The Promise of the Stars
Editor: Darkdhaos, Ice Phantom
Altina’s brother, the Third Prince of Belgaria Empire who possess extraordinary physical capabilities, Bastian. He was studying abroad in High Britannia.
Because he didn’t want to be involved in the succession struggles and the people around him felt his behaviour was disgraceful, he didn’t stay in the palace.
Steelart Year 42, April 15th —— The Queen of High Britannia passed away.
Princess Elizabeth who was named the successor kept her identity a secret while studying in school, she was also Bastian’s classmate.
The royal knights escorted her towards ‘Queen’s Tower’ for her coronation. But she was attacked by the Margaret faction that was vying for the succession rights. The knights were defeated and Elizabeth was in a pinch. However, at the crucial moment, Bastian appeared. In order to fulfil the promise of letting Elizabeth read the story he wrote, he chased after the carriage on foot. He said ‘this is expected since we are friends’, and rescued Elizabeth.
Unlike the Margaret faction that was from the pro war faction, Elizabeth believed in peace. With their interest aligned, Bastian agreed to escort her to the royal capital.
After a tedious journey.
The two of them reached the Fort that was nearest to the capital, ‘Gray Bridge’. They wanted to seek the help of the Fort Commander who was Elise’s uncle, but her uncle turned to the pro war faction.
Bastian made up his mind to break through the defences of the huge number of soldiers, and save the trapped Elise from the Fort.
In a duel with the right hand man of Margaret, Oswald Coulthard, Bastian managed to wound his opponent’s wrist, but while doing so, he took a sword to the stomach.
Judging quickly, he jumped into the fast flowing river at the bottom of the cliff.
Even though they survived, Bastian failed to escort Elise to the capital and couldn’t fulfil her wish.
Margaret from the pro war faction was coronated and from that moment, the Kingdom of High Britannia began its invasion campaign under the command of Oswald.
April 23rd ——
The Kingdom of High Britannia entered all out war with the Belgaria Empire.
Days in the Tiraso Laverde House
In one of the rooms inside the house Bastian was lodging in, there was a simple bed, a small chair and a table.
There were plenty of guest rooms like this in the house of an aristocrat, meant to house the servants of noble guests who visit from afar.
As Bastian’s assumed identity was the third son of a Belgarian Earl, he wasn’t an invited guest, so he was grateful that he got to use the servant’s room.
Elise sat beside the bed. Her eyes were red because she cried earlier.
Bastian didn’t have a mirror, but he knew he probably looked the same way.
A bespectacled maid named Shia was standing near the window. She was a girl with bright red hair, about Bastian and Elise’s age.
Outside the open window was a courtyard, and the servants of House Tiraso Laverde were gathered there, holding the breaking news report with a serious expression.
“It’s war! War is breaking out!”
“Ahh, finally! We declared war against the Belgaria Empire!”
“This is war!”
Shia’s face turned green.
Earlier, a maid barged in without even knocking, screaming hysterically ‘It’s war! Look, the men are all moving!’ then rushed off without even closing the door. She probably went to the other rooms to do the same thing.
Because both the door and the windows were open, the chaotic noise from the courtyard was carried into the room by the wind.
“Declaring war on the very day she took the throne, she had already made the preparations.”
“I am too naive. They already prepared so far, but I didn’t even think this would happen.”
“It couldn’t be helped.”
Applewood was a rural place, and Elise didn’t have any powerful backings there.
It was only natural for her to lose in the power struggle to Margaret who lived in the capital, after all, she had plenty of supporters including her right hand man, Oswald.
Bastian was as troubled as Elise for failing to stop the war.
Shia closed the windows.
The wind died down.
“E-Erm, my apologies for opening the windows without asking for permission.”
“Please don’t worry. Even if you didn’t open them, I would have still asked you to do so.”
Shia was relieved by Bastian’s words.
Even though Bastian was rescued and recuperating on a bed provided out of goodwill, it didn’t change the fact that he’s just the ‘guest of the master’ to a maid like her.
In this era, the position of young servants were weak, and it was common to see them being fired on the spot if they irked their masters.
“Ah, I will close the door.”
Shia walked towards the opened door.
But as she was about close it, suddenly, a figure appeared on the corridor.
She was wearing a top quality dress with her hair pinned up. A young woman about 25 years of age.
“Shia, what is the meaning of this?”
“How careless of you to leave the door wide open. I can hear you from outside the corridor.”
“Ah, my deepest apologies!”
Shia bowed deeply. But she didn’t clarify that it was her colleague who opened the door.
Bastian lifted his hand.
“May I intrude?”
“Ara, dear guest, is something the matter?”
Even though her tone was polite, the woman that was addressed as Madame looked at Bastian with sharp eyes.
But Bastian didn’t back down.
If he was someone who was intimidated before a fearsome foe, he would have been more docile towards his grandfather and the chamberlain.
“I am sorry, but I am the one who asked her. I just want to ventilate the room a little.”
“Are you covering for Shia?”
“I am just stating the facts. Even though I am not an invited guest and was rescued, this still means that I am still a guest to the servants since the master of the House took care of me. That’s why I asked her to open the windows and door. I should be the one who gets lectured.”
Not just Shia, even Elise looked surprised.
But the expression of the woman glaring at Bastian softened.
“Shia, you can go now.”
“Y-Yes Madame! Pardon me.”
After a deep bow, she left the room swiftly and quietly closed the door.
Only Bastian, Elise and Madame were left in the room.
The Madame picked up her skirt and bent her knees in a curtsy.
“How do you do. I am the wife of the head of the Tiraso Laverde House, my name is Marballa. Unfortunately, the House head is away on a trip, so I apologize for greeting you on his behalf.”
“Ah, eh, I am Heinrich… no, I am Bastian de Madeleine.”
The name of the Third Prince of Belgaria was Heinrich Trois Bastian de Belgaria.
But it would be too inconspicuous to use that name. With the High Britannia Kingdom and Belgaria Empire officially at war, the Imperial Prince would definitely be turned over to the army. Even though the host was a noble, it was still dangerous.
Elise stood up from her chair in greeting.
Seemed like she had already met their host.
And of course, she did not use the title of High Britannia Princess Elizabeth Victoria, but the student Elise Archibald.
The new Queen Margaret was after the life of her competitor, Elise. Even though Elise had lost her succession rights, Margaret wasn’t someone who could be judged by common sense, so they must not be careless.
Marballa, the wife of the head of House Tiraso Laverde, smiled wryly.
“Don’t need to be so stiff, I won’t do anything bad. As we are merchants, we will only make unnecessary enemies if we interfere with politics.”
“It feels like you have seen right through us.”
“I have no intention of finding out things I don’t need to know. I just want to let you know that your worries are unnecessary.”
“I am not suspecting the people from your House. I have yet to ask, but you are the one who saved me right?”
“Yes, I was on the way back from a business negotiation when I saw the two of you. A doctor happened to be with me, so I asked him to attend to you immediately.”
Bastian nodded. Even though he was lying in bed, he still bowed deeply.
“Thank you for rescuing me.”
Bastian was surprised at himself for stating his thought so frankly.
The him in the past was arrogant and self centered, and took the things others did for him for granted. He wasn’t aware of that then, but since Bastian was a prince, the people around him didn’t dare to chastise his actions.
But now, he knew he was helpless by himself.
And his physical condition did not allow him to be of any help.
No matter what, he was very grateful that they protected Elise.
Marballa narrowed her eyes.
“I am just doing what I should be doing. Instead of that, I apologize for preparing this sort of room for you.”
“You are too kind, this is no trouble at all. You even prepared food for me.”
The chicken stew Shia brought in was still steaming.
“Ahh, you are in the middle of your meal. Please eat it before it gets cold. The doctor also said that eating more will help you to recover.”
“I will do that then.”
Bastian sent a spoonful of stew into his mouth.
It was salty.
The taste was monotonous compared to Belgarian dishes, but it was just nice for his tired body.
After bowing to Marballa, Elise also started drinking her soup.
Eating too fast would be detrimental to his body. Bastian experienced being lost in the wilderness before, so he understood that he should eat slowly when his stomach was empty.
He stopped momentarily.
“Aren’t there any people who came to search for us?”
“This house is in Smile Hills, which is rather far from Gray Bridge. Even if they tried to search for it, it would take some time to reach here.”
Marballa turned her gaze to Elise.
“I have sent men to search for the ring, but we didn’t find any at the place you two collapsed. It is probably lost in the river.”
Elise lowered her head.
“I understand, thank you. It’s all because I let it go.”
“I let them continue their search. They might be a bit odd, but they are unexpectedly reliable. Please don’t lose heart.”
