A bit of warning from the author: WARNING! HORRIBLE GRAMMAR IMMINENT!
Chapter 2: The Heaven Lords in the New World
Part 17: Beyond the Wall
662nd YEHS, Dark-Half 5th Month, 18th day, afternoon
The big sun was high in the sky when several carriages from Neuschwanensee arrived in Tinerese. When Mayana was informed of this, just like in the morning, she and the village chiefs went to the village gate, where not only the garrison Knights gathered but also the villagers, who stood in awe at the carriages.
Mayana could understand the reason. The carriages itself was not something that could be called as normal, as it was a large highly ornamented carriage. The carriage chassis was painted pure white with a metallic luster, on its side and door it was adorned with gold and silver decorations in a flower-like pattern. The window was covered with crystal-clear transparent glass where a curtain of velvet-like cloth could be seen. The emblem of Neuschwanensee could be seen on the side carriage and the flags that were fluttering on the top of the carriage.
Each carriage was pulled by four equine animals that were similar in appearance to that of a Hirma in a two-pair configuration. That similarity was superficial, as it has golden fur and mane, sharp intelligent scarlet-like eyes, and dark glossy metal covered hoof. In addition, it was much taller and bigger than even the Hirma-breed used by the Knights once under by her Father’s employment, giving it a more gallant appearance.
To put it into simpler words, it was such an extravagant carriage worthy of a royal. One could only wonder how thousands Solis Gold will this carriage cost. Furthermore, there was not only one carriage, but four carriages of the same model and appearance. Mayana made a small smile inside her heart when she saw how the Chiefs were extremely impressed by this sight.
Mayana didn’t see any cavalry or infantry escort on this carriage convoy. But there were two smaller carriages on the front and the end of the convoy. Mayana could see several Knights-like people boarding on the carriage who carrying crossbow looking weapon on their hand. Usually, a convoy like this would be guarded by several dozen of escorts, but considering how infamous a Silver Brigade Knights of Chemkla/Neuschwanensee was, perhaps just this few was already enough.
Meanwhile, the coachmen of the carriages seemed to be civilian as they didn’t wear any armor nor giving the always alert military-like vibe typical of a Knight. One thing that Mayana quickly note is how well-dressed these coachmen is. They wore a long sleeved fine white fabric shirt covered with a dark blue waist-long petty-coat and a color matching trousers, topped by a rather big blue cap that covered their entire head. The few thing that the former noble Mayana remembered is how the nobles fond to show off their status and wealth by outfitting their servants with fine clothes as if to show that they are so affluent that even their commoner servants wore fine clothes. Whether this was deliberate or not was something that Mayana could only guess.
Two of the official-looking people approached Mayana and the Chiefs before taking their hat off and bowed their body to Mayana and the Chiefs. Then immediately one of them took out a scroll of paper, held it in his hand in straight and upright manner before they started reading from it in a stiff and awkward yet passable Palisan.
“Good day, Sir and Madam. Greeting and Blessing from the Goddess of All Creation to all of us.
These are the transportation carriages that the Archduchy Union had promised. Your side may bring as much as attendants and or luggage that the carriages could accommodate. Please entrust any weapons that you intend to bring to the coachmen, who will store it temporarily for later retrieval. The safe passage of the passengers and the security of the villages will be guaranteed by Neuschwanensee. You may board the carriage as soon as your side preparation completed, but please do it so without taking too much time.
Unfortunately, due to the shortage of suitable translator, we couldn’t provide your side with any liaison at the time being. In their place, the coachmen could understand simple sentences in case there is something to be communicated. We are terribly sorry for this inconvenience that we will rectify soon.
Signed, Kanzler of Archduchy Union.
After reading the letter, the official handed the folded letter to Mayana. Mayana received it and took a look on it. Sadly, unlike her prediction, the letter was not written in Parfu script, but in the Neuschwanensee script, like the one used in the gift seal. When she thought about it, this was not surprising, since Neuschwanensee or Chemkla had been isolating themselves from before the Parfu script popularization in the continent, hence they might not familiar with using it.
Mayana thanked the coachmen in Neuschwanensee tongue, “Sotkimase”, and then she and the Chiefs returned to Harima’s house to discuss the matter of the carriages allocation. Including herself and Harima, there were only 6 other Chiefs. Due to the suddenness of Mayana’s summon, the Chief didn’t bring any attendants with them. Even taking Nasurom and several of his subordinates as guards, there were less than 16 men. From the carriage’s size, Mayana calculated that each carriage could perhaps take about 8 passengers. Since there were four carriages, that means 32 carriages, which was more than enough for their numbers.
After much deliberation, it was decided that Harima, Kasima and the Chiefs would take three of the carriages, accompanied by Nasurom and several of his trusted men. The village’s administration will be temporarily entrusted to Harima’s sister, Risina and her sons, Sanusi and Karusi. Kanoro wished to accompany the entourage as he was rather curious about how Chemkla looks like. Mayana couldn’t have the heart to refuse him after he saw how her long-time tutor had his eyes glittering with intellectual inquisitiveness. After all, it was a rather rare chance to visit the fabled land of Chemkla. The last carriage was originally going to be exclusively used by Mayana and Sefira, who will follow her as attendants. But, after she saw that there was still some empty seats left, a rather nefarious scheme appeared inside her mind.
“Whoaa, look at the view!” (Launa)
“Whoaa, everything went so fast!” (Chiri)
Chirina and Launama were clamoring at the sight of passing sceneries outside the carriage’s window while enjoying the soft cushions. This was their first time to ride inside a fancy carriage like this. It was also their first time observing the world in the rather fast speed that the carriage traveled. Beside them, Mayana’s adopted sister, Zirana, was talking with Sefira about what clothes that Mayana should wear for the ceremony. Seeing how extravagant the dress that the Florea had given to them before, they doubt that the best clothes that they possessed right now would be appropriate for the event. It would be a different story if they still had the dresses that Mayana’s family had when they still a noble, but alas, all the clothes had long been sold in the hard times to buy the needed food. What good a pretty clothe when one’s belly is empty? Meanwhile, Mayana was in deep thoughts while sitting in the middle of the seat, sandwiched between Sefira and Fissunu, who tags along as their bodyguard. The sword that he usually carried was in the custody of the coachmen, so right now he was just sleeping.
“Thank you for taking us along!” (Chiri)
“That’s right. Sister Maya! We never thought that we will ride in a nice carriage like this!” (Launa)
“Yes! Like a Princess or noble lady in a story!” (Chiri)
Chirina and Launama might be expressing their gratitude, but considering the real reason why Mayana brought them with her, she could only reply with a wry smile.
Yes, although in the surface the reason why Maya brought her adoptive sister and cousins was that she felt lonely if it only Sefira who accompanying her, the real reason was for them to become baits for her honey trap.
Her prey: the Archduke Yusis. Seeing that he already got seven young and pretty wives, even though he didn’t look like someone beyond thirty years old. Perhaps he was quite polyamorous enough to still desire for an eighth wife. The question was ‘who will be’?
Mayana is confident with her looks, which is clearly above average woman. After all, her late mother and sisters were all so beautiful that people thoughts that one of Mayana’s family ancestors must be a lesser deity. Her body shape is quite curvaceous, with firm waist and ample bosom (couldn’t beat the Siebte Duchess Haimona though), a bit lean but not too skinny (couldn’t be helped, peasants couldn’t eat much). Since she still young, she could bear many children in the future. So she thought on physical side it is more or less ideal.
In mental faculty side, she could read, write, perform calculations, has extensive knowledge in many fields, and could speak in various Palisan dialects and foreign languages. She could do housework, thanks to her six year experience as a farmer’s daughter. Not that this matter much, considering a noble like Archduke Yusis would have man servants to do house chore. But she is confident that she can educate the children well. Furthermore, she is a decent (self-taught) mage, a trait that was sought by many nobles. All in all, a truly perfect wife candidate, this is how she was groomed, after all.
