Vol 14 Chapter 7: Aquileia's Saint
The door was pushed wide open, and a Louise in nun clothes appeared. The crowd which gathered outside St Luthia's Cathedral burst into wild cheers.
"Saint! Saint! Saint Louise!" Pope Vittorio standing aside repeated another volley of similar prologues.
"Let me repeat myself. In these days of the coronation ceremony, I am very sorry to announce a saddening news to everyone. Swindled by the devils, our neighbouring country Gallia, on this day before noon, brazenly marched their army into our sacred country. Romalia has joined hands with the United Alliance and returned our attacks."
Radical yells and curses towards Gallia surfaced here and there in the crowd. To Romalia Pilgrims coming from Gallia all hid in the shadows of the narrow Aquileia alleys, shivering in fear. Today, the most unlucky are undoubtedly them, To them, this news is a bolt out of the blue.
"However, to the true believers of Brimir, there is nothing to worry about. Our God and Ancestors have already sent down a 'Saint' to save us all. She is... the one acting as a nun all the time, Miss Louise Vallière!"
"Saint! Saint Louise!"
Cheers went wild yet again. Louise, obviously proud of herself bowed to the crowd. Standing next to her, is a very pale Henrietta and a still shocked Tiffania.
"Hereby, I give her a title, I announce that she will be one of our country's valiant protectors. As she descended on to this sacred ground, we shall name her-"
Vittorio paused here for a more dramatic effect, then continued,
"The Saint of Aquileia!"
Louise knelt in front of the Pope, her head bowed. Pope Vittorio gave Louise her blessing. At this point, the wild frenzy of the crowd has reached its maximum.
"As long as she is with us, Romalia the sacred country of God, the city of water Aquileia will never perish! Here I wish Louise who will be heading to the front lines our best wishes! Dear God! May you take great care over the Saint of Aquileia!"
"Take great care over the Saint of Aquileia!"
Louise stood up, pleased with herself and waved towards the crowd.
With the crowd's cheers, she slowly build up her courage. The power God gave to her... "Void".
It's exactly this power which made her the Louise she is today.
Because she had never left the side of a prayer book, God has awakened her powers from within.
This magic, shielded herself and the country every single time.
Again and again...
At this moment... her heart missed a single beat. Despite its insignificance, Louise realised something was not right.
Protecting herself and the country, came only from her magic?
What am I thinking of?
Wasn't that the truth? To calm herself down, Louise recalled everything she had done.
Cheated death from the foot of a Golem.
Being betrayed by Wardes at Albion.
Above the skies of Tristain, about to be crushed by the Albion army.
And also, while retreating from Albion, taking orders to stay behind and stand guard...
No matter which memory it was, there was no one else.
All by using my power, I solved every crisis. That's right. Close my eyes and every time I am close to death, a burst of magical light appears... isn't that solid proof of the Godlike power of the "void"?
However, whenever she thinks of this, her heart would start searing in pain. For some reason, she would lose her focus, as if telling her to find a reason to move forward will then her heart return normal.
Louise brushed her chest slightly. Worried, Tiffania looked at her face.
"... Are you going to be alright?"
"Oh, I'm fine, just that my chest hurts a little. I guess I'm a bit nervous."
Just that moment, the Pope announced to the public, its time to start the "Crusade". Cheers echoed like thunder... but they did not reach Louise's heart.
The people expects.
Wasn't keeping this in mind made her so successful? But why would she be feeling so uneasy? Or putting it another way, why does something feel empty?
Louise discovered in the centre of her heart there was a dark hole of infinite size, threatening to suck her up entirely. She pressed her chest tightly.
"I'm fine. Really, I am. Just that, I want to lay down for a while. That's right, ten minutes would do..."
Deep inside the basement in the resting room, Louise laid down. Henrietta sat next to her, holding her hand tightly.
"I'm really sorry, I'm supposed to head out right now..."
"You must be really scared, Louise. It's alright. It's something everyone experiences. I will lead your knights to head first. You take good rest in here, OK?"
