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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 the Eagle, 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 fire breathing 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 the 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 situated behind the kitchen room and it was rather ordinary looking.
There was 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.
Wales, who had noticed Louise looking at the box, spoke embarrassedly.
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."
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?"
Louise 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?"
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 ask.
"Do you want to ask if cousin Henrietta and I have a love relationship?"
"It seems so. Forgive my surprising impoliteness. In that case, 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 nothing in the letter from the princess telling me to run away. 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 an honest girl, Vallière. You have honest, clear and kind eyes."
Louise looked down desolately.
"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 the 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."
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 were 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! It's too early to fall!"
"Indeed! Save that for tomorrow!"
James I wasn't insulted by such comments, and smiled.
"Don't worry, it's 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.
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 the 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."
"It is because I have something to defend. Something that makes me forget the coldness of the grave."
"What do you defend? Honor? Fame? Those are 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 the other side does 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? Simply, 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. 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 said that, Wales smiled as he remembered 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."
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 fly fast without resting." Wardes answered. "Well then, I need to go now."
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.
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 something 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!"
"Because you are here to deliver princess-sama's letter. That 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 this 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.
"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 a painful expression on his face.
After seeing such an expression on his face, Louise bit her lip.
"...Why such a face? Did something happen?"
"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."
"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..."
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 until we can find a way to send you back!"
Louise said and intensely 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.
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?"
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.
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."
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