, the power balance was close to even, but Tigre’s side was slightly inferior.

Standing next to Tigre, Mashas almost never interrupted Tigre, limiting himself to happily watching the growth of his best friend’s son.

At that time Tigre sent a messenger to Lim at the right wing with a certain order.

 

◆◇◆

 

While being in the rear of Osterode’s army, Valentina frequently controlled the entire army and handed out orders. Arma Zirnitra struggled harder than she had expected, but she believed that her army was still overpowering them back on the whole. That perception was correct.

When close to one koku had passed since the start of the battle, a report was delivered to her.

“I’m told that the figures of cavalrymen have been sighted in the south ─ the rear of our army! They number something between 500 and 1000. They’re flying Polesia’s banners!”

Valentina furrowed her eyebrows. A bad premonition welled up within her.

She hadn’t made sure of Sofya Obertas’s death.

──Maybe she survived and waited to appear at this very moment. No. In such a case, she would never show up with such a low number of soldiers. Several days after I’ve brought down Sofya, Polesia’s army withdrew from Arma Zirnitra. It’s possible that Arma Zirnitra borrowed Polesia’s banners on that occasion.

Valentina had 500 infantrymen from among the reserve soldiers head out to intercept Polesia’s army. Seemingly realizing that they’d have no chance of winning if they clashed with Osterode’s army, Polesia’s forces immediately pulled back. And once Osterode’s army advanced further, they began to flee in chaos.

Hearing a report about it, Valentina revealed a smile.

“So it was just a little trick after all. Make sure to also inform the other divisions. Tell them that the army of Polesia, which had shown up south, was a sham unit.”

However, Valentina received an astonishing report in almost no time after that.

“A party flying Polesia’s banners has appeared in the south once again! They number 3,000!”

Valentina was unable to give out orders right away. While watching the back of her own army’s soldiers, she sank into thinking.

──If it had been a thousand, I could consider that to be another trick. But, what about this? They shouldn’t have the leeway to use 3,000 soldiers for some clever scheme. Have they used mercenaries or the militia? If they’ve gone around Leitmeritz, Olmutz, Pardu, and the surroundings, it wouldn’t have been impossible to prepare the militia. They might have come rushing after just having assembled. But, what if it’s truly Polesia’s army? In that case, the current battle situation would be in danger of being overturned. Especially because it’ll result in five Vanadis becoming our enemy, and on top of that, those holding influence in Brune’s south. Earl Bulat has already pulled out, and if another Vanadis with her army joined the enemy at this point, the lords’ morale would likely nosedive. Even if all of the Vanadis can’t use their draconic tools.

Valentina prepared 1,000 soldiers from her reserve forces and ordered them to intercept Polesia’s army. She also added that it’d be fine for them to just hold back the enemy without trying to defeat them. She was certain that her own army would come out victorious as long as Arma Zirnitra was annihilated.

However, the 1,000 soldiers of Osterode were routed by the courageous army of Polesia which had such a high morale that it was actually frightening.

 

◆◇◆

 

Yet, it wasn’t as though Arma Zirnitra had that much leeway either. Once they confirmed the retreat of Osterode’s army, Leitmeritz’s army stopped. The soldiers had reached their limit, unable to move any longer. The same applied to Olmutz’s army which had crushed the enemy’s right wing and on top of that joined the furious, frontal assault of the central unit. It was a victory that offset their previous defeat more than plentifully, but their bodies couldn’t keep up with their delight, and one soldier after the other collapsed on the spot. For some of them the exhaustion and accumulated injuries were so severe that they died then and there.

Polesia’s army didn’t want to let their commander Sofy try to force herself, and the western lords’ army feared the might of Osterode’s army, and thus both refrained from pursuing the Valentina army.

For this reason Arma Zirnitra allowed the enemy to retreat. Still, it didn’t change the fact of them having won. Tigre and Mashas smiled at each other, and after leaving the command of the central unit to the elderly earl, Tigre rode his horse to Polesia’s army. Sofy greeted Tigre with a smile. Both dismounted and faced each other. Sofy’s body was plastered with bandages so as to cover the wound inflicted by Valentina. It made it painful for Tigre to look at her. But, seeing her smile sweetly, Tigre put on a smile as well.

“So, you’re going to become…king of Zhcted, huh?”

“That’s the plan,” Tigre answered confidently as Sofy looked at him with her head slightly tilted to the side.

He was also completely exhausted, but compared to Sofy who had come all the way here while leading an army, his level of fatigue was trivial. Considering it like that, he straightened his back and puffed out his chest.

“It might not be necessary to explicitly spell it out, but please let me ask you once more to lend me your strength.”

Her response was a gentle hug and the following words: “As long as you keep your promise to take me on a little trip after all of this is over.”

Tigre nodded while feeling Sofy’s warmth.

This spelled the end of the 「Battle of Zamberk」. But, it didn’t mean that everything had ended at that point.

