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  • Writer's pictureRina

Chapter 31


Tara finishes her conversation with the Prince and finally confronts Bernard about his departure.


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Episode 31. 85.5kg (4)


"... Which part?"


"Was I mistaken? Your goal is to become an administrator after passing the exam so you can serve next to the future Emperor, is it not? You will encounter a lot of people in the future, so will you use your precious time to deal with it personally whenever something happens to them?"


"Investing this amount of time in him is worth it. Your Highness doesn't know the full details."


"Is that so? I would think this is too much effort for someone you've only known for two months.”


"Two months is not so short that I'm unable to judge a person."


"A pity."


"What do you mean?"


"A master and subordinate have a mutual relationship. You say he's your knight, but is he really yours?"


"What do you mean?"


"Why would a servant leave without even reporting to his own master?"


“……”


It was true, Bernard left the Elias's without giving me a proper explanation.


I still needed to know why he had been kicked out, but also knew I had to bring him back. He was going to become a general and I needed him.


It was the only thing on my mind. I needed him. But, had I missed something else?


As my head ached from the complexity of my thoughts, Prince Kyle's next question only baffled me further.


"Based on your expression, I'm not wrong in the least. Is it due to fondness? Do you really think he'll come back to a family that fired him just because you chose to visit him?"


"... He'll come back."


Even as I said it, I wasn't confident it was true.


Then, I suddenly remembered the incident on Lackton Road.


[... Observe me for a month and decide if you'd like to truly be my knight. If you don't want to after a month, I'll leave it. Naturally, I'll talk to Sir Oliver about the medicine and keep supplying you with it. What do you think?]


[You want me to swear fealty?]


He'd said the words so coldly, as if it was hard to get the words out.


[I'm not asking you to do that. I don't want that once-in-a-lifetime oath. Instead, if you feel like doing so, I want you to continue being my knight. How about it? I don't think it's a bad deal.]


A satisfied smile had graced Bernard's face. Finally, he had found a way to escape from me.


The corners of his mouth rose at the thought that he could leave with a light heart after a month.


[No take backs, Miss.]


A month had passed. He had been kicked out of the family with no vow of fealty and no regrets. My chest felt heavy as if a huge rock had settled on it.


"It sounds as if you have a plan."


“… Are you curious?”


"Pardon?"


"I believe this was sufficient to convey my gratitude."


"Ha! Sufficient? What if I want to hear more?"


"… You appear to have more free time than I first thought."


“……”


I caught the slight twitch of his eyebrow. A thrill went through me. For an instant my wet clothes no longer bothered me.


"... I, a member of the Imperial family, deigned to lift a wagon with my own hands, and this is the only thanks I get? Should I have just walked past?"


Ha. A shudder ran through me.


"Thank you, Your-"


"Stop! Come to think of it, I've wasted too much time here already."


"Yes... Of course."


"By the way, Lady Elias. Even if you get him back, is there any guarantee that it won't happen again?"


"... It won't happen again."


"I have to say, you're very transparent."


"For now."


"For now?"


"Yes. One day you'll want me to serve by your side, I'll make sure of it."


"... Well then. Will you be able to live up to those words? We'll see. Otherwise it's mere nonsense."


“……”


"Weren't you about to take your leave?"


"Ah! Of course, I'm leaving right now!"


Crap... I was flustered. It hadn't been a fight, so why did I feel like I had lost...?


***


Shield Knights Headquarters.


"You are being terribly rude, Sir Bernard! My Lady had a terrible time making it all the way here. Not only did she have to lift a carriage in the rain, but she also fainted again and had to be carried into another carriage by her arms and legs. It was terribly embarrassing. Who should be held responsible for all this?"


"Beth, please!"


All too accustomed to my protests, Beth casually ignored me.


"Come on, let's go Miss! Just get another knight! You don't need a vassal who lacks any sense of loyalty!"


"Are you done talking?”


Bernard sprang from his chair and took a domineering step closer to Beth


"Oh? You want to see a knight? I'll show you, I'll do it!"


Beth's face reddened. She took one step closer as if unwilling to back down.


I already had a headache because of the rain, but when Beth and Bernard started marching towards one another with fierce expressions it started pounding even harder.


"Stop... Please stop. Bernard, Beth, both of you. Ugh."


I had no idea if they could even hear me or not. The two of them were fighting in the middle of the Knight Guild Headquarters!


On the other side of the spacious office, two knights who were sorting out mercenary recruitment applications glanced over at us for a moment, then shrugged and looked away again.


"I'll follow you, Master!"


Haa... Now even Peter was joining in.


Peter stepped between the two of them, red-faced and huffing, and clung to Bernard's side.


His eyes were filled with tears as he listened to them.


"All of you can go back."


