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「Eleanora-san, don’t you have to stay with His Majesty?」
Eleanora-san hadn’t followed the king, but rather, sat down next to us.
「It’s fine. The knights are with him to keep him safe while I just accompanied him to make sure he doesn’t do anything reckless.」
She said reckless, but wasn’t she the same way? With two people like them, wouldn’t things just get even worse? Well, it should be fine as long as they kept each other in check. I was pretty sure that, in His Majesty’s eyes, he believed that he was the one who came here to make sure Eleanora-san didn’t do something stupid.
It was interesting that they didn’t realize they thought so similarly about each other.
As we watched the magic practice, some of the participating students noticed the king watching them and became motivated. A few of them even tried using stronger magic, but someone who looked like a teacher immediately stepped in to stop them.
A part of me really wanted to see the stronger magic, but I understood why it was dangerous.
Since they put an end to using strong magic the students tried to show-off their ability to cast many spells. That lowered their accuracy, so it ended with them fizzling out to a weak ending. A few students even ended up having to sit down because they ran out of magical energy.
I don’t know if they just had small amounts of magical energy to begin with, or if they used it poorly, but I felt like there was no point in trying to appeal with such magic unless they were able to do it successfully.
「Yuna-chan, will you participate as well?」
Eleanora-san asked me as we watched the students try their best.
「I’m okay, thank you. I’m not a student here anyway.」
There was no reason for me to use magic in front of other people. That would only make me stand out, so there really was no merit in it for me.
「Nobody will know that you aren’t since you are wearing the uniform.」
「I would still prefer to refuse.」
「Oh, too bad, then…」
「By the way, how strong are they compared to the other students?」
「Hmm… Amongst the students, they should be slightly above average. Those with strong magic wouldn’t participate in this program.」
The magic practice finished soon after, and all the students who displayed their magic today stood in front of the king and bowed. He simply responded 「Continue to do your best,」but the students still looked very happy as they left the area.
They were so happy to hear words of encouragement from the king even though in reality he was just an old man who skipped out on work and wouldn’t shut up about food. For those students who didn’t know his true self, the king must look like a splendid ruler who had taken the time to see his subjects, though.
Well, when I first met him, I had also thought that he was a splendid ruler, but after getting to know him better, that image had been completely shattered.
After the students who had showcased magic left the stage, a new group of students wearing protective equipment came up.
Were they the students aiming to become knights?
Perhaps it was due to the presence of the king, but I noticed they looked quite nervous. The students all lined up in front of the king and bowed then began practice matches against each other. Instead of having them all battle at once, they showcased one fight at a time.
I took the chance to inspect the students waiting for their turn more closely and saw that there were only three girls.
「There really aren’t many girls, huh.」
On the other hand, there were about twenty male students.
「That’s because girls usually don’t aim to become knights. The male knights don’t respect them, either, so only very few decide to pursue such an occupation.」
「Then why are those three even aiming to do so, if it’s that bad?」
Could it be that they were actually masochists?
「You see, when Her Highness got married to His Majesty, she said she would rather have female knights guarding her than male ones. At that time, all knights were men, but due to her wishes, it is now possible for women to become knights as well and be the guards of Her Highness.」
Well, considering the issue a bit more, men were usually stronger, but I didn’t know how far they would go in regards to guarding the queen. If they went so far as to closely follow her around everywhere she went, then of course they would be a nuisance. Thinking about it like that, I could kind of understand the queen’s feelings.
「Also, when Tilia-sama was born, they thought it would be nice to have women protecting her as well. Of course, when it comes to battling monsters or going to war, men are the better choice, so male knights remain as the large majority, but with more females in the royal family, we still need more female knights to protect them. The three girls aiming to become knights all want to become a personal knight of Tilia-sama.」
Becoming Tilia’s personal knights, huh? I could somewhat understand why they might want to do that. Even though I had only met Tilia two days ago, I found her to be a bright, innocent girl who was kind even to commoners. When she had shown up at a stand, everybody there looked very happy, so it was clear they all adored her. It was only logical that the girls wanted to become one of the pillars which would support her in the future.
