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Zero no Tsukaima

Written by Fate

July 26, 2011 at 5:58 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Zero no Tsukaima Volume 4

Prologue

The Ragdorian Lake in between the Kingdoms of Tristain and Gallia was one of Halkeginia’s most beautiful places. It spanned across six hundred square kilometers and its width could be compared to that of the distance of Tristania, the capital of Tristain, from the Academy of Magic. The lake was located on relatively high ground, and was as beautiful as if it were a painting. The lush green of the forests woven with the clear water of the lake was a masterpiece which couldn’t have possibly been made by a god carelessly waving his axe around.

However, that lake was not something humans owned. It was a place inhabited by the water spirits, who were the original inhabitants of Halkeginia. It was the paradise of the water spirits who had a much longer history than the humans. The water spirits had made a castle and town at the bottom of the lake and developed their own culture and kingdom. It was said that those who saw it, no matter how evil they were, would turn over a new leaf.

These water spirits were called the spirits of oath and it was said that oaths made by them would never be broken. That being said… the water spirits, who were said to surpass the beauty of the woven colors of the forest, the sky and the lake, rarely appeared in front of humans. Tens of years ago, they had appeared once to renew their oath with the royal family of Tristain, but since then, they had not come up from the depths of the lake. Which is why, even though it was said that “oaths made by them would never be broken”, it was an extremely difficult task to prove it.

The first time Henrietta and Wales met was at that Ragdorian Lake. It was three years ago… Celebrating the Queen Marianne’s birthday, the Kingdom of Tristain invited guests from each nation and held a large garden party at the Ragdorian Lake. The nobles and royals invited from all over Halkeginia – the Kingdom of Albion, the Kingdom of Gallia, and the empire of Germania, gathered at the lake all dressed up and socialized to their hearts content. Fireworks of magic were set off and under a large tent, a ball was held throughout the night with the world’s finest food and wine prepared.

On the night at the end of the first week, as the celebrations were half over, the fourteen year old Henrietta left her tent and made her way to the shore of the lake without any attendants or guards. She was tired of the celebrations, which seemed to stretch on. The days had been packed with events, such as feasts, dance balls, poetry recitals… She was already fed up with all the greetings and flattery. She wanted to be alone and take in some fresh air.

She had passed through the area where the tents and buildings stood with her face hidden under a large hood and had made her way to the quiet bank side. The moon shone brightly, creating an illusionary atmosphere. Captivated by the sight, Henrietta simply stared at the river, which reflected the dazzling bright moon. It seemed that just being captivated by the sight did not satisfy her. Henrietta looked around her. After checking that no one was around, she boldly slipped off her dress. With a mischievous smile arising on her beautiful face, she slowly made her way into the water.

The cool water enveloped her body. It was just the beginning of summer, so the coolness felt pleasant in the warm night. She would be scolded if she were to be found in such a place by the chamberlain La Porte, but she had endured the constrained garden party for so long. I’ll be forgiven for something like this, Henrietta whispered as she began to swim out. After swimming for a while, she suddenly sensed someone on the bank side. Henrietta’s face became red and she hid her body with her hands.

“Who is it?”

The figure did not reply. Who could it be? The annoying chamberlain La Porte? Her friend who was one year younger than her, Louise Françoise? However she had snuck out of the tent without any of them noticing. Becoming uneasy, she demanded for the person’s identity.

“Insolence. Name yourself.” Her panicking voice reached the bank side.

“I’m no one suspicious. I was only out for a stroll. Why are you out here swimming at a time like this?”

Henrietta was offended by his composed manner, even though he had been watching her swim all this time.

“I asked for your name didn’t I? Even though it may not look like it, I am the princess of a certain country. Before things turn ugly, state your name and leave.”

Hearing this, the figure was taken aback.

“A princess? Could it be, Henrietta?”

Henrietta was surprised at the absence of the address of ‘princess’. There were only five people gathered at the lake who could address her in such a manner. It would be unbelievable insolence if he weren’t one of those five people.

“Who are you?”

Henrietta had taken off the mask of a princess and questioned the figure in the voice of a frightened girl.

The figure laughed. Being laughed at, Henrietta blushed.

“It’s me Henrietta, Wales. Wales from Albion. Your cousin!”

“Wales..? You mean, Prince Wales?”

Prince Wales. The crown prince of Albion. They had never met before, but she of course knew of his name. The eldest son of the brother of her late father. She blushed even more deeply.

“I arrived here tonight with my father. I thought I’d just have a glimpse at the Ragdorian Lake because it’s so famous. Sorry for scaring you.”

“Geez, I can’t believe you.”

With her clothes on, Henrietta turned towards Wales.

“You can turn around now”

Wales had turned away while Henrietta was changing. At the instant he turned around, something ran across Henrietta’s spine for the first time in her life. Her body, cold from the lake became hot as though a fire had scorched her. She shyly smiled at his gallant looks. It seemed as though Wales had felt the same sensation as Henrietta.

“I’m surprised. You’ve grown beautiful, Henrietta…”

The astonished prince drew out moving words from his mouth.

“I-I haven’t at all…” Looking downwards, Henrietta couldn’t lift her face.

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“I didn’t mean to surprise you. I was just taking a stroll and I heard some splashing… When I came here, I realized someone was swimming. Sorry. I couldn’t help but gaze.”

“Why were you gazing?”

“Aren’t the water spirits that live in this lake drawn to the moonlight? I wished to see them just once. The beauty of the water spirits are said to put the two moons into shame.”

Henrietta smiled.

“Sorry that it was me then”

Scratching his cheek in an embarrassed fashion, he earnestly said: “Not at all. I haven’t seen a water spirit before but…”

“But?”

“You are more beautiful. More beautiful than a water spirit.”

Embarrassed, Henrietta hid her face.

“People from Albion are so good at jokes.”

“I-It’s not a joke! I’m a prince you know. I haven’t told a lie, not even once! I really think you are more beautiful” Replied Wales, panicking.

Henrietta’s pulse hastened as though a spell had been cast on her. The cousin in front of her… A prince from another country, whom she only knew the name of. The boring garden party, had suddenly become beautifully colorful whilst they stood before the sparkling Ragdorian Lake.

Their relationship grew quite intimate although it didn’t take that much time. They understood each other’s feelings just by looking at each other’s eyes and they also understood well that their time together was limited. At every night of the garden party, Wales and Henrietta would meet by the lake. Henrietta would hide her face with a large hood, and Wales would use a phantom mask which was used in the masked ball. The signal of their rendezvous was the sound of a small stone thrown into the lake. The person who had arrived first would reveal themselves from the thicket from which they were hiding, and after checking no one was around, they would use a password.

After Wales said “On the night the wind blows”, Henrietta would reply with “an oath of the water I pledge.”

On a particular day, the two were walking by the lake holding hands.

“You were pretty late Henrietta, I almost became tired of waiting”

“Sorry. The feast just stretched on. I’m so sick of drunk ramblings already.”

“But… Is it really alright for you to sneak away like that every night?”

Henrietta giggled at Wales worried look.

“It’s alright. I’m using a decoy”

“A decoy! That’s something pretty serious.”

“It’s not that big of a deal. That friend of mine you saw with me at lunch the other day…”

“You mean that skinny girl with long hair?”

Wales tilted his head. The girl that would follow Henrietta around and play with her. He was so captivated by Henrietta that he couldn’t really recall her look. However, he did vaguely remember her hair color.

“Yes. She dresses up like me, and then goes into my bed for me. The blanket covers her right to the tip of her head so even if anyone stands beside the bed, they can’t see her face.”

“But, isn’t her hair color different to yours? If I remember correctly, hers is pink while yours is…”

Wales brushed Henrietta’s hair with his hand.

“A beautiful chestnut color. That would be a fairly bad decoy.”

“I’ve concocted a special magic hair dye. But, I feel a bit guilty. I didn’t actually say that I was meeting you. She thinks that I am just out for a stroll.”

“You’re so cunning!” Wales said while laughing.

“Shh! Don’t laugh so loud. We don’t know if anyone is listening.”

“No one is going to be here listening at this hour of the night except for the water spirits. Ah, I want to see them at least once. I wonder what kind of beauty makes the moon jealous.”

Pouting her lips, she replied to her lover with a troubling tone

“Oh, I see now. So you didn’t actually want to meet with me. You just wanted to see the water spirit, and have me tag along.”

Wales suddenly stopped and grasped Henrietta’s cheeks gently in both his hands and approached her lips. Henrietta was surprised, but soon closed her eyes. Their lips pressed together. After a while, Wales moved his face away.

“I love you, Henrietta.”

“I also love you.” Henrietta whispered, blushing furiously.

A tinge of loneliness was reflected in Wales’ eyes. While he was entranced by the idea of their love, a composed part of his mind also imagined its conclusion. Their status did not allow them to be with each other. If anyone knew about their relationship… they probably wouldn’t even be allowed to see each other in formal events. It was a part of being a princess and a prince.

Wales began to speak, trying to brighten the atmosphere.

“Hahaha… We’ve both been born with troubling destinies haven’t we. Most of the time we’ve spent together has been at night, with a disguise! It would be good, at least just once, if I could walk by this lake with just you and the sun.”

Henrietta closed her eyes and slowly nestled against his chest.

“Then make an oath.”

“An oath?”

“Yes. The water spirits living here are also known as the ‘spirits of oath’. Oaths made before them are said to be unbreakable.” whispered the fourteen year old Henrietta while she hid her face.

“It’s a superstition. Just an old folk’s tale”

“Even if it’s a superstition, I believe it. If by believing, it will grant me my oath, then I will believe forever. Forever…”

A tear dropped from her eyelashes and rolled down on her cheek. Wales gently stroked Henrietta’s cheek.

“I love you, Henrietta, because you love me so much. So don’t cry like that. The river will overflow with your tears. The people gathered here will drown you know.”

“You probably don’t know how much I love you. The more serious I get the more you tease me.”

“Don’t be like that Henrietta”

Lifting the hem of her skirt, Henrietta made her way into the water.

“The princess of Tristain Henrietta vows before the spirits of water that she will love Prince Wales for eternity.”

“You’re next Wales. Make an oath like I just did.”

Wales entered the water and embraced Henrietta. Henrietta clung to his shoulder.

“Wales?”

“Your feet will get cold.”

“I don’t mind. Rather than that, I made an oath that I will love you forever. Make an oath as well.”

“Unbreakable oaths are just a superstition.”

“Are you saying that you will have a change of heart?”

Wales went silent for a while, deep in thought.

With a gentle expression, he cast his oath into the lake.

“The prince of Albion, Wales, vows before the water spirits that he will one day walk on this Ragdorian Lake with princess Henrietta and the sun, hand in hand.”

“I made the oath.”

Henrietta buried her face into Wales’ chest and whispered quietly to herself.

“…So you won’t vow to love me?”

The surface of the lake twinkled with light. Then after a while the lake was once again engulfed in silence.

The two looked at each other.

Was it the moon light, or was it the spirits of the water accepting their oaths, they didn’t know… but nestling against each other they continued to gaze at the beautiful lake of Ragdorian.


Chapter One: The Saint

On the Bourdonné Street in the town below the Tristain castle, a magnificent parade was being held in commemoration of their victory. The parade was led by Princess Henrietta’s chariot, which was pulled along by the legendary beasts known as unicorns. Renowned nobles in their chariots followed after her. Around them, the magical defence squad served as their bodyguards.

The narrow road was filled with spectators. People cheered as they watched from the windows and roofs of the buildings as the chariots passed by.

“Long live Princess Henrietta!”

“Long live Tristain!”

The crowd was extremely enthusiastic. Princess Henrietta had led the Tristain forces to victory at the Plains of Tarbes the other day against the Albion forces who had broken their treaty. Princess Henrietta, who had defeated the enemy which outnumbered them, was praised as a ‘saint’ and was as popular as could be.

After the parade was over, a coronation was awaiting Henrietta, in which she was to assume the throne. This was proposed by Cardinal Mazarini, with most of the court’s nobles and cabinet ministers agreeing.

The marriage of the prince of the neighboring country, Germania, with Henrietta was canceled, much to their disappointment. After all, they could not afford to be unyielding to a country that defeated the invading forces of Albion.

Of course, cancellation of the alliance was out of the question. Tristain was a strong country that Germania, who was frightened of the wrath of Albion, could not afford to be without.

In other words, Henrietta had gained her freedom through her own hands.

A party of the defeated Albion soldiers were watching the triumphant return in the corner of the plaza. They were the nobles of the Albion forces who were taken as prisoners. Even though they were prisoners, they were treated fairly well. Their wands were confiscated, but they were not tied up, and could freely stand. Guards were placed around them, but none of them were thinking of escaping. When nobles are captured as prisoners, they undergo an oath. If they were to break that oath, then their honour and name would turn into ashes. For nobles, who valued honour very highly, it was the equivalent of death.

Within that party of people, there was a scorched man with a bold face. It was Sir Bowood, who was the captain of the Lexington warship, which Louise sunk by engulfing it in flames with her Void magic. He nudged at the noble beside him and spoke to him.

“Look Horatio, It’s the ‘saint’ who defeated us”

The noble called Horatio turned his fat figure and replied.

“Hm… There hasn’t been an enthronement of a princess in Halkeginia before. Even though they defeated us, the war still isn’t over. Furthermore, isn’t she a bit young?”

“Horatio, you should study some history. There’s been one instance in Gallia and two in Tristain where the princess has been enthroned.”

Horatio scratched his head.

“History you say? If so, we’re just a ribbon decorating the first page of Saint Henrietta’s brillant history. That light! Not only did it annihilate my ship but yours as well!”

Bowood nodded. That ball of light which shone above the Lexington expanded to a huge size in just a matter of seconds. Not only did it cause the fleet to be engulfed in flames but it also destroyed the ‘wind stones’ on board the ships, causing them to sink towards the ground.

What was even more surprising, was that the light did not kill a single person. The light destroyed the fleet, but had no effect on the people. They managed to glide down onto the ground with what little control they had left. The flames did injure many people but there were no casualties.

“A miraculous light… I can’t believe it. I haven’t even heard or seen that kind of magic before. Our country has chosen a fearsome enemy.” Bowood whispered.

He called out to a soldier who was holding a large halberd.

“You. Yes, you.”

Raising his eyebrows the soldier approached Bowood.

“Did you call for me, Your Excellency?”

No matter if the person was an enemy or ally, nobles are treated with respect. The soldier waited for Bowood’s words in a polite manner.

“My subordinates aren’t locked up are they? Are they being fed properly?”

“The soldiers who were captured are being gathered and are being invited into the Tristain forces. There is compulsory labour imposed on them but most of them should be aspiring to join our forces. After all, it was a big victory. Don’t worry about their stomachs, Tristain is not such a poor country as to be considering whether or not to give prisoners food.”

“Here’s a cup to celebrate the ‘saint’s’ victory.”

The soldier laughed.

“Allow me to offer a cup to Your Excellency’s health.”

Feeling cheerful, Bowood whispered while he watched the soldier leave.

“If this annoying war ends and you go back home, what would you do, Horatio?”

“I’m going to retire from the army. I wouldn’t even mind if I gave up my wand, after seeing that light.”

Bowood laughed loudly.

“We think alike! I feel exactly the same”

A smile arose on Cardinal Mazarini’s face while he sat next to Henrietta. It was a smile that he had not shown for ten years, a smile without worry. Opening the carriage windows, he waved his hands in response to the deafening cheer of the crowd. He was glad that the two weights on his shoulders were lightened. Internal administration and diplomacy. He was considering leaving them to Henrietta and acting as an advisor himself.

Mazarini noticed that his new lord had a sad expression on her face. Tweaking his moustache, he asked her, “It seems that you are not feeling happy. I haven’t seen you cheerful since you’ve stepped in this carriage.”

“Why must I take the throne? Mother is here isn’t she?”

“She won’t even respond if we call her ‘Your Majesty the Queen.’ She said that she is not a king, merely the king’s wife and your mother and would definitely not accept the crown.”

“Why did my mother refuse to accept?”

A sad expression came over Mazarini’s face.

“The queen is still mourning. She still longs for your late father.”

Henrietta sighed.

“Then I’ll just be like my mother. The throne can remain empty. The coronation won’t proceed.”

“Don’t say such selfish things! Your coronation is something your mother has hoped for as well. Tristain cannot be a weak country right now. The nobles and citizens of Tristain, our allied countries as well, are hoping for you to take the throne.”

Henrietta sighed again. She looked at the wind ruby on her left ring finger. It was the ring which Saito had brought back to her, a memento of Wales’. The victory that ascended her to the throne… was in a sense Wales’ victory. The ring gave Henrietta courage to face the enemy.

If mother left the throne empty because she was longing for father… then I want to do the same. I don’t want to become a queen.

But she could hear the crowd’s cheers. As if admonishing, Mazarini quietly whispered.

“The citizens are all hoping for the coronation. Your Excellency’s body is already something that is not yours.”

With a cough, he continued.

“I’ll explain the procedures of the coronation. So that you won’t make any mistakes.”

“It’s only wearing a crown… Why is it such a big fuss.”

“Don’t say such things. It’s a holy ritual. It’s a ritual where you bear the power bestowed by the founders and declare it to the world. The procedures are all a tradition.”

In an air of importance, Mazarini explained the procedures.

“…Then, when the ritual is finished, your excellency will approach the queen at the altar. You will state the written vow to the founders and the gods and your mother will place the crown on you. Then everyone in Halkeginia, including me, will be addressing you as ‘Your Majesty’.”

A vow…

Pledging something that she didn’t really hold true in her heart… isn’t that blasphemy? Thought Henrietta.

I just can’t think of myself as queen. That victory… the victory at Tarbes that ascended me to the throne was not through my leadership, but by the abundant experience and wit of the generals and Mazarini. I was only leading, I didn’t do anything else. If Wales were alive right now, what would he say to me? Me, who’s been given the duty of rising to the apex of power…

Wales.

My dear Wales.

The only person I have loved…

Before that or even after that, the only time I have truly vowed with the words ringing true with my heart has been that one time in the Ragdorian Lake. The great victory and the brilliance of the coronation did not lighten Henrietta’s heart from such thoughts.

She blankly stared at the parchment in her hands.

It was the report that had been delivered to Henrietta the other day. Recorded there was the interrogation of the prisoners done by a guard. There was something written about Saito’s Zero fighter shooting down the dragoons. A prisoner who had been a dragoon said that it flew with great agility and used powerful magic based attacks, shooting down his allies one by one. But, such a dragoon did not exist in the Tristain forces. Puzzled by this, the guard had investigated further in the matter. A report from the village of Tarbes continued. The ‘dragon’ the dragoon was using was in fact a magical item called the Dragon’s Raiment belonging to the Village of Tarbes. But it seems like it wasn’t a magical item, but instead an unknown machinery.

The one who was controlling it was the familiar of her friend, La Vallière. And… there was a slight hint of information regarding the light which destroyed the enemy fleet as well. That light, had appeared near the flying machine. The guard had made quite a hypothesis, that La Vallière and her familiar were the source of that light. However, the guard seemed troubled whether to directly contact the two. The report ended with a request for further directions regarding the investigation.

The light which brought me victory.

The intense light that resembled the sun.

Even by thinking about the light her body grew warm.

“Was it you, Louise?” Whispered Henrietta quietly.

Meanwhile, in contrast to the excitement on Bourdonné street, the same old repetitive days continued on for the Academy of Magic. The headmaster of the academy, Osman, had praised the victory of the Kingdom’s forces at Tarbes, but other than that, nothing else had happened.

But then again, they were in a school, an environment that had no place for things like politics. Even in the midst of war, the students were off somewhere doing their own things. For the nobles of Halkeginia, war was something that occurred every year. There was always some quarrel somewhere in the world. And when things got more serious, there would be an uproar, but when the battles had settled, things would be like always.

Within this process, another little war had been set in motion in the quiet Vestri courtyard.

On a bench under the warm sun, Saito opened the package in his hands.

His face shone brightly.

“Wow! That’s great! A muffler!”

A blushing Siesta sat next to him.

“Well, um, what was it called… an aeroplane? It’s cold when you’re riding that right?”

It was three hours past noon. Since Siesta had something to give him, she had told him to go to the Vestri courtyard. And the present was a muffler. A muffler as white as snow. It was warm like Siesta’s soft skin.

“Yeah! It does get quite cold when I open the windshield.”

Saito wrapped it around his neck to try it on. It was the start of summer, but the skies were cold and all the more cold when the windshield was open. During takeoff and landing he needed to stretch his head outside of the windshield to check below him. It was different from the modern aeroplanes were they could do everything with the windshield closed.

On the white muffler, words were written with black knitting wool. At first they looked with letters from the alphabet but on closer inspection they were Halkeginian characters, quite different from the alphabet.

“What does this say?”

“Hm? Ah, you can’t read our words because you’re from another world. Um, your name is written there.”

“I see.”

Saito was moved. “Ah, so that’s how my name is written in this world’s characters” he thought while looking at it with fascination. Four characters were grouped together, which was probably pronounced “Saito”. Close to that group of characters was another group of six.

“How about this?”

“Eheh… that’s my name. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. You don’t like it?”

“N-No, that’s not it!”

Saito frantically shook his head.

“I’m really happy that you knit a muffler for me.”

It was the first time in his life that he had received a present from a girl. He remembered the tragedies that had happened every year. His birthday was on a national holiday so school was off. He hadn’t had a single girlfriend to congratulate him. Only once, did his mother give a watch to him, which broke the following day. On Valentine’s Day, there was actually one time where his seat was mixed up with the person’s next to him and a chocolate was placed in his desk.

“Who is it?! Who is it that likes me?! I’ll most likely like you as well!!” he shouted, dancing around in joy. An ordinary looking girl came up to him and said “Sorry, got the seats mixed up.” Embarrassed at his own excitement he ended up sulking in the toilets.

And so, receiving a present from a girl was enough to make him teary. The fact that it was hand made raised Siesta’s charm by 120%. The usual cute Siesta had been elevated to the status of an angel.

“But is it really alright to give this to me? It must have been a lot of work to knit this.” Saito said quietly.

“It’s ok. You know, when the Albion forces attacked I was so scared. But when I heard the battle had ended and came out of the forest, you had already landed with that aeroplane right?”

Saito nodded.

“I was really, really happy. Which is why I…”

The two found themselves blushing. Siesta had hugged Saito and kissed him on the cheek during that time.

The village people came out of the forest soon after. Many of them had been intently watching Saito defeat the enemy dragoons with his Zero fighter. They had praised Saito and Louise as heroes for crushing the enemies. Celebrations were held for three days and three nights, and both of them received treatment as fine as royalty. They had also restored Siesta’s grandfather’s honour, as they proved the Zero fighter could really fly.

During the feast, Siesta had diligently attend to Saito and drew closer to him. Just like now, her body was leaning lightly againt him.

Confused, Saito fiddled with the muffler around his neck.

“Uh?”

He noticed something.

“Siesta, the muffler is quite long…”

“Hehe… that’s because it’s made for doing this.”

Siesta took the end of the muffler and wrapped it around her own neck. When she did that, the muffler’s length was just right.

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“I-It’s made for two people?”

“Yep. You don’t like it?”

There was an incredible charm as Siesta looked into his eyes after saying that. It was as if she had the eyes of a loving puppy.

A muffler made for two… what are you, the perfect maid? A maid like you would be sentenced to death in Japan, y-y-you…

Saito’s thoughts had started to not make sense. Siesta’s maid-like manner had landed a critical hit in his mind.

Siesta launched another attack. Closing her eyes she pouted her lips and leaned towards him.

Saito gulped. His reaction would make him press his lips against hers. But… the memory of her father’s words during the banquet resurfaced in his mind. He had approached Saito when Siesta had left her seat for a while. He praised Saito as the hero of the village, as he had defeated the dragoons from Albion. His smiling face however quickly wore a much more sinister expression as he directed a bloodcurdling glare at Saito.

“You’re the saviour of this village, and the hero that protected Tristain from Albion. I love you for that. But…”

“Um, but what?”

“If you make my daughter cry, I will kill you.”

Saito would never forget her father’s face as he said that. It was more daunting than orcs, dragoons, even Louise’s magic that destroyed the enemy fleet.

He couldn’t just carelessly make a move on Siesta. He was someone who had to return home after all… If he kissed her, then he would make Siesta sad. And if that happened, Siesta’s father would probably follow him to Earth and hunt him down. The terror that his face had emitted, was menacing enough to stop him from laughing off the idea.

But, as Siesta’s lips approached even closer, his hesitation had started to feeble. Since Saito wasn’t moving any closer, it seemed Siesta was planning to close the distance between them herself. Grabbing Saito’s head, she daringly drew him in. Siesta was a girl who was unbelievably daring when she was daring. Saito couldn’t resist.

Ah, no…but if it’s only a kiss then… He thought as his body stiffened.

And with loud thud, Saito fainted from a large rock thrown at his head.

About 15 metres behind the bench where Siesta and Saito were seated, was a gaping hole in the ground. In it, was a girl catching her breath. It was none other than Louise.

Louise stamped her feet. Beside her, was the large mole that had dug the hole, Verdandi and the intelligent sword, Derflinger. After making Guiche’s mole dig the hole, Louise hid in it, popping her head up to quietly watch over Saito and Siesta. She had brought Derflinger along since she had things she wanted to ask him.

“What’s with that familiar?!”

Grumbling, as she hit the wall of the hole with her fist.

“Don’t die Saito!” could be heard from the bench, as Siesta tended to Saito. Louise had thrown the rock that hit Saito in the head. It was unforgivable to kiss another girl since he was her familiar.

“Hey, noble girl.” said Derflinger with an expressionless voice.

“What? Start remembering my name already.”

“Who cares about that? Moreover, has it become popular to dig holes to watch over familiars?”

“Why would it be popular?”

“Then why are you peeping from this hole?”

“If I’m seen I’m going to look bad.” Louise said while glaring at the sword.

“Then isn’t it better to just stop peeping at him? It’s okay to leave him to do whatever he likes right?”

“No it’s not okay. That idiot familiar, without even consulting me, would spend a whole day f-f-f-flirting with that girl.”

Louise’s voice had started to shake when she reached the word “flirting.” She was quite angry.

“I might even be the legendary ‘Void’ mage yet I can’t even find anyone to talk it over with. I was even going to find that useless, incompetent fool of a familiar of mine but he was off somewhere f-f-f-flir…”

“F-f-f-flir-”

“Don’t copy me!”

“But, wasn’t throwing a rock a bit too much? My partner could have even died.”

Louise crossed her arms while sitting in the hole.

“Flirting somewhere without even fulfilling the duty of a familiar; he’s still 10 years early for that!”

“Jealousy.”

“No. You’re wrong.”

As Louise turned her blushing face away, Derflinger imitated Louise’s tone of speech.

“Why would he not try to kiss me?”

“Be quiet.”

“I was even pretending to be asleep. I’ll cry you know.”

“If you say that again, I will melt you with my ‘Void’ magic. I swear, I will melt you.”

Derflinger shook uncontrollably with laughter. Eyeing it with great distaste, Louise asked Derflinger.

“Hey, I guess there’s no one else to ask but you. A fine noble like me, is asking a rusty sword like you a question, be grateful.”

“What?”

Louise gave a slight cough. With a blushing face, she asked Derflinger in a tone of voice that desperately tried to savour any dignity she had.

“State in which areas that maid is more attractive than me, in a concise and easily understandable way.”

“What use is it in asking?”

“That’s none of your business. Just answer the question.”

“Jealousy.”

“I said that wasn’t it didn’t I?!”

“And you even passionately kissed me back then… I’ll cry you know.”

“Right, now to melt you.”

Louise firmly held her wand while muttering an incantation. Derflinger quickly answered in a panic. He couldn’t possibly withstand an explosion of magical light.

“O-Ok I understand! There’s no helping you is there?! Well firstly, that girl can cook.”

“I guess so. But so what. You can just order food.”

“Guys like girls like that. She also seems to be good at sewing.”

“I can also do that. I was taught by my mother you know.”

“You are like a lizard, and she is a dragon if one were to compare you two in sewing.”

“Next.”

“Well, the face… I guess it’s a matter of preference. You’re quite good in this area but that girl also has her own charm. But that girl has a weapon you don’t have.”

“What would that be?”

“Breasts.”

“People grow you know.”

Louise says as she stuck out her chest. A magnificently flat chest.

“How old are you?”

“Sixteen.”

“Oh. Grown up already. No hope left.”

Louise started muttering an incantation.

“Wait! Stop! Hey! Guys naturally like girls with large breasts. He literally was off in fairyland when he had a bath with that girl.”

Derflinger said, as fury started to fill Louise’s eyes.

“What? What did you say just now?”

“Eh? When they bathed together…”

Derflinger explained the incident where Saito and Siesta took a bath together.

Louise had been deeply inhaling and exhaling. She was shaking uncontrollably with anger. Derflinger decided to keep quiet after being scared by her, something rare for a sword like him to feel.

Meanwhile the mole had popped its head up from the hole. It had seen the glad figure of its master who had been searching for it. Kneeling down, Guiche put his arms around his familiar and rubbed his cheek against its.

“Ah! I was looking for you Verdandi! You cute hairy thing! What on Halkeginia have you been doing, digging a hole here like this? Hm? Eh, Louise?”

Guiche looked perplexed as he peered in the hole to find Louise.

“Why are you in this hole?”

With a troubled expression, Verdandi looked at both Guiche and Louise. Guiche gave a slight nod and started to speak in a convinced manner.

“I understand Louise. You let Verdandi dig the hole, so that you could go looking for earthworms? In the mood for concocting beauty serums I see. And your familiar seems to be occupied with that maid from the dining hall as well…”

Guiche said, as he glanced over at the scene of Siesta nursing Saito. Just as usual, Saito was unconscious. Siesta would cling to his chest and make a big fuss.

“Ahaha! You’ll have to work hard on your beauty to win back that familiar of yours! Being taken by a peasant girl…your honour will surely be ruined!”

“Crap.” Derflinger muttered.

Louise grabbed onto Guiche’s ankles and pulled him into the hole. In a mere two seconds she finished him off. The mole worryingly prodded its nose against Guiche’s unconscious face. Clenching her fists, she muttered in a low voice.

“Next up is him.”

“Seems like this ‘zero’ is a hundred times more scary than the previous ones.” Derflinger said to himself.

Rubbing his sore head, Saito returned back to Louise’s room, to find Louise simply sitting cross-legged on the bed staring at the window.

The room was dim. It was already evening but Louise hadn’t turned any lights on. Saito felt a slight shiver down his spine from the ominous atmosphere.

“Is anything wrong Louise? Isn’t the room a bit dark?”

Louise didn’t reply. She simply kept her back to Saito. She seemed to be in a bad mood. What could she be angry about? Saito wondered.

“Quite a late time to return isn’t it? What have you been doing?” Louise asked without moving an inch. Her tone of voice was cold, but it didn’t seem like she was angry. Saito gave a sigh of relief and replied.

“I met up with Siesta in the Vestri courtyard. She said she had something to give me. And then a rock from nowhere hit my head… it really hurt.”

“Really. Must have been divine punishment. By the way, I have something to say to you… so sit on the floor.”

“Eh, the floor?”

“You dog.”

“Ah, back to dog~”, muttered Saito as he slowly backed towards the door. Don’t curse the gods, as they say. Heck, Louise was scarier than a god. Was it because of the Founder or the Void magic, he didn’t know, but it was Louise – who had annihilated all the enemy ships with a single spell.

Louise gave a flick of her wand when Saito tried to open the door.

“Huh?” When he tried to turn the knob it wouldn’t turn.

“Strange, huh… seems like I can do common magic with ease now.” Louise said with her back still turned towards him.

“L-Louise?” asked Saito in a trembling voice.

Louise was terrifying. Her voice was normal, but still, she was terrifying.

“I’ve always failed on the spells of the four major branches of magic up until now… perhaps I really am the one chosen to bear the void. And then day after day there’ll be growth. What do you think, dog?”

Saito was now desperately trying to turn the door knob, but it wouldn’t budge.

“It’s useless. I cast a ‘Lock’ spell on it. By the way dog, your master has been very uneasy. I might even be the one chosen to bear the void magic, but I can’t even find anyone to talk over something with. No one knows that I can use void magic at the moment. It seems like my explosion spell has just been treated as a miracle by the people…. But I think the castle will know soon enough. Then what will become of me? In such a dire moment, my ungracious fool of a familiar decides to go on a date with a maid.”

And you even k-k-kissed me – Louise was about to say before she quickly shut her mouth. Taking a deep breath she chose her next words.

Saito’s face had grown pale already as he continued trying to turn the knob. No matter how hard he tried to turn it, the knob wouldn’t turn. The ‘Lock’ spell was very strong.

“A date is alright I guess. But a bath. Now that won’t do at all. That’s the worst of the worst. Ignoring your master and taking a bath with a maid? I’m pretty sure that’s enough for a death sentence. You’re so lucky I’m a kind person.”

Louise started trembling.

You even k-k-k-k-kissed me. A bath. A bath with the maid.

Something was flying towards the window. It was a pelican.

“Ah. That was quick.”

Louise untied the package at the pelican’s feet, placed it on the bed and put some gold coins in its beak. Seems like pelicans are used as the equivalent of home delivery services in this world.

“W-What did you buy?”

“I’ve come to realise that dogs just don’t learn when you use a whip.”

Saito’s face stiffened as he madly tried to turn the door knob.

“H-Help! Help!”

“I told you, it’s useless.”

When he glanced backwards, Louise was standing right behind him. Saito gave a scream at the sight of her face.

Louise was biting her lip with her eyes lit up. She was probably even scarier than Siesta’s father.

Just as usual, Louise aimed a kick at Saito’s nether region, which resulted in Saito collapsing on the floor.

“Aaaaaah… W-Why are you so inhuman to my sensitive parts?”

Louise pressed a foot down on to Saito’s neck.

“Listen up dog. It seems like what you’re lacking is dignity. Always waging your tail here and there – which is why I’ve bought this.”

Louise started to tie something that seemed like leather ropes on his body. And with a clink, the lock on his chest was locked. It was some kind of body suspender.

“W-What’s this?”

“A magical restraining device used to tame wild creatures.”

“You have to be joking me!” Saito cried as he tried to stand up. Louise muttered a short incantation.

“Vasra.”

With a gasp of pain, Saito falls down onto the ground.

“It’s got water and wind spells on it. At the master’s signal, it will start giving out electric shocks.” Explained Louise, but Saito was already unconscious from the shock.

Louise dragged his body across the floor and tossed him into his haystack.

“You’re a hundred years too early to bathe with a girl!”


Chapter Two: Saito Goes Shopping in the Triumphant Town

Wardes woke up. He tried to get up and frowned. Wondering, he looked at the bandage that was rolled up around his body.

Where am I? I am sure I was hit by the magic from the flying machine that Gandálfr piloted and lost consciousness.

He looked around. It was a plain room with a wooden floor and walls, a bed and one desk. There was a pendant on the desk, which he hung around his neck. Seeing a pitcher, he reached out for it. But he could not reach it, as his body still ached all over. At that moment, the door opened up and he saw a familiar face.

“Oh, you’ve regained consciousness.”

“Crumbling Dirt? You…”

Fouquet placed the plate of soup on the desk. Wardes tried to get up again and felt a jolt of pain throughout his body.

“Tch..”

“You still cannot move. Your body has been pierced by bullets in numerous places. It took all the water element mages casting the ‘Recovery’ spell for three days and three nights to heal you.”

“Bullets?”

Wardes made a suspicious face.

“Was I shot by a ‘Gun’? Is this the power of a ‘Gun’?”

Gun is a weapon that commoners use. The pressure of the gunpowder, ignited by the spark of the flint, pushes a round bullet out of the weapon. Although its power in short distance is superior to the bow’s, the need to load the bullet and gunpowder separately makes it hard to fire quickly. In addition, the hit accuracy is not better than a bow’s either. A gun’s great advantage is that you don’t need any additional practice to use it. It isn’t a great weapon for a mage.

“Really? You didn’t even know the weapon that defeated you? What a careless man.”

Saying so, Fouquet scooped soup with the spoon and carried it to Wardes’s mouth.

Wardes thought, It must be that strange flying machine that Gandálfr used…

Not only could it fly very quickly, but it also was equipped with a ‘Gun’ that could fire in rapid succession.

And then, in that instant, a whirlpool of light appeared…

Albion’s entire fleet had been destroyed in a moment by that light…

What was the light that I saw?

Something must have happened in Halkeginia.

I could take advantage of the change, because this event might be connected in some way with that

My desire to get Louise’s abilities.

And Sacred Emperor Cromwell’s manipulation of strange magic…

Even if he was going to follow Cromwell and go to the Holy Land, his plan might not work out, remembering that the whole fleet was destroyed by just one person.

“Hey, the soup’s getting cold.”

Fouquet, in an exasperated tone, said to Wardes. He was lost in his own thoughts.

“Where is this place?” Wardes inquired, not giving the soup a glance.

“Albion. This is a temple located on the outskirt of Londinium, in which I had been in service in the past. Good thing you were able to return in one piece, you have to thank me for that.”

“Albion? What happened to the military invasion?

“Aah, I guess you didn’t know the circumstances because you were out. It was a complete failure. After the airship fleet’s annihilation, Albion’s army was routed. Geez, ‘Sure Victory’ my ass. If you couldn’t defeat Tristain, whose numbers you vastly overpowered, you’ll probably have a hard time recapturing the Holy Land.”

“I didn’t know you joined the invasion troops as well. You should have told me about it.”

Fouquet was amazed.

“I actually informed you! I was dispatched there as a scout unit because Albion’s army was unfamiliar about the foreign country’s geography! It seems you are the type that forget things which don’t interest you!”

“Is that so? Aah, that’s right. Sorry.”

Then Wardes muttered “I’m hungry, give me some soup,”

Although Fouquet made an ugly and unpleasant face, the soup was still carried to Wardes’s mouth.

“Is ‘hungry’ all you can say? I hurriedly nursed you after seeing you fall, immediately treating you with my ‘Water’ spell. After that, using my illegal connections as a thief, I somehow got on the ship leaving to Albion, and escaped safely. Really, I shouldn’t have saved such an ungrateful person!”

Wardes pointed at the table.

“Can you bring that pendant to me?”

The pendant was a silver locket. Fouquet brought the pendant to Wardes. He took it and he put it on his neck.

“Is it very important to you?”

“Not exactly, but it calms me down.”

“She’s a very beautiful woman.”

When Fouquet watched Wardes with a smile on her face, Wardes’ cheeks became tingled with red.

“You saw it?”

“Yes, by impulse. You were holding to it tightly on your sleep, so it made me curious.”

“As expected from a thief.”

“So tell me, who is that person? Your significant other?”

Fouquet asked Wardes while bending herself forward. Wardes said in an unpleasant voice,

“She’s my mother.”

“Your mother? Your looks deceived me, I didn’t know you had a mother complex. Do you live with her?”

“Not anymore. Either way, it is none of your business.”

“After nursing you, that’s the attitude you return?”

At that moment, the door opened with a clank. It was Cromwell, accompanied by Sheffield.

Seeing Wardes, he smiled thinly. That smile never changes. Just like a doll, Wardes thought.

They just experienced defeat. An unthinkable stumble at the first step of Albion’s ambition. Yet the fact didn’t seem to unnerve Cromwell. He was either a truly strong man or a carefree optimist. It was hard to tell.

“Looks like you regained consciousness, Viscount.”

“I beseech your forgiveness, Your Excellency. I failed you not once, but twice.”

“But it seemed your failure was immaterial.”

Sheffield, who was standing by Cromwell’s side, nodded, then read the parchment scroll that seemed to be the report, and muttered,

“A sphere of light appeared in the sky and blew off our fleet.”

“In other words, the enemy used an unknown magic against us. This was a miscalculation and it’s no one’s fault. If there was anyone to blame… it was our leadership’s fault for not properly analyzing the enemy’s war potential. A mere soldier like you should not be blamed for that. You should just focus on recovering your health.”

Cromwell offered his hand to Wardes. Wardes kissed it.

“I thank your Excellency’s kindness”

Wardes remembered Louise’s long, pinkish blond hair. Louise was in that flying machine. Such magic never…

Wardes saw through Louise’s talent. He wanted to have it in his own hands.

…The element that Founder Brimir used. The lost element, ‘Void’.

He shook his head. Cromwell said that ‘Void’ is an element controlling life. But how can it create such a light that would defeat an entire fleet?

Even if it is really powerful magic, it was hard to imagine Louise having control over it.

“Was the ‘Void’ the source of that light? But the ‘Void’ that your Excellency talked about and that light seems to be completely different.”

“No one can say that they have a full knowledge about what ‘Void’ is. ‘Void’ is a great mystery.”

Sheffield stepped in.

“It is wrapped up on the other side of an ancient, dark history.”

“History hides many interesting things. Once, I happened to come across a book that named one of the Founder’s shields as Saint Aegis. It has a fairly small amount of information regarding ‘Void’.”

Cromwell spoke as if reciting a poem.

“Founder created the sun, to shine upon the ground.”

“Indeed. There was no light within that small sun.”

“Mystery upon the mystery, I feel ill. Awakening is also bad.<!> Is it so, Viscount?”

“It is as you say.”

“It is said that Tristain’s army was led by Henrietta. For what reason has an inexperienced princess fought? That princess made use of the ‘Founder’s Prayer Book’. Maybe she sniffed out the sleeping secret of Royal Family.”

“What is the sleeping secret of the Royal Family?”

“The Royal Family of Albion, Royal Family of Tristain, and Royal Family of Gallia… were one branch in the beginning. And the Founder’s secret was split between them. Isn’t that so, Miss Sheffield?”

Cromwell urged the woman at his side.

“It is as Your Excellency says. The treasure that was given to Albion’s royal family was the ‘Ruby of the Wind’… However, where the Ruby of the Wind disappeared to is yet to be found. Since the investigation has not ended so far.”

Wardes watched the woman with a dubious feeling. Because her face was hidden by the deep robe, it was not possible to see her expression. Though one could think she was Cromwell’s secretary… she didn’t give an impression of being just a secretary. No strong magic was sensed from her. However, because she was promoted here by Cromwell, she might have some special ability.

“Now, Henrietta, a worshiped ‘Holy Woman’, enthroned to a queen.” Cromwell muttered.

Sheffield said. “The ruler of the kingdom. The queen of the country will also get the Royal Families’ secret.”

Cromwell smiled.

“Wales-san.”

Wales, who was revived by Cromwell, entered the room from the corridor.

“You called, Your Excellency?”

“I want to offer congratulations for your lover’s… the Holy Woman’s coronation. I want her to come to my castle of Londinium. However, the journey seems to be very tedious so keep her company to dispel the boredom.”

Wales muttered, “Certainly” in a monotone voice.

“Then, Wardes-san. Take care of yourself. I will leave it up to you to invite the ‘Holy Woman’ to the dinner party and ensure her safe arrival.”

Wardes bowed.

Cromwell and others left from the room. Fouquet muttered absent-mindedly.

“Disgusting man. Baiting one lover with their dead lover is not a way a noble should act.”

Fouquet added, though she herself hated nobles.

“That man is not a noble. Haven’t you heard? He was a mere bishop at first.”

Then Wardes snuffled loudly.

“What’s wrong?”

“I just cannot stay calm. If only the wound would be done healing… I could do my work instead of playing with corpses…”

After that, Wardes regrettably buried his face in his hands.

“Damn! I… Am I powerless? Hasn’t the Holy Land slipped away again…”

Fouquet laughed with a smile, and placed her hand on Wardes’s shoulder.

“You are a weak man… Yet, I knew that from the beginning.”

And then, Fouquet brought her face close to Wardes’s and placed her lips on his.

Slowly pulling her lips back, Fouquet muttered.

“Rest for now. I do not know what you are hiding… Yet once in a while you need to rest as well.”

In Tristain’s royal palace, Henrietta was waiting for her guest. Even though she was a queen, she never sat on the throne. She mostly did the king’s work.

After the coronation was finished and she became queen, the number of things to do in the domestic and foreign areas greatly increased. Some were demanding loans, some were asking it in a good nature, and Henrietta, from morning till night, was always meeting someone. And, because of the war, there are more guests than usual.

Because she was always straining to show her dignity, she became very tired. Even though Mazarini assisted, she had to come up with the answers herself. It was too late for Henrietta to revert back to being a princess.

However… for the new guest, she neither showed or made such expressions or attitude.

A refrained voice called outside the room, informing Henrietta about the guest’s arrival.

Right after, that the door opened.

Louise stood there, reverentially bowing her head. Next to her, Saito’s figure could be seen. Even now, a restraining device used to tame wild creatures was attached to his body.

“Louise, aah, Louise!”

Henrietta ran up and embraced Louise closely. Looking up, Louise muttered.

“Princess-sama… No, I have to call you Your Majesty now.”

“I don’t like it when you say it so formally. Louise Francoise. Aren’t you my beloved friend?”

“Then, I will call you princess-sama, as usual.”

“Please do it for me. Aah Louise, I didn’t want to be a queen. It is twice as boring. It is three times more straining. And ten times more worrisome.”

Henrietta muttered, looking bored.

After that, Louise became silent, waiting for Henrietta’s words. This morning, the messenger from Henrietta came to the Academy of Magic. They boarded the carriage that Henrietta prepared and came here.

I guess I was called for a specific reason thought Louise. Is it about the ‘Void’ spell? However, she seems hesitant to talk about that.

Henrietta just looked into her eyes, not talking. Reluctantly, Louise said “I ought to give my congratulations on the victory”. Louise tried to find a harmless topic to talk about with Henrietta.

“This victory was all thanks to you, Louise.”

Louise watched Henrietta’s face with a startled expression.

“You can’t hide such a great secret from me, Louise.”

“B-but I didn’t do anything…”

Louise still tried to pretend not to know.

Henrietta smiled and handed a report, written on parchment, to Louise. After reading it, Louise sighed.

“You scouted even that?”

“Well, since it is the war results, it is better not to overlook anything.”

After that, Henrietta faced Saito who was left out up till now. On the way there, he heard from Louise that Henrietta became a queen, so he felt very nervous.

“For controlling the foreign country flight machine that destroyed enemy’s dragon knight corps, I express my greatest gratitude.”

“No… it’s not like that.”

“You are the hero of this country. So now I am giving you a noble’s title… ”

“That’s so wrong! Turning a dog into a noble!”

“Dog?”

“N-no… it doesn’t matter” Louise murmured with a blush.

“Then, I will grant you a peer’s title.”

When Henrietta said this, Saito muttered, ‘Haa’. Then he remembered Kirche’s words a while ago. That in Tristain, if you are not a mage from birth then you cannot become a noble.

But, despite his thoughts about the peerage, he didn’t open his mouth. Either way, when returning to Japan, all the titles would lose their meaning.

“Great… a really great war outcome. Louise Francoise. The way the war ended is all thanks to you and your familiar. There has never been such a victory in the whole of Halkeginia’s history. By all means, Louise, you should be given a territory the a size of a small country and a title of duchess for this. And your familiar awarded with a peer’s title.”

“I d-don’t need anything… this deed was my familiar‘s…“

Louise muttered hesitatingly.

“Weren‘t you the cause of that light, Louise? That light was called a miracle of the castle, yet I do not believe in miracles. The light came from the flying machine that you were flying in. Aren’t you the cause of it?”

Henrietta intently watched Louise. It was impossible to hide anything this way.

And what about Saito? Even though he constantly pulled Louise’s shirt sleeve, trying to cut in with “By the way…”, she slowly began talking about the Founder’s Prayer Book. She could not consult about it with anyone else. It was too risky to do so.

Slowly… Louise talked to Henrietta.

She took Henrietta’s ‘Water Ruby’, placed it on the pages of Founder’s Prayer Book and an ancient script appeared. When she read it out back then, she cast a spell of the light.

“The Founder’s Prayer Book was written using the element of ‘Void’. Is this true, Princess-sama?”

Henrietta stared over Louise’s shoulder.

“You knew, Louise? Founder Brimir gave rings to three children from three royal families to keep as a treasure. Tristain got the ‘Water Ruby’ and Founder’s Prayer Book, which are now both in your possession.”

“Err…”

“It has been handed down like this among the royal families. Royal families were the ones that inherited the Founder’s power.”

“I am not from a royal Family.”

“What are you saying, Louise? The ancestor of Duke de La Vallière was the king’s illegitimate child. And you are the Duke’s child.”

Louise was startled.

“You, too, have the Tristainian Royal Family’s blood. And that is good enough.”

After that, Henrietta took Saito’s hand. Seeing the runes, she nodded.

ZnT04-068.jpg

“Is this the sign of ‘Gandálfr’? The sign of the Familiar that Founder Brimir used for protection while casting spells?”

Saito nodded. Sir Osmond also said the same thing.

“Then… I am really a ‘Void’ user?”

“I think it really is so.”

Louise sighed.

“That’s why you understand that I cannot reward you that way, right, Louise?”

Saito, who didn’t understand, asked why.

“Why?”

Henrietta answered with a clouded face.

“If I were to give the reward, Louise’s secret services would be exposed in the daylight. That would be dangerous. Louise’s power is too big. Even one country could not manage such power. If an enemy learned about Louise’s secret, they would become frantic about it and would do anything to get it. I alone should be the enemy’s target.”

After that, Henrietta sighed.

“Enemies are not the only ones interested in ‘Void’. Even inside the palace… those who know about that power, will always try to use it for their own purposes.”

Louise nodded with a scared look.

“Therefore, Louise, you should not talk to anyone about that power. Your secret is safe with me.”

Then Louise thought for a while…

And, in a slowly determined way, she opened her mouth.

“Don’t worry princess-sama. I want to dedicate my ‘Void’ to you.”

“No… it is all right. You must forget that power as soon as possible. And never use it again.”

“But… Princess-sama I want to help you with the powers I was granted!”

However, Henrietta shook her head.

“Mother said, great power drives people mad. Who could be sure that you, after gaining the power of ‘Void’, would not turn out the same way?”

Louise proudly lifted her face. It was the face of a person who had decided her mission. However, such a face was somewhat dangerous.

“I always wanted to dedicate my power and body to princess-sama and the mother country. I was taught so, I believed so, and I grew up with that. However, my magic always failed. As you know, I was nicknamed ‘Zero’. Behind sneers and contempt, I was always shaken with regret.”

Louise clearly asserted.

“However, God gave such power to me. I, myself, believe in using this power. Still, if you say that Your Majesty will not need it, then it is necessary to return my wand to Your Majesty.”

Henrietta was touched by Louise’s speech.

“Louise, I understand. You are still… my best friend. From the times when you helped me on Ragdorian’s lake. You took the blame for me…”

“Princess-sama…”

Louise and Henrietta tightly embraced each other. Saito, who as always was left out, swung his head absentmindedly. Louise is too eager to promise without thinking… he thought, though he didn’t say that.

Though it was nice to help Henrietta… but what about the travel to the east to find a way to return me home…

By helping Henrietta, it seemed like they would not go there.

“After this, I will help Louise too.”

“Naturally, princess-sama.”

“Then I give the ‘Founder’s Prayer Book’ to you. However Louise, promise me. Don’t tell anyone that you are a ‘Void’ user. And do not use it recklessly, either.”

“Certainly.”

“After this, you will become my court lady and will obey only me.”

Henrietta then took out a quill pen and smooth parchment. After that, she signed the document and put down the quill pen.

“Take this. This is my formal permission. With this, whether in the royal palace, or inside or outside the country, you will have supreme authority over everything, even over the police. If there is no freedom, one cannot work well.”

Louise reverently received the permission with an expression of gratitude. Henrietta’s authorization. This meant that Louise was granted with the right to act in the queen’s name.

“If I will face a problem that only you can solve, I will surely consult you. Officially, please act as a student of Academy of Magic like you have up to now. Since it is you, you will, without a doubt, do well.”

After that, Henrietta turned towards Saito. Having an idea, she fumbled within the pocket of her dress. When she took out some golden coins, Saito gasped audibly.

“I ask you to look after Louise…my important friend, kind Familiar-san.”

“T-that’s… I cannot take it.”

Saito looked amazed at the golden and silver coins in her hand.

“By all means, please accept it. Giving you this as a sign of “Chevalier” is the least what this powerless queen can do. You showed your loyalty to me and to the mother country. This should not be unrewarded.”

Henrietta said with sincere eyes.

When seeing such eyes… it becomes impossible to refuse. After accepting this, he could not refuse to help Louise, as it seems…

Because Saito was not from this world, he wasn’t Henrietta’s vassal either, but even if he didn’t have to feel responsible,

Saito felt a strong sense of obligation either way.

Aah, it might be fate, he thought.

No, it was his personality rather than fate. When such a beautiful woman like Henrietta said ‘please’, he could not find it in his heart to refuse. What a light-hearted fellow I am. Haa…

He wasn’t so welcomed in the Japan of his time.

Anyway, I should search for the way to return home, Saito thought, putting the golden coins into his pocket.

Saito and Louise went out of the royal palace in line.

“Really… you are too eager to give promises…”

“What do you mean?”

Louise stared up at Saito.

“Because you said that you will help princess-sama, but then it will be impossible to go east.”

Saito said in a disappointed voice.

“Don’t leave without permission. Everyone remains here, so stop asking.”

Louise averted her face and started walking leaving Saito behind. Saito ran after her panicking.

“How can you say that? Release me from this!”

Saito pointed at the restraining device used to tame wild creatures that was attached to his body.

“Do not argue!”

“If the familiar is acting on its own, it’s the master’s duty to put a chain on him.”

Louise answered nonchalantly.

Saito, trying to get attention, suddenly gripped Louise’s shoulder.

They were in Bourdonne’s Street already, right in front of the Royal Palace. The Main Street. And what about passers-by? They were all staring.

“Hey! People are looking! Let go!”

Saito said in a lowered voice.

“You…are you thinking that I should not return?”

Louise went ‘Huu!’ at these words and changed her expression.

“So that’s it, isn’t it? You are worried about me leaving, right? It would be hard to help princess-sama otherwise.”

It’s not like that, Louise wanted to say, but shut her mouth. That’s not the reason why I don’t want Saito to return to his former world. However, by saying this, she would reveal her hazy feelings for Saito. Louise’s pride couldn’t permit such a thing.

In that sort of division, Louise nodded reluctantly.

“T-that’s right! No one would worry for a familiar like you otherwise!”

“Lovely. So that’s how it is.”

Saito muttered, and began walking again.

What he really thought was, she didn’t have to say ‘because I love you’, but she could have said ‘I would be lonely’ or at least ‘I want you to be near’, if she would have said that, he would not have minded helping her and would have searched for the way to return later.

When Henrietta asked for his help a while ago, though he thought it was bothersome, he was also glad for a moment. No one really needed him in Japan. The earth kept on spinning, even with Saito gone. However, it was different in this world. Siesta and Henrietta… there were some people that needed him.

Yet he wanted to feel needed by Louise more. However, judging from her words earlier, all that she cared about were his ‘Gandálfr’ powers.

Saito pouted. He was sulky.

Determined, he started to push his way through crowd. The town was still crowded from the victory celebration. A drunken group was yelling out toasts while hanging out their cups filled with wine.

Louise, still in shock from Saito’s ‘Lovely’, was petrified for a while. With face down, she bit her lower lip. When she looked up after a while, Saito was already gone in the crowd and could not be seen. Louise ran out panicking.

“Mooove!”

Louise bumped hard into a man. A man, who looked like a mercenary, collapsed. In his hand he had a bottle of sake, which he was gulping down vigorously. He seemed to be completely drunk.

Though Louise tried to pass that man sideways, he grasped her hand.

“Wait, Miss. You ought to apologize for bumping into a person in the middle of the street.”

Then another man, who seemed to be a mercenary, noticed Louise’s mantle and muttered “A noble, huh?”

However, the man who was clasping Louise’s arm didn’t move.

“Today is the festival celebrating the victory at Tarbes. Put aside the rank. Today nobles, mercenaries and salesmen are equal. Hey, Miss Noble, how about sharing one drink with me as an apology for bumping into me?”

Saying so, the man thrust out his jar of wine.

“Let me go! You brute!”

Louise shouted. The man’s face became brutally distorted at once.

“What did you call me. Hey! Who do you think attacked Albion’s army in Tarbes! ‘Holy Woman’ or nobles like you, no, us – soldiers!”

The man reached out to grasp Louise’s hair. However, his hand was stopped.

Saito, who showed up right before their eyes, firmly gripped the man’s hand.

“What? Go away kid!”

“Let go.”

Saito said in a quiet voice. If it were the old days… his legs would be shaking while threatening such a scary looking man. However, now it was Saito who went through many battles. Thus he gained courage. Now he only had to grip Derflinger who hung on his back when the time came. Not pulling it out, just grasping it would be enough to knock all those soldiers out.

The man looked at the sword on Saito’s shoulder, with a similar look. The experience that he gained through battlefields in many years, told him that Saito’s attitude wasn’t just a bluff. Then a man spitted nonchalantly and, urging his companions, left.

Saito silently took Louise’s hand. And began to walk.

Louise tried to say something to Saito. However, being all flustered, she could not find the words. Saito walked rapidly, pushing through the crowd.

“Are you angry?” Louise asked in a small voice.

“Not really,” Saito answered snappishly.

The clasp of his hand made Louise flurried for a moment. Does Saito feel the same? However, because Saito walked straight ahead, she couldn’t see his facial expression.

Louise followed while being dragged.

It was chilly just as much as a pleasant feeling that Louise could not understand or explain.

Louise, while walking and holding hands with Saito, cheered up. The town was filled with colorful festivals, joyful shows, food carts and stalls where unusual goods were sold were stretched all the way down the street.

Being a local lord’s daughter, Louise never walked in such a lively town this way. More so, she never walked in a town holding hands with someone of the opposite sex. Those two things combined, made Louise’s head light and dizzy.

“So very noisy,” Saito said.

“True,” Louise muttered happily.

“Feels like my world’s festivals.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. The showy street stalls line up just like this… gold fish catching, yo-yo fishing, okonomiyaki shops, and food carts queuing in line…”

While saying so, Saito’s eyes turned distant. Louise tightened her grasp on Saito’s hand. Somehow, the thought about Saito suddenly leaving to some place made her feel bad.

Sometime… the day when Saito leaves, will surely come.

However, when walking together this way, the one that I want you to see is me, Louise thought. Just for now. And nothing else matters.

And at the same time she was angry at herself for thinking that way.

Because of love? That’s not it. It was her pride that was the problem.

After convincing herself of that, Louise looked around blankly.

And then, shouting “Waa”, stopped still.

“What is it?”

Saito turned around. Louise was looking at a jewelry shop. There, on a cloth, various rings and necklaces were displayed.

“Do you want to take a look?” Saito asked, and Louise, with a blush on her cheeks, nodded.

Seeing two people approaching, a merchant with a turban on the head rubbed his hands together.

“My! Please come in! I see you are a noble miss. We have rare goods to offer. This is made from “Wrought gold” and it is not a sham.”

The presented jewels were suited for nobles to wear; beautifully ornamented to satisfy the most various tastes.

Louise took a pendant. It was a pure-white pendant, carved in a shape of a shell. There were a lot of big jewels placed around. However, upon closer look, the jewels were nothing but cheap crystals.

Still, Louise liked this shiny pendant. Within the atmosphere of noisy festival, filled with quality goods, such a showy one attracts attention.

“Do you want it?”

Louise shook her head embarrassed.

“Don’t have the money.”

“Well then, I will cheapen it. It will be only four écus.”

The merchant sweetly smiled.

“Too expensive!”

Louise shouted.

“You don’t have that much?”

Saito asked amazed, Louise puffed her lips nonchalantly.

“I would if I hadn’t bought that impertinent sword the other day. I spent all my month’s pocket money on that.”

Saito reluctantly fumbled in his pocket. He tightly gripped the golden coins that he got from Henrietta a little while ago. Holding the golden coins that were approximately of the size of one yen coin on his palm, Saito asked.

“How much is this worth?”

The merchant was surprised that it was Saito who was carrying money.

“T-this is! Hii, fuu, hmm…This is splendid.”

Taking up four gold coins on which an old king’s portrait was carved, the merchant passed the pendant to Louise.

Louise was taken aback with surprise, her cheeks unintentionally loosened up a bit. The first thing that Saito did with the money given by Henrietta was shopping for me. She was very happy. After it was in her hand for a while, she cheerfully put it on her neck. “It suits you well”, said the merchant gracefully.

I want Saito to have a look, she thought while pulling his sleeve. However Saito, whose attention was on the stall near the sides, didn’t move. What on earth is he staring at?

Saito was gazing at the loot, taken from the Albion army, displayed on the ground.

Things that soldiers captured were taken to merchants.

They were articles taken from the enemy… swords, armor, clothes and clocks. Saito took one of the clothes.

I want him to look at me, Louise pouted lips sulkily. However, Saito’s full attention was on the clothing. It was not unreasonable to want new clothes after all.

“What, you want clothes? But it is not a good idea to wear second-handed middle aged clothes that the enemy used to wear, there are much better ones.”

However, Saito didn’t answer. He reached out for one piece of clothing, his hands shaking.

“Dear customer, you have an excellent eye. This is a seaman uniform from Albion. Though it is cheaply made, it is also convenient. Turning a collar this way up, protects neck from the wind.”

Seaman uniform? Indeed!

B-but in Saito’s world it was called a sailor uniform…

Saito’s head started working at full power.

Though the size was too big, it could still be modified for Siesta to wear…

He imagined Siesta wearing this.

It looked good.

The enjoyment increased. No, that’s not it. Not personal enjoyment. Gratitude. It was gratitude for the muffler! He still felt slightly guilty though.

That’s right, Saito cooled down. Money, he should absolutely use it for this.

“How much?” Saito asked in a voice overcome with emotion.

“Three for one écus would be fine.”

Louise was amazed. Paying such money for second-handed clothing was too much.

However, Saito paid the asked price.

Louise, who returned back to her room, was lying on the bed, listing the Founder’s Prayer Book while humming. It seemed like she was in a good mood. Saito tried to slip out of the room quietly, he wanted to go to Siesta to deliver the goods he bought today, but the door was locked by Louise who waved her wand and put the ‘Lock’ spell on it.

“Are you going somewhere in the middle of the night?”

“Eh? No…”

Surely he could not say that he was going to Siesta’s place to deliver the sailor uniform that he bought today.

“J-just wanted to take some night’s air! Wah! Wahhahha!”

Louise scowled at Saito. Then, determined, she walked up to Saito and started eagerly taking his parka off.

“Wh-what are you?!”

“Taking it off.”

“Take it off? The Wild Creature’s restraining device is in the way!”

When Saito shouted so, Louise removed the lock of the restraining device, looking down for a moment. Because he bought a pendant in town today, he thought she had forgiven him. Yet she could not forgive him taking a bath together with a girl so easily.

Louise unfastened the restraining device and took off Saito’s parka. Her face was always angry. She chewed her lower lip hard.

Then Louise went back to bed, hugging the taken off parka tightly and said “Face that way”.

With all her clothes taken off, Louise, wearing only Saito’s parka, pouted.

“Still want to go for a walk?”

Giving it to Siesta will have to wait for tomorrow night, Saito thought, now wearing only a T-shirt. Even though it was an early summer, the climate in Halkeginia was very different from Japan. Walking this way, he would catch a cold. Without a doubt, Louise knew that too.

“There are more important things than the night wind, don’t you agree~? And a partner who doesn’t serve his master is no good, don’t you agree~?”

Louise said, while lying down on her stomach and swinging her feet.

Reluctantly, Saito sat on the bed.

“Understood.”

Louise, lying down on the bed, began to read the Founder’s Prayer Book.

“Isn’t it all blank?”

“I can read it.”

Louise showed “The Ruby of Water” on her finger to Saito and explained its relation to the Founder’s Prayer Book.

“Hee, Element of Void…”

Saito remembered the magical light, which blew off the fleet that day.

‘Void’. The legendary element that Founder Brimir used…

And, I am a Familiar that Founder Brimir is said to have used – ‘Gandálfr’.

The legendary Familiar that has the ability to master all kinds of weapons, in order to protect the Founder, while he casts his spells…

“Then you are the strongest wizard in this world? Cool! Destroying with one swing.”

“I wouldn’t say so. I haven’t said this to princess-sama since I didn’t want to disappoint her…”

With a sigh Louise took the wand.

“Wh-what?”

After that, Louise slowly began uttering an incantation.

“Eor Sun Fuir…”

“S-stop! Idiot!”

It would be terrible if such explosion were to happen in a place like this. However, Louise didn’t stop chanting.

“Yarunsakusa..”

Finishing the chant uninterrupted. Louise lifted the wand. Saito dug himself into his pile of hay, scattering the straw all around.

And then Louise’s eyes rolled back and she crumbled to the bed suddenly.

“L-L-L-Louise? Louise!”

Saito shook Louise in panic. After being shaken for a while, Louise opened her eyes.

“Auuu…”

“Wh-what? What’s wrong?!”

Shaking her head Louise got up abruptly.

“Stop making such a fuss. I only fainted for a moment.”

“Eh? Eeeh?!”

“Been chanting ‘Explosion’ till the last minute, but nothing… After that time, no matter how much I chant, I faint in the middle of it. The explosion only happened once.”

“What kind of thing?”

“I think the reason may be that the willpower is insufficient.”

“Willpower?”

“Right. Willpower is consumed when the magic is chanted. Didn’t you know?”

“How could I know such a thing?”

Then, Louise sat up straight demurely, lifted a the finger and started explaining, proud as a peacock.

“Listen, the number of elements that a mage uses can be increased, and his class changes accordingly. A mage who can use only one element is a dot. Ability to have two – makes one a line. Being able to use three – triangle. Spells are also applied to the class. The spells from three elements are called ‘Triangle spells’. Each time the spell class rises, the consumption of willpower doubles.”

“Haa.”

“For instance, the line spell would cost the mage eight willpower, but when that mage decides to use the dot spell, only four of his willpower will be consumed. The cost depends on each person individually, however the same rule applies to all. “

“Haa.”

“The main point is, that mage could cast two ‘Dot’ spells instead. Eight divided by four is two. Therefore, you could cast the spell twice. But when you cast a line spell only once, because twice of the willpower consumed, and eight divided by eight is one.”

“Haa.”

“When the line mage grows up to a triangular mage, consumption of the willpower spent on dot spells decreases by half. Therefore, four divided by two – two, he can use the dot spell four times. The line spell can be used twice. Triangular spell – one time. That’s because the mage grows up.”

“Haa. In other words, the low class spells can be chanted many times, while the high class spells can be chanted only so many times.”

“Right. So now you understand the relation between spells and willpower?”

“Somehow. Then, you fainting a little while ago…”

“Yeah. I fainted a while ago because I overworked and used up my willpower. The spell was too strong and my willpower was insufficient.”

“Then, why were you able to cast it the other day?”

“Well… Really why… I wonder myself…”

“How does willpower recover?”

“Basically, it recovers while sleeping.”

Saito thought while folding his arms together.

“Ummm… Well, up till now, you haven’t used many spells correctly?”

“Well, yes.”

“Therefore you collected a lot of willpower, right? And that time you used it all up at once.”

Louise made a startled face.

“For instance, let’s assume that your willpower is 100. The ‘Explosion’, consumed all 100 at once. While usually the willpower is recovered while sleeping at night, the amount needed is too large for you… Since it is as much as 100, you cannot store that much just with one night of sleep.”

Saito plainly stated his hypothesis.

“What? To me it seems that it might be the end of your magic.”

However, Louise’s face was serious.

“It might be so..”

“Eh? Eeeh?”

“Applying the Earth magic Square Class spell ‘Wrought Gold’, gold can be created. But do you know why the world still uses money?”

“Eh?”

“It is said the square mages simply cannot chant the square spells many times. It’s too unreliable, one time the recovery might take one week, the other – one month. Besides, the amount of gold you could convert this way is too little. Therefore money is used instead of gold.”

“Hmmm…”

“In other words, powerful spells use up more willpower and take more time to recover. For me, it might be so as well.”

“Then…when would you be able to chant again…..”

“Don’t know. I… One month or maybe one year…”

Louise pondered.

“Ten years.”

“Don’t say such scary thing.”

“But, it was successful.”

“Oh well. No one can understand ‘Void’ fully. Anyways, the incantation’s power was demonstrated. There are no other spells like this one.”

“It’s too little now. Uuu, my hay…” Saito said while watching the scattered around pieces of straws.

“Isn’t it all right? Even if there is no pile of hay.”

Louise muttered, blushing for some reason.

“Haa”, Saito held his breath once he noticed something. What! He became crazy from the view that Louise gave him, not aware of it herself. The parka’s hem had rolled up to Louise’s buttocks. Just a little more, mooore, he peeked.

Saito instinctively held his nose. Due to Saito’s gesture, Louise finally became aware that the parka rolled up. Instantly she sprang to her feet and held down the Parka’s hem while blushing.

“Na! You saw! You saw, you saw! You saaaaaw!”

“I-it’s your fault for not wearing panties!” Saito shouted as well.

“I cannot sleep with them! It was always that way!”

“Always, huh?!”

Then Louise bit her lower lip and, with some rustling, slipped under the futon.

“Sleep.”

Saito reluctantly slipped behind the blanket’s edge. He heard the voice of a sulky Louise within the futon.

“Sleep in the pile of hay, peeping familiar.”

“It was scattered.”

Though he heard Louise groaning a few times within the futon, she calmed down after a while. “Aah”, thinking about the sailor uniform that he will deliver to Siesta tomorrow night, Saito fell asleep.

Chapter Three: The Sailor Outfit and Louise’s Jealousy

The sunlight shining radiantly at Austri’s Plaza, Saito was groveling on the ground and trembling violently. Then he raised his face, gazed at the work of art he had produced, and once again started to go mad from his excitement.

“Hah, hah, hah…” His breathing became hot.

The throbbing of his heart reached its climax many times and brought Saito’s heart to utopia.

Saito muttered quietly.

“Shiver, my palpitation’s beat.”

“Throb, my heart of homesickness.”

“Shiver more and more heatedly, bless my genius……”

“The angel said. Said it here. I’m glad I’m alive……”

Saito tightly grasped the grass growing from the ground and yelled loudly.

“UooooooooooOOOOOOH! I’m, THE GREAAAAATESTT!”

Then he pointed at the angel in front of his eyes.

“Siesta is also the greaaaTTTESStt!!”

Siesta, dumbfounded, was staring at Saito’s whole act of agony and excitement.

Saito-san… is strange……

She murmured unintentionally. That was exactly just how abnormal Saito was acting.

“B-but, these clothes……”

“Wh-what? Something wrong? Is there something flawed?!”

Saito sprung energetically towards her.

“W, well… I mean, this is a military uniform, right? Even if I wear this, it won’t look good…”

“Don’t say such stupid things!”

Saito’s intimidating attitude caused Siesta to go “Hii…” and back off.

“In thiiiIISS! W-W-World! That is certainly an outfit for the naval soldiers! BuuuUUUUT! In my woorrlLLD! Girls your age wear that and go to school! GoooOOOIIING in present progressive form!

“Y-Yes…”

Aah, Saito-san is surpassing strange…

Then Saito screamed while half-crying.

“It is called sailor uniform in my world! I’m shorrRRYYY for being born!”

Siesta thought So that is what this was about…

This is an outfit from Saito-san’s birthplace…

Last night, Saito came to her and handed her the sailor uniform with a stiffened expression. When Saito said “I’ll modify this outfit for you to wear”, she honestly thought that he had lost his mind.

Even so, Siesta honestly felt happy that Saito bought clothes for her.

And now, to Saito who was delighting over having her dress in his birthplace’s outfit, she felt darling.

If Saito was normal right now, pulling away from him would be the only thing possible to do, but for that reason, Siesta blushed.

“At first, I thought Saito-san went crazy, but he had such a reason……”

I understand! Siesta nodded, and turned around to face Saito seriously.

“What should I do to please you even more?”

Saito, once again, looked at Siesta’s appearance from the top to bottom.

First, the upper half. It was a beautiful gem made from Albion’s sailor suits. White long sleeves with black cuffs. The collar and scarf were deep blue in color. Three white lines ran across the collar.

And then, Saito condensed his genius into “length”. Saito, to his utmost ability, instructed Siesta to make the waist area short. By shortening the length of the upper half, it only reached to the top of the skirt. Therefore, whenever Siesta twisted her body, he could see her belly button. Saito was the real thing.

Now, the skirt. He shouldn’t have done it, but he stole Louise’s alternate uniform. It had a pleat on it, so he put it to practical use. This, as well, was shortened to the best he could. As a result, most likely the first skirt in this other world to be fifteen centimeters above the knees was created.

And then the socks. Those were the result from a clash between Saito’s preferences and reality. Saito carefully chose and arranged deep blue socks.

Shoes. They were the high-laced boots Siesta always wore. It was the only scratch in this glittering work of art. He really wanted loafers here. But sadly, loafers did not exist in this world.

Anyways, these articles were all scrutinized and coordinated by Saito.

Her big breasts, usually covered and hidden by an apron, were raised up by the hand-made sailor uniform. Her slender legs, healthy like a serow’s, were sucked into the fifteen-centimeter-above-knees skirt. Siesta usually didn’t wear such short skirts, so the mix of nostalgia and freshness made him even more emotionally moved.

“Tell me! Saito-san! What should I do, to get closer to your birthplace?!”

Saito thought. Seriously, staking his life. He recalled all kinds of patterns. Like a high-powered calculator, Saito’s head rotated.

The voice of his heart whispered.

Saito, IT CAN ONLY BE THAT.

Right. It can only be that… Only that…

With a almost-sobbing voice, he squeezed out

“Spin around.”

“Eh?”

“Round and around, turn like that. Then, after that, say ‘Sorry to keep you waiting!’ cheerfully to me.”

Siesta drew back. Saito was coinciding with the type of men her mother told her not get close to when she was young. Still, Siesta wanted to please him.

As if to prepare herself, “Y-yes…” she nodded, and Siesta spun around. Her scarf and skirt lightly flew up into the air.

ZnT04-098.jpg

“So-sorry to keep you waiting.”

“Wroooong!”

“Hii!”

“At the end, you raise a finger and go “ne”. Cheerfully. One more time.”

Nodding, Siesta repeated what she was told. Seeing this, Saito cried.

“Thank you for y-y, y, your bravery.”

Is this okay, Siesta? Is it really okay for this person? She kind of felt that from the more composed part of her, but Siesta shut off that negativity.

Every person has hobbies and preferences that they can’t tell others. Saito-san is no exception. Yeah, that’s all… Yes, that’s it! She tells herself brightly and smiled. Siesta is strong.

“What should I do next?”

“Um, next is…”

When Saito folded his arms and started pondering over this, a group of two walked over to them in an awkward manner.

It was Guiche and the fat Malicorne. An unusual duo. It seemed the two had been staring at Siesta from some shelter.

“Ehem”, Guiche coughed to grab attention.

“That is… what? What are those clothes?!”

For some reason, Guiche was furious while looking like he was going to cry. Malicorne, too, pointed to Siesta while trembling.

“O-o, o, outrageous! Absolutely outrageous! Isn’t that right?! Guiche!”

“Aah, this! I’ve never seen such an outrageous outfit before! It-it-it!”

“It directly attacks the br-br-brain!”

The two’s eyes glittered heatedly, and stared at Siesta as if to eat into her. Waaan, the headaches multiplied, Siesta felt miserable, but these two were nobles. Because she had to, Siesta forcibly smiled.

That smile and sailor uniform seemed to have completely damaged Malicorne and Guiche, since they started to draw near her in a staggering gait like a somnambulist’s. Siesta, sensing danger to her body, said “Well, I’m going back to work!” and ran away.

“How lovely…” Guiche murmured in a dreaming tone as he watched her run off.

“Absolutely…” Malicorne also murmured, spellbound.

“What did you come here for?!”

When Saito yelled, the two finally came back to their senses. Then, Guiche embraced Saito’s shoulders.

“H, hey, you. Where did you buy that outfit?”

“What do you plan to do by asking?”

Guiche said with an embarrassed smile

“Th-there is a person I want to give the outfit to as a present.”

“The Princess?”

“Idiot! Too much! That’s too much! Her Majesty the Princess is now Her Majesty the Queen! Aah, she has gone to a high place where I cannot reach… It was better when she was a princess, but now as the queen…”

What high place? You never had a chance since the beginning. Saito thought, but he decided to stay silent and listen.

“There, I finally remembered. That person who was always beside me, constantly looking at me with her lovely eyes… That beautiful blond hair. That sweet, perfume-like smile…”

Ah, his ex-girlfriend. Saito realized.

“Monmon?”

“Not Monmon! It’s Montmorency!”

“I see. You want to be close to her again. You know, you really don’t have any integrity.”

“I don’t want to be told by you. Now then, tell me. Where is that outfit sold?”

“Hmph. Like you could ever understand art.”

Saito spat out. He didn’t want someone like Guiche dishonoring his birthplace’s memories.

“It can’t be helped. I will not only report today’s events, but also ask Louise as well.”

Those were most certainly magic words.

“I still have two more. Use them as you please.”

It pulled out Saito’s maximum concession instantly.

“But still, just what is that outfit? I think I’ve seen that somewhere before… Don’t sailors wear these clothes? For, hmm, a girl to wear it and give off such charms! How mysterious.”

Folding his arms together, Saito puffed up his chest with pride.

“Of course. It has the charming magic from my birthplace cast on it.”

Now then, on the night of that day.

Montmorency, prideful of her long, curly golden hair and vivid blue eyes, was mixing a potion in her room at the dormitory. Leaning her tall body on a chair, she was engrossed in mixing a secret potion inside a pot with a wooden pestle.

Montmorency the “Fragrance”, a mage of the “water” element, had a hobby of magical medicine… potion making. And just like her second name suggested, her specialty was perfume making. The perfumes she made were known for the uniquely lovely fragrance they emit, and she was extremely popular with the ladies and town girls.

Today, Montmorency was zealously creating a certain potion.

It was not just any potion. What a thing, how wrong that it was a forbidden potion. By the country’s proclamation, it was an item forbidden to be created or used.

Montmorency sold the perfumes she made in the town and slowly saved up money. And then, today, this day, she used the money she saved up and obtained the recipe for the forbidden potion, as well as the high priced secret medicine needed for the mixing, at a dark magic store. Hobbies win over moral. Getting fed up over making normal potions, Montmorency felt like creating something forbidden despite knowing that an enormous fine would be imposed on her if she was discovered.

Along with the mashed up fragrant wood, dragon sulfur, and mandragora, at last, to pour in the essential secret medicine… the liquid that she had paid a large amount of money to obtain, she grabbed the small bottle beside her.

Just a small quantity… For just this little amount of liquid stored in the perfume bottle, Montmorency used up pretty much all of the money she had saved up. 700 in écu gold coins. An amount of money a commoner could use to live five to six years.

When she tilted the small bottle to the pot, being careful not to spill anything…

Someone knocked on the door, causing Montmorency to leap up.

“Wh-who is it… At a time like this…”

She placed the ingredients and utensils that were on the desk inside the drawer. After that, she headed towards the door while combing her hair upwards.

“Who is it?”

“It’s me! Guiche! Your eternal servant! Open this door for me!”

Whoーisーan eternal servant, Montmorency muttered. She knew about his unfaithful nature quite well. When they walked together in the town, he would get distracted and look restlessly around at the beautiful women. When they drank wine at a bar, he would make advances at the waitresses whenever she left her seat for a bit. Finally, he would forget about a date promise and go pick flowers for a girl somewhere else. It was quite annoying to hear him say ‘eternal’.

Montmorency spoke in an irritated voice.

“Why did you come here? I already broke up with you.”

“I don’t think like that at all. But if you think that way, then it is my fault… After all, see, I love beautiful things. In other words, I am a servant to beauty… Like you already know, art, that’s right, art! I’m too weak against beautiful things…”

You love art? For someone with bad tastes, you sure can say things. She thought. The color of the shirt he wore for dates was gingira violet, and she got a headache the time he came wearing a red and green scarf.

“But I’ve made sure that I will no longer accept any art except you. After all, you seem to be the most art-like. Um, like your blond hair.”

Are you an idiot?

“Go away. I am busy.”

When Montmorency said that coldly, silence fell for a while. After that, Guiche breaking down and crying could be heard in the corridor.

“I understand… Being told like that, I can only perish on this spot. If I’m hated by you, who I love, so badly, then there is no worth at all in life.”

“Do what you want.”

Men like Guiche couldn’t die just because they get rejected. Montmorency kept up her indifferent attitude.

“Now then, I want to, at least… on the door of the room you live in, I will carve proof that I have lived… that I have loved you.”

“Wh-what are you doing?! Stop that!”

The sound of something hard could be heard scratching on the door.

“The man who sacrificed himself for love, Guiche de Gramont. Destroyed by eternal love, he dies here… There.”

“Not ‘there’! Geez!”

Montmorency opened the door. Guiche was standing there with a full smile on his face.

“Montmorency! I love you! I really love you! I love you! I love you!”

And then, he embraced her tightly. Montmorency was enthralled for a moment. Anyways, Guiche continuously said “I love you”. It was because of his lack of vocabulary, but no matter how many times he said that, she didn’t feel bad.

Then, Guiche handed the bundle he was holding to Montmorency.

“…What is this?”

“Open it up. It is a present for you.”

Montmorency opened up the bundle. It was the sailor uniform. Saito had asked Siesta to remake the uniform to fit Montmorency’s body, Guiche always memorized the sizes of the girls he got along with.

“What a strange outfit…”

Montmorency raised her eyebrows.

“How about you wear it? It will definitely fit you. Your purity will be amplified manyfold. Come on. Hurry. What, I’m facing in another direction.”

Facing backwards, Guiche started to bite his nails restlessly. Seeing the inevitable, Montmorency took off her shirt and put on the outer garment.

“I’m done.”

Turning around, Guiche’s face brightened energetically.

“Aah, Montmorency~… You really are pure… My cute Montmorency~…”

While muttering that, Guiche tried to kiss her. Right away, Montmorency obstructed him.

“Monmon…”

Guiche’s face distorted sadly.

“Don’t misunderstand. I opened the door to my room, but I didn’t open this door. I haven’t decided to make up with you yet. Also, who are you calling Monmon?”

With just that, Guiche was happy. There was still some hope left.

“My Montmorency~! You feel like considering it, I see!”

“If you understand, then leave! I was in the middle of something!”

Saying “Yes, yes, of course I’ll leave. If you say so, I’ll leave any time.” Guiche left the room hopping.

Montmorency reflected herself in the mirror.

“What is this… There’s no way I could wear something so embarrassingly short-lengthed!”

Unintentionally, her face reddened. Though looking carefully, this outfit was quite cute. Guiche had purposely prepared this outfit for her sake.

Umumumu…

Well, yeah, being told “I love you” like that, she was in a pretty good mood. They were going out originally, so she didn’t hate him.

“What to do? Forgive him?”

But, she remembered the way Guiche cheated on her in the past.

Even if I go out with him again, won’t everything just repeat all over again. She was fed up with getting worried over his cheating.

What should I do? While she was thinking that, she remembered the potion she had been mixing. She opened the drawer. She saw the secret medicine inside the perfume bottle that she had hid a moment ago.

Montmorency tilted her head and started to ponder.

Uーn, it is a good trade… I can also test for the effectiveness…

How about I use this potion a bit after it is completed, Montmorency thought.

The next day, everyone’s attention focused on Montmorency simultaneously when she entered the classroom. Why, she had appeared wearing the sailor uniform.

The male students reacted quickly to this.

Sailor outfit and girl… Feeling a fresh tidiness at this exquisite grouping that they’d never imagined before, they stared engrossed at Montmorency. In regards to the way the guys reacted, the female students quickly felt jealousy and envy, and they glared at her.

Montmorency managed to monopolize the glances of everyone in the class, so she was in a good mood. Putting her hand on her hip, she looked upwards and pridefully put on airs and headed to her seat. Louise was also staring at Montmorency while gaping. If I’m right, isn’t that the sailor outfit of the Albion army that Saito bought in town?

Louise poked Saito, who was beside her and shivering for some reason.

“Hey, aren’t those the clothes you bought? Why is Montmorency wearing it?”

“Ah, aah… Well, ehe, ah, Guiche told me to give it to him…”

Louise remembered that Guiche and Montmorency had been going out with each other.

“Why did you give it to Guiche?” Saito started shivering even more.

“Eh? Because, he said he wanted it…”

Louise felt something suspicious from Saito’s attitude.

“Heey, are you hiding something from me?” She glared ferociously at him.

“Eh? Eeeh? I’m not hiding anything! Come on now…”

Saito felt damp cold sweat streaming down him. He didn’t think Montmorency would wear it to class.

Crap, if Louise finds out it was a present for Siesta…

Louise would definitely get angry. It seems that this girl finds it boring when I, her familiar, get along with other girls. Even though she doesn’t love me or anything, she can’t forgive that.

Definitely, just like Louise always says, “Ignoring your master and getting along with other girls” irritates her.

What the heck? Anyways, her desire was to monopolize her familiar, Saito interpreted. She was getting mad at him because her pet dog was more attached to others than her. Never in his wildest dreams did Saito think Louise harbored feelings for him. Very Saito-like, a considerably roundabout way to misunderstand.

Aah, when she found out I took a bath with Siesta a while ago, it was horrible. Resentfully, Saito looked at the restraints that were once again placed on him.

That incident… If Louise found out he had Siesta wear a sailor uniform and enjoyed the skirt spinning… His face stiffened in fear.

Hung on the ceiling, and send electricity at him repeatedly…

In the end, taste an attack of “Void”…

Get scattered like that straw bundle…

I might die…

Saito started shivering violently. Don’t shiver, it’ll be suspicious! The more he thought that, the more he shivered. In the end, should I have just presented that sailor uniform to Louise in the first place? No, the high-prided Louise would never wear it. Besides, Siesta fits the sailor uniform better. Her hair is black, and she’s one-eighth Japanese. Louise’s pink-blond wouldn’t fit the sailor uniform. Her body is small too, so it would get baggy.

What?

Th-that’s it! Damn, that would be quite good too. Th-that would have been good too. Damn! Calculation error! What have I done……?

Saito shook his head to chase out those delusions. Either way, all I wanted was to enjoy the atmosphere from my birthplace. There is nothing to feel guilty about. It’s a lie, but not.

His face was ghastly blue, he was violently shivering, and was muttering under his breath, so it wasn’t just Louise that found him suspicious.

“Hey. What are you hiding? I won’t forgive you if you hide something from me.”

Louise’s eyes hung up.

“I-I’m not hiding anything.”

Too suspicious. Louise tried to question him again, but she had to give up when the teacher entered the classroom.

When school ended, Saito left an absolutely impossible reason of “I have to feed the pigeons” and disappeared out of the classroom.

“When did he get a pigeon?”

Louise muttered with a very grumpy face. For some reason, a really bad premonition could be felt.

Saito ran to the kitchen. He hadn’t been able to talk to Siesta because she looked busy during lunch and Louise’s surveillance was severe.

Seeing Saito, who was panting by the time he got there, Siesta’s face shined happily.

“Waah! Saito-san!”

The head cook, old man Marteau, also came up to him and wrapped his thick arm around Saito’s neck.

“Hey! Our sword! It’s been a while!”

“He-hello…”

“Yai! Lately, you haven’t been coming here! Siesta’s always so lonely, you know!”

“Wahahaha” Came laughing voices throughout the kitchen. Becoming bright red in the face, Siesta, who had been washing stuff, grasped a plate tightly. Saito quickly drew his mouth near Siesta’s ear.

“Siesta.”

“Ye-yes…”

“About those clothes… When you’re done with your job, could you bring them with you?”

“Eh?”

“Let’s see… Someplace where no one will see us is good… In the Vestri plaza, there’s a staircase leading up a tower, right? Bring them there.”

Siesta blushed in amazement.

Afterwards, Saito jogged off and disappeared.

“Aah… I’m…”

“What’s wrong, Siesta. A promise for a rendezvous?”

Hooting came flying, but they no longer entered Siesta’s ears. Her face completely reddened, Siesta whispered absentmindedly.

“What should I do? Aah, I’m, going to be snatched away…”

Now then, on the other side, Louise was walking around the school and searching for her familiar.

Ever since he said he was going to feed his pigeon, Saito had not shown himself.

Getting to the tower of fire, she peeked inside Mister Colbert’s laboratory. Even if you call it a laboratory, it’s just a worn-out shack. Whenever Colbert had free time, he usually hung out in there.

But, Saito was not there. Colbert, by himself, was doing something noisily to the Dragon’s Raiment that was left in front of his laboratory.

Louise asked Colbert.

“Mister Colbert, have you seen Saito?”

“I don’t know… He hasn’t come here for two or three days.”

Louise looked at the Zero fighter and was astonished. The engine part of the nose had been removed from the body and placed on the ground, and it had been tragically disassembled.

“Oh, this! I just got interested in the structure. I didn’t get permission from Saito-kun, but I lightly disassembled it. It’s complicated, but theoretically speaking, it is not much different from the ‘Joyful Snake-kun’ I designed. Still, this is quite a fragile thing. If it flies once, it has to be precisely disassembled and have the parts looked over. Otherwise, not only will it fail to perform to its original efficiency, there is also a chance it will break…”

Colbert finally started talking about the engine’s structure and maintenance.

“Ha, hah… Well then, pardon me.”

Louise didn’t really have interest in that conversation, so she bowed her head and started to run once again. Colbert shouted at her back.

“Miss! If you meet Saito-kun, tell him this! I have placed a surprising new weapon onto this ‘Dragon’s Raiment’!

The next place Louise visited was the tower of wind. In the magic academy, towers were arranged into a pentagram with the main tower in the center. The tower of wind was one of them. It was mostly only used for lessons. There was only one entrance.

Louise witnessed the suspicious shadow of a person disappearing through the door into the tower. Whitish clothing… a large collar.

Clearly, it was the sailor outfit worn by Montmorency just a while ago.

Who is it? If it was Montmorency, then it would be blond hair… The person who entered a moment ago had black hair. Louise secretly followed the person.

Opening the door to the tower of wind, she ran straight down the corridor that had semicircular rooms arranged to the left and right.

Slowly pushing the door open, she heard the sound of footsteps steadily climbing up the staircase.

After Louise held her breath on the first floor for a while, she pursued after the person. She heard the sound of a door opening and closing on the second floor.

To keep herself from making sounds from her footsteps, Louise cautiously came up to the door. There, Louise leaned her body closely to it. This should be the warehouse. Just what does the person wearing the white sailor outfit plan to do here?

Louise pushed back her pink-blond hair and placed her ear on the door. She heard a strange voice from inside. An intermittent one……

“Haah, Nn, Haahaa…”

That kind of voice. Louise’s eyebrows bent into a “へ”. Because it was small, she could not figure out who it was.

But, it was a guy’s.

At a place like this, calling out someone wearing those garments… A person who can make those voices…

Louise thought up a terrible delusion inside her mind.

“Haa! Cu-cu, cute…”

Cute? At that moment, something flipped inside Louise’s head.

Baang! She opened the door and pounced into the room.

“What are you doing?!”

“Hiiiiii!”

The person there turned around. The person was wearing the sailor outfit, and what’s more, was wearing a skirt below. Sure enough, it was the fat Malicorne.

“Ma-Ma, Malicorne?”

“Louise!” Malicorne tried to run and escape, but he wasn’t used to the skirt, so his feet got tangled in it and he fell over.

“Ah! Nna! Ah! Fua! AAH!”

Malicorne shouted while writhing on the floor. With the look of an ogre, Louise trampled on Malicorne’s back. In the warehouse was an old mirror. The “Liar’s Mirror”. It was a mirror that reflected ugly things beautifully and beautiful things unattractively, but for various reasons, it almost got broken, so it was shut here. It seemed Malicorne was finding self-satisfaction in reflecting himself in the mirror. What a preposterous pleasure.

“Why are you wearing that?”

“No, it was just too lovely… Bu-but, I don’t have anyone to wear it for me…”

“So you wore it yourself?”

“Th-that’s right! Is that wrong? I-I have to wear it myself! Guiche has Montmorency and your commoner of a familiar has that maid from the kitchen! But, I don’t have a girlfriennnnnd!”

“What did you say? What about Saito and the maid?”

Louise’s eyes went up.

“Eh? Well, he had the maid wear these clothes and spin around… Aah, it was moving! Just thinking back to it, my heart feels burnt from those lovely senses! That’s why I should at least reflect myself in this mirror wearing it as a memento of that memory… Aaah, I… I’m such a lovely fairy… AAAaaaaahh!”

Malicorne shouted. Louise trampled that face with her foot.

“Silence.”

“Ah! Aah! Ah! Louise! Ah! Louise! Being stepped on by a beautiful girl like you… I feel like I’ll lose my sense! Clear away my sins! Let me repent for it! Crush my sins of losing control over myself from acting like a lovely fairy in a place like this! There’s something wrong with me! Ah! Ah! Nnnnaaaaaaaaa!”

Just like that, Louise trampled Malicorne’s face and caused him to faint.

“Yeah, there is something wrong with you.”

Louise muttered, her shoulders moving up and down from anger.

“I see… So that is what it was about… The maid is that good… So she’s so good that you would give her a lovely outfit as a present… Plus, you had fun making her spin around and around? Don’t joke with me.”

Tightly squeezing her hands into fists, Louise growled.

“That familiar. Even though he kissed me.”

At the corner of the appointed place, Vestri Plaza, Siesta came up to the staircase of the tower of fire after night had completely fallen. After her job ended, it took time to clean her body with a bath and finish dressing up.

She headed towards the landing of the staircase, but Saito was not there. There were only two barrels there. The surroundings were dim. Siesta worriedly looked around her.

