As the Grandmaster of the Imperial Knights, the life of Gran Wolff was to be one of glory.
He is a marquis from an aristocratic line of Imperial knights that have been rivals with the House of Regnard for generations, the leader of one of these houses has always been the Grandmaster.
As the first son of the Wolff family he had always been deeply involved with the royal family, he had always studied hard, aided by the inherited blood that ran through his veins, so that he wouldn’t become the shame of his childhood friend Albert, spending his boyhood alongside the future leader of the nation who seemed to be blessed by the Goddess herself.
In addition, he had been endowed with a handsome charm and a beautiful figure. Whilst he himself didn’t care for easy women, the way he carried himself made members of the opposite sex infatuated with him, with his courageous and clean-cut face framed with hair the same colour as freshly brewed tea making him very popular.
He embodied the image of someone who had embraced the rigorous duties of knighthood.
To protect Albert who he idolized, he pushed himself every day in competition with the son of the Prime Minister who was also his childhood friend as well as the son of the court magician. But, when he was eleven years old, that woman appeared.
“I-It’s a pleasure to meet you… My name is Shirley Earlgrey, I was given the honour of becoming the fiancée of His Highness, the Crown Prince.”
The girl with white hair and strangely coloured eyes did her best to uphold noble courtesies, but it was clear she was very nervous, still getting used to actually being able to talk to others.
He had heard about her already, apparently, when Albert had visited the Earlgrey family alongside His Imperial Majesty, he seemed to have fallen in love with the Duke’s daughter at first sight and declared their engagement. Since she’s from a ducal house, in terms of family rank it was a perfect match. However, her appearance was a major issue.
Every one of Albert’s friends, including Gran, were all purebred stock of the Imperial nobility. The intrinsic fear of the revolutionary known as the ‘White Haired Demon’ who once brought down the system of aristocratic privilege in the Empire ran deep within them, that white hair and oddly coloured pair of eyes were like symbols of challenge to those nobles.
The thought of a woman with features like that being the next Empress was too terrible to bear. Gran suspected that the Crown Prince must have been deceived by her beautiful looks and he was wary that she was trying to worm her way into the Imperial family for some evil purpose.
“I’m so sorry, Shirley. They really aren’t bad people, they just care deeply for me, so they’re always worried about my safety.”
“No, it’s okay. I’ll surely… One day become an excellent lady that you can be proud of.”
As she said, from that day on, Shirley devoted all her efforts to that goal. Without ever complaining, she took on everything that it meant to be a princess with that small body of hers in order to be useful for her Prince, to the point where Gran wondered if her devotion exceeded even his.
Whilst originally Gran began to admit that she had some guts despite being a woman, as Shirley acquired more and more skills and knowledge, a dark cloud of emotion he didn’t truly understand began to grip at his heart.
It was only when he turned 13 that Gran understood the true nature of those feelings.
Nobles and other high-class members of society the continent over, not just in the Empire, fancy themselves all skilled warriors. Shirley was just a novice who had taken up the sword as part of her education… But she had already exceeded the realm of genius, it was as if she was beloved by a god of war.
She had beaten him ten straight times. Gran was never one to brag, but he had held a sword the moment he could walk, all so that one day he would be able to protect his future Emperor.
To be done in by such a delicate looking girl… Since she was so badly treated at her parental home, the first time she had ever picked up a sword was when she started her royal education two years ago.
“Haaa… Haaa… Gran-sama? ….Um, I didn’t hurt you, did I….?”
She’s out of breath, but she’s still worried about her opponent. Gran didn’t hear a single one of her gracious words, as he felt held captive to pure envy.
After that, he began training more rigorously than ever. At first, since Shirley was just taking swordsmanship as an extra lesson compared to Gran’s intense training she couldn’t measure up to him, but with every lesson they had together the gap in skill between them had decreased.
Gran wasn’t without his own talent, but Shirley was on another level. If such a skilled person could stand beside Albert as his Empress, then what use was he? As he fell into an existential dread, those dark emotions swirled ever stronger in his chest.
――――That woman should just disappear.
After five years of suffering from such gloomy thoughts, an angel reached out a hand to him.
“Amazing! Gran-sama really is strong! It’s easy to sleep soundly knowing there’s someone as incredible as you defending the country!”
Shirley’s sister, Alice Earlgrey. Her personality was open-hearted and bright as the sun, the very picture of innocence. As he talked to her about his problems, he felt more and more a burning desire to do everything he could to protect her.
“I see… So something like that happened with my older sister…”
“Yeah. That’s why I can’t rest on my laurels.”
“But, Gran-sama and my sister are different people. You shouldn’t have to compare yourself to her, right? So long as you’re still you, everything should be fine! Because so long as Gran-sama is doing his best, I know that you’ll definitely be rewarded one day!”
And just like that, she took Gran’s hand.
“So, why not sometimes spend a day off with me? Whenever you feel like things are getting too hard, we can spend some time together and brighten up your mood!”
She was the only one he could talk about his struggles with. Alice’s warmth was like a healing ray of light to Gran.
Comparing Alice to Shirley, she had absolutely no talent for the sword, but just when did he start looking forward to those sessions where he could pour his heart out to her more than anything else?
The sword that he had honed for Albert slowly became Alice’s and he didn’t even notice or care that his dedication to training was waning every time he thought about his next rendezvous, he became totally dedicated to Alice.
By the time he turned 19, Gran had become desperately jealous of Albert who had begun getting ever closer to Alice himself and when it came to light that Shirley had been oppressing Alice, it felt like he was holding down the most disgusting garbage as he pressed her to the floor at her condemnation.
