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Springtime came to the newly-made Granz Duchy.
“Duke Granz, congratulations on your engagement!”
The news was all over the duchy. It was the first happy news since the end of the war.
Cibba, who lived shut up in the great chapel, and Bogard, who had returned to the hidden village, both visited the duke’s castle in joy.
Waiting there was Granz, who now looked every bit the part of a duke, and a bewitchingly beautiful Mavole girl.
“Welcome, Cibba and Bogard!”
Duke Granz was overjoyed.
“So Gemma really didn’t come… I would have thought that he would have at least showed his face.”
“We’ve been looking for him, but we can’t find traces of him anywhere.”
Bogard sighed. As soon as he had, the Mavole girl smiled and began to speak as if to soften the atmosphere.
“I, too, had desired to meet him, the man who led the Three Gemma Knights.”
“This is Medusa, a princess of Mavolia…”
“It is nice to meet you, everyone.”
The beautiful Mavole princess introduced herself. Most of the visitors were stunned into silence by her beauty, but here and there people were whispering to each other.
Bogard said, “You must take good care of her.”
“I will,” said Granz. “My duchy is different from the Vandole Empire. I want to make this country an open place. I want it to be a place where everyone can be happy, whether they were oppressed by the empire, or lived in the empire, or come from completely different worlds unconnected to ours.”
“If that is what you want, then I’m sure the people will follow you.”
As Bogard said so, Cibba nodded.
“That is true. It is said that the Mana Tribe are descended from the beasts and spirits who served the goddess, but now they are just humans, without any of their mysterious powers and techniques. Even if you look at Bogard, he’s no different than any other perverted knight…”
“Even if the worlds we come from are different, we are all united under the goddess’ protection.”
“Thank you, great sage. I never thought someone would say something so kind to me, after I left my own world behind… Ahh, please bless this child!”
Medusa pointed to her stomach as she spoke.
“So Granz is going to be a father!”
“Yes. We even have a name picked out.”
“Indeed. We’ve decided on Devius and Stroud.”
“Why two names?”
“Because Granz is silly, and he won’t listen to me when I say I want to name the baby Devius. I think that Stroud is a lovely name too, but… Oh, I know, why don’t you tell us which name you prefer, great sage?”
“Hahaha! Look at this cute couple arguing!”
When Bogard laughed from the bottom of his heart, Duke Granz sulked.
“Is it really okay for you to laugh like that? It’ll be your turn when you’re having a baby, you know.”
“Eh? Is that how it works, Cibba?”
“Well, you shouldn’t ask me. I haven’t had any romance in my life…”
“No doubt about that!”
The wedding was beautiful and splashy. Guests of many different races were invited, even great magicians who had inherited Mavole blood, and the ceremony was full of cheer. The wedded pair looked happier than ever.
The Free Duchy
Granz’s firm resolve to create a country free for all spread throughout the world in an eyeblink.
“That new ruler Granz is certainly an interesting one.”
“I can’t believe he married a Mavole.”
“His wedding ceremony was apparently like a big heads of state meeting.”
“But at the same time, thanks to him, all of our racial squabbles seem kind of stupid.”
Although many were confounded at first, it was only a matter of time before people began to regard Medusa the Mavole with respect and understanding. Of course, it goes without saying that Cibba worked hard for her in the shadows.
In Mavolia, many were touched by Granz’s will, and several people asked for leave to move to the human world.
On one moonless night, a single shadow descended upon Granz’s castle.
“Who goes there!”
Granz stood before the shadow in order to protect Medusa.
When he did, the shadow took on human shape.
“I am called Count Lee.”
“Oh, Count Lee, I never thought you would come to visit!” Medusa beamed. “Granz, Count Lee is my childhood friend.”
Granz, who had traveled Mavolia in search of Medusa, was quite used to the unusual customs of Mavoles, and he and Lee became friendly very quickly.
“Um, did something happen in Mavolia? Have my mother and father allowed our wedding?”
Count Lee shook his head.
“Your parents are just as stubborn as you. No matter how everyone says that Granz is a good man, they will not listen. I’m sorry for not being able to help, even though you asked me to convince them.”
Medusa smiled, looking rather lonely.
“It’s fine; thank you, Count Lee.”
“Medusa, I am powerless…” Granz lowered his gaze sadly.