In the best scenario, she would try to win Archduke’s affection. After all, if this succeeded, then she could firmly secure the future of the former Barony of Riorra (now Margraviate of Heitersheim). After all, nothing binds a realm’s covenant more strongly than a matrimonial relationship. Although the current arrangement was already beneficial for the Barony, she desires a stronger insurance. By marrying into Neuschwanensee ruling noble, then the Kingdom of Sarai or Duke Sakorom would lose their realm’s covenant over the former Barony of Riorra. Or at least that was how the legal tradition works in the Midzu continent’s aristocratic world. Seeking legal recognition was also important to consolidate her hold over the land.
In the case she didn’t succeed in fulfilling Archduke’s taste, then there were still Sefi, Zira, Launa and Chiri. Sefira is a young woman who could be said as really pretty. This was one of the reason why she was picked up by Mayana’s parent to become Mayana’s personal slave-servant. A pretty flower should have a pretty vase too, this was the Soiporan’s ideal of beauty. Seeing how popular Sefi with the males in the surrounding village, even if she rejected many marriage approaches and broke so many hearts because she was still concerned and want to dedicate herself to Maya. She won’t marry before her mistress, Maya. Maya herself sincerely hopes that Sefi could meet with a nice man, though.
Then there Zirana, Maya’s adopted sister (actually it was Maya who was adopted by Zira’s family as a cover). Her look isn’t that bad either as she inherited the beauty of her famed grandmother Risina’s, who was nicknamed the “Blossom Maid of Riorra” back in her youth. This was one of the reason why Maya hid for 6 years at Risina’s family, as Risina’s clan had long be famous to produces great beauties. It will be strange if a random plain-faced peasant family had a gem like Maya after all. Similar to Maya, Zira also took academic pursuit under Master Kanoro’s tutelage to study as a Healer. She had a rare talent in healing magic and she is a really bright girl. Brain and beauty. No wonder, she is also popular with the males of the surrounding villages.
The last were the sisters Launama and Chirina. Although they still barely reached the marriageable age, since someone as young as Duchess Haimona could become Archduke Yusis wives, he might not really care about age. Even if they didn’t become a legal wife, a concubine wouldn’t be that bad either. Launa is a responsible girl and truly good at housework, while Chiri is a caring and motherly girl who take care most of the village’s young while the mothers are away in the fields. Excellent housewife material. They were pretty too as They inherited Risina’s beauty, so they might have a really good chance.
Either way, it would be nice if one of the five girls in this place could snatch the Archduke’s affection. Or at least that was what Maya thought. The reason why she picked up these girls was because she knows that they would loyal to her cause – Sefi and Zira has strong sense of duty, Launa and Chiri were at a malleable age – another girl might have their own opinion or agenda that could jeopardize her grand scheme. More importantly, with Sefi and Zira’s wits or Launa and Chiri’s sensibilities, they wouldn’t do things that may incite ire or anger from the Duchesses. This was her main concern. After all, history taught her that harem politics could be scary.
Now what she need was plans, how to archive this, hence why she was in deep thoughts. If only she had more experience with wooing a man. Sadly, all the girls in the carriage were the same like her, and the only male in the carriage, Fissunu hadn’t reached the age where he is interested in the way of a man with a woman. Naturally, she couldn’t speak out her plan to other people. Loose lips sink ships, and it will be hard to keep it under wraps if the number of the candies were too many.
“Still, this carriage surprised me.” (Sefi)
Sefi’s sudden remark pulled Maya back from her manigance rêverie.
“The carriage doesn’t feel jolting at all.” (Sefi)
“Is it that unusual?” (Zira)
“You might not familiar with it, but I had rode carriage numerous times with Miss long ago. The carriage used by nobles will jolt terribly each time it met pebbles or pits in the road. But I hardly feel any jolt in this carriage.” (Sefi)
When she thought about it, Maya immediately agreed with Sefi’s assessment. Her father might be just a mere baron from the backwoods, but he was still a member of a respectable and venerable noble clan, hence he possessed a carriage that won’t sully his prestige. Oftentimes, Maya and Sefi were taken by his father for the Soiporan tradition of Lariamis, a party to introduce the children to the society (or other nobles). She remembered how much she hated the gruesome travel, with the horrible sways and jolts that were as if she was milk inside a canister, shaken to make cheese. Even though, her father already outfitted the carriage with the latest West Coast-style magic-enchantments and chain suspension type installed.
But this Neuschwanensee carriage was very comfortable, there was hardly any jolt even though the carriage was traveling at a speed outpacing any normal common carriage and in the uneven dirt road of this backwater region. Just what the secret behind it? It was as if this carriage construction employ a technique, expertise, and skill higher than her father carriage, which as far as she knew was how most carriages in the continent constructed.
Mayana felt truly intrigued. Is it possible for a country, isolated for more than 700 years and possibly even longer than that, possessed technology that is on par or even superior than what available to the other country in the Continent, which have a rather freer information and innovation exchange? Shouldn’t they have more inferior technology since they didn’t participate in the information and innovation exchange? Or did they secretly spy the other country and stole the technology to stay on par with the other countries? What if… What if Neuschwanensee had many other technologies that surpass the other nation? After seeing the events that had transpired before… She couldn’t refute this speculation.
Just when she was thinking about this, the carriage stopped beside a wide river. From the direction of their travel, she had no doubt that this was the Great Refira River, the boundary between Soipora, the Eastern Principalities and Zekrion, the land of Seven Rivers. Although the Great Refira River was traversable by small ships until the border of the Central Desert, the river was void from any passing ships, since no ship dared to cross it since they need to travel through parts of the monster-infested Great Falgara Forest. Also after Port City Shenari, there were no other major settlements since the river flowed close to the Dinember Kingdom’s Chemkla Exclusion Zone, so there were no reason for ships to travel further upstream.
A coachman knocked at the door and bowed to Maya when Fissunu opened the door. Unlike the official looking people who talked to her before, this coachman spoke a rather badly pronounced Palisan.
“Plis, get dauwn from the ka-carrieg.” (Coachman)
“Is there something wrong?” (Maya)
After Maya asked, the coachman seems to flip through a small book in his hand while changing his sight between Maya and the book repeatedly. This made Maya want to inform him that she could speak Neuschwanensee language to some degree. But before that happens, he found a page and began to speak again.
“Here is the Assembli point. Plis chek that all peepol of your side is komplit before departur en inform us wen your side readi to depart.” (Coachman)
“Certainly. Thank you for the information. Sotkimase” (Maya)
Maya observed as the coachman flipped the book again, before nodding politely and joined the other coachmen who seems to be taking a break under a cloth shade spread between the trees. Maya was wondering that perhaps that book is something like a phrasebook?
Maya informed the rather confused girls and Fissunu. Fissunu, the girls, and Maya exited the carriage in turns. For the girls who almost never step outside the village, the sight of the Great River was exciting. Maya warned them to not play too close to the river. Unlike the small stream in the village, there was a clear and present danger for them to be swept away by the stronger river current.
Then just like what the coachman informed her, she observed that there were other carriages parked beside the river and there was a group of familiar men gathered near it. The other party also noticed her and a rather plump middle-aged man approached Mayana before he kneeled.
“May the Holy Spirit bless upon you, Lady Mayana. Gerida soi Ferina at your service! ” (Gerida)
“At ease, uncle Gerida. Please raise, we are a family, after all.” (Maya)
The plump man was her family long-time friend and ally, Gerida soi Ferina, the hereditary Mayor of Ferinio, the only settlement that can be called as a town in the Barony of Riorra. It was mainly a workshop city centered on woodworking and carpentry, hence its other name, the Woodwright’s City.
The town mostly escaped Duke Sakorom’s heavy hand treatment and kept their autonomy to some degree. Although, Duke Sakorom was greedy but he wasn’t that stupid. A farmer peasant or two could dead for all he cares as they were could be easily replaced, but a talented woodwright is a different story. It would take years to train one woodwright, while farmer peasants were as common as pebbles at the roadside. As long as the town paid their quota and worked on his military project, he didn’t really care and ordered his man to not interfere with the city too much. Hence why previously, Nasurom and his band could use the forest near the town as a secret base to harass Sakorom’s men.
