Chapter 177: Snow Flames andů (1)


Translated by Erias


(pages are numbered based on the actual Manga.)




Snow and Fire (Prologue)
Thank goodness we managed to find a spot out of the wind and snow.
This is nice isn't it?  Getting away from crowds and just being on our own.
Finally feels like we're traveling.

And nonsense.
I'm cold.
And hungry.
So we're turning back then?
Forget about the Black Swordsman?
I have no such intention.
If you'd like to inform the Inquisition that the Knights of the Holy Iron Chains were swallowed up by monsters along with all the refugees...
Then you can go right ahead and risk being branded a heretic and dealt with accordingly.
Wonder if the Lt. will pull through.  (He's not known for flexibility.)
As for me...
I have no desire...
To see that room again.
And as for you,
Why are you sitting over there?  Come over here by the fire.
Ah, no thanks.  Just in case, I thought I'd keep a look out for Kusharn army scouts or the like...
No one in the right mind travels in weather like this.
Just come here and warm yourself.
You're in charge of obtaining provisions, and I would be most put out if you fell ill.
It was snowing just like this the day I first met Farneze.
(I hate fires...)
I was still a child, beset by cold and hunger.
We'll be taken care of feed round here from now on.  Ain't no job for a titchy little shit like you.
Don't come back!
This is a holy city.
The seat of God's power.
Steeples scrape the sky, praising God.
The ringing bells let sound their song of praise to God.
Everything here exists for God, is sacrificed to God.
For those who have nothing to sacrifice...
It can be a very heartless city indeed.
As I child, I lived with THAT
in a run-down building located a ways from the city.
That was in the innermost room on the second floor, without much light.
Just opening the door was always enough to depress me.
Illness had left THAT nothing but skin and bones.
I have your food, mother.
From infancy I was surrounded by the scent of death.
Where did you wander off to?  I've been suffering here alone...
My back hurts, rub the pain away.
Her spine and ribs stood out from her back like they'd been carved there.
They often made me think of her as some sort of unknown monster.
Where did you get that bruise?
Fighting with the boys in town...
You are of noble blood!
Do not debase yourself by arguing with those beneath you.
Be proud!
You are my only hope.
Someday your father will come for us.
When he does, you must be flawless, a nobleman he can be proud of.
Mother, calm yourself before you start coughing again.
You must understand this...
Be proud!
In her delirium, my mother often came back to those words.
It seemed that, long ago, my mother had worked as a lady in waiting at a nobleman's mansion.
And I was the product of a brief fling with the master of that house.
Take this; keep it against your flesh.
Sometime you may have to use this to prove who you are.
In other words, I am a nobleman's bastard.
She clung to these precious memories...
Forcing her dream onto my small shoulders, to bear when she was gone.
It probably never occurred to her...
To wonder how a child not even ten years old would deal with that house of sickness.
Look wha ye gone and dun to me brother...
Everyday my mother strengthened the burden of pride...
And everyday the town ripped that pride out by the root.


Eventually, I was left with no expressions...
And felt no emotions.
I can't move.
If I stay like this, I'll be buried in the snow.
That sounds nice.
Sounds easy.
The sound of a carriage...
Stop here!
Stop the horses!
I knew it at a glance.
To me the word was a curse.
The girl looking down at me was no imitation noble like I was; from her head to her toenail, there was not a blemish.
She was a noble's daughter.
Weird rabbit...
Insolent dog!
What's the matter?  We shall be late for Communion, Miss...
Why is a child so young dying in the street?
Cancel Communion.
Load this child in the cart; we're taking him home with us.
Miss, won't you leave such things to us?
Absolutely not!
I shall care for him!
You go away!
She'd picked me up like an injured puppy.
I saved you from certain death.
From this point on you belong to me.
This was something...
Swear to it.
I had never planned on.
But thanks to that...
A noble's mansion?
What was the master's name?
I was able to secure employment.
I was too flustered, and forgot to ask.
I was released from the depressing monster.
They told me that, starting tomorrow, I should come and live with them to work.
If I said my heard was heavy I would be lying.
Don't worry; my wages will be enough to employ a nurse to take care of you.
She said but one thing.
This is a chance to reenter aristocratic society.
Word hard and well.
It left me with a sinner's guilt.
The Vendemion family's personal assets were said to surpass the budget of the largest country in the world.  Kings of several realms had sprung from their stock; and many religious officials.  Within this holy city they were the power behind the power, the single greatest influence upon anything.
Now that I look again, this place is huge...
Of course, I was to young to know any of that.
From today you are my page.  You answer only to me.
Anything I say...
You do.
Yes, Miss Farneze.
She had released me from my miserable existence.
Holding that thought...
My new master's...
For the most part...
Unreasonable commands...
Were easily borne.
Poor thing.
You're holding up well, considering.
(You said you fell off a horse?)
(You could have broken a few bones...)
Everyone else we've taken on to serve her's fled right quick on account of her disposition.
She even set one poor girl's clothes on fire with her still in them.
Be careful you don't find yourself on the sharp end of one of her moods.
This little tyrant
Was viewed by everyone with disgust and anger, like a boil about to pop.
She grew up that way with good reason.
Her father, the lord of Vendemion, was so passionate about his work that he rarely, if ever, came home.
Her mother had no time for her daughter, spending every waking moment partying.
Parental affection...
Manifested itself only in a
mountain of THINGS that threatened to bury her at any moment.
She was let out to pasture in the halls of the mansion.
Rows of forbidding carvings stare down at us.
A maze shrouded in oppressive gloom.
Though dozens of servants worked here...
We could not even say we saw them infrequently.
It reminded me of that gloomy run-down home...
Where I'd grown up with my mother.
In this giant prison...
She lived alone, without responsibilities.
(You'll catch cold)
Her act of compassion had not been just calculated; she may have sensed that I gave off the same smell as her.