 

 

Taking several days, Valentina returned to Silesia, but she didn’t have the gates closed at once. She knew it would only cause the capital’s residents to worry. Besides, it was indispensable for her to keep flaunting her composure to the palace’s people and the lords.

What could possibly be called fortunate was the fact of nothing having changed in the capital since her departure. Lines of those wishing to enter or leave Silesia formed on either side of the gate, and once she passed through the gate, she was greeted by a city as lively and flourishing as ever. After thanking her soldiers for accompanying her, promising compensation to the wounded, and telling her army to break up for the sake of resting up, Valentina entered the palace. The bureaucrats ran up to her, showering Valentina with words of consolation. Valentina thanked all of them with a smile, before asking them to gather the main personnel of Zhcted’s government in the council room.

When the bureaucrats asked her about the purpose of the meeting, Valentina replied, “We are going to perform His Highness Ruslan’s coronation.”

The Vanadis, including herself, being able to act as they pleased stemmed from the absence of a king. Once Ruslan ascended the throne, all Vanadis would be compelled to fall under his rule. After all, they were Vanadis. No matter how much Tigre vied for becoming the next king, he wouldn’t be a legitimate king.

However, Valentina explained it to the bureaucrats as follows: “The Vanadis have taken action on their own accord, instigating a part of the lords and sowing anxiety among the populace. I believe we have no other choice but to do this in order to give the people a peace of mind and get the lords to understand that His Highness is the legitimate king.”

Then again, Valentina was unable to hold absolute confidence when it came to Tigre. The act of a foreigner naming himself king and being supported by several Vanadis was unprecedented in Zhcted’s history.

──I must also consider the possibility of the Vanadis not obeying Ruslan. Even if it means braving danger at such a time, I’ll transfer into Arma Zirnitra’s camp with Ezendeis’s power, abduct Regin or slay Tigre. Regin would serve as a fine tool for negotiations, and as long as Tigre is gone, the united front of the Vanadis is going to fall apart.

 

◆◇◆

 

The meeting finished without a hitch. Valentina could feel relieved as the participants had decided to perform the coronation ceremony as quickly as possible without waiting for spring as Ruslan had originally requested.

──But, I wonder whether there’s still enough strength left in him to go through the ceremony.

Valentina mused while looking up to the slowly darkening sky from a hallway in the palace. Unconsciously a sigh escaped her lips, and she realized just how tired she was.

──It’s only natural. I had to do my utmost to somehow lead a defeated army back and went to the meeting without getting any rest. Even during the retreat I had no opportunity to properly rest up. But, before retiring to my room, I must meet His Highness. Ruslan and Valery. I’m sure both have heard about our defeat, so I need to assure them.

It was at that moment that a single civil official darted across the hallway with a pale face.

“Lady Vanadis! Lady Vanadis! Oh, there you are!”

After listening to his reports, which was repeatedly interrupted by his heavy panting, Valentina’s eyes flew wide open. The official had informed her that Grand Chamberlain Miron had seized Valery atop the wall.

“What does that mean…?”

The black-haired Vanadis, who had used countless schemes, was so flabbergasted that she could only pose such a mediocre question. She didn’t understand why Valery would go atop the wall as the prince should have never left the palace’s compound to begin with. She also didn’t have a clue why the boy had been seized by Miron.

The official shook his head, making clear that he hadn’t any idea either. Valentina fixed her hold on Ezendeis and started to run through the hallways.

──And why of all things atop the wall?

She couldn’t leap there with her draconic art as such Valentina had no choice but to run with her long, black hair disheveled and irritation as well as impatience gnawing at her.

When she left the palace and arrived at the wall, the sky had already become dim. Before climbing atop the wall, Valentina had to get her breathing in order while supporting herself with Ezendeis as a crutch. The accumulated fatigue turned into an invisible hand that grabbed her whole body, threatening to drag her down to the ground at any moment. She suspected that the effect of the chains, which sealed her draconic tool’s powers, had an influence on her feeling the heaviness of Ezendeis.

The Osterode soldiers atop the wall, who had noticed Valentina’s presence, rushed down to her.

Valentina didn’t have any margin to smile, and thus asked them with a grave expression, “What about His Highness Valery?”

Several of the soldiers looked at each other, obviously confused. One among them reported, “He’s being pinned down by His Excellency the Grand Chamberlain. His Excellency told us to stay away while trusting a dagger at His Highness.

She could fully understand that they found it troublesome as they didn’t know how to explain it best. But, this much was enough for Valentina. She could confirm that Valery was safe for the moment.

“Did everyone silently watch the Grand Chamberlain drag His Highness all the way to the wall?” Valentina’s voice contained reproach.

One of the soldiers answered, “No… Ever since you, Lady Vanadis, departed, His Highness started to read his books atop the wall while the sun was out…. And just as he was doing the same today as well, the Grand Chamberlain…”

Valentina felt dumbstruck. Valery had waited for her return every day. Even though Valentina hadn’t done much more for him than allowing him to read stories. And even that had been a matter of merely ten-odd days at her departure.

