Limalisha arrived at Brune’s capital Nice when the sun would probably need just a little push to reach its zenith. The azure sky was clear, and the autumn rays pouring down on the main street were warm and gentle.
Merchants, craftsmen, housewives and other folk were busily frequenting the street, passing the many kinds of stalls set up on the sides. Those stalls brimmed with wares of Zhcted and Asvarre, coming from the north across the sea routes, Muozinel, coming from the east, and Sachstein, coming from the west. And just like their goods, the words fluttering about between the people were multinational.
“It’s the first time in half a year, but…as always, this place is overflowing with liveliness.”
Lim headed towards the royal palace while happily watching what was going on around her. The clothes she wore indicated her to be a military officer of Zhcted. Pants and not a skirt, following the idea of making it easy to move, and a slender sword at her waist.
But then again, she might look like a simple traveler to an outsider as she wore a hat with a broad brim and an overcoat decorated with pelts at its edges.
A wind was going, making her dull, golden hair flutter. Lim had been allowing her hair to freely flow down for three years now. At present, she was living in Zhcted’s palace as royal councilor. She didn’t possess a set jurisdiction, but that was owed to her being given temporary authority as the situation required. Usually, she assisted the king with processing the government affairs as his advisor.
At one point, Mila had teased her, saying, “The teacher is worried about her cute pupil, right?” But, the reign of Tigre, who had become king as a foreigner, was destined to be burdened with many difficulties. Although the Vanadis had pledged their allegiance to him, it wasn’t as though all lords were willing to obey him, and even Tigre had desired an aide whom he could trust blindly. And as someone with lots of experience as assistant of a Vanadis and someone who stood in contact with those adoring Eugene, Lim was the perfect choice for the post.
On the day before Lim left Leitmeritz, Elen and her had the following conversation:
“Listen, Lim. The only one able to become Tigre’s ally and protect him in the palace is you.”
“I will keep it in mind.”
“That’s why hurry up and win Tigre’s heart.”
“W-What are you talking about all of a sudden?” Lim furiously blushed while all flustered.
Meanwhile Elen continued with a very serious expression, “It’s a safe bet that people, who will try to win his favor by using court ladies and maids, will definitely show up sooner or later. Some will try to make Tigre listen to their swords by cajoling him, others will do the opposite, trying to make him commit blunders.”
“Certainly, you have a point.”
Back when Tigre had resolved Brune’s civil war, the noble lords, who probably hadn’t even heard his name until then, had tried to place their relatives close to him under the pretext of referring maids and formal marriage interviews. Even Lim had witnessed how letters had been regularly delivered to Tigre. At that time he was a hero, but now he is a king. Moreover, a king wearing the crown of two countries. It was only natural for people, planning to quickly get on his good side, to appear, but such people couldn’t be allowed to approach Tigre without any restraints.
Under those circumstances Lim began to serve Tigre at the royal palace, but after around one month, Tigre and her had become lovers. Of course, Lim having had affections for him for a while now played a role as well, but just as Lim was someone Tigre could trust the most, Tigre was also the strongest ally for Lim.
Hearing about this, Elen had said, “Finally, eh?”, with a laugh.
The reign of Tigre in Zhcted finally started to show signs of stability. Naturally, Tigre had put his heart and soul into reaching that state, but many of those serving in the palace knew that it was only possible because of Lim’s devoted support.
The one greeting Lim when she reached the royal castle was Titta.
“It has been a really long time since our last meeting, Ms. Limalisha.”
“You look great, Titta,” responded Lim with a smile as Titta bowed towards her, also smiling.
Titta wore a black, long-sleeved top, a skirt reaching all the way to her feet, and a white apron on top. She had tied her chestnut-colored hair into a ponytail. Those parts had remained unchanged from three years ago. But, at the same time, Titta had grown taller over the years, and now had a height similar to that of Mila.
Titta was living in the royal castle as a maid who served Queen Regin. There were also talks about selecting her as new Head Maid, but she had turned the offer down. Titta’s wish was to stay by Tigre’s side, and thus she didn’t harbor any ambitions towards rank or authority. Moreover, one of the major duties of a Head Maid was to manage all maids working in the palace, making it necessary for the Head Maid to possess a certain presence in addition to experience and achievements. All of that didn’t fit Titta. Accordingly, Regin had arranged for Titta to be able to enter the palace as her personal maid.
“Do you have some business with Her Majesty the Queen?”
“Yes. I have informed her of the reason for my visit in advance by sending a messenger.”
