6 – 10
“Reporting! The rebel leaders in Falsch had called up the troops from Einst, and in response, they’ve…!”
The two of them held their breath as the soldier raised his voice.
But, the blood that ran cold in their bodies began to flow again when he said something unbelievable.
“…The troops from Einst have not moved! Most of them have remained stationary, except for those who had already set off!”
“What did you say?”
Before Alois could say anything, Klaus questioned the soldier incredulously. But, before he could say anything more, another soldier burst into the room with a second report.
“Lord Alois! Reporting! In the battle between the Blume forces and elements of the army from Einst that had been continuing since yesterday, it appears the Einst forces have been repulsed!”
“Haaa!? Blume did that!? How the hell…!?”
“I-it appears an excellent commander has taken charge of the defense…”
Klaus crossed his arms. There was only one name that came to his mind. Still completely stunned, he stood in silence.
“Lord Alois, b-bad news! Ever since we sent out the word asking for volunteers yesterday, we’ve received far too many applications, and we don’t have enough equipment or supplies for all of them!”
Alois blinked like he was in a stupour as yet another report came in. He needed a moment to fully comprehend the words that were washing over him one after another.
His fingers trembled, his body shivered, his heart shook. He had no words. The only thing he could do was let go of the breath he held between his lips.
And all that came to mind were all the places that he and Camilla had visited together.
Even though he still hadn’t thought much of Camilla back then, he still let her travel with him for the first time.
In the autumn of the previous year, Grenze came to know Camilla.
It was the first time Alois could remember lashing out in genuine emotion before.
“Noooo! I said I’m going to fiiiiight!!”
“Stop saying such idiotic things!”
The old woman who ran the orphanage rapped her knuckles over Rolf’s head. That headstrong kid had immediately tried to run out when he heard the news.
“Even if you go, the only thing you’ll do is get under everybody’s feet! Making sure the soldiers are well fed is also an important job!”
“No buts! If anything should happen to you, then Lord Alois and Lady Camilla would be sad. The most important thing you can do now is to make food and pray for those two as hard as you can.”
“Muuu,” Rolf frowned, but eventually gave up and started moving his hands again. All the children were busy helping make food for the men from Grenze, as well as biscuits that they could carry with them as rations on the road.
They weren’t people who could fight for Alois and Camilla, so instead the orphanage volunteered to help the soldiers. Even if it was just a little, they wanted to help however they could. Making meals and praying for their wellbeing.
The soldiers found the oddly misshapen biscuits funny, but still received them from the children with a smile.
“Hey, did you hear? Apparently, this fighting is all because of that villainess.”
“I heard, I heard. That woman drove Miss Gerda out of the mansion, and all the other nobles revolted.”
The Montchat estate in Grenze. A group of maids were gossiping with one another in hushed whispers.
“I heard that Lord Alois went crazy because of that woman. That Camilla, if it’s her, I bet it’s really true.”
“If this is all true, isn’t it really bad? We might have to get out of here before it’s too late… Hey, you think so too, right?”
One of the maids turned to ask the smallest amongst them, a girl with chestnut brown hair. She was a timid and weak girl, who tended to start crying at the drop of a hat. She always went along with their talks before, but now she obstinately shook her head.
“I… I think that’s wrong.”
The maids all turned to look at her.
“What are you saying? You always used to bad mouth her when she was here as well. Why are you suddenly acting like such a goody-two-shoes?”
“I said that before… but not now.”
The girl looked like she was on the verge of bursting into tears. But, wiping them out of her eyes, she turned her flushed face towards the other girls.
“Lady Camilla isn’t that kind of person. I… I believe in her…!”
The girls looked stunned as they looked at her tearful face.
She was always the type to simply cry and keep silent in a tough situation. So, when faced with her suddenly strong voice, the maids found themselves looking at each other sheepishly.
The days became colder in the march towards winter. In the cataclysm of mana and miasma, he had desperately prayed that Camilla stayed safe.
However, despite Alois’ fears, she managed to save the people of Einst who had been trapped underground, winning their faith through her actions.
He admired Camilla’s strength of spirit and secretly envied her. Alois’ trip to Einst changed him forever.
Einst did not move.
