Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!
Chapter 14: The Fortress of Burnt Wishes 1
By the time Leorino and the others finally arrived at Zwölink, the sun was well over their heads and descending toward the horizon.
Leorino’s waist and bottom felt numb due to the length of the carriage ride. And, as they stepped down from their coach, the persistent grumbling of his stomach made him feel lightheaded and his vision fuzzy. Continuing to fast since the night before was custom but unpleasant.2
His legs felt heavy, and his knees wobbled with each step. Had there not been a pair of arms to hold his shoulders firmly and support him, he would have fallen off-balance. Looking back at who it was, Leorino smiled at the sight of his older brother Oriano’s worried face.
As Leorino regained his footing, his eyes drifted over to watch the other guests climb out of their carriages. His gaze then wandered over to survey a part of the crowd where the crown prince, Vinter, Yohan, and Gauff were also each exiting their respective transport too.
Next to them were the knight officials, Mr. Brandt and Mr. Khan, who both came riding on their own destriers. Leorino was very impressed at how they were able to keep their horses going for so long without stopping for food or water as well as how everyone else attending the memorial service was so incredibly organized and disciplined.
Witnessing all the commotion around him, Leorino consciously placed one of his arms over his stomach and held onto the side of his clothing. He did it to muffle the relentless sounds his stomach was making, silently wishing not to cause a scene in front of the adults present.
Once all of the guests had finally alighted their transports, Augustus’ right-hand man Lev and the others who went ahead to make preparations came over to guide them toward the inner gates of Zwölink.
As they passed through the fortress gates, the sky disappeared, and wherever you looked, there were only stone walls as far as the eye could see.
What a huge feat of masonry! Leorino exclaimed to himself, marveling at the brickwork along the gates and up the path they were walking.
During the founding of Fanoren, Zwölf wasn’t yet a country. The area where Zwölf now resided was but a lowland situated near the borders of the kingdom of Fanoren and was mainly inhabited by barbarians at the time.
In order to prevent those warring tribes from invading the new land of Fanoren three hundred years ago, their ancestors had carved the cliff-like slopes and built a double-reinforced brick wall that was nearly five times the height of an average man. Skilfully, they did all of this to create a border between Zwölf and Fanoren. The full extent of this man-made wall ran the length of the territory where Zwölf bordered Fanoren. Zwölink was then built on top of that in order to allow Fanoren’s garrisons to more effectively guard the area from invaders, thus successfully keeping the borders of Fanoren and Zwölf separate.
Since then, the only time Zwölink had ever been invaded was the event that took place twelve years prior.
As he looked on at the new and unfamiliar surroundings they passed, Leorino couldn’t help but be in awe at the overwhelming presence of this massive stronghold.
“Keep on walking Rino and close your mouth,” Oriano chuckled as he lightly tapped his youngest brother on the back to remind him to keep moving forward.
Leorino’s cheeks reddened in embarrassment as he hurried to shut his parted lips and quietly follow the others up the rest of the pathway.
All of the attendees had been informed of the memorial service’s itinerary in advance. As such, the first stop on their agenda was to offer a prayer in the chapel located at the innermost region of the fortress.
Next, the attendees were expected to move toward the outer retention wall where they would rest and recoup for a while before lining up outside the main passageway in preparation for swearing the Oath of Repentance in honor of those who had fallen during the war. This memorial service, the Flame of the Fallen, began as a symbol of their sovereign promise to never allow their lands to be invaded again. It was tradition for this part of the ceremony to be led by the royal family of Fanoren.
Lastly, the attendees would then move back to the symbolic central gate of the citadel’s inner wall, the place where the soldiers gave their lives to seal off access to the citadel and offered themselves to the encroaching flames to prevent the invaders from advancing before reinforcements arrived. Everyone would then offer prayers in front of the cenotaph3 by the gates to end the service on a sombre note.4
Despite his family’s previous reservations and despite being the youngest attendee of this year’s memorial service, Leorino managed to keep up with everyone else during the first section of the ceremony and was now walking toward the outer wall where the pathways converged and led to the next portion of the service.
