Read at Watashi Wa Sugoi Desu!
Chapter 13: Longing
The office of the general of the nation’s defensive unit had a huge desk in the center of the room covered with piles of paper towering as high as half a foot.1
“Pardon me,” a voice said with a light knock on the door. Soon after, a boy with red hair, carrying a bunch of paperwork, entered the room saying, “I’ve brought the additional documents that need Your Highness’ approval. I’ll leave them here.” It was the deputy general’s aide, Derrick Bergunde.2
The man slouching in the seat next to the desk glared daggers at Derrick.
He was already stressed by the awful amount of paperwork he’d dealt with earlier in the morning that had steadily increased throughout the day, even after night fell. With nothing but utter displeasure in his voice, the man sighed and said, “Derrick, we’re finished for today. I’m not accepting any more paperwork.”
“No can do,” Derrick replied cheekily. “The documents from the secretary of the treasury finally arrived. We need to sort out matters regarding our department’s allowance before the end of the day.”
“I’ve been cooped up inside this stuffy room all day,” General Gravis complained to the aide. “I can’t do more of this damnable drudgery any longer!”
Despite his noble status as the youngest brother of the king, Gravis Ardolf Fanoren, the renown “Hero of Zwölink,” had devoted the entirety of his adult life to the military after ending the great war with Zwölf twelve years ago. Even so, he was still commonly referred to as “His Royal Highness” within palace walls, such as the royal court or the office of internal affairs, despite his official title being General of Fanoren’s National Defense Unit.
Though already handsome in appearance, Gravis’ most noticeable and unique characteristic was his eyes. They were a peculiar shade of indigo, glittering with flecks of gold. But no matter how they accentuated his natural beauty, most people who met him face to face saw only dull and weary eyes that offered icy stares so chilly that they shrunk back in fear. Many were too intimidated to face him head-on.
However, none of those effects were seen in the red-haired aide before him, and he didn’t wilt under the pressure of Gravis’ glare either. Instead, he replied rather aloofly, “I beg your pardon, Sir, but could you please refrain from using such unrefined language while we work? Deputy General Brandt is attending the memorial service at Zwölink. Until he returns, I’m here to ensure you keep on task with your assigned work.”
“Then have Lucas handle it when he returns,” Gravis stubbornly countered, standing up from his seat.
“I’m sorry to remind you, Sir, but the deputy general is not coming back anytime soon,” Derrick told him bluntly. “Please remain seated. There are still some documents left that need your immediate approval. Let’s not waste anymore time and finish all of them today so we won’t have more work tomorrow, shall we?”3
Exasperated, Gravis grumbled, “Dammit, then just do the bare minimum!”
Though the general’s behavior may have seemed exorbitant, the level of irritation that he openly displayed was something Derrick had grown accustomed to over the years.
He had known the general for a long time. Whether he intended to or not, Gravis always had this strong air about him that intimidated nearly everyone else, which made them avoid or refuse to be near him.
But, if you took the opinions of his subordinates and those who knew him personally into account, despite seeming pessimistic and cold, Gravis was known to be considerate, rational, and easy to get along with as long as you didn’t try to pry into his personal affairs. He wasn’t someone who’d purposely make excessive demands or get angry without reason.
“Don’t you tempt me!” Gravis threatened as he rearranged himself back in his seat. “I’ll make you pay for this during tomorrow morning’s practice!”4
“I’m sorry to disappoint you, Sir, but I am a lowly aide. Aides such as myself are not permitted on the practice grounds to undergo the same sort of training drills guards do, but you may join them if you so please,” Derrick nonchalantly replied in spite of the warning.
Under normal circumstances, Derrick, an aide of common birth, was not supposed to oppose figures of high nobility such as Gravis who was not only the youngest brother of the king but also the highest military official in the country. However, because Derrick had been able to build a steady relationship of trust with the general over the course of many years, he was allowed to argue against his superior’s orders under circumstances such as this.
