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I am aware of my own dejected mood, and I am being way too moody unlike a knight which brings me down even more.
My first job as a bodyguard. I was confident that they wouldn’t get the better of me with my strength. The reality was that I had a winning chance against Girista, Ekdoik, and Pashuro if it were solely on battle power.
But what was the result? I couldn’t protect him despite that being my one job. I did win a 1 on 1 against Girista, but I had a hard time against Pashuro, and Wolfe settled the fight with the granted knowledge of that man.
And then, when that man was once again exposed to danger, I couldn’t do anything and he himself settled things. I thought he would be fine if it was him, but that wasn’t the case. He stepped into the thoughts of Pashuro and the others in order to get out of that situation.
The depth compared to the time when he fought Dokora was different. He even looked like he was a whole other person entirely. If that was his form when I met him by chance, I can say for sure that I wouldn’t have welcomed him in the country.
Seeing his face when he was talking with Pashuro who was on the verge of death, I even thought it was already too late. But he managed to return by his own power. That muddiness had returned to its previous light in the time he was making eye contact with me.
He must have used my way of life as a landmark to return from the deep darkness in him. But that also means that he was sunk so deeply that he couldn’t have returned without my presence.
Lunatics that would kill their surroundings without hesitation; he probably would have been able to manage something while captured by doing anything regardless of means. But I couldn’t fulfill my mission to protect him as a knight, and I couldn’t even achieve my own personal objective of not letting him walk the wrong path.
Also, I was once again reminded by him of the reality I tried to not think about. The anger of His Majesty at that time was the real deal. He directed anger at me so strong that it made even me falter despite being far superior to him in physical strength.
There’s no guarantee His Majesty will assign me as his bodyguard again when he heads to Gahne. I may be able to continue right now temporarily, but it most likely won’t last long.
While I was worrying about this, we finished our meals, bringing us to the present. I feel like he was talking to someone, but who was it…?
“—Let’s go back.”
Looks like I have dampened his mood too. I feel even more bad now.
We meet a familiar face as we head to the exit of the castle.
“Oh, isn’t that Lady Ratzel?”
“…Lord Leano.” (Ilias)
The Leano Division that leads the most knights, and their Knight Captain, Lord Leano. The top of the people that don’t think fondly of my position.
“And the one by your side is…oh, it is you!” (Leano)
The expression of Lord Leano changed suddenly. Just where did his disgruntled face towards me even go? He is making a face as if he just met his best friend.
“It has been a while, Lord Leano. This is the first time we meet in the castle.”
“You said it. Even though I have told you to come meet me whenever, you haven’t shown yourself once. What a cold man.” (Leano)
“His Majesty is the priority when I come to the castle after all.”
“I can’t say anything against that response. I was thinking about taking care of you if you didn’t have a place to go to, and yet, you managed to get right by the bosom of His Majesty. You really are one man that can’t be underestimated. It seems like my eyes didn’t deceive me though.” (Leano)
Lord Leano is laughing while talking with him.
I couldn’t follow this unexpected development.
His first meeting with Lord Leano should have been in the barracks, when the first meeting for the bandit subjugation was held.
At that time, Lord Leano was directing a belittling gaze and tone at him…
“What’s with that dumbstruck face you have there, Lady Ratzel? I heard about it, you know. Even though you were left with the job of protecting him, you allowed him to get kidnapped by outlaws.” (Leano)
Aah, there’s no way he wouldn’t know. Girista rampaged at such a public place after all. It must have gotten to other knight divisions too.
There’s no way he would let that topic pass by when he hates me.
“So stupid. Even if it is true that you failed, you safely rescued him. What are they thinking about despite you having redeemed yourself? Do they think you have already become a perfect knight or something?” (Leano)
“I have heard about how you wanted to protect the citizens. You are not telling me that those people should have died, right?” (Leano)
“N-No way!!” (Ilias)
“Then, stand tall. You managed to fix your mistake while protecting the people as the chivalric code deems. Seeking more than that in your standing would be presumptuous!” (Leano)
This…is Lord Leano encouraging me here? But it only sounds as if he is insulting me. It is the very picture of a knight instructing a novice.
