Zero no Tsukaima:Volume10 Chapter4
 Chapter 4: The Queen and the Knights
“Why did you go alone...”
Having just finished his words, Saito muttered in a miserable voice.
With the news Irukukuu brought, a serious atmosphere started hanging in the air.
Guiche and the other knights knitted their eyebrows, and were thinking about it.
Regrettable, Saito thought. Because Tabitha went there alone. She probably did not want to impose further inconvenience unto Saito and the others.
While thinking that, Saito became embarrassed.
When he was stopped by Henrietta, he felt relieved for a moment, it was unforgivable.
I had thought about doing what I could in this world, and yet when it comes to times like these, I who hesitated, I cannot be forgiven.
Maybe that could not be helped.
At any rate, Gallia is a large kingdom... the people who defeated the powerful Albion forces with one blow.
Until yesterday, I did not know how to fight such a people.
I definitely cannot win by just swinging my sword around recklessly. Because I was stopped by Henrietta, I did not have to make an enemy of those people I had no idea how to fight against. That's why I was relieved.
But, if I do not know the way, can't I just think about it?
Surely there's some way.
Now, I have finally determined. A determination to think about it, and to take action.
My relieved self is unforgivable. Instead of thinking about the best way, the part of my heart which gave up, saying that it is no use, is unforgivable.
He felt that the thing which had been bugging him until now, had flown somewhere else. Cheerfully, Saito said to Irukukuu,
“It's great that you informed us. Chill, we will surely save Tabitha. Right, guys?!”
Saito said that, and half of those present nodded.
“Of course! As a knight, we cannot let this pass!”
“No matter what happened, taking a girl into captivity is unforgivable! I'll do it! I wi-!”
Clenching his fist tightly, Malicorne shouted. He would react when it comes to girls.
However, having brought forth such a brave idea, there was hesitation as well.
“But... if we were to think rationally, those guys are still impossible.”
The one who said that was Reynal who shoulders the responsibility of managing the external business of the Ondine・Knight Corps of the Water Spirit. While everyone was fooling around, he was sitting in a corner, quietly sipping his alcohol but... now that trouble had turned up, he stepped forward as if it was his turn.
“What's your problem? You scared?”
Saito drew closer, and Reynal said calmly.
“I am not afraid. Just that, we are already the queen's knights right? We cannot do as we like, isn't that so?”
“Yeah, that's true,” a male student agreed.
The Ondine students' opinions were split directly in half. “If we don't go and save our classmate, what kind of knights are we?” This group which was with Saito.
“The enemy is outside the country. We cannot poke our head into their affairs.” The other group which was with Reynal.
A noisy quarrel ensued, after which they turned to the corps leader in unison.
“Hey Guiche. You are the commanding officer right? Decide!”
Caught in between the two factions in such a way, Guiche became flustered.
“Isn't that obvious?”
“A-Ah I see... whatever it is, this, that! The opinions are quite good. The girl, or the duty of the knight corps...”
“Don't 'quite good' about, decide now!”
Irritated, Montmorency urged Guiche. "Gulp", Guiche swallowed his saliva. After that, he hugged his head again, and started agonizing.
“Geez! You...” whilst Montmorency was saying that...
Louise shouted in quite a mad voice,
“What are you all doing right now!? If that's it, only those who want to go should go. Isn't that good enough!? We don't need every member to go right!? Those who want to go and help, let's go!”
Taken aback, everyone present stared at Louise.
“About that... but we are still the knight corps...”
When Saito said that in a sullen voice, Louise kicked him between the legs.
Guuu...Placing her foot on the head of Saito who had fallen down, in a pose which seemed to have become her routine, Louise shouted.
“If you all can't agree on a opinion, what kind of knights are you! Or rather, if you really want to go to save her, you would have rushed out by now, wouldn't you? You won't be talking meaninglessly here right!?”
At her words, from under Louise's foot, Saito sighed.
Obsessed in the knight corps, looks like I had forgotten the fundamental thing. Just a little while ago, wouldn't I just rush out to save her?
