Zero no Tsukaima:Volume3 Chapter1 ~Preview~
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 Chapter One: Lineage of Zero
At the end of Bourdonne's Street situated Tristain’s Royal Palace. Members of the Mage Guards patrolled the area in front of the Royal Palace gates atop their magical steeds. The rumor that war was looming had begun spreading through the town two or three days ago. It was said that “Reconquista”, the aristocrat faction that had conquered Albion, was poised to invade Tristain.
As a result, the mood of the soldiers who guarded the surroundings grew tense. 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 in order to prevent mages disguised through illusion or people under the control of charming magic from getting through.
Due to such circumstances, 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, one at a time. While one was on duty, the other two either rested or trained. Today, the Manticore Corps 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 the dragon was a beautiful blondish pink-haired 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 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 on the ground.
“Flying above the Royal Palace is currently prohibited. 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 of 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 a very renowned noble family.
The commander lowered his wand.
“You are Duke of La Vallière’s third daughter?”
Louise raised herself and stared straight into the commander’s eyes.
“I see... you have your mother’s eyes. Well, what is your purpose here?”
“I’m afraid I cannot tell you. It’s a secret.”
“Then I’ll have to deny your request. I cannot grant you an audience with her Highness without knowing your purpose. I could lose my head over something like that!” the commander replied worriedly.
“It's not like we can reveal our secret either!” yelled Saito as he jumped off the wind dragon.
As Saito interjected, the commander glanced over at him. He had a young face. Clothes that he had never seen before. A low nose. Yellow skin. A large sword draped over his shoulders.
Though it wasn’t clear what country he was from, one thing was certain – he wasn’t a noble.
“What a rude commoner. That’s not how 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. In fact, he was just 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 act so arrogantly.”
Overhearing their conversation, the commander’s eyes widened. Wardes? Wardes, as in Viscount Wardes, the commander of the Griffin Corps? Defeated? What's the meaning of this?
Shaking away his concern, 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 in a stern 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're 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 opportunity of the situation. The Mage Guards that had surrounded the party quickly raised their wands.
Under the commander’s order, the mage guardsmen 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 turned grim. With much difficulty, Saito explained to Henrietta.
“Wardes was a traitor, Princess.”
A shadow crept upon Henrietta’s face. Then, noticing the intent stares of the Mage Guards around them, Henrietta quickly explained.
“They are my guests, commander.”
Upon hearing this, the commander withdrew his wand, 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 were subsequently attacked by pirates.
How they found out that the pirate leader was Crown Prince Wales.
How Prince Wales refused to escape, even when he had the chance.
How they missed the ship because of the wedding with Wardes.
How Wardes suddenly showed his true colors in the middle of the wedding...killing Prince Wales and snatching the letter from Louise’s hands...
which was swiftly regained.
... And how the ‘Reconquista’ had vast ambitions...from uniting all of Halkeginia, to the grand goal of liberating the Holy Lands from the Elves.
However... even 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 up and streamed down her cheeks.
Louise silently held Henrietta’s hands.
“It was I who took away Prince Wale’s life. No matter how you look at 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 I?”
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 a 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 supposed 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 by 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 now removed, our country will be able to step into the alliance with Germania safely. In such a situation, Albion will not be able to invade us easily. The crisis has passed, Louise Françoise.”
Henrietta said it as cheerfully as possible.
Louise took out from her pocket the Water Ruby that 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.”
Accepting the ring, Henrietta gasped in astonishment.
“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.”
In truth, Wales was already dead when he pulled it off his finger.... but Saito had said it anyways. He had said it like that, believing that it would help heal the ache Henrietta held in her heart, however little that 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 it 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 what was contained in 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 the fact that the Viscount was a traitor, it’s all so shocking.”
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 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 being held for an idiot!”
Kirche shook Tabitha, who was reading a 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 suddenly slowed down. 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 beliefs, her uneasiness turned into puzzlement. Anyway, whether these feelings were true or not is not a matter of importance right now.
In the end, having felt Saito's 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's just 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 though, since you can't use magic.”
“You're 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. Hmph.”
Though Louise grumbled and complained, she didn‘t try to shake off Saito's hand. On the contrary, she leaned 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. Although Henrietta was beautiful... Louise was also incredibly cute, he thought. The hand on her waist pressed closer. And he felt how her waist and thighs pressed further into his body.
It was just when this was happening that Kirche spun around and muttered softly.
“Since when did you become like this, you two?”
Louise, suddenly realizing how things looked, blushed a furious red and sent the daydreaming Saito flying with a shove.
“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 on the grassy plain along the road 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 off.”
“T-they're 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 on his face, Guiche started to walk. Saito was not sure why, but somehow, he felt more impressed by Guiche.
“By the way, you… that… well… There’s something I wanted to ask you. Please tell me.”
Guiche mumbled to Saito as he fiddled with his 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 behind.
“Well, is the rumor true?”
“Come on, walk. It’s good for your health.”
“Wha-at, y-you, Her Highness, I...”
Under the warmth of the sun, the two kept on walking towards the Academy of Magic.
The Fortress of Newcastle, once known as a great stronghold, was now a tragic ruin. Though it withstood the onslaught, it became a disastrous scene.
The castle walls, which were repeatedly attacked by spells and cannon fire, turned into a pile of rubble, and corpses burnt beyond recognition littered the ground.
