Campione! / Campione! Vol 3 Chapter 1


Chapter 1 – Light from the East
Part 1
A certain night in the latter half of March, in the Nezu area of Bunkyo ward
in Tokyo.
In the living room of the Kusanagi home, two old men were enjoying
alcohol.
Godou was also there, sitting at a corner. But he was there only to pour the
liquor, moving back and forth to deliver the bottles of warmed sake.
…With one whiff, he was able to tell if the sake was warmed to the right
temperature.
Actually, this was one of Godou’s skills. But to have such a skill at an age
of fifteen, it doesn’t feel right at all. But still, it was a skill that was trained by
his grandfather from a young age.
” — So, why do you suddenly want to go to Italy?”
The one who asked this was grandfather’s old friend, Takamatsu-sensei.
He was from the same generation as grandfather, a professor at a private
university within Tokyo who taught western history. It was also because of
this, both Godou and his sister Shizuka called him ‘sensei.’
“Eh? I am only going there to meet an old friend.”
The one who answered was the one who was leaving for Italy in just two
days’ time, Kusanagi Ichirou.
Even though he was a person who liked to travel, he had rarely left the
country recently. However, during this spring, he suddenly said that he
wanted to go to Italy.
And also due to that, Takamatsu-sensei specially came to see him off with
bottles of alcohol.
…Grandfather also used to be a professor in folkloristics, but was already
retired. Now, he passed his days leisurely. Too leisurely, sometimes.
Godou really wanted to tell him off.
Even though he really wanted to thank him for doing all the household
chores.
But to instill in his grandson knowledge about alcohol’s taste, aroma and
even origins, to be popular among all the women who frequented the
shopping district (both old and young), and to frequently meet older women
(which Godou believed to be beauties in the past) on the street, seeming
to know many of them, Godou felt like there was definitely a problem.
“…That old friend you mentioned is a woman right?”
Takamatsu-sensei, grandfather’s old friend, said with some disgust.
As a side note, this person would always say something like “you look so
similar to Ichirou…” whenever he saw Godou’s face. Come on, inherited
DNA is bound to cause facial similarity, so please do not have these weird
concerns.
“Ah, now that you brought it up, you know her too. Yes, do you remember?
Lucretia Zola the Italian foreign student back when we were in university?”
“Oh, that woman. Hey, don’t tell me you have kept in contact with her all
this time?”
“No. It only started recently. I sent a letter to her Italian home address she
gave me before, and a reply came back. That thing she left behind in
Japan forty years ago eventually came into my possession. If possible, I
would like to return it to her personally.”
“Wait a minute! Didn’t you promise Chiyo you would never see that woman
again? Did you forget already?”
The conversation was getting out of hand.
Chiyo was the name of Godou’s grandmother who passed away a few
years back.
Back in the old days, grandfather was a handsome man. He possessed
the gift of conversation to skillfully win people’s hearts, perfect diplomacy,
and outstanding observational skills. In other words, he was very popular
with women.
And he never refused anyone.
Due to grandfather being like this, grandmother sure had it tough.
“Promise… Wasn’t it that I will not see her off at the airport?”
“It’s not that! I’m sure you remember, you’re just playing dumb. What’s
more, you’re not obliged to go personally, all you need is to send it over by
air mail.”
Towards grandfather who was acting like he didn’t know,
Takamatsu-sensei pointed out the situation.
“It looks like something precious. Wouldn’t it be troublesome if it is
damaged on the way there? And I also wanted to visit Italy once and have
a nice chat with Lucretia Zola whom I have not met for such a long time.”
“Ichirou, do you even know how to speak Italian?”
“No, not even a word. But things will work out somehow, so it will be fine.”
If this was said by any ordinary old person, he would either be a very
relaxed person, or is suffering from dementia.
But it was not the case for grandfather. When Kusanagi Ichirou was still an
active folkloristics scholar, he was like a celebrity in field research.
Specializing in studying different traditional arts and cultures, he would
often go to various countries to investigate.
The places he went to investigate would sometimes be isolated village
communities.
He was able to integrate himself into their community quickly, build good
relationships with the villagers and even acquire a few village secrets
which are usually not told to outsiders. What’s more, most of these villages
are situated in Southeast Asia, China, India and other foreign countries. He
was able to easily overcome language barriers that would usually stop
other people.
It could be said to be at a superhuman level.
“A precious item… Just what did that woman leave here in Japan?”
