Akuyaku Reijou ni Koi wo Shite:
That day, the mood of the royal capital was full of strange and complex undercurrents.
Two weeks had passed since the execution was announced. Vincent Woodville of House Windhill would die today.
Some people were looking forward to the execution as a spectacle of sorts. Some people held antipathy towards the idea of showing a person’s death in public. Some were excited to watch such a thing for the first time since reaching adulthood. And finally there were those who knew what was actually going on and they were furrowing their eyebrows.
The inhabitants of the royal capital made for a cocktail of those complicated feelings causing the city to carry a mood it didn’t usually experience.
However, those aware of the situation knew there was more to the mood than just that. They could feel a faint smell of trouble mixed with everything else.
They knew that it was caused by all the suspicious maneuvering that could be noticed ever since the execution was announced up to this day.
The hearts of the inhabitants who sensed the storm brewing could not calm down.
A single youth rushed into a certain building in a back alley.
「How did it go?」
Others, waiting inside, asked almost instantly.
「As before. Still possible to slip through the security net and get close.」
「Which means problems will come later when we get to securing lord Vincent and safely escaping the scene, eh?」
Rescuing Vincent was the objective of this group. They have been in motion for the last two weeks preparing things within the capital.
「As expected drastic measures are unavoidable. But once we break through the security cordon on the way out there will be multiple escape paths in the city.」
「Agreed. Preparations there are under way already.」
「Success is not certain, though. And it’s very likely we’ll suffer casualties in the process.」
Suddenly one of them interjected with words of caution. There was no such thing as a perfect plan. His concerns were reasonable, but ill-timed, that was not a comment to be made just as your group was to move out.
「Yes. We know.」
「Is the danger really worth it?」
He actually wanted this answer from the start. This man was unconvinced of the necessity, for him and his comrades, to brave danger for saving Vincent.
「I struggled with this too, you know. But no aristocrat before was free of prejudice towards commoners like him.」
「So I’ve heard. But he lost his title, his family, and his backing. Isn’t he essentially powerless?」
「There is more to lord Vincent’s strength than the quality of his background. He’s someone that should be standing above the common crowd.」
「This. This is what confuses me. After all the rumors of him being a failure…」
Due to him never coming into contact with Vincent, there was a discrepancy between the way he and others evaluated the young Windhill.
「There are two types of exceptional people. One has the strength to make everyone around him loudly recognize his prowess, the other has the strength to silently carry the burdens of those that surround him.」
「And Vincent-sama is the latter?」
「Yes. He had a miserable side to him, but that only added to his charm. Lord Vincent is a person that makes others think “I want to do something for this person.” Once you meet him, you’ll understand immediately.」
「…I see. Let’s do it then」
The man gave in fairly easily. It looked like there was no one in the group that seriously thought of stopping the plan.
「So, are you on board? 」
「I never seriously wanted to stop you, all this was only to check your resolve before we go.」
「Heh, no need to worry about that. If it’s for that man, I’m happy to throw my life away.」
Holding such strong feelings and even trying to rescue Vincent, this man was one of the Royal Academy’s students. He was one of those who managed to get acquainted with and, ultimately, close to Vincent considered him worthy of putting on a pedestal.
He was also a member of the dissident group that sought to protect both Vincent and Ariel. Calling them rebels would be, actually, exaggerated. They were people unhappy with the current state of the kingdom that honestly thought it needs something or someone new if it was to have a better future.
In conclusion, they were only against the methods adopted by the ruling class. If the Royal Guard investigators tried to charge them with treason only for this, it would be way too outrageous. After all, apart from harboring dissenting ideas, they made no action yet.
But now that was about to change. Just for the sake of Vincent, they were attempting something that conceivably would get them accused of betrayal.
That was just how much charisma did Vincent have. Which was not surprising. He was the only person in this whole world Rion looked up to until now or would look up to in the future.
Spectators were separated from the execution ground by a high fence. It was so tall that its top couldn’t be reached even while standing on a grown man’s shoulders. It had gaps so that observing the area inside was possible, but they were so small that not even a child could squeeze through.
