The units of ground distance used in this story:
1 Arna (about 1 metre)
1 Myure (about 1 kilometre)
The white fall sunlight quietly cast its light upon the ground. It was past midday, and the sky had finally taken on a slightly bluish hue. The clouds were few, and the wind was calm. Upon a hill, sparsely decorated by some grass and trees, Luceide, the Prince of the Kingdom of Carvelle, was sprawled upon a blanket. Over his linen clothing, he wore a set of very plainly styled leather armor. It wasn't very becoming of a prince, but to Luceide, it was simply proper attire to be worn on the battlefield.
Next to Luceide was his stepsister, Constance. She was two years younger than her stepbrother, Luceide, and in order to be close to him, was seated close by his side upon the blanket. She wore a white dress with light blue accents in various places and was wearing a white hat. Her fiery red hair, which she had gotten from her mother's side, was neatly kept in two strands by pins on either side of her head and gave her a very cute look. Her pale silver chain-link hair ornament glimmered tastefully in the light. You could say it was a quite fitting ensemble for the Princess of the Carvelle Kingdom, but such fittingness would be limited to a castle or the streets of the capital. On this quaint little hilltop, out in this wilderness, it was quite out of place.
In front of her stepbrother sat a small collapsible table, upon which was stretched maps of the surrounding area, a quill, and some pieces marking where soldiers had been situated. With a strained look on his face, Luceide held up one of the maps up so that the light shone through it, looking at it for a time before suddenly moving it away from his face and gazing into the sunlight. He then took a small watch on a chain out of his pocket and glanced at the dial with a scowl on his face.
Constance moved closer to get a look at the watch. After confirming the time indicated on the dial, she made a funny face towards Luceide and smiled.
“Onii-sama, it's barely been ten minutes since you last checked that watch! The hands won't move with any more urgency no matter how anxious you are, and nothing on the map will change either!”
“If something like that happened at this stage, it would be a problem for us after we returned; unless time were to skip right into tomorrow, with us having been declared victorious and the war being over!”
Luceide answered, returning the watch to his pocket with a sour look on his face. Sometimes the prince's mannerisms reverted to those of one constrained to the slums. It made him quite popular amongst the relatively common folk who made up the ranks of the Carvellian army.
“Onii-sama, you're so greedy!”
Constance whispered, the smile upon her lips taking on a mocking tinge.
“I've been together with you throughout this war up until now, and I had gotten the impression you were much more calm about it. Or is it that you're distracted by something else and you quickly forget the time and map?”
This time Luceide did not answer. He raised one of his eyebrows, and glanced at his stepsister. Constance yelped with a contrived 'GAH' and avoided her stepbrother's gaze with grandiose movement.
“Even when you make a scary face, Onii-sama, you have neither solemnity nor intensity about you. At best, you give off an air of crumbled bread, or a construction made from clay that has been trampled. I believe I've seen the soldiers taken aback when you show them that face!”
“I almost always make this face when I am on the battlefield. The soldiers have grown quite accustomed to it.”
Smiling in sarcastic response, Luceide looked toward Constance, who purposefully breathed a typical sigh.
“Yes, that smile as well. You do know what the ladies-in-waiting back at the castle say about it, don't you? They call it the vulgar smile of a scoundrel, or the malicious grin of one with too much ambition, things like that. Why don't you try having a brave, refreshing smile? Like how Lysander smiles?”
“Why would I know the sorts of things those people would say about my smile? It's not as though I set out for the battlefield with the advice of ladies in mind.”
Answering his stepsister with the same vulgar scoundrel's smile on his face, Luceide rose from the blanket. He turned towards his stepsister, his smile fading and his face taking on a more serious composure.
“And of course you are no exception. I'll give you 100 soldiers. Before the battle starts, I want you to get away from here as fast as possible. Do you understand me, Constance?”
