“The Bandeaux School of Fencing.”
Rion’s Detached Force’s lodging for the night was to be at the town of Mavs. It was the first fortress-city on the highway leading from the capital towards Nyegert.
Rion chose this place because it was more than able to accommodate a force that was just barely a thousand strong. This was also to be the place where the results of the day’s training would be made clear.
And it proved to be a total failure. Clan Yellow arrived well before the main force and the other three not only made it late but also with the wrong timing. Things did not go as Rion had planned them at all.
The Crown Prince, upon learning of all this, felt a rather complex mixture of disappointment and relief. The reason for the latter was understandable and obvious, Rion’s talent proved to be something not entirely beyond his reach.
Once he realized he was feeling that, Arnold started to fear himself. The idea that the jealousy of Rion might be taking hold of him again filled the Prince with dread. He still remembered, and was by now fully aware of, the madness born of his tangled relationship with the Freys. It was not something he could ever forget.
That was possible because the Crown Prince had grown up without realizing that fact himself.
And even if he did realize, that would not let him forget his past either. Arnold’s fear of himself was the main reason why the Prince was able to stay modest in recent months. Coming to grips with the failure of his Academy days made him grow, even if Ariel and Rion might not agree that he did or forgive him for what had happened.
So Arnold was just standing, internally shaken, staring at Rion, who didn’t pay him the tiniest bit of attention. The young baron’s mind was busy with too many things to allow for distractions.
「Now then, let’s figure out the reason for this failure.」
Rion was not the kind of person that gave up after one failure. Furthermore, he was fully expecting this particular one and did not think the maneuvers would go well on the first try.
「Well, I say this, but there’s no need to think deeply. Our traveling speeds are a mess. Unless that changes, we can’t proceed as planned.」
That became obvious as soon as he had started to receive the reports from the messengers. The unit positions in those had not matched the results of his mental calculations and everything had been jumbled so much that some clans had been much ahead of the plans while others had been as heavily delayed.
「Making separate armies march at matching speed is not a simple feat. Miscalculations are bound to happen.」
Cassius tried to make an excuse but Rion would not let the thing slide.
「This is not just a simple miscalculation. Some of you guys were late, the others were too fast. Were you even trying to match each other?」
「Of course, lord」
「Oh? How exactly?」
「What kind of schemes did you employ to achieve that?」
Cassius’ voice grew fainter with each answer. It was clear they had done nothing in particular.
「Did you try guessing your position by the sun? Did you try counting the number of steps made by your horses? Or maybe you employed one of the myriad other possible solutions?」
Cassius and the rest of the clan heads suddenly had an “Oh, I get it now” expressions on their faces.
「Ah, no. We will do those things next time.」
「You lot, try to use those heads of yours at least! I am not aware of any regulations that require military men to be idiots!」
Rion got tired of their attitude of leaving all the thinking up to him. Which, in fact, was exactly what they had been doing. For them thinking was Rion’s role.
「You say that Lord but all people have their strong and weak points.
Cassius replied defiantly.
「Man…. Mercury’s guards can do this very well, you know?」
「They are not only younger than you, they also have half your numbers. And yet they succeeded at this. Moreover, they can do this at three different speeds.」
「Slow March, Forced March and Double Time. Nevermind the names though.」
「…How are they able to do that?」
「I had them trained. Initially, because I thought it would be too boring for them just to run around the barony but then I figured it might be a handy skill to have when the time to use them comes.」
「Don’t tell me, do you plan to use them in the fight with the demons?」
「I don’t understand the question? Are there any other reasons? Even I trained in things I wouldn’t even suspect I was capable of until I tried. Having them possess that ability means they will not have to be urgently drilled in it if the combat area ever moves to Bandeaux. I have long known where do I want which troops to go in that case.」
Cassius yet again couldn’t shake the impression that no matter how much time they spend with their Lord he will always be able to surprise them.
