Vol03Chap 1: Lineage of Zero
Tristain’s Royal Palace was situated on the end of Bourdonne's Street. In front of the Royal Palace gates, members of the Mage Guards patrolled atop their magical steeds. The rumor that war was looming had begun spreading through the town two or three days ago. It was rumoured that the aristocrat faction that had conquered Albion, “Reconquista”, was poised to invade Tristain.
Therefore, the mood of the soldiers who guarded the surroundings grew tenser. In the skies above the Royal Palace, magical beasts and ships alike were banned from flying, and people who passed the gates were thoroughly checked.
Even tailors, confectionery shop employers, and traders were stopped and inspected thoroughly at the gates, so as to prevent mages disguised through illusion, or people under the control of charming magic from getting through.
It was because it was under such circumstances, that when a wind dragon appeared in the skies above the Royal Palace, the garrison of Mage Guards grew alarmed.
The Mage Guards was composed of three corps, and each guarded the Royal Palace in turn. Whilst one was on duty, the others either rested or trained. Today, it was the Manticore Corps that was on duty. Riding atop their manticores, the nobles flew up and headed towards the wind dragon that had appeared above the Royal Palace. There were five figures on the wind dragon's back, as well as a huge mole that was held in between the dragon’s mouth.
The Mage Guards warned them that this was a prohibited flight zone, yet the wind dragon, ignoring the warning, landed in the palace courtyards.
Atop was a blondish pink-haired beautiful girl, a tall lady with burning red hair, a blond boy, a small, petite girl with glasses and a boy with black hair. The boy carried a long sword over his shoulder.
The manticore guardsmen quickly surrounded the wind dragon and simultaneously drew their rapier-shaped wands, assuming a stance with spells at the ready. A strongly-built, rough-mustached commander, bellowed a warning at the suspicious intruders:
“Drop your wands!”
Instantly, the expressions of the intruders grew hostile, but the short blue-haired girl amongst them shook her head.
The party nodded reluctantly, and as ordered, threw their wands to the ground.
“The skies above the Royal Palace is currently a prohibited flight zone. Didn’t you know that?”
A girl with blondish pink hair lightly jumped off the dragon, and introduced herself in a firm voice:
“I am Duke de la Vallière’s third daughter, Louise Françoise, not someone suspicious. I request an audience with her Highness, the princess.”
The commander twisted his moustache as he watched the girl intently. He knew about the Vallière Duchy. After all, they were very renowned nobles.
The commander lowered his wand.
“You are Duke de la Vallière’s third daughter?”
Louise raised herself and stared straight into the commander’s eyes.
“I see... I can see that you have your mother’s eyes. Well, what is your purpose here?”
“I’m afraid I can’t tell you. It’s a secret.”
“Then I’ll have to deny your request. To grant an audience without knowing your purpose, it’s something you lose your head over!” The Commander replied worriedly.
“The secret itself is not something that can be told either!” Yelled Saito as he jumped off the wind dragon.
The commander looked over at Saito as he interjected. He had a young face. Clothes that he had never seen before. A low nose. Yellow skin. A large sword draped over his back.
Though it wasn’t clear what country he was from, one thing was for certain – he wasn’t a noble.
“What a rude commoner. That’s not the way a servant should speak to a noble. Stay silent.”
Saito narrowed his eyes, and turned to Louise. It was too much for him. True, he wasn’t even a servant, but rather a familiar, but it was the commander's disdainful tone that infuriated him. Gripping the handle of Derf over his shoulder, Saito turned to Louise and asked.
“Hey, Louise. Can I take care of this guy?”
“Quit boasting. Just because you beat Wardes doesn’t mean you can be so arrogant.”
Overhearing their conversation, the commander’s eyes widened. Wardes? Wardes, as in that viscount Wardes, the commander of the Griffin corps? Defeated? What's the meaning of this?
Shaking the concern aside, the commander raised his magic wand again.