“Saito-san…”

Discouragingly muttering that, the cover of a barrel opened up with a sound.

Siesta instinctively backed off, but Saito popped up from inside it.

“Siesta.”

“Wah! Saito-san! Why are you there?!”

“Well, there were some circumstances… Wai-, eh?”

Saito looked at Siesta’s appearance and his eyes widened. She was wearing that handmade sailor uniform.

“Y-you came wearing it?”

“Eh, yes… Because, I thought Saito-san would be happier if I wore this.”

Crap. I should have said return it, instead of bring it. There’s no way I can tell her to take it off right here. While Saito was panicking like that, Siesta spun around and stood a finger in front of her face.

The skirt lightly soared up.

“Un, um… Th-thanks for waiting.”

Then Siesta smiled brightly. C, cute. Saito involuntarily blushed.

At that time, the sound of a barrel shaking behind them happened.

Siesta went “Kyaa!” and clung to Saito.

“Nyaa, nyaa” came the cry of a cat.

Saito stroked his chest in relief.

“Oh, just a cat…”

But, the problem wasn’t the cat. Siesta was pressing her breasts on him. They were squashed by Saito’s chest, and the handmade sailor uniform freely changed its shape.

Saito’s face paled. Th-th-th, this sensation is.

“S-Siesta, um…”

“What is it?”

“You aren’t wearing a bra?”

Siesta looked blankly at him.

“What is a bra?”

“Eh? Eeeeehhh? You know, to the breasts, like this, protect it…”

But, Siesta still looked blankly at him. It seems there are no bras in this world.

“I do wear drawers and a corset under my shirt when I am in my maid outfit though…”

Then she blushed.

“But, I am not wearing anything right now. Drawers would show if I wore it along with this short skirt…”

“What are drawers?”

“Eh? Um, undershorts.”

Aah, those things that look like expanded spats.

Haah, so her breasts are like this when she isn’t wearing a corset. Saito thought while looking up at the sky. He felt that he would get a nosebleed if he didn’t do so.

More importantly, there are no bras? I see. Now that I think about it, when I was washing Louise’s underwear, I have memories of washing panties, chemise, and corsets, but no memories of bras. I thought it was because she didn’t have breasts, but it seems bras themselves don’t exist.

Also, while noble girls can wear laced underwear, it can’t be the same way with commoner girls like Siesta, right? Eh? She isn’t wearing anything right now?

Wh-which means……

“You’re so mean, Saito-san… I do not possess any small laced underwear like the nobles do… Yet, you have me wear such a, such a short skirt…”

In other words, she isn’t wearing it.

INDEED!

Inside his head, fanfare resounded like banbakabaanbanbonbanbanbakabaan.

First place. Siesta-san, first placeー

Siesta tightly leaned her body on Saito. Hugged his shoulders. Slowly, Siesta drew her lips closer to Saito’s.

“U, um… Are, are we going to do it here?”

“Eh?”

“Well, yes, I am a village girl, so, um, I don’t mind the location, but, um…”

“Siesta?”

“A more, um, cleaner place that people wouldn’t go to would be better. Ah, but this is just a wish! So if Saito-san says this place is good, then I am fine too. Aah, I’m scared. After all, this is my first time. Mother, forgive me. I’m going to finally be snatched away here.”

It seemed she was really misunderstanding things. Saito only wanted her to return the sailor uniform here. But Siesta thought she was going to be snatched away.

The moment he thought that he needed to explain…

Behind them, the cover of the other barrel popped straight up.

“Wh, what?!”

When Saito turned around, the fallen barrel cover directly hit his head.

“Gyaa!”

Then from inside the barrel, a silhouette stood up as the ground shook thunderously. Actually, the only thing that shook was the barrel, but it felt like the actual ground was trembling. That was just how angry the person inside the barrel was.

“L-Louise?”

Saito muttered with a trembling voice. Siesta was frightened by Louise, whose head was poking out of the barrel, and hid in Saito’s shadow.

“Wh-why are you inside a barrel…?”

“I was tailing you and saw you secretly hide inside a barrel, so I copied you and hid inside the barrel beside you. I was really careful to not make a sound. But, I hit the barrel in anger a bit. The ‘nyaa, nyaa’ part.”

Aah, that cat’s cry was Louise. All of it, completely, she had heard our conversation just now. Louise’s face was pale with anger. Her eyes raised up, her whole body was trembling like an earthquake. With a completely trembling voice, Louise murmured.

“That’s quite a wonderful pigeon you’re raising, isn’t it. Heeh. A lovely outfit as a present, huh. Fine. I am kind, so I’ll forgive something like that. I don’t really mind you ignoring your master and sending your pigeon presents.”

“Louise, listen.”

“But, that pigeon said this. ‘You have me wear such a short skirt’. Without any underwear, ‘you have me wear such a short skirt’. The best. That’s the best joke this century.”

“Louise! Listen! Please!”

“Relax. It won’t hurt. With my “Void”, I won’t leave a speck of you left.”

Setting up her “Founder’s Prayer Book”, Louise began to chant her spell. Sensing danger to his life, Saito instinctively grasped Derflinger hung on his back.

Siesta had become scared and hid herself in a shelter.

“What is with you? Are you planning to oppose your master? Isn’t that interesting?”

Louise muttering that was scary. More than a battleship, more than a dragoon, more than an orc demon, more than Wardes… Louise was scarier than anything up to now.

Saito’s body trembled stiffly.

What’s with this intensity…

I-i, is this “Void”…

“Partner, give up.”

Derflinger whispered in a bored manner. Demonstrating foolhardiness, Saito pulled out his sword.

“Vo-vo-vo-void isn’t anything! Bring it on!”

The rune on Saito’s left hand shone… Louise swung her wand down half-way though her chanting. Boom! And the area in front of Saito exploded.

Being swallowed by the flash, Saito was blown off the landing and struck the ground below.

After striking the ground, Saito’s face distorted with fear, and he stood up and ran away. Louise peeked out from the landing and shouted.

“Wait!”

Like I’d wait. If I wait, I’d die. Absolutely die.

Primeval fear took over Saito’s mind. Saito, while falling over, desperately ran.

Louise chased after him.

Guiche was trying his very best in Montmorency’s room to woo his lover.

About how Montmorency’s appearance was like a rose, like a wild rose, like a white rose, how her eyes were like blue roses, anyways, he used roses and complimented her, and then he extolled her by using the spirit of water as comparison.

Montmorency, being no exception among the Tristain nobles, was proud and conceited, so she did not hate flattery. However, her back was turned to Guiche, and she, acting, looked out the window wearily. It was the “Compliment me more” sign.

Seeing this, Guiche searched his head even more and unleashed words to attract her affection.

“In front of you, wouldn’t the spirit of water run away? See, this hair… It is like a golden grassland. It’s a sea of glittering stars. Aah, any female besides you can no longer enter my eye.”

Guiche kept going in and out of the room, and he had already spat out enough lines to make a drama. I guess this should be enough Montmorency thought.

Slowly, still facing backwards, she gently held out her left hand to Guiche. “Aah” Guiche let out a moan of wonder and kissed that hand.

“Aah, my Montmorency~…”

Guiche tried to bring his lips near hers, but it was stopped by her finger.

“Before that, let us drink some wine. Since you went through the trouble of bringing it here.”

“Of, of course!”

On the top of the table, a vase with flowers in it, a bottle of wine, and two ceramic glasses were placed.

Guiche had come to Montmorency’s room carrying those in his hand.

Guiche hurriedly poured the wine into the glass. Doing so, Montmorency suddenly pointed out the window.

“Oh? A naked princess is flying in the sky.”

“Eh? Where? Where, where?”

Guiche’s eyes widened and stared outside the window as if to eat into it. W-h-a-t i-s “any female besides you can no longer enter my eye”, it seems that I have to use this. While thinking that, Montmorency secretly poured the contents of the small bottle she had hidden in her sleeves into Guiche’s wine cup. The transparent fluid dissolved into the wine.

Montmorency smiled sweetly.

“Just a lie. Well, let us toast.”

“Come on now, don’t startle me like that…” The moment Guiche said that, the door opened with a bam and a whirlwind flew in.

Guiche was sent flying and tumbled onto the floor. It was Saito.

“Haa, haa, haa… Hi-hi-hi”

“Why are you here?!”

“Hide me!”

While saying that, Saito jumped in Montmorency’s bed.

“Hey! Is there anyone who would jump into Montmorency’s bed! Leave! You!”

“Wait, what are you doing?! Entering someone’s room as you please…”

When Montmorency crossed her arms and shouted at Saito, another whirlwind flew into the room. Montmorency was sent flying and struck her nose severely on the floor.

“Louise!”

Guiche yelled. Why, it was Louise who had lost herself in anger.

“Wh-wh-wh, what are you two doing?!”

“Shut up! Where’s Saito!”

Being pressured by Louise’s threatening attitude, Guiche and Montmorency exchanged glances and pointed at the bed. There was a thick bulge in the futon, shivering slightly.

In a low voice, Louise ordered towards the bed.

“Saito, come out.”

A stiffened voice came out of the futon.

“Saito isn’t here.”

Louise picked up the wine glass from the table. Montmorency went “Ah!” in a quiet voice, but it was too late. Louise drank it all in one gulp.

“Buhah! I got thirsty from the running. Everything is all your fault. Fine, I’ll be the one to go to you.”

Louise pulled away the bed’s futon.

Saito was there trembling.

“Prepare yourself… Nna?”

The moment she looked at him and said that, Louise’s emotions changed.

Louise had chased Saito around because she couldn’t forgive him for giving other girls presents despite having kissed her. If you kiss a girl like Louise, it is going to get troublesome.

In other words, it was a problem of pride.

But, the moment she saw Saito just now, her feelings toward Saito jumped straight up. Until then, well, she vaguely liked him. She wouldn’t accept it herself, but she liked him. That was probably why she was so jealous…

In this moment, she loved with no hamper at all. That emotion was so big, even Louise herself was bewildered. Without thinking, Louise covered her cheeks with her hands.

Oh my… I liked him this much?

I loved him this… this much?

Tears overflowed from Louise’s eyes.

Her feelings of sadness were bigger than her feelings of anger. She liked him so much, so why didn’t Saito look at her. It was so sad, Louise started to sob.

“Louise?”

ZnT04-130.jpg

Saito suspiciously looked at Louise, whose attitude had completely reversed, and stood up. Guiche was also watching Louise, who had suddenly started crying, with a surprised look.

Montmorency was holding her head and going “Oh no~~”. The drug she had intended Guiche to drink had been drunk by Louise.

“Hey, Louise…”

Louise looked up at Saito and clung to his chest.

“Idiot!”

“Eh?”

“Idiot, idiot! Why? Why?”

Louise started hitting Saito.

“Louise, you… Just what…”

Even though she was angry like fire up to now, her attitude was completely different. Saito panicked.

“Why won’t you look at me! That’s so mean! Uwee~~~~n!”

Louise buried her face in Saito’s chest and wept.

 

 

Chapter Four: Tabitha’s Secret

A few days before, in the late morning of the day Louise had been chasing Saito around.

Kirche and Tabitha sat in the horse drawn carriage. They had travelled from the southeast, from the magic academy. Kirche stretched her head out the window and gasped.

“Tabitha! Check it out! Cows! Cows! Look! There are a lot!”

The ranch was on both sides of the road and cows were grazing.

“They are grazing! Moo, Moomoo!”

However Tabitha didn’t respond. She continued to read her book as usual. Feeling bored, Kirche stretched both her arms out.

“Hey, Tabitha. It is a long awaited return home from school, shouldn’t you be more happy?”

Since Louise and Saito weren’t here because they had been called to the royal palace, when she came to Tabitha’s room to play, she was shocked to find her packing her luggage.

“Are you going on a trip?” Kirche asked her.

Tabitha answered that she had to go back home to see her mother. Though Tabitha was reticent as always, Kirche felt something different in her voice. So Kirche and Tabitha took the trip together.

Because Tabitha’s family sent a coach, they had no need to use her wind dragon. Instead, it circled above them in the sky during the trip carrying Kirche’s Salamander on its back.

“Since the school had given us a formal approval for our leave, it won’t be counted as an absence and we don’t have to worry about having to clean the tower as punishment.”

Tabitha continued to look at her book without answering. I’ve been her friend for more than three years, and I still don’t know what she is thinking.

Kirche decided to try and spark a different conversation.

“This is the first time I learned that your motherland isn’t Tristain, but Gallia. You are an exchange student?”

They were soon passing the border, Kirche had already asked Principal Osman to sign and issue papers allowing for her safe passage.

Kirche had a vague sense that Tabitha’s name was a pseudonym… But she had never asked her about the origin of her name.

Tabitha. It was actually a quite common name. Even the commoners would use better names. It was the kind of name that could be given to cats.

She had always thought that Tabitha was perhaps hiding that she belonged to a distinguished aristocrat family of Tristain, but it appeared she was wrong, she actually belonged to the nobility of the ancient Kingdom of Gallia that bordered with Germania.

The land of Halkeginia was prominent to the ocean and had a gentle arc, creating a giant peninsula. Only the original people of the land knew of the words to describe it.

Gallia was located in the southeast and Germania, Kirche’s home country, was in the northeast. Tristain was between the two and its size was equivalent to the Netherlands plus Belgium mentioned in Saito’s world.

The territories of these two countries was around ten times the size of Tristain. The people of Tristain called their own motherland the ‘small country’ in self-ridicule.

On the small peninsula in the south facing the sea, countries like Germania had to fight for local hegemony. The religious country of Romalia was involved in the fight over hegemony; the office of the pope advocated the beliefs of the Founder Brimir and the gods. Incidentally Cardinal Mazarini had come from Romalia.

Towards the east of Halkeginia, there was uncivilized ground where barbarians and demons lived. Further to the east was a vast desert where Elves who could reclaim the barren ground, were protecting the Holy Lands. If we continue east, there was the unknown continent of Rub’ al Khali.

Constantly floating above the ocean and the mainland of Halkeginia was the floating continent of Albion. Stricktly speaking, Albion wasn’t a part of the mainland of Halkeginia.

Kirche turned to ask Tabitha,

“Why did you study abroad?”

However, Tabitha didn’t reply to Kirche’s words. She continued to sit and read her book as she had before. Then Kirche suddenly noticed something. The page in her book never changed, it was the same from before. Tabitha had been staring at the same identical page the entire time.

Kirche decided not to ask her again. Whatever her reasons were for studying abroad or returning home, she would wait till Tabitha told her about it by herself. She understood that at that time, when Tabitha was packing her luggage surrounded by the different atmosphere.

Even though they were of different ages they had become friends, and not just because they went to the same school.

To become friends, there are things that the two sides shall not force the other to speak of.

Tabitha who might not open her mouth very often. Kirche being concerned as a senior.

Both of them had their own reason for passing through the border and having gone to Tristain.

As they travelled, Kirche recalled the various political situations of the various countries. Although she had no interest in politics.

However with the rumors of war floating around she couldn’t help but speculate within her mind.

Gallia was still neutral and was staying silent over the invasion of Tristain by Albion. Even though a threat could be felt from the political change in Albion and their new government. A proposal of alliance was made by Tristain but it was rejected. It was very likely that they were going to maintain their neutrality as long as their own territory was safe.

A rumor she had heard however hinted that Gallia was giving rise to the domestic civil strife crisis. With all these internal and external political problems it wasn’t easy to imagine the headaches political rulers were facing.

She continued to accompany Tabitha to the Kingdom of Gallia. Although they were travelling as tourists, Kirche had a bad premonition that the possibility of something going wrong was strong.

As she was thinking of this she absent-mindedly stuck her head out the window of the carriage.

A line of pedestrians appeared ahead of the horse drawn carriage. Kirche’s attention was grasped by this line of a little less than ten pedestrians. All of them were wearing hooded capes covering their faces.

Kirche noticed that they were all carrying magic wands, they were nobles. Upon another look, the shape of their wands seemed to indicate that they were in fact soldiers. Because it was a time of war, this sort of thing was not unusual.

The horse rushed forward to advance.

Through a gap in the hooded cape, she could see the face of one of the nobles. It was the eyes of a clearly handsome young man. She leaned her head on her hand and sighed.

“A handsome guy, in the place where I am.”

After that she noticed it suddenly. I think I know him by sight.

“Where have I seen… Who is he…”

She gazed on at him while he was still in sight, her heat rising then cooling. Her enthusiasm soon left when she could no longer see him, he soon became forgotten.

Kirche moved forward and looked at Tabitha. Her limpid blue eyes hidden behind her glasses stared down at the same page of her book.

Gently putting her hand on Tabitha’s shoulder, she said in her usual optimistic voice:

“It doesn’t matter. No matter what happens, I will be together with you.”

So they continued to travel for two more days till they reached the frontier.

At the border checkpoint the guards read their papers and allowed them to enter through. Here was Gallia. The languages and the cultures of Gallia and Tristain resembled each other. They were also known as “the twin crowns”.

When they arrived at the border crossing, the guards approached demanding proof for their trip. Holding huge spears the men opened the doors upon confirming Tabitha’s and Kirche’s travel permits.

He looked at it and said hesitatingly:

“The road up ahead can’t be used anymore, you’ll have to make a detour.”

“Why, what’s going on?”

“Because recently the lake overflowed and several roads are already completely flooded.”

The Ragdorian Lake was a big lake that stretched along the border of Gallia and Tristain. It was the place with the most beautiful scenery in Halkeginia and had a big reputation.

After advancing for a while along the road, they finally reached an open place. The road was located at the edge of a small number of gentle hills, and the widening of highways separated from the Ragdorian Lake. On the other side of the shore of the lake was Tristain.

As the guards had said, the water level of the lake seemed certainly to have gone up. Without even being able to see the border of the lake, they could witness that the water had already submerged some of the nearby hills. The flowers and the grass inundated by the water could be seen.

Tabitha closed the book and looked through the window to the outside.

“Is your home near here?”

“Soon.”

It was the first time Tabitha had opened her mouth ever since they had gotten in the carriage. However she became silent once again.

Turning onto a mountain road, the horse drawn carriage continued to advance forward to Tabitha’s family home. They entered a forest and reached a place where many big oak trees were growing. Farmers were taking a rest in the shaded glade.

Kirche noticed a farmer with a basket of apples and called for the carriage to stop. Then she yelled out to the farmer.

“Those look like some delicious apples, for how much do you sell them to me?”

The farmer took an apple from the basket and passed it to Kirche in exchange for several copper coins.

“There is enough money here to buy the entire basket!”

“Two will be enough.”

Kirche took a bite into the apple as the farmer handed the second apple to her. Kirche quickly gave it to Tabitha. She went onto say:

“This apple is really good. What is this piece of land called?”

“The area around Ragdorian is a direct control territory.”

“Huh? Direct control territory?”

Territory directly held and managed by the King.

“This land is under direct rule by his highness, and we are now his vassals.” The farmer said smiling.

The land was truly fertile and seemed to be something out of a painting with its picturesque beauty. Why the King wanted the land was understandable.

Kirche turned to look at Tabitha.

“This territory is ruled by your family… are you…”

After about ten minutes they could finally see Tabitha’s house up ahead. It was an old feudal lord mansion, splendidly built.

Kirche was looking at the carved crest that could be seen at the gate. She was breathless. The emblem was two magic wands intersecting and had the inscription “to advance”

This was the Gallian royal family crest.

However, when approaching, a crack could be seen on the crest. It was a sign of dishonor. Although it meant that this was the royal family, they were stripped of their rights.

The carriage stopped in front of the gates, and an old servant approached, bowed, and opened the door for Tabitha to come out.

“Miss, welcome back.”

No other people came and it made Kirche feel as though it was deserted. She got down from the carriage while thinking this. Tabitha and Kirche arrived in the living room with guidance by the old servant.

The room was very neat, however it was strangely quiet, almost appearing spiritless. It looked like a temple preparing for a funeral.

Kirche sat herself down on the living room sofa and said:

“Can we first say hello to your father?”

However Tabitha shook her head.

“Wait here.”

She then left the living room.

Kirche sat on the sofa and looked to her right as the old servant approached with wine and dessert and set them before her. But she didn’t touch them and instead asked him directly:

“This is her home, and yet it seems besides you no one else lives here.”

“I’m the butler of the Orléans family, Percerin. Are you Miss Charlotte’s friend?”

Kirche nodded. Charlotte d’Orléans seems to be Tabitha’s real name.

Orléans, Orléans, she kept thinking of the name, and then suddenly she thought of something. Orléans, isn’t it the family name of the younger brother of the King of Gallia?

“Why is there a dishonor sign on the crest of this house?”

“It appears you are a foreigner, please forgive me, can I ask for your name?”

“I’m Germania’s von Zerbst. By the way what on earth is this house? Why has Tabitha gone to study abroad using a fake name? Why when she was just a child?”

The butler listened to Kirche’s questions and then sighed.

“The Miss calls herself Tabitha… I see… she has never brought a friend before. Since it’s a person to whom she has opened herself, it shouldn’t be a problem to tell you the story.”

After that Percerin bowed deeply and then continued to talk.

“This residence is in fact a prison.”

Tabitha knocked at the door of the deepest room in the residence. There was no answer. It was normal here.

Over the past five years, no one had ever opened the door when it was knocked on. At that time Tabitha was just ten years old.

Tabitha opened the door.

The inside of the room was of a different layout than the rest of the mansion. The only things in the room were a bed, the table, and a chair. Nothing else. The cool breeze flowed in through the open window. The curtains rippled as the wind pushed against them. The inside of the room wasn’t disturbed by the intrusion.

Holding a doll tightly with her hands. There was a thin and tall woman. What remained of her beautiful face was now gone because of a disease. She was between thirty five and forty years old, but she looked twenty years old.

She peeped at Tabitha with terrified eyes just like a child.

“Who is it?”

Tabitha bowed deeply while approaching the woman.

“I have returned, mother.”

However the woman didn’t acknowledge Tabitha as her daughter. Not only that, but she also turned coldly to Tabitha and said:

“Go away, you insolent girl! Are you a spy of the royal family? You want to snatch my beautiful daughter Charlotte from my hands? I will never give Charlotte to you!”

Tabitha didn’t respond and kept her head bowed.

“How horrible to even pretend that this child would one day aim for the throne…

I have had enough of dirty court life! We just want a quiet life… just leave me now!”

The mother threw the glass of water on the table at Tabitha. Tabitha didn’t avoid it. It struck her head and rolled on the floor.

The mother returned to rubbing the doll’s face. Part of its face was exposed and revealed the cotton underneath, most likely worn out from all the previous times the mother had rubbed it with her hand.

Tabitha revealed a sad smile, an expression she would only show in this room in front of her mother.

“Your husband has been killed, that’s why you are this way; anyhow, I will be leaving now, but I will come back sooner or later. Until that day, please pray for your daughter-doll’s safety.”

The wind blew into the room through the open windows, shaking the curtains. Even though it was early summer, the wind that blew from the lake was chilly.

“A victim of a succession fight?” When Kirche asked it, Percerin nodded.

“Yes, it happened five years ago with the death of the King. He left behind two crown princes. The one on the throne now is the eldest son, Joseph. Miss Charlotte’s father, the Duke of Orleans, was the second son.”

“So she really does belong to the royal family.”

“The Duke of Orleans was talented and loved by all and appeared as a qualified ruler in the eyes of the people, even though he had to meet hardships being the second son. Because of this, many people supported the Duke and wanted him to take the throne. The palace was then divided into two factions, launching into an ugly struggle for power.

Finally, the Duke of Orleans was murdered. He was struck in the chest with a poisoned arrow. A person who was nobler than anyone else in this country was killed not by magic, but by a poisoned arrow. The regret and the indignation were unimaginable. However the tragedy was far from over.”

Percerin took a deep breath and continued.

“Next those who made Joseph the King started targeting the Miss. They wanted to stamp out the source of any possible future trouble. These people summoned Madame and the Miss to a banquet in their honor. However they had poisoned the Miss’ drink. Madame had realized this, and in order to protect the Miss, drank it herself. A magic which breaks one’s mind had been cast on the water. Since then, Madame has been insane.”

Kirche, shocked and at a loss for words, was listening to the butler’s confession.

“Since then, the Miss sealed away her words and expressions. Miss Charlotte originally was lively and bright, a different person than she is now. However it is understandable. Anyone who would witness their mother going mad would become like that.

The others, knowing they had failed and in order to protect themselves, sent a royal order to Miss Charlotte. The task was extremely difficult, no one had been able to accomplish it alive.

However the Miss did complete the task and pledged her loyalty to the royal family, to protect them. But Miss Charlotte was still treated coldly by the royal family. Normally this achievement would have been enough to deserve a territory, but instead she was granted the title of Chevalier and was forced to study abroad.

The Madame stayed here at the house, in the current condition she is in.”

Percerin bit his lip with regrets.

“Then…! Whenever the royal family had a difficult task to be done, they asked her to do their dirty work? Her father was killed, her mother was poisoned and driven insane, and she is led and directed by her personal enemies like a beast of burden! I never knew something could be as tragic as this, how people could be so cruel to this level.”

Kirche now realized why Tabitha had remained silent. She had never known the reason why she was given the title of Chevalier was for a task she didn’t apply for.

On their travels she had remained staring at the same page in her book.

Her runic name was ‘Snowstorm’. Cold wind had been blowing inside her heart and it still hadn’t ceased. This cold feeling she felt, Kirche thought, was unimaginable.

“Didn’t you say that the Miss introduces herself as Tabitha?”

“Yes.”

“Madame was a very busy person, however, the young Miss kept an open and bright disposition. The young Miss was in fact quite lonely. Madame had gone into the city and had selected a doll especially for the young Miss during her busy schedule. The Miss was very happy and treated it as though it were a sister. Now the doll is in the hands of Madame. Because of the current state of her mind, she believes the doll to be Miss Charlotte.”

Kirche was startled.

“Tabitha. That is the name the young Miss gave to the doll.”

Suddenly the door opened and Tabitha walked in.

The butler bowed, hiding his painful expression and handed her a letter from the royal family.

“These are the instructions from the royal family.”

Tabitha removed the seal after receiving the letter and began to read it casually. When she had finished reading it she nodded lightly.

“When do you intend to begin?”

Tabitha answered as if she was just scheduling a stroll.

“Tomorrow.”

“Understood, I will convey this to the envoys. I wish you safety on your completion of this task.”

The butler bowed solemnly and left the room. Tabitha walked over to Kirche.

“Wait here.”

Kirche shook her head.

“Sorry, I heard everything, I’m also coming.”

“Dangerous.”

“I can’t let you go alone.”

Tabitha didn’t answer. However she lowered her head lightly.

That night the two slept together in the same room. As soon as Tabitha had hit the bed, she had fallen asleep. Kirche was sleepless and lay on the sofa with one hand under the pillow.

Tabitha had explained to Kirche what the task would require of her, and asked Kirche if she would indeed come.

“Although I promised… this certainly will be no ordinary task.”

It was very likely that they could die attempting to complete this task. But as a noble, the risk of death had always been in the not so distant future. Compared to that, she was more worried about this child.

What incredible loneliness this child might have endured?

Tabitha was turning over in her bed. With her glasses now gone, her sleeping face was the one of an innocent young girl.

ZnT04-148.jpg

It didn’t show that she was shouldering unhappiness that didn’t suit her age, the distinguished services that had conferred her the title of Chevalier and the difficult assignment that she had to complete.

“Mom.”

Tabitha muttered in her sleep. Kirche’s shoulders reacted to the word.

“Mom, don’t drink it. Mom.”

Tabitha called for her mother many times while sleeping. Her forehead constantly kept sweating with more intensity after each call.

Kirche gently stood up, laid on the bed next to Tabitha, embracing her closely. Tabitha buried her head in Kirche’s chest. Her heartbeat passed on to Tabitha as they lay there, it might have felt like a mother’s.

Tabitha soon became calm again, her night sweat leaving her.

As for Kirche, she thought that she somehow understood the reason why Tabitha treated her as a friend. Her heart hadn’t been totally frozen, some warmth still remained within it. Only that the ice wind that flowed blocked it. She might have felt that the fire inside Kirche could melt it.

Kirche, while slowly falling asleep, said in a gentle manner:

“Hey Charlotte. The ‘Ardent’ warms and melts everything, so you can rest at ease.”

 

 

Chapter Five: The Strength of a Love Potion

When Saito woke up in the morning, Louise was sleeping by his side. The previous night, when Louise, whose eyes were swollen from tears, got tired, he brought her to the room and fell asleep at once. “Kuukuu,” with an innocent face, she breathed out through sleep. What made her change this way yesterday? One moment she was ready to kill, the other – she was suddenly weeping “Why don’t you look at me!” What? What? Saito wondered.

She started waking up. Abruptly, Louise got up and, noticing Saito, bit her lip. Then in a wrung out voice, she murmured “Good morning.”

“G-good morning,” Saito returned the greeting.

Then Louise blushed. Louise always blushed with an angry look on her face, but now it was different. Looking up at Saito, she softly curved her lips and said something hesitatingly.

“W-what?”

“Forgive me.”

Louise opened her mouth and said in a lamenting voice.

“Forgivemeforgivemeforgiveme. Forgive me?”

Louise was definitely weird. She gazed at him with helpless puppy eyes, yet she had never looked at Saito this way before. Louise always looked down on him or scowled, he wasn’t used to being looked at some other away.

“Seriously, what is wrong with you?”

Worried, he gripped her shoulder. Dressed only in negligee, Louise bent her head and rested her cheek on top of his hand. He felt an unexpected pang. Moreover, a pang on his left side. A quick one. Soon he was fully overtaken by a destructive power. His body shook violently and his pulse was beating hastily. Aah, Louise looking like this… She wouldn’t be in love with me, would she?!

“I saw.”

“Eh?”

“..a dream, yesterday.”

Dream?

“W-what dream?”

“A Dream about Saito.”

“D-dream about what?”

“Saito was mean in the dream. Though I was talking very hard, he still spoke with other girls.”

‘Gab’ Louise bit into Saito’s hand.

However, it was not painful. Louise bit very gently. Then she glanced upwards at Saito’s face.

“Even so, it was yesterday. Do not buy gifts for other girls, do not look at other girls – you have your master-sama, right?”

Saito gulped down saliva, while watching Louise. He never realized, that she was so in love with him…

But what made Louise’s attitude change so much. It’s as if she is an entirely different person. Louise who despised me up till now, cannot become so sweet just like that. At first she was mad, and now she gently chewed on his palm while scowling.

She would not just bite like this. She would hit.

Louise would never sell herself for such flirt…

Though at first Saito thought that Louise may be in love, he drove the last ray of hope out of his mind.

“Listen to me.”

“Y-yes.”

“Tell me truthfully. W-whom do you love the most in the world?”

Louise buried her face in his chest and muttered in a tearful voice. Saito felt dizzy in his head and answered incoherently.

“M-master-sama. Yes.”

“Lies.”

It wasn’t a lie. When near, only Louise could make his chest throb this much. However, Louise today…

“Really?”

“Yeah…”

Then Louise got up and, tototo, ran up to the other side of the bed.

After taking out something from the secret gap in the wall beside the bed, she ran up to Saito with it.

“N. N, nh”

And then she thrust it out to Saito.

“What’s…?”

“Take it.”

The thrust out complex object was made from knitting wool. In any case, it seemed to be unwearable. Saito received it and tilted his head, trying to figure out it’s purpose. By any means, could it still be something “to wear”? No, never. He had no inkling of where it could fit on the body.

Louise kept on quietly watching Saito… with eyes that seemed to be moist from crying. Aah, can’t help it when looked at with such eyes. They had an expecting look. Yet, he couldn’t answer Louise’s expectations as he didn’t know what on earth it was for, however, he had to do something!

What the heck is that. Saito thought. Think! Yeaaah, looking at it, it seems similar to medusa stuffed toy. It also can be thought to be one of Burgess fauna’s species that ruled the sea in the ancient earth. Though it looks like a mysterious animal, because Louise handed it over to me, it must have some use. Ah! Think!

Saito fused, slowly losing his cool.

“Great! This! A fantastic thing! Medusa’s outlook! The best!”

Louise’s face fell.

“It’s different… It’s not that… It’s a sweater.”

As for the alien world sweater, it was different from what one would expect. It easily surpassed Saito’s imagination.

In panic, Saito tried to put it on. But how to wear it? Somehow he found an entrance and pushed his head in. However, his arm didn’t go out and half of his face remained stuck inside. Being stuck in such an uncomfortable way, Saito stood still.

Then, Louise tightly embraced Saito and pushed him down onto the bed.

“L-Louise…”

Because his arm was imprisoned by the sweater, he could not move.

“Be still,” Louise pleaded with Saito. What? I’m already still. But it is because I can’t get out my arms out of the sweater.

“Can’t do that.”

He said quietly, being honest.

Louise held onto Saito firmly, like a girl embracing her favorite stuffed animal.

“Ugh, don’t you have to go to class?”

“It’s alright. I’ll just skip it anyway.”

Muhaa! The more he thought about it, the more suspicious it sounded. Normally serious Louise never skipped class so lightly.

“For a whole day. Because, when you are let out, you flirt with other girls. I hate that.”

Seems like she wanted to bind Saito this way. Yet, for a very prideful Louise to say such things… Even if she would be feeling this way, she’d never utter it aloud.

“Say something.”

Louise muttered sweetly. Saito, what is the matter with Louise? He wondered, while worrying, what made Louise start talking so weakly and softly.

In the afternoon, Louise finally fell asleep. The young girl snored faintly in a deep slumber.

Then Saito quietly slipped out of the room and headed to the dining room to get some food. He was going to take Louise’s share too.

Siesta, who was preparing lunch in the kitchen already, sweetly smiled when he finished explaining the situation to her.

“You are popular.”

“No, it’s different. Louise isn’t herself. She’s acting funny. It can’t be helped, and now I have to get some of this food…”

Worried, Saito said, while Siesta trampled on Saito’s feet, without breaking her smile.

“That’s great.”

“S-Siesta?”

Seems like she was really mad. The composed smile only emphasized her cold anger.

“Heeeh. That a highly prideful noble Miss Vallière would suddenly become clingy over Saito-san. What would make her change her mind about Saito-san? I’m worried.”

Still smiling, Siesta put more strength into crushing Saito’s foot. Saito screamed.

“I-it’s true! She really suddenly started acting strange”

“Really?”

“Yeah… It is as if she turned into a different person.”

Hearing that, Siesta started to think with a serious expression.

“This reminds me, I heard that there are some magical potions that can change a person’s mind this way…”

“Magical potions?”

“Indeed. Yet because I am not a mage I might have not understood it well… But, Miss Vallière would not drink such a thing…”

Saito remembered the previous night. Louise’s attitude changed dramatically after entering Montmorency’s room… while he was hiding under the bed futon.

At that moment Louise’s attitude changed suddenly… Did Louise do something then?

Ah.

That reminds me, she said “Fuah! I’m thirsty from running around!” and in one breath drank up the red wine on the table!

That? Could it be that? Saito started to feel suspicious about the red wine in Montmorency’s room.

Saito waited for Montmorency to come out of the dining room and gripped her arm. Guiche, who was walking next to her, roared.

“Hey! What are you doing to my Montmorency!”

However, Montmorency’s face suddenly turned pale instead of complaining. What?! Even though he gripped a noble’s arm like that! Guess Montmorency, who was even more arrogant than Louise, did not want to make much noise. In a word, she felt indebted to Saito over something and that was surely related to Louise’s sudden change.

“Hey Monmon.”

Saito glared at Montmorency.

“W-what…?”

She awkwardly turned her eyes away. She was not angry at being called Monmon. It was becoming more and more suspicious.

“What did you make Louise drink?”

“Eh?” Guiche made a suspicious face.

“Montmorency gave Louise something?”

“Hey Guiche. You saw Louise’s change, right? One moment she was angry, the next placing her palms gently. Even someone as dimwitted as you should grow suspicious.”

Guiche thought while crossing his arms. It took some time, because he was slow as usual. Then Guiche, who with great effort recalled the previous night’s events, nodded.

“It is really as you say. It should not be possible for Louise to become so soft suddenly. Right?”

“Right! Monmon! Louise became strange after drinking the wine in your room!”

“That’s the wine I brought! There’s nothing suspicious about it!”

After saying so, Guiche noticed Montmorency’s unusual behavior. She was biting her lips strongly and tiny drops of cold sweat appeared on her forehead.

“Montmorency! That wine, really…”

“That child drank it without permission!”

Montmorency cried out, unable to take it anymore.

“That’s not the point! It’s your fault!” She said while pointing at Guiche, poking his nose with her finger. Now with the anger reversed, Guiche and Saito dumbfoundedly watched Montmorency.

“Because you are always fooling around!”

“You! What have you put in the wine?!”

Saito understood. Montmorency wanted Guiche to drink up something that was put in the wine. Yet Louise, who rushed into the room, drank it up instead.

For a moment, both, Guiche and Saito, stood hesitatingly embarrassed and resigned. Then Montmorency in a calm, bared voice said.

“…Love potion.”

“Love potion!”

Guiche and Saito cried out. Montmorency placed both hands over their mouths in panic.

“Idiots! Not so loud! …It is banned.”

Saito gripped Montmorency’s arm, removed her hand from his mouth and shouted.

“Then don’t start such a mess to begin with! Help Louise somehow!”

Montmorency, Saito and Guiche racked their brains in Montmorency’s room. Montmorency explained to them both in an arrogant manner that she made a love potion to prevent Guiche from having an affair. She put it in Guiche’s glass to have him drink it, but then Saito and Louise had flounced into the room. It wasn’t hard for Saito to imagine what happened after that. Unaware, Louise drank it all up. Saito screamed.

“What have you done?!”

“…However, otherwise she would not have fallen in love with me, right?”

Guiche, who kept silent till then, clasped a blushing Montmorency’s hand.

“Montmorency, you cared so much for me…”

“Hah! You think that I did it for you? I would not waste my time on that. It was just merely unpleasant for you to have affairs behind my back!”

The blush on Montmerency’s cheeks was quickly replaced by an arrogant scowl. As expected, the pride of Tristainian noble women was really high. Very self-conceited and arrogant.

“Do not worry about me having an affair! I am your servant forever!”

Guiche embraced Montmorency closely. Then, holding her cheek, tried to kiss her. Startled Montmorency shut her eyes.

“Knock it off.”

Saito pulled them both apart.

“What are you doing, idiot?!”

“Doesn’t matter! Help Louise first!”

“She’ll recover sooner or later!”

“When is this ‘sooner or later’!”

Montmorency looked doubtful.

“Each person’s physiology is different, it may take a month or maybe a year…”

“You planned to let me drink such a thing?”

Guiche turned pale.

“That will take too long. At once! One way or another! Do it!”

With a jerk Saito brought his face close to Montmorency’s.

“I understand! But it will take some time to prepare the antidote!”

“Hurry up then and do it! Now! Make it now!”

“However, to make an antidote a certain expensive drug is necessary, but I used it all up while making the love potion and it is very expensive. I can’t do it for the time being.”

“Yes, money will be hard to come by, I don’t exaggerate.”

“No money? You are nobles!”

When Saito shouted, Guiche and Montmorency looked at each other.

“Although we are nobles, we are students as well.”

“It is older members of the family that possess the territory and money.”

“Then ask your parents to send the money.”

Saito said to them both. Then Guiche raised his forefinger and started talking.

“Listen. This world has two kinds of nobles. One kind are nobles that do not have the good fortune of money, another kind – nobles that have the money. For instance, de Montmorency. Montmorency’s family, fails in the land reclamation and the management of the territory is horrible.”

Montmorency cut in.

“Or like the de Gramont house, Guiche’s family, that for the sake of honour got involved in a war and wasted all of their money…”

“Anyway, there are moneyless nobles. Actually, and I am not exaggerating, half the nobles in the world have enough money only to maintain their residence and the territory around it at best. However, it is not for a commoner like you to understand the hardships of keeping the honour and pride of the nobility.”

These guys… Saito reluctantly started to search for something in his parka and jeans pockets. Then he pulled out the golden coins that he received from Henrietta before. Half of the amount he left in Louise’s room and the other half he carried with himself.

“Will this suffice?”

He spilled them out on the table.

“Uwaa! Why do you have so much money? You!”

Seeing that amount of gold lying all over the table took Montmorency’s breath away.

“Awesome, and some are even 500 écu coins.”

“Don’t ask where it comes from. Just buy that expensive medicine with this by the end of tomorrow.”

Montmorency nodded reluctantly.

When he returned to his room with light pockets, the room itself looked weird.

Somehow the whole room was filled with cigarette-like smokes, yet the aroma was sweet. Louise was sitting in the center of the room with joss-sticks fuming around her.

“Hey, what? What’s up with all this?”

When Saito said so, Louise, who was watching him, answered in a teary voice.

“Where have you been…?”

Only then Saito noticed how tempting Louise looked. She wasn’t wearing her skirt.

“You left me all alone…”

She said in teary voice while sulkily looking up at Saito. It seemed like, while feeling lonely, she started burning all these incenses.

“So-sorry…”

Why doesn’t she put on a skirt?! He tried to turn his eyes away from her body when he noticed another unexpected fact. Well… Lo-Louise, Louise Françoise – that rascal, the skirt wasn’t the only thing that she missed… Her panties are gone as well.

Her lower waist line was peeking up from the gap of her shirt. There were no signs of any underwear beneath.

Saito began to tremble.

“Y-you, p-put on some p-p-p-p-panties!”

Trembling, he shouted while looking to the other side.

“I w-won’t!”

“Why not?!!”

“I am not sexy enough. I know this because night after night Saito sleeps by my side in bed, but doesn’t do anything to me. I cannot take this anymore.”

Louise said in a weeping voice.

“T-that’s, you, me, are you saying you want me to p-push you down and then d-d-d-d-do those things to you?”

“I-is it bad…?”

“That’s right.”

“But, I’ll shut my eyes and for an hour, I will pretend not to know.”

But by saying that she would pretend not to know… Louise made a huge commitment.

Louise pulled the hem of her shirt down to cover her private parts and stood up. Louise moved her bare, slender legs. Saito’s heart pounded inside his chest, sounding like a constant ringing of a bell.

Louise jumped onto Saito’s chest. The sweet smell of her hair was even stronger than the aroma of the incense in the room. She never used perfumes, it was her natural body’s smell.

With her face buried in Saito’s parka, Louise trembled and twitched.

“I am lonely… Idiot…”

Both of Saito’s hands positioned themselves on Louise’s body.

They seemed to embrace her firmly on an instinct.

Saito bit his lip. He put some pressure in his bite seeking to regain part of his calmness through pain.

Louise of today… is not the Louise whom I know. It is a love potion that’s making me lose myself. My Louise is the one I protect and like… For this reason, I cannot embrace her this way now. What if his brakes would fail him? He surely would covet Louise like a beast.

Because of love, this cannot be allowed.

Saito with trembling hands gripped Louise’s shoulders. Then he looked straight into her eyes and squeezed out as gentle a voice as possible.

“Louise…”

“Saito…”

“W-well… You are acting this strange today because of a medicine.”

“Medicine…?”

Louise looked up at Saito with moistened eyes.

“That’s right. The present you is not the real you. But don’t worry, I will find the cure somehow. Okay?”

“It is not because of medicine!”

Louise looked straight at Saito.

“These feelings are not because of medicine. Because whenever I look at Saito my heart starts beating wildly. Not only that…I cannot breathe and feel helpless. I know, this feeling is…”

“I-it’s different. I would like it if they were your real feelings, but it isn’t, it is different. This is because of the drug. The antidote will be ready by tomorrow night, so wait till then. Anyway, go to sleep now, okay?”

Louise shook her head.

“I don’t understand. It doesn’t matter. Anyway, you must hug me tightly or else I won’t go to sleep.”

“If I do, you’ll go to bed?”

Louise nodded. Saito carried her to the bed. Then laid down, snuggling next to her. As usual, Louise clung firmly to him.

“Don’t go anywhere. Look only at me, no other girls, only me.”

She repeated, as if some kind of spell.

Saito nodded.

“I won’t go anywhere. I’ll stay here for a long time.”

“Really?”

“Aah. Yes, so rest, ok?”

“Un… If Saito says to sleep, I will sleep. Because I don’t want him to dislike me.”

However, Louise didn’t go to sleep. Instead, she shuffled a little and brought her blushing face to the scruff of Saito’s neck. Before Saito could even think of what she was doing, she started to kiss his neck. It felt as if a torrent of small needles ran down his spine.

“Haaaaaaaaaaah…”

Saito started to shake in fear. Meanwhile Louise started to suck strongly on Saito’s skin.

“Louise! Louise!”

If you don’t stop I’ll die. However, Louise didn’t stop. With flushing cheeks she watched the place that she just kissed. It reddened as if bitten by an insect.

Noticing this, Louise proceeded leaving marks on Saito’s skin with an absorbed interest.

“Louise, stop! I already! I! Aah!”

His mind could not take it anymore. When Louise separated her lips, she muttered in a sulky way.

“No. I won’t stop. Saito is mine and mine alone. Therefore, I will leave marks to show that he is mine and keep the other girls away.”

After that, Saito’s torture continued for a while. Louise started to leave hickey marks not only on the scurf of his neck but even on his chest too. By the end, there were ten of them.

Saito’s strong convulsions turned into a faint shiver, when Louise’s lips finally left his chest. Then Louise, turned her head to the side, presenting Saito her own neck.

“Now you mark me.”

“B-but…”

Saito looked at Louise’s slender, snowy white neck.

“If you don’t do this – I won’t go to sleep.”

There was no other way. Saito closed his eyes and brought his lips to Louise’s neck. He touched it. A deep sigh escaped Louise’s lips. Never hearing such a cute sigh from her, Saito almost died.

Very nervous, he sucked on Louise’s celadon skin.

“Nh…!”

Louise must have been nervous too, as giving out such a cry seemed to confirm.

Tiredness soon took over her and Louise started to breath in a faint sleeper’s way after a while.

Dazzled he looked at his own red mark on Louise’s nape of the neck. It looked like a red strawberry in the middle of white snow.

Saito breathed roughly, he had to restrain himself many times, or else, he would have attacked Louise who was peacefully sleeping next to him.

Calm down! Louise is acting this way only because of the potion!

He had to find the antidote quickly, to return Louise back to her usual saucy self, instead of this cute one!

Then Saito noticed something that Louise was grasping tightly in her sleep.

It was the pendant that Saito bought her in town. She was grasping it tightly as if it were some sort of treasure. Seeing that lovely view he lost all his strength.

It was cruel. Louise was horrible. It’s a crime to look so disturbingly cute.

Subconsciously, he extended his hand towards Louise, only to clamp it with his other one. I don’t have the right to take advantage of Louise this way. It is not because of me. It’s because of the potion. Endure it.

ZnT04-170.jpg

If only I wouldn’t have wanted for Siesta to wear that sailor uniform, Louise would have not turned into this… Therefore it is my fault.

I am useless, Saito thought. I never turn down an opportunity to flirt with a girl and…

Siesta. That’s right, Siesta.

Aah, Siesta, she would calm him down simply by her presence. She was a fine looking lass too.

But when Louise was nearby she made his heart race.

Aah, which one do I love more?

What a luxurious worry. He couldn’t even imagine having such worries back on Earth.

Watching Louise’s sleeping face, he started to think… why return back to his former world, if you can stay here?

When Louise became a court lady of Henrietta, it became difficult to travel to the east… Though he was disappointed, at the same time he felt glad. Because of that he could stay by Louise’s side.

Aah, Earth, Siesta and Louise. Those three turned round and round in Saito’s head, making him frustrated.

Which choice should I make? He could not make a choice today, but he would have to.

Maybe, in the near future.

In the evening the next day, Saito was in Montmorency’s room. He had a quarrel with Louise before leaving her in her room and coming here…

“You can’t make an antidote?”

With his face lifted, Saito stared at Montmorency. Beside her sat Guiche holding his chin and scowling.   Montmorency and Guiche had gone into the city that day to face the black-market traders in the hopes of finding the antidote, however….

“It can’t be helped! It was sold out!”

“Then when can you buy it?!”

“It… seems like they do not have the goods needed.”

“What is it?”

“The specific medicine comes from Ragdorian Lake, at the boarder with Gallia. It is made from the tears of a water spirit… however it seems they were not able to contact the water spirits recently.”

“Whaat?!”

“In other words, we cannot get this special medicine.”

“Then what about Louise?”

“Well, I mean, really, what is so bad about all this? She has fallen in love with you. You like Louise, do you not?”

Saito couldn’t consent with what Guiche said, though.

“I can’t be happy if the reason she likes me is because of that medicine. These are not Louise’s true feelings. That’s why I want Louise to return back to her original self.”

But… Montmorency pouted her lips and Guiche shook his head reluctantly. Even Saito thought quietly for a while, until he finally grasped his hand into a fist, determined.

“Where is that water spirit?”

“I told you already, it’s at the Ragdorian lake.”

”So you only need to get in touch with her, right?”

“Eeeeeh!? Now listen here! The water spirit rarely shows her face before humans! And even if she did, she is very strong! If angered, the results can be disastrous!”

“I don’t care, let’s go!”

“Well I do care! I am absolutely not going!”

Saito crossed his arms.

“Well then, there’s only one thing I can do. I will have to tell Her Royal Highness the Princess about the love potion, or is it Her Royal Highness the Queen now? Anyway, I will have to ask for her help about the problem. Come to think, wasn’t that potion banned? It’s not supposed to be allowed to be made, right? Now then, I wonder what would Her Highness do if she learned about it?”

Montmorency’s face quickly turned pale.

“What do you think, Monmon?”

“Fine, already! I understand! I will go, if you go!”

“Hmm, we can’t let Louise stay this way, either. Or else others may notice her strange behaviour and suspect the love potion.”

Guiche shook his head.

“Fear not, my lover. I will stay by your side on this journey,” said Guiche while leaning in and trying to slowly put his hand over Montmorency’s shoulders, but she quickly evaded him.

“That’s not really inspiring. You are too weak.”

After that, the trio made arrangements for the journey.

They would leave the following day, early in the morning. Because they did not know how Louise might act if left alone, they decided to bring her along as well.

“Haah, this is my first time skipping school.” Montmorency sighed.

“And what about me, as I have not been going to school for half of a year now? After Saito came, it was adventures everyday! Ahahaha!” Guiche burst into a hearty laughter.

 

 

Chapter Six: The Water Spirit

The hills and mountains overlooked the dark blue waves of Ragdorian Lake as they rippled. The sun’s illumination on the lake was spread like a layer of shimmering glass.

Saito and others arrived at the lake by horse.

Because Louise disliked riding alone, she and Saito took the same horse. She sat in front. It seemed like she didn‘t want to leave Saito‘s side even for a single moment.

Montmorency and Guiche were riding on separate splendid grey horses.

“This must be the famous Ragdorian lake! No, the beauty of this lake is indescribable! The Water Spirit is in there! I’m impressed! HO-HO-HO – YAHOO!”

Yelled Guiche, whipping the horse and sending it plunging down the hill.

But the horse was afraid of the water and when it reached the shore it came to an abrupt stop. Following the law of inertia, Guiche was flung off the horse and, with a thunderous crash, fell head first into the lake.

“Can’t reach the ground! It’s deep! Deeeeeeep!”

Guiche desperately cried out for help while struggling in the water. It seemed that Guiche did not know how to swim.

“I wonder if we should reconsider our fellowship after all?”

Montmorency muttered.

”That would be nice.“

Saito nodded. Louise looked up at Saito with a worried face.

“Montmorency is nice?”

“I d-don’t mean that. Just wait. I will return you to your original self.“

Saito brought the horse close to the shore.

Guiche, after a long struggle, was shivering and soaked from head to toe as he finally reached the shore. He had a bitter look on his face.

“Hey hey, shouldn’t you help me? Do not desert someone who cannot swim!”

However, Montmorency completely ignored Guiche and was instead looking at the lake suspiciously.

“What is it?” Saito asked.

“Strange.”

“What’s strange?”

“The water level is up. Ragdorian’s shore should be further up there.”

“Really?”

“Yes. Look over there. There is a rooftop sticking out. It seems that village has been flooded.“

Following Montmorency’s gaze, they could indeed see the roof. Saito could even recognize the dark shadow of the sunken house under the limpid surface of the water.

Montmorency walked up to the shore, dipped her finger into the water and closed her eyes. After a while she stood back up with a worried expression on her face.

“It seems as if the Water Spirit is angry.”

“How do you know that?”

”Because I am a Water-element user, Montmorency the Fragrance. The Tristain Royal family is connected with the Ragdorian lake Water Spirit by an old oath. The Montmorency ‘Water’ family has been negotiating with it for many generations.

“And now?”

“And now, for various reasons, other nobles are doing it.”

“Then, have you seen the Water Spirit?”

“Only once when I was small. When we needed to create a drainage for the territory, the family sought the Water Spirit’s cooperation. A big glass container was made to transport it. However, because the Water Spirit has a lot of pride, it can be extremely aggressive. In fact, it is because of their aggressiveness that my family’s drainage scheme failed. My father said to the Water Spirit ‘Do not walk. The floor gets wet’…”

“What does the Water Spirit look like?”

Saito asked, showing curiosity.

“I have never actually seen it.”

Guiche, flapping his wet shirt that he had taken off, nodded in agreement. Louise, who had absolutely no interest in the discussion, hid herself behind Saito’s back and unconsciously held on tightly to the hem of his parka.

“Beautiful! Quite so…”

At that moment, an old lonesome farmer who was hiding behind a tree stepped out.

“I suppose, my lords, you are nobles.”

A middle aged farmer looked up with an embarrassed face.

“What’s the matter?” Montmorency asked.

“My lords, did you come to negotiate with the Water Spirit? If so, then we have been saved! Please, quickly make your negotiations and solve this flood problem.”

The party looked at each other. It seemed like this farmer was a resident of the village that sank into the lake.

“That, well, we… came here just to see the lake.“

Surely, Montmorency could not tell him that they came here to get the Water Spirit‘s tear.

“I see… Really, lords and the queen are now only interested in the war against the Albion, not even noticing such remote villages as ours. They can’t even imagine how hard it is to collect the harvest…”

“Haa,” the farmer sigh deeply.

“What on earth happened to the Ragdorian lake?”

“The water started to rise about two years ago. The water level increased slowly, flooding the port first, then the temple and fields… See? Now even the eagles’ nests are flooded. The local lords that are responsible for this territory indulge in royal court entertainments and pay no attention to our pleas.“

“Yoyoyo,” the old farmer weeped bitterly.

“For years we lived on this land, depending on the moody Water Spirit. Honestly, it‘s good when it stays at the bottom of the lake… We really want to understand why it has suddenly become interested in our land. Because this land belongs to men! But, only a noble could communicate with it. I’d like to know what we poor farmers did to make it lose its temper.“

Saito and the others bent their heads in embarrassment.

After the farmer finished grumbling and left, Montmorency took something out of the bag attached to her waist. It was a tiny frog. It was bright yellow with many black spots.

Montmorency put the frog in the palm of her hand, it stared up at her inquisitvely.

“Frog!”

Louise, who was afraid of frogs, screamed and drew closer to Saito.

“What is with this poisonously colored frog?”

“It is not poisonous, I tell you! It is my dear familiar!”

Apparently, this tiny frog was Montmorency’s familiar. Montmorency raised her finger, and ordered to her familiar.

“Listen Robin, I want to contact an old friend of yours.”

Then Montmorency reached in her pocket and took out a needle, in one brief moment she stuck her finger with it allowing a ruby of bright red blood to gush. Turning her finger over she let a drop fall on the frog.

After that, Montmorency cast a spell, treating the wound on the tip of her finger. Then she brought the frog close again.

“Since she knows who I am, she should know who you are. Robin, please, in the name of the great spirits of the dead, seek the old Water Spirit, and tell her I wish to speak with her because of our alliance. Do it for me, understood?”

The frog slightly nodded and disappeared into the water with a splash.

“Now, Robin went to call the Water Spirit. If she can find it, she is likely to bring it here.”

Saito looked doubtful.

“When it comes, we have to tell it a sad story, but I wonder what could be good. Maybe this story I know about a master and a dog would do. However, it is considerably old, I wonder if it would suit these guys…”

“Sad story? What are you talking about?”

“Because we need tears of the Water Spirit. How else would we get it if not making it cry?”

“You really are ignorant. Well, I guess since even non-water element mages do not know it either, so it is impossible to expect a commoner like you to know. The Tear of the Water Spirit is only a name. It doesn’t really shed tears.“

Saito and Guiche looked at each other. Louise, lonely without Saito’s attention, ‘rub-rub’ rubbed her cheek against his back. It was really weird! Though one could die from such a cute Louise, all that mattered now was Montmorency’s story.

“Then, what is the tear of the Water Spirit?” Guiche asked.

“The Water Spirit… compared to human lifespans, it can live a long, long, long time. It is said to have existed 6,000 years ago, when the Founder Brimir established Halkeginia. Its body, like water, can freely change its shape… and in a sunshine it glistens with seven colors…”

The moment Montmorency said this, the surface of the water began to shine.

The Water Spirit appeared.

30 meters away from the shore where Saito and others were standing the water was shining.

The surface of the water was wriggling non-stop. Then the water welled up like a rising cake. Saito watched it with an expression of blank surprise. The water was constantly changing shape so one could not even see hands. It looked like a huge amoeba. Though its flashing lights were beautiful… it made them uncomfortable.

The frog, Montmorency’s familiar, hopped back to its master with a splash. Montmorency held out her palm and caught the frog. She patted the frog’s head with her finger.

“Thank you for helping to bring it.”

Then Montmorency stood up, spread her hands towards the Water Spirit, and opened her mouth.

“I am a Montmorency Margarita La Fère de Montmorency. User of water, member of the lineage of old oath. I have put my blood on the frog to help you remember. If you remember, answer in the way and words that we understand.”

The Water Spirit… rising out of the surface of the water… started slowly to gain shape like a clay figure.

Saito’s eyes popped out from surprise when watching this.

The mass of water slowly shaped itself into Montmorency‘s form and faintly smiled.

However, it was bigger and had no clothes. It looked like a transparent nude Montmorency. Just like an ice statue.

The Water Spirit’s expression changed into various forms. After the smile followed angry, then – crying faces. Each time she tried a new expression, the lump face of water moved.

Indeed, she looked beautiful. Like an always changing jewel.

Then her face became expressionless again as the Water Spirit answered Montmorency’s question.

“I remember, mere human. I remember the liquid that flows in your body. The moon has changed 52 times since our last meeting.”

“I’m glad. Water Spirit, I need to ask you something. Although it might seem somewhat insensitive, could you give me a piece of your body?“

Part of its body? Saito wondered. What‘s that? When he poked Montmorency, she turned around annoyed.

“Although it is a tear, it is impossible to make immortal spirits cry. They are… different from us. I do not even know if one can call them living beings. Either way the tear of the Water Spirit is a part of its body.”

“So we have to cut down its body?!”

Saito shouted in surprise.

“Shh! Not so loud! The Water Spirit can get very angry! That’s why it is nearly impossible to obtain the tear. How the people in the city’s black market are able to get it… I simply cannot imagine.”

The Water Spirit smiled.

“Oh, it smiled! It must mean it’s ok!”

But, the words that came from its mouth… maybe because it still didn‘t understand how to to speak properly, were completely opposite.

“I refuse, mere human.”

“Is that so? How unfortunate. Oh well, we’ll be heading back now.”

Saito was shocked by how easily Montmorency gave up.

“Hey hey! Wait a moment! Don’t give up on Louise so easily! Hey, Water Spirit!”

Saito pushed Montmorency aside and faced the Water Spirit.

“Wait! You! Stop it! Don’t anger the Water Spirit!”

Montmorency tried to thrust Saito aside, but Saito didn’t even flinch. Guiche inclined his head wondering. Louise silently drew closer to Saito. Seeing such a scene, it was hard to tell which one of them was a familiar.

“Great Water Spirit! Please! I will do anything you ask for your tear! A little bit! Only a little bit!“

The Montmorency shaped Water Spirit didn’t answer anything to Saito, who was down on his knees pressing his head against the ground, prostrating.

“I beg you! The most important person to me right now is in trouble! Don‘t you have someone important to you as well? My important person right now needs help… and for that, a part of your body is needed! Therefore, please! Look!“

Hearing this Montmorency stopped trying to pull Saito away and let out a deep sigh. Guiche, who was moved to tears already, nodded. Louise, feeling insecure, kept on clinging to Saito.

The Water Spirit changed her appearance few times before taking Montmorency’s shape again, and said to Saito,

“Very well.”

“Yes! Really?”

“But with one condition. As a mere human that doesn’t know the reason of this world, you said that you would do anything?”

“Yes! That’s what I said!”

“Then repel those that attack me, your comrades.”

They looked at each other.

“Repel?”

“Yes, I have raised the water level as far as I could. I no longer have the energy to fight them. If you can fight them off, I will bestow unto you my tear.”

“No, I hate fights.”

Saito put his hand on Montmorency’s shoulder and patted it.

“You want to eat prison food instead?”

Saito once again threatened Montmorency about the forbidden potion and she, like the day before, could not help but to give in.

“I know, already! I’ll do it!”

So it was decided that they needed to discover the identities of the people attacking the Water Spirit.

The place where the Water Spirit lives – the very bottom of the lake. Someone, using magic, attacked her there in the middle of the night.

Saito and the others hid themselves in the shade of the tree on the shore at Gallia’s side – a place that the Water Spirit showed them – and waited quietly for the assailant to come.

Guiche, to cheer himself up before the battle, took a sip of wine that Saito brought. When all of his anxiety was gone he started to sing. Saito pushed his head aside.

Louise was in an extremely bad mood because Saito was only talking to Montmorency.

Why he is nicer with Montmorency than with me, does he love her, or maybe he just hates me, waah waah – she cried angrily, and, with her roaring around like that, Saito had to kiss her cheek many times to calm her down and put her to sleep. Because of that, right now she was sleeping calmly next to him, breathing softly with a blanket wrapped up around her. Guess anyone would be like that if a potion made them fall madly in love.

“The people that attacked the Water Spirit went to the bottom of the lake. How can they breathe under the water?”

Saito asked Montmorency.

Montmorency thought for a while.

“Maybe it’s a water element user? With a ball of air created around the user it’s not that hard to get to the bottom of the lake. At the same time, even if you use water magic and are able to breathe underwater, directly touching the water would be suicidal as the Water Spirit controls it here. So maybe it was an air element mage, that way one can avoid touching the water.”

According to the Water Spirit, she was attacked every night on a regular basis, having bits of her body cut off.

“But how could someone wound it and still go unnoticed?”

“The Water Spirit’s movements are slow… Besides, if you separate the Water Spirit from her source of water, her magic eventually wears out. Using a strong flame would make her evaporate gradually. It becomes impossible to connect back to a liquid again once being turned into gas.”

“It is impossible to turn back?”

“The Water Spirit’s soul is like moss. Even being torn to pieces it can reconnect itself into one again, as long as it has all the pieces. It is a really complicated creature compared to us.”

“Hmmm…”

Saito nodded.

“And because the attacker is not touching the water, the Water Spirit cannot reach him.”

“Then it is not that powerful at all.”

“Really… You do not know how scary the Water Spirit can be… Even if for a single moment one lost concentration and the air ball disappeared allowing the water to connect – then it would be dreadful. Water controls other creatures’ lives, if you lose the protection of an air ball, then you would enter the Water Spirit’s territory where challenging her is something that even the greatest daredevil should not do.”

Saito sighed. Really, Halkeginia is filled with creatures that he could never even imagine before.

Two moons were shining high above in the sky. It’s midnight.

Saito shut his mouth and with one hand brought Derflinger, that was hanging on his back, closer. Montmorency, scared by the sudden tension, muttered in a shaky voice.

“Anyhow, because I hate savage fights, I’ll leave it all up to you.”

“Don’t worry Montmorency. I am here. I will bravely protect the maiden from war and punish the villain.”

Guiche, who obviously drank too much wine, started leaning towards Montmorency.

“Listen, just go to sleep already. You reek of alcohol.”

“Guiche, be a decoy.”

Guiche nodded red-faced.

Saito took a deep breath. The fighter’s intuition that he gained from experiencing many fights was now telling him that someone was near. His mouth was filled with saliva. Guess that someone is an enemy? But, will it be all right. I am the legendary Gandálfr. I should be able to beat mages up. What would it matter against the number of those dragon knights that attacked me before?

Not noticing himself, Saito became very self-conceited.

He gazed at Louise’s sleeping face. Wait for me, I will definitely bring you back – he muttered silently.

One hour passed after that. Shadows appeared on the shore. It was two people. Because those figures were wearing jet-black hooded robes it was hard to tell whether they were men or women.

Saito gripped Derflinger’s handle. The rune on his left hand began to shine. However, he hadn’t left the hiding spot. He still could not decide whether it was these people that attacked Water Spirit or not.

But, the pair pulled out their wands while standing at the waterside.

It looked like they started chanting spells.

Convinced that there was no mistake by now, Saito stood up from the shade of the tree and moved towards the pair. Two people should be an easy match. Because I already… defeated Wardes and ten-times larger orc demons, and this is just a pair of people. Hey, they are not even looking in my direction. Easy victory, easy victory, I could overpower them with a whistle.

Saito hid himself behind the tree right next to the pair. Seeing him squatting himself down, Guiche started chanting the spell.

The ground where the pair stood suddenly rose and became a huge hand-like tentacle that twined around the assailants’ feet.

Silence.

Saito dashed out of the shade of tree. The distance to the mages was about 30 meters. Saito, demonstrating Gandálfr’s power, closed the distance in less than three seconds.

However, the enemy’s reaction was quick. The assailants started muttering spells the same time as the ground raised. The flame flew out of the end of the wand, burning down the soil that was gripping the pair’s feet. The smaller shadow acted even more surprisingly. Instead of releasing their spell towards Guiche, the person aimed it towards Saito, who wasn’t prepared for this.

The body turned around quickly and the wand swung around. Just like in the fight with Wardes before, an air hammer hit Saito’s body. Saito, who did not expect such attack, was hit in the front and easily blown away.

In no time, an ice arrow followed. Saito turned his body and jumped up dodging it, but the taller mage shot a big fire ball at him. Though Saito tried to dodge that too, the aiming was accurate as Saito’s movements were anticipated beforehand.

“Partner! Raise me!” Derflinger shouted.

Saito boldly blocked the flame ball with his sword, yet, even though it was absorbed into the sword, it exploded, scattering around the fragments of fire.

Saito looked dazed and petrified.

Though he frantically tried to rub the pain away, his eyes still hurt. Sparks got into his eyes. Saito became more hasty. Crap! Their wands.

He lowered his guard thinking that the enemy would concentrate on Guiche. Yet the enemy was experienced in combat and anticipated an attack from a different direction, not being surprised in the slightest.

Moreover, they worked together skillfully. While one was preparing the spell, the other was releasing it. Though this was a simple tactic, the results were very effective. Anyhow, there was no opening.

Raging winds snatched the sword out of the hands of the petrified Saito.

His body suddenly felt heavy. In the corner of his eyes he could see another huge fireball coming his way. Saito gave up. His momentary self-conceitedness was gone very quickly.

Aah, I am an amateur after all. Gandálfr’s power gave me more confidence than my actual skills. Being straightforward doesn’t work on all enemies! Aah, Louise, sorry! Louise!

However, the goddess of fate even now did not desert Saito.

The moment before the fireball knocked against Saito, the area in front of him exploded. The fireball and Saito were blown off. This magic was… Louise’s ‘Void’!

“Don’t bully Saitooo!”

Louise’s scream echoed through the night. It almost made Saito cry. Louise helped me. Though she was asleep… but she was probably woken up by all this noise.

Louise waited for an attack, but their guard was off now. Thus now he could recover himself. Somehow, Saito wrenched his right eye open and picked up Derflinger.

But before he burst into another attack…

The pair stopped moving. Louise’s scream made them realize something. The two shadows looked at each other.

And removed their hoods.

The faces that appeared in the moonlight were…

“Kirche! Tabitha!” Guiche shouted loudly.

“What?! It was you?!”

Feeling relieved, Saito tiredly kneeled to the ground.

“You? Why, darling?!”

Surprised, Kirche shouted as well.

 

 

Chapter Seven: The Ring of Andvari

Saito, who had his eye healed by Montmorency’s Water spell, had begun questioning Kirche, who was roasting meat with Tabitha around a bonfire. Guiche appeared to be completely content and had been talking loudly to himself with a glass of wine in his hand. He seemed only too content to be traveling. It was well past midnight, and the twin moons glittered beautifully over the surface of the lake. It was a wonderful sight.

Kirche approached Saito asking if his wound had recovered. Though Saito felt slightly bitter about being defeated, he could not help but admire both their team work.

“You are really good, we stood no chance.”

“Victory or defeat is also dependent on luck. If your luck were better, we could only have run. Besides, you were fighting alone, Guiche was useless, Montmorency was only watching and Louise only dealt the final blow.”

Kirche proudly brushed up her hair.

“But why are you attacking the Water Spirit?” Saito asked, sitting near the bonfire.

“Why do you need to protect it?” Kirche countered.

Louise, who had been nestling up to Saito’s back for some time, pulled the sleeve of his parka sadly.

“Do you think Kirche is better than me?”

“Ah! No – that’s not true! I was just asking about what’s going on! Why don’t you get some sleep?”

“No way, I don’t need to rest! Don’t you want to talk with me? That is the 32nd time you’ve told me to sleep today.”

It seemed as if Louise had been counting the words Saito had said to her. Although a little scary, Saito felt that Louise was really lovable at that moment. But right now he was busy so he gently placed his hand on her shoulder and spoke as if she was a small child: “We can talk afterwards, you should go to sleep. You just cast a major spell, aren’t you tired?”

Louise was bashfully tracing circles with her finger on Saito’s chest.

“Then… promise me with a kiss.”

“What…?”

“Kiss me or I won’t go to sleep.”

Kirche’s stared at them, her mouth agape. Looking at each other, Guiche and Montmorency giggled. Kirche and Tabitha were still unaware of what had happened.

Saito reluctantly kissed Louise’s cheek.

“Cheek isn’t enough!”

Louise puffed up her cheeks and muttered bluntly.

Saito felt extremely awkward, it would be too embarrassing to kiss Louise straight on the lips with everyone watching. He worried for a while and finally kissed her forehead. Louise was reluctantly satisfied, and crawled into his lap, resting herself between his knees and pressing her body against his chest she closed her eyes. Soon her breathing slowed and light snores escaped from her slightly open pink lips.

“How did you manage to domesticate Louise to this degree? I didn’t think you were the kind of guy who was able to entice a girl, yet she is already treating you like a god!” Kirche asked in admiration.

“It’s not like that, Montmorency made a love potion and Louise accidentally drank it. The first person she saw was me and now she has fallen in love with me.”

“Love potion? Why did you make such a thing?” Kirche asked Montmorency, who was nibbling some meat.

“Oh, I was just curious to see if I could do it.”

Montmorency had sidestepped the question with a trivial answer…

“Really, a woman who has no confidence in her charms is the worst. Don’t you agree?”

“Go die! Anyways, it’s all Guiche’s fault, if he had drunken it we would not need to search for the antidote now!”

“Are you saying it’s my fault to begin with?”

Saito explained the situation to Kirche. In order to make the antidote, they needed the Water Spirit’s tears. And in exchange for it they needed to repel the attackers…

“So that was it, that’s why you are protecting the Water Spirit?”

Kirche looked awkwardly towards Tabitha who had been staring into the fire with a glazed expression.

“This is bad; we can’t fight you, but if we don’t stop the Water Spirit, Tabitha’s family will be in trouble…”

“Why is it necessary to get rid of it?”

Prompted by Saito, Kirche replied hesitantly. She could not openly tell the private matters of Tabitha’s family for sure.

“You see, the water levels have caused damage to the surrounding area. Tabitha’s family has suffered losses because of the damage so we have been entrusted to get rid of it.”

So that was it. They couldn’t go home empty handed. Then how should they handle it… Saito considered it for a while and concluded.

“That’s fine, you can stop attacking the Water Spirit and we can find out why the Water Spirit is raising the water level so much and ask it to stop.”

“The Water Spirit will listen to us?”

“This morning we negotiated with it and it agreed to give us a part of its body if we stop the attackers.”

Kirche considered for a second and asked Tabitha, “As long as the floods stop and the land is restored to its original condition would that be ok?”

Tabitha nodded.

“Great, it’s decided! We can carry out the negotiations tomorrow!”

Early the next morning, Montmorency, like the previous day, released her small frog familar into the lake to call the Water Spirit. The water parted and the Water Spirit rose up through the morning mist.

“Water Spirit, the attackers will no longer bother you, as per the agreement will you give us a part of your body?”

As Montmorency finished talking, the Water Spirit’s body trembled and a portion of its body was repelled as a thin line into the vial Guiche was holding.

Its promise completed, the Water Spirit sunk back towards the lake, however Saito quickly called for it to stop.

“Please wait! I have something to ask you!”

The Water Spirit rose up from the water’s surface, taking, to Montmorency’s displeasure, a naked Montmorency’s shape once again.

“What, mere human?”

“Why have you raised the water? Please, if there is a reason can you tell us? We would be willing to help if you can stop.”

The Water Spirit’s body grew in size and assumed various positions. It concluded by twisting its form into that of Montmorency in a gesture that seemed to express feeling. Perhaps its form reflected its thoughts.

“I will consider entrusting this task to you. Since you honored our previous contract, I think I can trust you.”

Suddenly seeming angry, the Water Spirit paused. Saito said nothing, but waited for the spirit to continue. After several shape changes, the Water Spirit had settled once again in Montmorency’s form and continued to speak.

“A long time ago, your kind stole one of my treasures.”

“A treasure?”

“Yes, my most important possession was stolen from the deepest part of my lake, about thirty months before the moon’s crossing.”

“Approximately two years ago…” Montmorency murmurs.

“Are you trying to take revenge on humans by increasing the water level and flooding villages?”

“Vengeance? Our kind does not have that purpose. I am simply trying to retake my treasure, and even if it takes an eternity water will slowly erode the land. Even if I must sink the entire continent I will regain what I have lost.”

“You’re willing to do so much?”

This was going too far, the Water Spirit was willing to submerge an entire continent in order to reclaim its treasure in a process that could take hundreds, even thousands of years.

“You sure are patient.”

“Our concept of time is different, for me the whole is the same as the present. All time is the same to me, regardless of the present the future will always come. It makes no difference as I will always exist.”

The Water Spirit did not seem to have the concept of death. Time on this scale would be unimaginable to a human.

“Well, we can help you retrieve your treasure. What is it?”

“My treasure is the Ring of Andvari, it had been with me until now.”

“I think I have heard of it.”

Montmorency muttered.

“A legendary magic item of the water system. It is said to give false life to the deceased…”

“That is not incorrect, but death is a concept that I do not understand, therefore I cannot understand your description. The Ring of Andvari does not simply bring false life, it is the embodiment of the ancient “Strength of the Water”, it is not simply a magical item.”

“Then who stole such a thing?”

“Using wind magic, several humans came into my dwelling. They did not disturb me in my slumber and took away my most prized possession.”

“So you don’t know their names?”

“One of the people went by the name Cromwell.”

Kirche said to herself, “If I haven’t misunderstood, he is the new Emperor of Albion.”

Everyone but Saito could not help but look at each other in dismay.

“Could he be a different person? There could be two people with the same name… If he has gained the power of false life, what will he use it for?”

“Those who are revived have their freedom stolen. They must obey the owner of the ring.”

“It is a truly evil ring, animating the dead is a disgusting power.” Kirche said in a low voice.

Kirche continued to mutter to herself, she felt as if she should have remembered something but couldn’t grasp the thought.

Saito nodded with a firm resolution, and turned towards the Water Spirit.

“I understand. Please stop raising the water level and I guarantee you I will return your ring.”

The Water Spirit vibrated.

“I believe you, if you can bring back the ring I will no longer raise the water.”

“Then when should I bring it back to you?”

This time the Water Spirit shook and trembled.

“Before your life ends, otherwise I am unconcerned.”

“You don’t mind such a long time?”

“I don’t care, to me tomorrow is no different from any other part of the future.” After saying this, the Water Spirit returned to the depths of the lake.

In that flash, Tabitha stopped it by calling out.

“Please wait.”

Everyone stared at Tabitha in surprise. Although she had been with them all this time, this was the first time she had spoken out.

“Water Spirit, I wish to ask you something.”

“What is your question?”

“We humans have always called you the “Spirit of Oath’, I would like to know the reason.”

“Mere human, my and your existence are completely dissimilar. I cannot understand your question completely, but I can speculate. My existence in itself is the reason for this name. I do not have a fixed shape, yet I will never change. For uncountable generations I have always been here with the water.”

ZnT04-206.jpg

The Water Spirit, trembling, spoke. The sound rang in the air.

“Because you are eternally unchanging, therefore you will forever carry our hopes.”

Tabitha nodded, then shut her eyes. In the end, who had she made an oath to? Kirche gently put a hand on her shoulder.

Montmorency, having seen such Tabitha’s appearance, immediately poked Guiche.

“What?”

“Quickly, make an oath too.”

“What oath?”

“What did you think I made the Love potion for anyways?”

“Mmm! Ah… I swear that I will consider Montmorency above all others from this point forward…”

She poked Guiche again.

“Oww… Ah…! Really! I swear!”

“I don’t want to be above others, I want to be the only. Swear you love only me!”

Guiche forced sad words out in a tone that most people would find hard to believe.

“I swear…”

Louise had also pulled on Saito’s sleeve, her eyes were gazing up at him.

“You too – swear to me.”

Saito looked into Louise’s face. Today he must tell this Louise goodbye and he couldn’t help but feel somewhat lonely. Even though it was only because of the Love potion, how many times had she told him that she loved him?

But Saito preferred the original Louise. Even if he was beaten by her and treated like a dog, he thought the original was better.

“You are not willing to swear to me? You don’t love me?”

Tears filled Louise’s eyes.

“Sorry… I cannot swear to you… I cannot make a promise to you the way you are.”

When Saito said this, she began to cry. Saito gently stroked her head.

Chapter Eight: Reunion with Falsehood

Henrietta, nearly naked, was lying on her bed. The only thing she was wearing was a thin chemise. The room she was in belonged to her father, the deceased King, but she had begun to use it after becoming Queen.

Beside the enormous canopy-included bed was her father’s favorite table. She quietly reached out with her hand and took the bottle of wine. Pouring it in her cup, she drank it all down in one gulp. Before, she had lightly drank alcohol when she ate… but after becoming Queen, the amount she drank had increased.

To Henrietta, who was nothing but a flower ornament for the government, being asked for decisions was something she felt anxious about. Most resolutions were brought to her in a decided state, but even so, the one who gave approval of those was her. What was more, even though a state of reduced activity was being kept, the war was still going on.

Even though she was just an ornamental ruler, numerous responsibilities for her had already occurred. Henrietta was still handling that pressure. She couldn’t sleep without drinking. She couldn’t show this to her attendant court ladies or chamberlains, so she drank the hidden wine in the dead of night. Once again, she poured wine into her cup. I might have drank too much. She thought drowsily though her intoxication. She quietly chanted a rune and swung it down at the cup she had poured wine in.

Water overflowed from the tip of her wand and filled the cup. It was a spell to return water vapor in the air back into a fluid. It is a rudimentary spell of the Water-element.

The water overflowed and spilled out of the cup. Possibly because of her drunkenness, she couldn’t control the amount she poured. She drank it all.

Henrietta, whose cheeks were dyed pink in color, fell on her bed once again.

When she was drunk, what she remembered was… the fun days. The glittering days.

The few times where she actually felt she was alive.

The short time of the summer when she was fourteen years-old.

The words she wanted to hear just once…

“Why did you not say it at that time?”

Henrietta asked, covering her face with her hands.

But, the person who would say it is no longer here. Nowhere in this world.

She felt that victory might heal sadness.

She thought that the exhausting work of a queen might let her forget about it.

However, she couldn’t forget. Brilliant victories, words of praise, the shouts of the people who respect and love her for being a saint… cannot match just one word.

She unconsciously shed tears. Oh no, she thought. Tomorrow’s morning will be early. There are negotiations with Germania’s ambassador. To Tristain and Henrietta who wanted to end this foolish war as soon as possible, it was an important negotiation. I can’t show them my face wet with tears. I can no longer show my weak side to anyone anymore.

She wiped her tears. And when she reached out for her wine cup again…

There was a knock at the door.

Who could it be so late at night? Did something troublesome come up again? It’s annoying, but I can’t ignore it. Albion might have dispatched their armada again.

Henrietta put on her gown in a weary manner and asked from her bed.

“La Porte? Or are you the Cardinal? What’s wrong, in this dead of the night?”

However, there was no reply. In exchange, there was another knock. If it isn’t the Grand Chamberlain or Cardinal, then just who is it?

“Who is it? Identify yourself. For people who visit the Queen’s room so late at night, there is no way one cannot name themselves. Now, speak. Otherwise, I will call someone.”

“It’s me.”

The moment those words entered her ears, Henrietta’s facial expression disappeared.

“It seems I drank too much. This isn’t good, to hear such hallucinations so clearly…”

Murmuring that, she placed her hands on her chest. But, the intense palpitation of her heart would not stop.

“It’s me.”

“It’s me, Henrietta. Open this door.”

Henrietta rushed over to the door.

“Prince Wales? No way. You should have died by a traitor’s hands…”

In a trembling voice, she said that.

“That’s a mistake. And I, am alive.”

“That’s a lie. A lie. How?”

“I had run away. The one that died… was my impersonator.”

“That… Even though, the Ruby of Wind is…”

Henrietta checked the ring, a memento of Wales, that was on her finger.

“To deceive the enemy, you have to start with your allies, right? Well, it is understandable that you do not believe me. Then, I will let you hear the proof that I am me.”

While trembling, Henrietta waited for Wales’s words.

“In the night when wind blows.”

The watchword she heard often at Ragdorian Lake.

Forgetting to even answer, Henrietta threw open the door.

The smile she had dreamed of many times stood there.

“Ooh, Prince Wales… You really are safe…”

What followed could not become words. Henrietta tightly hugged Wales’s chest, and she placed her face there and sobbed.

Wales tenderly petted her head.

“You are the same as always, Henrietta. What a crybaby.”

“That’s because, I had completely thought you were dead… Why did you not visit sooner?”

“After losing, I escaped on a cruiser. I was hiding in Tristain’s forest the whole time. I could not have the enemy finding my whereabouts, so I changed my location many times. I came to the lands of the castle you live in two days ago… It took time to investigate on when you would be alone. There is no way I could just stand in the waiting room as an audience in the daytime, right?”

Saying that, Wales smiled teasingly.

“As always, you are so mean. You don’t understand… how much I grieved… how lonely I felt.”

“I understand. That is why I came to see you.”

For a while, Henrietta and Wales embraced each other.

“You can come to this castle as much as you want. Albion does not have the power to invade Tristain right now. After all, their reliable armada is gone. This castle is the safest place in Halkeginia. The enemy can not lay a single finger on you.”

“It can not be like that.”

Wales smiled cheerfully.

“What do you plan to do?”

“I have to return to Albion.”

“What a stupid thing! That is like pointlessly going to throw away the life you barely managed to keep!”

“Even so, I have to return. I have to liberate Albion from Reconquista’s hands.”

“What a joke!”

“It isn’t a joke. For that reason, I came to meet you.”

“Me?”

“Your powers are necessary in order to liberate Albion. There are cooperators in the country as well, but… Even more, I need a person I can trust. You will come with me, right?”

“No way… I am happy for those words, but that is impossible. I could have gone on such adventures when I was a princess, but I am now a queen. Whether I like it or not, the country and the people are placed on my shoulders. Please do not say such impossible things.”

However, Wales would not give up. With even more zealous words, he tried to convince Henrietta. “I know it is impossible. But, you are necessary for victory. In the middle of that lost battle, I realized it. About just how much I needed you. I need the “Saint” who will bring victory upon me and Albion.”

Henrietta felt something hot welling inside her body. She was needed by her beloved person. Drunkenness and loneliness accelerated the urge welling inside her.

Even so, Henrietta desperately answered.

“Do not trouble me any more. Please wait, I will have people come and prepare a bed for you. Tomorrow, again, we can discuss this topic, slowly…”

Wales shook his head.

“We won’t make it in time tomorrow.”

Then, Wales easily said the words Henrietta had always wanted to hear.

“I love you, Henrietta. That’s why, come with me.”

Henrietta’s heart started beating in the same rhythm as the times where she and Wales rendezvoused at Ragdorian Lake.

Slowly, Wales drew his lips near Henrietta. To Henrietta’s lips that tried to say something, Wales’ sealed it up.

In Henrietta’s mind, she recalled all kinds of sweet memories.

Because of that, Henrietta did not notice the sleeping magic cast on her.

Still feeling happy, Henrietta fell into the world of sleep.

Meanwhile, at the same time…

In one of the rooms in the girls’ dormitory at Tristain’s Academy of Magic, Montmorency was trying her very best at mixing something while Saito and the others watched her.

“Doneー! Fuu! Still, that really was difficultー!”

While wiping the sweat from her forehead, Montmorency flopped onto her chair.

Inside the pot on top of the table was the cancellation drug that she just mixed.

“It’s fine to just drink it like this?”

“Yes.”

Taking the pot, Saito brought it to the tip of Louise’s nose. Louise grimaced from the smell.

“Well then, Louise. Drink this.”

“No. It stinks really badly.”

Louise shook her head. Crap, I should have mixed it with something and have her secretly drink it. In order to have children eat carrots, you chop it and mix it into a hamburger.

“Please. Drink this.”

“If I drink this, will you kiss me?”

Saito nodded, realizing he had no other choice.

“Got it. If you drink this, I’ll kiss you.”

Louise answered, “I understand”, and took the pot.

She looked at the contents with a disgusted expression for a while, but she closed her eyes resolutely and drank it all. Montmorency, observing this, poked Saito.

“For now, shouldn’t it be best if you run away?”

“Why?”

“Because the memories of the time when she was madly in love with you after drinking the love potion don’t disappear. She remembers everything. That Louise remembers everything she did and was done to her.”

Saito flinched in shock and looked at Louise.

“Buhwa!” went Louise who drank the whole thing, and then she hiccupped once.

“Funya.”

After that, as if an evil spirit had left her, her facial expression completely returned back to normal. Seeing Saito in front of her, her face suddenly turned red. Chewing on her lips, she started trembling.

Saito muttered, “Oh god,” and tried to sneak out of the place.

“Wait.”

“Sorry, but food for my pigeon…”

“You don’t even keep a pigeonnnnnnnnn!!!!”

Louise’s voice resounded. This is bad. I’m going to be killed.

Saito opened the door and ran down the stairs as if he was tumbling down.

However, the present Louise moved at lightning speed.

Jumping from the landing of the staircase, she aimed a kick downstairs at Saito’s back. Saito somersaulted, rolled down to the first floor, and struck the floor severely.

Suitably, it was the entranceway of the girls’ dormitory. He tried to escape by crawling, but, as usual, the scruff of his neck was firmly stepped on by her foot.

“I, I didn’t do anything wrong! It couldn’t be helped! It was that drug’s fault! We were both unhappy!”

Without answering back, Louise pulled up his parka. Then she lifted his t-shirt. Finding a lot more kiss marks, her face got even redder. She made these herself. This is, this is-this is… For me to do such a thing… She traced the back of her neck with her finger. The same mark made by Saito was there.

With shyness and anger at herself mixed, Louise’s reasoning snapped. In the end, the thing that received her unreasonable anger was Saito’s body. Saito’s screams sounded into the air.

On a bench in Austri Plaza, Saito was laying on it limply. He was hurt to the point of dying, and was half dead. He occasionally twitched, so he wasn’t dead. Beside him was the finally calmed-down Louise, sitting on the edge of the bench, who was blushing and thinking about something while pursing her lips out as if she was angry.

The two moons had risen and were shining on the two gently. However, the atmosphere running around the two was far from gentle and was awkward, hot, and numbing. In other words, the atmosphere between the two had returned to normal.

“Do you feel satisfied now?”

Saito muttered.

“I-if I was normal, I definitely wouldn’t have done something like that! Really! Hmph!”

“I know that.”

Saito muttered in an exhausted voice. By that time, finally, Louise realized that it was not Saito’s fault at all. Even so, he let Louise do what she did and received her outrage. His cheeks are swollen. Is he okay? Despite inflicting the wounds herself, she was impelled to take care of him. But… It really was embarrassing. The memories of the moments after she drank the love potion kept her from approaching Saito.

But why did this familiar just let himself get hit, I wonder?

“You are you too. You didn’t have to be obedient and get hit by me until you ended up in such a state, right? Sheesh! Resist a little! I went too far, you know!”

“…It’s fine.”

Saito muttered in an exhausted voice.

“Why is that?”

“…Because if I did so, you wouldn’t feel satisfied, right? I understand how you feel. After all, you followed a guy you don’t even like around so closely, and you even did those things and these things. For someone so prideful like you, there’s no way you could forgive it, right? And still, looking back, I have a little responsibility for angering you… Anyways, don’t worry about it.”

Well, aren’t those kind words. Even though I hurt him so much. It came to her firmly.

But, the words that came out were the opposite.

“I-I’m not worrying about it. Really I just want to hurry and forget.”

Haa, why can’t I be honest? She thought. Then, Louise asked about one thing that was bothering her.

“Hey, can I ask you something?”

“About what?”

“When I was, well, in a state where I couldn’t live without you thanks to that drug… why didn’t you, um, d-d-do anything?”

Saito answered frankly.

“That’s because, that wasn’t you. I can’t do something to you when you aren’t you. I can’t leave myself to lust and defile a person important to me.”

Being told she was important, Louise blushed. However, she couldn’t show him such a face. Louise turned her face away. But, she was really bothered. Why am I important? Hey… why?

“Wh-wh, why am I important?”

She asked in a trembling voice.

“Well, you provide food and a place to sleep.”

“Haa…” She felt disappointed. Well, that makes sense. I’m embarrassed I even got excited for a moment. Louise had turned her face from Saito, so she didn’t realize he had purposely said that while blushing.

Still, he’s a familiar that still calls me, his master, “important” after being hurt so much. Becoming a bit more honest, Louise apologized in a pouting manner.

“…I’m sorry. I won’t get angry anymore. You have the right to do stuff freely too.”

To be truthful, she didn’t want to say this. She remembered the time when the love potion was in effect. Those might have been her own true intentions, she thought.

“It’s fine. You aren’t you if you don’t get mad. Do what you want.”

Then, the two fell silent.

Unable to endure that atmosphere, Louise ended up changing the topic.

“Haa, still, how nostalgic… That Ragdorian Lake.”

“You’ve gone there before?”

“Eeh. When I was thirteen. There were occasions where I accompanied the Princess. An extremely grand garden party was opened… It was really lively and showy. It was fun.”

Louise pulled at the bottom of her memories and began to talk.

“You know, that Ragdorian Lake was where Prince Wales and the Princess met. In the dead of night, the Princess told me ‘I want to go out for a walk, so I need to sneak out of bed. I’m very sorry, but Louise, can you lay in the bed in my place?’ and I acted as her substitute. Thinking about it now, that might have been when the two rendezvoused.”

When Louise said that, a loud voice sounded from behind the bench. From the mole-dug hole Louise once used to watch over Siesta and Saito, Kirche’s red hair poked out. Tabitha was beside her.

“That’s it! I remember now! It was Prince Wales!”

“Wh-what are you talking about?!”

“What! You two were eavesdropping?”

“Ehehe,” Kirche crawled out of the hole while grinning.

“Iyaah, I wanted to see you two reconcile with each other… The melodrama after you hit him so much. Doesn’t that seem interesting?”

“Like hell it would.”

Saito and Louise blushed. Kirche came up to the bench while nodding.

“That’s right. I thought I saw his face somewhere before. Iyaah, so that’s how it is. That was Albion’s lady-killer, Prince Wales.”

Kirche had seen his face before during Germania’s Emperor Inauguration Ceremony. At that time, he was sitting in a guest seat, brandishing his noble and charming smile around him.

She finally remembered just now, so Kirche was satisfied.

“What do you mean by ‘That was Prince Wales’?”

Kirche explained to Saito and Louise. How they passed a group of people riding on horses while heading towards Ragdorian Lake. How she remembered seeing that face somewhere before but couldn’t remember very well.

“But, I remember now. That was Prince Wales. There was an announcement that he died in battle, but he was aliveー.”

“That’s impossible! That prince should have died! I was there to see it myself!”

Kirche did not see Prince Wales die, so she had not actually felt his death firsthand. Therefore, she asked Saito in a joking manner.

“Oh? Is that so? Then, who did I see?”

“Didn’t you mistake him for someone else?”

“There’s no way I could mistake that handsome guy for someone else.”

At that moment, something connected inside Saito’s head. It seemed that was the same for Louise. The two looked at each other. The words that the Water Spirit said… There was a peculiar man named “Cromwell” in the group who stole the Ring of Andvari.

“The Ring of Andvari… So, Reconquista really did…”

“Hey, Kirche. Where was that group heading?”

Louise asked out of breath. Being pressured by the two’s serious attitudes, Kirche answered.

“He passed us, so, let’s see, towards the capital city, Tristain.”

Louise ran off. Saito also chased after her.

“Wait! What’s going on?!”

Kirche was flustered.

“The Princess is in trouble!”

“Why─?”

Kirche and Tabitha did not know about Wales and Henrietta’s secret relationship, so they did not understand the meaning behind those words. But, bothered by Saito and Louise’s unusual actions, Kirche and Tabitha followed them.