That might be so, but it wasn’t that easy to find a ring that fell into the river.
The wound in Bastian’s chest throbbed, as if it was reacting to his thoughts.
Marballa wanted to cheer them up, so she prepared expensive tea and apple pie in the afternoon and started chatting idly.
Something bothered Bastian.
“Hey, is it fine for a Belgarian like me to stay here?”
“You see, High Britannia and Belgaria are at war now. Wouldn’t a Belgarian being here bring you trouble?”
Even though the race of both nations were the same with no discernible difference in appearance, it was still possible to judge from their accent.
Marballa said with a smile.
“The main house of Tiraso Laverde is a Dukeship in the Belgaria Empire. The mother of the House’s head is from the Empire, and we are just merchants with commerce in both nations.”
“Now that you mention it, I did hear something like that.”
According to Shia—— Tiraso Laverde was originally from a small country in the south. Fearing that their wealth would be confiscated in the event of a war, they set up a branch family in High Britannia about 50 years ago.
Or rather, what was wrong with this clan?
“This might sound too optimistic, but we have been doing business on this land for a long time. Now, no one would bring up the issue of us being nobles of a neighbouring country.”
“But as for worries, it would be the eldest child from the main family who is staying here.”
“The child from the main family, so he is a Belgarian?”
“Yes. His name is Roland, and is studying here in order to learn politics. He is a brilliant child, but his passion is unique. Or rather, he is too stubborn for such a young man.”
He must be eccentric, Bastian thought. Judging from her uneasy expression, Elise was probably thinking the same thing.
“He objects to Bastian staying here?”
“When we spoke three days ago, he wasn’t too concerned. But with the declaration of war, he wasn’t too keen. I already told him that it would be fine with the House head here, but if he gives you any trouble, I will apologize to you in advance.”
“I wouldn’t mind anything he says. Elise, have you met him yet?”
Bastian was asleep for three days. He asked about the days he was unconscious, but Elise just shook her head.
“I was assigned to my own quarters, but I spent all my time here.”
“I am thinking about using this chance to introduce you two tonight. What do you think?”
Elise nodded in response to Marballa’s suggestion.
“I think it would be good to greet him. I will be in your care.”
“Please have a good rest before dinner then.”
After bidding her farewell, she walked to the door.
Although she gave a stern impression at the start, her actions were unexpectedly gentle.
Bastian stopped her.
“Can I ask one last thing?”
“If I am able to answer.”
“When you chided Shia for leaving the door open, were you testing us?”
“It is my duty to train the maids.”
Marballa left a meaningful smile, and left the room.
“What a deep person.”
“But I think she is a nice person.”
“She does seem trustworthy. If she is from Margaret's faction, she would have sent us to the army.”
However—— Bastian thought.
With the progression of war, I have to find cards to negotiate with. I must not be careless. In order to protect Elise, I have to be more capable——
The girl blushed because of Bastian’s gaze.
“W-What’s the matter, Bastian?”
“Ah, I’m just thinking about what kind of fella that Roland is. Feels troublesome.”
“That’s right. It would be great if they let us stay here until Bastian’s wounds recover.”
“Wounds? Ahh, that is already ——!? That hurts!”
Bastian wanted to swing his arms, but his abdomen and back were groaning.
Elise had a dumbfounded expression.
“You really are an idiot. Even the beasts in the hills are concerned about their own lives. Just be a good boy and sleep. I will be troubled if you don’t recover soon.”
He couldn’t refute her.
“I really hope you will get well.”
Elise said softly and gripped the corner of the bed sheet.
“This world is gradually rotting!”
The table was smacked with a bang! All the students gazed that way.
Oh, it’s just the usual —— They then turned back and chatted among themselves.
Unbothered by their reaction, Jean Roland de Tiraso Laverde continued his speech.
He had a head of short blonde hair and wore round glasses.
“Letting the minority ruling class monopolize the wealth must not be tolerated!”
The classmate he was debating against was a man who waxed his hair stiffly, and wore his clothes all prim and proper.
“Not so!” He shook his head and replied.
“You can’t say that. Because of the contribution made by the aristocrats, it is only right thing for them to receive wealth that corresponds with it. Or do you think the incapable and irresponsible peasants should get the same remuneration?”
“They should be judged by the same standard! There are too many people with undeserved wealth among the nobles.”
“That’s just theoretical talk. You want to judge nobles and peasants by the same standards? You possess the scale of the gods?”
“I might not have one, but such scales exist in this world.”
“We just need to abolish the privileges of the nobles. Allow the commoners to trade freely. Revoke their right to impose taxes, and change the lease of land into a contract that both parties can agree to. And cancel their tax exemptions. If we take away their privileges and they can still show their worth, it would be acceptable for them to claim their lavish wealth. If that really happens, then we can see who are the people that are really necessary!”
“Foolish! You want the country to not grant special privileges to the nobles?”
“That’s a nation of equality.”
“Then who will defend the nation? When the enemy attacks, aren’t the nobles the ones who resist courageously? The nobles are special, so they should receive special treatment. You might not know, but I came from a lineage of knights, so I understand honour and valor.”
"The military should be a professional organization. If defending the nation is honourable, then why should the commoners, the ones conscripted for cheap, take to the field with the nobles?"
“That’s because the nobles have to take command. Without a commander, no matter how large a force is, it will still lose.”
“Someone without professional training is appointed as a commander just because he is a noble. And they are fighting battles that have not changed for the past 300 years. That means there must be commoners who can be excellent commanders too.”
“Fufu, how can those illiterate people take on the role of a commander?”
“In that case, the nation should not allow the nobles to splurge the country’s resources, and should spend them instead to educate the commoners!”
As their argument became heated, their shoulders bumped into each other.
When they heard that, they turned their head and looked——
And found the professor who was about fifty years of age staring at them.
“If you don’t want to listen to my lecture, please leave.”
The other students were properly seated.
Roland rushed frantically to his seat.
The professor walked to his lectern.
It was time for class.
The professor flipped his book open on the lectern.
“Today, we will talk about Piercy's 'Discourse Techniques’. Well —— the most important point is to state clearly what exactly is the argument that you want to make, and set the topic.”
The students listened to the professor as he explained the contents in the textbook.
The professor would sometimes elaborate on the textbooks’ inadequate explanations, and the students would raise their queries.
Lessons in this era were done in the form of lectures, with ‘discussions’ between the students over various topics being the mainstay.
As the lessons required many books, which weren’t cheap at all, the students didn’t buy all the books.
Papers and stationery only became common recently, so they weren’t familiar with using them in lessons.
Memorising the necessary things was their first step in learning.
And the students would be given some thesis as homework, their bags will usually contain the original thesis and books related to it.
Roland concentrated on the professor’s lecture.
He was more passionate about learning than his classmates.
The lesson ended before noon. Like usual, Roland had lunch in the canteen. He might be an eccentric Belgarian, but he was passionate about his studies and a proponent of liberalism, so everyone acknowledged him.
He kept thinking about the lesson during lunch, noting the novel explanations, the elaboration he didn’t quite understand, and reviewed the parts that he suspected the professor might have gotten wrong.
After eating his lunch, he went to the library to work on his thesis.
He returned to the classroom for the afternoon’s lesson.
The atmosphere was different than usual.
All of his classmates were looking at him —— But they all averted their eyes without saying anything.
He walked between his classmates and returned to his seat.
A breaking news report was placed on his desk.
Declaration of war against the Belgaria Empire!
Steelart year 42, April 23rd.
In the name of the new Queen Margaret Steelart.
We declared war against the Belgaria Empire.
On the same day, the ‘Queen’s Navy’ commanded by Admiral Oxford set off.
The 74 gun Princess Class high speed warships launched a preemptive attack, and took the Empire’s Chaineboule harbour!
We have news of the Kingdom’s first division making landfall.
They are garrisoned in Chaineboule city because they encountered the Imperial Second Army.
A fierce battle is expected.
Roland stood stiffly as he stared at the papers.
“So it is finally starting.”
“Don’t mind it.”
One of his friends rested a hand on his shoulder. Roland’s other friends who ate lunch with him spoke too.
“The country’s issue isn’t any of our concerns, we are still us, this is the freedom of an individual.”
“We should act rationally, especially in a situation like this.”
“Is your family okay?”
Of course, there were people who showed obvious disgust.
“Hey, the Belgaria Empire is the enemy now right!? Which means, giving that guy an opportunity to learn is the same as working for the enemy!”
In response to the extremist opinion, Roland picked up his bag.