“I shall go myself. You guys wait down here. Let’s see, come back after a quarter koku. Also──”

Valentina hesitated for an instant, wondering whether she should inform Ruslan of this. But, right now Valentina didn’t know Ruslan’s current condition.

In the end, Valentina left her words unfinished, and climbed the wall.

A strong wind blew atop the rampart, making her hair and the hem of her dress flutter. The dress covering her body was slightly dirty and some of the rose ornaments were gone. But, Valentina’s eyes were brimming with a strong will as if her exhaustion was but a distant dream.

Some Osterode soldiers were still left on the wall. After listening to them, Valentina went ahead, just to discover Miron and Valery before long. Miron had wrapped his left arm around Valery’s slender neck, holding down the young prince. Miron’s eyes were restlessly darting around while he was tightly grasping a dagger in his right hand. It was the same dagger which had deeply injured Eugene. Apparently having fainted, Valery was limply hanging his head.

“What is your intention behind this, Grand Chamberlain?” Valentina confronted him with a frosty tone while enduring the weight of Ezendeis.

Miron’s shoulders jumped with a start and he directed his eyes at Valentina.

“I-It’s for the sake of H-His Highness Ruslan…” Miron spat out with his face twisted to an eerie degree.

Valentina furrowed her eyebrows, “I don’t even want to know what you’re trying to do here. Let go of His Highness. It is high treason what you’re currently doing. Stealing His Highness’s freedom, threatening him with a blade, and taking him hostage…just where did your pride as servant of the kingdom go?”

While saying all that, Valentina directed her anger at herself. She had taken Miron too lightly. Not in her wildest dreams had she suspected that he’d act so recklessly. That oversight had put the young prince’s life in peril. She couldn’t forgive herself for that.

Visibly gasping hard, Miron defended himself with all his facial wrinkles squirming, “Soon Tigrevurmud Vorn is going to show up at Silesia with an army in his back. Just like Bydgauche’s forces had tried to attack this capital in the past. That’s why I will have His Highness Valery die here.”

Valentina was lost for words. As she stood there dumbfounded, Miron further added, “What if…what if Earl Vorn was to demand something like hurting His Highness Ruslan? Is it not our only choice to win his favor by offering him His Highness Valery’s head before he can make that demand?”

When he mentioned Valery’s head, Miron’s wrinkled finger stroked Valery’s neck. Valentina was frozen in place, unable to find any words as she stared at the elderly man. This man had said they should offer Valery’s life for the sake of somehow extending Ruslan’s life. He hadn’t gone mad. Instead he was exceedingly serious and earnest. And hideous.

“──Very well. I will go along with your idea.”

Shouldering Ezendeis, she gripped the big scythe with both hands. Maintaining that stance, she took one step towards Miron. The elderly chamberlain knitted his eyebrows.

“What are you planning? No, toss away your draconic tool, Lady Valentina.”

“I shall negotiate the terms with Earl Vorn. While bringing him His Highness’ head and yours. ──For the sake of His Highness Ruslan.”

“Don’t be ridiculous….!” Miron shouted, shock dyeing his face.

Valentina closed the distance between them by taking another step.

“I am not ridiculous. It’s not like your head as Grand Chamberlain is completely worthless, right?” Valentina giggled while bearing the pressure and weariness weighing down on her.

She kicked off the ground with her black hair fluttering. Miron screamed and drew back while thrusting Valery away. Valery’s body staggered, being on the verge of falling off the wall.

A shrill metallic clank reverberated. It was the sound of the draconic tool falling to the ground. Valentina had abandoned her weapon and rushed over to Valery, succeeding in catching his body before it fell into the emptiness.

“…Tina?”

Apparently having recovered his consciousness, Valery called out to her while in her arms. The impact against her lower back followed immediately afterwards. The black-haired Vanadis turned her head while hugging Valery.

A dagger’s hilt was growing out of her back. The flowing blood kept staining her pure-white dress crimson at a surprising rate. Once she shifted her eyes, she found Miron stumbling backwards, his body swaying and his face ghastly pale.

“Your Majesty, Your Majesty… I finished off the royal family’s enemy. I have…” Miron retreated further while muttering incoherently.

His mind had started to escape reality and he was obviously talking to some dweller of his imaginary world. But, Valentina’s wrathful glare pulled him back to this world. Noticing the sharp glint in her eyes, Miron swallowed his breath, and backed off even further. Just for his heel to step beyond the wall’s edge.

He didn’t scream. Miron simply fell with shock plastered all over his face. And then he struck the ground. Valentina peered below the wall with Valery still in her arms. Miron’s body, faintly visible within the darkness, was twisted like a broken doll.

Suddenly, a weird idea hit Valentina.

Wasn’t it King Viktor’s deep-rooted delusion that he wanted to install Ruslan on the throne that caused Miron to move? Hadn’t that wish, which vanished eight years ago, revived alongside Ruslan’s comeback and inspired that old man after King Viktor’s death…?

