Zero no Tsukaima:Volume10 Chapter9
 Chapter 9: Alhambra Castle
Alhambra Castle was a citadel the elves built on top of a small hill in the desert.
The incident of the Halkeginia Holy Land Recovery Allied Forces who regained it at the price of countless sacrifices, could be traced back to thousands of years ago.
During that time, the Holy Land Recovery Allied Forces fixed the country border, and told the elves, “This is our land.” Consequently, that became the country's borders.
The elves who had formerly lived in the desert did not have any concept of “country borders.” Just that, the elves knew that humans are living beings who would greedily treat anywhere as their land and fight for it, if “country borders” were not established. So, they reluctantly recognized the line those humans drew as the country border.
Because that citadel became the point from which the elves' land was attacked from many times, they received the elves' attacks many times as well. Every time, this process of trying to remove and being removed repeated...until that battle hundreds of years ago, in which the Holy Land Recovery Allied Forces became its present master. Since the citadel was small, it was left aside as a military base and became an abandoned castle... because of which, it conversely flourished.
At the foot of the hill on which Alhambra Castle was built, an oasis was formed. A small inn town started growing from around that oasis... Because the area surrounding Alhambra Castle was a military base, travellers who passed through the desert would stop by, and it became a small trading area.
With the skills of the elves, the walls of Alhambra Castle were exquisitely constructed, adorned with a fine engraving of geometric patterns. Reflecting the moonlight from the twin moons, the walls shone brightly, providing a fantastic view to the desert travellers.
To the Halkeginians, the area surrounding Alhambra Castle was an exotically beautiful place.
Well then, in a small pub called “Father Joseph's Desert Doors” Inn, in that beautiful inn town, the hot topic was a recent rumor about Alhambra Castle.
A unit of the king's army arrived, and was stationed in the castle.
The merchants who bought ceramics and porcelains in Sahara said to the shop owner in a whisper.
“The troops came to Alhambra Castle lately... but do you know why those guys came, Father?”
Travelling from one place to another, the wise father who had set up a pub here, tasted the stew whilst shaking his head.
““Didn't those guys come to this area to dig up some treasure?” There was a rumor like that, but... I feel that the truth is different.”
The father reacted indifferently. He knew that not poking his head in unnecessary affairs was the secret to longevity.
“Hey. I'll treat you a drink, so tell me more about that rumor?”
Missing out on getting some wine? The male merchant snorted. Beside him, a lady clothed in sand-warding robe with a hood sat down.
“Isn't that a wonderful conversation?”
The brown skin and red lips peeking out from the openings of the robe gave the impression of a befitting beauty. The merchant gulped nervously.
“Dear, shall we offer up a cup for this man?”
The man's cup was filled with ale to the brim.
“Well then, can you tell me more about it?”
The whole group greeted Kirche who returned to the table with applause. On top of their street performer costumes, everyone was wearing the same robe used in the desert.
The group had finally arrived at this Alhambra place the previous night.
It took them a week of transferring between stagecoaches travelling through footpaths and highways to reach there from the Orleans mansion. Apparently, Tristain did not issue any warning to Gallia, and the performers were not suspected by any people as they walked down the road. No. On their journey, they were suspected by the patrolling knights several times, but managed to escape by the tactfulness of Kirche who knew the area very well.
“Geez, you guys...always letting me get information by myself, what's your intention?”
“But aren't you the best? Just the person for the job.”
Guiche nodded solemnly too.
“Awesome... 'cause you managed to collect information one after another,” Saito said in admiration.
“Really, just do it. Guys, if you all are still Tristain nobles, with a high pride- no wonder you can't gather information.”
Montmorency turned her face aside in embarrassment, but Louise lifted up her eyes.
“Oh, yes we can! I went as far as being a waitress in a bar in Tristania last time!”
“That pathetic fella?”
Louise's cheeks swelled. Come to think of it, she had let herself be seen a few times by Kirche. But now was not the time for such things, so she had no choice but to keep quiet.
“So, did you get anything?”
The merchant to whom Kirche gave an extravagant treat had told her everything he knew, after which, he became drunk and wasted, lying down on the counter, and fell asleep.