“About that, remember the group of buddies during university that would
usually go on trips together? At that time, there was a certain incident
concerning about a curse from a guardian god and if I remember correctly,
twenty died and it caused a great commotion.”
“Curse!?”
Hearing such an unbelievable story, Godou shouted out unknowingly.
Stealing a glance at his grandson, Ichirou smiled and said.
“Yes, it was a story I heard during my time at the research institute. A
group of good friends went to Noto for a vacation. At that time, many, many
things happened.”
“I remember that it caused quite the uproar… That witch seemed to have
hidden herself somewhere and did weird things.”
“W-Witch?”
From Takamatsu-sensei’s mouth came an extraordinary phrase, Godou
was even more shocked.
A curse followed by a witch, just what happened back then?
“…It is the woman that Ichirou is going to meet, foreign student from Italy
nicknamed ‘witch.’ A girl with a strange presence, I do not know when it
started, but people started to call her by this nickname.”
“However, she always smiled and answered ‘Yes, I am a witch’.”
With all this said, Takamatsu-sensei started to look a little upset, while
grandfather was still very happy.
Most likely reminiscing old happenings, he closed his eyes and continued:
“She was a very interesting woman. She got along well with cats and birds,
was able to find lost things immediately, and predicted the next day’s
weather with greater accuracy than even the weather forecast… Oh, and
she was very fluent in Japanese — Basically on the same level as locals
such as us.”
This woman, together with the younger Ichirou and Takamatsu-sensei, had
gone on a hot spring trip.
During their visit to a hot spring inn at a remote village, strange things had
happened.
“There were lots of people dying from heart attacks, over a span of merely
half a month, with roughly twenty victims. There was neither an epidemic
nor a murder incident so rumors spread that it was retribution brought
about by a local earth god’s curse.”
“Curse… If it were a detective story, then there must be some sort of
shocking trick right?”
Godou did not dislike the detective story genre, but his grandfather simply
shook his head and laughed wryly.
“Too bad, there was no trick revealed. It was just by luck that we were
there on our trip. We were all in a great panic. The only calm person was
Lucretia Zola. She went out that night, only coming back in the morning
exhausted. When she returned, she made a ‘prophecy,’ that from that day
onwards, nobody would die like that again. Everything was resolved.”
Such an unbelievable story. It all seemed like a lie.
But the grandfather did not appear to be joking. Takamatsu-sensei also
had a serious face.
“Seems like an amazing person… By the way, why did she come here to
study?”
His interest piqued, Godou could not help inquiring further.
“It was to study Japan’s ancient legends — especially legends about
Yamato Takeru^l Actually, she was more knowledgeable about such
myths and stories on legendary swords than us. Before coming to Japan,
she had been researching the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of
the Round Table at a London university.”
“This doesn’t make sense, why would she deliberately leave a university in
London to come to Japan?”
“Who knows, if you asked Lucretia Zola personally, all she did was smile
and say she had her reasons.”
“That means many things happened between grandfather and this
woman.”
Back when grandfather was a graduate student, he was only engaged to
grandmother and they had not married yet. That grandmother
subsequently forbid grandfather to see Lucretia Zola-san, which is why
Takamatsu-sensei was now showing such a pained expression.
With this, Godou finally understood the whole story.
“Many things? Please do not speak so ill of me. We were just friends with
mutual respect who just happened to have opposite genders. Chiyo and
Takamatsu really shouldn’t have had such strange misunderstandings.”
Such an honest sounding answer, it definitely cannot be trusted. Godou let
out a sigh.
…Recalling the deceased grandmother’s oft repeated words:
‘Godou, you must never become like your grandfather. Though he is an
amazing person, he had a fatal flaw from the very beginning… Ever since
you were very young, Grandma has always worried about you since you
resemble your grandfather so much. Even though he usually seems like a
decent man, he is noted to do things lacking in common sense
sometimes… Oh dear, I am so worried.’
How could she say such things to Godou who had not matured yet?
The cause of grandmother’s worries, was the womanizing husband who
stayed with her throughout all these years, and definitely not Godou’s own
actions. Godou thought to himself as he stared straight into his
grandfather’s eyes and spoke.
“Hey, grandpa, before I talk about other problems, isn’t this a promise you
have made with grandma? Why not just give it up. Please cancel the trip to
Italy.”
