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The Legend of Heroes: Zero no Kiseki Pre-Story: The Ring of Judgment (英雄伝説(えいゆうでんせつ) 零の軌跡(ゼロノキセキ)プレストーリー -審判(しんぱん)指環(ゆびわ)-) is a manga that serves as a prequel to the game Zero no Kiseki. It was written by Falcom and illustrated by Shinki Kitsutsuki. The manga was published by Dengeki Comics on December 18, 2010 for 850 yen. It was also serialised in Falcom Magazine.

The Ring of Judgment stars the protagonists of Trails in the Sky FC and SC, Estelle and Joshua Bright, who collaborate with Erebonian bracer Toval Randonneur to reveal the secrets of the titular artifact. It takes place in a town in the remote outskirts of the empire, which is retroactively revealed as Alster in the Drama CD for Trails of Cold Steel II.

Story

Prologue

After the resolution of the attack on Liberl, Estelle and Joshua begin a new journey in Erebonia. The chapter begins with Joshua and Estelle sparring. Though Estelle comes close, Joshua beats her in the end. Estelle promises to win tomorrow.

On their way to breakfast, the two wake up their new traveling partner, Toval Randonneur, an experienced bracer of the Empire. Due to their inexperience with working in Erebonia, the duo opted that they needed someone to support them in their travels. The three have been traveling together because the remaining forces of the Jesters have become active again and are causing damage.

In a flashback, it is shown that the Bracer Guild has lost contact with some of the bracers who were sent to investigate the matter. As Miles informs them of the Jesters, the phone rings. The caller wishes to talk to Toval. Though it’s not shown who is on the phone, Toval is surprised to hear from them. Meanwhile, Estelle offers to take over the investigation as the lead bracers. People being hurt or in trouble isn’t something she can ignore. Miles is happy with the offer and gladly accepts.

As Toval is rudely hanged up on, Estelle informs him of her decision. Toval tells them he would expect nothing else from Cassius’s kids. He informs them that this might be an especially dangerous case. Apparently, the person on the phone with Toval requested the guild to take on the mission as well. He says that he knows that Estelle and Joshua will do their best, as there’s now an additional payment for this mission—one that Estelle and Joshua will find very interesting.

Chapter 1

The story to link Estelle and Joshua to Zero no Kiseki has now officially begun! The chapter starts with the three bracers in a heated battle with an unknown assailant on rocky terrain. Joshua warns Estelle to be careful. Suddenly, an armored attacker jumps down with amazing speed and attacks Estelle by throwing daggers at her before he bears down on her with his sword. Estelle manages to parry with her staff and notes his white eyes. As Estelle holds him off, Joshua comes to her aid and the two bracers attempt to take their assailant on together. However, before they can, Toval apologizes for the wait and hits him with a powerful art. The armored man doesn’t survive, even though Toval held back. Estelle notes that Toval’s arm is bleeding.

Toval explains that he’s fought Jesters a few times with Cassius, but this is the first time he’s seen them this strong. He notes that the guys they currently face show incredible power, but collapse like a rock right when they show their strength. Estelle looks at the fallen man with worry.

The three ask about the Jesters in Alster, explaining that there’s been a series of missing people in this area. The female villagers tell them that strong, tough-looking men have been targeted and that even bracers are getting taken out. Apparently, the criminal uses a mysterious power to paralyze his opponents.

Joshua explains that the chain of events has to do with the remnants of the Jesters and that he and his group have arrived at this village after following the jaegers during their investigation. Using the effect on women to his advantage, he asks the women if they happen to know anything else.

The villagers tell them that something strange happened yesterday. An odd group has been gathering at an old fortress nearby that isn’t used anymore. The women speculate that they might be the jaegers the group is looking for. Some children walk by, and the women stop talking, since the topic isn’t one they want to talk about in front of children. They tell the group to visit the mayor if they want to know more.

As Toval and Joshua happily note that they finally have a lead, Estelle enthusiastically beckons them to the mayor’s house. Before she can move though, a little girl holding groceries accidentally bumps up against her from behind, which forces Estelle to fall headfirst to the ground.