This entire region would become a battlefield within two hours at the most. The base of the hill where they currently sat would soon be occupied by six thousand soldiers, all following the orders of Supreme Commander Luceide. Constance had nothing to offer that would give her an excuse to stay there. She had simply followed the army of her own volition. Luceide didn't become aware of her presence until three days had passed since the army's departure from the imperial capital, the city of Laistie.
Up until now,Constance had followed Luceide's armies on many occasions. She had also stowed away more than once in the past, like she was doing now; and had even once obtained King Vacelius's official permission to remain with Luceide. Because of this, many of the soldiers and other members of the Carvellian army were familiar with Constance. By manipulating all of them, she was quite successful in working behind her stepbrother's back.
From Luceide's point of view, not noticing her was his own shortcoming. He had grievously scolded her on many occasions for deceiving the soldiers, but really there wasn't much he could do to stop her from following of her own free will. Even so, as her stepbrother and as Supreme Commander, he had no intention of allowing her to move about of her own devices any more than she already had.
“Is there really no way you'll let me stay?”
Constance garnished her beautiful jaw with her finger, and leaned her head, looking up towards Luceide, asking her question in a sweet voice with a quaint smile crawling across her face. The wind blowing across the hill causing the sleeves of her silken dress to flutter. Coupled with her lovely features, this cute gesture was enough to make the hearts of most men flutter. It was said that the amount of emissaries and attendants she had deceived into conceding her demands in this manner was in the hundreds.
However, it had no effect on Luceide, who only saw her as nothing more than his little sister.
“I've told you this dozens of times before, but I have no intention of allowing you to remain upon the battlefield. Do you intend to fight in that outfit? Since you've never even had to do your own laundry, you wouldn't know this; but the stains of blood are not simply washed away with soap.”
Constance's expression soured, but she soon returned to her usual smile, and gazed upon her stepbrother.
“By the way, Onii-sama... do you even have a chance of winning this battle? You've enjoyed two losses in your two battles against Fal nee-sama, haven't you?”
“The outcome of the third battle is not limited to my defeat.”
Luceide managed to compose a grimace to deliver his response, but the look on his face and the sound of his voice betrayed more than a little irritation. It was said that the Parmian armies currently pushing into Carvellian territory were being commanded by Falshella, the younger Princess of the Kingdom of Parmia. Luceide had sent countless scouts to confirm this before they had arrived at their current location, and there was no doubt in his mind that it was true.
As it stood, Falshella had become the most celebrated soldier in all of Parmia. She had led her first campaign to a successful conclusion at the age of fourteen, and had defeated numerous soldiers of great repute. Furthermore, she continued to prove the enduring nature of her battle prowess in the many battles that followed. Falshella already stood at the head of the Parmian army, and with the treasured Holy Sword of the Parmian Kingdom, her determination to cut through the enemy line, taking down famous knights and decorated soldiers had rewarded her many victories. It was said that hearing of her showing herself on the battlefield caused enemy forces to tremble in fear, and this was a great boon to the morale of the Parmian armies.
Out of respect from her allies, and cautious reverence from her enemies, she had been given such titles as 'The Golden Sword-Princess' and 'Armiche (The Victorious Princess)'. Luceide got the impression that all the rumours about her were true. Once in the previous year, and once more in the year before that, he had clashed with Falshella, and had been utterly defeated both times.
The first time Luceide graced the battlefield was when he was thirteen years of age. In the four years since then, he had entered many battlefields in foreign lands and suppressed many domestic criminals. In doing so, he had amassed many victories. In terms of battle prowess, Luceide had been reluctantly recognized by many persons who disliked him, and his ability to use his intellect to overcome adversity and notions of inferiority had earned him many titles such as 'The Resourceful General'. However, Luceide held great contempt for such titles.
Of course, it wasn't as though Luceide was invincible. He had experienced defeat numerous times. Two of these losses were in battles with Falshella. The battles had only involved around 500 soldiers, and were fairly small in scale as far as battles go, but he had undeniably been utterly defeated, and forced to retreat in unbecoming fashion.
