Book Two, Chapter 1: Doriatessa

1

 “Julchaga, I see you over there snapping and bending branches like some kind of game.
 It’s as if you’re a child.”

 “Huh, this?
 Don’t think too much about it, big guy.
 Even boss was pulling off some leaves and sticking them in his pockets earlier.
 Granted, he’s already thrown them away in the river.”

 As he listened to the two talk back and forth, Baldo stared at the pochwa leaf in the palm of his hand.
 He’d plucked it from a plant mere moments ago while riding atop Yweitan.
 It was a simple pochwa leaf, the kind that could be found anywhere.
 They had departed from the misty valley early in the morning, from the lujra teant settlement.
 The pochwa leaves back in the misty valley were nearly twice as large as this one, far thicker and with small hairs growing all over, emitting a pungent smell.
 All of the vegetation grew to massive proportions.
 Baldo felt as if made into a dwarf in their presence,
 There were also many trees that Baldo had never before seen.
 There truly must be something different about that place.
 What if the vegetation there grew similarly to the wildlife beyond Jhan Dessa Roh?1
 The thought inexplicably occurred to him.

2

 After leaving Chesa, the group bade the young Ortha and his retainer farewell and headed northeast, making their way toward the highest mountain ridge.
 The journey took them five days.

 As they looked east from atop the peak, they saw a sprawling valley below, as if dug deeply from the earth by the hands of a giant.
 The entire valley was covered with a thick white fog.
 There was a lujra teant community within that fog.
 Far beyond it did the land once more rise, peaking in a ridge of mountaintops even higher than their current vantage point.
 Jhan Dessa Roh stretched from north to south as if running along the ridge line.
 It was a spectacular view.

 Jhan Dessa Roh was the boundary that separated the lands of man from the dense, lush forests in which dwelt the kaejel.
 The wall was over a thousand paces tall and nearly two hundred thick.
 These two hundred paces encircled the world of humankind.
 This creation was too deliberate to possibly be a product of nature, yet the sheer scale of the colossal structure defied the abilities of man.
 It was said in some folktales around the land that it was built in a single night to protect the people by an ancient king of yore.
 If one tore their eyes from Jhan Dessa Roh and looked directly north would they see yet another thing in the far distance.

 Fusa, the mountain of souls.

 Neither Baldo, Godon, nor Julchaga had ever seen Fusa.
 Yet with a single glance did they know it was this very mountain.
 There was no other possibility.
 It was far away, even further than the sprawling mountain ranges weaving throughout one another and disappearing into the horizon beyond the plains.
 With a pristine white peak did it stand tall above all the rest.
 It was as if the top of Fusa was capped in an eternal snow.
 For them to see the mountain from such a monumental distance was astounding by itself.

 I can finally see it.

 Something stirred in Baldo’s heart as he gazed at the distant Fusa.
 The other two were silent as well.

 After descending into the valley of mist, it was not long before the travelers were surrounded by a group of lujra teants.
 Though they were initially on their guard, upon seeing Moula safe and sound did the tension in the air slowly dissipate.
 Baldo tried to be on his way, yet the little Moula insisted that he meet his parents, so the trio decided to set up camp near the lujra teant settlement.
 The next morning, Moula took them to his parents.
 Though the boy’s father only reached Baldo’s chest, he had an exceptionally large build for a lujra teant and exuded an air of dignity and sagacity.
 Fortunately, Moula’s father was versed in the human language as well.
 Baldo learned from him that there were twelve tribes of lujra teants and that these tribes existed in a strict hierarchy.
 Moula’s father was chieftain of the fourth-ranking tribe.
 Those with such a position were apparently expected to learn the languages of the humans and various demihuman races.
 As Moula was to inherit this position, he too was taught the human language from a very young age.
 The village then brought out a variety of curious fruits and vegetables and shared them with the trio.
 They were clearly doing everything they could to express their goodwill for the men who had saved Moula from his imprisonment at Lord Enziah’s castle.
 The trio left the valley behind on the morning of their third day at this settlement, but before they did, Moula’s father left Baldo with a rather perplexing farewell.

 “Benevolent human Baldo, you must never again set foot in these lands.
 If the time comes when you have no other choice, however, and you are welcomed by our people, then perhaps humans and the lujra teant will once more enjoy the bonds of friendship.”

