|Author: Sasaki Ichiro||Original Source: Syosetu|
|Translator: Mab||English Source: Re:Library|
“Ms. Christy, do you know what elements are necessary to win a war?”
I was looking down directly at the mysterious Tenebrae Nemus, a sprawling forest shrouded in darkness in the central part of the continent, far from the Conwallis Imperial Capital, when His Imperial Highness Eilmer —the current emperor’s direct grandson and one of the few legitimate successors of the crown (simply because so many other members of the imperial family like to take concubines, for whatever reason)— asked me with a good-humored tone, grasping the reins of the wyvern we were traveling with all the while.
In any other scenario, the force of the wind would have made it impossible for us to have a conversation, but thanks to the skill of the Wind-Using Dragon Knight, our saddle was completely free of wind obstruction, and even His Highness’ voice came clear to me as if he was whispering in my ear.
Being a Wind User seemed to be an indispensable qualification to become a Dragon Knight, but for that part, I hardly felt any kind of mana in the works. If anything, it felt more like Spirit Magic Art.
For the time being, I confirmed the harness was in place before I straightened my back in the saddle and corrected my manner. “…The understanding of the difference between our forces and theirs. Taking account of the weather and the terrain in our movements. Unifying the chain of command and creating an environment in which it can operate accurately. Securing the weapons and provisions necessary for the battle. And lastly, clarifying what are our terms for victory so that we can determine what constitutes a victory… That is how I understand it, Your Highness.”
“Ha ha ha! I would expect no less of you, Ms. Christy. Well done. Knowing what constitutes a victory, that’s what is most important. I asked Luke the same question the other day, and he left that part out in his answer, so I left him in the capital this time as punishment. I must tell you how depressed he looked.”
Looking at His Highness’ side profile, who was laughing jovially like a child who managed to pull a prank, the depressed look of Young Master Luke that greeted me to see us off resurfaced in my mind, inciting a deep sympathy and… while audacious, a comment from me personally.
“Young Master Luke is only 11 years old. Being able to answer that much at his age is an indication that he has a brilliant mind.”
This was the very basics of military education, but the person in question was a minor who hadn’t attended military academy yet —due to his position, the Young Master didn’t commute to school but was rather educated by private tutors for the gifted. I was also his home tutor up until four years ago, lecturing him mainly on magical studies— Thus, being able to come up with so many approaches for an answer after being asked a question that was not part of his education field meant that the Young Master was by no means a fool. In fact, one could say that he was brilliant.
“Perhaps his answer is sufficient for a mere soldier, but for someone who aims to become a general in the future, I must say that he fails to reach the bar. I would also say that your answer barely passed the passing mark. Both you and he forgot the most basic concept.”
Right then, the wyvern let out a frightened cry and made a sharp turn.
“Oh lord. Get any closer and even a wyvern won’t come out safely, huh? —Do forgive me, Ms. Christy. I think we got a bit too deep into the forest. Let us head towards the hermitage of the Founder before things turn ugly. Is that okay with you?”
“You need not worry about my consent, Your Highness. I’m nothing more than a piece of luggage, after all.”
When I sarcastically replied, His Imperial Highness Eilmer shrugged his shoulders while dexterously operating the reins of the wyvern. Then, with a tone as if he just remembered something, he added.
“Oh, right. The Founder is living together with her disciple, but, for whatever reason, she seems to be hiding her identity from her… Well, the fact that she is hiding in Tenebrae Nemus of all places tells you that she is no ordinary person. And so, I ask you to treat me not as an imperial family member but as just another old Dragon Knight in front of her.”
That came as a surprise to me. The esteemed Founder was a master of magick who was renowned for her unparalleled skill as an Imperial Magician, but due to her stern character —I heard she was quite neat and reserved in her younger years, so she must’ve grown jaded as she got older, making her the perfect example that the words ‘wisdom and peace come with age’ were nothing but a big fat lie— and her impossibly hard education, she rarely took a disciple (i.e. they ran away from her). She also publicly stated, “I am not going to teach someone with no talent!” and had stubbornly refused to take a student for the past 30 years, no matter how much anyone had begged her to do so.