 

 

Chapter Nine: Confrontation of Sadness

Riding Tabitha‘s wind dragon, Saito, Louise, Kirche and Tabitha herself, flew towards the royal palace, having left the Academy of Magic two hours ago. It was one hour after midnight.

The courtyard was in an uproar. Louise and Saito felt that their bad premonitions had come true. When the wind-dragon landed in the courtyard, it was instantly surrounded by the magic guardian troops.

The commander of Manticore Corps, loudly ordered.

“Hey you! The royal palace is off-limits now! Leave!”

However, he already recognized the group from sight. They were the same that came here right before the war against Albion started. The commander puckered up his brows.

“You again! You only come at troublesome times!”

Louise jumped down from a wind dragon. She had no time to play games of questions and answers with the captain of the guard. She asked in a breathless haste.

“Princess-sama! No, Her Majesty, is she alright?!”

The courtyard was humming like a beehive. The nobles were carrying the shining magical wands, while solders – torches, looking for something. It was clear that something happened in the royal palace.

“I don’t have to tell you anything, damned one. Leave at once.”

Her face red with anger, Louise pulled out something from her pocket. It was the permit paper that Henrietta gave to Louise before.

“I am a court lady who is under immediate control of Her Majesty! In my hand I hold the permit papers signed by the Queen! I have the right to exercise Her Majesty’s jurisdiction! I request an immediate explanation of the circumstances!“

The commander grabbed the permit papers from Louise’s hands with blank surprise all over his face. They were indeed authentic permit papers signed by Henrietta that read – ‘Louise Françoise Le Blanc De La Vallière is presented with the right of being a royal representative. Her demands must be granted.” With the royal signature attached.

The commander stared with astonishment at Louise. Such a young girl… had such a document from Her Majesty.

He was a serviceman though. No matter how one looked, a superior officer was still a superior officer. Standing upright at once, he reported the situation concerning Her Majesty.

“Two hours ago, someone enticed Her Majesty away. One of the guards was knocked down as they escaped with horses. The griffon squad is chasing after them. We were searching around here to find some evidence.”

Louise’s complexion changed.

“Which way did they leave?”

“They went south over the highway. Apparently they escaped towards the district of La Rochelle. Without a doubt, Albion has a hand to this. Though the instruction to block the port was sent at once… Dragon Knight corps were almost annihilated in the last war. So the only way we can catch up with them are either by griffons or horses…”

Wind dragons are much lighter than griffons thus they normally would take the pursuit… but the way things were now – it iwas questionable whether it was possible to catch up. Louise jumped onto the wind dragon again.

“Hurry! The thief who kidnapped princess-sama escaped towards La Rochelle! We will be in serious trouble if we aren’t able to catch up by the time the morning dawns!”

Everyone, hearing the circumstances, nodded, looking tense. Tabitha gave the orders to the wind dragon.

Sylphid flew up in the darkness of the night again. Louise shouted.

“Fly low! The enemy is riding a horse!”

The wind dragon kept on flying following the highway with a surprising swiftness.

It was a thick dark night, but even though one could not see even few steps ahead, the wind dragon kept on flying using its sharp nose, avoiding trees and buildings.

The griffon unit had split into two, one flew by griffon along the highway, the other rode on horses. It was to be expected as the Griffon Corps was the lightest of the three squads and they could see better at night. Therefore, it was chosen as the chasing unit. A lot of people in the squad were burning with anger. The enemy attacked the court under the cover of darkness. Even in their wildest dreams one could not imagine that someone would dare to attack the palace of the capital. Moreover, it was young queen Henrietta that was abducted, a successor of the throne. For magic knights that have been guardians of royal family there could not be a greater disgrace than this.

Griffons taking use of their wings and feet rushed forwards. Though the departure was delayed due to all the confusion, the enemy was still using horses. There was no reason they should not be able to catch up. The commander scolded the unit harshly.

“Run! Catch up with Her Majesty as soon as possible!”

One group of the Griffon unit dashed forward.

There was a big hustle between the Griffon units going ahead.

They might have found something. Under the commander’s signal, a fire user went forward and launched a flame spell. It lit the highway 100 mails ahead, and one could see distant figures of the riders.

There were ten times as many of them.

The commander put on a brutal smile.

“First of all aim for the horses! Do not hurt Her Majesty!”

The Griffon Corps dashed forwards, launching one spell after another.

After the wall of spells rounded upon the enemies, the knights launched an attack in an instant.

The flame ball, the blade of wind, the spear of ice, all aimed at the horses that enemies rode on. Doh! Earth trembled, making horses fall one after another. The commander confirmed that Queen Henrietta, dressed in her white gown, was riding behind the first horse. In an emergency situation like this, he hesitated – it was necessary to retrieve Her Majesty without injuries. If she were to be injured, he would get some major scolding later.

After muttering an apology, the commander cast the wind spell, cutting the leg of the first horse off and throwing the Princess and the rider down to the ground.

Without mercy, the griffon squad surrounded the fallen enemy knights. The necks of the abductors were cut with wind blades and ice spears went through their hearts. The knight who was leading the run had his head cut of by the commander’s wind blade, a deadly wound.

The match was decided in a moment.

When the commander nodded approvingly, the unit stopped.

Then he jumped down from his griffon, and the moment he approached the queen who fell into the grass…

Knights, who should have been dead, stood up one after another.

Griffon knights, who had relaxed their guard thinking that enemy was annihilated were now caught by surprise by enemy magic.

“Ah!” groaned the commander trying to pull out his wand when his body was wrapped up by tornado.

Limbs were cut off by the tornado, finishing them off in a moment, as the knight who should have been finished by the commander stood up, with a clearly visible torn up wound in his neck, and smiled.

When Wales finally placed the wand to his side he approached the grass where Henrietta had fallen down.

Henrietta only now started to recover from the shock of being thrown to the grass. She watched Wales approach with disbelieving eyes.

“Wales-sama, you… what on earth?”

“Surprised?”

Henrietta pulled out her crystal wand that she always carried with herself and aimed it at Wales.

“Who are you?”

“I am Wales.”

“Lies! You killed the magical knight corps…”

“You want to kill me? It is all right. Scoop me out with your magic. Pierce this heart of mine with it if you want.”

Wales pointed at his chest. The hand gripping Henrietta’s wand started to tremble.

The magic spell did not come out of her mouth. What came instead was a choked sob.

“Why are you doing this?”

“Trust me, Henrietta.”

“But… but, this…”

“I will tell the reasons later. Many different circumstances are the cause of this. For now, come with me without asking.”

“I-I do not understand. Why did you do these kind of things… What are you trying to do?”

Wales answered softly.

“You do not need to understand. You do not need to like oath, you just need to follow it. Do you remember? The words of the oath you said at the Ragdorian lake. Words you said before the water spirit.”

“By no means could I forget. I will remember until the day I die.”

“Please say it, Henrietta.”

Henrietta said the oath word for word.

“…I, Henrietta, the princess of Tristain vows before the spirits of water that she will love Wales-sama for eternity.”

“Only one thing changed now from the oath in the past. You are a queen now. However, does everything else remain unchanged? And will not change?”

Henrietta nodded. I always dreamt only about the day when Wales would hold me in his arms.

“Even though the way things are, the oath sworn before the water spirit cannot be broken. You only have to believe only in your own words. Please leave everything to me.”

Each gentle word of Wales turned Henrietta more and more into a girl that did not know a thing. Henrietta kept nodding many times, just like a child. She was completely persuaded.

After that, Wales stood up and approached his knights. One could see open mortal wounds on their throats or chests.

However… ignoring them, they moved just like any living creature.

They went to check the fallen horses, yet, they all were dead.

Then they hid themselves in the tall grass, one after another disappearing from sight.

The line of the ambush.

Without words they and Wales formed a line of ambush, and stopped moving. Just like one living creature.

Saito and the others flew on the wind dragon following the highway until they saw a tragic sight of corpses scattered around. The wind dragon stopped, and they jumped down. Not getting off, Tabitha looked around attentively.

“Princess.”

Saito muttered. Burning corpses with their hands and feet cut off were laying around. Griffons and horses were lying in pools of their own blood. This must have been the griffon unit.

“There’s someone alive!”

Saito and Louise ran towards Kirche’s voice.

Despite a deep wound in his arm, someone survived.

“Are you all right?”

Louise now regretted not taking Montmorency with them. In cases of wounds, her water magic would be irreplaceable.

“I’m alright… And you are?”

“We, just like you, ran after the gang that kidnapped Her Majesty. What on earth happened to you?”

The knight answered in a shaky voice.

“They, their wounds were really fatal…”

“What?”

However, the knight could not tell anything else. Feeling secure now that help had come, he fainted.

At that moment, a magical attack was unleashed from all directions. Tabitha reacted in an instant. Expecting an attack beforehand, she created a wall of air above and let it fly down with her magic.

Out of the grass, shadows stood up, swaying in slow motion.

They were once dead Albion nobles now revived by Andvari’s ring.

Kirche and Tabitha took a stance. However, for some reason, the enemy didn’t launch an attack any more. Tension started.

Then, Saito was astonished to find a well known shadow there.

“Crown Prince Wales!”

Still, he…

Wales, who was dead and was given a fake life from Cromwell using the Ring of Andvari, stolen from the water spirit, had abducted Henrietta.

Thinking so, Saito was getting angry at such unfair doing.

He gripped Derflinger on his shoulder. The rune on his left hand started to shine.

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“Return the princess.”

However, Wales didn’t drop the smile.

“You are saying strong things. I cannot return her as she follows me on her own free-will.”

“What?”

Behind Wales back, Henrietta, dressed in the gown, appeared.

“Princess!”

Louise shouted.

“Please do not go there! That prince Wales is not the real Wales! It is a revenant of the prince, revived by Cromwell’s hands with the Ring of Andvari!”

However, Henrietta didn’t step forward. She just bit and tightened her shivering lips.

“…Princess?”

“See? Now then, how about a deal?”

“Deal?”

“That’s right. Though we would like to quarrel here with you, we lost our horses. And traveling without horses through the night can be dangerous, so I would like to save as much magic as possible.”

Tabitha chanted the spell.

‘Windy Icicle’ – attack spell by skillful Tabitha.

Right in the middle of his words the arrow of ice went through Wales’ body.

However… surprisingly, Wales did not fall down and the wound healed itself in another moment.

“It is useless. I cannot be damaged by your attacks.”

Yet, even after seeing this, Henrietta’s expression did not change.

“Look! It is not the prince! It is something else! Princess!”

However, Henrietta did not want to believe, and shook her head from right to left. Then said to Louise in a constrained voice.

“Please, Louise, put away the wand. Please do it for me. Please let us go.”

“Princess? What are you saying?! Princess! That thing is not Crown Prince Wales! Princess, you have been tricked!”

Henrietta gave a smile. A ghastly smile.

“I know that. In my room, when our lips met, I knew that 100 times over. However, still, I do not care. Louise, you haven’t loved a person so strongly yet. When you really are in love you are willing to throw away everything. You want to follow him anywhere. Even if it is a lie. You cannot do anything else but believe. I swore, Louise. I made an oath before the water spirit saying ‘I swear eternal love to Wales’. Even if the whole world says it is a lie, my feelings alone are not a lie. Therefore, let us go, Louise.”

“Princess!”

“It’s an order, Louise Françoise. My last one, from me to you. Please, step out of our way.”

Louise’s hand that was aiming the wand dropped down to her side. Understanding Henrietta’s firm decision, she helplessly gave in. Why should she stop such said strong love…

The line of deceased people tried to pass through the dumbfounded Louise.

But, before them…

Saito, holding Derflinger, blocked the way.

He was terribly sad. He understood Henrietta’s feelings. But Saito’s mind could not permit it. His mind screamed that he should not let it happen. Saito said in a voice that contained sadness and anger.

“Princess, if I am allowed to say, talking in one’s sleep is not good.”

His shoulders and body trembled.

“Passion, love, being together with a woman, not caring about anything else. Is such love true? It is just a mere blindness. Blood goes up to the head and one cannot think straight.”

“Leave! It’s an order!”

Henrietta shrieked with all her remaining dignity.

“Unfortunately, I am not your subordinate. Your orders mean nothing to me. Even if you keep on ordering me… I won’t listen. I will cut through that spell of yours.”

It was Wales who moved first. Though he tried to utter a spell, Saito jumped at him.

However, a wall of water blew Saito off.

Petrified Henrietta, gripping the wand, trembled.

“I won’t allow you to lay even a single finger on Wales.”

The crushing wall of water moved to Saito again. However, the space in front of Henrietta exploded in the next moment. Henrietta was blown away.

Louise had cast an explosion spell.

“Even though you are a princess, I won’t allow you to lay a single finger on my familiar, either.”

With her hair ruffled, Louise muttered in a shaking voice.

Due to this explosion, Tabitha and Kirche, who had been watching the scene in blank surprise, started chanting spells as well.

The fight started.

Saito kept on blocking the magic spells with his sword, in front of Louise. Though the magic flitted around, no one was wounded seriously. Though Tabitha’s and Kirche’s unleashed magic was knocking down the enemies, the enemies themselves preserved their willpower, hoping to weaken them up little by little with dot spells.

However, the enemy’s teamwork was skillful. Little by little, Saito and the others were cornered.

Before they realized it, Louise, Saito and the others were enclosed in a tight circle.

They were cornered in a defending position. The number of enemies was too great, thus there was no chance to attack.

Kirche released another fire ball, burning down a single mage.

“The flame is effective! It only has to burn!”

Kirche launched another flame attack. Tabitha switched the attack to cover Kirche at once. Saito also turned to support. The spells that flew at Kirche were inhaled by Derflinger.

The enemies recovered and tried to cut him with wind swords.

Yet, Kirche’s flame burned down another three of them…

The enemy dashed away from the range of her magic and then regrouped.

“The way it is, if you burn them by the flame little by little… we may have a chance to win.”

Kirche muttered.

However, heaven turned away from them.

Gradually, Tabitha noticed something wet hitting her cheek.

With a worried expression she looked up into the sky.

A huge cloud of rain segregated above them.

Rain that started as a light sprinkle, changed into a heavy pour soon.

Henrietta shouted.

“Throw your wands away! I do not want to kill you!”

“Just wake up, princess! Please!”

Louise shouted, but her voice was drowned by the sounds of the increasingly heavier raindrops

“Look! Rain! Rain! ‘Water’ spells will always win in the rain! Thanks to this rain, our victory was decided!”

“Is that so?”

Saito shouted anxiously. Kirche, who was about to say that, nodded as if she were expressing her disappointment.

“Really, the Princess can cast a wall of water on us with this. My flame is worthless now. Tabitha’s wind and even your sword cannot damage them… Well, it is over. Defeat!”

Louise muttered in a constrained voice.

“Though I do not want this, let’s run away. We cannot die here.”

“But how can we run away? We are surrounded, aren’t we?”

Everyone became silent.

Then Derflinger thoughtfully voiced out.

“Aah.”

“What?”

“I recalled. They use a very nostalgic magic…”

“Yes?”

“When I saw the water spirit, it tickled something in the back of my mind… No, partner, sorry – I forgot. I recalled it!”

“What?!”

“Their and our source is the same type of magic. Anyway, it is different from the base of your four great element system – magic of ‘Life’”

“What?! Legendary sword! Say something only if you have something useful to say! Good-for-nothing!”

“The good-for-nothing is you. Though being a ‘Void’ user, firing ‘Explosion’ in rapid succession is foolish, I saw and remembered. Though that person might be very strong, the amount of willpower consumed is immense. Like today, launching huge ones like that may require a year to shoot again. We need different fireworks today.”

“Well?!”

“Turn the pages of the prayer book. Dear Brimir, great guy. He sure has some perfect counter.”

Louise looked through pages, like she was told.

However, besides the ‘Explosion’ it was blank as usual.

“There isn’t even written anything! White-on-white!”

“Turn further. If in need, you will be able to read.”

Louise saw the page on which the letters were written.

It was written down in runes of an ancient language.

“…Dispel Magic?”

“That’s right. ‘Release’. The potion that you took a while ago is the reason why you can read it.”

Henrietta sadly shook her head. Though she told Louise to run away, because of the rain, she didn’t run away. Moreso, Louise stepped closer into the center of the tight circle.

Looking up, Henrietta began to utter an incantation. I do not want to kill if possible. However, if you keep on blocking my way…

With Henrietta’s cantrip aria, the raindrops began to harden.

One by one the ally mages had an armor of water hanging on them. The enemy’s ‘Flame’ was sealed off with this.

In addition, Henrietta uttered another incantation.

Wales’ spell joined with hers. Wales watched Henrietta, smiling coldly. Though she noticed the lack of warmth, Henrietta’s heart still felt moistly hot.

They both were surrounded by the tornado of water.

‘Water’, ‘Water’, ‘Water’, and, ‘Wind.’, ‘Wind’, ‘Wind’

The sixth power – water and wind

Triangle mages usually cannot make such strong spells as this. To say almost never, would not be an exaggeration. However, the chosen blood of the royal family enables it.

Only the royal family were able to do a hexagon spell.

Their combined spell increased to an impossible size.

Two triangles intertwined, creating a huge tornado of six.

The tornado was like a tsunami. If hit, it could even blow away a castle.

The sound of Louise’s chanting mixed with the sound of rainfall.

Behind Saito’s back, Louise’s spell could be cast comfortably.

To Louise nothing was impossible today. She kept on concentrating her willpower while uttering sounds of ancient runes one after another with her mouth.

“What’s wrong with this girl?”

Kirche asked with a smile.

“Aah, she’s just acting like a legend for now.” Saito grasped the sword and answered in a joking voice. Hearing Louise casting a ‘Void’ spell gave him courage. Courage that allowed him to smile. Courage that can turn death into a joke.

“So. It is good and all. Yet if that ‘Legend’ doesn’t leak something at least, we won’t be able to win against that tornado.”

The huge tornado of water whirling around Wales and Henrietta’s grew rapidly.

Louise’s silent chant continued still. As expected from ‘Void’. It was as lengthy as one could be.

“This is bad. The other side is faster after all.”

Derflinger muttered.

“What to do?”

“You should know what to do. It is your work to stop that tornado, Gandálfr.”

“My wha-?”

Saito’s face twitched. Yet, he was not scared. The hard-handed courage shook his whole body.

“No, I wonder.”

“What?”

“Aren’t you scared of such a huge tornado?”

“It may be so. You misunderstood, Gandálfr. Your work is not to attack the enemy but to defend your master while the spell is chanted. This is your only work.”

“But it’s not easy.”

“You gain the courage while hearing your master’s spell. Your face reddens, you want to laugh out loudly, your pulse quickens. This all has a reason.”

“I leave it to you,” Kirche muttered.

Tabitha watched Saito’s face.

“Easy victory.”

Saito muttered, “I am the familiar of Void.”

Wales and Henrietta’s spell was completed. The huge tornado of undulating water flew towards Saito and the others. Though it was huge, it was also surprisingly fast.

It was like a castle of water. A castle of water that was swirling around viciously and trying to swallow them.

Grasping Derflinger, Saito dashed towards the tornado using dancer’s steps and pushed Derflinger into the core of the rotating tornado of water.

Though he was almost swallowed, he stood firmly on his feet.

Pain assaulted his body. He could not breathe. The water viciously hit him, tearing his skin off.

However, Saito endured.

His fingernails ripped off.

His eardrums tore.

His eyelids were cut, raging pain ran through his eyeballs.

He could not breathe.

The right arm released the sword as joints broke.

Derflinger was swallowed by the water.

The moment when everything seemed to tumble down, Louise finished her spell.

Even though he could not hear a sound or see anything, Saito could feel it.

“At last, idiot.” Saito muttered and lost consciousness.

Before Louise’s eyes, who completed her spell, a huge tornado raged. However, it didn’t reach her. Saito stood in the middle of the tornado, and she could see him desperately enduring the pain.

Eventually Saito lost to the raging force of nature and crumbled to the ground before the massive waterfall leaving a small gap in it.

Louise bit her lip. Through the gap she aimed her ‘Dispel Magic’ at the enemy.

Henrietta’s surroundings turned into dazzling shining light.

With a thump the body of Wales, who stood next to her, crumbled to the ground. Though Henrietta tried to run up to him, she lost consciousness as completion of the spell took all of her willpower and she toppled to the ground.

All at once, she was wrapped in silence.

Epilogue

Henrietta lost consciousness for a while, but she woke up to a voice calling her name.

Louise was peering at her worriedly.

The rain had stopped. The grass nearby was wet and enveloped by a cool atmosphere.

It was as if the violent battle just now was a lie, Henrietta thought.

However, it wasn’t a lie. Wales’ cold corpse was laying beside her. The other cold corpses were scattered around her. It was the end of the ones who were given fake life by Ring of Andvari. By Louise’s “Dispel Magic”, the fake life disappeared and they returned to their original forms, though Henrietta did not know the reason. It was just that, she felt that the things that needed to be had returned to where they should be. And, that was enough for now.

She wanted to think it was a dream. But, everything was a nightmare-like reality. And she herself, had tried to throw away everything and surrender herself to that nightmare.

Henrietta covered her face with her hands. Right now, she had no right to cling to Wales’ corpse. Much less did she have the face to look at the Louise in front of her, who had loved her since they were young.

“Just what have I done?”

“Have you woken up?”

Louise asked Henrietta in a sad and cold voice. There was no sign of anger. There were some things that needed to be thought about, but it was the usual Louise.

Henrietta nodded.

“What should I say to apologize to you? What should I say in order to ask for forgiveness from the people hurt by me? Please tell me, Louise.”

“More importantly, princess-sama’s powers are needed.”

Louise pointed to the collapsed Saito.

“What horrible injuries.”

“He had been swallowed by that tornado. Please heal him with your ‘water’.”

Henrietta nodded and chanted a rune. By the power of the royal family’s wand that stored the power of “water”, Saito’s wounds started to close up. Saito’s eyes widened when he realized that the one healing his wounds was Henrietta.

“I do not have any words of apology. Are there any other people injured?”

There were several surviving nobles of the hippogriff squad. Henrietta healed their wounds one at a time.

And then… without caring about whether one was an ally or enemy, the corpses were carried into the shade of a tree. Even if the corpses were going to be buried later, they could not just leave them as they were.

Louise and the others… Even Kirche, even Tabitha, did not condemn Henrietta. Henrietta had been seeing a nightmare. A sweet, tempting dream. If they had to hate someone, it would be the person who gave Wales fake life and took advantage of Henrietta’s heart like this. It cannot be said that Henrietta was sinless herself, but it was also truth that there was an existence that profited from that sin.

Henrietta was trying to move Wales at the end.

At that time…

Henrietta saw something she couldn’t believe at all.

Perhaps, Henrietta’s sorrowful love had reached somewhere.

Maybe, someone softly, to heal her sin, softly tipped the scales of life.

When Henrietta touched Wales’ cheek, his eyelids weakly opened.

“…Henrietta? Is it you?”

It was a weak and fading voice, but it was Wales’ voice without a doubt. Henrietta’s shoulders shook. If miracles existed in Halkeginia, times like this were definitely that.

That is because no one can explain the reason why the light of life that should have disappeared was given a mere glow. It is possible that when Louise’s “Dispel Magic” blew away the fake life, Wales’ barely remaining breath of life lit the fire.

It was possible that the feelings Henrietta felt for Wales called upon a whim from the gods. No one knows why. Just that, Wales opened his eyes. That was the truth.

“Wales-sama…”

Henrietta called her lover’s name. She understood. The Wales this time was the true Wales. Not a puppet that moved with fake life, but the true him.

Tears flowed from Henrietta’s eyes.

“What a thing. Just how long have I waited for this moment…”

The group rushed over with surprised faces.

The eyes of the group widened when they saw that Wales had opened his eyes.

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At that moment, Henrietta saw that a red stain was spreading over Wales’ white shirt. The wound caused by Wardes’s thrust that was closed by the fake life had opened.

Panicking, Henrietta chanted a spell to close up the wound.

However… Cruelly so, Henrietta’s magic did not work on that wound. Without the wound closing up, the stain of blood only grew bigger.

“Wales-sama, don’t… No, why…”

“It’s no use… Henrietta. This wound will no longer close. Bodies that have died once will no longer revive. I have probably only come back a bit, just a bit. Perhaps, this is the whim of the water spirit.”

“Wales-sama, no, no… Do you plan to leave me alone again?”

“Henrietta. I have one last wish.”

“Don’t say something like ‘last’.”

“I want to go to that Ragdorian Lake, where I met you for the first time. There is something I want you to promise there.”

Tabitha pulled along her wind dragon. Saito and Kirche set Wales on its back. Following that, Henrietta, who was riding on the wind dragon, placed Wales’ head on her knees and supported his body to keep it from falling.

Carrying the group, the wind dragon soared up.

Aiming for Ragdorian Lake, the wind dragon flew straight towards it.

At Ragdorian Lake, Wales leaned his body on Henrietta as they walked on the shore. The sky was beginning to whiten. Morning was close.

“How nostalgic.”

“Yes.”

“When we first met, I thought you looked like a fairy. See, you were bathing around here.”

Wales pointed to one spot. He probably could already no longer see. That spot was completely different from the one in Henrietta’s memories.

However, Henrietta nodded. Desperately restraining herself from crying,

“Oh, you’re as skilled as ever.”

“At that time, this was what I thought. If we just threw everything away like this. Anywhere is fine. The location doesn’t matter. It’s enough to just have a small house with a garden. Aah, a flower bed is necessary. A flower bed for you to grow flowers in.”

It was like power drained from Wales’ legs every step he took.

“Hey, I always wanted to ask you. At that time, why did you not say those kind words? Why did you not tell me that you love me? I have always waited for those words.”

Wales smiled.

“I could not speak those words, knowing it would make you unhappy.”

“What are you saying? It was my joy to be loved by you.”

Wales fell silent. Henrietta felt the life disappearing from her beloved Wales’ body little by little. For him to have lasted so long could be called a miracle.

However, she couldn’t cry. In the time remaining, she wanted to exchange words with him as much as possible. Even so, her voice was trembling.

Mustering his energy, Wales stated.

“Swear, Henrietta.”

“I will swear about anything. What should I swear about? Please tell me.”

“To forget me. Swear that you will forget me and find another man to love. I want to hear those words. At this Ragdorian Lake. In front of the water spirit, I want to hear you pledge that.”

“Do not say the impossible. I cannot swear such a thing. There is no way I could swear a lie.”

Henrietta froze in her track. Her shoulders were trembling.

“Please, Henrietta. Otherwise, my soul will probably wander for eternity. Do you want me to be unhappy?”

Henrietta shook her head.

“No. I definitely don’t want to.”

“There is no time. There, there is no time anymore. I am already… That’s why, please…”

“Then, then swear. Swear that you love me. By now, you should be able to swear that, right? If you swear to that, then I will swear as well.”

“I will.”

Henrietta, with a sad expression, spoke the words of oath.

“…I swear. To forget about Wales-sama. And also, to find someone else to love.”

Wales said in a satisfied manner, “Thank you.”

“Next, is your turn. Please.”

“I will. Bring me to the waterside.”

Henrietta brought Wales to the waterside. The morning sun poked through the spaces between the tree, and with a beauty unthinkable in this world, the Ragdorian Lake glittered.

Their legs got soaked in water.

Henrietta griped Wales’ shoulders.

“Now, say it. To love me. It is fine for just this moment. I will embrace this moment for eternity. No matter what you say, I will embrace it. Got it?”

However, Wales did not reply.

“Wales-sama?”

Henrietta shook his shoulders. But, Wales had already died.

She slowly recalled the days here, where she met Wales for the first time.

As if to take each memory one by one from a treasure box and check it.

The fun and glittering days will no longer come.

The words of pledge exchanged at this lake, no longer can be protected.

“What a mean person.”

Looking straight ahead, Henrietta whispered.

“To the end, you never spoke those words of oath.”

Slowly, Henrietta closed her eyes.

From her closed eyelids, a line of tears flowed down her cheek.

Saito, who was watching over the two from the shade, was holding Louise’s shoulders. Louise was quietly looking at Henrietta, killing her voice while crying.

While holding her shoulders, Saito thought.

Was I right?

At that time, would letting Henrietta go, like she said… be happier for her? Even if it was fake life, even if it was fake love… If the actual person believed it was real, isn’t that fine itself?

While holding Louise’s shoulders, who was crying like a child, Saito had continued to constantly think about that. What was right, and what was wrong… Even after this, there will probably be other things to make him worry, Saito thought faintly.

Even after this, there will probably be times where he will be pressed to make a decision like this time.

Saito embraced Louise firmly.

At least, when that time comes… for he, himself, not to waver, Saito prayed.

Henrietta laid Wales’ corpse in the water.

Then she waved her wand slightly, and chanted a rune.

The lake water moved, slowly carrying Wales’ body into the water, where it sank.

The water was ever so deeply transparent, and the sinking corpse of Wales could be seen clearly.

Even after she was unable to see Wales anymore, Henrietta remained still.

Even when the lake surface reflected the light of the sun and started scattering the seven prismatic colors of light around the area… Henrietta continued to look for eternity.

 

http://www.baka-tsuki.org/project/index.php?title=Zero_no_Tsukaima:Volume4_Full_Text

Written by Fate

July 26, 2011 at 5:52 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Zero no Tsukaima Volume 3

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.

“Royal Palace.”

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 de 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 de la Vallière’s third daughter?”

“Indeed.”

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.

“W-what?”

“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.

“Arrest them!”

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.

“Louise!”

Seeing the figure of Henrietta rushing over, Louise’s face shined like a rose.

“Princess!”

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…”

“Princess…”

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.”

“Traitor?”

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.”

“I see.”

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.

“Princess…”

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?”

Louise nodded.

“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.”

Such was the nobility of the smile that Saito was dumbstruck by its beauty, and could only mumble incoherently.

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?”

Saito nodded.

“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.

“Hey, Guiche!”

“What?”

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.

“Huh?”

“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.

“Let’s go.”

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.”

Wardes laughed.

“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?

“Correct.”

“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.”

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“Your Excellency, you are not a freelance first general anymore, you are now Albion’s…”

“Emperor, Viscount.”

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.”

Cromwell muttered.

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.”

“With pleasure.”

“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.”

Wardes bowed.

“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.”

Wardes muttered.

“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?”

Wardes laughed.

“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.

Chapter Two: Louise’s Lovesickness

The morning after her return from Albion, Louise’s attitude began to change. To put it bluntly, she became nicer. As usual, after waking up, Saito prepared the wash basin for Louise. He poured water into the basin and then washed Louise’s face. It was troublesome, but if Saito forgot about the wash basin, severe consequences would follow.

Once, when Saito forgot to prepare the wash basin, he wasn’t allowed to eat. The next morning, he was quite angry, so he caught a frog from the pond behind the Academy of Magic and put it in the wash basin. Louise, who hated frogs, squealed at the sight of the slimy amphibian. She burst into tears when it suddenly appeared in front of her. Saito apologized profusely, but Louise did not forgive him for making her cry.

That time, unsatisfied with merely starving Saito, Louise tried whipping him, and as a result, Saito escaped the room and slept outside.

They would get into fights just like the one with the wash basin, but after going to Albion something changed. Warm feelings towards Saito started to sprout within Louise and vice versa. However, they did not realize each other’s feelings.

In the morning, Saito prepared the wash basin, feeling slightly awkward. Louise sat on her bed with a drowsy look.

With the wash basin placed on the floor, Saito scooped up water with both hands, but Louise didn’t move. Her pinkish blond hair dangled on her face. Seemingly tired, she rubbed her eyes. With an absent minded expression, she said, “Leave it there, I’ll do it myself.”

Saito was shocked. He didn’t think the words “I’ll do it myself” could come from Louise’s mouth.

“Louise?”

Saito waved his hand in front of her face. Louise pouted, facing away. She was blushing. As if she was angry, Louise said, “I’ll do it myself. Leave me alone.”

Louise dipped her hand in the wash basin, scooped up water, shook her head, and washed her face. Water splattered everywhere.

“So, you’re the type that likes to move their face while they wash it, huh?”

Louise was slightly taken aback by Saito’s comment. Her face blushed and she became angry. “G-Got a problem with that?”

“No, not at all…”

Saito then took Louise’s clothes from her closet and laid them face down on her bed, while Louise put on her panties. Saito, holding Louise’s uniform, turned around when he thought she was done. The next step was dressing Louise.

When Saito turned around, Louise, wearing only her panties, started to panic and quickly covered her body with sheets.

“Leave the clothes there,” said Louise, with half her face covered by the sheets. ‘’What happened?’’ thought Saito. ‘’She would normally say something like ‘Quickly dress me…’ with a sleepy face. What’s more, she’s hiding behind the sheets. Normally, she wouldn’t care about being seen. Why is she so embarrassed?’’

“Leave it there? Um… are you sure?”

Louise popped her head up above the sheets. “I said leave it there, didn’t I?!”

Louise then buried half of her face in the sheets again and glared at Saito.

Well this is strange, thought Saito as he placed the clothes beside Louise as he was told.

“Face that way.”

“Eh?”

“I said face that way.”

It seemed as if she was the type of person who didn’t want to be seen while changing. That’s a very normal reaction for adolescent girls; however, Louise had been fine being seen in the past.

Saito turned his back to Louise thinking, What the hell happened?

Well, many things happened in Albion. Her fiancé had betrayed her and Henrietta. Her childhood friend. She had lost her lover. It was a horrible experience for Louise. Perhaps those events had changed her.

Had Louise really changed?

With an expressionless face, Saito remembered the feeling of Louise’s lips. He had kissed a half-asleep Louise softly on the lips while on the dragon. He knew that kissing someone in their sleep is cowardly and something that he ought not to have done, but he couldn’t control himself. He cared a great deal about her.

Could it be…, Saito thought. That Louise knows about that kiss? She didn’t change because she felt I was dangerous and thought I was going to make a move on her, right?

Saito stopped his thoughts abruptly and shook his head. If Louise had been awake at that time, she wouldn’t have kept quiet. She’d wake up. Get angry. Abuse. Any sense of harmony would have exploded into bits. Events like the time when I crept into her bed were horrible, weren’t they? A dog. That’s me, a dog. A dog that is led by a chain and goes ‘woof’.

Ah. I see now. Saito finally realized. She feels uneasy because I crept into her bed two nights before we left for Albion while she was sleeping. This isn’t about the kiss at all. Ah, that’s why she doesn’t want my help changing anymore.

Saito felt somewhat disheartened. In fact, he was deeply regretful. If only he hadn’t done such a thing. ‘’She doesn’t want me making a move on her. Well that’s only natural, but it means she doesn’t like me. That’s also natural I guess…’’

‘’It is only natural… yet saddening.’’

‘’A ray of hope? Nope. None. Louise doesn’t like me. I’m only a familiar. That being said, I’ve only been a dangerous familiar so far. A bad familiar that transforms into a wolf at night. A barrier has already been erect between us.’’

Dark clouds started forming. The hope inside Saito’s heart whispered desperately, “But on the way back home on the dragon, she cuddled with me, right?” The despair within Saito’s heart replied coldly, “That was just my imagination. She sent me flying when Kirche pointed it out, didn’t she?”

‘’… Ah, that’s right. There’s no mistake about it. Louise doesn’t think anything of me.’’

Realizing his own feelings for Louise, misery overwhelmed Saito. Saito had a personality where once excited, he would become extremely excited, but when depressed, he would become excessively depressed.

“What are you whispering about?”

Saito had not realized he was whispering. When he turned around, Louise, who had already finished changing, looked into his face dubiously.

After a mere twenty seconds of thought, he had reached his conclusion. Feeling dispirited, Saito replied in a sickly voice, “Sorry. I won’t talk to myself again.”

“Yes, it’s somewhat revolting.”

Louise, looking dubiously at Saito, walked out. “Come on, let’s go for breakfast.”

“Yeah,” Saito followed after her, depressed.

Even in the Alviss Dining Hall, something surprising occurred.

Saito sat down on the floor as always, but his plate of soup was not there. Saito grew impatient. Did I do anything to make Louise angry enough to not feed me? No, I don’t think so.

Last night, after the five of them returned to the academy, they reported to Osman. Osman, who had already heard from Henrietta, thanked and praised them for their efforts.

Then they had returned to their rooms … and quickly fallen asleep. Saito hadn’t done anything to anger Louise. With a miserable look on his face, Saito looked up at Louise, who was sitting on a chair.

Louise started blushing and while turning away she said, “From now on, eat at the table.”

“Eh?” Saito looked blankly at Louise. That was very unexpected of Louise.

“Come on, sit down quickly.”

Dumbfounded, he sat next to Louise. Malicorne, who always sat there and had caught a cold, started to protest, “Hey Louise, that’s my seat. What do you mean you’ll let your familiar sit on it?”

Louise glared at Malicorne. “If you don’t have seat, then just go get a chair.”

“Don’t play around with me! Letting a commoner familiar sit down while I have to go get a chair? That’s just wrong! Hey familiar, piss off, that’s my seat. This is a dining table for nobles!”

The chubby Malicorne tried to look intimidating, but he was trembling slightly. This was the legendary familiar who supposedly defeated Guiche and caught Fouquet. What’s more, it seemed they had accomplished some incredible feat while they were away from the academy the past couple of days. Malicorne was covered in cold sweat when he told Saito off.

Saito, feeling extremely down due to the growing wall between Louise and him, reacted to the pestering voice. He stood up and grabbed Malicorne’s collar.

He didn’t use much force, but whispered in a threatening voice, “Hey fatty, what’d you say?”

Terrified, Malicorne dropped his act and shook his head repeatedly, “A-Ah, nothing, I didn’t mean it!”

“I didn’t mean it, sir.”

“Y-yes, I didn’t mean it, sir!”

“Then go get a chair. Let’s eat happily together.”

Malicorne rushed off to get a chair. With an unconcerned look, Louise was waiting for the prayer time before the meal. I wonder what happened. What change of heart is this? Why is she being so nice? Surely there’s a reason. Nope, he thought, The trip to Albion changed Louise.

It must be … after seeing people injured and killed, these warm feelings must have started to blossom within her. This reminded Saito of the story about General Tokugawa Tsunayoshi of the Edo period and his command to be compassionate towards animals. The dog shogun took pity on a stray dog, and punished those who bullied it.

So that’s it.

The command to be compassionate towards animals has been set upon Tristain.

The law setter: Louise Françoise le Blanc de la Vallière.

The object: familiars, as well as dogs- myself in other words.

Saito stopped his imagination and looked at Louise warmly.

You’ve become nicer haven’t you Louise, more like a girl. You’re dazzling like this. Being so nice to someone like me… You’re growing up like a girl.

I’ll watch over you carefully – I won’t make a move on you ever again. Until I return to Earth, I will protect you. Even if you don’t like me, I’m happy that you’re being so nice to me.

Her radiance mixing in with his sadness and despair, Saito smiled warmly. Louise noticed Saito watching her intently and blushed, “W-Why are you looking at me like that?”

Noticing the vile way he was looking at her, Saito averted his eyes and tightened his hands into fists on his knees. Listen carefully, Saito. Nobles aren’t for dogs like you. Compared to Louise, who’s so beautiful and pure, you are just a homely mole. There’s no way a mole can look at such a cute girl in a decent way.

The thoughts repeated in his mind. Saito’s poignancy quickly consumed him, like a bottomless swamp. Saito obediently whispered, “Sorry for being so repulsive.”

Louise quickly turned the other way.

Ugh, she must think I’m weird. The master thinks this mole is weird.

Saito stared at the food on the plate with a dull face. It was a luxurious meal, but the colors of it seemed to fade before his eyes.

The usual prayer proceeded and breakfast began. Saito quietly ate his food. It was delicious, but he was so miserable he could not taste it.

When Louise entered the classroom, she was quickly surrounded by her classmates. There were rumours that she had been on a dangerous journey and had accomplished great feats during her absence.

The truth was that a number of students were watching the spectacle where the leader of the Magic Defence Squad had departed. It wasn’t a quiet scene. They were all eager to know what happened and they would have asked her during breakfast too if it weren’t for the teachers.

Kirche and Tabitha were already seated. They, too, were surrounded by a group of students.

“Hey, when you and Louise were absent from class, where did you all go?” asked Montmorency, grasping her arm.

Glancing at her, Kirche elegantly started redoing her make-up and Tabitha quietly sat while reading her book. Tabitha didn’t talk much. As for Kirche, although she usually was in the mood to talk, today she didn’t feel like telling her classmates about their secret journey.

No matter how hard their classmates pushed and pulled, they couldn’t extract anything out of the two, so they switched their target to Guiche and Louise who had just appeared.

Guiche, who liked being surrounded and fussed over, got carried away as expected. “You want to ask me, right? You want to know the secrets I know? Ahaha, what a troubled little rabbit!”

Louise broke through the crowd of people and smacked Guiche over the head. “What do you think you’re doing?! You’ll be hated by the Princess if you say anything, Guiche.”

With a single reference to Henrietta, Guiche became silent at once. Their classmates grew even more suspicious upon seeing this. They surrounded Louise and started pestering her.

“Louise! Louise! What actually happened?”

“Nothing at all. Osman just sent me to the palace on an errand, that’s all. Right Guiche, Kirche, Tabitha?”

Kirche smiled mysteriously while blowing on her polished nails. Guiche nodded. Tabitha read her book. Since no one was willing to speak, their classmates returned to their seats. Like a group of sore losers, they started to talk about Louise angrily.

“Heh, it’s probably nothing important anyway.”

“Yeah, it’s Louise the Zero we’re talking about here. I can’t imagine what great feat she could possibly accomplish when she can’t even use magic.”

“Catching Fouquet was only a fluke. Her familiar just accidentally drew out the power of the Staff of Destruction,” Montmorency said irritatingly, waving her curly hair.

Louise bit her lip, wearing an annoyed expression on her face whilst keeping silent. Saito was shocked. How dare this curly-haired woman insult my Louise? Well, not ‘my’ Louise I guess. A mole like me could never have Louise. Oh well. Even if it’s a girl, Saito would do what he had to do.

Just as Montmorency walked off with a satisfied look on her face, Saito casually stuck his foot out. Montmorency didn’t notice and tripped over Saito’s foot.

“Aaah!”

Montmorency, sporting a red nose from falling face-first to the ground, angrily shouted at Saito.

“What are you doing? I’m a noble! How dare a commoner like you trip me!”

Louise said from the side, “It was you who wasn’t paying attention.”

“What? Siding with the commoner now, Louise the Zero?!”

“Saito may be a commoner, but he’s also my familiar, Montmorency the Flood. Insult him and you insult me; it’s the same thing. Have anything to say to that?”

Montmorency left, muttering angrily to herself. To Saito, Louise, who had just stuck up for him, was suddenly dazzling and he found himself staring at her warmly. Louise felt his gaze and turned her face aside, blushing, “W-What are you looking at?”

Saito, yet again realizing his repulsive stare, apologized to Louise. This homely mole has done it again.

“S-Sorry.”

Louise noticed that Saito had been acting strange since morning. He was more reserved than usual. What more do you want, I’m being so nice to you.

Louise was about to say something to Saito about it, but then, Mr. Colbert entered the classroom, so she sat back down. Class started.

“Well, everyone,” Mr. Colbert patted his bald head slightly. Until yesterday, he had been frightened that Fouquet the Crumbling Dirt had broken out of prison. Immediately, the initial conclusion was that there was a traitor in the castle. He thought that it was a serious affair for Tristain.

This morning however, Osman summoned him, telling him that it was “alright already” and he returned to his normal self. Besides, things like politics did not interest him much.

What he did have interest in was knowledge, history and … research. That’s why he liked lessons. He could freely state the results of his research. And so, on a joyful note, he showed the class something strange that he placed on the desk.

“Mr. Colbert, what’s that?” one student asked.

It really was a strange looking machinery. It was composed of a long metallic tube with a metallic pipe stretching out of it. A pair of bellows were connected to the pipe and a crank was attached to the head of the cylinder. The crank was connected to a wheel on the side of the cylinder. Finally, gears were attached to the wheel and the box.

Staring at the equipment, the students were all wondering what sort of lesson would follow. Clearing his throat, he began his lecture, “Firstly, who can tell me the main characteristics of the fire branch of magic?”

The class turned to Kirche. If you were talking about the fire branch of magic in Halkeginia, then you would be referencing Germanian nobles. Among them, the Zerbsts were a famous family. As her nickname, Ardent, indicated, she was adept at fire magic.

Even though class had started, Kirche still continued to polish her nails. Without taking her eyes off the nail file, she replied languidly, “Passion and destruction.”

“That’s right!” said Mr. Colbert, himself a triangular fire mage whose nickname was ‘Flame Serpent’.

“However, besides passion, only being able to destroy is a bit lonely, I think. It depends on the usage, everyone. Depending on how you use it, you can actually do some really fun things. Fire is not only for destruction, Miss Zerbst. A battlefield is not the only place where you will see it.”

“There’s no use in trying to explain fire magic to Tristain nobles,” Kirche said, filled with confidence. Mr. Colbert was not agitated by her arrogance, but smiled instead.

“But, what’s that strange thing you have there?” Kirche asked with a blank look, pointing at the equipment on the desk.

“Hehe. So you finally asked. This is something I invented. It works using oil and fire magic.” The students gaped, staring at the mechanism intently. The mechanism seemed somewhat familiar to Saito, as if he had seen it somewhere before. Being a curious person, he too remained silent and watched intently.

Mr. Colbert continued, “First, we vaporize the oil in the bellows.” He stepped repeatedly on the bellows with his foot. “And then, the vaporized oil will go into this cylindrical tube.”

With a cautious look, Colbert stuck his wand inside a small hole he had opened. He recited an incantation. The sound of a blazing fire could suddenly be heard, and as the fire ignited the vaporized oil, the sounds changed into that of explosions.

“Watch carefully everyone! Inside the metallic tube, the power from the explosions are moving the piston up and down!”

The crank attached to the top of the cylinder started to move and the wheel along with it. The spinning wheel opened the door on the box. The gears began moving and a snake puppet came out from inside.

“The power is transferred to the crank which spins the wheel! Look! The snake then comes out to greet us! How interesting!”

The students watched it unenthusiastically. The only one interested seemed to be Saito.

“And then? What’s so special about that?”

Mr. Colbert was sad at the fact that the invention he took so much pride in had been totally chastised. Clearing his throat, he began to explain, “In this example, only a snake showed up, but say for instance this mechanism was placed on a carriage. Then, the carriage could move even without horses! It would also work on the side of a boat by turning a water wheel. Then there wouldn’t be any need for sails!”

“You could just use magic in those cases. There’s no need to use such a weird mechanism.” After one student said that, the others started to nod in agreement.

“Everybody, listen carefully! If it is improved upon, this could run machines even without magic! I relied on my fire magic to ignite it, but say flint was used and a way to ignite it every so often was found…” Colbert was obviously getting excited, talking on and on, while the students were all wondering what was so special about it. The only one who seemed to understand the greatness of his invention seemed to be Saito.

“Mr Colbert, that’s great! That’s an engine!” Saito called up while standing all of a sudden. The whole class turned to him.

“Engine?” Mr. Colbert looked at Saito with a blank look.

“Yes, an engine. It’s used in my world for functions you just mentioned.”

“I can tell you’re a perceptive person. You’re Miss Vallière’s familiar, yes?”

The fact that he was the legendary familiar Gandálfr who had runes on the back of his hand suddenly came back to Mr. Colbert. He had forgotten since Osman had said to leave it to him … but due to his enthusiasm he started to hold an interest in Saito.

“Where were you born?” he asked eagerly.

Louise tugged at Saito’s parka slightly and glared at him. “Don’t say anything unnecessary, we’ll look suspicious.”

Agreeing, Saito sat back down.

“Hmm? Where were you born?” Colbert approached Saito with a bright expression. Louise answered for him.

“Mr Colbert, he’s uh… from Rub’ al Khali in the East.

Mr. Colbert was taken aback. “What?! Past the frightening lands of the elves? Wait, he was summoned wasn’t he… so he didn’t have to go through those lands… I see. I hear that the lands the Elves govern in the East have advanced technology. So you were born there… I see,” he nodded in comprehension.

Saito turned to Louise.

“What?”

“Just play along,” said Louise, stepping on his foot.

“A, Ah yes. I’m from um… Rub’.”

Mr. Colbert nodded again and returned to the mechanism. Standing on the platform once more he looked around the classroom.

“Alright then, who would like to try operating the mechanism? It’s very simple! Just open the hole in the cylinder, put your wand in and recite the ‘ignite’ spell repeatedly. The timing is a bit tricky but once you get used to it, it will be easy like this,” Mr. Colbert stepped on the bellows with his foot and operated the mechanism once more. The explosive sounds echoed throughout the classroom while the crank and gears moved, followed by the snake showing its face.

“And the joyful snake greets us!”

No one raised their hand. Mr. Colbert tried to get the students interested in his mechanism by saying “joyful snake”, but it didn’t quite work. Disappointed, Colbert drooped his shoulders.

Montmorency, suddenly pointed at Louise, “Louise, you try it!”

Mr. Colbert’s face lit up, “Miss Vallière! You have an interest in the mechanism?”

“Catching Fouquet the Crumbling Dirt and journeying to dangerous places, surely you won’t have trouble with something like this right?”

Louise realized Montmorency was trying to embarrass her by making her fail.

It seemed Montmorency didn’t like Louise getting all the attention, such as accomplishing great feats and being the star at balls. Her jealousy was deep and the fact that she was a show off suddenly came back to Louise.

Montmorency continued provoking Louise, “Hey, do it Louise. Louise the Zero.”

Something in Louise cracked. She just couldn’t keep quiet when Montmorency called her Zero. Louise silently stood up and approached the platform.

Seeing Louise in this state, Saito glared at Montmorency, “Hey Monmon.”

“It’s Montmorency for God’s sake!”

“Don’t provoke Louise! It’ll end up as an explosion!” said Saito, without thinking.

Louise shifted her eyes at Saito’s comment. The front row students hid behind their chairs.

Hearing the comment, Mr. Colbert remembered Louise’s skill and the origin of her nickname. Trying to desperately change her mind, he began to persuade her in a flustered manner.

“Ah, Miss Vallière. Er, you can do it another time, alright?”

“I have been insulted by Montmorency the Flood,” said Louise in a cold voice. Her reddish brown pupils were filled with rage.

“I shall discipline Miss Montmorency. So, er, could you please withdraw your wand? I do not doubt your skill, but magic doesn’t always succeed. I mean, ‘a dragon can also die from fire’, after all.”

Louise looked sharply at Colbert, “Please let me do it. I do not always fail. Occasionally, I succeed.”

“There are times when I, occasionally, succeed,” said Louise, as though the words were meant for herself, her voice trembling. Saito knew there was no stopping Louise now. When Louise was extremely irked, her voice would start to shake.

Mr. Colbert looked up at the ceiling and sighed.

Louise copied Mr. Colbert actions and stepped on the bellows. The vaporized oil was sent to the cylinder. She took a deep breath and stuck her wand inside the cylinder.

“Miss Vallière, uhh …” whispered Mr. Colbert as if he was praying.

With a voice as clear as a bell, she started to recite the spell incantation.

The whole class froze.

As expected, the mechanism exploded. Louise and Mr. Colbert were sent flying towards the black board while the class screamed. The explosion splattered the burning oil throughout the room. The students ran around chaotically, avoiding the flames.

As the chair and table were burning, Louise stood up slowly. It was a pitiful sight. Her clothes were scorched and her clear complexion was covered in soot. Totally ignoring the chaos within the classroom, she grabbed Mr. Colbert’s arm and whispered, “Mr. Colbert. That machine of yours breaks quite easily.”

Mr Colbert didn’t reply, feeling faint headed. The students replied for him, “It’s you who broke it! You Zero! Louise the Zero!”

“Never mind that, there’s a fire! Someone put it out!”

Montmorency stood up and recited a spell. It was the water spell ‘Water Shield’. The barrier of water extinguished the fire and the students applauded Montmorency. Montmorency, as if she had triumphed, said to Louise, “I wonder if that was unnecessary. After all, you’re such a skilled mage and that was such a weak fire.”

Angry, Louise bit her lip.

It was night by the time the classroom was cleaned up. Tidying up the chairs and desks and wiping the floor was a big task. Exhausted, Louise and Saito returned to their room. Saito collapsed on his haystack. Louise sat down on her bed. It was almost time for bed. Out of habit, Saito went to the closet to get Louise’s clothes. Louise, however, suddenly stood up.

“W-What are you doing?”

Louise blushed and did not reply. Her hands gripped the sheets and she started hanging them from her bedposts. The sheets acted as a curtain and hid her bed. Watching Saito out of the corner of her eyes, she went to the closet, found her clothes, and returned to bed. Saito could hear the ruffling of clothes as she changed behind the curtain. Depressed, Saito returned to his haystack.

She doesn’t want to be seen by someone like me. Even if I see you, I won’t do anything strange. I won’t even look anymore. I’m not the hungry wolf you think I am … I’m a mole. Well, you were kissed by a mole, but that was when I got carried away, I made a mistake. I won’t ever do it again, Louise. I’ll watch over you properly. This homely mole will watch over you from this haystack.

Saito endlessly tortured himself with these thoughts. The curtain was taken down. Wearing a negligee, Louise was bathed in moonlight, her hair flowing smoothly. The brilliant moonlight accentuated her divine beauty. After combing her hair with her hands, she lay down and switched off the lamp on her bedside table with a flick of her wand. It was a magic lamp that would switch off at the signal of its master. It wasn’t exactly special, but it seemed like something expensive. With the moonlight bathing the room, the atmosphere felt ethereal.

Just as Saito was about to fall asleep, Louise sat up and called out, “Hey, Saito.”

“Yes?”

“Always sleeping on the floor is a bit extreme …you can, er, sleep on the bed if you want.”

Saito’s body stiffened, “W-What?”

“Don’t get the wrong idea! I’ll hit you if you do anything strange.”

Saito was overwhelmed. ‘’Ah, Louise you really are kind, aren’t you. It’s like you’ve changed completely. That harsh experience really did change you…You’re even becoming kind to a disgusting mole like me.’’ With every inch closer to the bed, his pulse seemed to double. Louise faced the window, wrapped up in the blanket on the edge of the bed.

“Is it… ok? Even for me? A mole?”

“Yes, it’s ok, don’t make me say the same thing. What do you mean a mole?”

Saito slipped into the bed and covered himself with the blanket.

“Sorry.”

He had to apologize for getting carried away and kissing her. He felt he had to. Saito whispered, “Sorry … for kissing you like that.”

Louise didn’t reply.

Saito thought she was sleeping, but it didn’t sound like it. Saito continued, “I’ve … decided before then that I would protect you as I had promised Prince Wales.”

“Not only from enemies, but also from my own desires as well. I can’t say I’ve done a good job of protecting you so far, so, I’m sorry.” said Saito, who was now clearly voicing his thoughts.

Louise replied in a small voice, ”It’s fine, don’t worry about it.”

Saito grasped the blanket and whispered, “I won’t do it again.”

“Of course.” replied Louise.

She started to talk, as if determined to tell Saito something.

“…but, I too have to apologize. Sorry, for just summoning you.”

“That’s ok. It’s not good, but it’s alright.”

“I’ll find a way for you to return home. I don’t know how, but I will. I’ve never heard of another world before.”

“Thanks,” Saito felt relieved.

Squirming a bit, Louise asked Saito, “Your world … there aren’t any mages there right?”

“Nope.”

“There’s only one moon?”

“Only one.”

“That’s weird.”

“No it’s not, it’s this world that’s weird, mages and stuff.”

“What were you doing in that world?”

“I was a high school student.”

“High school student?”

“Well it’s not much different from being a student here, I guess. Studying is kind of your job.”

“What do people do when they grow up?”

Louise started to bombard Saito with questions. While wondering why, Saito replied, “Hmm, a company employee perhaps, that’s the most common.”

“What’s a company employee?”

He became slightly irritated, but replied, “You work and you earn money.”

“I don’t really understand … but is that what you want to become?”

Saito remained silent. He hadn’t thought of what he wanted to do in the future. He spent his days doing what he liked. His future was neither bright nor dark. Thinking this state of affairs would last forever, he just absentmindedly attended school. Saito was a bit troubled by his reply, “I dunno. I haven’t really thought about it.”

“Wardes said you were a legendary familiar. Those runes on the back of your hand are apparently the mark of Gandálfr.”

“I don’t really understand, but it seems that Gandálfr is meant to use the sword Derflinger.”

“I wonder if that’s true…”

“Well it has to be, I couldn’t use a sword like Derflinger normally.”

“Then, why can’t I use magic? You’re a legendary familiar, yet I’m Louise the Zero. Ugh.”

“I don’t know.”

Louise remained silent for a while. Then she spoke in a serious tone, “You know, I want to become a great mage. I don’t mean a very powerful mage. I just want to be able to cast spells properly. I don’t want to fail every spell I cast and not even know which branch of magic I’m good at.”

Saito remembered the class they had earlier. As usual, Louise had failed.

“Ever since I was small, I was told I was hopeless. My father and mother didn’t expect anything of me. I was always treated like an idiot, always called Zero … I really don’t have any skill. There isn’t a branch of magic that I’m good at. I’m even clumsy at reciting incantations. I get it. My teachers, mother and sisters have said it. When you recite an incantation for a spell in your branch of magic, something within your body responds and it circulates within your body. When that rhythm is at a climax, it means that the spell is completed. I have never felt that before.”

Louise’s voice became smaller, “But, I want to at least be able to do things like everyone else. Otherwise, I get the feeling I won’t be content with myself.”

Louise became silent once more. Saito did not know what to say to comfort her. Some time passed before Saito began to speak.

“Even if you can’t use magic … you’re normal. Not just normal … you’re cute. And you’ve been so kind recently as well. You have your own qualities. Even if you can’t use magic, you’re a great person…”

Ending his incoherent reply, Saito turned towards Louise. She had already fallen asleep. Her innocent face took his breath away. It seemed she had drifted off while Saito was thinking of his reply. Her pinkish blond hair mixed with the moonlight, shining brightly. Steady breathing could be heard from her small pink lips.

Looking at those lips, he wanted to press his lips against hers once more and, without even realizing it, he started to move his face forward. But, he stopped. It’s cowardly to kiss a girl who isn’t even his lover while she is sleeping. I’m not your lover… but I will protect you. So don’t worry Louise.

Smiling warmly at Louise, Saito closed his eyes. With Louise’s breathing as a lullaby, Saito fell asleep.

Louise opened her eyes once Saito had fallen asleep. She knit her eyebrows and whispered, “I was even pretending to sleep”. Louise hugged her pillow, and bit her lips. It’s so different, she thought. When he was making a move on her, he did it rashly like an idiot and yet when he’s obedient, he’s totally obedient.

I don’t understand. I don’t understand what he’s thinking at all. Louise rested her hands on her chest. When Saito was next to her, her chest really did throb. So these feelings really are true?

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She wanted to return the favour to Saito, who had been so kind and had saved her so many times… But that wasn’t the only thing. It was the first time she had felt these feelings for someone of the opposite sex and she didn’t know what to do. She didn’t allow Saito to help her change because of this. Once she recognized these feelings, she became embarrassed at the mere thought of him looking at her skin. She didn’t want him to see her face after she had just woken up.

When did I start having these feelings for Saito? Probably since that time, Louise thought. Just when she was about to be killed by Fouquet’s golem, she was hugged by Saito. Her heart throbbed. Despite the fact that she was about to die, her heart beat loudly. There was also the time when Wardes was about to kill her. Saito jumped in and saved her. But the time her heart beat the fastest was when they were riding on the dragon and he had kissed her. After that, she couldn’t look at Saito’s face.

I wonder what Saito thinks of me? An unpleasant girl? A selfish and mean master? Or perhaps he likes me? Well, he kissed me, so he must like me. Or could it be that he’s the same as Guiche and just likes women? I wonder which one. I want to know. Anyhow, why didn’t he do anything when I was just sleeping beside him, Louise thought.

‘’Of course, if he did anything now I’d kick him in the crotch.’’

‘’But…but…’’ Louise tapped Saito’s pillow. He didn’t wake up. She looked around restlessly. Other than the moon, nothing was looking at her. She moved towards Saito’s face. Her pulse started to quicken. She pressed her lips upon his softly, only for about two seconds. It was the kind of kiss that the person wasn’t aware had even taken place.

Saito turned over.

Louise panicked slightly and drew away from his face, sinking into the blanket, hugging her pillow.

What am I doing? To my familiar as well. I’m such an idiot.

She looked at Saito’s face. He was kind of cool: coming from another world, being obedient at times, yet carried away at other times for absolutely no reason. The legendary familiar … I wonder if I really do like him? Is this what they call love?

While she repeated her thoughts, she traced her lips with her fingers. The heat was like iron against her lips. How can I find the answer to this question?

“I don’t want to be left not knowing the answer…” whispered Louise as she closed her eyes.

Chapter Three: The Founder’s Prayer Book

Sir Osmond was staring at the book the palace had delivered and absent-mindedly twirling his beard. The cover, sheathed in old leather, was so worn out that it looked like it would tear from a single touch. The book’s pages had a tawny color to them.

Hmm…

While muttering, Sir Osmond turned a page. Nothing was written on it. There were about three hundred pages in the book and they were all blank.

“‘The Founder’s Prayer Book’ has always been handed down through the Tristain royal family…”

Six thousand years ago, Founder Brimir offered a prayer to God and wrote down his spells using magical runes as letters.

“Isn’t this a fake?”

Sir Osmond looked suspiciously at the book. Fakes… they’re all too common with ‘legendary’ artifacts. Apparently, only one ‘Founder’s Prayer Book’ exists in the world. Rich nobles, temple priests, and royal families of all countries… everybody claims to have the real ‘Founder’s Prayer Book’. But regardless of each one’s authenticity, all of them were collected in the library as genuine articles.

“But if it is a fake, it’s an awful one. All of the characters are gone.”

Sir Osmond had seen the‘Founder’s Prayer Book’ several times before in numerous occasions. The runes always seemed to leap from the pages. However, he never saw a book with no characters like this one. Could it be genuine?

At that moment he heard someone knocking. I should hire a secretary thought Sir Osmond as he invited the guest into the room.

“It’s not locked. Please, come in.”

The door opened and a slender girl stepped in. She had pink-blonde hair and big, reddish-brown eyes. It was Louise.

“I heard you called for me, so…” Louise said.

Sir Osmond stood up and spread his hands, welcoming the petite visitor.

Trying to sympathize with Louise’s pain the other day,

“Oh, Miss Vallière. Have you rested after the tiresome journey? Your great efforts ensured the alliance’s safety and prevented a crisis in Tristain.”

Sir Osmond said in a soft voice.

“And, next month in Germania, there will finally be a wedding ceremony held for the princess and Germania’s emperor. It’s all thanks to you. Be proud of yourself.”

After hearing this, Louise’s spirit momentarily faltered. Her childhood friend Henrietta was going to be used as a political tool and marry Germania’s emperor without love. Even though there was no other solution for the alliance, Louise chest tightened whenever she recalled the sad smile on Henrietta’s lips.

Louise silently bowed. Sir Osmond became silent for a while and watched Louise. Then, remembering that he had the‘Founder’s Prayer Book’ in his hands, he held it out for Louise.

“What’s this?”

Louise looked at the book with suspicion.

“The Founder’s Prayer Book.”

“The Founder’s Prayer Book? This?”

It was given to the royal family. And it’s a legendary book. But why does Sir Osmond have it?

“According to tradition in Tristain’s royal family, when a royal family member is wed, one aristocrat is chosen to take the role of the bridesmaid. Following the imperial edict, the selected bridesmaid is traditionally given the ‘Founder’s Prayer Book’.”

“Uh huh.”

Louise, who wasn’t aware of such detailed palace etiquette, replied blankly.

“And the princess has chosen Miss Vallière to be that bridesmaid.”

“The princess?”

“That’s right. The shrine maiden must also come up with a written edict when receiving the‘Founder’s Prayer Book’”

“A…ah! I must think of an edict?”

“Indeed. Of course, there is still certain palace etiquette that you need to learn… traditions can be rather bothersome. However, Miss Vallière, the princess is looking forward to it. This is a great honor. So follow the palace regulations and write the edict, because something like this happens only once in a lifetime.”

Henrietta, my childhood friend, chose me to be her bridesmaid. Louise firmly looked up.

“I understand. I will obey respectfully.”

Louise accepted the ‘Founder’s Prayer Book’ from Sir Osmond’s hands.

Sir Osmond smiled, looking at Louise.

“You are willing to undertake it. Good, good. The Princess will be pleased.”

That evening, Saito was preparing a bath. Certainly, Tristain Magic Academy had a bathhouse. It was a Roman style bathhouse lined with marble. It had a huge swimming pool filled with perfume mixed in hot water, and it was said to feel quite heavenly. Of course, Saito could not enter; only nobles were allowed to use it.

The commoners’ bathhouse, compared to the nobles’ bathhouse, was rather shabby. The joint bathhouse for commoners looked like a hovel. It was placed on stones and the burning fire underneath, the strong smell of sweat, and the tightly pressed bodies only made one sweat more.

One day in that bathhouse was enough to make Saito disgusted. Saito, who was raised in Japan, set up a bath using a kettle filled to the brim with hot water. The sauna was just too unsatisfying.

Bothered, Saito asked Marteau, the head chef, for a big, old kettle. He made a bathtub from it. A floating wooden lid, which the bather pushed under the water, heated the bathtub from below. Firewood that burned under the kettle heated the water.

Saito made his personal bath in the Vestri Courtyard’s nook. It was convenient since people did not come often to this courtyard.

The day was coming to an end and the two moons appeared, shining faintly. Once the water was hot enough, Saito quickly threw off his clothes and sank into the big kettle.

“Aah… the water is nice and hot.”

He put a towel on his head and started humming a melody.

Derflinger, who was leaning against the wall of the kettle, called out to Saito:

“Does it feel good?”

“Yeah.”

“By the way, partner, why didn’t you take advantage of the young mistress a while ago?”

Saito threw Derflinger a tepid glance.

“Don’t look at me like that. It feels bad, partner.”

“Hey, legendary sword.”

“Indeed I am a legendary sword. What is it?”

“During the past six thousand years, did you find someone important to you to protect?”

Derflinger shook lightly.

“I do not protect. It is the one that holds me that protects.”

“You poor thing…” Saito said from the bottom of his heart in a sympathetic voice.

“Poor, you say? On the contrary, it is quite comfortable.”

“Is that so? By the way, what things do you remember about this ‘Gandálfr’? How great was he, and what kind of things did he do?” Saito, showing his inborn curiosity, asked Derflinger.

“I forgot.”

“Huh.”

“It was a long time ago. Besides, partner, someone is coming.”

A shadow appeared in the moonlight.

“Who is it?”

Saito’s call startled the shadow. It dropped something that it was carrying with a clatter. Under the moonlight, one could hear the sound of a breaking pot.

“Waaah, it broke… I’ll be scolded again… sniff”

From that voice, Saito was able to recognize the person hidden in the darkness.

“Siesta?!”

Illuminated by the moonlight, the figure of a housemaid working in the Alviss Dining Hall – Siesta – appeared. She had just finished her work and, although she was still wearing her usual maid clothes, the kachusha covering her head was now gone. Her loose shoulder-length black hair shone glossily in the moonlight.

Siesta squatted down to pick up the pot that she had dropped earlier.

“W-what are you doing here?”

Saito’s call made Siesta turn around.

“Uhmmm… today I was able to get some really tasty goods and I wanted Saito to try it! I would have given it to you in the kitchen, but you didn’t come today! Waah!” Siesta said in panic.

Indeed, there was a tray lying next to Siesta, an overturned teapot, and some cups. Surprised by the sudden call, it seemed like Siesta had dropped one cup.

“A treat?” Saito asked, still submerged in the bath.

Suddenly Siesta became aware of Saito’s nudity and, for a moment, averted her eyes in shame.

“That’s right. Some unusual goods came from the east town ‘Rub’ al Khali’ today: Tea.”

“Tea?”

Tea was an extremely rare commodity. Siesta poured some from a teapot into a cup that was not broken and gave it to Saito.

“Thank you.”

Saito lifted it to his lips. The sweet aroma of tea tickled his nostrils. And when it was in his mouth, it tasted like Japanese green tea.

Saito suddenly felt overwhelmed with nostalgia. Aah, Japan. Dear mother country. In his big kettle bath, Saito spontaneously wiped the corners of his eyes.

“W-what’s the matter! Are you alright?”

Siesta bent over the edge of the kettle.

“N-no, I just felt nostalgic for a moment. I’m alright. Yeah.”

After saying that, Saito brought the cup back to his mouth. Though a tea and a bath made a strange combination, they both soaked Saito with longing.

“Do you miss it? That’s right, Saito-san comes from the east.”

Siesta flashed a shy smile.

“I… I probably feel that way. However, did you know that I was here?”

Saito’s words made Siesta blush.

“T-that’s, that’s. I’m just here because I saw you going this way with hot water and…”

“You peeped?”

Saito’s voice saying that was blank. Siesta hastily shook her head.

“N-no, I didn’t mean it that way!”

Flustered, Siesta tripped over the edge of the kettle and with a loud splash, fell into the kettle.

“Kyaaaaaaa!”

Siesta screamed, but her shriek was suppressed by the hot water inside the iron kettle.

“Are you alright?”

Saito asked in blank surprise.

“I-I’m alright… Wah, but I am soaked now…”

Siesta stuck her wet head out of the hot water.

The poor girl’s housemaid clothes were sodden. And when she became aware of Saito’s naked state, a furious blush spread on her face.

Saito panicked.

“S-sorry! Even though the bath is on a stove, it is still possible to fall in!”

“N-no, I’m sorry!”

Although she was apologizing, Siesta didn’t try to get out of the bath. Saito then decided to take a defiant attitude as well. He pretended in a somewhat manly manner that it was not big deal she was not getting out.

At such times, he tried to act in a calm and collected manner. Was it manly? Saito thought so. Which means that Saito was a fool as well.

“Ufufu”

Siesta laughed still soaking with her maid clothes inside the big kettle. Though it wasn’t a laughable situation, she still laughed.

“W-what’s wrong?”

Perhaps his size was a laughingstock? Though it was dark and no one could see below the surface of hot water, Saito suddenly felt insecure.

“Nothing, but, it feels good. Is this how you bathe in Saito-san’s country?”

Feeling relieved, Saito answered.

“That’s right. Though, it is unusual to get in while wearing clothes.”

“Ara? Is that so? Yet, if you think about it, that must be true. Well then, I’ll take them off.”

“Yes?”

Pop-eyed Saito asked Siesta.

“What did you say just now?”

Siesta, who is usually hesitant and shy, for some reason became bold. Slightly biting her lips she looked at Saito in a determined way.

“I said, I’ll take them off.”

“But Siesta? I am a man…”

Saito said dumbfounded.

“That’s alright. I know that Saito-san is not a person who would hurt me.”

Saito nodded, though he hadn’t heard a single word.

“No, oh my, don’t do such a thing…”

“But I also want to use this ‘Bath’ properly. It is nice.”

And, eh? Saito stared as Siesta rose from the hot water and started taking off her soaked clothes. Saito turned his eyes away in panic.

“S-stop it! Siesta! Wait a moment! I tell you!”

However, Saito’s ‘Stop’ sounded weak, betraying his real thoughts.

“B-but I am dripping wet… The Chief would be mad if I return like this to the room. I think I should dry it off on the fire first.”

Though looking obedient, Siesta can be really bold once she decides to.

The buttons of the blouse and the hook of the skirt were unfastened in a flash. It felt good taking off wet clothes.

Siesta took off her housemaid uniform and underwear and left them to dry on the firewood, close to the fire. After that, she stepped into the hot water again. Saito with the corner of his eyes watched the submerging Siesta’s legs. He had never seen Siesta’s bare legs, as they were always hidden behind the skirt. They were white and healthy. Aah, if only he would turn his face that way, he would be able to worship her entire body.

“Uwaa! Feels good! Sharing a bath this way, soaking in the hot water really does feel good! Feels like taking a noble’s bath. I am so jealous, but I can make it myself, right? Saito you are really smart.”

“N-not really.”

Saito answered, still turning his face away. It felt as if the hot water suddenly turned hotter. Next to him was a naked girl. In that sort of situation, Saito felt dazed and almost fainted. Siesta said with a shy smile on her lips.

“Please don’t be so shy. I’m not shy as well. It is all right to turn this way. Look, my breasts are hidden behind my arms… besides it’s so dark that you cannot see through water anyway, so stay calm.”

Saito, feeling half-confused, half-happy, turned around.

Siesta was sitting right before Saito, submerged in the hot water. Because it was dark, you couldn’t clearly see the body behind the surface of the water. He was somewhat relieved.

Yet, Saito took a deep breath.

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In the darkness, Siesta’s wet black hair was glittering fascinatingly.

From a close look one could see that Siesta was actually a very lovely girl. He hadn’t noticed until now, but she was different from Louise or Henrietta, she was like the charm of a lovely flower, freely blossoming in the field. Her big dark eyes, friendly nature and tiny nose were charming and pretty.

“Hey, Saito, what kind of place is your country?”

“My country?”

“Yes, please tell me about it.”

Siesta innocently bent forward listening. Ah, when bending forward so much one could see, ah, aah… Saito fell backwards in panic.

“W-well! There’s only one moon, there are no magicians, that’s why they use switches to turn the light off, and they fly in the sky with planes…”

Because Saito was so incoherent, Siesta puffed her cheeks.

“Stop it. One moon, no wizards, are you making fun of me? Don’t look down on me just because I’m a village girl.”

“I-I’m not making fun of you!”

Saito thought that even if he told her the truth it would only confuse her. After all, the only ones that knew at the moment that Saito was from a different world were Louise, Sir Osmond and Henrietta.

“Well then, tell me the truth.”

Siesta looked up into Saito’s eyes. Siesta’s black hair and dark eyes wistfully reminded Saito of a girl from Japan. Of course, the face was different from a Japanese. However, a simple, nostalgic feeling still shot through Saito, making him flurry.

“R-right… We have different eating habits.”

Saito started talking about the distant Japan. Starry eyed Siesta listened attentively to the story.

Though it might feel like a vapid talk, Siesta was eagerly catching every single word. And before they realized it, Saito and Siesta lost any track of time, as the story of the hometown was told.

After some time passed, Siesta stood up covering her breasts. Saito hastily turned his eyes away. However, for one moment, he still saw Siesta’s breasts through a gap of her arms, and felt his nose bleed. Without a word, a thin trickle rolled down. Holding his nose Saito looked at the other side, while Siesta put on her now dry clothes and bowed her head thanking Saito.

“Thank you. It was very fun. This bath was great, and Saito-san’s story was amazing as well.”

Siesta said gladly.

“Can I hear it again sometime?”

Saito nodded.

After that, Siesta cast her eyes down with a blush, and shyly fiddled with her fingers.

“Well, err? The talk and the bath were great, but you were the most amazing…”

“Siesta?”

“Could you…”

“W-what?!”

But Siesta ran away in tiny steps.

Such a thing happening with this girl from a foreign world felt like a joke for Saito, so he dazed off, snuggled in the big iron kettle.

After the bath, he returned to Louise’s room and found Louise doing something on the bed. Once she saw Saito, she hid a book in panic. It was an old, big book.

Why? Though, he didn’t worry so much about it since she was Louise. He might not have understood even if she told him about it. Besides Saito’s head was filled with the sight of Siesta’s body. What he saw through the gap of her hands, was firmly imprinted in Saito’s mind.

Saito approached the laundry basket, while shaking off the worldly thoughts. He decided to start doing laundry right away. He planned on using the remaining bath’s hot water, so his fingers would not be cold.

However, the basket was empty.

“Louise, where’s the laundry?”

When Saito asked, Louise shook her head.

“Washed already.”

“You washed…”

And then Saito saw Louise. “Hah!?” He was shocked. Louise was wearing his nylon parka that he took off and left in the room before going to take a bath. When Saito goes to a public bath, he always takes off that nylon parka and goes with only his T-shirt, because his body feels too hot right after stepping out of the bath.

Louise was probably wearing it right over her underwear. Because the sleeves were too long and waist was too loose, it made it look like some weird dress.

“You, why are you wearing my best suit?!”

Hearing Saito, Louise buried her mouth behind his nylon parka. Louise, whose cheeks blushed for some reason, said.

“Because…after doing the laundry, I had nothing left to wear.”

“Nonsense! It’s full!”

Saito pointed to the closet. There were a lot of Louise’s clothes. Because Louise was a noble, she had many expensive dresses to choose from.

“Still, I wanted to try something else on.”

Louise, sitting straight on the bed, said in a sulky tone.

“Couldn’t you wear these casual clothes?”

Saito took a plain dress in his hands.

“I don’t want to wear something like that!”

“But these are my only clothes. Return them.”

However, Louise didn’t try to take it off. On the contrary, she rolled sheets around her fingers.

“Well it is light and fits nicely. What is it made of?”

Indeed. Saito had to agree that it really fitted her rather nicely. Reluctantly, he decided to give up. In the room it was not cold, even if wearing only a single T-shirt.

“Nylon.”

“Nailon?”

“That’s a fabric from my world. It is made from oil.”

“Oili?”

“The plankton that is collected at the bottom of the sea is stored for years, and later becomes oil.”

“Pulankuton?”

Louise stared blankly at him, she looked like a child parroting Saito’s words. Her expression was unreadable as half of her face was hidden behind Saito’s parka. For a moment Saito thought that this Louise looked irresistibly cute.

Furthermore, Louise even washed for him. It was impossible. Saito became scared somehow. Up ’till now, such actions were unimaginable for Louise.

Her cheeks were red, so concerned Saito decided to check if she wasn’t ill and had any fever.

Louise got startled when Saito approached her. She trembled, and… turned away.

Trying not to think how she must hate this, Saito grabbed Louise’s shoulders and brought his forehead close to her. Louise’s body stiffened but she didn’t fight and quietly closed her eyes.

Just as I thought, her body condition must be really bad, Saito thought.

“It seems you have a fever.”

When Saito pulled his forehead away from hers, Louise for some reason clenched her fist in tightly.

“What is it?” he asked, as Louise turned away from him and after some quiet rustling snuggled under the covers.

“Hey,” Saito poked.

“Sleep,” Louise answered and became silent again.

Wow, the fever must have eased up, Saito thought as he crawled into his pile of hay.

It was quiet for a moment and then a pillow flew at him.

“What the…?”

Saito asked.

“Bring back the pillow I just threw. Didn’t I tell you to sleep in the bed from now on? Idiot.”

Louise’s sulky voice was heard.

He just couldn’t understand Louise’s mood, whether it was gentle or saucy as usual. What does it matter?, Saito thought as he slipped into Louise’s bed.

Though Louise was stirring restlessly in her futon, she soon quieted down.

Now he could think about how the day passed. Anyway, now his head was filled with Siesta. Siesta’s parting words were repeated in his head again.

Siesta certainly said “The most amazing was you…”.

Was it a confession? No, was she making fun? That’s not so. Am I popular? He wasn’t popular either. The only one who showed interest was Kirche, but it was surely because I am convenient.

Aah, but, Siesta was cute. Although Louise was cute, too, Siesta had a completely different allure.

Naive, simple, but honest. Unlike Kirche, she looked wonderful when taking her clothes off. Ghaah. T-that’s right. Nice. W-w-w-what. Damn. Beaten. I’m beaten.

For something that he hadn’t considered much until that moment, the impact was huge. Fascinated by the girl, Saito started to think of the ways to return back to earth.

He’ll find it surely, even if he hadn’t even the slightest clue how.

Then, feeling dizzy, he started thinking about Louise. He loved Louise. But, because Louise is a noble she would never think of me that way. Besides I decided to protect her. This way I wouldn’t be that far from a lover.

Still, to be lovers one would need to sway a girl… No, even Siesta might be only making fun. Aah, I guess that’s how it is.

Becoming sleepy, while thinking about various things, Saito fell into the happy sensations of the dream world.

Outside Louise’s room window Tabitha’s Sylphid was floating. On top of which, as usual, Kirche’s and Tabitha’s figures were sitting. Tabitha was reading a book in the moonlight. Kirche was staring into Louise’s room from the crevice of the window.

Kirche snorted.

“After all, it is not looking good.”

She remembered the blush on Louise’s face as she cuddled with Saito on the back of the dragon, returning from Albion. Louise seemed to not be her usual self.

“Really, he doesn’t treat me seriously? Every time I approach him, I get rejected, it makes me worried against my will.”

Until now, there was no man who would refuse courting her. It was Kirche’s pride. Truly, Kirche felt forgotten like an inconvenient thing.

Kirche was irritated. A little while ago, he even bathed with a commoner’s daughter. She was ignored and two-timed. Kirche’s pride was shaken. She was defeated by Louise, she was defeated by a commoner girl, this made her name of “Ardent” cry. She had to plunder Saito from Louise, by any means possible. Snatching away La Valliere’s lovers was an old Zerbst tradition.

“Yes, though plotting isn’t my specialty, I can still think of some strategy. Right, Tabitha?”

Tabitha shut a book, and pointed at Kirche.

“Jealousy.”

Kirche blushed. And then she shook her head at Tabitha’s words.

“D-don’t say that! I’m not jealous! I cannot feel jealousy! Game! This is just a game of love!”

Nevertheless Tabitha was not convinced. She repeated the same word again.

“Jealousy.”

Chapter Four: Love Triangle

Louise was seated in the east courtyard of the Academy of Magic, commonly known as Austri, and frantically knitting. The spring weather was beginning to change as summer approached, but Louise could still be seen in her spring clothing. Even during the summer, it was quite dry instead of humid.

Ten days had passed since they had returned from Albion. That day was a day off. Without even eating dessert, Louise came to the courtyard after her meal to knit. Sometimes, she would give her hands a rest and stare at the white pages of the Founder’s Prayer book while thinking of a fitting edict for the Princess’s ceremony.

Around her, students were enjoying themselves. There was a group playing with a ball. Using magic, they would throw the ball into a basket without using their hands and try to score the most points. Staring at the group of people, Louise sighed heavily and looked at what she had started to knit.

Looking at the scene from the side, it was much like a painting. Sitting there quietly, Louise looked like a beautiful girl. Louise’s hobby was knitting. When she was small, her mother told her that if she had no talent for magic, she should at least have something she was good at, and so her mother taught her how to knit.

But it seemed like the heavens did not give Louise any talent in knitting. Louise had planned to knit a sweater. However, regardless of how favorably she looked upon it, it looked more like a distorted muffler. Actually it was more like an object complicatedly entangled with wool. Louise stared bitterly at the object and let out another sigh.

The face of the maid working in the kitchen resurfaced in her mind. Louise knew that she was making food for Saito. Saito thought Louise didn’t know, but she was not completely oblivious.

That girl can cook well. Kirche has good looks. What do I have? Harboring these thoughts, she decided to try her hobby, knitting, but it seems like it wasn’t such a good choice.

Just as she was becoming slightly depressed from staring at the thing she was knitting, someone tapped her on the shoulder. It was Kirche. Panicking, Louise quickly hid what she was knitting with the Founder’s Prayer Book.

“What are you doing Louise?”

Kirche gave her usual smile that seemed like she was looking down on her, and sat next to Louise.

“C-Can’t you see? I’m reading.”

“But, that book is blank, isn’t it?”

“This book is a national treasure called the Founder’s Prayer Book, you know?”, said Louise

“Why do you have a national treasure?”

Louise explained to Kirche that at Henrietta’s wedding ceremony, she was to read out the edict and how she was to use the Founder’s Prayer Book, and so on.

“I see. I’m guessing that the Princess’s wedding ceremony has something to do with the journey to Albion?”

Louise considered whether to answer Kirche truthfully or not, but since Kirche had acted as a decoy so that they could go on ahead, she nodded.

“We risked our lives so that the Princess’s wedding could proceed smoothly? Not a very prestigious task… So, basically it has something to do with the alliance between Tristain and Germania announced the other day?”

Kirche was quite sharp.

“Don’t say anything to anyone about it,” said Louise with a slightly discouraged expression.

“Of course I won’t. I’m not Guiche you know. Our two native countries have become allies. We should try and get along from now on. Right, La Vallière?”

Kirche put her hands on Louise’s shoulders and smiled, almost purposefully.

“Did you hear? Albion’s new government proposed a non-aggression treaty. Cheers to the peace that we brought about.”

Louise replied half heartedly. For the sake of this peace, Henrietta had to marry a prince whom she didn’t even love. You could say that she had no choice, but it wasn’t something to be happy about.

“By the way, what were you knitting?”

Louise blushed deeply.

“I-I wasn’t knitting anything.”

“You were. It’s here, right?”

Kirche grabbed it from under the Founder’s Prayer Book.

“Hey, give it back!”

Louise was trying to take it back, but Kirche easily restrained her.

“What is it?” asked Kirche, dumbfounded while looking at the object.

“I-It’s a sweater.”

“A sweater? It looks more like a starfish. And a new species at that.”

“A sweater? It looks more like a starfish.”

“As if I would knit something like that!”

Louise finally snatched her knitting back, and looked downwards, embarrassed.

“Why are you knitting a sweater?”

“None of your business.”

“That’s ok. I know why anyway.”

Kirche put her hands on Louise’s shoulders again and approached her face.

“You were knitting it for your familiar weren’t you?”

“N-No! I would never do such a thing!” cried Louise, with a bright red face.

“You’re really easy to understand you know. You like him, right? Why?”, asked Kirche while looking into Louise’s eyes.

“I-I don’t like him. You’re the one who likes him. That idiot doesn’t have any good qualities.”

“You know Louise, when you lie, you’re earlobes shake. Did you know that?”

Louise quickly grabbed her earlobes. Realizing that it was a lie, she returned her hands to her knees in a flustered manner.

“A-Anyhow, I won’t give him to you. He’s my familiar anyway.”

Kirche laughed and said, “It’s good that you want him for yourself. But I’m not the one you are worrying about, I think.”

“What do you mean?”

“Um… perhaps that kitchen maid?”

Louise’s eyes shifted.

“Heh, so I was right?”

“N-Not really…”

“If you go to your room now, you might see something interesting.”

Louise stood up quickly.

“I thought you didn’t like him?” Said Kirche in a playful tone.

“I only forgot something!” cried Louise while dashing off.

Saito was cleaning the room. He had to sweep the floor with a broom, and wipe the tables with a cloth. As Louise had recently been doing her own laundry as well as other things related to her appearance, Saito’s work was reduced to cleaning.

Cleaning was done very quickly. Louise’s room didn’t have many things in the first place, a small desk with drawers next to the closet, a table with a small vase containing a small plant, two chairs at a table, her bed and her bookshelf. As Louise was a fairly studious person, her bookshelf was lined with thick books.

He took one of the books down. It had characters that he had never seen before. Well of course, thought Saito as he put it back. But, why was he able to communicate with Louise then? Their language was different, and yet they were able to understand each other.

“What’s wrong partner?” asked Derflinger who was leaning against the wall of the room.

“Derf! Why do I understand what you’re saying?” asked Saito as he rushed to Derflinger.

“Well, if you didn’t understand, we would be in a bit of a pickle.”

“I come from a different world. And despite that I’m still able to understand your language. I don’t understand why!”

Saito remembered the person who was saved by Old Osman around thirty years ago. He was a person from his world. It seems like he and Osman had spoken with each other.

“How did you come to Halkeginia anyway partner?”

“I’m not sure myself… there was strange gate giving off this light…”

“Then I would think that the answer has something to do with that gate.” Said Derflinger, as though it were nothing important.

“What exactly was that gate then?”

“Dunno.”

Saito was a bit surprised.

“You’re a legendary sword and yet you don’t know anything. You should know a bit more since you’re legendary. Like, how to get me home…” Said Saito bitterly.

“I’m forgetful and not really interested anyway. Can’t rely on legends too much.”

Someone knocked on the door. Who could it be? If it was Louise, she wouldn’t knock. It’s probably Guiche or Kirche? “It’s not locked” Said Saito.

The door opened and Siesta popped her head in.

“S-Siesta.”

“Umm…”

She was in her usual maid uniform but looked slightly different. Her done up silky black hair dangled on her forehead and the freckles on her face emitted some charm. She was holding a large silver tray, filled with food.

“Um, you haven’t come to the kitchen recently…”

Saito nodded. As Louise let him eat whatever he wanted to, he visited the kitchen less often.

“So I was worried that you might be hungry…” Siesta said nervously.

Seeing her cute gestures, Saito’s heart started throbbing.

“T-Thanks. But, Louise has let me eat at the table now, so I haven’t really been hungry.”

“Really? I’ve been serving the teachers table recently so I didn’t notice. If I’m just a being nuisance then…”

Siesta hung her head slightly.

“N-No, that’s not it at all! I’m really happy that you brought me food! I’m actually hungry right now!” Said Saito, even though he was full from eating at the Alviss dining hall just a while ago.

“Really?”

Siesta’s face brightened.

“Well, eat to your heart’s content.”

The small table was crammed full of food. Siesta sat next to Saito, smiling. Saito started to hate himself for eating so much before but he couldn’t just let Siesta’s good intentions go to waste. Determined, he started to eat the food.

“Is it good?” asked Siesta.

“Yeah, it’s really good.”

He wasn’t lying, but it would have been even better if he had been hungry.

“Ehehe, eat all you want then.”

Siesta gazed at Saito who was eating in a hungry fashion.

“Oh sorry, my table manners…”

“N-No, it’s not that! It’s the opposite. I’m really happy that you like the food so much! The food and the cooks would be really happy!”

Blushing, she wiped her eyes with her hands. Siesta was cute like that. Saito couldn’t taste the flavor of the food anymore.

“I made that one,” said Siesta in a shy voice.

“Really?”

“Yeah. It was difficult to make it in the kitchen, but because you’re eating it, I’m glad I did it.”

Saito felt his heart tense up. Siesta was thinking of me. Me of all people. He lost himself within his thoughts. The atmosphere between them was very tense. Siesta suddenly said in a flustered tone, “S-Saito!”

“Y-Yes?”

“Umm.”

Siesta paused, as if trying to choose the right words.

“That talk, that we had before, was a lot of fun! Especially about that thing! Um, what was it called? Oh, the airplane!”

Saito nodded. Saito had talked to Siesta about his world and Japan in the bath. Siesta, coming from a village, didn’t know much about the world and was able to grasp what Saito had said as though they were things from another country.

“Ah, the airplane.”

“Yes! Being able to fly without magic must be wonderful! So even commoners like us, can fly freely in the sky like birds?”

“Isn’t there an airship?”

“It only hovers.”

“My village is actually a very nice place. It’s called Tarbes. It’s about three days from here by horse, in the direction of La Rochelle.”

Saito listened intently while eating the food.

“It’s a very remote village and there’s nothing really special there but… it has a very spacious and beautiful field. During the spring, the spring flowers bloom and during the summer, the summer flowers bloom. It’s like a sea of flowers, as far as the eye can see, past the horizon. It should be very beautiful at the moment…” Said Siesta, eyes closed as if she were drowning in memories.

“I want to look at that sea of flowers just once in an airplane.”

“Sounds nice…”

“Oh, why didn’t I think of it before!” cried Siesta who suddenly grasped Saito’s hand.

Surprised, Saito nearly fell backwards.

“W-What?”

“Do you want to visit my village Saito?”

“Huh?”

“The princess is getting married right? There’s a special holiday for us. It’s been quite a long time since I’ve returned to the village… If it’s ok, please come. I want to show you that beautiful field of flowers. My village has this really nice way of cooking stew as well. It’s called “Yosenabe”. It’s made from vegetables that people don’t usually use. I really want to let you taste it!”

“W-Why do you want me to come?”

“…You showed me that there’s a possibility,” said Siesta, nervously looking downwards.

“A possibility?”

“Yes. A possibility that even commoners can win against nobles. We live in fear of the nobles. Knowing that there are people who don’t live like that makes me happy, as if their happiness was my happiness. Everyone in the kitchen believes that as well.”

“I want to show such a person to my hometown…” said Siesta.

“I-I see…”

Saito felt embarrassed. I’m not great or anything. Occasionally I’m a legendary familiar, but that’s all. It’s not something to be praised over.

“Of course, it’s not only that. I also want to show Saito the village… But, if I bring a man back suddenly, my family will be shocked. What should I do…”

Suddenly Siesta blushed deeply and whispered, “I can just say you’re my husband.”

“W-What?”

“If I say it’s because we’re getting married, they’ll be happy. My mother, father, brother and sister will all be happy.”

“Siesta?”

When Siesta glanced at Saito, who was staring at her dumbfounded, she shook her head.

“Sorry! That will be troublesome! I’m not sure if you’ll even come! Haha!”

Embarrassed, Saito replied, “S-Siesta, you’re really bold sometimes. Like when we took a bath.”

Siesta blushed once again.

“I’m not being bold or anything.”

“Eh?”

“When I left home, my mother told me to not show anyone my body except to my chosen man.”

And with that, Siesta reached out and grasped Saito’s hand. Saito’s heart beat very loudly.

“I would have showed you if you simply asked.”

“Y-You’re joking…right?” Saito said, slack jawed.

“It wasn’t a joke. Even now…”

“W-W-What about now?”

Siesta looked straight into Saito’s face.

“Am I not attractive?”

“No, that’s not it at all.”

She was attractive. Too attractive.

“Really?”

Siesta continued looking into Saito. Stop, Saito thought, feeling as though he were being drawn into those black eyes.

“Then why didn’t you do anything when we were taking a bath?”

Siesta hid her eyes sadly.

Ah, don’t look like that, I’ll feel as though I’ve done something very bad.