“Who the hell are you people? Regardless, I cannot allow you to see Her Highness.”
The commander spoke out in a hard tone. The situation was quickly getting out of hand. Louise stared at Saito.
“It's because of you and your blabbering that they think we are suspicious!”
“It’s all because of that bearded man and his damn attitude!”
“Shut up. You should have just kept your mouth shut!”
Watching the strange scene ahead of him, the commander quickly seized the situation. The mage guards which had surrounded the party quickly raised their wands.
Under the commander’s order, the guardsmen/mages were about to begin their incantations when suddenly...
A person clad in a purple mantle appeared from the palace gates. Seeing Louise surrounded by the Mage Guards, she frantically ran over.
Seeing the figure of Henrietta rushing over, Louise’s face shined like a rose.
Under the gazes of the Mage guards, the two embraced one another in a hug.
“Aah, you came back safely. I’m glad. Louise, Louise Françoise…”
Louise’s eyes began watering with tears.
“The letter... it is safe.”
Reaching into her breast pocket, Louise gently pulled out the letter. Henrietta nodded and firmly grasped Louise’s hands.
“You really are my best friend.”
“Your words are too kind, Princess.”
However, upon noticing the absence of Wales in the midst of the party, Henrietta’s expression grew somber.
“As I thought... Prince Wales sacrificed himself for his kingdom.”
Louise closed her eyes and nodded quietly.
“... But what about viscount Wardes? I don’t see him, did he take another route? Or did he... perhaps... fall by the hands of the enemy? But if it was the viscount, shouldn’t...”
Louise's face grew grim. With much difficulty, Saito explained to Henrietta.
“Wardes was a traitor, Princess.”
A shadow crept upon Henrietta’s face. Then, noticing the deep stares of the Mage Guards around them, Henrietta quickly explained.
“They are my guests, commander sir.”
Upon hearing this, the commander withdrew his wand, if somewhat unwillingly, and told his troops to do the same.
Henrietta turned to Louise again.
“What exactly happened on your trip? .... Anyway, let’s withdraw to my room before we continue. The rest of you, please get some rest in the other rooms.”
Leaving Kirche, Tabitha and Guiche in the waiting room, Henrietta brought Saito and Louise to her own room. Henrietta sat down on a small and delicate chair, her elbows placed upon the desk.
Louise explained the entire situation to Henrietta.
How Kirche and the others joined them en route.
How they took a ship to Albion, and its subsequent attack by pirates.
That the pirate leader was Crown Prince Wales.
How even though escape was offered to Prince Wales, he refused.
And how… because of the wedding with Wardes, they missed the ship.
That in the middle of the wedding Wardes suddenly showed his true colours… killing Prince Wales and snatching the letter from Louise’s hands...
Which was swiftly regained.
The ambitions of ‘Reconquista’… to unite all of Halkeginia, to the grand goal of liberating the Holy Lands from the Elves.
However... with the alliance between Tristain and Germania now secure, Henrietta still mourned.
“That viscount was a traitor… How can that be? To have a traitor within the midst of the Mage Guards...”
Gazing at the letter she herself wrote to Wales, tears built and streamed down her cheeks.
Louise silently held Henrietta’s hands.
“It was me who took away Prince Wale’s life. No matter how you put it, it was I who chose the traitor to be the messenger…”
Saito shook his head.
“The Prince had already planned on staying in his kingdom. It was not Your Highness’s fault.”
“Louise, did he, at the very least, read my letter?”
“Yes, princess. Prince Wales read Your Highness's letter.”
“Then, Prince Wales didn‘t love me.”
Henrietta sorrowfully shook her head.
“Then... even after you urged the Prince to escape?”
Henrietta nodded whilst gazing at the letter in sorrow.
Louise recalled Wales' words. He kept stubbornly telling her that “Henrietta didn’t tell me to escape”. It was just as Louise had thought - a lie.
“Ahh, with your death, there is no longer any hope. What about me, my lost love?”