“Her Majesty is currently inspecting the castle town, and it is planned for her to return around evening. If it is very urgent, I shall ask His Excellency the Prime Minister what area of the castle town Her Majesty is visiting today, and then hurry over to her place so as to inform her of your presence, Ms. Limalisha,” Titta said with a smile.
It caused Lim to smile wryly. She had heard the story from Mashas, but it seemed to be true that on one occasion Titta had sprinted to Regin as she was inspecting the outer wall of the capital, and brought her back to the castle.
“I am in no particular hurry, so I will gladly wait for her to finish her business.”
The two chatted about all kinds of things while walking through the hallways of the castle. They had a plethora of topics at hand such as seasonal matters, incidents that took place at their respective royal palaces, things they had seen in their capitals, and much more.
“I wonder whether His Majesty has already arrived in Alsace.”
“I believe that to be the case. He had happily mentioned that he would love to take a look at the main road as quickly as possible.”
The servicing of the road connecting Alsace with Leitmeritz while passing through the Vosges Mountains had finished half a year ago. As such, one of Elen’s dreams had come true. For Tigre, that was very auspicious news as well.
It could be expected that many caravans and travelers would pass that road in five or ten years. Given that they’d have no choice but to stop over at Alsace, an accelerated development of the area from now on could be doubtlessly anticipated, even if it didn’t mean that Alsace would become prosperous straight away. Of course, they had to make sure that a safe passage was possible on top of regularly maintaining the mountain road, but Tigre planned to properly deal with those issues.
Going by his position as king of two countries, he certainly wished for several roads connecting both countries. Depending on the season, travel by sea would become impossible, and the number of land routes was few, further narrowed down if you considered the safety of the roads. Hence, he had to construct new roads while maintaining the existing ones.
“I wonder whether I might soon be able to come to Zhcted’s palace, too.”
Faint expectation dwelt in Titta’s hazel eyes.
While feeling sorry for having to disappoint the young maid, Lim shook her head, “Could you wait just one more year, for caution’s sake?”
Titta had naturally planned to accompany Tigre on his round-trips between the two kingdoms. But, she was stopped by none other than Tigre, his reasoning being that Zhcted was dangerous.
When it came to Brune, Regin and Mashas watched over Titta, even in places where Tigre’s eyes didn’t reach. On top of that, Titta was also close to some court ladies and maids. Even the head priest of the temple on the mountain’s peak had taken an interest in Titta, and would occasionally dispatch a young goddess servant to the castle.
However, Zhcted’s palace had no such people. There was no one Titta could call a friend over there. And with the mountain of things Tigre and Lim had to do, Titta would undoubtedly be alone oftentimes. Under such circumstances, it was quite possible for people opposing Tigre to target Titta.
“Compared to the time right after His Majesty’s enthronement, the number of people we can trust has drastically grown. But, it is impossible to say that it has already become an environment where you can live without any worries.” After explaining up to this point, Lim recalled a certain matter and continued, “But, let’s see, it might be fine for you to stay at the palace for around ten days as Brune’s emissary. How about that?”
If she had the position of emissary, she would have Brunian guards attached to her. It’d also become possible for me to add guards to her from Zhcted’s side as well. Moreover, it’d be possible for Titta to feed Tigra her own cooking without dishonoring the head chef.
Titta’s face beamed as soon as Lim mentioned that option.
“Thank you very much, Ms. Limalisha. Please allow me to do it by all means. But, make sure to not try the impossible either. Waiting for around one year is no problem to me.”
Just as Titta said so, smiling happily, a single, old man walked towards the two from the other side of the hallway. Noticing him, Lim bowed politely while Titta cheerfully raised a hand.”
“Forgive me for not having contacted you for such a long time, Lord Mashas.”
“It is wonderful to see you again, Lady Limalisha.”
The old man, who wore silken clothes centered around green colors, was Mashas Rodant. Lim was meeting him for the first time in half a year. Mashas, who had become sixty recently, walked firmly with a straight back, but the white streaks in his hair and beard had become conspicuous.
“Did you visit to meet with Her Majesty?”
“Yes. But, I have heard from Titta that Her Majesty is currently absent, and thus I decided to wait for her here.”
“I see. If you like, would it be alright for you to accompany an old man for a bit?”
Lim smiled and answered, “Gladly.”
Since she had planned to meet with Mashas after her business with Regin anyway, it fit perfectly.
Brune’s castle had many gardens, and some of them were equipped with tables and chairs, allowing for lighthearted talks. Mashas led the two women to one such garden. By the way, on the way, they stopped by the kitchen, securing a bottle of wine, silver cups for everyone, and a small basket filled with baked sweets.
