Vol.1, Ch.5, P.6


“Well, we’d best be off ourselves,” said our mercenary.

“Right,” I nodded whilst readying one of the horses. “…Frieda. Will you be well?”

“A lifetime’s worth of whippings, I’ve survived. But I think I’ll manage. Fear’s a foe to be fought, isn’t it?” she grinned.

“It is, indeed,” I chuckled.

“By the way…”

“What is it?”

“The hour wends to dusk, and we’re well in the wilds…” Frieda broached rather roundaboutly. “Butt-bare have I been to every eye since our escapade began; I don’t suppose you’d keep me waiting for something to wear?”

“Ah—” came the lightning realisation. “R-right.”

Now that she mentioned it, Frieda had indeed been wholly unclothed from the time I first saw her in the gaol cell. Somehow, the thought hadn’t occurred to me to accord her the same comfort of clothing as Ina’s and Carola’s.

“I took you for the sort that cares little of it. It was shallow of me.”

“And to me, a shock!” she prodded.

I scratched my head. “M-my apologies. Er…”

After a glance down upon myself, I doffed my breastplate and gambeson, and then struggled my way out of my shirt. Free of the fabric, I handed it to Frieda.

She blinked. “What? I’m to dress in front of you, now?”


Hurriedly, I wound about behind her and hung the shirt over her shoulders.

“…’Tis more a cloak than a shirt, this,” she observed, “but it well-covers a smaller body, doesn’t it?”

“Th-that it does.”

Frieda turned to me, cheeks red with mirth and a gentle beam upon her lips. As she held the shirt tight to her bosom, Ina and Carola watched on with smiling giggles.




‘Fare you well. Let us hope we meet again someday.’

My last words to the three before I drave off upon my steed. The path before me wound now to a new destination: my return to the 5th’s headquarters.

“The deed is done…” I said to myself, before turning my next words to the full-bright moon. “…May you all find solace in your slumber.”

A lone prayer for the vainly sacrificed, who so suffered in the dark face of torture. But the hands that dealt the depravity were at last caught and cuffed: this day witnessed the end to the tragedies of House Albeck’s making, at long last.



War-like was the tumult, just now ceased.

The dust finally began to settle.

Trimmed and proper were the training grounds of the 1st Chivalric Order, but in this moment, it seemed more a scene of massacre, for strewn about it were bodies, either bent or prostrate. They numbered no fewer than a score, yet they were hardly corpses, though one would be forgiven for mistaking them so.

Proud knights of the 1st they were, only, they had not the spark of pride in them, defeated of body and spirit as they were. But that was most expected, for standing squarely amidst their moans of pain was their mareschal.

“Ha… ha…”

Estelle Tiselius, commander to these esteemed fighters. Hers was a face most fair, now scintillating with sweat, and her shoulders gently rose and fell as breaths breezed from her lips, unhurried, unharried.

It was all but a training session. She had done her duty in hosting the rigorous practice, but it was as much for their benefit as it was for her own. Indeed, Estelle was wont to join in their regular rigours, in each session purposefully pitting herself—and only herself—against the knightly droves.

That’s not to say they were easy fodder, no. Each was the crème de la crème of the kingdom’s finest fighters, yet it was the unspotted truth that at the end of these training sessions, this would be the sorry scene presented: knights of high gallantry, beaten and bruised, but amongst them, Estelle, standing tall with nary a spot upon her body struck by any blow.

“Let us break for the day,” she announced with an even voice. “Officers all, pray take ample rest.”

“A-aye, Mareschal,” they all made sure to answer, however brokenly. Thus did they lend shoulders to each other on their way out. Many amongst them would find tonight to be a sleepless night, for pangs of pain and humiliation were sure to harry them well till dawn.

Against the flow of the departing officers came a man: Francis Behrmann, their superior, and Under-Mareschal to the 1st.

“Why, mademoiselle,” the old knight began. “‘Twould be a great ease to our officers were you to abate your hand, if even a little. With such wantonness do you sunder their spirits. ‘Tis certain!”

“Ease?” To him, Estelle looked. “Say now, dear Francis. A fair while since we’ve last measured swords, yes? Why not give ease to our officers and spar me in their stead?”

“Hoh!” Francis wagged his hand in protest. “Perish the thought, my Lady! These bones are sore brittle for such excitement, you should know!”

“And you should know you’re hardly of the age for brittle bones,” Estelle quipped whilst wicking away the sweat from her face with a flannel. A faint smile bent her lips, one warm with honesty, but rare to the sight of any other soul besides Francis.

Yet to contrast it, the old knight’s face furrowed troublingly.

“And I say, mademoiselle, a lady of your age should know well to yearn for another by more tranquil means. Wistfully gazing out the window, or reciting sonnets, let’s say,” he argued from out of the blue. “Yet here you are. You sooner think to brandish a blade than you would a bouquet—indeed, you long for your man in the queerest of ways.”