“No, I was prepared for this when I left Mavolia. I am all right.”
Count Lee said, “But just as the world of humans has changed with the fall of the Vandole Empire, I believe a new wind should blow in Mavolia as well. It cannot remain closed off forever.”
“Yes. I think that Mavoles ought to learn of the outside world. I never knew until Granz sang to me that the world was so wide and so wonderful.”
“And I think that I too shall do as you have done.”
“I want to live near the Granz duchy. I want to personally experience the changes of the human world.”
“But if you do that, you may be exiled from Mavolia too…”
“Medusa, let me speak honestly; I want to watch over your family. The child inside you is going to be a precious bridge between the human and Mavole peoples, won’t it? Then it should be more convenient to have a Mavole like me nearby.”
“Count Lee, I can’t believe you decided to leave Mavolia for something so…”
“Duke Granz, will you grant me permission to build a mansion near the duchy?”
When Lee asked this, Granz nodded.
“Thank you, Count Lee. If you are with us, it will be a great help to me and to Medusa. Let me show you a good land within the duchy.”
“No, Duke Granz. If you do that, the people will surely be jealous. Please do not treat me any differently. And I like that marsh.”
“The marsh of sorrows, do you mean?”
“Well, I am very strange even for a vampire. I will hide from the people that I am connected to the two of you. In the case that anything happens, that will surely be the best for all involved.”
Duke Granz nodded deeply. Medusa would give birth to her child, and if that child were to inherit his name as the next duke, he did not know what might happen then. Surely those who desired conflict would immediately rebel at the thought of having a Mavole ruler. Count Lee spoke to Medusa, who was growing pale.
“I’ve always thought of you like a little sister. Of course I don’t want you to be sad. Just like in the old days, please rely on me like you would an older brother.”
And so, a very strange noble came to live in the marsh of sorrows. Hearing rumors that he was a vampire, the people were wary of him. But because he did not live on Duke Granz’s land, there was nothing the duke could do, and besides, no one had heard of any women being kidnapped, so the people decided to ignore him.
The Battle of Blood
As her due date approached, Medusa became horribly sick and weak.
“After all, the lady is hosting two separate worlds inside her body right now…”
“Yes, indeed. Will the victor be Mavolia or the human world…?”
“We will have to see if the child is a Mavole or a human.”
The great mages all whispered to each other.
From his home in the marsh of sorrows, Count Lee worried, and continually sent bat familiars bearing gifts of Mavole medicine.
“Inside Medusa’s body, Mavole blood and human blood are fighting to create a new life. Medusa, it isn’t much, but I hope that this medicine will ease your pain but a little.”
Even as Duke Granz received Count Lee’s medicine, he grieved.
“There is nothing I can do. If I had known it would be this painful, I would never have wanted children!”
“No, Granz. Our child is the light of hope that will connect Mavolia and the human world… it will be the symbol of our free country.”
Medusa seemed to have accepted her great task. Witnessing Medusa’s determination to bear his child even if it cost her life, Granz became fearful.
“Do you plan to leave me, as the Mana Goddess left us after creating the world?”
Granz loved Medusa very deeply, but he feared losing her more than anything.
“Granz… sing for me. Even if my soul should wander into the underworld, your songs will bring me back.”
And so Granz sang. Sitting at Medusa’s bedside, he sang to her every night. It is said that his voice traveled even to Mavolia…
A Family Torn Apart
Medusa soon gave birth to twin boys, but the birth was very difficult. Devius, the elder, was born premature. And from the strain of childbirth, Medusa’s illness worsened.
Granz visited Count Lee in secret.
“What am I to do? At this rate, there will be nothing I can do for Devius!”
“Granz… it may be best to send Devius to Mavolia for a while.”
Hesitantly, Count Lee began to explain.
“Mavolia is filled with magical energy. Devius’ Mavole blood is much stronger than Stroud’s. I believe it would be best for Devius to be treated in a place that is filled with magic.”
“But both you and Medusa have been exiled from Mavolia. I don’t think that anyone would agree to bring Devius over the border.”
“Will you give me some time? I will try to convince Medusa’s parents.”
Even as Count Lee departed for Mavolia to frantically persuade Medusa’s parents, Medusa and Devius’ conditions worsened. Medusa began to plead to return to Mavolia.
“Please, dear! Let me bring Devius to Mavolia, my home.”