“Thank you. I respect High Britannia and its citizens. I have no intention of becoming an enemy. But there are people with family and friends fighting in the war, so it is natural for them to get emotional. I am also worried about my relatives taking care of me here, so I will head back for today.”
He was just about to leave the classroom when his opponent for the debate that occurred before lunch break blocked his way.
It was the man who styled his hair stiff with wax.
He held opinions that were the complete opposite of Roland’s, and the two of them debated intensely in the past.
He glared at Roland.
“On my honour as a noble of the High Britannia Kingdom, I will defend your rights to attend school.”
That was unexpected.
Roland was speechless momentarily.
“I thought you hated me.”
“Ahh, I do feel helpless about your shallow and flawed views. But our learning only starts after we acknowledge values that differ from our own.”
“It’s rare for our opinion to coincide.”
“This is just common sense.”
“I understand. I can’t promise that I will be back tomorrow, but I will come back to school after confirming my relative’s safety. That’s all I can say for now.”
His opponent nodded and moved aside.
Roland looked one round across the classroom —— and left.
The commotion in school was the same as usual, but the uproar on the streets was more prominent.
Some people turned green after hearing about the war.
Others started drinking in broad daylight and sang army songs.
Those frowning and whispering by the roadside probably opposed the war. And then, there were Belgarians.
There were many Belgerians studying or doing business in High Britannia.
Roland was one of them.
He saw people fighting.
Someone called for the constables, but he could feel public order deteriorating.
As he walked along the streets, he realized that he was clenching the newspaper tightly.
“I’ve had enough of this.”
Roland wanted to stay calm, but he still noticed that he was shook up quite badly.
He opened the crumbled newspaper soaked in sweat.
Aside from the war declaration, it also had other latest news.
Belgarian spies disrupting the public order of the Kingdom.
A youth with brown hair and red eyes, claiming to be the third son of a Belgarian Earl House. And a petite young woman with blonde hair claiming to be a High Britannia student. The report included their detailed description, and even included a sketch.
“The report is so detailed, they will be caught in no time.”
The war declaration was yesterday, the 23rd, but this newspaper was distributed this morning.
Which meant that the wanted report of the spies was just published.
“Around sixteen years of age? Isn’t that the same as me? Would Belgaria send such spies?”
In Belgaria, if you’re fifteen years old, you’d be considered an adult.
However, that was considered old fashioned, most of the neighbouring nations considered eighteen years old as adults. It was seventeen for High Britannia.
Roland was already used to the culture here, so sixteen years old were still kids in schools for him.
“I can feel that the world is progressing in a bad direction.”
He walked towards the home that took care of him in this country with a gloomy feeling.
It was the house of the Tiraso Laverde branch family.
Their business involves selling the Belgarian imported cotton products. Cotton products were used in bedroom accessories, clothes, decorations and many other daily necessities.
The Empire’s product had better quality than High Britannia, and was highly valued.
But after war broke out in Belgaria, it was hard to tell how that would affect business. They couldn’t import directly, and there would be criticism since the main family were nobles in the Empire.
Times would become tougher, he thought.
Bastian who was sleeping alone woke up because of the knocking on the door.
The door opened quietly, and a girl entered.
It was Elise.
“Hmm? Is it time for dinner already?”
“So you are awake. How are you feeling?”
“It’s a bit hot. Well, I was attacked, stabbed and fell into the river, so my body heating up could mean that my body is recovering.”
“Does it hurt?”
“My head is ringing, and the ground seems to be shaking.”
“Maybe I should greet them alone.”
“Because you are in bad shape.”
“Didn’t I tell you that my body heating up is a sign of recovery? I’m not setting off on a far journey on horseback. It will be fine.”
“That’s not fine for normal people.”
“Kukuku, when did you have the impression of me being a normal guy?”
When she heard him saying such pretentious things, Elise had an impatient face.
“This again? There are no such things as Dark Energy or Knights of Light.”
“Not so! This is a new meta! ‘After wandering on the verge of death, memories from my previous life were awakened. That’s right, I am the reincarnation of the hero who fought the Demon King!’ How’s that!?”
“Where did the power of that hero came from?”
“Eh? Ah, that is his previous life.”
“So the one who worked hard is the previous life, and the current life inherited the extraordinary powers without needing to do anything. I don’t like such shameless main characters.”
“I-Is that so?”
“I will only support people who may be normal, but work hard on their own.”
“Phew—— that’s true, it will be hot blooded if I add in a training phase.”
Bastian kept rambling on as he got down from his bed.
His body felt heavy.
Did his body feel dull because he slept for three days, or because his body was heating up?
Elise handed over the thing in her hands.
“Here are some clothes.”
“Oh, that’s a big help.”
His clothes were tattered from bullet holes and sword wounds, and were full of blood.
The clothes that were prepared for him was the kind usually worn by the High Britannia nobles.
He took off his clothes and Elise turned around immediately.
“P-Please don’t take off your clothes so suddenly!”
“Don’t you have any shame?”
“My body isn’t something to be ashamed of even if I am seen right? Latreille and Eddie are the same too.”
“I will feel embarrassed!”
“Haha, you changed.”
“High Britannia’s clothings are plain. Although it is comfortable.”
“Belgarian clothes have too much frills. There are a lot of decorations that hold unknown meanings.”
“It’s fine if it is sturdy enough. Let’s go eat dinner!”
Bastian headed to the dining hall together with Elise.
The rooms in the High Britannia Kingdom are plainer compared to the Belgaria Empire.
But they did not prioritize efficiency above all else like the Germanian Federation. The white walls were decorated with paintings, vases were placed on the shelves, and the windows covered by velvet curtains.
The table had minimal decorations, with no gold or silverware at all.
However, the lighting uses gas lamp.
In the Belgaria Empire, there was only one gas lamp in the Palace.
Maybe Tiraso Laverde House was special.
The dishes had been laid out on the table.
Marballa was seated at one end of the table.
“Good evening. How are you feeling?”
“Much better than when I fell into the river.”
“Is that so.”
Elise was ushered by the maid to her seat, then Bastian sat beside her.
Ladies were first in all matters, this concept probably stemmed from religious views. Even Bastian who was uninterested during lessons in the palace knew such etiquettes.
“Sorry for the wait.”
“Not at all, I think Roland will be here soon.”
As they were speaking, a young man came into the dining hall.
Wearing High Britannia clothes similar to the one Bastian was wearing, he had a meticulous image. His blonde hair was trimmed really short, and he wore round glasses.
Their eyes met.
And he stopped.
Roland shifted his gaze between the two of them.
“W-What is it?”
He turned immediately and walked briskly out of the dining hall. Not just Bastian, even Marballa was dumbfounded.
They were wondering what’s wrong when he came back in the span of a single breath.
He held the newspaper in his hand.
“I already knew about the war declaration.”
Marballa was calm, but she still said quietly.
“Calm down, Mr Roland. There are guests here.”
With a smack, Roland threw the papers onto the table.
“These people are fugitives!”
Marballa’s words surprised Bastian much more. Elise stood up from her chair with her eyes wide open.
Roland slammed onto the table with a bang.
“Isn’t that dangerous, Ms Marballa!? They will hang the entire House if we harbour spies!”
“Our guests have their own circumstances. I won’t do something as shameful as selling them out.”
“Even if you don’t, the servants would!”
“Mr Roland, do you mean to say there are servants in this mansion that want me dead?”
“Erm, no, I misspoke.”
“I read that report too. But take a look at our guests, do they look like Belgarian spies?”
Roland turned his gaze towards Bastian and Elise.
What sort of expression should they be making?
Elise looked back with a tense and serious face.
Bastian had a crooked smile, and was relaxed.
“No need for that. Harbouring spies is punishable by death? I don’t want to trouble my benefactor. I will leave then.”
He stood up after saying that.
“What are you saying, Bastian!?”
He understood that Elise was concerned about his wounds.
“For rescuing me after I fell into the river, and taking care of me as I lingered on the verge of death, you have my infinite thanks.”
“You should say endless gratitude, how can it be infinite?”
“I-I coined this term myself! Doesn’t it sound radical!? Don’t you understand this kind of feeling!?”
“That is really something only you will do. Indeed, we can’t trouble our benefactors.”
When she said that, Marballa shook her head.
“According to the doctor, the wounds would take about a month to heal. Where do you plan to go when you can’t even walk properly? Or do you happen to have somewhere you can go to?”
Marballa sat up straight and said determinedly.
“If you are arrested or collapsed on the side of the road, it would be a slight against the honour of this House if word gets out. You want me to bear this shame?”
“I-I didn’t mean that.”
“If you wish to leave no matter what, I won’t stop you. But from the perspective of outsiders, it would seem like I chased you all out.”
