Chapter 21 Part 1 – Who were the three men that were entrusted to my mother while he was away? They were scattered in the middle of the road, but it was not in vain.

 


Translator: ranzan


Time goes backwards from the day that the Duke embarked on his secret mission.

・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・

The three old warriors looked like triplets.

No one was on this road, it was covered in darkness.

But these men and their good eyes walk in the inky night without lights.

The roads, built by the ancient Romalia civilization were still intact despite years of wind, snow, and wear. Same as these old men.

「This is a pleasant night breeze.」

「Sure, but how about going a having a drink with me at home.」

「Stop it. If you two start drinking at his home, it’ll be morning before you know it.」

These old warriors spent half of their lives on the battlefield.

Liquor for celebrations, liquor for making up after fights, liquor in morning…basically, liquor when every they could fit it in their schedule.

Liquor chases away weakness, and is the water of the blood, iron, and anger found in the battlefield.

This was the way these old warriors lived.

They were not very tall, but their bodies were large, even when hidden by long cloaks.

And the fur that lined the top of the cloak spread out, making their upper backs look even larger.

They had a sly and formidable look of wolverines.

Maybe because of all those years of survival?

And that thick cloak spread down to their sturdy boots.

Not so much a cloak, but perhaps more of a cape.

Tied about their neck like a parka, there were holes from which their arms could move freely.

And if you looked carefully at the cloak…you could see it was carefully oiled to stand against the rain.

You often had to sleep outdoors in a battlefield, so they slept in this cloak…it was armor, clothes, and a bed. They used it extensively even in peacetime.

They tied their long hair behind them in careless braids while the lower halves of their faces were covered with long and formidable beards.

When lined up, the men all looked to have the same face.

Fortunately, they had three different hair and beard colors: white, black, and brown, so it was easy to tell who was who.

The old warriors were a bit tipsy and in a good mood.

「Well, it’s been a little since I got a bit drunk like this.」

Bobby, with a black beard, said, exhaling like a bellows.

But his legs were still sturdy and did not falter.

In order to make these men heavily drunk, a tavern would have to pry open a barrel of drink.

They could all drink so much, it was almost a fearsome amount.

「The Duke entrusted me to protect his wife. HE took my hand and told me personally.」

The brown-bearded Bill said to the others.

He recalled the scene, and perhaps a bit touched, wiped a tear from his eye.

「He didn’t rely on you, but me!」

Black-bearded Bobby said with a look back.

「What are you talking about, old man? You’re senile!」

Brownbeard Bill said with a wide smile, and Bobby’s face changed.

「You got some nerve calling ME senile. Why don’t you see how senile I AM!?」

Black-beard squeezed his fist and took a step forwards.

「Sure! I said it already! Come get me if you can! I’ll show you myself!」

And so this touchy quarrel continued between the black and brown-beards, while the white-beard was silent, then sighed and said,

「Stop. He entrusted all three of us with his wife, correct? We cannot betray him. We must work together. Don’t be mistaken. We three warriors of Hydrangea shouldn’t besmirch our own names.」

These were the words of white-beard, Brian, as the others looked at him and seemingly lost their tempers.

「That’s right…in our name.」

「As long as we work together, we won’t allow any enemy to pass.」

They hit each other’s shoulders and laughed…they had survived the battlefields together for decades, after all.

Fighting together as three men, but so in tune with one another that they seemed to fight as one.

Such old friends as well, that they have no hesitation in quarreling.

These men had a relationship where fights were just part of being friends.

They were employed by the Duke of Wilhelm…the father of Scarlet, the Crimson Duke.

Three veteran warriors, called the Hydrangea Three.

Bobby with a black beard, Bill with brown, Brian, white.

The three had served in the Royal Guard for many years in Wilhelm territory.

Originally they had served under the Crimson Duke’s grandfather, the popular Lord Wilhelm.

With that connection, they often served in military operations with the young future Duke, the grandson of their Lord.

They were under the direct control of the Royal Guard, but they loved the young future Duke so much that at his behest they would join him for whatever military skirmish he was about to perform. Even when the young future Duke called them to kill off the demon dogs 10 years ago, the royal family had to grin and tolerate losing their men to the Duke’s charge.

All three were retired and now lived comfortable lives.