“That, I cannot do. Even if it is very unfair to Chiyo, a promise with an old
friend is also very important. I’ve already promised her that I will personally
bring the item to her.”
A promise to a friend.
If that was the case, Godou had no rebuttal.
Despite being such a Casanova, grandfather had never betrayed the trust
of his family. This too was one of the reasons why his male friends admired
him. Whether male or female, Kusanagi Ichirou will never act unjustly
towards a friend. The moment he hears that a friend requires aid, he will
immediately rush over to help, even if it is outside of Japan. He possessed
a chivalrous heart.
A person who valued relationships above all else.
Godou respected and admired this aspect of his grandfather’s character,
and wished to become such a person himself as well if possible.
“…That woman’s possession, what is it? You just described it as something
precious.”
“About that, in the village where the curse incident happened, didn’t she
leave something behind? …That night, Lucretia Zola had visited a shrine
which was burned down by disrespectful locals, presented this item as an
offering. After that, the curse stopped… Perhaps the curse and the witch
are real after all?”
Facing Takamatsu-sensei’s inquiry, grandfather left his seat and quickly
came back.
Carrying a flat object wrapped in a purple cloth.
And then he placed it on the table and unwrapped it.
A B5 sized stone tablet, on it was a childish drawing. It should be a picture
of a man with both his hands and feet locked up, distributed on the edges
of this drawing were drawings of a bird with its wings spread out, the sun,
moon and stars.
The tablet was well-worn in appearance and even had signs of being
burnt.
“…A lithograph, could this be very ancient?”
Godou gave his honest opinion.
A carving left behind by primitive peoples of some place. If that’s the case,
it made sense.
“Probably not. For it to be an artifact unearthed from some archaeological
site, its condition is too good… Though you can’t rule out the possibility it is
the work of some avant-garde artist.”
Looking at the stone tablet with interest, grandfather answered.
“Ichirou, how did this thing come into your possession?”
“Actually that village was vacated more than ten years ago. The person
who managed the shrine was troubled over how to handle the stone tablet.
They had no idea how to locate the owner but was able to recall the face of
one of the accompanying students, and that student turned out to be me.
Through various twists and turns, they were finally able to get in touch with
me.”
“After that, grandpa decided to go meet that person.”
This perfect coincidence made Godou’s heart stir with feeling.
As a scholar in folkloristics, Kusanagi Ichirou had publications, thus his
name was recorded in the university where he worked at the time. By
getting in touch with the university, they were able to find grandfather’s
contact information. If grandfather had been an ordinary person in an
unassuming occupation, most likely they would not have found him.
In fact, it took a lot for them to find each other again.
Godou could understand the feelings of grandfather who wished to return
the stone tablet to the original owner.
However, he could not let him break the promise with grandmother like
that.
After some consideration, Godou made his decision, the tablet will be
delivered some other way.
“OK, I get it — I will take this stone tablet to Italy. This way, grandfather
can keep his promise properly.”
Seeing Godou make such a proposal, his grandfather showed great
interest in his eyes, while Takamatsu-sensei looked very worried.
“Godou, are you serious? Do you know any Italian?”
“Nope, none at all. But things will work out somehow, no problem.”
Godou already had several experiences of being taken overseas by
grandfather.
The places visited were mostly Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam or
Thailand. Getting separated from grandfather then meeting up several
days later had also happened. Every time it occurred, Godou had to spend
over half a day alone with no money and the difficulties of a language
barrier. In severe cases, he had to wait for several days.
Having experienced such situations numerous times, Godou actually
became used to it.
Language barriers could be handled by body language. This proved to
work surprisingly well for communicating even though complicated
meanings could not be expressed, but it brought him close to others.
Other Japanese would probably freeze if they met a foreigner in the streets
and had to converse in English. In such situations, Godou would
appropriately make use of however much English he knew to establish a
fragmented dialogue.
…By the way, the younger sister Shizuka had also gone travelling overseas
with grandfather a few times.
But she never met the things that happened to her brother, making Godou
suspect if his grandfather deliberately set him up to train his grandson.
“Hoho, Godou wants to go in my stead… Can I really entrust this to you
with confidence?”
A teasing smile appeared on the grandfather’s face.
“That’s right, a man keeps his word. It’s currently spring break, so I’m
bored to death anyway.”
“The place Lucretia resides, though considered Italy, is actually an island
in the Mediterranean — Sardinia, and is located deep in the countryside of
the island’s interior. I think you will have it rough.”