The three of them sat down around a table. While Masha poured the wine in the cups, Lim gazed at the radiant scenery of the garden. Flowers of all colors were in full bloom, but not crowded in one place. Instead, they had been tended so as to make each flower type’s vividness stand out.
“It’s a fairly nice view, isn’t it?” Mashas laughed while placing the wine bottle on the table and gazing at the flowers. “This is one of my favorite places. Since the gardener does a fine job, the flowers bloom beautifully every year.”
“I am not very knowledgeable about flowers, but I think they are very pretty,” Lim honestly expressed her impression.
It was only moments later that she got startled.
“It’s great that I could meet you today, Lady Limalisha. As a matter of fact, I’ve been considering retiring soon.”
Lim couldn’t say anything besides that due to the all too sudden declaration. Probably having heard about it in advance, Titta only smiled sadly without saying anything.
“As you might suspect, it’s getting harder and harder for me to keep up. Besides, I think the young folks have reached a decent level as well. Just as it’s with this garden, it’s the result of Her Majesty and Badouin having prepared fertile soil, I think. In that case, I got to give them the opportunity to gain some experience.”
Even Brune had many unresolved issues as of yet. People opposing Tigre as descendant of a small nobility, who could only use the bow, still existed, and some also perceived him wearing the crown of two countries as treachery. It was likely that Mashas’s abilities would still be required henceforth.
However, Mashas had decided to entrust the coping with those kinds of problems to the people who would support Brune from now on.
A single scene revived in Lim’s mind. She had met Mashas at Tigre’s mansion in Alsace five years ago. When she had been conducting research while waiting for Tigre’s return, Mashas had visited her. He had trusted her, who had not a single shred of sociability, and left many things to her.
If this man hadn’t been there, Lim thought once again, Tigre probably wouldn’t have been able to win throughout the civil war with just the help of Leitmeritz’s army.
It had been Mashas who told them to rely on Hughes Augre. Mashas played a major role during the battle against the Navarre Knight Order led by 『Black Knight』 Roland, the battle against Muozinel’s army which Elen had skipped, and even the battle against Duke Thernadier.
Mashas didn’t falter in front of the mud soldiers manipulated by Baba Yaga and accomplished his own duty during the many battles in Brune after wards. Watching the old earl as he readied himself on the battlefield with an air of composure had relieved many soldiers of their anxiety. Lim was certain of that as she was also one of those affected.
“──Thank you for all your hard work,” said Lim, smiling as broadly as she could and putting as many of her overflowing emotions into her words as possible. “Please allow me to intrude upon you in Aude once you have retired.”
“Of course. I would be delighted to welcome you over there. Which reminds me, Lady Limalisha,” Mashas happily laughed, seemingly having remembered something, and deliberately lowered his voice, “I heard you dumped a draconic tool, didn’t you?”
“I also heard about that story,” Titta turned her face in Lim’s direction, looking very interested.
“Dumped…it was not anything so appalling,” Lim answered the two with a wry smile.
It was three months ago that 『Twin Blades of the Demon Slayer』 Bargren had appeared in front of Lim. At that time, Lim had been training single- and dual-swordsmanship in her own room located in Zhcted’s palace. Even though the straining days of hard government work continued, she had never missed out on her training so as to always be ready in case Tigre or her got attacked.
As she was wiping off the sweat of that day’s training, a dazzling light had soundlessly manifested in front of her eyes as if tearing space apart. Lim even forgot to put herself on guard and simply stared at the light in a daze.
Crimson, blazing flames lit up inside the light, and expanded as if to swallow the light from within. Then the flames changed their shape while swaying, turning into two swords, one equipped with a golden blade, and the other with a crimson blade.
“Bargren,” Lim murmured.
It was the draconic tool of fire which Sasha had wielded, Figneria had brandished, and she herself as well, albeit only once. That draconic tool was now in front of her, telling her to grab it with her hands.
But, Lim didn’t take the draconic tool.
While looking straight at it, she calmly addressed the two blades, “I feel very happy that you appeared in front of me for a second time. But, could you give me some more time? Of course, I won’t have any hard feelings even if you discover another wielder in the meantime.”
Bargren appeared to be confused. The flames coiling around the blades flickered, and Gleaming Flames remained still for a while, but apparently perceiving that Lim wouldn’t change her mind, it vanished.