“…I see, I’m not attractive. You have such a cute girl with you too…That La Vallière is a noble too. I’m just a village girl after all.” Said Siesta sadly, sighing.

“No, it’s not like that at all!”

“Saito.”

“You’re really attractive. I can guarantee it. You look stunning without clothes on.”

Normally those words would get him beaten up, but Siesta was glad.

She had been wondering whether to bring in the dessert or not. While Saito was rambling on, she closed her eyes and stood up. With a deep breath, she let her apron fall to the ground.

“Siesta!” Said Saito, shocked.

Siesta looked at him calmly. She was the kind of person who would do something well once she had decided to do it. She started to undo the buttons on her blouse one by one.

“Siesta! I don’t think it’s a good idea!” cried Saito, shaking his head.

“Don’t worry.”

Her blouse was half undone. Her well-sized cleavage captured Saito’s vision. Saito sprang at Siesta, but suddenly found himself shaking his head, crying, “W-Wait! Wait a moment! I have to think about something like this!”

“Kya!”

Siesta, whom Saito was grasping by the shoulders, lost her balance and fell onto Louise’s bed behind them, as if Saito had pushed her down.

“Sorry…”

Directly below Saito, Siesta lay with her blouse undone. Siesta put her hands on her chest and closed her eyes.

With superb timing, Louise had opened the door.

Within ten seconds, various things occurred.

One: Louise noticed that Siesta was pushed onto the bed by Saito. Two: Louise noticed that Sieta’s blouse was undone. Three: Saito and Siesta stood up flustered. Six: Siesta buttoned up her blouse. Seven: Siesta dashed out of the room, facing away from Louise. Eight: Saito cried, “Wait Siesta!” Nine: Louise regained herself. Ten: Just as Saito was about to explain what had happened, he felt an intense pain as Louise high kicked him.

And with that, Saito was lying on the floor ten seconds after Louise opened the door.

Louise stepped on Saito’s head. Her voice and body were shaking.

“What exactly were you doing?”

“It’s not what it seems, Louise.”

“What were you doing on my bed?”

“It’s a long story, Siesta was bringing me food and…”

“A familiar doing something like that on his master’s bed. I can’t forgive you.”

“It’s not what it seems to be. I didn’t plan to do anything like-“

“That was the last straw.”

Tears started to fall from Louise’s eyes. Saito stood up and grasped Louise’s shoulders.

“Listen to me, it’s a misunderstanding!”

“Enough already.”

Louise glared at Saito.

“What?”

Saito couldn’t understand why Louise was so angry. She didn’t even like him. It definitely wasn’t something to cry about.

“Get out.”

“Um, just then, I didn’t mean for it to happen…”

“Get out! You’re fired!”

Saito was also starting to feel angry. First you summon me, then you fire me? What am I supposed to do?

“I’m fired?”

“Yes, you’re fired! Go die in a ditch somewhere!”

Those were harsh words, no matter what he had done. All that, just because he and Siesta were on her bed. We weren’t even doing anything. And I thought she was becoming nicer.

“Ok, fine.”

“I don’t want to see your face ever again!”

Saito grabbed Derflinger and left the room without another word.

Alone in the room, Louise laid on her bed. She put the blanket over her head.

So mean, Louise thought.

It hasn’t only been today. When I’ve been having lessons, he’s been bringing that girl in and doing that and I didn’t know. I won’t forgive him.

Louise bit her lip. So his feelings for her were all lies. Tears ran down her cheek.

“I hate you… and you even kissed me.”

She whispered the words repeatedly, as if they were meant for herself.

“… and you even kissed me.”

While searching for Verdandi, Guiche spotted a tent in the corner of the Vestri courtyard. For some reason a huge kettle was placed next to it. Guiche wondered what the kettle and the tent were for.

It was a crude tent made from a stick and an old rag. There were remains of food, bones and skin from fruits, scattered around. It seemed like someone was living there. His beloved familiar came out of the tent while he was looking at the tent with his head tilted in wonder.

“Verdandi, so you’re here!”

Guiche got on his knees and rubbed the large mole’s cheeks. The mole happily twitched its nose.

“Verdandi, what are you doing here?”

Someone crawled out of the tent and called out to the mole.

“Come here, mole. You and I, we’re friends right?”

It was Saito. Disheveled and with a wine bottle in his hand, he was obviously drunk.

“What on earth are you doing?” asked Guiche, surprised.

Saito took a sip from the bottle and continued to call out to the mole, ignoring Guiche.

“Hey, come here. You’re the only friend I can trust.”

The large mole, as if it was troubled, looked at both Guiche and Saito.

“Verdandi, don’t go over there. Why is Verdandi your friend anyway?”

When Guiche asked that, Saito replied with a dead voice, lying on the ground.

“Because I’m a mole. A useless, poor, miserable mole.”

“I don’t know what happened, but don’t go thinking Verdandi is the same as you.”

Guiche peered inside the tent. Derflinger and for some reason, Kirche’s salamander were in there.

“Kyuru kyuru.”

“What do you want?” Each of them said.

There was a pile of straw on the ground, and an upturned cup. That was all that was in the tent.

Guiche turned to Saito.

“So, you were driven out of Louise’s room?”

Lying on the floor, Saito nodded.

“And so you made this tent?”

Saito nodded again.

“Being lonely, you gathered people’s familiars and got drunk?”

Saito nodded vigorously. Guiche closed his eyes and nodded himself.

“Hmm. So you’re a good for nothing.”

“What else am I supposed to do? I’ve got no place to go. I don’t even have a clue how to get home. I can only drink.”

Saito gulped down the wine. Someone came rushing towards them. It was Siesta.

“Oh, I’m sorry I’m late. Here’s your lunch.”

It seemed like this maid from the kitchen was taking care of Saito.

“You’ve drank this much already?! I told you a bottle per day!” Siesta grabbed his hand while scolding him.

“Sorry…”

Saito sadly hung his head.

“You guys! I told you to keep an eye on how much he drank!”

“Kyuru kyuru.”

“My bad,” replied both the salamander and Derflinger in a sorry voice.

Siesta hastily cleaned up the mess around the tent and made Saito stand up.

“I’ll come again in the evening! Don’t drink too much!”

And then Siesta hurried away in the same fashion she had came.

Watching her leave, Guiche said with an artificial rose in his mouth, “Well, Louise would get angry if you were two timing.”

“I’m not two timing! I’m not even involved with anyone, neither Louise nor Siesta!”

He had kissed Louise while she was sleeping, but he didn’t say that. He would rather forget about it.

“Well whatever, but do you plan on living here?”

“Got a problem?”

“You’re ruining the school’s beautiful scenery.”

“Shut up.”

“You’ll be told to get out if the teachers see you, you know?”

Saito gulped down his wine without another word, returning to the tent while hugging Guiche’s mole. The mole looked desperately at Guiche.

“Hey, give me back my Verdandi!”

Meanwhile, Louise had been skipping class and staying in her bed, worrying endlessly. Three days had passed since she drove Saito out. She was thinking about the familiar she drove out.

He even kissed me, he even kissed me, he even kissed me, she thought endlessly. Having your pride hurt is really a terrible thing. She sadly glanced at the haystack that Saito used to use. She wanted to throw it out, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it.

Suddenly a knock came from the door. The first thought she had was that Saito had finally returned. Her sadness turned to joy, and within that joy she felt anger. Why am I glad he’s back? I should not let him back in for coming back so late.

The door opened. Louise jumped up and cried angrily.

“Idiot! Where have you…eh?”

It was Kirche who had come in. Brushing her flaming hair, she smiled at Louise.

“It’s only me, sorry.”

“What are you doing here?”

Louise went back to her bed. Kirche walked briskly to the bed and sat down. She threw away the blanket at once, revealing Louise curled up, sulking, in her negligee.

“You’ve been absent for three days now, so I came to see you.”

Kirche sighed heavily. Having a good conscience really did have its pains. She didn’t think Louise would drive him out of the room. She thought it would be good for the two to have a fight and separate from each other a bit, but she didn’t think Louise would go this far.

“So, what are you planning to do, now that you’ve driven your familiar out of your room?”

“None of your business.”

Kirche looked at Louise coldly. On her rosy cheeks, there were rivulet vestiges of tears. She had probably been crying for a while now.

“I knew you were foolishly arrogant and proud but I didn’t think you were this cold hearted. They were just eating together.”

“It wasn’t only just that, of all things they were on my bed…” Louise muttered.

“Were they in each other’s arms?”

Louise nodded. Kirche was quite shocked. To make a move on a girl who came to bring him food… Saito was pretty good.

“Well, seeing the guy you like with a girl on your own bed must be quite a shock.”

“I don’t like him! It’s just that they were on my bed…”

“That’s just an excuse. You drove him out because you like him, and you were angry with him.”

Kirche’s words had hit the mark, yet Louise disagreed and pouted her lips. “I can’t say I didn’t see it coming. It’s because you didn’t give him anything. It’s only natural he’d go flirt with another girl.”

Louise remained silent.

“La Vallière, you’re a strange girl you know. You’re angry at and crying over a guy who you won’t even kiss. You can’t win like that…” said Kirche in a bored tone while standing up.

“I’ll do something about Saito. I was looking forward to taking Saito away from you… but you hit him, and kicked him, and drove him out, I actually feel quite sorry for him. He’s not a toy you know.”

Louise bit her lips.

“A familiar is a mage’s partner. You fail as a mage because you can’t treat him properly. Well… you are zero after all.”

And with that, Kirche left. Louise didn’t reply. She crawled back onto her bed, full of sorrow and regret, and cried like she used to when she was small.

By the time Kirche had come to Saito’s tent, it was late at night already. Saito’s drunken voice could be heard within the crude tent. Flame’s “Kyuru kyuru” could also be heard in the tent. It must had come here to play when she had gone out to the streets.

Kirche opened the flap of the tent. The scene inside was disgusting. Guiche had his face buried in his mole, crying. Saito was hugging Flame, while grumbling with a wine bottle in his other hand.

“It’s just like you said! You’re an idiot!” shouted Saito. It seems like he had drunk so much he couldn’t even articulate properly.

“I didn’t even do anything with that Katie. She held my hand, and I had only lightly kissed Mortmerncy! Despite that, I-!”

Guiche burst into tears. He was the type who cried when he drank. Kirche sighed. Why do men have to be such idiots? Derflinger noticed Kirche and informed Saito.

“Gentlemen, there’s a guest.”

“Guest?”

Saito looked groggily at Kirche.

“Kirche?”

“Looks fun, can I join?” Said Kirche, with a smile on her face.

Saito, who couldn’t possibly get any more drunk, was angered by the sight of a woman. He faced Kirche.

“Those large tits, if you show me them, you can join.”

Guiche started clapping his hands.

“I absolutely agree! In the name of Tristain’s nobles! I totally agree!”

Instead of replying, Kirche took out her wand and started reciting an incantation.

“Less drunk now?”

Saito and Guiche, who were both sitting straight now, nodded.

Everything around them was scorched. Even they were scorched. Kirche’s fire magic made Saito’s hair and Guiche’s nice shirt ragged looking. They had heard of water being a good trick to use, but they didn’t think fire would work just as well.

“Well then, get ready to leave.”

“Get ready to leave?”

Guiche and Saito looked at each other.

“Yes. Hey Saito.” Kirche called him by his name instead of darling.

“What?”

“Do you plan on living in a tent for the rest of your life?”

“No, but… I got driven out, and I haven’t found a way back home either…”

A way back home? Kirche and Guiche looked at each other. Saito suddenly shook his head.

“No, I mean, that, Rub’ in the east!”

“Ah, you were born there weren’t you?”

Kirche nodded in comprehension. Saito sighed in relief.

While Kirche caressed Saito’s cheek, she said, “Don’t you want to become a noble?”

“A noble?”

Guiche was slightly taken aback.

“But Kirche, he’s a commoner. He can’t be a noble since he’s not a mage.”

“In Tristain that is. By law, commoners are strictly forbidden to purchase land or become nobles.”

“Exactly.”

“But, in Germania it’s different. If you have money, even if you’re a commoner, you can buy land and become a noble, or buy the rights to a position and become a tax collector or a commander.

“And that’s why they call Germania uncivilized.” Said Guiche as though he were feeling sick.

“Uncivilized? People who are fussed over traditions and customs like ‘if you’re not a mage you can’t be a noble’, which make their country weak, have no right to talk. It’s the reason why Tristain has to ally with Germania to be able to oppose Albion.

Saito, who had been quietly listening, finally opened his mouth.

“Um, so Kirche. What you’re saying is that I should become a noble through money, in your country?”

“Exactly that.”

“I don’t have that kind of money. I’m penniless.”

“Then earn some.”

Kirche tapped Saito’s face with a bundle of parchment.

“What’s that?”

Guiche and Saito looked at the bundle. They seemed like maps.

“They’re treasure maps.”

“Treasure?!” Guiche and Saito said, surprised.

“Yes, we’re going to go treasure hunting and sell the treasure we find. Saito… you can do whatever you want then.”

Saito gulped. Kirche was embracing Saito, with her breasts pushing against him. Saito was shaking as though he was suffocating.

“When you become a noble… you can propose to me ok? I like guys like you. I don’t care if you’re a commoner or a noble. People who can overcome their difficulties and obtain things beyond people’s imagination… I like people like that.” Said Kirche, who was smiling seductively.

Guiche, who was looking at the map, whispered doubtingly, “No matter how I look at it, these maps seem a bit suspicious…”

“I got them from various places like magic shops, stalls, general stores…”

“It’s definitely something dodgy. I know of a few people who just sell ordinary maps, calling them treasure maps. There are even nobles who become bankrupt because of these hoaxes.”

“That attitude won’t do!” Said Kirche, with her hands clenched into tight fists.

“Most of them might be scrap, but there might be a real one hidden inside there.”

Gah…Guiche groaned while slapping his forehead.

“Saito, let’s go. Let’s go find treasure and abandon Louise… and then you’ll propose to me, ok?”

Abandoning Louise… that did have a nice ring to it. Nobles… they are always so proud, and they even forget about the people who have saved them before. Saito made up his mind.

“Alright, I’m in. Let’s go!”

Kirche hugged Saito tightly. Suddenly someone burst in.

“Nononono, you can’t do that!”

“Siesta?”

Before them was Siesta in her maid outfit.

“You can’t marry, Saito!”

Siesta pulled on Saito.

“Don’t you wish the man you love to be happy?”

Siesta was taken aback by Kirche’s words and looked at Saito. She suddenly shook her head.

“Just because you’re a noble doesn’t necessarily mean you’re happy. You can stay at my village, and buy a vineyard with that money!”

“A vineyard?”

“In my village, there are a lot of good vineyards! We can make nice wine together! Its brand name could be Saito Siesta!”

Kirche and Siesta were both pulling on Saito. It was the first time in his life that he was fought over by girls. He blushed deeply. This probably wouldn’t happen ever again.

“As if you’d find treasure.” Guiche said in a bored tone.

“Guiche. If we find treasure you can give it to the Princess as a present and perhaps she will see you in a different light.”

Guiche stood up.

“Ladies and gentlemen, let’s go.”

“Take me along please!” Siesta called out. If she didn’t go along, there would be no doubt that Kirche would seduce Saito.

“No, you can’t. Commoners are just a burden.”

“Don’t treat me like an idiot! Even though I look like this, I’m…”

Siesta was shaking. Both her hands were clenched tightly together.

“Yes? Go on.”

“I can cook!”

“As if we didn’t know,” everyone said.

“But, but, meals are important right? While we’re searching for treasure, we’ll be camping right? We can’t just rely on the food we bring. I could make good food for everyone.”

Well she was right on that point. Guiche and Kirche were both nobles and couldn’t stand eating bad food.

“But you have work to do right? Are you just going to take a break?”

“The cook always lets me leave if I say I’m doing something for Saito.”

The head chef really liked Saito; he would probably do exactly as Siesta had said.

“Fine, do what you want. But I’ll tell you beforehand, the ruins, forests and caves we’re heading to are dangerous places. There are lots of monsters there.”

“I’ll be fine, Saito will protect me!”

And with that, Siesta grabbed Saito’s arm, leading him to fantasizing about Siesta’s naked breasts pressing against him.

Kirche nodded and turned to everyone.

“After the preparations are done we’re heading off!”

Chapter Five: The Arsenal and the Royal Family

The Albion air force’s arsenal was located in the outskirts of its capital, Londinium, in the town of Rosyth. Before the Revolutionary War (which is what the Reconquista call the civil war that had just ended recently), that place used to be called the Royal air force’s arsenal. And thus, there were all sorts of buildings. The numerous buildings with massive chimneys were used for manufacturing iron. Next to them were piles and piles of timber used for ship constructions and repairs.

The large red brick building was the control center. The three colored flag of Reconquista could be seen fluttering proudly. But the thing that stood out most was the large battleship which seemed to reach the skies.

The Lexington, the flagship of the fleet, was anchored and covered by a cloth, similar to a large tent, to protect it from rain. The warship stretched across two hundred meters, and was placed on top of a large wooden board so that it could be remodeled as soon as possible.

The king of Albion, Oliver Cromwell, was observing the construction along with some attendants.

“What a big, dependable looking ship. With a ship like this, doesn’t it feel like we can rule the world, chief rigger?”

“You speak too highly of me.”

The chief rigger appointed to the fleet led by the Lexington, Sir Henry Bowood, replied half heartedly. He was on the Reconquista’s side and was the commander of the cruisers during the revolutionary war. Credited with destroying two enemy ships, he was promoted to chief rigger of the Lexington. He was to assume the position of captain when the remodeling was completed. It was one of the customs of the Albion air force.

“Look at those big cannons!”

Cromwell pointed at the cannons on the side of the ship.

“These new weapons are like the symbol of trust I have placed upon you. These were made by gathering Albion’s alchemists. They have an extended body, which according to the calculations…”

The longhaired woman next to Cromwell replied, “They have a firing range of approximately 1.5 times that of the cannons used on Tristain and Germania warships.”

“Thank you, Miss Sheffield.”

Bowood looked at Sheffield. She emitted a somewhat cold atmosphere. She was around her mid-twenties and wore a neat, thin black coat. He had never seen such a weird appearance. She wasn’t wearing a mantle… was she even a mage?

Cromwell nodded with satisfaction and patted Bowood on the back.

“She’s from Rub’ al Khali. She designed these cannons from the technology she learned from the elves. Her insights in technology… do not follow our magic arts. She possesses knowledge of technology that is new to us. You should get to know each other.”

Bowood nodded in a bored manner. He was actually a royalist, but he strongly believed that soldiers should not get involved in politics. In other words, he was a purely militaristic person. The fleet commander, who outranked him, had joined the rebel army, and so he had no choice but to participate in the revolutionary war as a captain of the Reconquista fleet. For him, who had exerted his utmost for the sake of upholding Albion’s tradition – Noblesse oblige, a noble duty, Albion was still a mere kingdom. Cromwell was someone despicable who had just seized power and the throne.

“There probably isn’t a fleet on Halkeginia that can match the power of our Royal Sovereign fleet now,” Bowood had purposefully called the fleet by its old name. Noticing his cynicism, Cromwell smiled.

“Mr Bowood. The Royal Sovereign no longer exists in Albion.”

“True. However, if you attend the wedding ceremony with these new cannons, I’m afraid it will probably be seen as a vulgar demonstration of power.”

Cromwell, the first holy king and president of the council of nobles, and the cabinet ministers of The Republic of the Holy Albion (Albion’s new name) were to attend the wedding ceremony of the Tristain princess and the prince of Germania. They were to travel by the Lexington fleet.

Bringing new models of weapons for a visit of good will would be seen as something along the lines of gunboat diplomacy.

Cromwell replied casually, “Ah yes, I haven’t explained the scheme for this ‘good willed visit’ to you, have I?”

“Scheme?”

Another conspiracy? Bowood felt a headache coming.

Cromwell softly whispered in Bowood’s ears.

“What?! I haven’t heard of such a disgraceful act in all my life!”

“It’s all a part of military movements,” said Cromwell, uncaringly.

“Didn’t we just recently sign a non-aggression treaty with Tristain! In Albion’s long history, we haven’t broken a single treaty!” shouted an enraged Bowood.

“Mr. Bowood. I shall not forgive you for any further political criticisms. This is something that the council has decided upon and approved. Do you plan on going against the council? Since when did you become a politician?”

With that, Bowood was speechless. To him, soldiers were swords and shields that did not object. They were the faithful watchdogs of the country, and proud ones at that. If it was a decision from someone of higher rank, then they could only follow those orders.

“You will soil our country’s name throughout Halkeginia. Our country will be known for cowardly breaking treaties.” Said Bowood, disturbed.

“Soil the country’s name? All of Halkeginia shall be ruled under our Reconquista flag. When we regain the holy lands from the elves, no one will care about such trivial matters.”

Bowood drew close to Cromwell.

“Breaking a treaty is something trivial? Do you plan on betraying even your own country?!”

A nearby man pulled out his wand and restrained Bowood. Bowood could recognize the face hidden underneath the hood.

“Y-Your highness?” a shocked Bowood whispered.

The face was of Prince Wales, who had died in battle.

“Captain, I wonder if you would be able to say those words to your once superior officer?”

Bowood dropped down to his knees. Wales reached out his hands and kissed Bowood. He became pale. Those hands were as cold as ice.

Cromwell walked out with his attendants. Wales also followed suit. The only one left was Bowood, standing still, shocked. Wales, who had died, was living and moving. Bowood was a triangular mage in the water arts. Even he, an expert in water magic, which governed the composition of living things, had not heard of a spell that could bring life to someone once dead.

Perhaps it was a golem? No, that body was filled with life. Being a user in the water branch, he knew perfectly well the flow of water inside living things, including that of Wales.

It was definitely an unknown form of magic. And Cromwell could control it. He remembered a convincing rumor he had heard, and started to shake.

That the holy king Cromwell could control “Void”…

Was that just Void magic?

…The legendary “Zero” branch of magic.

With a shaking voice, Bowood whispered, “…What the hell is he planning to do to Halkeginia?”

Cromwell spoke with the noble walking alongside him.

“Viscount, join the Lexington fleet as the commander of the dragoons.”

Under a feathered hat, Wardes’ eyes gleamed.

“Are you telling me to keep an eye on him?”

He shook his head, rejecting Wardes’ presumption.

“That man won’t betray us. He’s too stubborn and straightforward, which is why we can trust him. I’m just lending him your power, seeing as you led the magic defense squad once. Have you ever ridden a dragon before?”

“No. But there is no beast in Halkeginia that I cannot master.”

Cromwell smirked in agreement. He suddenly turned to Wardes.

“Viscount, why do you obey me?”

“Do you doubt my loyalty?”

“Not at all. You yield such fine results yet you have no requests.”

Wardes laughed lightly. He touched the artificial hand that was put on him recently.

“I only want to see the thing your Excellency will show me.”

“The holy lands?”

Wardes nodded.

“I believe what I’m searching for lies there.”

“You ‘believe’? You really don’t have any desires, do you.” Said Cromwell.

Cromwell was originally a clergyman, but he didn’t have a speck of faith in him. Wardes cast his eyes downwards on an old silver locket. Inside was a drawn portrait of a beautiful woman. His heart, which always appeared cold to people around him, started to warm up. After looking at the small portrait, he whispered, “No, your Excellency. I’m a man who desires the most in this world.”

Meanwhile in Henrietta’s room, inside the royal palace of Tristain, servants were busy sewing the wedding dress Henrietta was to wear. Marianne, the queen, was also there. She watched with a smile while her daughter was dressed in a pure white dress. However, Henrietta’s expression was like that of ice. When the servants sewing asked her things about the sleeves and the position of the waist, she simply nodded. Watching her daughter in that state, Marianne dismissed the servants.

“My dear daughter, you don’t seem well.”

“Mother.”

Henrietta buried her face in her mother’s knees.

“I understand you don’t want this wedding.”

“No, it’s not that at all. I’m a happy person. I’m able to marry. Didn’t you once say that a woman was happy if she got to marry?”

In contrast to her words, Henrietta’s beautiful face became miserable and she started crying in grief. Marianne patted her daughter’s head gently.

“You have someone you love?”

“I had someone I loved. It’s like I’m flowing in a very fast river. Everything has passed by me. Love, kind words… nothing remains now.”

Marianne shook her head.

“Love is like the measles. If you cool down, you will forget about it.”

“How can I possibly forget…”

“You are a princess. You must forget what you must forget. The people will be uneasy if they see you like this.” Said Marianne in an admonishing tone.

“What am I marrying for?” Henrietta asked sadly.

“For the future.”

“For the future of…the country and the people?”

Marianne shook her head.

“It’s also for your future as well. Cromwell of the Reconquista, who’s in control of Albion, is an ambitious man. According to what I’ve heard, he has control over ‘Void’.”

“Isn’t that the legendary branch of magic?”

“Yes. If it is the truth, then it would be dreadful, Henrietta. Having too much power corrupts people. Even though we have a non-aggression treaty, a man like him won’t just look down at Halkeginia from the skies obediently. It’s better for you to be in a powerful country, like Germania.”

Henrietta embraced her mother.

“…Forgive me Mother for being so selfish.”

“It’s alright. Love is everything at your age. It’s not like I don’t understand.”

They embraced each other tightly.


Chapter Six: Treasure Hunting

Tabitha hid beside a tree with her breath held.

Tabitha hid beside a tree with her breath held. In front of her was a temple that had been reduced to ruins. Columns that once boasted magnificence had collapsed and fences had rusted away. Bright stained glass windows had been shattered, and weeds filled the garden. It was the temple of a pioneering village that had been abandoned decades ago. It was completely desolate; no one was close by. However, when the sunlight shone upon it, there was a somewhat pastoral atmosphere to the place. The place would probably be where travelers would set up for lunch or the like.

A loud explosion suddenly broke the calm atmosphere. Kirche had set a tree next to the gatepost on fire. Tabitha, in the shade of the trees, gripped her wand. The reason why the pioneering village had been abandoned came dashing out. It was an orc. It was two meters tall and weighed about five times that of an average human. Its fat ugly body was covered by skin peeled off from animals. With a large nose on its face, it looked much like a pig. In fact, you could say that it was a pig that stood on two legs.

There were around ten of them. Orcs liked human children, and being attacked by a group of creatures with such troublesome tastes, the villagers abandoned the village and fled from it. The villagers told the lord of the area, but the lord disliked dispatching soldiers in forests, and so ignored their requests. This village was one of the many villages in Halkeginia that had had this happen.

The orc conversed with the others through sounds similar to that of a pig, while pointing at the fire blazing around the gatepost. It then yelled angrily at every one of them.

“Fugii! Pigii! Agii! Nguiiii!”

Waving the clubs in their hands, the orcs were obviously angry. There was a fire, which meant humans were nearby. They were enemies, and the fire was a bait. Watching this, Tabitha considered which spell she would use. There were more enemies than she had expected. She couldn’t continuously fire spells out. If they didn’t carry everything out smoothly, they could easily lose the advantage of their surprise attack.

Just then, the air around the orcs shimmered and seven bronze maidens appeared before them. They were Guiche’s golems. Tabitha knitted her eyebrows. That wasn’t what they had decided on. Guiche must have gotten impatient.

Guiche’s seven valkyries charged at the head orc. They thrust their short spears at it. The tip of the spears sank into the orc’s stomach and the orc was knocked back onto the ground. However, the wound was shallow. Its thick skin and fat had acted as its shield, protecting its internal organs from damage. It quickly stood back up, and waved its club, ignoring its small wound. The other orcs rushed over with their clubs, swinging them at the bronze maidens. The clubs the orcs were swinging, were about the size of a human. One hit on the delicate golems, and they would be sent flying, broken on the ground.

Tabitha started reciting an incantation while waving her wand. Water, wind, wind. One water and two winds. The two elements intertwined with each other and the spell was complete. The vapor in the air froze and became several icicles. They skewered the wounded orc from all directions. It was one of Tabitha’s strongest attacks, ‘Windy Icicle’. The wounded orc fell to the ground at once.

Kirche, who was watching on top of a tree that was separated by a fair distance from Tabitha’s hiding spot, waved her wand. Fire, Fire. Two fires. A ball of fire, larger than a normal fireball spell, attacked the orcs. It was the ‘Flame Ball’ spell. With agile movements that didn’t seem possible for their size, they tried avoiding the ball of fire. However, as if it were attached to a string, the ball of fire was homing. It shot inside an orc’s howling mouth, and its head burst into flames. However, that was the end of such effective spells. They couldn’t keep using such strong spells.

The orcs were scared, but they realized they were being attacked by only a few mages. After realizing this, they remembered a long battle they had with humans once. If they lost, they would lose in an instant. However, only two of them were killed by magic so far. Which means, the human’s attack had failed.

Their anger overcame their fear. Their sharp noses twitched, trying to find the humans. A young delicious smelling human could be smelt from outside the temple’s garden. The orcs ran at once. Suddenly a person with a sword carried on his back appeared. Next to him was a fire salamander. Without hesitation the orcs continued to charge forward. The salamander would be a strong foe, but with only the two, it would be no problem. The human warrior wasn’t even a going to be a problem. It is said that one orc can match five human warriors. And that is for skilled warriors. A child like this would be disposed of with one swing of the club.

Saito whispered to the salamander next to him.

“I’ll attack them from the right. Stop any of those monsters from reaching Kirche.”

Fire flickered from the tip of the mouth of the fiery lizard, and it nodded with a “kyuru kyuru.” The large pigs formed groups to attack. They were trying to intimidate them. Saito’s hand was shaking. I’m sorry for being well dressed. What the hell is that. Scary.

The orc was wearing a necklace. After a better glance, it could be seen that it was a necklace made from a straw rope and human skulls. My world’s rules really don’t exist in this world. The beast’s horrible stench could be smelt.

With a shaking left hand, he grabbed Derflinger. The runes on the back of his hand shone. The anger and the vigor bursting inside his body made his body hot. He started tapping a rhythm with his index finger on the grip of the sword, allowing him to compose himself. He calculated the timing of his leap.

Tap, tap, tap… The rhythm of his pulse.

Saito opened his eyes, and gazed at the orcs who were roaring towards him.

An orc swung its club at the child. It was a hit… It should have been that is. But its club only hit the ground. It tried raising its head to see its surroundings, but its vision slipped down. Its neck wouldn’t move. Its hands reached desperately for its head only to find that it was missing.

Saito had jumped faster than the orc’s swing, and had cleaved off its head. How was that! The decapitated orc tumbled to the ground. Saito leapt at a nearby orc. In an instant, he cut down the stunned orc. With the force of his sword he finished it off. To the left, the fiery lizard was battling an orc, scattering fire everywhere. Flame overpowered the orc and sent a blaze of inferno to its head.

Losing three allies already, they surrounded Saito cautiously. With his sword ready, Saito stared at the orcs with a cold gaze. It was as if a dragon was glaring them at. Their instincts told them that he was dangerous. It told them that they couldn’t win against him. The orcs looked at each other.

But, it was a human. They couldn’t possibly lose. It must have been a mistake just then. Ignoring their instinct, experience and common sense, they roared and went in for an all out attack.

And so, they lost their lives. With the help of magic, Saito and Flame decimated them within two minutes.

Tabitha’s dragon landed on the ground. If the wind dragon had been hurt, it would mean that they would have to walk home, so they decided he wasn’t allowed in the battle. Coming down from the tree, Kirche gave Guiche a shove.

“Ouch! What are you doing?”

“It’s your fault that we got in such a mess!”

The plan was to lure them into a pit that Verdandi had dug and light the oil that was prepared in that pit. All the orcs would then burn to their deaths.

“As if they would just all fall into a pit like that. The first to make a move wins. I only put that into practice.” Grumbled Guiche.

“Your mole dug it right? Have some faith!”

“Well we’re all ok, so it’s fine,” said Saito

Siesta, who was hiding and shaking, rushed over to Saito and hugged him, overcome with emotion.

“That was incredible! Killing those violent orcs in a matter of no time! You’re incredible Saito!”

Siesta then timidly glanced at the corpses of the orcs.

“With these around I guess you can’t really go calmly pick mushrooms in the forest.”

Saito wiped off the blood and fat stuck on Derflinger with a leaf. His hands were still shaking. Haven’t gotten used to battle yet I guess, he thought. Even though they were monsters, they were living things. Things like battles are easily said but they are really living things killing each other. Even if you win, it’s not a good feeling. Although I have powers of the familiar Gandálfr, my body is still made of flesh and blood. If I had slipped and received a blow from one of those clubs… it might be me lying there now.

Noticing Saito’s hands were shaking, Siesta firmly grasped them. Are you ok? Her eyes seemed to ask. Saito forced a smile and nodded.

“You were incredible… but I guess such dangerous things are bad…” whispered Siesta.

Meanwhile, despite the battle, Kirche acted as if nothing had happened. Looking at the map, she said, “Um, within the temple there’s an altar… and beneath that altar there’s a hidden chest.”

“And within that chest…”

Guiche gulped.

“Lies the gold and silver and legendary treasure ‘Brisingamen[1]’ that the priest hid when he abandoned the temple, apparently.”

Kirche brushed her hair triumphantly.

“What’s a Brisingamen?” asked Guiche.

Kirche read the notes on the map.

“Umm, it seems like it’s a necklace made of gold. It’s made from ‘blazing gold’! Wow, even the name makes me excited. When you wear it you will be protected from any disaster and…”

That night… they crowded around a bonfire in the garden of the temple. Everyone had a weary face. Guiche said bitterly, “So the so called treasure was that?”

Guiche pointed at a color faded accessory and a few dirty copper coins. Underneath the altar, there was a chest. However, it was full of junk that they didn’t even consider taking back home.

“This is made of brass. These cheap necklaces and ear rings, these aren’t that ‘Brisingamen’ right?”

Kirche didn’t reply. She just filed her nails with a bored look. Tabitha was reading a book as usual. Saito was lying down, gazing at the moon.

“Hey Kirche, that’s the seventh one already! We followed those maps with such effort and yet all we get are a few copper coins! The treasures aren’t even close to what the notes of the maps say! Those maps are all hoaxes!”

“Shut up. I said it before, there -might- be a real map within that bundle.”

“It’s too mean! Monsters and beasts dwell in ruins and caves after all! Only getting this in return for defeating monsters is far from enough!”

Guiche held the artificial rose in his mouth and lay down on a spread out blanket.

“Well yeah. If you could get treasure by just simply killing monsters, then no one would be poor.”

A gloomy atmosphere drifted amongst them. But Siesta’s cheerful voice drove it away.

“Everyone, dinner’s ready!”

Siesta started dividing the stew for everyone from the pot on the bonfire. It smelled good.

“This is good! Wow, it’s really good. What kind of meat did you use?” Guiche asked while stuffing his mouth full.

Everyone else tasted it and started to say how delicious it was. Siesta smiled and said, “Orc’s meat.”

Guiche suddenly spat out the stew. Everyone stared slack jawed at Siesta.

“I-It was a joke! I made it from a wild rabbit. I caught it with a trap.”

Siesta went on to explain how she had set up traps to catch rabbits and partridges, and collected herbs and vegetables for the stew, while everyone else was hunting for treasure.

“Don’t scare me like that. But, you’re really handy, being able to make something so nice from things in a forest.” Said Kirche in a relieved tone.

“It comes from living in a village,” said Siesta shyly.

“What’s this stew called? The herbs you’ve used are quite different from usual. I’ve never even seen some of these vegetables.” Said Kirche while spinning one of the vegetables on her fork.

“It’s a stew that’s made in my village, called Yosenabe.” Explained Siesta while stirring the pot.

“My father taught me how to make it. From edible wild plants, roots of plants… My father learned it from my grandfather. It’s a specialty in my village.”

Thanks to the delicious food, they felt more relaxed. Ten days had passed since they had left the school. As Saito gazed up at the sky, he wondered what Louise was doing.

“Is it good, Saito?”

Next to him, Siesta smiled warmly. Stuffing his mouth full with stew, he smiled back. Siesta’s smile, the taste of the stew, they both reminded him of something. He had no idea how long he had been away but Saito remembered his own world.

After dinner, Kirche spread out the map again.

“Let’s just give up and return to school,” urged Guiche, but Kirche did not budge.

“Just one more. One more.”

As if she was obsessed, Kirche’s eyes gleamed over the maps. Picking one map, she placed it on the ground.

“Ok this one! If this one is also a hoax we’re going back to school!”

“What’s the treasure?”

Arms crossed, Kirche replied, “Dragon’s Raiment.”

Siesta, who was eating stew after everyone had finished, choked slightly on her food.

“R-Really?”

“What about it? Do you know something about it? It’s close to a village called Tarbes. Now where’s Tarbes…”

Siesta replied quickly, “It’s in the direction of La Rochelle. There’s a big field… It’s my home town.”

The next morning, whilst they were riding the wind dragon, Siesta explained to everyone. There wasn’t much to tell. There was a temple near the village and in that temple there was something called the Dragon’s Raiment.

“Why is it called ‘Dragon’s Raiment’?”

“Apparently you can fly when you put it on,” said Siesta, weakly.

“Fly? So it’s a wind type item?”

“It’s really not that important of a thing…” said Siesta, looking troubled.

“Why?”

“It’s a hoax. It’s one of those ‘treasures’ you can find anywhere. It’s all just the name. Yet the locals are grateful… they decorate the temple, worship it…”

“Really?”

Siesta then proceeded to say nervously.

“Actually… the owner of it was my grandfather. One day, my grandfather appeared in the village. Apparently he told everyone that he came from the east with the Dragon’s Raiment.”

“Wow…”

“But no one believed him. Everyone says that my grandfather was weird.”

“Why?”

“Someone told him to fly with it, but he told them it couldn’t. He made a lot of excuses, but no one had a reason to believe him. After that, he said that it ‘couldn’t fly anymore’ and settled down in the village. He worked really hard, and gave his money to nobles, asking them to put a spell of permanence on the ‘Dragon’s Raiment’. He treated it with a lot of care.”

“What a strange person. It must have been hard on your family?”

“No, apart from the Dragon’s Raiment, he was a nice, hard working person. Everyone liked him.”

“It’s something famous within the village right? Just like that Yosenabe… Then we can’t take it back with us.”

“But… It’s like our family property… If Saito wanted to, I could ask my dad to show you it,” Siesta said in a troubled voice.

Just as Saito thought hoaxes are useless anyway, Kirche remarked, “Even if it is a hoax, there are ways to sell hoaxes. There are many people with different tastes in this world.”

“You’re a horrible woman.” Guiche said, shocked.

The wind dragon flapped its wings, headed towards Tarbes.

Meanwhile at school, Louise was still skipping lessons. She didn’t want to meet anyone in her current mood. She only left her room to eat in the dining hall and when she went to take a bath. She knew that Saito was living in a tent in the Vestri courtyard so she went down there a few days ago to see how he was doing, but no one was there. When she asked Montmorency, who was passing by, and found out that Saito, Guiche, Kirche and Tabitha had been skipping lessons to go treasure hunting. The teachers were apparently mad and would make them clean the whole auditorium when they got back. She felt even sadder when she thought how fun it must have been. She felt as though she was the only one being left out.

Louise cried in her bed again. Whenever she saw the empty haystack, tears would come to her eyes. A knock came from the door. The door opened with a clank as soon as Louise replied that it wasn’t locked. The school headmaster Old Osman was at the door, which surprised Louise. Louise quickly put on her gown and got off her bed.

“How have you been feeling?”

Feeling down, Louise replied, “I’m sorry I’ve made you worry. It’s really nothing. I just don’t feel very well…”

Osman pulled out a chair and sat down.

“You’ve rested for quite a long time. I was worried, but it seems you’re alright.”

Louise nodded, and sat down on a chair. With a weary face, she stared out the window.

“Have you finished the edict?”

Louise gasped and hung her head. With a sorry expression, she shook her head.

“Seems like you haven’t from the looks of it.”

“I’m sorry.”

“There’s still two weeks. Think about it slowly. It’s your important friend’s wedding after all. Make sure you choose your words carefully.”

Louise nodded. She was ashamed that she had forgotten about the edict because she was so absorbed with her own thoughts. “I’m terrible aren’t I. She considers me as a friend, and even gave the role of being the maiden.”

Osman stood up.

“By the way, where’s that familiar of yours?”

She averted her eyes and kept silent. Osman smiled.

“Did you two have a fight?”

“When you’re young, you fight about trivial things. It’s because young people don’t know how to compromise. Sometimes, these cracks will develop into something irreparable. You should be careful.”

Laughing, Osman left the room. After the door shut behind him, Louise whispered, “It’s not something small…”

Louise went to her desk. She ignored everything else and opened the Founder’s Prayer Book. And as if clearing her thoughts, she closed her eyes. She concentrated, trying to think of an edict. I must think of a great edict for Henrietta.

Louise kept her eyes closed. Eh? There was a bright light. Suddenly she could see letters on the pages. Louise’s eyes froze. However, in the next moment, they faded from the pages like mist. What was that? She thought, while looking at the pages.

I can’t see it anymore. My eyes are probably just tired, she thought.

“It’s all Saito’s fault” she whispered.


Chapter Seven: Dragon’s Raiment

Saito’s eyes went round at the sight of the “Dragon’s Raiment”. They were in the temple built close to Tarbes, Siesta’s hometown. That was where the “Dragon’s Raiment” lay. Actually it would be more correct to say that the temple had been built to cover the Dragon’s Raiment. The shape which Siesta’s grandfather had built the temple into made Saito nostalgic. The temple was built in the corner of a field. Its door was made by logs joined together, and its walls were made from planks and mortar instead of stone. On top of an area of the wooden floor painted dark green lay the Dragon’s Raiment. Perhaps it was due to the permanence spell… but there were no signs of rusting. It was as if it had just been made.

Kirche and Guiche looked at the Dragon’s Raiment, dispirited. As if struck by curiosity, Tabitha looked at it with interest. Amazed, Saito stared at the Dragon’s Raiment.

“Saito, are you ok? If I showed you anything to make you feel bad…” said Siesta in a worried voice.

Saito didn’t reply. He continued to gaze at the Dragon’s Raiment as though he were deeply moved.

“Of course this thing can’t fly,” said Kirche.

Guiche nodded.

“This is some sort of canoe right? And look at the wings, they can’t even move. It’s like toy bird or something. Not to mention that even the wings of small dragons are the size of these wings. Dragons and wyverns can only fly because they can flap their wings. So much for ‘Dragon’s Raiment’.”

Guiche pointed at the Dragon’s Raiment and nodded, convinced that he was right.

“Saito… Are you really alright?”

Saito grasped Siesta’s shoulders as she was peering into his face. Saito spoke feverishly.

“Siesta.”

“Y-Yes?”

“Did your grandfather leave behind anything else?”

“Um… the only noteworthy things are his grave and a few of his belongings.”

“Show me them.”

The grave of Siesta’s grandfather was located in the village cemetery. The tombstones were made from large white stones. Among them there was a tombstone made from a black stone, creating a clear contrast with the others.

Words were inscribed on the tombstone.

“My grandfather made this tombstone before he died. It’s written in a language from a different country, so no one has been able to read it. I wonder what it says…” said Siesta.

Saito read it out loud.

“Navy ensign Sasaki Takeo, rests in another world.”

“What?”

Siesta’s eyes widened at Saito, who read it fluently.

Saito looked at Siesta feverishly, causing her to blush.

“Stop… If you look at me like that…”

Black hair, black pupils… This nostalgic feeling… So that’s why, Saito thought, realizing why he was feeling nostalgic.

“Siesta, you were told that your hair and eyes were similar to your grandfather’s right?” Said Saito much to Siesta’s surprise.

“Y-Yes! How did you know that?”

Returning to the temple, Saito touched the “Dragon’s Raiment”. When he did, the runes on the back of his left hand started to shine. I see, so this must also be considered a “weapon”, Saito thought as he looked at the machine guns sticking out from the wings. As the runes shone, the construction and the controls of the “Dragon’s Raiment” came clearly to Saito. He could fly this himself, he thought.

Saito found the fuel tank and opened it. Just as he expected, it was empty. No matter how well it was preserved, it still couldn’t fly without gasoline. I wonder how he had wandered into Halkeginia with this plane… Saito wanted to trace the trail, no matter what answer it would lead to.

Siesta returned from her parent’s home.

“Everyone was really surprised since I’m two weeks earlier than I said I would be.”

Siesta excitedly handed over the item in her hands to Saito. They were old goggles, probably the ones her grandfather wore as a navy ensign. He was like the owner of the staff of destruction which Saito had used to defeat Fouquet’s golem, someone from another world. A foreigner, like Saito.

“Grandfather only left this behind. He didn’t keep a diary or anything like that. But father said he left behind a will.”

“A will?”

“Yes. ‘If someone who could read the inscription on the tomb appeared, give him the Dragon’s Raiment’.”

“Meaning it’s mine now?”

“Yes. Father said it was alright to give it to you. It was a bother to take care of anyway… It’s big and there are some people who worship it… but it’s just collecting dust in this village.”

“Well, I won’t hesitate then,” said Saito.

“Father also wanted me to tell you something.”

“What did he say?”

“He said he wants you to return the Dragon’s Raiment to the king. King… I wonder which king he means. We don’t even know which country my grandfather is from…”

“He’s from my country,” said Saito.

“Really? So that’s why you could read the words on the tombstone. Wow! I’m kind of moved. My grandfather was from the same country as Saito. It seems like fate.” Siesta said absentmindedly.

“Then grandfather really did come to Tarbes using the Dragon’s Raiment.”

“This isn’t called the Dragon’s Raiment.”

“What is it called in Saito’s country?”

Looking at the “Dragon’s Raiment”, Saito remembered a plastic model he put together when he was small. Why would someone call it the “Dragon’s Raiment”? Perhaps it was just easier to understand that way. The same way it was with the “staff of destruction”.

He looked at the country’s symbol drawn on the wings and the body of the place. A red dot. It seemed like it had white colored around it but it was covered by the same dark green paint used on the rest of it. The character for the dragon zodiac sign was written on the black cowling. It was probably the name of the unit he was in.

Saito felt very nostalgic from merely seeing such an old thing from his own world.

Saito replied, “It’s called a Zero fighter. It was a fighter aircraft used in the past in my country.”

“Zero fighter? Fighter aircraft?”

“In other words, an airplane.”

“It’s a plane? The one you mentioned before?”

Saito nodded.
That day, they all stayed at Siesta’s home. As nobles were staying over, even the village chief came to greet them. Siesta introduced Saito to her family, her father, mother and siblings. Siesta was the eldest daughter of the eight siblings. Her parents viewed Saito in a harsh light at first, but that was soon broken when Siesta told them that he was looking after her at the academy. Having not been home for a while Siesta looked quite happy being surrounded by family. Saito was envious of her. When he thought about it, Louise, Kirche, Tabitha and Guiche all had families. He also had one, but he couldn’t meet them like this. Even if he wanted to meet them, he didn’t even know where to start.

In the evening, Saito gazed out at the wide field. The sun was setting behind the mountains beyond the field. It was a huge field. Just as Siesta had said, flowers were blooming everywhere. So this is the beautiful field that Siesta wanted to show me.

The pilot who ended up in this world with the zero fighter probably tried to find a way home by flying in the sky… But his fuel ran out and he landed on this field. The field was flat and wide, so landing here was probably easy. He couldn’t fly when he was asked to because he had run out of gasoline.

Siesta came to Saito, who was still gazing at the field, drowned in the memories of his world. She was wearing a brown skirt, wooden shoes and a dark green cotton shirt, instead of her usual maid outfit. Like the field in front of him, her appearance was like that of the smell of sunlight.

“So you were here! Dinner’s ready. Father insists we eat together.” Said Siesta shyly.

“I did ask you to come visit, but I didn’t expect it to really happen.”

Siesta stretched both her arms out at the wide field before them. The setting sun bathed the field in a beautiful light.

“Isn’t this field beautiful? This is what I wanted to show you, Saito.”

“Yeah, it is.”

Siesta then cast her eyes downwards and twiddled her fingers.

Siesta then cast her eyes downwards and twiddled her fingers.

“My father said that meeting with someone who came from the same country as grandfather must be fate. He asked if you could settle in the village. And then said if you did then I… could stop my work at the academy and return here with you.”

Saito didn’t reply. He just stared at the sky. He was thinking of how kind Siesta was to him. If she said any more nice things to him, his heart would probably melt. He felt lonely when he saw Siesta happily sitting and chatting with her family. After seeing the zero fighter, his homesickness grew much more intense.

Siesta looked at Saito who was still staring at the sky and smiled.

“But, it’s alright. I know it won’t work out. You’re like a bird. You’re bound to fly away some day.”

Saito then decided to tell Siesta the truth.

“Your grandfather said he came from the east, right?”

“Um…yes,” Siesta said, slightly worried.

“Your grandfather, like I, wasn’t born in this world.”

“You were born in Rub’ al Khali in the east, right?”

“No. It is much, much further than that.” Said Saito in a serious tone. “It’s a different world. I’m not from this world.”

“You’re just playing around with me aren’t you? If you don’t like me, then just say it.” Said Siesta, pouting her lips.

“No, it’s not that at all. I’m not playing around with you.”

“Is there someone waiting for you there?”

“No. But my family is waiting. I’ll someday have to leave this world for my own.”

Saito turned to Siesta, and said weakly, “That’s why I can’t do the things you mentioned.”

Saito was very serious. Siesta knew he wasn’t joking around.

“I can protect people with my power while I’m here. But that’s all. I don’t have the right to reside with anyone. I don’t.”

“But my grandfather did, didn’t he?”

“Your grandfather didn’t have the power of Gandálfr like I do. Up until now, there have been many enemies, but I’ve defeated them with this power. I feel as though this power will guide me.”

“Then… Can I wait for you? I don’t have any qualities, but I can wait. If you try your best to find a way home and you still don’t, then…”

Siesta then became silent. If that really happened, what would I do? Saito thought. His pulse raced just by looking at Siesta. She was cute, and stunning without clothes on. She’s kind and can even cook. She’s a great girl. All the more reason why he couldn’t promise her.

Regaining herself, Siesta smiled.

“A carrier owl just sent this. It seems like the teachers are very angry. Miss Zerbst and Mr. Gramont were pale. They mentioned me as well. They said that I could have a holiday for the time being. The princess’s wedding is coming soon anyway. So until the holiday ends, I’ll be here.”

Saito nodded.

“Um… so can you make that Dragon’s Raiment fly?”

With gasoline, probably, thought Saito.

“I’m not sure. I have to talk it over with someone first. If I do get it to fly, I want to go to the lands in the east. Your grandfather flew over from there, right? There must be some hint there.” Said Saito, watching the setting sun.

“Really? If you could get it to fly, then it would be wonderful. The Dragon’s Raiment was called a Zero fighter, right? If you get it to fly, then please let me ride it just once.”

Saito nodded.

“I can let you ride it as many times as you like. It was your family’s to begin with anyway.”

The following morning, using a few of Guiche’s dad’s connections, Saito managed to obtain the services of a few dragoons and their dragons. They carried the zero fighter in a large net to the academy.

Guiche initially wondered why they were carrying the useless “Dragon’s Raiment”, but because Saito insisted on it, he gave in. The costs of making a large net and calling the dragoons were ridiculously high. Saito was troubled because he obviously couldn’t afford the transportation fees. However, as soon as the Zero fighter arrived in the courtyard of the academy, someone appeared in an instant and paid the fees. It was Mr Colbert.


Chapter Eight: Colbert’s Laboratory

Mr Colbert was forty-two years old. He had been in the service of the academy for twenty years. He was a mage whose nickname was “Flame Serpent”. His hobby… or more accurately, his life was centered around research and invention. He had rushed down to the courtyard once he had seen the object being carried by the dragons from his research laboratory. His curiosity had been set alight.

“You, what’s that? Can you explain to me?”

Colbert’s face shone as he looked at Saito, who was watching the Zero fighter being lowered.

“Ah, I wanted to talk to you about it actually.”

“Me?”

Colbert was taken aback. Who exactly was this young commoner? All he knew was that he was the legendary familiar, Gandálfr, summoned by Miss Vallière. Born in Rub’ al Khali, he was the only person to have called Colbert’s invention “great”.

“This is called an airplane. In my world, they’re seen flying everywhere.”

“This flies!? Wow! Wonderful!”

Colbert started looking at different parts of the zero fighter with a deep interest.

“Could it be that this is the wing! It seems like it can’t flap like normal wings! What about this windmill?”

“That’s called a propeller. When it spins it causes the airplane to go forward.”

Eyes wide in amazement, Colbert drew closer to Saito.

“I see! When it spins, it causes the power of wind! It’s well made, isn’t it! Could you fly it for me? Look, my hands are shaking from my curiosity!”

Troubled, Saito scratched his head.

“Um… To turn the propellers, I need gasoline.”

“Gasoline? What’s that?”

“That what I want to talk to you about. You know the class we had where you showed us that invention of yours?”

“The joyful snake?”

“Yes! You had to burn oil to make it move right?”

“So you need oil? That’s a problem that is easily solved!”

“No, I don’t think that will work. It has to be gasoline.”

“Gasoline? Hm… well there are many different types of oil.”

Saito suddenly realized the dragoons were grinning broadly at them. Guiche whispered in Saito’s ear.

“Sorry if you are busy, but if you don’t pay the transportation fee…”

“You guys are nobles too aren’t you? Stop constantly bickering about money.”

“Hey, soldiers are poor you know.”

Saito smiled at Colbert.

“Mr. Colbert, could you possibly pay the transportation fee for the time being?”
Colbert’s laboratory was situated in a small area between the central tower and the fire tower. It was much like an old dugout shed.

“At first I conducted experiments in my own room, but noise and bad smells come naturally with research. I was complained to by the people next to me shortly afterwards.”

The wooden racks were cluttered with bottles of medicine, test tubes, jars containing nostrum and the like. Next to that was a wall of bookshelves, crammed with books. There was a celestial globe made from parchment stuck on a sphere, and other various maps. There were lizards, snakes and birds that he had never seen before inside cages. A musky smell which was neither from dust nor mold filled the entire room. Saito pinched his nose.

“You’ll get used to the smell soon. A woman however wouldn’t, which is the reason why I’m single.”

Colbert sat down while muttering answers to questions he wasn’t being asked. He sniffed the gasoline he had gotten from the bottom of the zero fighter’s fuel tank. Since a permanence spell was placed on the Zero fighter, the gasoline had not undergone any change in chemical composition.

“Hm… It’s a smell I’ve never smelt before. Giving off such a smell without even being heated… This must be quite easy to burn. If this were to be used as an explosive, it would be of alarming strength.”

He reached for a piece of parchment near him and started jotting down notes.

“If I duplicate this oil, that ‘airplane’ will fly?”

“Probably… If it hasn’t broken already.”

“Interesting! Concocting substances is tough work but I’ll try it!”

Muttering to himself, he took out all sorts of substances and lit his alcohol lamp.

“You’re called Saito, right?”

Saito nodded.

“You said in your home town, these could be seen flying everywhere? The technology of the lands the elves govern in the east seem to far outclass any technology in Halkeginia.”

Saito felt somewhat bad for lying to Colbert, who had been more than willing to help him in concocting gasoline and had also paid for the transportation fees.

“Mr Colbert, actually, I’m… not from this world. This airplane, and also the “Staff of Destruction” which destroyed Fouquet’s golem and I, are from another world.”

Colbert’s hand suddenly stopped.

“What did you say?”

“I come from another world.”

Colbert gazed steadily at Saito and then proceeded to nod his head, as though he were impressed.

“I see.” he whispered.

“Aren’t you surprised?”

“Well, of course I am. But you definitely seem like it. The way you speak and your behavior has a different feel. Hm, this is becoming more and more interesting.”

“You’re a strange person aren’t you, Mr Colbert?”

“I get called strange by many people. I haven’t even found someone willing to marry me yet. But I have a belief.”

“A belief?”

“Yes. The nobles of Halkeginia treat magic as a mere tool… Like a broom, they only see it as a handy tool. I don’t think magic is something like that. Magic could be used for so much more. Instead of simply sticking to the traditional uses of the different branches of magic, we should be experimenting to find different ways to utilize it.”

Nodding, Colbert continued.

“After seeing you, my belief has grown stronger. Who would have thought there was another world! This shows that the rules of Halkeginia are not absolute! Interesting! Such an interesting topic! I want to see this world. There are probably lots of new things to be discovered! It’ll probably add a new page to my research! If you have any questions at all, just come and talk with me. Colbert the Flame Serpent will always help you.”
In the Austri courtyard, Saito was sitting in the cockpit of the Zero fighter and inspecting its parts. When he grasped the control stick, or even if he merely touched a switch, the runes on his left hand shone. Information would then flow to his brain, and tell him the condition of the part. When he moved the control stick, the ailerons of the wings and the elevator on the tail moved with a clank. The tail rudder moved when he stepped on the rudder bar and a cross shaped pointer appeared on the glass pane when he pushed the sight device switch on the instrument board. The engines on either side of the body of the plane were still alive. The shining Gandalfr runes told its user quite a bit. A smile appeared on Saito’s face.

“Partner, can this fly?”

“Yes.”

“Something like this flying… Your world is a strange one.”

Numerous students were watching Saito in the Zero fighter, but they quickly lost interest and left. There are only a few nobles who would be interested in this, like Colbert, Saito thought. Suddenly a girl appeared, proudly brushing her pinkish blond hair with her hand.

Louise stared at Saito and the thing he was in. As if she were angry, she pointed her finger at it and said, “What’s that?”

Saito raised his head from the cockpit and simply replied, “An airplane”. As they still weren’t on good terms, he said it while facing away.

“Come down from that airplane thing, then.” Ordered Louise, pouting her lips while placing her hands on her hips. He ignored her and continued inspecting the parts of the Zero fighter. Louise grasped the end of a wing and started to make the Zero fighter wobble.

“I said come down, didn’t I?”

“Fine”, whispered Saito as he got off and headed to Louise.

“Where did you go?”

“Treasure hunting.”

“What were you thinking, going without telling your master?”

Louise crossed her arms and stared at Saito. Saito noticed that her eyes were puffy.

“Didn’t you fire me?”

Louise cast her eyes downwards and spoke with a voice as if she were about to cry.

“I suppose you deserve a chance to explain yourself. If you have anything you want to say, then say it now.”

“What is there to explain? I didn’t do anything. This is about Siesta right? Siesta was just about to fall down so I tried to catch her. I then fell down as well, making it look as if I had pushed her down onto the bed.”

The real reason was because Siesta had suddenly started to take off her clothes, but for Siesta’s sake he didn’t say that.

“Then, nothing really happened?”

“Nothing. Why were you so angry? That was the first time she came to the room. As if something like that would happen. Why were you angry, anyway? What me and Siesta do is none of your business, right?” Said Saito.

Louise only thinks of me as a familiar. The only reason she treats me better is because of her newfound compassion for animals.

“It’s none of my business, but in some ways it is.”

“Which one is it?”

Louise glared at Saito and groaned.

Louise tugged at his sleeve. She was whispering things like “Hey, apologize” and “Why are you being so uptight, you made me so worried”, but Saito wasn’t looking at Louise anymore. He was looking at the Zero fighter in a daze.

Louise had jumped to her own conclusions. She was ashamed that she had shut herself in her room and sulked. She drew out the deadly technique she had been saving. It was a girl’s secret technique, which would sweep away any suspicion, anger, contradiction, and even the fact that Louise drove Saito out. She burst into tears.

Buckets of tears came streaming down from her eyes.

“Where did you go all this time! Idiot! I hate you!”

“Where did you go all this time! Idiot!”

Sniffling, she wiped the streaming tears with the back of her hand.

“H-Hey, don’t cry.”

Panicking, Saito placed his hands on Louise’s shoulder. Louise cried even harder.

“I hate you! I hate you!”

Kirche approached them, holding a mop and a dust cloth in her hands. Because they had skipped lessons, their punishment was to wipe the academy’s windows clean. As Saito was neither a noble nor a student at the academy, he didn’t have to do anything.

Guiche looked at Saito, who was comforting Louise, and grinned.

“You can’t just make your master cry like that.”

Kirche said dully, “Made up already? That’s no fun…”

Tabitha simply pointed at the two and said, “After the rain comes fair weather.”
That night…

Louise lay in her bed, tightly grasping her pillow. After Saito removed his parka, Louise slipped into it, as though it was a given. She was frantically pretending to read a book. Saito looked around the room which he had been away from for a week or so. Tableware was scattered everywhere.

“So you’ve been absent from lessons?”

Montmorency had mentioned it when they passed by her in the corridor. Montmorency told Louise that she had been absent for too long, but Louise just ignored her and walked off.

Louise glared at Saito, slightly taken aback.

“So what?”

“Are you feeling ok?” asked Saito, who seemed to be worried.

She was about to say “Whose fault do you think it was that I have been skipping lessons?” but her pride got the better of her. Putting the blanket over her head, she snuggled under it. Saito scratched his head and looked at the haystack. So she didn’t throw it out, he thought, warmly glancing at Louise.

Three days passed.

Colbert awoke to the sound of hens. It seemed like he had fallen asleep without realizing. He had been absent from lessons and had shut himself in the laboratory for the past three days. In front of his eyes was a flask placed on top on an alcohol lamp. A glass tube stretched out of this, which let the heated catalyst cool and coagulate in the beaker to the left. This was the final step. Colbert sniffed at the gasoline he received from Saito and started cautiously reciting the alchemy incantation at the substance in the beaker while concentrating on the smell of the gasoline.

A poof of smoke rose from the beaker and the color of substance inside changed to a yellowish brown. He smelt it. The strong smell of gasoline drifted to his nose. Colbert opened the door with a thud and rushed outside.

“Saito! Saito! I’ve made it! I’ve made it! I’ve finished concocting it!”

Out of breath, Colbert approached Saito, who was inspecting the Zero fighter. Within the wine bottle he held out, there was a yellowish brown liquid. Saito opened the cover of the fuel tank, which was in front of the windshield. There was a lock on it, so he had Colbert cast the unlock spell on it. He poured two bottles of the gasoline in to it.

“I analyzed the composition of the oil you gave me,” said Colbert proudly.

“It seemed to be made from microorganisms in fossils, so I searched for something similar. I decided to use the fossils of trees… in other words coal. I soaked that in a special catalyst and extracted a similar composition. After spending days doing that, I cast the alchemy spell on it. And that turned it into…”

“Gasoline, right?”

Colbert nodded and urged Saito “Quickly, turn those windmills for me. I was so excited that I didn’t even sleep.”

After filling the gas tank, Saito returned to the cockpit. Information on how to start the engine and fly the Zero fighter came rushing to his brain. To start the engine, the propeller must first be spun. Saito popped his head from the windshield.

“Mr. Colbert, could you spin the propeller using magic?”

“I thought it turned using the power from burning the oil?”

“To start the engine, the crank inside must be rotated manually first. I don’t have a tool to turn the propeller, so if you could use magic please.”

Colbert nodded. Saito began to prepare the plane.

Firstly, he set the fuel source to the tank he had just put the fuel in. Then he set the mixture ratio lever and the propeller pitch lever to their optimum states. Saito’s hands moved by themselves. His Gandálfr power carried out all the operations. He opened the cowl flap and closed the lid of the oil-cooling radiator. The propellers rumbled as Colbert used his magic. With his eyes wide open, Saito pressed the ignition with his right hand at the proper time. His left hand gripping the throttle lever, he tilted it forward slightly.

A sputtering sound was heard and the engine started to run after the spark plug’s ignition. As they ratted, the propellers started to turn. The body of the airplane vibrated. The brake wasn’t on and so the plane started to propel itself forward.

Colbert watched with a moved expression on his face. After checking that the engine gauges were moving, Saito turned the ignition switch off.

Jumping out of the cockpit, he hugged Colbert.

“Mr Colbert, the engine started!”

“Yes, we did it! But why didn’t it fly?”

“There’s not enough gasoline. In order to fly, we would need at least five barrels.”

“That’s a lot to make! But since I’ve already done so much, I’ll finish it!”

After Colbert had returned to his laboratory, Saito continued his adjustments. He didn’t have any tools however, so he cleaned the parts. Louise called out to Saito who was seemingly absorbed doing this.

“Hey, it’s time for dinner. What have you been doing? It’s already dark.”

“I started the engine!” yelled Saito happily.

But Louise replied back dully.

“Really now. Good for you. What happens after you get the engine running?”

“It flies! It will fly!”

“What will you do when it flies?” Asked Louise in a lonely voice.

Saito told Louise of the ideas that had gone through his mind in the past two to three days.

“I’m going to try to fly east.”

“East? I can’t believe you. Are you saying you’re heading to Rub’ al Khali? I seriously can’t believe you!”

“Why? The owner of this airplane flew from there. I could maybe find some clues on how to return to my own world.” Said Saito feverishly.

Louise didn’t seem to bear any interest however. She replied back in a lonely voice.

“You’re my familiar. You can’t just do what you want. Also, the princess’s wedding is in five days. I have to read an edict then. But I haven’t thought of anything good to say.”

Absorbed by the Zero fighter, Saito nodded as if he were listening. Once he knew that it could fly, he had become mesmerized by it.

Louise pulled his ear. She was bored. He hasn’t paid any attention to me since he’s returned and instead just gazes at this ‘airplane’.

“Listen to me!”

“I’m listening!”

“You’re not. You’re daydreaming. There’s no familiar that listens to its master while looking away!”

Louise dragged Saito back to her room.
Louise opened the Founder’s Prayer book in front of Saito.

“I’ll read out what I’ve thought already for the edict.”

With a cute cough, Louise began to read her edict.

“On this beautiful day, I, Louise Françoise Le Blanc de la Vallière, praying for the holy presence of the Founder, shall read the blessed edict…”

And then, Louise stopped.

“Continue?”

“From here on I have to give thanks to the four branches of magic. It has to be poetic and also in rhyme….”

“Then just make it rhyme.”

Louise pouted her lips as if she were sulking.

“I can’t think of anything. Writing it poetically is a pain in the neck. I’m not a poet or anything.”

“It’s ok, just read what you have written there.”

With a troubled look, she read her ‘poetic’ lines.

“Um, as fire is hot, one needs to be careful.”

“’Needs’ isn’t poetic. You should probably remember that.”

“Shut up. When the wind blows, those who sell barrels prosper.[2]

“Why would you use that proverb here?”

Louise, who didn’t seem to have any poetic talent, threw herself on the bed as if sulking and whispered, “I’m going to sleep.”

As was now usual, she changed while hiding her body behind her bedsheets. After turning off the lamp she called out to Saito, who had dove onto his haystack already.

“I said to sleep in my bed, didn’t I?”

Saito’s heart started racing.

“Really? It’s ok?”

Louise didn’t respond. Saito slipped into the bed thinking that she would probably get angry if he didn’t do what he was told.

Louise was still awake. She opened her mouth, as if she had wanted to talk to him.

“So, you’re really going to the lands in the east?”

“Yeah.” Saito replied.

“It’s dangerous you know. Those elves hate humans…”

“But humans live in the areas beyond the lands of the elves right? Like that place called Rub’ al.”

“The nature of those humans is completely different. It’ll be dangerous.”

It seemed like Louise was worried about letting Saito go.

“You’re still going to go?”

Saito thought about it briefly and nodded.

“Well, I might be able to find a clue to go back home.”

Louise was moving around under the sheets. Just as he was wondering what she was doing, she rested her head on his chest.

“Wha-“

“I’m just using it instead of my pillow!” Said Louise in a sulky and angry voice.

Louise placed her hands on his chest and lightly traced her fingers on it. Electricity seemed to flow through Saito’s spine.

“Don’t misunderstand me. This doesn’t mean I like you or anything!” Louise said in an embarrassed voice.

She then went back to her usual angry voice.

“Are you still going to go even if I say no?”

Saito remained silent.

“I thought so…” Louise whispered.

“This isn’t your world, is it… Of course you’d want to go back.”

Louise’s hair had a beautiful fragrance. The sound of her breathing was close as well. The two were silent. Saito was thinking of many things. Saito wasn’t talking, and Louise didn’t know what else to say, so she simply hugged Saito’s chest tightly.

“I don’t want you to leave. When you’re beside me I can sleep without worrying. You make me angry…” Louise said in a tiny voice while embracing Saito.

Looks like those puffy eyes were because she didn’t sleep, thought Saito. Soon, Louise’s steady breathing, like that of a child’s, could be heard near Saito’s chest. She was fast asleep.

Louise was so pampered it made his heart race. Seems like she’s uneasy without me around. Well, I’m a familiar after all.

Listening to her breathing, Saito was deep in thought. He thought of the people he had met in this world.

He had met many people within his few months in Halkeginia. There were evil people, but also kind people.

There was Marteau from the kitchen who gave him food.

Osman, who had told him he would lend him his hand if he needed help.

Colbert, who had gladly concocted the gasoline for him.

A snob and often offensive, but a friendly person who had his own qualities, Guiche.

Not a human but a sword, a partner he had depended on, Derflinger.

Henrietta, the beautiful princess.

Courageous… and dead because of it, Prince Wales.

Tabitha, a silent person but someone who had saved him on numerous occasions.

The seductive Kirche, who said she liked Saito, though it might have been a joke.

Siesta, the cute and kind maid… who probably had feelings for him.

And lastly, his master next to him, who made his heart race. Arrogant and stuck up, but one who occasionally showed kindness that would melt his heart, Louise. A girl with pinkish blond hair and big reddish brown eyes.

When the time comes for me to go home, will I be able to leave these people with a smile on my face?

Will I be able to leave Louise with a smile?

I don’t know.

But… Saito thought

The people who have been kind to me, I want to do the most I can for them.

At least while I’m in this world, I want to do something for them.

He hadn’t felt these feelings before up until now.

For the time being, Saito embraced Louise’s head gently.

Louise groaned in her sleep.

Chapter Nine: Declaration of War

The Germanian king, Albrecht the Third, had arranged for Princess Henrietta’s wedding ceremony to take place in Germania’s capital, Vindobona. The date of the ceremony: the first day of the month Nyuui.

Currently, the Mercator flagship of the Tristain fleet was to welcome the guests of the New Albion government by leading them to La Rochelle, where they would stay anchored in the skies above it.

The commander in chief of the fleet, Count La Ramée, sat in the quarterdeck in formal attire. Next to him, Captain Fevisu was stroking his moustache. It was far past the arranged time.

“They sure are late, Captain.”

La Ramée replied with an irritated voice.

“Those Albion dogs who killed their king with their own hands are probably still busy acting like dogs.”

The sailor on the top deck suddenly informed him of the fleet’s approach in a loud voice.

“A fleet! From the left!”

With a large ship leading in front, which could easily be mistaken as a cloud, the Albion fleet had started to descend.

“So that’s the standard of Albion’s ‘Royal Sovereign’ fleet…” said the captain, watching the large ship in awe.

It was the ship that would have had the ambassador on it.

“Something that no one would want to meet on a battlefield, that’s for sure.”

The Albion fleet descended until they were level with Tristain’s fleet. The Albion ship began sending signaling messages from the mast.

“We thank you for your fleet’s welcome. This is the captain of Albion’s Lexington.”

“We have an admiral on board! Using a captain to correspond… we’re being treated like fools” the captain said resentfully, while looking over Tristain’s weak array of ships.

“They’re probably thinking the world is within their grasp now that that they have that ship. Reply to them with ‘We give you our warmest welcome. This is the commander in chief of the Tristain fleet’”

La Ramée’s words were passed on to the sailor who was standing on the mast. The signaling flag for the message was then hoisted up.

The Albion fleet fired their cannons in salute. There were no shells inside the cannon, they had merely let gunpowder explode.

Though the Lexington fleet had done a mere cannon salute, the air around it shook. La Ramée retreated slightly. Even though he knew that live ammunition couldn’t possibly reach across the distance separating them, the force of the cannons from the Lexington fleet was able to make the experienced admiral retreat.

“Fire our cannons in response.”

“How many shells shall we fire? For the top nobles, eleven is required.”

The number of shells to be fired depended upon the person’s rank and social status.

“Seven will do,” ordered La Ramée watching with a grin on his face like a stubborn child.

“Prepare the cannons! Seven shots, one by one! Fire when they’re ready!”

On the afterdeck of the Lexington, flagship of the fleet, Bowood was looking at the Tristain fleet. Next to him was Sir Johnston, the commander in chief, responsible for the entire invasion squad. Being a member of the council of nobles, Cromwell trusted him deeply. However, he had no experience. He was a politician after all.

“Captain…” Johnston said to Bowood in a worried voice.

“Sir?”

“Is it alright to go so close to them? We have those new long range cannons equipped right? Put some distance between us. His Excellency has entrusted me with important soldiers.”

“Cromwell’s puppet, huh…” Bowood whispered coldly to himself.

“Yes we do have the new cannon model, but if we fire from maximum range, they won’t hit.”

“But I bear his Excellency’s task of letting off those soldiers safely in Tristain. We can’t have the soldiers scared. Their morale will drop.”

I don’t think it’s the soldiers that are scared… Bowood thought.

Ignoring Johnston, he issued a new command. No law governs the sky, after all.

“Prepare the left cannons.”

“Yes sir! Prepare the left cannons!”

The sailors on the deck started to load the cannons with gunpowder and shells.

A thunderous roar could be heard from the Tristain fleet, which was aimed at the skies. Tristain was returning the cannon salute.

The battle plan had commenced.

During that moment, Bowood had turned into a soldier. The political details, his human feelings, the cowardice and foul play of this operation were all forgotten. As the captain of the Lexington fleet of The Republic of the Holy Albion, he proceeded to rapidly issue orders.

The crew of the old Hobart ship trailing at the end of the fleet had finished their preparations, and started to evacuate via the boats they had made levitate with the “Fly” spell.

A startling scene unfolded before La Ramée’s eyes. The ship trailing at the end… the oldest and one of the smallest ships had started to go up in flames.

“What? A fire? Was it an accident?” whispered Fevisu (フェヴィス)

The next instant, another startling thing occurred. The ship that was engulfed by flames and exploded in the air.

The Albion ship was reduced to ruins and came crashing down to the ground.

“W-What is this? Did the fire reach the ammunition storage?”

The Mercator was in an uproar.

“Calm down! Calm down!” Fevisu (フェヴィス) yelled at the sailors.

A signal flag was seen from the Lexington. A sailor started reading the signals with a telescope.

“From the Lexington fleet captain. Explain the meaning behind sinking Hobart.”

“Sinking? What is he saying?! It exploded by itself!”

La Ramée was panicking.

“Send a reply. ‘The fire from my ship was a response to your salute. The salvo didn’t contain any live shells’”

A reply was sent promptly by the Lexington.

“Your ship’s attack used live ammunition. We shall return your intent of war.”

“What nonsense!”

La Ramée’s cry was drowned by the bombardment from the Lexington.

Impact. The mast of the Mercator broke off and a few holes had been made in the deck.

“How can their cannons reach from such a distance?!” said a surprised Fevisu (フェヴィス) on the shaking deck.

“Send a message! ‘Cease fire, we have no intent of war’”

The Lexington replied with a barrage of cannon shells.

Impact. The ship was shaking and fires had started here and there.

Like a shriek, Mercator’s message repeated over and over.

“We repeat! Cease fire! We have no intent of war!”

The Lexington’s fire showed no signs of stopping.

Impact. La Ramée’s body was sent flying out of Fevisu’s (フェヴィス) sight.

The shock of the impact had thrown Fevisu (フェヴィス) onto the floor. He suddenly realized that the attack was all planned. They never had any intention of a “good-willed visit” at all. They had all been deceived by Albion.

The ship started to go up in flames and the injured sailors groaned in pain. Shaking his head while standing up, Fevisu (フェヴィス) yelled, “The commander in chief is dead! The flagship captain will now take control of the fleet! Damage report! Full speed ahead! Prepare the right cannons!”
“So they’ve finally realized.” Said Wardes, who was standing next to Bowood, as he leisurely watched the Tristain fleet. Wardes also believed the commander in chief, Johnston, didn’t deserve the title and would be unable to do anything. Wardes was in effect, the commanding officer.

“Seems like it, Viscount. However, it seems we will win soon enough.”

The Albion fleet, which had superior mobility, had already taken action to suppress the full on charge of the Tristain fleet.

The Albion fleet kept a fixed distance, and continued firing their cannons. Their fleet numbered twice that of Tristain’s and in addition they had the huge Lexington, which had the new cannon model. There was no contest in firepower.

As if they were tormenting the Tristain fleet, the Albion fleet continued their fire. The Mercator, which was already on fire, had started to slant. In an instant, the Mercator exploded with a deafening roar. None of the ships in the Tristain fleet were undamaged. The fleet was thrown into chaos with the loss of the flagship.

Destroying them was only a matter of time now. Ships could be seen flying their white flags already.

On the Lexington, cries of “Long live Albion! Long live the holy king Cromwell!” could be heard. Bowood knitted his eyebrows. During the days of the Royal Air force, no one used to say things like “Long live so and so” during battle. Even the commander in chief, Johnston had joined in.

“Captain, a new page in history has begun.” Said Wardes

As if mourning for his enemies, who didn’t even have a chance to cry out in pain, Bowood whispered, “No, only a war has begun.”

Soon after the news that the entire Tristain fleet in La Rochelle had been wiped out arrived, a declaration of war was issued by Albion. It blamed Tristain for breaking the non-aggression treaty by attacking their fleet without reason, and stated “As an act of self-defense, The Holy Republic of Albion shall declare war on the kingdom of Tristain.”

The palace, which had been busily occupied with Henrietta’s departure for Germania, was thrown into a state of confusion from the turn of events.

The generals, cabinet ministers and other officials immediately held a meeting. But the meeting was little more than a disordered ramble. Opinions that they should inquire Albion about the circumstances of the events, or that they should dispatch messengers requesting aid were thrown about.

Sitting in the meeting’s seat of honor was a shocked Henrietta. She was wearing her beautiful wedding dress that had just been finished. She had originally planned to head to Germania by carriage after the dress had been finished.

She was like a blooming flower in the meeting room. But no one had even noticed.

“Albion states that our fleet attacked them first! However our fleet says they only did a cannon salute.”

“Accidents can cause misunderstandings.”

“Let’s hold a meeting in Albion to sort this out! Perhaps there is still a chance to mend this misunderstanding!”

While the powerful nobles stated their opinions, the Cardinal Mazarini nodded.

“Right. Dispatch a special envoy to Albion. We will approach this cautiously, before it turns into a total war over a mere misunderstanding.”

At that moment, an urgent report arrived.

The messenger carrying the letter from the carrier owl, rushed into the meeting room.

“It’s an urgent report! After landing, the Albion fleet has started capturing land!”

“Where did they land?”

“The outskirts of La Rochelle! It seems like in the field of Tarbes!”

In the garden of her parents’ house, Siesta hugged her young siblings, watching the skies with an uneasy face. An explosion had been heard not long before in the direction of La Rochelle. Surprised, she went out to the garden and saw the dreadful scene in the sky. Numerous ships were on fire and sinking, crashing onto the mountain’s surface and dropping into the middle of the forest.

The village was in a state of confusion. A short while later, a large ship had descended from the sky. The ship, so large that it could be easily mistaken for a cloud, dropped its anchor on the field in the village.

Numerous dragons flew out of it.

“Sister, what’s happening?” asked her younger brothers and sisters.

“Let’s get in the house,” urged Siesta, hiding her fear.

Inside the house, her parents were looking out the windows with troubled expressions.

“Isn’t that Albion’s fleet?” her father said, looking at the ship anchored in the field.

“Could it be … A war?”

Her father shook his head.

“That’s not possible. We have a non-aggression treaty with Albion. The lord proclaimed it recently.”

“Then why is the sky full of sinking ships?”

The dragons flying above the ship headed towards the village. Her father grasped his wife and stepped away from the window. With loud cries, the dragons descended upon the village and set the houses on fire.

Her mother screamed. The house was alight and the glass from the windows scattered everywhere. The village was saturated in the blazing flames, roaring of the dragons and the shrieking of the people. Carrying her unconscious mother, the father turned to Siesta, who was shaking.

“Siesta! Take your siblings and run to the forest!”

Straddling a large wind dragon, a smile appeared on Wardes’ face as he trampled on his home country. The dragoons under his command rode fire dragons. A wind dragon cannot match a fire dragon in power, but surpasses a fire dragon in speed. He had chosen the wind dragon solely because he was commanding. To clear the path for the main force, Wardes mercilessly set the village on fire. In the background, soldiers were dropping down one by one with ropes from the Lexington. The field was an excellent strategic foothold for the invading troops.

From the direction of the field, dozens of the neighboring lord’s troops were charging forward. The Tristainian troops could pose a significant threat to the soldiers disembarking onto the field. Wardes signaled his underlings to crush the small opposition force. A barrage of fire magic flew from the dragons but still, the Tristainians ferociously charged forward. The reckless force was utterly devastated by the dragon’s flames.

It was past noon. Reports of the events came bursting in the conference room.

“The lord of Tarbes has died in battle!”

“The scout sent to investigate the dragoons has not returned!”

“We still haven’t received a reply from Albion regarding our enquiries!”

Meaningless discussions repeated themselves in the conference room.

“We should request aid from Germania!”

“Aggravating the matter like that would…”

“How about attacking them with our whole dragoon force?”

“Round up the remaining ships! All of them! No matter how old or small!”

“Let’s dispatch a special envoy! Attacking them will only give them an excuse to engage in a total war!”

The meeting could not reach an agreement. Mazarini was having difficulty coming to a conclusion himself. He was still hoping for a way to settle things diplomatically.

Amongst the heated debate, Henrietta looked at the wind ruby she wore on her ring finger. It was a memento from Wales. She was reminded of the man’s face she entrusted herself to.

Did I not vow upon this ring back then?

If my dear Wales has courageously died then… I too should live courageously.

“Tarbes is up in flames!”

She was surprised at her own voice but quickly regained her composure. With a deep breath, she stood up. Everyone looked at her. Henrietta spoke in a trembling voice.

“Aren’t you all ashamed of yourselves?”

“Princess?”

“Our lands are being captured by enemies. There are things we need to do before bickering about alliances and special envoys, isn’t there?”

“But… princess… It’s just some tension caused by a misunderstanding.”

“Misunderstanding? How can you still say that? Sinking a ship during a cannon salute is a bit extreme isn’t it?”

“We have signed a non-aggression treaty. It was an accident.”

“And that treaty is broken as easily as paper. They had no intention of keeping that treaty. It was just a lie to gain time. Albion’s actions clearly show that they have intention to war.”

“But…”

Henrietta hit the table and started yelling.

“The blood of our people is being spilled while we are doing this! Is it not the duty of nobles to protect them? For what reason do we bear royal and noble names? Have they not let us reign over them so we can protect them in times of need like this?”

Everyone was speechless. Henrietta continued with a cold voice.

“You’re all scared, aren’t you? Albion is a large country after all. If we counterattack our chances of winning are slim. Is it because you think you will be held responsible as one of the leaders of the counter attack after the battle is lost? You all plan to cower here to lengthen your lives?”

“Princess,” interjected Mazarini.

“However,” Henrietta continued.

“I will ride forth. You can continue your meeting here.”

Henrietta burst out of the conference room. Mazarini and numerous nobles tried to hold her back.

“Princess! You should rest before your wedding!”

“Ugh! It’s so hard to run in this!”

Henrietta tore her wedding dress so that it was above her knees and threw the torn piece at Mazarini’s face.

“Perhaps you can go get married.”

“My carriage and my guards! Come!” she yelled when she reached the courtyard.

Her carriage was brought, led by the holy beasts, unicorns.

The remaining magical defense squad in the courtyard assembled at once on Henrietta’s call.

She unfastened one unicorn and straddled it.

“I shall command the troops! Regiments, assemble!”

Aware of the situation, every soldier saluted simultaneously.

Henrietta hit the unicorn’s stomach.

The unicorn magnificently raised its hooves up high under the bright sun and set off.

“Follow the princess!” cried the soldiers while following Henrietta, mounted on the beasts.

“Follow! A delay brings shame to the family name!”

The nobles in the courtyard dashed out. The word spread through the regiments scattered about the town.

Watching this absent mindedly, Mazarini looked up at the skies.

“I knew we would go to war with Albion someday, despite my efforts, but… our country is not prepared.”

He was not concerned about his own life. He bore the worries of his country in his own way, and for the sake of the people, he had made his decision. Even if it meant a small sacrifice, he didn’t want to engage in a lost battle.

But, it was as the princess said. His efforts and devotion to diplomacy had been boiled away. Of what use is clinging to it? There are things to be taken care of first.

One of the high-class nobles whispered in Mazarini’s ear.

“Cardinal, about the special envoy…”

Mazarini slapped the nobles face with his cap. He coiled the torn piece from the wedding dress, which Henrietta had thrown at him, on his head.

“All of you! To your horses! If we let the princess go alone we will be forever cast in shame!”


Chapter Ten: The Void

News of the declaration of war had reached the Tristain Academy of Magic the following day. Contact had been delayed due to the chaos in the palace.

Louise, along with Saito, were waiting at the entrance of the Academy of Magic for a carriage from the palace. The carriage was to take them to Germania. However, only a breathless messenger arrived at the academy that hazy morning.

The messenger asked them where Osman’s room was, and dashed away quickly after receiving the answer. The unusual scene caused Louise and Saito to look at each other. Sensing something had happened in the palace, the two of them rushed after the messenger.

Osman was occupied with the preparations for the wedding ceremony. He would be leaving the academy for a week and so he was organizing various documents and packing his luggage.

A loud knock came at the door.

“Who is it?”

The messenger from the palace burst into the room before Osman had finished talking.

“Reporting from the palace! Albion has declared war on Tristain! The princess’ wedding has been postponed until further notice! Soldiers are currently heading towards La Rochelle! For safety reasons an order was issued stating that all students and staff are to be confined to the castle!”

Osman’s face grew pale.

“A declaration of war? There’s going to be a battle?”

“Yes! Enemy forces have set up camp in the fields of Tarbes and are glaring at our forces nearby La Rochelle.”

“The Albion forces must be very strong.”

The messenger replied sorrowfully.

“The enemy forces are a dozen in number led by a huge warship called the Lexington. The total number of troops is estimated to be around three thousand. Our main fleet has already been destroyed and counting all our troops, we only have around two thousand. We weren’t prepared for a war, so that was all we could field. However, the worst is that they have complete aerial dominance. Our troops will surely be decimated by their cannons.”

“What’s the current situation?”

“The enemy dragoons are setting fire to the village of Tarbes… We requested aid from Germania, but they say the soonest they can arrive is in three weeks…”

Osman sighed and said, “… They’re planning to abandon us. During that period, Tristain’s towns will fall readily into the hands of the enemy.”

With their ears pressed against the door of the principal’s room, Louise and Saito looked at each other. Louise’s face had become pale at the mention of war, and Saito’s at the mention of Tarbes. Isn’t that Siesta’s village? Saito dashed off. Louise panicked and followed him.

Saito reached the courtyard and started climbing into the Zero fighter. Louise hugged his waist from behind.

“Where are you going?!”

“To Tarbes!”

“Why?!”

“Isn’t it obvious?! I’m going to go save Siesta!”

Louise grabbed his arm and tried to shake him off, but he firmly clung on.

“You can’t! It’s a war! Even if you went, it wouldn’t make a difference!”

“I have this Zero fighter. The enemy is attacking with those airships right? This can fly too. I’ll figure something out.”

“What can you do with a toy like this?!”

“This isn’t a toy.”

Saito grabbed the Zero fighter’s wing with his left hand. His runes shone.

“This is a weapon from my world. It’s a tool for killing people. It’s not a toy.”

Louise shook her head.

“Regardless, whether this is a weapon from your world or not, there’s no way you can win against those large warships! Don’t you understand? You can’t make a difference! Just leave it to the soldiers!” said Louise, looking straight into Saito’s face.

This guy… this reckless familiar doesn’t know anything about war, Louise thought. This was different from the journey they took to Albion. The battlefield was a place filled with death and destruction. If a novice went, it would result only in his death.

“He said that Tristain’s fleet had been wiped out didn’t he?”

Saito slowly patted Louise on the head and spoke in a low voice.

“It might not amount to anything. I can’t imagine beating those warships. But…”

“But what?”

“I don’t fully understand, but I’ve received these legendary familiar powers. If I were just a normal, regular person, I wouldn’t have thought of going to save them. But it’s different. I have Gandálfr’s power. I might be able to save them. I can perhaps save Siesta… and those villagers.”

“The probability is almost zero.”

“I know. But, it’s not zero. So, I’ll do it.”

Surprised, Louise replied.

“Are you an idiot!? You want to return to your own world right? How is dying here going to help?!”

“Siesta treated me kindly. You too, Louise.”

Louise’s face turned red.

“I’m not from this world. I don’t necessarily have to care what happens to this world, but I want to at least protect the people who have treated me well.”

Louise noticed that Saito’s hands were shaking. Raising her head, she said, “Aren’t you scared? You idiot. Stop trying to act cool if you’re scared!”

“I am scared. I’m even reluctant to do this. But that prince said, the importance of protecting something, will make you forget the fear of death. I think he’s right. That time, when fifty thousand Albion soldiers came charging towards us… I wasn’t scared. I was busy thinking of protecting you, so I wasn’t scared. I’m not lying.”

“What are you saying? You’re just a commoner. You aren’t a courageous prince or anything.”

“I know. It’s got nothing to do with whether I’m a prince or a commoner. Which country you were born in, the time period… even which world, is irrelevant. If you are a man, then you would surely think the same way.”

Louise’s face started to distort as she tried to hold back her tears.

“If you die, what will I do…? No… I, if you die…”

“I won’t die. I will come back. If I die, I won’t be able to protect you right?”

“I’m going as well.”

“No. You’re staying here.”

“No, I’m going as well.”

“You can’t.”

As his hard-found courage was about to escape him, Saito separated himself from Louise and climbed into the cockpit from the wing.

Suddenly he realized. He hadn’t refueled the plane.

Saito left Louise there and rushed off to Colbert’s laboratory. With her fists tightly clenched, she groaned. Why was he so stubborn! Even though I said it would be dangerous… Louise bit her lip and held back her tears. Nothing would come from crying. Louise looked at the Zero fighter.

“What chance does this thing have of winning against Albion’s forces!?”

Saito woke up the sleeping Colbert.

“Huh? What?”

“Mr. Colbert! Have you made the gasoline?”

“Huh? Yes, I’ve made the amount you needed. It’s over there.”

“Then help me carry it! Quickly!”

Colbert carried the gasoline for Saito. Colbert, who was still partially asleep, didn’t know about the war. Saito didn’t bother explaining.

“You’re going to fly it so early in the morning? At least let me freshen up.”

“We don’t have time for that.”

Louise was nowhere to be seen. He was relieved. If Louise had pleaded him to not go once more, his determination would fade. There was no reason why he wouldn’t be scared. The prince did say that the importance of protecting something would make the fear of death go away, but… nope. It was still scary.

Even then, Saito sat in the cockpit and performed the necessary operations to start the engine. Colbert then used his magic like before and the engine started to run. The engine started with a loud noise and the propellers started to spin.

He checked the gauges. The runes on his left hand told him that everything was normal. He checked the machine gun in front of him. Bullets were loaded. The machine guns on the wings were also loaded.

Releasing the brakes, the Zero fighter started moving. He looked to the front and headed in the direction of the best take-off spot. “Austri” was not a small courtyard but his Gándalfr runes told him that it was a bit short for a runway. At that moment, Derflinger, who was leaning in the cockpit, said, “Partner, tell the noble to use wind to propel you from the back.”

“Wind?”

“Yes, so that this thing can take off even with the shortened distance.”

“How do you know that? You don’t know a thing about airplanes.”

“This is a ‘weapon’ right? I’m with you all the time, I know about it in general. Have you forgotten? I’m ‘legendary’.”

Saito popped his head out from the windshield and called out to Colbert. His voice didn’t reach him. He tried some gestures, signaling him to cause wind to blow from the back. Colbert was quick witted. He understood Saito’s gestures and nodded.

As the incantation for the spell finished, a strong gust of wind came from the back. He put on the goggles Siesta entrusted him and relaxed the pressure on the brake. He opened the cowl flaps and adjusted the propeller’s pitch lever. He further released the brakes and he pushed the throttle lever down.

Like a spring, the Zero fighter accelerated forward with great force. He pushed the control stick slightly forward. The tail had left the ground. The Zero fighter was gliding. It approached the academy’s walls. Saito gulped.

“Partner! Now!”

Just as they were about to hit the wall, he pulled the control stick. The Zero fighter flew up in an instant. Grazing the wall slightly, the zero fighter flew in the air. He retracted the landing gear. The indicator light, bottom left from the gauges turned from green to red.

The zero fighter continued to ascend. Saito looked at the runes with a relieved expression.

“Wow! It’s flying! This is pretty interesting!” Derflinger said excitedly.

“Of course it is. It was made to fly.”

Under the bright sun, the zero fighter split the winds, and rose up into the sky of another world.

The fire consuming Tarbes had calmed but the area had changed into a cruel battlefield. Battalions had been assembled in the field and were awaiting the moment they would clash with Tristain troops in the port city La Rochelle. Protecting them above were the Lexington’s dragons. The Tristain dragoons would attack sporadically, but they had all been forced to retreat.

Before the battle, Albion’s command decided that they would use the cannons of the warships to deal with the Tristain troops. And so, the fleet prepared its cannons.

One dragoon on the lookout above Tarbes noticed an enemy dragoon was approaching from above, about two thousand five hundred meters away. The dragoon had the dragon cry out, alerting the others that an enemy was approaching.