"No, my situation isn't that bad. It's just... feels like my heart is torn apart into pieces."
"Mm. It beats so fast? Until now, I have never had this feeling before..."
Henrietta immediately understood what Louise was feeling. Having lost a love herself, towards this feeling of Louise's she completely knows it through and through.
"That must be... love! Your love... loss of love, it's what made you so painful."
"Love? You really know how to joke! I've never loved anyone before."
"Yes, that is for the current you. But, the you a long time ago, your heart had a target. Even though you try your best to deny it... not wanting to accept it."
Henrietta's faced showed painful sorrow in it. Tiffania did too good a job at erasing "Saito's memories" out of Louise's brain.
Except... her "feelings" for him were still left behind.
Like a mail without a recipient, the emotion right now is torturing Louise's poor soul.
"I... if there was that kind of 'love', then it should be the love towards the people of Halkeginia's. Your highness, please be proud of me. I am already listed as one of the great protectors. The one taken lightly, jeered as Zero Louise... is now the 'Saint of Aquileia'."
Though she says, she still show signs of pain.
"Other than standing in the list of great protectors, there's another beautiful thing in this world." was what Henrietta wanted to say to Louise. But... what good would it do? Louise's love has already lost its target.
Other than being a saint right now, is there another choice to choose?
"Saint Louise your holiness! Everything is prepared! Please ready yourself to travel!"
A knight said to Louise.
Louise, still holding her chest, stood up.
"father, mother, my dear sisters will praise me when they hear of this news. I, feel very proud."
Smiling, Louise headed out of the Cathedral.
The Henrietta being left behind, found a sobbing Tiffania in the corners. Henrietta walked up next to Tiffania and held her hand.
"...I, I did a terrible thing. It was painful enough already, now it hurts even more..."
"You still haven't loved any yet, have you? My dear cousin."
Tiffania nodded her head.
"If that's so, then nobody blames what you did."
Henrietta peeked into the Cathedral from the crack in the door of the resting room. Is it because of the Crusade? With Priests as their leader, believers following from the behind, praying diligently to the figure of the Founder.
Being Henrietta, she also prayed to it from dawn til dusk once. But now is no time for this.
It's time to pull the curtains for the "Crusade".
To put a full stop on the unpreventable war, Henrietta starts to consider the things she can do.
"'Eliminate the enemies at Tiger's Highway' is it... That's easy for him to say."
Malicorne whined painfully. Beside him, the Guiche on a horse fell into deep thoughts. Behind them followed a bunch of worrying knights, alerted to every minor details...
A distinct expression compared with the bright glowing sun.
Today... after receiving the guarding duties at the Cathedral, the report finally came.
An attack towards the "Gallian Rebellions".
Though it reads the "Gallian Rebellions", it actually meant King Joseph's gigantic army.
Above the city skies, the two Gallian fleets and Romalia kept exchanging attacks.
As the Romalia ships are at an obvious disadvantage numerically, they were the ones continuously attacking. Yet for some reason, the two Gallian fleets did not return any attacks back.
After hearing of this situation, all the units standing guard around Aquileia were issued an order to attack.
Guiche and the Ondine Knights, on the other hand, received a special order.
"To guard Miss Louise Vallière- 'the Saint of Aquileia' as she chants her spell."
Louise's magic seems to has a special effect, everyone still has a fresh memory to the magnitude power. Last time when retreating, wasn't Louise the one ordered to stay behind and stand guard?
Somehow sometime, the Zero Louise transformed into the Queen's Louise, now she's assigned by the Pope himself as the Saint of Aquileia. This is really like the frog in Princess and the frog.
Different from those being assigned to pave the road, the cold sweat covered Ondine Water Spirit Knights had a different objective. Louise carries a fearless face all the time, although part of it looks like a forced face.
Tagging right behind are two teams of Crusaders. The teams are Carlo lead Crusaders of the Aleida missionary. After That, is volunteers from the pleasants.
All of these add up as Louise's personal guards.
