Zero no Tsukaima:Volume9 Chapter4 ~Preview~
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 Chapter Four: The Chevalier Title
In a Royal Palace work room, Henrietta was waiting for the guest's arrival impatiently.
All schedules for the afternoon were canceled today. That’s why Mazarin, who usually complained about her working too hard every day, didn’t scold her.
It was an empty work room as, in addition to the riches, all the furniture was sold off. As might be expected, the desk that was used for the paper look-over was not present either. There was a worn-out desk, which was purchased in a second-hand articles shop instead.
There was also one old bookshelf standing lonesome in the corner of the room. If she were not wearing a crown, the visitor coming to the room would have never been able to guess that it was a queen’s work room.
“The wind dragon should be here from La Rochelle by now…”
Henrietta muttered, lifelessly placing her elbows on the desk.
Once a guard appeared, she asked the same question, “Are they here yet?” Henrietta repeated the same question many times over and over again, during the last few hours.
“Agnes-sama has not arrived yet.”
The guard gave the same answer again and again.
Henrietta bit her fingernails, a habit she picked up when she was a kid. Though she was criticized and eventually corrected, it revived recently again.
But that time, after asking if they arrived yet… the guard reported.
“Musketeer commander Agnes-sama has arrived!”
“Please invite her in at once.”
Henrietta stood up while saying that.
“We returned just now.”
Agnes, who entered the work room, bowed deeply. Seeing Louise and Saito waiting behind, like a rose, a smile bloomed on Henrietta’s lips. A sincere smile after a long time.
“I found and brought back Miss Vallière’s familiar.”
Saito and Louise bowed with a strained expression on their faces. They separated in La Rochelle from Siesta who returned to the academy, while the two came to the Royal Palace together with Agnes on a wind dragon.
There was nothing in this deserted, lonely room. Louise looked around unsure.
“Aah, sold all my furniture. Surprised?”
“There was no other way. Because the treasury became empty due to the war…”
Henrietta took Louise's hands.
“Louise, first of all, I have to apologize myself before you.”
“The generals… Yes, I interrogated the generals who had taken command of the Albion invasion army. They seemed to have made unreasonable demands of you, Louise… Above all… They ordered you to hold back the enemy army. I’m sorry. It’s because of me. Your ‘Void’ was used under my command.”
With a painful expression on her face, Henrietta held Louise’s hands.
“I am sorry. I am a cruel woman. I am a helpless, sinful woman. I not only used your power for something I started myself, but I sent you away to that place to die.”
Agnes corrected Henrietta's words.
“The ones that forced Miss Vallière to stay using your words were the generals and not Your Majesty herself. Her Majesty also, as far as I remember, never was for such duty.”
Henrietta shook her head.
“No… it’s my responsibility. It was me who decided about the war. The possibility of such instructions being issued should have also been taken into consideration. Really, you are alive. I'm sorry Louise. What words I have to say can't apologize enough…”
Feelings overtook Henrietta, and she began to weep.
“Pardon me, no, these are not the words for me to say.”
Seeing Henrietta like that, Louise instinctively became doleful as well.
“Princess, please do not worry. Louise Françoise dedicated herself to Her Majesty. It includes her death too. Therefore…”
Actually, it was me going to death, Saito thought, yet, of course, he did not say it aloud. With somewhat cold eyes, he watched the two girls embrace each other and sob.
After holding each other for a while, Louise remembered that she still had something to tell Henrietta about and separated herself.
“Princess… I have to tell an awful thing to you, just for your ears.”
“Oh dear! Sounds frightening! Please do! No, I must hear it. I have to listen to everything. Even if it is a dreadful thing that crushes the mind… now, please tell.”
And Louise told Henrietta.
She told about another familiar of Void that attacked them – a woman named Sheffield.
And how they met another Void user…
“Besides you, there are other Void users?”
Though Louise hesitated for a while, she also told Henrietta about Tiffania. That she was a half-elf. And that she could use a Void spell…
“Such a thing. Maybe you should bring her here as fast as possible.”
Louise shook her head.
“She hopes to live quietly. That spell is useful for defending oneself… in either case, what happened happened - she wanted to be left alone."
“Oh well… this does not necessarily imply that I'm not safe… You know, Louise, I did not want for you to do it by yourself. Yet, I do not have the Void. Neither did I want it for selfish purposes.”
Henrietta knew that Louise’s Void influenced the whole Albion invasion company quite a bit.