Bastian was surprised that she would stop him so intensely.
Roland nodded with a troubled expression.
“Harbouring fugitives is dangerous, but like Ms Marballa said, there is the problem of the House’s reputation too. This is not something that could be given up on so easily for a merchant. I can’t deny that, but if we are found out…”
“If you are hesitant, then don’t be hasty with your decision. Since they made it to the newspaper, it meant the authorities have no idea about their location. Let’s not act rashly and have dinner first.”
“Yes, we should eat properly during meal times.”
Elise’s words pulled Bastian back to his seat.
After he was urged to, Roland sat as well.
Marballa said grace before dinner, and the others followed.
They then dug in.
As they were not of age yet, all the cups were filled with juice.
Baked beans, grilled fish, fried potato, boiled mushrooms and roast steak.
High Britannia dishes were served in individual large plates for each person. They were not served one at a time like appetizers, main dish and desserts.
It had a thick and salty fragrance, seemed like the soup used extravagant eggs and butter.
Unlike Belgaria, they didn’t put as much effort into presentation, but it made full use of the ingredients’ flavour. The steak was especially delicious.
The delicately prepared red meat was placed on the plates. The smell of roast beef was mixed with the fragrance of raw fresh.
When placed inside the mouth, it had a smooth texture that was on the verge of melting.
Even though Bastian’s head would throb with pain when he chews his food, the delicious meat dulled the pain.
Because he ate something that he would dream about, Bastian asked for seconds.
“Ohh, this is delicious!”
“Don’t eat too much and upset your stomach.”
Marballa said happily with a smile:
“From the look of things, you will recover in no time.”
“Yeah! All thanks to this delicious food!”
Is that so —— Marballa made a gesture, and the butler standing by the wall brought over something covered in white cloth.
And proffered it to Bastian.
“What is this?”
“I would like you to have this.”
After removing the white cloth, a blue covered book was unveiled. There wasn’t anything written on it.
Flipping it open, the inside was blank.
It was cream coloured paper, and was bundled into a book.
“Ohhh! This is!”
“I heard Shia mention that you are writing a book?”
“Ahh, that’s right. I am the man who will write a masterpiece in the future!”
During spring two years ago ——
Bastian met a soldier named Regis, who taught him how to write stories.
He then said:
“If you write a masterpiece in the future, I might just read it.”
After that, Bastian strangely believed that he will definitely write a masterpiece, and he did so whenever he had time.
Elise said worryingly.
“This might sound rude, but aren’t books expensive? I would feel bad if you go so far for us.”
“It’s fine, this is just a sample the head of the House bought for a business. He has no need for this thing.”
“In that case, it must be fate that this book ends in my hands. It must have been created for the sake of letting me write my masterpiece.”
“I am really impressed by your confidence.”
“Don’t compliment me so much, I will feel embarrassed.
Bastian said with a silly laugh while Elise sighed.
Roland turned head.
“Masterpiece? Are you writing a thesis of sorts? They are usually written on manuscript paper.”
The manuscript papers of this era had printed horizontal lines. Even so, it was high grade items.
“No, I am writing a story!”
Even though Elise mumbled ‘Stories are also written on manuscript paper’, Bastian didn’t hear her at all.
Because Roland gave the impression of a model hardworking student, Bastian was sure that Roland would think this is silly. But Roland seemed to be thinking about something.
The young man pondered for quite a while, and then said:
“Can you elaborate further on your story?”
“It’s a hot blooded and thrilling adventure story!”
“Oh, that kind. So it’s that sort of tale, right?”
“What do you mean?”
“Don’t you know? The younger sister of the exiled prince appearing before him as a knight, and helping her brother take back the throne.”
“Ahh, of course I know! Ah, well~ it’s a bit hard for me to write such a brilliant main character.”
“Don’t you think the sister is great!?”
“Yeah, that sister is awesome. I also have a sister, but she is different somehow. Can’t I just make a cow the heroine?”
“You don’t understand, the mandatory criteria of a heroine is love.”
Elise had a surprised expression while Marballa tilted her head when they saw their passionate interaction.
When people discuss topics they were interested in, the people who were not interested in the topic would look at them in such a way.
Roland faked a cough.
“Cough cough! You are Bastian right? Come to my room later, I have something important to discuss.”
“Hmm? Fine, I already slept plenty anyway.”
Things developed in such a way.
After Bastian finished dinner, he visited Roland’s study room.
Even though he was studious, he was also a huge fan of adventure novels.
Roland said with a serious expression.
“To be honest, I was troubled before studying abroad, thinking that I won’t be able to read the sequels of this series. Belgaria’s entertainment novels can’t be bought in High Britannia. You won’t look down on me because of that right?”
“Of course not, I feel the same too. Well, I was surprised when I arrived here.”
“Yeah. To think there are entertainment novels sold on the other side of the ocean too!”
“That’s right. It would be delayed a month or so, but I will buy when the stocks are here.”
“Even though the price is three times higher in High Britannian, I will still buy. Do you know the illustrations here are larger?”
“Are you for real!?”
“I learned the meaning of justice through these stories.”
“I understand. As expected, the main character has to be on the side of justice.”
“Have you read Mr ‘Andrell's 'Green Knight'?”
“Of course, what else would I read if not that?”
“What’s the most famous scene?”
“Fu, ‘Damn it Count! I will never let you take Antoine!’ Then he drew out his sword with a shing! The evil Count who stole his lover was invincible in his swordsmanship. But the scene where the main character challenged him despite that is the very definition of courage.”
“Yes, justice that will never bow down to violence!”
Roland nodded deeply.
He reached out his right hand.
And Bastian grabbed that hand.
The two of them gripped their hands firmly.
After that, they chatted about stories.
The topic shifted to the type of stories Roland likes.
“Hey, so you like stories where the weak defeat the strong? And you prefer the ones with commoners as main characters?”
“That’s right. Entertainment novels are usually bought by nobles, so it’s rare to see main characters that are commoners.”
Aside from entertainment novels, the more prominent would be the ones that were banned in the Belgaria Empire.
“Roland, are you a Liberal?”
“I can’t deny that.”
Even though such ideals were not banned in Belgaria, but it would be easy to lose your job if you made such speeches in public.
“Are you for real? Even though you are a noble?”
“You misunderstand Liberalism. Its goal isn’t for the commoners to overthrow the aristocrats.”
“But its ideal is for the Emperor to be the same as commoners right?”
“That’s not true. I just think that everyone should have the right to pursue happiness.”
“Ehh? Isn’t that a given?”
“I thought so too, but what about reality? This is just a part of liberalism, but the part I am more concerned about is —— commoners are fated to be oppressed, and couldn’t change that fact no matter how hard they work. That’s Belgaria’s system of governance right now.”
“They could earn the prestige of Chevalier if they achieve merits on the battlefield.”
“What about those who prefer business or farm work?”
“Is this an issue of taxes?”
“I'm just saying that everyone has freedom to choose their own path.”
“It’s hard for me to understand your views.”
“... That might be so from the perspective of a noble… I also know that I am a deviant and a hypocrite. After all, we dine and dress lavishly and live in vast lodgings, and all of this comes from oppressing the commoners.”
Bastian scratched his head.
Since the lives of nobles were built on the foundation of oppressing the people, then Bastian’s life was set on the foundation of oppressing these nobles.
Royals, not only do they collect taxes from the citizens in their jurisdiction, they also tax the nobles.
“Because long ago… Humans feared the night so they gathered together and started a community that lived and hunted together, which meant that a leader is necessary. Society evolves naturally so that the strong will get the lion’s share of the benefits.”
“But now, we already posses a safe haven, can harvest food from farms at fixed intervals, and don’t need to rely on others that much in order to survive. So on what basis are the royals and nobles living such a privileged life? Because their ancestors hunted more food during the stone age?”
My ancestors are the founders of the Belgaria Empire —— He couldn’t say that.
He had to hide his identity as a Prince.
And even if his ancestors founded the Empire, so what?
He remembered Elise’s words suddenly.
‘So the one who worked hard is the previous life, and the current life inherited the extraordinary powers without having the need to do anything. I don’t like such shameless main characters.’
I see, Bastian thought.
“... The royals and nobles got their status because one of their ancestor’s hard work, and not by their own merit or anything to do with themselves. But they could enjoy wealth normal people couldn’t afford from the day they were born.”
“While the commoners live a life of hardships.”
“You are right, this is wrong.”
“Because this is how the country has been functioning long before we are born, all of these had become common sense… the nobles living a lavish lifestyle, while the commoners shoulder heavy taxes, everyone is used to such a system. But this system is wrong. Everyone should have equal rights to pursue their own happiness.”
