Female Warrior Prologue Volume 1: Light and Shadow
Original novel in Chinese by: 御 我 (Yu Wo)
Chapter 2: Light and Shadow Part 2 – translated by raylight
The next morning, Red Cloak unhurriedly walked down the flight of stairs. Downstairs, it wasn’t very crowded or noisy. The price range of the inn was considered above average, so ordinary adventurers would not stay there. Rather, those staying at this inn were mostly merchants. Compared to adventurers who liked to shout in loud voices, merchants were usually more low-key and wouldn’t voluntarily cause trouble. Moreover, they were less likely to pay special attention to someone who liked to wear a red cloak, and they wouldn’t stubbornly want to lift that person’s cloak to see what was underneath it.
This was precisely the main reason why Red Cloak, although an adventurer, had chosen to stay at this inn.
He sat down in front of an empty table, and as he ate the rations that he had brought downstairs, he pondered over what he should do first. He had already used up what money he had, so it was high time he did some missions to earn money. Otherwise, if he were to travel far in the future, he wouldn’t have enough money to buy rations and basic equipment. On the other hand…
He suddenly stopped contemplating and eating, instead concentrating on listening to what the people sitting at the table beside him were saying. Three merchants sat there, and they were talking among themselves in hushed tones. Their expressions were extremely similar, as they appeared worried and were all frowning. They soon started exchanging information.
“Isn’t the tax for entering this city a bit too high? Last year, we only needed to pay twenty silver ducats to enter the city with a cart of cargo, right? Now, the cost has actually increased to one gold ducat! E-even the tax for entering the capital isn’t this expensive. If it were cheaper merchandise, the entire cart of goods could be bought with one gold ducat.”
“I think that I won’t be coming to this city again. I would rather hasten my journey a little more, and then rest at the next city.”
“Quit dreaming. I just came over from the next city, and the tax there has also just increased. For one cart of goods, you need to pay eighty silver ducats.”
All of the merchants’ faces fell, and they exchanged glances. One of them couldn’t help but grumble in a low voice, “Looks like the lords of the cities around this area are actually pretty united!”
Another merchant, seemingly the oldest in the group, quickly whispered, “Don’t talk about it anymore. Compared to before, at least we can now live our days comfortably. Praise be to the Holy King!”
The other two immediately followed with the chant, “Praise be to the Holy King.” However, after saying that, the three merchants continued furrowing their brows. Having lost the mood to continue chatting, they finished eating in a hurry and then left to go about their own business.
At this moment, Red Cloak started eating his rations once more; he was no longer pondering over what he ought to do first, but rather over this whole country – the Kingdom of Holy Light.
The Holy King… His true name was in fact Lancel Ornister.1 Logically speaking, he ought to have been called King Lancel or King Ornister. However, in order to express their reverence toward him, the citizens usually addressed him as the Holy King.
King Lancel officially established the country in the first year of his reign during the first year of the Sacred Calendar. However, it was only in the third year of the Sacred Calendar that he finally managed to unify the entire continent. Now, the twelfth year of the Sacred Calendar was not even over, yet there were already corrupt city lords appearing?
Or perhaps it was Red Cloak who was asking for too much?
This place was really very far from the capital. The short nine years of governance may not have been enough to let King Lancel control everything within the country. Not to mention, within those nine years, there had been an invasion from another country, and they fought a war that lasted for one year and eight months.
After ending a long era of chaos, he has only been in power for nine years and even fought a two-year war within that timeframe. Despite all that, he was still able to let the citizens live comfortably. No matter how you said it, this is a truly incredible feat, and as such the citizens hold the Holy King in high esteem.
“You… The one wearing the red cloak!”
Hearing that, Red Cloak turned his head. As expected, he saw the bard, who was the only acquaintance of his who was around. The bard was walking down the stairs.
Eh? Red Cloak sized up the bard. Yesterday, the bard’s face was so swollen that it resembled a piece of bread, but the swelling had gone down by more than half today. What was left was only a large swelling on his forehead and a few bruises here and there.
“Your wounds sure recovered quickly.” He was a little astonished.
Hearing these words, the bard proudly said, “Well? I don’t look like a piece of bread anymore, right?”
“That is true.” Red Cloak said indifferently.
“Do you know why I can recover this quickly? You don’t know, right?” The bard started smiling foolishly, as though having a secret that Red Cloak knew nothing about was an unprecedented victory.
However, Red Cloak gave no reply. He only silently chewed on his own rations. He indeed found it strange, but he had no intention of asking about it. Every adventurer had his own secret, and knowing fewer of others’ secrets meant that he would be in less danger when adventuring. This was common knowledge that every experienced adventurer knew.
Though the bard looked conflicted, he continued chattering non-stop, “Want me to tell you? This is a secret, but since you treat me so well, not telling you would make me seem like I was being ungrateful to my benefactor… If you really want to know, then I can tell you! Do you want to know? You want to, right?”