The small girl apologizes and explains she can’t see very well. Estelle quickly forgives the girl, saying she wasn’t paying any attention either. As the girl leaves, Joshua stops her and offers to let the group carry her groceries for her.

In the girl’s home, the child bandages Toval’s wound. She’s happy to help, as it makes her feel like the girl from *The Saint and the White Wolf*.

Estelle formally introduces herself and her partners and explains that the three of them are bracers. The girl is ecstatic to learn that they are bracers, as she is a big fan of Toby from the book series *Carnelia*. The girl tells them her name is Tilia. Joshua quickly bonds with the girl, as they both like to read books. Though Tilia wishes to read books as fast as she can, her eyes aren’t very good, which saddens the group.

Toval tells the two bracers that it’s time to go, Tilia’s face drops. Estelle asks Tilia if she lives here alone, but Tilia explains that she lives together with her brother, Kai. Kai is an engineer’s apprentice who always works overtime.

As they step out of the home, Toval reminds them that they need to talk to the mayor today, as he wants to leave town tomorrow morning. When Joshua asks Estelle if that’s okay, she agrees and eagerly runs back to TIlia to keep the girl company during the evening. As they prepare to go to sleep, TIlia explains that *Carnelia* is her favorite book. When TIlia asks Estelle why she’s in Erebonia, Estelle explain that she’s looking for Renne. Once they finish their job, Estelle is confident they can find Renne. TIlia is convinced that Renne is waiting for Estelle. She’s positive, because she waits for her brother every day. TIlia explains that her brother is always working so he can pay a good doctor to look at her eyes, even though she’s happy just being with Kai.

Meanwhile, Joshua and Toval meet with the mayor. The mayor has heard a rumor that the criminals behind the kidnappings and the ones that took over the fortress are in possession of some kind of ring. He doubts that there’s a way to save those that are possessed by that kind of power. He hopes the bracers will be careful as the jaegers attacked the town’s atelier last night and kidnapped someone.

A boy named Kai.

Chapter 2

The chapter begins with Joshua and the others sneaking into the fortress of the Jesters. The three bracers battle with the jaegers. Though they hit the Jesters hard, they keep standing back up. Suddenly, a man who looks different from the others attacks Estelle. She wonders if the man could be one of the missing bracers, even though he has the same white eyes as the Jesters.

Toval tells her the man has nothing to do with the jaegers and to try not to kill him. Estelle reminds him that that’s matter of course for a bracer. She manages to disarm him and hits his neck with her staff. Though the force Estelle uses shouldn’t be enough to kill him, the man dies. The group is horrified to learn that the man was indeed a bracer. Joshua speculates that he could’ve been drugged, hypnotized, or worse.

Toval reveals that it was an artifact made by the ancient Zemurian civilization. Estelle wonders how he could know that, and Toval responds that he didn’t believe the information he received over the phone until now. The dead bracer in front of them wouldn’t have been put down by hypnosis or drugs. He tells the duo that their enemy isn’t the Jesters, but an artifact that has the power to steal men’s will, increase their strength, and then grant them death. Joshua speculates that the shape of the artifact is likely a ring. However, none of their opponents were wearing a ring, which means the artifact’s power of control can likely persist even if the ring is removed. Just like the mayor said, someone who is imprisoned by the ring can no longer return to normal...until the end.

Just then, the ground trembles as a humongous monster appears and attacks the bracers. During the fight, Toval warns that this isn’t a usual monster. Just then, they notice a boy behind it, controlling the monster with the ring around his finger. Joshua wonders if he could be the boy the mayor told them about. He wonders if he could be Kai. Estelle is shocked to hear Kai’s name, remembering what TIlia told her.

As Toval and Joshua intent to approach the boy, Estelle jumps in front of them to shield him. She tells them the boy is Kai, TIlia’s brother. She turns to the boy and asks him what he think he’s doing. She reminds him that TIlia is waiting for him back home and orders him to come back with her.