“You cannot! Why are you so eager to give up the child you worked so hard to give birth to?!”
Even as she battled her illness on her deathbed, she begged that her son be brought to Mavolia.
“For this child to survive, he must be helped by other Mavoles. It’s all right, my parents in Mavolia will surely help him.”
“Do you really want to rely on those cold parents who refused to let us marry and exiled you?”
“But, even so, they are still my parents…”
“The count left to persuade them ages ago, but I haven’t heard from him since. Mavolia has abandoned you!”
Their argument did not continue for long. There was contact from Mavolia, that Devius would be taken to the other world. Count Lee had successfully persuaded them.
Count Lee whispered so that only Granz could hear him, “Granz, I’m sorry. It looks as though Devius will be stuck in Mavolia…”
“Is that so… I knew it.”
In exchange for bringing him to Mavolia, Devius would be raised there. That was the condition sent by Medusa’s people. But there was no other way to save Devius’ life.
Granz thought of his son, whom he would likely never meet again, and wept. He could not let the sick Medusa, who loved her child so, know the truth.
After a while, Stroud—who, perhaps because of his weaker Mavole blood, was perfectly healthy—was publicly announced as Granz’s heir. Stroud had inherited his father’s looks, and at a glance could not be told apart from a human.
There were very few people who knew that Medusa had given birth to twins, and that Devius the elder brother had been spirited away to Mavolia. Watching Stroud grow soothed Duke Granz’s heart, but Medusa’s condition continued to worsen, and the people gradually started to forget about the princess of Mavolia.
Numerous messengers came from Mavolia asking Medusa to come home, but Granz refused them all.
“I cannot lose Medusa.”
The fear that had begun with Devius’ loss grew great in Granz’s heart.
“Medusa, I will never let you go, no matter what happens.”
Count Lee felt the same. If Medusa were allowed to return to Mavolia, he feared that she would be imprisoned.
“Medusa’s standing is very peculiar. Setting aside the matter of her son Devius, Medusa herself left Mavolia behind with such a strong will; surely the people will not forgive her…”
Count Lee sighed deeply. Having lived in the human world, even a vampire such as himself had become more and more human.
“I will do everything I can to help, but Granz, you must protect Medusa with your own human hands.”
“I know. I have an idea…”
Granz was resolved. He called a messenger, and sent a secret message—to Bogard, of the Mana Tribe.
The Secret Message
The messenger reached Bogard.
“Lady Medusa, the wife of Duke Granz, has been abed with illness for many months.”
“I had heard that childbirth was hard on her, but… what can I do? Granz and I were both Gemma Knights. I’ll give what advice I can.”
“Then, allow me to speak. Just as Emperor Vandole saved the great sage Cibba, would it be possible to save her with Mana power? That is what Duke Granz wishes to know. Where is the Mana Tree?”
“Don’t tell me that you’re going to touch it?”
“Oh, no. Once the proper preparations have taken place, Duke Granz will come and do it himself.”
“You total idiot, you are so blind! Even though your wife’s life might hang in the balance, how could we trot out the goddess’ power so easily? They call that exploitation of power for private greed!”
“And besides, the goddess’ tree is still dried and dead. No power has returned to it yet.”
“Then, Lady Medusa will…”
“I feel sorry for her, but there’s nothing I can do. Even if we had the Mana Tree, we can’t use that power for our own benefit. Emperor Vandole started using his power indiscriminately because he saved Cibba’s life…”
When Bogard said that, the messenger began to cry.
“Lady Medusa is a good person. I was once an imperial soldier, massacring many people in the neighboring countries. As revenge for what I had done, I was to be killed by the people, but Lady Medusa saved me. My sins will never disappear, but Lady Medusa taught us that we must not hate each other because our appearances, our birth, our positions, and our pasts are different. That we must not hurt each other anymore. The Granz duchy only exists because of Duke Granz and Lady Medusa. If we lose half of our light, our country will fall to ruin.”
“I know, I know! That Medusa is a good woman. She has a proud heart and strong kindness. After all, she’s the woman my best friend Granz fell in love with.”
Bogard held out his hand to the weeping messenger.
“If you can, ask Granz to come here himself. Of course, with Medusa in such a state, I can’t force him… But there’s something I want to show him.”
Several days later, Count Lee snuck into the castle to visit Medusa, who had become more stable.