I had become prudent, this sounds better, but... maybe there is this part of me as well which doesn't want to part with the title I was bestowed?
Being stopped by Henrietta, because of my relief, I had become embarrassed. Geez, fretting over the title I have over here, what should I do...
Saito stood up, and nodded.
“Allll right! Those who want to save Tabitha, follow me!”
Ooohh! Cheers went out.
Nevertheless, Louise frowned all the more.
“Wait right there. We can't go WITHOUT a proper plan!”
“That's right. To properly inform the princess, to ask for help or cooperation, and then to embark on the journey to Gallia. We're not going against some band of thieves or some monster over there. Our opponent is the Kingdom of Gallia!”
Dazzled, Saito looked up to Louise who declared that with her arms akimbo.
Under her, Louise saw Saito looking up at her, captivated, and thought.
The petite, blue-haired girl...
That honest child, although I don't know what she has been thinking, but hasn't she been helping us all the time? That's why I will go. I must go.
If it were during those days, I probably wouldn't have thought like that.
At that instant, she was astonished at herself who thought that way.
Tabitha and myself, I had no idea that our relationship would go to such an extent.
But... Tabitha has always helped us, without any reason whatsoever.
Just like this fellow... Louise stared at Saito who was under her feet.
Saito as well, helping me without any reason.
That's why, for Tabitha who had always helped us without any reason, I will go and save her as well.
Yeah, I am probably changing.
Until yesterday, I had been blindly accepting Henrietta and my country; I had been thinking about the honor of a noble. However, truthfully, that's not the case. At that time, I started to realize. That was probably why I could strike Henrietta the other day.
In exchange for Henrietta and my motherland, I still do not really know what I should believe in but... my heart is telling me to take action, I think. Louise could sense that it was right.
Gumm, Louise glared at Saito.
Although it's me, when I have to do it, I'll do it.
I have tried to be a hero and self-important by myself! Idiot! Idiot idiot!
“Alright! Let's go to the palace now!” Gazing at Saito who had stood up, Louise thought.
Saito who had always helped her in that way, his feelings...
What if it is as Siesta has said, his feelings for me are as a familiar?
As if denying the indescribable anxiety, Louise shook her head, and went after Saito.
The Ondine members and Louise walked until they reached the Ostland which was anchored outside the academy. Running up the ramp, she pointed at the captain's cabin.
*Donk donk!* She knocked the door, and Colbert creeped out with a sleepy face.
From the room beside, with the habitual habit of yawning, Kirche stepped out as well.
“Whatttt... so late at night...”
“Please go to the palace now!”
“What on earth... what's wrong?”
“Tabitha was captured by the Kingdom of Gallia!”
Saito said that, and Kirche's eyebrows shot up.
“What the hell!?”
Colbert frowned as well.
“Is this true?”
“Yeah. We were told by Sylphid and Tabitha's dutiful sister.”
“So, we're going to Gallia now?”
In a calm voice, Kirche asked.
“No... before that, we go to princess-sama's place to seek for help, authorization and cooperation.”
After staring motionlessly at Saito, as if consenting, Kirche nodded.
“So, we'll depart now! Miss Zerbst, I'll leave the steam engine to you.”
Kirche nodded, and vanished to start up the fire in the steam engine. Colbert rang the bell which was installed in the captain's cabin, and over the whole ship, bell rings reverberated. The crew the Zerbst family employed, flew out from every corner of the ship.
“Everyone! We're departing now! Drop the rope!”
The rope which was used to fix the ship onto the ground, was quickly cut off, and the Ostland rose.
Although the Ostland's instantaneous highest speed is far inferior to that of dragons, on average it displays a cruising speed which can be compared to dragons. Roughly three times faster than sailing ships. In just less than an hour, they arrived in the skies of Tristainia.
Leaving the ship in the sky, Saito and the others landed in the courtyard of the palace with “Levitation”. The guards on duty as usual were the Manticore Corps.
The Commanding Officer who had a good look with his bushy eyebrows, shouted in surprise when he saw the human figures.
“I thought it was someone suspicious, but it is you all huh... This time, what is it?”
