Chapter 20 – My father arrives at port. Destiny is flowing towards the Duke’s manor, as is a decisive battle.
A familiar view was approaching the Blanche, which was rushing through the waves.
The majestic mountains, an enclave of the Wilhelm realm, was floating in the horizon.
The blue mountains rushed upwards and melted into the blue sky, with the top edges sprinkled in snow despite it being early summer.
The Blanche’s exceptional sailors were near the coast yet had no trouble controlling the ship in turbulent winds.
They read the wind directions and the skipper yelled instructions.
「Starboard! Don’t get blown back. Tack right! Don’t break one hem on this woman’s white sails!」
「Sir! No need to work us that hard!」
「What the hell do you mean!? I don’t want any sail seamstresses mocking us later!」
The sailors happily clung to their roles as they complained.
The masts spun their sails and caught the breeze across the tack.
A strong wind would normally push the sails back, but this way it billowed the sails out as the ship’s speed was a top priority.
The ropes pulled violently as pulleys squealed. The muscles of the sailors strained.
The target point was nearly ahead when a second pigeon landed on deck.
Seraphy, the chairman of the Orange Company, spread the document out and his face clouded with despair.
He silently looked at the paper, his hair fluttering in the gale, and then looked up to heaven.
「News from Ethelreed…seems that Marie was killed.」
The skipper was listening, and ran up, surprised.
He looked at the letter and groaned about what had happened to this acquaintance of his, his hair in a tuff from the wind.
「Stabbed to death! That’s horrible. Marie wouldn’t hold a grudge against a fly that bit her! Boss, this means!」
「It was a paid hit by the Shylocks. And it’s pretty clear that it was Dexter and Ambrosine’s doing…those filthy…」
Seraphy bit his lip.
His hand was shaking with the letter still in it.
There were blood stains on the letter…showing the sorrow of Ethelreed.
「Ethelreed?! The second son of the Shylocks?!」
He imagined the third child of Shylock, a good man who didn’t look like his relatives.
Seraphy then nodded…he looked sick.
「Ethelreed and Marie had promised to spend the future together…they loved one another.」
With that statement, a wake wave hit the ship.
Little Seraphy staggered and almost hit the railing.
It was the first blunder since the Duke boarded the Blanche.
「…are you okay?」
The Duke had grabbed Seraphy before he fell, and the boy thanked him.
It was true that he felt shame in losing his footing.
「Seraphy’s mother was named Marie as well…so it’s not like this is another person’s matter to him.」
The skipper said, indicating why Seraphy was upset.
The Duke sighed.
「This is one more reason to crush the Shylocks. We can’t let them get away with this.」
The Duke said with a dark expression and a deep flame burning in his eyes.
「Try to get some information about Cornelia before I arrive home. I’ll tear these fools limb from limb.」
Bernard, the Duke’s retainer, who finally recovered from seasickness, looked at the Duke, worried.
He was about to say something, but was quiet. The Duke was not just angry. Even if the people at the Orange Company didn’t know, the retainer knew of the Duke’s rage and that horrific look. As soon as the Duke saw Ambrosine, he would slice her in half. He pretended to be calm, but Bernard saw his insides were boiling hot. This was apparent in the steps he took against the royal Hydrangea family.
「Yes, I was impressed by how you deal with problems like this. Even to the height of the Hydrangeans.」
Seraphy said, now composed, with a look of admiration.
Bernard, looked at the deck with eyes of concern.
The Duke had told the Hydrangean royals to send the strongest guards available to protect his wife.
Of course, the royal family would not do so for anyone, but the Duke stated that if his request were denied, he would take exile in another kingdom and take any quest they would reward him with, even if against the Hydrangea crown.
「Hah hah! Totally, I was shocked after that! After all, they’ve denied you payment for your service over and over!」
The skipper praised the Duke with a pat on the shoulder.
Some of the sailors saluted the Duke as well as they scrambled around the deck.
Whether gamblers or men that believed in honor, the sailors thought the Duke’s actions commanded respect.
His weapon to threaten the crown was the immense unpaid debt they had for his military endeavors.
It was too large to be covered by the crown’s financial resources.
The repayment had actually become a headache to the crown.
So they awarded him the highest nobility of Duke.
It’s a debt that the crown can only repay in favors.
「There’s no value in bounties that will never be paid….so Cornelia’s safety comes first.」
Everyone knew that the money would never come, but that wasn’t the point.
The unpaid bounty was a bone stuck in the throat of the royals…and it was about to be jiggled.
It was their influence in the protection of the Duke that mattered, and so the Duke bet his own safety by ensuring the safety of his wife.
If the Royal Guard is placed at his domicile, then the royal court could deem it payment for the bounties the Duke had amassed.
And if not, then he would go into exile in another kingdom and possibly be used as the rook on the chessboard against the Hydrangea royals themselves.
That was the context of the letter.
So naturally a retainer like Bernard was flummoxed.
The Duke had thrown down his gauntlet…it wasn’t a sane move.
「If that blasted trainer of the Juohdah dogs is moving secretly, the only thing that can stop them is the Royal Guard. That was the information those three “gray-hairs” gave me. There’s no way I’m going to let those three veteran warriors’ lives pass in vain. Their spirits, perhaps, led me to board the Blanche…and I will not let their guidance go to waste.」
The Duke, using the name he had called them in his youth, mourned their deaths and clasped his fist to his chest. Bernard, a blood relative of one of them, did the same with a pained look.
The Royal Guard was thus insurance in case of an emergency, and they should already be on their way.
No matter how fast you drove a horse, it took half a day to reach the Duke’s manor, and the guard filled the gap during that time.
「Pledge everything for your woman. That’s the way of life. May the God of the sea always give you tailwinds…and we shall help as well.」
The skipper said with a toothed smile and laughed, while Seraphy nodded.
「I’ve also thought about how to defeat those demon dogs. Some strength will help with your own saddle, breastplate, and weapons fit for a horse. I hope you can use them to chase those dogs down and pierce them one by one.」
The words of Seraphy surprised both the Duke and Bernard.
But Seraphy understood the circumstances the Duke was in.
「What a surprise… you know how I like to fight? I wouldn’t want to be your enemy.」
「The same with me.」
The duke and Seraphy laughed and clasped hands.
Then the Blanche entered the harbor.
She lowered her mast and passed by other moored ships.
The sailors went under the deck to make sure the anchors are ready to unravel.
As they approached the harbor’s stone walls and unloading boats, there were several horses waiting in front of a warehouse, as Seraphy had said.
The horses were lined closely with carts, barrels, and bags scattered around.
Especially noticeable was the white horse in the middle. The Duke’s eyes opened in surprise.
Seraphy smiled at him.
「You noticed this far away. That’s right. It’s the child of your beloved horse. And obedient and brave one. What do you think?」
「As if I received a million reinforcements.」
The Duke said with a laugh.
He could only show his true power with a steadfast horse.
Then his red eyes shown as he slashed with his sword.
His body seemed to double in size…intimidating everyone.
Seraphy squinted and the skipper whistled.
「I sometimes wonder if your blood rages when you know you’re about to battle.」
He remembered the smell of the battlefield and traversing it with his favorite horse.
He was a demon god, praised as unbeatable by friend and foe, now with a formidable weapon again.
The hesitation also disappeared from Bernard.
「No enemies to face you now.」
He shook with excitement, kneeling on one knee, and dropping his head.
The Duke nodded to him and prepared for the speedy ride home.
At the end, his beloved wife awaited.
Please wait for me Cornelia.
I will cut all my enemies down to return to you.
So remain safe, I pray.
And with that wish, the Duke clenched his fist.