Being reminded of the current situation, his humiliation and fear became inflamed, and ignited his princely spirit, causing his unending anger to edge quietly into his outward expression. Seeing this reaction, Constance proudly replied.
“And that is why I'm here to extend a helping hand, Onii-sama. I intend to challenge Fal nee-sama to a one-on-one showdown.”
A small small flame suddenly burst, dancing briefly before Luceide's bewildered eyes. Beaming with confidence, Constance indicated the fingertips of her right hand, where flames about the size of her nails swayed back and forth. They were flames born of magic. Constance was born to the Carvel family, which was well known as a family of magic users. Because of this trend, Carvel was often referred to as the 'Kingdom of Sorcerors'
“Fal nee-sama and I have a friendship between us born of being raised side-by-side seven years ago. However, that is nothing more than a personal matter. Once on the battlefield, I intend to show my determination to achieve success as a member of the Carvellian royal family. I'm sure Fal nee-sama feels the same-”
“I can't make use of somebody who has never once set foot on any battlefield. It's far too dangerous.”
Luceide interrupted his sister's speech with perhaps too much indifference in his voice. Constance disgruntledly puffed out her cheeks.
“You, Father, Mother, all of you say the same thing! I'm fifteen now! Onii-sama, you yourself led your first campaign when you were only thirteen! I've also heard that Fal nee-sama took to the battlefield when she was only fourteen!”
“I can't speak for Princess Falshella, but I received special permission from the King. You have not.”
Reaching out his hand, Luceide gave Constance a light pat on the top of her head. Constance did not answer, and began pouting her lips, putting on a pouty face. The flames at her fingertips danced about as if to show her fighting spirit. Luceide continued.
“If the Holy Sword that Princess Falshella wields truly holds the power it is said to, your magic will have no effect. If anything were to happen to you, I will have to answer to His Majesty as well as the Queen.”
Three seconds after Luceide finished speaking, the flames finally disappeared from Constance's fingertips. She breathed a deep sigh, exhaling the smouldering emotions within her breast, and she smiled.
“I understand. If you're going to cry in protest about it, Onii-sama, I'll let it go this time.”
Luceide answered shortly, rising onto his knees and reaching towards his stepsister's slender waist. By the time Constance could let out a surprised yelp, she was being carried like a piece of luggage.
“O... Onii-sama! Just what do you think you are doing!?”
“You said you'd let it go. So now we're going.”
“Please! Wait! If you won't cry in protest, I can't feel any sincerity in your words!”
“You might not be able to see it, but on the inside my face is stained with tears. No, It's too intense, I simply can't allow you to see it.”
Answering his stepsister in a feigned tone, Luceide turned his gaze. His associates had begun to gather a small distance away. A few of them seemed to be having some pleasant conversation, but the rest were gazing at Luceide and Constance with amused looks on their faces. They seemed to be taking in the situation. They were probably being considerate to not interrupt the quiet time between siblings this close to the impending battle. This had happened many times before. To be honest, Luceide would have preferred if they interfered, but since it would be undesirable if it seemed like he didn't get along with his sister, he didn't mention anything.
For now, Luceide figured it would be best to leave her in the care of one of the attendants, and began moving towards them. From over her stepbrother's shoulder, Constance started again with a serious tone.
“Onii-sama! Do you really intend to do battle with Fal nee-sama? Were Fal nee-sama and Alt nee-sama not kind to you all those years ago!?”
Luceide stopped in his tracks. After a short pause, the striking brown-haired Prince answered his stepsister.
“Last year, and the year before that, this is the third of our battles. I don't particularly remember the past to the same extent you do. I can't even recall what the Princess's face looks like. There's no reason for me to take what you've mentioned into consideration.”