The boy shows no emotion, however, and proceeds to attack them. Toval orders the others to retreat. After their escape, Estelle asks Joshua why they had to leave and tries to persuade him to turn back and retrieve Kai. Joshua shakes his head. Toval screams at her, asking her if she’s seen the ring. He reminds her that it’s the artifact used by the Jesters. He knows what will happen and refuses to watch it.

Estelle tightly wraps her fingers around her staff and smacks Joshua and Toval on the back of their heads. She refuses to give up and declares that she will save him, though she doesn’t know how yet. She tells them they can’t give up as long as there is time.

Just then, Tilia appears. Estelle wonders what she’s doing here, and Tilia cries as she runs up and hugs Estelle. She tells her that the mayor told her about Kai. Estelle hugs her tightly. Despite her tears, Tilia has a favor to ask Estelle. She heard from the mayor that the people kidnapped by the jaegers can’t be helped, that all color leaves their eyes. Therefore, she needs to know...

What color were Kai’s eyes?

Chapter 3

Tilia is in tears as she stands in front of the group. Estelle wonders if Tilia can get back to town on her own. Tilia screams that she can’t. She needs to know about her brother. Estelle smiles at her, telling her she knows. But she explains that they can’t take Tilia with them into the hideout as it’s too dangerous. She tells Tilia to wait here and leave it to the bracers. Tilia smiles and agrees.

As they run back into the fortress, Estelle tells Joshua and Toval that the jaegers and bracer they fought all had white eyes but Kai didn’t. He still had some color in his eyes. He hasn’t been completely taken over yet. They can save him if they can remove the ring from his finger. Toval reminds her not to get her hopes up as they still need to deal with that monster.

Estelle asks Toval if he can hit the monster with his strongest art over and over. They don’t have to beat the monster; they merely need to distract it long enough to get to Kai.

Toval tells her it will be hard. It takes a long time to prepare an art. It’s so hard, it might even be impossible...for anyone other than him, that is.

Joshua offers to be the one to get behind Kai to try and get the ring off while Estelle and Toval create an opening, as he would be the most suited for this kind of thing. With the plan set, they wait for the monster to approach. As Estelle spots Kai, she swears she’ll save him. The plan is executed perfectly, and Joshua snatches the ring from Kai’s finger. However, just then, the floor below Kai crumbles and he falls down. Toval barely manages to save him with his arts.

Joshua screams that he has the ring and to get Kai to safety. He promises to be right behind them, but just then, the ring starts to have an effect on him. Estelle pleads for Kai to open his eyes. His eyes slowly flutter open, full of color. He wonders where he is and who Estelle is. Toval looks on happily as Estelle explains that she has rescued him on Tilia’s behalf. Toval asks Kai if he can tell them what happened and what the ring is.

Kai explains that he was working overtime at the atelier one night when someone he’d never seen before came in and gave him the ring. As soon as he put the ring on, he heard someone’s voice in his head. It told him it’d judge his crimes and look upon his sins over and over. Visions of things he didn’t want to see appeared and vanished, and bit by bit his vision grew dark. He confessed that it was the manifestation of all the sins he hid deep in his heart. All he could do was fall under the ring’s control.

Estelle tells him to stop. He’s just a kid. What kind of sins could he have committed? Kai tearfully tells them it’s all his fault Tilia can’t see well. If only he tried harder, he could’ve...

Toval stops him, and tells him it’s okay and he can forget everything now. Silently, he wonders what kind of sick person would use an artifact that deepens the wounds in people’s hearts.

As Estelle wonders where Joshua is, Joshua sees a younger version of himself on a battlefield, surrounded by bodies. A voice tells him that he’s a sinner and that he will be judged. He sees the dead bodies of Cassius, Loewe, Karin, and Estelle. But before it can, Estelle’s voice reaches him and pulls him back to the light. Estelle smiles and asks him what he’s doing. Joshua smiles sheepishly and thanks her.

A rumble behind them signals that the monster they’ve been fighting has woken up. Estelle tells the group to get out of here, but cannot find the ring. She spots it and proceeds to grab it, much to Joshua’s horror.