Henrietta muttered softly in her daze.
“Was honor more important than me?”
But Saito came to a different conclusion. Wales remained not because he was trying to protect his honor. Rather, Wales remained so as to not give Henrietta any trouble... and to show the traitors that the royal families of Halkeginia were certainly not to be trifled with.
“It isn’t as you think, Princess. It was because he did not wish to give Tristain any troubles, that he remained in that country. That, is how I see it.”
Henrietta looked up at Saito blankly.
“To not give me any trouble?”
“His escape, as the Prince said, would only have given a perfect excuse for traitors to invade.”
“Even if Prince Wales didn’t flee here, they would still invade here given the chance. But, without a reason to invade, peace can be kept. At the cost of his life, he prevented the rise of war.”
“... Even then, he still didn’t want to give trouble. Surely...”
Henrietta, sighing deeply, looked outwards from the window.
Saito slowly repeated the words he had remembered.
“To fight with bravery, to die with courage. That... was what he asked me to say.”
Henrietta replied with a cheerless smile. When a princess, as beautiful as the delicate rose, became like this, even the air itself grew heavy. Saito’s heart ached at the sight.
Henrietta, resting her elbows on the table beside a beautifully engraved marble statue, questioned sadly.
“To fight with bravery, to die with courage. That’s your privilege as men. But what of those who are left behind, what are they to do?”
Saito was struck silent. He had nothing to say. Lowering his head downwards, he awkwardly nudged his shoe against the couch.
“Princess… If only I had tried harder to convince Prince Wales...”
Henrietta stood up and clasped the hand of the muttering Louise.
“It’s all right, Louise. You splendidly accomplished your mission, retrieving the letter. You should not have to be worried about anything. Because I didn’t ask you to tell him to escape.”
Henrietta laughed with a smile.
“With the obstacle that could have broken the marriage removed, our country will be able to step into the alliance with Germania safely. In such a situation, Albion will not so easily invade us. The crisis has passed, Louise Françoise.”
Henrietta said it as brightly as possible.
Louise took out from her pocket the Water Ruby which Henrietta had given her.
“Princess, here, I return this to you.”
Henrietta shook her head.
“Please hold on to it. It’s the least I can do to express my gratitude.”
“I cannot dare to accept such a treasure.”
“For such loyalty, an appropriate reward should be bestowed. It is all right, put it on.”
Louise nodded and put it on her finger.
Upon seeing this, Saito remembered the ring he had removed from Prince Wales’ hands. Taking it from the rear pocket of his pants, he placed it onto Henrietta’s hands.
“Princess, this, is a keepsake from the Prince Wales.”
“Isn’t this the wind ruby? Did you get it from Prince Wales?”
“Yes. In his dying moments, he passed the ring to me; he said to give it to Your Highness.”
Such was the nobility of the smile, that Saito was dumbstruck by its beauty, and could only mumble incoherently.
In truth, Wales was already dead when he pulled it off his finger.... but Saito had said that anyway. If he had said it like that, it would help heal the ache Henrietta held in her heart, however little it may be.
Henrietta put the Wind Ruby on her finger. Because it was for Wales, it was too large for Henrietta’s fingers… But when Henrietta muttered the ‘decreasing’ spell, the ring became narrower and narrower, and soon fit the finger snugly.
Henrietta lovingly stroked the Wind Ruby. Turning towards Saito, she gave a shy smile.
“Thank you, kind familiar.”
A sad smile filled with grief, yet also a smile of gratefulness towards Saito. Such was the nobility of the smile, that Saito was dumbstruck by its beauty, and could only mumble incoherently.
“That man, he had died bravely. Is that right?”
“Yes. It was so.”
Henrietta, whilst staring at the shining Wind Ruby, declared softly.
“Then I… I will live bravely as well.”
On the flight from the Royal Palace to the Academy of Magic, Louise remained silent. No matter how much Kirche asked Louise and Saito as to the contents of the letter Wales had written, the two kept their lips sealed.