They changed their strategy meeting location to a second floor room. That's because there were people there.
After entering the room, Kirche started telling the news she heard.
“As I thought, looks like it really is this city.”
“Which means?” Saito urged.
“Apparently, that merchant heard about it from the troops stationed there. The reason they came here was to protect a “noble” they brought here. According to the story, they seemed to be fallen royal family members. And then, the crux is that those nobles are 'parent and child.'”
“In other words, Tabitha and her mother?”
“Can't we conclude that?”
Everyone's faces turned solemn.
Opening the door of the room, Malicorne entered.
“I used the 'Distant Vision' spell and examined the castle!”
Being a Wind element mage, Malicorne had been using magic to examine the castle from afar. Even Sylphid was not used, since it would be conspicuous. She had remained in her human form until then, and probably due to tiredness, she was asleep on the bed, snoring. It looked like taking the form of a human consumed her willpower more intensely.
Calmly, Malicorne spread a sketched parchment on the table. On it, a rough sketch of Alhambra Castle could be seen. Obviously, the internal structure of the building was not known, but the courtyard, walls, towers, keeps - all of them were drawn accurately.
Guiche praised him.
“The Gallian troops stationed there aren't just one squadron. There are two squadrons there! About 300 soldiers, and 10 noble officers!”
That's quite a number.
“I see. Thanks. Well then, we've collected all the information we can.”
Kirche was fully the leader. Indeed, in such projects, there was no chance for Tristainian nobles who were prideful and only knew how to carry out frontal attacks.
“So, how to rescue Tabitha out of that castle?”
“We are mostly mages. A surprise attack against approximately 300 people will work somehow, won't it? At our side, we have Sylphid, Saito who stopped the seventy thousand...”
Guiche said that, but Kirche shook her head.
“No way. If we attack head-on like that, reinforcements would come immediately, and danger might fall onto Tabitha. It's also possible that Tabitha would be carried away to somewhere else.”
“So what should we do? Putting all of the soldiers to sleep with magic?”
Kirche grinned impishly.
“That's impossible! Aren't we going against 300 people?? Even if we were to recite Sleep Cloud, how can we cover them all in one shot?”
“To make them sleep, we don't just have to use incantations, Montmorency.”
“Can you mix the 'Sleeping Potion?'”
“I can, but... how to make them drink it? Even if we mix it into their water, it will be discovered immediately!”
“There's a plan. Just do it! Mix the strongest potion you can. Guiche, please buy some wine sold nearby.”
Towards them who were about to rush out, Kirche said.
“Hey, if you meet any elves...”
The three of them trembled instantly. A word they did not want to hear. Mustering their courage, they had been driving that word out of their head.
“Run. Don't think about fighting them. The thing which must not be forgotten is, we did not come to fight. The elves are obviously with the Gallian army. We will sneak into Alhambra Castle cautiously, and carefully rescue Tabitha and her mother. That's right. We've come 'to save our friends.' That would be putting the cart before the horse. That's why, if you feel danger not just from elves, run. That is cowardly, but harmless.”
Understood, The three nodded.
“Thanks for cooperating in this plan to save my best friend. I am grateful for your bravery.”
Kirche bowed politely. It was their first time seeing Kirche being so commendable. Because of that, they changed their frightened expressions to serious looks.
After the three of them exited, Kirche turned towards Saito and Louise.
“What are we supposed to do? What's best for us?”
“Rest. You guys are our trump card. Please conserve your strength.”
“Trump card, what do you mean?”
Kirche readily answered.
“To fight against the elf. Although we can trick the army, the elf probably won't fall for it.”
“Wh-! What!? You're saying that it's okay even if we're hurt!? We may die, won't we?? You're saying that it's all right if we die?? We're not a trump card, but a sacrifice! You're really a Zerbst! You hate me to that extent!?”
Kirche replied with a straight face.
“You're wrong, Louise. It's not 'hating,' but 'recognizing.' We probably can't win against the elf. The only thing possible, is your 'legend.'”
Louise's eyes bulged.
“You're the only one who thought that we don't know. You chanted in front of us before, and those chants don't exist, do they?”
“I humbly apologize at my impoliteness towards the ancestor. Can you kindly lend your holy powers to this powerless servant?”
