Chapter 68: Strange Silence
The night unfolds, while the wheels spin quietly as if they were engulfed by the darkness. The horses’ hooves were somewhat calm and noiseless.
The carriage kept progressing through the quietness of the night. The cold breeze came inside the carriage because of the ongoing oscillations, and went to my throat. My breath was icy cold. The fragrance of wine loaded inside the carriage was strangely pleasant.
However, it’s been a while since I rode a carriage. I had become quite extravagant and used to it. Actually, I forgot how my life was before I had such privileges. In fact, even my legs became like iron bars due to walking too much recently.
「Still, I wonder if it’s going to be all right. If they knew that you were leaving Garoua Maria in the middle of the night, it would cause a big uproar.」
I placed my arms on my legs as I muttered from the dark side of the carriage. I spoke to a particular figure. I could clearly see this figure from where I stood.
This figure was serene and had a beautiful long hair, which was stunningly loose. Her silhouette was illuminated by the moonlight that entered from a tiny hole at the top of the carriage. Somehow, that made her look mysterious and enchanting.
Matia, the Heraldic Saint. Undoubtedly, she was now the center of power of the Heraldic Order. Her infamous persona gave her utmost recognition among the Great Sages and Lords. Now, everyone was trying to gain her heart.
She was far from having common sense, such as leaving Garoua Maria even though she held great importance as a figure leader.
Matia narrowed her eyes for a moment, and then, she spoke with an austere tone as if she regarded me as a nuisance.
「Ann already spoke about it. At present, our only chance of surviving is to secure an alliance with the Elves. It looks like you didn’t hear much about it.」
In the dark, I could see her eyes glaring at me. Apparently, she was in a bad mood. Unexpectedly, I got stuck in my own words. Therefore, all I could reply to her was silence. It seemed that this gloomy atmosphere didn’t allow us to have a proper conversation.
For a while, the sound that came to my earlobes was the tranquil sound of the carriage in progression. Then, the noise of the horses’ hooves accompanied by the heraldic escorts echoed around through the course of the wilderness.
「I think this is the right time to go. We mustn’t delay our departure. The impact of Garoua Maria’s fall hasn’t been wide spread yet. Moreover, the Lords who fled haven’t had the time to cope with this and join forces with other nations. This is what has been decided Lord Lugis… Besides, Lady Saint Matia wants to go in person to the hanging gardens of Ghazalia.」
The voice of Largud Ann spread in the tavern. I came down from the second floor, and since I’ve arrived at the tavern, Ann’s vibrant voice echoed strangely in my head. I felt a dull pain at the core of my head.
I opened my mouth while pressing my temples with my fingers.
「Why leave now? I understand the talks of an alliance. But, we’re now the great sinners that spread chaos by using the hands of the devil. I doubt that this impact hasn’t been wide spread yet. The Lords could attack this place at any moment now.」
My heart swayed a little after I professed the words that came out of my great sinner’s mouth. My mind became blurry when Ariene appeared in my heart.
Currently, Garoua Maria under the Heraldic Order stood at a blank tiny space in the world map. With the downfall of its large jurisdiction and alliances with Lords from neighboring cities, the now Heraldic Garoua Maria was still small in power. Actually it was so small that we didn’t dare to call us a strong force.
It was no secret that the enemy could spring up like a beast to seize back Garoua Maria after it fell at the hands of the sinners that led the city to its demise. Of course, that was the main reason why we were seeking an alliance with the Elves. Even so, we probably had no spare time to venture far away at this moment.
Those were my fears. And yet, Ann lifted her lips to respond to my hesitation. She spoke as she categorized my behavior similar to that of a child.
「Things are not so simple, Lord Lugis. Indeed, Garoua Maria has fallen and our enemies might attack us in order to reclaim this city. But, for now, many of the upper class, who controlled this city, ran away. They are helpless at this very moment. And that’s the reason why we must grab this opportunity of confusion and fear to forge a reliable alliance.」
I blinked my eyes to catch up to Ann’s words.
I understood the real intention of this action. Yet, I wondered if we had enough time to accomplish it. The fact that those tyrannical rulers were alive was a large disadvantage. With this war, and with the fall of their wealth and homes, it was obvious that their sense of justice and vengeance would amplify. In all cases, it would be better to wipe them straight away.
However, the battle was bloody, and many of the Heraldic soldiers were injured. To dispatch troops in order to catch those Lords would be a bad choice because the city-state would be almost defenseless. We had limited choices, and had no other option but to let them escape.
Behind me, Filaret wrinkled between her eyebrows and spoke the following words.
「I see. That makes sense. In other words, the Lords are aiming to attack us while they search for their “puppets”. Their intentions are a threat. But, since they lost everything with this war, it will take them a while to dispatch a real force to charge against us.」
Filaret shook her black hair and nodded with her thin finger at her chin. After hearing this conversation, Caria looked like she had a face of approval.
Ann, and Filaret. They were in unison with this matter. It was rather understandable. But, would they understand an ordinary person like me? Probably not. I also felt a similar feeling. Regardless of the aspects of a battlefield, or the means to rule, I probably had no understanding at all. The same goes for Wood and Sereal.
If I thought deeply about this, I realized there was a huge difference in birth and knowledge when I compared myself to them. I felt that something smoky was darkening my own heart.