 Baldo etched these words into his heart, however cryptic they were, and he left the valley of mist.

3

 The group journeyed northwest.
 On the third day, Julchaga commented,

 “It looks like it’ll be around three or four more days before we run into another human settlement.”

 Baldo squinted at his surroundings, yet he found not the faintest traces of buildings or smoke in the distance, thus he asked Julchaga in a confused voice what made him so confident.

 “It’s the smell.
 The smell,”

 was the response, though try as he might, Baldo could not detect anything that might indicate the existence of humans with his nose.
 After three more days, as the trio was making their way through the mountains, Julchaga suddenly said,

 “There’s something here.
 I’m going to take a look.
 Tread softly,”

 before climbing down toward a swamp.
 Before long came the shout,

 “Over here!!
 Someone’s passed out!!”

 Baldo and Godon searched for a way down the side of the slope and finally arrived at this swamp, making their way to where Julchaga was.
 There was a knight on the ground, lying unmoving at the base of a tree.
 A knight fully clad in metal armor.
 It was a wonderfully splendid set of armor, signifying the noble status of its wearer.
 There was a horse next to this knight.
 A fine steed.
 Julchaga bent over the knight’s helmet and leaned in close, sniffing around.

 “Looks like they were done in by some kind of paralysis-inducing drug.
 Some foul-smelling stuff too.
 I’d suggest removing the armor first and foremost.

 Unlike the process of putting on such armor, taking it off was not so arduous a task.
 Though he wondered why the young man didn’t simply do it himself, Baldo still walked over to first remove the helmet.
 He had Godon Zarcos prop up the knight from behind.
 It was terribly light.
 Both the armor and the person inside.
 The individual inside seemed to be thin and frail.
 It was likely this knight was still a young lad.
 He swiftly untied the straps and unfastened the hooks, removing the helmet.
 As he did, there spilled forth a bundle of luscious auburn hair.

 A lass!

 Though initially surprised, Baldo would naturally not lose his composure over such a thing.
 With Godon to help him, the two continued to remove the armor.
 The young woman was drenched in sweat.
 She was terribly feverish.

 Julchaga produced a damp cloth and offered it to Baldo.
 It seemed he was asking Baldo to wipe the sweat.
 And so he did, wiping the parts of the skin that were not covered by clothing.

 “Seems like quite the fever.
 Should we give her some medicine to lower it?”

 “I don’t know about that one, big guy.
 I think it’s best if we don’t lower her body heat.
 In fact, it might be a good idea to start a fire and draw out even more sweat.
 And of course, we need to keep her hydrated,”

 remarked Julchaga, and he immediately set out to build a campfire.
 It appeared this was where the trio would be spending the night.
 There was a suitable bedroll in the young woman’s belongings, thus did they spread it out and place her body atop, covering it with a cloak.
 It was Julchaga’s they used.
 Of the three, Julchaga only used the cloak they received from Clarsk when sleeping, and so it was normally kept atop Yweitan.
 Baldo retrieved several herbs with antitoxin properties from his bag and started to prepare a medicinal decoction.
 He added water to dilute the mixture, poured it into a cup, and cradling the woman in his arms said,

 Can you hear me?
 You must take control of your body.
 Drink this,

 touching the cup to her mouth, yet the female knight did not move her lips.
 With no other option, Baldo laid the young woman back down.
 After a while, she started to weakly groan.
 Perhaps she’s come to, thought Baldo, and he picked her up once more to administer the medicine.
 This continued many times throughout the night.

 Julchaga threw together a soup, and Godon Zarcos searched for firewood.
 The three took turns keeping watch over the fire as the others slept.
 Come dawn, the young woman’s moans started to grow pained and fierce, and a heavy sweat trickled down her body.
 By the time the morning sun sat comfortably in the sky was her breathing calm once more.

 “She should be fine now,”

 said Julchaga.
 The trio had a simple breakfast, and it was then the woman awoke.