Saito looked out from the windshield and saw Tarbes below him. There was no trace of that simple, beautiful village he had seen before. The houses were scorched with black smoke rising from them. He clenched his teeth. He remembered how recently he and Siesta were looking out at the field. Siesta’s words replayed in his head.

“Isn’t this field beautiful? This is what I wanted to show Saito.”

A dragoon unit breathed fire at the forest located at the outskirts of the village. The forest was instantly set ablaze.

Saito bit his lip. He could taste the blood in his mouth.

“I’ll kill you.” He said in a low voice.

Saito pushed the control stick to the bottom left while pressing the throttle firmly. The Zero fighter started to swoop down towards Tarbes.

“What could one dragoon possibly do?” muttered the ascending dragoons as they prepared to attack.

However, it had an unusual figure. It had two horizontal wings stretched out, as if the wings were fixed and didn’t flap. It also made a thunderous roar they had never heard of before.

Did such a dragon exist in Halkeginia?

However… no matter what dragon it was, it would be finished off with a single breath from the Albion fire dragons, just like the rest. When its wings were burnt it would probably go down. Using this strategy, they had already killed two of Tristain’s dragoons.

“This is the third,” said a dragoon awaiting the descending enemy, with the corner of his mouth bending into a smile.

ZnT03-231.JPG

He was surprised. It was fast. Faster than any dragon.

Panicking, the dragoon made the dragon breathe fire. At that moment, the wing of the descending enemy flashed. Countless number of shining white things were flying towards him. Large holes appeared on the wings and the body of the dragon. A round entered the dragon’s mouth. A fire dragon has pockets of oil for strong combustion in its throat. The autocannon shell caught one of the oil pockets. The fire dragon exploded.

Slipping by the dragon that had exploded in midair, Saito continued to descend in the Zero fighter. The fighter’s machine gun range was tens of times than that of the dragon’s breaths. Letting his rage take control of him, he fired the 20mm autocannon shells and the 7.7mm machine gun on both wings at the dragoons.

Four more dragons fluttered in the skies above the village. They had seen the dragon which exploded from the enemy’s attack. The attack wasn’t a breath. Which meant that it was probably a magic based attack. Whatever attack it may have been, one dragoon alone can’t do anything. Three dragoons ascended to attack.

“Three more are coming from the bottom left,” said Derflinger in his usual tone.

Three dragoons were spread out below him and ascending.

“Don’t get hit by their breath. You’ll get burnt to ashes in an instant.”

Saito nodded. He did a hundred and eighty degrees turn above the dragoons. Drawing a path similar to spiraling down a funnel in a bottle, he ended up behind the dragoons. The dragoons couldn’t catch up. The speed of the fire dragons was about 150km/hr. The zero fighter’s speed was close to 400km/hr. It was like attacking something that wasn’t moving.

By the time the panicking dragoons had turned around, they had already been clearly targeted. Saito readied the pointer on the glass pane of the sighting device and pressed the throttle lever’s fire button.

With a dull sound followed by the shaking of the plane, the autocannons on both wings opened fire. The wings of the fire dragons broke, and they went spiraling down. In the next instant, Saito had put his foot down on the right foot bar and glided the Zero fighter, taking aim at the next dragon. Saito fired again. Taking numerous hits from the autocannon on its torso, the fire dragon shrieked in pain and dropped towards the ground.

When the third had suddenly dived in an attempt to escape, the 7.7mm machine gun filled its body with punctured holes. The fire dragon died and dropped straight down.

Saito quickly made the airplane ascend, controlling the plane naturally. He switched the velocity level to high. Against dragons, the Zero fighter which had a reciprocating engine, had the most advantage at those speeds. As the Zero fighter descended, the velocity would increase. The first thing to do was to control the area above the enemy. With the shining runes on his left hand, he maneuvered the Zero fighter like a veteran.

Derflinger, who was looking out for him, told him his next target. Just as he was about direct the plane there, he heard a voice behind him.

“T-T-T-That’s incredible! These Albion dragons are reputed to be unrivaled yet they’re dropping like flies!”

Startled, Saito looked backwards. Louise’s head popped out from the gap between the seat and the rest of plane. Behind the seat was originally a stupidly big radio, but since this world didn’t have anyone who could contact through him the radio, he had removed it while he was adjusting the plane. After taking that off, only the wires connected to the rudder were left. Louise had slipped in there.

“You were here all this time!? Get off!”

“There’s no way I can get off now!”

Louise’s hands held the Founder’s Prayer Book. It seems like she didn’t go anywhere like he had thought and instead slipped inside the plane.

“It’s dangerous! You idiot!”

Louise firmly wrung his neck.

“Don’t forget!”

“You. Are. My. Familiar. So. Don’t. Just. Go. Do. What. You. Want! I. Will. Not. Forgive. You. Understand!?”

As the engine drowned out her voice, she shouted in his ears.

“I’m your master! If the master doesn’t lead the way, then the familiar won’t listen! And I would hate that!”

Saito drooped his shoulders, sighing heavily. It seems that saying things like “It’s dangerous, don’t come” had absolutely no effect on Louise.

“What happens if you die?!”

“Then try harder! Even if you or I die, I will still find some way to kill you!” She shouted at Saito with her eyes open.

Saito felt a headache coming from the absurd things coming out of her mouth.

“Partner, sorry for interrupting but…”

“What?”

“Ten from the right have just arrived.”

The fire dragon’s breath came flying to them. At that instant, he pushed the control stick quickly to the left. The plane rolled and dodged the breath of the dragon. Louise fell down in the plane with a small cry.

“Control it more elegantly!”

Saito shouted, “Don’t say ridiculous things!”, and made the plane descend. The dragoons couldn’t follow his movements. Taking advantage of this moment, he made the plane ascend, and at its peak he turned it around. With the sun behind him, he descended again. Aiming at the dragoons who were chasing him before, he fired the autocannons and the machine guns at them.

Louise, who had fallen down in the plane, was about to cry from the terror. “Perhaps I really shouldn’t have come?” Her fear asked her. She bit her lip and grasped the Founder’s Prayer Book tightly. Didn’t I sneak on because I couldn’t let Saito die? Hey, don’t pretend as if you’re fighting alone, I’m also fighting!

Even so, she couldn’t do anything. It was always like this, but this time she felt a tinge of regret.

But nevertheless, losing to your fear won’t accomplish anything.

She searched her pockets for the Water Ruby ring Henrietta gave her, and put it on. She grasped that finger tightly.

“Princess, please protect us…” she whispered.

She patted the Founder’s Prayer Book in her right hand softly.

In the end, she hadn’t finished the edict. She cursed her own lack of poetic talent. She was hoping to think of the edict on the carriage to Germania.

That’s right. I was going to go to Henrietta’s wedding ceremony. I was waiting outside the academy’s gates for the carriage to arrive. I then learned war had broken out. Destiny is a cynical thing. She opened the Founder’s Prayer Book while muttering to herself. She was planning to pray to the Founder for their safety. She opened the book and flipped to a random page. The Water Ruby and the Founder’s Prayer Book suddenly shone, taking Louise by surprise.

“They got… wiped out? In only twelve minutes they got wiped out?”

Sir Johnston, the supreme commander of the invasion force, who was on the afterdeck of the flagship, Lexington, looking over the preparations of the bombardment attack with the ship’s cannons, turned pale at the report.

“How many enemy units were there? A hundred? Tristain has that many dragoons left?”

“Sir. A-According to the report, only one.”

“A single unit?”

Johnston stood motionless with a dumbfounded expression. He threw his hat to the ground.

“Nonsense! Twenty dragoons taken out by a single enemy unit? Surely you jest!”

Frightened at the supreme commander’s attitude, the messenger took a step back.

“According to the report, the enemy dragoon had incredible speed and agility, and also had strong, long ranged, magic based attacks. Our units were killed one by one…”

Johnston grabbed the messenger.

“What about Wardes?! Wardes, who was given command of the dragoons, what about him?! What happened to that cocky Tristainian?! Was he also killed?!”

“The viscount’s wind dragon was not included in the list of casualties. But… it seems like he wasn’t seen around…”

“So he betrayed us! Or otherwise he was too much of a coward! Whichever it was, we can’t trust him…”

Quietly reaching out his hands, Bowood said, “Reacting like that in front of all the soldiers will lower their morale, commander in chief.”

Enraged, Johnston took his anger out on Bowood.

“What are you saying?! It’s your fault that the dragoons got wiped out! Your lack of competence was just asking for our precious dragoons to be destroyed! I will report this to His Excellency. I will report it!” Johnston yelled as he reached out to grab Bowood.

Bowood drew his wand and jabbed Johnston’s stomach. The white of his eyes showing, Johnston fainted to the ground. He ordered the soldiers to carry him away.

Should have just made him sleep in the first place, Bowood thought.

Noise apart from that of explosions and cannons only agitated the troops. A single decision could be the difference between victory and defeat, especially during battle.

Bowood turned to the messenger who was staring at him with a worried expression. He spoke with a calm, composed voice.

“Even though the dragoon force has been wiped out, the Lexington is still undamaged. Also, Wardes has probably devised a plan. Don’t worry about it, just put effort in what you’re doing.”

“A single unit killing twenty units? A hero, eh…” Bowood whispered.

But at most a hero. And thus only an individual. No matter how much power an individual holds, there’ll be things he can change and things he can’t change.

“And this ship is the latter,” Bowood whispered.

He issued orders.

“Advance the entire fleet. Prepare the left cannons.”

After a while, far away, at the other end of the field of Tarbes, the battle array of Tristain’s troops, situated in La Rochelle, which was a natural stronghold due to the mountains around it, could be seen.

“All fleets advance slowly. Ship to starboard.”

The fleet turned so that the Tristain forces would be facing their left side.

“Fire the left cannons. Continue firing until further orders.”

“Upper part and the lower part, prepare the right cannons. Use grapeshot.”

Five hundred meters in front of the Tristain troops crowded within La Rochelle, the enemy force could be seen. It had the three colored Reconquista flag, and was approaching quietly. Having never actually seen an enemy before, Henrietta, mounted on a unicorn, was shaking. She closed her eyes to offer a prayer so that the soldiers around her wouldn’t see her shaking in fear.

But… her fear did not stop so easily.

Henrietta looked up at the large enemy fleet and turned pale. It was Albion’s fleet. The side of the fleet flashed. It was enemy fire. The cannon shells accelerated by gravity were flying towards Tristain’s troops.

Impact.

Hundred of cannon shells dropped down on the troops in La Rochelle. Rocks, horses and people were thrown together, sent flying through the air. The troops were trying to flee from the overwhelming might before them. The place was drowned by the sound of thunderous roars.

“Calm down! Everyone calm down!” Henrietta shouted, driven by her fear.

Mazarini whispered in Henrietta’s ear.

“You need to calm down first. If the general is distraught, there’ll be chaos in the blink of an eye.”

Mazarini quickly whispered to the generals nearby. While Tristain was a small country, it was one filled with history. Its history included many righteous nobles. Of all the Halkaganian nations, the Tristain army had the highest percentage of mages within it’s ranks.

By Mazarini’s command, the nobles created barriers of air within the openings of the mountains. The shells would hit them and break. But some of the shells got through. Screams could be heard with rocks and blood scattering.

“As soon as the enemy stops their bombardment, they will most likely stage an all out assault. There’s no other way but to face them,” whispered Mazarini.

“Is there a chance of being victorious?”

Mazarini noticed that the soldiers were starting to tremble before the enemy bombardment. They had advanced with great vigor but… there are limits to people’s courage. He did not want to tell the truth to the princess who had made him remember something he had forgotten.

“We’re evenly matched.”

Impact. The ground below them shook like an earthquake.

Marzarini sorrowfully understood the situation.

Three thousand strong troops formed the enemy’s numbers, while their forces, crumbling from the bombardment, only numbered two thousand.

They had no chance.

Louise looked at the letters that appeared in the light.

It was… written in ancient runes. As Louise took lessons seriously, she could read the ancient language.

Louise chased the letters in the light.

Foreword.

Henceforth, I shall record the truth I know. All materials in the world are comprised of fine grains. The four branches intervene with these fine grains and apply an influence, which transform them into spells. This was how “Fire”, “Water”, “Wind” and “Earth” became.

Louise was filled with curiosity. With an impatient feeling, she turned the page.

The gods bestowed upon me a greater strength. The fine grains, which the four branches bore influence over, are comprised of even finer grains. The power bestowed upon me by the gods, does not belong to any of the four. The branch I wield intervenes with even finer grains and applies an influence, transforming them into spells. A Zero that belongs to neither of the four. This so-called Zero is “Void”. I name the Zero the gods have bestowed upon me “Void”.

“The branch of Void… Isn’t that a legend? Isn’t that the legendary branch?!”

Whispering to herself, Louise turned the page. Her pulse was racing.

Saito, who had wiped out the dragoon fleet, looked over the sky. Above the fields, he spotted the large warship between the gaps of the clouds, far away. Below that ship, was the port city La Rochelle.

“Partner, that’s the head. No matter how many small fry you take down, if you don’t take it down… nothing will change…”

“I know.”

“It’s impossible.”

Saito remained silent and opened the throttle of the zero fighter. It was at full boost. The zero fighter ascended towards the large warship.

“It’s impossible, partner. No matter how much you try, it is impossible.”

Derflinger, who had evaluated the power difference, told Saito in his usual tone. However, Saito did not respond.

“I understand… but your partner is an idiot.”

Saito brought the Zero fighter closer.

The right side of the ship shone. Aimed at Saito’s zero fighter, something was flying towards him. They were countless numbers of lead bullets. They pierced the plane with holes while shaking it. Breaking the windshield, a shard grazed Saito’s cheek. A trickle of blood ran down his face.

“Don’t go near it! They’re using grapeshot!” yelled Derflinger.

Saito made the Zero fighter do a sudden dive, avoiding the second round of fire.

“Damn, they put small bullets in those large cannons!”

Saito bit his lip.

He couldn’t even get close to the ship, much less sink it.

Behind the seat, Louise had lost herself in reading the Founder’s Prayer book. The thunderous noises did not reach her ears. She could only hear her own pulse getting louder and louder.

The one who is able to read this, will inherit my deeds, thoughts and objectives. They will become the bearer of this power. Be mindful, wielder of this power. For my brethren and I, who have died unfulfilled, you should strive towards retaking the “Holy Lands” stolen by heathens. “Void” is powerful. Yet, the incantations are of great length and consume much energy. Take heed, incantator. At times, your life will diminish depending on the power. Thus, I choose the reader of this book. Even when one not qualified wears the ring, they cannot open this book. Only when the chosen reader wears a ring of “The four branches” can they open this book.

Brimir Ru Rumiru Yuru Viri Vee Varutori (ブリミル・ル・ルミル・ユル・ヴィリ・ヴェー・ヴァルトリ)

Following, are my recordings of the “Void” spells I used. The first step of the very beginning. “Explosion”.

A spell in the ancient language followed after that. Dumbfounded, Louise whispered, “Founder Brimir, aren’t you forgetting something? If I wasn’t wearing this ring, I wouldn’t be able to read the Founder’s Prayer Book right? The stuff about the chosen reader… and the “take heed” section has no meaning then.”

And then she realized. Chosen reader… that means…

I’m the chosen reader?

I don’t really understand but… I can read the words. If I can read it, I can probably perform this spell written here. Louise remembered how every time she recited an incantation, an explosion would result. That’s… in other words, that’s the “Void” written about here?

When she thought about it, no one could tell her the reason why she made things explode. Her parents, her sisters, her teachers… her friends as well… they only laughed at her for being a “failure”. They didn’t think anything of the explosions.

Perhaps I really am the chosen reader.

I can’t really believe it, but I perhaps am the chosen reader.

This might be worth trying out.

And also… There’s nothing else to fall back on now.

She was calm and cool. The runes she had just looked at were on the tip of her tongue as if they had greeted one another many times.

Like the lullabies she had heard in the past, the spell’s tune was somewhat similar.

I’m going to try it.

Louise stood up.

From behind the seat, she started making her way to the front through the gap.

“What are you doing?! Just stay still! Argh! I can’t see in front of me! Hey!”

Like a snake, she slipped through with the gap with her small body. She made her way to the front of the seat, where Saito was sitting. She sat her small bottom down in between Saito’s widened legs.

“…I can’t believe it but… I can’t really say it but… I might have been chosen. This could be some mistake though.” Louise muttered.

“Hah?”

“Just listen to me. Fly near the warship. It might just be a hoax… but trying it out is better than not doing anything. Besides, there’s no other way to sink that warship…. The only way is for me to do it. I understand. I’ll try it.”

Saito was dumbfounded by Louise’s ramble to herself.

“Are you alright? You’ve finally gone crazy from being scared?”

Louise shouted at Saito.

“I told you to go near it didn’t I?! I’m your master! Familiars obey their master’s orders obediently!”

It was useless to oppose Louise when she used that threatening attitude. Saito reluctantly approached the large warship.

The grapeshot flew towards them. Going around to the left side would probably have the same result. The ship also had cannons sticking out from the bottom as well. The Lexington was like a porcupine with cannons.

“What are you doing?!”

“It’s impossible! I can’t get near it!”

As if suddenly thinking of something, Derflinger opened its mouth.

“Partner, go straight above the ship.”

“Eh?”

“There’s a blind spot there. It’s where the cannons can’t reach.”

Saito rose above the Lexington like he was told.

Louise straddled Saito’s shoulders. She opened the canopy. A strong wind blew across her face.

“Hey what are you doing?! Close it!”

“Until I give you the signal, keep circling around here.”

Louise took a deep breath and closed her eyes.

Then, as if she were flaring up, she opened her eyes and started to read the runes written in the Founder’s Prayer Book.

She read the spell amongst the roar of the engine. Saito was circling above the Lexington in the Zero fighter like he was told.

It was at that moment.

“Partner, behind you!”

Quickly looking behind, a dragoon could be seen flying towards them like a gale.

It was Wardes.

Mounted on top of the wind dragon, Wardes grinned. He had been hidden amongst the clouds above the Lexington, waiting for his chance to strike. So this was the mysterious dragoon who had crushed all the fire dragons. Wardes didn’t have much chance of winning if he faced him front on. Which is why he had to aim for a weak spot.

His plan hinged on the warship. The enemy’s aim would definitely be this warship. And if he was a skilled enemy, he would be able to find its blind spot. Thus, hiding nearby and waiting was the best option. Wardes’ prediction was right.

His target started to dive.

I see… he avoided the fire dragons like that.

But, my wind dragon’s speed is greater than that of the fire dragons.

Wardes steadily shortened the distance separating them.

With deep interest, he looked at the Zero fighter.

It’s not a dragon. That’s… not something made from Halkeginia’s logic… the “Holy Lands”?

He saw a familiar face, with pinkish blond hair, inside the cockpit. The grin on Wardes’ face grew larger.

So you’re alive.

Then the one controlling the psuedo-dragon would be…

The left arm he had once lost throbbed.

His wind dragon’s breath wasn’t of any use, but he had his powerful spells. Gripping the reins with his artificial left hand, Wardes cast a spell. ‘Air Spear’. The air solidified to form a spear to skewer them.

Saito couldn’t lose the dragon that was following them. With Louise riding his shoulders, Saito was beginning to feel frustrated. But… if I die here, I won’t be able to protect Louise or Siesta. The runes on Saito’s left hand shone brightly.

He set the throttle to minimum and opened all the flaps. As if something had grabbed the Zero fighter, its speed dropped.

He pushed the control stick to the bottom left. At the same time, he stepped on the foot bar. The vivid earth and sky rotated before them.

The Zero fighter had disappeared from Wardes’ sight, who had just finished casting his spell. He looked around him restlessly. They weren’t anywhere to be seen. However, sensing a tinge of a murderous intent from behind , Wardes’ turned around. The Zero fighter was smoothly spiraling down as if tracing a path inside a bottle. It quickly got behind Wardes’ wind dragon. Followed by a bright light, the machine gun bullets tore through the wind dragon, which had thinner scales than the fire dragons. Wardes was hit in the shoulder and back and his face distorted in pain. The wind dragon gave out a shriek. As if slowly gliding down, the dragon Wardes rode crashed to the ground.

Saito ascended the Zero fighter once more. Even while he did those maneuvers Louise straddled onto Saito’s shoulders firmly. Then again, Louise was very skilled at horse riding. Louise continued her incantation in a low voice. What the heck is she doing, Saito thought.

“Eoruu Suunu Firu Yarunsakusa”

A rhythm had started pulsating through Louise. She felt as though knew the rhythm from somewhere. With every word of the incantation, the rhythm grew stronger. It sharpened her senses, while not a single noise around reached her ears. It was as if something within her body was born, and was searching for a destination… Louise remembered what she was told once. When you recite an incantation of your own branch, a feeling similar to what she was feeling would be felt. Is it really what I’m feeling? Me, who has always been despised for being a zero. Me, who was said to have no talent in magic by teachers, parents, sisters and students. Is this the real me?

“Osu Suunu Uryu Ru Rado”

She could feel a wave being born inside of her, slowly swelling.

“Beoozusu Yuru Suvyueru Kano Oshera”

The wave inside her, searching for a destination, went berserk. Louise gave Saito a signal with her leg. Saito nodded and pushed the control stick down. The Zero fighter began to swoop down at the Lexington below them. Opening her eyes, she timed her incantation.

“Void”

The legendary branch of magic.

I wonder how powerful it is?

No one knows.

Of course, there’d be no reason I’d know.

This was supposedly beyond legendary.

“Jera Isa Unjyuu Hagaru Beookun Iru…”

After the long incantation, the spell was complete. At that moment, Louise understood the power of the spell. It would swallow everyone. Every person in her vision, would be swallowed by her spell. There were two options. Kill, or don’t kill. What was she meant to destroy? With the winds blowing against her face, she looked down. A large warship appeared before her eyes. The Lexington. Following her impulse, she aimed at a single point and swung her wand down.

An unbelievable scene unfolded before Henrietta’s eyes. The warship that had been bombarding them… A ball of light had appeared in the sky. It was like a smaller version of the sun, and it expanded. And… it swallowed it. It had swallowed the warship in the sky. The light continued to expand until it was all she could see. There was complete silence. Henrietta suddenly closed her eyes. The light of the sphere was so intense that anyone would think that their eyes would burn from staring at it. And then… after the light had faded, the whole fleet was on fire. The fleet led by the Lexington had all their sails and decks burning. As if it were a lie, the head of the fleet that had been tormenting the Tristain troops, sank to the ground.

A tremor in the earth could be felt. The fleet had come crashing down. Henrietta was dumbfounded. Complete silence overcame them. Everyone stared at the unbelievable scene.

The first one to come to his senses was Cardinal Mazarini. He was looking at the silvery wings, shining under the sun in the sky. It was Saito’s zero fighter.

Mazarini cried out, “People! Look! The enemy fleet has been destroyed by the legendary Phoenix!”

“Phoenix? The immortal bird?”

A commotion spread through the troops.

“Look at that bird flying in the sky! That’s the legendary bird that’s said to come at Tristain’s hour of need! The Phoenix! The Founder have blessed us!”

Shouts of joy could be heard everywhere.

“Long live Tristain! Long live the Phoenix!”

Henrietta asked Mazarini quietly, “Cardinal, the Phoenix… was it the truth? I haven’t heard of anything called the legendary Phoenix…”

Mazarini mischievously smiled.

“It’s a big lie. But, everyone’s sense of judgement is lost at the moment. They can’t believe the scene they saw. Neither can I. However, the truth is that there was an unfamiliar bird fluttering about after the enemy fleet had fallen. There was no choice but to use it.”

“Hah…”

“What? No one cares if what I said was the truth or a lie. What they do care about is whether they’re dead or alive. In other words, victory or defeat.”

Mazarini peered into the princess’s eyes.

“You must use everything that you can use. It’s one of the basics of politics and war. Remember it well, Princess. Because from today onwards, you are the ruler of Tristain.”

Henrietta nodded. It was just as the Cardinal had said. The thinking… could come later.

“The enemy’s morale will be low and they will no doubt be trying to flee. Their supporting fleet is now gone. There’s not a better chance to strike.”

“Yes.”

“Princess. Shall we go forwards to victory?” asked Mazarini.

Henrietta nodded strongly once again. She held up her shining crystal wand.

“All troops, charge! Royal troops, follow me!”

Tired, Louise cuddled with Saito.

“Hey Louise.”

“Hm?” replied Louise, absentmindedly.

He patted Louise gently on the head.

A feeling of fatigue overcame her. But this was a nice tired feeling. It was fatigue that came with the satisfaction of accomplishing something.

“Can I ask you something?”

“Yeah.”

“What was that just then?”

“It’s a legend.”

“Legend?”

“I’ll explain later. I’m tired.”

Saito nodded and smiled. He patted Louise gently on the head.

Below them, the Tristain troops had just charged at the Albion forces. The vigor of the Tristain troops was obvious even to a novice. It was vigor that even would triumph against enemies that outnumbered them.

“Yeah, later is fine.”

Looking at the scorched and blackened village, Saito wondered if Siesta was alright.

That evening… With her siblings, Siesta timidly came out of the forest. News that the Albion troops had been defeated reached the village people who had taken shelter in the forest.

Albion’s troops were crushed by Tristain’s charge, and many had surrendered. Well, there weren’t any Albion soldiers strutting along the village around noon. The angry bellows, the clash of arms and the explosions had ended. Black smoke rose from the field, but the battle had ended.

A thunderous noise could be heard in the skies above. After looking up, a familiar object was flying in the sky. It was the “Dragon’s Raiment”. Siesta’s face brightened.

When the Zero fighter landed on the field, Saito opened the canopy. Someone from the forest, south of the village, came running towards him. It was Siesta. Saito jumped off the Zero fighter and ran towards her.

Louise watched Saito as he was running off and sighed. “Well, I guess it’s good that that girl is still alive, but couldn’t he spend more time consoling me? The spell just then… “Explosion” of the Void magic branch. It seems like it didn’t happen. Perhaps it doesn’t feel real because it was Void magic. Am I really the “User of Void magic”? Is there some misunderstanding? But it explained how I was able to give Saito the legendary Gandálfr familiar powers. There are lots of legends, aren’t there,” she whispered.

“In any case, it’ll probably be busy from here on. I really feel as if this didn’t happened… and I can’t believe that I’m the one mentioned in the legend…” Louise sighed. If this were a dream, I would be so relieved. But I’ve decided not to think too much about it. I should learn from that idiot familiar of mine. Although he’s the legendary familiar, he doesn’t seem like it at all. But perhaps that is for the best. Anyway, this “legend” stuff is too much for me.

“Hey, legendary mage.”

“What, legendary sword?”

Derflinger had called out to Louise in a teasing tone.

“It’s okay to be stubborn… but if you don’t go after him, he’ll get taken by that village girl.”

Louise’s cheeks went red.

“I don’t mind.”

“Really?” whispered Derflinger.

Giving a cry of frustration Louise hopped out of the cockpit and chased after Saito. Derflinger watched Louise’s running figure and said in large voice.

“And she even understands that she’s the one mentioned in the legend… Perhaps her love life is more important to her. Humans around this age are beyond help.”

While running, a stream of thoughts ran through her mind. When she looked at Saito’s back, her pulse hastened. Her mind would go blank. It was weird. That idiot. He even kissed me. Is that girl really that good? She might be cute. She’s good at cooking as well. I know boys like girls like that. But, I…I…

The Founder’s Prayer Book, the Void magic branch… they completely left Louise’s mind for the time being.

If I don’t go after that familiar of mine, he’ll be gone somewhere.

If I don’t open my eyes wide and run, I’ll be left behind.

But, if it’s going to be like that… I’ll just continue chasing him.

I’ll chase him wherever he goes… and when he turns around, I’ll hit him good.

Written by Fate

July 26, 2011 at 5:49 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Zero no Tsukaima Volume 2

Chapter One: A Secret Boat

Louise was lying on her bed. She was dreaming that she was back in her homeland, a three day ride away from the Tristain Academy, where she was born.

The young Louise in her dream was running around near the house, eventually hiding in the bushes of the labyrinth-like vegetation to hide from her pursuers.

“Louise, where are you? Come out now!” shouted her mother. In her dream, Louise was being reprimanded due to her poor results in magical studies. She was constantly being compared with her sisters, who had much better results than her.

Louise saw a pair of shoes that appeared below the bushes.

“Miss Louise really is hopeless at magic.”

“I completely agree. Why can’t she be like her two older sisters who are very good with magic?”

Louise, upon hearing those words, felt sad and dejected as she bit her lips. The servants have started looking for her in the vegetation. Louise tried her best to escape. She retreated to the place she called the “Secret Garden” – the central lake.

The Secret Garden was the only place where Louise felt at ease. It was tranquil, with no one else around. Flowers bloomed everywhere and birds gathered on the benches near the lake. And in the middle of the lake there was a small island on which a small house made of white marble rested.

Next to the island was a small boat originally used for leisure, but now derelict and forgotten. Her older sisters had grown up, and were busy studying magic. Her father, who had retired from his military duties, now spends his time mingling with the nobles nearby. Her father’s only pastime was hunting wild game. Her mother’s only interest was to teach her daughters and could not care less about anything else.

Therefore, besides Louise, no one ever came to the forgotten lake anymore, much less remembered that small boat. That is why whenever Louise was reprimanded, she would come to this place.

In Louise’s dream, the younger version of her jumped onto the boat and snuggled into a blanket that was prepared earlier.

As she hid inside her blanket, a noble clad in a cloak appeared from the mist-covered island.

The noble was about sixteen years old. In Louise’s dream, she was only six years old, a ten year difference lay between them.

“Have you been crying, Louise?” His face could not be seen as it was covered by a large hat.

But Louise knew exactly who he was: he was the Viscount, the noble who had just inherited the lands around her homeland. Louise felt warm and fuzzy inside; the Viscount was the man of her dreams. They had often frequented banquets together and, furthermore, their fathers had already made an engagement.

“Is that you, Viscount-sama?”

Louise haphazardly covered her face; she did not want the man of her dreams to see her crying. It would be embarrassing.

“I was invited by your father today regarding the engagement.”

Hearing this, Louise was even more embarrassed to the point that she did not even dare lift her head up.

“Really? But that would not be possible, Viscount-sama.”

“Louise, my small and dainty Louise, do you dislike me?” the Viscount said in jest.

Louise gently shook her head and said abashedly, ”No, it’s not that. It’s just that I’m still young and unready …”

The face hidden underneath the hat revealed a smile and extended a hand out to Louise.

“Viscount-sama.”

“Lady, please take hold of my hand. Quickly, the banquet is about to start.”

“But…”

“Have you been scolded again? Don’t worry. I’ll talk to your father.” the Viscount said.

Louise nodded, stood up and reached for the Viscount’s hand. What big hands, aren’t those the hands that she had always dreamed of holding?

Just as she was about to grasp the Viscount’s hand, a sudden gust of wind blew the hat from the Viscount’s head.

“Eh?!” Louise looked at his face, perplexed. Because it was a dream, Louise had returned to her sixteen year old self.

“What… What are you doing?”

The person underneath the hat was not the Viscount, but her familiar, Saito.

“Louise, come quickly.”

“It doesn’t matter whether I come or not, why are you here?”

“Don’t be so narrow minded, haven’t you fallen for me already?” replied Saito, who was impudently dressed in the Viscount’s clothes.

One has to wonder where he got that much confidence from.

“Don’t be stupid, I was just muddle-headed that time, you better stop dreaming!”

“Stop making up excuses, my Louise.”

“Who is ‘your Louise’?!”

Saito pretended not to hear her at all, and instead, came closer to Louise.

“What are you trying to do, you idiot?!”

Ignoring her complaints, Saito proceeded and lifted Louise, who was in the boat, into his arms.

“Why is it you?” Louise asked in frustration while punching Saito. But Saito did not get angry at all, instead his grin became wider. This made Louise slowly turn red from embarrassment. She did not know the exact reason, but she felt good in Saito’s arms. This made Louise even more anxious.

 

 

Saito, lying in his bed, slowly opened his eyes. The twin moons in full circle shone onto the room, lighting it up brightly. Louise, sleeping in her bed, moaned as though she was having a nightmare.

Saito prayed that she would continue to sleep. He quietly got up and slowly approached the sleeping Louise.

“What is it partner? Not Sleeping?” Derflinger asked Saito quite abruptly.

“Shhhh…” Saito turned around and put his index finger onto his lips.

“Don’t want me to speak? Why not?”

“Shhhh…” Saito shook his head, once again drew his middle finger across his lips and stared at his partner, Derflinger, with annoyance.

“I won’t forgive you for giving me the cold shoulder. My partner wakes up in the middle of the night without telling me a reason. This makes me angry and depressed!”

After saying this, Derflinger moved and shook his body, like he was really angry. What a difficult sword.

Awakened by the rattling of the sword, Louise turned around and opened her eyes.

Saito’s heart skipped a beat.

Sitting up, Louise started to scold Saito.

“Don’t be so full of yourself! You better do some cleaning up, don’t you see the dust gathered everywhere? Don’t tell me that you have done it already, you slow-witted fool. You’re such a dimwit!”

Saito’s body was frozen solid, as though the “Harden” spell had been casted on him.

But after Louise finished scolding Saito, she lay down once more and slept. Apparently, she was just talking in her sleep. Even in her sleep, Louise was ordering Saito about. Saito felt simultaneously relieved and saddened.

Derflinger, who was watching Saito all this time, gave a hapless sigh.

“She’s talking in her dreams, huh? But it doesn’t seem to be music to your ears, Saito.”

Saito stared angrily at Derflinger, who had almost spoiled his plan and quickly walked towards him and said, “You better keep quiet, you idiot!”

“You’re really too much, I shall not forgive you! If my partner wants me to be silent, then I will definitely be silent! But for suddenly waking up in the middle of the night and being so sneaky about it, you’ll definitely suffer retribution even if you tell me your reason now.”

Derflinger’s sense of curiosity is the same as his partner’s. It seems he wants to know Saito’s reason for waking up in the middle of the night no matter what it takes.

Saito sighed, and then pointed to the sleeping Louise.

“What about the Noble’s daughter?”

“What do you think partner?”

Saito used his hands and made a gesture resembling a heart.

“What does that mean?”

“It represents love.”

“That girl likes you, partner?”

“Yes.”

“How do you know?”

Saito stood up, and danced while not making any noise.

“Ah… you are referring to the ball?”

“You saw Louise’s expression while we were dancing, right?”

“Yeah, I saw it.”

“Her face was so red…” Saito said while in a daze.

“Yeah, it was very red.”

“She seemed to want to hold my hands and not let them go.”

“Are you sure!?”

“Derf, you’re just a piece of metal, so you’ll never understand a girl’s heart. If a girl looks at a boy like that, it means she’s indirectly telling him that she likes him.” Saito said, while knocking on the sword.

“True, I’m but a sword, and I don’t understand interpersonal relationships at all. But since you say so partner, it must probably be true.”

Saito nodded happily and said, “You’re really sensible, Derflinger!”

“Then, my good partner, since you’re sure that she likes you, are you going to ravish her?”

“Yes! I’m sure that she likes me, and I think I’m gonna ravish her!… Err, what does ‘ravish’ mean?”

“That’s impossible. I’ve been around for a long time and this is the first time I’ve heard of a familiar ravishing its master. You’re incredible!”

“Ah… that feels good. Come, praise me again.”

“My partner, you’re fantastic!”

Saito stood up and buoyantly asked, “Derf, who’s the most handsome man in the world?”

“Of course it’s you, partner.”

“Who is the greatest person in this world without magic?”

“Of course it’s you, partner.”

The praises went straight to Saito’s head. He felt as if the whole world was cheering for him. One has to wonder if he has a problem with his IQ.

“Louise is really fortunate that I have taken a liking to her. The great and handsome me.”

“If that haughty girl really likes you, then why did she have to scold you even in her dreams?”

Derflinger wanted to continue voicing his opinions, but was stopped by Saito. “Louise is in reality extremely stubborn. She would not bare her heart that easily.”

“Is that so?”

“If I went over and asked her, she would definitely reply: ‘What are you saying? You stupid familiar!’ “

“Like you said, do you really know her inside out, partner?”

“Of course! Although she’s always denying it, in reality she desperately wants me to ‘conquer’ her. She’s already deeply in love with me, but Louise is a very headstrong girl, she won’t tell me that she likes me directly due to her pride.”

“Partner, you must be a genius to have deduced this.”

“So now, I’m to represent planet Earth and ‘ravish’ this Bishōjo from Halkeginia. You understand don’t you, Derf? So could you do me a favor and keep your mouth shut?”

Derflinger shook his body, signifying agreement.

“If that’s the case, I will remain silent then.”

Saito thanked Derflinger and once again approached Louise.

Louise was still in deep sleep. No matter from what angle you look at the sleeping Louise, she still looks as beautiful as ever. Saito took a deep breath; the room was filled with a nice fragrance.

Saito, trembling slowly, lifted Louise’s blanket.

Moonlight shone onto Louise who was wearing a nightgown. Even though Louise was wearing her nightie, one could still feel her smooth and supple skin through it. Although just slightly, her breasts had developed. Also, Louise did not like to wear undergarments when sleeping. Saito knew this extremely well – he was the one who prepared her undergarments every morning.

“Moonlight shone on the sleeping Louise .”

Saito was so touched that tears nearly came out of his eyes. From now onwards the petite and cute girl will finally be mine, he thought to himself. He has been waiting for this moment for a week, ever since the ball.

Rubbing his hands together, Saito approached the sleeping Louise and said,“Itadakimasu… ” saying that, he snuggled under Louise’s blanket.

“Ah, Louise, Louise your skin is really so smooth and supple. Haha… Saito you idiot…”

Saito did not know why he called himself an idiot, but nonetheless he was becoming more and more aroused.

He hugged Louise without thinking twice and kissed her cheek. Louise did not look like she would wake up anytime soon; she was quite a sound sleeper.

“Louise, my dear Louise, your face; you have the cutest face in the world…” Following that, just as Saito was about to lift up Louise’s nightgown, she suddenly awoke. Saito was initially shocked, but he recovered quickly and hugged Louise tightly.

“What… What are you doing?!”

Louise immediately realized what was going on and struggled to break free from Saito’s arms.

“Can’t you just stay still?”

“Why… why… are you hugging me?

“What are you saying? I thought that you liked me!?” Saito stared at Louise in frustration; Louise felt the anger and stopped struggling.

“What?”

Saito placed his hands on Louise’s shoulder and asked, “Aren’t you in love with me?”

“What… what… nonsense are you blabbering?”

“It’s all right Louise, I understand how you feel. I’m the one that understands you the most. Don’t be nervous, just relax.”

Saito slowly moved his lips towards Louise’s; Louise’s face became paler and paler.

Me, in love with you??

Louise’s dream just now flashed before her eyes again. Saito was exactly the same as in her dream, speaking to her in that audacious manner. Thanks to that, the more Louise looked at Saito, the angrier she became. Both the Saito in her dream and the Saito in reality made her mad, really mad. You could say it was pure rage.

Louise was now trembling in anger, but Saito mistook it for shyness, as Louise had had no prior experience.

“Are you still nervous, this is my first time too. Relax while I take off my pants…”

Louise felt Saito holding up her waist…

As swift as a flame salamander catches its prey, Louise shot her right leg upward and struck Saito between the legs.

“Arhhh!”

Saito immediately felt his spine carry the excruciating pain from his groin all the way to his brain. Saito, not able to take the pain, began foaming at the mouth and rolled off of Louise’s bed. Louise slowly got up and grabbed the horse whip which was placed next to her bed.

Saito, seeing the whip, tried to escape, but the whip-bearing Louise already had her foot on Saito’s head.

“What did you want to do to me just now?!”

Saito, slowly recovering from his pain, managed to speak, ”Aren’t we just like lovers whispering sweet nothings to each other just now?”

Louise using her foot to apply more pressure on Saito’s head replied, “That’s only wishful thinking on your part.”

“Does it mean that I’m mistaken…? Aren’t you fond of me?”

“Who is fond of whom?”

“Well, don’t you like me, Miss Louise?”

“Haha… Please tell me the reason for you believing that, but you’d better make it simple to understand, otherwise I will not be able to tell what will happen to you…”

“Well, during the ball, you looked at me, your familiar with those lovelorn eyes.”

Louise with her face turning red replied, “So that’s why you thought that I’m fond of you and climbed into my bed?”

“That’s correct, Miss Louise. Is your humble familiar really mistaken?”

“You’re definitely mistaken, I have never heard of a familiar climbing into its owner’s bed.”

“I will take note of it the next time.”

Louise gave a sigh and said in a tone that seems to pity Saito, “There won’t be a next time.”

“Master, Look! Look! The twin moons are shining so beautifully tonight!” Saito said in desperation.

“Anyway, it’s too late…” Louise said in a voice trembling in anger. Under the twin moon’s moonlight, Saito’s cries of pain could be heard many miles away…

 

 

The same time that Saito was being badly beaten up, Fouquet was staring idly at the ceiling somewhere far way from the academy in the City of Tristain’s Genoa prison. She was the triangle earth mage, who was apprehended by Saito and Co. two days ago for the theft of the “Staff of Destruction”. As she was infamous for stealing valuable treasure from various nobles she was placed in Genoa prison, the maximum security prison located in the City of Tristain.

She would be charged in court the following week. As she had caused a great deal of shame to nobles all over the country, she would most probably either be exiled or be given the death sentence. Either way, she wouldn’t be allowed in Tristain anymore. At first, she thought of escaping, but she later gave up that thought.

Inside her cell, there was nothing except for shoddy looking bed and a table that was made of wood. Even the utensils she used were made of wood. Things would be quite different if there was just something made of metal… Like a spoon.

She had wanted to turn the prison walls and iron bars into soil using alchemy. Without her wand, which was confiscated, that would not be possible. Magicians were helpless without their wands. Furthermore, the prison walls and iron bars are specially enchanted to resist magic. Even with the use of alchemy, she would not be able to escape.

“It’s really mean of them to lock up a feeble female like myself here.” Fouquet grumbled to herself. Then she thought about the youth that had apprehended her, That boy is quite strong, can’t believe that he’s an ordinary human. Who exactly is he? Then again, it doesn’t concern me anymore.

“Time to sleep…” Fouquet closed her eyes and laid down. Just as she had closed her eyes, she quickly opened them again.

Fouquet heard someone walking down to the dungeon where she was held. She heard peculiar noises that sounded like a spur. She deduced it could not be a warden, as they did not wear spurs on their boots. Fouquet quickly sat up.

A person wearing a cloak appeared next to her cell, his face unseen as it was covered by a white mask. Judging from the long wand visible beneath his cloak, he was a mage.

In a rather scornful manner, Fouquet exclaimed “I’m surprised to see a visitor in the middle of the night!”

The man in the white mask did not reply, and instead gave Fouquet a cold stare.

Fouquet instinctively knew that this person was hired to kill her. Some nobles she had stolen from must have thought that sentencing her in court was too much of a hassle and had decided to hire an assassin to kill her. Some of the items she had stolen from the imperial family were likely stolen goods to begin with, and in order not to let such a truth surface the imperials had probably decided to silence her.

“Well, as you can see, this doesn’t look like a place to entertain someone. But I think you’re not here just for a cup of tea, right?” Fouquet said.

She began to think, Though I’m without my wand, I will not easily give up without a fight. I’m not only well versed in magic; I’m pretty good in close combat too. However, I’m powerless to stop him should he use magic. Therefore, I must somehow lure him inside my cell.

Just then, the man in the cloak spoke, “Are you Fouquet of the Crumbling Earth?”

His voice sounded strong and youthful.

“I’m not sure who gave me this nickname, but yes, I am Fouquet of the Crumbling Earth.”

The man in the cloak raised both of his hands, implying that he did not intend hostility.

“I have something that I would like to tell you.”

“What is that?” Fouquet replied in a rather surprised tone. “Don’t tell me that you’re going to speak on my defense. What a weirdo.”

“I’d be happy to speak in your defense, my dear Mathilda of Saxe-Gotha”

Fouquet’s face became pale. “That’s a name I had forgotten, or rather, was forced to forget. There should be no one in this world that knows that name anymore…”

“Who exactly are you?”

The cloaked man did not answer her question and instead asked, “Mathilda, do you wish to serve Albion again?”

Fouquet, who had lost her cool, replied, “That’s impossible! I will never serve those who had murdered my father and annexed my home!”

“Don’t be mistaken, no one is asking you to serve the Albion royal family. They’re going to be overthrown soon.”

“What do you mean?”

“A revolution is taking place. We’re going to overthrow the weak and powerless Imperial family, and succeeding them will be more capable nobles like ourselves.”

“But aren’t you part of Tristain’s nobility? What has Albion’s revolution got to do with you?”

“We are a consortium of nobles without borders who are worried about Halkeginia’s future. We wish to unify Halkeginia and regain the holy land that founder Brimir had once set foot on.“

Fouquet smirked, “Please stop talking nonsense. If that’s the case, why does your consortium of nobles without borders need me? I’m just a prisoner.”

“We need skilled magicians now more than ever. Will you lend us your help, Fouquet of the Crumbing Earth?”

Fouquet waved her hands and replied, ”Please stop dreaming…”

“You wish to unify Halkeginia? The Kingdoms of Tristain, Germania, Albion, Gallia, and a number of smaller kingdoms which are constantly at war with each other? Unifying them would be like a midsummer night’s dream.”

“Hmm! Getting the holy land back… how would you fight against the all-powerful elves?”

For hundreds of years, the holy land had been in the possession of the elves living north of Halkeginia. Humans had attempted countless crusades to get back the holy land, but failed miserably each time.

The elves, distinguished by their distinctly pointed ears and unique culture, had long life spans and were highly proficient with magic. As such, they were highly effective warriors. Defeating them would be an uphill battle.

“I have no love for nobles and I have no interest in Halkeginia. As for regaining the Holy land, the elves can stay there for all I care!”

The man in the black cloak took out his wand and replied, “I’ll give you a choice, Fouquet of the Crumbling Earth.”

“Let’s hear it out.”

“Either you become our comrade or…”

Fouquet finished the sentence for him, “Or I would immediately perish here? Am I correct?”

“That is correct. Since you already know our secret, I cannot let you live.”

“You nobles are really a conceited bunch. You’ll never consider other people’s feelings,” Fouquet said with a chuckle, “To put it nicely, you’re inviting me to join you, but in reality there is no other choice, is there?”

The man in the black cloak too replied with a chuckle, “That’s correct.”

“Let me be a part of your consortium then. I hate people who do not know how to give orders.”

“Let’s go then.”

Fouquet placed both her hands onto her chest and asked, “What’s the name of your organization?”

“Do you really wish to join us, or are you just toying with me?”

“I just want to know the name of the organization I will work for from now on.”

The man in the black cloak removed a key from his pocket, unlocked Fouquet’s cell and answered, “The Reconquistadors.”

 

Chapter Two: Her Majesty’s Melancholy

Morning.

Louise’s classmates stared wide-eyed at her as she entered, mostly because she towed behind her a chained, locked, and badly broken being with her into the classroom. Her face emitted an extremely dangerous aura, and her beautiful brow curved in anger.

She quickly fell into her chair.

“Whoa, Louise. What did you just drag in here?” Montmorency the Fragrance asked Louise, her jaw dropping.

“My familiar.”

“Oh right… it does look like that if I look closer.” Montmorency nodded. Although huge welts and dried blood plagued the face, one could still definitely recognize that this thing used to be called Saito. His head was locked up with his wrists, and he was dragged in like a sack of trash.

“What did he do?”

“He snuck into my bed.”

“OH!” Montmorency exaggeratively showed her shock, fraying her beautiful curvy hair. “Vulgar! Oh, sneaking into that bed is so… Oh! Dirty! Unclean! Very unclean.” She bit on her handkerchief, while mumbling about reputation and ancestors and the like.

Ruffling her fiery red hair, Kirche entered the classroom staring at Louise. “It must be your seduction, right, Louise? Dirty, dirty Louise, you seduced Saito like a whore, didn’t you?”

“Who’s dirty here? Isn’t that you? No way I’d seduce him!”

“Geez… all injured like that… poor kid… let me heal you.” Kirche hugged Saito’s head. Her huge breasts nearly suffocated him, but he offered no resistance, and rather enjoyed the sudden heaven that came to him.

“Whoa whoa whoa…”

“Are you all right? Where does it hurt? I’ll heal you with a spell.”

“Quit lying. You can’t use water-type healing spells, can you? Your runic name is “Heat”, as in heatstroke. Go and cool down a little.” Louise said indignantly.

“It’s Ardent. AR-DENT. I never thought your memory is Zero too.” Kirche glared at Louise’s chest. “Looks like the name Zero isn’t just about your chest and your magic!”

Louise’s face went red in an instant. Despite that, she laughed coldly, biting her lip. “Why do I have to take this from a woman who can only boast of her breasts? Are you saying that all a woman’s worth is in her breast size? That’s a really messed up way to think. Your brain must be empty or something… all the nutrients went to your b-breasts… your brain must… m-must be e-em-empty…” Although she tried to appear calm, her voice shook. She seemed to have taken a very personal offense.

“Your voice is shaking, Vallière.” And Kirche gently held Saito, his body still full of bruises and injuries, and touched his face with her chest. “Oh, my dear, do you think that big-breasted Kirche is stupid?”

“N…no… y-you’re very intelligent!” Saito appeared in ecstasy, burying his face into Kirche’s chest. Louise’s brow raised at that, and she forcefully pulled in the chain in her hand.

“You come over here!” Saito, locked head, wrists, and entire body, heavily fell on the ground. Louise stepped on his back, and coldly spoke to him. “Who gave you permission to speak in human? You’re supposed to say ‘woof’, dog.”

“Woof. Yes, ma’am.” Saito replied quietly.

“Stupid dog. Do it again. When you say ‘yes’ what do you do?”

“Woof.”

“Exactly. You say ‘woof’ once. Then what do you do with ‘I understand, mistress’?”

“Woof woof!”

“Riiiiight. You say ‘woof’ twice. What about ‘I wanna go to the bathroom’?”

“Woof woof woof!”

“Eeeeexactly. You say ‘woof’ three times. That’s pretty good vocabulary even for a stupid dog, so you don’t have to say anything else, got it?”

“……woof.”

“A ‘woof’ing dear is cute too!” Kirche said as she caressed Saito’s chin. “Awww… you can come to my bed tonight. How’s that? I can let ‘woof woof’ lick a lot of places you’d like!”

Saito suddenly sprang up on his knees, wagging his tail, which is a broom that Louise tied on his behind last night. There were even ears made of rags on his head.

“Woof! Woof! Woof woof!”

Louise silently and forcefully pulled the chain tight. “You little…” And she angrily stepped on him.

“Didn’t I say ‘woof’ the way you told me to?!” Saito had enough, stood up with a ‘I better give you a lesson’ face, and dove towards Louise. All she had to do, though, was pull the chains on his foot, and he fell with a heavy thud.

“You have absolutely no difference from a dog at its passionate phases. Not only did you wag your tail at a Zerbst woman, you even attacked your own mistress. Despicable. Very, very, very, very unbecoming.” Louise retrieved her whip from her bag, and began to vigorously beat Saito with it.

“Ouch! Stop! Stop! S-T-O-P!” His body locked up, Saito could only roll around on the floor.

“Ouch? Isn’t it ‘woof’? It’s ‘Woof’! Don’t all dogs say ‘woof’?”

Sounds of whipping reverberated throughout the lecture hall. Louise’s hair flew around as she chased Saito, who was trying to crawl away, and continuously whip him. Saito made whimpering ‘woof’s whenever a hit connected. Nobody would have thought that this Saito was the legendary familiar.

Saito, under continuous injuries and pain, fainted, and simply laid lifeless on the ground.

The students in the classroom watched this embarrassing scene, wondering: Did this commoner really beat Guiche the Bronze? Did he really catch Fouquet of the Crumbling Dirt?

CRACK! CRACK!

The students silently watched her beat Saito. She only noticed just now, with her full attention at beating Saito, that everybody was looking at her, and her face grew red. She hastily put away her whip and held her wrists. “Di…disciplining ends here!”

We know it’s disciplining, but geez…horrified by the scene, the students turned away.

“Aren’t you the one with the heat, Vallière?” Kirche said in boredom.

Louise viciously glared at her. Saito, under continuous injuries and pain, fainted, and simply laid lifeless on the ground. The teacher’s door opened, and Professor Kaita appeared.

The students sat in their seats. Professor Kaita was the one who scolded Professor Chevreuse, who fell asleep on guard duty during the Fouquet incident, and was told by Osman ‘You’re pretty easy to anger’. Sporting long, jet black hair, and a pitch black cape, his every move gave an unfriendly, uncomfortable feel. Although he was quite young, his unfriendly manner and cold look earned him ill repute from the students.

“Let’s start the class. As everyone knows, my runic name is ‘gust’. Kaita the Gust.” He was enveloped with shocked stares, and satisfied by that, he continued. “Do you know what the most powerful element is, Zerbst?”

“Isn’t that the ‘Void’ element?”

“I’m not asking for something of the legends. I want something realistic.”

Kirche then confidently answered, “Then it has to be the fire element, Professor Kaita,” along with her irresistible smile.

“Oh? Why do you think that?”

“Heat and passion can burn anything and everything, isn’t that so?”

“I’m afraid that is not so.” Kaita said as he pulled out his wand from his waist. “Let’s give that a try. Attack me with your best fire elemental attack.”

Kirche stood still in surprise. What is this teacher doing?

“What is it? I recall that you work best with fire elemental spells, am I right?” Kaita challenged.

“It won’t be a simple scald.” Kirche winked.

“No problem. Give me your best shot. Don’t tell me the flaming red hair of the Zerbst family is there just for looks?”

Kirche’s usual brisk smile disappeared. She retrieved her wand from her cleavage, her fiery, crimson long hair stood on their ends and crackled as if flames were erupting from them. She waved her wand, and from her extended right hand appeared a small fireball. As Kirche chanted her spell, the fireball expanded, resulting in a huge flaming sphere of a meter in diameter. The students ducked under their desks in panic. Her wrist turned and spiraled towards her chest, and released the fireball.

Kaita made no attempt to dodge the giant sphere of fire heading towards him. He raised his wand, and made sweeping waves as if swinging a sword. A raging gale suddenly began, and instantly scattered the huge fireball. It even knocked down Kirche, who was standing on the far other side of the room. “Everyone, I now tell you why the wind element is the strongest. It is quite easy. Wind can sweep up everything. Fire, water, and dirt alike cannot find footing when faced against strong enough winds.” Kaita briskly announced. “Unfortunately, reality does not let me experiment this, but even Void would probably not stand. That is the wind element.”

Kirche stood, displeased, and locked her arms. Kaita paid her no attention, and continued. “The unseen wind shall be the shield that protects everyone, and if needed, the lance that scatters enemies. And one more reason that wind is the most powerful is…” He raised his wand, “YOBIKISUTA DERU WIND…” as he chanted his spell.

However, at this very moment, the door to the classroom opened, and a nervous Colbert entered. He dressed strangely, a huge, golden wig over his head. In close examination, his suit had the most intricate borders and decorations. Why is he dressed like that? Everyone thought.

“Professor Colbert?” Kaita raised a brow.

“Ahhh! I’m sorry, please excuse the intrusion, Professor Kaita.”

“Class is in session.” Kaita tersely replied, staring at Colbert.

“Today’s classes are henceforth canceled.” Colbert sternly announced. Cheers emanated from the classroom. To stop them, Colbert waved with both arms, and continued. “I have something to tell everyone.” Colbert exaggeratively tilted his head back, causing his wig to slide off to the ground. The tense mood Kaita built suddenly collapsed, as laughter enveloped the classroom.

Tabitha, who sat in front, pointed at his balded head and suddenly said, “Shiny.”

The laughter grew more intense. Kirche laughed while rapping Tabitha’s shoulder, “You can really talk when you speak up once in a while!”

Colbert blushed, and loudly yelled. “SILENCE! Only commoners laugh out loud! Nobles only covertly snicker with their heads down even if they find something funny! Otherwise, the royal court will question our school’s educational results!” The classroom finally quieted to those words.

“All right. Everyone, today would be the most important day for Tristain Magical Academy. This is our great Founder Brimir’s birthday, a very celebratory day.” Colbert’s face straightened, and he placed his arms behind his back.

“It is highly probable that His Majesty’s daughter, the beautiful flower that we Tristainians can proudly boast to the rest of Halkeginia, Princess Henrietta, will, to our great fortune, pass by the Academy on her way back from visiting Germania.”

Whispers and chatter filled the room.

“Therefore, we must not allow any slack. As this is very sudden news, we have begun preparations to receive her to the best of our abilities. Due to this, today’s classes are hereby cancelled. All students, please put on your formal wear, and assemble at the main entrance.” The students anxiously nodded in unison. Colbert severely nodded in return, and loudly announced, “This is an excellent opportunity to let Her Majesty the Princess know that everyone has matured as model nobles. Everyone must prepare to their best to let Her Majesty witness this fact! Dismissed!”

 

* * *
Four golden-helmeted stallions led a carriage quietly on the road to the Magic Academy. The carriage was exquisitely adorned with gold, silver, and platinum sculptures. Those sculptures are the Royal Seals. On one of those, a unicorn crossed with a crystal staff signaled that this carriage belongs to Her Majesty the Princess.

One can find, upon closer examination, that the stallions drawing the carriage were not normal horses. They were unicorns like the one on the Royal Seal. Unicorns, which, by legend, would only allow the purest girls ride them, were the best for leading the Princess’s carriage.

The carriage’s windows had ivy borders and coverings, as if disallowing the outside from looking in. Behind the Princess’s carriage is Cardinal Mazarin, who has held all Tristain political authority with an iron grip since His Majesty passed away. His carriage’s splendor does not lose to Her Majesty the Queen’s. In fact, his was even more embellished. The difference of these two carriages on the road clearly shows who currently holds the top authority in Tristain.

Around the two carriages was the Imperial Guard, a division of mage guards. Composed of the most prominent noble families, the Magic Imperial Guard is the pride of all nobles in the country. Every noble male dreams of wearing the black cape of the Magic Imperial Guard, and every noble female dreams of being their brides. This Imperial Guard is Tristain’s symbol of prosperity.

The road is paved with flowers as commoners cheered from the roadside. Every time the carriages passed them, one can hear “Long live Tristain! Long live Princess Henrietta!” and sometimes even “Long live Cardinal Mazarin!” though that pales in comparison to the Princess. He is not well-regarded as he is rumored to be of commoner blood. Some say it’s jealousy to his position. As the carriage’s curtains opened, and as the crowds see the young Princess, the cheers get ever more passionate. She also returned a genial smile to the people.

 

* * *
Henrietta closed the curtains, and deeply sighed, losing the rose-like smile that she just sent to the crowds. All that was left was distress and deep melancholy unbecoming of her age. The Princess is 17 this year. With a slim figure, light blue eyes, high nose, she is an eye catching beauty. Her slender fingers played with her crystal staff. As of Royal blood, she is, of course, a mage.

Neither the cheers along the road nor the flowers flying in the air could cheer her up. She seemed to be holding deep political and romantic anxieties.

Sitting beside her, Mazarin watched her while playing with his beard. Wearing a hat like that of a priest and a grey formal suit, he was a slim and frail man of forty-some years old. His hair and beard have already grown white, and even his fingers looked like skin on bones, creating an appearance far too old for his age. Ever since His Majesty died, his iron grip on both foreign relations and internal politics have considerably aged him.

He just left his carriage and entered the Princess’s.

He wanted to talk about politics, but the Princess only sighed, and paid no attention.

“That is your thirteenth time today, Your Majesty.” Mazarin noted, annoyed and concerned.

“Hmm? What?”

“That sighing. Those of royalty shouldn’t do that all the time in front of their subordinates.”

“Royalty?! What?” Henrietta was shocked. “Aren’t you the King of Tristain? Doesn’t Your Highness know about his rumors on the streets?”

“I am not aware.” Mazarin replied indifferently. He was lying. He knew about everything in Tristain, and even Halkeginia, down to the amount of scales on the fire dragons living in the volcanoes. He knew all about it. He just pretended that he didn’t.

“Then let me tell you. Tristain’s Royal family has beauty, but not its scepter. Cardinal, you’re the one holding the scepter. Bird’s bones wearing a gray hat…”

Mazarin blinked. The words ‘bird’s bones’ coming out of the Princess stung. “Please don’t speak of commoners’ rumors so carelessly…”

“Why not? They’re just rumors. I’ll marry the King of Germania as you told me to.”

“We can’t help that. An alliance with Germania is extremely important to Tristain.” said Mazarin.

“That I know.”

“Your Majesty understands the rebellion being carried out in that ‘White Country’ Albion under those idiots? Those people can’t seem to tolerate the existence of royalty in Halkeginia.” He frowned.

“Impolite, unrefined imbeciles! They’re trying to hang that poor prince! Even if the entire world can forgive their actions, Founder Brimir shall not forgive them. I wouldn’t forgive them.”

“Indeed. However, Albion’s nobility has unsurpassed power. The Albionian Royal Family might not even survive tomorrow. One of Founder Brimir’s three bestowed royalties is going to fall, just like that. Meh… countries that cannot solve their own internal strifes have no right to exist.”

“The Albionian Royal Family is nothing like Germania’s. They’re all my relatives. You have no right to say that even as Cardinal.”

“I humbly apologize. I will ask for forgiveness from Founder Brimir before I go to bed tonight. However, what I just said is the truth, Your Majesty.”

Henrietta only sadly shook her head. Even that gesture radiated her beauty.

“Word is that those stupid Albionian nobles have the gall to declare how they’re going to unite all of Halkeginia as one. It certainly seems like those people would set their sights at Tristain after extinguishing their royalty. If it really turns out like that, it would be too late if we don’t take steps to prepare right now.” Mazarin severely explained to Henrietta. She looked out the window, pretending to pay no attention. “Reading the opponent’s actions and countering it at the first available opportunity is true politics, Your Majesty. If we can create an alliance with Germania, then we can create a covenant to counter Albion’s new government, and ensure this little country’s survival.”

Henrietta continued to sigh. Mazarin opened the curtain and looked outside, and saw the shadow of his pride. A young, breathtakingly sharp-looking noble, sporting a feather-hat and long beard, marched with the convoy outside. A medal of a griffin fastens his black cape, and one look on his mount shows why. It had an eagle’s head, wings, and talons, and it had a lion’s body and hind legs. A griffin.

This man is the leader of one of three Mage Guard divisions, the Griffin Knights, Captain Lord Wardes. His division is the most memorable amongst the entire Mage Guard, and especially to Mazarin. Wielding formidable magical prowess, the Mage Guard is organized through extremely selective trials amongst nobles, and each member rides a magical beast to his division’s name. They are the Tristainian symbols of fear and pride.

“You summoned me, Your Highness?” Wardes’s eyes twinkled, and approached the carriage window on his griffin. The window slowly opened. Mazarin looked out.

“Wardes-kun, Her Majesty is feeling depressed. Can you get something for us that can cheer her up?”

“Understood.” Wardes nodded, and observed the road with the gaze of an eagle. He quickly found a small section of the street, and had his griffin head there. Pulling out his long staff from his waist, he chanted a short spell, and briskly waved it. A small gust erupted from the ground, collecting all the petals strewn on the ground into Wardes’ hands. He returned to the carriage with the bouquet, and presented it to Mazarin. Mazarin stroked his beard, and suggested, “May Captain please present this to Her Majesty yourself?”

“That would truly be a great honor.” Wardes saluted, and turned to the other side of the carriage. The window slowly opened, Henrietta extended a hand to receive it, and showed her left hand to him. Wardes emotionally held her left hand, and lightly kissed it.

Wardes emotionally held her left hand, and lightly kissed it.

Still quite upset, Henrietta asked, “What is your name?”

“Your Majesty’s Mage Guard, Griffin Knights leader, Lord Wardes.” He gratefully lowered his head and replied.

“A model of nobility. How very fine of you.”

“I am merely a lowly servant for Your Majesty.”

“There have been fewer nobles who would say this lately. When Grandfather was still alive, oh my… under the great Philippe III’s reign, the whole nobility shared that kind of marvelous chivalry.”

“Sad times nowadays, Your Majesty.”

“May I expect your sincerity when I get in such upsetting times again?”

“When that happens, no matter where I am, in battle or in the skies, no matter what I must leave behind, I will run over to serve Your Majesty.”

Henrietta nodded. Wardes saluted once again, and left the carriage’s side.

“Is that noble quite capable?” she asked Mazarin.

“Lord Wardes. His runic name is ‘Lightning.’ Even the ‘White Country’ can only boast of few people who can prove to be a match against him.”

“Wardes… I think I’ve heard of that place before.”

“I think that is close to Lord Vallière’s territory.”

“Vallière?” Henrietta’s memory came to being, and she nodded. That name is now in their destination, the Magic Academy.

“Cardinal, do you remember the name of the noble that caught Fouquet the Crumbling Dirt?”

“I’m afraid not.”

“Aren’t you about to knight them soon?” Henrietta was shocked.

Mazarin was uninterested. “I think it’s high time for knighting rules to change. One needs to serve in the military to deserve that. How can the title of a knight be so easily given away for arresting a thief? Either way, it seems we would be fighting Albion with Germania soon, and it will not be a good idea to lose our nobles’ loyalty due to jealousy.”

“You made a lot of decisions without me knowing.”

Mazarin did not reply. Continuing to mumble, Henrietta remembered that the name Vallière was among the nobles who caught Fouquet. It will all work out, Henrietta thought, and calmed down.

Mazarin looked at the Princess. “Your Majesty, it seems that there is some… instability between the Royal Court and part of the nobility.”

Henrietta shook.

“Something about intervening in the Princess’s marriage, and destroying our alliance with Germania.”

Cold sweat dripped from Henrietta’s forehead.

“You have not been exposed to them, have you, Your Majesty?”

After a length of silence, Henrietta replied annoyingly, “…No.”

“I’ll take Your Majesty’s word for it then.”

“I am the Princess. I do not lie.” Henrietta breathed a sigh of relief.

“…your fourteenth time, Your Majesty.”

“Just something in my mind. All I can do is sigh now.”

“As royalty, your country’s stability comes before your feelings.”

“I’m like that all the time.” Henrietta replied apathetically. She looked at the flowers in her hands, and said dejectedly, “…are flowers on the road not a blessing, Cardinal?”

“All I know is a flower picked to a person’s hands is the flower’s blessing.”

 

* * *
As the Princess went through the Academy gates, rows of students raised their staffs in unison, silent and serious. After the main gates were the doors to the central tower. Osman stood at attention there to receive the Princess. As the carriages stopped, servants rushed to lay down red carpet to its door. Guards tensely announced her arrival.

“Her Royal Highness of the Kingdom of Tristain, Princess Henrietta has arrived.”

The first out the door, however, was Cardinal Mazarin.

The students grunted, but Mazarin paid no attention, standing at the side of the carriage, holding the Princess’s hand as she alighted. The students finally applauded. A youthful, flowery smile emerged from the Princess’s face as she elegantly waved.

“That’s the Princess of Tristain? Heh… I’m better looking than that.” Kirche mumbled. “Oh my dear, who do you think is prettier?” She turned to Saito, locked tight and lying flat on the ground.

“Woof.”

“I can’t understand you if you just woof! Who is it?”

Saito looked towards Louise, who was attentively looking at the Princess. If only she could stay quiet like that, she is a very pure, moving, and quite beautiful. No matter how mad she gets, how cold she treats him, and even if he is treated like a dog, this soft look and such a stunning appearance can put Saito in a trance.

Louise suddenly blushed, which Saito saw. What is this about? He turned towards whatever she was facing. A hat-wearing, rather cool-looking noble, riding on a magical beast with an eagle’s head and a lion’s body. Louise was watching him enthralled.

Saito found it weird. That noble seems like a nice guy, but that’s no reason to look at him so deeply and even blush like that. Am I being jealous? He thought. No, that can’t be. I don’t have that kind of relationship with Louise. He rebutted himself.

No matter, Saito thought. I still have Kirche. A brunette with a well-endowed cleavage. A passionate beauty. If it turns out like that, I might as well go for perfect Kirche. He thought rather excitedly. But Kirche was blushing and watching that noble as well. Saito lowered his head, suddenly feeling the heaviness of all the chains on him, weighing him to the ground. Tabitha simply read her book as if the Princess’s arrival meant nothing to her.

“And you just stay like that.” He said to Tabitha. She raised her head and looked at what Louise and Kirche saw, looked at Saito again, and simply mumbled, “Just three days.”

 

* * *
That night…

Saito laid in his straw bed, watching Louise. It seems like she couldn’t calm down. She would stand up one moment, and sit down the next, worrying about something while hugging her pillow, ever since she saw that noble that day. After that, she said nothing, returned to her room like a ghost, and since then sat on her bed just like that.

“You’re… acting weird.” Saito started, but Louise made no answer.

He stood up, and waved in front of her eyes. She didn’t move.

“A bit too weird.” He then pulled on her hair. Louise’s hair was very delicate, very soft, as if even pulling them slightly would break them off, that kind of soft. He put in some force to the pull, and she still made no reaction. Same for when he pulled on her face.

“Time to change to your pajamas.” He grandly saluted to Louise, and reached for her blouse, slowly unbuttoning it. Now she had only her underwear left. Still, she did not move, as if in a spell. Boring… what’s wrong with her? Geez… Saito coughed.

“Louise-sama. From my world there’s this art called ‘breast-expanding massage’.”

He made that up, of course. Saito blushed.

“You rub it like this, and then it’ll slowly get bigger. You can say it’s a kind of magic.” Saito extended his hands, reached around as if to hug her, and started rubbing her back. “What’s this? Where are they? Why aren’t they there? Oh… this is the back.” And then he shook his head on purpose. “Geez… I got it wrong. They’re both flat, that’s why.”

Louise still didn’t move, not even to this rather disgusting act from Saito.

“I… what am I…IDIOT! WHAT DID I JUST DO?!” After realizing that, he forcefully shook his head, and beat it with his own hands on the bed. He was visibly embarrassed that he actually did that. And then he was depressed. He knows that as a person, being scolded and yelled at is sometimes glory. But if it only hurts if someone says something, then he isn’t worth being noticed.

Just as he was thrashing about, somebody knocked on the door.

“Who could it be?” Saito asked Louise.

The knocks were very orderly. It started with two long knocks, and then three short ones…

Louise suddenly woke up from her trance. She put on her clothes, stood up, and opened the door.

Standing there was a girl, covered entirely in a black veil.

She looked around, and then walked in, closing the door behind her.

“…you are?” A shocked Louise barely managed to voice.

The veiled girl made a ‘shh’ gesture with a finger on her mouth, and took out a staff from her black cape, lightly waving it while chanting a short spell. Glowing powder filled the room.

“A silencing spell?” Louise asked. The veiled girl nodded.

“There might be extra ears and eyes around.”

After making sure the room had no magical ears and no peeping holes, she slowly removed her veil.

In front of them is really Princess Henrietta. Saito held his breath. Louise is already very cute, but this Princess can match her in cuteness, and still have this admirable elegance.

Louise frantically went down on her knees. Saito didn’t know what to do, and just stood there, with no idea what was going on.

Henrietta coolly, and gently spoke. “It has been a while, Vallière.”


Chapter Three: A Childhood Friend’s Request

Princess Henrietta, who had just appeared in Louise’s room, looked like she had been overcome with emotion, and hugged the kneeling girl.

“Oh, Louise, Louise, my dear Louise!”

“This won’t do, Your Highness. Coming to a humble place like this…….”

Louise said ceremoniously.

“Oh! Louise! Louise Françoise! Please stop acting so formally! You and I are friends! We are friends, are we not?”

“I am not worthy of such kind words. Your Highness.”

Louise replied with a steely, strained voice. Saito, stupefied, just stared as the pair of beautiful girls embraced.

“Stop that, please! Neither the Cardinal, my Mother, or those greedy court aristocrats who buzz around wearing friendly faces are here! Oh, don’t I have any friends who will open up to me? If even Louise Françoise, my old friend whom I’ve missed dearly, acts so distant, I would just die!”

“Your Highness……”

Louise lifted her face.

“When we were little children, didn’t we get together and chase butterflies at the palace courtyard? And got all muddy?”

With a shy face, Louise answered.

“……Yes, and La Porte-sama the chamberlain told us off for getting our clothes so dirty.”

“Yes! That’s right, Louise! We were arguing over those puffy cream cakes, and ended up having a real scuffle! Oh, whenever we fought, it was me who always lost. You would grab my hair, and I’d just start crying.”

“Not at all, princess achieved victory on at least one occasion.”

Louise said, looking sentimental.

“You remembered! Looking at the two of us, one could call that battle the Siege of Amiens!”

“That was when we were fighting over a dress in princess’ bedroom, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, in the middle of our ‘Make-Believe Royal Court’, we ended up fighting over who would play princess! And it was my blow to your stomach, Louise Françoise, that successfully decided it.”

“I’d fainted in the presence of princess.”

After that, the two of them exchanged glances and broke out in laughter. Saito, amazed, just kept watching them in that state. The princess may have looked like a lady, but she was actually a tomboy.

“That’s more like it. Louise. Ah, I’m getting so nostalgic, tears are coming out.”

“So how do you guys know each other?”

Saito asked, as Louise closed her eyes in reminiscence before answering.

“I had the pleasure of serving as princess’ playmate back when we were children.”

After that, Louise turned back to Henrietta.

“But, I am deeply moved that princess would remember such things……. I thought you’d already forgotten about me.”

The princess gave a deep sigh and sat down on the bed.

“How could I forget? During those times, every day was fun. There was nothing at all to worry about.”

There was a profound sadness in her voice.

“Princess?”

Louise looked worried as she peered into Henrietta’s face.

“How I envy you. Freedom is such a wonderful thing, Louise Françoise.”

“What are you saying? You’re the royal princess, are you not?”

“A princess born in her kingdom is like a bird being raised in a cage. You go here and there on your master’s every whim…….”

Henrietta said, looking lonely as she gazed at the moon outside the window. She then held Louise’s hands and gave a sweet smile before speaking.

“I… I’m getting married.”

“……You have my congratulations.”

Louise, who somehow felt the sadness in that tone, spoke in a subdued voice.

It was at that moment that Henrietta noticed Saito, who had been sitting on his bundle of straw.

“Oh, forgive me. Was I intruding?”

“Intruding? How would that be?”

“Well, isn’t he your lover? Oh no! It seems I was so caught up reminiscing that I didn’t realize my blunder!”

“Huh? Lover? That creature?”

“Stop calling me that.”

Saito said with a disappointed voice.

“Princess! That’s just my familiar! Don’t even joke about it being my lover!”

Louise shook her head wildly, denying Henrietta’s words.

“Familiar?”

Henrietta looked at Saito with a blank expression on her face.

“But he looks like a human……”

“I am a human, Princess.”

Saito gave a strained greeting to Henrietta.

And he was even more hurt by how hard Louise had denied they were lovers. Even though that really was the case, it hurt all the same.

He recalled Louise’s profile as she gazed at the other young noble during the day.

At any rate…… I’m a familiar. An earthling. Not a noble.

And I want to go home. I want to eat a teriyaki burger. Yeah, and I might even receive an answer at the online dating service. Painful thoughts like these were swirling together into a chain.

Feeling a great weight upon him, he put his hand on the wall. As fast as Saito had become elated, his feelings fell just as soon. What a hectic personality.

“True, true. Oh, Louise Françoise, you may have changed since our younger days, but you are still quite the same.”

“I didn’t make it my familiar because I wanted to.”

Louise looked disappointed. Henrietta gave off another sigh.

“Princess, what happened?”

“No, it’s nothing. Forgive me, oh, I’m so ashamed of myself. It’s not something I should tell you…… but I am just so……”

“Please tell me. What troubles are they that cause princess, as cheerful as she is, to sigh like this?”

“……No, I cannot tell you. Please forget I said anything. Louise.”

“I will not! Didn’t we use to talk about everything? Princess was the one who had called me a friend. Won’t you share your worries with your friend?”

After Louise spoke, Henrietta gave off a cheerful-looking smile.

“You’ve called me a friend, Louise Françoise. That makes me so happy.”

Henrietta nodded her head in determination, and began to talk.

“You must not speak to anyone about what I am about to tell you now.”

After that, she gave a quick glance in Saito’s direction.

“Should I step outside?”

Henrietta shook her head.

“A mage and her familiar are as one. I see no reason for you to leave.”

And with a sad tone, Henrietta started talking.

“I am to marry the Emperor of Germania…….”

“Germania, you say?!”

Louise, who hated Germania, spoke out in astonishment.

“That country of barbaric upstarts?!”

“Yes. But it can’t be helped. It must be done to solidify our alliance.”

Henrietta explained the political climate of Halkeginia to Louise.

There was an insurrection among the nobles of Albion, and it looked like the Royal Family would soon be overthrown. If the rebels won, then the next thing would be the invasion of Tristain. To defend against this, Tristain was looking to form an alliance with Germania. For the alliance’s sake, it was decided that Princess Henrietta would be married into the Germanian Imperial Family…….

“So that’s why……”

Louise said with a depressed voice. It was clear from Henrietta’s tone that she did not desire this wedding.

“It is alright. Louise, I have long since abandoned the notion of marrying the one whom I love.”

“Princess……”

“Those two-faced Albion nobles do not want Tristain and Germania to become allies. Two arrows are easier to break when they are not tied together.”

Henrietta murmured.

“……Therefore, they have been searching frantically for anything that would interfere with the marriage.

“And they’ve found something……”

Saito didn’t know anything about the alliance or Albion, but in any case, it seemed like it was something serious. Yup, as big as another Yagoto, Saito thought with a nod.

“Then this is about that thing that could get in the way of princess’ wedding?”

Louise asked, her face looking pale, and Henrietta gave a regretful nod.

“Oh, Founder Brimir… please save this unfortunate princess……”

Henrietta covered her face with her hands, and crumbled on the floor. Saito was a little shocked at the dramatic gesture. He’d never seen anything so grandiose in his life.

“Tell me, please! Princess! Just what is it that could interfere with the princess’ wedding?”

Louise, like she had also been infected, rattled off with an agitated look. With both hands still on her face, Henrietta looked like she was in pain as she began muttering.

“……It is a letter that I had written some time ago.”

“A letter?”

“Yes. If those Albion nobles get their hands on it…… they would probably send it forward to the Germanian Imperial Family as soon as they could.”

“What kind of letter could that be?”

“……That I cannot tell you. But if the Germanian Imperial Family were to read it…… they would never forgive me. The marriage will fall through, and with it, the alliance with Tristain. Then Tristain would stand alone against the strength of Albion.”

Louise gave a gasp and seized Henrietta’s hands.

“Where would that letter be? The letter that would bring crisis to Tristain!”

Henrietta shook her head.

“It is not with us. The truth of the matter is, it is already in Albion.”

“Albion! But then…! Is it already in the enemy’s hands?”

“No…… the one who holds the letter is not with the rebels of Albion. As the conflict between the rebels and his kinsmen unfolded, Prince Wales of the Royal Family……”

“The Prince Wales? The Prince Valiant?”

Henrietta bent back and laid down on the bed.

“Oh, it’s a disaster! Sooner or later, Prince Wales will fall captive to the rebels!! And when that happens, the letter will come to light! And everything would be ruined! Ruined! Without an alliance, Tristain would have to take on Albion by itself!”

Louise held her breath.

“Then, Princess, the favor that you’re asking of me……”

“Impossible! It’s impossible, Louise! How could I be so terrible? It’s all confusing! When I think about it, I couldn’t ask you to do such a dangerous thing as to go to Albion while this conflict between the nobles and the royalists is unfolding!”

“What are you saying? Be it the kettles of hell, or into the jaws of a dragon, if it’s for princess’ sake, I’ll go anywhere! There is no way the third daughter of the House of la Vallière, Louise Françoise, could overlook such a crisis for princess and Tristain!”

Louise kneeled down and lowered her head reverently.

“Please leave this matter to me, the one who has captured Fouquet the [Crumbling Earth].”

Saito, who had been leaning on his arm against the wall, turned to look at Louise and spoke.

“Hey, wasn’t that me?”

“You’re my familiar.”

“Woof.”

“A familiar’s achievement, is its master’s achievement.”

Louise said with perfect confidence.

“And a familiar’s mistake?”

“That would be your mistake, wouldn’t it?”

Though he felt somewhat cheated, it was useless to object when Louise got into her usual threatening attitude, so Saito just nodded half-heartedly.

“So you will help me? Louise Françoise! You are a dear friend!”

“Of course! Princess!”

Louise grasped Henrietta’s hands, and as the former spoke heatedly, the latter gave in and started crying.

“Princess! I, Louise, forever friend of the Princess, will be your confidante! Have you forgotten my vow of eternal loyalty?”

“Ah, the loyalty. This loyalty and sincere friendship! I’m deeply moved. I will never forget through life your loyalty and friendship! Louise Françoise!”

Saito opened his mouth gaping, and stared half amazed at the two. It was like a conversation between two people who were getting drunk with their own words. Ah, so this is how it’s like for nobles and princesses, it’s troublesome, Saito was strangely convinced as he watched.

“Louise. Sorry to bother you while you’re reaffirming your friendship and everything.”

“What?”

“Going to Albion in the middle of a war is fine, but what use am I gonna be?”

“I’ve bought you a sword. You can use that, at least.”

“Yeah. I’ll do my best……”

Saito lowered his head gloomily. Come to think of it, they haven’t talked about the Legendary Familiar Gandálfr’s rune that had appeared on the back of his left hand yet. But even if I say it, it’s just going to be a waste, Saito thought.

Legendary or not, she still treats me like a dog.

“Then shall we go to Albion, find the Crown Prince of Wales, and get the letter back, princess?”

“Yes, that is correct. I feel confident that you, the ones who have caught Fouquet the [Crumbling Earth], should be able to accomplish this difficult mission.”

“As you wish. How urgent is this task?”

“I’ve heard that the nobles of Albion have managed to drive the royalists into a corner of the country. It will just be a matter of time before they are defeated.”

Louise’s face looked serious as she bowed to Henrietta.

“Then tomorrow, we shall depart.”

Afterwards, Henrietta turned her gaze towards Saito. Saito’s heart skipped a beat. Though Louise was also foolishly lovely and neat, Princess Henrietta was so beautiful that he almost gasped. Her millet-colored hair, trimmed right above her eyebrows, was swimming gracefully. Her blue eyes shone brilliantly like the southern seas.

White skin, on which floated a feeling of purity, a nose like a priceless and finely shaped sculpture…….

Saito stared at Henrietta as if he was in a trance. Louise looked at this with a chilly gaze. It didn’t seem like she was in a good mood.

Why are you looking at me like that, Louise? Ah, is it because I’m staring at the princess with admiration? Could you possibly be getting jealous? But weren’t you blushing when you saw that noble with the feathered hat? And weren’t you completely out of it after that?

It’s funny how jealous you’re getting, Louise. Saito shook his head.

Rather than your lover, aren’t I just your familiar?

Will I never be more than a dog for you?

I’m just your dog, so why are you looking at me like that, Louise? Ah, is it because I am a dog? Is it because someone like me, who’s just at the level of a dog, is looking at her? My apologies. Please forgive me for ever being born. Woof.

Saito’s head spun for a mere two seconds.

Louise looked away from Saito with a “Hmph”. Saito turned away as well.

Henrietta didn’t notice the subtle exchange between Saito and Louise, and she began speaking in a cheerful voice.

“Dependable familiar-san.”

“Yes? You mean me?”

After Henrietta called him dependable, the slumping Saito became happier.

“Naw, that’s too much. Just treat me like a dog.”

“Please keep taking care of my most precious friend.”

And then she gently held out her hand. A handshake? he thought, but the back of her hand was turned upwards. What sort of gesture was this?

Louise spoke up with an astonished voice.

“That won’t do! Princess! To offer your hand to a familiar!”

“It is alright. This person will be acting for my sake, and without a reward, I won’t have his loyalty.”

“Ah……”

“Offering a hand? The way someone does to a dog? Is that how you treat your dogs?”

Saito stooped and lowered his head.

“That’s not it. Ooh, this is why you’re a dog……, a commoner dog who doesn’t know anything. When she offers her hand, it means you can kiss her. That’s saying it plainly.”

“That’s…how aggressive……”

Saito’s mouth opened widely. He’d never thought that he’d be allowed to kiss a princess from another world.

Henrietta smiled sweetly at Saito. His smile appeared business-like to other people, but Saito was thinking 『I’d love to』. To be liked by such a princess wouldn’t be half bad, he thought.

Saito grinned deliberately at Louise. Louise muttered under her breath and turned her face away.

Ah, what, so you *are* getting jealous. Just look at yourself. This is what you get for getting charmed by that noble with the plumed hat and blushing, Saito thought.

Saito caught Henrietta’s hand, and then firmly pulled her to him.

“Eh?”

Henrietta absentmindedly opened her mouth in surprise. Then before they could blink, Saito pushed his lips against Henrietta’s.

“Mmph……”

What tender, tiny lips they were. Henrietta’s eyes opened widely into circles.

The circles went white. The strength left Henrietta’s body, and, slipping through Saito’s hands, she fell to the bed.

“She fainted? Wh-why’s that?”

“What are you doing to her highness?! You d-d-d-dog!”

“Woof?”

When Saito turned around, the bottom of Louise’s shoe was flying towards him.

Saito took Louise’s jump kick in the face and tumbled to the floor.

“What was that for?!”

When Saito said that, Louise stamped angrily on his face.

“It was on her hand she gave you permission, the back of her hand! A kiss on the back of the hand! Why’d you give her an all-out kiss on the lips?!”

Louise was so mad, it looked like she was going to catch fire.

“How should I know! I don’t know anything about your rules here.”

As his face was getting trampled, Saito spread his hands and spoke plainly. Getting stepped on was something Saito had experience with.

“Y-y-y-you, you, you dog……”

Louise’s voice began trembling in fury.

Henrietta rose from the bed while shaking her head. Louise rushed to kneel beside her. She then grabbed Saito’s head and pushed it down to the bed.

“I-I’m sorry! My familiar’s misconduct, is my own misconduct! And you say it, too! Apologize!”

The ever-prideful Louise was apologizing to someone. On top of that, she was shaking all over. If I don’t do what she says, she’ll probably give me hell for it later.

“Sorry. I only did it since you told me I could kiss you.”

“And where can you find someone who would go for the lips when they hear that?!”

“Right here.”

Louise struck Saito with her fist.

“How forgetful. Who gave you permission to use human language? Just bark. Dog. Come on, bark, I say. Everyone look at the doggie. Stupid dog.”

Then she stamped stamped on Saito’s head and ground it against the floor.

“I-it’s alright. Loyalty must be rewarded, after all.”

Henrietta bowed her head, giving real effort to appear calm.

At that time, the door slammed open and someone came flying in.

“You! The princess! What do you think you’re doing?!”

It was the one who had dueled with Saito before, Guiche de Gramont.

With an ever-present imitation rose in his hand.

“What do you want?”

Saito said from where he lay on the floor as Louise continued stepping on his face.

“Guiche! You! Were you eavesdropping? Did you hear our conversation just now?!”

Guiche, however, didn’t answer the pair’s questions and just stood in a daze.

“For my hunt of the rose-like, lovely princess bringing me to this place…… and then seeing a theft, so to speak, occur through the door’s keyhole…… that idiot commoner taking a kiss…….”

Guiche flourished his imitation rose and cried.

“Duel with me! You scoundrel!”

Saito sprang up and drove his fist into Guiche’s face.

“Agah!”

“Duel away then, stupid! I still remember how you broke my arm! Let’s go!”

Saito gave Guiche, who had fallen to the floor, a hard kick, then he sat on him and started wringing his neck.

“Th-that’s not fair! You! Gah!”

“So, what now? This guy overheard princess’ story. Shall we have him hanged?”

If the opponent was a guy, Saito could be very serious.

“That might be best…… it’s really too bad he had to hear our conversation just now……”

Guiche caught Saito off-guard, and stood up.

“Your Highness! By all means, please appoint me, Guiche de Gramont, to this difficult mission.”

“Oh? You?”

“You go to sleep.”

Saito swept Guiche’s legs. Guiche fell down gaudily.

“Let me join your group!”

Guiche yelped as he collapsed.

“Why?”

Guiche’s face reddened.

“I wish to be of use to Her Highness……”

Saito was sensing something from Guiche’s appearence right then.

“You, are you in love? With the princess?!”

“Don’t say such rude things. I am, absolutely, just wanting to be of use to Her Highness.”

However, Guiche’s face was burning intensely as he said this. Telling by the passionate look he was giving Henrietta, he was certainly under her charm.

“But you have a girlfriend. Who was that again? Uh, Monmon-something……”

“It’s Montmorency.”

“So what’s going on?”

But Guiche was silent. Ah, I see, Saito thought.

“Did you get dumped? She completely dumped you, I bet?”

“Q-quiet! It was all your fault!”

It was the matter of the perfume in the dining hall. When he was caught two-timing, Guiche was dripping with wine from the top of his head courtesy of Montmorency.

“Gramont? Ah, of General Gramont?”

Henrietta fixed her eyes on Guiche’s vacantly looking face.

“I am his son, Your Highness.”

Guiche stood up and gave a reverent bow.

“Are you also saying that you wish to help me?”

“It would be an unexpected blessing for me if I were to become a part of that mission.”

Henrietta smiled at Guiche’s enthusiastic expression.

“Thank you. Your father is a great, brave noble, and it seems you have inherited his blood. Then, please. Would you help this unfortunate princess, Sir Guiche?”

“Her Highness has called my name! Her Highness! Tristain’s lovely flower, has smiled her rosy smile at me!”

Guiche, having felt too much excitement, fell on his back in a faint.

“Is he alright?”

Saito poked at Guiche. Louise paid no mind to the disturbance and spoke in a serious voice.

“Well then, tomorrow morning, we shall depart for Albion.”

“We have heard that Prince Wales has set up camp somewhere around Newcastle in Albion.”

“Understood. I’ve travelled through Albion with my sisters before, so I’m familiar with the geography.”

“It will be a perilous journey. If the nobles of Albion discover your mission, they will do everything in their power to get in your way.”

Henrietta sat at the desk and, with Louise’s feather quill and some parchment, wrote a letter out.

Henrietta quietly gazed at the letter she had written herself, before she began shaking her head sadly.

“Princess? What’s the matter?”

Louise, thinking something was up, called out.

“I-it’s nothing.”

Henrietta blushed, gave a nod as if she had settled on something, then added another line at the end. After that, she murmured in a soft voice.

ZnT02-087.jpg

“Founder Brimir……. Please forgive this selfish princess. Even though my country is in distress, I cannot help but write this one sentence……. I cannot lie about my own feelings…….”

Henrietta’s facial expression made it seem like she had written a love-letter rather than a secret message. Louise couldn’t say anything more, and just looked at Henrietta quietly.

Henrietta rolled up the letter she had written. She waved her staff. Out of nowhere, sealing wax appeared on the rolled-up letter, and a seal pressed down on it. Then she handed the letter over to Louise.

“When you meet the Crown Prince Wales, please pass this letter to him. He should then return the letter in question immediately.”

After that, Henrietta removed a ring from the ring finger on her right hand, and gave it to Louise.

“This is a 『Water Ruby』 that I had received from my mother. It should work as a good-luck charm, at least. If you have any money concerns, please sell this to get some travel funds.”

Louise bowed her head in silence.

“This mission is for the future of Tristain. For that, my mother’s ring will protect you from the harsh winds blowing in Albion.”

 


Chapter Four: Port City La Rochelle

Although dawn had just broken, Saito, Guiche and Louise had already started preparing the saddles for their horses. Slung over Saito’s back was Derflinger. Because of its length, it could not be attached to the waist.

Louise was dressed in her academy uniform, the only difference was that she now wore horse riding boots instead of shoes. Judging from that, it looked like a great deal of time would be spent riding the horse.

How far would Albion be from here? I’m still not used to riding a horse… Most probably my waist will ache from the riding… he thought to himself.

Just before setting off, Guiche spoke rather awkwardly.

“I have a request…”

“What is it that you want?” Saito responded with hostility while putting his belongings onto the saddle. He still could not forgive Guiche for hurting him that badly during their fight some time back.

“I wish to bring my familiar along.”

“Do you have a familiar in the first place?”

“Of course I do. All magicians have one.”

Louise and Saito looked at each other, then looked at Guiche again.

“Where’s your familiar now?”

“Here.” Guiche replied while pointing to the ground.

“But there’s nothing on the ground,” Louise said.

Guiche responded by tapping his feet on the ground. Just then, a giant brown creature popped out of the ground.

“Verdandi! Oh, my cute Verdandi!”

Saito, dumbfounded, asked, “What in the world is that creature?”

“What do you mean creature? This is my cute little familiar Verdandi.”

“You mean that your familiar is that big thing over there?”

Upon closer inspection, that giant brown creature was actually a mole with a size equivalent to a small bear.

“Yes. Ahh… My Verdandi, you look so cute from any angle I look. Have you eaten your meal of earthworms before you arrived here?”

The gigantic mole hemmed happily in response.

“Really? That’s wonderful!” Guiche said while rubbing cheek to cheek with his familiar.

“Actually… I don’t think that you could bring it along with us…” Saito said in disgust.

“That’s right Guiche. That creature moves underground right?”

“That’s right. Even though it’s slightly bigger that usual, Verdandi is still a mole all right.”

“How are we going to bring it along? We’re all riding on horses.” Louise said in perturbed fashion.

“That’s all right. Verdandi moves along quickly underground. Am I right, Verdandi?

The gigantic mole nodded in agreement.

“But we’re going to Albion! We can’t bring creatures that move underground!.” Louise explained.