Power escaped Valentina’s body. It slowly crumbled down on the spot.

“Tina…!” Valery screamed out sorrowfully.

When Valentina tried to answer with “Your Highness,” Valentina was forced to realize that it was a lot more painful for her to muster her voice than she had expected. Her breathing became rough and her body felt sluggish.

“Forgive me, but would you be able to call His Highness Ruslan to this place…?”

Despite their location steadily getting darker, Valentina could still see him nod over and over again with tears in his eyes. While listening to the much too young prince running away, Valentina absentmindedly and incoherently pondered about various things.

This seems to be the limit of my ability. In the end, I seem to join the ranks of those who desired the crown but dropped out halfway. It’s impossible to not feel any regret. But, now that I’m on the verge of death, it’s mundane, and even pitiful, to make any assumptions. Still, for me to lose my life not because of a battle or some plot, but merely for the sake of saving a single child…

However, when Valentina thought of Valery, a warm feeling of satisfaction spread inside her chest.

At least you──

“Tina.”

Valentina was pulled back to reality when she was suddenly addressed by her pet name. Next thing she knew, she was sitting in the pool of blood she had created herself. Then she realized that she had to have lost consciousness at some point.

Once she lifted her face, she spotted Ruslan with his body wrapped up in loose clothes. Next to him stood Valery. She was about to call him Petrov. Not because her consciousness was hazy, but because she was trying to tell him that she knew. However, all that escaped her lips was a sigh.

Ruslan embraced Valentina in his arms. He had probably perceived from her expression that she couldn’T be saved anymore. Meanwhile Valery was doing his utmost to shoulder Ezendeis.

“Thank you for all that you have done for me until now.”

At that point Valentina’s consciousness cut off once more. The next time she came to, a courtyard-like scenery was reflected in her dim field of vision. Apparently she had been taken off the wall.

She didn’t know, but this was the place where Ruslan had set fire eight years ago after becoming mentally ill.

“Ezendeis……” Valentina mumbled painfully.

The instant she grasped that she was about to lose her life, she recalled what she had to do above all else. Obeying its wielder’s call, the long-handled scythe jumped through space, disappearing out of Valery’s hands and reappearing in Valentina’s.

“Ezendeis.” Valentina called the name of her beloved draconic tool once more, and powerfully hugged it so as to express her gratitude for him having lent her his power all this time. And then she bid farewell, “──I wanted to become queen, no, I tried to become one.”

This was the first and the last time she would ever voice out her ambition since grasping Ezendeis with her hands. A Vanadis was someone who served and protected the king, but a Vanadis was in no position to take the throne for herself.

The draconic tool in her hands, which went by the alias of Cracked Void of Sealed Sinisterness, quivered faintly. As if lamenting that its wielder had broken a taboo. And also, as if unwilling to part for eternity.

“Thanks…”

Thanks to you, I was able to choose this way of life.

The scythe was wrapped up in a pale light. Ezendeis soundlessly and all too quickly disappeared out of Valentina’s hands.

Ruslan sat down next to her, who had stopped being a Vanadis, and took her hand. A gentle smile formed on her face with its eyes closed.

And then Valentina Estes passed away.

 

◆◇◆

 

Tigrevurmud Vorn arrived at the capital Silesia one night after Valentina had passed away.

Arma Zirnitra had marched straight for the capital after the Battle of Zamberk. On the way, Ruslan’s fast messenger had visited them and passed on the prince’s words which asked Tigre to come to him alone, as quickly as possible. Elen and Mila had opposed the idea, saying that it had to be a trap, but Tigre decided to honor the prince’s request and head into the capital by himself. It partly stemmed from him having sensed something from the messenger’s expression, but the prince having used “my friend Tigre” in his address, which the messenger said he had precisely repeated word by word, also played a role in Tigre making his decision.

Spurring on his horse while staying up all night, Tigre could finally spot the capital’s wall in the distance around the time when the eastern sky began to brighten. And just as the capital greeted the morning, Tigre reached the city itself.

The one welcoming Tigre while standing in front of the gate was a single boy in silken attire.

“I’m Valery.”

With those being his only words, the boy started to walk in order to lead Tigre to his destination. The boy’s hair was disheveled and traces of him having cried for a long time stained his face. Blood stains were visible on his clothes, but Valery kept walking towards the palace with a firm attitude and his back straight.

He didn’t lead Tigre into the palace itself, but rather in front of a certain royal villa. Ruslan was sitting over there. Seeing Valentina lying on the ground next to him, Tigre’s eyes flew wide open, but he immediately realized that her body had lost all its life.

“So you heeded my request? You have my gratitude,” Ruslan smiled as he looked up to Tigre.

Seeing his face, Tigre was assailed by another spell of surprise after the one caused by Valentina’s death. Ruslan’s face was so haggard that Tigre unconsciously swallowed his breath. All vitality had left Ruslan’s expression.