“Your color is looking much better.”
“I’m happy that my parents have forgiven me. Now I can return to Mavolia in peace!”
Medusa’s cheerful smile hurt Lee and Granz’s hearts.
“This is all thanks to Count Lee’s persuasive skills. Once you are home, you must relax and get well with Devius. Your parents surely want to see you, so take this opportunity to visit them too.”
“Oh, but as soon as I am well, I will be back. Families ought to stay together. I will bring Devius back with me, so please look after Stroud until then.”
Granz nodded tenderly and held out sleeping medicine.
“There are still several hours until you are due to return home. Please take this medicine and rest.”
Watching over Medusa as she drank her medicine and went to sleep, Granz and Lee spoke to each other.
“Are you sure, Granz?”
Asked so by Lee, Granz said, “If we cannot rely on Mana power, all that we can do is send her home.”
Granz had made up his mind.
“I don’t want to let her die. Please, Count! Bring her back to Mavolia, as you promised.”
Count Lee nodded. He felt just as awful at the thought of losing Medusa. Rather than watching her lose her life, he would rather she live on in Mavolia, even if he never saw her again. His wish for her recovery was the same as Granz’s.
“They have said that if Medusa gives up on the human world, they will forgive her. Just like Devius, she will be accepted by her people.”
“With the magic of Mavolia, her memories can be sealed. Granz, Medusa will probably forget you. She will probably forget everything, and live a different life.”
“I don’t care… But please, don’t let Medusa realize. If she knew, she would certainly refuse to return home.”
“It’s all right. By the time she wakes, we will be in Mavolia. I will be with her until then.”
When Count Lee spoke the incantation, a carriage came down from the sky. Granz lifted Medusa in his arms, and laid her in the seat like a treasure.
“Medusa, even if you forget, my heart will always be with you.”
Duke Granz placed his favorite lute in Medusa’s arms.
On that day, the magical minstrel Granz, the Gemma Knight, the knight without a sword, lost the ability to sing.
The Mana Ritual
Several days after parting ways with Medusa, Granz rode to Bogard on horseback.
The hidden village, which Granz was entering for the first time, looked like the Mana Temple and smelled like magical arts. Everything was covered in festival decorations, but things still seemed very lonely.
“Nice to see you! How’s Medusa?”
“Well…” Granz said vaguely. “Medusa went back to Mavolia. Cibba said that was for the best too…”
“I see… Well, don’t lose hope! You’ll be able to meet again once she’s better. And you’ve gotta let Medusa see her parents, too!”
“Thank you! That makes me feel better.”
Granz couldn’t tell the truth. Somewhere in his heart, he still believed that Medusa might one day come back, bringing Devius along with her.
“I’m sorry for panicking at you then…”
“No, that’s fine. I don’t think I can stay composed today, either…”
At that time, a woman appeared. She was beautiful, and wore the traditional clothing of the Mana Tribe.
“I am Mana. I have heard of you from my brother… no, I mean from Bogard.”
“So you are Ms. Mana…”
“Don’t tell me…?”
“Yeah. This is the end of our life together. Drink with me, old pal.”
The festival lasted deep into the night. Mana danced a fierce and lovely dance, and the people cheered. Alcohol was passed around, and the proud Mana Tribe lost all pretense of dignity.
The festival ended, and the people left. All but those who knew the true meaning of this day.
The elder spoke to Mana.
“I am sorry that we could not show you the outside world.”
“Ordinarily, the women chosen by the goddess live happily as human girls until the promised day arrives. Even though we were at war with the Vandole Empire, forgive us for our cowardice in forcing you to remain here…”
“No, Elder. I have seen the world. Bogard has told me so much about it. This world is wonderful. I love the world.”
“Thank you, Mana. Thank you, Bogard…”
The elder cried. Granz, too, wept.
Mana said to Bogard, “If only I had more time, I would have liked to have your child.”
“I am so glad that I accepted your proposal! Thank you for giving me such a fun life!”
Mana entered the Mana Sanctuary alone.
In the deep night, brilliant light rose from within the Mana Sanctuary, and a giant tree sprouted swiftly from its center. It is said that its warm light illuminated the whole world.
Shadow of the Duchy
Two decades passed.
Cibba the sage lived quietly at his chapel. Bogard traveled the world at his whims just like Vandole once had, hoping to understand the mysteries of life.