Kirche knelt down. As expected, Louise panicked. In the long history of the dispute between La Valliere and Von Zerbst, it was the first time a Von Zerbst apologized.
“L-Lift up your head! What're you doing!? If I refuse this, am I not the bad guy!? I have already cast away my noble name! I'm just Louise the Zero! That's why even if I listen to what you say, I don't really mind,”
Turning aside, Louise said in an embarrassed voice.
“Eh? You threw aside your nobility?”
“That's right! I have returned my mantle and name to Her Majesty.”
“Aah! Well then, after saving Tabitha, come to Germania! I'll employ you as my maid!”
“Stop joking around!”
Somewhat overcome with emotion, Kirche hugged Louise tightly.
Saito looked at the two with a rather radiant expression. After that, to preserve his strength, he headed towards the bed.
He did not have any self-confidence at winning against the elf at all. Or rather, how should he fight to win?
The more he thought about it, the more anxious he became.
With his anxiety increasing, Saito felt as if being squashed.
But... friends with Kirche? When he looked at Louise who appeared to be trying to bring that up, he became embarrassed at that feeling.
“Well then, I'll follow what you said and sleep for a bit.”
“I look forward to it, Saito. Jean has always been saying. Saito-kun is someone capable of changing this world. I believe that as well. That's why; please change Tabitha's fate.”
Plucking up his courage, Saito grinned, overdoing it.
“Leave it to me!”
Saito slipped into the bed, and Sylphid who had been sleeping on it until now, opened her eyes wide.
“Oh, you're awake?”
Under her blue hair, Sylphid's blue eyes shone again.
“Thanks,” she expressed her gratitude.
“In order to save onee-sama, everyone is working hard for us. I'm very touched. If onee-sama knew that you all are coming to save her, she would surely be very happy.”
“Onee-sama doesn't speak much, so she may seem somewhat cold, but... in reality, she's a very kind person. I love onee-sama very much, but onee-sama doesn't lose to me- she loves me very much too. Although Onee-sama did not say anything, I know something like that.”
Sylphid noticed that Saito looked a little down.
“No... I'm just a little envious of you guys.”
Although we are master and familiar, we can't understand each other at all.
Mutual feelings, yet we can't understand each other at all.
“You don't look well. Let me comfort you. But I dunno how to do it.”
“Kyui, kyui!” Whilst purring, Sylphid gave Saito a tight hug.
Whilst being tightly embraced by Sylphid's soft body, Ah, will Louise turn this way to look at me?, Saito thought vaguely.
If I were more imposing... she would look at me for a bit, won't she? He thought. But, looks like that won't happen.
Anyhow, at Tristain palace when we were captured, when I was trying to say that I love her...“Don't say it!” She yelled at me, so...
Of course I am wrong too.
Being spoony over Siesta, my heart throbbing when I see Henrietta's face. As for those, apart from keeping those charms to myself, I can't help it. This is a man's physiology.
But, I have been saying “I love you” to Louise all the time, haven't I?
Maybe... Louise has no space to fall in love, Saito thought.
Louise who is more serious than anyone else.
Louise who is always fixated on her ideals.
Saying “It's a reward!” Kissing me, not being angry even when her breasts are touched, this means... it is not really because of her pride, Saito changed his thoughts.
That's because, just like how this Sylphid does not know what's the best way to comfort this human me... she does not know what the best reward to give me, this teenager at puberty. Because she doesn't know how to express her gratitude.
And yet, every time I would misunderstand her... Saito wished he could just crawl into a hole. Louise falling in love with me? Ha!
I'm such a shameful person. Aah, SHAMEFUL!!
The Louise who would return her mantle to Henrietta in order to stand for her ideals. More serious than anyone else, the noble Louise.
Maybe because you're like that, I have come to like you.
Among the people I encountered in the world I was born in, at least there isn't someone who would stick completely to his “way of living” like Louise does. And then, in this world too...
Someday, when Louise is able to achieve her ideals, won't she start loving someone at that time? At that time, I want to be the one beside her, Saito thought.
To go along with Louise's ideals, I have to be much stronger. Elf or whatever, now's not the time to be frightened.