「So, Shia, your friend is aiming to become one of Tilia’s personal knights, then?」
「Yes. Ever since Tilia-sama called out to her, my friend has been idolizing her. She has been swinging her sword until her hands are covered with blisters, all in order to train up for this day. I honestly think she is happier to see Tilia-sama here than His Majesty himself.」
I looked over at the girls aiming to become knights. and it seemed like one of them was actually looking at Tilia rather than the king sitting right next to her.
「By the way, Shia, can’t magicians become guards as well?」
I figured there must be some guards who had become magicians instead of knights.
「They can, of course. At first, the queen’s guards were all female magicians, but those who couldn’t use magic had to become knights instead. Also, if the queen were to come under attack, a sword would oftentimes be quicker to protect her than magic. Hence, she normally has both magicians and knights guarding her.」
Could Shia’s friend maybe not use magic, then?
As we were talking, the first match finished, and a female student with short hair was up next.
「Yuna-san, that girl over there is my friend, Rinea.」
As the match began, Rinea swung her thin sword with all her might, exchanging powerful blows with the male student she was facing.
Their swords clashed countless times, but we could all see that Rinea was slowly getting pushed back.
This was definitely due to the difference in physical ability, which should be the main reason why men were more likely to become knights and soldiers.
Rinea lost soon after, and they moved on to the next match.
「Why, if it isn’t Eleanora-dono. You’re even observing matches in this sorts of places?」
Just as the third match ended, an armor-clad man, who looked to be in his forties, called out to Eleanora-san. The moment she heard his voice, Eleanora-san’s face twisted into a disgusted expression, while the man just kept up his grin.
I clearly remembered that ugly grin; it was the man who had glared at Eleanora-san and Noa when we visited the knight practice grounds at the castle.
「Lord Rutum, why are you here?」
「My knights were appointed to help out these students as their mock battle opponents, you see.」
「I didn’t receive any information about that. It should have been the Fourth Chivalric Order.」
「Is that so? Perhaps there was some miscommunication.」
The way he smiled sure made it sound like he was lying and knew exactly what was going on.
「So, this must be your daughter, Lady Shia, I presume?」
He asked, setting his gaze on Shia, who jumped and shivered slightly.
「Shouldn’t you be watching your knights instead of talking with us? Or, do you have some urgent business with me? 」
Eleanora-san asked while moving to shield Shia with her body.
「I shouldn’t have to say this, Eleanora-dono, but my subordinates are all excellent knights, so I have no need to watch over them. I approached you because I saw that both you and Lady Shia were here, and I wanted to bring up my request again. The betrothal for my son, I mean… 」
Something preposterous just came out of his mouth.
By betrothal, he meant marriage, right?
「I believe I have already rejected that offer.」
「Well, I still think they make a good match.」
「Your position is not the problem, but a certain other thing.」
「And what would that be?」
「Oh my, you really don’t know? Well, it’s the fact that I hate you.」
I understood her feelings, but wasn’t that a little too blunt even for her?
「My, what a coincidence. I also hate you.」
「I’m glad we feel the same way about each other.」
「「Fu, Fu, Fu.」」
They ended up laughing together.
Just what was wrong with these two?
「Well then, fellow hater, let us move forward and leave this conversation about marriage between our children behind.」
「You know, I heard some strange rumors lately. It seems that Crimonia’s lord dug a tunnel through a mountain to have a straight path to the ocean and has begun trading with the town on the other side.」
「My, where did you hear such a story?」
「I happened upon it when I researched the town that my son’s fiance has her roots in, of course.」
「Oh dear, when did my daughter become your son’s fiance? We already have plans to find a good groom for Shia, so she’s not up for taking anymore.」
「Just make my son her groom, then. The Roland family will support this relationship.」
「Sorry, but we aren’t interested.」
I could almost see the sparks flying between the two of them.
「Still, I must ask: how exactly did they dig a tunnel through a mountain? Also, did they really discover a cave while they were at it?」
「Who knows? I don’t have to tell you.」
I was the one who had dug the tunnel, of course. I was glad that Cliff’s order not to reveal the fact had kept the information in check so far.
「But aren’t we on good terms with each other? Why don’t you tell me?」
「My, and here I thought that our relationship was actually bad.」
「You have taken care of my younger brother, didn’t you?」
「Yes, but it ended in such an unfortunate accident.」
「An accident indeed. To think that bandits broke into his house and killed him… 」
「「Fu, Fu, Fu.」」
They both ended up laughing again.