What’s more, the fence was guarded by an escort of knights posted at regular intervals. The prisoner to be executed today was formerly of marquess rank, that meant influential people including the King himself, would be present to witness the event. No mishaps could be allowed to occur.
The security in the area of the execution site was nearly flawless, with one exception. An opening spotted by Vincent’s would-be rescuers.
The chance would come at the very beginning of the ceremony when Vincent would appear at the site. Knowing that even those plotters assigned to observation duty felt nervous.
And finally, that time has come. Vincent was taken out of the building located behind the scaffold, his hands and legs chained together. And not just that. There was a steel collar on his neck and it too had a chain, this one leading to the shackles on his legs. All those bindings were short forcing him to walk with head bowed down and an awkward, restricted stride.
He might be a criminal but that kind of treatment was unthinkable for someone of his social status.
That pitiful sight caused anger to flare up in the students, making their blood rise and their faces burn from indignation.
「How dare they treat him in such a way.」
「Calm down. We need to stay composed.」
「I know that. I know, but…」
「Leave it. This is the moment, we need to go, now.」
The group, until now hidden in the shadow of a building, set out. There was ten of them. Unfortunately, that was too low of a number, even though they were earnest at their preparations. It was not hard to foresee an assault by ten inexperienced youths failing.
But before they reached their goal a lone figure unexpectedly blocked their path.
「It would be best if you stopped this nonsense.」
「All that awaits you there is an ambush.」
「What did you say!?」
「Silly fools, your naive scheme was discovered long ago.」
「…Even if that’s the case.」
Even if it was a trap– a response started to display the student’s bravery that was interrupted half-way in.
「It’s all futile. You have been noticed already. May you have luck trying to escape.」
The lone man disappeared as soon as he said those words. And the students left behind…
「The trap was discovered! Catch them!」
「Everyone advance! Secure the rebels!」
Hearing such shouts in front of them left them no choice but retreat. The rescue attempt failed before it even began.
「What was that disturbance?」
The King was watching the execution from the third floor of a building right beside the gallows. This high and central location allowed him to hear the commotion and he asked the Royal Guard Commander present next to him. King’s presence required the Royal Guard to secure the area properly.
「It’s likely to be rebels, sire.」
「Insurgency? Is he the reason?」
「So it would seem, sire.」
「Is all this really true then?」
「Sire, I’m afraid I do not understand the question.」
Vincent was charged with high treason for inciting the commoners to oppose the monarch. But in the Commander’s opinion that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
So his reply was a veiled advice to the king against making rash statements in public.
「…Should We be concerned?」
「No, sire. Their presence is not a surprise and we prepared a trap ahead of time. It seems to have worked.」
「That’s good. Proceed with the execution.」
「By your will, sire.」
The Commander signaled a knight waiting below to instruct the executioner to continue.
Being pulled by chains Vincent steadily walked the stairs of the gallows one after another. Suddenly a huge commotion erupted within the ranks of the spectators.
The King, and the people around him, initially thought this was just the crowd reacting to the beginning of the event, but then, as they moved their gazes towards the source of the disturbance, they could hardly believe their eyes.
They saw a figure of a man flying level with the balcony they were on, as high as a three-storey building. With a sword in his hand and arms stretched out like wings he easily went over the fence and landed next to the scaffolding.
「An attack! Knights, to arms!」
The Royal Guard Commander reacted immediately, befitting someone of his rank, but the escort knights posted along the fence were, at first, dumbfounded by the events.
But the Commander’s angry orders brought them back to their senses. They drew their swords and moved to attack the invader from behind.
What unfolded next stupefied the King and his attendants. One after another, all the attacking knights were blown away flying.
And the man with a sword never even turned his back to look at them. He just unhurriedly went towards the scaffold and stepped on the platform.
「What did just happen?」
「The rebels were just a diversion! Call off the pursuit, we need those men back immediately!」
In the Commander’s eyes, issuing orders took priority over responding to the monarch’s questions. But he too was surprised by what just happened.
The invader continued to advance, the knights continued to try to stop him only to be flung away before even having a chance to get close.
「Lord Commander! What is happening here!?」
There could be no mistake, the invader was using magic. That meant he wasn’t a commoner rebel. Moreover, his magic was clearly powerful, which made him even more of an enigma in the eyes of the King.