Hearing about this, the reactions of the other Vanadis were manifold. Elen had laughed. Milla was shocked. Sofy had widened her eyes, while saying, “Oh my.” Liza was disappointed. And Olga had praised her.
Tigre received a report about this in his office, but as might be expected, he was surprised and scrutinized the reporter, Lim, closely. But, he immediately revealed a gentle smile, and agreed with a “I got it.”
“Umm…you’re not angry?”
Lim couldn’t help but to ask in response to the young king’s calm response. If Lim had accepted Bargren and become a Vanadis, it’d have likely caused Tigre’s position to become even more unshakable. The number of kings supported by six Vanadis was extremely limited in Zhcted’s history.
“If you decided this course of action after thinking it through, I’m fine with it. However, I think we’ll need to give the people of Legnicia some kind of explanation.”
“Please forgive me,” Lim apologized with a deep bow.
Tigre shook his head, indicating that she didn’t need to mind.
“It’s nothing you need to apologize for. Your presence here is a big help for me, Lim.”
“I am useful to you, Your Majesty?”
Half of Lim’s question stemmed from her anxiety, and the other half from her desire to be spoiled by Tigre. She didn’t regret her own decision in the least. She was also happy about being needed for her ability as assistant. And even though she should feel satisfied with all that, she wanted to have it spelled out by the man she loved.
Tigre looked up to her with a confused look, and then answered with a laugh, “Of course. I mean, the other day our stomachs were gaping holes, so we sneaked into the kitchen, didn’t we?”
On that day, Tigre and Lim had been so busy that they didn’t find a spare moment to eat anything over the whole day. And when they finally reached a point to stop their work, it was already midnight, making them feel awkward about waking the cooks. Thus, the two dimmed the lamplight by covering their lamps with their overcoats, sneaked into the kitchen, and sated their hunger by eating sandwiches filled with thin slices of meat and pickled veggies.
Yet, their crime was immediately exposed, earning the two a good scolding by the head chef who was looking at them with a fed-up expression. He was a courageous man who boldly went through with his sermon without faltering, even though he knew that he was dealing with the king and his royal councilor.
“If you allow me to be frank, I find it difficult to label that as a happy memory,” replied Lim with an expression as if she was enduring a headache.
Usually, she would have stopped Tigre and scolded him for it. But, her hunger and the exhaustion from the busy work day, on top of it being smack down in the middle of the night, had caused Lim’s judgment to go awry.
“I had a blast. After all, I got you to tag along with me, Lim.”
Those words were his answer towards her earlier question. Even though people obeyed the orders of the king, no one in the palace other than her would come along with the youth after being invited.
While sensing how her chest was filling up with warmth, Lim went around his office desk and planted herself next to Tigre.
“I’ll stay next to you from now on as well,” she whispered quietly and pressed a kiss on Tigre’s forehead.
Omitting the part about her having kissed him, Lim finished the story.
Titta stared at Lim with a face full of envy while Mashas heartily laughed, making his beard tremble.
“I’d have never expected for you, Lady Limalisha, to assist Tigre in snatching food. Well, I think it’s good to cut loose every once in a while. It’s one of the few pleasures people like us have at our disposal.”
“I will never do it again,” answered Lim with a sullen grimace.
After laughing for a while, Mashas returned to their original topic, “Still, that was quite the unkind treatment towards the draconic tool which had appeared for the first time in three years. Is Legnicia going to be alright?”
“Lady Eleonora and Lady Elizavetta have been looking out for Legnicia. Given that Ezendeis has chosen a new Vanadis as well, I think we have no choice but to wait for Bargren.”
“You’re right. You have decided and if Tigre approved of it, that in itself is fine. It might be tough in one way or another, but please keep taking care of Tigre henceforth.”
“Of course, please leave it to me,” Lim agreed with a beautiful smile. And then she asked something that had suddenly piqued her curiosity, “Speaking of retirement, is Lord Hughes doing fine? And Lord Gerard?”
Three years ago, Hughes Augre had retired at the same time as Tigre ascended the throne. He had yielded his noble rank and fief of Territoire to his son Gerard. Gerard had then resigned as Royal Secretary and returned to their fief together with his father.
Prime Minister Badouin had tried to hold back father and son, but it was said that he gave up on it after being persuaded by Regin. Augre was from the same generation as Mashas, being 57 years old at the time of his retirement.
“Uh-huh, both of them are doing as fine as ever. That Hughes has been sending me letters every month, apparently enjoying himself very much with the care-taking of the children. Gerard, on the other hand, has only been complaining.”