4

 Although it appeared she had yet to regain full control over her body, she was at least able to speak.
 The young woman was cautious at first, but eventually she expressed her gratitude to the three, perhaps having been convinced of their kind intentions.
 She was a knight of the Golioran Empire by the name of Doriatessa Il-Pargier Covlien.
 The Golioran Empire was a country of considerable size, located far to the north of the Palzamic Kingdom.
 Baldo was initially shocked to hear the female knight had traveled so far, but after thinking about it some more, he realized the empire was perhaps closer than he thought, considering how far north from Pacra he’d traveled by this point.
 Regardless, this was still a country far beyond the great Orva.
 It was a curious thing for the nobility of such a place to venture to the deep frontier.

 The name Il-Pargier Covlien meant “Viscount of the territory of Covlien.”
 That would indicate this young woman was the ruler of a viscounty and head of her house.
 Not only did this catch Baldo by surprise, he could hardly believe his ears when she addressed herself as a knight.
 Women could not become knights, and there was no point to it even if they could.
 Not to mention, what use could such a thin, slender body serve on the battlefield?

 Doriatessa had traveled to these remote lands with a certain objective in mind, accompanied by two knights in training and one attendant.
 After having lunch the day before, her condition suddenly started to deteriorate.
 She fell from her horse, and her attendant quickly rushed to her side to administer medicine, yet it was then she realized her body was completely paralyzed.
 As the knights in training and the attendant made to tie her hands together, she realized that she was the victim of a conspiracy and managed to kill the three men.
 From the words of those who poisoned her, Doriatessa deduced that there were more assailants on the way, thus she did her best to escape as far as she could, eventually succumbing to the poison and falling unconscious.

 Baldo talked with Godon and Julchaga about the matter at hand and the three decided to head for the nearest human settlement.
 Though somewhat concerned about the supposed pursuers, they figured there was no outrunning the assailants on account of Baldo and Godon—not to mention it was vital that Doriatessa be allowed to recuperate.

 The young woman insisted on riding atop her horse, yet she was in no condition to grip the reins.
 Instead, they attached her armor to her horse with vines and had Julchaga lead the creature.
 Doriatessa herself was wrapped in two of the cloaks and carried in Baldo’s arms atop Yweitan.
 The young woman complained incessantly about this arrangement, but Baldo paid her no heed.
 She eventually gave in and stopped resisting, even nodding off after some time.

 “Is your right shoulder treating you alright, boss?”

 asked Julchaga, and Baldo replied both his shoulder and elbow felt perfectly fine.
 They arrived at a village before the sun set.
 The whole place seemed to be bustling with activity.
 They asked the mayor for lodging, and although he was shocked to see Doriatessa’s condition, he still led them to an abandoned house in the outskirts of the village.
 Baldo asked the man why the villagers seemed to be so distressed, and he responded that there was a wild beast attack and that several people were injured.
 There was also a child who went missing, and all attempts to locate him were met with failure.

 It would not be long before night fell.
 Searching the forests in darkness was fraught with danger.
 If it was necessary, however, it would be best to do so with a tightly-organized group, and those capable of combat had to work together.
 According to the mayor, there were those in the village who were capable of using bows and wielding spears.
 In the end, Godon Zarcos assisted with the search.
 Baldo stayed back in the village.
 They still had the pursuers to worry about, after all, and there was no guarantee the wild beast would not attack twice in the same day.

5

 Doriatessa slept quietly in her bed.
 She had some soup in the evening, and the mayor’s daughter had wiped her body down, changing her into a fresh set of clothing.
 Baldo felt a tad awkward, being alone with a young lady at a tender age such as this.
 The search party was surely some distance away by now, as he could no longer hear their voices.
It was almost hard to breathe.

