Baldo came to the banks of the Great Orva today as well.
He didn’t wear any of his leather armor, nor did he have on his leather cap.
Staboros was by his side.
The cold wind blew ceaselessly by, playing around with his long hair and beard.
He thought back to what happened at the Coendelas’ castle.
Why did I lose myself to such rage?
He had originally never planned to kill Cardos.
As if it were a mantra did he repeat it to himself many times before approaching the castle.
If Baldo killed the man now, the state of peace that had descended upon the land at last would be shattered in an instant.
War would erupt, demanding blood for blood, and the people would suffer.
So too would Telsia suffer harm, thus allowing the kaejel to run rampant throughout the lands.
The result of the which would likely be the gradual weakening and eventual destruction of House Coendela.
Yet the peace of the commonfolk was more important than bringing Cardos to justice.
There would be tranquility if Baldo allowed Cardos to remain the Great Lord, while keeping the man in a humble position.
If King Wendellant were to mete punishment upon the Coendelas, however, Baldo would naturally not object.
If it happened, he was at least thankful for the mere fact that Telsia would not be swept up in the war between Palzam and the Coendelas.
Cardos assumed that King Wendellant only wished to have his and Eidra’s son at his side for sentimental reasons, that he wouldn’t bestow upon him the right of royal succession.
That was wrong, however.
King Wendellant was forty-nine, yet Jourlan was his only son.
For a king to display regal authority required an heir and in fact, when the Chamber of Elders last convened to choose a successor to the throne, many of them found his lack of children problematic.
At the time, one of the elders said as follows:
Although it was never revealed to the public, Prince Wendellant did unite with a woman in holy matrimony, and they have a single son who is now twenty-eight years old.
Furthermore, that child bears fingerseals nearly identical to that of the first king’s.
He then displayed these prints to the rest of the chamber.
This was a powerful force that propelled the prince to the throne.
Thus, though it was not made public, Jourlan already possessed the right of royal succession by the decision of the Chamber of Elders.
It was also erroneous to assume that they would look down on his mother for being born in the frontier.
Curiously, there was a story oft told in the Palzamic Kingdom that portrayed the first King of Palzam bestowing the role of defending the gap in Jhan Dessa Roh to his dearest friend.
Upon hearing this woman was the princess of House Telsia, who valiantly dedicated their lives to defending against the invasion of the kaejel, they were struck with a profound impression of the lady.
Additionally, the fact that House Telsia did not possess a court title instead worked in their favor, and thus the chamber had already agreed to interpret her standing as being equivalent to that of a marquis.
The wedding between King Wendellant and Eidra had already been finalized after he returned from the frontier as a prince and consulted with his mentor and close friend, a man in the priesthood.
Although the bride was not present, the ceremony of vows had taken place regardless.
It may have been an arduous process, but as the prince had managed to get the signatures of three qualified observers, it was an official ceremony without any possible room for doubt.
Yet he kept it hidden from the realm of politics.
After receiving this explanation and seeing the official documents, the Chamber of Elders ratified the marriage.
Baldo heard this account from the very man who helped Prince Wendellant finalize the marriage between the two.
In other words, he heard it from Father Bali Tode.
His position as a cleric was only a temporary measure, and he said upon returning to the kingdom would he join the privy council.
Thus unbeknownst to Cardos, Jourlan already had a position in the kingdom of unimaginable prestige.
No one could predict how easy it would be to hold onto such a position.
Everything could change, depending on Wendellant’s health and lifespan.
But for now it was okay.
Cardos would not dare to do anything reckless either.
It had been many years since a Great Lord rose to power in this region.
He would not be removed from his position either.
Baldo prayed for a future filled with happiness and peace.
Thus did Baldo not need to concern himself with such matters.
The most important issue to him was why he had felt such fury.
That is a problem, thought Baldo.
Was all of the rage I felt toward Cardos born of my love for Princess Eidra?
Or did I take action purely out of spite for the man?
He deeply thought.
He deeply thought.
He deeply thought.
And then he came to a conclusion.
There was certainly spite contained in those actions.
I thought he must face a reckoning for all the things he did to Princess Eidra and House Telsia.
At the very least, I wanted his wicked deeds to see the light of day.
But that was not all.
I could not forgive the man for trampling upon the weak, the guiltless commonfolk.
That was why I gave in to my anger and engaged his men in battle.
It would be unforgivable for any other reason.
Thus with my actions can I preserve the legacy of the princess.
The princess would be proud to see her knight so thoroughly uphold his vows.
If I acted purely out of a personal grudge, I would have killed the man.
There is no greater vengeance.
The hatred that festered within me was for the commonfolk, and for the tranquility of their lands.
It was to do as the princess would have wanted.
It would be unforgivable for any other reason.
Is that what you want to hear, princess?
At that moment, Baldo felt as if he could hear a melody coming atop the surface of the water.
One in Eidra’s voice.
It was a melody called “The Pilgrim Knight.”
It was a song Baldo had learned once from a wandering knight and passed down to Eidra—a terribly, terribly ancient melody.
Ah, it appears the princess is happy with my choice,
After Baldo had secretly conversed with Father Bali Tode at the lakeside manor, he wrote three letters and handed one to the cleric and two to the thief, Julchaga,
The first letter was addressed to King Wendellant.
In it, he explained the entire situation as well he could from his knowledge.
As proof, he included the knife that originally housed the seal.
The second letter was addressed to Jourlan.
In it, he told him the situation as well, and instructed him to take all of his fingerseals and hand them to Julchaga.
The third letter was addressed to the Earl of Lints.