“Good grief. With such a tightfisted bodyguard with you, it is hard to invite you to a meal. Let’s find a different occasion to have a lengthy talk. See you later.” (Leano)
Lord Leano smiled at him at the end and left.
He saw that and sighed before turning my way.
“Y-Yeah. How you are close to Lord Leano and those words just now…” (Ilias)
“It is not really that weird though. Lord Leano is that kind of person to begin with.”
“No, but…you remember that time too, right?” (Ilias)
There’s no way he doesn’t remember. He was the one who planned countermeasures after hearing about how I was being looked down by the other knight divisions.
“It is true that Lord Leano doesn’t think positively of you.”
“Then why…? No, I am not in a position to ask you about how you are close to Lord Leano though…” (Ilias)
“Ilias, it is the undeniable truth that you are being hated by the other knight divisions. But do you think every single one of them hates you for the same reason?”
“…What do you mean?” (Ilias)
Their reason for hating me…isn’t it because I am a woman? No, there should be no mistake in that. The reality is that they would always say ‘even though you are a woman’.
He scratched his head and continued speaking.
“The reason why Lord Leano hates you is because a woman is in the highly respected Ragudo Division.”
“…So because I am a woman.” (Ilias)
“I am saying Lord Leano would have treated someone the same even if it wasn’t you, Ilias. The Ragudo Division was the ideal knight division Lord Leano aimed for when he was trying to become a knight. Lord Leano respects the knight divisions that have kept on since time immemorial; putting it in a bad way, he is a person trapped in the old thinking.”
“…I see.” (Ilias)
Lord Leano himself would be the one to know that. Did he hear that from him?
“What’s in the heart of Lord Leano isn’t male superiority, but the idea of ‘the man for the right job’. He wants to keep the historical form of generations.
A newcomer girl showed up there, so he is simply feeling awkward. It is because you tried to take everyone under your lead while ignoring the other Knight Captains that he tried to steal your position. As if saying ‘it is too presumptuous of a woman to gather the venerable knight divisions and try to command them!’.”
“But isn’t that the same for the others?” (Ilias)
“Lord Fohl is self-interest. You apparently defeated him in front of his subordinates.”
Now that he mentions it, something like that might have happened. He challenged me, saying something like ‘I will be your opponent for a bit’. I just fought with everything I had like usual… I did get a hit on him at that time if I remember correctly.
“He was thinking about testing out a new face, and yet, was shamed in front of his subordinates. Of course he would hold a grudge on you regardless of gender.”
“But it was an official match, so holding back is…” (Ilias)
“I am not expecting you to read the atmosphere in those kinds of scenarios. However, understand the results of it. Men are creatures that care a lot about face.”
“There’s a lot of other things. Some who had their beloved weapons broken in duels against you; ones told by their cherished little sisters the person they admire isn’t their brother who is a knight but Lady Ratzel; people who had their names spoken wrong and got that nickname set in stone; people who don’t really have any grudge towards Lady Ratzel, but are riding the mood…”
He was speaking out one reason after the other.
I was being hated by so many varied reasons? This is shocking in a lot of meanings. Or more like, isn’t there stuff unrelated to me mixed in there?
“Yours is not the same as the united persecution of Wolfe. There’s a variety of reasons why someone hates others. However, you being a woman is being used as the front. But it is not like it is all simply that. It is because the numbers have increased too much that they began looking the same to you.”
“But when did you do all this…?” (Ilias)
“At the ceremony, there was a guy that clicked his tongue at you, you see. I investigated a variety of things while I was checking the details of that person.”
“Since then…?” (Ilias)
“Don’t worry. I have already made the noble that clicked his tongue regret it, so just act as if you don’t know.”
He was doing something like that in the shadows… Well, let’s just believe that he has done it within reason.
“Even though you told me to change the anger to power, you were punching back…? What do I do with you?” (Ilias)
“It would only make things more complicated if you were to do the punching with anger clouding you. But here, a friend of mine was made fun of. Gotta get a hit or two in, right?”