Guiche, upon hearing that, knelt onto the ground and replied, “I cannot bear the separation with my dear Verdandi… Oh! The pain…”

At the same time, the giant mole seemed to pick up some scent from its nose and drew nearer and nearer to Louise.

“What is this stupid mole trying to do!?”

“Like master, like familiar. They both share the same interest – girls.” Saito said.

“Stop! Stop this right now!”

The giant mole knocked Louise off her feet and started sniffing all over her.

“Ah!!! Watch where you’re sniffing! Stop it!”

Louise being constantly poked by the giant mole’s nose, started to roll all over the ground. All that rolling disheveled her clothes and exposed her underwear. Louise was starting to get very annoyed…

Saito unconsciously started to be immersed in watching Verdandi and Louise just as if he was admiring a beautiful picture…

“Ah… How beautiful is the scene of a giant mole teasing a damsel.”

“I totally agree.”

Both Saito and Guiche nodded in unison.

“Stop blabbering nonsense over there, you oafs! Come over and help me quickly! Ahh!!!

The giant mole saw the ring at Louise’s right hand and started pecking it with its nose.

“You insolent mole! Don’t use your nose to sniff at the ring the highness has bestowed to me!.”

“I see now. It’s the ring. Verdandi loves jewels.”

“Such an irritating pest!”

“Please don’t call Verdandi an irritating pest. It’s because of me that Verdandi searches for precious stones and jewels. For an Earth magician, there’s nothing more helpful than this.”

Just as Louise was preparing to blow her top, a sudden gust of wind came out of nowhere and blew away Verdandi.

“Who is that!?” Guiche shouted agitatedly.

A rather stout looking noble wearing a feathered cap appeared out of the faint daylight behind him. Saito looked rather surprised.

“That…That person is…”

“What have you done to my Verdandi!?”

Guiche hastily took out his rose shaped wand but the noble wearing the feathered cap was faster. Before Guiche could cast any spell, his wand was already out of his hand.

“I’m not your enemy. I’m under the orders of the highness to accompany you on your journey. The princess is worried about just having you few going to Albion, but then again sending a whole troop of soldiers with you will be too conspicuous. Therefore, I was appointed to accompany you all on this journey.” The noble said while taking off his feather cap and bowing.

“I’m the captain of the Griffin Knights, Viscount Wardes.”

The grumbling Guiche quickly shut his mouth. For most of the nobles, Guiche included, being able to join the Griffin Knights meant great prestige.

Wardes looked at Guiche and spoke apologetically. “Sorry for what I did to your familiar. I couldn’t stand watching my fiancé being harassed.”

“What!?”

Saito was shocked.

“Fiancé?”

“This majestic looking noble is Louise’ fiancé???”

“Wardes-sama…” Louise spoke in a trembling voice after standing up.

“It’s been such a long time. My Louise, my dear Louise.”

My Louise??? What kind of joke is that? Saito thought to himself.

Wardes approached Louise and with a beaming smile on his face, carried Louise up.

“It’s really been such a long time.” Louise said with her face turning red with embarrassment.

“Still as light as ever. Just like a feather.”

“Viscount… please don’t be like this… There are people over here…”

Wardes, who placed Louise back down and replaced his hat said, “Care to introduce your companions to me?”

“Erm… That is Guiche de Gramont and my familiar, Saito.” said Louise while pointing at them while she was introducing them to Wardes. Guiche who did not dare look at Wardes directly, lowered his head. Saito followed suit though a bit unwillingly.

Wardes said with a rather surprised look on his face, “Are you Louise’ familiar? This is the first time I’ve seen a human being a familiar.”

“Thank you for taking such good care of my fiancé.”

“You’re welcome.”

Saito took the opportunity to size up Wardes. He was indeed handsome. Even though Guiche could also be considered a bishonen himself, he was always making a fool out of himself and making irrational decisions. He could even rub his own cheek with a giant mole.

However for Wardes, not only he had the looks. His eyes were like that of an eagle – keen and sharp. That mustache he had further enhanced his suaveness.

In addition he had a muscular and well built body. Saito had originally thought that all male magicians would have a body like Guiche, but he was proven wrong. Even in hand to hand combat with Wardes without the use of magic, Saito could be subdued in seconds.

Thinking about all that, Saito gave a deep and long sigh. Wardes seeing that, approached Saito and gave a pat on his shoulders.

“What’s wrong? Are you having doubts about this trip? There’s nothing to be afraid of! Aren’t you the one who caught Fouquet of the Crumbling Earth? With your courage alone, nothing is impossible.”

Wardes who had finished saying that, gave a broad smile. With that, Saito felt a tinge of remorsefulness.

Is he really that good of a person? I don’t think that I can compare with him in any aspect. That’s right. I think Louise would be married to him soon… Just thinking of that has made me alone and empty…

Louise, not able to calm down due to Wardes’ appearance, was feeling restless with anxiety. Saito had to turn his head away, he did not want to see Louise that way.

Wardes gave a whistle, and a griffin appeared out from the morning clouds. It was a mythical beast with the head of a eagle and a body of a lion. And on its back were wings that were made up of beautiful white feathers.

Wardes had climbed to the back of the griffin with grace, and then extended a hand to Louise.

“Come over, my Louise.”

Louise lowered her head in hesitation and bashfulness, just like a girl who is in love. This made Saito even more jealous.

What does he think he’s doing? “Come over, my Louise?” Your Louise!? Your Louise!? What an obnoxious freak!

Saito being a male, had to keep those thoughts to himself and went up to the horse in silence in the end.

Louise, who was still hesitating, was suddenly carried up the griffin by Wardes.

With one hand on the reins and his wand in the other, Wardes shouted, “Well everybody, onwards!”

The griffin moved forward. Following behind it were Guiche, looking full of admiration for Wardes; and Saito, feeling very down and dejected.

Saito thought to himself while staring at the blank sky.

How far would it be to Albion?

 

 

From the headmaster’s office window, Henrietta was watching Saito and group departing for Albion. Closing her eyes, she starting praying…

“Founder Brimir, please grant them protection throughout their journey…”

Next to her was Headmaster Osman trimming his nasal hair.

“You aren’t going to see them off, headmaster Osman?”

“No, as you can see, I’m busy trimming my nasal hair, your highness.”

Henrietta shook her head in disapproval.

Just then, someone knocked at the door.

“Enter,” said the headmaster.

Mr. Colbert entered room with an anxious look on his face.

“Bad news! Headmaster!”

“You say that quite often. What seems to be the problem now?”

“From the news that I’ve heard from the castle guards, Fouquet has escaped!”

“Hmm…” said Osman while stroking his beard.

“According to the guard who was on duty that time, some noble knocked him out using wind magic. The person used the opportunity that most of the manpower was diverted to protect the princess to help Fouquet escape! This means that someone inside is a spy! Isn’t that bad news?”

Henrietta’s face turned pale upon hearing the news.

Headmaster Osman made a gesture to Mr. Colbert asking him to leave.

“Okay. Okay. We’ll hear further details from you later.”

After Mr. Colbert left, Henrietta placed her hands on the table and sighed deeply.

“We have a spy in our midst. This must be the doings of the Albion nobility!”

“Maybe it is… OUCH!” said the headmaster while trimming his nasal hair. Henrietta looked at him helplessly.

“How can you still be so relaxed? The future of Tristain is at stake!”

“The opponent has already made his move. All we can do now is to wait, isn’t it?”

“Even so…”

“It’s all right. If it’s him, he’ll be able to cope with any problems they’ll face during their journey.”

“The person you’re speaking of is Guiche? Or Viscount Wardes?”

The headmaster shook his head.

“Don’t tell me that person is Louise’s familiar. How could that be possible?! Isn’t he just a commoner?”

“Your highness, have you heard of the story of Founder Brimir before?”

“I have read most of the story…”

The headmaster smiled and replied, “Then, do you know about Gandálfr?”

“Isn’t that Founder Brimir’s strongest familiar? Don’t tell me…”

At this point of time, Headmaster Osman felt that he had already divulged too much. Regarding the secret of “Gandálfr” he always wanted to keep that to himself. Although he trusted Henrietta, he did not want the Royal family to know about it yet.

“Yes, he’s as strong and capable as Gandálfr and furthermore, he comes from another world different from ours.”

“Another world?”

“That’s right. He comes from a world different from Halkeginia. Or I should say, from a place not on Halkeginia. I have always believed that this youth from another world will succeed. That’s also the reason that I’m so carefree even during these perilous times.”

“Another world different from Halkeginia really exists…”

Henrietta gazed far away. The sensation of the youth’s lip still lingered on Henrietta’s lips. Touching her lips with her fingertips, she closed her eyes, smiled and said,

“Let me pray then, for the breeze that comes from another world.”

 

 

It would take two days to reach Port City La Rochelle by horse from Tristain. The port city is situated on a deep and narrow gorge and because of this, it has a small population of three hundred. As La Rochelle is the gateway to Albion, the number of travelers is ten times more than the local population.

Boulders could be seen on both sides of the narrow mountain pathway. People had carved holes in the boulders, turning them into taverns and shops. Although the buildings look ordinary, upon closer inspection one can realize that all of them are carved out of a single rock, a feat done by Square ranked earth mages.

On the narrow street, it appeared to be dark even though it was afternoon due to the gorges blocking the sunlight. If one made a turn on the street, they could see an even narrower street leading to a bar.

On the signboard resembling a keg of wine, the shop’s name was written – “Golden Wine Barrel Bar”. However, nothing in the shop resembled its name; the shop was dilapidated like an abandoned house. Piles of ruined chairs could be seen piling next to the door.

Most of the patrons were gangsters and mercenaries. When drunk, they would often fight over the smallest of things like staring incidents or minor squabbles.

Whenever they’d fight, they would fight with their weapons. Therefore, it was common to see people dead or seriously injured inside the bar. The shopkeeper, not wanting to see any more injuries and deaths, put up a notice inside the shop.

“Please use the chairs when you fight in here.”

From the notice, the customers could feel the shopkeeper’s helplessness. So they started to use the chairs instead of their weapons when fighting each other. Even though there were still injuries, no one was killed anymore. From then on, chairs that were destroyed during fights got piled next to the door.

Today, “Golden Wine Barrel Bar” is filled with patrons as usual. Almost all the patrons are mercenaries returning from Albion which was in an internal strife.

“The king of Albion is finished!”

“Don’t that means that they’re going to start a republic soon?”

“If so, let us offer a toast to the republic!”

The people offering toasts to themselves were formerly mercenaries hired by the royalist to fight along side with them. However, faced with the imminent defeat of their clients, they all decided to retreat back here. This was not considered to be a dishonorable act. As mercenaries, they value their lives more than their beliefs, and so they are not obliged to fight to their death for their clients.

As they were drinking, the bar’s door opened. A rather tall lady had entered the bar. The hood the lady had worn covered most of her face except the lower part of her face. However, from just the lower part of her face one can already be sure about her beauty. As it was rare for such an attractive lady to come to such a place alone, all eyes on the bar were already on her.

The lady, unfazed by all the eyes staring at her, ordered some wine and food and sat on a table in a corner of the bar. After the food was served, she promptly paid up.

“That… That’s a lot of money. Is it really all right?”

“That includes lodging. Do you have any empty rooms?”

An elegant voice replied. The shopkeeper nodded his head and left her table. Several of the male patrons looked at each other and approached her table.

“Excuse me miss, it’s dangerous for you to be here alone.”

“That’s right! There are lots of dangerous characters around. Don’t worry though, we’ll be here to protect you.”

With a vile smile on his face, one of them lifted up the lady’s hood. Whistles and catcalls could be heard once the hood was removed. The lady was quite a beauty, with her beautiful eyes and elegant nose.

This beautiful lady is none other than Fouquet of the crumbling earth.

“She’s really top notch! Look at her skin! It’s as white as ivory!”

Another patron attempted to lift up her chin with his arm, but his hand was pushed away by Fouquet. Fouquet gave a faint smile. Another male patron immediately stood up, took out his dagger and placed it on Fouquet’s face.

“Aren’t chairs supposed to be used instead of weapons at this joint?”

“This is only to frighten you. Chairs can’t intimidate anybody right? Don’t act so innocent anymore, aren’t you here to look for company? We’ll keep you company then.”

Even with the dagger pointed on her face, Fouquet showed no fear. With a slight movement, she reached for a wand.

In a instant, she chanted her incantations. With that, the dagger that the man held turned into earth and settled onto the table.

“She’s.. she’s a noble!”

The men immediately backed away from her. As Fouquet was not wearing a cloak, none of them knew that she was a magician.

“Even though I’m a magician, I’m not a noble,” Fouquet said nonchalantly.

“Most of you are mercenaries right?”

The male patrons looked at each other. If she was not a noble, their lives would not be endangered. If they had done that to a noble, they would be killed without any qualms.

“Yes… And you are…?” a veteran of the group replied.

“It doesn’t matter. In short, I’m here to hire all of you.”

“All of us?”

The mercenaries looked at Fouquet with a puzzled look on their face.

“What’s with the expression? Is it really that weird for me to employ mercenaries?”

“No. That’s not what I meant. You have gold, don’t you?”

Fouquet placed a bag full of gold onto the table. After inspecting the contents of the bag, the veteran said, “Wow… Isn’t this écu gold?”

The bar’s door opened again. This time, a man wearing a white mask had entered the bar. He was the same man who had helped Fouquet escape from prison.

“Well, aren’t you early.”

Fouquet seeing that man, gave a low “Hmm” as a reply. The mercenaries, seeing that man’s peculiar dressing, were all quite surprised. “They have started on their journey,” the masked man said.

“I have done what you had told me to and hired all these men.”

The man in the white mask gave a once over at the mercenaries that Fouquet had hired.

“All of you were formerly employed by the Albion royalist. Am I right?”

“That was until last month,” one of the mercenaries replied with glee.

“But the soon to be defeated royalist aren’t our employers anymore.”

The mercenaries laughed in unison. The man in the white mask laughed as well.

“I’ll fulfill all your monetary desires. However, I’m not like the soon to be defeated royalists, if anyone dares to run away from battle, I’ll kill him myself.”

 

 

Since departing from the magical academy, Wardes’ griffin had been endlessly moving towards their destination. Even though the rest of the group had already changed their mount twice, Wardes’ griffin just like its master, appeared to be tireless.

“Hold on, isn’t the pace too fast for us?” Louise, who was on Wardes’ griffin, asked. Over the duration of the journey, Louise spoke in a more informal manner to Wardes than when they were reunited. But that was also partly due to the Viscount’s request.

“Guiche and Saito are already on the brink of exhaustion.”

Wardes turned back and looked at Guiche and Saito. Just like Louise had said, both of them were holding their reins tightly in fear of falling off. From the looks of it, both of them would collapse from exhaustion before the horses would.

“But I had originally planned to journey to port city La Rochelle without stopping…”

“That would be difficult, it would take two days to reach by horse.”

“If that’s the case, why don’t we just leave them behind?”

“We can’t do that!”

“Why?”

“Aren’t we in this together? Furthermore, a magician should not abandon her familiar…”

“You seem protective of them both. Which one is your sweetheart?”

Louise’s face immediately turned red and replied, “What… What sweetheart!?”

“That sets my heart at ease. If my fiancé tells me that she already has a sweetheart, I would die of a broken heart,” replied Wardes with a smile.

“But that was only something that our parents had agreed on.”

“Then, do you dislike me, my small and dainty Louise?”

“Please, I’m not young anymore,” Louise replied, pouting.

“But in my eyes, you’re forever that small and dainty Louise.”

Louise remembered that dream that she’d had a few days back, where she was back in the courtyard of her home, la Vallière.

The secret boat on the forgotten lake…

Whenever she was throwing a tantrum there, Wardes would always be there to pacify her.

The marriage that was decided by her parents.

The betrothal that was decided since youth. The one that she would be married to. Her fiancé.

At that time, she still did not fully understand what was going on. She only knew that, so long as she was with the man she had admired, she would be happy.

But now, she finally understood everything. She would be married to Wardes.

“I don’t dislike you,” Louise replied with a tinge of embarrassment.

“That’s wonderful, in other words, you like me?”

Wardes gently hugged Louise’s shoulders.

“I have never forgotten about you even after all this time. Do you still remember? After my father’s death during the lancer campaign?”

Louise nodded her head.

Wardes began to reminisce and narrated to Louise about the past.

“My mother had passed away earlier, I inherited my father’s estate and title. Wanting to make a name for myself, I went to the capital. Fortunately, the highness had a deep impression of my father who had perished in the battlefield, I was incorporated into the Griffin Knights. I had entered the Griffin Knights as a trainee, training was tough then.

“From then on, you seldom went back to your estate again,” replied Louise while closing her eyes. She too seemed to be immersed in her memories.

“My house and estate were cared for by butler Galgann while I put all my effort serving the nation. After so long, I finally made a name for myself, accomplishing what I had decided upon leaving my homeland.”

“What was that you have decided upon?”

“To ask your hand for marriage once I have made a name for myself.”

“You’re kidding right, Viscount? You’re so popular among the girls, you have no need to honor your promise to such an insignificant me.”

About Wardes’ betrothal. Louise had cleanly forgotten it until she had that dream a few days back. The bridal pact to Wardes was all but a fleeting dream. In her opinion, it was only a agreement made on a whim.

After Wardes had left his estate ten years ago, Louise had never seen him again. Wardes had already become part of her distant memory. Distant memories had suddenly become reality.

“This journey is a good chance for us to regain those feelings we had when you were young,” Wardes said with a gentle and calm tone.

Louise thought to herself, do I really love Wardes?

Even though she did not dislike him and she did admire him when she was young, that was all in the past.

Suddenly faced with a fiancé and probably marriage, she did not know what to do. Furthermore, they had been apart for so many years, she did not really know whether if she still had any feelings for him.

Louise turned her head and looked behind.

She saw Saito prostrating on the horse, it looked like he had nearly reached his limit. Louise pouted her lips. Good for nothing! As soon as she thought of that, she became anxious and her heart pounded furiously.

“We have already been on these horses for nearly a whole day, doesn’t he get tired? Are those griffin knights monsters?” Guiche, who was also lifelessly slouching on the horse, asked.

“Who knows?” Saito replied lethargically. He felt embittered each time Wardes touched Louise. He touched her again…this time hugging her by the shoulder… What is that guy up to… Even though you’re Louise’s fiancé, even though I have no right to stop you, you should have at least done it somewhere else where I could not see…

Each time Saito thought of that, he became more tired and his heart became heavier.

Guiche, looking at Saito in such a state, began teasing him. “Heh heh… Don’t tell me you’re jealous?” Guiche said with a snicker.

“Ah! What are you implying?”

“I guessed it correctly, didn’t I?” Guiche laughed even harder.

“Shut your mouth, mole boy!”

“Mwahaha… You actually carried a love for your master that would never flower? To tell you honestly, love between people of different status will only result in tragedy.”

“Stop talking nonsense! How could I ever like such a person like her? I admit that she’s cute. However, she has an extremely bad character.”

Guiche suddenly looked to the front and exclaimed, “Look! They’re kissing!”

Saito, shocked, immediately turned to the front. However, Wardes and Louise did not kiss.

He then looked again at Guiche. Guiche was barely controlling his laughter.

“Arggh!” Saito shouted and pounced on Guiche. Both of the fell off their horses and began fighting each other on the ground.

“Hey! If you guys continue fighting, I’ll have to leave you both behind!” Wardes shouted.

Guiche quickly got back on the horse. Meanwhile, Saito, realizing that Louise was looking at him, turned his head away.

As they had been traveling at full speed and exchanged their tired horses for fresh ones several times, they reached the outskirts of La Rochelle by nightfall.

Saito looked around in astonishment. Aren’t we approaching a port? Why do I still see mountains everywhere? Maybe once we cross this mountain we should be able to see the ocean.

Traveling under the moonlight, Saito and the group finally saw a narrow mountain pathway. Buildings which were carved from boulders could be seen on both sides of the pathway.

“Why is a port built on top of a mountain?”

Hearing Saito asking, Guiche replied sarcastically “Don’t tell me that you don’t even know where Albion is?”

Although Saito and Guiche were nearly reaching their physical limits, the thought of ‘Once we reach town we can finally rest’ gave them the strength to engage in small talk.

“Yeah, I don’t know.”

“Really?” Guiche replied with laughter. But Saito did not laugh.

“I have no common knowledge of this world and please don’t assume that I do.”

Suddenly, from top of the cliff, torches were thrown at the their horses. The burning torches illuminated the ravine they were about to cross.

“What’s… What’s happening !?” Guiche cried.

The horses, frightened by the burning torches, threw Saito and Guiche off their backs.

As they fell, a hail of arrows showered upon them.

“It’s an ambush!” Guiche shouted.

Saito began to panic, just as he wanted to unsheathe Derflinger which was slung behind his back, two more arrows flew towards him.

“Whoa!”

Just as they thought they were about to meet their doom, a strong gust of wind blew towards them, changing into a small hurricane.

That same hurricane caught all the arrows and sent them away.

Wardes raised his wand.

“Are you guys all right?” Wardes shouted.

“I’m all right…” replied Saito.

Damn it! Louise’s fiancé just saved my life. That sense of dismal kept expanding, causing Saito to feel inferior. He unsheathed Derflinger. The runes on his left hand started glowing again, reliving him of the exhaustion that he had been suffering.

“He unsheathed Deriflinger. The runes of his left hand started glowing again, reliving him of the exhaustion that he had been suffering.”

“I’m so lonely, partner. It’s too much of you to keep putting me inside the scabbard.”

Saito looked at the top of the cliff, but no arrows could be seen.

“It was most likely thieves or bandits.” Wardes said.

Louise, suddenly realizing something exclaimed, “Could it be the nobles from Albion?”

“Nobles would not use arrows.”

Just then, the sound of flapping wings could be heard. It was a sound that they were quite familiar with…

Screams could be heard from the cliffs.

Arrows could be seen shooting towards the night sky. However, all the arrows were parried away by wind magic.

After that, a small hurricane created by magic blew away all the archers.

“Hmm… Aren’t those wind incantations?” Wardes mumbled to himself.

The archers, attempting to ambush them, rolled down the cliffs after being blown away by the magical tornado. They landed hard onto the ground, giving out moans of pain.

With the moon as the background, a familiar sight appeared. “It’s Sylphid!” Louise shouted confoundedly.

It was Tabitha’s wind dragon. After it landed, a red-haired girl jumped down from the dragon and flicked her hair.

“Sorry to keep you waiting.”

Louise too jumped down from Wardes’ griffin and replied, “What do you mean sorry to keep you waiting!? Why are you here in the first place?”

“Not to help you in any case. When I saw you leaving the academy on the horse in the morning, I quickly woke up Tabitha and followed you all the way here.”

Kirche pointed at Tabitha, from the looks of it she was woken up from her sleep; she was still wearing her pajamas. But she didn’t seem to mind at all, and was still reading a book.

“Zerbst! Listen to me, we’re on a secret mission given to us by her highness!”

“Secret mission? You should have said so earlier! How would I know if you did not tell me about it? Anyways, be thankful to me, for I have apprehended the people who wanted to ambush you!”

Kirche said while pointed to the people who were lying on the ground. Those ambushers were unable to move due to their injuries and hurled abuses towards Louise and the group. Guiche approached them and began interrogating them.

Louise, crossing her arms, gave a vicious stare at Kirche.

“Don’t be mistaken! I’m not here to assist you. Am I right?”

Kirche posed suggestively, and then leaned on Wardes, who was on the griffin, and said, “Your beard makes you very manly. Do you know what passion looks like?”

Wardes glanced at Kirche and proceeded to push her away using his left hand.

“Huh?”

“Thank you for coming to our aid, but please do not get so close to me ever again.”

“But why? I just told you that I liked you!”

That was the first time that Kirche received such cold treatment from a male. Usually any male would be mesmerized after some sweet-talking from her. But Wardes was not in the least interested. Kirche gazed at Wardes with her mouth wide open.

“I’m sorry. But I cannot let my fiancé misunderstand.” Wardes said while looking at Louise; her face turned red from embarrassment in an instant.

“What? She’s your fiancé!?”

Wardes nodded in response. Kirche took a closer look at Wardes, she did not realize it before. Wardes’ eyes showed no emotion at all. Just like ice.

She then looked at Saito. He looked listless and was talking to his sword rather dejectedly.

Eh? Is he looking like that because I made advances on Louise’s fiancé? As she thought about that, Saito suddenly looked cuter. Looking at Saito, she ran towards him and hugged him immediately.

“Actually, I’m here because I’m worried for my beloved!”

Saito gave a bewildered look, but then quickly looked away.

“Liar.”

Is he jealous? Thinking of that, Kirche’s passion in her heart burned brightly.

“Cute! So cute! Are you really jealous?”

“I’m not…”

“I’m so sorry for neglecting you. You must be angry, right?” Kirche said while pushing Saito’s face into her breasts.

“Please forgive me! I may have looked at other men, but in the end, the only one that I love is you!”

Louise bit her lips, wanting to tell Kirche off. She could not tolerate Kirche for seducing her familiar.

Just then, Wardes gently placed his hands on Louise’s shoulder. Wardes looked at Louise lovingly and gave her a smile.

“Viscount…”

Guiche who was interrogating those ambushers had just returned.

“Viscount, those ambushers admitted that they were robbers.”

“Hmm.. If they’re just robbers, let them go.”

Wardes effortlessly mounted back to the top of his griffin, carrying Louise up with him. He then announced to everyone, “We’ll spend the night at La Rochelle, tomorrow we will take the first ship to Albion at the break of dawn.”

Kirche sat behind Saito, sharing the same horse with him. Guiche also mounted back to his horse. As for Tabitha, she was still reading her book on her wind dragon.

In front of them, sandwiched between two cliffs, was the port city La Rochelle, dazzling with lights.


Chapter Five: A Rest Day Before Leaving

Tired from riding all day, they had decided to rest at the fanciest hotel in the city of La Rochelle, the Goddess’s Temple. It was a very fancy place even for a noble. The dining tables and floor were both made from the same marble and the floor was so clean that one could see their own face on it.

Wardes and Louise came back from the pier.

When Wardes sat down he said hesitantly, “The ship for Albion leaves the day after tomorrow.”

“This mission is very urgent…” Louise pointed.

Saito and the rest finally relaxed, knowing tomorrow they could rest.

“I have never been to Albion so I do not know why there is no ship tomorrow.”

Wardes looked at Kirche and answered to her, “Are the moons overlapping tomorrow? If so, then Albion should be closest to La Rochelle”

A worn-out Saito wondered how it might be related to the ebb and flow of the tide. The ebb and flow were regulated by the movement of the moon.

Wardes put the keys on the table, “Let’s rest for now, take the keys. Tabitha and Kirche take one room, Guiche and Saito take another.”

Guiche and Saito stared at each other.

Wardes continued, “Louise and I will be sharing a room.”

Saito felt something tug at his heart and he turned towards Wardes.

“It is the obvious arrangement as Louise and I are engaged.”

Louise looked at Wardes in shock and said, “B-but we can’t! We’re not even married yet!”

Saito nodded energetically, That’s right, she shouldn’t sleep with him.

But Wardes shook his head and told Louise, “There is something important I have to tell you.”

 

 

Wardes and Louise stayed in the best room in the hotel. They wondered who designed the room. There was an enormous four-poster bed with delicate lace hanging from the top. Wardes sat down at the table, opened a bottle of wine and poured himself a cup. He chugged it down and said, “Why don’t you sit down and have a cup as well, Louise?”

Louise sat down as well. He poured one for Louise and refilled his own. He then raised his cup and said, “Cheers!” Louise however held hers in her hands and bowed down her head.

Wardes asked, “Did you keep the princess’s letter safe?”

Louise patted her pocket and to make sure it was still there, I wonder why it is so important. What is in this letter? Does the prince already have a letter ready? I think I figured out a small part of it. Being Henrietta’s childhood friend, I know how she writes her letters.

Wardes looked at Louise with wonder. Then Louise nodded and said, “The letter is still safe. Are you worried that we might not be able to get the letter from the prince of Albion?”

“Yes, I am very worried.” Wardes answered.

Louise arched her lovely eyebrows and said, “Don’t worry; it will be fine because I’ll always be with you.”

“That’s right; if you’re here there will definitely be no problems. It was always that way.”

Wardes sounded very distant when he said that.

“Do you still remember the promise of the day when we were at the lake?” Louise asked.

He nodded his head, “In the little boat that was floating in the middle of lake? You would always go there after being scolded by your parents. You were like an abandoned kitten.”

“Really? You remember the weirdest things.”

Wardes replied happily, “Of course I have to remember those things. You were always compared to your sisters in terms of magical power.”

Louise lowered her head embarrassed and he said, “But I think that’s wrong. You are worthless and a failure, but…”

“You are so mean!” Louise said angrily.

“You have an incredible power that nobody else has. I know this because I am a different kind of magician.” Wardes finished ignoring what Louise said.

“That’s impossible!”

Wardes replied, “But it is possible. For example whenever you use your magic…”

Louise’s face turned red and said, “The accident about Saito?”

“Yes, when he picked up the weapon the runes on his left hand began to glow. Those runes are legendary.”

“Legendary?”

“Yes, those runes belong to the legendary familiar Gandalfr. The familiar that once belonged to Founder Brimir.” Wardes’ eyes shone with admiration.

Louise asked, “Gandalfr?”

“Not just anyone can control Gandalfr. You have the magic to control him.”

“That’s hard to believe.” Louise tilted her head and thought that Wardes was joking around.

Louise shook her head, thinking Wardes was joking. It is true that Saito’s speed increased dramatically when he wielded a weapon, and became extremely strong, but to say he is the legendary familiar is unbelievable. If it is really like that, then something must be wrong. I am after all “Louise the Zero”.

I am always a failure, there is no way I could have the power Wardes mentioned.

“You could become a great mage. Yes, like Founder Brimir, and leave your name in history as a great mage. I believe so.”

Wardes gazed at Louise warmly.

“After this mission, marry me Louise”

“Ah…”

The sudden marriage proposal left Louise speechless.

“I am not satisfied to be just a mage captain of the Magic Knights… I want to become a noble that will move the whole of Halkeginia some day.”

“B-but…”

“But what?”

“I… I am still… still”

“You are not a child anymore, you are 16 years old. You have reached the age when you can decide things. Your father agreed too. So…”

Wardes abruptly stopped here. Then he looked up and brought his face close to Louise.

“It is true, I never came to look for you, and I have to apologize. Marriage is not something to be spoken of easily, this I also know. But Louise, to me you are the most important of all.”

”Wardes…”

Louise thought about it. Why did Saito’s face keep popping in her mind? After marrying Wardes, will she have to leave Saito as her familiar?

I don’t understand why, but I constantly feel this is wrong. If it was a crow or owl type of familiar it wouldn’t be so troublesome. If no one takes care of this idiot from another world, what will happen to him?

Kirche or… Saito didn’t know that Louise knew the maid from the kitchen who often fed him… They will take care of him right?

I don’t understand why but this is extremely annoying. Louise thought, just like a small girl she wanted to have Saito all to herself. Although Saito is an idiot and often makes me mad, I don’t want him to become someone else’s property. He is mine.

Louise raised her head.

“Still… Still…”

“Still?”

“That… that I am not a mage of your caliber yet, I still need to study…”

Louise lowered her head, kept it low and murmured.

“Wardes, when I was young, that is what I always thought, someday, I must make everyone recognize me, become a great mage, and make my mother and father proud.”

Louise raised her head, staring at the older man.

“I, I still cannot reach that yet.”

“Is it because someone already stole your heart?”

“It is nothing like that, there’s no chance for that to happen!” Louise denied in a panic.

“It’s not important, I understand, I understand. For now, I won’t ask for an answer. But, after this journey is over, I will certainly lighten your heart.”

Louise nodded in reply.

“In that case, let’s go to bed, you are already tired right?”

Suddenly, Wardes came close to Louise, wanting to kiss her.

Instantly, Louise’s body stiffened. Then she pushed Wardes away.

“Louise?”

“I’m sorry… But, things like…that…”

Louise pridefully stared at Wardes. He smiled bitterly and shook his head.

“I am not in a hurry”

Louise lowered her head again.

Why, even though Wardes is so gentle, handsome and strong, even though I longed for him for such a long time…. Yet, I am not even happy when I am being proposed to.

Someone else had already caught her heart. But Louise’s mind refused to think about the one that caught it.

 

 

Outside the window, Saito had his hand around the window bars, desperately looking at Louise and Wardes’ room.

Holding Derflinger in his left hand made his body feel light as a feather, allowing him to observe everything inside the room. Peeking through the curtains, Saito saw two figures sitting by the table.

What are they talking about? Every time Wardes’ face got closer to Louise, Saito would bite his lips. Every time when the two appeared to be about to kiss, the boy would almost stop breathing. But since Louise always denied the kiss, Saito’s breath didn’t stop either.

“Ah, closing in again, this ******, ah, so it is like that!” Saito whispered. Derflinger quietly muttered.

“How shameful.”

“Shut up.”

“My partner sticks like a green caterpillar to the window, peeking at the girl he has a crush on and her lover having a cheerful talk. It is so shameful it hurts and almost makes me cry!”

“I don’t have a crush on her! What is so good about that kind of girl? Explosive temper, treats me like a dog, twisted personality.”

Saito groaned through gritted teeth.

“Then why are we peeking?”

“I am only worried, just worried that’s all.”

With these words something fell on Saito from above.

Pa-ta

It landed on Saito’s shoulders, covering his face and obscuring his vision.

“Wha-what?”

“What are you doing here? Do you like to take strolls on the wall? Geez, took me forever to find you.”

It was Kirche who landed on his shoulder, and our hero’s eyes were blinded because his face was covered by the Germanian’s mini-skirt.

“Hey, get off me!” Saito replied as he pulled his face out of Kirche’s skirt.

“Why, is it not good? Hey, what are you looking at?”

Kirche took one look at the window, turned around to face Saito again and put her arms around him: “No, don’t peek at newlyweds, we shouldn’t care about them”

“This is what I think; a quiet date on the wall is so romantic. Look how beautiful the lights from the city are; don’t you think they are cheering for us?”

“First thing first, you get off.”

The two tried to wriggle their ways out when suddenly the window slammed open. Saito remained frozen in place and hugging the wall like a cockroach.

One look and we can see Louise with her hands placed on her hips. But, her lovely face twisted into a demonic mask, staring at Kirche and Saito.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING NEXT TO MY WINDOW????”

Saito with his sword in one hand, another clutching the window frames. At the same time Kirche, with her legs around his shoulders, clung closely to him as if getting some weird piggyback ride.

Without a question – this looked suspicious, but pretty amazing too.

“Can’t understand it even after you see it? This is a date.”

Saito tried to say something, but his lips were covered by Kirche’s hands, making him look puzzled. Louise’s shoulders started to quake in fury.

“Go, go, go, go have romance somewhere else. You, you, you two stray dogs!”

“But darling wants to have a date here.”

Kirche replied triumphantly.

In an instant Louise’s foot flew in their direction, Kirche ducked then climbed on to the wall, so the shorter girl’s foot connected straight with Saito’s face, sending him flying.

Luckily Saito had the sword in his hand, and thrust it into the wall to stop his falling. Then he howled in rage:

“DO YOU WANT TO KILL ME???”

“Someone like you who doesn’t understand kindness deserves to DIE!”

Wardes sat in his room and watched the whole thing with amusement.

 

 

Second day, Saito woke up to someone knocking on his door. Since Guiche was still sleeping soundly on the bed next to him, without another choice the Japanese could only climb out of the bed to answer.

There is no ship today, I wanted to spend the day sleeping, geez. Saito thought angrily as he opened the door.

Wardes with his usual hat looked down at Saito, who was about a head and a half shorter than the knight.

“Good morning, familiar.”

Louise’s fiancé calling him like this made Saito angry

Saito replied, “Morning, but the departure date is tomorrow right? Do you have anything important to say this morning? I’ve been riding a horse all day yesterday, I still want to sleep.”

Wardes only smiled faintly.

“Are you the Gandalfr of the legend?”

“AH.”

Saito stared at Wardes in a stunned expression.

Wardes was trying to clear something, and bent his head and said, “That case with Fouquet, I hold a great interest in you. I asked Louise earlier, I heard you are from another world and I also heard you are the legendary Gandalfr.”

“Ha.”

Who talked about Gandalfr anyway? Old Osman shouldn’t have talked about this.

“I find history and warfare extremely interesting. When Fouquet was captured, I became very interested in you. Then I did some research in the Imperial Library. The result of that research is my discovery that you are the legendary familiar Gandalfr.”

“Oh, is that so. You are really a scholar.”

“I want to know how strong is the person who captured Fouquet; can you show it to me?”

“Show you?”

Wardes pulled out his wand from his belt, “Let me put it this way.”

“A duel?” Saito replied with an icy smile.

“Exactly.”

Wardes and Saito smiled together. Taking one look at the still sleeping Guiche, the Japanese boy thought I am not sure just how strong Wardes is anyway, but I have beaten Guiche already and captured Fouquet. He is the Captain of the Magic Knights, and looks like he has some abilities too. But I shouldn’t be so far behind.

Let’s show Louise’s fiancé what Gandalfr is capable of Saito thought.

“Where do you want to duel?”

“This hotel used to be a castle designed for repelling Albion invasions, there is a parade ground in the center of it.”

The two then left for the parade ground for nobles together. The ancient practice ground was now a place for debris and refuse with empty beer barrels and crates scattered all over the place. It was hard to believe that a long time before that royal flags with staffs cut from stone were decorating this wasteland.

“Before, maybe you don’t know, under the reign of Philip III, this often used to be a place to host duels between nobility.”

“Ha Ha.”

Saito took out Derflinger from his shoulder and the rune on his left hand flared into light.

“In a time long ago, the king still had the power to duel, Nobles from the king’s time… a time when Nobles were noble. Who risked life for fame and honor, we nobles fought with magic. But it is usually fought over boring issues, right, as if the two were fighting for a lover.”

Suddenly Saito’s face grew serious, pulled out his sword, but Wardes stopped him with his left hand.

“What?”

“There are certain rules regarding dueling, we don’t have a witness here.”

“Witness?”

“Calm down, one is coming” Wardes replied, and Louise appeared from nearby. She was dumbfounded as she saw the two.

“Wardes, you called me over and I came, what are you two preparing to do?”

“I want to test his abilities a little.”

“Really, let’s stop this nonsense. Now is not the time for these kind of stupidities.”

“It is true, but the noble-born wants a duel, he really wants to find out if I am strong or weak.”

Louise stared at her familiar, “Stop now, that is an order.”

Saito did not reply, only stared at Wardes.

“What? Really?”

“Since the witness is here, let us begin.”

Wardes pulled out his wand from his belt again, entered a combat stance, with his wand pointing at Saito.

Saito responded “I’m not that reliable, so I don’t know how to go hard or light.”

Wardes responded with a light laughter, “No problem, hit me with everything.”

Saito pulled out Derflinger and leapt forward with a slash. The magic knight parried the attack with his wand, and the two weapons rang solidly as steel clashed steel, sending sparks in all directions. While Wardes’ weapon was merely a small wand, he was able to block Saito’s long sword without a sweat.

One would have expected Wardes to retreat backward, but no one expected the hurricane-like wind that was caused when the two clashed, and Wardes’ increased speed as he charged toward Saito. The Japanese boy responded with a chopping strike that broke Wardes’ advance, with the black cape of the Magic Knights flipping in the wind. The captain in response leapt a few steps back, and then reversed back to his stance.

Why isn’t that guy using his magic? Saito thought.

Derflinger mumbled in response, “You can’t make it, he is looking down on you.”

Saito’s heart burst in fury. Wardes that bastard, he can have the same speed as me with the Gandalfr runes glowing. With only one exchange, Saito could tell the difference between Guiche and Wardes.

“A Magic Knight isn’t someone who only chants magic.” Wardes answered with a tip of his hat.

“The way we chant is fully specialized for battle, the way we hold our wands, the motion we use to charge… the way we use our wands as swords, complete with spellcraft. This is the basic of the basics for soldiers.”

Saito lowered his body slightly, and began to spin his blade like a windmill. Wardes apparently already saw through Saito’s attack style, and parried the next attack without even taking a breath.

“You are really fast; no one can mistake you for a commoner, truly the familiar of the legends.” Blocking Saito’s blow, Wardes used his wand and swung at the back of Saito’s head. With his brain and nose on fire, the Japanese boy collapsed on the ground with a thud.

“But this is it, you are fast, but your the movements are those of an amateur, you cannot beat a real mage with this.”

Saito leapt forward like a bullet and released a brand new assault.

But, with one step aside and a jump, Wardes easily dodged Saito again with the speed of the wind.

“In other words, you are unable to protect Louise.” For the first time, Wardes entered combat stance, with a speed impossible for a normal person to track, launched an attack on Saito. Just as the boy realized what was going on, he took the full attack head on.

“Dell yill soll la windy.” With one hand waving the sparking wand, Wardes chanted with a low voice.

Saito realized Wardes’ movement and attack all followed a pattern.

“Partner! Bad news! Magic is coming!” Derflinger screamed, when he realized the whisper chant was magic…

Bam, suddenly the winds rushed together, creating an invisible force that slammed into Saito with the strength of a hammer, knocking him a good 10 meters away and into a pile of beer barrels, smashing all of them as he crashed down.

In the instant Saito landed on the wine barrels he dropped his sword. As Saito tried to retrieve the weapon, Wardes stepped on it, then struck Saito with the wand. Derflinger screamed “Get your foot of me!”, but Wardes paid it no heed and spoke, “Did you find out who is the winner and loser?”

Saito tried to get up, but the pain prevented him from moving. The boy then realized that blood was flowing down his head.

Louise fearfully came over.

“Do you understand Louise? He cannot protect you.” Wardes told her calmly.

“Because… because aren’t you the commander of the Magic Knights? The secret group that was assigned to protect the queen?? Isn’t it natural to be strong?”

“True, but aren’t you going to Albion and might do battle? When you are surrounded by strong enemies, you also plan to say ‘we are weak, please put away your wands?’”

Louise became silent, and then looked at Saito with worry. From his head came more fresh blood and the little girl drew out her handkerchief in a panic, but was stopped by Wardes.

“Leave him, Louise.”

Wardes grabbed on to Louise’s hands.

“But…”

“Let’s leave him there for a bit.”

Louise hesitantly bit her lips for a moment and, with another tug from Wardes, left.

Saito was left behind, on his knees, unable to move a single bit.

Derflinger quipped, “Total defeat.”

Saito didn’t respond. Losing in front of Louise made him very sad.

“But that noble is very strong! Don’t worry about it partner, that guy has a lot of skill. Maybe even a Square Mage. Even if you lost, it is not shameful.”

Yet, even if this was true, Saito said nothing.

“Losing in front the girl you have a crush on is truly a despicable event. But don’t look so down, or I will cry as well… Hey, I remember something, what was it? It happened a long time ago… Oh that! Wait!”

Saito put Derflinger back to his sheath, silencing it in the process. Dusting off his pants, the boy took a heavy step forward.

 

 

That night, Saito stared at the moon from his balcony window. Guiche and company were drinking in the bar on the first floor. Tomorrow they were heading for Albion, so everyone was partying below. Kirche came with an invitation, but he refused. Our hero had little heart for drinking now.

Apparently, the group could leave with the two moon eclipses; it was the day in which Albion was closest to the world.

Saito looked up to the starlit night sky, in the sea of stars, the pink moon hid behind the white moon, and thus became one moon sparking with a peach color. That moon reminded him of the one of his homeland, the moon of Earth.

The depressed Saito never stopped mumbling, wanting to go home, to go back to his homeland. Also, losing to Wardes in front of Louise made Saito more homesick than ever.

Without realizing it, tears were falling from Saito’s eyes. The tears rolled down his face past his chin then fell on to the ground. The boy continued to cry as he stared at the moons, then he heard something behind him.

“Saito.”

Turning around, he saw Louise standing behind him with her arms crossed.

“…Just because you lost does not mean you should cry, that is unbecoming.”

The boy in response wiped his face, not wanting Louise to see his tears.

“That’s not right.”

”What is not right?”

“I am only doing it because I am homesick. To return to Earth. To return to Japan.”

Louise lowered her head.

“…I know, it is my fault.”

“You are just treating me like a dog.”

“There is nothing I can do about it, I am a member of the nobility, and if I don’t do it there would be rumors.”

“So what is the way to return me to my old world? I really don’t want to be in this world anymore.”

Saito muttered in an unpleasant tone, which came from the bottom of his heart.

“…What, you know you are very troublesome for me too.”

“If you say so, then help me find a way back. Promise me you will find a way to send me to my original world.”

“…When this mission is over, I will do my best to find you a way home.”

“Really?”

Louise put her arms around her belt, nodding her head in a cute expression.

“I am a member of the nobility, I will not lie.”

“But what happens if I cannot find a way back?”

Her face reddened a little, Louise hardened her heart and replied, “…If that happens, I will ask you to continue to serve me.”

“Even if you are married?”

“This has nothing to do with marriage.”

Louise stared at Saito.

Saito commented with a little sarcastic humor, “Ok ok, a person like you, with such an awful personality and there is a person who is willing to marry you, that noble is really a miracle. You are really lucky.”

Louise raised her arms with a tint of anger, “What? Didn’t Kirche fall in love with you? That idiot can fall in love with you. Forget it, no matter what can be said, both of you are morons and would make a lovely pair.”

The two turned away from each other. Louise closed her eyes, calmed herself and spoke, “In summary, during the time you are in Halkeginia, you are my familiar. So regardless of the fact I get married or not, it is your duty to protect me and do laundry as well as other duties.”

Saito turned around to face Louise.

Under that peach colored hair, Louise’s tea-green eyes sparked with fury. Her normally pale face was also tinted with color of anger, which made her puckered lips extremely cute.

Saito’s heart began to race as he stared at her. He did get yelled at by Louise, but she was still so beautiful.

But is it truly only this? Just because she is beautiful, my heart is racing? I feel it is not just this alone. No matter how beautiful she is, how cute, when I hear such hurtful words my heart should not race.

Louise held her hands together. The red faced Louise. The Louise who nursed me. The Louise who confronted Fouquet’s golem despite being a zero. The self-ashamed Louise that cries secretly when being called zero…

Occasionally, Louise shows up as a real girl that combines courage, kindness and beauty in herself.

Saito thought really deeply, “Then why is it really this way?”

He finally understood why he had been staring at the moon every night until tonight, yet never thinking about going home.

But, he really hated wanting to admit this reason.

This really sucks!

Why would I…Saito could not stop the line of thought.

Spontaneously, Saito asked, “Why don’t you just let Wardes protect you?”

“Amazing, you are still not over losing to him?”

Saito remained silent.

“You are MY FAMILIAR right? Just because you lost, you have to be strong. That defeated look would sully the la Vallière name.”

It was not as simple as being defeated. It was losing in front of Louise, and losing to her fiancé. How could he still be strong? Saito curled his lips, and angrily slammed the balcony frame.

Louise replied angrily, “Ok, I understand. Do what you like, I will let Wardes protect me.”

“Ok, be like that.” Saito countered maliciously, and this line made Louise even angrier.

“That person is really reliable. He won’t make me worry. I don’t have to tell a familiar like you, but I will tell you now. Now I have decided, I will marry Wardes.”

Louise looked at Saito, but Saito remained silent, not caring. What? Louise thought.

“I am going to marry Wardes.”

Louise repeated herself again, but Saito remained silent and didn’t say anything. With his head lowered in anger.

At first she expected Saito to say something to stop her, but he didn’t even say a single word.

What? Haven’t you already crawled into my bed?! Louise thought. She got even more unhappy as her pride had been hurt.

“A person like you should spend the rest of your life staring at the moon!” Louise howled as she dashed away.

Just at this moment…

“WOAH!” Saito shouted. Louise turned her head around, and to her surprise, something appeared that swallowed the moon, and it was nowhere to be seen.

Beneath the moon’s shadow, there appeared to be a giant. If we looked at it closely, the huge shadow turned out to be a golem made of stone. The person controlling the golem turned out to be…

“Fouquet!” Saito and Louise shouted in unison. The figure above them sat on the golem’s shoulder, cheerfully answered, “Oh, it is such an honor to be remembered!”

The sword on Saito’s shoulder asked, “Shouldn’t you be rotting in jail?”

Fouquet shouted back, “Somebody had a kind heart, a beauty like myself should be contriving to the welfare of the world, so they let me escape.”

It was dark so not many people could see it, but there was a figure in the black cape of nobility standing next to the woman. Was that guy the person who helped her escape? The noble supported Fouquet’s actions, but remained silent. Because the figure wore a mask, no one could see anything clear, but it appeared to be a man.

“…So you are someone who can’t mind her own business, what are you doing here?” Saito brandished his sword with his left hand.

“I am here to thank you for the long vacation you gave me, I am here to send you my appreciation!”

Fouquet howled in laughter, as the huge golem pulverized the fence on the balcony with one hit. The fence was carved right out of solid stone, so it appeared the power of the golem had increased significantly.

“There is stone, not dirt, so calm down!”

“No one is trying to be calm here!”

Saito grabbed Louise’s hand and ran away, escaping the room, the duo leaped down the stairs.

 

 

Meanwhile, the room below became a pandemonium.

Suddenly a group of soldiers came to assault Wardes and company who were drinking.

Guiche, Kirche, Tabitha and Wardes were using magic to defend themselves. However, there were too many people. It appeared every soldier from La Rochelle came attacking.

It seemed like they were losing.

Kirche broke one of the table’s legs, and decided to use the table as a shield against the coming foes. The attacking soldiers were used to fighting magic-using foes already. While they were fighting, they observed Kirche and her allies range and style. Then moved out the magic’s range to attack with bows. The soldiers hidden from the dark had the advantage of the field, leaving those inside the room a bitter battle.

ZnT02-147.jpg

If anyone stood up to chant magic, they were answered with a torrential volley of arrows.

Saito lowered his body, charged to Kirche’s shield-table wall, letting her know Fouquet was above them and attacking, but the giant’s huge feet were already visible, so there was no need to tell them.

The other nobles and guests were hiding under the counter and shaking in fear. The fat innkeeper called out to the soldiers, “What are you doing to my establishment??” But one arrow slammed into his shoulder, leaving him slumped on the ground.

“This is really troublesome.” Listening to Wardes’ words, Kirche nodded.

“It appears this band is not only just interested in a simple little robbery.”

“Maybe Fouquet and Albion’s nobles are behind this?”

Kirche raised her wand, and mumbled, “…Those guys are planning for us to use our magic, exhaust ourselves then come in with a charge, what can we do?”

“My Valkyries will protect us.”

“Guiche, your Valkyries are only a small squad, these are seasoned mercenaries.”

“If we don’t try we will never know.”

“But Guiche, if it comes to warfare I am a far better expert than you are.”

“But I am the son of General de Gramont, how could I lose to this band of idiot soldiers?”

“This is intolerable, the nobles of Tristain are only tough with their words, but their actual combat capabilities are pretty weak.”

Guiche stood up, preparing to chant his magic. But Wardes stopped him by grabbing on to the young noble’s shirt.

“Everyone listen carefully.” Wardes whispered. Saito and the others became silent to listen.

“This mission counts as complete if one half of the group arrives safely at the destination.”

At this moment the cute Tabitha also closed her book and looked at Wardes’ direction. The girl used her staff and pointed at herself, Kirche and Guiche and uttered one word, “Bait.”

Then Tabitha continued and pointed at Saito, Wardes, and Louise, then uttered another word, “Go to the harbor.”

“The time?” Wardes asked the young girl.

“We will carry it out right now.”

“Just liked we planned a while ago, go from the backdoor.”

“Ah? AH!” Saito and Louise shouted out in surprise.

“They are responsible for holding the situation; we should be able to confuse their sight. Using this time we should be able to escape toward the harbor, just like that.”

“But…But…”

Saito looked at Kirche, and the girl ran her hand through her red hair. And puckered her lips then added, “Bah, can’t help it anyway, we really didn’t want to go to Albion with you anyway.”

Guiche sniffed at his rose, “Heh, I might die here. What would happen then? If I die then I won’t be able to meet Princess Henrietta again.”

Tabitha nodded at Saito. “Go.”

“But..”

Kirche began to push Saito, “Ok, time to go. When you come back…I will let you kiss me.”

Then, she turned around to face Louise, “Ah, Louise, please don’t make any misinterpretation of this, I am not here to be bait for you.”

”I know, I know!” Although she said it, Louise still lowered her head in a salute to Kirche and others.

Saito and the others lowered their body to the floor, and began to run. Arrows flew in their direction, but with a wave of Tabitha’s wand, the roaring wind protected them from the onslaught.

 

 

The group fled from the bar into the kitchen and toward the other exit, and then there was a huge explosion behind them.

“…Looks like it has begun.” Louise mouthed.

Wardes crouched close to the door, then listened at the situation outside.

“There doesn’t appear to be anyone.”

Opening the door, the three leapt into the night streets of La Rochelle.

“The docks are this way.”

Wardes was in the lead, Louise followed behind. Saito came in the back.

Under the moonlight, the trio’s shadow extended, and followed closely behind.

 

Chapter Six: The White Country

After making sure Saito and company were running, Kirche commanded Guiche, “Now then, it’s time to begin. Guiche, there’s a pot filled with oil in the kitchen somewhere, right?”

“You mean those frying pots?”

“Yep. Bring them over with your golems.”

“No sweat.” Guiche hid behind a table, waving his rose, which was his wand. The petals fell slowly and female bronze warriors sprouted from the ground. The golems headed towards the kitchen, even though arrows were aimed at them.

The steel arrowheads burrowed into soft copper, causing the statues to wobble. Guiche laughed, as the statues finally reached the kitchen behind the counter, and picked up the frying pot.

“Can you throw that at the entrance?” Kirche put on make up looking at a mirror while talking.

“You’re putting on make up now, of all times?” Guiche said, a shocked look on his face, but still commanded his statue to throw the pot at the entrance as he was told.

Kirche brandished her wand and stood up.

“Because the play is about to begin, and if the female lead has no make up on…”

She waved her wand at the oil, now sprinkled in the air.

“…wouldn’t that be embarrassing?”

Kirche’s magic lit up the oil, spreading flames all over the Goddess’s Temple, making a loud noise. In an instant, a group of mercenaries, once bent on advancing, retreated from the sudden fire.

Kirche seductively sang a spell, waving her wand again. The flames burned even fiercer, spreading towards the mercenaries at the entrance, enveloping them and causing them to roll around in pain. Kirche stood and elegantly flicked her hair before raising her wand. Although all the arrows flew towards her, Tabitha’s wind magic parried them all.

“Dear unnamed mercenaries, although I have no idea why you’re attacking us,” Kirche smiled and bowed in the rain of arrows, “please let me, Kirche the Ardent, graciously be your opponent!”

 

 

Sitting on her enormous earth golem’s shoulder, Fouquet bit her lip in annoyance. The group she just ordered to attack instantly came back in confusion after being surrounded with fire. She turned to the hooded masked noble sitting beside her. “Geez, making a fuss just because of this level of fire… hired hands just aren’t dependable.”

“That’s enough anyway.”

“But you can’t beat them like this!”

“It’s alright even if they can’t. All they have to do is separate them.”

“Even if you say so, I won’t let this go on. I took so much humiliation because of them.”

The hooded man did not answer, instead standing up as if he heard nothing, and talking to Fouquet, “Alright, I’m going after the Vallière girl.”

“Then what am I going to do?” Fouquet answered in shock.

“Whatever you like. Burn or cook the rest, whatever. We’ll meet up at the usual restaurant.” He casually jumped off the golem’s shoulder, disappearing into the darkness like the midnight wind, soft and chilling.

“Geez…what a laidback guy. Can’t tell me anything he’s thinking about.” Fouquet spoke silently in disgust.

Moans came from the men below. Strong winds came from inside the temple, spreading and strengthening the violent flames. Even the archers hiding in the darkness felt the burn.

Fouquet yelled below her, “Dammit, that’s enough! You’re all useless! Get out of my way!”

The golem rose with a thundering noise, and moved towards the entrance, pulling punches as it advanced.

 

 

Kirche and Tabitha controlled the flames in the hall, forcefully tormenting the mercenaries outside. The group of archers outside also fled from the fire spread by Tabitha’s wind, leaving their bows behind.

“Ohhhhohohohoho! Oho! Ohohoho!” Kirche laughed victoriously. “You see it? You get it now? The power of my flames! If you don’t want to get burned, you better run home now! Ahahaha!”

“Alright, my turn!” after making an untimely appearance, just as Guiche aimed at the retreating enemies in between the gaps of the flames for his “Valkyrie” spell…

In a loud, thunderous noise, the entrance and beyond disappeared.

“Eh?”

A huge golem emerged from the flying dust, and easily kicked away Guiche’s statues.

“Oh, I forgot. That tough missy’s still here.” Kirche said silently, sticking out her tongue.

“Don’t be too arrogant, kids! I’ll finish you off!” Fouquet yelled in anger, standing on her golem’s shoulder.

“What do we do now?” Kirche turned to Tabitha’s direction. Her friend laid out both hands and shook her head.

Guiche took one look at the enormous golem, and sank into a fervent panic, yelling, “Everyone! Attack! I say, ATTACK! Now is the time for them to see the spirit of all Tristainian nobility! Watch me, father! Guiche will become a man!”

Tabitha tripped him with her staff, sending him crashing on the ground.

“What are you doing?! Let me be a man! In the name of Her Royal Highness, let my rose wither here!”

“Alright, we got to go.”

“No! I will not run!”

“…you know, you’re exactly the type that would die in any battle first.”

Tabitha looked at the approaching golem, and suddenly seemed to reach an idea. She then pulled on Guiche’s sleeve.

“What?”

“Rose.” Tabitha pointed at Guiche’s fake rose, making a waving motion in the process. “A lot. Of petals.”

“What do you want with those petals?!” Guiche yelled, only to have his ear pulled by Kirche.

“Just do what Tabitha says!”

Guiche waved his rose wand in annoyance, sending large amounts of petals flying in the air. Tabitha sang a spell. Under her wind’s direction, the petals stuck onto the golem.

“And what does sticking petals all over the golem do?! Sure it’s pretty!” Guiche yelled back.

Tabitha concisely ordered Guiche. “Alchemy.”

On the golem’s shoulder, Fouquet, seeing her creation stuck all over with petals, annoyingly complained, “What’s this? A present? I’m not letting this up even if you decorate my golem with petals!”

The golem raised a fist, and smashed the table that shielded Kirche, Tabitha, and Guiche in one blow.

At that moment, the tangled petals all turned into liquid. The smell of oil crept up to her. As a master of the “earth” element, Fouquet instantly realized the reason. A spell known as “Alchemy.”

They just used “Alchemy” to turn the petals on the golem into oil.

She was too late to realize that something was wrong. Kirche’s fireball was already flying towards her golem.

In an instant, the huge golem was covered in fire. Unable to withstand the heat and flames, the golem fell on its knees.

Seeing their employer in a losing position, the mercenaries fled like spiders. Kirche, Tabitha, and Guiche held their hands in joy.

“We did it! We won!”

“I… I won with alchemy! Father! Your Majesty! Guiche has triumphed!”

“That’s all because of Tabitha’s plan!” Kirche poked on Guiche’s head.

A hideous Fouquet stood up in front of her burned golem. “H… how dare you… beat me, Fouquet, twice, with earth magic…” She looked pitiful. With her long, beautiful hair burned away, her robes singed with holes everywhere, and her face charred a dark black, the beauty had left her.

“Aha, that’s some nice make up you have on. You know, lady, this heavy make up kinda suits you! I mean… you’re pretty old already!” As Kirche finished, she waved her wand at Fouquet. However, she seemed to have depleted her energy with all the spells she used in battle. Suddenly, a small, weak flame flew out, and disappeared in an instant.

“Eh? That’s it?” Kirche scratched her head.

Tabitha and Guiche seemed to have the same effect. But not Fouquet. She didn’t try any spells, and simply moved straight at them.

“Call me old?! Girl, I’m only 23!” Fouquet tightened her fists, and punched at Kirche, who retaliated much the same way without hesitation. And so the two fought completely unlike themselves.

Tabitha sat down, and, with absolutely no interest in the fight in front of her, started reading.

Guiche watched the two beautiful women fighting, a mild blush on his face. He seemed indifferent to his clothes being a total mess.

Watching from far away, the mercenaries began betting on the match.

 

 

As Kirche and Fouquet beat up each other, Saito and company ran towards the harbor, their road illuminated by the bright moon. Wardes ran towards a certain building’s long stairs, and began walking up them.

“Aren’t we heading towards some ‘harbor’? Why are we climbing a hill?” Asked Saito. Wardes did not answer.

After climbing a long flight of stairs, they arrived on top of a small hill. Seeing everything in front of him, Saito gasped.

It was a huge tree, branching out in every direction. It had the size of a mountain. How tall was it? The night covered its top, but it had considerable height. Saito looked at the tree as if it was Tokyo Tower.

And then… taking a closer look between the branches, the tree seemed to be holding something even larger. A huge fruit? He was wrong. It was a ship. It looked like a zeppelin, stuck between the trees.

“This is the ‘harbor’? And… that’s the ‘ship’?” Saito asked in shock.

Louise replied in surprise. “Yeah… isn’t your world like that?”

“Harbors and ships all stay on water in my world.”

“If there are ships that sail on water, there are ships that sail in the air.” Louise said matter-of-factly.

Wardes ran to the tree’s roots, which were as big and spacious as a skyscraper’s lobby. They probably dug the middle out of a dead tree to make this.

It was night, so they couldn’t see anyone. Between each flight of stairs were metal panels, with writing of some sort on them. Maybe station signs or something, Saito thought.

Wardes began climbing the stairs in front of him.

One flight of wooden stairs was connected to another. There were scaffolding and supports on them, but they still looked worryingly dangerous. One could see La Rochelle’s lights in the spaces between each flight of stairs.

In a rest stop midway, Saito heard footsteps behind them. He turned around, and a shadow jumped, flying over him and landed behind Louise.

It was the white-masked man on Fouquet’s golem.

Saito pulled out his sword and cried, “LOUISE!”

Louise turned around. The man picked her up the next instant.

“Ahhhh—–!” Louise screamed. Saito raised his sword. But if I just slash it like that, I’ll hit Louise. The man carried Louise and jumped much like a acrobat would, his body moving wherever he wished.

Saito stood still. Beside him, Wardes waved his staff. The masked man, like Saito a while ago, was blown away, hit by Wardes’ air hammer, and let Louise go. He held on to a support, but Louise fell towards the ground.

In an instant, Wardes jumped off from the platform, and dove towards Louise like a grebe. He caught up with her and floated in the air while carrying her.

The masked man bent around, jumped on the platform, and faced Saito. His build was not too different from Wardes’. He pulled out a staff from his waist. It was a black staff.

After making sure Louise was safe, Saito went on guard, remembering his battle against Wardes. Swinging the sword around is outright dangerous, but he couldn’t foresee what magic his opponent would use against him.

The man waved his staff. The air above him began to cool. Freezing air irritated Saito’s skin. What is he doing?

He continued to chant a spell. Saito raised his sword, but Derflinger yelled, “Get on guard, partner!”

As Saito got on guard, the air shook. There was a crack. Lightning emanated from the man and hit Saito directly.

“‘Lightning Cloud’!” Derflinger cried, recognising the spell. A strong current went through Saito’s body and he fell from the platform.

“Gaaaahhh—!” Saito cried in pain. His left wrist felt like it was scorched and burned as if he had touched a red-hot branding iron. The current left a trail, burning his clothes. He fainted from the pain and fright.

Wardes, holding Louise, chanted the “Fly” spell, safely landing Saito on the ground.

“SAITO!” Louise cried, watching her familiar fall. Wardes bit his lip, turned to the masked man, and waved his staff. It was the air hammer. The air around him solidified into invisible blocks, striking the masked man. He fell off the platform and towards the ground.

Louise struggled out of Wardes’ grip and ran to Saito. A gash from the current continued to burn Saito’s left hand, where he held his sword, from the sleeve straight up to his elbow. She frantically put her ear at his chest. His heart was beating, and she breathed a sigh of relief. He took a very heavy current, but seems to have survived, moaning in pain.

Saito opened his eyes, and painfully stood up. “W-what… that guy… but, it hurts… gah!”

Derflinger spoke in concern, “That was ‘Lightning Cloud’. Very strong wind magic. That guy looks like an expert to me.”

“Ah! Ugh!” Saito’s face twisted in pain.

Wardes looked to Saito’s condition. “But he was lucky to survive with just his wrist injured. This spell usually kills. Hmm… looks like your sword neutralized some of the current, but I’m not sure why. Isn’t the sword made of metal?”

“No idea. I forgot.” Derflinger replied.

“An intelligent sword, huh. Rare stuff.”

Saito bit his lip hard. His injured wrist hurt, but the fact that he could do nothing to save Louise hurt more. Plus, he let Wardes steal the whole show. He couldn’t let Louise look at him like this anymore. He barely stood up, and sheathed Derflinger.

“Let’s go. I-it doesn’t matter now.”

 

 

Behind the last flight of stairs was a branch. On that branch, a ship… just docked there. It was shaped more like a yacht, perhaps to let it fly. There were wings on the sides. From the ship dangled who-knows-how-many ropes, all tied onto the branches. The branch they were standing on extended all the way to the ship’s deck.

They stepped on board, and a sailor sleeping on the deck climbed up. “Hey you! What are you doing?!”

“Where’s the captain?”

“He’s sleeping. Come back in the morning.” The man replied frostily and drunkenly, and drank from his rum bottle.

Wardes did not answer, and pulled his staff out. “You want a noble to repeat what he just said? I said get the captain!”

“A n-noble!!” The sailor stood up immediately and ran for the captain’s quarters.

After a while, he brought back a sleepy, fifty-something old man with a hat on. He seemed to be the captain. “What do you want?” He looked at Wardes suspiciously.

“Leader of Her Majesty’s Mage Guard, Captain Wardes.”

The captain’s eyes bulged, and he switched to more formal words after learning his identity as a noble of high caliber. “Oh, uh… then, what services may this ship perform for you…”

“Take us to Albion. Depart now.”

“Madness!”

“This is upon Her Majesty’s orders. Are you going against the Royal Court?”

“I don’t know what you’re going to Albion for, but we can’t depart until morning!”

“Why?”

“Albion’s the closest to Tristainia in the morning! We don’t have enough wind stones to get there from here right now.”

“Wind stones?” asked Saito.

The captain gave him a ‘you-don’t-know-what-a-wind-stone-is? look and answered, “Stones that store wind magic. This ship can’t fly without them.” He then turned to Wardes. “Your Excellency, this ship only has enough wind stones in store to travel the shortest distance to Albion. If we have more, we could have gone earlier. But for now, we cannot depart. We’ll drop out of the sky while halfway there.”

“I’ll make up for however much you lack in wind stones. I’m a square wind mage.”

The captain and his sailors looked at each other. The captain then turned to Wardes and nodded. “Then that’s fine. You will have to pay, though.”

“What’s the cargo?”

“Sulfur. Right now, it’s worth its weight in gold. The nobles have increased the price in desperation for security. To have that, gunpowder and fire elements are a must.”

“Sell all of that to me at that price.”

The captain nodded, perhaps with a devious smile. With the deal done, the captain made one order after another. “Leave port! Untie anchors! Set sail!”

The sailors followed orders, all the while complaining under their breath, expertly removing the ropes from the branches, climbing to the securing ropes on both sides, and released the sails.

Without the ties, the ship suddenly sank, and then floated again with the power of the wind stones.

“When can we reach Albion?” Wardes asked.

“We’ll arrive at Scarborough Port tomorrow at noon.” The captain replied.

Saito looked at the ground from the port side. The “harbor” could be seen between the huge tree’s branches. La Rochelle’s lights soon faded into darkness. They seemed to be traveling rather fast.

Louise approached Saito, and put a hand on his shoulder. “Saito, are you okay?” She worriedly looked at him.

“Don’t touch me.” He pushed her hand away. Louise’s face reddened.

“What?! And I was worried about you!” Louise went mad, seeing as Saito wouldn’t even look at her. “And I got all worried about you… what’s with that attitude?” She thought.

Saito was depressed. He couldn’t do a thing when Louise was about to be taken away by that white-masked man. He couldn’t face her. He remembered what Wardes told him a few days ago, “In other words, you are unable to protect Louise.”

Is that so? He sank.

Wardes approached them. “From what I heard from the captain, the Albion Royal Army near Newcastle was completely surrounded and is fighting an uphill battle.”

Louise, clearly scared, asked, “What about Prince Wales?”

Wardes shook his head. “I’m not sure. He seems to be alive…..”

“Wait… isn’t the harbor completely taken over by the rebels?”

“Yeah.”

“Then how can we contact the Royal Family?”

“We’ll just have to fight our way out. It takes only a day on horseback from Scarborough to Newcastle.”

“Fighting out of the rebels?”

“Right. That’s the only choice we have. They can’t really openly attack the Tristainian nobility, I think. We’ll have to find a chance to break out of their circle and run straight for Newcastle. All we have to think about then is riding in the dark.”

Louise anxiously nodded, and asked, “Speaking of which, Wardes, where’s your griffin?”

Wardes smiled. He leaned out portside, and whistled. From right under the ship came the sound of the griffin’s wings. It landed onto the deck, scaring some of the sailors.

“Can’t we just get to Albion on the griffin instead of the ship?” asked Saito.

“It’s not a dragon. It can’t fly that far.” Louise answered.

Saito sat near the mast and closed his eyes. Looks like we’ll be in danger again soon. Oh well… I’ll just go to sleep. he thought. With the talk between Louise and Wardes like a lullaby, he fell asleep.

 

 

Saito woke up to the sailors’ noises and blinding light, and a bright, blue sky in front of him. Looking down the ship, he could see floating clouds. The ship sailed right above them.

“Albion in sight!” the lookout bellowed.

Saito rubbed his sleepy eyes, and looked down again. All there was were clouds. Ground was nowhere to be seen.

Louise, who seemed to have been sleeping beside him, stood up.

“I can’t see ground anywhere.” Saito complained.

“There?” She pointed up towards the sky.

“Huh?” He followed where she pointed, and gasped in shock. A huge… well, nothing but huge sight greeted his eyes.

From between the clouds he could see dark land. It continued to expand under them. Mountains carved the landscape, and rivers flowed down them.

From between the clouds he could see dark land.

“Did that frighten you?” Louise asked him.

“Ah… I’ve… never seen anything like this before.” Saito’s jaw dropped as he stood gaping.

“Albion, the floating island. It floats in the air, just like that, usually over oceans. However, it passes by over the Halkeginian continent a few times every month. It’s about the size of Tristainia, and it’s nicknamed ‘The White Country’.”

“Why ‘The White Country’?”

Louise pointed towards the island. “The water from the rivers flow off the island into the air, and while doing so become white fog, covering the bottom part of the island. The fog turn into clouds, which give Halkeginia its rainfall,” Louise explained.

The lookout yelled again, “Ship approaching starboard side!”

Saito looked towards that direction. A ship was, as he said, approaching, and it was many measures larger than the one they’re on. Cannons jutted out of holes on its portside.

“Ah… they even have cannons.” Saito spoke his thoughts.

Louise frowned.

 

 

“Not good. A rebel… or is that a noble vessel?” Behind deck, Wardes and the captain looked at where the lookout was pointing.

Black paint signaled that the ship was made for war. Twenty or so cannons aimed at them.

“Albionian nobility? Tell us if they ship cargo like we do.”

The lookout hoisted the signal flags as the captain told. The black ship did not respond.

The co-captain entered running, his face pale, and reported to the captain, “That ship doesn’t have any nationality flags!”

“Then… are they pirates?”

“Can’t be wrong! I heard they got really active after the rebellion began…”

“Run! Full speed!” The captain wanted to run from them as quickly as possible, but they were too late. The black ship began to sail parallel to them, and fired a shot directly ahead of them.

BANG! The cannonball disappeared into the clouds. The black ship’s mast then hoisted a four-color signal.

“They’re ordering us to stop, captain.”

The captain winced in his decision. It’s not like his ship was completely unarmed, but all they had were three movable cannons on deck, which were no more useful than decorations when up against a full broadside of over twenty pointed at them. The captain looked at Wardes for help.

“All my magic’s used on the ship. We can only do what they say.” Wardes answered calmly.

The captain mouthed, “There goes my fortune,” and gave the order.

“Wrap sails. Stop the ship.”

 

 

Louise, seeing the black ship fire a shot, closing in on them, and their ship stopping, held close to Saito, who only uneasily watched the black ship.

“We are pirates! Do not resist!” a man onboard the black ship yelled with a horn.

“Pirates?” Louise was shocked.

On the black ship’s port, men lined up with bows and rifles. They aimed and shot hooked lines, grabbing onto their ship’s starboard. More strong men, about ten of them wielding axes and curved sabers, slid over the ropes and onto the ship.

Saito held his sword, but his wrist still hurt from the previous night’s battle, and he couldn’t use his strength.

“Saito…” Louise said silently. He heard her, and tried to hold onto his sword harder. The marks on the back of his left hand glowed. However, Wardes, who somehow appeared behind him, put his hand on his shoulder.

“They’re not just armed barbarians, Saito. They have a lot of cannons pointed at us. If you want to live on the battlefield, you’ve got to accurately measure their strength and yours. They might even have mages on their side.”

Wardes’ griffin, which was sitting on front of the deck, was also frightened of the pirates and growled. Its head was then covered with blue-white smoke, and it fell onto the deck, fast asleep.

“A sleeping spell… so they do have mages.”

At an order, the pirates landed on their ship. One of them was dressed quite exquisitely. He wore a shirt that looked like it used to be white, but was dirtied black from sweat and lubricant. One could see his strong and well-tanned chest muscles in the shirt’s openings. A patch covered his left eye. This man seemed to be the pirates’ leader.

“Where’s the captain?” He commanded in a rough tone, looking around him.

“Me.” The captain, shaking but still trying to keep composure, raised his hand.

The leader walked to him in large steps, took out his saber and rapped it at the captain’s face. “What’s the ship’s name and what does it carry?”

“Tristainia’s Marie Galante. The cargo is sulfur.”

A gasp came from the pirates. The leader sniggered, picking up the captain’s hat and putting it on his head.

“I’m buying everything on this ship then… the price being your lives!”

The captain shook in shame. Then, the leader noticed Louise and Wardes standing on deck.

“Oho, we have noble guests!” The leader approached Louise and raised her chin with his hand. “We have a beauty here. Would you like to be our dishwasher?”

The men made rough, low laughs. Louise slapped his hand, and glared at him like she was about to explode into flames. “Get off me, you low-life!”

“Oh, she called us low-lives! I’m so scared now!” The men laughed loudly.

Saito wanted to take out his sword, but Wardes stopped him, whispering, “Hey, familiar. You look like you just can’t quiet down.”

“B-but… Louise…”

“What’s the use in raising a racket now? Their cannons and arrows would just turn Louise, you, and all of us into swiss cheese.”

Saito was shocked.

“Don’t you care about Louise’s safety one bit?”

Saito sank in despair and remorse. I’m useless. I can’t ever match up with this guy. Louise… will be better off marrying with this guy. He thought.

“Alright, boys, take them all away. We can get a hell lot of ransom for this!”


 

Chapter Seven: The Prince of a Dying Country

Saito was caught and imprisoned by the pirates. It seemed like the Marie Galante’s crew had helped to take over the ship.

Since Saito’s sword and Wardes and Louise’s wands had been taken, they were allowed to keep their hands and feet unrestrained. Without their wands, mages, just like the weaponless Saito, were harmless. Though the same could not be said about Louise.

In the background, one could see wine barrels, cereal sacks and gunpowder casks disorderly thrown around. Heavy cannonballs were piled up in the corner of the room.

Wardes explored the cargo with a great interest.

Saito sat down in the corner of the hold, frowning because of the pain in his injured arm.

Louise looked at Saito with a worried expression after seeing him in such a state.

“…What? Just as I thought, the injury hurts after all.”

“It’s nothing.” Saito said snappishly.

“It’s not nothing – show me!” Louise forcefully gripped Saito’s arm and tucked up clothes.

“Kya”

It looked really awful. The Masked Man’s lightning spell had inflicted a severe injury going from shoulder to wrist on his left arm. More so it seemed to be getting worse; his shoulder was having awful convulsions.

“Is that not awfully burnt?! Should I feel relieved now?!” Louise shouted. She stood up and started knocking on the door

“Somebody! Somebody come!”

The guardian stood up.

“Eh?”

“Water! Is there a mage? We need a water mage! There is an injured person! He needs to be healed!”

“There is no such person.”

“Lies! It is so!”

Wardes who was taken aback watched Louise’ dumbfounded. Saito gripped Louise’s shoulder.

“Be obedient. You are the prisoner here.”

“No! I won’t, you are injured!”

“Stop saying that!” Saito shouted. Louise cringed because of his threatening attitude, and her pupils started getting moist. However, she gulped down her saliva and tried to fight back the incoming tears.

“D-don’t cry.”

“I am not crying. There is no master who would cry in front of her familiar!”

Saito turned his face away.

“I see.”

“I would never cry in front of you.”

Louise walked towards the other wall and sat down facing away from Saito, her body shivering. Saito headed towards Wardes and tapped his shoulder.

“Please comfort her”

“Why?”

“Aren’t you Louise’s fiancé?”

Wardes nodded and turned towards Louise, and hugged her shoulders from behind, comforting her. Saito collapsed on the ground, averting his eyes from Wardes and Louise. The pain in his arm kept on getting worse. It was his own fault for stopping Louise from helping him.

It’s a suitable punishment for such a worthless being like me.

“My punishment… doesn’t hurt that much. Uwaa-”

His muttering was interrupted by the door opening as a fat man with a plate of soup entered.

“Rice.”

When Saito, who was near the door, tried to take the plate of soup. The man suddenly lifted the plate up.

“Only after you have answered a few questi

Louise, whose eyes looked puffy, stood up.

“Ask.”

“What business do you have in Albion?”

“Travelling.” Louise said with a decisive voice, putting her hand on the waist.

“Tristain’s noble, why would you travel to Albion? Why would you be sightseeing in such place?”

“I do not have to tell you such things.”

“Still pretending to be tough, despite being scared and crying?”

Louise turned her face away as the pirate started laughing. She grabbed a plate with soup and water to throw at him, but…

Saito took it from her.

“Hey!”

“I cannot eat a soup made by such people!”

Louise turned her face away again.

“It’s not healthy to stay hungry.”

When Wardes said so, Louise took the plate of soup with a pouting face.

Three people ate the same soup from one plate, though in normal circumstances that would never happen.

Wardes leaned onto the wall with a tired expression on his face.

Louise tore up the sleeve of her shirt and soaked it in water, trying to cool down Saito’s wound with it.

“It’s alright.”

“It’s not alright!” Louise stared firmly at Saito with her puffy eyes. “Because, you are my familiar, you have to listen what I tell you!”

Saito averted his face. Louise, who was treating his arm softly, looked up at him.

“What is it?”

“You have more important duties to care about.”

“I do, but an injury is also very important! Is that clear?!”

Saito kept on looking away, before noticing the barrels with gunpowder.

“We could escape by using that.”

“Eh?”

Louise suspiciously followed Saito’s look. Saito opened the barrel and filled the plate with gunpowder.

Wardes muttered tiredly.

“And where would you run? Only emptiness surrounds us.”

Saito sat down again with a thump.

“…but, sitting like that and doing nothing…”

At that time, the door opened again. This time it was a thin pirate standing before them. The pirate looked at the three with piercing eyes and asked.

“Good evening, are you the aristocrats going to Albion?”

Louise did not answer.

“Oi oi, judging from your silence it’s true. Although we do not look like that we respect nobles, thanks to the aristocrats our business goes well.”

“But, isn’t this a warship of rebels?”

“No no, though we are employed, we are involved in the fifty-fifty relationship with both sides. We are related to both factions. So how is it? Are you nobles? If it is true, then you will be let go free in the closest port.”

Saito felt relieved. Since Louise was an aristocrat everything could be settled peacefully then. Also, they would be taken to the closest port.

Louise, however, did not nod her head in agreement and kept on glaring at the pirate’s forehead instead.

“How dare you have anything to do with those dirty rebels? Do not disregard Albion nobles. I myself am one of the noble families. Albion is still a kingdom, as the royal family is still a legitimate government in Albion. Because I am an aristocrat who comes here on behalf of Tristain, I am, in other words, an ambassador. Therefore, I demand an ambassador’s treatment from you.”

Saito widely opened his mouth and muttered. “Are you an idiot?”

“Who are you calling an idiot? The idiot is you! Trying to act cool while being injured this badly!” Louise angrily turned to Saito and shouted.

“But! You should choose the time and place for your straightforwardness better!”

“Shut up! You are my familiar and you should listen to what I say! Anyway, show your arm! Hey!”

The surprised Saito clasped his arm, while Louise tried to pull Saito’s arm with a jerk.

The pirate laughed after seeing such scene.

“Honestly, you should stop doing that!”

“You’re wrong, I can’t let you get hurt so carelessly.” Louise asserted.

“Eh?” Saito said in a surprised voice.

“It’s because you are my familiar… t-that’s why…”

“I’ll go to report to the Boss then.”

The pirate left laughing.

Saito was so surprised that he wasn’t able to reply to Louise properly.

“Arm, show it.”

“Don’t act this way. Aren’t there more things to be concerned of? Like our present situation.”

Louise responded decisively “I won’t let such things take me down as long as we have the slightest chance to survive.”

Louise stood up straight. Though the thought of marrying Wardes made her feel funny at the start, it wasn’t so strong anymore.

“…In any case, you lied to them.”

“Don’t talk nonsense. Are you seriously thinking that lying to such people is a bad thing?”

Saito sighed tiredly. Wardes came near Louise and tapped her shoulder.

“Don’t say such things Louise, you are still my bride.”

Saito looked away dejectedly. Louise’s face showed mixed feelings as she looked down.

The door opened again, it was the same thin pirate.

“The boss calls.”

 

 
The aisle passed up the narrow stairs and took the three to a splendid room built on the upper part of the deck.

The Boss… apparently, the chief of the pirates.

As the door opened, one could see a gorgeous dinner table and a pirate sitting at its end, playing with a cane that had big crystal attached on top of it. Seemingly, he was a mage himself. The Boss’ room was very different from what one would expect from a pirate.

He looked intensively at Louise who entered the room. The thin pirate who had brought her there poked her slightly from behind.   “Hey, you, you are standing in front of the Boss, so greet him properly.”   However, Louise just stood there glaring at the Boss as he smiled at her.

“Ah, I like a strong willed woman, you are not a child at all.”

“I demand the treatment of an ambassador.”

Louise, not paying attention to the Boss’ words, repeated her demand.

“And what would be that message you are trying to give?”

Asked the Boss as he ignored Louise’s words.

“And did you say royal?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Are you going to [Nanishi]? They will be gone tomorrow.”

“I won’t tell you.”

But the Boss spoke to Louise in a joyful voice.

“Are you willing to betray the nobles? Otherwise, even if you are a mage I might not guarantee your safety even for considerable fee.”

“I’d rather die.”

Saito poked Louise, and at that moment he noticed her body trembling. She was scared. But even if she was scared, she kept on looking straight into the eyes of the Boss.

Saito remembered his duel with Guiche.

I was scared at that time. I thought I was going to die. But I didn’t bow my head down. I think that Louise today resembles me at that time. She stands against a scary opponent but is able to withstand it because she has something important in her mind, just like me.

This Louise looked really amazing.

“I’ll ask you again. Are you willing to betray the nobles?”

Louise looked straight ahead. She crossed her arms, and put out her chest.   However, Saito interrupted her before she could open her mouth.

“She told her answer already.”

“And who are you?”

The Boss looked at Saito with a piercing glare. The eyes that seemed to see the deep secrets. But Saito looked straight at the Boss, just like Louise did.

“A familiar.”

“Familiar?”

“Seems so.”

The Boss started laughing. He laughed loudly.

“I knew that Tristainan nobles were weird but not so helplessly. Oh my, my stomach hurts.” Said the Boss as he stood up laughing. Saito and the others were puzzled by the sudden change of atmosphere and looked at each other.

“Oh, I am sorry. As a noble I should properly introduce myself as well.”

The pirate who was laughing loudly suddenly stood up straight.

He removed his black curly hair from his head. It seemed to be a wig. He also took of the black eye patch, and also removed his fake beard. Before them now was standing a young person with blond hair.

“I am a general of the Albion Royal Air Force and also the commander of our country fleet. Though to tell the truth this warship named “Eagle” is the only ship in our fleet. A powerless fleet. Oh dear, even people from the street could easily beat it.”

The young person bowed while introducing himself.

“I am the prince of the Albion’s Kingdom, Wales Tudor.”

Louise’s mouth opened wide and Saito couldn’t take his eyes from the surprising appearance of the young prince of Albion. Wardes watched the prince with great interest.

Wales smiled with a charming smile and moved a chair for Louise to sit.

“Welcome to Albion, Ambassador. Now, let’s talk about your message.”

However, Louise was still speechless. She just stood there dumbfounded, unable to move.

“Why do I dress up as a pirate? To hide myself?! No, the rich rebels sent a lot of support to the rebellion, and it is a basic war tactic to cut enemy’s supply line. It was necessary so had to dress myself like an undignified dirty pirate.”

Wales said laughingly.

“No, it was really impolite to treat an ambassador like that. But you have to admit you don’t look much like a royal messenger yourself. And I never thought about support from other country’s nobles. Yet I still should apologize.”

Even after Wales’ words, Louise’s mouth still kept opening and closing without uttering a single sound. She hadn’t been mentally prepared to meet the prince so suddenly.

“We brought a secret letter from Her Highness Princess Henrietta.” Wardes said while gracefully bowing.

“Ohh, from Her Highness. And you are?”

“Captain of Tristain’s Griffin Knights, Viscount Wardes.”

After that, Wardes introduced Louise to Wales.

“And this is the ambassador sent by Her Highness from the Vallière family and her familiar, Your Highness.”

“Indeed! Such a splendid noble. And I only have my ten bodyguards to greet you, such a miserable greeting. Then, do you still have the secret letter?”

Louise panicking took out Henrietta’s letter from her clothes.   However, she stopped before giving it to Wales. After a few moments of hesitation she opened her mouth.

“B-but…”

“What?”

“Excuse me, but are you really a prince?”   Wales laughed.

“Oh dear, you won’t believe me even if I showed you my true face. I am Wales. And I am really a prince. I will show evidence then.”

Wales said after seeing the water ruby ring shining on Louise’s finger.

Louise’s hand was taken and the ring that shone on a finger was removed. The prince brought it close to his ruby ring. The two rings reacted to each other, shining with a bright light.

“This ring belongs to the Albion royal family, the ruby of the Wind, while that one belongs to Henrietta from Tristain royal family and is the ruby of the Water. Am I right?”

Louise nodded.

“Water and the wind make the rainbow. A rainbow which is formed between royal families.”

“True, I am sorry for my impoliteness.”

Louise handed Wales the letter and bowed.

After looking at the letter lovingly, Wales kissed the signature. Then, the seal was carefully removed, the paper inside was taken out, and Wales began to read.

For some time he kept on reading it with serious expression.

“Is the princess marrying? That beautiful Henrietta. My beloved… cousin.”

Wardes bowed silently, with an affirmative expression. Wales dropped the glance to the letter again and smiled when the last line was read.

“Understood. The princess is informing me with this that she wants you to return that letter. And more importantly, the princess also hopes that I return a letter from her. Seems like it.”

Louise’s face beamed with pleasure.

“However, it’s not in my hands right now. It’s in the castle in Newcastle. I didn’t want to bring the princess’ letter to this pirate ship.” Wales said laughingly.

“So, even though it’s troublesome, please come with me to Newcastle.”

 

 

Chapter Eight: The Eve Before the Final Battle in Newcastle

The warship Eagle took Saito to the ragged coastline of Albion. They had been traveling for three hours and could already see the cape, a big castle standing on its very edge.

Wales explained to Saito, who was standing on the front deck, that it was the fortress of Newcastle. However, the Eagle did not head straight to the city, but instead sailed down the coast.

“Why are we going downwards?”

Wales pointed at the sky behind the castle where a huge ship was floating. However, it could not see their ship which was hiding on the other side of the cloud.

“Warship of rebels.”

It could be described only as a huge ship – it was twice as long as the Eagle with an incredible number of sails, and it seemed like it was aiming for Newcastle port. With no warning it opened fire aiming at the castle. The first cannonball crashed into the wall and a small fire could be seen. The shockwave from impact could be felt on the deck of the Eagle.

“This ship named “Royal Sovereign” once belonged to the fleet of our country. Yet, when rebels took control over it, they changed the name to “Lexington“. It was named in honor of the battlefield where those guys snatched the first victory from us.” Wales said with a smile.

“This warship keeps a constant blockade of Newcastle from the sky. It shoots at the castle from time to time, not in order to do some damage, but just to annoy us.”

Saito looked through the cloud at the warship. There were a lot of cannons on each side, and a dragon was painted on the surface of the ship.

“It has 108 cannons and really looks like a firebreathing dragon at times. The whole rebellion started from this ship. We can’t match it, so it’s better to sail through this cloud and remain unseen. We can reach Newcastle from the other side, as there is a secret port that only we know.”

 

 

It suddenly became pitch-dark when ship went under the continent, as the landmass blocked the sunlight. In addition, they were still surrounded by clouds. They couldn’t see a thing. Wales explained that rebels never went under the continent because traveling in such a way was dangerous. Cold, damp and chilly air hit Saito’s cheeks.

“For Navigators of the royal air force it’s easy to navigate by relying on topographical maps, using magic of light and measurements.”

Wales laughed, the noble that does not know the sky is not an intelligent person.

They sailed for a while and eventually reached a section which opened into black hole overhead. Illuminated by the magic light from the mast, it was really spectacular, they could see a hole 300 mails in diameter.

“Stop here for now.”

“Aye Aye sir, stop here!”   Wales’ order was given to the still very energetic and lively crew. The sails were taken off and the Eagle started to drift right under the hole.

“Slowly increase speed.”

“Aye Aye sir, slowly increase the speed!”

The Eagle rose slowly toward the hole. Following just behind was the Marie Galante that navigators of the Eagle had boarded.

Wardes nodded, “You are definitely not sky pirates, Your Highness.”

“We are precisely sky pirates, Viscount.”

 

 

Light could be seen inside the hole and that’s where the Eagle headed to.

The warship had arrived at a secret port of Newcastle. Inside the huge limestone cave was covered with white moss. Many people were waiting on the quay. Ropes were thrown to the sailors to tie down the Eagle and finally the wooden gangway was attached.

Wales hurried Louise and the others to go down the gangway.   A tall and aged mage approached them.

“Ha ha, wonderful military results, right, Your Highness?”

The old mage seemed to appear out of nowhere before the Eagle.

“Rejoice, Paris. Sulfur, it is sulfur!”

When Wales shouted so, around him gathered cheering soldiers.

“Ooh! Sulfur! This is for the honor of our guardianship!” The old mage began to cry as he was aging.

“I served for sixty years under the previous king… There won’t be such happy days again, Your Highness. After the revolt happened it all turned into sorrow… Even with sulfur we won’t make it…”

Wales laughed with a smile.

“Even if we’ll be defeated, we’ll show the revolters the royal family’s courage and honor.”

“A glorious death. My old bones are trembling with excitement. It was reported that the rebels are going to attack the castle tomorrow. It’s really all or nothing now, Your Highness.”

“With our last breath we’ll put their soldiers to shame!”

Wales and the others were laughing at ease from the bottoms of their hearts. Louise became worried after hearing the word defeat. In other words, they will die. Aren’t these people scared of death?

“And who are these people?” The old mage named Paris asked Wales after seeing Louise.

“This is an ambassador from Tristain. She came because of an important business related to the kingdom.”

Paris was surprised for a moment, what would the ambassador from another kingdom be searching for in those ruins? But soon a smile returned to his face.

“So you are an ambassador. Paris Chamberlain at your service, madam. It’s nice that you came all the way to Albion. Though it might not be much, we will have a small feast tonight. By all means – please come.”

 

 

Louise and the others followed Wales to his room. The prince’s room was suited behind the kitchen room and it was rather ordinary looking.

A wooden bed, table and a pair of chairs, as well as a painting on the wall that illustrated a battle scene.

The prince sat on the chair and opened a drawer of the desk, inside of which was a little jewelry box. The prince took the necklace off his neck.

A small key was put into the lock of the little box and Wales opened it. Henrietta’s portrait was lying in there.

Louise received the letter while bowing deeply.

Wales, who had noticed Louise looking at the box, spoke embarrassedly.

“Strongbox.”

There was one letter inside. It seemed to be from the princess too. Wales took it out with love and read it. That letter looked older than it should from being constantly re-read.

After reading it Wales gently folded it and put it into an envelope, then he handed it to Louise.

“This is the letter I got from the princess. I am returning it as well.”

“Thank you.”

Louise received the letter while bowing deeply.

“The Eagle will take you back to Tristain tomorrow, as we won’t be using it in the battle.”

Louise opened her mouth decisively after looking for some time at the letter.

“But, Your Highness… What did you have in mind when you mentioned a glorious defeat?”

Louse asked with hesitation. Wales answered it very easily.

“It is so. My army has 300 men while the enemy force has 50000. There is no chance of victory. So let us at least die in glory.”

Louise looked down.

“Your Highness, do you also mean yourself when you talk about dying in battle?”

“Of course. I will die as well.”