As he watched his grandson’s declaration, the nature of the grandfather’s
smile changed.
It gave off a feeling of praise but at the same time like playing a joke. It was
a smile mixed with complicated emotions, a very joyful smile.
“I understand, then I will leave everything to you. Handle it well.”
Picking up the stone tablet from the table, he placed it in Godou’s hands.
Part 2
On the south side of Italy, a vacation island floated in the middle of the
Mediterranean Sea.
This was Sardinia, an island about the same size as Shikoku^, its
population was roughly one and a half million of which over half was
concentrated in the largest city there, Cagliari.
Enclosed by crystal clear seawater, the surrounding natural environment
was also very beautiful.
The biggest industry on the island was tourism. Every summer, it was
crowded with tourists whose purpose was to vacation in Europe.
Particularly on the northeastern side, the sea shore as beautiful as an
emerald was renowned as a vacation spot exclusive to the upper class
nobility.
However, Godou kept his plans to come here a secret from his younger
sister.
“What is going on… Onii-chan. You suddenly tell me you’re going
travelling. Could you have forgotten your promise to me? You’re the worst.”
Thanks to his grandfather, Godou suffered severe scolding from his sister.
All because of the grandfather’s suggestion.
‘You can tell the truth, but I don’t recommend it, Godou. If Shizuka knew
you were going to a prime vacation spot in southern Italy, what would she
think?’
‘She would want to go, or rather, she will insist in tagging along?’
‘Exactly. But even though it’s Europe, travelling in those countryside places
can be very troublesome. The most prosperous streets of the city would be
fine, but that place is even more deserted than this shopping street in
Nezu… So, I will ask you a question, travel casually alone in the
countryside or bring a troublesome sister and devote your efforts to taking
care of her, which will you pick?’
‘Of course alone.’
He had replied without thinking.
In the end, an excuse was made to cover things up. Shizuka was told he
was going to an acquaintance’s Zen monastery, to work odd jobs for a
week.
But for some reason, Shizuka scolded him with exceptional fury.
While Godou was preparing his luggage in his room on the second floor at
home, Shizuka suddenly burst in.
“There’s no helping it, mother ordered me to go there in her stead.”
“Mother’s orders? …Then it can’t be helped, she must have thought it was
too troublesome and pushed it onto Onii-chan, that’s so willful of her.”
“…Yes, your willful character is probably inherited from mother as
well — ouch.”
“What a rude thing to say! I don’t have that kind of personality like a
queen!”
Clearly he was already off the hook by blaming his mother’s interference,
but Godou made an unnecessary comment.
Stepped on by Shizuka, Godou knew he had to be more careful with his
words.
By the way, the monastery he was supposedly visiting was located deep in
the mountains of Chichibu. Apparently there was once an ancestor of the
Kusanagi family who was an abbot there, but he continued his life of
indulgence despite monastic vows.
The monastery still maintained the tradition of drawing water from a well to
use for cooking.
But at the same time, it was equipped with an industrial scale refrigerator
that one would find in a winemaking business, which was stocked full of
alcohol purchased from the liquor store at the foot of the mountain.
Furthermore, they eschewed alcohol euphemisms like ‘soup of wisdom’^
and openly ate meat and drank alcohol.
All past abbots have been strange characters, and every single one of
them was an intimate friend of the Kusanagi family.
As a side note, Grandfather Ichirou once trained there, but ended up
committing all sorts of travesties, culminating in an immoral relationship
with the widow of a rice shop, leaving him no choice but to flee to
Shanghai. Despite dating back to the Taishou era^, these kinds of
philandering exploits continued to be the talk of the monastery whenever
Godou visited.
…Due to that kind of environment, little sister Shizuka stayed far away from
that place unless obliged to take part in Buddhist rites.
Which was why it made for a viable excuse.
Thanks to grandfather’s explanations, Godou was able to reach an
understanding with his mother without paying any price. Normally, this
would require being at her service for three hours or more.
Everything was ready.
But Shizuka was unhappily glaring at Godou — why?
“But didn’t Onii-chan promise me beforehand? Couldn’t you have thought
up a way to refuse? So dense and slow, damn it! You’re the worst!”
“P-Promise? That thing earlier counted as a promise?”
Godou was greatly surprised.
He suddenly recalled Shizuka’s words a few days before the school closing
ceremony.