Since ancient times, the woodwrights of Ferinio support Riorra Clan since its first founding and the Riorra Clan had been the patron of the city for many great years. Gerida himself had an additional reason for his loyalty. His late wife, Farrifa, was the younger sister of Mayana’s mother. She also lost her life in the previous power struggle, when she was sentenced to death by Duke Sakorom together with the other female members of Riorra Clan. Hence why Gerida had a personal vendetta against the Duke. The Duke didn’t about know this since that fairytale-like marriage between Gerida, a burgher commoner, with her aunt, a noble, was a secret one that only was known by close relatives.
When she was a child it was such a wonderful story, but when she grew up, she realized it was not all roses. At that time, the Riorra Clan need money due to finance the increasingly conflicts with Duke Sakorom. They also need a good way to cement Ferinio’s allegiance and the family needs someone trustable to watch over the burghers. The Burghers and the Nobles didn’t always see eyes to eyes you see, especially about war taxes.
Fortunately, the Ferrinio Mayor’s only son and heir at that time was an old bachelor who was yet to find any spouse even though he had passed 30 years old. The Riorra Clan who knew about it, soon approached the old Mayor in the deathbed with the unusual marriage proposal, even though there was difference in social class.
Either way, even though it was an arranged marriage, Gerida came to truly love her aunt. She didn’t know whether her aunt had the same feeling since she couldn’t ask her, being dead and all. But if Duke Sakorom knows about this marriage, then Gerida will surely be executed just to tidy loose end, as Duke Sakorom is a firm believer of the credo “Leave None Alive to Avenge”. Hence why Maya couldn’t flee to him when Duke Sakorom massacred her family and why she kept the contact with him to a minimum during these six years. It might jeopardize his position, and Maya wouldn’t want that, seeing that Gerida needs to finance the Resistance.
“I see that the years had been kind to you, my Lady. You have become so beautiful, a spitting image of your late mother. Oh, how Farrifa will rejoice if she could see you.” (Gerida)
“Thank you, Uncle Gerida. I am glad that you are always blessed with good health.” (Maya)
“This is all thanks to the Holy Spirits providence. I had vowed to not enter my tomb before that vile scum meets the fiery justice retribution. The blood of the fair Farrifa and all of your relative must be settled before I see eternal peace.” (Gerida)
Gerida spoke in a calm tone, but Maya could see the buried fury in his eyes, the manifestation of the hidden anger and concealed wrath subsumed for years in his heart. She had heard how after her aunt was executed, Gerida never took another wife, never let himself taste any wine, milk or honey, and took his sleep on ashes and bare earth. In public, it was just he had an eccentric personality, but the truth, a never-ending mourning. Such was his love. Such was his grieve. Such was his anger. In this point, Maya felt a bit jealous of her aunt to have someone who love her this much.
Rather than the figurative leader Mayana or the fighter leader Nasurom, he was the true leader of the Resistance against Sakorom, hence why he held great sway amongst the Chiefs.
“I feel your pain, Uncle. I assure you, Duke Sakorom will receive his due judgment in time.” (Maya)
“May the Holy Spirit and the Holy Mother give their intercession on our prayers.” (Gerida)
“May they do so.” (Maya)
“My Lady, about the letter. I have gathered the loyal Chiefs as what you asked in the letter. But is the content true? That these men, the people of Chemkla will take us under their protection?” (Gerida)
Gerida wasn’t wrong to doubt this too good to be true arrangement. He had secretly approached Duke Sakorom’s personal enemies and foreign power, but they didn’t think a backwoods land like Riorra was worthy for the trouble. The ones who agree were mostly good for nothing noble upstart or backstabbing opportunist, so in the end Gerida could only form a ‘token’ Resistance Army, that only good in harassing Duke Sakorom’s men.
“Yes. It is. I swore on my late Father, my Family’s name, the two suns, and Holy Spirit that it is so.” (Maya)
“Th-th-then… Isn’t this will anger Duke Sakorom?” (Gerida)
Gerida asked this not out of fear, but he was smiling, a wide grin.
“Mostly so. But, the Archduke had promised to protect us.” (Maya)
“I see. I see. I SEE.” (Gerida)
Mayana never saw someone smile that wide. As if he was too happy, it crossed over the line and became mad instead.
“Then, is this all the Chief?” (Maya)
“AH, yes, how careless of me. Please let me introduce you to them.” (Gerida)
Gerida introduced Maya to the other 8 Chiefs, who were mostly as old as Harima. The number was not much since unlike the northern and eastern villages, the western and southern villages had been sufficiently controlled by Duke Sakorom’s men and or had their original inhabitants replaced by new peasants from the other territories, so Gerida didn’t trust them. There were 4 other Chiefs that he wanted to invite, but their villages located deep inside Sakorom-controlled territory, Gerida couldn’t get in touch with them in the time period that Maya asked for. Even so, now there were 16 leaders of villages and town of the Barony of Riorra. Two third is not bad for a start, thought Mayana.
After confirming that everyone waspresent, Maya informed one of the coachmen that all representatives from Riorra’s side had gathered and they ready to depart to Neuschwanensee. There was some difficulties in this as the coachmen needed to search what Maya had said and what to say in their phrasebook. Maya sighed at this communication difficulty.
In the end, the coachmen succeeded in informing Maya that after everyone boarded the carriage, they will be ready to depart and cross the river. The Chiefs and their entourage entered their assigned carriage once again. Maya informed the girls, who had been making flower bracelet from the riverside flowers, to board the carriage. When everyone had been inside, she wondered how would they cross the river in these carriages. As far as she know, there was no bridge in the Great Refira River. Would the carriages able to run afloat on the water? She fancied.
However, the answer to her question was rather mundane. A wide sailless flat metal barge came from upstream and docked beside the river. A wide plank was placed so the carriage could travel to its wide deck. Maya was quite impressed that entire the carriage convoy, 12 carriages in total, could fit on the barge’s deck, but what surprised her more was that the barge traveled upstream without any signs of being towed, poled, or sailed. She could felt that there was some magic in use, but she couldn’t saw any magician that used it.
She had heard about Magic powered-ships that utilize water magic, but this kind of ship usually need a quite large amount of magician to power it. However, she couldn’t see any of the boatmen, coachmen, or escort Knights used any magic, they mostly were chatting to each other.
Just what tricks that the Neuschwanensee used in this. Just the fact that there was a ship that could travel without any visible means of motive power could have a tremendous impact. A ship that could sail against wind or water current. It could revolutionize shipping as the world know it. But how could an isolated country far from any major water could possess this technology? Maya once again wondered. The mystical allure that Neuschwanensee possess became thicker even more.
Before long the barge arrived at the other side of the river and the carriages disembarked from the carriage. Maya was a bit worried since the other part of the river was the de jure territory of the Dinember Kingdom. As much as politics go, the Zekrion: Seven Kingdoms Alliance, generally adopted a policy of non-interference on the matter of the Soiporan conflicts and the still ongoing Ramian Civil War. To stymie the uncontrolled flow of refugee from the conflict area, the only permissible location for immigrant’s applicant were the port cities and the riverside was heavily patrolled, especially on the Chemkla Exclusion Zone. Unsanctioned river crossing would be deemed as illegal entry and could be punished with forced labor, property seizure and or to be sold into slavery. However, it seems that the Neuschwanensee acted as if they didn’t care about this and there seems to be no interference from the Dinember Kingdom’s river patrol. Is this because they had an agreement with Dinember Kingdom? Maya wondered.
Nevertheless compared to the hilly forest and farmlands of Riorra, the scenery changed into a wide flat grassland plains characteristic to region near Chemkla. Maya remembered what Kanoro had taught to her, that once the entire area was nominally a forest, but the forest was cleared during the Grand Siege to create the huge multiple walls that surrounded Chemkla. At that time, the famous Sage King Caihorst the Wise established the region as an Exclusion Zone, where entry was prohibited and the region was deliberately kept open and not touched by any development to make it easier to monitor Chemkla’s movement. After the Grand Failure, the Dinember Kingdom continued the Exclusion Zone policy, to prevent any third party from deliberately provoking Chemkla. They feared that such provocation might finally pushed Chemkla out of their isolation, but in a very angry mood, which wouldn’t bode well for the Dinember Kingdom.