After becoming the lord of the Viscount Augre House, Gerard was decreed by Regin to mediate between the smaller nobles possessing fiefs in Brune’s east. With Tigre having become the king of two countries, it was clear that the exchange between Brune and Zhcted would become a lot livelier than before. But, exchange didn’t necessarily only bring friendship. At times it also triggered strife and dispute. Gerard had been appointed to deal with such cases.
Around half a year after being ordered to act as mediator, Gerard harbored following impression:
“If I can return, I’d love to be Royal Secretary once more, indeed. I don’t have any memory of having done anything to rouse the anger of Her Majesty the Queen. Or maybe Her Majesty has an even stronger sadistic streak in pushing others around than His Excellency the Prime Minister…?”
Despite being bogged down by work, his loose tongue still seemed to be in good shape.
Contrary to his son who was struggling as mediator and lord, Hughes had gathered children at the temple of Dirge, the God of Wealth, and started to teach them reading, writing, and simple math. He also had been training the outstanding children by gradually increasing the difficulty of the problems.
This was a request of Gerard. He had told his father that it’d be fine for any promising children to be taken care of at the lord’s mansion on top of paying them the salary of valets. Rather than having realized the gravity of proper education, it was probably more correct to describe it as Gerard predicting that he’d become even busier in the future, and thus trying to take countermeasures while he was still able to.
“I have been allowed to take a look at Mr. Gerard’s reports as well, but they become twice as long as normal whenever Mr. Rurick is the one in charge of the negotiations for Leitmeritz’s side.”
“I have heard similar stories from Lady Eleonora about Rurick’s reports becoming extremely long at times.”
Lim and Titta looked at each other, giggling. They seemed to imagine how the two men were hurling sarcastic remarks at one another at the negotiation table. Then again, it didn’t mean that the lengthening of the reports all stemmed from sarcasm towards their respective negotiation partner. Around half of the writings contained information about the movements of noble lords and smaller incidents that occurred around the Vosges Mountains. Apparently both kept straying from their main topic as they exchanged cursing and swearing, but in return, they obtained unexpected information. This was the reason why neither Elen nor Mashas, the two in charge of supervising them, blamed the two for the length of their reports.
“From the position of the one receiving the reports, you don’t really want to read through all that rambling when time is precious, though,” Mashas remarked with a bitter smile.
Having her interest piqued by that, Lim asked him, “What kind of report is easy for you to read, Lord Mashas?”
“Let’s see. Among those people known to you, Lady Limalisha…I’d say that the reports written by Sir Olivier are easy to read. Though they’re somewhat too business-like and concise.”
Olivier, who had been the vice captain of the Navarre Knight Squad, became captain almost immediately after Tigre took Brune’s throne. He had been repeatedly asked by his colleagues to take that seat for a while before that, but according to rumors, his acceptance to take over the lead of the knight squad was a show of his loyalty towards Tigre.
At some point, Mashas had asked Olivier whether that rumor was true. To which Olivier had answered the following:
“After losing Roland, many domestic nobles and foreign countries thought that our Navarre Knight Squad had lost most of its bite. Even some among our own knights indulged in such thoughts. Even if I had become the captain of the squad under such circumstances, it wouldn’t have boosted their morale much. But, our way of fighting had been recognized during the battles against Sachstein and Muozinel. Our knights were also able to build some confidence. And on top of that, His Majesty is a man who took on Roland from the front while only carrying a bow on him. As such, he didn’t lack anything for me to offer my allegiance to him. In short, the time was ripe.”
No bigger problems occurred in Brune’s west ever since Olivier became captain of the knight squad. Of course, Asvarre and Sachstein staying low due to several circumstances also played a part in this, but the number of bandits raiding villages and towns drastically decreased, and the number of feuds between local lords also went down.
“It sounds like Brune’s west has entered a time of stability and peace,” said Lim in relief while smiling.
As long as Brune remained peaceful, the burden on Tigre as its king would decrease as well. Thus it was something auspicious for her, even as one of the women loving him.
“The north and south have finally settled down as well. Though there’s something like a 『Moonlight Knight』 disturbance on the loose,” Mashas said with a face you could only describe as wry.
“Are you talking about the consecutive birth of temples and inns related to the Moonlight Knight?”
Titta revealed a troubled smile at Lim’s question.