“... But it would be hard for the nation to survive without the Emperor and nobles right? We would need national representatives and national defences.”
“The citizens can elect the representatives of the nation. And professional soldiers that are not nobles should defend the nation. That’s a governance system that would fit this era.”
“Fit this era…”
“If you are interested, read this. It might be in High Britannian, but you should have no problem reading this right?”
“Ahh, it should be fine.”
Because Bastian was studying abroad, he had no problem with daily conversation, but it would be harder to read political terms.
Roland noticed this and laughed.
“This is just a High Britannia entertainment work. Even though it is a mystery novel, the author is a pure Liberal and embedded his ideas into it perfectly. I am still learning and lack the knowledge, and I’m not very familiar with this. This book will be able to impart the ideals to you more perfectly than I can.”
“I am actually not that keen on becoming a Liberal though.”
Bastian was a royal.
He hated the political power struggle and escaped overseas, but he didn’t plan on abandoning his royal identity.
Or plan to overthrow the royals.
He did realize that there were problems with the governance system of the Empire after hearing Roland’s words.
But letting the citizens elect a national representatives and giving military command to a commoner was too impractical.
If national representatives who didn’t even understand ceremonial etiquettes were to receive foreign diplomat, it would be hard to achieve diplomatic goals.
Even if military command was given to them, they would not be able to win.
Bastian did know there were talents among the commoners too.
In that case they could be bestowed with the title of Chevalier.
If the farmers couldn’t get good yields, then they should just lower the taxes. It will also reward those who performed exemplary, they just need to perfect this system.
So in conclusion, if they improve the current system, it will improve the quality of life of the people.
“... I heard that liberalism is like setting a fire in the house because you don't like it.”
“You are unexpectedly witty.”
“Haha, this isn’t much.”
That night, Elise came knocking on the door and lectured him: “How late is an injured person going to stay up!?”
High Britannia kept defeating the Belgarian Army.
In the first land battle, they routed the Imperial Second Army.
And when the Empire conducted a large scale counter attack on 19th May in the battle of Lafressange —— The First Royal Division engaged the Imperial Seventh Army. Although the Imperials outnumbered the Royal Army by several folds, the Kingdom achieved a great historic victory over a larger force.
For the neighbouring nations watching the battles, the supremacy of the new rifles and cannons were obvious.
This was an event that shook the entire continent.
Up until now, Belgaria’s cavalry and infantry held supremacy over the continent.
But the High Britannian forces which was inferior in both numbers and training actually defeated the Empire. This was enough to destroy the power balance of all the nations.
Most countries thought that this would be the era of firearms from now on.
All of the nations in the continent had dispatched diplomats to the ‘Queen’s Tower’ in the capital. Foreign merchants and technicians also gathered in the capital in order to obtain this revolutionary technology.
This dramatic change was the result of High Britannia’s technology receiving very high evaluation.
It wasn’t strange to find something that was sold for a pound last month to be priced at two pounds.
In order to recruit engineers, their salary had doubled, some even tripled.
There were many unemployed people sleeping in the streets before the war, but recruitment advertisements were now overflowing.
With signs of prosperity everywhere, even though the city was at war, everyone felt that victory was all but guaranteed.
The cheers of men rang out in the streets.
“Three cheers for the Queen!! Hip Hip hooray!! Hip Hip hooray!!”
There were thunderous applauses and everyone drank happily.
As the war was going well, public order in the city improved.
During times like this, it might be dangerous for a person to announce that they were Belgarian, but it was still safe to purchase items.
However, Roland didn’t attend school.
Bastian was curious about Roland and asked during dinner one night.
"I heard the cities are peaceful, but are the schools dangerous? Don’t you want to study there?”
“Well, of course I want to go. If I can self study, I wouldn’t have come abroad. But do you think the Belgarian Empire will lose without a fight? I have to consider the possibility that bad news might be coming.”
Similarly, the head of House Tiraso Laverde wasn’t staying at home as there was a chance of the danger of death.
Only Bastian, Roland, Elise and Marballa were at the dining table.
Elise tilted her head.
“High Britannia’s new rifle have overwhelming power, what other unexpected news could there be?”
“Maybe I worry too much.”
“Wrong! The Belgarian Empire is not to be trifled with. How many centuries of war do you think it had experienced? Even without powerful weapons, they are still men. In the end, war is fought between men.”
“... Ugh. But isn’t the view that from now on, war will be decided by rifles and cannons since they are gaining popularity?”
“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. That is war. No matter what era it is, there will always be people who over exaggerate the potency of weapons, but those who really understand war wouldn’t say such foolish things.”
“You know war?”
“Of course, I am a man of the Belgarian Empire.”
They might have different mothers, but the commander of the Imperial First Army was his brother Latreille. He also held full command of the Imperial forces.
It was impossible for Bastian who was already of age to not have battle experience.
His friend Eddie from House Balzac seemed to have returned to the capital, but he was fighting at the front lines not too long ago.
“... This country will not lose so easily.”
Bastian’s prediction was spot on.
June 6th, Morning——
Elise entered Bastian’s room.
She was wearing the clothes of a High Britannian noblewoman, and had tied her hair up.
It wasn’t nice to keep troubling the House, so she started working for Marballa recently. They looked like mother and daughter in that attire.
“Morning Bastian, how do you feel today?”
“Ahh, I’m getting better.”
He stretched his shoulders with a crack.
He had yet to make a full recovery, but was healing steadily.
“Are you still reading?”
“I borrowed some books from Roland. Good books really make for a great read.”
“That’s true. But books are expensive, so treat them with care.”
Elise picked up the books stacked beside his bed.
Ahh, Bastian became anxious.
“W-Wait, I will tidy those up!”
“Fufu… It’s fine. You are still injured, this is —— Hmm?”
Elise noticed something and opened the book in her hands. Her eyes went wide open.
Her smiling face was covered by a gloomy cloud.
She then turned bright red.
Her voice was trembling.
“D-Don’t misunderstand, this is a hot blooded tale of a man’s adventurer alright? Although the illustrations are a bit intense.”
“... But this is a nude illustration!?”
“Erm, that… that is… the scene where he improves his friendship with the girl he rescued?”
“This is love, love!”
“This is lust, not love! I want to inspect the rest of the books!”
“Waaiiittt! I object!”
Because Bastian tried to hide the books behind him, it looked like Elise was hugging him.
His back injuries had almost healed, so it would be easy for him to push her back. And with Bastian’s strength, Elise wouldn’t be able to move even a finger.
But when he realized it…
He didn’t know where he should touch.
Even if he held her shoulders, Elise’s hands could still reach around. But he couldn’t touch her chest or waist! And he might fracture her slender wrist if he grabbed them.
“Let me see that!”
“S-Stop this, Elise!”
“If it isn’t indecent, then let me see it!”
“No no, calm down!”
“You never did anything to me, so why are you looking at such things!?”
Elise who was straddling on top of Bastian suddenly stiffened.
After sucking in some air, she covered her mouth.
Her ears were red.
Tears welled up in her eyes.
They were close enough to feel each other’s breath, Bastian could feel his heart racing fast.
The door to the room opened. Along with knocking sounds, but that was just a formality.
Bastian and Elise turned their head to check swiftly.
It was Roland.
“Yo morning! The book I loaned you yesterday——”
He suddenly stood still.
And looked at Bastian and Elise quietly.
“... Erm… I loaned that book with the idea ‘there is nothing wrong with sexy heroines’... But it seems I was mistaken. I forgot you are not alone and free. Sorry.”
“Waaaiiitt! You are misunderstanding!”
“It’s my bad for getting in the way of lovers frolicking! But still, I must say that this sort of thing should be done at night!”
“It’s not that sort of thing!!”
Bang! Roland knocked hard on the wall.
“Ughh! God created beauty, but I am not allowed to touch such beauty. Oh God, curse you!!”
If priests from churches heard that, he would probably be lectured til morning. Roland ran out to the corridor screaming.
Elise’s face was red and she looked as if she was about to cry.
“... This is all Bastian’s fault!”
Elise then ran off as well.
Roland suddenly came back.
He looked different from just a moment ago, when he was yelling something strange.
He wore a serious expression and held a newspaper in his hand.
“High Britannia lost!”
According to the newspaper——
Four days ago, 2nd June.
After the naval battle of Épée Prière bay, the ‘Queen’s Navy’ which was held in higher regard than the army was obliterated.
According to reports from Belgaria, the enemy was the sea elements of the Imperial Fourth Army.
Our Princess 74 gun high speed steam warship was sunk. Several captains led by Admiral Oxford were taken as prisoners with many of the crew.