And Duke Granz spent his days in misery, imagining his wife Medusa and his other son Devius living new lives in Mavolia, forgetting all about him.
“Father, you look ill again today. Are you worried about something?”
Stroud knew nothing. This was done not out of cruelty, but out of the people’s respect. The secret of his birth and his mother’s identity were all taboo in the castle.
Stroud became sure that his mother had died in childbirth. His father Duke Granz was uncomfortable for a different reason.
“That there is no news from Mavolia surely means that Medusa’s memories of me were erased, and she has returned to the life of the Mavole. She is surely alive and happy. And our son Devius is surely beside her… So why am I so worried?”
Father and son lived on, hearts distant from each other.
One day, as if to ease young Stroud’s sadness, the people of the castle told him something interesting.
“It seems that there is a strange man in town. He is supposed to be quite skilled.”
“The townspeople are apparently wondering if he is not a wandering swordsman.”
“A wandering swordsman…?”
Those words caught Stroud’s interest. It was because he had heard that his father’s erstwhile companion Bogard was wandering the world as a swordsman.
“I wish to meet this man!”
Stroud brought his attendants with him as he charged into the town.
“If this person is Bogard, then maybe I can learn about my father’s youth from him… Maybe even about my mother!”
Stroud’s heart was full of hope.
The Mysterious Man
But the mysterious man who was supposed to be a wandering swordsman was not Bogard. Stroud sighed in disappointment.
“He looks pretty young; he must be the same age as me… But I guess I might as well at least go say hello.”
Stroud went to greet the man, but the man spoke first.
“Might you be Lord Stroud, one of Duke Granz’s sons?”
“I am indeed Stroud. But what you just said is peculiar. I don’t have any siblings.”
“Oh? But I am quite sure that I had heard your mother delivered twins?”
Stroud’s attendants blanched.
“Lord Stroud, you must not involve yourself with this man.”
“This man is not quite sane.”
“Yes, let us leave!”
“No! I want to talk to him!”
Stroud had realized it: That here before his eyes was a piece of the truth hidden from him.
Whispers of a Devil
The mysterious man said that he had just come from Mavolia. He told Stroud everything. Not even the attendants—no, not even Duke Granz had been aware of these awful truths.
Stroud learned that his mother Medusa was the princess of Mavolia. He learned that he had an older brother named Devius. He learned that both Medusa and Devius had been horribly weakened by the strain of the birth, and had been taken back to Mavolia.
That much, the attendants and Granz knew. But everything else was news they hadn’t heard.
The man said that Medusa, whose marriage to Granz had been opposed by her people, had not been allowed entry to her palace, but immediately upon returning home had been exiled to the borderlands. He told them that Devius and Medusa were suffering in the darkness of the borderlands, without anyone to help or nurse them.
The man said, “If only Duke Granz had been more attentive, then perhaps Lady Medusa would not have had to rely upon her unforgiving people for aid.”
“What do you mean?”
“Duke Granz could not have thought so well of Lady Medusa. Even though this is supposed to be a free country, for the princess of Mavolia to live here as well… She could not have been well-received by all of the people.”
“That’s strange. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m sure that my father loved my mother. And even if he didn’t, then why send even my brother to Mavolia when my brother should have been the heir? That doesn’t make sense.”
“Doesn’t it? I think it possible that Duke Granz might have been trying to save his country from a war over succession. Might he not have lent his ear unwisely to those who hated Mavoles and wished for peace at any cost, and sent both potential seeds of discontent away to Mavolia?”
“But that can’t be true! My mother and my brother went back to Mavolia for their health! When they get better, I’m sure they’ll come back!”
“That is what I believed, as well. But when I laid eyes on you, I could not help but doubt. Are your mother and brother truly that sickly? You yourself seem so healthy…”
Stroud was stunned speechless. He was the picture of health. He could not help but feel as if the man was telling the truth.
“If you want to know what really happened, it may be a good idea to investigate your father’s court. The people who claim to be the peaceable faction may be plotting behind the scenes. The courtiers keep strange people in their mansions. It is all very suspicious…”
“This is ridiculous, it can’t be true!”
Stroud left in a whirl of anger. But fanned by his suspicion, the sparks of conflict began to ignite.
After that, Stroud investigated the movements of the politicians.