“There are more than forty of them in the north from what I have heard. And it sounds like there exist at least twenty in the south. Temples that had been visited by the Moonlight Knight, inns where the Moonlight Knight stayed, springs where the Moonlight Knight’s wounds were healed, mountains where the Moonlight Knight brought down big game, cheese the Moonlight Knight praised for its deliciousness…”
Lutetia, which the Duke Ganelon House possessed in the north, and Nemetacum, which the Duke Thernadier House owed in the south, had been seized by the crown on charges of treason, and became territories under the direct control of the royal family.
Regin split up both fiefs into many smaller territories, and awarded them to nobles and knights, who had achieved great exploits in the battles against Sachstein and Muozinel, while keeping the important locations in the hands of the crown. And the following was announced during her speech before Tigre’s enthronement:
“The Moonlight Knight approves of this as well. Mine eyes shall always watch over thee.”
Moonlight Knight was a title and didn’t hold any kind of authority. Tigre was just another earl until he became king, so those words didn’t possess any particular legal significance. They were no more than an expression of Regin’s playful mood of wanting to add Tigre’s name.
However, this line had a huge impact on the people. The words “watch over thee” went through many mouths, and gave rise to rumors that the Moonlight Knight had apparently passed by, which then turned into stories about what he had supposedly done in the area. Just like that, countless legends and famous places sprang forth.
Then again, it wasn’t as though Tigre didn’t have anything to do with them either. Because of his position, Tigre had to regularly travel back and forth between Brune and Zhcted, but he made sure to change his routes as much as possible, using those trips as opportunities to inspect the land.
He still hadn’t traveled Brune’s south to such an extent, but this area had a lot more people supporting Tigre and Regin than the north. In their eyes, Tigre was a hero who had freed them of the despotic rule of Duke Thernadier and repelled the armies of Sachstein and Muozinel.
The nobles and knights, who had been granted new territory, were grateful towards Tigre and Regin, and knew about Tigre’s style of fighting and Regin’s stalwart attitude when the Muozinel army had attacked the capital. Given that it was a tale that also included their exploits, it was unthinkable for them to not spread it.
“If all the rumors of the Moonlight Knight were true, Lord Tigre would have run around the entire territory of Brune in merely half a year, according to Her Majesty the Queen.”
“That’d be impossible in the first place,” Mashas shrugged at Titta’s comment.
“Sooner or later we might hear rumors about him riding across the lands on a bayard.”
A bayard was a mythical horse with a red body and a black mane which was also depicted on Brune’s flag. It was said that the Founding King Charles visited places all over the kingdom in an instant while riding such a bayard. Furthermore, legends told that the bayard had been dashing across the sky while giving the king’s soul a lift after his death.
Lim had intended to make a joke out of it, but the two Brunians could only answer with awkward smiles. No one other than Regin had forbidden them to speak of such rumors. Otherwise, troubadours might show up, singing songs about those rumors, sooner or later.
“By the way, how are things going on Zhcted’s side? I’ve heard a bit from His Majesty, but maybe you could tell me some more?” Mashas changed the topic while pouring new wine into their cups.
Lim also pulled herself together. Because this was no official occasion, she had unconsciously started to enjoy the light chat, but there was one thing she had to let them know. But then again, it wasn’t anything of paramount importance either.
“Militsa possesses a far more serious character than I had imagined. I do not know about her abilities as a Vanadis, but I think you can give her a passing mark as ruler.”
Militsa had been chosen by Ezendeis a year ago, making her the new Illusory Princess of the Hollow Shadow. At present, she was seventeen years old. After receiving the report, Tigre had felt very curious what kind of person Valentina’s successor might be, but their first meeting became truly memorable.
“Do I have to sleep with you, Your Majesty?”
Hearing that, Damad, who was near Tigre at that time, folded up as he roared in laughter.
After Naum and him had bid farewell from Tigre during their escape, they had changed their hiding places inside the capital every day, staying on the run. Tigre rejoiced over his reunion with the two after he placed the capital under his rule.
Naum returned to Lebus and was still serving as knight under Liza. Damad took the post of king’s guard, and was nowadays living in Zhcted’s palace. Most recently he had tried to buy a mansion as a test.
As for the new Vanadis, Militsa, Tigre thoroughly explained to her that such a thing was no duty of a Vanadis during his chat with her and Lim in one of the palace’s gardens after they had wrapped up the official greeting at the audience hall. Then again, Militsa didn’t quite believe him. But that was only understandable as all the other Vanadis were lovers of the new king.
“On another topic, do you have any information about the west?”
West of Brune meant Sachstein and Asvarre. Especially Asvarre was a country they had to be cautious of since it was neighboring Zhcted with just the sea separating both countries. The current ruler of Asvarre was Tallard. He became king one year after Tigre.