In their previous battles, Luceide and Falshella never met face-to-face. Luceide wasn't really known for being the kind of commander to do battle from the vanguard.
“Do you mean to say that if Fal Nee-sama happens to be captured by us, you would forget our history and humiliate her like you would any other prisoner?”
“I want to foster the growth of a beautiful woman worth grappling with. Not to say I can expect as much.”
In so saying, Luceide lightly spanked Constance's butt. It always came to this when they spoke seriously. Constance beganflailing her legs about in a pained manner.
“You're so rude, Onii-sama! You should really be kinder to me! This land is quite vast, and yet you're the only person who would raise a hand to me!”
“I also believe I'm the only prince who allows his stepsister to speak to him like you are now.”
Responding to his stepsister's protest with a light tone, Luceide began walking again. He calmly reached his left hand towards his belt, resting it upon his weapon and adjusting it's position. There were small decorations running sideways along the strangely shaped iron barrel of the weapon. Before he had become a prince, he had received the weapon from his uncle on his mother's side. This weapon was known as 'The Demonic Gun'
'I've come this far. If I start worrying now, who knows what will happen. I just have to steel myself.' Luceide thought.
Finally arriving amongst his associates, Luceide let Constance down onto the ground. She looked up at her stepbrother with a disappointed look on her face as he pulled the watch from his pocket and handed it to her.
“You hang on to this until after the battle.”
“Onii-sama, I'll look dearly after this souvenir.”
“I said hold on to it. Also, don't go killing people on your own.”
Luceide then ordered one of the attendants to send her away from the battlefield with an escort.
“Well then, Onii-sama, Until after the battle.”
“Don't be asking too much of the soldiers. They're good men.”
“Of course, I understand, I'm grateful towards your men. Onii-sama, please make sure it's over by nightfall. Around here there are rumors of demons coming out when it gets dark.”
“Ask that of the Parmians! It isn't something we can just decide ourselves.”
Luceide gestured with his hand as if to shoo his stepsister away. He knew even without her telling him. He had been looking at the watch earlier worrying about nightfall. Two day's journey on foot to the west of these wilds of Listion would take you to the edge of the Kingdom. In places like this, when the sun goes down, demon's tend to appear.
It wasn't even a rumour. There were reports of victims in small towns and villages; and more and more houses could be seen with demon warding spells written on their walls. Luceide himself had fought them on many occasions. Swords or spears work just fine on them. They are not undefeatable opponents; but nonetheless, fighting them should be avoided when possible.
While the attendants were cleaning up the table and the blanket, Luceide looked down upon the sparse landscape from his place on the hill. At the base, six thousand soldiers and horses of the Carvellian Royal Army were getting into formation. The view from the top of the hill looked as though ingots of silver were amassing upon the blackened landscape.
Mixing with the scent of grass and dirt, the smell of men and horses and metal and leather floated up from the base of the hill. From afar, you could see the black shadow of the armies of Parmia crawling forth in the distance. There weren't many hills in the topography of Listion, so even from a small hill like the one Luceide was standing on, the visibility stretched out to around ten myure. There seemed to be currently about five or six myure between the two armies.
'Fal nee-sama... Hm........'
Remembering his stepsister's words echoing within him, for a mere second, nostalgia flashed across the bastard Prince's blue eyes. Seven years ago, the youngest out of the four of them, Constance, would call Falshella 'Fal nee-sama' and Altreia 'Alt nee-sama'.
However, Luceide quickly shook off his sentimentalism, and began to strongly tell himself.
“My opponent is not that boyish girl from back then, but Falshella, the younger princess of Parmia. Throughout the land she is called by exaggerated titles like 'The Sword Princess'. She's an accomplished commander and wielder of a legendary sword.”
At that moment, the attendants who had been cleaning up the blanket and the table returned to Luceide's side. Luceide turned to them and announced to them in short:
“Alright! Shall we begin?”
Following behind Luceide, the men began to descend down the slope of the hill.