Looks like our 'Saint of Aquileia' is the main strike force of today's battle.
Louise was literally shining, droning on and on about the importance about being the strike force of the entire battle.
"It's such a glorious thing. You guys think so as well, don't you?"
Malicorne agreed with whatever she said.
"The glory, oh the glory, how glorious it is. To be in a 'Crusade'."
"Agreed. This is so~ fantastic! We are the sacred representatives of the Holy country. Let us teach those arrogant evil-doers elves a lesson!"
"You speak as if this is a game."
"What? Why are you angry?"
"Under whatever circumstances, the only people who are happy about having a religious war, are only those priests and the crusaders. You, do you even know what a 'Crusade' is about? Claiming to fight for our God and Founder Brimir may sound grand, but in reality this is a fearsome war which won't end until the Holy Land is reclaimed. Absolutely no gain can come out of this! The lives and money our ancestors spent in their 'Crusade', do you need me to lecture you about that?"
Guiche nodded his head approvingly.
"Calling ourselves the descendants of our God and Founder Brimir, I will gladly dedicate my life for Halkeginia without hesitation... but everything has its limit. I was already wide awake when we considered elves as our opponents, but to start a Crusade!"
"What are you talking about! Are you chicken? People like you call yourselves nobles of Tristain!? Do you not want to do great deeds here, reclaiming the Queen's and the Pope's trust?"
"Who is going to protect our titles if we are all dead!"
Carlo quickened his pace and interrupted into Louise and Guiche's conversation,
"God will guarantee it. God is all-knowing. If we die in this Crusade, our souls will be sent to Heaven. There, we will join God's army. Is there a more grand title than this?"
The Ondine Water Spirit Knights, hearing to the Crusader's confident voice, showed faces of awkwardness in contrast. Hearing other people talk about "Heaven" in such a straight face makes them feel awkward.
"Just as what Carlo said. Even if we die in the war, we will become Guardians of God himself. God is surveying us in this Crusade, hope for us to reclaim the 'Holy Land' someday."
"A magnificent description, Saint Louise."
Louise's eyes was never so bright before. Continuing with an obsessed tone,
"I... feel very proud to be part of it here. Rated as having no ability in magic, zero here and zero there... even a person like me was able to be on the front lines, for God, for our Ancestors, for Halkeginia. There is nothing else more glorious than this, no other day more magnificent. Even if I were to die here, my soul would live on forever!"
"You are Aquileia's... no, Halkeginia's Saint. Rest in ease, we will fight to buy time for your spell, even if it will cost me my life."
The Ondine Water Knights coldly listened to the obsessed couple's conversation.
"If so, unveiling our most treasured saint for the first time, the Pope his Holiness sits pleasantly watching in Aquileia? Wasn't he the one who insisted on, invading in their camps, massacring all the enemies?"
The Gimili silently listening til now spoke loudly, but was met with Louise's and Carlo's wands instead.
"That's Very disrespectful."
"Sorry... no, Deeply sorry. I was only a little concerned."
"How could we let his Holiness brave such danger! As long as his Holiness is alive, no matter how much times, Halkeginia can be reborn from the ashes! Even if pushed to the end by elves!"
Louise made a fist, tight with determination.
"Over being a Saint, Zero Louise is much better," looking at her face, Malicorne whispered with pity.
"Because Saito isn't here, look at what Louise turned into," Guiche muttered, wearing a pained face.
As the army progresses, on the other side of the forest an intimidating canyon can be seen. The giant cut suddenly interrupting the Fire Dragon's Valleies... is exactly "Tiger's Highway".
In front on it, numbers of armies can be seen covering the entrance. That is a strategic positioning temporarily set up. Looks like the influence of the enemy has already seeped through the canyon.
Confirming Louise and the following army, a knight came out from the camp to greet them.
"Commander? Is the commander here?"
Louise suited in a nun's clothing stepped forward. Using a noble's attitude, and waved.
"Oh~! You must be the Holy Saint the above mentioned? Must have made thou waited!"