Chapter 4

Estelle grabs the ring and notes that this is the cause of everything. To Joshua’s shock, Estelle doesn’t seem to be affected by the ring, but still tells her to drop it. The monster is still attacking them, however, so Estelle tells Joshua that now is not the time and tells the group to get out of there. She asks Toval to keep the monster busy while she escorts Kai and the ring out of the fortress. Toval agrees but wonders if it's safe for Estelle to carry the ring with her bare hands. She tells him not to worry and that she won’t lose it. Toval sweat drops and mumbles that that’s not what he’s afraid of. As Estelle and Kai escape the ruins, he calls for Tilia and excitedly runs to his little sister still waiting for him.

Toval concludes that the artifact forces humans to see illusions based on the sins from their consciousness and that it backfired when the jaegers tried to use its power. What bound the victims was a system via the ring itself for controlling people and it would choose its next target for judgment. But then, Toval wonders, why is Estelle okay? Is she so light-hearted that there’s no trauma to play off of?

No, Joshua explains. Estelle too has had her fair share of regrets and pain in the past. However, Estelle can take those wounds from the past in her heart and turn them into hopes for tomorrow.

As Tilia and Kai hug, Kai tearfully apologizes for not being able to heal her sight. Tilia tells him it's okay and that she’s fine. Kai reminds her that at this rate it won’t be long until she can’t read the books she loves anymore. Tilia smiles and consoles him that if that happens, he’ll read them to her. Kai promises that he will.

As Estelle wistfully looks on, a voice consoles Kai that he helped close the case. Therefore, he should be able to get a reward. It’d be nice if he was able to get enough to take her to a really good doctor.

Estelle looks at the new person dressed in a nun outfit and asks who she is. The woman introduces herself as an ordinary and lovely sister before smoking a cigarette. Estelle doubts that she’s ordinary, but nevertheless asks her why a sister would be here.

The woman replies that it would be dangerous for a young child to be here alone, signaling at Tilia. She tells Estelle not to thank her, as she has business with her as well. Before she can elaborate, Kai and Tilia take their leave, thanking the group for all they’ve done. Before she can leave, Toval grabs Tilia and holds her up close to the nun’s face and asks her to look really close at the lady’s face. Tilia confirms that she can see her face. Content, Toval releases the girl from his grasp and waves her and her brother goodbye.

With the siblings gone, the nun reminds the bracers that they are in possession of an artifact and that she wants them to give it to her. Estelle wonders how she can know that. The nun responds that the artifact is still alive and that the Septian Church is responsible for all artifacts that are still active. There should be no problem with a sister like her taking care of it.

Joshua agrees, but tells her that she’s not an ordinary sister.

Toval steps him and tells the duo that the nun is Sister Ein, a respected member of the Septian Church—and the one who hired them. He tells the shocked duo to just do what she says. She can be trusted...mostly.

Estelle hands over the ring and Ein compliments them for a job well done. Toval disagrees. There were a lot of casualties and there might still be remnants of the jaegers in the base. Ein promises that the church will take it from here. Toval asks her not to be too rough on the jaegers as they were victims too.

Now that the mission is complete and the contractor is here, Joshua and Estelle plead with her to share the information she promised. Ein chuckles and asks if they meant the information about Renne. She tells them that Renne did not return to the society after the incident in Liberl.

Joshua and Estelle ask her if that’s all they get. Ein confirms this and tells them that the information is 100% correct. Toval calls her as dirty as ever. Ein wonders what Estelle and Joshua will do once they find Renne. To her shock, Estelle proclaims her desire to welcome Renne into their family. Knowing that Renne hasn’t returned to the society is a huge step and she thanks Ein for the information. She laments that they’re back at square one, though.

Ein asks if they’re still going to look for Renne. Estelle confirms this and says they’ll travel all over Erebonia if they have to.

Ein laughs heartily and tells them that if that’s the case, they shouldn’t be in Erebonia, but that they should travel to Crossbell instead. Estelle and Joshua ask if that’s where Renne is, and Ein tells them it’s unconfirmed internal information. She can only give a 99,9% chance of being accurate.