“Oi, c’mon, won’t you at least tell me what the mission was? And to say that the Viscount was a traitor, it’s all so mysterious.”
Kirche looked at Saito with a feverish glance.
“However, darling attacked him?”
Saito, having glimpsed Louise's face, nodded:
“Y-yes. But he escaped…"
“Still, that’s quite an achievement! Hey, what was that mission exactly?”
Saito lowered his head. Louise was even more silent, and neither spoke.
Kirche puckered up her brows and turned to Guiche.
With an artificial rose in his mouth, Guiche, who was spacing out, turned around.
“Do you know what was in the letter Princess Henrietta sent us to retrieve?”
Guiche closed his eyes saying:
“I do not know as well. Only Louise knows.”
“Louise the Zero! Why don’t you tell me?! Hey, Tabitha! What do you think? Well, I think that I am held for an idiot!”
Kirche shook Tabitha, who was reading the book. As she was being shaken, her head followed suit and shook as well.
Because of all the shaking by Kirche, the wind dragon lost balance and slowed down suddenly. Guiche, who was sitting on its back, lost his balance and fell down. “Gyaaaaaa!”
he screamed as he fell, but since it was Guiche, no one noticed. Mid-way, he pulled out his wand, and using “Levitation” floated down slowly, avoiding near-death.
Louise lost her balance as well, but Saito softly reached out and held her waist with his hand, supporting her body. Seeing the hand on her waist, Lousie blushed. This morning, when running away from Albion, Saito kissed me. That time I was pretending to be asleep.
But why? Why was I pretending to be asleep?
It might be love… However, I do not want to admit this thought, because Saito is my familiar; moreover, he is not a noble.
Loving a person who is not a noble was hard to even imagine. “Nobles and commoners are different kinds of people”… As Louise grew up with such words, her uneasiness turned into puzzlement. Anyway, whether these feelings are true or not, that should be left to find out later.
So after all, having felt the hand move around her waist, Louise shouted in an angry voice:
“T-to be so bold, I’m going to get angry!”
“You looked like you were going to fall over. Like Guiche.” Saito replied, his face blushing as well.
“It’s all right, even if Guiche falls - it is only Guiche.” Stated Louise, still bewildered from before.
“T-that’s, even if he falls he will be all right. It would be troublesome if you fell however, since you cannot use magic.”
“You are just a familiar, and you dare insult your master?”
Louise drew a sharp breath and quickly averted her gaze. However, she didn’t seem angry.
“You are being too daring. Hum.”
Though Louise grumbled and complained, she didn‘t try to shake off Saito's hand. On the contrary, she leaned her body closer, snuggling against him. Yet, her face still remained averted. Saito stole a quick glance at Louise‘s face.
Her white cheeks were faintly dyed with pink and she was slightly biting her lower lip. Though Henrietta was beautiful... Louise was still incredibly cute, he thought. The hand on the waist pressed closer. And felt how her waist and thighs pressed further into him.
It was just as this was happening, that Kirche spun around and muttered softly.
“Since when did you become like this, you two?”
Louise, suddenly realising how things looked, blushed a furious red and sent the day-dreaming Saito flying off with a push.
“Nothing happened! You idiot!”
Saito's scream trailed behind as he fell, but before he smashed into the ground, Tabitha, who was reading a book, dully swung her hand, and put a 'Levitation' spell on Saito.
Saito landed gently onto the plains, and saw Guiche, who had fallen before, walking along the road on the grassy plain with a bitter face.
Then Guiche stopped and addressed Saito in his usual snobbish manner.
“You fell too, right?”
Saito answered in a tired voice.
“I was pushed.”
“T-they are not coming back, are they?”
Saito looked up into the sky. In the blue sky, the wind dragon quickly disappeared over the horizon.
“…It looks like it.”
“Well, let’s walk then. Sigh, it’ll take half a day on foot.”