"Do you mind describing the situation here?"
"Yes! The enemy out there is golem-like, in armours of total height around 25 metres. We have seen so far around 10 of them. Already this is an impenetrable force... the first team sent forward are all dead. All Dead! Right now, to scout out the surroundings, we have sent another small team..."
That instance, black smoke poured out of "Tiger's Highway", followed by explosions which sounded like grenades.
A soldier tried to report with empathy.
"Looks like there were no survivors."
"We'll take care of it from here."
After having said that, Louise gave a sign indicating the army to begin assault. The soldiers who were guarding the entrance all cheered for the sake of Louise.
"Aquileia's Saint her Holiness! Hurray!"
"Our dearest Saint! Destroy them all!"
They then split into left and right, paving a road for Louise and her army to the canyon.
The wide gap of Tiger's Highway was as if a giant dragon capable of devouring everything thing offered. The dangerous looking cliffs had sharp protruding rocks, like teeth that can rip everything apart easily.
Staring at the deepest parts of the black smoke, Louise gave orders.
"Someone, bring forth the enemy here. I will defeat them will one blow."
Carlo nodded his head, then signaled for Guiche and them to move.
"That means you. Get going."
Pointing at the black smoke, still rolling, full of gunpowder smell, Guiche said,
"You mean we jump right in the middle of That?"
"Of course. We have the important duties of guarding Saint Louise her holiness. You people just cannot substitute. That's why you must do what you are only capable of. Now thank me for it."
Hearing how he said it, the Ondine Knights were enraged.
With Gimili's wand leading, the boys brandished theirs uniformly as well.
"When Nobles order us to go 'suicide', there is a special method to treat them. You bastard!"
"Now's not the time to hide and fight each other!"
The Crusaders also revealed their swords unreserved, this time Guiche came forward to relieve the tension.
"Everyone, put down your weapons. Just as Louise said, it's not the time to fight."
"If you understand, then move!"
Guiche then turned to the manipulating Carlo.
"Before doing our mission, there is one time, can you answer me honestly?"
"Then, forgive me for being so direct. I don't not like what you do. We are Brimir's diciples, are also the nobles of Halkeginia. If the Pope declares a crusade, then we will do everything in our power to help. However, when journeying this land, I caught a glimpse of hell once. Those who only know how to put on airs, including me, when facing real challenges will only lose their balls. Which is why, I am not as capable as you people. How should I put it, really hope what I said will only happen in dramas."
Carlo went alarmingly red, angered for some reason."Enough!"
Louise also called out.
"Louise, please promise me one thing."
"Stop acting dumb! If you are in danger, give everything up and flee. Did Saito said it before? To die for the cause of God or glory is the stupidest reason. When I first heard, it sounded like a chicken's excuse. Now I finally understood. If you die, everything you've lived for is in vain. No matter how hard it is, survival is the most important. That is the real glory. If I let you die, Saito will curse me forever."
"Haven't I asked you? Who the hell is this Saito?"
Guiche ignored her and faced forward, raising his wrist. "Forward!"
The teens followed him one by one. Malicorne muttered interestingly,
"Hohoho. If it were to die for God, I'd pass.... but if it were for a friend's lover, maybe it doesn't sound so bad. How troublesome."
"That can't be helped. That kid Did saved us quite a couple of times."
Reinard pushed his glasses back up and asked.
"So, Captain. Facing such a terrible enemy, can we make it?"
Hearing so, Guiche said solemnly.
"Relax. I am here."
This time, no one planned to run. After all, they are nobles.
"Ahhhhhhhh!" Screaming, Saito woke up from his dream.
Taking deep breaths, he surveyed his surroundings.
"Where is this place?"
This is a room... a dark room made from wooden walls. Himself lying on his own bed. But were he should have been, was with the others inside where the gate Brimir made, led to...
What in the world happened, Saito had no idea at all.
Twisting his head in the direction of the voice, he saw Julio on a chair, looking back at him.
"Jesus! Why are you here!"
Having said, Saito shook his head in disbelief.