As she looked down towards the boulevard where the efforts to rebuild Einst were still taking place, Martha tore up the written orders sent by the Meyerheim family.
Her elderly body was supported by the two maids, Irma and Frida. Frida had only just finished her rehabilitation and had started to walk again. Her slightly hobbled gait reminded her of those dreadful days at the beginning of winter.
Einst were not of one mind. Some of the soldiery of the town had already taken up arms and left even before the orders came in. As well drilled and trained soldiers, no doubt they would become a terrible thorn in the side of the Montchat cause.
But, most of the men of Einst remained. The army that could have decided Mohnton’s fate… the vast majority silently remained in their home town.
Einst was supposed to be under the influence of the Meyerheim family. They had served those lords of theirs since the town first sprang up.
But, the people of Einst were faithful, and would not soon forget the debts they owed. Alois and Camilla… How could they ever turn their blades upon their benefactors, the people who risked life and limb to save the people of this town?
Einst remained quiet. The ace in the hole the rebels sought to play never made it to their hand.
This was the reward those two had won, for securing a debt of honour from the people of Einst.
– That being said, I can’t assume responsibility for those who have already left for the battlefield.
Einst will not move. But, the people who have already left Einst are a different story.
She thought of some such men who had left.
Though where they found all those arms and armour, Martha had no idea.
“…You guys sure are strong, huh?”
A guard who was aided by those two men whistled in admiration. Even though he also thought with the exact same blade as those men, they were far and away superior at their craft. It seemed like they were used to the fury of battle; their thoughts were sharp and their movements sharper. Just having these two nearby suddenly made it feel like there was no crisis at all.
“I have to say, you guys from Einst really are something else, after all.”
The guard looked at the hair colour of those men who turned his way. That chestnut brown hair was an indication they were descended from Meyerheim bloodline. Men from Einst, who by all accounts should have been his enemy.
But, for whatever reason, they had volunteered to serve in the capital’s volunteer regiment. Their names were Theo and Leon. They had asked to be placed right in the thick of the action like it was the only thing they lived for. Alongside those two, there were also a number of other men who had come to the aid of the capital from Einst.
“But, is it really fine for you guys to be here? If you’re here to fight for Lord Alois, won’t you be disowned from Einst?”
As the guard asked them that, Theo and Leon glanced at each other. They didn’t look worried at all, though. In fact, they exchanged bold smiles.
“It’s fine. We wouldn’t have been able to do anything if we were back in Einst anyways.”
“We told her that we’d lend her our strength. If we didn’t come here, how could we honestly say we helped?”
A noise stirred behind Leon as he spoke. An enemy soldier raised a yell and rushed towards him. Turning away from the guard, the two men raised their swords and steeled their nerves.
Blume, a town filled with petals that danced on the winds and the laughter of people.
It was fun. It was beautiful. The people of Blume showed Alois a world he had never known before.
As the snows thawed, the spring sun that had risen over that town had illuminated Mohnton’s future.
His uncle’s teachings had proved to be useful once again.
Franz grimaced coyly as he heard the reports that the defense they’d mounted had been successful.
Franz’s uncle, a man obsessed with his own militant ambitions, had taught him everything he knew about commanding and maneuvering men on the battlefield. Perhaps, Franz had learned more about this subject than even Klaus had.
The mercenaries his uncle had left behind. The vigilantes who swore to protect their town. Using these forces as a vanguard, he didn’t overextend the volunteers who weren’t used to the heat of battle.
Just what would Klaus think if he learned that his little brother had protected Blume with minimal casualties? Just imagining the look of shock on Klaus’ face, Franz grinned.
– How’s that, brother? I finally have something that I can beat you at.
They’ll take that as a compliment.
Say it as many times as you please.
“We’re not interested in any flippant idealism! We’re mercenaries, damn it! We don’t need any fancy words, let’s just get to the fighting!”
At first they were hired by Lucas, but then they were tempted to Alois’ side through the temptation of higher pay. When that work dried up, they wiled away their time in Blume, until called up again. The man who had confronted Alois at the florist, the captain of those mercenaries, yelled that as he lead his men on the field.
“So what if they call us greedy!? At least we know how to back the winning horse! Onward! We’ve got some pay to earn, boys! If you let those vigilante brats win out, don’t ever expect to work under me again!!”