「Sovereignty is a gift from God. Its authority isn’t questionable, even if it gets substantially out of control, Lugis. In other words, even if you field out a great military force without a proper establishment and government, there will be a war again because the other forces will question the right to rule over the city-state. That’s why alliances are important because they mean much more than just an increase in military force. Summing up, alliances confirm the legitimacy of a nation’s sovereignty.」
Basically, this option wasn’t negotiable. Filaret’s eyes stared fixedly at my own eyes. Her black hair waved strangely near her eyes.
I see. I finally swallowed the contents in my brain.
All of the princes in the neighboring nations were indispensable for Garoua Maria. If possible, one would like to incorporate them in the blank space to transform it to our own power space in the world map.
However, those who held the previous sovereignty and escaped with their lives were still a problem to this new institution. But, the Heraldic Order was comprised of resolute individuals that were driven by fanaticism. Although the Heraldic soldiers in Garoua Maria were a small force comparable to small lights, they were still fierce because those small lights were enough to cause a wildfire. Besides that, the fortified city of Garoua Maria was still robust and strong.
However, in the event of an attack by a specific force on the current Garoua Maria, other forces with interests in gaining the city-state would come forward as well. Someone had to be the trigger in order to question the new legitimate sovereignty of Garoua Maria. This could bring the second downfall of the Heraldic Order. That’s why attaining an alliance was crucial at this precise moment.
In that sense, although this place was a blank space now and utterly vulnerable because of the small army, the successful seizure of the city, the distress and chaos of the runaway Lords, and the unknown status of Heraldic forces viewed by the eyes of the enemy, gave us enough time to pursue possible alliances.
「Of course, it’s still a dangerous choice. But, this is necessary. And Lady Saint Matia’s presence in the negotiations is extremely important so that a formal pact can be agreed.」
Ann pressed her words for a moment, but after exhaling deep from the throat, she declared the following words.
「In this case, I would like Lord Lugis to participate in this mission as well in order to establish his role as a member of the Heraldic Order.」
Unsurprisingly, Caria and Filaret sought to accompany me. They laid quietly in the carriage, while the Saint woman remained in silence. I slowly remembered Ann’s words.
My position was unstable in the Heraldic Order. I rescued Matia’s life in Garoua Maria, and managed to make her enemy Helot retreat from the battle. On the other side of the coin, I vandalized the underground temple whom they protected, a sin that took several lives of the Heraldic people.
Supposedly, my successful work for Matia had forgiven my sins, but perhaps, her emotions did not. Fiery emotions weren’t so easy to erase. If I fell asleep close to her, she could change her mind and kill me on the spot. This woman was unpredictable. She could show me her fangs if she had the opportunity to get rid of me.
Therefore, Ann said that this mission could solidify my position in the Heraldic Order.
If I tagged along with her, on her journey to an alliance with the Elves, and be successful, no one would ever be able to express their dissatisfaction with me. That’s right. That’s the reason why Ann wanted me to go on this mission. To be honest, I didn’t think it was too crazy to have an alliance with the Elves.
Nonetheless, some things were still incomprehensible to me. Why would Ann defend me so much?
Not only did she worry about my current position in the Heraldic Order, but she also invited me to take part in this important negotiation. I came as an escort, but unlike the other Heraldic soldiers who followed the carriage, I was allowed to accompany the Saint woman inside of her own carriage. I didn’t know why she treated me in such a special way. I had never received such hospitality before.
The possibilities were endless. She could only see me, along with Caria and Filaret, as reliable forces. Or maybe her relationship with Ms. Ninz affected her treatment towards me.
I felt a sort of familiarity and friendliness of Ann towards me since she started to accompany Caria and me when we arrived at the city-state. Despite all this, Ann was not a person to be emotionally driven. Her words were always smooth and serene, but they always had some kind of coolness hidden in the depths.
Either way, if everything went well according to plan, this Saint Matia woman could finally begin to trust me.
「…Hero, there’s one thing I want to say to you before we arrive. 」
The ground had slightly changed colors, and the surrounding landscape had changed as well. It was almost time for us to enter the Elf territory.
It was around this time that Matia broke the silence and uttered some words. However, this woman still called me a hero for some unknown reason.
「It’s about what happened back in Garoua Maria. When you came between the enemy captain and me.」
Ah, her tough voice. Her lips, which had become so strangely heavy, were stiffened as if she was going to question me.
In fact, I saved Matia from Helot’s strike. Maybe she wanted to thank me for that time? It seemed that this Saint woman was still a human being after all. Yes, she still had emotions in her stone heart.
Matia opened her mouth and crushed the easygoing thoughts that were in my mind.
「I must warn you. Don’t you dare think of that time as having sold me favors. I don’t owe you anything. I don’t feel the need to thank you, nor do I appreciate that gesture…No, in fact, I resent you for what happened.」
Unexpectedly, her mouth opened to profess hatred against me. Matia’s arrogant words stuck on my brain.
I didn’t understand why she felt so annoyed about my presence. As soon as Matia pierced me with her words, her lips tightly closed again. Her unfriendly and stiff posture didn’t allow me to reply to her words. It was as if she refused any talk or question from this point on. I thought that it would be better for me to not pursue any more tension.
I see. I didn’t understand it too much. But, I knew that Ann cared for me because of a different reason, and not because of this cold woman.
Suddenly, the movement of the carriage changed abruptly. In the strange silence that followed after, a horse-drawn carriage officially stepped into Elves’ territory, into the Ghazalia mountain.
Next stop, the elf domain 😉
Thank you to the Patrons for the continued support!