“Your Highness, we must call the doctor at──”

“It’s futile,” interrupted Ruslan curtly. “Even if I were to survive today, I won’t live for many days, let alone last until spring. Rather, I personally believe that I did well to have survived until today. However, I’d like to use up all my life today rather than having it slowly chipped away while lying in bed.”

Tigre tightly clenched his fists, somehow managing to suppress blurting out, “Still.”

Ruslan’s life is his own. There’s no way it’d be fine for me to crush it with my own hands.

“I simply wanted to have a talk with you. After all, it’d be far too terrible for things to end without me talking with you ever again.”

Valery bowed towards Tigre, turned around, and walked away. Tigre sat down in front of Ruslan. The prince, whose departure from this world was already set in stone, and the youth, who would try to tread the path towards kingship from now on, looked at each other squarely.

Ruslan explained all he knew about Valentina and Miron’s death. Despite him being on the verge of death, his recount was concise and to the point. Without waiting for Tigre to recover from his shock, Ruslan shifted to the next topic, obviously valuing every breath of time he had left.

“Could you tell me the reason why you stepped up to become the king of this country? I have heard about the general course of events, but I’d love to hear the details. If I remember correctly, you have decided to take Brune’s throne, haven’t you? Why would you desire a second throne?”

Tigre recounted how he had been entrusted with Eugene’s will, how he had decided to succeed Eugene’s wishes, and everything surrounding the events that led to it. Ruslan nodded at Tigre’s explanation, apparently able to agree.

“Eugene chose a fine successor. What are you going to do once you obtain the throne?” Ruslan asked quietly. “Are you going to eventually break up Zhcted in several parts and integrate the whole into Brune as a province?”

“I do not plan to try changing everything about Zhcted. It would go against Lord Eugene’s wishes. I would like to properly pass on what I inherited to the people of the next era.”

As for Brune, however, Tigre could think of several things he wanted to change. He wanted to teach people the usefulness of bows and form archer units in the royal army. For one thing, Brune was in a situation of having lost many talented people during the civil war two years ago and this year’s wars. If he tried to form an army with fewer soldiers than before, it’d be necessary to change its way of fighting. This was yet another reason why a reinforcement with archer units was so essential. It was something he had to accomplish at all costs. After all, Brune’s neighbors had all formed archer units. Hence, Brune couldn’t afford to remain in its current state of opposing everything with knights alone.

Moreover, it was also important to cause a new wind to blow through noble society by splitting up the territories of Thenardier and Ganelon, which were currently under the direct control of the royal family, among those who had achieved meritorious deeds during the wars until now. Those who would inherit these territories, would be grateful towards Regin and Tigre, likely hoping for the royal family to reign for a long time. And when it came to governing a fief, it was desirable for the kingdom to be as peaceful as possible. Hence, Tigre believed that they’d surely obey the kingdom’s policies. With the help of Regin, Tigre, who possessed few bonds with other lords, might be able to implement his plans.

However, Tigre didn’t harbor any such notions or determinations when it came to Zhcted. He merely felt that he’d like the kingdom to prosper once he became Zhcted’s king. However, he didn’t consider introducing ranks between the Vanadis like Valentina had planned.

“For example,” Ruslan left a short pause before asking, “don’t you consider removing the post of Vanadis altogether, or changing their positions in a drastic way? If you did that, you’d be able to take Eleonora as a wife without any need to worry.”

Tigre blinked in surprise and then fixed a serious look on Ruslan. If he really enforced something like that, it’d likely turn out to become the biggest reform since the foundation of Zhcted. But, it’d be possible for Tigre. All draconic tools except for Ezendeis had lost their power. If he announced their loss of power while concealing the fact that they’d recover in due time, it might become possible to get rid of the post of Vanadis in itself.

Tir Na Fal wouldn’t revive for another several hundred years. The demons weren’t pulling any strings in the back either. Thus it wouldn’t be much of a hurdle for all Vanadis to become normal girls.

But, Tigre shook his head, “Elen wishes to be a Vanadis. And I love her for what she is.”

“I see. This is a story from many years back, but…there was a time when I wished to do just that,” Ruslan said nostalgically, after removing his eyes from Tigre and staring into the distance. “You people sure are blessed.”

Ruslan faced Tigre once more, “I shall entrust this kingdom to you. If you say you inherited Eugene’s will, you’ll likely cause its people no harm either.”

“All of the Vanadis, who have been supporting me, are rulers who think first and foremost about their citizens. I want to be someone who can proudly stand by their side.”

Tigre couldn’t betray their feelings, their expectations. Ruslan believed that thought would likely become the driving force for Tigre, who was now slated to become the next king.

Ruslan nodded with a smile, and changed the topic, “If Eugene or I had become king, we would have probably given Eleonora a suitable post and dispatched her to Brune while also arranging everything with Princess Regin so that Eleonora would be able to stay at your side as much as possible. Afterwards, when Eleonora stopped being a Vanadis someday, you and I would have negotiated anew to assign her as your beloved concubine.”