‘Onii-chan, are you free for spring break? You must be very free for sure,
without club activities or a girlfriend. Yes, it is decided you are free! So
listen carefully, I happen to have a free slot in my spring break, so I plan on
sharing this precious time with you, Onii-chan. First accompany me to go
clothing shopping. Next there’s a new coffee shop opened in Ni-choume^,
we should go there. Next is…’
Just like that, his sister forced her plans on him.
If he was actually free, he didn’t mind spending time with his sister.
At the time he had paid little attention as he listened, so it didn’t register.
“Didn’t you say something like ‘as long as I’m free’? To think you’d rather
run off to a monastery instead of putting effort into squeezing time out for
your cute little sister… Onii-chan, you have failed as a brother!”
“How could one fail as a brother so easily?! Besides, who goes around
calling themselves cute?!”
Godou at least tried to tell her off.
He did wish his sister could act a little more lady-like.
But from an objective standpoint, it was undeniable that Shizuka was the
cute type, because she greatly resembled the beautiful mother who was
renowned for her looks.
…As a side note, the mother’s skill with makeup had already entered the
territory of gods.
Definitely in the realm of godly skills, to that Godou offered his utmost
respect.
“After all, I can’t possibly spend the whole spring break there. Why don’t I
accompany you to go out when I return home, is that ok?”
“Clearly you forgot the promise, and now you’re trying to weasel out of it?
It’s not simply ‘accompany you’, but I am going out for the sake of
accompanying Onii-chan, don’t get it wrong!”
Sigh, this sister was making decisions on her own again.
But having known her for so long, I had grown accustomed to such
willfulness.
Godou laughed wryly as he reminded himself not to speak without thinking.
“Ah, right, do you still remember Yui? My friend, the one who was relatively
short.”
“Yui? Yui… Is that the girl who used to come and play all the time? Now
that it’s mentioned, she did come to cheer for me at the competition once…
Yes, I didn’t forget.”
Faced with the name that suddenly appeared, Godou felt greatly troubled.
Though the child with that name often followed behind Shizuka, Godou
had little impression of her.
“Onii-chan, the way you are, it’s not surprising you completely forgot her.”
“I didn’t completely forget, there are still some lingering impressions in my
mind.”
Godou tried to refute Shizuka’s mockery of him.
“Don’t force yourself, Onii-chan, you’re not someone who notices my
friends… Actually it’s Yui who said it, if Onii-chan is free during spring
break, she wanted to go out and have fun with you. How’s that? Are you
interested?”
It felt like his sister was deliberately playing a joke on him.
Go out with his sister’s friend? Why must he do something like that?
“No, not really… I’m not interested, I think she would find me boring
instead. Forget it, help me refuse her.”
“Oh really, it’s not easy to have someone offer you a date, what a shame.”
Teased by Shizuka who suddenly seemed inexplicably happy, Godou
sighed as he shook his head.
“Don’t call it a date, it’s just going out for fun… Spending time with
someone like me will only make her bored. I don’t know what your friend is
thinking.”
” — You’re right, someone as dense and boring as Onii-chan… Clearly so
unreliable and ridiculous all the time, but extremely serious in strange
areas, a normal girl cannot take a fancy to you… Girls like your sister who
would spend time with you are extinct. You should show me some
gratitude.”
“Yes, yes, I know. Shizuka is my cute little sister, and I have troubled you
all this time. Is that acceptable?”
“Your tone of voice is not serious enough, and there’s no sincerity, and the
lines are too ordinary, completely no good. Out of a hundred, I can only
give you fifteen points. Try harder, Onii-chan!”
She looked like she was complaining, but her mood seemed to be great.
Though she was my sister, she was impossible to understand.
“Onii-chan’s good qualities are probably limited to that physical stamina
that rivals a cart horse as well as playing baseball with… I’m sorry, I said
something wrong.”
Originally in a good mood, Shizuka suddenly stopped.
Godou put his hand on his depressed sister’s head and caressed back and
forth.
“Actually I’m not that amazing at baseball. It’s ok, pay no mind to it. I am
really grateful to have a cute little sister like you. You don’t have to be so
concerned.”
“B-But, I’m sorry. I got carried away and said those things.”
“It’s fine, those things don’t matter. I’ve long accepted that I can’t play
baseball any more, don’t worry.”
For a brief moment, neither of the siblings spoke.
Noticing Shizuka’s depression, Godou not only said things he would never
say normally, but also stroked her head all this time.
