Zero no Tsukaima is a web novel completed by Yamaguchi Noboru.
This webnovel is right now ongoing.
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Chapter One: Von Zerbst
Within the deep, dark woods of Germania stood Von Zerbst Castle. But even though it was called a castle, it was considerably different from the Tristanian ones.
The old stone-made building probably had a splendid history, and the repeatedly added random extensions increased its original size twofold. The architectural style was uncertain as well. The rising top looked of ancient Tristain and Gallia, the high steeples belonged to Varon’s style, while the middle wall underwent a ma.s.sive transformation under Albion’s architectural influence.
Next to the delicate Romalian brick tower stood a large Germanian citadel made of ma.s.sive rocks… Thus, ignoring the looks and prestige, this building was a mess. Tristain’s and Gallia’s n.o.bles furrowed their eyebrows upon seeing such a castle, and the respective liberty and innovation of Germania, the Country of Fire, made them frown deeply.
In this castle, within a room devoted to the cheerful and warm feeling of spring, Saito was sound asleep. Because he had just taken part in a big adventure, his body felt very tired.
In his deep sleep, Saito was dreaming. It was a nostalgic dream.
A dream of his hometown. A dream of Earth…
His mother was cooking in the kitchen, and he watched her from behind.
“Mother, what are you making?”
“Your favorite – hamburger steak.”
For some reason, such a casual conversation pierced hard through his chest. His mother turned around. Her familiar face. The same gentle, calm face of his mother…
“Saito, you, why are you crying?”
Saito rubbed his eyes. They were full of tears.
“Such a strange child.”
Said the smiling face of his mother as it changed into the face of Tabitha’s mother. Surprised, Saito let out a cry.
Saito woke up from his yell.
It was already the second dream of his mother. Being so far away, it was a wonder he could recall her face at all.
Saito rose from bed and looked out of the window. The sun had already gone halfway. The bed next to him, where Malicorne and Guiche should have been sleeping, was empty. No one had slept in it for some time.
Saito dressed and turned to leave the room…
Louise stood in the doorway.
“Oh, Louise. Good morning.”
For some reason, Louise shyly cast her eyes down when Saito greeted her.
“Lunch has been prepared. Everyone is waiting.”
“You should have woken me up then.”
“I tried. But you would not wake up.”
“I-I see. Sorry.”
Saito said looking away. He became embarra.s.sed remembering the dream. It may have been a journey deep in the dream world, but the dream of his mother was strangely embarra.s.sing.
Both Tabitha and her mother had been saved from Gallia‘s old castle five days ago. The previous night, they had arrived at Kirche‘s family’s, the Von Zerbst’s, residence in Germania. Louise and Saito, Kirche, Guiche and Montmorency, Malicorne, Tabitha and her mother; overall – eight people and Sylphid managed to safely cross the border.
Gallian military, after learning that Tabitha and her mother went missing, placed checkpoints along the highway, checking pa.s.sing travelers, but on every such point Sylphid would transform and Guiche would cast a spell pretending to be an important person, thus fooling the check.
Because the local Gallian army had fallen into disorder, it was easy to escape the line. The morale of local soldiers who stood in the check was low. Some soldiers would not even do a proper check on carriages, before mumbling the unmotivated “Go.” The Kingdom of Gallia apparently did not care about prefectures too much, often excluding the army‘s direct control.
The best troops were placed on the border with Germania. Calling themselves the Knights of Roses, were a squad of elite knights placed there.
The party was nervous.
When they thoroughly rummaged the carriage, they found the disguised Tabitha.
Make-up was wiped from the face of the sleeping Tabitha,
It was the young leader of the knights, who introduced himself as Castelmorr.
That moment, Kirche grasped her wand and Saito pulled out his sword.
However, Castelmorr got out of the carriage and loudly proclaimed,
“All clear! You may pa.s.s!”
Border pa.s.sage was permitted. When the carriage crossed the border, they sent their expression of grat.i.tude to the splendid knight. He, who should have captured Tabitha, Saito, and others, had let them go.
When Tabitha woke up and they told her about the incident, she just calmly said “I see.”
“Even though he was not an ally, he was not an enemy either. I was relieved.”
Saito recalled the conversation upon crossing the national border and nodded.
“She is asleep in the room over there.”
Louise, from the room prepared for them, pointed to the door across the corridor in front of them. Saito nodded and slightly pushed the door. It was not locked. Making a slight sound, the door opened.
From the opening, Saito glanced into the room.
Mother and child, hugging each other tight, were sleeping soundly on the big bed.