Tigre stared at Ruslan, dumbfounded. It was a move neither Tigre nor Elen had thought of.

“This method would have had its shortcomings, however. If something were to happen to Eleonora during her stay in Brune, our side would have been compelled to call you into question. Besides, it’d have resulted in her having to lead a constrained life, including the inspection of her letters for example.”

Tigre nodded with a serious expression. It was a possible path. Other than him becoming the king.

Then again, it was a method that wouldn’t have come into fruition with any king other than Ruslan or Eugene.

“Tigre, forgive me, but would it be alright for me to request one more thing from you?”

Tigre was surprised about being suddenly called by his nickname, but he still nodded. It meant that Ruslan wanted to ask him for a favor as a private individual and not as a public character.

“It’s about Valery──my son who led you here. Though I must admit that I’ve never done anything for him that would qualify me to call myself his father.” For the first time today, Ruslan revealed a self-depreciating smile, “I’d like to ask you to take care of him. So that he won’t tread down a path of sorrow if possible…”

“I understand. Please entrust His Highness Valery to me.”

In the first place, Tigre had never planned to harm Valery, but this was a request of a friend. Thus Tigre decided to try to accommodate him as much as possible.

As if saying that he had said everything he had to say, Ruslan gently embraced Valentina’s corpse.

“I died eight years ago. Or rather, my state was similar to that of being dead. It might be disrespectful towards her after she put in much effort into reviving me, but in the end, the dead shouldn’t wander about.”

Tigre silently saw Ruslan off as he entered the royal villa. A quarter koku later, black smoke began to rise from various places of the villa, accompanied by flames blazing up. Eight years ago Ruslan had set fire to this royal villa. Now Tigre was watching the same scene as it took place back then.

Tigre would need to mourn for many people from now on. That was the duty of the living, and also the obligation of a king.

 

 

As Zhcted was greeting spring, the Sun FestivalMasleniztsa was held. Compared to last year, this year’s festival was a lot more pompous. After all, it also served as a ceremony for the coronation of the new king.

Tigrevurmud Vorn stood stock still in the king’s chamber, located deep inside the palace, baring his bewilderment. His otherwise unruly hair had been carefully groomed, and he wore a cloak with a candid embroidery of a black dragon atop a mostly black, silken attire. His silken clothes as well as the cloak were plastered with silver and golden ornaments. As of yet, he didn’t wear the crown. He would receive it during the enthronement ceremony, even though the ceremony would be held in the audience hall where the king usually wore his crown.

“You look stunning, Lord Tigre,” Titta clapped her hands with a broad smile on her lips after having helped Tigre to dress himself.

Her cheeks flushing furiously was proof of her own hardship. Three court ladies stood behind Titta. Just like Titta, those three were also all smiles. Smiles that showed how all their hardships had finally bore fruit.

“His usual clothes, when he departs to the battlefield, are plenty gallant, though,” Elen commented with a wry smile.

Her body was hidden by a dress with a sword hanging at her hip. But, because Arifar hadn’t recovered yet, it was an ordinary sword.

“For starters, around this much should do. Once he gets used to it, some majesty will show as well, I believe,” added Sofy with a cheerful laugh.

She was likewise wearing a dress, but the scar stretching from her left shoulder to her right flank had been discreetly hidden. According to her, there was only one person she didn’t mind showing that scar.

“Elen, Mila, remember the time when you came to the palace as Vanadis for the first time. Your expressions and movements were just as stiff from tension.”

Being reprimanded by Sofy, Elen and Mila reflexively exchanged a glance and then snorted in displeasure. Both thought, I shouldn’t have acted as awkwardly as that woman.

Liza wore a dress just like the other three as she stared at Lim who was clad in a military uniform.

“You won’t attend as a Vanadis?”

“No. It is true that I had been chosen by Bargren at one point, but I think it would be presumptuous of me to call myself a Vanadis.”

Lim had still been working as Elen’s aide in Leitmeritz. But that duty would end with the Sun Festival. It was decided that she would serve Tigre thereafter.

At that point, Regin entered the chamber together with Mashas. She didn’t wear a dress, but a silken attire. Her position in this place was that of representative for Brune.

Regin walked up to Tigre, and looked up to the youth with a smile, “It suits you very nicely, Tigre.”

“Thanks,” answered the youth, and gently clasped her hand.

In this place they were Zhcted’s king and Brune’s princess.

Next Mashas lightly tapped Tigre’s shoulder, “I’d really love to show your current appearance to Urs and Diana.”

“Sooner or later, I’ll head over to tell father and mother about it myself.”

The grave of his parents was located behind Tigre’s mansion in Celesta, the central town of Alsace. Just like Bertrand’s grave. Tigre knew that he had loads of new information he needed to share with.

While it was true that he had become the king of Brune and Zhcted, he had no plans to let go of his lordship over Alsace. Tigre intended to have one of his children succeed the peerage someday.