“De Cesaire-dono. We wish to be admitted into Her Majesty's presence.”
Louise said that, and the Commanding Officer of the Manticore Corps frowned.
“An unreasonable request so late at night, if you were ordinary people I would have refused you directly but... if it is you all, I guess that can't be helped.”
Having heard what Saito and the others said, Henrietta became silent for a while.
After that, she lifted her face...
“I cannot permit all of you to go directly.”
Thinking that they would acquire the help of being issued with the passage permission document to Gallia, and above that, being granted escorts to the country border, the group was splashed with cold water.
“I will summon the ambassador and conduct a full inquiry into this incident. Together with the incident of Louise's attack, I will strongly protest it.”
“No way. Well then, what should we do? You would order us to watch quietly?”
Henrietta became troubled. After that, she gazed at Saito,
“Once you get there, what would happen next?”
“Isn't this the first time Tabitha-dono became part of the conspirators who attacked you and Louise? Why do all of you go to such lengths so save such a person?”
“If she did not betray them halfway, we could not have saved Louise. She is our... lifesaver. Isn't Louise's lifesaver the country's lifesaver as well?”
Pleading desperately, Saito drew near to Henrietta.
“Well then, though unwilling, I would declare Tabitha as our lifesaver. However, Tabitha-dono is Gallia's Chevalier. At best, whatever was done to her, isn't it Gallia's right? If we meddle in this, wouldn't it become an interference in their domestic affairs?”
“The ones going are us. It is not Tristain's secret messengers or army.”
“All of you are now my household troops. Whatever your intentions may be, you would be perceived as “the actions of the Kingdom of Tristain”. If you go over there and save someone who committed a crime, it would cause serious opposition from them.”
At the gravity of the situation, Saito and the rest were at loss of words.
“It would probably turn into a war. All of you are going despite that?”
They were clearly told that... and sighs could be heard from the students of the Ondine who gathered.
“What Your Majesty said is true.”
“It would be terrible if a war occurred.”
With Reynal as their head, they started dissuading Saito together.
“Understood,” Saito replied.
“You guys go back to the academy first.”
“Saito. We have said many times, it is not because we're afraid...”
Reynal directed his eyes at Saito, in persuasion.
“I know. I don't think of you guys as cowards. What Her Majesty said is quite right, your feelings know that as well. Just that, I have a bit more to say.”
A relieved atmosphere flowed through that place. Everyone of the Ondine retreated to Her Majesty's office. The ones left behind were only Guiche, Malicorne, Saito and Louise.
“Can you please give this up?”
As if appealing, being gazed at by Henrietta's eyes, his feelings wavered at once.
When their eyes met in such a manner... it was not the grim and stern queen's expression, but the defenseless one, just like when they exchanged kisses previously.
Not as a queen... but as someone intimate, wanting him not to go.
That was what her expression told Saito.
Staring at Henrietta's countenance, Saito's determination started swaying.
But still... as he thought, he could not accept it. Although he is appealed to by her feelings, he could not desert the person who saved him.
He could not consent to it.
Slowly, Saito removed the mantle he was wearing.
“Wh-What are you doing?”
Guiche said in a panicked voice.
Respecfully, Saito handed the mantle over to Henrietta.
With a shocked look, Henrietta stared at Saito.
“I am returning it. Although it had been a short time... thanks for all your help.”
Henrietta trembled all over.
“With this, there won't be any trouble for Tristain. Isn't that so?”
Henrietta trembled for a moment, and in a small, tearful voice:
“Idiot...” she muttered.
The young queen rang the pre-installed bell.
“Is there anything?” Quietly, the Manticore corps of the bodyguard group rushed in.
“Disarm these people of their weapons, and arrest them.”
Looking at Henrietta who had pointed at Saito and said thus, Guiche's expression turned pale. Louise paled as well.
“Err, but... but...” The Commanding Officer of the Manticore corps shook his head. That's because he could not digest the current situation properly.
Being urged by Her Majesty The Queen, he straightened his collar and turned around at Saito.
“It is because of the command. Don't hold any grudge against me.”
