“Oh, Miss Einardottir. Did you get a new violin?”
“Wow! This is a Stradivarius line, isn’t it?! Such an expensive one… No, wasn’t your last violin like that too?”
“Yes… My uncle gave it to me.
“I’m so envious!”
More than envy, there’s a gaze filled with resentment and disdain.
It was a familiar and poignant gaze for Ecdysis.
The days when she, sacrificing herself, blocked the entry of knightly freshmen to the Knight Department, seem to be forgotten, an attitude as if it never happened.
In the Department of Music, Ecdysis always received such treatment.
Perhaps it was natural. Drovian was a powerful kingdom in the United Kingdoms, but not a country that had secured its place through culture and the arts.
Primitive and strong barbarians. That was the kind of evaluation the country received.
Despite that, Ecdysis entered the Department of Music, lacking any remarkable talent.
The instruments she carried were always top-notch, and even those were easily broken.
Her surroundings were not favorable, and the ‘uncle’ monster who came in as a freshman constantly sought her out.
Ecdysis was always a beloved girl. Being the daughter of a king, and a formidable force known across the continent, she was admired by many.
Yet, this environment was too harsh for her.
“Ugh… Ugh… Sob….”
In the next class, she sat alone in the practice room, sobbing.
Since no one had informed her of the changed class schedule, she trembled and sobbed alone.
The hand that had pulled the bowstring on the violin a few times dropped weakly.
She tightly held the violin, sniffling, then placed it in the case with trembling hands.
It was a moment she wanted to give up.
In fact, every moment had been like that. Every moment of playing the violin.
To the citizens of Drovian, the violin was a strange foreign instrument. Moreover, to find a proper one, it was absurdly expensive, and the fragile instrument easily broke on such subjects.
Drovian was a dry place. Even a brief exposure to the outside wind would warp the plates and body, ending the instrument’s lifespan.
Even tuning it every day made no difference. String instruments inherently required delicate care from an experienced person.
The Huscals considered the princess indulging in luxury, and the teachers brought in were no more than inexperienced fools, not even close to skilled musicians or poets.
Because of that, she struggled to obtain sheet music and self-studied for a long time.
Afterward, when she successfully entered a prestigious global music school, the Saint Jan’s University Music Department, oh, how delighted she was.
Ecdysis gently patted the bag on her shoulder.
Throughout her life, she had always wanted to give up. It seemed not bad to quietly live the life of a princess, letting everything go.
But living as the king’s daughter meant being exhibited as a preserved, expensive item.
Weaving for better market value, singing for a beautiful tone, occasionally practicing martial arts.
The result was marrying the most suitable warrior to continue the royal bloodline. That must have been her destiny.
She didn’t want to live like that.
She wanted to learn an instrument. She wanted to learn music. Especially, the violin.
That desire began ten years ago, from a conversation around a bonfire.
It started from a story she heard from a man whose face is now blurry.
Einar was a logical man. Even though it was Drovian’s logic, he was an excellent father who employed rational thinking.
Therefore, he took all his children to the battlefield. There were various reasons for this.
Firstly, if they were his children, they had to directly experience the air of the battlefield.
Secondly, the rumors about Drovian’s warriors were unbelievable.
The latter reason was more important. Einar was a great warrior, and even at that time, he was already a man who had no equal within Drovian.
If he safely finished the war and returned home, there was ample potential for any of the warriors to target his daughters as trophies.
So, Ecdysis understood the war.
And she knew about the Hero Party of those times.
She always remembered the sight of heroes returning injured. Limbs broken, sometimes losing parts of limbs, returning battered.
Wiping blood, wrapping bandages over wounds, sitting tired by the bonfire, sharing drinks.
During those times, she always asked such a question to the man who was always the most injured outside the party.
“Why doesn’t Uncle run away?”
He was a man at least ten years younger than her father, still much older than her. Except for the saint, he was the youngest among the members of this party, so Ecdysis often talked to this gruff man.
The man looked at the bonfire for a moment and then faintly smiled, saying,
“There’s nowhere to run. The world is turning into hell.”
“Still, isn’t it better than going to fight? Where you never know when you’ll die, every time.”
“You don’t need any early education on this one.”
This man sometimes used terms that were hard to understand. Because it looked sophisticated, Ecdysis secretly admired him.
Children tend to think difficult words are cool.
“Ecdysis, the reason your father and I wield axes, Maximilian and Jill Ber carry swords, the saint somehow preserves our lives, and Enrique risks her life infiltrating enemy lines—all for one reason.”