 The young woman softly groaned.
 Perhaps she has awakened, thought Baldo as he came to her bedside with a small bowl of an herbal decoction.
 Perhaps she is wrestling with a nightmare, thought Baldo as he watched her body writhe and her expression contort.
 Baldo watched over her for some time, yet she continued to toss and turn.
 He set the medicine down and came even nearer, yet he knew not what to do.
 He wiped away the sweat on her forehead.
 The young woman’s agony seemed to never wane.
 Baldo looked down on her with pity and stroked her back with his left hand.
 It was in that moment Doriatessa shot up from the bed and embraced him.
 Though somewhat tall for a woman, she was a small next to Baldo.
 Her body was pressed up against his chest.
 She was trembling.
 Baldo held her left shoulder with his right hand to keep her steady and placed his left hand on her back.
 Through that large palm of his could he feel the young woman’s soft warmth.
 He slowly rubbed her back and whispered, it’s going to be alright, it’s going to be alright.
 Her body started to relax.
 She had surely fallen into deep slumber once more.
 Her forehead rested entirely on his chest.
 The sight brought a warm smile to his lips.
 When Baldo laid the woman back down onto her bed, she turned to the side and her nape passed beneath Baldo’s nose.
 From her sweaty body came a terribly strong, feminine scent.
 That aroma passed through his nostrils and settled into his lungs, exciting and paralyzing his nerves, nearly arousing a bestial instinct.
 In that moment, Baldo learned such instincts still lay dormant in his body, and it made him smile with discomfort.

 He put Doriatessa properly in her bed and tucked her in.
 Her face was beautiful as she slept, peaceful and unguarded.
 He wiped the sweat from her brow and moved her disheveled curls to the sides of her face.
 Baldo saw the young woman’s lips were dry, so he dipped a finger in the medicinal liquid and applied it to her lips.
 As if sensing the moisture in her sleep, she began to suck the liquid.
 He could tell she wanted more, thus he applied yet another drop, and once more did she suck it up.
 It was not until he repeated this ten times that she licked her lips with satisfaction and her breathing finally grew slow and rhythmical.

 Taking great care to not make any noise, Baldo retrieved his sword and left the small hut.
 Sarlier radiated her majesty in the sky before him.
 He inhaled the crisp, nighttime air deep into his lungs, drew the ancient sword, and cut down at the moon.
 By striking the unstrikable could he cleanse the hesitation in his soul.
 He suddenly looked behind him, feeling as if Doriatessa was there watching him, but he was naturally alone.

6

 It was shortly after the day dawned when the search party returned from their mission.
 They had managed to safely find not only the missing child but another man as well.
 In addition to saving these two, they managed to slay a dwarva and three zeyu ceeba, bringing the corpses back to the village—it was a bountiful haul.
 Godon Zarcos was naturally the one responsible for this achievement.

 It seemed all of this had come about when the villagers drove off a dwarva that appeared nearby.
 There were some who were injured in the affair, but such was often the case.
 The problem arose when one of the boys picking fruits in the forest lost his sense in a fluster and ran off in the direction of the dwarva.
 Upon witnessing this, one of the villagers ran after the boy—both of them managing to escape from the beast—yet in the end, the two found themselves far away from the settlement.
 The villager and the boy had been forced up a tree in their escape, finding themselves up against a wall, until they managed to spot the many torches in the distance and successfully cry for help.
 Having been guided to their location by the voices, the search party arrived to find a dwarva still residing at the base of the tree.
 The beast was in a frenzy, thus difficult to chase away.
 That was when Godon Zarcos approached the creature alone, and with a mere three strikes of his great battle hammer did he fell the dwarva.
 Then came three zeyu ceeba in a sudden ambush.
 Yet Godon slew these new enemies too without much concern.
 Not only that, Godon then proclaimed at that very spot that the spoils of this fight were to all go to the village.
 It was said the entire search party erupted into cheers at that moment and tied the beast corpses up, making their way home.
 After hearing that the search party returned so late due to the difficult transportation of the carcasses, those who waited with baited breath back at the village felt somewhat that their worries were wasted.

 Since the mayor’s daughter brought breakfast over, the three of them sat down to eat.
 She then went to take care of Doriatessa.
 After tending to his equipment, Godon Zarcos went to a tree in front of the shack and lied down next to it, using an exposed root as a pillow and starting to snore almost immediately.
 Julchaga slept next to him, covered by the shade.
 Baldo went to check how the three horses he left in the mayor’s care were doing and then returned to the hut.
 The mayor was in wonderfully high spirits and the horses generously fed.

7

 “Lord Zarcos, I heard you slew a dwarva and three zeya ceebu in but an instant,”

 said Doriatessa.
 It seemed she had recovered all her strength, for she ate her supper with gusto.

 “Shucks.
 It would not have been possible if not for Sir Baldo’s kind tutelage.
 Had it not been for him, why, I would never have used the battle hammer.
 And as for the zeyu ceeba, it was thanks to Julchaga’s quick warning.
 Had it not been for him, why, I would have surely met a miserable time.”