Saying that, he confiscated Saito's sword, and tied his hands behind him. What should we do?, Guiche and Malicorne exchanged glances, but since Saito had obediently let himself be arrested, they followed him helplessly. The other corps members confiscated their wands, and tied them up as well.
“For a while... please cool down your head.”
Henrietta informed them in a sorrowful face... and the magic guard corps dragged Saito and the others away.
After that, Louise was left with Henrietta. Now becoming just the two of them, Henrietta laid her body down onto her chair.
“Why! Why couldn't they understand! Wishing to put their lives in danger! What would happen if they went to Gallia! To locate an arrested knight in such a big country, isn't that just like locating a pebble which was dropped into a lake? Besides that, couldn't they understand that they cannot move freely in a foreign country! To make things worse, Gallia is targeting the Void! Louise, your Void! Have you thought about how much danger that is awaiting you! What... on earth...”
Gazing at the distraught queen, Louise could guess something which is fairly close to her feelings. Above the souring of the relationship with Gallia... Because of her woman's instinct, Henrietta probably did not want Saito to go.
Upon seeing such Henrietta... the former Louise would definitely be as frantic as her.
Weighing her feelings and Henrietta's on a scale... Would she not give up and compete until the end? Or else, would she give in because of her faithfulness? Louise would become distressed.
Nonetheless, the present Louise was strangely calm.
Now is not the time to worry over such a thing.
The thing which I must do... is to help Tabitha.
For that sake, I must do what I must.
That is the duty of I, who was born a noble. Louise thought.
Louise gently placed her hand onto Henrietta's shoulder.
“What Princess said is quite right. For an Academy of Magic student, if she were to be weighed against a foreign country's chances, the latter would win.”
“That's right, Louise. I did not make a mistake. Yeah, for the time being, I want them to think over it calmly in the palace.”
“Just that... It is beyond me to agree to everything which is correct.”
Henrietta moved the hand which was concealing her face, and lifted her face.
“As for us, there is this reason that we must stick to.”
“What's the matter? What are you talking about?”
Dumbfounded, Henrietta stared at Louise.
“I have always come to believe that serving Princess is that reason. But... somewhere within my heart, it is saying this. Blind acceptance towards Princess is not my path to progress,”
With a troubled look, Henrietta gazed at Louise.
“This time, I have already resolved to go to save Chevalier Tabitha-dono. I believe that is the reason I must stick to. At the same time, I am aware that I am probably opposing Princess. Princess-sama has her own position. The position as a queen...”
“Even you, what are you saying?”
“While I know that... I have come to report to Princess. Why? Whilst knowing I would be opposed, why did I come to inform your Majesty? That is because I have felt sort of like the same “reason” I must stick to as well. To persist in the “reason” I believe... I am losing, but my spirit as a noble is somewhere here.”
Both the ladies which shared the special, childhood days together, were now confronting each other as a queen and a noble.
“Louise, have you forgotten? You are my court lady! You mean you are going to disobey my intentions?”
Silently, Louise removed her mantle, and presented it onto Henrietta.
“...Louise. Louise! Do you know what you're doing now!? Taking down your mantle would mean...”
“Yeah. With this, I am no longer a noble of Tristain. I am just Louise. Your Majesty, please treat me as part of the rebels who want to go to Gallia. After our departure, please proclaim this to the whole of Halkeginia. 'Inform the neighbouring country governments. Rebels are at large, there is a possibility for them to cross the country frontier. Upon discovery, please punish them according to your country's laws.' If your majesty does that, Tristain would not have any troubles.”
Henrietta trembled for a while... then, shaking her head, she called out to the remaining guards.
Facing the imperial guards who bowed down humbly, Henrietta told them.
“Arrest this person. Until I say otherwise, do not let her out of the palace.”
The guards obeyed respectfully, and bowed once at Louise.
“Please hand over your wand.”
Staring at Louise, Henrietta said.
“The things you said are not wrong. I think they were splendid.”
A short pause.
After a quick bow, Louise surrendered her wand to the imperial guards.
At the back of Louise who was brought out from the room, Henrietta said in a sad voice.