With a depressed look about him, Guiche started to walk. Saito was not sure why, but felt that the he was more impressed by him.
“By the way, you… That, well… There’s something I wanted to ask. Please tell me.”
Guiche mumbled to Saito as he fiddled with the artificial rose.
“Did Her Highness... well... have anything to say about me? Is it true, that she’ll reward me after the mission, with the letter where the promised secret date is?”
For a moment, Saito felt pity for Guiche. Henrietta hadn’t even mentioned the letter “G” from Guiche’s name in their conversation.
Saito, pretending he hadn’t heard anything, began quickening his pace. Guice chased after him from before
“Well, is the rumor true?”
“Come on, walk. It’s good for the health.”
“Wha-at, y-you, Her Highness, I...”
Under the warmth of the sun, the two kept on walking towards the Academy of Magic.
Fortress of Newcastle, once known as a great stronghold, was now a tragic ruin. Though it withstood the despair, it became a disastrous scene.
The castle walls, having been repeatedly attacked by spells and cannon fire, were turned into a pile of rubble, and corpses burnt beyond recognition were scattered around.
Though the siege was short, the rebels - no, because Albion lost its king, the rebels 'Reconquista', became the new government in Albion - suffered damage that was impossible to imagine. Three hundred royal army soldiers for two thousand killed rebels. And four thousand wounded. Seeing these casualties, it was hard to understand whether it was a victory.
Because the fortress was located on the very edge of the floating continent, it was possible to attack it only from one direction. Before the 'Reconquista' forces managed to push away the guards, they were repeatedly shot with magic and cannon fire, receiving huge casualties.
However, they won by the force of numbers in the end. Once behind the castle walls the defense was fragile. The king's army mages were left to guard against soldiers. But the mages' numbers were insignificant to the 'Reconquista' soldiers; they were gradually killed and all fell, one by one.
Though the damage dealt to the enemy was great… the price was annihilation of the king's army. Literal annihilation. Because the royalists fought up to the last soldier.
In a word, the final decisive battle of the civil war in Albion, siege of Newcastle’s fortress, fighting against 100 times or larger opponent, in a battle with damage that was worth ten such armies… became a legend.
Two days after the civil war had ended, under the blazing sun, between the corpses and pebbles, a tall aristocrat was inspecting the old battlefield. His hat was pushed to the side and he was dressed in an unusual way for Albion, the uniform of Tristain’s Royal Mage Guard.
It was Wardes.
A female mage with a hood over her eyes stood next to him.
It was Fouquet the Crumbling Dirt. She had escaped to Albion with the ship from La Rochelle. The previous night, in the capital of Albion, she had joined Wardes in the bar of Londinium and now came to the Newcastle’s battlefield.
Around them, soldiers of 'Reconquista' were diligently hunting for riches. A loud cheer came from the treasury nearby, as a band had found golden coins.
A mercenary with a pike on his shoulder was turning corpses over, then pushing them into a pile near rubbish as a decoration for the garden. When he found a magic wand he cried out from joy.
Fouquet, who was watching the scene disapprovingly, clicked her tongue in disgust.
Noticing Fouquet's expression, Wardes laughed coldly
“What’s wrong, Fouquet the Crumbling Dirt, aren’t these your colleagues who hunt jewels also? To rob the nobles of their treasure, was that not your job?”
“Do not compare me with them. I have no interests in the jewels on the corpses of the dead.”
“A thief with a thief’s ethics.”
“I’m not interested in that. I only steal valuable treasure, because I love to see the frantic expressions of those nobles. But these guys…”
Fouquet looked at the corpse of a royalist mage guardian with the corner of her eye.
“All right, all right, don’t be mad.”
“I guess Albion’s royal nobles are your enemies. Haven’t you, under the name of the royal family, disgraced your own family?”
Hearing Wardes exaggerated words, Fouquet, regaining her composure, coldly said with a nod.
“Oh well. Accidents happen.”
