Chapter 572: Nonna’s Home
「This is the end for you!」
I shout as I run into the mansion.
The mansion being used as the enemy’s headquarters is on a gentle hill without any obstacles around it, and the building overall is more luxurious than sturdy. It was clear that the purpose of the mansion was to display a sense of majesty to the citizens, not to be used as a fortress.
The headquarters staff look flabbergasted as they point bows and muskets at me.
Meanwhile, the man who appears to be the commander searches his hip for his sword, but he must have broken it in combat or lost it as he fails to do so.
「You won’t be arrested if you leave here immediately. If you resist, I’ll have to kill you. You have ten seconds to decide.」
Allied soldiers, who conveniently tagged along, flooded in in more numbers than the headquarters staff.
It was clear that the enemy wouldn’t last a minute if they were to fight.
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「That verbal promise means nothing! What authority do you have in the first place?」
I flip up my cape, revealing the Goldonian crest and my Dual Crater.
「I’m the king, so you can be sure of my words. If I wanted to kill you, I would have done so already instead of spending all this effort to explain myself.」
The commander gasps in astonishment when he recognizes the crest and the sword, then looks down.
If I was taken out right now, this war would end……he must be thinking.
He sends a look of appeal to the others.
Man, it would have been a great help if they just obediently ran away, now I’ll have to kill them if they resist.
「As long as I’m the commander of defense, running when the enemy king is before my eyes is something I can’t……」
His indecision is getting on my nerves.
Ten seconds have passed and I want to kill as few people here as possible.
「I-if Hardlett is defeated here, we will get back a mountain of change even if we lose a city. And Goldonia, which itself is ruled in fear, may also collapse……gulp.」
When I turn away from the pondering commander and toward the unsettling murmur, the woman who paid a visit as a messenger before the start of war slowly raises the muzzle of her musket.
Three, two one, about now I guess.
A loud bang rings out at the same time I lean back.
Wind grazes my ear and a tiny hole opens up in a stone pillar.
「Yikes, that was close.」
「Uwah, she actually did it!」
Sweat drips from the woman like a waterfall while the headquarters staff turn pale.
That’s when the commander clapped his hands.
「At this point in time, any further resistance will only waste the lives of our allies! We should bear the temporary humiliation and seek a chance to clear our names! Everyone, lower your weapons and retreat!」
As soon as the words come out of his mouth, the staff rush to be the first out of the mansion.
I feel like it’s a bit late, considering they fired a shot, but I’ll let them go since I don’t want to do battle here.
「Sadly, orders are orders. If you’ll excuse me.」
I grab the woman by the waist and pick her up as she lets go of her musket.
「Cadet Filley, your indomitable courage and devotion to the Federation was genuine. I will inform your father of your bravery and request His Imperial Majesty to award you with the Red Lion medal.」
The enemy commander sends off all the staff, then turns to salute me, before departing the mansion with a tense but dignified face.
「How very commander-like.」
If the Federation has more commanders like that, it’s going to be tough for us.
「Sir! I’m still here! And wait, isn’t the Red Lion awarded to soldiers who died bravely in battle!?」
I walk out of the mansion while tearing off the crying woman’s clothes, and let out a victory shout.
The Dual Crater I hold up doesn’t have its former glow, but the faint black light radiating from the blade gives off a unique aura in its own right.
Cheers spread from me to a few soldiers around me, then eventually to all the other allies in the city including those on the ships in the river.
The small enemy squad that remains in opposition to us in the city also gives up, throwing down their weapons and withdrawing with a humiliated look on their faces.
Like the commander earlier, they’ll have to bear with the embarrassment.
「Alright, it’s over.」
I sheathe my Dual Crater, then put the hands of the fussing woman whose lower half has been stripped on the wall.
I don’t move for the next couple of seconds.
「This isn’t the time to be doing this!」
I toss the naked woman aside and mount Schwartz.
Next to him is a white horse, which probably belongs to the enemy commander, writhing on the ground with a goopy white fluid leaking from its ass, but I don’t have time to rebuke the deeds of a perverted horse.
「Go there. Full speed.」
Schwartz turns his head at me, confused about where I want him to go, but when I tug on his ears, he runs and grabs a map from an excited commander’s waist and flings it to me.