Mashas laughed with tears blurring the corners of his eyes, and then seriously said, “Just another half month and I’ll become unable to talk to you like this.”

It was scheduled for Tigre to return to Brune as soon as the Sun Festival ended for the sake of performing his next coronation ceremony in time for the Joël Grace. The Joël Grace, which was Brune’s new year festival, was quite overdue.

As for the reason why it got delayed so much, Prime Minister Badouin explained it as follows: “Her Highness the Princess Regin is currently residing in Zhcted to assist in the suppression of the chaos in Zhcted, our partner nation. We shall hold the Joël Grace as soon as Her Highness returns.”

The people of Brune accepted that explanation. You could also coin that to be evidence of them having approved of Regin as their ruler. But, this brought about a single worry for Tigre. Just like Brune’s Joël Grace had been delayed this year, next year’s new year festival in Zhcted might get delayed. Tigre only possessed one body, and if he attempted to make an appearance at both festivals, he’d need to delay one.

The option to not attend one of the new year festivals didn’t exist. With Tigre’s reign not being based on a legitimate succession in Brune and Zhcted, Tigre had to forge his authority through a steady reign. This also included an attendance of the new year festivities as king, let alone as one of those governing land. If he only participated in one of the festivals, it’d be regarded as partiality, and that might hurt the feelings of the citizens in the disadvantaged country.

Hence he had no choice but to at least get the citizens to agree by postponing the festival’s date for a reason.

On the other hand, Tigre didn’t believe that he should unify both countries into one. Brune and Zhcted shared many traits, but despite that, both had their own histories. For example, the system of Vanadis would be likely difficult to implement in Brune due to lacking acceptance. And there would also be the issue of how to distribute the land.

Because of that, Tigre came up with an idea. It concerned Prince Valery and Eugene’s daughter Alyssa. It was decided that Valery would live at Natasha’s place, who was the younger sister of King Viktor. Valery wanting to live away from the royal palace also played a part in this, but mostly it stemmed from Tigre being unable to find any good candidate to take care of Valery other than Natasha who knew Valentina. Thus Tigre had visited Natasha’s mansion in Osterode, explained the circumstances, and requested her help while lowering his head. Him taking care of Valery had also been a wish of Ruslan.

“Very well. However, I must warn you that I do not know how much longer this body of mine is going to last,” answered Natasha, who was 55 years old at that time, and accepted to shelter Valry for Tigre.

Once his reign in Zhcted had stabilized, Tigre planned to adopt Valery, Alyssa, or both and appoint one or both as the next ruler of Zhcted. Tigre had also presented that idea to the Vanadis. And Sofy had expressed her approval.

“I think it’s a rather good idea. It comes with two advantages.”

First, Tigre wouldn’t have to welcome a princess consort in Zhcted because of that, which would remove one of the problems which would have caused friction between Brune and Zhcted. Moreover, neither Ruslan nor Eugene had been hated by the people, and because both children were of King Viktor’s blood, it was very probable that the people would accept either or both. Besides, Tigre adopting them meant that he could protect and guarantee their livelihood.

“To add one more advantage: we’ll also be able to feel at peace as things will finish without a further increase of love rivals.”

Being told so by Sofy, Tigre had no words to return, doomed to remain silent. At the point when Tigre had consulted the Vanadis about this, he already possessed four lovers ─ Elen, Mila, Titta, and Regin. Moreover, Sofy, Liza, and Olga had confessed their feelings to him as well.

By the way, those three had performed their confessions together. If they hadn’t done it like this, it would have remained unclear whether someone like Liza would have ever mustered the courage to go through with it.

Sofy, Liza, and Olga had told Tigre that they’d wait for his reply, but they hadn’t done this out of generosity. Seeing how Tigre had accepted not only Elen but even Mila, he didn’t have the option to turn them down anymore. If he had made only two out of the five Vanadis into concubines, it’d have caused a ranking between those two and the other three. In such a case, it’d have actually aligned with what Valentina had plotted.

Tigre grabbed his Black Bow that had been leaning against the wall.

──Everything and anything started on that day when I picked you up for the first time, didn’t it?

The battle against Zion which had fostered the determination in Tigre to oppose Duke Thenardier. The battle of Mt. Tatra for the sake of having Mila take a neutral position. The battle against Black Knight Roland which he barely managed to drag into a draw by borrowing Sofy and Elen’s powers. The fight against Vodyanoy who had suddenly appeared in front of them. The arrow to escape the caved-in Saint-Groel after losing Bertrand. The battle against Torbalan who had infiltrated Asvarre by taking human form. The mighty blow that destroyed the ship of Prince Eliot after he had recruited pirates as soldiers. The battle against Baba Yaga who had cast a curse on Liza. The fight against Ganelon who had sneaked into Brune’s royal palace. The struggle against Drekavac who had attacked the city of Artishem. And the decisive battle against Ganelon who had allowed the goddess to descend.

