*˖:✧ ⑅•.⋅༻♔༺•⑅ ✧:˖*
After the bird from Lopecce returned, Zelle started thinking about what it could mean.
She had heard before that the messenger birds commuting between Lopecce and Roheneim kept getting killed; yet it seemed now that there was a new pathway for the messenger birds to commute safely after the battle at the Vishen River.
Also, Zelle recalled the conversation between Valhayle and Sir Luke.
They talked about Granoir moving to the West instead of staying in the Central-Northern region like they expected.
Zelle started racking her brain.
‘Does that mean… The revenge massacre hasn’t occurred yet?’
While she was dwelled in her thoughts, Valhayle interrupted.
“I didn’t know you were a female bird.”
Zelle looked at him bluntly. Even she herself had difficulty figuring out if she was a male or female so she understood that Valhayle wouldn’t know.
Zelle was only sure that she was a female because of the soldier who was in charge of her: he used to teasingly call her ‘little lady’ and ‘caviana’.
“I noticed that you were communicating with the bird. What do birds even talk about?”
Zelle dropped her beak in ludicrousness. How the heck am I supposed to know that?
Do you know what ‘Groooo’ or ‘Grooog’ means? Huh? I may look like this but I’m a human, not a bird!
Valhayle started unbuttoning his shirt, getting ready to change.
“…Did you like that bird?”
Oh my. This is getting out of hand.
Zelle stared at Valhayle as if he was a lunatic. This human is uttering complete nonsense.
Human, get your senses together!!
Valhayle raised his brows.
“Does that mean you didn’t like it?”
No, I mean get your senses together!
Valhayle’s face became slightly content.
“Then that’s fine.”
What’s fine? You didn’t understand anything.
Just as Zelle was trying to screech out from the bottom of her stomach…
Valhayle removed his shirt.
Eh? Zelle forgot everything she was planning to say as soon as she saw that male physique.
Gulp. Zelle somehow couldn’t breathe properly.
She was currently a bird so she didn’t even have to look away, but it was too difficult for her to continue staring.
Zelle actually never saw Valhayle’s body despite living in the same tent.
He almost always slept later than her. When he didn’t, he would turn off all the lights before changing.
‘I’ve never seen a man’s bare chest before…’
Zelle closed her eyes in embarrassment but peeked through her half-closed eyes.
Her golden eyes sparkled.
Princess Zelleine was the type to always take the opportunity when it came to her.
She swiftly overcame her embarrassment and started scrutinizing Valhayle’s body.
Whoa… He’s a little more tanned than women and has a few scars, probably because he is a soldier… And his body looks hard…
Zelle drooled a little. Valhayle instinctively felt chills and rubbed the back of his neck. However, Zelle convinced herself that it was because he felt cold, not because she stared.
Instead of changing into another shirt, Valhayle walked over to the corner of the tent where a bucket of water was placed and wetted his towel. Then he pressed the wet towel on the side of his torso.
Zelle broke out of her creepy observing and realized why he had taken his shirt off.
There was a huge bruise around his rib. He must have hit somewhere hard or fallen off his horse.
Zelle scowled at his black and blue bruise.
However, Valhayle didn’t even flinch. Instead, he looked like he was used to doing it, as if it happened that often.
But he’s still human. It must be painful.
Zelle clenched her beak.
Valhayle glanced over at her briefly while cooling his bruise.
“Why are you making a face like that? It’s not even a severe wound.”
She didn’t realize but she must have been making a sad face.
Zelle had never heard that a bird could have facial expressions nor that there was a person who could read a bird’s facial expressions so…
She was surprised that Valhayle read her emotions.
If you, the commander-in-chief, were wounded this badly, how many others would have been slain and killed? And for how many people did you take that wound for?
Zelle recalled the deal made between the 1st princess Linbessy and the King.
The King, Lespelle the 1st, wanted to earn the title ‘Conquering King’ before the end of his reign.
When he felt that it was about time that he abdicated the throne to someone else, he declared his war plans to his children. That was the beginning of the “Chewridge War” that would ultimately destroy Roymonde.
Many of her siblings agreed to his war plans so as not to provoke the King’s ire. However, 1st princess Linbessy, who had the support of Lopecce and Roheneim, was reluctant.
If she disagreed with the King’s plan, Roheneim and Lopecce wouldn’t either. They would come up with all sorts of reasons to delay the war until the King would have to renounce the throne.
The astute King was very well aware of that, so he used Voymont.
The King faction, Voymont. The group that gained power by pledging absolute obedience to the King.
The Voymont of the East that only supported the royal descendants favored by the King regardless of the statuses of their mothers.
Lepelle the 1st said to Linbessy,
‘If you agree to the war, I will give you Voymont. But if you disagree–’
He looked at his 4th son who looked exactly like him.
‘Don’t you think war with other countries is better than a civil war?’
It was a threat to Linbessy that he would give the controlling power of Voymont to his 4th son if Libessy did not support the war.
If that happened, Roymone would have had a civil war.
A civil war between Roheneim which supported the 1st princess and Voymont which supported the 4th prince.
However, Linbessy didn’t want that to happen. So, she accepted the King’s offer and agreed to the war.
Zelle suppressed her frustration.
No, Linbessy. A civil war would have been better than this.
The Voymont you wanted so badly is wiped out and the country is a mess.
It’s so bad that no one knows whether you or Demiera are dead or alive.
Did you not know that things were going to turn out this way? Even I knew this war was dangerous.
If you did know, why didn’t you stop it? It’s not like… You wanted this to happen, did you?
Valhayle interrupted her train of thought.
“You. What are you thinking so deeply about?”