「But honestly, I held a naive expectation that learning this would be easier for you guys due to your age and experience. I guess that was foolish of me.」
The clan heads seemed to shrink under the barrage of Rion’s criticism. They did, however, prefer that to being yelled at.
「Let’s appoint [pacemakers] first.」
「Designate some people to be a reference point for others. Pick those blessed with an exceptional sense of time or distance, show them the expected standard marching speed. Then disperse them among the individual elements and tell the soldiers to match that speed. This should help everybody get a grip of the sensation.」
「….It would have been better if lord had us do that from the very beginning.」
Cassius had no problems understanding that explanation and expected it would be possible for the clansmen to pull the plan off with this.
「If I did that, neither of you would take this idea seriously, wouldn’t you? Dealing with adults is always troublesome like that. Completely unlike Mercury’s people, who enjoyed the experience and the intellectual challenge of this exercise.」
Cassius had no problems understanding this either.
「Choose a person from each clan according to the criteria I listed before. If not enough suitable people can be found, have everyone estimate the time over a sufficiently long period and pick the ones deviating the least.」
With all those measures in place, Rion’s soldiers started the exercise from the basics again. This, however, made Arnold worry they will not be ready in time.
「We are only a month away from our destination. Can we still make it in that time?」
The Prince decided to voice his worries.
「We won’t know until we try. That’s why we’ll do what we can.」
「What if we do not make it?」
「I’ll figure out a different approach. And if that does not work, we’ll try something else again. What other choice do we have?」
「…You are right. It is exactly as you say.」
There was no way they could just give up if their first try was a failure. Simply giving up upon encountering an adversity would resolve nothing. That was a very obvious fact but very few people lived by that maxim, Rion being one of them.
If never giving up was his talent, then it was not impossible for others to emulate. It was just a matter of correct mindset. But Arnold couldn’t fail to notice that keeping up this kind of mindset constantly was hard and it may be a talent of its own.
He concluded that the thing to learn from Rion wasn’t necessarily his tactics but rather his attitude.
Because the independent maneuver training reverted to the very basics, for the time being, the whole army started to move together again. And that allowed Rion to work on something else.
His swordsmanship. As usual, his practice was accompanied by his teacher, Kiel. But other clan heads being present would not allow the leader of Clan Blue to be the only sparring partner.
So Rion had to spar with all of them one after another.
「Fast as ever!」
「You might’ve improved a bit but you still have much to learn!」
Mohit , usually a quiet and withdrawn character, tended to liven up during those times. But the latter was true for all other clan heads too.
The Sword of Clan Green was based on speed and agility and the head of the clan was like a wind with a blade in hand. All Rion could do, despite his arduous training, was to barely keep up.
And it wasn’t like Mohit was going all out, he was expending just enough effort to challenge Rion. After all, in the eyes of the clan heads, the objective was to train the young baron, not to beat him up mercilessly.
「What did I tell you before!?」
「To watch my steps, right!? And I’m doing just that!」
「You’re not doing it right at all!」
「Cease combat! Let’s discuss this.」
Rion was someone to learn dutifully no matter who the teacher was but Mohit’s criticism made it look like that had not been the case this time. This made the boy feel a bit down.
「To be brief, Lord is too greedy.」
「I do not need to explain the difference between the swordsmanship of the four clans by now, right?」
「Red is attacking, Blue is defensive, Green focuses on speed and Yellow on power.」
「All of them have different strong points. But conversely, their forms differ too. And despite that Lord tries to learn them all at once. That is why I call you greedy.」
「…So it’s impossible after all, huh?」
Just as Mohit had said, Rion was trying to learn them all. “It’s unknown whether something is impossible until you try” – that was a rule he applied to all aspects of his life.
However, when learning to fence, this attitude was wrong.