Displaying brute courage, Saito spread-eagled and closed his eyes. To measure up to Louise's ideals, he could not show his intimidation to anyone.
Looking at that strange Saito who spread-eagled on the bed while smiling, Louise's anxiety expanded all the more.
You were told that it's a fight against an elf, and yet, why aren't you afraid?
Why don't you hate it?
Aah, as I thought, Saito is given the courage as a familiar, huh?
Louise became deeply miserable.
The next day, in the evening...
Standing in front of the gates of Alhambra castle, a member of the Gallian army who was standing guard gave a big yawn. A soldier standing beside him chided him.
“If you don't guard the door properly, we'd be scolded by the commanding officer!”
“Baron Misscoeur? That's all right! He's just an idiot.”
“No, it's not him. It's that un-human guy.”
The yawning soldier shook his head frantically as if his drowsiness was blown away.
“Oi, don't refer to him that lightly! Touch wood... O Founder Brimir. Please protect my soul...”
“I don't want to be eaten either! That's why I don't speak out his name...But dunno what the heck is wrong today... I went to the streets to eat during lunchtime, but wine was sold out!”
“Haa? What'cha mean?”
“Someone from somewhere had bought up all the wine in this inn town. B'cause of that, there wasn’t any wine no matter which bar I went to. What a joke!”
“That's the only pleasure in the center of this boring desert! Geez, which guy did such nonsense?”
As the conversation was going on, a cart could be seen coming from ahead on the road to the inn town.
There were 7 male and female flashy street performers in the cart. The wagon behind was filled with barrels.
The cart stopped in front of the gate. Pointing their lances at them, the soldiers asked the group.
“Who are you guys?”
A redhead girl dressed in a dancer's costume with a high degree of exposure bowed down elegantly.
“We are a group of street performers, sir.”
It was Kirche.
“I can see that. This is not some highway.”
“We know that.”
Sexily, Kirche threw a flirtatious glance at them. In an instant, the soldiers became as if entranced by succubus.
“We've come to provide entertainment.”
The soldiers exchanged looks. After that, they realized what the content of those barrels stacked up behind was. One of them approached and sniffed the smell of the barrels.
“Isn't this wine!?”
Another glared at Kirche with a hateful look.
“The ones who bought up all the wine are you all!?”
Kirche leaned coquettishly onto the soldiers. At Kirche's loveliness, the soldiers' expressions crumbled down pathetically.
“Please don't be angry, handsome misters. We are just doing our best at our living. We've come to tour Sahara, but those stingy elves didn't give us any money at all for our performances.”
“How would elves know what dancing is!?”
The soldiers broke out in laughter.
“Right? That's why we need customers who understand our art. Naturally, going together with wine, right?”
“Got it! You guys didn't just come to buy wine huh? Planning anything funny?”
Those standing in the cart stiffened.
“And to sell dances as well while you're at this. Right?”
With a big smile on her face, Kirche said.
“Exactly! Our wine is slightly more expensive than the one in town, but we will provide dancing as a service. How about that?”
“What a nerve this lady has! I like it. I'll help you guys in your business!”
The soldier rushed off to report to his superior officer.
Turning back, Kirche combed her hair back triumphantly. At that brilliant skill, the entire group applauded.
Saito and the others were brought to see the ten nobles who commanded the units stationed in this castle. Apparently, the spare rooms at the right when one entered the castle hall were used by the officers.
The commanding officer was a forty-year-old-plus noble - Baron Misscoeur. He had seemingly taken a fancy with Kirche as soon as he saw her, and had allowed them to hold an exhibition.
“Germanian ladies are good at business, huh.”
Kirche put forth a price with the wine, and Baron Misscoeur smiled.
“We'll present the dance and the performance according to the price.”
Hmmm... Leaning out from his chair, he gazed at Kirche's body as if licking it. With his bald head, Baron Misscoeur caused a lewd atmosphere to hang about in the air.
“Very well. We'll pay the asking price. But, it is necessary to ascertain if you all are having something bad up your sleeves...We are after all, entrusted with valued troops from His Majesty...”
“If you don't believe us, I will present my personal dance.”
Saying that whilst casting a flirtatious glance, Baron Misscoeur's eyes narrowed.
