Prologue Part 1
Unwanted and tragic voices continued to echo in my head.
It was the heartfelt cries of those who had been scorched by the never-ending nightmare of war. Even if they were to perish, their voices were etched into my mind like a curse, never to disappear.
‘Al, even if it’s just you, please survive…’
My best friend died protecting me. The scent of his blood lingered on my hands…
‘Run away. I’ll buy you some time to escape!’
She had been braver than anyone, facing countless enemies that approached her, but she never returned. Despite her usually sharp tongue, her bright smile in her final moments remained etched in my mind.
‘Ahh, before I could even fight Al, this happened… Haa, that’s really pathetic…’
She fell before my eyes… and never got up again. She was never one to seek conflict. It was her own country’s soldiers who had caused her death, and only sadness was left in my heart.
‘Aldia, I entrust everything to you.’
The boorish hulk of a man who had been guarding the fortress sacrificed himself to help his comrades escape.
All of my precious friends had died.
I could do nothing but watch their final moments without being able to help them.
Why…? Why do I have to experience such pain over and over again? I should have been able to do something to save them.
‘So… this is where I am going to die… Without me… will that person be okay?’
One of the enemy generals had remained proud until the very end and had been more empathetic to us than her own comrades. However, we were not allowed to mourn her death properly.
The enemy princess… smiled at me with all her heart as she was dying.
‘Aldia… Thank you. I’m glad I could speak to you before I die.’
She was glad to be able to speak to me even though she knew she was going to die? I wish… she had not said that.
I had developed forbidden feelings for her, but it was at the last moment of her life, and she passed away.
―― I, who was powerless, could not save anyone. I was just a fool who could only fight and kill enemies on the battlefield in front of me.
What kind of knight am I if I could not protect a single important person?
I could only take lives, but I couldn’t produce anything else.
Repeatedly piling up a history full of mistakes and then dismantling it, I had finally realized, only when it was too late to undo what I had done.
‘What have I been fighting for all this time…?’, I finally asked myself.
Ah, I was truly a fool.
The smell of blood that was so deeply ingrained in me that I could not wipe it away was deeply etched into my body. After losing so much, I began to wonder if there was any meaning in living.
But even so, I continued to kill.
Because I had already come too far to turn back.
And because there was no other choice but to move forward.
…That choice was a big mistake.
I should have stopped somewhere. If I had ―― maybe my future would have been different from what it is now.
“The defendant, Aldia Graetz. You are suspected of treason against the kingdom. Do you have any objections?”
―― Ah, I suppose I am going to die, too.
Terribly cold air flowed within the Supreme Court of Kingdom Leshfeld. The name, Aldia Graetz, called calmly by an elderly man, referred to me.
Accused of treason against the kingdom, I am facing a scene of one-sided condemnation in a sham of a trial. Any objections or counterarguments were never recognized from the beginning.
The charge of treason was predetermined. All that remains is for me to acknowledge the charge, and the punishment will be decided.
“Aldia Graetz. Your silence means that you acknowledge the charge of treason… is that correct?”
―― What a stupid farce. Even if I said something, someone in this court would interrupt me and not allow me to make any claims! I was thoroughly fed up with the air that did not even allow me to sigh.
I looked around with empty eyes. See… there is no one on my side. The gazes of the kingdom’s people surrounding me were all full of malice.
―― Even though the war is already over, they haven’t changed anything.
It might have been better if the war had continued. I thought something inappropriate like that.
The Kingdom of Leshfeld had been at war just a few months ago. The enemy in the war was the great northern power, the Vulcan Empire.
Until their defeat in the war against the kingdom, the empire was the largest country in the world. However, the various countries that had fought alongside the empire in a united front invaded Imperial territory, and the empire fell.
Even in such an empire, there were people who I thought should live. They were much kinder than the heartless people of the kingdom and were the ones who cared most about the future of the country.
‘Valtrune von Felsdorf.’
She was the late Imperial Princess, and I had once been saved by her. She had snow-white hair and strikingly strong blue eyes. Unfortunately, she is no longer in this world. She ended her short life by execution. Although she was the princess of a defeated country, she maintained her noble and dignified expression until the very end.
―― I wanted her to live even for just one more second.
During the war, amidst the battlefield where sparks flew and scattered, I encountered Princess Valtrune several times. We were enemies, destined to kill each other, but by chance, I was able to catch sight of her several times.
At first, I had wanted to kill her from the bottom of my heart. I was trying to defeat the Imperial banner for my country. However, that plan was not easy to accomplish.