Tabitha and her mother had been saved by Saito and the others.
“Anyway, they are finally safe.”
Louise, who stood by his side, nodded.
“Oh well. Besides, this is Germania… Gallia can’t do much here.”
Saito nodded and, feeling uneasy, asked,
“Hey, yesterday, when you sent the letter…”
The previous night, Louise sent a letter addressed to Henrietta in Tristain by owl. It was filled with Louise’s lengthy apologies.
First, it began with a report that Tabitha had been rescued safely, followed by an apology for crossing the border without permission; secondly, a statement of her willingness to take any punishment needed and the hope to return within three days’ time.
“You didn’t write about my arrest, did you?”
Though he watched closely as Louise wrote the letter, because he did not understand the characters, he could not understand the content. Louise would not take his crimes for herself, would she? He thought, and asked tentatively.
Louise responded with a calm face.
Saito looked deeply into Louise’s eyes for a while. They were filled with little shining sparkles.
“Really? Aren’t you lying this way? It all started because of me; thus, it is me who should bear the responsibility…”
For a moment, Louise’s sparkling eyes lost their light as she fixed her sight on Saito.
“If you are caught, then you won’t be able to return…”
“Hey! That’s true, but… I am responsible as a sub-commander of the Knight Corps…”
Saito had changed recently. When he was talking about “responsibility” or “what he can do in this world,” it all was making Louise perplexed. Didn’t he want to return to his world?
“Yeah, yeah. That story is already over. Let’s go, everyone is waiting.”
Saito, before turning to leave, peeked one last time as Tabitha snuggled closer to her mother. Then… something deep in his heart became strangely numb.
Saito and Louise left the mother and child asleep, and went to everyone who had been waiting in the dinning room.
While in the corridor, seeing the Von Zerbst castle’s furniture, Louise started complaining,
“Pshh, it’s the first time I have seen a residence with such a bad taste.”
Even so, Saito did not know a thing about the quality of the furniture in Halkeginia’s castles anyway. Well, it had a lot of Tristainian statues and paintings lined up.
“Making this corridor in the manner of Tristain and then for some reason placing these paintings from the east in it. Meaningless. Or perhaps rather than stressing over the eastern paintings, I should be angrier about the mimicry of Tristain to begin with. Either way it’s r.e.t.a.r.ded.”
Louise pointed at the image of a G.o.d with many arms. For a moment it looked like a statue of the G.o.ddess of mercy with one thousand hands that Saito saw during a school excursion. Apparently, Louise could not forgive such casual decorating manner in using the furniture of her hometown.
“Look, this is Giovanni Lascault’s religious painting. Its tint completely mismatches the color of the wall. Ugh, these upstart n.o.bles of Germania…”
As Louise continued fuming about, Saito said in an embarra.s.sed voice,
“Walls, statues, paintings – they all are alright… But this… Look of yours…”
“What’s wrong with my look?”
Tsun – Louise turned around to face him and asked.
“…You didn’t take your dancer costume off?”
Underneath the mantle Louise was still wearing the same oriental dancer clothes that she wore while saving Tabitha.
With all its worth, these clothes were designed only to conceal the most pivotal points, and it was embarra.s.sing, whatever exposed place he guided his eyes on.
“Reluctantly so. It’s the only clothing I have to wear.”
For some reason, when Louise said that, her voice sounded triumphant.
“Argh! Put on the clothes you wore before changing to it – the Academy of Magic school uniform!”
“That? It’s dirty, so out of the question. I won’t put it on.”
“This is dirty in a different way! There!”
Saito shouted while turning his eyes away from Louise. Seeing her like that was making him feel nervous.
“That, isn’t this Kirche’s family house? That sort of attire is very suitable for Kirche’s family as it seems from the looks of the servants.”
Just then, a young female employee wrapped in showy red clothes happened to pa.s.s by.
Louise calmly hid her body behind the mantle. Indeed, this way, Louise’s slender limbs were completely hidden.
“Hey, she can’t see you that way!”
Once the employee pa.s.sed, while giving a quick bow, swish – Louise provocatively swung the edge of her mantle, exposing the silky skin of her thigh. A teasing smile formed on her pink lips.
Swish-swish More of Louise’s white skin caught Saito’s eyes, making him color up and turn his face away.
“S-Stop it… Your mantle fluttering like that…”
This made Louise’s face blush deeply, yet she continued to stare at him.
“W-Why, well, you, uh, looking like that…”
“Looking like what?”
“Skin and stuff…”
“Are you stuuuupid? Are you excited just by looking at your master’s body? Unbelievable! How vulgar! You should die. In the forest.”