Chaineboule harbour was seized by the enemy.
Losing both the port and control of the sea meant the supply line was cut off, the High Britannia army inside Belgaria was on their own.
And the new Queen, Margaret, was still in the front lines with the army, so there was an urgent need of confirming future plans.
The parliament was preparing for peace negotiations tensely. If the Queen was captured, they might be forced to sign a long term treaty as ransom.
Or maybe this will become a battle of attrition between the two nations —— In the past, Belgaria had counterattacked in less than a year after their territory was taken. Last year too, Varden Grand Duchy invaded Beilschmidt, and in February, they lost Fort Volks to Belgaria.
The commander of the Beilschmidt Border Regiment was the Fourth Princess Marie Quatre Argentina de Belgaria. She was just 15 years old, but had the famous general Black Knight Jerome serving under her.
And this young princess was appointed commander of the Imperial Fourth Army, and very likely the sea battle too.
If this heroic lady from the Empire entered the fray, it would be very possible for High Britannia battlefront to fall.
Let us hope for the spirited counterattacks of our brave High Britannia soldiers!
—— The news ended with words encouraging the people to keep their fighting spirits up anyway.
Bastian held his head.
“Are you for real… That girl changed the tide of the war…”
“Is that your sister?”
“Yeah, that is my… Ehh… No, I don’t know her, yup.”
Elise had gotten off the bed and was standing beside it.
Bastian got up as well and sat on the bed.
Roland leaned against the wall with his arms crossed and he was deep in thought.
“I know someone deeply involved in the army, and heard from him…”
“Are you really our age?”
“How rude, I’m 16 too.”
“No, I mean the way you speak…”
“Ugh… T-This manner of speech is befitting of an intellectual, and is nothing to be ashamed of! Instead of that, I heard there is an excellent strategist alongside the princess.”
Both Belgaria and High Britannia put in a lot of effort in espionage.
If they were lucky, they could find out intelligence related to the enemy military.
“I heard he is Third Grade Admin Officer Regis d’Auric… You heard of him?
“I only joined the First Imperial Army for a time.”
“I see. This information might have some truth in it. I heard from my acquaintance… he is known as the ‘Magician’.”
Bastian almost spat when he heard a term that only appears in entertainment novels.
“He took down Fort Volks with a small force, and defeated the overwhelmingly powerful ‘Queen’s Navy’ it’s only natural for such legends to circulate right?”
“I am a noble of the south after all, so it’s normal only normal for me not to know about him. Bastian, you grew up in the capital, does this name sound familiar to you?”
“Regis d’Auric? In the capital, such a name…”
He suddenly turned stiff.
Bastian recalled the incident that occurred two years ago in spring.
The young soldier reading in the library was called Regis. And he did say his last name was Auric…?
Bastian shook his head.
“No, impossible. That guy was wearing a commoner’s grade uniform. And he was reading novels for entertainment, not for work. And from the way the instructor scolded him, it is impossible for him to be an amazing strategist.”
“Since he was unknown all this while, he should be a young strategist. By the way, do you know about the commotion in the city areas of High Britannia.”
“You saw something?”
“No, actually I only found out the news I told you moments ago. But it is easy to imagine. An army equipped with the latest model of rifles and cannons didn’t even get to fight Prince Latreille who will become the next Emperor, and was defeated by his 15 years old sister.”
“Well, the rowdy atmosphere of the people who considered victory a given is all gone.”
“With virtually no chance of victory, all they have left is their fear of the Belgaria Empire. After all, they did pick a fight with the strongest nation in the continent.”
Elise’s expression gloomed.
She and Bastian tried their best to stop this war from breaking out.
But they failed and war broke out. Right now, the country was heading down the path of defeat.”
“... Elise, don’t blame yourself too much.”
“I know Bastian… I am fine.”
“We are the ones that should be worried. Not long ago, there were incidents of violence and murders against the Belgarians here. The criminals were caught, but the police interrogation was conducted haphazardly, and even when there were eyewitnesses, they will let the suspect go on the account of insufficient evidence.”
“The group called itself the ‘Loyal Soldiers’, but what they did are crimes. A band of robbers and killers. They are mainly young people who didn’t join the war. They claim that they are exacting vengeance for the High Britannians that were killed.”
“But that is no excuse for killing Belgarians residing in High Britannia! If they want to join the war so much, then they should just go and do it!”
“From the nation’s perspective, it is hard to stir up morale for war and restraint the citizens from violence at the same time. And for that group —— They didn’t need proper reasons to commit violence in the first place.”
Not just Bastian, even Elise tilted her head.
They didn’t understand.
“... This is the ugliness of humanity… The exhilaration from abusing others verbally and physically is entertaining for them.”
“T-That can’t be.”
“Of course, your conscience would bite at you if you abuse someone innocent. So people won’t do that, and everyone is kind. But if there are any reasons or excuses, it would be a different matter altogether. Armed with a legitimate reason, they can abuse others verbally without any burden to their conscience, and will keep attacking until they are satisfied. That’s the kind of people that commit acts of violence against the Belgarians. They must have their dreams too, but had given in to the realities of their increasingly despairing life. And now, they could only find value in their own lives under the flag of ‘justice’.
Elise couldn’t speak when she heard Roland’s words.
Bastian lowered his head too.
“These fellows are just weak minded people.”
“Yes. Because they lack the drive and courage, they couldn’t overcome the obstacles that life threw at them. So they are jealous of those who succeed, and mock the weak… Like starving wild dogs, they keep searching for enemies who they could swing their hammer of ‘justice’ at. If I look down on them, then from their perspective, I am just one of them.”
“After seeing the news of the side that lost the war, the ‘Loyal Soldiers’ will become worse. Beset by anxiety and suspicion, the fear of a Belgarian counterattack will gnaw at them. All they can do, is to act on their twisted patriotism.”
“What should we do?”
“I will tell Marballa… that I want to return to Belgaria.”
“I can’t focus on my study now. In a nation where my life is in peril and where I can’t even visit a library, there is no reason to stay. But in High Britannia, there are still my relatives, friends and ambition.”
“Ahh, actually… Erm… Let’s talk about that next time. Let’s start moving quickly for now. Fortunately, House Tiraso Laverde is located in the south, and isn’t too involved in this war. The nobles and citizens here do not care about the war that much.”
“Are there ships?”
“We are in the middle of a war. Civilian transport vessels are prohibited from going out to sea. However, there are still ships that could be used.”
“Not so loud, Bastian.”
He covered his mouth in a panic.
The room was situated in a corner of the mansion, so it should be fine.
“Anyway, I am returning to Belgaria. How about it? Although the war is still ongoing, do you want to come with me?”
“Eh, we have to go too!?”
“If both of you stay here, and we assume that something is going to happen, it will only trouble Marballa.”
“... Please give us some time to think about this.”
Elise said quietly with a troubled expression.
“It’s fine for Bastian and me, but High Britannia is your home nation. It is natural for you to feel confused. Even though I am not wanted by the authorities, I don’t want to stay at Marballa’s place. It will take some time to prepare the ship, so think carefully about it in the meantime.”
Like Roland said, the ‘Loyal Soldiers’ became more aggressive.
Covered in the gloom of defeat in war, public order in the city worsened. Not just Belgarians, there were victims among the High Britannians too.
And, one week later ——
They will be leaving via the harbour tonight.
Elise still didn’t answer if she would be leaving together with Bastian and Roland.
She found it hard to make a choice.
Even though they were wanted, Bastian couldn’t just abandon her and return home. And he couldn’t force her to go with him either.
The sun had set.
Bastian and Elise were called to Marballa’s room.
It was the study room of the House head.
Rows of shelves were placed on one side of the wall, making it look like a library.
In the center was a large table and beside it was a leather chair. Marballa who was leaning on the chair seemed to have slimmed down.
She must have been under a lot of stress lately.
“Mr Bastian, how are you feeling?”
“My body is still a bit dull, but my wounds don’t hurt anymore, thank you very much!”
She placed a small wooden box onto the center of the table.
Elise looked at it.
“Have you made up your mind to go to Belgaria?”
“... I am still hesitant… There are things I need to do in this country, and many who are counting on me, supporting me with their very lives… But I failed… and lost everything. However, I still think I can do something for this country.”
“So you think that you won’t be able to do anything if you go to Belgaria?”
“You… oppose this war?”
“Yes, I think our nation can only prosper in a peaceful atmosphere… Why are you asking this all of a sudden?”
“I’m sorry for being so abrupt. But this is an important question.”
“This is… probably the thing you had been searching for.”
She proffered the small wooden box.
Elise accepted the box and opened it.