「For you, Lord, it may be doable, but your approach is wrong.」
「Each of styles has its own scheme that has been refined into the completed form. You are aware of this, Lord, are you not?」
「Even so, Lord is trying to mix all of that together. That not only cannot be done but the result of the attempts will not make a better, flawless style.」
「…I can’t disagree.」
The sword style of every single clan was developed to best display their specialties. Trying to cherry-pick the best elements out of them was not only the wrong approach, it was also an impossible goal.
「The correct method would be to learn one of the styles before trying to grasp the others.」
「With that settled, let’s put the sparring on hold and go over the styles to choose one.」
「Since footwork – choosing the shortest, quickest step with the minimal amount of movement – is the most important aspect of fencing, Lord should learn our sword style.」
Rion assented and Mohit started to teach the Clan Green’s style from the basics but some people objected. The other clan heads.
「Wait a minute. Why should Green’s sword be the first?」
Cassius interfered not at all agreeing with the outcome.
「I agree. Since I am our Lord’s teacher, it would be correct to learn my sword style first.」
Kiel added to the complaints while asserting himself as the teacher.
「No, no. That would be strange too. Besides, since when is Kiel the only teacher of the Lord?」
And Apollo chipped in too. Neither of them wanted Mohit to get one over them and every single one wanted their style to be taught first.
「Footwork is the foundation of all swordsmanship. Our style excels in that, being the fastest of the four. Having good footwork will let our Lord learn other styles easier. 」
「I disagree. When it comes to footwork, our style is better. There’s no faster footwork than the one of Clan Red.」
Still unwilling to lose, Cassius rolled out his personal theory.
「I think I have something to add on this topic too. Our style does not lose balance and freedom of movement whatever the stance or position. And that truly is the foundation of defense and all swordsmanship. I really believe our Lord should start with the style of Clan Blue.」
Kiel also immediately claimed that the footwork of his style was the best one.
「Hold your horses. The power of the sword is born from sharp and deep footsteps. That is the foundation and that is why it’s important to start with the style of Clan Yellow.」
Even though Apollo’s powerful style could make no claims to fancy footwork, that would not stop him from claiming that it should be the first one.
Every one of them was serious about this topic and all of their claims were sound.
「So, to sum it up, every Clan’s Sword is rooted in the footwork?」
The clan heads paved the way to this conclusion. Rion just gave it a voice.
All four of them found this surprising though as if they were completely unaware of the fact before.
「…You really haven’t noticed this even though you lived in one land all this time?」
「Just because we lived together does not mean we got along. A shared enemy forces cooperation but usually we would be competing with, and killing, one another having eyes on the leadership of Bandeaux.」
Clans White and Black excluded, the denizens of Bandeaux had been locked in permanent conflict over who controlled the territory’s government. None of them, understandably, had been willing to offer their rivals secrets behind their sword styles, leading to present day scenario.
「Well, unexpectedly, it looks like all four of your styles may come from one source that fractured into separate factions that pursue different traits.」
「… We can’t deny that possibility.」
「And if that’s the case, there must be common points in all of the four. I get the feeling it’s all in the footwork and those similarities will be the actual foundation of all of them.」
Rion was speaking about a possibility of developing a style of fighting based on foundations behind all four of the clan swords. This should be doable if they really originated at the same source.
「Assume those exist, Lord, what then?」
「I would like to learn those foundations and then it would just be a question of applying the styles based on that.」
「I knew it…」
In the end, Rion did not set aside his greed. He still wanted to obtain all the traits from all the styles. He wanted a style of sword that excelled in attack, defense, speed, and power.
「Alright. In that case, I’ll start explaining the foundations of the Blue Sword’s footwork. If there really are commonalities with the other three, maybe we’ll find something.」
Kiel decided to cooperate with Rion’s wishes regardless of whether they were realistic or not. And he staked his claim to going first.
「…Wait a minute. How did it come to that? I believe there won’t be any problems even if my style was to be the first.」
However, he was not the only one to think along those lines. The other three, their relationship with Rion still awkward, decided not to skimp on cooperation on this matter.