That was because of his hair, those were rare, the King could not recall any noble with black hair, save for that one girl watching from the lower floor.
A person unknown to the King excelling in magic, that was something very strange on its own.
Arnold was the one to answer his father’s question.
「Who on earth is he?」
「…That is Vincent’s former valet, Father.」
「Valet? Which House does he hail from?」
Normally, a valet employed by a major House like the Windhills would be a member of the nobility. The King’s question was based on this fact.
「He comes from the slums, Father.」
The Crown Prince’s answer surprised the King. This incredulity meant that, until now, His Majesty didn’t even know Rion existed.
That meant his father was oblivious to the most problematic, in Arnold’s opinion, aspect of the whole situation. And that he decided on Ariel’s and Vincent’s punishment without even knowing all the basic facts.
That gave rise to a host of very complex emotions in the Crown Prince’s heart.
「Are the magic users here yet!?」
While the King was having a conversation with his son, the Commander was issuing one order after another in order to stop Rion. The invader was using magic, it was, therefore, obvious they needed their own spellcasters present to counter that. Unfortunately, his subordinate magic troops were stationed nowhere near close enough.
The Royal Guard expected an assault by commoners without magic. They set a trap for commoners with no magic. They got so fixated on the idea that no spellcasters were prepared just in case. The Commander was left to silently curse that carelessness.
However, regrets now would achieve nothing. They had to obstruct the person who came to take Vincent away.
The Commander started to consider personal intervention.
While that was happening Rion already reached Vincent’s side. He cut all the shackles with magic so that his lord could move freely and handed over the sword in his hand.
「Here. Let us go, sir」
「Rion… Why do something so reckless?」
Vincent did not move despite Rion’s invitation to leave. He only reproached his valet with melancholy on his face.
「To save Vincent-sama, of course.」
「And it was futile to even attempt it.」
Rion never expected to hear such a thing from Vincent.
「His majesty, the King, decreed my death. I will never oppose his will.」
「Sir, this is foolishness! The King is wrong! Why must you obey misguided orders!?」
Rion already considered Vincent to be worthy of being the heir to a Marquess, but as expected, he was unable to accept Vincent’s point of view in this case.
「Because those orders come from the King!」
Vincent also began to raise his voice. Not because of anger but because his emotions started to overwhelm him.
「The King whose judgment is clearly flawed!」
「Even so, I still must heed his will! Running away would mean rebellion! I would never do such a thing!」
「Because I am a person of the House Windhill! As someone at the top of the society, I have the duty to set an example to others.」
「Like I would give a damn about such a thing! What does it matter when you are about to die?!」
Rion had already stopped using honorific words. He wanted Vincent to live, not because he was his Valet, but because he valued him as a person.
Those feelings were properly conveyed to Vincent. And that was why he could not afford to escape.
He knew that if he decided to run, Rion would waste his life on assisting his efforts to avoid the law. Vincent didn’t want that to happen.
「It has significance! I have always been a failure! I had lived all my life being told I’m not worthy of my social standing! That itself is why I have to be stubborn! Being born in the house of a Marquess, I want to die as a person of that House! You should understand these feelings more than anyone!」
「….I know that… I know that, but what becomes of me then? I served you not because of your rank! You yourself are the sole reason I served you!」
Rion valued Vincent’s life more than Vincent’s pride.
Vincent was aware of that from the very beginning, but even so hearing it now made him unbearably happy.
「Please, live! No matter who you become afterward, as long as you live, I…」
Rion was not able to finish his thought. A surge of feelings put tears in his eyes and made him lower his head, even though he knew there were still many enemies nearby.
Vincent too was crying, but he carried his head high as he started to reply. Suddenly a shadow appeared in his blurry field of view.
「Thank you Rion. For me, you are someone special, more so than anyone else. The one and only true friend I ever had. That’s why… You have to live! And live my share of life too!」
Rion tumbled down being flung away from the scaffold by Vincent. Puzzled, he stood up to complain, but what he saw instead…
Was Vincent turning to him with a smile with a huge mortal wound on his body that was clearly inflicted by magic.