And inhaled sharply.
Inside the box was a gold ring.
It was the symbol of the monarch of High Britannia, with the engraving of the Royal Family crest on it.
“I was not sure who requested for this item, but it was a request for me. There are boats that pans for gold in Gray Bridge River. The gold panners job is to filter out gold from the river bed, that’s how they found this ring.”
“So that’s how… But wouldn’t they normally keep it for themselves?”
“Gold panners have their own guild too. I bought this from their Association Head.”
Elise rounded her eyes.
Bastian scratched his head.
“This is wonderful, Elise. Erm… Thank you, Marballa.”
“Thank you very much!”
She clasped her hands around the ring as if she was praying, and slowly knelt onto the floor.
Marballa made a detour around the large table and knelt before Elise.
“We are the ones that should be asking for your forgiveness because of our poor reception. Your Majesty must be the true Queen of High Britannia, Elizabeth Victoria.”
“... No… Even though the Queen Charlotte bestowed the ring to me, I didn’t make it back to the capital in time. So, the succession issue is… I also wish to beg your pardon for keeping this secret despite all that you have done for us, Marballa.”
“What are you saying, it is only natural to hide it under such circumstances.”
Elise stood up and held Marballa’s hand.
“I am very grateful.”
“I was only certain after seeing this ring. Compared to Queen Margaret who started the war, Your Majesty is more suited to be the Queen of High Britannia.”
“... I am ashamed to say this… But I am already…”
“Even the Tiraso Laverde House can help you in some ways. Our House head is an executive of the merchant guild.”
“Ah, is that so?”
“On the surface, we are dealing with cotton goods. However, we are also running the import of high quality iron ore and steel plates, which is one of the key businesses of our House. No matter the outcome of this war, if High Britannia wish to oppose the Empire, high quality steel is necessary.”
“With our capital and history, we still have some say in politics. I think we can be of use for Your Majesty.”
“... I’m not the queen. Now, I am just a student, Elise Archibald.”
“I understand. So, Lady Elise… In order to guide the country down the right path, please allow us to aid you in your journey.”
“I am happy to hear that. But, what do we need to do?”
“It’s a nice atmosphere,” Bastian interrupted.
“Your objective is clear. I am grateful to Marballa, but if it would spark a civil war, I will take Elise with me and run.”
“... I don’t want to become the excuse to start a war.”
Elise looked troubled.
Marballa said with a smile.
“We merchants wish for peace too, and would not do anything that might spark off a war. And that is why I hope Lady Elise will —— escape to Belgaria.”
“You might be surprised, but High Britannia is in turmoil right now. If a new Queen candidate shows up now, it would probably incite a civil war.”
“That would be awful.”
“If civil war breaks out in the middle of the war with Belgaria, this country would probably be finished. So we have to avoid Lady Elise showing herself to the public.”
“You might not trust me if I tell you to leave everything here to me, but I still have to say it. Please leave everything here to me.”
Elise nodded, she seemed to have made up her mind.
“... I am just a powerless student now, and since Marballa has a proposal that would benefit the nation, I want to contribute in some way too. Now, I can understand why we can’t show the ring to the world yet.”
Marballa smiled in relief.
Bastian pointed out his own doubts.
“Elise, are you really going to the Belgaria Empire?”
“This isn’t a decision I can make so easily, Bastian. I have many friends and relatives here after all.”
“Ah, that’s right, you have a lot to consider after all… I thought you have thought it through.”
“... To be honest… I am hesitant.”
Elise bit her lips.
And averted her eyes away from Bastian.
“... I am worried that my personal feelings might be causing an error in my judgement…”
Her words were too vague, so Bastian couldn’t understand and tilted his head.
After thanking their benefactor Marballa, they bid each other farewell.
At the same time, they thanked the maid Shia for taking care of them all this while.
Marballa showed a lonely expression.
“When peace does come, let’s meet again.”
After the sunset, the moon rose and stars twinkled, Bastian and company left the mansion.
In order to be safe, they didn’t ride in normal carriages, and took cargo wagons to the harbour instead.
The moon rose high.
It was covered by clouds all of a sudden, blurring the silhouette of the moon even further.
“... I have a bad feeling about this.”
When he heard what Roland said, Bastian asked:
“What is it?”
“I hate vague things.”
“You mean the moon?”
“Yes. But other things as well.”
“I have a bad feeling too… But the ship is setting off soon, right?”
“Yes it is. We can’t go back now.”
Night at the dock.
The sea breeze was weak, and the sound of the waves was soft. Compared to the beach, the smell of the tides was less pronounced.
In order to receive cargo coming from abroad, there were a series of warehouse built behind the harbour.
As there wasn’t any moonlight, one might fall into the sea with a misstep.
And of course, there were no railings here.
“There’s no ship here?”
“... It would be too prominent if it was parked here, the ship will be here at about 2am. It was a pain trying to find sailors who could dock in pitch darkness.”
Bastian and Elise followed behind.
Only one of the warehouses was open.
There were many people there, about a hundred or so. Everyone carried heavy luggages, and waited quietly in the dark with bated breath.
After Bastian opened the door, they all looked his way.
Elise yelped softly, as that was how creepy the scene felt.
“It’s me everyone, don’t worry.”
The hundred odd people relaxed.
Bastian asked quietly.
“... They are?”
“They are Belgarians who want to go back just like us. The hundred odd people here and the luggage beside the warehouse will set off before dawn. The ship should be here soon…”
“By the way, you don’t have much luggage, Roland.”
“I am just bringing the minimum amount and some food.”
There was also a book in his hand.
Nothing was written on the cover.
“What book is that?”
“You won’t laugh?”
It was rare seeing Roland acting embarrassed.
“No, but I will laugh if it is something funny.”
“How rude, Bastian.”
“Well, I am hoping to hear your honest feedback in the future anyway —— This is a book I am writing.”
“Are you for real!? You are writing an adventure story too!?”
“Ah, no… I am writing down my ideas after organizing them. It is not an entertainment work. Normally, this would be written on manuscript papers and sent to the publishing factory. There are publishers who would go out of their way to purchase manuscripts in order to publish books.”
“You are writing it yourself?”
“After seeing you write your novel… I was thinking that organizing my thoughts and writing them down is a good idea.”
“It looks great! You even took the effort to bind manuscripts papers together!”
“... I won’t deny that.”
Roland was a little embarrassed.
Elise laughed too.
At this moment.
The noise of several carriages rolling could be heard.
Bastian was the first one to notice.
“What is that!?”
He looked out from the entrance of the warehouse.
Roland walked there too.
“Lots of carriages are coming, three, four…”
“What!? Is it the police!? The army!?”
“... How messy. These people don’t look like the disciplined army, and is more like a gathering of delinquents.”
Roland trembled and said:
“That is the worst… Bastian… These people are the ‘Loyal Soldiers’.”
Panic broke out in the warehouse.
Everyone knew about the organization that seeked out Belgarians to murder. That’s why they were escaping to the Empire.
Most of the people here were civilians without weapons. Although there were people with swords and rifles, it was hard to tell if they could put up meaningful resistance.
Bastian looked at the dagger in his clothes.
It was something he borrowed from the Empire’s treasury vault.
Roland uttered in a low voice.
“... As expected… The ones here… are them after all.”
“They are coming straight for us. Did our plan get leaked?”
“Well, it’s the trafficking of over a hundred people, it can’t be helped if the news leaked somewhere along the way.”
“Looks like I have no hope of becoming a strategist… I can’t devise a perfect battle plan.”
“Hey, what are you trying to do!?”
“There’s no other way… I’m the one who planned the trafficking. I have to take responsibility and buy time, you guys, escape by the back door.”
Roland ran out of the warehouse.
Bastian and Elise relayed the situation to the people inside the warehouse and chased after him.
The carriages stopped before the warehouse, and roughly 30 men alighted.
All of them looked like famished jackals.
They stunk of beer and held swords and rifles.
They didn’t wear armour and were dressed like civilians with blue duvet jackets. All of them wore this blue jacket, which was like a uniform to them.
Standing at their head is a short bald man in his mid twenties.
But he was really cocky.
“Heyy! Gathering in this warehouse so late at night, are you planning to run somewhere, you Belgarian scum!”
Roland stood before the warehouse as if he was protecting it.
“... ‘Loyal Soldiers’ huh? We are going back to Belgaria. We won’t cause you any trouble if we leave High Britannia, right?”
“Hah, are you sleepwalking, you trash? We are at war… I will kill you!”
“Wait, the people here are civilians, and they have not violated any laws of High Britannia.”
“Even if they are Belgarian civilians, I will still kill them!”