“Just as he said, there are strange people going in and out of the courtier’s household… I wonder what’s going on?”
On the other hand, Duke Granz ordered that the man who had spoken of Medusa’s situation be found.
“If that is true, then I must go and find Medusa and Devius!”
Even with the city in a panic, the mysterious man could not be found. And Mavolia was vast. If one wandered in aimlessly, one would only become lost. Duke Granz, worried for the wife and son he had not seen in twenty years, lost his senses and turned the castle over in a panic.
Taking that opportunity, the mysterious man threw oil on the fire.
“The courtier is colluding with somebody. Just who are those people?” Stroud asked the mysterious man.
“They are heretics. They are manipulating the courtiers in order to keep Mana energy to themselves.”
“Heretics who want Mana energy for themselves?”
“Yes. I believe they call themselves the Mana Tribe. They are certainly very suspicious.”
“But I hear that my father has a friend in the Mana Tribe named Bogard…”
“Oh dear, you really haven’t been told anything, have you? When Lady Medusa was ill, this man called Bogard sent away your father’s messengers and refused to use Mana power to heal her, saying that only the Mana Tribe can determine how it is used.”
“Then, that means the Mana Tribe as good as killed Mother!”
“Yes… Your father Duke Granz has quite poor taste in friends… In addition to the unfeeling Mana Tribesman Bogard, he is also close with Emperor Vandole’s best friend, the ugly sage Cibba…”
Stroud learned that everything he had known about his life was wrong. As his face grew pale, the mysterious man whispered to him.
“Do you know? At first, the people wanted a man named Gemma who had defeated the emperor to rule this country. But in the end it was Duke Granz who created this place. It’s as if he stole the land right out from under Gemma’s nose…”
“What should I do?!”
“Let us save your brother and your mother! In order to do so, we must free this country from that horrible Granz and the Mana Tribe who abandoned them!”
“That’s it! Let’s make this country truly free again, and go to save Mother and my brother!”
Stroud had come to trust the mysterious man completely.
“First, let us go to the heretics’ hidden village. It will be quickest to see the truth firsthand…”
Led by the mysterious man, Stroud left for the Mana Tribe’s hidden village. The Mana Sanctuary itself was protected by a powerful barrier, but the nearby village was easy to enter.
The elder came to meet Stroud and the mysterious man.
“Is there a reason you have come to visit this out-of-the-way village?”
Stroud said, “I think that there was someone who came here about twenty years ago asking for aid. In order to save the life of a princess…”
“You speak of Duke Granz’s wife, yes?”
“That’s right. Why did you not help her?”
“Because we cannot simply use Mana power at our own discretion. If we did so, then it would only lead to the rise of another Vandole…”
The mysterious man laughed.
“That is absurd! The person who needed your help was the wife of one of the very Gemma Knights who defeated Vandole! Why did you abandon the wife of one of the heroes who saved the world from the merciless power of Mana? Is it because she was a Mavole?”
“What are you saying?”
“And yet the women of the Mana Tribe are raised in peace here in this beautiful land near the Mana Sanctuary. The chosen girls especially are raised in privilege and contentment…”
“Just who are you?”
“I am saying that the Mana Tribe are heretics who believe yourselves to be chosen above all other races.”
The elder protested, but the mysterious man did not retreat even a step. The people of the Mana Tribe watched the exchange in worry.
“Then, what shall we do, my lord?”
The mysterious man turned back to look at Stroud.
“The Mana Tribe are heretics who hoard Mana for themselves!”
“No! You are mistaken!”
“Shut up! How dare you say that when you left my mother to die! You, too, should feel the pain of having your families torn away from you!”
Stroud drew his sword. The mysterious man began to cast his magic. In no time at all, the Mana Tribe’s village was in ruins.
Amidst the fleeing people were a girl and her mother.
“Mom, hang in there! We’ll be in the forest soon!”
The mysterious man and Stroud appeared before them.
“Even if they are heretics, I don’t want to hurt women and children.”
Stroud sheathed his sword, but the mysterious man said, “The heretics have abandoned women and children before, as they have abandoned these two now. Have you forgotten what happened to your own family?”
“…Oh, I see how it is! You, girl, if you want to blame anyone, blame your people!”
Stroud raised his sword to strike the girl, but her mother cut him off. At the same time, a swordsman came running towards them.
“Who are you?!”
“I am Bogard, of the Mana Tribe!”