“The tongue in your cheeks is cheeky overmuch, Francis!” Estelle shot back, before turning away. “I’m not yearning.”

The mareschal of the exalted 1st—taken by a fleeting bout of flustering.

Yet the under-mareschal could only shake his head. After all, it was his earnest wish for none of the 1st’s dear officers to be so caught up in the maelstrom of asperity that was Estelle’s special training.

For her part, the hero-dame was loath to entertain the slightest compromise. In fact, she gave herself wholly to this pursuit of perfection. Thus was it inevitable that for every training session of which she was party, her knights would be left struck and sapped of all strength to even stand.

But it was not always this way.

No. This immuring impulse of hers was conceived at the climax of the Battle of Erbelde not more than three years past.

There, she witnessed it.

That swing of a sword, too beautiful to behold.

That brilliance of a battle, too sublime to shut away.

A vivid vision that from time to time would rewind itself in the recesses of her heart.

And each time that it did, she would throw herself into the throes of arduous training.

But each time that she did, she would know despair, for there were none here that could match her blade.

Estelle was not a woman to so easily forget her gratitude for her yeomen. They were all of them knights most exemplary and true. A sincere evaluation, one she made certain they were wise to. Even against those of the other Orders, her soldiers shone no less brightly in their bountiful excellence. They were each talented in their technique, tempered in their temperament—proud paragons in their own right.

Yet they were not enough.

And neither was she.

No matter how much she moiled in polishing both mind and body, that very thought would always well up from the depths of her heart. And in pondering those shared inadequacies, her thoughts would turn… to him.


Would that he were here with me.

Then mine unease might know a moment of solace.


Warm air rolled from her lips.

“‘Tis unsightly to sigh so openly, my Lady,” Francis poked again, seeing this. “Lest you mean to sigh away your youth.”

“That’s ‘happiness’ that one sighs away, Francis,” Estelle pouted. “So wont you are to warp our dear adages for your own merriment…”

For one as fair as the hero-dame of Londosius, even her wistful sigh was worthy of a portrait. Yet her truest desires were nowhere to be found in the illustrious title or any such panderings to heroism.

“Well?” Estelle said anew. “You’ve read the report, I take it?”

“Indeed, my Lady. A most riveting read, it was!” Francis nodded, stroking his chin.

What they spoke of was none other than a fateful operation of two winters past: the recapture of the Godrika Minery, completed via the sore sacrifices of the 5th. The report was penned by the 5th’s hands themselves, sent up to Central for review.

Estelle had merely meant to have a look of her own upon the vaunted vicissitude, one that had sharpened anew Londosius’ dulling sword of war. The proliferation of silver, the expansion of the frontlines, the quickening of bloodshed—all was owed to this operation.

But the report…

Therein was writ the record of a battle that betrayed the imagination.

A catoblepas, a creature most foul, was discovered within the tunnels. What should have necessitated the collective struggle of whole brigades was achieved by but a single soul. Yet to that officer the merit was denied, for Central saw fit to turn the eyes of honour elsewhere.

The matter demanded much thought. Thus was Francis bade to make use of some back-channel connections, that more light may be shed upon it.

And there it was found that he was in opposition to the operation right from the outset. What’s more, he had openly expounded on the dangers of acting upon the recapture. That such an ambitious battle would sow the seeds of today’s fell fruits of war was likely what his keen ken had prevised.

And yet, against the counsel of his own heart did he step onto that battlefield. There alone, with all the desperation and determination that he could muster, did he bring an end to that bloodshed…

…to the recognition of none.

What foul irony.

Once again, from Estelle’s lips blew a pensive sough.

Certainly, he would be one to get caught up in such unrequited recklessness. Perhaps even now may he be found fighting another profitless battle.

The title of “hero” certainly sorted more squarely with that unseen and unsung soul. This, Estelle knew. This, her heart spoke.

“My my, dear mademoiselle,” Francis broke the silence. “Taken to sighing for a pastime, have you? ‘Tis a hobby for ladies more verdant, I’ll have you know. Say, of the maidenly sort.”

“…I am yet a maiden.”

A pouting reply. And an unreasonable one, perhaps, yet Estelle aired it anyway. Then, half-mocking herself with a wistful smile, she shook her head and parted the training ground.

Even now, she dearly wished to bring him under her wing here at the 1st. That such a fancy would never take flight was a future Estelle could never have presaged.

For not even the hero-dame herself can see all ends.



Chapter 5 ─ End


Comment (0)

Get More Krystals

  • 500
  • 1000
  • 3000
  • 5250

    5000 + 250 bonus

  • 10500

    10000 + 500 bonus

  • 21500

    20000 + 1500 bonus