Zelle turned to him who was now in a violet shirt.
Demiera, who was hostile, and Linbessy, who was disingenuous. And Roheneim and Lopecce that supported them.
‘I don’t care what they wanted.’
‘But this war shouldn’t have happened.’
After the temporary bridge was completed, the military supplies and crop aid started being delivered. And Valhayle announced the plan to recapture the Central region.
The militia of the East would protect the temporary bridge, Voymont would protect the Black Defense Wall, and Roheneim would increase their mobility and recapture the towns.
The people in the castles made it known that they would open the gate for Roymonde’s militaries, so Roheneim placed yellow flags in every place they passed through.
And as for Zelle… She had become something akin to a pet bird.
Valhayle held out a chicken jerky to Zelle, who was sitting on his shoulders. The latter ate the jerky and nibbled his finger teasingly.
Valhayle carried Zelle around the whole time he recaptured the city.
To rebel against his punishment of banning her from messenger bird duty, Zelle started finding jobs she could do on her own.
She looked for places in the castle that needed repair, reported the enemy’s escape route, looked for injured soldiers… And occasionally flew over the castles that needed to be recaptured to locate where the soldiers were stationed.
Valhayle fought surprisingly well and Zelle continued to help him despite getting scolded every single time. The two had to agree that they were great partners.
So, as Valhayle became the hero of this war, Zelle became the hero’s mascot.
‘The bird Roheneim’s chief commander brings around’, ‘the eyes above the clouds’, which meant she saw things humans couldn’t—those were Zelle’s nicknames.
Granoir never had nor used messenger birds. Thus, within the Granoir troops, word spread like wildfire that Zelle was actually Valhayle’s other form and that it was Valhayle himself who flew over their territories to spectate.
The fact that a bird that had an eye-catching ribbon around its leg was never attacked made the rumor more believable.
However, none of the Roymonde’s soldiers believed that. To them, Zelle was just their ‘Commander-in-chief’s pet bird’.
They believed the luxurious golden ribbon around her leg was proof that Zelle was his pet bird.
“Don’t you know that the more you are exposed to the enemies, the more dangerous it is for you?”
Valhayle gave her a jerky and started scolding her as usual. He was talking about how Zelle went over to Granoir’s territory again today to observe.
But Zelle couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t want that.
‘We have to win though? Why aren’t you using me to the fullest when you can? Plus, I’m smart so I don’t even really put myself at risk.’
She was about to start yapping but the jerky inside her mouth stopped that from happening.
Valhayle lit another lamp.
He received reports of where the crop aids were every night. He read through the paper rapidly and nodded.
“It’s a relief that we decided to move the crops to the West.”
Zelle listened attentively. Valhayle continued with a sigh.
“And it was very fortunate that we didn’t move it to the East.”
Zelle nodded as well.
Roheneim moved all the crops of the granaries in the Central region to the West before leading the vanguard of the Chewridge War.
Usually, the crops would have been split into half and stored separately in the East and the West; this year, however, it all went to the West.
“The process was surely a little weird…”
Zelle concentrated on his words.
‘The process was weird?’
Valhayle slowly parted his lips.
“The storing of the crops in the East and West in preparation of the typhoon that hits the Central region is only effective when the 1st princess Linbessy authorizes it.”
That was right. Zelle knew that well too.
“His Majesty also has the authority, but he never really cared.”
This was also true. Plus, the King was abnormally obsessed with the war, believing that he was going to win and expand the country.
“When the order fell to move all the crops to the West, our army was actually in a difficult position to carry it out. Such labor before the war had seemed like excessive work for us.”
Valhayle frowned as if he recalled his regrets.
“So I asked the Royalty again about that order. But…”
His eyes narrowed.
“I realized something was not right. The 1st princess didn’t seem to know much about that order. She actually thought it was His Majesty’s order.”
Zelle mumbled internally.
‘And the King probably thought it was Linbessy’s order.’
Valhayle intertwined his fingers.
“If I hadn’t followed that order, we would not be standing here right now. A war without military supplies is fated to lose. The reason we lasted until now is because we won the battle of supplies.”
He mumbled softly while folding the paper.
“Perhaps it was the royalty’s foresight…”
Valhayle stared into the lamplight with a complex expression before finally looking away.
“Anyway. Thanks to that, Roymonde avoided the worst famine in history.”
Zelle let out a relieved cry. Valhayle patted her head.
“It’s also thanks to you. You were the one who made the securement of the supplies possible.”
Zelle shook her head.
She wasn’t the one fighting in battle and she wasn’t the one who bled.
Stopping what could have been a massive bloodshed deserved praise but blood was already shed. And Zelle couldn’t take credit for that.
Valhayle watched Zelle’s sorrowful attitude and met her gaze.
“So don’t go to dangerous places. We need you at critical times.”
Zelle’s eyes widened.
Did he just… Explain the reason why I shouldn’t go to enemy territories?
Valhayle continued as if he was answering that.
“Value your life. You saved many people’s lives, so yours is valuable.”
He tightened the loose ribbon on her leg and returned to his documents.
*˖:✧ ⑅•.⋅༻♔༺•⑅ ✧:˖*
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TL/N: I really didn’t want to apologize again for the late release since I promised I’ll try to release them on time… But here we are 🙁 As a reader myself, I dislike delays so I know how it feels… But the good news is that I will be free in a week (I’ll be done moving!) and will thus be able to be back on track.
This chapter was last minute and I thank Daed, our proofreader, for turning my sloppy work into a nice, readable chapter. Some appreciation for Daed especially for this chapter would be nice~ Thank you for reading!!