“We hope we’re the last.”
The man held his axe by the bonfire, teeth dangerously exposed, almost ready to break.
“To live a life where we have to kill an enemy every day to survive. We hope that kind of life ends with us. For you, your siblings, many children behind us. And we hope those children’s children will hold plows, not weapons.”
The war must not last any longer. The United Kingdom’s structure couldn’t endure further wars.
No war should surpass one generation. Even if they win beyond that, it wouldn’t be a true victory.
Their generation is the last limit where life can exist for people and the country can still function as a nation.
With that meaning, the man quietly lowered his axe.
“So, don’t become like your father.”
“Well… um. Then what should I do? I’m, uh… good at handling axes!”
“I see. You’ll surprise us when you grow a bit more. Still, if possible, try holding something other than an axe.”
“I’m not very good at sewing…”
“You don’t necessarily have to sew. Hmm.”
The man looked at Ecdysis with a puzzled expression. Due to his lack of eloquence, he wasn’t confident in providing appropriate guidance for this little one.
He stroked his chin for a moment before saying,
“If you have to hold something, it’s better to choose a musical instrument.”
“A musical instrument?”
“Weapons kill people, but music can save lives.”
Transcending borders, culture, and language. Excellent music itself becomes a bridge connecting people to people.
If the era of peace arrives, one of the most needed things will be musical instruments.
Ecdysis stared blankly at the man. Charcoal-colored hair, intensely blue eyes, and a composed expression as he gazed at the bonfire.
The determined man was someone the young girl admired.
“Uncle, what’s your favorite musical instrument?”
“Well, I don’t really know much about instruments in this world.”
He awkwardly stroked his chin. It was a habit when lost in thought.
Ah, but there seemed to be one common instrument. The man chuckled as he thought. Due to spending a decade on the battlefield due to conscription, he hadn’t encountered instruments frequently.
Perhaps it was the instrument he saw when our great king held a celebration. It was a similar instrument with the same name in this world.
“Was it a violin…?”
Ecdysis repeated that name several times, committing it to memory.
Ten years passed since then. In that time, she transformed from the daughter of a great warrior to the daughter of a great king.
The world had entered an era where our great king no longer needed to rule the kingdom with an axe. It became an era where eloquence was more necessary than a weapon, diplomacy more than eloquence, and gold.
As Uncle said, a world no longer in need of weapons had arrived.
Ecdysis took up the violin, persevering despite her parents’ concerns and the criticisms of other uncles. Gripping the fingerboard until her hand bruised, pulling the bow until her wrist strained.
In memory of the uncle who eventually perished in war, she aimed to visit someday and leave the most perfect memorial composition.
She heard that the uncle’s remains were interred in the Krassilov National Cemetery of Frechanka.
And in Krasilov, there was the continent’s top prestigious music university.
Her enrollment in the Saint Jan’s University was nothing short of destiny.
So, she will never give up. Never, ever.
Ecdysis wiped her tears clean, stood up, and left the orchestral department building.
Today’s class counted as an unauthorized absence, but she had enough space to practice at home.
She will never give up.
“Instruments are a bridge connecting people…”
“You can leave now.” (Ivan)
Ivan looked quietly at the numerous torn clothes that Mord had ruined.
“During your volunteer work at my orphanage, the financial losses of the orphanage have significantly increased.”
“Do you know that tearing clothes while washing them doesn’t mean washing but rather destroying them?”
Mord bit his lips and avoided Ivan’s gaze.
But he had something to say in response.
“I… I’ve never done laundry in my life!”
“Even someone who has never done laundry in their life could probably manage to wash children’s underwear in two months.”
Ignoring the wounded Mord, Ivan moved on.
The plan to hold Mord and monitor the movements of Drovian’s dispatched spies to understand their intentions was canceled.
As long as there was information about someone among the “spies dispatched by Drovian” targeting Ecdysis’s life, there was no reason to keep Mord in custody.
Mord was a foolish guy, but at least he genuinely cared about Ecdysis. He was one of King Einar’s loyal subjects.
For Ecdysis’s safety, Mord had to fulfill his role again. He didn’t enroll in the university just to attend classes in the Knight Department.
His role was to guard Ecdysis.
“And if Mord is by Ecdysis’s side, someone will surely contact him.”
As long as Mord is guarding her, Ecdysis’s safety is assured. If someone from Drovian tries to contact Mord to separate him from Ecdysis, he’ll trace that contact and eliminate the source.
Ivan stared at the middle-aged man leaving the orphanage with a sad expression for a while before turning his head.