“Currently Sachstein and Asvarre are staying low. Publicly, at least,” Mashas continued with a carefree tone while tossing a baked sweet into his mouth, “Both have secretly sent envoys. Sachstein suggested that we should join up and crush Asvarre. Asvarre similarly offered to join forces and destroy Sachstein.”
“How did you answer them?”
This was a reasonable course of action for both countries. If they could win Brune as an ally, it’d automatically include Zhcted. Or at least they wouldn’t need to worry about Zhcted becoming their enemy. It’d allow them to face their enemy with a two vs. one, and depending on the circumstances, a three vs. one.
“We told both to hand over something between 60% to 70% of their gains, if we were to cooperate.”
Lim was about to burst into laughter at Mashas, who revealed a villainous smile, but then had a coughing fit. Titta rose half to her feet from her chair, and patted Lim’s back.
After recovering, Lim looked at the elderly earl with a wry smile, “You raised the bar quite high, didn’t you?”
“No, that’s a valid demand. The other party has also been expecting for Zhcted to cooperate on this. Sachstein pulled back upon hearing that, but Asvarre hung on, asking what part of Sachstein’s land we were aiming for. Thereupon, Her Majesty Regin told them that we wanted the southern half.”
“The southern half?”
Lim tilted her head in confusion while pondering. But, she couldn’t quite hit upon the answer. True to its name of 『Country of Forests and Mountains』, Sachstein possessed a lot of either. It didn’t seem to make much sense to her how obtaining the southern half or the eastern half would make much of a difference.
“So you didn’t get it at once either, huh, Lady Limalisha? It was the same with Badouin and me as well.”
Mashas drew a simple map on the table with his finger.
“Her Majesty’s aim is to not allow Asvarre and Muozinel to get any closer.”
Lim widened her eyes in shock as she stared at Mashas’s finger on the table. Her dull blond hair shook faintly.
──I didn’t think of this at all.
The invisible map he had drawn on the table vividly floated up in Lim’s mind. Assuming Sachstein was destroyed by Asvarre and Brune, and Asvarre integrated Sachstein’s south into its own territory, the range of Asvarre’s activity in the southern sea would expand drastically. Currently it was fine to say that there didn’t exist any direct trade between Asvarre and Muozinel. After all, Sachstein, Brune, and Zhcted lay between those two countries.
This applied not only to land routes, but also to sea routes. No ship could travel from Asvarre to Muozinel in one go. And if one tried, it’d result in the ship sinking or getting stranded in a storm. There also existed the danger of getting attacked by pirates. So it was common practice for ships to sail along the coastline while stopping at port cities in Brune and Sachstein.
But, things would change, if Asvarre were to obtain just Sachstein’s southwestern part. It was foreseeable that it’d ease the trade between Asvarre and Muozinel, compared to until now. And if the number of ships visiting Brune’s port cities were to decrease, it’d also affect the kingdom’s finances.
Moreover, Asvarre’s King Tallard and Muozinel’s King Kureys were both men of huge ambitions. They were quite capable of discussing a joint attack on Brune and Zhcted over an afternoon tea.
Feeling terror weighing down on her, Lim lifted her face, staring at Mashas, “And how did Asvarre respond to Her Majesty’s demand…?”
“They were insistent about the southern half, claiming that it had a temple where 『High Queen』 Zephilia had prayed to the gods, but in the end, they said they’d visit again and left. Eventually they might come up with a new plan, but it’s also possible that they’ll target Sachstein as a whole, I suppose.”
Lim spat out a sigh that combined bitterness and relief. She had tackled many problems during her three years as Royal Councilor. She had also been proud enough of her abilities to say that she could advise Tigre.
But, that very pride had been shattered to smithereens just now. If Lim had been in Regin’s place, she had likely ceded Sachstein’s south to Asvarre.
“It sounds like Brune’s peace is set in stone…,” Lim commented, oozing with the determination to get her act together and mortification.
Around the time when Lim was enjoying a friendly chat in Nice, Tigre and Elen stood atop a hill located close to the center of Alsace. Their location allowed an unbroken view over the townscape of Celestia, the central town of the fief.
Tigre wore an overcoat for long journeys above his greenish hemp clothes. Elen wore loose, bluish clothes instead of her uniform, also covered by an overcoat. Arifar was hanging at her waist.
Elen had changed her way of dressing after giving birth. Since she never missed her training, her sword skills were becoming more and more refined, and whenever she stood on the battlefield, she led the charge as always. Some people like Rurick had repeatedly complained about this to Tigre, her husband.