In it, he asked him to deliver Jourlan’s seals to the margrave, and thus to King Wendellant.
After leaving Baldo’s side, it took Julchaga one week to arrive at Lints with Joulan’s letter in hand.
It was with frightening speed that he completed these tasks, considering the destinations were so far apart.
One would hardly believe the man never used a horse.
After leaving the Coendelas’ castle, Baldo did not stop by Pacra and instead went directly to Lints.
He did so as to return the horse he borrowed from the earl.
He did not go to Pacra, because he was still unable to decide what to do with his life from here on.
He still had to report to House Telsia about the situation as it was, however.
Julchaga was in Lints when Baldo arrived, thankfully, thus was he able to deliver a message on Baldo’s behalf.
Baldo intended to write them a letter initially, but he could not as his right hand once more refused to move.
Julchaga had an exceptional memory, however, so he had already memorized the general state of affairs.
Baldo simply wrote House Telsia to ask the young man for any details and sent him off to report to the family.
Father Bali Tode had probably already arrived in the royal capital by now, and Baldo suspected he was in the midst of explaining everything to the king.
He imagined the king would send once more for Jourlan, and it would be then that the two could meet.
After that, Jourlan would possess much more than mere fame and status.
Yet Baldo knew Jourlan would be able to take care of himself.
And then yet another thing dawned on him.
What should I do now, he thought.
He no longer had any reason to go away on his journey.
There was nothing preventing him from returning to Pacra.
There was nothing preventing him…
Baldo reached into his coat pocket and winced.
Ever since he went on a rampage in the Coendelas’ castle had his right shoulder grown stiff as if bound by shackles and constantly radiated pain.
It was difficult for him to raise his arm from the shoulder even now.
Baldo endured the pain as he retrieved the letter from Eidra and read it once more.
It was just like her to use paper made from soi leaf.
She had always hated animal skin parchment and scrunched her nose at the smell.
My dear old friend, Sir Baldo Rhowen,
Firstly, I would like to congratulate you.
You have finally been set free into this great big world.
Through a peculiar course of events, you joined in the service of House Telsia, and with sincerity, love, and gallantry have you blessed the people of these lands with peace.
There is no one who does not know of your bravery and dignity.
But I know you are like a bird, one that does not belong in a cage.
There was a part of you that always yearned to fly far away, high above the clouds.
I remember the small table in that tranquil courtyard of ours.
With you, me, and little Joul.
You told us so many fascinating stories of the forests, mountains, and kaejel.
Many, many stories of combat.
Every now and then came the accounts of some curious food you had tried.
To you, both combat and unfamiliar foods were the very definition of adventure.
Your tales were always brimming with the excitement of a new encounter.
As I listened, it was as if I was right there beside you on that adventure.
Those days were truly fun.
The three of us with our exciting stories in that sunlit courtyard—I wonder if we looked like a family.
Now you are free.
Spread your wings and embrace the wind, and let it take you far, far away to the distant reaches of this world.
And occasionally—and only occasionally is fine—if you could write me a letter of all the marvelous sights you see and all the fantastic foods you try, there would be no greater happiness in my life.
I hope you will forever be in good health.
With my eternal love and friendship,
I suppose I could return, but I no longer need to worry about House Telsia.
What to do?
To go forth?
Baldo looked up to the sky.
Enveloped in a cold wind did it stretch higher and higher, to unimaginable limits.
It was as if the sky reflected the scenery of Baldo’s heart.
The years had taken a toll on his mind, that much was made clear.
So too had he gone berserk at that infernal castle of the Coendelas.
His heart now was clear and free, like he had never felt before.
Let’s set off on a journey.
This entire distance from Pacra to Lints amounts to but a mere speck of the continent’s eastern frontier.
The frontier is vast, and the areas in it inhabited by people are only a tiny fraction of the entire thing.
Yet even that fraction is far bigger than any person could traverse in their lifetime.
Let’s go on a journey.
And not only that.
Returning to House Telsia would only allow Cardos to keep an eye on me.
That which you cannot see is far more terrifying than that which you can.
He will not be able to do any harm, for I could always be watching.
Even if I lose my life on this journey, he will forever fear my gaze as long as he doesn’t find out.
I will never forget my gratitude to House Telsia, but it’s fine now.
I have performed my duties for many years.
Surely there will be no harm in enjoying the last bit of time I have left in my life.
Let’s go on a journey after all.
Let’s go somewhere I’ve never gone and see something I’ve never seen.
Let’s eat curious, delicious food aplenty.
I do not believe I have many more years left in me, but let’s set off on a fantastic journey without anything to hold me down, living as through truly alive and dying a true death.
Baldo resolved his heart and tore Eidra’s letters into shreds, letting the wind take them where it pleased.
The pieces of paper were caught by the breeze and fluttered over the Great Orva, eventually disappearing to a place no one would ever know.
Although he couldn’t see it from here, far up the Orva stood the sacred mountain, Fusa.
It was said that when people die, their souls gathered atop Fusa and were guided by the holy spirits to the garden of the gods.
I wonder if the princess’ soul too dwells in the fluttering winds of Fusa.
Then I suppose I will go north.
I will head for Fusa.
I’ve heard it takes even longer than a year to arrive there on foot, but I am in no hurry.
I should take as many detours as I wish, searching for rare sights and delicious food to try on the way.
If I arrive at Fusa with life in my body yet, then I will consider then where to go next.
Next to Baldo, thinking of all the places he would go, was Staboros watching with a joyous look.
Thus the old knight’s journey began.
End of the Prologue