"Do you really think I need your permission to leave? You may be a big man but you're sulking like a child and refusing to tell us anything! You just keep saying the same thing. No! No! No! Again and again. There's no need for us to stay here any longer, Miss. Let's go!"


"Ha... Really. Lady Tara?"


"And? I'm waiting! Why are you looking at her? Forget it! I don't want to talk to you anymore! Come on!"


Furious, Beth strode to the door.


"I'm not going," Peter protested.


"... You need to go with them. I'll come back for you when my mercenary job is over.”


Haa... They just kept going and going. Bernard was willing to toss me aside so easily, but he was willing to come back for Peter?


My body began to tremble, as if I had been caught in a cold breeze.


"Miss, come on!" Beth said.


"Go... Please."


“I won't go,” Peter said.


"You have to go. Please stop this."


At Bernard's reply, my head spiked with pain.


"Haaa! Seriously! What's wrong with everyone? Will any of you let me get a word in? Why the hell are you all being so stubborn!" I yelled.


Silence hovered between us. Everyone stared at me wide eyed. The knights who had been sorting through documents on the other side of the room focused their attention back on us, their faces bright with interest.


"M–Miss?"


"Haaa. I'm really tired today. So, please!"


"Are you all right, Miss? You look... It looks like you have a fever."


"I'm fine. I need to sit down. Beth, take Peter outside."


"Yes... Miss."


The effect of me shouting was so great that they gave in without a fuss.


Beth and Peter left and Bernard and I were left alone in the small office. Or rather, alone with the two other knights a far distance away.


I touched my forehead and, unsurprisingly, found it hot. I slumped down into the chair beside me.


I took a deep breath and spoke quietly.


"... Bernard."


"... What?"


"Do you remember?"


"What?"


"The promise you made. We agreed that if I passed the Administrator's exam and you were willing to accept me as your Master, you would make your decision then. I still have three more weeks until the interviews are over. Until then, you have to stay with me!"


"I didn't willingly leave. I can't go back just because you want me to!"


"Okay. Then can you answer one question for me?"


"Ask."


"Will you testify publicly?"


“…..”


Bernard's eyes widened, then his expression became thoughtful.


Before coming here, I had personally visited Lackton Street and asked Andrei Pitt for advice.


[... There's a lot of corruption going on, but everybody knows about it, and they just shrug it off. No one wants to make a big deal out of it, it could get in the way of their career, and no knight in the Order has ever brought it up and had that end well. In particular, the word of a low ranking knight will not be trusted, especially over that of a knight of higher rank or renown.]


[Right. That's why I came with a request.]


[What?]


[I want some information from you, if you're willing to take a look.]


When I told him the information I wanted, Andrei frowned.


[This... Hmm... I can get it for you, but it'll take some time, and things could go wrong. He might be stigmatized even more by this. Have you consulted with the knight about this?]


[No, but I'll do that now.]


[You haven't talked to him yet, but you still want me to obtain the information?]


[You seem to have forgotten that I still plan on becoming the next Family Head. It won't hurt to know about a potential issue for the family, regardless of the outcome here.]


[Well, then... Do you have the money?]


[... Can you not assist your disciple a little?]


[Come on. That's too much! You haven't even passed the administrative exam yet, so you're not officially my disciple.]


[That's unfortunate...]


[What?]


[Haha. Never mind. How much do you want for it?]


[This isn't a difficult piece of information to get, but it's dangerous because it involves contact with a group of knights. The basic fee is 50 gold and the hazard pay is another 50 gold, but I'll give you a 10 gold discount since you're a prospective disciple. So it will cost you 90 gold in total.]


[You'll be rich in no time.]


[Let's put it this way. I'm not getting rich, I'm getting richer, hahaha].


[.....]


Before I left, I asked him one final thing.


[If I make it to the interview, I have a favor to ask.]


[You mean, you want me to find out in advance who you should serve under so you can work for the future Emperor?]


[No. That's up to me, Master, I want you to look into my brothers and sisters].


[... Fine. Only if you pass the exam.]


***


This was something he had wanted to carry alone. He had assaulted his boss, but that wasn't the full story.


He knew too much, and they didn’t want to keep him around.


Thinking hard, Bernard took a moment to assess the young woman in front of him.


After watching her for two months, he knew she was unique. She was neither aristocratic nor authoritative, nor unreasonable.


She didn't treat people badly based on their status and she never missed morning training.


Sometimes her insight into people and situations was good enough to make him doubt her age, but she never tried to boast about it.


The more time he spent with her, the more he felt his prejudice against noblewomen gradually collapse.


"Do you know what this could mean for me?"


"The repercussions will be huge. You could be branded a traitor for this."


"And you're asking me to testify, even knowing that?"


"Well, I can't speak for what the other knights will do, but I think you could do it."


"No, if I'd wanted to, I would have already done it."


"Say what you really mean. It's not that you didn't do it, it's that you couldn't."


"What?"


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