“You said ‘her,’ so it’s a woman?”
“Yes, a girl around Luke’s age.”
His Highness nodded, then let out a chuckle that seemed unable to be repressed.
“Well, you’ll understand once you meet her, but the reason why Luke was so depressed is not because he failed to answer my question correctly, but because he couldn’t meet her.”
At this point, I concluded that His Highness was being hard to read like always. It was an hour later that I became very much convinced by his earlier words.
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“Ms. Christy, I packed lunch for you. If it doesn’t bother you, please wait for a little while.”
I took the bag Jill handed me and tried my best to keep my cheeks from loosening as I smelled the corn and pumpkin aroma wafting from it.
“Thank you. These are the best treats I’ve ever had.”
It had been a week since I started staying at the hermitage of my mentor —who went by the name Regina right now— while under the guise of an inspection tour. I stayed here much longer than I originally planned, probably because it was comfortable, because the things I gained outweighed the cons, and most importantly because I had this extraordinary sister-disciple before me.
While she herself seemed unaware of it, meeting an extremely exceptional person like her was the first even for an Imperial Court Magician like me.
The first time I saw her with her face hidden, I suspected the girl was a demon beast taking the form of a human child with such a dense and rich signature of mana I sensed. Perhaps she caught that I reflexively took a defensive posture, she immediately took off her hood and offered a carefree smile at me. Her posture as she greeted me was so impeccably graceful— something that a hastily learned amateur could never replicate, the grace that only daughters of a high-ranking aristocrat could acquire.
And I hadn’t even mentioned the face behind the hood. For someone who had seen royals, imperial families, nobles, and all types of people from all walks of life, even those who purposefully breed beautiful men with women, her beauty left me speechless —a beauty that could never occur naturally, as splendor of this magnitude would require a purely cultured environment from infancy— And before I knew it, I already accused my mentor of kidnapping her.
She was, through and through, a Princess in a Jewel Box. For her to be so thin, relinquished in such a dangerous place, and becoming the apprentice of such a dubious witch, questions would obviously rise. It was much more natural to think that my own mentor stumbled upon a child of a noble family who seemed to have talent and thus committed the act of kidnapping…
After which, the girl—Jill, my sister-disciple, introduced me to her familiar, and it was a Sirius, a divine beast only known in legends and folklore.
And then, right when I noticed there was some strange presence about and around her, she summoned her so-called guardian spirit, a Death Knight —something at the level of military-class demon beasts, and that was not to say a single of those beasts could level an entire country— leaving me utterly dumbfounded.
And when I thought that there could be no more surprises, the little girl developed her own method of improving farmland and agricultural products that no one had ever thought of before, and was unafraid to disclose her information, methodology, and ideas, showing a level of intelligence and ability no one would expect from an 11-year-old.
(…well, no wonder my own mentor is so enamored of her.)
While she would never say it in her own words, it was understandable why that meritocratic, grumpy-mess mentor of mine —the one person who dared to declare that the professors of the Imperial Academy were all lazy morons who got too comfortable being on the top of the current level of education and refused to budge an inch from their seats— would love the girl so endearingly like it was her own daughter (but put ‘work her like a horse’ before the love part, though.)
Good looks, talent, luck… even with all the blessings that would make any ordinary person green with envy, the girl was never conceited (or perhaps she’s never aware of those qualities of hers), never sparing an effort, never satisfied with what she had achieved, and always striving for further progress. Having a disciple like her would be most exhilarating for any mentor.
As a disciple of the same mentor, there was a part of me that envied her, but with my age, I more than understood my own limitations, and so envy was beneath me. …but, what would it be if we were the same age? Perhaps, then, I would’ve been fiercely competitive, only to be devastated, and then lost in despair.