Her mood slightly restored, Shizuka’s parting words could never be
forgotten.
“Onii-chan, I’m not asking for something expensive, but just something you
chose with care will do. Buy something that will make me happy. If you pick
something without care, I won’t forgive you!”
She clearly knew her brother did not have an eye for picking things, and
yet she made such a demand?
Godou sighed deeply.
Kusanagi Godou was now fifteen years old, just graduated from middle
school, and about to enter high school.
From elementary to middle school he had always been playing baseball.
During middle school, he was the starting catcher and fourth hitter for a
certain strong youth team. He also had the experience of representing
Japan in overseas games as well as the Tokyo Selection Match, a World
Series competition.
However, during the summer of his third year in middle school, his
shoulder was injured during a group training camp for the World Series
competition.
A certain pitcher who threw fastballs that were difficult to control had struck
Godou with the ball while he was running from third base to home. Due to
the direct impact of the ball, both his back and his right shoulder were hurt.
Though the injuries have healed, his most important weapon as a catcher,
the strong shoulder was no good any more.
Disappointed by the weak trajectories of his thrown balls, Godou began to
worry about his future in high school.
Even though the shoulder was no good, there were still ways to continue
playing baseball.
There were actually schools that appreciated Godou’s batting abilities, and
invited him to join their high school teams as a batter, but he refused them
all.
— After all, he had already played for nine years, it was enough.
Thus, treating the shoulder injury as an opportunity, Godou began to tell
himself it was about time to try new experiences. In fact, he had already
convinced himself it was true.
His baseball playing was actually not that great.
The things he said to Shizuka, about half of them were actually serious.
Since Godou had the opportunity to play baseball at the highest levels,
there were many opportunities to meet those with genius talent. Compared
to those who possessed true talent, Kusanagi Godou was high average at
best.
So it could be said that because he didn’t have enough talent, he did not
insist on pursuing baseball. Participating in other sports or even cultural
clubs might be acceptable.
These few months, Godou had been studying and facing examinations
with that kind of attitude.
‘Hey, Godou, what about me who had always lost to you? You’ve got to
give me a chance to avenge myself! Don’t you dare run away after you had
won!’
This was what his friend Miura said when he came to visit at the end of the
second term during middle school senior year.
‘Even if I continue baseball in high school, I probably can’t hit your balls
any more. Unlike me, you were born for baseball, born to be a pitcher. I
think you will soon leave me in the dust, so please give me a break.’
That was how Godou replied to Miura, the one who was rated the number
one pitcher amongst the youth teams.
Though they were originally from different teams, they had been assigned
to the same team during the Tokyo selection match.
‘Bastard! Are these the words of the fellow who defeated me? In all our
confrontations, I have never been able to get you out on three strikes!’
‘No, for something that’s akin to cheating, pay no mind to it.’
‘Cheating? What are you talking about?’
‘Yes, your personality is very straightforward, so I can tell at a glance what
you are thinking. Back in senior year of middle school, whenever I saw
your face, I could predict how you would pitch with roughly fifty percent
certainty. This was taught to me by my grandfather once, in competitions
and negotiations, understanding the opponent’s personality and targeting
their weaknesses will basically allow you to win seven times out of ten, so
it doesn’t really count as true baseball capability.’
Even so, Miura continued to pester him, saying things like “let’s go to that
school together” or “at least pick a school with a stronger baseball team”…
But Godou chose the high school section of the nearby Jounan Academy.
His younger sister Shizuka was studying in the middle school section
there, and the baseball club at this school was abysmal, so he would have
no wish to play baseball there.
Removing the option of baseball from his high school life in such a
semi-forceful manner, how will things turn out?
After completing his preparations for going to Italy, Godou suddenly had a
strange notion.
“If I think about it, travelling overseas during such a period, it really feels
like a ‘soul searching’ journey.”
Feeling that such a delicate term suited himself poorly, Godou naturally
laughed wryly.
Part 3
Comparing northern and southern Italy, their inhabitants had completely
different temperaments.
Of course, this was just a general stereotype. Due to the north being rich
and urbanized while the south was relatively poor, people described those
in the south as more modest and friendly.
Widely known around the world as a center of various areas such as
culture, economy, fashion and sports, Milan was a metropolis that
exemplified the north.
And anyone acquainted with Erica Blandelli would know that she was the
girl who embodied the essence of Milan.
