“To be completely honest, I didn’t think we’d meet again.”
Medrauta raised an eyebrow as she glanced at Trianna with a measure of curiosity. The silver-haired knight had arrived around an hour ago, catching Trianna and the soldiers she’d been training in the middle of a break. Unfortunately for them, Medrauta didn’t think they were sweating hard enough at the time.
“No? Why not?” Medrauta asked. “Did you think you were too late, or was Krista treating you poorly?”
Trianna shook her head as she mopped the sweat off her brow using a towel, recovering from the grueling training session that Medrauta just put her through. “No, nothing of the sort. The journey to Vargos was mostly silent, but she was actually quite helpful when we reached the cathedral. It’s just... I didn’t think Aluvsha would actually answer my prayers.”
Medrauta nodded, understanding what the violet-haired knight was trying to imply. It wasn’t that Trianna’s faith was lacking. As a knight, Trianna seldom had time to participate in religious ceremonies or perform acts of piety, meaning she rarely felt a connection to Aluvsha, if ever. The god’s prompt response and intervention was surprising, even to Medrauta.
“Y’know, I can’t really blame you for that. Honestly, I thought it’d take days of praying.”
Trianna grinned. “Apparently not. I... When I first swore that pact with Amelia, I thought that was the only way I could become strong. Her words pulled me in, but they played on desires that already existed. But thanks to you, I’ve come to realize that there’s other ways to achieve strength. I never really got the chance to properly thank you for this second opportunity at life, so... Thank you, Medrauta.”
“Don’t thank me. Thank Viviane. She’s the one who handled all the negotiations with Krista. I kinda just... stood by,” Medrauta said awkwardly.
“Of course I’ll have to thank her as well, but I thought I’d take this opportunity to thank you while I’ve the time. We’re attacking the capital in two days, and anything could happen during that time.”
Medrauta made a dismissive gesture. “We’ll be fine. None of the knights in the duchy capital can hold a candle to Dame Marilyn.”
Despite Medrauta’s casual dismissal of the enemy’s elite forces, Trianna couldn’t help but think otherwise. It was obvious that Dame Marilyn was individually stronger than all the knights in the duchy capital with her former rank being proof of that, but even she wouldn’t be able to hold her own against multiple senior knights. In fact, the only knight she’d seen capable of such a feat was the silver-haired knight standing in front of her.
And even then, I doubt Medrauta could take on so many... There must be at least twenty knights in Revelo fief alone... Trianna pursed her lips worriedly. If any of them were as strong as Dame Eirlys—No. Even if they were as strong as Sir Bradley, even Medrauta wouldn’t be able to defeat all of them at once...
Seeing Trianna’s concerned expression, Medrauta clapped the knight on the shoulder, offering her an easygoing smile. “Just relax, alright? And besides, you’re not too bad yourself. I reckon you’d be able to hold off a senior knight for a couple minutes just by yourself, but the beauty of this whole operation is that it won’t be a duel or even a match. You’ll have soldiers by your side, and knights too.”
“R-Right!” Trianna nodded emphatically as if trying to force herself to believe in Medrauta’s words. It was the only way she could increase her confidence about this siege. After all, victory meant more than just survival. While Trianna’s sins had been forgiven by Aluvsha, the fact that she broke one of the empire’s most sacrosanct laws still remained.
If she wanted any chance at obtaining the emperor’s pardon, she would have to win this battle and free the duchy from Bastiche’s machinations. There was also the small problem of proving that he was the one behind his own father’s assassination as well as his intent to attack the capital during wartime, but Trianna decided to leave that up to the others.
“Speaking of having knights by your side, whatever happened to the other knight that was with you?” Medrauta asked. “Krista said they were training the knights with you, but I don’t see ‘em anywhere.”
“Ahh, you mean Pamela? One of the soldiers injured themselves during a mock battle, so she took them to the infirmary. I think she’s there working with the nurses.”
Trianna shrugged. “She probably prefers it there anyway. She was planning to become a knight-hospitalier after she graduated. That’s the only reason why she was with her lord, though... I suppose he’s not among the living anymore.”
“Ah. Right.” Medrauta pursed her lips as she recalled how Krista had immediately executed one of the nobles with a well-placed arrow. The only nobles who survived were Duncan’s lady and Trianna’s lord.
The two knights stood together in an awkward silence for a few seconds as they watched the exhausted soldiers mingle and mill about. It was obvious that Medrauta’s training session had been a lot harsher than what Trianna and Pamela had been putting them through, but they didn’t look too sour about it. In fact, the increase in intensity seemed to motivate them even more.
Though Medrauta had already dismissed them a few minutes before Trianna even approached her, a few of the soldiers were still continuing to train at their own behest, no doubt in response to the schedule being moved up.
“...Now that I think about it, it’s strange, isn’t it?” Medrauta frowned, a sudden thought striking her as she watched the soldiers who remained. “No matter how you slice it, Bastiche’s sudden attack is just too coincidental...”