Disregarding its history, the girls were excited at the sight of the seemingly endless grasses swayed as the carriages passed over them. Before long, Maya could see the infamously tall Wall-Cliff, which peak always covered by swirling clouds and the yellow shine between its gap, the infamous Golden Wall.
Just like what Maya once read from the books, the Golden Wall was indeed shone golden as if it was made entirely from gold. It was a gigantic three-tiered wall, ten times higher than normal city or castle walls. It was decorated by gigantic knight sculptures as if the knight statue were the guardians of the wall. What the reason that made Neuschwanensee constructed such titanic wall? Do they need it to ward colossal giants?
When she remembered, how thousands of warriors had fallen at the sight of this wall, it instilled her with a mixture of awe and trepidation. Seeing how Launa and Chiri gaped at its sight, it seems she was not the only one who felt it.
The Golden Wall became bigger and clearer as the carriages approached it. From the direction of the sun and the river direction, Maya surmised they might be approaching the South Gems Gate, the gate who had seen battles more than the other three Chemkla’s Gates.. Faraway, she could see the famous Seven Dragon Falls and the Wyrdmere (an old word that means: Lake of Fate).
Then after the carriages climbed the sloped marble road, they parked at the marble-tiled plaza just in front of the fully opened Gems Gate, where a huge crowd of Knights and officials was waiting for their arrival. Although she had seen the Duchesses races, it still surprised her, that there were people of Marshyel and Pacrux race amongst them, their characteristic ear and horn were obvious. But if she thought about it, since the Knights wore helmets and the coachman wore their cap, perhaps there were some Marshyel and Pacrux mixed on them without she knowing.
The coachmen descended and opened the door, while servants unrolled red carpets as if to pave a way for the passengers. One by one the Chiefs and their entourage alighted from the carriages. It was obvious that they too were overwhelmed by a sense of awe. Some of the older Chiefs were even crying as if they were inundated by nostalgia. Especially for the girls who never see things like this before and Kanoro who eyeing every little detail that he could see.
The shining Golden Wall. The brilliant plaza of marble. The starry sky-like glittering of the gems in the Gems Gate. The shining Silver Armor that the Silver Brigade wore. The fine clothes that the officials were wearing. Things that they never seen before.
Then, a party of officials approached Maya’s entourage. Maya recognized the man leading that party as Mitteherz, the Kanzler, a Neuschwanensee post that seems to be similar to a Prime Minister. Just like what they had agreed before, everyone except for Maya gave a respectful bow, except for Maya who gave a curtsy bow, since she a noble who need to show her almost equal rank. Mitteherz then began to speak with her in a rather impeccable Palisan. It was unbelievable to think that just yesterday, they had difficulty in establishing communication.
“Welcome to Neuschwanensee, Marchioness Mayana. How is the travel?” (Mitteherz)
“It is extremely enjoyable, Kanzler Mitteherz. As a representative of my people, let me state our sincerest gratitude for the invitation and the accommodation.” (Mayana)
“I am glad to hear that.” (Mitteherz)
“It surprised me on how well your Palisan skill is. I am really impressed.” (Mayana)
“I am afraid to say, such praise is wasted on me. I am only repeating what Duchess Melbiena had written for us, Marchioness Mayana.” (Mitteherz)
“I see. Then I must express my admiration for her excellent foresight.” (Mayana)
“I must offer our deepest apologies that the Archduke and the Duchesses couldn’t receive you since they have a more pressing task at hand. However, until they return, we had been ordered to provide you with the best hospitability we have. Although I enjoy this pleasantries, alas, our time is short. May you and your entourage follow me, there are several procedures which us must performed for your entry. You may leave the luggage to the castle staff.” (Mitteherz)
“Yes, thank you for the kind offer.” (Mayana)
Mayana and her entourage pass through the Gems Gate into the interior of the Golden Wall. They arrived at a large interior hall inside the wall, where some kind of checkpoint was established. Mayana and her entourage were asked to provide their name, age and origin (this she could understand) before standing in front of a blue wall (this she couldn’t understand) where a staff did something to a small box, which Maya identified as some kind of magic tools as she could detect magic from it. Now that she thought about it, there were people with that same small box when she arrived with the carriage. Just what that small box is, she wondered.
Then when this unknown check routine finished, everyone from Maya’s entourage was given a red-base colored rectangular card made from some kind of metal-like shiny material, that Maya couldn’t identify. The card had a surprising lifelike picture of her and several lines of Neuschwanensee letters, Maya really needs to ask someone to teach her how to read this script. It seems that the presence of their life-like picture in the card, also surprised the others. Maya suspects that somehow the small box could create a copy of whatever things in front of it. Just thinking about the way it could be used: spying, mapping, or anything that needs a precise illustration, made her head hurts. Just how many other unknown technology that Neuschwanensee had?
When she asked about the purpose of the card. Mitteherz quickly gave the answer as if he was waiting for that question to be asked.
“It’s an ID card.” (Mitteherz)
“Think of it as an identification document. Eventually, it will be issued to every subject of Archduchy Union. Also, please ask your entourage to always carry it with them. It will be needed when you leave this place.” (Mitteherz)
Maya just thought of it as some kind of travel permit. While the girls still admiring the card in their hand. Mitteherz informed Maya and her entourage to continue with their travel. They exited the hall and passed through a long and wide corridor until they reached the other side of the wall. They, perhaps, were the first people in Midzu continent to see what lies beyond the golden wall.
A lush valley surrounded by extremely tall cliffs. A clear crystal blue lake, glittering under the sunlight, where fishermen on small ships cast their net. A vast farmland, filled with many shades of green, where numerous farmers were working. And in the distance, a sight of a city with many buildings and a grand castle with its tall towers. Incidentally, they were at a suspended plaza before a high bridge above the lake.
While they were captivated by the scenery, without they realized there were several intricately decorated open carriage, like those used for a parade, were waiting for them. Mayana, Sefi, Zira, Launa, Chiri and Fissunu rode on the foremost carriage while the rest of the Chiefs rode on the other carriages.
Led by two smaller guard carriage, the convoy of the parade carriages then began moving. They traveling on the bridge at a pleasant speed, not too fast or too slow, as they crossed the lake. The bridge was directly connected to an elevated highway quite high above the surrounding farmlands, while a rather big river flowed right beside the it before emptying itself to the lake.
Like the Plaza in front of the gate, the road was paved with fine marbles that forms geometric patterns. Just thinking how much wealth were needed to create this road made her squeamish. There were ramps leading to the fields below but the carriages moved straight towards the biggest building that they could see, a Castle that was constructed on a natural cliff at the confluence of two smaller rivers, which also served as a natural moat.
Just when she thought that they would enter the Castle’s southern drawbridge gate, the carriages turned west on the road and descended a ramp that leads to a road that circling the river surrounding the city and castle’s outer wall. Soon, she could see a neat lined up tall buildings, six to eight floors tall, their wall painted in bright white, yellow, red, green or blue, crowned by dark red or brown tiled roof. The sight of a tall building made the girls who live their life in a village where there was no building taller than two stories really excited. The carriages moved under the road shadowed by buildings. Then there was a host of shouts and cheers.
Colorful confetti and flower petals fell down gently from the sky like first snow, thrown by people on the high windows. A large group of people lined up beside the road or the window, men and women, old and child, people of all races, cheered, waving flag of Neuschwanensee, holding a board with something written on it or waved at Maya’s entourage, there were those with the strange small box, while Knight-looking people line up on the side of the road to keep the onlooker in order. It was as if Maya is a returning winning conqueror and this was a parade for her honor. Launa and Chiri were drowned by the crowd’s enthusiasm and waved back to the crowds who then became even ecstatic in their cheers. Sefi and Zira could only look agape at the situation, while Fissunu put a dumbfounded expression as if he couldn’t comprehend the situation. Maya was still a professional noble, so she waved back at the crowd and put her best smile.