‘You’re in the way! Get out of the way!’
‘I won’t let you pass.’
The Imperial Army was heavily fortified, and I suffered countless wounds before reaching her. My hand was torn messily, and even gripping the sword was painful. My face was covered in blood, and my vision was also impaired. Every part of my body was in excruciating pain. I must have looked no different from the dead as I took one step after another while enduring the pain.
I dragged my feet forward.
The marching speed had become astonishingly slow, and I could not stop spitting blood. None of the comrades I had fought with on the battlefield were alive anymore. They had all died.
And when I finally reached the Princess… I was also in a near-death state from the countless wounds I had received from the Imperial soldiers.
My consciousness was hazy. My mouth was filled with the taste of blood, and tears of fresh blood dripped from my eyes. To top it all off, the blood of enemy soldiers had splattered all over me, and my black armor had been stained red.
I could not swing my sword as I wished.
…Sluggish as I have become, my sword never reached her neck.
‘I still… can’t…’
I was filled with vexation. But I could not do anything.
‘…You still can’t die. Is that what you want to say?’
She squatted in front of me, looking down at me.
‘…Yes. I still… haven’t achieved anything.’
Looking back now, I wonder why I was so determined to live. I did not have any purpose. I only thought about killing my enemies, yet I was saying such grand things as ‘I still haven’t achieved anything’. I must have been completely delusional.
‘Haa… I can still fight…’
My mouth moved, but my body could not move properly. The short conversation I had with the Princess would be my last words. Even so, I desperately tried to stay conscious.
‘Ah, damn it…’
My vision suddenly narrowed.
Would I also become a member of the dead, swallowed up by the darkness? I could not move… I could not see… I could not feel anything anymore. I still had a lot of regrets. But I felt that this was the end of my life.
―― However, my life did not end there.
‘I will never let you, who wish to live, die. Be strong. I’ll cast a healing spell on you now.’
She reached out her hand to me, a soldier from the enemy army.
Her beautiful white hair, which sways slightly, was reflected in my eyes.
‘…Why are you… helping me?’
I asked in a dry voice for her reasons.
‘That’s… well. I’m just returning a favor from the past. I have no other intentions. Besides, you still can’t die, can you? It should be a benefit for you, who wants a future. You should accept it gracefully.’
After saying that, she finished my treatment and left the place.
Her back looked much larger than her figure.
We hardly had any contact. When the relationship between the kingdom and the empire was not yet bad, we exchanged a few words for just a few minutes at the military academy in the royal capital… that was all.
I do not remember doing her any favors. That was why I felt like I owed her more than she owed me.
‘We meet again. What do you want to do? Kill each other this time?’
As I traveled through the battlefield, I often ran into Princess Valtrune.
She did not have any guards with her.
Using her high physical ability and magic power, and command abilities in the army, she fought on the front lines. It was hard to believe that she was a princess of a country. However, because even the half-hearted soldiers could not even put a scratch on her, such behavior was allowed.
In addition, the Imperial Army led by Princess Valtrune was overwhelmingly strong, as evidenced by their successive victories over the kingdom’s army in various places. Originally, as an enemy, I should have defeated her as soon as I found her. However, I had completely lost the will to do so.
‘I don’t intend to kill you. I’m not so shameless as to point my sword at someone who saved my life.’
When facing her, my turbulent emotions naturally calmed down.
‘You’re surprisingly kind to the enemy princess.’
‘That’s my line. I’ve never seen or heard of an enemy princess who heals enemy soldiers…’
‘Hehe, I suppose that’s true.’
Looking at her face, even if it was on a harsh battlefield, my impulse to kill instantly subsided.
―― It was a strange feeling.
Even before being a benefactor, the gentle aura that Princess Valtrune carried around her was comfortable, and there was always a sense of release from the tense string that was stretched tight. It was probably because her gaze toward me did not contain any malice.
‘You haven’t changed at all since before. You’re still kind.’
‘I’m not kind. I’m just a murderer…’
I said so, but she shook her head and smiled gently.
‘You’re kind. When we were in the academy, I only talked to you for a moment before the entrance ceremony and at the end of graduation. However, I certainly know you’ve been making an effort every day… That’s why I wanted to help you.’
‘…Even though we’re enemies?’
‘Yes, even though we’re enemies, I still wanted to help you.’
Her words remained in my mind.
‘But, I don’t regret helping you.’
Her dazzlingly gentle eyes were fixed on me. I will never forget being captivated by her beautiful blue eyes… Even if my life were to end, this memory would never disappear. This feeling will last forever.