Kuro no Maou 430 – Part 1/3

 

A heartbreaking homecoming

 

In a corner of Galahad Fortress, there was a boy looking at the blizzard through a small window at the back of a dim corridor surrounded by hardened stone.

“So, Nell… you should be back in Avalon by now, right?”

Underneath the white mask that covered his melancholic eyes was Wingroad’s Nero, or rather, Alter Face’s ‘X’. He was wearing a simple black robe used normally by apprentice sorcerers, but the way he was standing next to the window made him look somewhat dignified.

Occasionally, Spada soldiers and other adventurers who would pass through that corridor would be intrigued by his appearance, but due to his aloof mood, no one was curious or whimsy enough to actually approach him.

However, that silence would soon be broken.

“Ahh! I’ve finally found you! You should decide on a proper meeting place next time!”

Nero frowned a bit at the high-pitched voice of the voice who had just spoken so loudly behind him. However, his eyebrows were covered by his mask, so nobody noticed his reaction.

Still, nothing could hide the hint of discontent in his tone of voice.

“Don’t be so loud, your voice echoes through this entire corridor.”

“I wish you would think about how long I’ve been looking for you!”

It was his childhood friend who he had been so used to seeing, with her red coat and pigtails swinging as she openly expressed her anger. Even behind her mask -which looked like a deformed cat- there was no mistaking her.

“Anyway, how was the meeting?”

“They didn’t say much. They did call those Ancient Golems ‘Taurus’, though… And they talked about protecting the holes they made and other obvious stuff like that.”

Nero spoke as if he had actually been in that meeting, but that meeting was no place for him since he was under the guise of a new Rank-1 adventurer. The only ones who had been summoned to that meeting were Rank-5 adventurers who had been entrusted as commanding officers and those who were part of the ‘Order Raid’.

“As usual, you’re good at eavesdropping.”

“You make it sound like I’m some kind of rascal. I merely happened to overhear a few things.”

That tactics meeting didn’t seem to be such a secret, after all. They did hold it in an enclosed room surrounded by thick walls, but there hadn’t been any soundproofing or any magic to prevent eavesdropping in place. That level of security is easy to trespass for any Rank-4 thief or assassin.

“No one could have imagined that they would manage to open a hole in the walls on the very first day the war started. King Leonhart sounded pretty serious”

“Well, if those big boys do come back, I’ll blow them away with my thunder, so we’ll be okay!”

“Hoho! You’ve become quite reliable, Charlotte!”

The one to make fun of Charlotte, who surely had a confident expression behind her cat mask, had not been Nero.

“Wait, or was it the Rank-1 adventurer ‘S’ now?”

A big hand fell on the back of Charlotte’s head and roughly began to stroke her red hair.

The guy had rudely shown up behind her back all of a sudden, but she didn’t counter his intrusion with her thunder.

“Huh!? No way… Big brother Eis?”

“Yo, rascals!”

The young man with a large build and the same red eyes and golden eyes as Charlotte was grinning with a beastly smile. He was the commanding officer in charge of the fourth unit ‘Gladiator’, and Charlotte’s genuine older brother: Eisenhart Tristan Spada.

“Haa… so you knew, big brother…”

“How could I not notice after seeing you take down that Golem in such a flashy way?”

Eisenhart said that while smiling nastily at Nero, who sighed as if saying ‘Gimme a break’.

“Please, big brother! Don’t tell Father–”

“I think Father also noticed… but I don’t want to bring unnecessary trouble to him so I’ll keep quiet about it for now. Besides, I’m all the way here anyway, so there’s not much I can do about it.”

He pats Charlotte’s head, saying ‘What else could I have expected from my little sister?’, in such a way that would turn a mischievous cat into an adorable one.

“I really don’t care why you’ve bothered yourselves into coming into this crappy battlefield. I won’t ask you. You must have your own reasons.”

Nero raised his eyebrows, seemingly feeling a bit sorry at his somewhat unintelligible words.

Eisenhart always had a soft spot for the two of them. That’s why even Nero wanted to call him ‘big brother’. He had recognized his greatness over the years to such extent.

“I’m sorry, big brother.”

“I said it’s okay. Instead of punishing you, I’ll just work your asses off, so you better get ready.”

“Ah, thanks, big brother Eis…”

Charlotte thanks her brother with a meek attitude she would definitely never show to Wilhart, even though he’s her brother as well.

“By the way, I couldn’t see Lady Nell anywhere… Did she return to Avalon already?”

“Yeah. We came here after seeing Nell off. She was definitely heading towards Avalon.”

“You’re overprotective as always, aren’t you Nero?”

“Stop it. Nell was supposed to come here with us this time.”

Eisenhart’s golden eyes looked at him, half surprised and half doubtful. Nero’s red eyes averted his gaze to the side.

“But I guess that’s just how the current situation is.”

“What do you mean?”

“Nell’s health seems to have gotten worse ever since she came back from Iskia.”

Eisenhart remembered hearing something about Nell’s poor physical condition and her having to stay in her room for a while. It seems that the news of Avalon’s princess’ health had naturally reached the ears of the prince of the whole country.

“She wasn’t bedridden or anything… but she was in no condition to fight.”

“Was it that bad? I can’t really imagine Nell being in such a state. I mean, do you know why she was feeling so down?”

Nero frowned even harder behind his mask and replied to Eisenhart, whose face hinted that he had thought that Nell’s sickness had been due to unknown reasons.

“It seems something happened with Kurono again.”

“What do you mean, ‘again’? Did the same thing happen back in Iskia?”

“Well, I don’t exactly know the details.”

Nero sounded utterly displeased as he muttered that. He seemed very pissed off.

Although it doesn’t take Eisenhart long –to say the least of anyone spending 5 minutes with this cool Avalon prince– to understand that he deeply cares about his cute younger sister.

“Eh, so it’s about Kurono, huh? He does look like someone who would make a girl cry…”

“He’s not as cool as he looks, his face is just scary.”

The big brother confidently replied to his younger sister’s sharp remark.

“No, there are many women who would be attracted by that kind of dangerous-looking guy. He has this courage and style that makes him unwavering even before our father… Besides, his strength as a Rank-5 adventurer is the real deal. I don’t think there’s a single woman in Spada who’s not interested in him.”

“But he pulls out tentacles and stuff!”

“In my opinion, he must have made quite a lot of women cry already. Though I don’t know anything about any tentacles.”

“Eww! I knew it, that tentacle guy is the worst!”

“I prefer to see him as a hero, though. He’s good, I even think he even was the best fighter out there today. It’s no wonder Nell would fall head over heels over someone like him–”

“It doesn’t matter!”

It had been an expression of denial so sharp and cold that you could feel its hatred. No one other than Nero could have said it.

“It doesn’t matter since Nell isn’t going to see that guy anyway.”

“…Ah, right, her time studying abroad here in Spada is over, right?”

After muttering ‘Well, that’s sad’, Eisenhart turned over his red cloak and started to leave.

“Well, I’ll be going now. I’m a commanding officer after all, so I’m obviously busy!”

“Take care, big brother!”

Eisenhart turned his head one more time after his cute younger sister’s words of encouragement, and said one last thing before leaving:

“You’ll be stationed on the southern left side. Be sure to tell that to that idiot Galbraith and that witch Hydra, will you? I’m expecting a lot from you, ‘Alter Face’.”

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