“It does feel like that, doesn’t it? I don’t think it has anything to do with your arrival though... I mean, the messenger’s news was basically three days old, right?” Trianna shrugged. “Unless he can see into the future, there’s no way he could’ve timed something that perfectly.”
“...Yeah, you’re right.” Medrauta pursed her lips. “Maybe I’m just overthinking it. But...”
...What if he can see into the future? The thought hung in Medrauta’s mind, the weight of such an implication so great she couldn’t help but shudder. In truth, she wasn’t entirely sure what the limits of Amelia’s powers as a witch were, nor did she know the extent of what a witch’s pact could grant. All she knew was that it was certainly possible to predict or even see future outcomes.
Though heavily regulated by the government and the church, there were certainly Crests with such abilities, and the Oracle of Higashi was already known to possess abilities of precognition and retrocognition as well. If Bastiche did indeed predict their arrival using whatever powers he’d gained from Amelia, then he was most likely already prepared for their imminent siege.
“Did Amelia offer you any other abilities aside from regeneration when you swore that pact?” Medrauta asked. “You wanted to become stronger, right? Maybe something like enhancing your senses or even precognition?”
Trianna thought for a moment before shaking her head. “No, nothing of the sort. You... You don’t really think Bastiche can predict the future, right?”
Medrauta simply shrugged. “There’re Crests that can do something of the sort. I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to imagine Amelia can gift that ability to someone.”
“I... I guess it’s possible? I wouldn’t dwell too much on it, though. Even if he can, it’s not like we can do anything to stop him. Plus, I don’t think it really matters much.”
“It matters a lot!” Medrauta said, her voice coming out a lot louder than she’d intended. Seeing Trianna’s surprised expression at her outburst, the silver-haired knight took a deep breath to calm her nerves before continuing. “Look. If he can predict the future, it means we’ve all just been playing right into his hands. All of us.”
“...I don’t know. I don’t think he would’ve let Lady Sakura and her knight escape if he could perfectly predict the future. Dame Marilyn too. Besides, what’s the point of predicting the future?”
“What do you mean?” Medrauta frowned, not quite understanding what Trianna was trying to imply.
“Well, do you think I’d be able to beat you in a duel if I could predict the future?”
Medrauta pursed her lips. Although she didn’t want to completely shut down Trianna and hurt the other knight’s pride, there wasn’t really a way to phrase it kindly while still remaining frank. It really didn’t matter whether Trianna was capable of seeing her next move due to the immense disparity of skill between them.
“...No.” Medrauta admitted. “Not unless you fixed your technique and stopped moving so wastefully. Even if you knew my attacks were coming, you wouldn’t be able to parry them at your current speed.”
Trianna nodded, the smile on her face a relief to Medrauta. The silver-haired knight had been worried that her words would demoralize Trianna, but the violet-haired knight was more than aware of her own faults, especially when she was working so hard to eliminate them.
“That’s right. Do you get what I’m trying to say now, Medrauta? Even if he knew we were coming, the most he could do is wait for us to attack or strike first if he were confident enough. But in either case, he can’t win because we’re stronger.”
Medrauta raised an eyebrow. “That’s mighty confident of you. How do you figure we’re stronger? He’s got senior knights and their nobles at his beck and call now that he’s the acting duke.”
Trianna grinned. “I mean, we have you, don’t we?”
“Hah! I suppose we do...” As Medrauta’s voice trailed off, she turned, casting her glance toward the distant shooting range where Viviane’s voice could still be heard. A peaceful smile touched her face, and she enjoyed that moment for an instant before it was inevitably shattered by a realization she wished she never had.
“But what if he didn’t need to see the future, Trianna?”
Trianna frowned. “Hm? What do you mean?”
“What if there was a spy in our midst and—”
“Medrauta.” Trianna said firmly. “Relax. If there’s anyone who should be worried, it should be me. Me and Pamela. After all, our futures depend on this victory... Besides, it’s impossible to get a message from here to the duchy capital within such a short time. I mean, you just arrived today, and you were spotted in Helfried yesterday.”
“So... There’s no way Bastiche could’ve received news within a day and a half. It takes three days to get to Revelo fief, after all.”
“More than a day and a half.” Medrauta corrected her. “They probably sent a runner the moment they started chasing us. And you’re not entirely correct about the travel time, Trianna. It takes three days to march to Revelo fief from here. Four from Helfried. For a messenger with next to no luggage on a sprinter horse? They’ll get there in half that time or less.”
“That’s... A day and a half.” Trianna’s eyes widened in horror as she realized that Medrauta’s words had more than just a ring of truth to them. With those travel times in mind, it would only be possible if the traitor had come from Dietrich, not Helfried. “Medrauta...”
Medrauta nodded, a grim expression on her face.
“Yeah. We’ve got a rat to catch.”