This guy, would not talking kill him?! A little vexed, Red Cloak growled at him, “If you want to say it, then say it! Continue spouting rubbish and I’ll help you revert back to the way you looked yesterday!”
Despite hearing that, not only was the bard undaunted, he even revealed an extremely satisfied expression. Touched, he said, “I just knew that you really wanted to know this secret!”
This guy is beyond hope! Red Cloak used his hand to support his forehead, feeling a migraine coming on. He deeply regretted ever bothering about this fellow. He should have let him live on hair oil, giving himself peace and quiet.
The bard smiled mysteriously and said, “If I say that this is a blessing from God, would you believe it?”
Red Cloak’s tone showed that he found it extremely strange. Rather than saying that he was surprised because he had heard the word “God” it was more that he was unable to cope with the bard making a random statement like that without giving an explanation. A little impatient, he asked, “When you say God, what exactly do you mean?”
The bard said with absolute certainty, “God is of course that kind of soft and squishy small thing that can be kneaded into different shapes and bounces around everywhere.”
Red Cloak fell silent for a while before he indifferently said, “Sounds more like a sort of mushy creature called a slime that crawls around in the forest. Not God.”
“Oh!” The bard seemed at a loss and said, “Now that you say that, they really are similar! However, slimes are green, but God is golden colored! Who knows… He might be the God of slimes?”
Saying it like this, don’t tell me you are a slime!
“Even if your injuries have healed, don’t run around aimlessly. If you get seen by the patrols, things will not turn out well for you.”
Red Cloak tried his best to suppress the urge to send this idiotic bard flying with a punch, and diverted the topic away from the slime god… If they were to continue talking about it, he really would violently beat the bard to a pulp, even if he didn’t like roughing up those without any fighting ability.
Instead, the bard revealed a troubled expression. Sobbing, he said, “Err… Nonetheless, I cannot do as you say! I still have to sing the Ballad of the Warrior Queen for one more day, so I must go out.”
Red Cloak furrowed his brows, remembering the strange rule that the bard had previously mentioned, that he had to sing the Ballad of the Warrior Queen for three days every time he arrived at a new place. He didn’t ask for the reason, but only asked indifferently, “You can’t even miss one day?”
The bard could only helplessly say, “I don’t have a choice. My teacher said that if I wanted him to accept me as his disciple, I had to agree to one condition. That is, once I became a proper bard, every time I visit a new place, I would have to sing the Ballad of the Warrior Queen for three days. This rule is very strict, but my teacher he… really is a superb bard!”
Seems like even if I don’t ask him the reason, he will still reveal it on his own… Seeing the bard’s eager eyes filled with anticipation and the “even if you don’t say anything, I will still talk about it” look on his face, Red Cloak felt another headache coming on. He could only do as the bard wished and ask him, “Who is your teacher?”
Hearing that, the bard’s anticipation-filled eyes immediately vanished. He put on an act of coughing loudly a few times, and then lifted his chin. In an extremely proud manner, he announced the answer, “Lorenzo Louis.”
“The bard nicknamed LL?”
Hearing this name, Red Cloak was truly a little surprised. He laughed, and then with a hint of disbelief, said, “LL is the imperial bard employed by the Holy King.”
“Used to be. However, when the Warrior Queen married the Holy King, he left the Holy City,” added the bard immediately, just to clarify.
There seemed to be a shadow of a smile on Red Cloak’s face as he said, “The imperial bard’s student has been reduced to a state where he would be beaten up by the city patrol until he looks like a pig head? Do you think that I would believe you?”
The bard quietly pulled an insignia from his shirt pocket. The insignia was made from interwoven gold and white threads, and was shaped like a white rose. In the golden portion at the center of the rose, there was a lute. The lute was even specially arranged into an L-shape.
As everyone knew, the white rose was the emblem of the Holy King. All the people who had a white rose insignia were direct subordinates of the Holy King. Also, just looking at the object that was crafted into the center of the rose, one could deduce what the subordinate’s profession was.
“Teacher said that he didn’t want this object anyway, so he gave it to me. If I was really lacking money during my journey, he said that I could sell it. I had tried to sell it in the past, but once the buyer saw that it was a white rose insignia, they refused to buy it.”
Of course they wouldn’t buy it. It’s the white rose insignia personally issued by the Holy King. All those who have them are renowned individuals. Who would dare to buy and keep such an insignia?
However, even though he had this insignia, Red Cloak was not swayed. He said, “This doesn’t prove much. He always loses his things.”
The bard sat stunned for a moment. Doubtful, he then asked, “What did you say?”
Red Cloak was silent for a while before he said nonchalantly, “I said, people are always losing things, so maybe you just picked it up.”
“It’s true that my teacher gave it to me!”