In the end, he’s merely a horse who depends on a map for directions.
I have doubts whether he is suitable to be the mount of a wise king like me.
A Few Hours Later――
I arrive in Elektra again with Nonna under my arm and jump off Schwartz.
「Good work. You can rest now.」
Expectedly tired from sprinting at full speed on no rest, Schwartz falls on his side panting heavily.
He’s getting up there in age too, huh?
「Aegir-sama, you’re so reckless! It’s outrageous for a king to ride alone! What if assassins tried to kill you!?」
Nonna screams, a scarf wrapped around her neck.
I went to pick up Nonna from the main base in front of Elektra and returned on my own.
「Hahaha, the enemy doesn’t have the luxury to send assassins to a snow field with nothing there.」
I place my hands on either side of Nonna’s waist and lift her up like a baby.
「Look Nonna. I’ve taken Elektra. This city is mine, and as my wife, it is yours as well.」
Nearby soldiers correspondingly cheer.
The cheers, like a war cry, are shouted by groups throughout the city at a steady rhythm.
Despite that, Nonna doesn’t seem to have any reaction so I take a peek at her face.
A few seconds later, feeling satisfied, she takes slow steps forward.
I didn’t need a verbal confirmation.
「I thought I’d have to walk through this city someday with my face hidden. There are no people now…… though I’m sure this place will soon liven up.」
Nonna’s eyes seem to stare into the distance.
I wonder if she is reminiscing about the time she visited with me or back when her family was ruling.
「The beautiful harbor has not been burned either. The boorish war ships lack a little elegance though.」
The grounded Giganto feels very out of place, hopefully she can gloss over it with a wonderful memory.
Nonna blinks her eyes many times as she breathes out long sighs.
Is she remembering the scenery she saw when she was a kid?
「Those are the ruins of the inn and bathhouse where you cried and waved a knife at me. Fufufu, back then I didn’t know what to do.」
「I’m sorry. I can’t do this after all.」
Nonna shakes her head.
Seeing the crater left by Celia’s explosion must be hard.
I’ll repair that place later.
Let’s move on.
I tug Nonna’s arm, pulling her away from the city and toward the remains of the headquarters on top of the hill……the feudal lord’s mansion.
「I was but a traveller back then and couldn’t come here. It’s different now.」
Nonna briefly stops moving, but I drag her along regardless.
「Lord Hardlett! I am the mayor of Elektra――gmu!?」
A woman in her forties runs at me, although I don’t pay her much attention.
I tilt her chin and leave her with just a kiss and a few parting words.
「Tell the man named Leopolt that you have my permission.」
I don’t know what she wants, but judging by her expression and gestures, I’m sure it is a reserved plea.
It is a trivial matter to me right now.
I wondered if kissing the mayor in front of Nonna was a bad idea, but she can’t seem to separate her mind from the mansion of her memories.
Passing through the main entrance, Nonna’s steps gradually begin to hasten.
Nonna, who was being pulled along by me, moves up beside me, then walks ahead of me, pulling my hand, and eventually walks fast enough that she has to let go of my hand.
I don’t grab her hand, and simply follow behind.
Just when I thought she would run right in through the front door, Nonna stops.
A foreign tree can be seen growing between the orderly rows of trees on the left and right, disrupting the harmony.
「The mikan seeds I secretly planted finally grew. I never got to see it bear fruit.」
I pluck one off a branch, peel the skin, and stuff an orange wedge in Nonna’s mouth.
Nonna, with her mouth full, runs off again, bursting through the front door of the mansion.
「Everyone, get out. You can abandon your jobs, guards are not necessary either. If you need anything, speak to Leopolt.」
I’ll announce things later.
Intelligence officers searching for any information left by the enemy and other soldiers hurry out of the mansion.
Nonna shakes her head after surveying the entrance area.
「The interior has all been changed. I mean……of course it has.」
Then, as if suddenly remembering something, Nonna turns around and clings to a particular stone pillar in the corner.
「The color is different, but this is-!」
Nonna takes the hem of her dress, which she normally takes care not to get a single stain on, and starts wiping the pillar roughly.