Although Shirley escaped after a month of torture, Gran’s only thoughts were of Alice. So when she was married to Albert, that dark mist in his heart turned into a thick sludge, but since Alice was so open-hearted she was close to many men despite her marriage, including Gran.
“Albert will be awfully jealous if he finds out, so let’s keep this a secret, okay?”
The excitement of these secret trysts only drew Gran even more deeply in love with her, despite having an immoral relationship with his childhood friend’s wife he felt fulfilled in life.
Two years after Albert became the Emperor, Gran became the Grandmaster of the Imperial Knights at the young age of 25 and he was truly on top of life, but only four years later he felt the taste of despair once again.
The young daughter of the Regnard family, Lumiliana. At a traditional tournament held once every year, one that he always won, that cheeky little brat had arrived calling herself a ‘Sword Princess’.
After he had been soundly defeated by that girl thirteen years his junior, the glory he had expected to be enshrined in turned into looks of disappointment and contempt. As the number of invitations he received to Alice’s chambers waned, he began to feel a burning hatred for Lumiliana.
“Damn iiiiiiiiiiit! Why is the Goddess so unfair, giving these stupid little girls such incredible skill with swords!?”
If he was still a hard working person, he would have used this defeat as a springboard to further improve his skills. But, Gran just mired himself in his complaining, convinced that Lumiliana must have somehow cheated or some other injustice was done to him.
“Y-You know, at that time I was feeling a little off colour, I just underestimated that knight girl since she was so young, that’s all!”
Of course, such an excuse wouldn’t wash and when he felt the gazes of disappointment from his fellow knights, Gran’s pride had been deeply wounded.
The following year, after having grown frustrated with those scornful glances all that time, his pride as a knight was finally ground to dust.
It was during the Duel Ordained by the Goddess to decide the fate of Albert’s daughters. His common sense was completely upturned as he watched Shirley fight against Lumiliana, who was the Empire’s representative in the duel.
He knew that she was incredibly gifted at swordplay. However, how could a swordswoman completely overwhelm Lumiliana the way she had, a girl who had utterly defeated him herself?
“These damned… These damned women keep surpassing me…! Is this ever going to end…!?”
Losing the faith he had in his own strength, the burning jealousy in Gran’s heart became something closer to a grudge.
Those two must have become strong with something other than blood and sweat. And after he convinced himself that those two either only become strong through luck or some other underhanded means――――
“I have to become strong too. Any way that I can…!”
That’s the only way he can regain Alice’s fading love. The knight forgot the rigorous self-discipline and effort that had defined him as a young man and as he blamed everyone else for his own faults, he opened a door inside himself to something forbidden.
Familiars are very popular amongst mages. They resemble animals such as birds or mice and can be used in lots of useful ways, like watching some far off scene through its eyes, cursing a distant enemy or even acting as a guardian to protect their master.
The familiars of the man who had once caused the Empire no end of trouble were two spirit birds. They were both born from the same egg, twin birds of blue and red plumage.
Alongside that man whose background was shrouded in mystery, they had fought against his enemies and, although he had returned to the side of the Goddess once his noble purpose was complete, they had remained behind, coveted by mortals not just for their rare appearance but also for their enormous magical power.
It was a world where might made right. They had spent the next centuries flying and fighting, relying on the berries and nuts of trees for food, as they sometimes reminisced about the days they spent alongside their master.
One day, after having their wings injured during an encounter with an ancient dragon, as they lay on the edge of death in the woods outside of a faraway city, they had a fateful encounter.
With the only difference between them being their hair and eyes, those twin girls strongly resembled the two birds. They didn’t look at them with any greed in their eyes, so without trying to either attack or capture them, they gently healed their broken wings using medicine.
They had flown away without even a gesture of gratitude, but as they turned to look at the backs of the girls as they left, a strange feeling swelled within them. Trying to find out more about them, they had watched the girls from time to time, then they finally came across the answer.
“Someday, when a child with eyes like mine appears, will you watch over them like you did for me?”
The twin birds remembered the words their master had said as he stroked their necks with his wrinkled fingers.
“That child will surely go through hardship. But, the one who will bear the standard of the future must be protected, so that the world doesn’t fall into darkness.”
That strange feeling was the work of the magic that their master had cast on them with his dying breath. A magic that would draw them to their next master.
As long as that magic was active, their meeting wasn’t chance, it was an inevitable turn of fate. Although those girls had already been blessed with a mighty protector, if one day this monstrous world attempted to lay hands upon them, they will become their wings of protection.
Watching the girls, they began to understand just what had caused their master so much worry that he felt it necessary to go to such lengths, just why were these girls being targeted by evil men?
Trying to understand the crux of that, they hadn’t yet shown themselves. Either way, sooner or later, when they came together the girls would have to become used to familiars… And that was easier said than done.
Those girls who had led peaceful lives hadn’t yet learned to control magic. So, in order to make themselves more suitable for a complete novice, those two great spiritual birds changed into the shapes of brightly coloured eggs, sparkling with light.
They aimed for that town on the Kingdom’s frontier, for those two white-haired girls happily chatting with their three friends. The blue light aimed for the head of the girl with blue eyes, the red for the girl with red eyes.
Using momentum as their guide, those lights collided with the back of their heads.
I missed releasing this series so I guess I’m back.
The one bit of news is that MotoMusu Volume 2 is out on the 9th of March, so look forward to it. In regards to how I’m gonna keep moving on with this series, I’ll get to the end of this volume and wait to see if the fourth volume (in the WN raws) has been completed or close to it before I continue. I don’t want to catch the raws on a cliffhanger.