Wahaha, the mercenaries laughed, ribbing the vigilantes who marched alongside them. They had just finished breaking bread and drinking together.
And now they fought side-by-side against a common enemy.
“That’s what I’m saying! We’re just a band, right? Can we really apply to be soldiers?”
They wanted to do something, but they weren’t soldiers. Victor, who had never held a sword or bow before in his life, spoke to his friends.
“If we went to the battlefield, we’d just be getting in the way… No, I’m not saying it’s too scary, alright!?”
It was Verrat who cut through Victor’s words with a sharp tone.
“If you’re scared, just keep hiding in this basement. Being this much of a coward, you’ll probably get cold feet on your wedding day as well.”
As Victor’s shoulders slouched at her words, Verrat looked around at her friends. Victor, with his violin. Otto and his oboe. Finne who sat with her flute next to Dieter at his drums. And lastly, Mia, Victor’s fiancée.
“If your hands get injured out there, you won’t be able to hold your instruments anymore, I suppose. But, so long as I still have a mouth, then I can sing. If you’re scared, it’s fine to just stay here. I’m fine going alone.”
There wasn’t much she could do as a soldier with only her strength alone.
Verrat wasn’t someone who could fight on the frontline. All she wanted to do was swell the numbers of the volunteers. The thought of accidentally ending up on the frontlines sent a quiver through her heart.
But, Verrat didn’t let that fear show on her face. She kept her cool, as if such a thing didn’t bother her at all. She didn’t want to show an unsightly side of herself. She wanted to be the cool Verrat she once was.
– I can’t show them that side of myself again.
Mohnton was in crisis. For Alois and Camilla’s sake, she couldn’t be scared. She wanted to show off her good side to that temperamental mistress, at least once, after all.
“…I’ll tailor something for you, then?”
At Verrat’s words, Mia spoke up.
“So that you can come back safely, without getting hurt, I’ll make something that will look very cool on you.”
The year that he had spent with Camilla.
The towns of Mohnton that he had visited with Camilla.
As they learned to walk side by side, they began to tread a new path for all of Mohnton. There had been chaos, anger, bitterness, sadness, pain, joy and laughter. They had come to know so many people, getting involved in so many stories.
And all of those times had come home to roost.
The dawn’s sun shone through the window, dispelling the last vestiges of the night. As a breeze blew through the window, he remembered the winds that had carried the miasma.
It was a dark and lonesome land for the exiled and the criminal. But, the winds of change had come even to this land, that had remained rooted in place for hundreds of years.
“…All right, then!”
Klaus raised his voice as he clenched a fist. As he looked at Alois, who still remained silent, he didn’t hold his serious voice back at all. But, the excitement in his voice was obvious and he was desperately trying to hold back a grin.
“Then, I’ll leave the hard part to you! As for everything here, I think I can deal with it myself!”
“Making allowances for the boss being a little selfish from time to time is part of his vassal’s duties, right? So, in return, make damn sure you bring her back! Just so you know, if only one of you come back, you’ll never live it down!”
Alois nodded firmly.
Einst, Blume, all the volunteers that had gathered in the capital… There was no way they had all moved for Alois alone.
Camilla had come to this land. He and Camilla had travelled through it together. Those travels had made Alois who he was today. That unemotional and false man, haunted by his past, had transformed into a true lord during the days he had spent by her side.
“You owe everything to Camilla, right? So, hurry up and go save her! Quickly, get going! We’ll make sure that you have a home to come back to!”
Those words felt like the only thing he could say. But, just who exactly was it that he was thanking?
The land of Mohnton was a gloomy and dark place, filled with constant swirling miasma. Even in the spring, most days in this northern territory were bitter and cold. A land spoken of in hushed and hateful voices by those in the south, only tolerated for the manastones it produced. But, perhaps that thank you was directed towards the land that Alois truly loved, and would do anything to protect.
“Get going, Alois! It’s five days by carriage, but if you’re by yourself it should only take three days!”
Alois didn’t say another word.
He didn’t feel even a shadow of the exhaustion that had plagued his tired body only minutes ago. Alois felt truly fearless for the first time.