First Chapter: Prince Leo (Part 1)
Leo is laying on the grass with his arms and legs stretched.
The sky is dark violet. One, two, the stars started to shine.
(Will I die)
(Am I going to die)
The sun was setting soon. In this season, he had heard that it would be unbelievably cold inside the mountains during the night. Leo had yet to experience the winter in this land.
In the first place, the trigger to this was the brothers of Walter and Jack.
「We’re going for a hunt」
Said, early in the morning, Walter forcefully woke him up.
「Hurry up and get ready. Every movement of the men of Atour is too slow」
Jack followed with his screeching voice.
Changed clothes without knowing what was going on, and forced to hold bow and arrows.
「The beasts of Arion are very faster than someone like you, and they have a keen nose. If you wear a lot of clothes we’re going to be found out by our smell」
Being said by something like that, he was taken outside with thin clothes. But although he was saying that, the brothers themselves was properly wearing cold-proof equipments, so they are probably “planning that” in the first place.
The three, rode horses. They flew to the north of the pavilion of the House of Angrat House. In the middle of the road,「Listen」, Walter said with a frowned face.
「I don’t know how it was in your country Atour, but in the Arion Kingdom, a weak person who can’t even kill one deer that can succeed the House, they are not even recognized as a man」
「Of course, guns aren’t allowed. Use a bow like a man」
The younger brother Jack followed.
「It means you are, not a man in Arion, you aren’t even human, that means. You’re already 1, right. Prove that you’re a man who have noble blood. I will especially let you use this bow. This is a special one, I killed a boar with it when I was 2 years younger than you……」
That was a lie, Leo knew.
That kind of custom is not Arion-like. In the first place, the two always starts, 「In Arion」, saying proudly the name of their Kingdom, but it’s not like they were a royalty or a noble of Arion.
Compared to that, Leo Attiel was no doubt, the son of the current prince of the Principality of Atall.
Although, even if he said that,
「How great, I see, that was how it was. Then, can that prominent son would please show us his powers」
He could easily imagine Walter’s face having a faint smile with crooked lips, and Jack who quickly agree with him saying「That’s right, that’s right」. That is why Leo didn’t resist. He entered the mountains with the two, without saying anything. After making the horse walk by the river for about an hour, they made sure that the horses were tied up properly to the tree that has its leaves completely fallen, and climbed over an hour by walking.
「Alright, this is a great hunting ground」
When Walter stopped at his feet, Leo was drenched in sweat. His breathing was rough. Jack scoffed at that, saying「The men of Atall are sloppy」, but he was 3 years older, Walter was 5 years older than Leo, so it was hardly a fair judgment.
「This place is very clear. We will quickly corner prey, so you should hide in the brushes around here」
「Don’t let go of the bow. Keep your breath down, and don’t move」
「When the prey comes, kill it with one shot. Just like hunting the head of enemy soldiers」
The two said alternately, they left Leo behind, and disappeared from that place in a hurry.
As he was told, Leo hid his body in the brushes. He pulled the string of the bow a few times. It was a small one that grown-ups use to hunt easily, but with Leo’s thin arm, he couldn’t even pull it by a third. He was even worried if he was even able to kill one rabbit with it.
But that, proved unfounded.
After half an hour, no, he didn’t even have to wait 10 minutes. The appearance of the two disappeared, the sound of footsteps disappeared, what remained was the sound of branches being swayed by the wind once a while, and when he only hear the sounds of the birds,
(Ahh, it was a lie after all)
Leo finally knew it. He couldn’t feel the presence of the brothers chasing a prey at all. They probably weren’t planning to hunt at all. He could even bet that the horses tied in that woods, including Leo’s, all the three of them have disappeared.
Even so, Leo continued to lay down for a while. Even if he hurried up and returned to the Angrat’s pavilion, the brothers of the House of Angrat will only say,
「Hey, you’re late」
「It’s good to be engrossed with hunting, but you shouldn’t do it so hard」
With a normal face. While laughing at him from behind.
That’s why Leo didn’t move. Be it a boar, or even a small deer. If there was only, a bird or two, appears in from of him by chance. Maybe even a slow squirrel that was late to hibernate. Leo thought that if he returns with those as souvenir, surely, no one would make fun of him.
(Ahh, but I need to be careful. That, bird with green colors in the tip of its feathers, Flory likes it very much. If I return with its carcass, I’m sure it would be a huge commotion in a different meaning)
Leo had, imagined scene of the girl who was one year younger than him, crying loudly. Only in with that, appeared a wry smile from his mouth. With the thought of persevering, he once again returned his sight ahead.
Butーー, in the end, that didn’t last for an hour. His sweat had dried for a long time. The cold winds rather stole his body temperature. Leo stood up and shook off the soil and grass that was on his clothes.
「Let’s go back」
He said, not to anyone. He is only going back in with his own will, he might have been letting himself hear that.
Even knowing that it was futile, he returned to the place where the horses were tied up.
No, he “tried” to return, but he couldn’t. Even if it took more than an hour to climb up from there, he should’ve walked in a straight path. He thought that it would be easy to return, but the more that Leo moved ahead, the more that the unfamiliar scenery surrounded him.
(This is strange)
He couldn’t help but become impatient. He became anxious that he might be going down to a place that he didn’t know of, and tried to go back his path. When he turned around, his feet caught the ground. Leo’s small body rolled down the hill. Small rocks sank to his back and chest, the branches of the trees scratched his hands and feet.
And in the place where Leo fell down, the light of the setting sun illuminates his face.
It was a decently opened place. Leo, in a posture where his arms and feet stretched, stopped moving. Or rather, he lost the will to move.