“I now understand; having such power can easily make one overly ambitious. I will be careful not to let such a thing ever happen. And I will make sure that others will be as well. Aah, if only I could do better. I want to leave you out of this whole mess. Really. Yes…”
Louise told Henrietta about the thing she learned from Derflinger.
“As for the Void users… assuming just from the number of royal family's treasures… there should be four people total.”
“What?! Four people bearing the Founder’s power?!”
“Among them, obviously, there are a few hostile ones.“
Henrietta gazed at Louise.
“Don’t worry Louise. I will personally make sure that no one lays a single finger on you… That’s an absolute must.”
Louise looked doubtful.
Not troubled, Henrietta tapped Louise’s shoulder while separating herself and then looked at Saito.
“Familiar-san. It was you, instead of Louise, who saved my retreating army.”
“I heard it from the Albion general. He told me about everything.”
“Well, that, it just happened…”
“Thank you. Those words are not enough to express the gratitude I feel now. Really, thank you.”
Henrietta’s crowned head bowed many times. Saito, for the first time seeing a crown moving up and down, started to panic.
“W-Well… don’t lower your head. The Queen should not lower her head to anyone…”
“No… you are the hero. The hero who saved the mother country – Tristain. If not for you, my army would have been annihilated.”
Henrietta continued bowing a lot, which made Saito glad. At the same time, the pleasure that has not been felt until now, sprung out of the bottom of his heart.
Surely, back in Japan, he had never dreamed about being appreciated by a Queen this much.
“Though it is small, this is to show my gratitude. Please receive it.”
Gratitude? What could it be? Some gold coins again? Or…
Saito recalled the event in the cheap hotel at one time. That night… Henrietta’s lips touched mine. Well, could he calmly ask to kiss her back - Saito grew expectant and ashamed.
However, the words that Henrietta uttered, were beyond Saito's imagination.
“Please accept it.”
It was a single parchment. It had a Tristain royal family arm imprinted on the left corner. Though it obviously was some kind of official document, Saito could neither write nor read. Louise protruded her face at his side and looked into the a paper – her eyes widened.
“It says you are to be consecrated as the commander of the Imperial Guards!”
Saito, who could not grasp the importance of such a thing, blankly asked.
“It is so. It started since the battle at Tarbes, and in the past you helped me many times. That alone would be reason enough to make you an aristocrat. The withdrawal in Albion led to success at that time. The contribution that you brought to our country is one of a kind and unparalleled. You are a hero who should go down into history.”
Being called a hero by Henrietta made Saito glow. Still, Henrietta continued to persuade him.
“A hero has to be given an honor that matches his exploits. That’s what the general that confronted you said to me… and I think so as well. Thus I ask you – please lend me your power. You are important for me… no, for all people of Tristain.”
Saito finally understood the true feeling of VIP treatment. Being sought by Agnes, having a ship sent just for you - the purpose was not only to show appreciation for Saito's pains. I was admitted as a necessary human for Tristain, that’s what such a big warship was given for.
“But Princess, consecrating Saito, who is not a noble, as commander of the Imperial Guards? This cannot be allowed!”
Louise rattled in haste.
“Then why not make him a noble, Louise?”
“Well, because Saito is a commoner, that being said…”
“Because he is a human that comes from the different world? I heard it from Osman.”
“So why make such a person a noble?”
“Doesn‘t he have the qualifications of a noble? After all, a position in the kingdom's government gives noble status. Regardless of the position, the skillful ones should be consecrated. This is for Tristain's future. That‘s how I think.”
Henrietta said in admonished tone.
“But Saito is my familiar…”
“Yes. Of course, that thing doesn't change. In fact, if he becomes a noble, it will be easier for him to help you. You disagree?”
“But, but, my Void should remain a secret…”
“Of course, that secret will be kept. The fact that he is the familiar Gandálfr is known only by me, Agnes, Academy Director Osman, and top management of the country. Currently, he is just a soldier with excellent behavior and weapon-using skills.”
Louise could not object to such words any longer.
“However, this way I will not be able to find a way to return home…” Saito objected weakly, but Henrietta still stood her ground.
“The title of a knight commander will be useful while looking for the way to return.”
Saito dwelled on it.
…It might be as she said. If his position in this world goes up, there would be no limits for him. Saito knew that from spending quite some time with the nobles already.
“What do you say, Hiragasaito?”