He made a mischievous smile. I really don’t know what to do with this guy. However, learning that he sees me as a friend and that he moved for my sake…isn’t bad.
“But…I was being hated by so many varied reasons…?” (Ilias)
“That’s a given. You didn’t make any friends since childhood, concentrated the whole time in training, didn’t learn how to form human relations, and didn’t spare a glance to your surroundings. Despite that, your skills were high and would take the position of others, pulling so many eyes.”
Stabbed right to the heart.
Now that he mentions it, it is not like they hated me from the very beginning. But I have lived my life prioritizing polishing myself rather than my relationships with others. Trying to become a better knight… No, it is obvious that I would be hated if I did as I pleased without looking at others.
Was I missing something crucial as a person as I aimed to become a good knight?
“You lost your parents at a young age and continued polishing yourself while there was still no leeway in your heart. There’s no need to blame yourself at this point. But it is different now. You even managed to get a friend, right? You can just learn a variety of things without getting impatient.”
“—Right. I have gotten a friend like you. It might be better for me to look at others more.” (Ilias)
“…Aah, no, I was referring to Saira.”
“…You called me a friend though!” (Ilias)
“You did! Is there any inconvenience or is it embarrassing to be my friend?!” (Ilias)
“It is just embarrassing to be told that to the face. Think about it with common sense.”
I certainly did mess up. But it is not like that’s the end of everything. If I keep worrying about everything, I might not only fail to get them back but link them to even more failures. It may be difficult to switch completely here, but I can’t progress if I don’t face forward.
“Good grief… Anyways, let me show my gratitude. Thank y—Mgh.” (Ilias)
He covered my mouth with his hand. If you do that, I can’t talk, you know.
“No need to thank me. I am the one being helped out and I am in the middle of paying you back. It is not like I have paid you back completely yet. If you want to thank me, do so when I have finished. If you thank me at each instance I help you, I wouldn’t be able to pay you back completely.”
“…You are worried about the smallest of things. It is not like it would lessen anything just from thanking you.” (Ilias)
“It does. Thanking is also a veritable way to pay back a debt after all.”
“—Seriously, men are creatures that care a lot about face, huh.” (Ilias)
If he wants me to do that, I will do so. Let’s keep this feeling of appreciation for when he has been satisfied… But when that time comes, will a single thank you be enough? Am I not already being completely indebted here? I-Is it okay?
It is fine that her mood seems to have improved to a certain degree with the arrival of Lord Leano. But I got flustered when she noticed that I had deepened my connections with other knight divisions.
It is not like I doubt the personality of Ilias, but there really is an awkward feeling to learning that I am getting friendly with people that don’t think fondly of her and harass her.
Ilias wraps it all in the same mantle. It would be troubling if she were to see my friendship with her and my friendship with Lord Leano as the same.
As someone who likes deep but narrow personal relationships, creating widespread personal relationships unexpectedly has a lot of hardships. Also, trouble comes walking to you when your face is spread wide -just like now.
“You are the Counselor Candidate that frequently meets His Majesty, right?”
“Well, yeah, that’s right.”
The one in front of me is the daughter of a Taizu noble. Her name is…if I ever meet her again, I will try to memorize it.
I was called to the residence of the noble, and when I asked what their business was…
“I would like you to arrange it so that I am tied with His Majesty.”
And well, it is a request smeared with self-interest. Can’t really say much myself as someone who is using my closeness with Marito to expand my connections with the knights though.
“His Majesty is a really late-bloomer. Even when he shows himself at banquets, he wouldn’t try to meet a girl in particular.”
I have heard that’s because he simply didn’t find any girls he was interested in.
“I am from a distinguished family, cultured and elegant, and have been polished to be worthy of His Majesty. That’s right, I am the one who should become the princess of His Majesty!”
I would like you to share 10% of that confidence you have to Ilias who is on standby outside the room. Also, about half to Rakura. I think that would make them into nice and graceful ladies.
“If it is you who His Majesty has taken a liking to and speaks to him on the daily, you should be able to arrange a moment for the two of us to be alone.”