Saito, who had been looking at the conversation from the side, sighed. The prince being worried so little by death tomorrow made it all so confusing. It seemed that it was not reality but an event from a play.

Louise’s shoulders dropped when she bowed deeply to Wales. She had more things to say though.

“Your Highness… Forgive my impoliteness, but there are a few more things I have to say.”

“What do you want to say?”

“What is the content of the letter?”

“Louise.”

Saito protested. Indeed, the content of the letter was a personal thing after all. But Louise, after asking Wales, looked up with determination.

“When princess-sama gave me this task she looked like she was worrying about her lover. And in the box there was a portrait of princess-sama, and seeing the gloomy face after you kissed and read the letter… Are you and the princess-sama…”

Wales smiled. He guessed what Louise wanted to say.

“Do you want to say that cousin Henrietta and I have a love relationship?”

Louise nodded.

“It seems so. Forgive a surprising impoliteness. If so, the content of this letter is…”

After putting his hand to his forehead and making a gesture, as if worried for a moment about what he should and shouldn’t say, Wales spoke.

“A love letter. Just like you guessed. Foolishly, if this love letter were to be passed to the imperial household of Germania as Henrietta informed by letter, it might become a great threat. In the letter she is swearing eternal love for me in the name of Founder Brimir. It is like an oath when marrying, love sworn in the name of the founder. If this letter is brought to light, she will be accused of committing the crime of bigamy. The emperor of Germania is sure to break off the engagement with the princess who violated the rules. Then, there would be no alliance. Tristain might be politically ignored by other countries’ noble families.”

“So princess-sama and Your Highness were in love with each other?”

“It’s an old story.”

Louise spoke to Wales in a feverish tone. “Your Highness, return! Return to Tristain!”

Wardes abruptly put his hand on her shoulder. However, this did not stop Louise.

“I beg you! Please, come to Tristain with us!”

“It cannot be done.” Wales said with a laugh.

“Your Highness, I disagree. Princess-sama would think so as well! Didn’t it say so in the letter? I have known princess-sama since our childhood, I know very well how she thinks. Princess-sama does not desert the people she loves! Your Highness, you didn’t say it, but I am sure princess-sama told you to run away as well!”

Wales shook his head. “There is not such line written.”

“Your Highness!” Louise kept on pressing Wales.

“I am from a royal family. I am not lying. There is no telling by the princess for me to run away in the letter, I swear it by my honor.”

Wales spoke as if he was in pain. It seemed like Louise’s words hit him.

“Henrietta is a princess. She has to give priority to the country rather than me.”

Louise understood what he meant with that. Even if Wales liked Henrietta, it would never be supported by other nobles in his situation.

Wales tapped Louise’s shoulder.

“You are a honest girl, Vallière. You have honest, clear and kind eyes.”

Louise looked down lonesome.

“But let me give you some advice. It’s not too good for an ambassador to be honest like that.”

Wales smiled with an attractive smile.

“However, you are a perfect ambassador to a ruined country like ours, as the government that will be destroyed tomorrow is more honest than anyone, since it doesn’t have anything to defend besides its honor.”

After that he pulled something out of his pocket. From the shape and running arrow it seemed to be a clock.

“Ahhaha, it is time for our little party. Since you are last guests of our kingdom, I would like you to attend it as well.”

Saito and Louise went out of the room. Wardes stayed behind and bowed to Wales.

“Oh do you have some more business, Viscount?”

“There is one favor I would like to ask, Milord.”

“Ask.”

Wardes whispered into the ear of Wales, who smiled.

“Ah such a lovely request, it will be my pleasure.”

 

 

The party was held in the castle’s hall. The king of Albion, James I, sat on the throne, and watched the nobles and vassals who had gathered through narrowed eyes.

Though the following day everyone would die, it was still quite a feast and the table was filled with various treats.

Saito and the others were watching this colorful party while standing in the corner of the hall.

“They put all the troubles of tomorrow behind and are trying to enjoy the present.”

Wardes nodded in response to Saito’s words.

“Yes, they behave joyfully.”

When Prince Wales showed up, there was some enthusiastic sighs between the ladies. It seemed like he was popular not only as a prince but as a handsome man as well. When he approached the throne, people started whispering.

James I tried to stand up straight and greet him, but because of his old age he staggered and almost fell down.

Some laughter could be heard from the hall.

“Your Majesty! Its too early to fall!”

“Indeed! Save that for tomorrow!”

James I wasn’t insulted by such comments, and smiled.

“Don’t worry, its just my legs were numb from sitting for so long.”

Wales came closer and supported the king’s body with his. There were a few more chuckles.

“You. I will tell all of you brave and loyal vassals, that tomorrow ‘Reconquista’ is planning to attack our Newcastle with their full force. You followed and fought bravely for this incapable old king, however tomorrow won’t be a battle. It is likely to be a one-sided slaughter. Let’s endure it and show our bravery for one last time.”

The king coughed loudly, after that he continued talking.

“But it might be asking too much for all you to die. Thus tomorrow morning the warship Eagle will take all women and children and the ones who chose to leave to a safer place further from this forsaken continent.”

However, no one answered. One noble loudly informed the king.

“You Majesty! We are waiting for the order! Whole Army Forward! Whole Army Forward! Whole Army Forward! Since our hearing is so bad tonight I doubt we will be able to hear any other orders!”

All the people nodded.

“Yeah! What would others say if we were to run away?”

“It’s too late to retreat, Your Majesty”

“It’s alright! We will continue to serve the king like we did years before! Tonight is a good night! The founder has blessed us with a wonderful moon and warm night! Let’s enjoy drinking and dancing for tonight!”

With this everyone returned to the feast. The three guests from Tristain attracted a lot of attention. The nobles didn’t seem to be sad or worried, they playfully kept on joking and offering wine or food to the guests.

“Ambassador! Try this wine! Tell us which country’s wine is better!”

“Here! Try this! It’s Albion’s special – chicken with honey, will make you healthy and strong for sure!”

Albion kept on having fun! Even in the end.

Saito became melancholic. The people who acted joyfully at the face of death looked more sad than brave. Louise seemed to have felt it more. She couldn’t endure the atmosphere, shook her head and ran out of the hall.

For a moment Saito wanted to follow her, but urged Wardes to go instead.

Wardes nodded and went after her. Saito crouched on the floor and sighed.

Wales saw Saito acting this way and came to him from the center of the hall.

“This boy is Miss Vallière’s familiar. However, it is very unusual for a person to be a familiar. Tristain is really an unusual country.”

Wales laughed while saying so.

“It is unusual in Tristain as well.” Said Saito tiredly.

“Feeling down?”

Anxiously, Wales looked into Saito’s face. He still felt pain in his arm and seeing people preparing for their death was depressing as well.   Saito stood up and asked Wales. “Sorry for impoliteness… But aren’t you scared?”

“Scared?” Wales looked blankly at Saito.

“Aren’t you scared to die?”

Wales laughed after hearing Saito’s words.

“You are worried about us! Us! What a nice boy you are!”

“No, it’s just that it is scary for me. I could not laugh the way you do if I were to know that I would die tomorrow.”

“I am scared. There is no person who would not be scared to die. It doesn’t matter if you are a noble or commoner.”

“Then why?”

“It is because I have something to defend. Something that makes me to forget the coldness of the grave.”

“What do you defend? Honor? Fame? Those are a foolish things to die for.” Saito said with louder voice.

Wales answered with distant eyes.

“The aristocrat faction ‘Reconquista’ is our enemy that tries to unite Halkeginia. It hangs to the ‘Holy Land’ ideal. It’s good that people have such ideals, but it shouldn’t be brought about with force and blood. All countries would be ruined.”

“However, is there no chance of victory any more? What’s the point of dying here? Maybe you can find other means to defeat them later…”

“No, we should at least show off a glimpse of courage and honor to other nobles even if is not possible to win, we can show that Halkeginia’s royal families are not a weak enemy. Even though they do not seem like they will throw away the ambitions of ‘Union’ and ‘Recovery of the Holy Land’ anytime soon.”

“Why?” Saito asked.

Saito who grew up in modern Japan could not understand why one would show one’s courage in such way.

Wales declared decisively.

“Why? Easily, it is our obligation. The obligation of those born in the royal family. The obligation imposed on the royal family to defend the kingdom to the very end.”

Saito did not understand. However, because Wales has a person whom he loves, and who loves Wales as well, isn’t surviving for that person also an obligation? He thought in such a way.

“The princess of Tristain loves you. Did you forgot her letter?”

After Saito’s words, Wales smiled recalling it.

“Because of love, sometimes it is necessary to pretend not to know. Because of love, sometimes it is necessary to let go. It would only give others an excuse to invade Tristain.”

“But, but…”

Saito hesitated. Wales’s decision won’t be changed. Wales gripped Saito’s shoulder and looked straight into his eyes.

“Since it is cleared, don’t tell this to Henrietta. No need to worry her pretty face with unnecessary worries. She is like a pretty flower. Don’t you think so too?”

Saito nodded. She indeed is a beautiful princess. I don’t want to see her face sad or worried either.

But, Wales wouldn’t change his decision because of that. That’s what Wales’ eyes said.

“Just tell her that Wales fought bravely and died bravely. That will be enough.”

Wales returned to the center of the hall after saying that.

 

 

Saito left the feast, but since he felt lost, he asked the waiter where his room was.

After he was told, someone tapped his shoulder from behind. Saito saw Wardes when he turned around.

“I have to tell you something.”

Wardes said in a stony voice.

“And that would be?”

“Louise and I will hold a wedding here tomorrow.”

Saito’s body froze. He wasn’t able to understand the meaning of the words.

“A-at such time? Why?”

“Because we want to ask the brave Crown Prince Wales to act as go-between of our marriage. The Crown Prince pleasantly agreed. We will hold a ceremony before the decisive battle.”

Saito became silent, and nodded.

“Will you come?” Wardes asked.

Saito shook his head.

“Then you can leave with the ship tomorrow. Louise and I will return with a griffon.”

“But isn’t it too long of a distance?”

Saito, because he was confused, asked rather a trivial question.

“Only if you would fly fast without resting.” Wardes answered. “Well then, I need to go now.”

“A-alright.”

Saito’s shoulders dropped.

Though he knew that this would come eventually, he still felt very lonely.

 

 

Saito was walking through a pitch-dark passage with a candlestick. The moon was shining through an open window on the way of the passage.

There was a girl who walked alone in the moonlight. She had long blond-pink hair… Tears that looked like pearls were falling down her white cheek. Saito looked quietly admiring her for a while, such a beautiful but sad face.

Louise turned around and noticed Saito, who was standing there with a candle. Her eyes were wet even though she had wiped them.

Her face became sad once again. When Saito walked up to her, she leaned into his body, as if losing all her strength.

“You are crying, why…”

Louise didn’t answer, but pressed her face into Saito’s chest.

He embraced her firmly.

Saito, at first, was puzzled by Louise clinging to him. He wasn’t used to these kinds of things. However, she sobbed like a girl, and it felt like Louise clung to him very dearly. She was hurt and he felt sorry for her. However, what does this mean?

Louise probably clung to me because I was here by chance- like a girl clinging to a stuffed animal. It is not me but Wardes that is really important to her.

Still, Saito said nothing and patted Louise’s head in an awkward way with his hand. Her head seemed so small that it fit in his palm.

When Saito walked up to her, she leaned into his body, as if losing all her strength.

Louise spoke while crying.

“No… Those people… Why, why did they chose to die? Even though there is the princess… Even if Wales loves her… Why does Crown Prince Wales choose death?”

“He said that it was to defend someone important.”

“What is more important in this world than the person you love?”

“I don’t understand the prince’s way of thinking either.”

“I will persuade him! I will persuade him again!”

“Don’t.”

“Why?”

“Because, you are here to deliver princess-sama’s letter. This is your only mission.”

Louise muttered while tears kept on streaming down her cheeks. “…I want to return soon. I want to return back to Tristain. I dislike this country. These foolish people and unreasonable prince that leaves everything.”

Though Louise sometimes acted tough, she was still a girl. Louise could not understand Wales’ world. But Saito understood her as he thought the same way as well.

Louise, as if suddenly remembering, took something out of her pocket.

“Put out your left arm.” Louise said.

“What?”

“Just do it.”

Saito presented his left arm as he was told. It was a can that Louise took out. She scooped inside with her finger and took some sticky medicine that had a funny smell to it.

“I got it from someone in the castle a little while ago. This magical water medicine is very effective against burns. I could get only this medicine but it should be alright.”

Louise muttered while she was lubricating Saito’s arm with it.

I never thought she could be so gentle. But I should not become dependent on this gentleness too much, as it will be gone soon.

Saito shook his head and pushed Louise away from him. Louise looked up at his face surprised.

Saito had an painful expression on his face.

After seeing such an expression on his face, Louise bit her lip.

“…Why such a face? Did something happen?”

“It’s nothing.”

“I understand. As soon as we return, I will search for a way to send you back to your world.”

Louise said while hesitating. Apparently, she misunderstood. However, Saito thought it was good to let it be this way.

“…It’s alright even if you don’t help.”

“What?”

“I mean you will marry soon, so you shouldn’t bother about searching for a way to send me back.”

“What? Don’t tell me you are worrying about that? You’re still thinking about words I said in the La Rochelle hotel? Indeed, I said ‘marry’ at that time… But, but I wasn’t serious about it.”

Louise turned her face away from Saito.

“It is not possible to marry yet. I am still not a splendid mage… And I haven’t found a way to send you back either…”

Saito thought.

Indeed, Louise might not marry because she feels responsible for me. And because of that she won’t be able to marry until I find my way home. Saito thought it would be bad for Louise. I do not think this is fair for this dazzling, beautiful, nice and gentle Louise.

“It’s alright. I will look for the way to return alone, so you should marry.”

“What a selfish thing to say, you are my familiar! Defend me till we can find a way to send you back!”

Louise said and intensly stared at Saito.

“I cannot defend you.”

Saito’s shoulders dropped down lonely when he said it.

“Remember what happened.”

The spectacle of the travel revived in Saito’s head. When they started shooting the arrows, he was saved by Wardes. He was defeated in the duel with Wardes. When they were attacked by the man in the white mask, he could not save Louise.

It is always Wardes saving you. I was not able to do a thing but stand and watch.

“I am not a strong mage like the Viscount. I am just a normal person, even if they say I am the legendary familiar ‘Gandálfr’. I don’t know how to fight. All I can do is just swing a sword around recklessly. I can’t protect you.”

Louise’s palm struck Saito’s cheek.

“Coward!”

Saito spoke without changing his expression.

“Let’s separate from here on Louise. You return with the viscount by griffon while I return with the Eagle. When I get back, I’ll look for the way to return to my world. As things are, I am indebted to you already.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yes.”

“Idiot!”

Louise shouted. Tears started running from her eyes again. Still, Saito didn’t answer. He just watched Louise tremble.

“I hate you! I hate you!”

Saito muttered while veiling his eyes. “I know.”

Louise turned on her heels and ran down the dark passage. Saito patted his cheek. The place where it was hit still ached and made him feel very sad.

“Good-bye, Louise.”

Saito said in a small voice. Though he thought that he would not cry, tears were streaming down and did not stop.

“Good-bye, my gentle and lovely master.”

 

Chapter Nine: The Final Battle

The next morning…

Within Newcastle’s port inside the cave, Saito stood in a queue to board the Eagle, surrounded by rushing people that were not able to leave with Marie Galante.

“Because of love, sometimes it is necessary to let go…” Derflinger muttered silently. He was hanging by a string on Saito’s back. It was unbearable, during days like those, to have no one to talk to.

“Stop saying it…”

“Why?”

“I feel sick when you say it.”

“You mean ‘Because of love, sometimes it is necessary to let go’…That?”

“Why don’t you stop saying that?”

“I understand. I won’t say it anymore, if partner asks. Yet, we have to discuss a few things about our future. Have you decided where to go, since we have lots of free time now?” Derflinger asked, pretending not to know.

“Maybe to Arukattsu.”

“And there we will look for the way to return to partner’s former world?”

“Why would you be looking for it? I’m the only one who is an alien here, right?” Saito said.

A way to return home? Louise said she’ll help search for it, but he shouldn’t rely on that. Even though leaving Louise’s city was something hard to do.

“Then you should become a mercenary.”

“Mercenary?”

“Yes. With a sword on your shoulder, looking to one battle today, and then wandering to another country and battlefield tomorrow. Poor income, but at least satisfied rage, right?”

Saito muttered.

“And a bad teammate.”

“What, without me as a partner, an ordinary guy like you would be left behind instantly.”

“Even if your greatest power is rusting.”

“How rude. But I forgive you, since you are my partner. By the way, partner, I recalled one thing the other day…”

“What?”

“Partner, you are called Gandálfr?

“Aah, because that’s the name of the legendary familiar. When I first heard it, I was amazed. I-“

“Wait. Wait just a moment, partner. I think I remember the name…”

“Really?”

“No, it is an extremely old memory… It was very long ago, I just caught it in a corner of my head…”

Derflinger kept on muttering “hm” ,“aha”, and “aah” repeatedly.

“Maybe you are confused since it was a long time ago. Besides, where is the head of a sword anyway?”

Derflinger thought about it for a while.

“The handle, maybe?” He said, making Saito laugh.

It was finally Saito’s time to board the ship. When he rose up the gangway, he saw that the refugee ship was everything one could expect it to be – many people squeezed next to each other so that it wasn’t possible to find a place to sit on the deck.

Saito looked at the limestone cave from the edge of the gunwale. At that moment, Louise was in the middle of her wedding. Saito shut his eyes tightly at that lonesome thought.

People still kept boarding the ship one after another. It was really overcrowded and a mass of people pushed Saito around the deck. Someone’s elbow hit against his injured arm, making Saito scream.

 

 

Meanwhile, in a chapel, where the Founder Brimir’s portrait hung, Crown Prince Wales was waiting for the bridegroom and the bride to appear. There were no other people around, as everybody was busy preparing for the upcoming battle. Wales also had planned, once the ceremony was over, to prepare for the battle as well.   Wales was dressed in the Crown Prince’s formal uniform. He wore a bright purple mantle, the symbol of the royal family, and a hat with seven colored wings, the symbol of Albion’s royal family.

The door opened, Louise and Wardes had arrived. Louise stood with a dazzled expression on her face so Wales had to urge her to come and stand in front of him.

Louise was puzzled. Everything happened so suddenly. Wardes barged into her room this morning and brought her here, without even waking her up properly. She was puzzled, because desperate feelings were swelling in her mind. She came here without thinking, still half-asleep. Because of the prince who was determined to die and Saito’s attitude yesterday, she was very depressed.

Wardes, after telling Louise that it was “Time to do the wedding now”, put on a bridal veil borrowed from Albion’s royal family on Louise’s head. The veil was nicely made, and the flowers, that were eternally fresh due to magic, made it look indescribably beautiful.

Then, Wardes removed Louise’s black mantle and replaced it with a white one, that was also borrowed from Albion’s royal family. Only brides were allowed to wear it, as it was a mantle of a virgin.

However, even while being dressed up by Wardes’ hands, Louise was still unresponsive. But Wardes understood Louise’s mood as a sign of her affirmative will.

Wardes and Louise stood up in front of Wales, who was standing below the image of the Founder Brimir, wearing his official uniform. Wardes, who himself was wearing his usual clothes and a magical mantle, bowed his head.

“Well then, let’s start the ceremony.”

The Prince’s voice reached Louise’s ears. However, it sounded like a weak sound of a distant bell. Louise’s mind was still lost in the fog of her own thoughts.

“Bridegroom, Viscount Jean-Jacques Francis de Wardes. Do you take this girl as your wife, and swear to respect and love her in the name of the Founder Brimir?”

Wardes nodded solemnly and grasped the cane with his left hand, holding it out in front of his chest.

“I swear.”

Wales looked at Louise and smiled encouragingly.

“Bride, the third daughter of the Duke de La Vallière, Louise Françoise le Blanc de La Vallière…”

Wales read the oath in a clear voice.

Just then, Louise noticed that she was in the middle of a wedding ceremony. Her partner – reliable Wardes, for whom she once yearned. A marriage arranged by their fathers. Only now was her childish, absent-minded, distant future starting to turn into reality.

It is not like I hate Wardes. Maybe I even like him. But if it is so, why do I feel such pain? Why do I feel so sad?

Is it because I saw a kingdom turning into ruins? Or is it because I faced a prince who deserted his love and hopes, in order to die?

It’s not that. Though those are sad events that hurt, there wouldn’t be such a cloud of sadness hanging on my mind just because of that.

It was a deep, melancholic cloud, which was hard to bear.

Louise suddenly remembered the expression on Saito’s face when she said “marriage” to him.

Why did I say such a thing to him?

It is because I wanted to be stopped.

By whom?

Because I wanted Saito to stop me.

Why?

Louise started to blush once thinking about the reason. Just like thinking about the reason why the previous night she, though in deep sorrow, so easily jumped into Saito’s chest, whom she accidentally met in the corridor. But are those feelings true ones? I don’t know. But isn’t it worth it to try to find out?

After all, no matter how excited or sad she had been, she never jumped into a man’s chest before.

 

 

Meanwhile…

On the warship Eagle deck.

Saito, who was depressingly leaning against the edge of the gunwale, began to lose focus on everything around him.

“Mmm?”

“What is it, partner?”

Saito’s view grew dim. Just like in the heat haze of midsummer, the view in his left eye started swinging.

“My eyes are acting strange.”

“It’s because you are tired.”

Derflinger said, pretending not to know the real reason.

 

 

“Bride?”

Wales looked at her direction. Louise looked up panicking.

She had the expression of a person who didn’t know what she was doing there at all. Louise was puzzled. What should she do? What should she do at times like this? No one taught her that. Only Louise’s familiar, who was leaving the ground at the moment, might know the answer.

“Are you nervous? That’s alright. It’s your first time, it is normal to be nervous.”

Wales smiled, while talking.

“Oh dear, we still have to hold the etiquette. Doing this would have meaning only if we are to follow etiquette. Then, let me repeat. Do you take this man as your husband, and swear to respect and love him in the name of the Founder Brimir…”

Louise realized. She shouldn’t hesitate with the answer, waiting for someone to tell her what to do.

She had to make decisions for herself.

Determined Louise took a deep, deep breath.

And, before Wales finished his words, Louise shook her head.

“Bride?”

“Louise?”

Two people suspiciously looked into Louise’s face. She looked at Wardes with a sad expression on her face and once again shook her head.

“By all means, Louise. Are you feeling bad?”

“No, that’s not it. I am sorry…”

“If today is bad, then another time…”

“That’s not it, that’s not it. I’m sorry Wardes, I cannot marry you.”

Wales looked doubtful at the sudden change of events.

“Bride, this is not the marriage you want?”

“Yes, that’s how it is. I want to apologize to both of you, for my rudeness. It was a painful decision to make, but I do not want to marry.”

An angry red blush quickly spread on Wardes face. Wales turned to him and said in an embarrassed, doubtful and regretful voice.

“Viscount, I am terribly sorry, but the bride doesn’t want for this ceremony to continue.”

However, Wardes didn’t pay any attention to Wales, and took Louise’s hand.

“…You are just nervous. Dear Louise. You cannot be seriously refusing my offer.”

“I’m sorry, Wardes. I yearned for you. Maybe… maybe even loved you once. However, it is different now.”

Then, Wardes gripped Louise’s shoulder. The expression in his eyes changed. Gone was the usual kindness from his face, replaced with the chilly coldness of a reptile.

Wardes shouted in a feverish tone.

“The world, Louise! I will rule the world! You are necessary for that!”

Frightened by the sudden change in Wardes, Louise kept on shaking her head.

“…I, I am not needed for that.”

Wardes extended both his hands, drawing Louise closer.

“You are necessary for me! Your ability! Your power!”

This Wardes was frightening Louise more and more. Not even in her wildest dreams did she imagine the gentle Wardes frowning or shouting like this. Louise tried to turn away.

“Louise, have you forgotten what I once told you! You are not inferior to even the Founder Brimir, you will grow up as an excellent mage some day! You just do not know about it yet! That talent!”

“Wardes, you…”

Louise’s voice was trembling with fear. It was not the Wardes that Louise knew. What had changed him into such a person?

 

 
On the warship Eagle, Saito rubbed his eyes again.

“What is it, partner?”

“My left eye is really acting strange.”

“That’s because you are tired.”

However, the view of Saito’s left eye was getting distorted more and more.

“Uwaa! I can see something!”

Saito shouted. That was really someone’s view.

Saito’s left and right eye felt like completely separate parts.

“I can see…”

“What can you see, partner?”

“Maybe, this is Louise’s view.” Saito said.

Now he recalled what Louise said some time age. “A familiar is the eyes and ears of its master, that’s their ability.”

However, Louise said she couldn’t see anything through my eyes… It must be, there must be cases when the rules are reversed.

But why can I see Louise’s view all of sudden?

Saito looked at his left hand. The rune carved there was shining brightly, even though he wasn’t holding any weapon. Indeed, his guess must be correct.

This was his ability. Truly, it must be another ability of the legendary familiar Gandálfr.

Let’s see, I guess that’s what Louise is seeing with her left eye then? While thinking so, Saito’s natural curiosity took the lead.

 

 

Wales, who couldn’t stand Wardes’ threatening attitude towards Louise any longer, stepped in.

“Viscount…, that’s enough. Behave like a gentlema…”

However, Wardes struck away Wales’ extended hand.

“Shut up!”

Wales stood still, surprised by Wardes words. Wardes clasped Louise’s hand with his and she felt as if it was a snake twining around it.

“Louise! You are necessary for me!”

“I don’t have any talent as a mage.”

“I told you many times already! You are just not aware of your power, Louise!”

Louise tried to shake off Wardes’ hand, but the incredible strength with which he was holding on to her prevented it. Grimacing in pain, Louise spoke.

“I would rather die than marry you. I understand now, you never loved me. You only loved a magical power in me that you foolishly think I have. It is cruel, to marry someone just because of such a reason. It’s an insult!”

Louise raged. Wales put a hand on Wardes’ shoulder, trying to pull him away, but Wardes pushed Wales instead, who fell on the ground.   Wales face turned red, and, after standing up again, he pulled out his cane.

“You, what impoliteness! It’s an insult! Viscount, move your hands away from la Vallière right now! Or else my magical blade will tear you up!”

Only then Wardes’ hand finally let Louise go. A kind smile spread on his lips. However, the smile was forced and obviously fake.

“Even if I ask you this way you won’t do it? Louise. My Louise.”

Louise spoke, while trembling from anger.

“No, there is no doubt left that you are not the one whom I would ever marry.”

Wardes looked up at the sky.

“And I made such great efforts, to capture your feelings during this journey…”

Wardes spread his hands widely, while throwing his head backwards.

“Well, it can’t be helped. I guess I will have to give up on this goal.”

“Goal?”

Louise looked doubtful. What was he thinking about?

The corners of Wardes’ lips went up, forming an ill looking smile.

“That’s right. There were three goals for me to achieve during this travel. Sadly, I achieved only two of them.”

“Achieve? Two? What are you talking about?” Louise asked, feeling the shivers of uneasiness travel down her spine. Her mind was working at full power, trying to figure out what was happening.

Wardes put out his right hand in front holding up three fingers, and bent his forefinger.

“First one was you, Louise. I had to get you. However, it seems that I won’t be able to accomplish that.”

“Obviously not!”

Wardes smiled, bending his middle finger.

“The second goal, Louise, is in your pocket – Henrietta’s letter.”

Louise was startled.

“Wardes, you…”

“And, the third…”

After hearing Wardes saying “Henrietta’s letter”, Wales understood everything, pulled out his cane and started to chant a spell.

However, Wardes had already prepared two complete spells before.

Wardes aimed his wind cane that had started shining and with the tip pierced Wales chest.

“D-damn you…’Reconquista’…”

Blood suddenly gushed out of Wales mouth and Louise screamed.

Wardes muttered while piercing his shining cane deeper into Wales chest.

”The third, is your damned life, Wales.”

With that, Wales fell to the ground.

“A noble! Aren’t you an Albionian noble as well!? Wardes!”

Louise shouted while trembling. Wardes was a traitor.

“That’s right. I am really a member of Albion’s noble faction, ‘Reconquista’” Wardes replied in a cold, emotionless voice.

“Why! Why, would you, Tristain nobility, do such thing?”

“We are the first heralds of Halkeginia’s future – a union of nobles that has no national borders. We are borderless.”

Wardes raised the cane again.

“Halkeginia will be reunited into one by our hands, we will restore the Founder Brimir’s ‘Sacred Land’ once again.”

“Before… you were not like this before. What changed you so much? Wardes…”

“Years, accidents and destiny. Though it changed me from whom you knew, it didn’t change my nature that you are talking about. And you are talking too much.”

Louise tried to duck when Wardes moved the cane, however his spell still hit her with ease, throwing her to the floor.

“Help…“

Louise’s face turned pale. She tried to stand up, but her legs stopped obeying her.

Wardes threw back his head.

“For this! For this you rejected my offer to rule the world together!”

He started to cast another wind spell. “Breaking Wind”. And Louise was blown away like piece of paper.

“No…Help…”

“Even the smallest bird can’t hear you, it seems like you will have to bow your head in defeat, huh, Louise?

She was thrown against the wall and left lying on the floor, groaning in pain. Tears started rolling down her face.

She still asked for the help of her familiar that wasn’t there.

“Help me…please…”

Louise repeated the words like chanting a spell. Enjoying himself, Wardes slowly started chanting.

“Lightning Cloud”

“It is regrettable… That your life will be taken by this hand…”

If even Saito’s arm was scorched by this blitz spell, there was no chance of survival if she was hit by it directly.

From shock her breath was rough and her whole body was in pain. Louise, scared like a child, cried

“Saito! Help!”

At that moment, Wardes finished the spell and lowered his cane, aiming towards Louise and…

The wall of the chapel collapsed with a roaring sound, and a strong gust of wind blew in from the outside.

 

 

“Damn you…”

Wardes muttered.

After breaking the wall, Saito jumped in with Derflinger in his hand stopped Wardes’ cane.

“You…” Saito swung the sword sidewise. Wardes dodged it by jumping back.

Accidentally, Saito saw Louise with the corner of his eye.

After screaming her last words, Louise fainted and hadn’t moved since.

With raging anger in his eyes, Saito glared at Wardes. Lust for killing was boiling in his body. Saito groaned while biting his lip hard.

“Unforgivable!”

“Why are you here, Gandálfr?” Wardes asked with a cruel smile on his lips.

Not answering, Saito angrily swung the sword. However, the sword only crushed the floor. Wardes flew up high into the air, successfully dodging the attack.

“That’s right, you must have sensed that your master was in danger.”

Wardes crossed his hands while floating next to the Founder Brimir’s portrait. Looking confident and self-sure.

“You betrayed Louise!”

Saito shouted, while thrusting the sword forwards. Yet, Wardes flew up, dodged it and landed gracefully on the floor. He moved around like a feather.

“To accomplish a goal, you can’t be selective with the means.”

“Louise believed in you! You were her fiancé… She yearned for you when she was young…”

“Such selfish belief.”

Wardes dodged the sword while floating. Then he swung the cane and fired another spell. Though Saito tried to hold it down with the sword, the spell “Breaking Wind” blew him away.

Saito groaned in pain as he hit the wall. His injured left arm was aching and because of it, he could not move as freely as usual.

“That’s it? Gandálfr. Your movements are too slow. At least try and make it entertaining.”

A cruel smile floated on Wardes’ lips.

At that moment, Derflinger shouted.

“I remembered!”

“What are you talking about, at time like this!?”

“Right…Gandálfr!”

“What!”

“No, from my older times, the hand that held me. Gandálfr. But I forgot. It was 600 years ago, old times.”

“Don’t talk nonsense!”

Wardes released “Breaking Wind” again. Saito tried to dodge it but was captured in and blown away again.

”It’s so nostalgic. I could cry. Right, no, that’s what I was missing. My partner – that ‘Gandálfr’!”

“Cut it out!”

“I’m glad! Now no one can ignore me! I will show how cool I am!” Derflinger shouted as his blade started to shine.

Saito was taken aback for a moment and watched Derflinger in amazement.

“Derf? Yes?”

Wardes recited “Breaking Wind” again.

Raging wind flew out aiming at Saito as he put out the shining Derflinger in front of himself.

“It’s useless! A sword cannot stop it!” Wardes shouted.

Yet, the wind, instead of blowing Saito away, was sucked into Derflinger’s blade.

And…

The light coming out of Derflinger intensified.

“Derf? You…”

“This is my true form! Partner! No, I forgot it! My tired body changed itself! Anyhow, it’s a pretty interesting story, partner!”

“Make it short!”

“Impatient. I forgot. But, don’t worry, partner. I suck in all magic around me! That’s me, Gandálfr’s left hand – Derflinger-sama!”

Wardes watched with interest at the sword that Saito was holding.

“Indeed… You are not an ordinary sword. I should have noticed that when you reduced my “Lightning Cloud”.

Still, Wardes did not loose his confidence.

He smiled thinly, when setting out the cane.

“Now, then, let’s get serious, shall we? It is time to teach you why this magic is called the strongest.”

Though Saito jumped at him, Wardes dodged it like an acrobat and uttered the spell.

“Ubiquitous Dell Wind…”

When the spell was completed, Wardes’ body suddenly doubled.

One… Two… Three… Four… Wardes’ doubles, together with the real body, surrounded Saito.

“Doubles!”

“It is not only “Double”. It’s “Ubiquitous Wind”, uneven distribution… The wind is unevenly distributed. The place where it blows is not just a matter of appearance, but it has a substantial power too.”

One of Wardes’ doubles suddenly pulled a white mask from the cloak and wore it.

Saito’s body trembled. He was shivering with anger and fear. The masked man was Wardes! The man who was standing next to Fouquet… The one who hit Saito with a blitz was none other than Wardes!

“Masked man… You… Then it must be you who helped Fouquet to escape too. What a treacherous and handful spell. You can appear anywhere.”

“Indeed. More so, each one has the power of the original. I told you, right? ‘Wind’ is unevenly distributed!”

One of the Wardes jumped on Saito, while the other uttered the spell, making the cane shine.

“Air Needle”, the same spell that pierced Wales’ heart before.

“The cane is surrounded by a magical whirlpool, so the sword cannot suck it in!”

The cane was shaking as the whirlpool was rotating around it forming a blade, of which tip was aimed at Saito’s body during the attack.

Derflinger blocked it, but the impact of the blow still hit Saito’s injured hand and he fell down.

Wardes laughed.

“Not bad for a commoner. After all you are the legendary Gandálfr. However, this is where it ends. You are no match for my “Ubiquitous Wind” spell!”

Gradually, Wardeses surrounded the fallen Saito.

“Hey, legendary sword! The one that ‘Gandálfr’ used! Derf!”

“That’s what I am. What is it?”

“If you are so legendary, then do something or else we will be killed.”

“Well, I am shining and sucking in enemies’ magic, am I not?”

“No, not that, something more? Like some special attack? Like blowing the enemy away with a single hit…”

“What? I’m just a sword.”

One of the Wardes flew up and tried to hit Saito with his cane.

Saito jumped up, defending his body with his sword and dodging the attack.

“Useless! What kind of legend is this!”

“But not to this extent!”

The Wardeses kept on attacking violently, but because Saito’s back was supported by the wall, only three of them could attack at the same time. Somehow he managed to block all of their attacks.

“At this rate I’ll be defeated! And killed!”

“Good grief, my deepest sympathy!”

Meanwhile… 15 feet from the place where Saito was fighting, Louise woke up. When Louise saw Saito fighting hard, her face was momentarily blank with surprise, but then she grasped her wand.

“Run away while you can! Idiot!”

Saito shouted, but Louise didn’t stop. The spell was uttered and the wand was aimed. She chanted the ‘Fire Ball’ spell. The spell aimed at Wardes exploded hitting the floor beneath him.

Boom! With that loud sound Wardes disappeared while Louise watched amazed.

“Eh? Disappeared? Because of my magic?”

The remaining Wardes tried to jump on Louise.

“Run away!” Saito shouted, but Louise stubbornly started to chant the same spell again. However, she was blown away by Wardes’ cane this time.

Saito stared with astonishment.

He started shaking with anger. When Louise’s body hit the wall right before his eyes, a beast-like roar escaped his mouth.

“How dare you to do that to Louise…!”

Once Louise’s body was blown off again, the remaining Wardes clones concentrated on Saito trying to press him further. However, Saito’s movement gradually increased speed.

All of the Wardeses’ breathing became irregular and rough. Still, even then, their expression didn’t change.

While blocking the sword, Wardes asked.

“Why did you come back to die? To risk your life for Louise who despises you? Can’t understand how a commoner’s mind works!”

Saito shouted while swinging the sword. “Then why did you bastard try to kill Louise!? You were her fiancée!”

“Hahaha, you are still in love with Louise? A servant’s hopeless love for his master! That’s really funny! That arrogant Louise will never turn to you! Mere compassion mistaken for love! Fool!”

“So what if I fell in love!”

Saito shouted while biting down his lips.

“However…”

“However, what?”

“It is beating!”

“What?”

A puzzled expression floated on Wardes’ face.

“Aah! When seeing that face, my heart is beating faster! This reason is good enough for me! Therefore I will defend Louise!”

Saito screamed.

ZnT02-247.jpg

Runes started shining.

Matching the light, Derflinger also shone brighter.   “Good! That’s good partner! Right! That’s the key! I remembered! I know the source of Gandálfr’s power! Good partner!”

Finally Saito’s sword cut down another Wardes.

“Wha?”

Wardes grimaced in an unbearable pain.

“Gandálfr’s source of power is feelings! Anger! Sadness! Love! Pleasure! Anything is good! And now you seem to be really shaken, my Gandálfr!”

Saito rounded up the sword. Because of its terrible speed, Wardes was not able to react to the sword in time and disappeared.

“D-damn you…”

Only three remained now.

“Do not forget! You are fighting me! You can’t surpass my skills!”

Saito leaped high up into the air, holding his sword. Wardes also flew.

“The air is my element… Do not forget! Gandálfr!”

Each of the Wardes’ canes were aimed at Saito, but he brandished Derflinger like a pinwheel.

Derflinger shouted.

“That’s the way to fight, Gandálfr! Swing me in the rhythm of your heart!”

The next moment, all three Wardes were torn up in the blink of an eye.

Saito landed.

With ‘’Uneven Distribution’ defeated, the remaining real Wardes’ body fell down on the floor. <-The spell name changed…which to use? This one makes more sense. ~Dan->

His cut off left arm, landed there after a few seconds.

Saito also landed on the ground, but he stumbled and had to support himself with his knee. His tiredness had reached a critical limit.

Wardes stood up staggering and stared at Saito.

“Damn… This ‘Flash’ really defeated me…”

Saito tried to stand up and run up to him, but his body stopped obeying him.

“Ku…”

“Aah, partner. Don’t act foolishly now – Gandálfr cannot move after wasting his energy. That’s because this familiar was created to defend his master while the master chants the spell.”

Derflinger explained.

Wardes gripped his cane with his remaining right hand and floated upwards.

“Oh dear, it seems that I managed to accomplish only one of the goals. Anyways, now you are mine ‘Gandálfr’ – a large army will soon burst in. Hey! Can you hear the sound of horses’ hooves and dragons’ wings!?”

Indeed, one could hear the noise of cannons and sounds of fire magic explosions outside, as well as the roaring voices of nobles and soldiers mixed up in a battle.

“You and your foolish master will be turned to ashes! Gandálfr!”

Throwing these last parting words, Wardes disappeared through the hole in the wall.

Saito, who used Derflinger as a crutch for support, stumblingly walked up to Louise.

“Louise!”

Saito shook Louise trying to wake her up to no avail. Saito put his ear to Louise’s chest in panic.

Thump, thump, thump…

Hearing the faint heartbeat, he breathed out a sigh of relief. Louise was worn-out. Her mantle was torn, and her knees and cheek bruised.

And there must be more bruises under the clothes, too.

Louise’s hand was grasping her chest. Her breast pocket button came off, and one could see Henreitta’s letter peeping out from the inside. It seemed that, even unconscious, Louise was still protecting the letter.

Really, I am so glad you are alive. I came just in time. Saito thought.

“But partner… What do we do now? The Eagle already left the port…”

That’s right. To save Louise, Saito jumped down from the departing Eagle’s deck.

“Eh?”

“Eh? Really. Can you hear the shouts outside? What do you think Wales’ men would think seeing his body lying on the floor? They would think we are traitors for sure.”

Indeed, explosions and battle roars were getting closer and closer to the walls. It was only a matter of time before they would come bursting in here.

Saito quietly laid Louise on the chair.

And then stood up before her, standing guard.

“What are you doing?”

“Defending Louise.”

When Saito said this, Derflinger trembled while twitching.

“Ha. Other than that. I understand. Partner Gandálfr, it was nice to know you and this noble girl, your master, partner.”

“Stop joking around.”

“Hm?”

“Louise and I, we will both survive.”

“Were you listening to the king’s speech? There are 50,000 enemies.”

“Doesn’t matter.”

Saito, with his last remaining strength, grasped the sword. Even 50,000, even 100,000 he felt like he could win. Today he could defeat any mage, even if he was extremely tired.

Derflinger’s shaking became louder and louder.

That’s right! That’s the way I like it. Who cares about 50,000. Let them come to us!”

And Saito, holding Derflinger, stared at the entrance of the chapel.

They waited, for sooner or later an enemy to come…

But then…

The ground, near the place where Louise was laid, rose up.

“What?”

Saito watched the ground.

“Is it an enemy? Digging under?”

He lowered the sword towards the hole, out of which a brown animal soon popped it’s head.

“Aaaaaaaan?”

And then that brown animal started groping Louise’s body that was lying near sides.

“You… you are the huge mole Verdandi! Guiche’s familiar!”

Saito shouted, and soon enough from the same hole that Verdandi came out, Guiche’s face appeared.

Hey! Verdandi! You can dig a hole anywhere! Good boy! Gu….”

Guiche turned his soil smeared face from Saito and noticed Louise lying nearby, then said pretending not to know.

“Ha! You! You are here!”

“W-what are you doing here!?”

Saito shouted.

“Not that. After winning the battle against Fouquet the Crumbling Earth, and after a short break, we decided to follow you. It is our duty as princess Henrietta’s honor depends on it, right?”

“But this place is in the sky! How did you get here!?”

Then, near Guiche, Kirche’s face popped out.

“Tabitha’s Sylphid.”

“Kirche!”

“We reached Albion successfully, but since it’s a foreign country we didn’t know where to go. But then, Verdandi started digging a hole all of sudden, so we followed him.”

Meanwhile the huge mole was pressing his nose to the ‘Ruby of Water’ that was shining on Louise’s finger. Guiche nodded.

“Indeed. He followed the smell of the ruby, and started digging a tunnel to here. My cute Verdandi, because of his love for jewels he was able to follow from La Rochelle and dug a hole to get here.

Saito opened his mouth in amazement. He surely, never planned to be saved by a mole.

“Are you alright? I almost captured Fouquet again, but she made a narrow escape. That woman, though being a mage, surely does run away a lot. By the way, darling, what are you doing here?” Kirche asked while wiping off the dirt from her face with a handkerchief.

Saito laughed nerviously.

“Ha, ha, haha…”

“Dear? Is something wrong dear?”

“We’ll talk about it later! The enemy will burst in soon! Let’s run away!”

“Running away, and the mission? What about Viscount Wardes?”

“We have the letter! Wardes was a traitor! Return back now!”

“What? Well I do not understand it, but it seems everything ended already.” Kirche said in nonchalant voice.

With Louise in his arms, Saito slowly made his way through the hole. But then he remembered something, left Louise in Guiche’s care and hurried back to Wales in the chapel.

However, Wales had already died.

Saito shut his eyes and silently said his prayers.

“Hey! What are you doing there! Come back quickly!” Guiche called Saito back.

Saito looked at Wales’ body. He looked for some keepsake to give to Henrietta. He noticed a big ruby on his finger.

The ruby belonged to Albion’s royal family.

Saito removed it from the finger and put it in his pocket.

“Brave prince… You won’t be forgotten.” Saito muttered.

“I swear to you that I will also defend the things I believe in.”

Saito said bowing down, and ran back to the hole.

The same moment Saito dove in the hole, the noble soldiers and mages broke through the door and jumped into the chapel.

 

 

The tunnel Verdandi dug ran right under the Albion’s continent. So the moment Saito got out of the hole, there was nothing but clouds beneath, yet Sylphid successfully caught all four falling people and a mole.

The mole that the wind dragon caught with its mouth, let out a protesting cry.

“Please try to endure it, my cute Verdandi. Bear with it until we get off in Tristain again.”

With powerful wing strokes, the wind dragon broke through the surrounding clouds and changed direction to the Magical Academy.

Saito, with Louise in his arms, looked up at the continent of Albion.

Clouded and empty, blue inside, the Albion continent disappeared. Though it was a short stay there, Saito had various things to remember, as the white country faded from view.

Saito watched Louise lying in his arms. Her white cheeks were dirty with blood and soil, yet even in this state, one could see her aristocratic features. There were two stripes from her eyes down her cheeks left by her tears.

Saito wiped Louise’s face with his sleeve. He could not bear to see the face of his pretty master dirty.

Louise was still unconscious from the shock. Looking at Louise’s face was somehow painful to Saito. “Dear Louise. Louise. My Louise…”

Beat beat, his heart was beating loudly.

Now Saito looked only at Louise’s face pressed gently to his chest.

 

 

Meanwhile, Louise was absent-mindedly wandering in dream.

The dream in la Vallière’s place, in her hometown.

A pond in a forgotten courtyard…

There a small boat was floating… Here Louise was lying down when facing difficulties. Louise always hid herself and slept there. Her world that no one else intruded in. Her secret place…

Louise’s heart was in pain.

But Wardes didn’t come here anymore. Gentle viscount Wardes, her childhood noble crush, her fiancé of marriage arranged by their fathers’ mutual agreement…

Young Louise sobbed softly, there was no Wardes who would take her from her secret place anymore. He was a dirty betrayer that murdered the courageous prince, those kind hands belonged to a murderer…

Louise cried in her shallop.

But then, someone came.

“Is that you, Viscount?”

Louise asked in her dream. But she shook her head at once. No, the viscount didn’t come here anymore. Then, who?

It was Saito. The sword was hanging on his back, when he without hesitation about getting wet stepped into the pond and approached Louise’s shallop.

Louise’s heart throbbed.

Saito picked up Louise out of the shallop and held her in his arms.

“Have you been crying?”

Saito asked. Louise nodded childishly in her dream.

“Stop crying. Louise. My Louise.”

Louise tried to get angry. This familiar, how dare he call me ‘My Louise’. But when she opened her mouth to scold him, her lips were closed again with a kiss. Though she wriggled in rage at first, the strength soon left her body.

Louise woke up on a wind dragon’s back, in Saito’s arms.

She became aware that she was held in Saito’s arms. They were sitting near the wind-dragon’s tail, and Saito sat there embracing her. She stared at his face from the side as it seemed like he didn’t notice that she was awake.

Kirche, Tabitha, Guiche – all three of them, were sitting on the front of the wind dragon’s back.

The wind was blowing against her cheeks.

“Aah, this isn’t a dream.”

Then…

“I survived.”

Louise’s mind was filled with feverish thoughts.

I was almost killed by that traitor Wardes, but then Saito jumped in. Then I fainted. Then I woke up again and chanted some magic.   After that, though, I lost consciousness… maybe Saito won again.

But only we survived, maybe the royal army was still defeated.

Wales died as well.

The happiness of surviving mixed with sadness almost made Louise cry. However, not wanting to cry in front of Saito, she closed her eyes.

She was also ashamed to say thank you. Though she could not understand why, she was comfortable with Kirche, Tabitha, Guiche – with all of them. But thanking Saito before everyone felt really embarrassing. Therefore, Louise decided to pretend she was sleeping.

Nevertheless, Louise still secretly watched him from the corner of her half-closed eyes.

Saito looked into her eyes. He looked directly at her.

Those eyes made Louise recall her last dream.

The air dragon increased speed.

Strong wind hit her cheeks.

But that wind felt pleasant.

That wind and Saito’s burning gaze, aah, Louise couldn’t hide her feelings.

Her mind was in turmoil…

Traitor Wardes.

Crown prince’s death…

Noble union’s ‘Reconquista’ victory…

Report to the Princess…

For various reasons, and while Louise felt sorry for them all, right now all Louise’s thoughts were blown away by the wind.

After nearly escaping death, she wanted to savour the feeling of life for a while.

Like that, savouring the feeling of life without limits, while pretending to sleep…

Saito’s face moved closer.

Her heart skipped a beat.

Saito’s lips overlapped Louise’s.

Louise instinctively lifted her hand to push him away…but returned it back to her chest instead.

Strong wind hit Louise’s cheeks, as Sylphid flew through the sky.

Something warm filled her heart, a heart that was wounded by sad events was healed.

Some time ago she was struggling violently against the feeling in her dream.

But at least for now…

The pleasant wind blew from a different world…

Resting her cheek against his chest, she silently fell asleep.

 

http://www.baka-tsuki.org/project/index.php?title=Zero_no_Tsukaima:Volume2_Full_Text

Written by Fate

July 26, 2011 at 5:45 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Zero no Tsukaima Volume 1

Insert & Back Cover

Insert

Written by Yamaguchi Noboru

Born in February, 1972. His debut work was “Canary/This thought on a Song”, which was serialized in Kadokawa Sneaker Bunko. Other works include “Green Green kane no oto Fantastic,” “Tsuppare Arisugawa” (both in Kadokawa Sneaker Bunko), “Green Green kane no oto Stand By Me” (in MF bunko J), and many other serialized novels, including “Fujimi Fantagia Battle Royal,” “Green Green,” “Gonna Be??” “Yukiuta,” “Shiritsu Akihabara Gakuen,” and “Makai tenshi Gibliel”. He has also worked as a scenario writer for games.

Illustrations by Usatsuka Eiji

A real Osaka native, born and raised. His birthday is the 16th of August.

He is currently drawing illustrations while employed as an office worker. Usatsuka has worked on one previous novel, titled “Doushi sama to issho” (serialized in Dengeki bunko).


Back Cover

Zero no Tsukaima by Yamaguchi Noboru

“Who are you?”

Hiraga Saito awoke to find a pretty girl asking him that question. Looking around, he found himself in an unfamiliar place, people dressed as magicians surrounding him and the girl.

The girl, calling herself Louise, explained that she had “summoned” him from his world to be her “familiar”. Saito’s confusion grew, especially after she kissed him and claimed it was a “contract”! My first kiss, he lamented, but before he had even a chance to become angry, strange symbols etched themselves into his left hand, marking him as a familiar!

While searching for a way to return home, Saito must cope with being forced to live with Louise, as her familiar…

And so begins Hiraga Saito’s comedic life as ‘Zero’s Familiar.’


Kingdom of Magic

Chapter One: I’m a Familiar

“Who are you?” asked the girl intently, examining Saito’s face, the clear blue sky behind her.

She seemed to be close to Saito’s age. Underneath a black cloak, she wore a white blouse and a gray pleated skirt. She knelt down and looked, shocked, at his face.

Her face is… cute. Reddish-brown eyes danced upon the stage of her flawless, white skin and strawberry blonde hair. She looks kind of like a foreigner. In fact, the girl must have been a foreigner. A cute, doll-like foreigner. Maybe she’s half-Japanese?

Still, that’s some kind of school uniform she’s wearing, isn’t it? I don’t recognize it.

Saito was lying on the ground, face up, though he was unsure of how he had got there. He raised his head to take a look around. A crowd of people in black cloaks were curiously examining him. In the distance, on an endlessly rich grassy plain, he saw a huge castle with stone walls, just like the ones in those European tour photographs.

It’s just like a fantasy.

My head is killing me. Giving his head a shake, he answered, “Who am I…? I’m Hiraga Saito.”

“Where are you from, commoner?”

Commoner? What does she mean by that? Everyone around him had some sort of stick in their hand and wore the same uniform as that girl’s. Did I wander into an American school or something?

“Louise, what were you thinking, calling a commoner with ‘Summon Servant’?” someone asked, and everyone but the girl who was looking at his face started to laugh.

“I… I just made a little mistake!” the girl in front of Saito shouted in a refined voice that carried like a bell.

“What mistake are you talking about? Nothing unusual happened.”

“Of course! After all, she’s Louise the Zero!” someone else said, and the crowd burst into laughter again.

It appeared the girl looking into Saito’s face was named Louise.

Either way, this is no American school. You won’t see those kinds of buildings just anywhere.

Could it be a movie set? Are they filming something? But then Saito thought all of a sudden, but it’s too big to be a movie set. Could this kind of scenery really exist somewhere in Japan? Maybe it’s a new theme park? But then, why was I sleeping here?

“Mr. Colbert!” the girl, Louise, shouted.

The crowd parted, revealing a middle-aged man. Saito thought it was funny, because the man looked ridiculous. He carried a big wooden staff and was covered in a black robe.

What is he playing at? He’s dressed like a wizard. Is he even sane? Oh, I’ve got it, this must be a cosplay gathering. But it doesn’t seem to have that kind of atmosphere. Suddenly, Saito was gripped with fear. What am I going to do if this is a religious sect? It’s possible. They could have put me to sleep somehow and brought me here while I was taking a walk in town. That mirror must have been a trap. If not, I have no other explanation for this.

Saito decided that he ought to stay quiet until he understood what was going on.

The girl named Louise seemed to be in a panic, begging to redo something and gesticulating frantically.

I feel sorry for her, being stuck in this weird religious group, since she’s so cute.

“What is it that you want from me, Miss Vallière?”

“Please! Let me try the summoning one more time!”

Summoning? What’s that? They mentioned it earlier.

Mr. Colbert, the man wearing the black robe, shook his head. “I cannot allow that, Miss Vallière.”

“Why not?”

“It is strictly forbidden. When you are promoted to a second year student, you must summon a familiar, which is what you just did.”

A familiar? What’s that?

“Your elemental specialty is decided by the familiar that you summon. It enables you to advance to the appropriate courses for that element. You cannot change the familiar once you have summoned it, because the Springtime Familiar Summoning is a sacred rite. Whether you like it or not, you have no choice but to take him.”

“But… I’ve never heard of having a commoner as a familiar!”

Everyone around laughed. Louise scowled at them, but the laughter didn’t stop.

Springtime Familiar Summoning’? What’s that? I don’t understand. What are they talking about? How did I end up in a place like this? It has to be one of those New Religions. The safest thing to do is to take the first opportunity to run away. I mean really, where is this place? Was I taken to a foreign country? A kidnapping! I’ve been kidnapped! I’m in real trouble, thought Saito.

“This is a tradition, Miss Vallière. I cannot allow any exceptions; he,” the middle-aged wizard cosplayer pointed at Saito, “may be a commoner, but as long as he was summoned by you, he must be your familiar. Never in history has a human been summoned as a familiar, but the Springtime Familiar Summoning takes precedence over every rule. In other words, there is no other way around it: he must become your familiar.”

“You have got to be joking…” Louise drooped her shoulders in disappointment.

“Well then, continue with the ceremony.”

“With him?”

“Yes, with him. Hurry. The next class will begin any minute. How much more time is this summoning going to take? After mistake upon mistake, you have finally managed to summon him. Hurry and form a contract.” Everyone voiced their agreement and began jeering.

Louise stared at Saito’s face as if troubled.

What is it? What’s she going to do to me?

“Hey,” Louise addressed Saito.

“Yes?”

“You should count yourself lucky. Normally you’d go your whole life without a noble doing this to you.”

Noble? How stupid. What nobles are you talking about? Aren’t you just a bunch of twisted cosplaying new-religion freaks?

Louise closed her eyes with an air of resignation. She waved around the wooden stick in her hand.

“My name is Louise Françoise Le Blanc de La Vallière. Pentagon of the Five Elemental Powers; bless this humble being, and make him my familiar.”

She chanted those words over and over, like a magic spell, and touched Saito’s forehead with the stick. Her lips then slowly drew closer.

What… What are you doing?!

“Just stay still,” Louise said, a touch of irritation in her voice. Her face got closer.

“Oi, wait a second. I’m… Well, I’m not… ready for this…”

His face twisted in panic.

“Ah, geez! I told you to stay still!” Louise grabbed Saito’s face roughly with her left hand.

“Huh?”

“Mmm…”

Louise’s lips touched Saito’s.

What is happening?! What kind of contract is this?! The touch of her soft lips confounded Saito even more. My first kiss! Stolen in this weird place by this weird girl whose motives I don’t understand! Saito remained frozen, paralyzed.

Louise removed her lips. “It is done.”

Her face is all red. Is this idiot embarrassed by her boldness? Saito thought.

“I should be the one embarrassed, not you! It was me who was kissed all of a sudden!”

But Louise ignored Saito completely.

You kissed me and now dismiss me? If this isn’t rude, I don’t know what is. Really, who are they?! I’m scared. I want to go home right this minute. I just want to go home and get online, Saito thought. He had just registered with a dating site, so he wanted to check his e-mail.

“You have failed ‘Summon Servant’ many times, but you have managed to succeed with ‘Contract Servant’ in one try,” Colbert said happily.

“It’s just because he’s only a commoner.”

“If he was a powerful magical beast, she wouldn’t have been able to make a contract.”

Some of the students laughed.

Louise scowled at them. “Don’t make fun of me! Even I do things right once in a while!”

“Truly ‘once in a while’, Louise the Zero,” laughed a girl with gorgeous curly hair and freckles on her face.

“Mr. Colbert! Montmorency the Flood just insulted me!”

“Who are you calling ‘the Flood’? I’m Montmorency the Fragrance!”

“I heard that you used to wet the bed like a flood, didn’t you? ‘The Flood’ suits you better!”

“I hadn’t expected better manners from Louise the Zero.”

“Watch it! Nobles ought to show each other the proper respect,” the middle-aged wizard cosplayer interjected.

What are they talking about? What contract? Who are they calling a servant?

Suddenly, Saito’s body started to heat up.

“Aaah!” Saito stood up. “I’m burning up!”

“It will be over soon; just wait. The Familiar’s Runes are being inscribed,” Louise said, irritated.

“Stop it! What are you doing to me?!”

There is nothing I can do, but I can’t just lie around quietly. It is unbelievably hot!

“By the way.”

“What?”

“Why do you allow yourself, a commoner, to use that kind of language in front of nobles?”

The burning sensation lasted only for a second. His body rapidly cooled down.

“That was quick…” The middle-aged cosplay wizard, known as Colbert, approached the kneeling Saito and checked the back of his left hand. There, jumping out at him, were unfamiliar letters.

Are those runes? It looks like a wriggling snake in some strange pattern. Saito stared at it and thought, If this isn’t a trick, then what is it? “Hmmm…”

“These are very unusual Runes,” said the middle-aged wizard impersonator.

At this point, Saito suddenly lost it. “Who are you people?!” he yelled out, but no one reacted.

“Well, let’s go back to class, everyone.”

The middle-aged cosplay wizard turned on his heel, then rose gently into the air. Saito gaped after him. Is… Is he really flying? Is he floating in the air? Unbelievable! The other people who looked like students also floated up.

It can’t be! The whole lot of them? One person could rise up into the air by some trick, but so many? Saito looked for wires or even a crane, but the surrounding area was just a large grassy plain. There was nothing to suggest that any tricks or setups were used.

Everyone who was floating quietly moved towards the stone walls of the castle in the distance.

“Louise, you’d better walk back!”

“She shouldn’t try to fly. She can’t even manage levitation.”

“A commoner is perfect as your familiar!” the students jeered as they flew away.

The only ones left behind were Saito and the girl named Louise.

As soon as it was only the two of them, Louise took a deep breath, turned toward Saito, and yelled, “Who are you?!”

That made Saito mad. That’s my line! he thought.

“Who are you? Where is this place?! Who were all those people?! Why can they fly?! What did you do to my body?!”

“I don’t know what backwoods you came from, but all right, I will explain it to you.”

“Backwoods? This is the backwoods! Tokyo is nothing like this!”

“Tokyo? What is that? What country is it in?”

“Japan.”

“Never heard of it.”

“Oh please! But why are they flying?! You saw it too! They flew! They all did!”

But Louise took no notice of it at all, as if to say, “What’s wrong with flying?”

“Of course they flew. What would we do if mages couldn’t fly?”

Saito grabbed Louise’s shoulders and yelled, “Mages? Where the hell am I?!”

“This is Tristain! And this is the renowned Tristain Academy of Magic!”

“Academy of Magic?”

“I’m a second year student, Louise de La Vallière. I am your master from now on. Remember that!”

All of Saito’s fire suddenly disappeared. He was starting to get a really bad feeling about the situation. “Uh… Miss Louise…”

“What?”

“Did you really summon me here?”

“That’s what I’ve been telling you over and over again. I can’t believe you’re that dense. Why does my familiar have to be so uncool… I wanted to have something wicked like a dragon or a griffin or a manticore. At least an eagle or an owl.”

“A dragon or a griffin? Really?”

“Yeah, those would be totally cool familiars.”

“Do they actually exist?”

“They do. Why?”

“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” Saito said, laughing. But Louise didn’t seem to be joking.

“Well, you’ve probably never seen them before,” Louise said seriously, pity in her voice.

The mages who had flown away and the fantasy words they used suddenly connected.

He felt a chill run down his spine, and broke out in a cold sweat. “Maybe… These people, they really flew, didn’t they? Are you really witches and wizards?”

“Of course we are! Now, let go of my shoulders! You shouldn’t even be talking to me!”

“A dream… This has to be a dream…” Slowly, his strength left him, and Saito fell to his knees.

“Louise”, he said with a weak voice.

“Don’t call me directly by name.”

“Hit me.”

“What did you say?”

“Please, hit me in the head as hard as you can.”

“Why?”

“I want to wake up from this dream. I’m gonna wake up and get online. Tonight’s dinner is hamburger steak. My mom said so this morning.”

“Get online?”

“No, it’s nothing. After all, you’re just a part of my dream, so you don’t need to worry about it. Now just let me escape this dream already.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, but you want me to hit you, right?” Louise clenched her hands into fists.

“Yes, please.”

Her fists began to tremble. Louise’s expression became unreadable, but it seemed a lot of thoughts were going through her head. “Aren’t you concerned at all about being summoned?”

“How should I know?”

“How could I, the third daughter of the Vallière family… a noble who takes pride in her proper pedigree and ancient lineage, end up having to make someone like you my familiar?”

“How should I know?” Saito repeated.

“…And just who decided that the contract had to be sealed by a kiss?”

“How should I know? Look, will you just get it over and done with? I hate nightmares.”

“Nightmares? That’s my line!” Louise clobbered Saito in the head with all her strength. “That was my first kiss!”

Perhaps she was a bit too forceful… “Mine too,” thought Saito, losing consciousness.

 

* * *
Hiraga Saito. Seventeen years of age and in his second year of high school.

Athletic ability: normal. Grades: average. Duration without a girlfriend: seventeen years. Overall: no positives or negatives.

Teachers’ evaluation: “Ah, Hiraga-kun. He refuses to give up, and he has a strong sense of curiosity, but he’s a little slow.”

Parents’ evaluation: “You should study more. You’re on the slow side.”

Being slow, he was rarely bothered by accidents, and accepted pretty much anything — relative to most people, at least. Earlier, when he saw people flying, he made a commotion, but given that an ordinary person would have been so shocked as to be brought to their knees, he owed much to his disposition.

To put it plainly, he just didn’t think too deeply about things before acting.

Also, he had a fiercely competitive spirit. In that sense, he might have been quite similar to Louise in personality.

Anyway, a mere thirty minutes ago, Saito had been walking down a street in Tokyo, Japan; on Earth.

He was on his way home after having his notebook computer repaired. He was quite happy, in fact, since he could go on the internet once more. He’d recently registered at an online dating site and had a chance to finally find himself a girlfriend.

Though what he really wanted was something to spice up his otherwise monotonous daily life. However, instead of discovering it on the internet, he found it in the middle of the street.

He was walking past the train station on his way home when suddenly a shining mirror-like object appeared in front of him. Saito stopped to take a good long look at it. Remember, his curiosity was about twice that of a normal person.

It was a large ellipse, about two meters high and one meter wide, with no substantial thickness. Then he noticed it was actually floating a little above the ground.

This piqued his interest. “What kind of natural phenomenon is this?” he wondered, scrutinizing the sparkling mirror-like object. “This is beyond odd, I’ve never seen or heard of any kind of phenomenon like this.” He considered sidestepping it, but his curiosity got the better of him. He wanted to see if he could walk through it.

No, maybe I shouldn’t, he told himself. But it’s just a couple of steps, he reasoned. He really did have a hopeless personality.

But first, he picked up a pebble and threw it experimentally at the disk. The pebble disappeared into the middle of the mirror-like object.

Oho, he thought. When he checked the other side, the pebble was nowhere to be seen. Next he pulled his house key out of his pocket. He poked the mirror-like object with the tip of the key.

Nothing happened.

Withdrawing the key, he examined it, but nothing about it had changed. Saito judged that there wouldn’t be any immediate danger if he walked through, which only tempted him further to do it.

In the end, even though he knew he shouldn’t, he stepped forward. It was much like opening up a manga just after deciding you were going to do nothing but study from now on.

He immediately regretted it, as an intense shock assailed his senses. He suddenly remembered back to when he was a child, when his mother had bought him a strange machine that supposedly made a person smarter by running an electric current through their body. It felt a lot like that. Saito fainted.

When he opened his eyes…

He was in a strange world as if out of a fantasy book.

 

* * *
“Is that true?” asked Louise, looking at Saito with an expression of disbelief. In her hand, she held bread from tonight’s dinner.

They were in Louise’s room. It looked about 12 tatami mats in size. If you treated the window as south, the bed would be situated on the west side, the door would be to the north, and a big wardrobe would stand to the east. All the furniture looked like valuable antiques. Louise had brought Saito here once he had regained consciousness.

Saito, trying to ignore the ache from the blow earlier, answered her, “So what if it wasn’t?”

Saito had never felt the slightest bit resentful of his own curiosity until today. I never should’ve walked through that stupid thing… This isn’t Japan. It isn’t even Earth.

If there were a nation with wizards who flew through the sky, even only a few, he certainly hadn’t learned about it in middle school geography. And even if there were, what about those huge moons floating in the sky? They were easily twice the size of Earth’s. Their huge size was not the issue; it was entirely possible that in some countries there were nights like that. However, that there were two of them was strange. Could the moon have multiplied into two without Saito noticing?

No. It couldn’t. In other words, this was definitely not Earth.

It was dark now… Night had already fallen. I guess my family is worrying about me right now, he concluded sadly.

From the window, he could see the grassy plains where he’d been lying. Across the plains, illuminated by moonlight, he could also see a tall mountain range. Over to his right was a vast expanse of dense forest. Saito let out a sigh.

Evergreen forests like this one simply should not exist. It’s totally different from what you’d see in Japan.

The castle and the grounds he had passed on his way looked very much like something directly out of the Middle Ages. It had been a breathtaking spectacle that would’ve amazed him if he’d come here on a trip.

An entrance arch and a sturdy staircase, both made of stone… This was the Tristain Academy of magic, Louise had explained. All the Academy students lived in dormitories on the school grounds.

Academy of Magic? Wonderful! Dormitories? Splendid! It’s just like a movie!

But this isn’t Earth…!

“I can’t believe it.”

“Look, neither can I.”

“By another world, what do you mean?”

“There aren’t any magicians. And there’s only one moon.”

“There’s such a world like that?”

“I’m telling you, it’s where I came from!” Saito shouted.

“Don’t yell at me, you commoner.”

“Who are you calling a commoner?!”

“Well, you’re not a mage, right? So you’re a commoner.”

“Why does it matter if I’m a mage or not?”

“Look, do you really know nothing about the world?”

“As I’ve been telling you all this time, I’m not from this one!”

At that, Louise set her elbows on the table with a troubled look.

On the tabletop was a lamp with an art deco style shade. Its flickering light filled the room with a pale glow. It seemed as if electricity wasn’t used.

Jeez, electricity isn’t that complicated to set up, is it? I feel like I’m back in the old foreign settler’s hut that our family went to ages ago.

Wait, ‘setup…’ Oh, could it be… This is…

“I’ve got it.”

“What did you get?” Louise asked, looking up.

“This is one of those candid camera programs. It’s just a trick everyone is pulling on me, isn’t it?”

“What’s a ‘candid camera’?”

“They stopped airing a while ago after someone got hurt, but you don’t have any material so you’re resorting back to the same kind of stuff, are you? So where’s the camera?”

“What are you talking about?”

Saito sprung upon Louise.

“Kya–! What are you doing?!”

Knocking over a chair, he bore down on her.

“Where’s the mike?! Is it here?”

Grabbing her roughly, he started to unbutton her blouse. However, a swift kick to the groin brought that to a halt… This left him on the floor in pain.

“Gaaaaaaaaaarrrgh…”

“H-how dare you… To a noble such as me…” Louise stood up, trembling furiously all over.

Through the intense agony, Saito thought, This is no dream. Plus, this isn’t Earth. It’s an entirely different world.

“Please…”

“What?!”

“Send me back home…”

“That’s impossible.”

“But why…?”

“Because you’ve been bound by a contract as my familiar; it doesn’t matter if you come from the countryside or a completely different world like you’ve said. Once the bond is established, it can’t be undone.”

“You gotta be kidding…”

“Look, I don’t like this either! Why do I have to be stuck with a familiar like you?!”

“Well then, send me back.”

“Are you saying you’re really from another world?” asked Louise, seemingly still perplexed.

“Yeah.” Saito nodded.

“Show me some proof.”

Still wincing at the pain, Saito stood up and opened his bag.

“What’s that?”

“A notebook computer,” replied Saito.

The surface of the recently repaired notebook gleamed with reflected light.

“I’ve certainly never seen anything like this. What kind of magic artifact is it?”

“It’s not magic. It’s science.”

Saito pushed the power button, and the computer whirred to life.

“Uwah! What is that?!” Louise gave a surprised yelp as the screen flickered on.

“The notebook screen.”

“It’s pretty… What element of magic does it use? Wind? Water?”

“Science.”

Louise stared at Saito blankly. Clearly she didn’t get it. “So, what kind of element is this ‘science’? Is it different from the four elemental powers?”

“Argh, that’s enough! I told you, it’s not magic!” Saito waved his hands around wildly.

Louise sat on the edge of her bed and dangled her feet. Then, shrugging, she said with a dispassionate look, “Hmm. But I don’t really understand it…”

“Why? Is there anything like this in this world too?”

Louise pouted. “No, but…”

“Then just believe me! There’s nothing to understand!”

Clutching her long hair, Louise just shook her head. “All right! I’ll believe you!”

“Really?”

Crossing her arms and cocking her head, Louise gave an annoyed growl. “Only because you would’ve gone on about it if I didn’t say so.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter, as long as you’ve got it. Now, send me back.”

“I told you, it’s impossible.”

“But why?!”

Louise’s face was etched with discomfort as she answered Saito. “That’s because there’s no spell that can connect this world to your world.”

“Then how did I end up here?”

“I wish I knew!”

Saito and Louise glared at each other.

“Listen, I’m being completely honest when I say there’s no such spell. Nobody’s even heard of another world.”

“There obviously is one if I’m here!”

“‘Summon Servant’ is used to call living beings from within Halkeginia. Normally, only animals or magical beasts are summoned. This is actually the first instance that I’ve seen it work on a person.”

“Stop talking about it like you’re not involved. In that case, cast that spell on me one more time.”

“Why?”

“It might return me to my world.”

Looking discernibly perplexed, Louise tilted her head to one side.

“…That won’t work. ‘Summon Servant’ is a strictly one-way spell. No incantation of any kind exists to return a summoned familiar back to where it was brought from.”

“Whatever, just try it.”

“It’s impossible. And I can’t even cast it now.”

“What? Why?”

“…Using ‘Summon Servant’ again is…”

“Yeah?”

“…Completely ineffective unless the familiar you first summoned has died.”

“Say what?” Saito froze.

“Would you like to die?”

“Err… Guess I’ll pass.” He hung his head. His eyes trailed down to the runes that had been inscribed on his left hand.

“Do you want to know what that is?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s like a stamp that says you’re my familiar.”

Louise stood up and crossed her arms. This close, she was actually quite cute. Slender and well-proportioned legs, thin ankles. Not very tall, at around 155 cm. Her eyes were like a curious kitten’s, and her eyebrows traced a subtle line over them.

If Saito had met her through the message boards of a dating site, he would’ve hopped and leaped for joy. But alas, this wasn’t Earth. No matter how much he wanted to go back, he couldn’t. Saito choked up at this thought, and his shoulders sagged.

“…Yeah, all right. For now, I guess I’m really your familiar.”

“Come again?”

“What, you got a problem with that?”

“I see you’re still not used to formal speech. It should be, ‘Is there something you wish to address, master?'” corrected Louise, one finger raised as if lecturing. The gesture was cute, but the tone was quite strict.

“But, um, what exactly does a familiar do?” asked Saito. Of course, he had seen ravens and owls appear as familiars in anime involving magicians. But mostly they would just sit on their master’s shoulder and do nothing particularly relevant.

“Firstly, a familiar is able to grant its master an enhancement in vision and hearing.”

“Like how?”

“That means what the familiar sees, the master can also see.”

“Oh.”

“But it seems that doesn’t work with you. I can’t see anything.”

“Yeah, but it’s not like that matters,” Saito said off-handedly.

“Also, a familiar will retrieve items that its master desires. For instance, reagents.”

“Reagents?”

“They’re catalysts used when casting certain spells. Something like sulfur, or moss…”

“Uh-huh…”

“But you won’t ever find me stuff like that, will you? Considering you don’t even know what kind of reagents there are.”

“Nope.”

Louise frowned irritably, but continued talking. “And this is most important of all… A familiar exists to protect its master! The task of protecting them from any and all enemies is a duty of the highest priority! But that might be a little bit problematic for you…”

“Since I’m human…”

“…A powerful magical beast would almost always defeat its enemies, but I don’t think you could even beat a raven.”

“Shut up.”

“That’s why I’m only making you do things I’m fairly sure you can do: laundry, cleaning, and other miscellaneous tasks.”

“That’s offensive. Just you see, I’m sure I’ll find a way to get back home!”

“Sure, sure. In fact, I’ll be glad if you do. Because when you return to your world, I’ll be able to summon a new familiar.”

“Why you…”

“Right then, all this talking has made me sleepy,” said Louise with a great yawn.

“Where do I sleep?”

Louise pointed to the floor.

“I’m not some dog or cat, you know.”

“But there’s nowhere else. And there’s only one bed.” She threw him a blanket.

She then brought her hand up to the top button of her blouse.

One by one, the buttons came undone.

Soon she was down to her underwear. Saito blushed. “Wh-wh-what are you doing?!”

Louise answered as if it was the most obvious thing. “I’m going to sleep, so I’m getting changed.”

“Do it somewhere else where I can’t see you!”

“Why?”

“Because! It makes the situation awkward! Seriously!”

“It’s not awkward at all.”

“Is that because you’re a mage? You’re okay with doing that in plain sight of a guy?”

“A guy? Who? I don’t need to think anything of being watched by my familiar.”

What the heck. That’s exactly how you’d treat a dog or cat. Saito grabbed the blanket, threw it over his head, and turned away. He decided to revoke any and all thoughts he’d previously had about her cuteness. She just really got on his nerves. A girl like her, a mage? Yeah right.

“Oh, and these. Wash them for me tomorrow.” Several items came flying over to land softly beside him. He picked them up, wondering what they were.

A lacy camisole and matching panties. White, too. What exquisite and delicate pieces, Saito thought as his face began to flush. He clenched them tightly as a mix of indignation and delight welled up.

“Why do I have to– Your underwear?! Wash them?! Frankly, I’m both flattered and offended!”

He bolted upright, without even realizing he’d done so. Louise was pulling a large nightgown over her head. And in the dim light thrown off by the lamp, he could see the outline of her figure. While he couldn’t make out any other details, it didn’t seem as though she was embarrassed. It was kind of disappointing. He felt as though his masculinity were being denied.

“Who do you think is going to support you? Who do you think is going to give you food? And just whose room are you going to sleep in?”

“Uhh…”

“You’re my familiar, right? Laundry, cleaning, other menial tasks – they’re naturally your job.”

Saito pulled the blanket over his head again.

This girl is hopeless, he thought. She just doesn’t see me as a guy at all.

I want to go home. I miss my room. I miss my parents.

The feeling of homesickness was overwhelming.

…When will I be able to go back?

Is there even a way to go back?

I wonder if my family is worried about me right now…

I need to find some way of returning…

What should I do? Should I try running away from here? But then what?

Maybe I’ll try asking someone. But from what Louise told me earlier, nobody even knows another world exists, so there’s no way they’ll believe me.

No, I need to think this through rationally. In any case, struggling won’t get me anywhere. I don’t have any clues, and even if I escaped from here, there’s no guarantee that I’ll even find a way back.

I don’t even have relatives in this world. There’s nobody I can rely on besides a conceited girl by the name of Louise.

Guess there’s no choice. For now, I’ll be her familiar. At least she said she’ll keep me fed. It’ll be tough, since I’m not much more than a familiar to her.

Sure, she’s a bit arrogant, but at least she’s fairly cute. I suppose I can just imagine I made a girlfriend. Someone I happened to meet through the dating site. Treat it as if I came overseas just to see her. Or as if I came as a foreign student. Actually, that’s better. Yeah, that’s what I’ll think. Hah, I’m so simple like that. It’s great.

Okay, thought Saito. It’s not like I’ve been stranded on a deserted island. Moping will achieve nothing.

I’ll live as a familiar, and in the process, I’ll look for a way to return home.

Now that his plan was set, he felt noticeably sleepy.

No matter the situation, Saito’s amazing adaptability had always saved him. Where anyone else would’ve panicked and crumbled, Saito came through thanks to his flexible personality.

Louise snapped her fingers, and the glow of the lamp died out.

The lamp is magical too? I guess that means there really is no need for electricity, Saito reasoned.

A shroud of darkness descended upon the room.

Outside the window, the two moons shone down mysteriously.

Mrs. Hiraga, your son Saito has arrived in a world where there are wizards. He will not be able to attend school for quite some time, nor will he be able to study. Please forgive him.

And so began Saito’s life as a familiar.

 

Chapter Two: Louise the Zero

When Saito woke up, the first sight to greet his eyes was the underwear that Louise had stripped off.

It had somehow ended up in his line of sight, having been carelessly tossed away.

Louise was still asleep in bed, snoring gently. Her sleeping face was simply cherubic. Now she seemed a lot more childish. She was a loud and annoying girl when she spoke — “noble” this, “magician” that — but, while she slept, she was cute. Saito almost wished that she would stay that way forever.

Then reality sank in. So, last night really wasn’t a dream. He had thought he would find himself back in his own room, but, obviously, it hadn’t happened. He felt dispirited.

Still, it was a refreshing morning. Dazzling light shone down into the room.

Saito’s characteristic curiosity was reawoken. Now that I think about it, this is kinda like a sightseeing tour. I wonder what kind of world this is? While I don’t like the idea of being the familiar of a rude magician girl who snores her head off, I should try to make the most of it, in any case.

First things first, he flung the blanket off Louise.

“Wh-What? What’s going on!”

“It’s morning, Milady.”

“Huh? O-Oh… Wait, who are you!?” Louise yelled in a slurred voice. Her expression was vacant as she trailed off into a pitiful mumble.

Is this girl okay?

“Hiraga Saito.”

“Oh, the familiar. That’s right, I summoned you yesterday, didn’t I?”

Louise got up and yawned. Then, she ordered Saito:

“Clothes.”

He tossed her the uniform that had been draped over a chair. Louise began to sluggishly undress.

Saito quickly turned the other way to hide his blushing face.

“Underwear.”

“G-Get that yourself.”

“They’re in the lowest drawer… Of that closet… Over there.”

It seemed she thoroughly planned to make the most out of Saito.

Holding his tongue, he went and opened the indicated drawer. Lo and behold, it was packed full of underwear. It was the first time he had seen women’s underwear, except for his mother’s. Grabbing a pair at random, he threw it over his shoulder without looking back.

Once Louise had put them on, she mumbled again.

“Clothes.”

“I just gave them to you.”

“Dress me.”

Don’t push it. Saito turned to object angrily, only to find Louise sitting sleepily on the bed wearing nothing but the underwear he had thrown at her. He suddenly didn’t know where to look.

Louise pouted in displeasure.

“You must not know because you’re a commoner, but nobles will not dress themselves if a servant is available.”

That irked him.

“You can at least dress yourself.”

“Right then. As punishment for being a disrespectful familiar: No breakfast,” Louise declared, raising a finger triumphantly.

Reluctantly, Saito picked up her blouse.

 

* * *
When he left the room with Louise, he saw three identical wooden doors along the wall. One of them opened, and from inside appeared a girl with flaming red hair. She was taller than Louise, roughly the same height as Saito. She gave off a strongly flirtatious aura. Her face was attractive, and she sported a captivating bustline. Her breasts were like melons.

The top two buttons of her blouse were undone, highlighting an impressive cleavage which impulsively drew the eyes in. Her skin was tanned, giving her the look of healthy and natural beauty.

Her height, skin color, bearing, and breast size… It all made for a strong contrast with Louise, who lacked in those charm points.

When she saw Louise, she grinned broadly.

“Good morning, Louise.”

Louise returned the greeting with a frown.

“Good morning… Kirche.”

“That… is your familiar?” Kirche asked somewhat mockingly, pointing at Saito.

“That’s right.”

“Ahaha! So it really is a human! That’s amazing!”

Saito resented that. Sorry for being a human. What are you then? He stared at Kirche’s breasts. You’re just a big-breasted alien. Yeah, a big b-b-breasted alien. His stare intensified.

“It’s just like you to summon a commoner with ‘Summon Servant.’ What else to expect from Louise the Zero?”

Louise’s white cheeks flushed scarlet.

“Shut up.”

“I summoned a familiar yesterday, too. Unlike a certain somebody, I was successful on my first try.”

“Really.”

“And, if you’re going to have a familiar, it should be a good one, like this. Flame!”

Kirche called her familiar triumphantly. From her room, a large, dark-red lizard slithered out. A wave of heat hit Saito.

“Uwah! What the heck is this red thing?”

Kirche smiled.

“Ohoho! Don’t tell me this is your first time seeing a fire lizard?”

“Put a chain on it or something! It’s dangerous! And just what is a fire lizard?”

“Don’t worry. As long as I order it not to, it won’t attack. Aren’t you the scaredy-cat.”

Kirche put a hand to her chin and tilted her head teasingly.

The creature was at least as big as a tiger. Its tail was tipped with flame, and its mouth emitted sparks and embers.

“Don’t worry. As long as I order it not to, it won’t attack. Aren’t you the scaredy-cat.”

“Don’t you feel hot being near it?” Saito asked. He calmed himself down and looked at it again. “Wow, it’s a monster… Fantastic!”

“It’s actually fairly cool to me.”

“Is that a salamander?” Louise asked jealously.

“That’s right! A fire lizard! See, look at the tail. A flame this vivid and large means it’s without a doubt a salamander from the Fire Dragon Mountains! It’s like a brand! Collectors can’t even put a price on these!”

“That’s nice,” Louise said, her voice bitter.

“Isn’t it? It matches my affinity perfectly!”

“Your affinity is Fire, isn’t it?”

“Of course. After all, I’m Kirche the Ardent. The ardent of gently smoldering passion. Everywhere I go, I have boys falling for me. Unlike you, right?”

Kirche puffed her chest out proudly. Not wanting to lose, Louise did the same, but the difference in volume was just too striking.

Despite this, Louise glared at Kirche. It looked as if she really hated losing.

“I don’t have the time to go around flirting with everything I see, unlike you.”

Kirche only smiled calmly. Then, she turned to Saito.

“And what’s your name?”

“Hiraga Saito.”

“Hiragasaito? What a strange name.”

“Hey!”

“Well then, I’ll be off now.”

She stroked her flaming red hair back and dashed off. The salamander followed her with a cute shuffling movement that looked odd with such a large creature.

As she disappeared, Louise shook a fist in her direction.

“Ooh, that girl gets on my nerves! Just because she summoned a salamander from the Fire Dragon Mountains! Argh!”

“Calm down, it’s just a summoning.”

“No, it’s not! You can determine a mage’s true power just by looking at his/her familiar! Why did that idiot get a salamander, while I got you?”

“Jeez, sorry for being a human. But you’re one too, y’know.”

“Comparing mages and commoners is like comparing wolves and dogs!” Louise exclaimed haughtily.

“…Okay, okay. By the way, she just called you ‘Louise the Zero’, but, what’s the ‘Zero’ stand for? Is it your surname?”

“No way! My name is Louise de La Vallière! ‘Zero’ is just a nickname.”

“A nickname, huh? I can understand why she’s called ‘Ardent,’ but why are you ‘Zero?'”

“You don’t need to know,” Louise answered uncomfortably.

“Is it your breasts?” Saito asked, glancing at Louise. Yup. Flat as a board.

Louise’s hand flew out. He dodged it.

“Come back here!”

“Don’t hit me!”

A slap?

That reminds me… This girl… Yesterday, even when everyone else flew away, she walked. And, last night, when I grabbed her, she kicked me in the groin.

If she really wanted to chastise me, wouldn’t it be better to use magic instead of hitting or kicking me? That would be more effective, and more mage-like. Why is that? Saito wondered.

 

* * *
The Academy of Magic’s dining hall was the tallest and centermost building on the premises. Inside, three extremely long tables were arranged parallel to each other. Each one looked like it could easily seat a hundred people. The table at which Louise and all the second years sat was the middle table.

It appeared that students could be identified by the color of their cloaks. Viewed from the entrance, everyone sitting on the left-hand table looked a little older and wore purple cloaks — third years.

The students sitting on the right-hand table wore brown cloaks — first years. So they’re like year-level jerseys, Saito thought.

Every single mage on the school grounds, students and teachers alike, gathered here for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

On an upper level, he could see teachers enjoying pleasant chatter.

All the tables were magnificently decorated.

Numerous candles, bunches of flowers, baskets full of fruit…

Saito’s mouth was agape with amazement at the sheer grandeur of the dining hall. Louise raised her head imperiously and began to explain. Her hazel eyes twinkled with mischief.

“Tristain’s Academy of Magic doesn’t teach just magic, you know.”

“Right…”

“Almost all mages are nobles. The saying ‘nobles achieve nobility through the use of magic’ is a foundation for the education we receive as nobles. Thus, our dining halls must also be fitting of a noble’s status.”

“Okay…”

“Understand? Normally, a commoner like you would never set foot inside the Alvíss Dining Hall. Be grateful.”

“Right… Hey, what’s an ‘Alvíss’?”

“It’s the name for the little people. See all those statues over there?”

Where she pointed, lined along the walls were elaborate sculptures of small people.

“They’re well-made. Err, those things don’t… like… come alive during the night or anything, do they?”

“Oh, you knew that?”

“So they do?!”

“Well, they dance. Enough of this, pull out my chair, will you? You’re not a very competent familiar,” Louise remarked, crossing her arms and tilting her head, which made her strawberry-blonde hair ripple. Oh well, ladies first. Saito pulled Louise’s chair out for her.

Louise didn’t even thank him as she sat down. Saito also brought over a chair to sit on.

“This is amazing!” Saito cried. It was far too grand for a breakfast. A huge roasted chicken taunted Saito. Other than that, there was also wine and a pie baked in the shape of a trout.

“I can’t eat all this! I’ll die if I do! Hey, Miss!” He prodded Louise’s shoulder, only to find her glaring at him. “What?” Saito asked dubiously. Louise kept her gaze fixed. “Right, I’m getting ahead of myself. I should act more like nobility! Even though I’m not a noble.”

Louise pointed to the floor, where a bowl had been placed.

“It’s a bowl.”

“Yes. It is.”

“There’s something suspicious in it.”

Louise propped her chin on her hands and spoke.

“You know, familiars are supposed to stay outside. You’re only in here because I especially requested it.”

Thus, Saito found himself sitting dumbly on the floor, staring at the bowl sitting in front of him. In it were some sorry-looking scraps of meat floating around in a thin soup. On the edge was half a loaf of hard-looking bread.

Extending his neck, he peered over the edge of the tabletop.

He could only gaze longingly at the spectacular feast that was laid out on it. It was far beyond comparison with his meager bowl of scraps.

“Oh, Great Founder Brimir, and our lady, the Queen, we thank you for this humble meal that you have graciously provided us this morning,” the harmonious sound of a prayer sounded. Louise joined in as well, closing her eyes.

Just how is that a ‘humble meal?’ Saito griped, still staring at the food. That’s more than a banquet. If anyone’s got a ‘humble meal,’ it’d be me. I mean, just what the heck is in this bowl? This is worse than what you’d feed a pet. He wanted to protest. Even pets in Japan eat better than this!

Irritated at this mistreatment, he laid a hand on the tabletop, only to have it slapped away by Louise.

Saito looked up resentfully at her.

“What are you doing?”

“Give me some chicken. Just a little bit will do.”

“Jeez…” Grumbling, Louise stripped a bit of skin and dropped it into Saito’s bowl.

“What about the meat?”

“No, I’m not going to help start a habit.”

Louise herself began digging enthusiastically into the grand feast.

“Ah, it’s delicious. Delicious! I think I’m going to cry,” Saito muttered, while he gnawed on his hard bread.

 

* * *
The classrooms in the Academy of Magic were similar to university lecture halls. And like everything else, they were constructed from stone. The lecturing teacher stood at the lowest level, and the seats were arranged upward like stairs. When Saito and Louise entered, every student in the room simultaneously turned their heads towards them.

And then the laughter began. Kirche was there as well, surrounded by a group of boys.

I see, so she really does have them wrapped around her little finger. She’s being treated like a queen by all of those guys. Well, it’s not surprising with her impressive bust. I guess big breasts are big breasts, no matter where you go.

The familiars that everyone had brought along were a varied bunch.

Kirche’s salamander was curled asleep under her chair. There were students with owls resting on their shoulders. From a window, a gigantic snake peered into the class. One boy whistled, and the snake withdrew its head. Other than those, there were also ravens and cats.

But what drew Saito’s attention the most were the creatures that would’ve been considered fantastic monsters back in his world. He was suddenly excited. All sorts of amazing beasts were milling around him.

He spotted a lizard with six legs. That’s gotta be… Saito tried to recall what little fantasy lore he knew. A basilisk! I’ve seen one in a game. There was also a huge eyeball floating gently in midair. What could that be? He decided to ask Louise.

“What’s that freaky eye monster?”

“A bugbear.”

“Then what about that octopus thing?”

“A Skua,” Louise answered him in a sullen voice and sat down. Saito sat down beside her. She glared at him.

“What?”

“That’s a mage’s seat. Familiars aren’t permitted to use it.”

Begrudgingly, he lowered himself to the floor. I wasn’t allowed to eat breakfast at the table either. And this desk is really getting in the way. I’m not sitting here, he resolved, and sat back on the chair.

Louise glanced at him, but didn’t say anything this time.

The door opened, and the teacher entered.

She was a middle-aged woman dressed in a voluminous purple robe and wearing a hat. She had a plump, round face with a friendly expression on it.

“Is that lady a magician too?” Saito whispered to Louise.

“Isn’t it obvious?” Louise hissed back.

The woman gazed around the classroom and spoke with a satisfied smile.

“Well, everyone, it seems that the Springtime Familiar Summoning was a great success. I, Chevreuse, always enjoy seeing the new familiars that are summoned each spring.”

Louise cast her eyes downward.

“My, my. You’ve summoned quite a… peculiar familiar, Miss Vallière,” she remarked as she looked at Saito. The comment was fairly innocent, but the classroom exploded with laughter.

“Louise the Zero! Don’t go around grabbing random commoners off the street just because you can’t summon anything!”

Louise’s long blonde hair billowed as she stood up. She raised her cute voice in anger.

“No! I did everything properly! He was all that appeared!”

“Don’t lie! I bet you couldn’t even cast ‘Summon Servant’ properly, right?”

The other students chuckled.

“Mrs. Chevreuse! I’ve been insulted! Malicorne the ‘Common Cold’ just insulted me!”

Louise banged her fist against the tabletop in protest.

“Common cold? I’m Malicorne the Windward! I haven’t caught any cold!”

“Well, your hoarse voice sounds exactly like you’ve caught one!”

The boy called Malicorne stood up and glared at Louise. Chevreuse pointed at them with the wand in her hand. The two suddenly jerked about like puppets on a string and rigidly sat back down.

“Miss Vallière, Mister Malicorne. Please stop this unnecessary argument.”

Louise looked visibly dejected. All the vivacity that she’d shown just earlier seemed to have evaporated.

“Calling friends ‘Zero’ or ‘Common Cold’ is not acceptable. Do you understand?”

“Mrs. Chevreuse, I’m only called that as a joke, but for Louise, it’s the truth.”

A few giggles broke out from somewhere.

Chevreuse looked around the classroom with a severe expression. She pointed her wand again, and, as if from nowhere, the mouths of the students who’d giggled were suddenly filled with lumps of red clay.

“You people shall continue the lesson in that state.”

This put a firm stopper on any further outbursts.

“Now then, let’s begin the lesson.”

Chevreuse coughed heavily and waved her wand. A few pebbles materialized on her desktop.

“My Runic name is ‘Red Clay.’ Chevreuse the Red Clay. This year, I will be teaching you all the magic of the Earth element. Do you know the four great elements of magic, Mister Malicorne?”

“Y-Yes, Mrs. Chevreuse. They are Fire, Water, Earth and Wind.”