Being called by his full name, Saito felt nervous. Otherwise, he was not interested in a noble’s position. However… being admitted among people – that’s what Saito desired. Being needed by Henrietta, consequently, means being needed by this entire country. Moreover, it will be easy to look for a way to return.
Aah, it was kind of similar to a test taken with his mind set. Like studying during old times… though he was rather stupid, he still was glad when he was praised for the marks. The pleasure of that time, just now a 100, a 1000 times more intense, caught Saito.
However… A knight commander? Wasn’t that sort of responsibility from some standpoints impossible? But it was attractive. Promotion, promotion… such charm could not be disputed easily.
“…Let me think about it for a moment.”
Louise watched Saito with an insecure face.
“I see. Taking the position of the commander of the Imperial Guards should be taken after one becomes determined. However, you cannot refuse me giving you the title of Chevalier. If you were to refuse it, then I would be disgraced myself.”
Saito shyly looked at Louise.
Yet Louise seemed to be at a loss herself.
Henrietta kept persuading further.
“I can’t allow Louise’s Void to be targeted by other users. For the name of the deed, a knight that will protect Louise is needed. Consequently, I would be defended as well.”
After hearing her say so, Louise nodded.
“You understand. I am glad, Louise.”
Then aiming at Saito, Henrietta pointed out a wand with a big light blue crystal at the end of it.
“Though it is informal… In such place accolade can be done as well. Please kneel.”
Once Henrietta’s tone switched to a majestic Queen’s, Saito knelt down instinctively.
“Please close your eyes.”
As told, he closed his eyes. The tension ran through the body. It was wrapped in exhilarating heat.
No way, I’m becoming a noble…
He never dreamed of such a thing, really.
“Bow your head down.”
Saito bowed. Though he was not really mentally prepared, the ceremony advanced indifferently.
Then he felt something heavy being placed on his right shoulder.
The wand. It was Henrietta's wand placed on his right shoulder.
As if words of prayer, the royal edict of promoting to knighthood, came out of Henrietta's mouth.
“I, Queen of Tristain, Henrietta, give my blessings and the title of Knight to this person. This person is an owner of a noble soul, unmatched with no equals. Do you swear unwavering loyalty to me, the country, and the Founder?”
Saito was silent. Could he really make an oath for such loyalty? After all, it was unpalatable to tell a lie during an important ceremony. Noticing Saito’s feelings, Henrietta smiled.
“It’s all right. You are a human that came from another place. Loyalty that doesn't exist in the mind cannot be sworn. I will take it as conceded thing.”
Louise instinctively opened her mouth. She never heard of an accolade like that.
“It’s all right. It was me who made the request to begin with. I asked him to become a knight.”
Henrietta‘s face became solemn again as she continued the words.
“Owner of noble soul, that is unmatched with no equals, do you swear fidelity to the place where your heart is, the place that your soul desires?”
Though he still did not understand it well… but this meant that Saito could leave. Thus, there were no problems anymore.
“Good. Then in the name of Founder Brimir, I consecrate you into the knights.”
Henrietta first tapped Saito’s right shoulder twice, then the left one.
That was how simply Saito was consecrated into knights.
After the consecration ended, Henrietta let Saito stand up.
“After this, lend a little bit of your power to this weak Queen as well, Chevalier Saito-dono.”
Tired from travel, Louise and Saito spent one night in the Royal Palace. Because of tiredness, they both fell soundly asleep.
Henrietta, once the couple left, dwelled on the two countries' problems… she ordered an investigation into Gallia’s and Romalia’s Void users, who tried to harm the two. As soon as something became clear, she would tell them both.
For now, both Saito and Louise were released, in case another country decided to attack them. As usual they would be at the Academy of Magic. A nest of mages to speak with, and even the Void user and her partner would remain at a hand.
The next morning, when the wind dragon brought them back to Tristain‘s school, Saito strengthened his grip on the mantle given to him by Henrietta. On the velvet-black fabric, a small, blue Lily crest was placed - the symbol of the "Chevalier" title, that was attached on the chest for all Tristain to see. Seeing that, Agnes muttered,
Saito nodded and put the mantle on. It was placed on his worn-out parka that had big holes in it. Now I just want new clothes… he mused, not thinking about it as a symbol of Halkeginia’s nobility.
“It suits you well, doesn’t it?”
Agnes said in the voice of a teacher who was proud with a student's promotion. However, Louise, who was sitting next to Saito, turned her sullen face away, not looking at him.