The young mistress of the prestigious house of Blandelli where all previous
generations were Milanese. Beautiful and noble, she grew up with a strict
upbringing starting from an early age, and was full of wit and talent.
The beautiful young lady glamorous as a blooming rose.
“Of course, my outstanding beauty is undeniable — ”
Erica smiled elegantly.
However, her smiling face bore no resemblance to a pathetic flower,
rather, a more apt description would be a she-leopard or a lioness.
The proud and powerful queen of the beasts, that was how her assertive
appearance was best described.
“But like the chocolate on a cake, there are many important elements
adorning my being, but these alone cannot represent my complete self — so
for this matter, I must decline, Uncle.”
“If you put it that way, I have no choice but to consent, Erica.”
The one who replied with a wry smile was her only relative, her paternal
uncle.
Paolo Blandelli, whose figure could be compared to the Statue of David.
Even though he was pushing forty, he still possessed the youthful vigor of
a young man, a face like a perfectly crafted sculpture, and an intellectual
and noble presence.
And his perfect body was steeled through and through – as fitting for his
title as the top knight.
Italy’s strongest knight was the “King of Swords” — Salvatore Doni.
But the highest ranking knight was Paolo Blandelli.
There was no doubt about this fact, though the uncle humbly denied it,
while the other person in question, Salvatore admitted it freely with a smile.
“I am flattered… But to make me a role model, who is the idiot who came
up with this? I have no need to publicize my beauty, for there is no
meaning in a pleasing exterior alone. External beauty has to be
complemented by ability and insight from within. That is the true Erica
Blandelli.”
“I knew you would refuse like that, which is why I came to talk to you first. I
don’t think it’s a foolish thing.”
Smiling wryly as he faced Erica, the two of them were currently in a corner
of a certain coffee shop.
They were family and originally lived together in the Blandelli residence.
Preoccupied with official affairs, the uncle had been away from home for
many weeks, so they had not seen each other until now.
Suddenly communicating “it’s been so long”, they decided to meet here —
“Uncle, let’s talk about something more meaningful, have you heard about
the incident at Sardinia?”
“Yes, it seems to be real, the chance of a [Heretic God] descending seems
likely. Our leader Sir Salvatore is in the middle of his expedition to South
America and will take time to return, so it would be best to gather
intelligence first, and investigate the local situation.”
“Then please assign me reconnaissance duties. Uncle — No,
Commander-in-Chief Blandelli of the [Copper Black Cross], the knight
Erica Blandelli hereby petitions.”
The Knights Templar organization had dominated Europe in the Middle
Ages.
As the descendants of knights, the sons of god, as well as magi who
served the demonic deity Baphomet, this dual origin was the true identity of
Erica and the rest of her order. Though there were numerous magic
associations which inherited the secret rites of the Templar Knights, the
[Copper Black Cross], with its headquarters in Milan, was one of the
strongest associations.
Unsettling incidents were occurring at Sardinia at the south of Italy.
This report arrived at the [Copper Black Cross] two days ago, brought by
one of their members who happened to be there. This information likely
had not spread to the vast majority of magic associations in Italy.
Which is what gave Erica the idea of petitioning to be sent there.
However, Uncle Paolo was shaking his head with a serious expression.
“You are my precious — a genius child who will one day stand at the top of
the magic association. I do admit that is my personal wish. Anyway, you
probably don’t have any prior experience with gods, right?”
“Yes that is correct. Precisely because I have none, I want to gather
experience this time.”
Erica boasted without tact.
Absolute confidence in her ability was the root of that kind of attitude.
The martial arts personally taught by her uncle from a young age, as well
as all sorts of magic inherited from the lineages of the Templar Knights
from ancient Rome to medieval Europe.
There were very few people who could gain mastery in all these difficult
techniques by the age of fifteen like Erica. In Italy, Liliana Kranjcar, also
from Milan, was the only rival of the same age that Erica recognized.
“In the past, you allied with Princess Alice, ruler of the Witenagemot^, to
jointly oppose the Black Prince Alec. In recognition of your successes, you
were bestowed the title of [Diavolo Rosso]. If I were to inherit my esteemed
uncle’s title, then I have a need to display my outstanding talents.”
“I was already twenty-five years old back then, ten years older than your
current age. Don’t be hasty, there is still much for you to learn. If you want
to approach gods, it’s not too late to do so in a few years’ time.”
Possessing great foresight, the uncle tried to dissuade his niece with
sincerity, but Erica did not accept.