Then the carriages crossed a wide stone bridge over a river and passed through a gate where onlookers gathered on its wall, waving and cheering at the carriages. The number of the onlookers in the roadside and the windows was also greater than the city outside the wall.
Unlike the previous road and buildings, this main road was much wider, separated in two lanes, and there were trees planted at regular interval on the roadside and the lane separator. The building looks much neater than the simple buildings outside the wall. Most buildings were much taller, 10 to 12 stories, and had intricate façade, wide clear-glass windows, and lavishly decorated on its wall and roof. Just how could they build buildings this tall, Maya wondered.
The procession continued on the main road until the carriages arrived at the large plaza in front of the Castle. Maya could see that the Castle had entrances both on the outside in the south and inside the city in the north. The carriage entered the Castle’s yard and then went through an underground pass before it returned once more to another yard. It finally stopped in front of a large ornate twin door, where lines of soldiers, maids, and servants were waiting.
Maya and her entourage disembarked from the carriages while looking curiously at the surrounding. It seems that this yard was located behind the drawbridge that she had seen before. So the underground pass connected the yards behind the castle’s northern and southern gate, a rather peculiar arrangement. She could see how tall the Castle’s building is, more so compared to the buildings in the city. There even several towers of the Castle that was so tall, it might even be taller than the Golden Gate. The whole Castle’s wall was plastered and painted light blue, giving it an airy like feeling.
When they approached the entrance door, the maids and servants bowed elegantly and spoke in unison.
“““Welcome to Neuschwanensee Castle, Honorable Guests.”””
Maya was a bit taken aback by this reception, but Mitteherz who came from the rearmost guard carriage prompted Maya and her entourage to enter the Castle. Maya couldn’t describe the interior with other words than extremely extravagant. The entire wall was covered in intricate wallpaper. The floor was covered with granite mosaic tiles forming intricate geometric patterns. Fine tapestries from silk and linen hung on the wall, sporting the Neuschwanensee emblem or flowery patterns. Masterwork statues and paintings adorned the corners and walls. Well-groomed plants were placed at strategic locations to add an accent in the room. Maya didn’t feel that it will be wrong to say, that this Castle perhaps more luxurious than any Royal Castle in the continent.
Led by Mittherz, they entered further inside and arrived in a rather large yet empty room. Just when they wanted to ask Mitteherz about it, she felt that the entire room moved up. When the door was opened again, she realized that the location had changed, from a foyer-like hall into a rather gaudy lounge-like room, where several couches and low tables placed facing an open balcony beyond a pair of ornamented glass door and wide windows. The two corridors, that extended from the lounge, had many ornate wooden doors. The scenery that could be seen from decorative windows indicates that they were located quite high from ground level. Since the girls and the Chief hardly ever saw outside scenery from a high building, they were utterly captivated by it.
“The entire sixth floor had been prepared for your entourage. Please inform your entourage to choose the room as they like. Your luggage will be soon delivered, please confirm it. It’s unfortunate, I am sorry for the inconvenience it might cause, but I asked that you and your entourage to stay at this floor until the ceremony for security reasons. We will provide some refreshment in the mean time and if you need anything you might ask the maids or servants waiting on this floor.” (Mitteherz)
When Maya informed this to the Chiefs, they seemed to be surprised. Well, even Maya was surprised, since she thought that they would likely to be just given common room like those of servants. After all, most of her entourage were of commoner origin. But from the sight of the corridor, the carpet, the ceiling, the furniture and the decorations, it was obvious that the rooms on this floor were for noble or royalty guests. The Chiefs clamored when they saw the content of the room and thought to themselves whether they really could use such a magnificent room. There was quite a ruckus it caused, but eventually, they finished allocating the room for the group. Just when Maya want to claim one room for herself and the girls, Mitteherz, who was sipping his tea in one of the couches in the floor lounge until then, stood and stopped her.
“Please wait, Marchioness Mayana.” (Mitteherz)
“Is something wrong, Kanzler Mittheherz?” (Maya)
“About your quarter, the Archduke have prepared a special room for you. May you please follow me.” (Mitteherz)
“Can these girls accompany us?” (Maya)
“Are they your maidservants?” (Mitteherz)
Mitteherz took a good look at Sef, Zira, Chiri, and Launa, before replied, “Certainly”, without waiting for Maya’s confirmation. It seems he mistook Sefi and the others as her maidservants, but this might be convenient to justify the presence of the girls in such important event. Mitteherz guided her to a room located at the corner of the western corridor. When he opened the twin door, what lies beyond it could only be said as a luxurious bed chamber with an attached parlor and even smaller servant chambers. The room windows offered a magnificent sight of the garden in the center of the Castle. After informing that the room was for Maya’s and her maidservants, Mitteherz excused himself, leaving the rather confounded Maya and the girls in the room.
“Whoaaa, what with this room? Is this a King’s room?” (Chiri)
“But this is for us, right?” (Zira)
“Are we really can stay in such room?” (Launa)
Launa asked Maya while they were exploring the parlor and the servant chambers.
“Yes. Be at ease. They say that this room is for our use, after all.” (Maya)
Maya answered in an enervated tone as she threw herself to one of the couch in the parlor, too much surprise today made her tired. Its softness consoled her.
“Sis, please pinch me so I can be sure that this is no dream.” (Chiri)
Chiri asked Launa who then pinched her just like she ask. Chiri made a jubilant smile while saying, “This is not a dream!” Zira was eyeing at one of the couch, she seems to be hesitating whether or not she could sit on such expensive looking couch, while Sefi was standing close to Maya as usual with the best nonchalant face that she could make right now.
“You can sit on it, Zira. Don’t worry about it.” (Maya)
“Ah, yes.” (Zira)
Maya told the hesitating Zira, who then timidly sat down, Launa and Chiri followed suit and sat on another sofa. Their eyes still scanning the whole room, the soft red colored velvet carpet, the funny looking chandelier on the ceiling, the paintings on the wall, the various decorative objects, the flower patterned curtain, or the intricate carved wooden furniture. She felt that the value of just one of the furniture or painting might be enough to feed an entire village for a full year. For the girls who was used to the simple peasant lifestyle, this overabundant visual stimulus room was devastating their sense.
“I am so glad that Sister Maya invited us!” (Chiri)
“Me too!” (Launa)
Maya gave a tender smile but she had the thought that if Neuschwanensee’s intention was to show off their wealth, then they were utterly effective. The carriage, the City, the Castle, the room…… Although Maya knew and accept that the other party was a very wealthy one, but seeing those superfluous signs of wealth directly still cause a great impact to her. Well played, Neuschwanensee.
They discussed on what to do next. Since the canopy bed was very big and wide, Maya decided that all five of them will sleep in that bed, even if the servant chambers was furnished with beds. The more the merrier, and truthfully, after spending years as a peasant girl, Maya had been used to share bed space with others and feel lonely if she sleeps alone in such big room.
Before long, a maid delivered their luggage and brought refreshment, several kinds of cakes and cookies and a pitcher of some sort of chilled fruit juice and a teapot full with hot tea, of course, sugar, milk, and honey were provided too. Rather than the weak tea common to her tongue, she found Neuschwanensee tea to be more strongly flavored, and surprisingly they provide refined sugar, an extremely expensive product. However, due to cultural difference, not one of the girl understand that the sugar and milk for the tea. They use honey instead. Though they knew the concept of cake and baked confectionary, the girls were still surprised at the sweetness of the cake.