Because the reason they retired is “we lost in one on one combat to the Royal Guard captain,” but they still had quite some fighting ability. The Royal Guard was Hydrangea’s most formidable unit of warriors.

The captain of the Royal Guard was so strong, not even the Vice-captain could make a dent in his armor.

So after the battle with the Royal Guard captain, the three left as one, and the king scrambled to retain the three. These three strongest men of the king’s army were not going to be allowed to run to the Duke. The king stopped them, but it was only for a time.

Finally, the royal family allowed the men to retire, but absolutely refused to give permission to them to become vassals of the Duke of Wilhelm. Even their entry into his mansion was prohibited.

All three men were indignant, but still obeyed the crown’s decree.

The Crimson Duke always seemed to be away from his own land on the crown’s orders.

Furthermore, the Duke’s father, the marquis of Vygod, was a tyrant in Wilhelm before, so the people hated him.

It wasn’t strange that once or twice the people attempted to revolt while the Duke was away.

Being the Hero of Hydrangea made you a prominent figure. You have a lot of enemies both inside and outside your realm.

So these three warriors, the faces of Wilhelm territory, took the role of suppressing any revolts or rebellions outside of the mansion in order to help the Duke.

Even the Shylock Company were not able to intervene with Wilhelm with them around.

Although they had no place in the court of nobility, they were a fearsome and powerful force.

The Crimson Duke relied on them fully and had complete confidence in their actions.

That’s why he was reassured about them protecting her, though she was pregnant and near birth.

「Hey, I wonder if this child will be able to use the mounted arts like the Duke.」

Blackbearded Bobby squinted his eyes and asked.

The mounted arts was a fighting style that was passed down through generations in Wilhelm where man and horse fight as one.

A horse is a huge mass of muscles. The power they create far outclasses a puny human.

So the mounted arts uses the kinetic energy of the horse by channeling it into a long staff held by the rider in a specific, trained motion.

There are iron strips wrapping the long staff with an iron tip as well. No sword is able to cut the staff this way.

With the powerful motion of the force added to the swing of the staff, the destructive power is extraordinary.

One blow could shatter armor, break a sword, and blow away pikemen like sawdust.

The Crimson Duke was invincible on the battlefield because of this tactic.

The power of this staff swung downwards onto an army was nearly comparable to a multi-horse cavalry charge.

A single man on a skilled horse could turn away an enemy in fear and rejuvenate an almost defeated ally.

That’s why the epithet of Hero given to the Duke was not just a name.

「Hmm, I wonder…that lad of Vygod never learned it.」

Brownbeard Bill cricked his neck.

For these three men, the Marquis of Vygod was also treated like a youth.

「The only good thing about him is that he gave us the Duke.」

And they had good reason to slander the Marquis.

The mounted arts are a divine skill in which one must have natural talent, courage, and a skilled horse.

One must release both hands from holding to the horse yet stay physically united with it, mind and breath as one, and perform difficult movements in a battlefield where arrows are flying left and right.

Not everyone can do it.

In fact, the art could have died with the Marquis.

Fortunately, there were men to teach the Duke, who showed talent at a young age, so it was a miracle that the Marquis was skipped.

The three old men despised the Marquis, whose only talent was stripping Wilhelm of its valuable resources.

And they had a grudge because the man had sullied their land.

「I hope such a fool is never born again to the Lingard family.」

Whitebeard Brian’s view of the Marquis was also harsh.

「Well, with the pus of that family’s lineage drained into that one contemptible man, the bloodline should run pure for 300 years.」

And that was said with a frown.

「I’m sure the child will be a master of the mounted arts just like the Duke! And when the child grows, I will serve him myself. I will teach him the way of the battlefield.」

「What nonsense, fool of a whitebeard!」

「It doesn’t matter if my beard’s black or white! It’s my role as a man!」

The three men were about to butt heads again, but they soon were back as friends.

Swearing at one another, but eyes laughing.

They were all excited to see what the child of the Duke would look like.

「Hee heeee…unfortunately, your wishes won’t come true…」

A strange high laughter interrupted the three’s bickering.

They instantly jumped back and alertly surveyed where the sound came from.

From the darkness in front of them, an old hunchback emerged.

「The reason why…is that all three of you…will die here.」

He said, mocking them with an evil look.


 


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