"-Sighs... From what I am seeing, was that a dream..."
Julio reviewed Saito curiously.
"Oh, that was a really weird dream... Don't laugh at me."
"I just dreamt I traveled back in time to 6000 years ago. And also, I met the one you call as Founder, Brimir. I also met the previous version of Gandálfr."
"What surprised me was, the original Gandálfr was actually an elven girl! We also fought against an army. What a joke."
Julio gave a faint smile.
"That is, one weird dream."
"I know, right? But that dream really seemed like it was alive... Ahh, it's good to wake up. Speaking of which, where are we right now?"
"Inside the city of Aquileia."
"Ohh? I heard this is the place that Pope is going to hold his third annual party...?"
"Third annual coronation ceremony," Julio corrected.
"Whatever. Wait, why did was I drugged and revived again? Planning to escape?"
"No, not that."
Then, Saito's expressions darkened.
"And? What happened with Gallia? How about Myozunitonirun? Did she do it?"
"Seriously.... If that's so, we don't have time to sit around reminiscing...! Wait... what did you say!"
Saito jumped out of bed, pulling at Julio's collar.
"Gallia sent two fleets full of those armoured golems from before, they started invading Romalia and the United Kingdoms. Right now at the border a serious battle is going on."
"What! Where's Louise and Guiche?"
"They have gone to the front lines. They should be arriving by now."
"Can't wait any longer!"
Saito put his hand on the doorknob, attempting to open the door... but his efforts were in vain. The door seemed to be locked.
"Oi, Julio! Open the damn door!"
"Ha, take it easy. Since you are awake, we cannot abide by our contract with Louise anymore."
"What are you talking about! Leave these things for later! On that side they may be having a battle right now!"
"They Are. However, a contract is a contract."
Julio stood up and unlocked it.
"...You jerk, if you can unlock it, do it earlier."
At the instance Saito opened the door, he couldn't help but gasped.
Outside... was another room, a bit cramped like the camps for monasteries. In the centre, ancient desks and chairs were placed.
However, Saito's eyes were looking at none of these...
It's a "Door".
Glowing brightly, a mirror like door.
Saito had seen this magical gateway many times.
Like in the dream just now.
As well as in the second time being Louise's familiar.
"A door to the world. It a magic which connects directly your world and ours."
Looking aside, there stood Pope Vittorio, smiling gently.
"The contract... is it...!"
"You are absolutely right. Miss Vallière requested me to send you back to your world."
Louise requested? Why?
An epiphany came to Saito. It must be because Louise secretly saw him crying when reading the email his mother sent, which made her want to send him home.
Saito's chest started to radiant.
That last smile... so this was what it meant?
The Louise... is on the battlefield right now.
"I'm not going back! Louise is fighting with enemies right now!"
Despite saying that, Saito's view were fixed on the door. Probably because it opened up, and the contents started to fade in...
When the other side can be seen, Saito felt his whole body shake.
"This is made for you specially, the 'World Door'. Being able to connect to that position, is a reasonable thing."
How could this be possible... Saito thought, his strength leaving him.
This is what he dreams of, is reminded of day and night... his own home.
Kneeling helplessly, Saito stared. The concrete made walls, concrete covered grounds, flower pots placed in home...
The cheap wooden door, the stainless steel doorknob...
This is a sight seen everywhere in Japan.
But to Saito right now, this is better than any magnificent architecture. Uncontrollably, he took one step forward...
And paused firmly on that single step.
"...I can't do it. Because Louise... everyone is fighting. Why am I the only one who can go home!"
"How you choose is completely your choice. However, please make your decision quick. My energy is limited. This door will only last for 10 more seconds of so. Afterwards, I won't be able to focus enough for anyone to pass through. It's your last chance."
Facing the sudden decision, Saito's heart shuddered heavily. Pass through this door, and he will return to his desired homeland. Unfortunately, this would also imply a farewell forever for Louise and those friends.
I like Louise and everyone else.
Yet, his home in his reaches, this was unimaginably attractive.