「Like I said, core footwork of the yellow style is certain to be the basis for most of it.」
And they ended up competing against each other for another while.
「I did hear all was not well between them but…」
Arnold muttered while looking at them from the side. The rumors of the thorny relationship between Rion and his notional retainers reached the Crown Prince’s ears. As did the complaints of the clan heads made during the banquet in Harcourt.
However, what he had seen now was different to what he expected. Instead of discord, there was competition for Rion’s attention.
「I believe they all want to be recognized by Rion.」
He was answered by someone he did not in his wildest dreams expect to speak to him. Ariel.
「…Rion deemed it acceptable to speak with Arnold, I shall do so too.」
Although that way of speaking to a crown prince was rather insolent, Arnold would never dare to complain. He knew he had done many unforgivable things and, moreover, he actually now preferred to be addressed in a blunt and direct way that Ariel employed.
「A desire for recognition, huh…」
Arnold could reply with neither gratitude nor apologies because he knew Ariel needed neither.
「Rion has been ignoring their dissatisfaction. That being the case, they should have done something to earn his recognition but they were hamstrung by self-inflicted, pointless humility brought about by thinking they are just military personnel.」
「I see. But I believe that could not be helped.」
「Oh? It could not?」
「Rion excels way too much. Seeing that, comparing him to themselves, they were bound to be anxious about what could they even do.」
「…Hmm, who are you exactly talking about right now?」
A remark he wanted to make casually was immediately seen through by Ariel. Arnold understood that immediately from her stern expression.
「…Their feelings and mine are alike. But with my status being what it is, I cannot help but feel envy.」
The clan heads were Rion’s subordinates. Being mindful of their status, they would not allow their anxiety born from witnessing Rion’s many talents to grow beyond self-depreciation. But the Crown Prince’s position was different. He would, eventually, become Rion’s sovereign and that fact caused the same feelings to develop in another way.
The Prince was honest with himself and accepted that inevitability. He knew trying to deny this would only make Ariel hate him more.
「Still, I will not repeat my mistakes. I would like you to believe me on that.」
「I can promise nothing, even though his highness wishes so. Does the reason need to be explained?」
「…No, it does not. And I guess I have no right to ask you to believe me either.」
「…People feel envy for Rion only because they do not know him at all.」
Ariel did not believe the Prince but Arnold’s words did have an effect.
「No one knows how much Rion suffers beneath his facade. Nobody who would come to know my husband’s true feelings could be jealous of what he is.」
「…You know them, I presume」
「I have seen how Rion suffers at times but even I cannot claim to understand those feeling fully.」
「Is that so…」
Revenge against the World. That was the common objective of Ariel and Rion. Ariel, a person of this world, did not understand what Rion meant by “World”. Her scope of comprehension was limited and, for her, the actual target of revenge was the kingdom.
That was why she could not completely understand Rion’s suffering. She could not emphasize with the feelings of Rion who was fighting against the heavy pressure of the World itself.
That fight was the reason why the current Rion, compared to his days as a valet, was even more strict towards people and get irritated by many things.
Before, the idea that all he had been doing had been for Ariel’s and Vincent’s sake had helped him to calm his feelings. The current Rion could not do the same and, what was more, his heart was weighed down by the impression that his surroundings were being dragged into his revenge.
Ariel had noticed this and was frustrated by the fact she could do nothing to help him despite seeing the problem.
Contrary to their appearance of a happy couple, there was sadness in their relationship not visible to others. This was exactly why Ariel insisted on being next to Rion. She could do nothing but she still wanted to be of some use. And if he ever crumbled, she wanted to fall into the abyss with him.
Rion wouldn’t let Ariel die. He was not allowed to die before her either. The pledge that Marchioness Windhill demanded from him was what made Ariel’s method possible.
 We have changed Mo-heitor to Mohit. Sorry, we totally couldn’t figure out how this name works back then.