Estelle ecstatically tells Toval that she and Joshua are heading out right away. Toval asks where they’re going. Estelle happily tells them they’re going to Crossbell and that they’re leaving right away. Joshua argues that they can’t leave yet and that they still have to report to the Bracer Guild. Estelle tells him she can’t just sit around now that they know where Renne is. Toval utters that it’s fine and that he’ll wrap up here. In return, he wants to hear from them once everything’s settled. Estelle and Joshua promise to do so and thank him for all his help before heading off to Crossbell.

As they watch them leave, Ein notes to Toval that she can’t believe they want to add an enforcer to their family. She never expected to hear something like that. Toval remarks that nobody would have expected her to come in person, Grand Master Ein Selnate, First Dominion of the Gralsritter. He tells her that he had a feeling Estelle would say something like that. To make the impossible possible is what a bracer does, after all.

Ein tells Toval that those two have started growing on him. He remarks that she hasn’t changed at all, but then takes back his words. Telling them about Renne was unusually kind foe the cold-hearted "Carnelia". However, she tells him he’s just imagining things before calling him Toby. He states he wishes she’d stop calling him that.

Ein finds the Ring of Judgment an ideal artifact for the send-off of a new journey. She wonders what kind of judgment was given to the trails Joshua and Estelle made and the trails they will blaze from here on out.

In Crossbell City, Arios and Michel greet the newly-arrived Joshua and Estelle. The duo tells them they are pleased to be officially associated with the Crossbell branch of the Bracer Guild. Arios leaves by train quickly thereafter, telling the duo that he leaves things to them, as they’re quite the veteran bracers these days.

As Estelle and Joshua travel around Crossbell City, Estelle remarks that Crossbell is amazing no matter where you go. Joshua agrees but reminds Estelle that Crossbell is full of problems as well. He’s sure Estelle will figure it out herself soon enough. Joshua asks her what they should do first. Estelle answers that they should check everywhere in the state for Renne, while working for the Bracer Guild. She spots a crowded place and tells Joshua they should search there first.

They arrive to hear that the bus is running late and the man wonders if there’s some kind of trouble. Estelle mentions that they’re bracers and offers to help. The man is happy to have their help. Even though the Special Support Section of the police went ahead a while ago, he wonders whether they’ll be enough.

As Estelle and Joshua spot the bus, they see that the SSS is being attacked by monsters and rush in to help. They can’t just sit by and watch while people are in danger.

Epilogue

Toval calls Miles and tells him that Estelle and Joshua have changed assignments and that they’ll contact him once they reach Crossbell. He promises to tell him all about their adventure the next time he sees him. As he hangs up, the mayor thanks him for saving Kai.

As he wonders what he’ll do next, Ein tells him he’s late. Toval asks her why she’s still here. Ein responds that the ship she was waiting on hasn’t arrived yet. Toval doesn’t believe her.

Ein tells him not to say such rude things to a friend he hasn’t seen in a long time. Besides, wouldn’t he find a little tryst enjoyable, as well? Toval gets flustered, but Ein assures she’s joking. She wonders if she can make a request to Toval.

Ein and Toval visit Tilia at her home and ask if her brother is there. Since he won’t come back until the evening, Tilia invites them to wait for him. Ein offers to read *Carnelia* to her while they wait for Kai, and the girl happily accepts, as the doctor told Tilia to stop reading it as the print is too small for her eyes.

That evening, as Kai returns home, Toval tells him that the client has requested all the funds go to treating Tilia’s eyes. Though it’s voluntary, Toval makes sure to it that it’s in writing. Kai thanks him, but he tells Toval he didn’t do anything. Toval tells him he’s a good kid and a good brother. Toval tells him his parents died when he was young too, so he knows how hard it is to survive. He thinks Kai is incredible, as Toval himself couldn’t make an honest living for himself, let alone take care of someone else. He tells Kai to think of it as a present from Aidios. While Ein and Toval bicker over the financial administrator, Tilia suddenly realizes that the eponymous "Carnelia" and "Toby" are modelled after Ein and Toval.

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