I was done with trying to follow this conversation. I noticed that at this point, Shia and Noa were both hiding behind Eleanora-san while Fina and Shuri were holding on to my uniform.
It really wasn’t good for children to hear such twisted conversations between adults.
「We should prevent such an accident from ever happening again. My son, for instance, could…」
「Thank you for the offer, but Cliff has strengthened the protection of the town since then, so there’s no need for you to worry about such things happening anymore.」
Their smiles started to turn scary.
「Lady Shia, could I confirm this with you? Perhaps if you would like to take my son as your groom, then maybe we can change your mother’s opinion on the matter?」
Rutum turned his scary smile at Shia, who could barely be seen from behind Eleanora-san.
「Won’t you at least consider marrying my son? He has the strength of a knight, and will protect you with his life.」
「I-I humbly refuse the offer.」
Shia was clearly scared, but she managed to gather her courage and rejected his offer.
「Now, now. You don’t have to decide so soon. Why don’t you take some time and meet him first?」
「Please stop what you’re doing. You’re scaring my daughter.」
Eleanora-san said and hid Shia behind her again.
Seeing there was nothing more he could do at the moment, Rutum’s gaze returned to the matches in the plaza.
「Oh, it looks like my knights are about to begin their mock battles. You might change your mind after you watch the matches.」
We turned back to the plaza and saw that a student was just bowing at one of the knights. Not a moment later, the first battle began.
As the student attacked, the knight simply blocked and didn’t strike back. The knight was mostly letting the student show off what he could do and would only counter-attack if the student left too obvious of an opening. The knight was able to clearly show the difference in strength and ability this way.
As I watched the fight, I reminisced of the times I had fought against other players in the online game. It had been very fun to adjust my fighting style depending on my opponents.
There were those who focused everything on the strength of their attacks, costing them all their speed. In contrast, there were also those who had a great deal of speed, but little power. There were all kinds of different builds, each resulting in a unique fighting style.
「One of the female students is coming up next. I sure hope she doesn’t get hurt.」
Rutum said and showed his nasty smile again.
The match finished soon after, and Shia’s friend, Rinea, was about to start her next match.
「You… You did something, didn’t you?」
「Well, when I took the request to have my knights participate in the battles, I had heard that there were a few girls aiming to become female knights even though being a knight is a man’s job. If women want to become guards so badly, they should stick to being magicians.」
「You’re still saying things like that? You should stop looking down on female knights.」
「Most of the female knights that we have right now are just for show. They are too weak to protect their masters. We can’t continue to let people like that bear the title of a knight.」
「Female guards are required for Tilia-sama and Flora-sama as per order of His Majesty. Or, are you trying to go against this order?」
Well, I could somewhat understand the argument Rutum was trying to make, though.
Watching the previous matches, it was clear that the boys were generally stronger; the girls simply didn’t have enough strength to compete with them. Still, the girls were generally quicker, and there were many ways to fight without relying on physical strength alone, hence they should be able to become knights if they tried hard enough.
「Of course not. But, what if a female student aiming to become a knight got demolished in a match, right in front of His Majesty? Then, maybe he would change his mind?」
「Lord Rutum, what are you saying…?」
「If she ended up injured, then the other girls might no longer want to become knights, no?」
Shia shouted towards her friend in the plaza, as she watched her ready her sword, about to begin her match against one of the knights.
「I really hope your friend doesn’t suffer any serious injuries.」
「Are you threatening us?」
「Of course not. I just want His Majesty to see the reality of the situation.」
Yet again, Rutum’s nasty smile spread across his face.
And there you have it, the man they met at the castle has unexpectedly re-entered the scene.
I think the next chapter will go as one might expect from me. (Still, I do ask you not to write down your predictions in the comments as some might not completely know what to expect.)
I notice this a lot, but when writing a story, setting the proper 「conclusion」to 起承転結 is quite difficult. Even though I have already decided on how the plot is supposed to end, it is hard to put that ending part together.
(TN: Kumano is talking about the 結, which is the last character in 起承転結. The full idiom stands for “introduction, development, turn, and conclusion”.)
(Releaser’s note: The author’s note applies to you guys too. Please don’t post excessively accurate predictions in your comments!
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