 Doriatessa herself seemed quite at home as she watched Godon smile.

 “Julchaga was the first to hear their cries for help as well.”

 “Oh?
 ”It seems you are quite quick on your feet, Julchaga.”

 “Ah jeez.
 You’re gonna make me blush with all those compliments.
 Heh-heh-heh.”

 It seemed Doriatessa did not harbor any suspicions or ill-will towards Julchaga, considering how  readily she ate at the same table with him and how friendly her words were.
 This was certainly uncommon for the nobility of the midlands.
 Perhaps she assumed he was some distant relative of the Earl of Lints, or perhaps even a lowborn bastard child of his.
 In reality, of course, Julchaga was none other than a bandit—one of considerable repute in the southern lands.
 For whatever reason, he decided to tag along on Baldo’s journey.
 That Baldo Rhowen too was an elderly wandering knight that had already cast aside his estate, embarking on a leisurely journey to the mountain of souls, Fusa.
 Godon Zarcos was the lord of an entire, albeit small, domain and a rather forceful travel companion as well.
 It truly was a ragtag assortment of fellows.

 “And on matters of bravery, how could my humble self ever dare claim to be Sir Baldo’s match in any way.
 For in order to save villagefolk in peril, it was he who vanquished four dwarva alone, one of which was even turned!”

 “What!
 A kaejel?
 And not any kaejel, but a turned dwarva?
 S-Surely you jest!”

 exclaimed Doriatessa in a sudden outburst, to which Godon bid her examine Baldo’s leather armor.
 After having been cleaned and maintained, Baldo’s armor was laid splayed out on a pile of straw.
 With Baldo’s permission, she picked up the leather and closely examined it.
 The item was a masterwork, one crafted with incredible care by the Clarsk leather armorer Polpo for his life’s savior.

 “So this is kaejel leather.
 What a splendid thing despite the simple make.
 Now I see.
 This is no ordinary leather armor.”

 With this, Doiratessa sat perfectly upright and continued to speak, this time with a tone of renewed decorum,

 “Lord Rhowen.
 Lord Zarcos.
 Sir Julchaga.
 I cannot fully express my gratitude to have been saved from a perilous fate.
 Though presumptuous of me to take further advantage of the incredible goodwill you have shown me. I must ask for your guidance.
 Where must I go to find and slay one of these kaejel?”

 Both Godon and Julchaga turned to look at Baldo.
 The two of them clearly expected Baldo to have an answer.
 He thus explained that while this was the frontier, kaejel were still not oft encountered, and yet while this was the case, the lord of House Telsia that Baldo once served presided over the territory located at the gap in Jhan Dessa Roh, and that there appeared anywhere from ten to twenty kaejel in a single year in those lands.

 “The gap in Jhan Dessa Roh?
 Such a thing truly exists?
 In the Pacra domain…
 How far away might it be?

 Baldo glanced at Julchaga.
 This was his particular specialty.

 “Hmm…
 If you follow the roads, I guess it’d be around two hundred and fifty miles.
 For someone both familiar with the path and willing to work their horse to the bone—and of course, someone with a lot of money to spend on horsefeed and other essentials—you’re looking at a forty or fifty day trip.”

 “Fifty days just for the way there…”

 “When we were in Clarsk, Julchaga, did it not take you but a mere thirty days to go to and from Lints?”

 “That’s ‘cause it was me who made the trip, big guy.
 You can’t expect an amateur trudging along on an overburdened steed to do the same things I can.
 Not to mention, that fifty day estimate is only assuming one is not attacked by beasts, never encounters poor weather, never once gets lost, always manages to have food at the ready, is keenly aware of where to find fresh water, and has plenty of experience setting up camp.
 If I’m being honest, it could end up taking her ladyship here twice the amount of time by herself.
 The fastest way’d probably be for her to take a ship down the Orva or to cross it and go through the plains.”

 “That… may be difficult to manage.
 Yet it is only natural, I suppose.
 Lord Rhowen, if I were to travel to the Pacra domain and join a kaejel-hunting expedition, do you suppose they would allow me to take the beast’s head back with me?”