“I think I would be able to.”
“Then, please do. As soon as possible.”
She is not caring about my own convenience at all.
“I didn’t say I accepted.”
“No, you can’t refuse. You have a peasant friend that is learning tailoring, right?”
“Do you know that she has been practicing at a tailor that is under the influence of my house?”
“That’s a first.”
“Do you want to crush the future of your friend?”
This is one confident lady. Quite the straight threat. It wouldn’t be strange for a store that makes high class clothing to have deep connections with nobles.
Even if Saira is driven away from her current place, a new place could be provided to her if we rely on Ban-san. But Saira said the place she had right now was a good one. It would be a pain if it were to be stirred up by the ones above. Also, I would not like Saira to suffer like that.
She may look pretty enough to make it understandable how she would be confident about it, but the fate of people who have deluded themselves to be the chosen ones is sad.
First of all, the fact that she has mistook my relationship with Marito already makes her completely hopeless. She probably doesn’t even have an inkling of a thought that the king is friends with a commoner. I feel like it would be effective just by pointing that out, but…it would be a pain to just stimulate her blindly.
“It can’t be helped. Then, I will try to arrange for you and His Majesty to have dinner today alone.”
If you are coming at me as such, I will answer in kind. I feel bad for Marito, but I will be using that agreement we had before.
I was called that night soon after.
The noble daughter is not making too good of a face. Of course she wouldn’t. There’s no way Marito would be able to get along with a girl she doesn’t even like after suddenly being arranged to have a meal with her. She can’t come out strongly with a king, so it is natural that she would fail an arranged date without any plans.
“Judging from your look, it doesn’t seem like it was a good result.”
“No, it is just the first time, so it is natural that His Majesty is not receptive yet! I will have you continue moving for me!”
“—Sadly to say, I can’t.”
“What did you just say?”
“Young lady, have you thought about why a commoner like me can recommend someone else to have dinner with His Majesty?”
“That’s—what are you trying to say here?!”
It seems like she does have the ability to feel a bad atmosphere. It would be a lot of work to make someone understand if they are completely insensitive after all.
“I have made a number of agreements with His Majesty. ‘We will definitely meet the girl that we are recommended to’; this is the first one. That’s how much His Majesty trusts me.”
“In that case, a second and third should be—!”
“This will spread. When that happens, people like you will show up. That’s where the second one comes. ‘People who try to take advantage of this agreement will be judged as people who bring harm to Marito Taizu’. There’s no next time for you.”
“Wa?! That’s obviously a lie!!”
I take out a single parchment from my pocket.
The details of the agreement I mentioned before were written there. At the place for the signature, there’s the name of Marito and a seal which only royalty can use. There’s no way you wouldn’t know about it if you are a noble.
“It would be a bother for His Majesty too if the same girl were to be persistently pushed at him. Therefore, we have made these agreements.”
“His Majesty and I are trying to find a good partner for each other, you see. However, a 3rd party would be a hindrance if we want to perform this smoothly.”
As per the agreement between me and His Majesty, the prerequisite is to meet the girl you are introducing. It wouldn’t d be fair for me if he won’t meet them because he is busy. However, if others were to learn about this, there will be more people who would want to make contact with Marito.
Especially ones who will try to threaten a commoner like me with a weak standing. This is the special measure implemented for the sake of that.
Putting it bluntly, it is the agreement of ‘we won’t forgive anyone who tries to take advantage of our friendship’.
“You were the one who threatened me first here, so I omitted this explanation. However, it has properly been applied, so don’t worry. Aah, it is not like we will do something at once. This is not a trap set to make the women into criminals, but a prevention for second timers.”
If others knew about these agreements, the only ones who would try to use this would be women who are sure they would be able to seduce Marito, or assassins. Of course, there’s a way too competent Anbu-kun by the side of Marito, so there’s no issue with the latter. As for the former, if the first one fails, they wouldn’t have the courage to keep on.
If they try to cling on despite that, Marito will simply get rid of them as a nuisance.