“I don't have the self-confidence, I do not think that I can carry it out properly. But, I am still the queen, Louise.”
Saito and the others were all confined within a room in a tower at the west side of the palace.
In the ten tatami mat wide room, beds and desks were prepared. Probably this was a room built for the use of nobles. Yet, even though it was for the use of nobles, it was as if the fact that it was used as a prison did not change.
The windows and doors were barred with thick metal grills. On the other side of the thick doors, two sentinels carrying huge halberds were standing there.
Sitting on the beds, Guiche and Malicorne were looking out from the window, rather miserably. Light from the twin moons which shone in, cast a shadow of the metal bars. Seeing that, Guiche murmured in a miserable voice.
“Haaa... damn. If my father and elder brother knew about my current condition, they would probably feel so sad... And they had felt so happy when I became a commanding officer of the Imperial Guards... They had even called me the pride of the Gramont family...”
Malicorne sighed deeply as well.
“How could Her Majesty become so angry...”
Saito felt sorry for the both of them, which had no fault in this matter at all. Reflexively, he bowed his head quickly.
“Sorry. Because you all have accompanied me...”
Well, isn't that fine? Whilst shaking his hand flutteringly, Guiche said to Saito.
“Don't worry about it. Not being able to coordinate the knight corps, I am at fault as well. Oh well, because I'm the commanding officer, siding with the Assistant Commanding Officer is probably my duty as well.”
“As I thought, going to save the girl who was abducted by a foreign country, hunting down the foxes in their territory, going on a conquest against robber bands; these things are wrong. We had made someone angry.”
With a face which had become completely sober, Malicorne muttered.
“But, why did you all stick along with me? It would have been better if you all go back together with the others.”
“That's because this is more fun!”
Guiche answered readily.
“So is it being imprisoned like this the same as well?”
“Yeah. Going along with a girl is fun as well, but... ever since I was born a noble, I have not gotten involved in such heart-thumping adventure! Being imprisoned in the palace! My father and elder brother would surely be sad, but they don't have such an experience!”
"Ahaha", Guiche broke out in laughter. Ummm, as I thought, this guy is quite a big shot. It's probably right for him to become the corps leader, Saito thought. But obviously, the possibility that he is but a complete idiot cannot be put aside as well.
“I want to become braver,” Malicorne said.
“Yeah. In times of danger, I want courage. Although I want to try to participate in a war... I could only tremble, become frightened and start crying. I want courage so that I won't escape whatever time it is.”
Saito and Guiche became solemn unintentionally. However, immediately after that,
“If I have such courage, I would probably be more accepted right?”
Malicorne said shyly, because of which the solemn atmosphere dispersed.
Guiche looked at Saito with a serious expression.
“You should have some plans, don’t you?”
“Yeah, didn’t you just crazily let yourself be captured without any resistance? Obviously, you would have some plans to escape from here, right?”
With a blank face, Saito answered.
Guiche and Malicorne bulged their eyes.
“There is no way for me to have any plan. Derf was confiscated as well. What should I do?”
“You idiooooottttt!! Aaaaahhhhh! Weren’t we arrested…?? Of all the things, adoration and respect to Her Majesty The Queen???”
Hugging his head, Guiche started babbling.
“What’re you talking about!? And yet I had said just now that 'I am glad I can experience such things'!?”
“That and this are different thingsssss!!”
Dejected, Malicorne’s shoulders drooped. Looks like they had became worried suddenly.
“Her Majesty The Queen, would she forgive us, I wonder… Could it be, that we have to be hanged?”
At that, Saito laughed.
“Hey, what are you laughing at?”
The door opened, and Louise showed her face. For some reasons, her mantle was not put on.
“Aren’t you late? We’ve been waiting!”
However, Louise did not reply. With a straight face, she walked in determinedly, and *don!*, sat beside Saito.
“Eh? Louise… didn’t you come to get us ou…”
The guards who escorted Louise inside closed the prison doors again. *Gachang!!* With the sound of the magic lock being locked, Saito, Guiche and Malicorne understood that their fate wasn’t going to change after all.
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