After they enjoyed the refreshment, Sefi and Zira were still perplexed about the attire that Maya and they need to wear for the ceremony. After seeing how well the maid and the servants attire are, and how luxurious the Castle is, they became convinced that the clothes they brought with them were utterly lacking. Perhaps, they could use the dress that Florea had given before? Meanwhile, Chiri and Launa were sightseeing around the room and admiring the intricate garden of the Castle that they could see from the window. Maya went outside the room to the floor lounge to discuss the matter of the annexation with the Chiefs and Gerida and the full story of how Neuschwanensee saved Tinirese Village. There were doubt and qualm toward her story, but even Maya thought that the story was really ridiculous if not for it happened to herself. There also the issue of the presence of Marshyel and Pacrux amongst the Duchesses and the people of Chemkla, but since the Eastern lands escaped the Crimson Disaster and there was trade relationship with the Marshyel people of Hasriku and the Great Desert in the past, unlike the West-Coast, the hostility and discrimination against them wasn’t that great in Soipora. After all, rather than the never seen Pacrux or Marshyel, they were more worried by the fellow Prena who oppressed them.
At any rate, after the ceremony, there will be a formal negotiation about the annexation tomorrow. After all, the annexation wouldn’t be completed just by saying: “Okay I will annex you!”. There are still the questions about tax, citizenship, legal code, authority, etc. It will be better if they could negotiate the annexation agreement as advantageous as possible. Of course, they wouldn’t go so far to bite the hand that feeding them. After all, in this position, they need Neuschwanensee more than Neuschwanensee needs them. Maya ensured that all the Chiefs drilled this point to their heart. She learned later that Fissunu and Kanoro tried to explore the Castle, but they were stopped by soldiers when they used the stairs to other floor or tried to pass through the connecting passages to other section of the castle, so in the end, they gave up and now passed their time looking at the scenery from the lounge window.
Time gradually passed. The Right Sun that had been leaning since her arrival in the Castle sunk behind the Barrier Cliffs. The sky outside were still a bit bright even when the Right Sun sets since the Moon and the Left Sun still was up in the sky. The interior and exterior of the Castle were bright since it was illuminated by numerous Magic Lamps. The Magic Lamps surprised Maya and the girls at first. She thought that the Castle were going to be illuminated with candles or oil lamps. But then a tube(?) on the ceiling and the wall began to glow when the room darkened. She had heard about gas lamps used in some of the West Coast cities before, but she never encountered a magic tool that could emit light yet not emitting any heat. Just what mechanism underlies this tool? But she didn’t have much time to ponder about it since the time for Maya’s homage ceremony arrived.
Sefi and Zira’s worries about the attire were unnecessary. When they were informed that the ceremony would begin soon, the maids also delivered them attire to be used in the ceremony and helped her to wore the dress. The dress for Maya was a kind of dress she never encountered before, an inner white ankle-length shirtcoat with some kind of fastening long ribbon tied in a shape of a flower on the lapel, topped by a knee-length navy blue colored coatdress (of course she didn’t know the term). She was sure that the buttons for the dress were made from gems and the seams were from gold or silver. There was also the matter with the unfamiliar undergarment. She never saw that type of brassiere before. Not only that, they also presented her with many kind of accessories from a box full of jewelry like hairpins, earrings and brooches to gloves and shawls. Surprisingly, that box full of jewelry was a gift to Maya, courtesy of the Archduke.
Anyway, not only that her entire clothing and jewelry were not only made with fine materials but she also detected that it had been specially enchanted with many enchantments. Furthermore, the dress that she wore now was even more valuable than the dresses Florea had given to her before. Just how much wealth that Neuschwanensee planned to throw at her? The thought of this made her shuddered.
“Sister Maya is so pretty!” (Launa)
“Yes, truly so!” (Chiri)
“I think you girls are also beautiful.” (Maya)
Sefi and the others also received outfit that was similar to what Florea worn, only that their base color was green not blue. Even though it seems to be clothes for maidservants, the quality was really high and it was also properly enchanted. Just what kind of place that even enchant maidservant’s clothes? Launa and Chiri were especially happy with the outfit they get since there weren’t many occasions for village girl like them to wear such expensive clothes, or rather there were none. They were so happy that they twirled the skirt hem around like there is no tomorrow. Meanwhile Zira worried that she might damage the expensive outfit unknowingly. If it get damaged, imagining how it could be repaired, stressed her out. In contrast with Sefi, who calmly wore the outfit, after all, a maidservant must wear something that won’t disgrace their employer.
The maids only helped them wore the unfamiliar clothes (especially for the underclothes), since for the hair, they would like to style it by themselves according to Soiporan style, by braiding it and then tied it all into one or two buns.
After dressing up and putting a light makeup, Maya and the girls met with Fissunu, Kanoro, Gerida and the Chiefs. Just like Maya, they had been given attires to be worn. A navy blue outer coat, waistcoat, white shirt, ruffled tie, and trousers in matching colors. She wondered why they were given such uniform outfits.
Led by the maids and servants, they entered the same empty room that they entered when they arrived previously. The entire room moved up and when the door opened at the other side of the room, they were greeted by a large throne room where a large number of people were gathered.
The high ceilings were a huge dome of crystal glass that spans the entire room, which was illuminated by dozens of the candleless chandeliers in the shape of Neuschwanensee emblems. Huge banners hung from the ceiling depicting the blue flag and emblems of Neuschwanensee, except for eight banners that were hung atop eight thrones set on an elevated dais as if to form a baldachi and each of them had distinct emblem on it, perhaps the individual emblem of the Archduke and the Duchess. Behind them was a high blue curtain which seems to be covering the room behind the throne. A blue carpet adorned with a repeating pattern of Neuschwanensee emblem covered the path from the door to the thrones, where numerous official and noble looking people were lined up at its side, casting their attention towards the newly arrived state guests. Maya was not shocked anymore to see that some of them were Marshyel or Pacrux.
Under such gazes, with Maya as the lead, the group walked until they arrived at the steps before the throne, where several Knights in decorated silver armor stood with their spear crossed as if to demarcate the line that Maya shouldn’t cross. Then a music of trumpets and drums sounded as a herald proclaimed in loud voice in Neuschwanensee language:
“Lord Highness Ehrzherzog Yusis von Hauptruhe zu Neuschwanensee and the Lady Highnesses Herzoginnen will enter the room.” (Herald)
The people in the hall, except for the guards, quickly faced the throne and knelt on the floor. Seeing this, Maya and her entourage took the cue and followed suit. Then a young man and seven young women and girls who followed him entered the Throne Room from an unseen door at the side of the curtains attended by a group of maids. They were Archduke Yusis and his seven Duchesses / wives(?). Like in their first meeting, the Pacrux Erste Duchess Melbiena sat in his right seat, while the Zweite Duchess Unapietra in his left. Unlike the first meeting, this time they were wearing what she could only be described as in full royal attire. She also spotted her conversation friend, Florea, standing behind the Archduke with naked nervousness in her face. When all of the Duchesses had taken the seat, Mitteherz proclaimed.
“The Heaven Lords, embodiments of Creator Goddess’ Will are now present in this place. Let’s us sing the praise of glory to the Creator Goddess and Heaven Lords.” (Mitteherz)
“Glory to the Creator Goddess and Heaven Lords. May their blessings and prosperity on the Holy Land are for eternity.” (Guests)
The guests and the guards made a bow while speaking in unison. Maya tried to understand what they speak of, but it was a bunch of words that she never heard before. With a small gesture using a scepter in his hand, Archduke Yusis spoke.
“May the one called Mayana tih Surukii peh Riorra come forward.” (Archduke)
It was soon translated into Palisan language by Lady Mel.
“Mayana tih Surukii peh Riorra, you have been permitted to stand before us. You may approach the throne.” (Erste Duchess)
The guarding Knights who crossed their spear as if to obstruct her, moved their spear to their side as if to indicate that she was permitted to move forward. Remembered her old noble’s manner lesson, Mayana gulped her nervousness down and with a confident gait, she walked until she reached the steps to the dais. Behind her, the guards crossed their spear again as if to block anyone to approach. But when she arrived at the base of the dais, she didn’t know what to do next. Is the ceremony the same with Soiporan one? Or it follows Zekrion one? Or perhaps, the old Holy Empire ceremony? Should she kneel, bow, genuflect, prostrate, or just keep standing?
Then, Lady Mel rose from her throne, walked to the lowest step of the dais, and positioned herself between Maya and Archduke Yusis.