The bard was extremely anxious, but he himself also didn’t know how to convince Red Cloak… His teacher was indeed very good at losing his things. If anyone holding onto his teacher’s items came and told him that he was also LL’s student, even the bard himself would suspect that the item had been picked up.
“If you say it’s so, then so be it.” Red Cloak neither voiced whether he believed him nor whether he recognized him as LL’s student. He only made an offhanded remark and then returned to the main topic. “Under this kind of situation, your teacher would forgive you for not singing for one day. I believe that he also wouldn’t want to see you get beaten to death.”
“No, he wouldn’t forgive me.”
The bard was unexpectedly calm as he said, “He would only scold me, ‘To think that at that time, outside the gate of the Valley of the Crimson Blades and with just five thousand men, the Warrior Queen actually managed to defend the invasion from the demon army of fifty thousand soldiers. She even held them off for no less than three months. You, on the other hand, can’t even manage to merely sing the Ballad of the Warrior Queen for three days. Why don’t you just simply go hit your head and die under the statue of the Warrior Queen?’”
“Your teacher is wrong.” Red Cloak said coolly, “Comparing you to the Warrior Queen is like hitting a rock with a loaf of bread. From the start, it wouldn’t be a fair battle.”
The bard looked like he was about to cry as he said in grief, “You’re even more ruthless than my teacher…”
At this point in time, Red Cloak swallowed the last of his rations. With a swish from his cloak, he stood up and simply said, “Let’s go!”
“To where?” The bard lifted his head to look at him, puzzled.
Red Cloak said to him nonchalantly, “Aren’t you going to sing? Coincidentally, I also want to listen to a song, so let’s go together.”
Hearing that, the bard’s azure eyes instantly lit up in hope.
Red Cloak must be really strong!
This was not intuition, but an inference. A person who wore an eye-catching red cloak everywhere was either a reckless novice at adventuring, or a strong person who could settle any kind of trouble!
Judging from Red Cloak’s actions up until now, he was definitely not new to adventuring.
Even before the bard could spit out half a word, Red Cloak immediately cut in, coldly saying, “If you say anything that I feel contains redundant words, I will use a more direct method to make you unable to go out today— I’ll beat you up so badly that you can only lie in bed and then you wouldn’t need to sing anymore.”
“Redundant words?” The bard immediately gave a shout of astonishment. “How is it possible for me to speak redundant words? I have never said any unnecessary words before. On this, you can relax, for I am a bard! Being excessively particular about wording is my forte. I can guarantee that my every line is as elegant as singing birds and as clear as running water in a brook…”
Hearing this, Red Cloak seized the bard’s collar with one fist and then lifted him off the ground, forcibly dragging him from a sitting position to being suspended in mid-air.
The bard shut his mouth and blinked innocently. He didn’t dare move a single muscle and was completely in the dark as to why Red Cloak was angry again… But then again, his strength is really impressive. As expected, he’s a strong person!
With Red Cloak here, he would definitely not be beaten into a piece of bread by the patrol… The prerequisite being that Red Cloak could control his rage and leave him alive to go and sing.
Red Cloak held him there for quite a while. It was unclear whether he was trying to suppress his anger, or was considering which part he should start beating up first. It lasted until several of the inn’s waiters walked over. Without waiting for them to speak, Red Cloak had already put down the bard and turned around to tell them, “It’s fine.”
Turning around, Red Cloak lowered his head. The bard saw his pair of black pupils that radiated killing intent and severity from under the hood of his cloak. Red Cloak growled at the bard word-by-word, “Other than ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ all others are redundant words!”
After roaring at the bard, Red Cloak walked out of the inn without even looking back. Seeing Red Cloak’s shadow, the stunned bard mumbled, “Just like burning ebony flames.” Afterward, he immediately got to his feet and chased after Red Cloak.
After catching up with Red Cloak, he slowed down to walk beside Red Cloak. Though they were still quite far from the tavern, he had already started to hum softly.
Seasons change, time flows on
Gazing into the distance
The wandering minstrel reminisces about the past…
The corners of your lips are always pulled into a brilliant smile.
Your deep and distant eyes gaze beyond the people in front of you
You who are so far out of reach
What exactly are you looking at?
Softly, the minstrel sings
Regardless of the distance
My eyes remain fixed upon that woman of legend
Oh Warrior Queen!
Have the Holy King and Queen destroyed your capacity for love?
Oh Warrior Queen!
Can the ebony flames in your eyes be lit only by battle?
Oh Warrior Queen!
With your cold and indifferent eyes,
What exactly are you looking at?
1 “Lancel Ornister”: Originally named Lancero Ornister by Yu Wo, as stated in the Female Warrior artbook. Both Lancel and Lancero are equally valid names, but we felt Lancel was more suiting a name for a king. Lancero is a type of military course, a type of soldier, and also less frequently used as a name.