The sky that he looked up to was astonishingly wide, and earlier to himself,
(Let’s go back)
that itself made him thought of himself as a ridiculous fool. Go back? To where?
To the House of Angrat’s pavilion. To continue to become only a hostage without resistance?
Or, go across the mountains that continues to the northeast, and step on the ground of his homeland Atall. Right now, it was himself that couldn’t even return the path that he came from earlier!
In the first place, even if he return, he knew that he wouldn’t be welcomed. He was a hostage. Atall and Arion, as the two country’s proof of friendshipーー, saying that sounds good, but it only means as a warning to Atall that disobeyed the powerful country of Arion, it was a punishment.
Since Leo became distant to his homeland, it was two months before, since he stepped on the east part of Arion.
Leo’s custody was handed to a general named Claude Angrat. It was said that he became general that had a castle recently with his achievements in the war earlier. And, rare even in the long history of Arion, he was rumored to be a man who rose up from a soldier.
From that day, Leo lived in the pavilion of General Claude. He lived and learned the manners of Arion, ate the food of Arion, and studied the academies of Arion. It was already two months, but in reality, Leo had not yet met General Claude in person. They said that he left for the far west capital of Arion Kingdom.
Jack and Walter were the general’s son. To the 『Noble person』of a different country that suddenly came, the brothers were perplexed on how to treat him. Whatever time or situation it is, men had always become cautious towards an unknown person, checks and measures their attitude. And the younger they are, that period is shorter. The two brothers decided their attitudes quickly.
(Even if he’s a prince, it just means, a hostage gave by a weak country to the strong Arion)
Just like that, an atmosphere that looks down on Leo was created.
Leo Attiel was aged 11. It was the age to treat him as a smaller brother, and he was too young to become friends. Above all, his attitude was not cute. He was always expressionless, thinking deeply, alone.
Claude had one other child, it was the youngest child, Flory. To her, there wasn’t cautiousness or measurements like with men. She innocently said,
「I have a new “Onii-sama”」
And became happy with it.
Such as the time like dinner in the dining hall, she ignored the restrains of her mother, dragged her seat as close as she could to Leo, and hound him to tell stories of the Principality of Atall.
To that, Leo did not ignore her at the least, but made an attitude that was mostly can be taken as that.
Whatever he was asked,
「Who knows, I wonder how it was, I don’t know」
「I forgot, I’ll remember it next time」
he only returned heartless replies. When Flory’s big eyes sank in sadness, the two brothers showed an extreme expression that they might jump on Leo any time.
「Leave him with that, Flory. The prince has just come and he is not still used to the atmosphere of Arion」
Flory and the brother’s mother, namely, Claude’s wife Ellen, was the one who stops the brothers in times like these, but at times when she is not around, during studying and training martial arts, Leo was made as an easy target. Claude had, invited a monk from the Conscon Temple, near the borders in the east to teach his sons, but when Leo couldn’t answer the monk’s question,
「Barbarians of Atall doesn’t know anything」
He clearly looked down on him, and when it was time for the sword and sparring with fists training, he is brutally hit, and if the instructor did not stop it he wouldn’t be left with only raw wounds, but broken bones every time.
In the first place, Leo, even in the academics and martial arts of Arion, was not into it. He only thought he needed to live long. That was the only value that a hostage have, and Leo, right now, had only the value of a hostageーー.
(To think that, I)
Right now, even if he stepped on the grounds of his homeland far away from Arion, who would be happy with it. The ones that were injured in the war, the soldiers, the residents, even his family, the house of the prince, no one would welcome him. He even thought, especially, his mother would change her kind appearance dramatically, look at him as if he was an enemy, and shoot sharp arrows from her rounded out lips.
「I do not want to」
Just like that time.
「A child that is still 8. This child’s body is weak. If you are going to send someone to Arion, is it not good that you send Leo」
Leo bit his lips strongly while laying back.
While the darkness had deepened, the ground in his back became stiff and cold. He felt that his body heat was gradually sucked up.
(If the sun sets like thisーー)
I would die.
Will the heat of his body disappear at last to the ground will be first, or will it be a beast that was prowling in the mountain that had few preys smell his flesh, and gnaw him from the head will be first.
As soon as he thought of that, Leo’s body was shattered, carried by the early winter’s wind, he felt a weird pleasance, being shot to the ends of the sky.
After all, he did not have a place to return to, it was a life that anyone didn’t need, if only that could happen. Even the general that he has yet to see, and that general’s children would surely be in a panic. Even how worthless of a being Leo was, he was at least treated as a visitor from another country. The general who rose up to his position will be surely pitiful. Forced to take responsibility for it, probably would taken away of his land and of his castle. Leo smiled pleasantly. To begin with, he had a very fine face, so he looked like a young girl that was smiling innocently.
What would happen, when he started to imagine that, Leo felt that his joyful delusions were destroyed by the sounds of the horseshoe.
He thought that Walter and Jack had returned, but metal fittings had a noisy sound. A sword in its waist. It’s probably also wearing light armor, Leo figured out without looking. It was probably a soldier that served General Claude. Leo did not return for a long time so they can to search for him. The horse stopped with a light nose breath. Leo’s eyes were taken by that for the first time.
In an instance, he was startled. An unfamiliar man who was on the top of the horse, he was glaring at Leo. He had a light armor and a sword as he imagined. His body was large and sturdy. His skin was dark, tanned by the sun, it had an impression of leather that was exposed to wind and rain. Seemingly not shaved for a long time, his face was full of his beard, and his eyes was huge and sharp.