“On the other hand, I have concerns that depriving the soldiers of their entertainment would be demoralizing. After the performance, come to my room. I'll personally investigate you.”
The nearby nobles displayed expressions of dissatisfaction.
“This is also the duty of the commanding officer! Ahaha!”
Facing the commanding officers who broke out in laughter, Kirche displayed a charming smile.
“Well then, we will make our preparations then.”
As Kirche was trying to leave the room, Baron Misscoeur called out to her.
“Before that, how about giving us a cup of the wine you brought?”
Montmorency paled. The sleeping potion she mixed was already mixed into the wine barrels. If the sleeping potion was discovered by him there, their plans would be ruined.
However, not disturbed, Kirche had a cask moved there and poured a glass.
The entire group held their breath.
Baron Misscoeur brought the glass near his nose, and sniffed it. Montmorency was nervous to the extent of collapsing. The potion she mixed was tasteless and odorless, but Detect Magic would just do the trick.
Baron Misscoeur frowned, and shook his head.
The group froze like ice. Were they found out?
“This is some cheap stuff. Not befitting for the nobles. Give it all to the soldiers.”
Saying that, Baron Misscoeur emptied the wine in the glass onto the floor.
At Kirche who had excused herself from the officer's room, Saito whispered softly.
“That's only the beginning. The real thing is after this. But no elves were inside, huh.”
“What if none are here?”
“If that's the case, it'll be great...”
Kirche said in a not very hopeful tone.
Three hundred of the soldiers gathered in the courtyard of Alhambra Castle. Although the dance had not yet begun, the soldiers were quite excited already.
In this abandoned castle in the middle of the desert, being ordered with this senseless bodyguard duty, they were totally bored. Because dissatisfaction tantamount to rebellion was building up, almost everyone gathered. With only the minimum guards left behind, it was almost all of them.
The commanding officer, Baron Misscoeur was indignant inside that he shared this guarding duty with the elf. Just like most of the other Gallian nobles, he was contemptuous and dissatisfied with Joseph. Plainly speaking, he hated him.
The lieutenant proposed having the soldiers split in half, taking turns participating. But Baron Misscoeur shook his head.
“That 'king of impotence' drove me to such a situation. Once, the Misscoeur lineage was that of Gallia's prominent warriors. Bestowing me the duty of guarding madame duchess with the elf at such a rural area... He might've done it on a whim! Geez, who would be looking for that child and the old woman at such a time? Never mind, let all soldiers participate!”
Saying that, he thumped onto a luxurious chair he pulled out in the courtyard.
The instant both moons were shrouded by the clouds...
Holding torches, a thin lad and a plump youth appeared. Because the ones that appeared were guys, the soldiers began jeering and booing. The two threw the torches into the bonfire that was prepared beforehand.
After that, the two prepared musical instruments. The plump lad started hitting the drum. The thin and handsome one took out a flute and started playing it. Because it was an extremely horrible performance, the booings grew more intense.
Nevertheless, the instance female dancers appeared from the dark, the jeers stopped abruptly.
Altogether there were four female dancers.
The sexy, flame-haired girl was the leader. Illuminated by the flames, she was smiling sexily. Next was a golden-haired girl. She appeared embarrassed as she blushed.
After her was a pink-haired girl, who again appeared to be a child. The angrily stiffened face coloured.
The last one was a beautiful lady with long, blue hair. She was beaming all over with innocent smiles.
Enthusiastic applause, cheers and whistles could be heard from the soldiers.
The party had begun.
When Tabitha woke up... her mother was on the bed.
Holding the book with one hand, she lay down on the bed.
Beside her, her mother was snoring peacefully.
It looked like she had become sleepy and had fallen asleep whilst reading “The Hero of Ivaldi”.
Her mother's eyes opened slightly.
She thought her mother would start acting violent... but fixing her eyes on her, she did not move. Could she have regained her sanity? Joy spread out in her heart, as Tabitha called out to her mother.
But still, her mother did not show any reaction. She merely stared fixedly at Tabitha. But, that was enough.
Looking at the doll on the mirror stand, Tabitha smiled a little.
“I will now read this book.”