“Now I am a chevalier. How about it?”
In a little excited voice he said to Louise sitting next to him.
“What about you, though it might be easier to do various things now.”
Louise pointed her lip, and muttered sulkily.
Really… what about becoming a Chevalier.
Haven’t I said before. I want to find a way for you to return home.
It is just a title, so why I am feeling down?
“Anyway, now I am finally equal to you, Louise.” Saying something like that with a smile ticked Louise off.
“Huh? Equal to whom? Comparing Chevalier with the House of Vallière is like comparing a lizard to a noble. No, a lizard is too good – a bug at most!”
Sulking, Saito turned away. "Haah," Louise let out a sigh.
My feelings contradicted my words.
Though I should be thinking about how to return Saito home… I was happy about Saito becoming a Chevalier for different reasons.
I thought that when a partner is a chevalier, then admitting my relationship to my father, a duke, was possible.
Louise, trembling, shook her head.
Haven’t I already decided to "look for a way to bring him home," but for what reason am I happy for?
It’s no good to have my feelings impede my decisions, I cannot permit that, strangely thought the serious Louise.
And as if struggling with her own consciousness was not enough, Saito was so carefree and happy with the mantle. Human nature is a mystery… Louise bit her lips.
Besides, somehow, there were feelings of insecurity too.
Now that he is a Chevalier… new girls could try to approach him, right? A rival who is stronger than the housemaid might show up
I wonder whether I can beat such competition?
Having "zero" girlish charms, could she still attract her familiar against another girl’s charms? This uneasiness, mixed with feelings of self-blame, made her say such stinging words a little while ago… of course, Saito did not see what was going on Louise's mind.
Can’t you understand my feelings a little? Louise let out another sigh.
The wind dragon arrived at Tristain's Academy of Magic after one hour of flight.
Upon seeing the shapes of five towers in the distance, Saito felt nostalgic feelings swelling. Louise had similar feelings as well. Gradually, their eyes could see the whole Academy of Magic.
Somehow, the feeling was like returning back to one's hometown.
Though because he was from different world, there were no hometowns here… Saito wondered about these feelings.
When the wind dragon landed on Austri Plaza, tens of students ran up.
As Saito started wondering about it, a boy with blond hair cried out slowly.
“Saito! You are alive! I am glad!”
It was Guiche.
“Yesterday came a report to the school from the Royal Palace.”
Next to Guiche, with a smile, stood the plumpy Malicorne.
“From the Royal Palace?”
“Aye. That you were alive.”
“That… did you really stop 70,000 troops of the Albion army?!”
Guiche, who had gotten excited, talked volubly. Apparently Henrietta gave out information even about such event.
“The ones that gathered here participated in the Albion campaign as student officers; our colleagues survived thanks to you.”
The students, with expressions of gratitude, said loudly to Saito,
“My corps was the last one to get on the ship. What would have happened to us if you hadn’t stopped them!”
“You are a person to whom I owe my life. To tell the truth, I thought it was the end.”
Surrounded by tens of noble students, Saito‘s discomfort worsened. That is to say, he was embarrassed to be given gratitude in such a way.
Guiche said with a clarified face,
“Yet I… I believed. That you were still alive.”
“Weren’t you making a bronze statue while thinking about his death?”
Montmorency came out from the mass of people and said.
“You are all right. I am glad. When Louise said - ‘He is absolutely alive!’ I thought she had gone crazy.”
Montmorency noticed the mantle that Saito wore. After that, she gave the crest on his chest a long, hard look.
“Can’t be – you're a Chevalier!”
Guiche was surprised as well and inventively studied the five blossoms of argent sewed onto the mantle.
“It is true. Great, isn’t it?! Everyone! Look! Saito is a Chevalier!”
“Oooh!” shouts of joy boiled.
“Noo, I knew it was going to happen some day. He was the man my golems had trouble cornering.”
“Did they corner him? Weren’t you defeated?”
Montmorency said mercilessly, in a stony voice; Guiche shook his head.
“It might be so. I cannot remember it so well. Aahahaha!”
Among this noise, Saito recalled a certain thing.
“That is right! I haven’t thanked the teacher yet!”
It is so.
It was necessary to thank Colbert who added the classified weapons to the Zero Fighter while preparing it for the Varsenda. Thanks to those classified weapons, the amphibious landing succeeded. He also wanted to report his promotion. Since it was Colbert, he will certainly be happy, pleased possibly.