Her dress gets dirty and tears, while the paint on the pillar fades.
Appearing under the paint are three horizontal scratch marks.
「The lowest one is me, this is my sister, and this is my brother……」
She strokes the height markers which now only reach her belly button.
Nonna disregards her dirty dress and runs off again.
When she picks up a bronze candle stand, fragments of porcelain drop out of the hole on the bottom.
「It was father’s vase that brother broke when fooling around. Because it was hidden, father worried about a robber stealing it.」
She pokes a finger at the burnt edge of a carpet.
「Sister swung candles pretending to be a magic caster. Even I received a knuckle from my mild-mannered mother.」
She remembers memory after memory.
This is the home she lived in from the time she was born to her teens. I’m sure she has endless memories.
I’ll gladly listen to all of them.
Nonna turns around and points.
The splendid tree that can be seen from the window reaches up to the second floor.
What memories does she have of that?
「On the final day……mother……and brother were hanged……」
I jump out of the window and slice the two-meter thick trunk with my Dual Crater.
The impressive tree tilts and falls over with a thud.
「You don’t need any painful memories.」
I carry the teary-eyed Nonna to the adjacent room.
This must be a storage room, as plenty of objects that are caked with dust are piled up roughly in here.
Nonna crawls out of my arm, walks on all fours to a fallen mirror and removes the cover.
Nonna hugs the mirror and takes a deep breath.
I sit next to her with a smile, prepared for what will happen next.
It’s been a while since Nonna sobbed like this.
She is wailing without any restraint like a baby with her mouth wide open.
Her voice is loud enough for the window to vibrate.
「There there. Cry as much as you want.」
When I rub her shoulder, Nonna hugs me, and just when I thought she went back to the mirror, she returned to my chest. I laugh, thinking how nimble she is while crying.
「Brother, sister, mother, Nonna has survived……and returned home alive.」
Nonna’s voice is shaky and she sniffles between her sobbing.
「I tried to forget. Father’s humiliation, brother’s final moments, sister’s tears, mother’s despair……because……because it would destroy the happiness I’m experiencing now!」
These are probably words I should not be hearing.
「Nonna has made a new family. I have a loving husband, precious children, and that stupid Carla too. But in the end……for just one night, I couldn’t forget those fun days and the despair and frustration of that day for one night!」
These words being hard to listen to is just right.
「Aah, I’m so glad. This is how it should be.」
The gap in national strength between us and the Federation is still quite big.
Although I pretended not to listen in the strategy meeting, even with Elektra fallen, they still have three times the population and eight to ten times the collective national power.
We were only able to fight evenly with them until now because they believed we were their allies and because they deployed most of their forces in the war with the Empire, leaving the east empty.
With Elektra gone, so is our advantage.
The Federation will get serious now.
And west of here is no longer the outskirts of the Federation.
The scale of the cities and the condition of the roads, as well as the military facilities, will be on a different level.
I know it’s going to be a tough battle.
I thought about Goldonia’s future, and there was no other way of setting it up such that things end with peace negotiations.
Still, the reason I pushed through the difficulties is-
「I won’t let anyone speak badly of it again! I won’t let anyone take the name of the city! As long as my beloved is here!」
-Is so that I can bring Nonna here.
「I’ve fulfilled my promise. It took a while, didn’t it.」
I meant to grin, but seeing Nonna turn around made my expression warp into something scary.
It can’t be helped.
Even though I kept my promise, if I lose, Nonna will be saddened and Elektra will be taken away again.
This isn’t enough. I have to keep winning.
I can’t afford to chuckle even if it is deep within my heart.
「Yes. You have certainly fulfilled your promise.」
Nonna gives the mirror one last stroke before standing up, then blows her nose with a handkerchief.
Lastly, she takes off her tattered dress.
「Now let me fulfill my end of the promise. Although, my heart and body already belong to Aegir-sama.」
Nonna stands on her tiptoes and kisses me, her bare breasts pressing against my chest.
「I offer you every shred of my soul.」
「I gladly accept.」
My arm wraps around Nonna’s shoulder and we exchange a kiss passionate enough that her soul might be sucked out through her mouth.