「R-Rion, my f-friend… W-will you h-hear my last w-wish?」
「P-Please… make my sister…., m-make A-Ariel… happ…」
Unable to carry the words to the end, Vincent listlessly fell to the ground. Rion rushed to the scaffold and embraced his remains.
Despite the calls, Vincent didn’t answer.
He held him tightly but there was no heartbeat and no breathing. Vincent had already passed away.
A heart-wrenching, sorrowful cry reverberated all through the execution grounds.
At that moment someone heartlessly launched a large spear composed of water towards Rion.
He caught that blow with his bare hand never letting go of Vincent’s body. The spear vanished immediately upon impact without doing any harm.
「Maria, don’t pity him! Attack with all your might!」
Maria was astounded that her magic was stopped, but Lancelot urged her on. Erwin could also be spotted standing next to both of them. Due to magic troops being unable to make it here on time Lancelot’s group was ordered to render assistance.
However, their intervention brought about an adverse effect.
「…Unforgivable. ……Unforgivable. ……I will never forgive you all!」
Hatred flared up in Rion. More intense and way beyond anything the existence known as Flay ever harbored towards the world around him. Flames the color of deep crimson and blood exploded from his body.
「Feel the wrath of the dragon! Tornado!」
Now a wind attribute magic assaulted Rion at a staggering speed. However, it dispersed under one slash of Rion’s sword leaving little more than a loud sound behind.
「You aim to be the heir of the House Windhill with such meager strength? Your magic is pitiable compared to Lady Ariel’s. Even Vincent-sama’s magic was stronger than yours!」
「There’s no way…」
And again Rion was assaulted by a grand spell. This time a phoenix-shaped flame assailed him from the sky. It was the highest grade of magic that was in the possession of Royal Family – the Flame Bird, Phoenix. But this was not cast by the King himself. This spell was of the Crown Prince Arnold’s making.
The fire rained from the sky as if the phoenix was swallowing Rion with its beak. Such was the fury that not even ash would remain behind.
But when the conflagration dissipated, the onlookers saw Rion standing still as if nothing happened, surrounded by multiple dragons shaped of flame and as many silhouettes of water holding a spear.
The only thing that changed was his right eye, now clearly visible and burning brightly.
A word known to everyone was spoken unbidden. Until now, no one knew that people with heterochromatic eyes could use magic.
However, Rion had clearly used both the fire and the water attributes.
While everyone was left dumbfounded by the spectacle, the Royal Guard Commander made his move. Instantly descending to the ground level, with sword drawn, he began to attack Rion. His figure, like an unstoppable gale, closed the distance between them in a blink.
The Commander’s sword flashed in an arc. Rion tried to defend with his own blade, but unable to kill the momentum of the blow he was knocked to the ground.
Following his first blow the Commander lunged at Rion’s prone form, but…
An order from the King halted his sword.
Instead of running Rion through with his blade, the Commander kicked him hard in the gut. The boy rolled with a groan, then was forced to lay on his stomach with legs spread wide, his movements restricted. He could feel a tip of a sword on the nape of his neck.
He was ordered, not that he was able to. Rion’s anger was extinguished by the overwhelming difference in strength and he was back in full control of his emotions. He was clearly shown his lack of combat experience.
「This man shall not die! His deeds may be criminal, but they come out of boundless loyalty!! To repay that with death, would be equally wrong! Imprison him in the tower, We shall decide his punishment later.」
「…By your will, sire!」
The Commander affirmed after a slight delay. The castle tower was only used to incarcerate royalty and people with high social standing. Rion was neither of those and, given that he was yet to be given a pardon, the Commander found the departure from the usual customs odd.
Nevertheless, this was His Majesty’s order, he could only obey.
Thus, Rion was imprisoned within the castle.
HnM Translator’s Corner
As you can see I have changed the title of the chapter to avoid spoiling what was about to happen before reading it. The real chapter title is “Farewell to a Friend” which would have pretty much given you the idea of what was going to happen.
Welp that’s it, Lord Vincent, the best lord the Gran Flamm never had, has perished. I think the rift between the MC’s party and Rion is beyond reparable now.
Okay, time to let out your rage now.