Guiche was dumbstruck.
Students who gathered around, simultaneously pulled away.
Guiche awkwardly stole a glance at Montmorency’s face.
Sensing a strange atmosphere, Saito asked.
“Ah, can you do it tomorrow? I guess you must be dead tired today.”
“Yeah. That’s a good idea.”
“What is going on here?”
“At least tomorrow…”
Saito shouted gripping Guiche's shoulder.
In the Colbert's laboratory, built in the artillery tower, Saito was quietly sitting on a chair.
He did not stir.
…However, sometimes, his body shook.
Behind him, with worried expressions on their faces, Guiche and Montmorency stood. The figure of Malicorne could be seen as well.
Slight dust covered the laboratory as several months had passed since the master was gone. Taking up a beaker, which already turned darker inside, Saito muttered,
“It’s not true.”
Montmorency explained in a sinking voice.
“The school was attacked by thieves… He confronted them to help us… Though we foolishly kept calling him a coward…”
Guiche silently held Montmorency's shoulders. The couple stepped out, drawing close to each other. Malicorne quietly chased after them.
Saito wordlessly watched the beaker and muttered.
“I… when the Princess said that I would be promoted to a Chevalier, I was glad. I thought, that I was finally being acknowledged… A long time ago, when I was in Japan, there was no such thing, but it was difficult. Though I was praised by a great person, I was not acknowledged. Therefore, I was glad. The teacher always acknowledged me. He always listened attentively to my words. I, I was happy. Even though I was commoner, I was not looked down upon… I was happy. He was only a teacher. Yet he treated me as equally as the other nobles in this school…”
From Saito's eyes, tears started to fall. Tears, like water, rolled down his cheeks and chin.
“Teacher, I am a knight too. A chevalier too. Smile. And then the teacher praises. Like you always said and did.”
Saito, while crying, muttered many times,
“…I, I wanted teacher's praise.”
Louise watched Saito from the entrance. Though she started to approach… her foot steps stopped on their own.
What could I say to comfort him?
Colbert and Saito surpassed the differences of the worlds, Louise remembered them getting along well. For Saito… he must have been a person who he was able to trust in.
What could I ever say to comfort Saito who lost such an important person?
Louise closed her eyes.
She was saddened as much by seeing Saito tapped into sadness as by Colbert’s death itself.
It was late at night… when Saito returned to their room. Not being able to bear Saito being like that anymore, Louise, who returned back to the room some time ago, pushed her head out of the sheets. Saito was silently sitting on a chair.
Still… like before, not knowing what to say, Louise quietly watched Saito.
Scrubbing his red eyes, Saito opened his mouth.
And muttered in soliloquy,
“…Teacher said some day… ‘I would be happy to make fire’s power work for people.’ Teacher, it is too tough to do that alone.”
“I… I do not think I can do that. Of course, teacher and I are different. I thought I could do magic… ‘using any weapon,’ but I lost it recently… But there must be some things that even I can do. Can I do anything in this world? I do have that power, right? Power for something… as you said power ‘for something big,’ I want to use it.”
“I do not want to have any regrets when returning to my former world. Of course, I will protect you, and the Princess that you value, I will defend her. That’s something I can do, right? I think so… I will try to be a knight corps commander. Ok?”
Once in bed again, Louise was aimlessly tossing herself on sheets, thinking.
Though she was going to find the way for Saito to return… Saito became Chevalier, and consequently, as he said, he will become a knight commander.
In other words, Saito will try to find his world this way.
Am I happy for Saito because of that?
I do not know for sure.
The way I am changing, Saito is changing too.
And I do not know if it’s good or not.
To be honest, it's not like she opposed Saito becoming a chevalier. But this position has some obligations, too. Can Saito do it?
Remembering Colbert, Saito started to cry again.
I am useless; Louise was ashamed of her own powerlessness. Though she felt sorry for Saito so much… she could not do a single thing to comfort him.
An inferiority complex gradually gripped Louise's heart.
Yet, I am a Void user… can’t the owner of the legendary element do anything?
Maybe, I wonder myself, if I could help Saito in this world?
I think so.
Louise shook her head, and looked up.
I have to be confident now. She tried to persuade herself.
I have to do something for Saito, who lies next to me without turning.
…But, she did not know what.
Louise looked up at the night sky.
Two moons were drawing close, as if comforting them, pouring their gentle light into the room.
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