Blushing, Louise declared.
“Do you have any sense of shame?!”
“S-Shame for what! There’s nothing wrong with being seen by a familiar!”
Louise countered in a flurry.
Firstly, in the carriage, Saito’s feverish gaze when he looked at her dancer’s clothing, was very amusing. But as if showing was not satisfying enough, she went up with the whole provocative ending.
However, trying to act calm was extremely embarra.s.sing. What the heck was I thinking about – after everyone fell asleep, Louise raged wiggling in her blanket. She raged and raged, continuing to worry and worry more.
What would G.o.d think, seeing her present act?
Not just G.o.d, but Chii-nee-sama too?
While thinking so, cheeks burning from shame, Louise cursed herself.
While within the carriage, her distress continued… Louise pondered.
Though it was shameful to death, it also felt good.
Aah, his gaze, solely focused on me and not on the other girls — that felt really good. By all means, I should wear these dancing clothes more. It was embarra.s.sing, but this strange feeling of triumph was stronger than the feeling of shame.
“Stop scrutinizing so much. Anyway, there’s no ulterior motive and no deeper meaning to this. I’m just wearing what I want to wear.”
Louise said in an angry voice. Though in truth it made her feel wonderful and glad, it would make her very furious if he realized that; although she could not say why it would make her mad. With such contradictions struggling within her heart, Louise continued to speak.
“Stop looking so intensively at me. Haah, what’s a life-form not given by birth? You.”
Naturally, Saito’s pride was severely damaged by such words. Saito turned his neck to the other side, thus completely averting the glance from Louise.
The two walked silently for a while. Eventually, missing his gaze, Louise started to lose her temper. It was so trivial.
Finding the mirror put on the wall, Louise halted in front of it.
“Who is this cute girl?”
“Hey, move on.”
“I think that’s me.”
Saito kept his head turned to the other side. Louise was growing increasingly angry. In her mind she started repeating strings of angry words. Loveyouhesaidloveyouhesaidloveyouhesaid.
Irritated, Louise went for her secret trump. She placed her delicate finger on her cheek.
“H-Hey, let’s go.”
Nervous, Saito urged Louise. As always, he was looking at the opposite direction. Kaaaaan – a lot of blood went up to Louise’s head. I’m acting so cute, I’m acting so cute and yet… Can’t let that happen. Louise’s pride was as high as a mountain and blood soared to her head. Result: Louise’s temper broke loose.
“B, B-B-B, B-B…”
“B? What about it?”
“B, B-B-B-B-B, my breast cloth, i, i-i-i, i-i, if I remove it, w-w, wonder how I would look. s.e.x appeal increases cuteness, no doubt.”
“There’s no doubt. s.e.x appeal easily attracts my familiar.”
Saito, determined not to lose, stood his ground. It was like this in his head – looking at Louise now would mean her victory and his defeat. Thus, with his right hand he pinched himself, desperately fighting against the overwhelming desire “to look.”
“Then the b-b-breast cloth w-w-w-will go.”
“T-take it off then. Th-that kind of stuff, no-n.o.body would even want to look at it.”
“So be it then.”
“So be it.”
“I’m taking it off now, okay.”
Saito applied more power to the finger digging into his thigh. From the pain, cold sweat flowed. Seriously, flowed.
However, he wouldn’t look. A man decided not to look; so, he won’t look.
Louise gave a lot of care to the cloth which covered her chest. “Move,” but the hand wouldn’t move even if ordered. It was shameful. No, shame was not the only thing. Death. Her head would explode and she would die from shame.
But if she took it off…
While she should be able to reclaim her position as a n.o.ble from the Queen herself, her pride as a n.o.ble would be lost forever. Since that would be the case, she must fix her familiar’s eyes firmly on her body or she would regret it.
Even though she was confused, because blood went up her head, Louise didn’t notice such thing. Her pride was driving her insane.
With a shout she lowered her breast cloth.
Saito was surprised. Even if he were not surprised, the moment when Louise shouted, his head moved on its own, disregarding his intentions. And thus, his head graciously turned to Louise.
The first thing Saito’s eyes jumped on was the pulled-down fabric of the dancing costume, covering the b.r.e.a.s.t.s, Louise’s slender fingers covering the exposed top of her b.r.e.a.s.t.s… which looked rather plain.
Saito, with a reflex speed at the insect level, jumped at Louise. And clung close to her.
“Sorry, can’t help it.”
Recovered from her daze, Louise gripped the back of Saito’s head and tried to pull him off.