By the way, when it is the opposite, if Marito tries to persistently introduce me to the same woman, it is written that I will be cutting off my relations with him.
As for other conditions, there’s also that we can only introduce them to 1 a week, and we can only add more when we both have an interest.
Next would be: ‘Let’s not try to poke at the holes of the agreements, okay?’. We both agreed immediately to this.
I most likely won’t be meeting this noble lady again. And so, there won’t be a chance to remember your name.
The next day, I had a conversation with Marito at his office.
“Man, it has been a while since I have seen a woman that conceited. Speaking of which, I think I have seen her a number of times at banquets.” (Marito)
“I did think you would at least remember her since she has a good face. That said, sorry to trouble you.”
“‘It is a miss, but meet her please’ -that one made me laugh though. She hasn’t done anything unnecessary to you, right? I personally find it unforgivable with just the fact that she threatened you with your friend though.” (Marito)
“Forgive the first attempt of an ignorant recluse. It must have been a good learning experience. Ah, right. I brought this today.”
Saying this, I bring out the gift wrapped in cloth. The bribe—I mean, the thing mentioned before. How’s this?
“I was curious about it, but what is it?” (Marito)
“As an apology for the troubles. If you don’t like it, I will take it back with me. I personally like it after all.”
“Let’s see, let’s see…” (Marito)
Marito unwrapped it and let out his voice in surprise.
It is the potted plant that I requested Ruko to prepare. It is a foliage plant that looks like a pachira. It is an interior decoration that goes for warmth more than flashiness.
“This is…quite the rare one.” (Marito)
“Really? I requested this from an acquaintance and she readied it for me in a day or two.”
“So you say, but this is something that rarely goes around the market, you know? Aah, but you might be able to find it in the Black Wolfkin forest, so maybe there? But can I raise it?” (Marito)
“Aah, we considered that possibility, so we readied a manual on how to raise it.”
I see. When Ruko told me she would prepare an instruction manual, I wondered if there was the need to go that far, but I can understand the need of it if it is a rare one.
But that instruction manual, I checked it out and it was written in extreme detail. I am still young and I wanted a monocle for it, you know? Would he want to raise something like this?
“They are very well informed… But from what I have read, as long as I am careful about where I place it and its environment, it looks like I will be able to raise it in my spare time. I shall leave it in my room.” (Marito)
“Isn’t your office fine?”
“No, I would like to leave these ones in a place where I want to calm myself. But this is a really good present. I am truly happy!” (Marito)
He is so excited that I wouldn’t be able to believe humans if this is an act. Marito seems to like it a lot. Looks like Ruko’s eye is pretty good… Fumu.
“Marito, I have used my turn for an introduction. Is there any lady you want to introduce to me as of now?”
“Unfortunately, I am still unable to get a grasp of your likes at all. I am thinking about introducing you to my unknown little sister or something, but she is not in the country. Can you wait until I catch her?” (Marito)
“A woman that would be tiring to be together with would be troubling. Well then, maybe I should participate with you at the next banquet.”
“Really? I am actually having it rough with the ratio of women being so high. It would be a great help if you were to come.” (Marito)
It is something that I brought up because he said he didn’t like participating in such banquets. My participation must be a happy proposal. Even if we have our agreement, Marito is pretty much forced to search for a marriage partner. I would like to reduce his stress.
“But that won’t change the fact that you will be surrounded though.”
“Yeah. Can you let me borrow Wolfe-chan?” (Marito)
Marito would be able to relax more if he is together with a girl I have prepared.
The personnel selection of Wolfe is not bad either. It is far from a romance target and she is a familiar face for us both. We could also use the excuse that it is an interaction with the black wolfkins.
“It is too soon for Wolfe. But I can bring someone who will not tire Marito.”
“Really? If they are as docile as a borrowed cat, I won’t complain.” (Marito)
“I am sure they will be pretty docile.”
“Aren’t you making a scheming face?” (Marito)
“Don’t worry. I was just thinking about the shocked face of the person.”
I want to think this mischievous side of me is because I am in front of Marito, yup.