“So you’re Bogard!!!”
“Bogard, take care of her!”
The injured mother tried to push her daughter towards Bogard.
“No! I don’t want to leave you, Mom!”
“Listen to me, I am not your real mother.”
“You must live, and search for your real mother. You have a duty to do so! Bogard, look after her! Protect her!”
Screaming only that, the mother used her magic to warp Bogard and the girl away.
The forest rang with the sound of a woman’s scream…
The mysterious man realized the girl’s identity.
“That girl is the symbol whom the heretics rally around. She is a heretic priestess, being raised to hoard Mana for her race.”
“A little girl like that…”
“We must strike her down while she is still young. The heretics are aiming to control Mana, and guide the world from behind the scenes.”
“They’re really planning something this big?”
“The Mana Sanctuary is protected by a barrier, isn’t it? How do you think Emperor Vandole entered that protected realm and obtained Mana power in the first place?”
“Don’t tell me that the Mana Tribe themselves gave Emperor Vandole all that power?”
“That’s exactly right. And then once he was no longer usable, they joined forces with the Three Gemma Knights… That is how the heretics behave.”
“No way, that’s so shameless!”
Now that he had made Stroud even angrier, the mysterious man told him something new.
“Actually, it seems as though some of the fleeing heretics escaped to the Granz duchy.”
“What? Is there really anyone in this country who’d join hands with heretics like them?”
“I believe that some of the so-called peaceable faction might. Lately, the homes of the courtiers seem to be quite busy.”
“But my father is good friends with them… How do I get anywhere near them?”
“Tonight, we will go to that courtier’s home. The Mana Tribe girl should be there, a girl carrying their mark and their pendant. Yes, the very priestess who escaped us that time… Capture her and question her. Ask her why Lady Medusa was abandoned…!”
And finally, Stroud attacked the courtier’s home.
The girl and the wandering swordsman Bogard were there, but Cibba intervened, and they escaped Stroud’s grasp. In their place, Stroud arrested the courtier’s family, and questioned them using extreme methods.
Both the courtier and his wife died in the questioning room. Only their twelve-year-old son survived.
By the time Duke Granz heard of his son’s violence and went to stop him, it was too late.
“Father, I will have you go to jail as well.”
“What happened, Stroud?!”
“Please ask yourself that. You have forgotten the ideals of this country, and deal with those who want to keep Mana power for themselves…”
“Are you talking about the Mana Tribe? They’re my dear friends!”
“Dear… you say? The Mana Tribe are cruel, and refused to use their power to save Mother from her illness! How can you say they’re dear to you?”
“We must not use Mana power for our own benefit. And Medusa chose herself to return to Mavolia, to recover. There was everything with Devius, too. I sent word for them to be entrusted to Mavolia. I had never imagined they would get lost there!”
“How could you say that! You hated my mother for being a Mavole, and sent my brother away to prevent a war over succession!”
“Who has been telling you all this nonsense…?!”
Before the captured Duke Granz, a young man appeared. His countenance was vaguely familiar, and Duke Granz tried to remember where they had met. The young man introduced himself with the manners of a gentleman.
“Hello, Granz of the Three Gemma Knights… My name is Julius. Please take care to remember it…”
“Don’t tell me, you’re…!!”
And so Duke Granz was spirited away, and Stroud became the new ruler of the country. He labeled the Mana Tribe heretics who wanted to hoard Mana power, and he ordered for them to be hunted down.
“The dark ages were originally the fault of the Mana Tribe anyway. It’s because the Mana Tribe gave Vandole their power!”
Stroud’s bold proclamations could not be contested by historians, the government, or even the great sage Cibba himself; because his words were infinitely close to the truth, they were uniquely convincing. And at Stroud’s back, the young man calling himself Julius huddled as close as his own shadow.
The threads of broken bonds were once again caught up into the loom of fate. As the threads were cut, destiny began to rush forward.
What would become of the imprisoned Duke Granz?
What of Cibba, the sage of Wendel?
And the wandering swordsman Bogard?
No… in order to advance the story, we must place new heroes on the stage.
The twelve-year-old boy whose parents were killed, and the twelve-year-old girl who barely escaped his home with her life…
When the hero and the heroine reunite, the story will speed up. Whirling about the Mana Tree and the Sword of Mana, the world sprang into motion!