“W-Wait a minute… stop! W-W-W-What are you thinking…?”
Then she saw Saito’s feverish eyes. W-What a look. Such a crazy pa.s.sion that she, she… contrary to her will, Louise closed her eyes.
“W-We… are very likely to be imprisoned when returning back to Tristain, right?”
Then a painful thought pierced Louise’s mind. If… she were to be put into prison for all this…
Then she would not be able to meet Saito for a while.
“…then if so, maybe it’s the only time we can be alone as a couple?”
After those words… the time spent held firmly in Saito’s arms felt irreplaceable. Those thoughts, and Saito’s pa.s.sionate look, deprived the last remains of the strength from her resisting hand.
“I-Is it alright?”
Louise, still nervous and shy, slightly parted her lips and puckered them up.
“S-Stop a-asking, idiot…”
Louise, looking very shy, was so lovely at this moment, that Saito’s head started spinning.
He hugged her close to him.
Louise’s mind was in a turmoil.
Aah, I am sorry ancestor-sama. Louise Françoise is about to be swept off her feet in the bitter enemy Von Zerbst’s castle. When I pa.s.sed through the gates, I never thought it would lead to this. I am sorry ancestor-sama, mother-sama, elder sister-sama, Chii-nee-sama – everyone – I am sorry…
The pa.s.sion was so strong that her mind started to leave, fading away…
But then, with the corner of her eye, she noticed red hair moving across the corridor. Louise’s reaction was blitz-quick. She kicked Saito in the groin and quickly leaped back to her feet.
“Because you were both missing for so long, I came to check up on you.”
Guiche put a hand on his chin and shook his head.
“You, what are you doing in other people’s homes?” Kirche asked, not hiding the amazement in her voice.
Louise’s mouth opened and closed few times, vaguely trying to remember any letter of the alphabet to utter. She shivered while cold sweat dripped down her skin.
“ An i-insect leeched to my neck so I tried to take it off.”
“And of course for that you needed to take off your breast cloth?” Kirche asked with a malicious smile.
Louise’s body stiffened. Slowly, she dropped on her knees and her shoulders sagged.
Meanwhile, Saito was busy twitching on the floor.
Kirche approached Louise. She placed a hand on her shoulder, mischief was dazzling from her smile.
“Had enough of your l.u.s.tful antics? And I thought no one would best me.”
“T-That’s not it, it has nothing to do with l.u.s.t. It kind of shifted on its own!”
Shaking her temple, Louise came off with a desperate excuse.
“It’s alright. I have a gift for you.”
“It’s a letter from Tristain.”
The party, with tensed faces, gathered in Kirche’s room.
“Surely, it must be because she is so very angry, that queen of your country.” Said a relaxed Kirche as she spread her hands.
Louise carefully eyed the letter that Kirche pa.s.sed to her. The envelope was made from high-cla.s.s parchment and had the Kingdom of Tristain’s signature placed on it. The Crest of Lilies that she got used to seeing… a reply from Henrietta so soon.
In this letter, mine and the others’ fates are written. How did Henrietta judge me?
Her hand trembled from the tension. Saito watched her face nervously as well. Guiche, Montmorency, and Malicorne held their breath too, watching Louise’s act.
Kirche carefully said to Louise, who was still not breaking the seal,
“Hey Louise, you know about that letter. It is not necessary to return to Tristain. You can stay in my house.”
“You aren’t worried about our teacher, Colbert?”
Colbert volunteered to take Louise’s and the others’ place so that they could pa.s.s the border.
Afterwards, there was no news from him. Even the crew of the Ostland that arrived at Von Zerbst had no information.
“If it’s Jean, then it will be alright. Surely, he hid himself somewhere. The report will come sooner or later. But if he were caught, then I would go on another rescuing adventure.”
“No good. It would be much tougher than before.”
Then Louise took a deep breath and opened the envelope in a dash. The letter inside had just a single piece of paper. And a short sentence was written in there. Reading it, Louise started to tremble.
“W-What is it?! What’s written in there!?”
Saito pressed her, unable to endure the tension any longer.
“Just this much was written? And more importantly, what is written on that? Give it to me.”
Kirche took the letter from Louise’s hand.
“What, ‘Henrietta will wait at the La Vallière estate.’ My, isn’t that good. She will wait at your family’s home. Maybe it won’t be so tough there.”
Kirche said pretending not to know. Louise’s shivering reached its peak. She just managed to utter.
“Why? Isn’t it good if you can speak with your family – they might protect you.”
“Far from protecting, I will be killed.”
As if giving up, Louise lowered her head.
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