“Dear husband, whom she ought to respect, if you do not wish to become a single father for your beloved child, then please do something about this,” he had bitterly said as if having been infected by Gerard’s sarcasm.
The husband had silently shrugged his shoulders.
Also, Rurick’s head was missing its hair as always. As a matter of fact, Rurick had stopped with the baldness when Tigre became Zhcted’s king. But, because his subordinates had started to frequently mistake him for someone else after having grown accustomed to his bald head, Rurick soon shaved off all his hair again.
The two weren’t the only ones in this place. With them were the horses they had used to get here, and Lunie, the dragon with scales of a green rusty color. Lunie had grown quite big over the last three years. In fact, she wouldn’t lose out to a pony in size. At this point, she didn’t possess a physique allowing to call her a child dragon.
And next to Luni was a small baby. With its dull red hair and ruby eyes, it was clearly the child of Tigre and Elen. His name was Veter. A word meaning wind in the tongue of ancient Zhcted. He had just recently become one year old. 1
Veter was frolicking around as he straddled the back of Lunie who was basking in the sun while sprawled on the ground. Most recently, Lunie often took on the role of playmate for Tigre’s children, including Veter.
Once Elen used Veter’s nickname, the young boy got off Lunie’s back, and ran straight in her direction. His words and way of walking were still shaky, but he was a healthy boy energetically running about, no matter where they went.
Elen lifted up Veter as soon as he reached her. Veter clung to his mother’s neck while clumsily calling her, “Mama.” Elen supported her beloved son with her left arm while drawing Arifar with her right hand.
As if reading her intention, 『Brilliant Fallen Spirit Slayer』 caused a weak gust of wind, blowing up Vecher’s hair. The little boy squealed in joy.
“How was Brune?” Elen asked.
Tigre had been in Nice until just a few days ago. He had done his duty as Brune’s king. And in ten-odd days he’d arrive at Silesia together with Elen and carry out his duties as Zhcted’s king.
Then again, Tigre enjoyed this situation. In the three years after taking the thrones of Brune and Zhcted, he’d been actively traveling around more than he had stayed at the respective palaces. He had personally worked on solutions by directly negotiating with lords who were against him, or subjugating bandits and brigands ravaging towns and villages. He had judged that it’d be better to handle it like that for a while, also in order to display his authority as king. As a result of his efforts, both countries had calmed down nowadays.
Elen passed Vecher to Tigre. Tigre looked down on Celestia while carrying his son in his arms. Following his father’s line of sight, Veter also looked at Celestia.
“Ve, Dad was born in that town. I think I was around five years old when I left town for the first time. Because I couldn’t even ride a pony, I was sitting on a donkey after getting my father and Bertrand to help me climb it. Once I left town, grasslands extended as far as my eyes could see, and I had fun as well as small pangs of fear, wondering what might lay beyond.”
Tigre knew that the baby probably didn’t even understand half of what he was saying. But, Tigre didn’t mind that.
“I don’t know whether Alsace – this land – will become yours. But Dad wants it to become your cherished homeland.”
Suddenly a weird scene crossed through a corner of Tigre’s mind. He felt like his own father Urs had told him the exact same words while standing here and holding him as a small boy. He shook his head, thinking that it might be a hallucination. After all, Tigre didn’t remember anything from his time as a one-year old. And yet, his heart was filled with a gentle feeling of happiness.
A gust of wind blew past Tigre from behind.
Where did that wind come from? Was it Leitmeritz, the Vosges Mountains, Olmutz on the other side of the mountains, or somewhere a lot further away? How far would it continue to blow? Would it pass the atmospheric sea, blowing all the way to Nice? Or would it whimsically head north or south? Or maybe it’d travel all the way to countries such as Asvarre and Sachstein.
Tigrevurmud Vorn and his friends had caused a new wind to blow across this land. They had blown away the stagnation and breathed a new radiance into this region. As of yet, it was unclear where their wind would head.
Veter leaned his small body forward, extending a hand. As if trying to grasp the wind.
Maybe the baby had discovered something inside that wind which neither his father nor mother could see.
The wind would continue its travel, passing all kinds of places, while shepherding their feelings within its eternity.
~ The End ~
- I think ヴェーチェル comes from вечер. I’m no expert on Russian/Slavic names, so I’ll go with what I found about how to spell the Cyrillic name. — Adjusted: “Tigre`s kid name should be “Veter”, “ветер” which is “wind” in english. “вечер” meaning is “evening”” (Mutagen)