One night there came a storm.
All right?  You stay right there all night long and hold my hand.
(Eeek!  Nooo!)
Miss Farneze, calm yourself!
Do something about that thunder!
I don't see...
Oh no!  
The window!
Miss Farneze!
Miss Farneze, where are you...?
Into the storm she ran,
Round and round like she was dancing, crying out in a voice that was neither a shriek nor a laugh.
It was as if she had been possessed.
Miss Farneze!
A storm!
I can be a storm too!
Her abnormal actions...
Drove everyone else away.
I followed her into the woods behind the mansion.
Deep in the heart of the woods...
We found a little clearing.
I noticed that, all around us...  
Were what looked like the bones of small animals.
Fetch some twigs.
A few days before...
She had had been quite taken with this bird.
Miss Farneze?
This bird has not grown to love me.
For a while, if fluttered violently, crying out.
And then it fell silent.
This is my crematorium.
My sacred alter.
I burn all bad things here.
The light shone on her as she spoke...
(The servants weren't kidding about the fire...)
And she smiled as if in a trance.
When she did that...
It seemed as if she was trying to push people away, to make them afraid of her.
If so, then why?
The window of her bedroom looked down upon a place
That, long ago, had been frequently used for the burning of heretics.
I was told that, when she was quite young...
She had made her way out there, and thrown a few torches.
The flickering light of those fires must have shone through this window like a beacon, shattering the darkness that surrounded her.

One snowy day, the master returned.  Though I had been employed for a full year, this was the first time I had laid eyes on him.
Wait, Farneze.
This is a business conversation.
Yes, Father.
What's that raggedy doll?
Throw it away.
You've got much newer toys that than.  Now go on and leave us be.
Miss Farneze?
The servants had told me about that rabbit.
Many, many years ago, on the only trip they ever took as a family...
Farneze had pestered her father into buying it for her.
It seemed to mean a lot to her.
Go away.
Or I'll...
Burn you too.
She was afraid.  Left all alone in that enormous prison...
Because she was afraid she hurt people.  Because she was afraid she pushed them away.
Because she was afraid, she frightened everyone near her.
Before a child reaches out for happiness...
They adapt to their lives, and bury themselves.
Until, before they know it...
They can no longer see themselves.
In the maze...
Covered in snow.
And then one day, my master stopped me in the hall.
Yes, sir?
What's that around your neck?
This, sir?
I thought he was about to accuse me of having stolen it.
Let me see it closer...
Ah, I thought so.
Inside was a tiny image of my mother and father, in their youth.
And now...
I was meeting him.
This did not cause any particular emotional reaction.
Ah, so this is him...
Perhaps it should have.
But the knowledge that Farneze was my half-sister...
Was rather a jolt.
He said that the three male heirs to the Vendemion family -- my brothers -- were already engaged in a battle over the succession.
He said there was absolutely no way he could afford to recognize the product of his mistress, me, and risk inflaming everything into a torrent of useless violence.
However, if I would promise to keep my birth a secret, he would bestow a noble rank upon me...
And see that I was raised in a manner befitting my status as such.
And what...
Should I tell my mother?
Just that.
And so my lips were sealed.
But even this much was far more than either of us had ever hoped to find.
Thanks to God...
My poor mother...
I accepted my father's conditions...
Very well.
In the hopes that I might be allowed to continue living in this mansion.
To be honest, I'm somewhat at a loss as to what to do with Farneze.  When I'm around, she always feigns innocence.
But I'm told that your presence has been a godsend to the rest of the help.
He spoke with no compunctions, despite having spoken to her but once this year.
The two of us have not the power to melt the snow mounting up upon us.

But perhaps we each felt a slight warmth in the other.