 Baldo responded,

 House Telsia will not arm any member of the fairer sex with a weapon, nor will they have them stand before the enemy.
 Be you even a viscountess with unimaginable skill, they would still refuse to ever let you come near a kaejel fang or claw as long as a single Telsia knight still drew breath.
 So you wish for a kaejel head?
 If that is the case, let us have Julchaga deliver them a letter.
 One will surely be delivered within two months.

 The heads of kaejel were considered symbols of honor to House Telsia, treasured items never to be taken outside their lands.
 It was rather rare for a head to arrive in such good condition that it warranted preservation.
 If it was Baldo that asked, however, he was confident they would honor his request.
 This was courtesy of proportions unheard of, to do such a things for a foreign noble one only just met.
 Yet Baldo suspected that his response was not the one this viscountess wished to hear.
 As expected, Doriatessa responded thus.

 “What generosity…
 I am humbled beyond words.
 I cannot accept the offer, however.
 The head must have belonged to a kaejel that I have myself slain.
 It will not be considered my accomplishment if I do not deliver at least one strike upon it.
 Furthermore, I must return to the imperial capital within the year.
 I’m afraid I do not have the time to wait two months.”

 She then spoke of her circumstances.

8

 In the imperial family of the Golioran Empire, there was a certain princess named Shernelia.
 She was the youngest of the fourteen princes and eleven princesses and was doted on with special care.
 Though of the age to pick a husband, it was perhaps her deep fondness of stories and tales that led her to secretly yearn for a marriage with someone whom she loved.
 As an imperial princess, however, she was naturally aware of her duty to serve the empire through political marriage, thus did she never voice a word of complaint.
 And yet, as long as there was some manner of political benefit to be had, the emperor himself wished for the princess to be joined with a companion that she approved of.
 Over time, he hosted two balls and a garden party, having the princess meet the many nobles to see if anyone caught her fancy.
 However, not a single one set her heart aflutter.
 After that came an order from the emperor, that she was to represent him at the Frontier Martial Tournament that was to take place in the fourth month of the following year.
 Implicit in his words was permission for the princess to choose a partner from the knights of the Palzamic Kingdom.
 The emperor was not going to marry his daughter to another country.
 Rather, he intended to allow the princess to create a wholly new house in the imperial palace and to allow one of these knights to marry into it.

 Doriatessa was the daughter of Marquis Fapharlen.
 Though she was born to his third concubine, her father loved all of his children equally.
 The marquis’ primary wife heralded from the royal family, thus it was through this connection that Doriatessa was chosen to become the study companion of the newly-born Princess Shernelia.
 In reality, Doriatessa was not actually sent to the palace to attend upon the princess until she was five years old and the princess three.
 The two eventually became bosom friends.
 And it was also at that time a firm purpose blossomed in Doriatessa’s heart.
 A vow that she would always protect the princess.

 In the Golioran Empire was there a certain type of military personnel known as a protectress.
 They were tasked with escorting and guarding ladies of special eminence in places and occasions that prohibited the accompaniment of male warriors.
 Around two hundred years ago, there was tell of a queen who stood at the front lines of war, protecting her country in the stead of her then-infirm king.
 For several years after the passing of her husband, she ruled the country as empress.
 It was from this came a tradition in subsequent generations wherein women were not discouraged from practicing the martial arts.
 Doriatessa practiced these arts with fervent passion, ultimately being appointed a knight.

 For an imperial princess to go anywhere required the presence of at least one knight at her side.
 As her dear Doriatessa became a knight, this gave her the freedom to explore the massive imperial palace as she wished.
 There were four female knights in the whole of the Golioran Empire, and the remaining three were all in the direct service of the empress.

 “And I have served at her side ever since.
 At five I was brought into the palace, at twelve I became both her study companion and her protectress, and then at sixteen I became a knight.
 For the next three years, I have been protecting her.”

Hold on!
She means to tell me she’s only nineteen at this moment?

 Baldo could scarcely believe his ears.
 He was previously certain the young woman was in her early twenties, perhaps even older.
 Though filled with shock, Baldo inwardly commended himself for not showing it on his face.
 Women are those who never appreciate hearing they appear older than they are.
 And yet, there was one here among them that was oblivious to such propriety.