“Deputy General Brandt will be back in five days. Until then, please be patient,” Derrick said, to which the irritated general clicked his tongue in response and turned his attention back to the papers on his desk.
Gravis had just picked up his pen after Derrick handed him some more of the documents he needed to review when someone knocked on the door again. An apprentice aide was allowed in holding a letter with apparent trepidation.
“T-to His Excellency, a m-message from the deputy general has a-arrived,” the young aide stuttered, trembling in obvious unease.
His declaration was met with an indifferent “Hand me that” from General Gravis, who was unintentionally intimidating yet another individual in his presence.
Derrick took the letter from the shakey apprentice and handed it to Gravis himself.
The general read the letter as soon as the apprentice aide left the room. It was indeed from Deputy General Lucas Brant. As Gravis read the letter, he looked increasingly upset, rattled even, before finally calming back down. Derrick, who had been watching closely, did not miss the reaction, however brief.
“What did the deputy general say in his letter? Is there a problem at Zwölink?” Derrick asked, watching Gravis’ eyebrows gradually crease further.
Seeing his superior’s mood plummet the longer he read the letter, Derrick inwardly cringed at the bad timing of its arrival. He had wanted to get the remainder of their paperwork done before the end of the day, but now that seemed impossible.
“No, not quite,” the general answered Derrick’s question with a simple reply before reading a section of the letter aloud. “It says, ‘We’ve found something interesting in Brungwurth.’”5
“Something interesting, huh…?” Derrick repeated quietly.
“Mm. He also writes that it’s something I definitely need to come see for myself,” Gravis said before he continued reading. “’You absolutely must come to Zwölink.’”
“I see. Well, it is about time that all of the guests should have arrived for the memorial service,” Derrick replied and then went on, “Well, I’m sure Your Highness would be able to get there in no time if you so chose to attend, but don’t you think the deputy general is being a little unreasonable?” Derrick made sure to purposely stress that last word in such a way that his own reasonable superior would find himself unable to refuse.
“Damned Lucas! What’s the point of him sending me such useless drivel as this? Is there even anything worth seeing in Zwölink now?” Gravis growled under his breath as he crumpled up the letter and threw it away. “Let’s just get this over with!” Gravis grumbled as he picked up one of the documents he’d been working on before.
Choosing to wisely remain silent about the letter, Derrick watched his superior resume doing paperwork. When he looked at his watch after collecting all their finished work for the day, Derrick noticed that exactly one hour had passed since they began working diligently.
It’s about time for the memorial service to start, he thought to himself.
Derrick was just about to leave after thanking his superior for staying to handle all of the urgent documents when Gravis stood up abruptly and knocked his chair over.
He was staring blankly at nothing and looked rigid. Derrick felt alarmed at his superior’s unusual behavior and called out to him without hesitation.
“Excuse me, Sir? Sir!?” Derrick addressed Gravis, obviously taken aback by his superior’s sudden shift in demeanor.
At that moment came a “voice” that only Gravis could hear.
Panicked, Derrick continued speaking to his superior who seemed to be in a daze. “Sir!? General!? How may I help you?”
To Gravis, Derrick’s voice sounded so distant, but the voice calling out to him in his head was more vivid than anything else.
———Help!! Vee! I’m here!
Impossible! He can’t be alive. I retrieved his body and buried him with my own hands, Gravis reasoned with himself. But this voice… there’s no way I could be mistaken! Still, he kept hearing the voice of his one and only friend who had long since passed.
———Io!!! Gravis called back to the owner of the voice he’d heard cry out to him.
“Sir!?” Derrick’s voice was there too, far off in the distance, but Gravis couldn’t care less about it. Helplessly, Derrick watched as the form of his superior disappeared into thin air and left him standing alone in the office.
Gravis had leapt.
Since that day, he had been begging the heavens, praying to let him hear his beloved friend’s voice once more. Today, finally, that wish had been granted.
Gravis wasted no time and followed it to Zwölink.