Each and every single of those fight would have been impossible to tide over without the 『Power』 of the Black Bow. And even during the times when Tigre didn’t rely on its 『Power』, the Black Bow always accompanied him on the battlefields.

It didn’t play a role whether Tir Na Fal had granted the bow to him or whether it was an heirloom of the Vorn family. The Black Bow was a cherished partner for Tigre. And therefore Tigre would face the coronation ceremony while carrying the Black Bow. It was an unprecedented occurrence, but Elen and the others had approved of it. After all, they all knew of Tigre’s bond with the bow.

 

◆◇◆

 

After the coronation ceremony was carried out without a hitch, a gilded crown glittered atop Tigre’s head. With the throne in his back, Tigre surveyed the people who had gathered in the audience hall.

“I stole the throne. I am not a man of Zhcted. And if you take my lineage and origin into account, I might not be fit to be king. But, I believe a king is defined by what kind of political principles he follows. I shall inherit the wills of Ruslan and Eugene, striving to make all efforts for the sake of Zhcted.” He made a short break, put his breathing in order, and continued, “Everyone being able to get through the winter’s cold without fearing wild beasts and bandits or starvation, a prosperous coming and going of people, and the ability for everyone to lead a life full of joy and laughter…that’s the kind of country I am vying for. I am well aware that it will not be easy to achieve. And for this reason, I would like to borrow your power.”

The audience hall had become as still as death. What broke that silence was someone applauding and shouting, “Hurrah!” It wasn’t clear who kicked off the applause, but at the very least it wasn’t anyone close to Tigre. Immediately following, the applause and hurrah-cries increased manifold, soon turning into a chorus inside the audience hall.

Elen and Lim stared at Tigre with dumbfounded expressions. Both had tears in their eyes and on their cheeks as they smiled broadly.

“Lady Eleonora, this is not the moment for you to cry…”

“You’re in no position to tell me, are you…? It sure is good that we didn’t put on any make-up.”

Both brought their faces close together so as to hide themselves from the eyes of other people, and laughed while wiping each other’s tears away.

Tigre’s declaration was a copy of Vissarion’s dream. Of course, it was doubtable that it’d turn out to be the same as Vissarion’s dream, even if the words might have been the same. However, it was a great pleasure for Elen that Vissarion’s will had been inherited by her loved one, who was now king.

 

◆◇◆

 

The king’s first duty after finishing the first royal address was to receive the various envoys of foreign countries who had come to congratulate his enthronement. And here he met someone Tigre hadn’t expected to see.

“Long time no see. Then again, I guess it’s been roughly a year at the most.”

The one calling out to Tigre while revealing a friendly smile on his masculine face was Asvarre’s young general Tallard. Tigre blinked his eyes in surprise as he accepted Tallard’s hand with a smile.

 

 

“I hadn’t expected you to show up here.”

“Of course, the people back home opposed it, but I pushed my will through. After all, a coronation ceremony isn’t anything that happens that often. Still, it was a fairly decent speech. Let me use it as a reference later on. But, how did you steal Zhcted’s throne? I came here to ask you about the details in regards to this.”

Tallard exchanged a firm handshake with Tigre, and then both spoke about the recent developments.

According to Tallard, Asvarre had begun negotiating a truce with the beginning of winter, and both sides had apparently glared at each other for most of the winter. He reported that it wasn’t yet decided whether the battle would resume within this year.

“I collected some achievements on the battlefield, and I managed to reset the national border. By the end of this year, I’m going to officially become king of Asvarre. Come to my coronation ceremony by all means.”

“Get it done before summer ends. Then I’ll be able to attend.”

In case of a visit to Asvarre, the most carefree way of travel would be by ship. The sea would become stormy once winter started to spread its influence, making it impossible to sail out.

Like this it allowed Tigre to wrap up the reception of Tallard on a good note for both, but seeing the person who had come to greet him next, Tigre’s face cramped up.

“It’s our first time to meet outside the battlefield, isn’t it, King of Zhcted Tigre? My name is Kureys Shahim Balamir.”

Known for his alias 『Red Beard』, Kureys had planted himself in front of Tigre, clad in a pure-white, loose garb as it was characteristic for Muozinel. His body exuded an intimidating air, being one size bigger than Tigre’s. Next to him, an unsocial man was looking at Tigre. He wore a silken garment woven with golden threads. His age appeared to be in the mid-forties.

“Nice to meet you. I am August, King of Sachstein. Allow me to thank you once more for kindly inviting me to this day of your glory.”

If Regin hadn’t come to his rescue in the middle of it, Tigre might have quickly exposed a disgraceful behavior.

And then, the youth had to deal with many more great men from various countries.

After he managed to safely end the coronation ceremony, Tigre called together the women dear to him, and bowed while telling them, “Once again, please take care of me. Now then, let us set off.”

The women, who were about to walk this path together with him while supporting their king, all nodded.

 

 

This spelled the beginning of the King of Magic Archery’s reign.

 

 

 


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