“You may proceed with the oath.” (Archduke)
“Kneel, Mayana tih Surukii peh Riorra, and acknowledge this solemn oath.” (Erste Duchess)
Maya did what she had been told to. Lady Mel then nodded at Archduke Yusis. He then stood up and raised his scepter at Maya, the base of the dais’ steps began to glow and form an intricate pattern of a seal, while in the air above her, there was another seal floating in the shape of Neuschwanensee emblem. The banners were fluttering around at the sudden gust of wind that descend on the room. Is this magic? Mayana wondered as she could detect that quite amount of mana was used for the seals. Does the oath involved a ritual magic? Then, Lady Mel spoke to her.
“Raise your hand and repeat these words after me. ‘I solemnly vow that I will forever in the future be true and faithful to my Lord’,” (Erste Duchess)
“I solemnly vow that I will forever in the future be true and faithful to my Lord,” (Maya)
“‘To cherish what he cherishes and loath what he loathes,’” (Erste Duchess)
“To cherish what he cherishes and loath what he loathes,” (Maya)
“‘Never by will nor by force, by word nor by work, to cause him any harm,’” (Erste Duchess)
“Never by will nor by force, by word nor by work, to cause him any harm” (Maya)
“‘And will observe my duty to him completely’” (Erste Duchess)
“And will observe my duty to him completely” (Maya)
“‘As he shall give me what my rights entitled’.” (Erste Duchess)
“As he shall give me what my rights entitled” (Maya)
“‘With the Creator Goddess as my witness and my judge’” (Erste Duchess)
“With the Creator Goddess as my witness and my judge” (Maya)
“‘I will honor this oath in good faith and without deceit,’” (Erste Duchess)
“I will honor this oath in good faith and without deceit,” (Maya)
“‘I am ready to have my finger cut-off, beaten ten thousand times, and swallow thousand needles if I lie.’” (Erste Duchess)
“I am ready to have my finger cut-off, beaten ten thousand times, and swallow thousand needles if I lie.” (Maya)
With a wide smile Lady Mel nodded once more to Archduke Yusis, who make a mixed face before spoke in an authoritative voice
“I accept your oath of fealty and I shall confer you with the title Marchioness with all the obligation and rights that it endowed with and the citizenship of Neuschwanensee.” (Archduke)
“Mayana tih Surukii peh Riorra, your oath of fealty had been accepted. Now receive your title.” (Erste Duchess)
Lady Mel, reached out her hand in the air as light particles gathered, then when the light particles disappeared, a gems-encrusted crown-like tiara appeared on her hand. She then put that crown-tiara on Maya’s head.
“Hence, you will be officially known as Marchioness Mayana von Suruki-Riorra zu Heitersheim. Do you accept the obligation that comes of it?” (Erste Duchess)
“Yes, I accept.” (Maya)
“Thus, we will honor your pledge and confer you with any right deserved from your rank and bestow the citizenship of the Archduchy Union for you and the people below you. Now, you may raise yourself.” (Erste Duchess)
Lady Mel nodded again at Archduke Yusis who then was about to point his scepter once more, when he suddenly muttered to himself,
“Fumu? Nande koko ni……” (Archduke)
Noticing his sudden stop, Lady Mel turned towards Archduke Yusis and asked in a respectful tone. Maya, who just about to stand up, knelt once again as she observed the situation.
“Doushimashitaka Danna-sama?” (Erste Duchess)
“Ie, taishitakotojanainda kara, atode hanashimashou. Koko wo sorosoro oemashouka?” (Archduke)
“Kashikomarimashita Danna-sama.” (Erste Duchess)
Seeing that both Archduke and Erste Duchess began to speak to each other in a language that didn’t seems to be Neuschwanensee’s, Maya was left confused, whether or not she could proceed to stand. Or whether or not something went wrong with the ceremony or the magic? Seeing that the seal on the floor and on the air was still glowing and all.
“May I ask if there is something wrong, Lady Mel?” (Maya)
“Nothing of your concern. You may rise, Marchioness Maya.” (Erste Duchess)
The Archduke Yusis pointed his scepter once more and the seals in the floor and the air disappeared. Maya rose up and Lady Mel put her right hand on Maya’s left shoulder, then she lifted it and put it again on Maya’s right shoulder.
“Now, turn around and face your fellow citizen.” (Erste Duchess)
Maya turned around and saw that the entire hall audience was clapping their hand. Maya walked back towards the Chiefs and others, who was looking at her in a different light. She could see that they had truly accepted her as a true ‘noble’.
When Lady Mel returned to her throne, Archduke Yusis then raise his hands up and the audience clapping gradually died down. When the hall returned to silence, he spoke out once more.
“I am happy to pronounce that we have now received new friends in our midst. Let us welcome them with great joy and friendship. From this time until the untold future, the people of Heitersheim will be counted as member of our land. May the Creator Goddess’ providence grants upon them the same everlasting blessing as ourselves. And now, let us have a feast to welcome them!” (Archduke)
With a clap from the Archduke, the audience immediately moved towards the wall and stood there as throngs of servants suddenly burst through the side doors carrying round and long tables, chairs, tablecloth, dinnerware, pots of flowers, trays and carts filled many types of dishes, huge pitcher and bowl containing many beverages, baskets of fruits and breads and many others. There even put a set of barbecue and have a chef cooked the meat in front of the guests.
While Maya and her entourage was staring dumbfounded, the Throne Hall had been transformed into a banquet hall in a short span of time. Even in the dais, there was a long table placed before the throne where the servants began to serve the dishes before the Archduke and the Duchess.
Mitteherz guided Maya and the Chiefs at the sets of round tables and chairs for their use. He explained that the dishes and beverages will be placed on the long tables, they will be free to choose whatever dishes and beverages that they like in an amount they desire, and they might eat it near the long table, bring it to their assigned round table, or carry it as they walk around the Hall. He explained this kind of eating was called: buffet. For Mayana who was used to a noble party where the host served the guest food in courses while sitting on a table, this was a novel experience. But in some points, this was similar to the peasant’s harvest festival party in the village where the women cook food in a large cauldrons which then shared with the other villagers.
There were various meat dishes, vegetable dishes, egg dishes, fish dishes, bread-based dishes, whether it was sautéed, stir-fried, baked, roasted, deep-fried, boiled, steamed… every cooking method imaginable. The taste was rich, the sauce was deep, it was even much more delicious than the dishes served in the noble parties that she remembered. Then, the number of meat used in the dishes overwhelmed the Chiefs and Gerida who wasn’t that used to consume this many amounts of meat. Perhaps the meat that they ate in a single plate this evening would be more than what they consumed in a single year.
After having so many lean years where all they had was just few bread, grass and beans, Maya was happy to see how Sefi, Zira, Launa, and Chiri could enjoy a treat like this. Truly, one wouldn’t able to guess where the fate would bring. Seeing their happy smiles instilled her with more motivation to protect their smile and so her plan. Somehow, she felt the Erste Duchess was staring at her, but this might be just her imagining thing.
At first she worried that the Chiefs couldn’t blend in the party due to linguistic difference and qualms against Marshyel and Pacrux, but it seems Mitteherz had predicted this, that he and the Kanzleramt staff do their best to introduce Maya and the Chiefs to the important people in Neuschwanensee and served as impromptu translator between the two parties. Maya and Sefi tried their best to remember their face, name, title, and occupation. It might be important in the future. Sefi was in this too, since as she was Maya’s personal servant, she had been trained since small to serve as the master’s contact book in human form.