“Too late. If I don’t earn it now, the title of [Diavolo Rosso] that my
esteemed uncle guards will be inherited by that crude and lowly Gennaro. I
definitely do not wish to see the noble title of the [Copper Black Cross]’
leader fall into the hands of that kind of man.”
[Diavolo Rosso] was the title earned by Paolo Blandelli almost twenty
years ago.
This was a title of honor possessed by the knight that represented the
[Copper Black Cross] to outside parties. However, three months ago, her
uncle had to relinquish the title due to finally ascending to the office of
commander-in-chief.
It was forbidden to hold both titles of top knight and commander-in-chief, in
other words, Paolo Blandelli has now retired from the ranks of knights in
service.
Though Erica was known as a prodigy, she still lacked experience.
Neither her achievements nor her reputation were enough to inherit the
title.
However, it would be different story if she earned accolades in the face of
the greatest disasters appearing in this world — [Heretic Gods].
“…Erica, could you be intending to become a Campione?”
“I am not that full of myself. Of course, if there was a chance, I don’t mind
becoming someone like Sir Salvatore Doni, but that’s just wishful thinking…
However, I do have some ideas on how to seal a god’s existence or
suppress them.”
“Really! If you say so, then surely you have made preparations!”
Erica nodded in a matter-of-fact manner at her uncle.
“I knew such a day would come, so I’ve been working hard at studying the
Golgotha^ spell words and summoning ritual. If possible, I wish to display
them right now.”
“Mastering the holy spear of prayer and lamentation at such an age, what
a scary little brat.”
Sighing as he spoke, the uncle’s facial expression changed.
It was now the face of the severe commander-in-chief of the fearsome
organization of the crimson knights.
“Fine, Erica. Go forth to the land of danger. Displaying courage and might
is a knight’s duty. Once the words have been spoken, you must absolutely
complete this challenge. Do you understand?”
“Affirmative. Erica Blandelli will now set forth for Sardinia to investigate and
uncover the true identity of the [Heretic God] appearing there. I will try my
utmost to seal this god and restore peace to the island. Await my good
news.”
The uncle nodded lightly at the respectful answer of the niece.
“Looks like, being born in this peaceful era, you sure have it rough. I really
hope you will learn the difference between courage and lack of
forethought. I pray that you will possess trusted friends and companions to
walk along the knight’s path together. I also wish your journey a success,
and pray that you can give me peace of mind.”
“Oh my, esteemed uncle, are you treating me as Hannibal^?”
Erica smiled.
Once upon a time, there was a famed general of Carthage who defeated
the Roman Republic and marched into Italy.
As the greatest ancient military tactician, he was praised by the famous
Roman general Scipio^ before a decisive battle. Scipio’s words were
‘being born in this peaceful era, you sure have it rough.’ In the ensuing
Battle of Zama, the world class tactician general was finally defeated.
“Compared to the loser Hannibal, I fancy I am more like the victor Scipio — ”
“This will be determined at the time when you meet the [Heretic God].
Then I shall depart first, and pray for the day we meet again after your
survival.”
Uncle Paolo rose from his seat, and left before Erica’s eyes.
— Perhaps it was pure coincidence, but this was the same day when
Tokyo’s Kusanagi Godou made his declaration to go to Italy. Of course,
she could not have known this.
References
1 . t Yamato Takeru: a Japanese legendary prince of the Yamato
dynasty. One of his exploits resulted in the Ama no Murakumo no
Tsurugi gaining its alternative moniker, the Kusanagi no Tsurugi
(“grass-cutting word”). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yamato_Takeru
2. t Shikoku: the smallest of the four main islands of
Japan. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shikoku
3. t Prajha: one of the three divisions of the Noble Eightfold Path in
Buddhism, meaning
wisdom. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wisdom_in_Buddhism
4. t Taishou era: July 30, 1 91 2 to December 25, 1 926, the reign of the
Taishou Emperor.
5. t Ni-choume: a district in the Tokyo ward of Shinjuku.
6. t Witenagemot: (“meeting of wise men” in Old English) a political
institution in Anglo-Saxon
England. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witenagemot
7. t Golgotha: the name of the site believed to be where Jesus Christ
was crucified. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calvary
8. t Hannibal: the legendary Carthaginian general renowned as one of
the greatest generals in history. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hannibal
9. t Scipio: Roman general best known for defeating
Hannibal. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scipio_Africanus

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