Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!
Chapter 6: Old Habits1
Leorino would turn twelve years old soon.
His birthday had always been a very important day for Brungwurth and for the entire nation of Fanoren. Truly, it was a day to be celebrated, for it was the date that Fanoren had reclaimed the citadel of Zwölink from the invading Zwölfs, which became the key point in deciding the outcome of the previous cold war and where many soldiers sacrificed their lives for their beloved country.
Every year on that day, the royal family, the nobility, and the bereaved would gather at the citadel of Zwölink to hold a memorial service called “Flames of the Fallen”2 to honor those who had perished. Due to this, the Cashew family was busy preparing for and dealing with the ceremony that Leorino’s birthday was often celebrated by on the following day. Theirs would just be a small gathering solely for him and his family.
Leorino, who would turn twelve on the same day as the memorial, would therefore be considered halfway to adulthood and would finally be able to attend the service for the first time. In fact, as far back as he could remember, it would be the very first time he ever went to Zwölink.
After they had supper one night, Leorino came up to Augustus and proposed that they needed to have a talk. Augustus replied with a nod and gestured for the child to follow him to his study. There, Leorino asked Augustus a question that he had always been curious about. It was about the reason why his father had not brought him along to Zwölink before. All three of his brothers had regularly visited the citadel with Augustus back when they were young, which made him wonder why he was the only one who had not been there as regularly as the others.
“I took you with me once… when you were very young. I carried you in my arms.”
“I see. I don’t seem to remember that at all.”
“It may perhaps be because you were still very little at the time… I think you were only three then.”
A three year old should at least have a vague recollection of that time, but oddly enough, Leorino had no memory of being in Zwölink at all.
“Then… why have you not brought me there since?”
Augustus’ brow furrowed. Perhaps three-year-old Leorino had done something wrong, but he could not remember.
“The moment we arrived at Zwölink, you suddenly started crying. Even when I did my best to console you as Gauff held your hand, and even when Hundert tried to soothe you, you still wouldn’t stop. And, all the while, you were screaming pitifully to ‘close the gate!’ It was as if you were being torn to pieces.”
Leorino suddenly felt a rush of indescribable cold setting fire to his back.
“Finally, you fainted as you cried out, ‘It burns!’ Your unusual behavior at the time sent shivers down my spine and also that of everyone else who was present that day. No one ever told you about what happened in Zwölink twelve years ago, for a toddler to say such things and act in such a way is still a mystery to me. I, for one, thought you were possessed by a ghost that was still lingering around the battlefield.”
“I… don’t remember any of that at all,” Leorino said, genuinely confused about not remembering his time at Zwölink or how he had acted out back then.
“It certainly seemed like it. After returning to the castle, you had no memory of ever going to Zwölink or even crying and fainting while we were there. Since then, I have never taken you back to Zwölink. Even now… I still don’t want to bring you there ever again.”
The political situation during the time of Leo’s birth and the tragedy that occurred in Zwölink have been repeatedly taught to him using age-appropriate expressions from the time he had been assigned a tutor. It was meant to be a reminder that had the citadel of Zwölink been breached, the whole country, and Brungwurth even more so, would have been engulfed in the ravages of war. The daily lives of Leorino, his family, and all the people of his father’s domain would have been completely different.
As his birthday approached, Leorino had begun to feel guilty that he had come into this world on a day when so many others had lost their lives defending the country. He had always hoped that if the time came for him to attend the memorial service, he would offer the most heartfelt prayer of gratitude to the souls of the soldiers who died so that he could be born.
“Please take me to Zwölink, Father.”
“I was born on the day of Flames of the Fallen. It is thanks to those who fought at Zwölink that I am able to live in peace like I do now. I want to pray for them—I want to go there.”
Shortly after, the preparations for the memorial service were nearly done.
Under the direction of Lady Maia, the Countess of Brungwurth, the servants of the estate quickly prepared the castle to receive guests. Rooms for the dignitaries and their retinues were assigned in the castle walls of Brungwurth and in the guest house built next to the estate. For the eleventh year in a row, as always, the preparations were well coordinated and organized.
The main dignitaries attending the memorial service this year were Crown Prince Kyle Fanoren3, on behalf of the king; Prime Minister Marshall Vinter4, on behalf of the general of the national army; Deputy General Lucas Brandt5 and Deputy Commander Joshua Kahn6, from the kingsguard; Archbishop Royce7, from the church of Fanor; and lastly the Marquis of Lagarea, Augustus’ ally. The rest were from the Brungwurth Autonomous Army, Zwölink’s current resident troops, and the main officers of the national army.
With that, the county of Brungwurth received word that Prime Minister Vinter and Deputy General Brandt would be arriving shortly as their first guests.
Leorino stood in line to greet them.
Until recently, the Cashew’s third son Guaff had always been required to stand in line to greet guests each year, even before he was considered half grown. But, for some reason, this was the first year that Leorino was allowed to greet them himself. Could it be because he had been dressed as a girl in the past that he was not allowed to attend such social gatherings before? Even so, it would still be the very first time he greeted high-ranking dignitaries.
A slender man who looked to be around forty with a cold expression and a blond man with a fine physique came forward from the newly arrived carriage. Without a doubt, both of them looked powerful and formidable to Leorino. The slender man was the prime minister, and the other in a military uniform was the deputy general. It seemed to be that the military official had accompanied the prime minister on his trip. Riding atop his beloved horse, the man had followed alongside the prime minister’s carriage.
As the two stepped forth to say hello, they stiffened, as though on cue, at the very sight of Leorino. The Prime Minister was obviously shocked but quickly drew his gaping mouth shut in an effort to maintain his calm appearance while the deputy general rubbed the back of his head with his palm out of obvious discomfort.
Suddenly, Leorino caught himself thinking the strangest thing. Ah… It seems like those old habits of yours when you’re surprised never changed, Marshall, Lucas…
Wait—what was that thought about just now!?