It seems that the Siebte Duchess Haimona had taken a liking at Launa and Chiri, perhaps because they had an almost similar age? The twins, Fünfte Duchess Terranova and Sechste Duchess Alciel also joined together with her. Although they couldn’t communicate with each other, it seems that the Siebte Duchess was trying to introduce a cold soft and sweet dessert called “Jaetello” to Launa and Chiri. But since they couldn’t verbally understand each other, they fallback in using gestures and nonverbal cues. Though Launa and Chiri seem to be more interested in Siebte Duchess’s dangling long rabbit ears, which the Siebte Duchess proudly showed to them. The Vierte Duchess Iusticia silently standing not far from the Siebte Duchess as if to stand guard, Fissunu seems to be unusually interested in her and tried to speak with her, although she didn’t reply anything back. It will be good if they could get along since it might smooth the conflict over in case the girls attracted Archduke’s affection. Once again, Maya felt that the Erste Duchess was throwing daggers of stare to her direction, but this might be just her thinking too much.
Zira went to Master Kanoro’s side who was tried to establish communication with the Neuschwanensee’s scholars-looking people and the Dritte Duchess Stellahymne, but it seems that without any interpreter, the talks didn’t really go anywhere. The Neuschwnensee’s side looks happy to demonstrate some of their tools, though. It looks like some of them went to their study room and brought it to this hall. It seems interesting, so Maya planned to ask Zira about the tools later. She also hoped that Zira could establish a good relationship with the Dritte Duchess, so she might have a chance to cross paths with the Archduke. This time, perhaps because she might be overly conscious, she could feel that the Erste Duchess were observing her with keen eyes. Why is it, she wonder, did she had done something that draw Lady Mel’s ire?
Between her conversation with the important people of Neuschwanensee, Maya stealthily observed Archduke’s action. Since the feast began, the Archduke accompanied by the Erste Duchess and the Zweite Duchess were talking about something with people that Maya identified as the commander of the Silver Brigade, the Archduchy Union’s six Chief Engineer, the city’s head Chamber of Commerce, the city’s Burgermeister (some kind of mayor), the heads of offices in Kanzleramt, people who held important position. Maya was wondering what they were talking about with such serious expression. She actually had planned to approach the Archduke in the feast, but it seems hard to approach him in this situation. There! The Erste Duchess really was staring at her. Lady Mel’s face might be smiling, but Maya could sense that her hair was raising from Lady Mel’s stare.
The introduction continued for some time until Mitteherz and his staff excused themselves and let the Chiefs and Maya continue enjoying their feast at their leisure. Maya was taking a noodle-like dish with meaty-sauce and discussed with Sefi about guessing the recipe for the dishes in this feast, when suddenly Archduke Yusis visited her table, while only taking Florea with him. The Erste Duchess and the Zweite Duchess were on the table where Launa and Chiri were talking with the Siebte Duchess. It seems that the Siebte Duchess had asked the Erste Duchess to help translating their words. In her heart, she thanked Launa and Chiri for this.
“Are you enjoying the meal?” (Archduke)
Suddenly asked like this, Maya tried to stitch a good response. Since she didn’t know whether or not her Neuschwanensee language skill is good enough to give a good impression, she didn’t forget to add a charming smile.
“Yes, I am. Thank you… Umm… What the word again? Food is good. I am happy and smile.” (Maya)
She also didn’t neglect to put a clumsy performance and acted nervously. She put her old ethic teacher teaching to good use, that acting clumsy and nervous in front of a man could increase a girl’s attraction factor as it makes them seem more vulnerable and more approachable for the man. Never act superior in front of a man, as a man is a vain creature who has touchy pride. Meek and humble girl could easily steal a man’s attention.
“I am glad to hear that.” (Archduke)
“Yes. I thank you for the meal.” (Maya)
“I heard from Florea, how both of you had gotten along well and how she eager to have another chance to talk with you.” (Archduke)
When her name was brought, Florea who stood behind Yuuto put an expression that could be described as a mixture of extreme shock and extreme fear. Why is it, Maya wondered.
“E…e…. I…I… B-b-b-but… Eh?” (Florea)
Florea stammered hard that it was hard to guess what she wanted to say.
“It’s fine, Florea. It’s good to have a friend from a different culture. It also could serve as a good experience. Now have a seat with them. No need to be shy, or should I order you to do so?” (Archduke)
“T-t-t-thank you, Lord Highness.” (Florea)
Florea step forward and sat on the chair beside Maya and Sefi.
“Yep, three flowers in the same place is sure a nice sight to behold.” (Archduke)
The Archduke nodded to himself in satisfaction and then he took the small box magic tool from his pocket and activated it. That tool is for taking images, right? What is he going to do with it?
“Have a nice chat, okay?” (Archduke)
With a smile, the Archduke took his leave. Maya was wondering what is this all about. Just when she was remembered that she should woo the Archduke, the Archduke suddenly stopped and turned back.
“I almost forgot.” (Archduke)
He then leaned over to Maya and whispered in her ear in a low voice as he give something to Maya’s hand. Surprisingly, it was in Palisan.
“Come to my room tonight.” (Archduke)
The Archduke made a gentle smile at wide-eyed Maya and after a brief pat on Florea’s head, he joined the Duchesses’ group, leaving Maya in immense confusion as she hardly could believe what she had heard just now. In the corner of her eyes, the Erste Duchess’ rather enigmatic smile was engraved upon her soul.
Next Chapter: The Night Visit (yobai). And the narrator focus returned back to……… Erste Herzogin Melbiena.
The mystery of many things finally unveiled.
EXTRA UNNECESSARY FOOTNOTES BELOW
· In case reader asked how Yuuto and the others passed through the river? They just either jumped, float, or run over water. It was so mundane for them, that it didn’t get mentioned in the story at all.
· Great Refira River stats.
Length: about ~2200 km.
It could be divided into 3 section
· Upper section: From the glacier meltwater source in the Northern Barrier Mountains, skirting at the southern limit of the Central Desert. In this section, it was similar to any typical fast flowing mountain river, width 10-100 meter as it approaches Central Desert. The upper section prone to flood as ice dams frequently obstruct the river course.
· Middle section: From Central Desert until the confluence with Dimera River at the Port Town Lirefa in Dimember Kingdom. Width 100-800 meter, depth and flow volume increased gradually as it passed the tributaries from the Great Falgara Forest (funfact, all river in Great Falgara Forest are mostly have source from glaciers)
· Lower section: From Port Town Lirefa until Port Town Hershesta in Pammiye Kingdom (delta). Width 1-3 kilometer. The whole lower section of the river was deep enough to be navigable by ocean-going ships.
· Please remember that the Total Height of Golden Wall is about 66 meters (about the height of 15 storied building). Even the Wall in Attack of Titan is only 50 meter. So it was uselessly huge.
· Neuschwanensee people lacked any major event during these two years and there were so many pentup frustration due to their isolation and hardship during these two years, so they went overboard in their welcoming response.
· What is the main architecture used in Neuschwanensee?
For the New Town (located outside the City proper), the architecture was tend to be anachronistic brick-based Modernism building (lack any defining features) since they didn’t actually thinking about style when constructing it. For the city proper main road the buildings were mostly an unholy mixture of Gothic and Romanesque buildings with Baroque thrown in the fray, taken from many example of buildings in Germany. Meanwhile the residential section the architecture was the famous Fachwerkhäuser with wide roof and half-timber wall pattern and numerous apartments in Gothic manner.
Meanwhile Neuschwanensee Castle was in the Burgenromantik Romanesque Revival Style with many round tower and arches, the interior was decorated in Baroque style, even though it should be in Gothic or Romanesque style.
In other words: Neuschwanensee is a mishmash of various style as long as it looks Germanic. Guild Master, the one who responsible for creating it was Chinese, after all.
· Kiyomi sure love theatrics and hamming it up to eleven.
· Dojikko-moe have a psychological basis. It’s called Pratfall Effect
· What Yuuto will do with the picture? Even I the author don’t know. (This is a reference)
· Also, is anyone expecting a shuraba?
· Example text in Parfu Script and RAHO Common Alphabets:
LATIN: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights
In case anyone asking, I partially based Parfu Script on Masonic Secret Letters (Pigpen Cipher), while RAHO’s Common Alphabet was mostly based on triangles, so it looks like runes. Parfu had rather weird system while the Common Alphabet is a simple monoalphabetic substitution of Latin alphabet. In normal handwriting, the dots in Parfu script can be created by circling brush/pen stroke.