And then Wardes turned. The Lower part of the left arm had been cut off. The uniform’s sleeve was loosely fluttering in the wind.
“It looks like it was a similarly harsh battle for you.
Wardes replied in a unchanging tone:
“An arm in exchange for Wales' life, I think, is a rather cheap trade.”
“He must be something, that ‘Gandálfr’, to so swiftly cut off the arm of a Square-Class Wind mage such as yourself.”
“Because it was a commoner, I just got careless.”
“Don’t put it like that. He even destroyed my golem. However, nothing within this castle could have survived.”
When Fouquet said so, Wardes smiled coldly.
“He is Gandálfr after all. The corps that attacked the castle didn’t report to have fought against such person. Perhaps, during our fight, he had expended all his energy and was confused with a commoner. Probably, the soldier who killed Gandálfr didn’t even notice that it was a legendary familiar.”
Fouquet, not convinced, snorted. An image of Saito, a strange looking boy, floated in her mind. Could he really die so easily?
“And where is that letter?”
“Somewhere around here.”
Wardes pointed to the ground with the cane. That place there, two days ago, had been the chapel. The place where Wardes and Louise tried to hold the wedding, the place where Wales lost his life.
However, now it was just a pile of rubble.
“Hmm, that la Vallière lass… your former fiancé, the letter was in her pocket?
“You let her die? You didn’t love her?”
“Loved, didn’t love, I’ve already forgotten such sentiments.” Dismissed Wardes in a neutral voice.
He drew the cane and chanted the spell. A small tornado appeared and started scattering around the rubble.
Gradually, the floor of the chapel could be seen.
Laying between Founder Brimir's image and a chair, was the corpse of Wales. It looked surprisingly unharmed.
“Look, isn’t it the dear Prince Wales?”
Fouquet said in a surprised voice. Fouquet, who was once one of Albion’s nobles, remembered Wales' face.
Wardes didn’t cast even a single glance to the remains of the man he had personally murdered, instead searching intently for Louise and Saito’s corpses.
However… Their corpses were nowhere to be seen.
“Are you sure they really died here?”
Muttering so, Wardes began to search the surroundings carefully.
“Hmm… Look, isn’t that George de la Tur’s ‘Founder Brimir's Visit’?”
Fouquet picked up the painting from the floor.
“I think it is a reproduction. Mm, come to think of it, this castle’s chapel must have been built to worship him… Hmm?”
Fouquet, having picked up the painting from the floor, discovered a widely gaping hole under it, and called Wardes.
“Hey, Wardes. What is this hole?”
Wardes, with raised brows, squatted down and looked into the hole that Fouquet indicated. He realized that the hole must have been dug by that huge mole, Guiche’s familiar. On his cheeks Wardes could feel the cold breeze emanating from the hole
“Could it be that through this hole that both Vallière’s youngest daughter and Gandálfr ran away?” Fouquet remarked, and it was the truth. Wardes' face contorted in rage.
“Should we pursue them through?”
“It is useless. If there’s wind inside, it must mean it was dug clean through.” Wardes replied exasperatedly. Seeing him like that, Fouquet grinned.
“It seems you are capable of such expressions. And here I thought that you were a man without feelings like a gargoyle… Why, oh why do such feelings appear on your face?” She mocked.
Hearing this, Wardes stood up.
From the distance a person appeared while they talked.
He said in a cheerful, limpid voice.
“Viscount! Wardes! Have you found the letter yet? That… what was it... ah, love letter that Henrietta gave to Wales, the saviour that would prevent the union of Germania and Tristain. Have you found it?”
Shaking his head, Wardes answered the man who had just appeared.
“Your Excellency, it seems the letter slipped through this hole. It is my mistake. I am deeply regretful for my error. Please, hand me whatever punishment you deem necessary.”
Wardes kneeled down, bowing his head.
The man called ‘Excellency’, with a friendly smile on his face, approached Wardes and tapped his shoulder.