 “Oh?
 You’re really only nineteen?
 I was certain you were in your early twenties, perhaps even older.
 Color me surprised!”

 remarked Julchaga.
 Godon Zarcos nodded vigorously in agreement.
 These absolute buffoons, sighed Baldo to himself, yet Julchaga continued to speak.

 “It’s just that you have this kind of maturity about you, you know?
 Not to mention how beautiful you are,”

 he said.
 A large smile was plastered across his face.
 It was a rather impressive attempt at trying to salvage the situation.
 Appearing neither angry nor embarrassed, Doriatessa continued her story.

 “Nothing happened in those three years.
 That very fact is my pride.
 It is a truly happy thing.
 And yet…”

 Doriatessa’s gaze fell, and her voice grew soft.

 “There is a certain part of me that houses a certain desire.
 Just once…
 Just once, I would like to claim victory with this sword and offer it up to the princess.
 I would like to achieve something with these very hands of mine, to see the princess smile at what I accomplished for her.
 Yet, I know these thoughts must be improper.”

 Baldo knew not what to say.

 “Although female knights undergo training, they are not allowed to participate in duels.
 Nor can they go to war.
 In a moment of weakness, I let slip the fact that I yearned to enter the Frontier Martial Tournament.
 The princess heard this desire of mine and petitioned for my participation.
 Though without any precedence, His Imperial Majesty the Emperor agreed to this request, only requiring that I display achievements in battle before being allowed to participate.
 For that purpose, I was given three months.
 Slaying a kaejel would be an undeniable accomplishment.
 So I needed a head.
 A kaejel head.
 When the day comes for the princess to finally marry, I will be forced to leave her side.
 This is my first and final chance.”

 Baldo was thoroughly displeased.
 In the forty-eight years that Baldo served House Telsia, rarely did he see a year in which no one died.
 Even the Golioran Empire surely experienced no small number of knights and soldiers who gave their lives in battle.
 What absurdity, to then live peacefully in the safest part of a country, yet to lament the lack of opportunity to prove one’s mettle.
 To say that one dreams of grasping victory through their own sword is but proof of how ignorant they are of the true value of safety.

First and foremost, how could any proper knight properly complete their training at the young age of sixteen while also being in the palace’s employ.
And with a woman’s body.
Never have I heard such a preposterous tale.

 Baldo could not quell his irritation.
 He was then suddenly struck by the thought, Why has my heart been stirred so?
 Thus he closed his eyes and looked within for the answer.
 In doing so, he learned the true shape of that which resided in his heart.

Deep down in this heart of mine, there lies a portrait of a proper knight.
There lies a portrait of my ideals, everything I have striven to be.
By acknowledging this young woman to be a knight, I felt as if I would be tarnishing this portrait.
And I was angered too, thinking that she had nary a shred of appreciation for those who have protected her womanly self.

Then let me distance myself from these matters of men and women, of being a knight or not.
There is a soul that wishes to be of use for the one it reveres.
There is a soul that wishes for something to justify the path it has taken.
This youngster is this very soul, determined to live her life.
I too was once the same.
I too was foolish; I too was selfish.
Lord Elzerra accepted this foolish, selfish boy all the same.

Right then.
Let us humor this youngster.
Whether she is or isn’t a knight, this youngster has already crossed the point of no return.
And yet, doing so, she was betrayed by those she trusted and left all alone.
She did not falter, however, and still asked for where she might hunt a kaejel.
It would be unknightly, in fact, to refuse such a request.
Beneath all of this armor is still a young lady in need of help, after all.

 Baldo opened his eyes and found that everyone was watching him in silence.
 He took in a deep breath, exhaled, and then said to them,

 We shall assist the lady.
 Let us find ourselves a kaejel.

 Godon Zarcos shouted with vigor and Julchaga nodded with a beaming grin.
 Doriatessa deeply bowed.
 Though chances of success were slim, all that was left was to try.

For my heart to still waver so violently, I suppose it means I still have life in me yet,

 thought Baldo with an uneasy smile.

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Gautam Natrajan
Gautam Natrajan
11 months ago

Please continue this. I’ve never seen such a painstaking translation for a novel. Plus the novel itself is excellent.