Chevreuse nodded.

“And combined with the now-lost element of ‘Void,’ there are five elements in total – as everyone should already know. Of the five elements, I believe Earth holds an extremely important position. This isn’t just because my affinity is Earth, nor is it simply a personal preference.”

Once again, Chevreuse coughed heavily.

“The magic of Earth is very important magic that governs the creation of all matter. If it wasn’t for Earth magic, we wouldn’t be able to produce or process necessary metals. Raising buildings from large boulders and harvesting crops would also involve much more work. In this manner, the magic of the Earth element is intimately related to everyone’s life.”

Aha, thought Saito. So in this world, magic is the equivalent of science and technology in my world. I think I understand now the reason Louise is so proud to call herself a magician.

“Now, everyone, please recall that the basic magic of the Earth element is ‘transmutation’. While there will be people here who have already learned this in their first year, basics build foundations, so let’s review it once more.”

Chevreuse turned her attention to the pebbles and twirled her wand over them.

She then whispered a spell, and they began to glow brightly.

When the light dimmed away, the pebbles had been changed into sparkling lumps of metal.

“Is that g-g-gold, Mrs. Chevreuse!?”

Kirche leaned forward over her desk.

“No, it isn’t. It’s plain brass. Only Square-class mages are able to transmute to gold. I’m just…” Chevreuse gave a self-important cough. “A Triangle mage…”

“Louise.” Saito poked her.

“What? We’re in the middle of a lesson here!”

“What’s all this about squares and triangles supposed to mean?”

“It’s the number of elements that they can add to a spell, which also determines the level of a mage.”

“Huh?”

“See, for example, you can use an Earth spell on its own. But if you add Fire magic to it, the overall power of the spell increases greatly,” Louise explained to Saito quietly.

“Oh, I see.”

“Those who can stack two elements like Fire and Earth together are called Line mages. Mrs. Chevreuse, being able to combine three elements, Earth-Earth-Fire, is a Triangle mage.”

“What happens when you add an element to itself?”

“It reinforces that element and makes it stronger.”

“I see. So in other words, you could say that the teacher over there is a fairly powerful mage, because she’s a Triangle?”

“Exactly.”

“How many can you add, Louise?”

She didn’t answer.

The teacher noticed them talking.

“Miss Vallière!”

“Y-Yes?”

“Please refrain from private chatter during lessons.”

“I’m sorry…”

“Since you have the time to chatter, perhaps I should have you demonstrate for me?”

“Eh? Me?”

“Yes. Try changing these pebbles here into a metal of your choice.”

Louise didn’t stand up. She simply sat there looking troubled and fidgety.

“Hey, come on! She’s pointing at you!” Saito nudged her.

“Miss Vallière! Is something the matter?”

Mrs. Chevreuse called for her again, but Kirche raised her voice in concern.

“Umm…”

“Yes?”

“I think it would be better if you didn’t let her…”

“And why is that?”

“It’s dangerous,” Kirche answered plainly. The majority of the class nodded in agreement.

“Dangerous? How so?”

“This is your first time teaching Louise, right?”

“It is, but I hear she’s a hard worker. Now, Miss Vallière. Don’t you worry, just try it. You won’t be able to do anything if you dread making mistakes.”

“Don’t, Louise!” Kirche cried, her face pale.

But Louise stood up.

“I’ll do it.”

With a nervous expression, she walked briskly up to the front of the room.

Chevreuse stood next to Louise and smiled.

“Miss Vallière, you have to visualize vividly the metal that you wish to transmute them into.”

Giving a cute little nod, Louise waved her wand. She had never looked as adorable as in that instant when she pursed her lips to begin chanting the incantation – it was almost otherworldly.

Even knowing her true personality, Saito was momentarily enamoured.

In the morning sunshine streaming in from the window, Louise’s strawberry-blonde hair sparkled enchantingly. Her hazel eyes shown like jewels, and her skin was a flawless white. Her sculpted nose was befitting of nobility.

If only her breasts were more filled out, she’d be perfect – almost too good. But no matter how cute she is, that personality of hers is a real pitfall, Saito lamented.

But as he sat there pondering, the students sitting in front of him had for some reason hidden under their chairs. Don’t they see how cute Louise is? Still, she doesn’t seem to be very popular. Rather, she gets called ‘the Zero’ and made fun of. Just looking around here, there aren’t any girls nearly as cute. Only Kirche rivals her in looks.

Closing her eyes, Louise uttered a short rune and flourished her wand.

The pebbles on the desk promptly exploded.

Louise and Chevreuse caught the blast full-on and were thrown against the blackboard, as people screamed. Frightened familiars added to the chaos. Kirche’s salamander suddenly woke from its sleep and stood up on its hind legs, breathing a jet of flame. A manticore burst into flight and smashed through a window to escape. Through the hole, the giant snake that had been peeking in earlier slithered in and swallowed someone’s raven.

The classroom was in pandemonium.

Kirche stood up and pointed a finger at Louise.

“That’s why I told you not to let her do it!”

“Jeez, Vallière! Save us some grief and just quit school already!”

“My Lucky got eaten by a snake! Lucky!”

Saito stared in shock.

Mrs. Chevreuse lay on the floor; judging by her occasional twitching, she wasn’t dead.

A soot-blackened Louise rose slowly. She was a miserable sight to behold. Her torn blouse revealed a slender shoulder, and her panties could be seen beneath her ripped skirt.

Still, what an amazing girl. She didn’t seem at all fazed by the discord in the room. She pulled out a handkerchief to wipe the soot off her face.

“Looks like I messed up a little…” she said, in a weak voice.

Of course, that elicited a vehement response from the other students.

“That wasn’t ‘a little!’, Louise the Zero!”

“Your success rate is always ZERO!”

Saito finally understood why Louise was called “the Zero.”

[edit] Chapter Three: Legend

Mister Colbert, a teacher who had dedicated twenty years to Tristain Magic Academy, was by now a mainstay figure.

His Runic name was “Colbert the Flame Snake,” and, naturally, he was a mage specializing in fire magic.

Since the Springtime Familiar Summoning a few days ago, he’d been concerned about the commoner boy that Louise had summoned. Or more precisely, he’d been concerned with nothing but the runes that had appeared on that boy’s left hand. They were rare runes indeed, so for the last few nights, he’d confined himself to the library and had been researching various texts.

Tristain Magic Academy’s library was located in the same tower as the dining hall. The bookshelves were unbelievably tall, about thirty mails in height, and the way they were lined up against the walls was a spectacle to behold. And rightly so, since this place was crammed with the history of everything following the creation of the new world in Halkeginia by the Founder Brimir.

Colbert was now in a section called “Fenrir’s Library” that only teachers were allowed entry to.

The ordinary bookshelves, to which students had free access, didn’t hold any answers that could satisfy him.

He Levitated up to an out-of-reach shelf and scanned it intently for a particular book. His efforts were rewarded as his gaze fell upon the title of the book. It was a very old text which held descriptions of the familiars that had been used by the Founder Brimir.

His attention was focused on one particular paragraph written in it, and as he read on in fascination, his eyes grew wide. He compared the book with the sketch he’d made of the runes on the boy’s left hand.

“Ah!” he gasped in surprise. At that moment, he lost the concentration necessary for maintaining his Levitation and almost fell to the floor.

Holding the book in his arms, he hurriedly descended to the floor and ran out of the library.

His destination was the Headmaster’s Office.

 

* * *
The Headmaster’s Office was located on the topmost floor of the tower. Sir Osmond, the current Headmaster of Tristain Magic Academy, was sitting with his elbows propped on his elegantly built sequoia desk, looking unbearably bored as he shook his white beard and hair.

Idly plucking out nose hairs, he slowly murmured “hrm” and pulled open a desk drawer. From inside he procured a smoking pipe. Miss Longueville, the secretary who had been writing something at the other desk placed to the side of the room, waved her feather quill.

The pipe floated into the air and landed in Miss Longueville’s palm. Sir Osmond muttered dejectedly, “Is it fun taking away an old man’s little pleasures? Miss, um…”

“Managing your health is also part of my job, Old Osmond.”

Sir Osmond stood up from his chair and walked up to the cool and collected Miss Longueville. Stopping behind the seated lady, he closed his eyes, his expression grave.

“If the days keep passing by so peacefully, figuring out how to spend time is going to become a rather big problem.”

The wrinkles etched deeply on Osmond’s face were only hints to the history of his life. People guessed him to be a hundred years old, even three hundred. But his true age no one really knew. It’s possible he himself didn’t remember anymore either.

“Old Osmond,” Miss Longueville spoke up without taking her eyes off the feather quill that was scribbling away on the parchment.

“What is it? Miss…”

“Please stop saying you have nothing to do as an excuse to touch my bottom.”

Sir Osmond opened his mouth slightly and began walking around in tottering steps.

“Please also refrain from pretending to be senile whenever a situation goes bad,” Longueville added calmly. Sir Osmond sighed deeply. It was the sigh of a man bearing the weight of many troubles.

“Where do you think the ultimate truth may be? Haven’t you ever wondered that? Miss…”

“Wherever it is, I assure you, it’s not underneath my skirt, so please stop sneaking your mouse under the desk.”

Sir Osmond’s face fell, and he murmured sadly, “Mótsognir.”

From under Miss Longueville’s desk scurried out a little mouse. It dashed up Osmond’s leg and perched on his shoulder, twitching its tiny head. He fished out some nuts from a pocket and held one out to the mouse.

“Chuchu,” the mouse chittered, apparently pleased.

“You’re my only truly trustworthy friend, Mótsognir.”

The mouse began nibbling on the nut. It disappeared quickly, and the mouse chittered “chuchu” once more.

“Ah, yes, yes. You want more? Very well, I shall give you more. But first, I would ask that you report back, Mótsognir.”

“Chuchu”

“I see. White and plain white too, hrm. But Miss Longueville should really stick to black. Wouldn’t you agree, my cute Mótsognir?”

Miss Longueville’s eyebrows twitched.

“Old Osmond.”

“What is it?”

“The next time you do that, I’m reporting it to the palace.”

“Kah! Do you think I could be Headmaster of this Academy if I was scared of the palace all the time?!”

Sir Osmond flashed his eyes wide and yelled angrily. It was an impressive display, completely unexpected of a frail-looking old man.

“Don’t get all prissy just because I peeked at your underwear! At this rate, you’ll never get married! Haa~~ To be young again~~ Miss…”

Old Osmond began stroking Miss Longueville’s bottom without hesitation.

Miss Longueville stood up and wordlessly kicked her boss around.

“Sorry. Stop. Ow. I won’t do it anymore. Really.”

Old Osmond covered his head and cowered. Miss Longueville breathed heavily as she continued kicking Osmond.

“Ack! How can you! Treat a senior! In this way! Hey! Ouch!”

This “peaceful” moment was interrupted by a sudden intrusion.

The door was thrown open with a slam, and Colbert rushed inside.

“Old Osmond!”

“What is it?”

Miss Longueville was back at her desk, sitting there as if nothing had happened. Sir Osmond had his arms behind him, and turned to face the visitor with a serious expression. That was certainly a quick recovery.

“I-I-I have some big news!”

“There is no such thing as big news. Everything is but a collection of small events.”

“P-P-Please take a look at this!”

Colbert handed Osmond the book he had been reading just before.

“This is “The Familiars of the Founder Brimir,” is it not? Are you still going around digging up old literature like this? If you have time to do that, why don’t you think up some better ways of collecting school fees from those slack nobles? Mister, err… What was it again?”

Sir Osmond cocked his head.

“It’s Colbert! You forgot?!”

“Right, right. Now I remember. It’s just that you talked so fast I never really caught it. So, Colby , what is it about this book?”

“Please take a look at this also!”

Colbert then handed him the sketch of the runes on Saito’s left hand.

The moment he saw that, Osmond’s expression changed. His eyes took on a solemn light.

“Miss Longueville, would you please excuse us?”

Miss Longueville stood up and left the room. Osmond spoke only after he confirmed she was properly outside.

“Explain this to me with every detail, Mister Colbert…”

 

* * *
It was just before lunchtime when they finally finished tidying up the classroom that Louise had made a mess of. As punishment, using magic to clean up had been forbidden, so it had taken considerable time to finish. But then again, Louise couldn’t really use most spells anyway, so it hadn’t affected her much. Mrs. Chevreuse had regained consciousness two hours after she’d been caught in the explosion, and while she did return to class, she didn’t give any more lectures on Transmutation for that entire day. It would seem she had been rather traumatized.

Having finished tidying up, Louise and Saito headed to the dining hall for lunch. Along the way, Saito made fun of Louise over and over. After all, it was Louise’s fault that he’d had to do all that manual labor just now. It was Saito who had carried over the new window glass. It was Saito who had moved all the heavy desks. And of course, it was Saito who had wiped the soot-blackened classroom clean with a cloth. All Louise had done was wipe down a few desks, and reluctantly at that.

I have to sleep on the floor. The food sucks. And on top of that, I have to wash underwear. (Not that I’ve done it yet.)

With all that mistreatment from Louise, there was no way Saito could keep quiet about her new-found weakness. He teased Louise like there was no tomorrow.

“‘Louise the Zero.’ Now I get it~ That’s just perfect~ Rate of success is zero. But a noble despite that… wonderful!”

Louise didn’t say a word, which only roused Saito further.

“Transmutation! Ah! Kaboom! Transmutation! Ah! Kaboom! Oh, I screwed up! Only ‘the Zero’ screws this up!”

Saito danced circles around Louise like this, raising his arms every time he said “kaboom,” mimicking an explosion. It was quite a detailed performance.

“Mistress Louise. This humble familiar has made a song for you.”

Saito said, bowing his head respectfully. Of course, it was an empty gesture, a complete mockery.

Louise’s eyebrow was twitching furiously. She was on the verge of blowing her top, but Saito was too absorbed in his excitement to notice that.

“Why don’t you go ahead and sing it?”

“‘Lou-Lou-Louise is such a hopeless case~ A magician that can’t even use magic! But that’s all right! Because she’s a girl…'”

Saito held his stomach as he burst into laughter.

“Bwahahaha!!”

He was laughing at his own joke. Perhaps he was just as hopeless.

 

* * *
When they arrived at the dining hall, Saito pulled out a chair for Louise.

“Just remember, my lady. Don’t cast any spells on the food. Just imagine the mess if it exploded.”

Louise took the seat wordlessly. Saito was feeling thoroughly satisfied, having got one back on the rude and arrogant Louise with his putdowns. Even the usual excuse for a meal didn’t bother him as much.

While the meager soup and bread he got served was still painful to behold, it was a pretty even trade-off for getting to laugh so much earlier.

“Right then, Founder someone-or-another. Your Highness the Queen. Thanks a bunch for the crappy food. Itadakimasu.”

As he went to eat, the plate was snatched away.

“What are you doing?!”

“Th-th-th…”

“‘Th-th-th’?”

Louise’s shoulders shook angrily, as did her voice. Somehow, she’d managed to reign in her overflowing fury until they’d arrived at the dining table. Probably so that she could bestow an appropriate punishment.

“Th-th-th-this familiar, how dare it say s-s-s-such things to its m-m-m-master?”

Saito realized he’d gone too far.

“I’m sorry! I won’t say any more, so give me back my food!”

“No! Absolu~~tely not!”

Louise screamed, twisting her cute face in rage.

“One meal cut for every time you’ve said ‘Zero!’ And that’s final! No exceptions!”

 

* * *
In the end, Saito left the dining hall without having eaten anything.

I shouldn’t have been so sarcastic about it… But it was too late to regret.

“Haa, I’m starving… Damn…”

Clutching his stomach, he leaned one hand on a wall.

“Is something the matter?”

He turned around to see a normal-looking girl in a maid’s outfit carrying a big silver tray, looking concernedly at him. Her black hair was neatly adorned with a headband, and her freckles were cute.

“It’s nothing…” Saito waved his left hand.

“Are you by any chance the one who became Miss Vallière’s familiar…?”

It seemed she noticed the runes inscribed on Saito’s left hand.

“You know me?”

“A little. It’s become quite a rumor, you know, that a commoner was called by the summoning magic.”

The girl smiled sweetly. It was the first carefree smile Saito had seen since he came to this world.

“Are you a mage too?” Saito asked.

“Oh no, not me. I’m a commoner, just like you. I serve the nobility here by doing domestic duties.”

I’m actually from Earth and not a commoner, but it’s probably useless to try explain. Saito decided to just introduce himself.

“I see… Well, I’m Hiraga Saito. Nice to meet you.”

“That’s quite a strange name… I’m Siesta.”

At that point, Saito’s stomach grumbled.

“You must be hungry.”

“Yeah…”

“Please follow me this way.”

Siesta walked off.

 

* * *
Saito was led to the kitchen located at the rear of the dining hall. Lots of large pots and ovens were lined up inside. Cooks and other maids like Siesta were busily preparing food.

“Please wait one moment, okay?”

Siesta had Saito sit on a chair placed in the corner of the kitchen and disappeared hastily into the back.

She soon returned with a bowl full of warm stew in her hands.

“This is some stew made from the leftovers of the nobles’ meals. If you don’t mind, please eat this.”

“Can I?”

“Yes. It’s only the staff meal though…”

Her kindness was touching. This was completely different from the soup that Louise had given him. He scooped up a spoonful and brought it to his mouth. Delicious. I’m going to cry.

“Delicious. I’m going to cry.”

“This is so good~!”

“That’s great. There’s plenty if you want seconds, so take your time.”

Saito ate the stew as if in a dream. Siesta stood watching him, smiling sweetly all the while.

“Weren’t you given anything to eat?”

“That girl went and took my plate away when I called her ‘Louise the Zero.'”

“Oh no! You shouldn’t say things like that to nobles!”

“Noble schnoble. Getting all high-horsed just because they can use magic.”

“You must have a lot of courage…”

Siesta looked at Saito with an expression of amazement.

Saito gave Siesta back the empty bowl.

“That was really tasty. Thanks.”

“I’m glad you liked it. Feel free to visit whenever you’re hungry. If you don’t mind having whatever we’re having, I’d be happy to share.”

Such a kind offer. Saito was even more touched.

“Thanks…”

Saito suddenly broke out in tears, surprising Siesta.

“Wh-what’s the matter?”

“No… It’s just that it’s the first time anyone’s been so nice to me since I came here… I got a bit emotional…”

“Th-that’s an exaggeration.”

“It’s not. If there’s anything I can do for you, just tell me. I’ll lend a hand.”

He wasn’t particularly interested in something like washing Louise’s underwear, and would much rather help this girl instead.

“In that case, please help me serve the desserts.”

Siesta said with a smile.

“Okay,” Saito nodded enthusiastically.

 

* * *
Lots of dessert cakes were arranged on a big silver tray. Saito carried the tray, while Siesta picked up the cakes with tongs and served them one by one to the nobles.

One mage in particular stood out. He had curly blonde hair, wore a frill-trimmed shirt, and looked rather self-important. There was a rose stuck in his shirt pocket too. His friends around him were poking all kinds of fun at him.

“So, Guiche! Who’re you going out with now?”

“Who’s your lover, Guiche?”

So it seemed the prideful mage was called Guiche. He gently raised a finger to his lips.

“‘Go out?’ I hold no one woman in such special regard. After all, a rose blooms for the pleasure of many.”

This guy’s likening himself to a rose. An egotist like this is far beyond help. He was the kind of narcissist that made onlookers more embarrassed than himself. Saito glared at him, hoping he’d just die.

At that moment, something fell out of Guiche’s pocket. It was a small glass bottle with a purple liquid swirling inside it.

I don’t really like this guy, but I should still tell him he dropped something.

Saito called out to Guiche.

“Oi, you dropped this bottle from your pocket.”

But Guiche didn’t turn around. This guy’s ignoring me!

Saito passed the tray to Siesta and bent down to pick up the bottle.

“I said, you dropped something, playboy.”

He placed it on the table. Guiche shot Saito a dirty look, and pushed the bottle away.

“This is not mine. What are you talking about?”

Guiche’s friends then realized where the bottle came from and raised a loud commotion.

“Ooh? That perfume, isn’t that Montmorency’s?”

“Yeah! That vivid purple color is the perfume that Montmorency only mixes for herself!”

“So to have something like that fall out of your pocket, Guiche, means that you’re going out with Montmorency now, right?”

“No wait, listen to me. I’m saying this for the sake of her reputation, but…”

As Guiche was about to say more, a girl, who wore a brown cloak and had been sitting at the table behind them, stood up and walked over to Guiche’s seat.

She was a cute girl sporting chestnut-colored hair. According to the color of the cloak she wore, she was a first year student.

“Guiche-sama…”

And with that, she started crying uncontrollably.

“I knew it, you and Miss Montmorency are…”

“They’re misunderstanding. Katie, listen. The only person I hold in my heart is you…”

But the girl called Katie slapped Guiche’s face as hard as she could.

“That perfume you dropped from your pocket is more than enough proof! Goodbye!”

Guiche rubbed his cheek.

At this point, a girl with tightly rolled hair stood up from a seat further down the table. Saito recognized her as the girl who’d had the argument with Louise when he was first summoned to this world.

Wearing a severe expression, she approached Guiche with quick clipped steps.

“Montmorency. This is a misunderstanding. All I did was accompany her on a long trip to the forests of La Rochelle…” Guiche said, shaking his head. While he was pretending to remain composed, a drop of cold sweat ran down his forehead.

“Just as I thought! You’ve been making moves on that first year, haven’t you?!”

“Please, Montmorency the Fragrance. Don’t twist your rose-like face in anger like that. It saddens me to see it!”

Montmorency grabbed a bottle of wine that was on the table and poured its contents out audibly on Guiche’s head.

And then…

“You liar!”

She yelled and stormed off.

Silence fell upon the hall.

Guiche pulled out a handkerchief and slowly wiped his face. Shaking his head, he spoke dramatically.

“It would seem those ladies do not understand the meaning of a rose’s existence.”

Yeah, and you just keep trying that, Saito thought, as he took the tray back from Siesta and began walking off.

Guiche called him to a stop.

“Stop right there.”

“What now?”

Guiche spun his body about on the chair and crossed his legs with a flourish. It gave Saito a headache to see such arrogance exude from every action.

“Thanks to you thoughtlessly picking up some bottle of perfume, the reputation of two ladies has been damaged. How will you take responsibility?”

Saito replied in an exasperated tone.

“Hey, it’s your fault for two-timing.”

Guiche’s friends burst out laughing.

“Exactly, Guiche! It’s your fault!”

Guiche’s face flushed crimson.

“Listen, server. When you put the bottle of perfume on the table, I pretended not to know anything, didn’t I? Would it have hurt to be a little bit tactful and just go along with it?”

“Whatever. Either way, your two-timing would’ve been blown anyway. And also, I’m not a server.”

“Hmph… Ah, you are…”

Guiche snorted, as if looking down on Saito.

“You must be the commoner summoned by that “Louise the Zero.” To have expected a noble’s wits from a commoner was completely my mistake. You may leave.”

Saito snapped then. Pretty boy or not, there was no way Saito was just going to stand there quietly taking all this from such a conceited narcissist. He couldn’t help but make one inflammatory comment.

“Shut up you over-pretentious bastard. Why don’t you go suck on roses for the rest of your life?”

Guiche’s eyes narrowed.

“It would seem that you don’t know the proper etiquette for addressing a noble.”

“Unfortunately, I come from a world where there are no such people as nobles.”

Saito raised his right hand and spoke imperiously, mimicking Guiche’s actions.

“Very well. Then I shall teach you a lesson about respect. A perfect way to relieve some stress.”

Guiche stood up.

“How amusing.”

Saito bared his teeth and growled. First, I didn’t like this guy right from the start. Second, he’s going out with two fairly cute girls – though neither are as cute as Louise. And last, he made a fool of me.

That’s more than enough reason for me to fight. And while I’m at it, I’ll hit him a couple more times on Louise’s behalf. After all, she’s still a girl!

“You wanna do it here?”

Saito said. Despite being taller than Saito, Guiche was the lanky type and looked rather weak. Playboys are said to be lacking both money and power. Saito wasn’t particularly strong himself, but he didn’t think he’d lose.

Guiche turned in the other direction.

“Are you running away?”

“Don’t be stupid. I can’t taint the dining table of nobles with the blood of a commoner, can I? I’ll be waiting at Vestri Court. Come once you’re finished delivering those cakes.”

Looking excited, Guiche’s friends stood up and followed him off.

One person remained though, as if to make sure Saito didn’t run away himself.

Siesta gazed at Saito, her entire body quivering. Saito spoke with a grin.

“It’s all right. There’s no way I’ll lose to that weakling. Some noble, huh?”

“You… You’re going to get killed.”

“What?”

“If you truly anger a noble…”

Siesta dashed off in a hurry.

What was that about? Saito muttered. Is that guy really that strong?

Louise ran up to him from behind.

“Hey! What do you think you’re doing?! I saw all that!”

“Yo, Louise.”

“This is no time to be “yo”-ing me! How can you just go promising duels like it’s no big deal?!”

“But that guy was really irritating me…”

Saito said indignantly.

Louise sighed and shrugged disappointedly.

“Apologize to him.”

“Why?”

“If you don’t want to be hurt, go and apologize. If you do it now, he might forgive you.”

“Are you kidding! Why do I have to apologize?! He insulted me first! And besides, I was only being helpful…”

“Just do it.”

Louise fixed Saito with a firm look.

“No way.”

“So stubborn… But you know what? You can’t win. You’ll be badly injured. Actually, you’ll be lucky to come back alive with just injuries.”

“I won’t know that unless I try, right?”

“Listen, a commoner can never beat a mage!”

“So where’s this Vestri Court?”

Saito walked off. The friend of Guiche’s that had been watching Louise and Saito’s exchange pointed with his chin.

“This way, commoner.”

“Aaah, jeez! Really! Why does this familiar keep going off and doing stuff on its own?!”

With that, Louise chased after Saito.

 

* * *
Vestri Court was the central garden situated between the Wind and Fire elemental towers. Being located to the west, the Court didn’t receive much sunshine, even in the middle of the day, but it was the perfect place for a duel.

Right now… the place was packed with people who had heard the rumors.

“Gentlemen! It’s a duel!”

Guiche lifted his artificial rose high, eliciting a loud cheer from the crowd.

“Guiche is going to duel! His opponent is Louise’s commoner!”

I have a name too y’know… Saito thought bitterly.

Waving his arms about, Guiche acknowledged the cheering.

And then, as if finally noticing Saito’s presence there, he turned to face him.

Saito and Guiche stood in the middle of the Court, glaring intently at each other.

“First of all, I commend you for coming here instead of running away!” Guiche remarked in a sing-song voice, as he twirled his rose.

“Like anyone would run away!”

“Right then, let us begin,” said Guiche.

Less talk, more action. Saito rushed forward. Fights are won by whoever gets in the first strike!

It’s roughly ten paces to where Guiche is. I don’t care much for nobles or mages; I’m just going to crush that arrogant nose of yours down to size!

Guiche watched Saito with a leisurely smile and flicked his rose.

A petal floated down as if dancing in the air…

And became the armor-clad shape of a female warrior.

Its height was about the same as a person’s, but it appeared to be constructed from some hard metal. Under the pale sunlight, its skin… its armor gleamed.

It stood stoically in Saito’s way.

“Wh-what the heck is this?!”

“I am a mage, therefore I fight using magic. Surely you have no complaints?”

“Wh-why you…”

“I guess I forgot to mention earlier. My Runic name is “the Bronze.” Guiche the Bronze. Accordingly, my bronze golem “Valkyrie” shall be your real opponent.”

“Eh?”

The warrior-shaped golem charged towards Saito.

Its right fist impacted heavily with Saito’s stomach.

“Harg!”

Saito groaned and collapsed to the ground. Not at all surprising, considering he’d been gut-punched by a bronze fist.

The golem looked down on Saito emotionlessly.

He couldn’t stand up through the pain. I guess this is what it feels like to be hit by a pro boxer, he thought.

“What, over already?”

Guiche sounded dissatisfied. From the mass of people, Louise burst out.

“Guiche!”

“Oh, Louise! My bad. I’m just borrowing your familiar for a bit.”

Louise shook her long hair and yelled angrily at Guiche.

“That’s quite enough! And besides, dueling is strictly forbidden!”

“Only dueling between nobles is forbidden. Nobody has forbidden duels between commoners and nobles.”

Louise was at a momentary loss for words.

“Th-that’s because nothing like this has ever happened before…”

“Louise, do you like this commoner?”

Louise’s face burned an angry scarlet.

“No! Don’t be ridiculous! It’s just that I won’t put up with having my familiar beaten up before my eyes!”

“…Wh-who’s being beaten up? I’m just fine.”

“Saito!”

Seeing Saito was up again, Louise practically screamed out his name.

“…Hehehe, you’ve finally called me by my name.”

Louise was trembling.

“You understand now, right? A commoner can never beat a mage!”

“…I was a little careless, that’s all. I’m all right, so step back.”

Saito pushed Louise back.

“What’s this? I didn’t think you could stand up again… Maybe I went too easy on you?” said Guiche, provoking Saito further.

Saito walked slowly towards Guiche. Louise followed him and grabbed his shoulder.

“You need to stop! Idiot! Why are you still standing?”

He shook her hand off his shoulder.

“Because he pisses me off.”

“He pisses you off? Look, there’s no embarrassment in losing to a mage!”

“Shut up,” Saito muttered as he kept taking unsteady steps forward.

“Eh?”

“Really, you’re starting to get on my nerves too… I know next to nothing about mages or nobles, but to me you’re all the same bunch of ego-inflated brats. Just what’s so brilliant about magic? Idiots.”

Guiche watched Saito with a faint smile painted on his face.

“The more you try, the more pointless this becomes.”

Saito’s characteristic fighting spirit flared, and he uttered a short growl.

“That was nothing. Your little statue, it’s too weak.”

The smile fell away. The golem’s right hand lashed out to strike Saito’s face. He caught the blow square on the cheek and was knocked to the ground.

Blood dripped from his broken nose.

Trying to stem the blood flow, Saito was taken aback.

Crap… So this is a mage’s power. I’ve been in a few fights here and there, but that punch was like nothing else I’d received before.

Despite that, he rose shakily to a stand. Guiche’s golem mercilessly sent him flying once more with a kick.

He got up again. And was struck down again.

Over and over, the process was repeated.

The eighth punch connected with Saito’s right arm. There was a sick snapping noise.

Unable to see out of his swollen shut left eye, he checked his arm with his right eye. It was bent at a wrong angle.

While Saito stared blankly at his arm, the golem came over and planted a foot on his face.

His head hit the earth hard, and he lost consciousness for a moment.

When he came to, he could see Louise’s face framed by a backdrop of blue sky.

“Please. Just stop now.”

Louise’s hazel eyes were wet with tears.

Saito tried to speak, but the pain in his chest from the repeated blows was hard to overcome.

Regardless, he concentrated his willpower and managed to croak in a hoarse voice.

“…Are you crying?”

“I am not! Who would cry here? Anyway, this is enough. You did very well. I’ve never seen a commoner like you before.”

His broken arm throbbed with agony. Saito grimaced.

“That… hurts.”

“Of course it hurts! That’s obvious! Just what were you thinking?”

Tears ran down Louise’s face and fell on Saito’s cheek.

“You’re my familiar, understand? I’m not going to forgive you for any more stupid acts.”

Guiche’s voice called out to the pair.

“Are we quite done yet?”

“…Hold your horses. I’m just catching my breath.”

“Saito!”

Guiche smiled, and flicked his rose. This time, the petal transformed into a sword. Guiche grabbed it and threw it in Saito’s direction. The blade point stabbed into the ground not too far from where Saito lay.

“If you’re still willing to continue, then take that sword. If not, all you need to say is a simple “I’m sorry.” Then I can just forgive you and be done with it.”

“Don’t insult him!”

Louise yelled, standing up. But Guiche gave no indication that he had heard her and kept talking.

“Understand? The sword. In other words, a weapon. It’s the very least you commoners will need if you want to take revenge against us nobles. So as I said, if you’re still up for it, take that sword.”

Saito reached out for the blade with his right hand. But with that arm broken, he couldn’t put much strength in his fingers.

His hand was stopped by Louise.

“No! There is absolutely no way I’m letting you do this! If you take that sword, Guiche won’t show any mercy!”

“I can’t go back to my world… Which means I’m stuck living in this one, right?” Saito muttered, almost to himself. He didn’t look at Louise.

“That’s right. So what about it?! Right now that doesn’t matter!!”

Louise held his right hand tightly. Saito declared in a clear strong voice.

“I don’t mind being a familiar… I can take sleeping on the floor… I don’t care if the food sucks… Washing underwear? I’ll do that too. It’s not like I really have a choice.”

Saito paused there and curled his left hand into a fist.

“But…”

“”But…” What?”

“I will not bow to anyone against my will!”

Drawing on his last reserves of strength, Saito forced himself to a stand. Pushing Louise aside, he grabbed the blade stuck in the ground with his left hand.

In that instant…

The runes inscribed on that hand began glowing brightly.

 

* * *
Let us change locations for a moment and return to the Headmaster’s Office.

Mister Colbert was fervently explaining everything to Sir Osmond about the commoner boy that was summoned by Louise at the Springtime Familiar Summoning… About how he was concerned about the runes that had appeared on the boy’s hand as proof of the contract between him and Louise… And that when he had gone to find out more…

“You reached the Founder Brimir’s familiar Gandálfr?”

Osmond intently examined Colbert’s sketch of the runes on Saito’s left hand.

“Yes! The runes that appeared on that boy’s left hand are exactly the same as the runes that were inscribed on the legendary familiar Gandálfr!”

“So, your conclusion?”

“That boy is Gandálfr! If this isn’t big news, then what is, Old Osmond?”

Colbert stood up as he wiped his balding head with a handkerchief.

“Hrm… Certainly, the runes are the same. But for an ordinary commoner boy to become Gandálfr just by having the same runes… I wonder how that could’ve happened.”

“What shall we do?”

“However, it is probably too early to be making definite claims.”

“That’s true.”

Sir Osmond drummed his fingers on the desk.

There was a knock on the door.

“Who is it?”

From behind the door came Miss Longueville’s voice.

“It’s me, Old Osmond.”

“What is it?”

“It seems there are some students dueling at Vestri Courts. It’s causing quite a commotion. A few teachers have gone there to try and stop it, but their attempts are being impeded by the sheer number of students.”

“For heaven’s sake, there’s nothing worse than nobles with too much free time in their hands. So, who’s involved?”

“One of them is Guiche de Gramont.”

“Ah, that idiot son of Gramont. Skirt-chasing must run in the family, considering his father’s even more of a womanizer. I wouldn’t be surprised if the boy knows every girl in school. And his opponent is?”

“…Well, it’s not a mage. I’ve been told it’s Miss Vallière’s familiar.”

Osmond and Colbert exchanged a look.

“The teachers are requesting to use the “Bell of Sleep” to stop the duel.”

Osmond’s eyes glinted like a hawk’s.

“Ridiculous. There’s no need to use such an important artifact just to stop a children’s fight. Leave them be.”

“Understood.”

Miss Longueville’s footsteps disappeared down the hallway.

Colbert swallowed audibly and verbally pressed Osmond.

“Old Osmond.”

“Hrm.”

Sir Osmond waved his staff and a big mirror set in the wall began scrying the situation at Vestri Courts.

 

* * *
Saito was surprised. The moment he grabbed the sword, all the pain in his body disappeared.

He realized the runes on his left hand were glowing.

And then…

My body feels as light as a feather. I could almost take off and fly.

In addition, the blade he held in his left hand felt so familiar that it seemed like an extension of his body.

That’s strange. I’ve never even touched a sword before…

Seeing Saito with the weapon in hand, Guiche smiled coldly.

“Firstly, let me congratulate you. I’m honestly quite impressed that a commoner would come this far against a mage.”

With that, he twirled the rose in his hand.

That artificial rose must be his wand. Really, how vain can you get?

Saito was astonished that he even had the leisure to think such things.

I was beaten up so badly just now. What in the world happened to me?

Guiche’s golem attacked again.

Stupid tin can.

The statue modeled in the shape of the mythical Valkyrie came towards Saito in what seemed like slow motion.

What the hell, Saito thought.

I got kicked around like a rag doll by this crawling junk pile?

Saito leapt into action.

“Stupid tin cans…”

At the sight of his golem sliced in two as through it was like a lump of clay, Guiche uttered a tormented moan.

The two halves of the golem each struck the ground with a resounding “clang.”

Meanwhile, Saito bolted towards Guiche in a whirlwind of action.

Panicking, Guiche waved his rose wand wildly. Petals danced, and six new golems appeared.

Altogether, seven golems was Guiche’s full arsenal. Never had he thought that a mere commoner could be a match for even one.

The golems surrounded Saito and sprang at him all at once.

And just when it looked like they had him, five of them were slashed apart. It had been so fast that nobody even saw the blade, making everyone wonder just what kind of superhuman ability this was.

The remaining golem promptly dashed over to guard Guiche.

But it too was taken down by an unseen sword-stroke.

“Hiii!!”

A kick to the face sent Guiche sprawling to the ground.

He saw Saito leap at him.

I’m gonna die! he thought, as he shielded his head.

Something made a loud “thunk”…

When he timidly opened his eyes again…

Saito had driven the blade into the ground just to the right of Guiche’s head.

“You want to continue?”

Saito asked.

Guiche shook his head furiously. He’d totally lost any will to fight.

And in a failing voice he said,

“I… I yield.”

Saito released his hand and walked away.

He could hear rowdy cheering from the audience such as “Whoa, that familiar is awesome!” or “Oh man, Guiche lost!”

I… won?

How?

Saito’s thoughts were in a haze.

…Just what happened to me?

I was getting knocked around so mercilessly.

And then, the moment my hand touched that sword, my body felt like a feather. The next thing I knew, all of Guiche’s golems were in pieces.

I didn’t even know I could use a sword.

I don’t quite understand it, but whatever. I won somehow, and that’s that. I’ll think about it later. Because right now, I feel really really tired. I want to sleep.

He could see Louise running over to him.

‘Hey, I won!’ he wanted to yell, but his knees buckled.

The feeling of fatigue overwhelmed him, and he could feel his consciousness drift far away. Saito collapsed.

As she saw Saito begin to teeter, Louise ran faster to try and support him, but she didn’t quite make it. Saito toppled over onto hard ground with a heavy thud.

“Saito!”

Louise shook him. No, it seemed he wasn’t dead.

“Guu…”

She could hear snoring. Instead, he was sleeping.

“He’s asleep…”

Louise looked thoroughly relieved as she let out a sigh.

Guiche stood up and shook his head in amazement.

“Louise, just what is this guy? All of my Valkyries were so easily defeated…”

“He’s just a commoner.”

“There’s no way my golems could have lost to “just a commoner.””

“Hmph. Wasn’t it just because you were weaker?”

Louise went to lift Saito up, but unable to properly support him, ended up falling down with him on top of her.

“Aaah, jeez! You’re so heavy! Idiot!”

One of the students amidst the crowd cast a Levitation spell on Saito.

Louise began to gently push Saito’s floating body away. She needed to take him back up to her room and patch him up.

With the corner of a sleeve, Louise dabbed at her eyes. He looked so in pain, so pitiful, she couldn’t help but cry. He’d become so strong all of a sudden when he grabbed the sword, but if it hadn’t been for that, he really might have died.

Right now, that was more important than Saito winning. I bet this idiot thought it probably wouldn’t matter if he died. Going around being so headstrong like that, when you’re just a commoner…

“You’re just a familiar, so why do you keep doing stuff on your own?!”

Louise yelled at the sleeping Saito. Her relief was quickly being replaced by annoyance.

 

* * *
Sir Osmond and Colbert finished watching the entire event via the Mirror of Far-Seeing. They exchanged another look.

“Old Osmond.”

“Hrm.”

“That commoner actually ended up winning…”

“Hrm.”

“Guiche is only a first level Dot mage, but even so, he shouldn’t have been beaten by an average commoner. What amazing speed! I’ve never seen a commoner like him before! There’s no doubt that he’s Gandálfr!”

“Hrmm…”

Mister Colbert urged Osmond.

“Old Osmond. We should report this to the palace immediately and ask for instructions…”

“There will be no need for that.”

Sir Osmond nodded sternly, ruffling his white beard.

“But sir! This is the biggest discovery of the century! A Gandálfr reborn in the modern world!”

“Mister Colbert. Gandálfr was no ordinary familiar.”

“Exactly! The familiar used by the Founder Brimir, Gandálfr! There was never any description of its appearance, but it’s said to have been created specifically for the purpose of protecting the Founder Brimir during his spell incantations.”

“Correct. Founder Brimir’s incantations were especially long… However, that made his spells very powerful. And as you know, mages are most vulnerable while spell casting. Gandálfr was the familiar that he used to protect himself in those times of vulnerability. Its strength…”

Colbert eagerly cut in at this point, looking extremely excited.

“It could annihilate an army of one thousand all by itself! Ordinary mages were said to be no match for it!”

“So, Mister Colbert.”

“Yes?”

“That boy, he really is just an average commoner, right?”

“Yes. No matter how I looked, he was just an average commoner. I even confirmed it with a Detect Magic spell when Miss Vallière initially summoned him, but he was still a genuine average commoner.”

“And who was it that turned him into a modern Gandálfr?”

“That would be Miss Vallière, but…”

“She must be a very talented mage, I take it?”

“Not at all. Rather, one might say she’s un-talented…”

“A puzzling duo to be sure.”

“Yes.”

“So how did an average boy contracted by an untalented mage become Gandálfr? What an utter paradox. I just can’t see where the ends meet.”

“Indeed…”

“In any case, there is no need for us to hand over Gandálfr and its master to those fools at the palace. Give them a toy like this and they’ll just cause another unnecessary war. Court advisors have too much free time on their hands and like fighting far too much.”

“O-oh, I see. I apologize for overlooking such important matters.”

“I will take responsibility of this case myself. You will not speak of this to anyone else, Mister Colbert.”

“Y-yes! I understand!”

Sir Osmond took hold of his staff and turned to look out the window. He immersed his thoughts in the far reaches of history.

“The legendary familiar Gandálfr… Just what kind of form had it taken before, I cannot help but wonder.”

Colbert murmured as if dreaming.

“Gandálfr was said to be able to use any weapon to take down its enemies…”

“Hrm.”

“So it must have at least an arm and a hand, I think.”

 

* * *
The morning light woke Saito up. His body was wrapped all over in bandages.

That’s right.

I got into a duel with that Guiche and got beaten up really badly…

Then I pulled off some miraculous win using that sword…

And I fainted.

He was in Louise’s room. For some reason, he’d been sleeping in Louise’s bed too.

Louise herself was sitting at a table and sleeping soundly with her head on it.

His eyes fell upon the runes on his left hand. When those runes had been glowing, his body had felt as light as a feather, a sword he had never held before felt like an extension of his arm, and he had sliced up Guiche’s golems like nothing.

Right now, those runes weren’t glowing.

What exactly was that, I wonder…

While he stared at his left hand curiously, there was a knock on the door before it opened.

It was Siesta. The commoner girl who had fed him stew at the kitchen. She was in her usual maid outfit, complete with the headband adorning her hair.

She looked at Saito and smiled. On the silver tray she carried was some bread and water.

“Siesta…?”

“So you’re awake now, Saito-san?”

“Yeah… I…”

“After all that, Miss Vallière had you brought up here to sleep. She had to get a teacher to cast a spell of healing on you too. It was quite serious.”

“Spell of healing?”

“Yes. It’s magic to help treat injuries or illness. You didn’t know?”

“No…”

Saito shook his head. It confused Siesta that Saito didn’t know some of the basic terminology, but she wouldn’t get anywhere by not saying anything.

“Miss Vallière paid for the reagent that was required for the healing spell, so don’t be concerned about it.”

His silence was a clear indicator that he was concerned about the money.

“Did that reagent cost a lot?”

“Well, it’s certainly not something a commoner could pay.”

Saito made an attempt to get up, but cried out in pain.

“Ouch!”

“Ah, you shouldn’t move! Your injuries were so severe even the healing spells couldn’t completely fix them! You still need to take it easy!”

Saito nodded and lay back on the bed.

“I brought you some food. Please eat.”

Siesta placed the tray by Saito’s bedside.

“Thanks… How long was I asleep for?”

“Three days and nights straight. Everyone was worried you wouldn’t wake up.”

“Everyone?”

“All the kitchen staff…”

Siesta cast her eyes down shyly.

“What’s the matter?”

“Um… I’m sorry. That I ran away that time.”

She was talking of how she had run away in fright when Saito had gotten Guiche angry at the dining hall.

“Don’t worry. It’s nothing to apologize about.”

“Nobles were always so scary to us commoners, since we couldn’t use magic…”

Siesta suddenly raised her head. Her eyes sparkled brightly.

“But I’m not so scared anymore! I was so inspired, Saito-san! You won against a noble, though you’re a commoner!”

“Really… Haha.”

Although I really have no clue how I actually won.

Somewhat embarrassed, Saito just scratched his head. Then he realized he was using his right arm, which had been broken. It looked completely fine. It still ached a bit when he moved it, but it seemed the bones were whole again.

Wow, so this is magic. Saito thought in slight admiration.

…I guess it is something to be proud about.

“By the way, did you tend to me all this time?”

“Oh no, not me. It was actually Miss Vallière…”

“Louise did?”

“Yes. She changed all the bandages and wiped the sweat from your face… She didn’t sleep one bit, so she must be exhausted.”

As she slept, Louise’s breathing was even and gentle. There were heavy dark circles under her eyes though.

Her sleeping face is always so adorable. It’s so doll-like.

So she can be nice sometimes, he thought. Suddenly her side profile looked intensely cuter.

Louise’s eyes flickered open.

“Fuaaaaaaaaa~~”

She made a great big yawning stretch, and then her gaze fell upon Saito, who was sitting on the bed blinking in surprise.

“Ara. You’re awake.”

“Y-Yeah…”

Saito cast his eyes downward. He figured he should thank her.

“Um, Louise.”

“What?”

“Thanks. And I’m sorry I made you worry.”

Louise stood up.

And drew closer to Saito.

Saito’s heartbeat accelerated.

Is she going to say something like “good job, you were really cool out there” and maybe kiss me?

But that was not to be.

Louise pulled away Saito’s blanket and grabbed him by the scruff.

“If you’re better now, get out of my bed!”

Still holding him by the scruff, Louise pulled Saito out of the bed.

“Wah! Ow!”

Saito tumbled to the floor.

“Hey, I’m still an injured person!”

“If you’re well enough to complain, you’re well enough for anything else.”

Saito stood up. His body still objected, but it was nothing he couldn’t put up with. Still, she could’ve let him sleep for a little bit longer.

“Uh, in that case, I will take my leave now…”

Siesta left the room wearing a crooked smile. Or more precisely, she fled the room.

Louise threw a mountain of clothes and underwear at Saito.

“Ack!”

“That’s the laundry that’s piled up while you were asleep. Once you’re done with that, clean up the room. Hop to it!”

“Um, you know…”

Louise glared fiercely at Saito.

“What? Just with something like beating Guiche, did you think you’d be treated differently? Did you think you’d be congratulated? Are you an idiot?”

Saito looked resentfully at Louise.

He decided to take back his earlier thought about her being cute.

Still… the way Louise sat on her bed swinging her legs was an undeniable level of cuteness beyond this world.

Her long strawberry blonde hair rippled. Her hazel eyes twinkled with mischief. She was rude, arrogant, and selfish, but try as he might to deny it, her appearance was enchanting.

Raising a finger triumphantly, Louise declared.

“Don’t you forget! You’re my familiar!”

Gandalfr

Chapter Four: A Familiar’s Day

It had been a week since Saito started his life as Louise’s familiar at Tristain Magic Academy. If one were to explain an average day for Saito, it would read like the following:

First, like the majority of animals and humans in Tristain, he woke up in the morning. His bed was, as usual, the floor, though compared to the first day it had mostly improved. Finding that his body hurt all night if he slept on the hard floor, Saito had asked the maid Siesta for some of the hay that was fed to the horses and had packed it into a corner of the room. Saito slept on the pile of hay, wrapped in the blanket that Louise had so “graciously” bestowed upon him.

Louise called Saito’s makeshift bed “the chicken’s nest,” which was appropriate as chickens slept on hay, and as the first thing Saito did every morning was to wake Louise up, like a rooster.

But he had to, because there would be trouble for him if Louise woke up first.

“A stupid familiar that has to be woken by its master needs to be punished.” Louise never forgot to remind him.

If Saito ever overslept, he’d be denied breakfast.

Once woken up, Louise got changed. She put on her underwear by herself, but made Saito dress her in her uniform. This was mentioned before.

With her enchanting looks, Saito was breathless every time he saw Louise in her underwear. They say you get used to a beautiful lover in three days, but it didn’t seem Saito would get used to Louise anytime soon.

Maybe because he was her familiar, not her lover. Still, always by Louise’s side, he essentially was one. The only difference was in her attitude and treatment of him.

Getting to see Louise like this every day wasn’t all bad. However, it was a persistent wound to his pride. When helping Louise into her shoes, for example, he couldn’t hide the irritation from his face.

At least that much was tolerated, but if Saito ever said anything to set Louise off, things became bothersome.

“A rude familiar that displeases its master this early in the morning needs to be punished,” was another of Louise’s mottos.

If Saito ever teased Louise about her breast size, or got pouty and said something like, “Do up the buttons yourself,” he’d be denied breakfast.

Dressed in her uniform, which consisted of a black cloak, a white blouse, and a grey pleated skirt, Louise then washed her face and brushed her teeth. The room didn’t even have sensible things like running water installed, so Saito had to go down to the fountain and bring up water for Louise’s use in a bucket. And, of course, Louise didn’t wash her face herself. She made Saito do it.

One morning, while he was wiping her face with a towel, he lightly traced Louise’s face with a piece of charcoal he had found.

Seeing his masterwork drawn on Louise’s face, Saito barely held in a snigger. Then in pretend obsequience, he politely bowed his head to Louise.

“Mistress. You are the epitome of beauty this day.”

Due to low blood pressure, Louise could only manage a sleepy reply.

“…Are you plotting something?”

“Myself? I am simply a familiar serving the orders of my mistress. I would not dare to plot!”

Louise was suspicious of Saito’s sudden and excessive politeness, but since she was almost late for class, she didn’t question him any further.

With her vividly rosy cheeks, charming hazel eyes, and lips that seemed carved from fine coral, Louise knew she didn’t need to decorate herself, so she didn’t wear any kind of make-up. In other words, this meant she didn’t look in the mirror much. And this day was no different. The result: she had absolutely no idea of the “make-up” that Saito had applied on her.

Louise headed out to class in that state. The time being what it was, she didn’t encounter anyone in the hallways or stairs.

Louise opened the classroom door panting. As one, her classmates looked at her and exploded with laughter.

“Hey, looking good, Louise!”

“Oh my god! That’s so you!”

Afterwards, when Mister Colbert kindly complimented the stylish glasses and moustache sketched on her face, Louise went berserk. She went out into the hallway where Saito was holding his stomach as he rolled on the floor in hysteric laughter, slapped him a dozen times, and cut his meals for the entire day.

According to Louise, a familiar that treated its master’s face like a piece of canvas was akin to the demons of old that opposed the Founder Brimir and his many allied gods, and such demons were not worthy of the bread and soup granted by the Lady Queen.

 

* * *
After breakfast, Saito cleaned Louise’s room. This involved sweeping the floor with a broom and wiping the table and windows with a cloth.

And then there was the oh-so-enjoyable laundry. He took the laundry down to the fountain and scrubbed it clean against a washboard. There was no warm water, only icy cold water that bit fiercely at his fingers. Louise’s underwear were all expensive looking pieces with lots of lace and frills attached. He would get a meal cut if he happened to damage one, so he had to wash them gently. It was painful work. Tired of it all, he left one particular pair with a slightly torn elastic band in the pile one day. Merely a few days later, Louise walked out obliviously wearing that particular pair, when the elastic snapped entirely. Her panties slid down to her ankles, entangling both of Louise’s legs like a trapper’s snare.

It just so happened that she was at the top of a staircase, so she tumbled spectacularly down them.

Most fortunately, there wasn’t anyone else around to see her roll down the stairs with her lower half shamefully exposed, so at least her reputation was spared. Realizing that it had been overkill, Saito was careful not to peek inside her skirt as he apologized profusely to Louise, who lay unconscious at the staircase landing. He hadn’t meant for the joke to derail like this. Ideally, he had envisioned it happening in a hallway for optimum embarrassment.

Once Louise regained consciousness and realized what had happened, she thrust the torn pair of panties accusingly at Saito, who was sitting subserviently by the bedside.

“There was a torn pair.”

“Indeed there was, Mistress.”

Louise’s voice quavered with fury.

“Explain yourself.”

“It must have been the fountain water, Mistress. Why, it’s so cold it could freeze fingers right off. I believe the elastic couldn’t endure that.”

Saito replied curtly.

“So you’re saying it’s the elastic’s fault?”

“I’m saying it’s the water’s fault. It was bad water. I’m convinced that there must be some kind of curse on it to make it cold and also affect the elastic somehow.”

“In that case, I should not feed such a loyal familiar soup made from that kind of bad water.”

“Most gracious of you.”

“Three days should do, I think, for the water to return to normal.”

Saito had his meals cut for three days.

 

* * *
However, Saito remained completely fine for those three days. He’d just pretend to be withering and visit the kitchen behind the Hall of Alviss, where the energetic and lovely Siesta would serve him food like stew, and meat on the bone. He went there even when his meals weren’t cut. The soup that Louise declared “The Widespread Blessing of Her Majesty, the Queen” was never enough of a blessing to fill him up.

Naturally, he kept his visits to the kitchen a secret from Louise. She was adamant about not giving him more until he had corrected his behavior, so there would be trouble if she found out about the meat and stew Siesta kindly provided him with. Louise would surely forbid him visiting for the sake of “educating” her familiar.

Currently though, she was totally unaware. In any case, Saito preferred Siesta and the kitchen a hundred times more than some Lady Queen and Founder Brimir he’d never met.

 

* * *
One morning, after hungrily drinking down his soup in front of Louise, he went to the kitchen. Saito, having beaten the noble Guiche at the Vestri Courts, was hugely popular there.

“‘Our Sword’ is here!”

The one who called out was Marteau, the head chef, a well-rounded man well into his forties. Naturally, he was also a commoner himself, but with his position of head chef at the Academy, he earned as much as a lower class noble, a fact he could be proud of.

Dressed in simple but fine clothes, he commanded the kitchen with a wave and a flourish of his hand.

Despite his highly respectable position as head chef of a magic academy for nobles, Marteau wasn’t the least bit arrogant, and surprisingly enough, disliked both magic and nobles.

He called Saito, who had used a sword to defeat Guiche, by the nickname “Our Sword” and treated the boy like a king. Thanks to him, the kitchen was an oasis to Saito.

Saito sat down at his chair, and with a smile, Siesta promptly brought him a bowl of warm stew and soft white bread.

“Thanks.”

“Today’s stew is extra special,”

Siesta declared, looking particularly happy. Saito curiously lifted a spoonful to his mouth and his face instantly lit up.

“Wow, this is delicious! It’s worlds apart from that gruel I get!”

At this, Marteau approached the table holding a kitchen knife in one hand.

“Well of course. That stew’s the same stuff we serve to the noble kids.”

“I can’t believe this is the kind of stuff they get to eat everyday…”

Marteau snorted loudly at Saito’s comment.

“Hmph! Sure, they can use magic. Making pots and pans and castles from dirt, conjuring up unbelievable gems, even controlling dragons – so what! But see, creating such exquisite dishes like this is a kind of magic itself. Wouldn’t you agree, Saito?”

Saito nodded.

“Absolutely.”

“A fine fellow! You’re a good man!”

He put an arm around Saito’s shoulders.

“Here, “Our Sword”! Let me place a kiss upon your forehead! Come on! I insist!”

“I’d rather you not. And stop calling me that,” Saito said.

“Why not?”

“It’s just… weird.”

The man let go of Saito and spread his arms out in protest.

“But you cut a mage’s golem to pieces! Don’t you get it?”

“I suppose.”

“Say, just where did you learn to use a sword? Tell me where I can go to learn how to swing a sword like that.”

Marteau stared earnestly at Saito. He asked the same thing every time Saito came to eat, and Saito’s answer was the same every time.

“I don’t know. I’ve never held a sword before. My body just moved by itself.”

“You guys! Did you hear that?!”

He yelled, his voice echoing around the kitchen.

The younger cooks and the apprentices shouted back.

“We hear you, boss!”

“This is what they call a true master! They never boast about their skill! Look and learn! A true master never boasts!”

The cooks chanted happily.

“A true master never boasts!”

Then Marteau turned back around to face Saito.

“You know, “Our Sword,” I’m starting to like you more and more. So how about it?”

“Um, how about what…?”

He was simply telling the truth, but Marteau always thought he was just being modest. It was somewhat frustrating. He felt like he was deceiving the good-natured man. Saito’s gaze dropped down to the runes on his left hand.

Since that day, it hasn’t glowed anymore. Just what was that, I wonder… Even when Saito tried to make a point of staring at his own runes, Marteau interpreted that as him being reserved.

The chef turned to Siesta.

“Siesta!”

“Yes?”

Siesta, who had been cheerfully watching the two of them get along, responded brightly.

“Bring our hero here some of Albion’s finest.”

Her smile widened, and retrieving a wine bottle of the requested vintage from the rack, she poured some into Saito’s glass. Siesta looked on absorbedly as Saito’s face grew redder and redder from the wine. These events repeated almost routinely:

Saito visited the kitchen, Marteau became more attached to Saito, and Siesta’s respect for him deepened even further.

 

* * *
Although that particular day… there was a crimson shadow spying on Saito from a window of the kitchen. One of the young cooks took notice of it.

“Hey, there’s something outside the window.”

The shadow gave a garbled ‘kyuru kyuru’ and slinked away.

 

* * *
Then, after breakfast, cleaning, and laundry, he accompanied Louise to class. Originally, he was made to sit on the floor, but after Louise realized he had become rather transfixed with peering up other girls’ skirts, she reluctantly let him sit on a chair. And she made it clear to Saito that should his vision ever stray too far from the blackboard, he would be denied lunch.

In the beginning, the lessons fascinated Saito with their marvels: turning water into wine, combining various reagents to brew special potions, materializing fireballs out of nothing, levitating boxes and sticks and balls out of the class windows for their familiars to fetch, etc… but after a while, the novelty wore off.

And so he took to napping instead. The professor and Louise would give Saito evil looks every once in a while, but there were no rules forbidding familiars from sleeping during lessons. And just looking around the class, all the nocturnal familiars were snoozing away, even someone’s owl. In fact, if they were to wake Saito up, it would mean that they were acknowledging him as a human. Louise chewed her lips from the overwhelming desire to give the sleeping Saito a piece of her mind, but she couldn’t because doing so would mean contradicting herself about him being nothing more than a familiar.

 

* * *
That same day, bathed in sunlight, Saito was fast asleep during another lesson.

The wine he drank that morning was taking effect, and Saito dreamed.

It was quite an unbelievable dream.

A dream in which Louise crept into his hay pile at night as he was sleeping.

“What’s wrong, Louise…?”

At hearing her name being called, Louise shot a glare at Saito.

“You can’t sleep? Oh, all right… can’t be helped. Munya~”

Oh, he’s just muttering in his sleep,

she thought, and faced the front again.

“…Munya. H-hey, don’t hug me all of a sudden.”

Louise’s gaze snapped to Saito once more. The other students were starting to take notice of the situation, and perked their ears to listen.

“…Jeez, for the slave driver you are during the day, you’re such a sweet little thing in bed.”

A trickle of drool ran down from the corner of Saito’s mouth as he continued to enjoy his dream.

Louise grabbed his shoulders and shook him vigorously.

“Hey! Just what kind of dream are you having?!”

Her classmates burst out laughing. Malicorne the Windward made a passing comment.

“Oi oi, Louise! Is that the kind of thing you do with your familiar at night? I’m surprised!”

The female students whispered something amongst themselves.

“Wait! This is just some stupid sleep-talk! Ah, jeez! Wake up already!”

“Louise, Louise, you’re like a kitten; stop licking me there like that…”

At this, the laughter threatened to burst through the ceiling.

Louise kicked Saito off the chair, violently returning him to reality from his soft and gentle dreamscape.

“Wh-what was that for?!”

“Since when have I ever snuck into your hay pile?!”

“Louise, Louise, you’re like a kitten; stop licking me there like that…”

Louise crossed her arms and looked down imposingly on Saito.

Saito shook his head profusely, only further amusing the class.

“Saito, explain to these rather rude people that I never take one step out of my own bed during the night.”

“That’s right, everyone. I was simply dreaming out loud just now. Louise would never do such a thing.”

The students turned away disappointedly.

“Isn’t it obvious? Like I would ever do something like that! With this thing, no less! This thing! To even think that I would curl up in bed with this lower life form is far beyond being a joke!”

Louise huffed haughtily, averting her gaze upwards.

“But, my dreams often come true.”

Saito piped up.

“Indeed! Dreams do have the power to foretell the future, after all!” Someone in the room supplied in agreement.

“My master here, with her personality, probably won’t ever find herself a lover.”

A vast majority of the students nodded. Louise shot Saito another evil look, but it was too late. Saito was on a roll.

“My poor master gets quite “frustrated” as a result, and instead resorts to slipping into this familiar’s humble hay pile.”

Louise put her hands on her hips and strongly reprimanded Saito.

“Enough! Close that unclean mouth of yours right now!”

That didn’t stop Saito from continuing either.

“When she does, I have to fend her off a bit…”

By this point, he was too far gone. Louise’s shoulders began to tremble angrily.

“And tell her, ‘this isn’t where you sleep.'”

The class applauded. Saito mimicked an elegant bow and went to sit back down.

Louise kicked him away, sending him rolling across the floor.

“Don’t kick me!”

But Louise was beyond the point of reasoning. Her gaze was fixed firmly forward, and as always, her shoulders shook with barely contained fury,

Once again, there was a crimson shadow watching Saito.

It was Kirche’s salamander. With its belly to the floor, it stared at Saito through the gap in the row of chairs.

“Hm?”

Noticing it, Saito waved his hand at it.

“You’re Kirche’s salamander, aren’t you? I know you have a name. What was it… Oh yeah, it’s Flame. Flame-”

Saito motioned for it to come closer, but the salamander flicked its tail around and spat out a few embers before running back to its master.

“Why would a lizard be so interested in me?”

Saito tilted his head in puzzlement.

 

* * *
And while Saito was having a staring contest with a salamander during class…

At the Headmaster’s Office, Miss Longueville the secretary was busily writing away at something.

She stopped writing for a moment and glanced over at the sequoia desk at which Sir Osmond was busy taking a nap.

The corner of Miss Longueville’s lips rose in a faint smirk, an expression she had never shown anyone before.

She stood up from her desk.

In a low voice, she murmured the incantation for a Spell of Tranquility. Dampening her footsteps so as not to wake Osmond, she crept out of the office.

Her destination was the treasury, located on the floor directly below the Headmaster’s Office.

Stepping off the stairs, she confronted enormous iron doors. They were kept shut with a thick bolt mechanism, which in turn was secured with an equally large padlock.

This place was where artifacts dating from even before the Academy’s establishment were contained. After cautiously surveying her surroundings, Miss Longueville withdrew her wand from a pocket. It was about the length of a pencil, but with a flick of the wrist, it extended to the length of an conductor’s baton, which she whirled expertly.

Miss Longueville cast another spell.

Once the invocation was complete, she pointed the baton at the padlock.

However… nothing happened.

“Well, it’s not like I really expected a Spell of Unbinding to work anyway.”

Smiling deviously, she began reciting the words to one of her specialty spells.

It was a Transmutation spell. Chanting loud and clear, she waved her baton at the heavy lock. The magic cascaded over it… but even after a considerable wait, there was no visible change.

“Looks like it’s been magically reinforced by a Square-class mage,” she muttered.

A Spell of Reinforcement was one that prevented the oxidation and decomposition of matter. Any substance that had this spell cast on it was protected from any chemical reactions, and allowed it to be preserved forever in that state. Even transmutation magic would have no effect against something protected like this. Only if one’s magical skill surpassed that of the mage who cast the spell could it be overcome.

As it was, the mage who had enchanted this door was apparently an extremely powerful mage, considering that not even Miss Longueville, an expert in Earth magic and transmutation in particular, was able to affect the door.

Taking off her glasses, she stared at the door once more. At this point, she heard footsteps coming up the staircase.

She shrunk down her baton and slipped it back into her pocket.

The person who appeared was Colbert.

“Greetings, Miss Longueville. What are you doing here?”

“Mister Colbert, I was going to catalog the contents of the treasury, but…”

“Oh, that’s quite some work. It’d probably take you all day to go over each and every item. There’s a lot of junk mixed together with them, and it’s a rather cramped space they’ve been arranged in too.”

“Indeed.”

“Why don’t you just borrow the key from Old Osmond?”

The woman smiled.

“Well… I didn’t want to disturb his sleep. In any case, I’m in no immediate hurry to complete the catalog…”

“I see. Sleep, you say. That old man, I mean, Old Osmond, is quite a deep sleeper. It seems I shall have to visit him another time.”

Mister Colbert began to walk off, but paused in his tracks, and turned around.

“Err… Miss Longueville?”

“Is something the matter?”

Colbert looked slightly embarrassed as he opened his mouth to speak.

“If it would be all right, how would you like to, say… join me for lunch?”

She took a moment to consider, then smiled brightly as she accepted the offer.

“Sure, it would be my pleasure.”

The two of them headed down the stairs.

“Hey, Mister Colbert.”

In slightly informal tones, Miss Longueville struck up conversation again.

“Y-yes? What is it?”

Emboldened by how easily his invitation had been taken up, Colbert responded quite eagerly to her.

“Is anything important actually inside the treasury?”

“There is.”

“Then, do you know of the ‘Staff of Destruction’?”

“Ah, that is quite a curiously shaped item, indeed.”

Her eyes glinted.

“What… kind of shape?”

“It’s extremely difficult to describe, except as simply strange, yes. But never mind that, what would you like to eat? Today’s menu is flounder baked in herbs… but I’m quite well-acquainted with Marteau the head chef, and I can have him make any of the world’s finest delica–”

“Ahem.”

Miss Longueville interrupted Colbert’s babbling.

“Y-yes?”

“I must say, the treasury is quite amazingly built. No matter what kind of magic is tried, it would be impossible to open, I assume?”

“That’s quite right. It’s impossible for just any one mage. After all, it was devised by a group of Square-class mages to resist all spells.”

“I’m very impressed that you’re so knowledgeable about this, Mister Colbert.”

She regarded him with a comfortable expression.

“Eh? Well… Haha, I just happened to come across a lot of documents pertaining to this floor, that’s all… I like to consider it a part of my research, haha. Thanks to that, I’m still single at this age… yes.”

“I’m sure the woman that you find will be very happy to be with you. After all, you can teach her so much about things that nobody else knows…”

Miss Longueville fixed him with a fascinated look.

“Oh, no! Please don’t tease me like that!”

Colbert flustered nervously as he wiped sweat from his balding forehead. Then, regaining composure, he faced her seriously.

“Miss Longueville. Have you heard of the Ball of Frigg that is being held on the day of Yule?”

“No, I haven’t.”

“Haha, I guess it’s because you’ve only been in Tristain for two months. Well, it’s nothing spectacular, just a party of sorts. However, it’s said that a couple who dances at this ball will be destined to be together or something like that. It’s just a petty legend of course! Yes!”

“So?”

Smiling, she pressed him to continue.

“So… if it would be all right, I was wondering if you would dance with me, yes.”

“I would love to. While ball parties are fabulous, I’d like to know more about the treasury right now. I’m quite fascinated by magical items, you see.”

Wanting to further impress Miss Longueville, Colbert racked his brains. Treasury, treasury, she says…

Remembering something she might find interesting, he put on an important air and started to talk.

“Ah yes, there’s one thing I can tell you. Although it’s not particularly important…”

“By all means, do tell.”

“Certainly, the treasury is invincible against magical attacks, but I believe it has one fatal weakness.”

“Oh, that’s intriguing.”

“That weakness is… physical force.”

“Physical force?”

“Yes! For example, well, not that this is ever likely, but a giant golem could–”

“A giant golem?”

Colbert stated his opinion quite proudly to Miss Longueville. And once he was done talking, she couldn’t help but smile in satisfaction.

“That was most intriguing indeed, Mister Colbert.”

Chapter Five: Kirche the Ardent

The night after Saito thoroughly shamed Louise in class with his sleep-talking, Louise unceremoniously threw his pile of hay into the hallway.

“What are you doing?”

“It’d be a bother if I snuck into your bed again, right?”

It seemed she was still upset over what happened earlier in class. “But it’s kind of cold outside the room with the wind blowing around.”

“Well, no doubt I’ll come and warm you in your dreams,” said Louise, arching her shapely eyebrows. What a bitter girl. She looked determined to make Saito sleep out in the hallway no matter what.

He took his blanket and went out to the hallway. The moment he left the room, the door locked with a loud click. Wind rushed in from the open window, making Saito shiver.

Muttering about the cold, Saito wrapped the blanket around himself and lay down on the hay. The chill of the stone floor seeped into his body. No heaters either. I’m freezing.

Making me suffer like this just because of a dream! Saito kicked Louise’s door. Of course, there was no response.

Saito began plotting his revenge. Cutting the elastic in her panties is no longer enough. As he lay shivering in his blanket wondering how he would get one back on that little girl…

The door to Kirche’s room opened.

Her salamander Flame crawled out, with its burning tail emitting a warm glow. The two stared at each other. The salamander shuffled closer to Saito, who unconsciously began to back away.

“Wh-what are you doing?”

“Kyurukyuru,” it growled comfortingly. It looked harmless before it clamped its jaws on Saito’s sleeve, shaking its head as if asking him to follow it.

“Hey, let go! You’ll light my blanket on fire!” said Saito to an insistent Flame, which only pulled harder.

Kirche’s room remained open. Is it trying to drag me in there? Indeed it was. I don’t think Flame is dragging me for the fun of it. What could Kirche possibly want from me? Saito brainstormed the reasons. Maybe she just wants to lecture me about quarreling with Louise. As if in a trance, Saito stepped into Kirche’s room.

 

* * *
The room was pitch dark, save for Flame’s mild glow. Kirche’s voice commanded from the darkness, “Close the door.” Saito obliged.

“Welcome to my room.”

“It’s pretty dark in here.”

He heard Kirche snap her fingers. Starting from the one nearest him, lamps lit up one by one towards Kirche like lights floating above a street.

Doused in the mild glow, Kirche sat on her bed, with a look of worry on her face. She was wearing attractive underwear, or rather, just plain underwear. One thing was for sure: supported only by her sexy bra, her full breasts were the size of cantaloupes.

“Don’t just stand there. Come to me.” Kirche cooed with her most captivating voice.

Saito shakily wandered to a smiling Kirche, as if in a dream.

“Sit down.”

Saito sat by her side as he was told. His mind was filled with Kirche’s nearly nude body.

“Wh-what is it?” Saito asked nervously. Kirche merely stared at him while slowly waving her fiery red hair. Under the faint lamp light, Kirche’s brown skin looked wildly erotic, as if trying to capture Saito to do her bidding.

Kirche made a long sigh, and worriedly shook her head.

“You must think me a lowly, despicable woman.”

“Kirche?”

“To be thought so is inevitable. Do you understand? My runic name is ‘Ardent’.”

“I know that.”

That cleavage in her bra’s gaps is so sexy…

“My lust is as flammable as hay… that’s why I suddenly called you here. Don’t you get it? Isn’t this really bad of me?”

“That is indeed very bad.” Saito seemed unsure and just played along. He never had a foreign girl speak her heart out to him like this, so he was rather nervous.

“But… I’m sure you’ll forgive me.”

Kirche looked at Saito with moist, watery eyes. Any man would show his most primitive instincts after looking at these eyes.

“For-forgive what?”

Kirche suddenly clasped Saito’s hand, enveloping them with her warm palms before slowly caressing through every finger, sending sparks through his spine.

“Loving you, my dear. To you, my love is that sudden.”

“Yeah, that’s sudden all right!” Saito’s mind was a mess. She must be joking. Despite that thought, Kirche’s face looked serious.

“Your grandeur in defeating Guiche is… just… so cool… like a hero of the legends. Me… when I saw you right that moment I was in love. Can you believe it? I was attracted to you just like that! Passion! Oh, this is a passionate love!”

“Pa-passion, huh? Uh…”

“My runic name, ‘Ardent’, is quite passionate too. I’ve been writing love songs since that day! Love songs! Just for you… Saito. You appear in my dreams every night, so I told Flame to see how you’re doing… oh, I’m so embarrassed. You must think that too, am I right? But it’s all because of you!”

Saito just sat there, at a complete loss of words.

Kirche took his silence as acceptance, and slowly, with closed eyes, approached Saito with her lips. So sexy. I mean… Louise is attractive too. But when it comes to sexiness, she is no match for Kirche. Though Louise is really cute, that part of her is just skin deep.

Kirche took his silence as acceptance, and slowly, with closed eyes, approached Saito with her lips.

However, Saito pushed Kirche’s shoulders away. Because he felt like something bad will happen otherwise.

Kirche looked at Saito with surprise, as if asking “Why?”. Saito looked away from her body.

“W-well… from what you said…”

“Hmm?”

“You… fall in love too easily.” Saito stuttered, hitting Kirche’s weak point. Her face turned red in an instant.

“Yeah… I guess I have more… passion than others. That can’t be helped. Love is sudden, and it burns my body so quickly…”

At that moment, a voice from outside the window interrupted her.

A beautiful playboy looked inside indignantly.

“Kirche… I came to check because you weren’t there on time…”

“Berisson! We’ll meet two hours later then!”

“That wasn’t what we agreed on!” They were on the third floor. It looks like this Berisson guy is floating on air with some magic spell.

Kirche nonchalantly took out her wand from between her breasts, and waved it without even looking at him. Flame shot out from a nearby lamp and flew into the gentleman at the window like a snake.

“What an annoying owl.”

Saito watched in shock.

“Eh… you didn’t hear all that, did you?”

“Uh… who was that?”

“Just a friend. Whatever… right now, my deepest, most passionate love is you, Saito…”

Kirche approached him with her lips again. Saito did not move a muscle, as an irresistible desire invaded him.

At that moment, they were interrupted again.

A sharp-looking man peered into the room with a sad face.

“Kirche! Who is that guy? Aren’t you going to heat up the night with me?”

“Styx! How does four hours later sound?”

“Who is that guy, Kirche?”

This Styx guy was getting mad, and as he was about to enter the room, Kirche waved her wand again. The fire flew from the lamp again, hit the man, and sent him to the ground.

“……I take that he’s your friend too?”

“Instead of ‘friend’, lets just say that I’ve only heard of him. Oh well, I don’t want to waste our time. Whoever said ‘the night is long’ didn’t know how quickly the sun rises.”

Kirche drew near Saito again. And again, a groan came from the window. Saito impatiently turned around.

Three men looked inside, and said the same thing at the same time.

“Kirche! Who the hell is this?! You said you don’t have any lovers!”

“Manican! Ajax! Gimli!”

Oh wow… five completely different people showed up. Saito was impressed.

“Well… six hours later then,” Kirche waved irritably.

“That’s the morning!!!” the three said in unison.

“Flame.” Kirche casually ordered her salamander, who was sleeping in the corner. Flame sent a blaze towards the three men at the window, and they fell to the ground together.

“And those are…?”

“Them? I don’t even know them. But, most of all, I love you!”

Kirche held Saito’s face with her hands and went straight for his lips.

“N…nhhhh…”

Saito panicked. Kirche’s kiss felt not disgusting, but full of passion. Saito did not resist her from pinning him to the bed.

At that moment…

This time it was the door. Somebody kicked it open.

Saito thought it was just another guy. He was dead wrong. Wearing her thin pajamas, Louise stood and stared at the two from the doorway.

Kirche mildly eyed Louise, and kept her lips locked with Saito’s.

Louise murderously moved towards Saito and Kirche, knocking down a few lamps in the process. Louise’s hands moved faster than her mouth. More impressively is that her legs moved faster than her hands.

“KIRCHE!” Louise howled towards Kirche’s general direction. Kirche acted like she just noticed her presence, and slowly removed herself from Saito, while waving her hand indignantly.

“Don’t you see that we’re kind of busy here, Vallière?”

“Zerbst! Whose familiar do you think you’re touching?”

Saito was at a loss. Louise’s brown eyes glimmered with fiery anger.

Kirche raised her hands above her head. Stuck between the two, Saito only panicked. It seemed that letting the whole situation develop into Kirche kissing him had made Louise extraordinarily angry.

“Love and fire are the Zerbst family’s destiny. It’s a fate that burns in our bodies. It is our lifelong goal to embrace this passionate flame. You should know that.” Kirche shrugged, while Louise shook in anger.

“Come here, Saito.” Louise stared at her familiar.

“Oh? Louise… he is indeed your familiar, but he has his own will too, don’t you think? Please respect his choice.” Kirche said at the side.

“Sh-she’s right! Who I hang out with is my business!” Saito added.

Louise raised her voice. “You… by tomorrow you’ll be run through by magic from at least ten nobles! Is that all right with you?!”

“Oh, no problem with that. Didn’t you see how good he was in the Vestri Court ?”

Louise flapped her right hand. “Hmph… so his swordfighting skills are good, but that doesn’t matter when he’s attacked by fireballs from the back and whirlwinds from the front.”

“No problem! I’ll protect him!” Kirche gave Saito a passionate look.

However, because of Louise’s words, Saito thought it over.

If those guys that just visited us at the window find out about me, maybe they would attack me. Kirche won’t be able to cover me all the time, even if she said she would. That and Kirche changes her mind pretty often. She’ll be bored of protecting me in no time.

After some calm reasoning, Saito reluctantly stood up.

“Aww…are you leaving so soon?” Kirche sadly peered at Saito, with her hair spread to her back, and her twinkling eyes seemed to painfully tear. Kirche is one addicting beauty… if a girl like her sticks to me, who cares if I get hit with magic left and right? Saito thought wildly.

“That’s her usual tactic! Don’t be fooled by her.” Louise tugged Saito’s hand, and walked out.

 

* * *
Back in her room, she closed the door with a deadly silence, and faced Saito. Forcefully biting her lip, she sent him a murderous glare.

“Like some stray dog in heat…” her voice was quivering. Louise’s hands move faster than her mouth, and her feet move faster than her hands. It looked like her voice would get shakier soon. Anger filled her face.

“W-what now?”

“I almost saw you as a person. Looks like I was wrong.”

“You’re kidding me, right?” Yeah. See me as a person? Sounds like a lie no matter how I think about it.

“And you went to wag your tail at that Zerbst witch…” Louise reached into a drawer in her desk for something. A whip.

“Uhh…M-miss…” Saito started to stutter.

“Dogs must be treated like dogs. I’ve been too soft on you.”

“But why the whip?” Saito eyed the whip in Louise’s hand. It was quite well made.

“I’m going far out of my way to use a horse’s whip on you. You’re just a dog.”

“A dog, huh?”

Louise started whipping. Pishi-Pishi-!

“Ow! It hurts! Stop, you idiot!”

“What? How is that girl better? What is so good about her?” Louise yelled and whipped.

Saito noticed an opening, and grabbed Louise’s hands. She struggled, but the strength of the girl was not enough. Saito kept his grip on her wrists, and then she stopped.

“Ahh! Let go, you moron!”

“Are you…” Saito bore into Louise. Brown eyes stared back. Up close, one can see an irresistible face.

Cute. Kirche is a beauty, quite sexy. But Louise is like an empty canvas. Not a single speck of dirt…a clean canvas. It’s just that her character is a bit… No matter how Saito said it, he liked Louise better. His heart started beating in sixteenth notes. Is she jealous? Does she have a crush on me? In Saito’s eyes, thinking like this makes Louise look even cuter. All things considered, Saito is as weak as Kirche in romance.

“Are you jealous? Do you like me?” said Saito. “Were you angry because I didn’t sleep with you and went off with Kirche doing all that? Oh, I didn’t notice. I am sorry.” He lowered his head, and raised Louise’s chin.

“I think you’re not bad either. Look, when you helped bandage me you were really…”

Louise’s shoulders shivered.

“…I should be going for you because I’m a guy. Tonight, I will sleep on your bed, so you won’t have to go to mine.”

Louise’s right foot suddenly moved like a gust, and shot Saito one between his legs.

“……ahhh….ohhh…….” Saito went on his knees, his body covered in cold sweat. Oh…that hurt. I think I’m going to die. That REALLY hurt.

“Like? I…do what…to you?” Louise angrily stepped on his head.

“Did…did I get that wrong?”

“Obviously so!” she continued stepping.

“Al-all right…I was wrong…”

Louise sat on a chair, crossing her legs, her breathing still uneven. After fiercely torturing Saito for a while, her mood seemed to slightly improve.

“Sure…you can go out with anybody you choose. But, no matter what, you must not go out with that woman.”

“W-why?” Saito hopped around as if to minimize the pain.

“First, Kirche isn’t a Tristainian; she’s a noble from neighboring Germania. Just that makes going out with her completely unacceptable. I hate Germanians.”

“How do you expect me to know these things?”

“My house, Vallière, has estates on Germania’s borders, so we’re the first on the field against Germanians the moment any war starts. Even worse, right opposite to us on that border is Kirche’s birthplace.” Louise bit down hard on her teeth. “So basically, the Zerbst family is our sworn enemy.”

“And they call themselves a passionate family.”

“Just a low, unworthy family. Kirche’s great-great-grandfather stole away my great-great-grandfather’s lover! That was around 200 years ago.”

“That’s quite a while ago.”

“Plus, that Zerbst constantly slanders Vallière. My great-great-grandfather’s fiancé was stolen away because of that.”

“Huh?”

“My great-great-grandfather’s! His wife was taken away just like that.”

“Okay, whatever…so basically, this is all because your family lost a lover to Kirche’s family?”

“Not just that. We’ve lost count on how many family members we’ve lost from the wars.”

“I’m just a lowly little familiar…it’s not like I’m worth being stolen.”

“No. I will not let Kirche steal a single bird. I’ll shame my ancestors if that happens.” With that, Louise poured a glass of water, and downed it in one gulp. “That is why Kirche’s forbidden.”

“Your ancestors have nothing to do with me.”

“Yes they do! You’re my familiar, right? As long as you eat from the Vallière family, you are to follow my orders.”

“Familiar this, familiar that…” Saito stared discontently at Louise.

“You have a problem with that?”

“No, because I can’t live if I don’t do what you say, so I’ll just have to live with it…” Saito stuck up his lip, and sat on the ground with a thump.

“And I think you should thank me.”

“Thank you for what?”

“If the word that a commoner became Kirche’s lover gets out, do you think you’ll survive?”

Saito remembered the men Kirche shooed away, and blasted like flies to the ground…if that was me…what would that feel like? Saito also remembered his fight with Guiche, and a shiver went down his spine.

“…Louise.”

“What?”

“Give me a sword. A sword.” Saito wanted to protect himself.

“Don’t you have one?”

“How would I? The one from last time was Guiche’s.”

Louise crossed her arms. “Are you a swordsman?”

“No…I’ve never held one before.”

“But you looked like a natural in that fight.”

“But still…”

“Hmm…” Louise went into deep thought.

“What?”

“I heard familiars get special powers when the contract is made.”

“Special powers?”

“Yeah…like when a black cat became a familiar…” Louise raised a finger in the air and explained.

“Uh-huh…”

“It gets the ability to talk to people.”

“But I’m not a cat.”

“I know. Thing is…a human as a familiar is something totally unheard of, so it’s not impossible that you can just pick up a sword and use it like a natural.”

“Huh…” I didn’t just use it like a natural. My body felt light and fast like a feather. Besides, Guiche’s statues were made of bronze. There’s no way you can cut into metal that easily, no matter how skilled a swordsman you are.

“If it’s that incredible, we should go ask Tristain’s Academia.”

“Academia?”

“Yeah. It’s the Royal Court’s magic research agency.”

“What would they do to me for research?”

“Ah… many kinds of experiments. Like… autopsies.”

“You’re kidding me.” Saito stood up. Human experimentation? No, thanks!

“If you think that’s disgusting, then don’t spread that ‘using a sword like a master in an instant’ around for no good reason.”

“I got it. We can keep that quiet.” Saito nodded in fear.

“Ah… I get it now…” Louise nodded in understanding.

“Get what?”

“I’ll buy you a sword.”

“Oh?” Well that was sudden. Louise is always so stingy.

“You never have enough lives if Kirche has her eyes on you. We brought that on ourselves, so we’ll have to take care of it.” Louise weakly said.

“How rare…”

“What?” Louise stared at Saito.

“I thought you’re such a miser. You even freak out about my food.”

“I can’t let a familiar get used to luxury. It makes for bad habits. If it’s absolutely necessary, I’ll buy it. I’m not a stingy person.” Louise said proudly.

“Huh?!”

“Now that you get it, go to sleep. Tomorrow is the Day of Void, so I’ll take you shopping.”

Oh… so this world has Sundays too. Saito thought as he moved towards the hallway.

“Where are you going?”

“Where? To the hallway.”

“It’s all right. You can sleep in my room. If Kirche grabs you again it will be troublesome.”

Saito looked at Louise. “You really are…”

Louise was about to take her whip again when Saito stopped, dove on his straw bed, and wrapped himself in the blanket. He looked at the inscriptions in his left hand.

For lighting up, this thing helped me defeat Guiche, got Kirche head over heels for me, and got Louise to buy a sword for me. What else is this thing going to bring me? As he thought, drowsiness attacked him. What a long day… as he thought it, Saito fell fast asleep.


Chapter Six: Tristain’s Arms Dealer

Kirche woke up before noon. Today is the Day of Void. She looked at her window, and found that all the glass was gone, with burn marks surrounding the frame. Still groggy, she stared at the window for a moment before remembering what happened last night.

“Right… a lot of people came, and I blasted them away.”

She stopped caring about her window entirely after that. She got up and began putting on makeup, while excitedly plotting how she should seduce Saito today. Kirche was a born hunter.

When she was done, she left the room and knocked on Louise’s door. She rested her chin on one hand, hiding her smile. Saito will open the door, and I’ll immediately embrace and kiss him. Oh… what will Louise do when she sees that… Kirche thought.

And then, right… I can try to eye him outside the room, and maybe he’ll approach me himself. The thought of rejection never entered her mind.

However there was no answer after she had knocked. She tried to open the door but it was locked. Without a second thought, she used an unlocking spell on Louise’s door, and was rewarded with a click. In reality, unlocking spells were forbidden on campus, but Kirche didn’t care. “Passion above all” was the rule of her house.

But the room was empty. The two weren’t there.

Kirche looked around the room. “Still the same… a tasteless room.”

Louise’s backpack wasn’t there. Adding that fact with the Day of Void meant they had gone out somewhere. Kirche looked out the window and saw two people on horseback, ready to depart; it was Saito and Louise.

“What? Going out, huh?” Kirche mumbled in annoyance.

After thinking for a while, she quickly left Louise’s room.

Tabitha was in her room, deep in her sea of books. Under her light blue hair and glasses were bright blue eyes that sparkled like the ocean. Tabitha looked four or five years younger than she actually was. She was even a bit shorter than the already short Louise, and her body was quite slim. However, she didn’t care about these things. She was a girl that would rather not care about what people thought of her.

Tabitha loved Days of Void. They’re when she could sink into her favorite worlds. In her eyes, everyone else was an intruder in her own little world, giving a melancholic feel to her.

Before long, strong knocks rocked her door. Without standing up, Tabitha simply picked up and waved her staff, which seemed to exceed her height. She cast “Spell of Tranquility”, a wind-type spell. Tabitha was a mage of the wind affinity. “Spell of Tranquility” effectively blocked out those distracting door knocks. Satisfied, she returned to her reading, her expression remaining unchanged throughout the encounter.

Then somebody forcefully broke the door open. Noticing the intruder, Tabitha moved her eyes from her book. It was Kirche. She began babbling about something, but with the silencing magic, none of her words reached Tabitha.

Kirche took away Tabitha’s book, and then grabbed the little reader’s shoulders to make her look at her. Tabitha blankly looked at Kirche, her face unreadable. However, one could see that she had an unwelcoming gaze.

But Kirche was Tabitha’s friend. She would have blown anyone else away with a cyclone. Seeing no other way, Tabitha canceled her magic. As if a lock was opened, Kirche’s voice instantly emerged. “Tabitha! Get ready, we’re going out!”

Tabitha only softly explained to her friend, “Day of Void.” That explanation was enough for Tabitha, who attempted to take her book back from Kirche’s grasp. Kirche stood up and raised the book high in the air, their height difference barring Tabitha from the book.

“Yes, I know how Days of Void are important to you, I really do. But now’s not the time for this talk! I’m in love! It’s love! Do you get it now?” She didn’t, and shook her head. Kirche was propelled by her emotions, but Tabitha was a calm and collected thinker. One can only wonder how such polarized people could be such good friends.

“Right… you won’t move until I explain. Geez… I. AM. IN. LOVE! But that lad is going out with that damn annoying Louise today! I want to go after them, and find out where they’re going! Do you get it now?” Tabitha still didn’t, because she still didn’t know why that mattered to her.

“They just left! On horseback! I can’t catch up without your familiar, you know? Please help me at least with that!” Kirche started crying. Tabitha finally nodded. So that’s why… you need my familiar to catch up.

“Your Sylphid is still so awesome no matter how many times I see it!”

“Oh thank you so much… so… let’s hurry up!” Tabitha nodded again. Kirche was her friend, and she couldn’t help it if her friends had their problems that they couldn’t take care of themselves. It was a bit annoying, but she didn’t have a choice. She opened her window, and whistled. The sound of the whistle rang in the azure sky for a moment. She then jumped out of the window.

Those who did not know her would have found it weird, if not alarming. Kirche, however, followed close after Tabitha and jumped out the window without a thought. Just a note – Tabitha’s room was on the fifth floor. She tended to forego the door altogether when she had to go outside since jumping out the window was far quicker for her.

Strong and tough wings spread out to the wind. Then, a wind dragon flew into the air and received its two passengers.

“Your Sylphid is still so awesome no matter how many times I see it!” Kirche grabbed a protruding spine and sighed in admiration. That’s right – Tabitha’s familiar is an infant wind dragon.

The dragon, which got the name of the “Fairies of the Air” from Tabitha, swiftly and perfectly caught the upward draft around the tower, and reached 200 mails in the air in the blink of an eye.

“Where?” Tabitha succinctly asked Kirche.

Kirche immediately cried, “I don’t know… I was panicking.”

Tabitha didn’t mind and commanded her wind dragon, “Two people on horseback. Don’t eat them.” Her dragon made a short grunt, showing understanding. Its blue scales glittered, and its wings flapped strongly to the wind. It flew high in the air, scouring the ground for a horse; a simple task for a wind dragon.

Satisfied that her familiar was doing its job, Tabitha snatched her book back from Kirche’s hands, leaned back against the dragon, and started reading again.

 

* * *
Meanwhile, Saito and Louise walked briskly on Tristain’s city streets, having deposited their campus-loaned horse at the city gate’s stables.

Saito’s sides ached profusely, it was his first time on a horse, after all. “My sides hurt…” Saito moaned, walking slowly.

Louise glanced at Saito and frowned. “You’re useless. You haven’t even been on a horse before? Commoners are just…”

“And you’re annoying. We’ve been on that thing for three straight hours!”

“Well… we can’t walk our way here now can we?”

Despite the pain, Saito curiously looked around. White cobblestone roads… feels like a theme park here. Compared to the Academy, there were far more people in common garb here. On the street side were vendors selling fruit and meat.

Saito’s love for exotic places momentarily rose. But this was a weird world. There were people briskly walking and people frantically running. Males and females of all ages walked the streets. This bore no difference with Saito’s world, though the streets were a bit narrower.

“A little bit tight here…”

“Tight? This is a really wide street as it is.”

“Just this?” Not even 5 meters wide. With this many people walking around, every step felt cramped.

“Bourdonné Street, Tristain’s widest avenue. The palace is straight ahead.” Louise pointed.

“To the palace, then.”

“What business do we have visiting Her Majesty The Queen?”

“I want to ask her to increase my portion of food.”

Louise laughed.

The streets were filled with shops. Saito, full of curiosity, could not take his eyes off them. When he looked at one weird-shaped frog in a jar on a trader’s mat, Louise pulled him by the ear. “Hey, don’t walk around corners. There are lots of thieves and pickpockets here. You are looking after my wallet in your jacket, right?”

Louise said wallets are for servants to carry, and mercilessly gave that duty to Saito. The wallet was heavily filled with gold coins.

“I am… I am… very carefully, too. How can anyone steal something that heavy?”

“With magic, that can be done in a second.”

But there was nobody around that looked like a mage. Saito learned how to discern between commoners and mages in the Academy. Mages always had capes on, and they looked really arrogant when they walk. According to Louise, that was a noble’s walking stance.

“Aren’t they all commoners?”

“Of course. Nobles only take up 10% of the population, and there’s no way they will walk in slums like these.”

“Why would nobles steal?”

“All nobles are mages, but not all mages are nobles. If for whatever reason a noble is disowned from their family, left the family name on his or her own accord, dropped status to be a mercenary or a criminal… Hey! Are you listening?”

Saito wasn’t. He was too fascinated by the street signs.

“What does that bottle-shaped sign say?”

“Brewery.”

“And what does that sign with a big cross say?”<