“What are you saying? Viscount! You did a remarkable job! You single-handedly defeated the enemy’s brave general! Ah, isn’t that over there, our dear Crown Prince Wales? Be proud! You defeated him! Apparently he loathed me deeply… but seeing him like that, I feel a strange sort of kinship to him. Aah, that’s right. Once dead, everyone becomes a friend.
Wardes’ cheeks flinched slightly, as he noticed the sarcasm at the end of the speech. He quickly regained his composure, and once again repeated his apology to his superior officer.
“However, the mission to obtain the letter of Henrietta’s Your Excellency so desires ended in failure. I’m sorry I was not able to meet Your Excellency’s expectations.”
“Do not fret yourself. Compared to obstructing the alliance, killing Wales was by far more important. A dream is something that has to be obtained steadily, step-by-step.”
Then, the man in the green robe turned to Fouquet.
“Viscount, please introduce this beautiful woman here. Being a priest, it is inconvenient for me to speak with a woman.”
Fouquet watched the man. Before her eyes, Wardes bowed deeply to the man. However, she didn’t like him. He had a strange aura around him. A sinister feeling was radiating from the gaps of his robe.
Wardes stood back up and introduced Fouquet to the man.
“Your Excellency, this is Fouquet the Crumbling Dirt, before whom all Tristain nobles shudder.”
“Oh! I heard the rumors! I am honored to meet you, Miss Saxe-Gotha.”
Hearing him say her noble name that she had abandoned long ago, Fouquet smiled.
“Did Wardes tell you this name?”
“That's right. He knows everything about Albion nobles. Genealogy, coat of arms, property… it is hard for an aging bishop to remember everything. Oh, let's not delay my introduction.”
Opening his eyes widely, and placing his hand over his chest...
“'Reconquista' first general, Oliver Cromwell at your service. You see, originally, I was just a mere bishop. However, due to the votes of the baronial council, I was appointed to be the first general, and I need to give my best. Though I am a clergyman who serves Founder Brimir, it is all right to ‘guide’ us through the dark times, right? If necessary, using faith and power for the better.”
“Your Excellency, you are not a freelance first general anymore, you are now Albion’s…”
Cromwell laughed. However, his eyes didn’t change.
“Certainly, I really wished to prevent Tristain’s and Germania’s alliance, however, there are more important things. Do you understand me, viscount?”
“Your Excellency's thoughts are so deep, that an ordinary man like me cannot measure them.”
Cromwell opened his eyes wide. Then, he raised both hands and began talking with exaggerated gestures.
“Unity! Unity of steel! Halkeginia is us, an union of chosen nobles, that will get back the Holy Land from those ominous elves! It is a mission given to us by Founder Brimir! ‘Unity’ is our number one duty. Therefore, viscount, I trust you. There is no blame in such a trifle failure.”
Wardes bowed deeply.
“For this great mission, Founder Brimir blessed us with the power.”
Fouquet's eyebrow rose. Power? What kind of power they are talking about?
“Your Excellency, what power has Founder Brimir granted Your Excellency with? If it is all right, I would like to know.”
Cromwell continued in a slurred tone, caught up in his own theatrics.
“Do you know about the four great elements of magic, Miss Saxe-Gotha?”
Fouquet nodded. Even children know of such things. Fire, Wind, Water, and fourth – Earth.
“In addition to the four great elements, there is another magical element. The element that Founder Brimir used, element of zero. Really, it was the first element of all things.”
“Element of zero… Void?”
Fouquet turned pale. The lost element. The magic of nothingness, that, as dark legends tell, disappeared. Did this man know something about the element of zero?
“That is the power that Founder Brimir granted me with. For this reason, the Baronial Council agreed to make me the emperor of Halkeginia.”
Cromwell pointed at Wales' corpse.
“Wardes. I had wanted to make Crown Prince Wales my friend and ally. Instead, he became my greatest enemy in life, but now in death, would make a great ally. Do you see anything wrong with that?”
Wardes shook his head.