Although the siege was short, the rebels - no, since Albion had lost its king, 'Reconquista' was the new government in Albion - suffered unimaginable damage. For every three hundred royal army soldiers, two thousand rebels were killed. And an additional four thousand wounded. It was hard to call the battle a victory, given these statistics.
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 get past the guards, they were repeatedly shot with magic and cannon fire and received huge casualties.
However,in the end, they won through their sheer force of numbers. Once behind the castle walls, the king's defense was fragile. The king's army mages were left to guard against soldiers. But the mages' numbers were incomparable to the 'Reconquista' soldiers; they were gradually killed off, one by one, until all fell.
Though the damage dealt to the enemy was great… the price was annihilation of the king's army. Literal annihilation because the royalists had fought up to the last soldier.
In other words, the final decisive battle of the civil war in Albion: the siege of Newcastle’s fortress, where the royalists were outnumbered 100 to 1 and inflicted damage that was worth ten such armies… became a legend.
Two days after the civil war had ended, under the blazing sun and between the corpses and pebbles, a tall aristocrat was inspecting the old battlefield in Albion. His hat was pushed to the side and he was dressed in unusual attire: 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 onboard the ship from La Rochelle. Last night, she had joined Wardes at a bar in Londinium, the capital of Albion, and now she had followed him to Newcastle’s battlefield.
Around them, 'Reconquista' soldiers were diligently scouring for riches. A loud cheer came from the treasury nearby: it seems a band had found some gold 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 in 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 men who are hunting for treasure your colleagues? Robbing nobles of their treasures was part of your job, wasn't it?”
“Do not compare me with them. I have no interest in the riches of the dead.”
“A thief with a thief’s ethics.”
“I’m not interested in that. I only steal valuable treasures because I love to see the frantic expressions of the 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 his left arm had been severed off. The uniform’s sleeve was loosely fluttering in the wind.
“It looks like it was a harsh battle for you too."
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 be able to so swiftly cut off the arm of a Square-Class Wind mage such as yourself.”
“Because he 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 a person. Perhaps, during our fight, he had expended all his energy and was confused as a commoner. Probably, the soldier who killed Gandálfr didn’t even notice that he was the 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, 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, loved not, I’ve already forgotten such sentiments.” dismissed Wardes in a neutral voice.
He drew his cane and chanted a spell. A small tornado appeared and started scattering around the rubble.
Gradually, the floor of the chapel was unveiled.
Between a portrait of Founder Brimir and a chair lay 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 at the remains of the man he had personally murdered; instead, he searched 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. Mmm, 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 underneath, 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 both Vallière’s youngest daughter and Gandálfr escaped through this hole?” Fouquet remarked. It was the truth. Wardes' face contorted in rage.
“Should we pursue them?”
“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 like you are capable of such expressions. And here I thought that you were a man without emotions… like a gargoyle… Why, oh why do such emotions 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.
The man was in his mid-thirties. He was wearing a round hat and a green mantle. From the first sight, one could tell that he was a clergyman. However, he also slightly resembled a soldier with his long aquiline nose and intelligent blue eyes. From the edges of his hat, curly blond hair peeked out.
“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 addressed as ‘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 Henrietta’s letter that 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 atmosphere surrouding him. A sinister aura 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 as the first general, and I need to give my best. Though I am a clergyman who serves Founder Brimir, it is all right for me 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 menacing 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 a special power.”
Fouquet's eyebrow rose. Power? What kind of power are they 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 say, 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. But alas, in life, he chose to be my greatest adversary; but now in death, he will become 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 the element of ‘Void’ to you.”
Fouquet breathlessly watched Cromwell’s movements.
Cromwell pulled out the cane that was attached to his waist.
A low, silent aria escaped from Cromwell's mouth. He was chanting words that Fouquet never heard before.
When the aria was completed, Cromwell gently lowered the cane and aimed it at Wales' corpse.
Then… all of a sudden, Wales, whose body was already lifeless, 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 gradually imbued itself with life.
“Good morning, Crown Prince.”
The revived Wales returned Cromwell’s smile.
“It has been a long time, Archbishop.”
“How 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 impossible.”
“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 magic too?”
“Me? I am different. This is a result of a sorrowful life that I have led since birth.”
After that, Wardes looked up at the sky.
“However…many lives were sacrificed for the Founder’s Holy Land… what if they all will be revived by the element of ‘Void’?”
Frightened, Fouquet clutched 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 could 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 once been, he spoke softly.
“However, I myself also want to know. Is it a mere fantasy? Or reality? The answer lies 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 held in Germania’s capital Vindobon, where the letter of agreement was to be signed by the Tristain prime minister, Cardinal Mazarin.
The day after the alliance, a new Albion government was officially established. In an instant, tensions sparked 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 non-aggression pact.
As a result, both countries had a conference. Even with the two countries' combined airforce, they could not oppose Albion’s fleet. Though the non-aggression pact felt more like a dagger pointed at the neck, the two countries didn’t have much of an alternative, and this offer was the best they could hope for.
However…peace was established in Halkeginia only surface deep. Politicians could not sleep day or night. And it wasn’t just the nobles; the commoners too tensely awaited each day.
Tristain’s Academy of Magic was no exception either.
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