However, even though Leorino may have seemed fine on the surface, he was not. If it weren’t for Oriano’s support to help him maintain his footing along the way, Leorino would’ve long since collapsed before they finished the first prayer due to fatigue from fasting since the night before. He was visibly exhausted from the long journey.
Only when they reached the outer wall, after everyone was divided and led to their respective rooms where they could rest and be served tea, did Leorino heave a loud sigh of relief. A break, finally! I’m so glad I didn’t make a mistake and embarrass myself during the first prayer!
Augustus, who only then noticed his son’s unusual pallor as he struggled to maintain composure, worriedly rushed over to Leorino and asked, “Son, are you all right?”
“I’m fine, just a little bit tired. Thank you for asking, Father,” Leorino said hurriedly in an effort to reassure Augustus. However, shortly after he said that, as if his body were betraying him, Leorino’s vision went out of focus for the briefest of seconds and the world began to swirl around him. It was so sudden that he lost his balance and fell from his seat.
Distressed at the sight, Augustus raced to help the dizzy Leorino back into his seat. He then asked Lev, who was standing nearby, if there was a room within the fortress where Leorino could be allowed to rest for a little while.
“There’s a small room on the top floor that has a settee5 you can use. You can also access the corridor leading to the oath ceremony easily from there,” Lev replied.
Augustus nodded in response and carried Leorino to the top floor where the suggested room was. Leorino’s older brothers couldn’t help, but looked after him with concern as they watched their youngest sibling taken away somewhere else to rest.
The room Leorino was brought to was small in comparison to the more grand corridors used for entertaining guests. It contained only the settee and a small table within. Gently, Augustus laid Leorino on the sofa and stroked his hair in an attempt to soothe some of his son’s weariness. “Stay here and rest, my child. I’ll be back after half an hour.”
“Mm… I’ll be fine. Thank you, Father,” Leorino said while also thinking to himself, Thank goodness this room is so close to the main corridor! This way I won’t have to climb the stairs for the oath ceremony later.
“Are you sure you’ll be all right? I can tell Gauff or Yohan to accompany you,” Augustus offered, his face completely overcome with concern as he watched his youngest lay sickly on the settee. Part of it was because he couldn’t help but remember the first time he’d brought Leorino to Zwölink. He was anxious of history repeating itself.
“It’s fine, you don’t have to. I’ll just rest here. Besides,” Leorino said firmly in an attempt to lessen his father’s worries, “it’s better if it’s quiet.”
“I see,” Augustus sighed in resignation and turned to Lev who was waiting on them by the door. “Tell one of my guards to check in on him from time to time,” he ordered.
“Yes sir,” Lev answered with a curt nod, accepting his superior’s command before bidding goodbye to Leorino. “Young Master, I’ll be on my way too. Please try to get some rest.”
Leorino smiled as cheerfully as he could when he nodded at them, doing his best to not cause any more worries for either his father or Lev. Augustus smiled lovingly at his son and patted his hair once more before getting up and leaving.
With that, Leorino was left alone.
Though it was silent, he could still feel the presence of others outside in the corridors far beyond the walls of this room.
It was then that Leorino’s thoughts wandered back to the time his father told him about his very first visit to Zwölink. Though Father said that, I wonder if it’s true? I still can’t remember anything from back then…
Before he knew it, fatigue from overthinking had overrun Leorino, and he closed his eyes as he drifted off to slumber.
This smell… Why is it so familiar?
The fortress… is something burning…?
Why is it so hot? It feels like my body’s on fire…
It’s so hot…
In his sleep, Leorino vaguely thought, Ahh… it’s not me but Zwölink that’s on fire…
Lu: *boop* Hello people~ our dear TL Xiangers made a fanart of this series of a scene from chapter 12! Come check it out~
or just look at this masterpiece keke~