The words of Brimir suddenly surfaced in his head.
"People, all of them fight for their homes."
He did say that.
The vision in front of him triggered a unlimited amount of memories he had. Wait for his best mate to go to school together, the friends coming over to play after school. Barging out the door to get to school in time. Learning how to ride a bicycle when small. Practicing curving a ball at the wall.
All these subtle events were awakened. Yes this is once where he lived.
While still indecisive, his left eye view was replaced by another door.
That was Louise's point of view. It's an ability activated when his master is in danger.
In the vision, he can see a large canyon.
Also, rectangles and rectangles of armies.
Suddenly, great smoke rolled out of the canyon. Guiche and the other Ondine Knights appeared in view as well, all of them a terrified face.
Louise then appeared to walk forward... into the pitch black smoke warranting great danger.
The battle had begun.
With this picture in sight, Saito stopped his walking again.
"...How can I go..."
Incidentally, life always plays around with you.
In the world door, another view showed up.
That instance, Saito felt time pause.
Seeing the person inside, tears fell so easily out of his eyes.
The mother on the other side, looked almost the same as one year ago. No... perhaps a bit of weariness. For the first time in Saito's life, he had seen his mother, exhausted.
His mother obviously caught sight of the shining door in front of her, widening her eyes in shock.
"Rest assured. The other side can not see us here. The door is only one way, so she cannot enter. This would look nothing more than a shining mirror."
In his left eye, Louise's vision. His right, his waning mother.
Behind him, Julio's opened up.
"Left or right? Choose, my brother."
Saito put his hands in front of him.
Through this, he can see his mother. With his dearest mother.
All sorts of memory tangled in his brain.
Getting a good grade at school and being praised for it.
Breaking the neighbour's window and scolded for it.
The smell of fried eggs, miso soup. Also the fried fish he rated is disgusting...
Being reminded of how he should keep up in school.
Back then, he only considered his mother as annoying.
Slowly, Saito held his hands tight.
The door began to vanish from his sight.
Saito only rubbed his eyes.
The Julio standing behind him, finally let out a breath, and quietly put down the handgun pointed at Saito's head.
Saito turned around, traces of tears gone already.
"Where is my sword and 'weaponry'?"
"Is that ok? This might be your last chance, you know."
"Don't make me repeat myself. Bring me my sword and 'weaponry'. Also, where is Louise and the others."
"10 miles north of Aquileia, entrance of 'Tiger's Highway'. If it were your plane, it would take around 30 minutes to be delivered."
Julio's words made Saito furious.
"All of it were planned, wasn't it? You did this on purpose."
Then... Saito noticed the gun on Julio's hand.
Julio, not showing a hint of being apologetic, and said,
"Don't mistaken us. What we only need, is the inscription on your left hand. Not you as a person."
Saito realised. This a-hole. If he'd passed through the door, he wouldn't have hesitated pulling the trigger.
Julio hid his face of considering his as an idiot, something he rarely does.
"You are really a slow person. Other world? Returning there and the contract will disappear? Unfortunately, our destiny isn't something that efficient. They only thing that can make magic lose effectiveness, is only 'Death'! That's right, to survive, we have to do everything. Do not forget. In this family of 'Void's familiars', there is only 'master'. Remember this well, brother. Our 'home' lies 'Here'. Otherwise, we will never reclaim the holy land."
Saito made a fist. Fury made his shoulders shake violently.
"Remember this, one day I will beat you to a pulp."
Aiming at his smiling face, without worries, he punched with all his strength. Julio did not evade either, taking all of it, then flying backwards, landing on a door.
On the floor, Julio said,
"Leave this building and you will see a warehouse. Your 'weaponry' lies inside."
Saito pushed the door wide open, but stopped his motion.
"What is it?"
"Can you, open the world door again, no matter what the size?"
"What is it? Still thinking about home? Weren't you the one who decided not to leave?"
"I only need a very small door. Around the size of a finger would do."
"Then let me try. That size, I should be able to manage."