“Damn it… I-I understand… Then I will let you do as you wish as their representative. Please let the others go!”
“Hahaha! That’s great. This guy says he wants to be our slave, hahaha!”
The thirty odd men laughed.
Sarcastic laughter broke out.
“No way!” Get the women here!” Strip and jump into the sea, glasses!”
The skinhead in front drew his sword.
“Then I will cut you to pieces as you wish. Starting with you.”
“... Do you people have any humanity at all?”
“My friend died after joining the war. That’s reason enough to cut you down.”
“That’s just quibbling! That in no way justifies your criminal actions. Your friend’s death is nothing more than an excuse to satiate your thirst for violence! Don’t you feel any shame towards your friend!?”
The truth seldom sounded pleasant.
Roland’s words were correct, but it angered these people.
The skinhead’s eyes became bloodshot, and he slashed with his sword.
“I will eviscerate you, Galian!”
The sword cleaved down.
Roland gritted his teeth.
“Hey, you think you can win if you run out here alone? You will just be cut down after trying to dodge. It will hurt if you get cut you know?”
A hand reached out from behind. It was Bastian who caught the blade of the skinhead.
The skinhead’s eyes widen from surprise.
He had never seen anyone stop a blade by catching it.
“W-What... Why you!”
“Don’t you have easier names?”
“Damn it! W-Why can’t I move… the sword!?”
The skinhead tried tugging and pushing it, but the blade caught by Bastian didn’t even move an inch.
“You never trained your body or honed your skills properly. Aside from eating and drinking, what else can you do? You must be retarded to challenge my arm strength.”
“You want to kill Belgarians because your friends were killed? Then you can understand my rage, since you almost killed my friend!”
Bastian pushed the sword forward forcefully and pressed the skinhead back.
He took a step forth to close the distance.
And kicked the skinhead in the knee.
The sound of rubber being cut resounded in the night.
The skinhead cried.
And held his knee as he rolled on the ground.
Roland asked frantically:
“Y-You killed him?”
“Hey, don’t you have any common sense? I just shattered his kneecap, he won’t be able to walk without a clutch in the future.”
And probably can’t wield a sword anymore.
His leg was bent in the opposite direction.
Bastian’s lips trembled as he said:
“Bastian… You... will be killed too… I already told you to run… Why did you come to help me…?”
“You might be smart, but you got a couple of things wrong. First, the back door of the warehouse is guarded by the lackies of these people.”
“They are amateurs, so it’s easy to deduce their thinking. I already told Elise to lock the door, so it can only be opened from the inside. And the second thing is, it is impossible for these amateurs to kill me!”
After seeing the skinhead collapse, his comrades that were still standing charged with weapons in hand.
As they let loose a feral roar.
Bastian took out a dagger.
‘Vite Espace Trois’.
The sheath of the dagger was crafted by an excellent blacksmith, the body of the blade was wide with a triangular tip. It was about 4 Pa (30 cm) long.
It was said that the length matches the foot of the founding Emperor of Belgaria.
The dagger was as light as paper, known for its speed that seemed to be capable of cutting off sound.
“It is unexpectedly difficult to not kill these guys!”
He slashed at the sword of his opponent.
Clink… and with that, the cheap sword broke in half.
Bastian kicked the man’s knee, and before the cries of pain sounded out, he cut off the shoulder of another man along with his weapon.
Behind these two was a man with a rifle.
It was too dark to see the pull of the trigger, so Bastian had no choice but to twist his body to evade the possible bullet paths and close in on the enemy.
The man fired with a yell. The muzzle was trembling because of fear, making it even harder to judge the possible trajectory. Bastian had no choice but to approach from a completely different direction.
Despite that, that man still shouted: “H-He dodged the bullet!?”
—— You brought this on yourself!
Bastian replied in his heart, and slashed with his dagger as he dodged.
And cut the tendons on both of the man’s hands.
He couldn’t hold the gun anymore, and won’t be able to do anything unarmed.
And next ——
“... These actions don’t look humanly possible.”
“Don’t be stupid! This is the result of training!”
Bastian trained for a while in the mansion, but he still couldn’t go all out. He gauged that he was only half as good compared to himself at full health.
Even so, it was more than enough to finish off these drunk amateurs.
Compared to the time he fought the regular army in Gray Bridge, this wasn’t even a warm up.
Even so, he still needed some time to catch his breath after defeating 30 men.
Bastian wiped the sweat above his brow.
“Fu… As expected, my movements are a bit dull…”
The ‘Loyal Soldiers’ were scattered all over the ground groaning.
Roland’s face turned green.
“Kisama, are you human or Kabane!?”
“Ah, sorry for scaring you. If you knew my brothers, you wouldn’t be that surprised.”
“You are saying that there are other people just like you in the capital!?”
“Not that many… Just Latreille, Eddie, and those known as heroes should be able to do this easily.”
“... I understand now why you said the key to fighting a war is people.”
“No, well, I’m not talking about people who could take on a hundred men. After all, these fellows aren’t soldiers anyway… So I didn’t kill them.”
“Some of them are bleeding quite badly, if their comrades at the backdoor of the warehouse aren’t too apathetic, they would probably receive medical attention before they bleed to death.”
“That’s great, I don’t wish for them to die.”
After they left the fallen ruffians behind, Elise dashed out from the warehouse.
“Bastian! Are you alright!?”
“The ship is here!”
Bits of light could be seen in the night.
It was a medium sized sail ship.
Faint light from the deck of the ship shone onto the dock, allowing the ship to approach land in the dark night.
If they didn’t have the equipment, it would have been very difficult.
The people hiding in the warehouse came out.
Even though most of the people rushed towards the ship, there were some who came to Bastian to offer their gratitude.
Elise breathed out in relief.
“That’s great. I was at a loss just then.”
“You too, how is it possible for me to lose to amateurs?”
“But I will still worry.”
Suddenly, Roland waved towards the back and shouted something.
Bastian turned back immediately and realized his mistake.
The skinhead with the smashed kneecap was pointing the gun in his hand this way.
And he was aiming at Elise!?
He probably knew that Bastian will dodge if he aimed at him. So he aimed at Elise instead.
Elise took a step forward and screamed:
The man pulled the trigger.
“Go to hell——!!”
The gunshot rang out.
The one who pounced before Bastian was Roland.
He leapt in front of Bastian.
And like a puppet with its strings cut…
Roland collapse onto the ground.
Bastian threw his dagger out.
And it stabbed deep into the stomach of the skinhead who fired.
A fatal wound? Bastian didn’t have time to care about that.
He dashed to Roland’s side and held him up.
He was hit in the chest. He didn’t die immediately and the bullet didn’t hit his heart, but he was bleeding profusely. It probably hit a vital organ, and ruptured an artery.
“H-Hang in there! I will get a doctor right away!”
“... It’s fine… I know… I’m going to die… right?”
Bastian already knew from his experience on the battlefield.
This was a mortal wound.
His sight became blurry.
As his eyes turned hot.
“It’s… all because I hesitated…”
“... No… It’s because my plan failed… Thank you… for protecting our comrades…”
“But isn’t it meaningless if you die!?”
“... I can only say… my luck was bad…”
“Is there anything I can do…”
“... Bastian, I need a favour from you.”
He wanted to move his hands, but couldn’t do so.
Elise squatted at his side, her tears flowed freely.
She then handed the book Roland was holding to him.
“Is this it, Roland!?”
“... Ahhh… Yes… I will entrust this to you… in order… for the world to progress… into a place where everyone can pursue their… their own happiness…”
Bastian held his hand tightly.
“I promise! Leave it to me!”
“... Ahhh… I am… really happy.”
And those were Jean Roland de Tiraso Laverde’s last words.
The sailship left the dock in the night.
Inside a cabin in the ship, Bastian gently wipe the blood off his dagger, and flipped open that book.
That was the only thing he brought.
Elise was beside him.
If she didn't persuade him, Bastian would probably not board the ship, motionlessly holding onto Roland's body. And this is something his friend who sacrificed his own life wouldn’t want to see.
In order to not let Elise worry, he had to look like he was okay.
But Bastian couldn’t stop his tears, he felt his emotions going numb, and the things he heard couldn’t go into his head.
Could he keep his promise like this…?
The book was opened.
And was filled with Roland’s writings.
And his words.
Bastian’s eyes grew misty again.
“Bastian… Don’t cry…”
“I-It’s here… right here… Roland is right here… his words are all here.”
Elise reached out and held Bastian’s head in her arms.
She couldn’t help sobbing softly once more.
The sailboat set off slowly towards the Belgaria Empire in the cover of night.
Volume 7.5 Ends
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