“He should have never resisted Your Excellency's decisions.”
Cromwell laughed with a smile.
“Well then, Miss Saxe-Gotha. I will show an element of ‘Void’ to you.”
Fouquet watched Cromwell’s movements with her breath caught.
Cromwell pulled out the cane that was attached to his waist.
A low, silent aria escaped Cromwell's mouth. These were words Fouquet never heard before.
When the aria was completed, Cromwell gently lowered the cane and aimed at Wales' corpse.
Then… suddenly, Wales, whose body was already cold, opened his eyes. A chill ran down Fouquet’s spine.
Wales slowly sat up. A once bloodless face suddenly sprang back to the life it previously held. Like a withered flower absorbing water, Wales’s body sprang back to life.
“Good morning, Crown Prince.”
The revived Wales returned Cromwell’s smile.
“It has been a long time, Archbishop.”
“So rude, I am an emperor now, my dear Crown Prince.”
“Is that so? I apologize for that, Your Excellency.”
Wales kneeled taking the posture of a vassal.
“I think I’ll make you my personal bodyguard, Wales.”
“Then, let’s be friends.”
Cromwell began to walk. Wales, who didn’t look like he was just dead, walked behind him. Then Cromwell, as if remembering something, halted and turned around saying:
“Wardes, do not worry. Even if the alliance is formed, it is of no matter. In any case, Tristain is helpless. There is no change in plans.”
“There are two ways of diplomacy - the cane and the bread. Let’s give warm bread to Tristain and Germania for the time being.”
“As you wish.”
“Tristain is a necessary area to add. That royal family has the Founder's Prayer Book. I need to have it in my hands in order to retrieve the Holy Land.”
After saying this and nodding approvingly, Cromwell left.
It was only after Cromwell and Wales were out of sight, that Fouquet was able to open her mouth.
“That... was the void...? To revive the dead. That’s not possible.”
“The void element manipulates life… That’s what His Excellency said, seems like he was right. Even though I cannot believe it as well, after witnessing this – how could I not.”
Fouquet asked Wardes in a shaky voice.
“A while ago you were acting very similar to this, perhaps you were affected by void’s magic too?”
“Me? I am different. This is a result of a sorrowful life that I had since birth.”
After that, Wardes looked up at the sky.
“However…many lives were given for the Founder’s Holy Land… what if they all would be revived by the element of ‘Void’?”
Frightened, Fouquet clutched at her chest. She felt a light heartbeat. She suddenly felt the need to confirm that she was still alive.
“Don’t look that way. It was only my imagination. You may even call it my fantasy.”
Fouquet sighed, feeling relieved. Then she glared at Wardes.
“It was surprising, that’s all.”
Whilst patting the stump where his left arm had been, he spoke softly.
“However, I myself also want to know. Is it a mere fantasy? Or reality? That answer must lie in the Holy Lands... that’s how I feel.”
Three days after Saito and company had returned to the Academy of Magic, the marriage between Tristainian princess Henrietta and Germanian emperor Albrecht III was officially announced. The ceremony would take place the following month, before the conclusion of the military alliance.
The alliance conclusion would be done in Germania’s capital Vindobon, where the agreement sentence was to be signed by the prime minister Cardinal Mazarin of Tristain.
The day after the alliance, a new Albion’s government was officially established. In an instant, tensions sparkled between the two countries, but the Kingdom of Albion’s First Emperor Cromwell sent a special envoy to Tristain and Germania at once, in order to sign a nonaggression pact.
As a result, both countries had a conference. Even with the two countries' combined power in the air, they could not oppose Albion’s fleet. Though the non-aggression pact felt more like a dagger pointed to the neck, the two countries didn’t have much to choose from, and this offer was the best they could hope for.
However…peace was established in Halkeginia only on the surface. Politicians could not sleep day or night. It wasn’t only nobles, the commoners too waited for next day tensely.
Tristain’s Academy of Magic was no exception either.