Turning the page of the book, Tabitha started reading out loud.
Ivaldi arrived at the cave in which the dragon lived. His attendants and friends started freaking out at the entrance. One of the hunters told Ivaldi.
“Let's turn back. If the dragon wakes up, we will all die. 'Cause you don't know how scary the dragon is.”
“I am afraid.”
“So act according to your feelings.”
“But if I lose to fear, I'll become someone besides me. That is many times scarier than being bitten to death by the dragon.”
Although Bidashal entered into the room, Tabitha did not lift her face from the book. Her mother was not startled by the elf's entrance either. Throughout those 20 days, every day, Tabitha had been reading to her mother “The Hero of Ivaldi”. If she read to her any other books, she would go mad like the olden days. That's why Tabitha had read the same book over and over again. She had read it out loud many times. That's why she had as good as memorized it by heart.
Seeing Tabitha reading a book, Bidashal displayed a small smile.
“Looks like you have taken a great fancy towards that book huh.”
Tabitha did not reply. Although Bidashal had entered now, unless there was anything special, she would not stop reading.
“Seems like a group of performers had come to comfort you. They are carrying out their performance at the courtyard. I have no interest whatsoever, but what about you? If you want to have a look, I will give you special permission to leave this room.”
Tabitha lifted her face and shook her head.
With a slightly stiffer voice, Bidashal told Tabitha.
“The medicine will be completed tomorrow.”
Tabitha's finger which was flipping the page stopped.
“You can only be yourself until tomorrow.”
Giving her special permission to leave this room... In other words, that would be the last mercy before the execution of her sentence.
“Boring entertainment, but it would at least console you a little bit.”
“Sympathy is not needed.”
Tabitha replied shortly.
I see… Whispering that, Bidashal exited the room.
She wanted to at least spend her last few hours with her mother.
Tabitha laid her eyes on “The Hero of Ivaldi” again.
Ivaldi entered the dragon's cave. Nobody else accompanied him. With light from his torch, the moss-covered wall of the cave was illuminated. Being disturbed by the light, many bats flew about trying to escape.
Ivaldi became frightened and close to tears. He imagined that everyone had left him behind in that dark cave. How scary it was!
Moreover, a terrifying dragon laid ahead waiting for him!
But, Ivaldi did not waver.
Ivaldi had told himself many times.
“You can do this. Didn't you save many people already? This time you can do it as well. Did'ya hear that Ivaldi? You have power, so running away is cowardly.”
In those times she reread the book, Tabitha slowly felt the contradiction she had towards the title when she was young, dispersing away.
“The Hero of Ivaldi”, what does it mean?
Ivaldi was not the name of a place- it was the name of the youth in the story. Usually, won't the title be published as “Ivaldi the Hero” instead?
When she was young, Tabitha once had that doubt in her mind.
But now she understood the meaning of the title.
The word “hero” is not referring to Ivaldi himself.
It is referring to the idea of the impulse or resolution in his heart.
When she was young... she would read and yearn for it.
In accordance with the “hero” living inside the Ivaldi-like hearts of the readers, they had longed to be the hero, but... she was different.
She was attracted by the lady captured by the dragon. She wanted to become the lady that was saved by the hero. Although it was fun, Tabitha had waited eagerly for the hero who would bring her out of the boredom of her daily life.
Comparing her life with the lady in the story, Tabitha smiled dryly in her heart.
Didn't I become this girl myself?
Now I have become someone imprisoned.
The only difference with the book is that, the hero who is to come to save me does not exist.
Now, or last time...'
But, that is good enough.
That's because I have been doing things alone all along.
Not relying on anyone, not trusting anyone, I have been doing everything on my own... because of that.
However... after reading this “Hero of Ivaldi”, she started imagining.
About the hero who would rescue her.
About the hero who would save her from this ominous cave, Alhambra Castle...
Because those were the final moments before she was to lose her heart, she might have been feeling such things obediently.
She felt love at her heart that would be lost after the following day. For the first time, Tabitha had felt love towards her heart that was covered by a snowstorm. She grasped her mother's hands tightly.
Tabitha started shivering slightly.
|Back to Chapter 8||Return to Main Page||Forward to Chapter 10|