Chapter 7: Opportunity
“Mmm~! This tea is delicious! It’s especially good to drink in this hot weather.
“These baked goods are also delicious. This shop is a hit, huh… Here, Leah, eat up. You’re the star of the show today.”
“Thank you, I’ll have some.”
I picked up a fox-shaped baked good from the plate that Riley held out.
When I put it in my mouth, the simplicity of the sweetness and the fragrance spread throughout my mouth.
When I looked outside the window, the dense green road trees, unique to summer, were swaying in the wind.
I gazed at the street in front of the shop for a while, but then I heard Poppy’s voice saying,
“I can’t believe it! Winning the knockout tournament! As expected of Leah.”
And I returned my gaze to the two of them.
“Winning isn’t such a big deal. It’s just a sparring match, and only apprentices are participating anyways.”
I scratched my cheek embarrassedly at being praised, Riley chuckled mischievously.
“Don’t be embarrassed! You were even praised by the instructor at the awards ceremony for your above average performance, weren’t you?! A~ah, I thought I did pretty well too.”
As he said this, Riley took a sip of his tea.
He slowly savored it, then looked at me with a nostalgically wistful gaze.
“It’s already been four years since we joined the Order…”
Four years have passed since I joined the knight’s brigade, and I have now turned 12 years old.
Since around the age of 10, my height has steadily increased, and now I am considered tall for my age.
Among those who choose swords as their weapon of choice, I chose a spear. A spear allows me to make up for any lack of reach due to my height. Even in a strength-based fight, I can use the centrifugal force to my advantage if I use it skillfully.
In order to minimize the difference in muscle mass and be able to make appropriate movements with the minimum amount of strength, I have trained to develop my own unique style.
As a result, I managed to win the sparring tournament held for apprentices and become the number one.
“Hey Leah, I’m thinking of leaving the Order soon.”
Upon hearing these words, I couldn’t help but look at Riley.
Poppy had already known about it and did not change her expression.
“…Riley was supposed to inherit the Morgan merchant business someday, right? But I see… I’ll miss you.”
He nodded when I said that.
“I joined the Order to become able to protect myself as a merchant, and it’s been quite a while now. It’s sad for me to leave my fellow knights, but I have to return home and start learning the ways of a merchant in earnest.”
Riley took a sip of his tea.
Poppy looked at him mischievously.
“One of the reasons for leaving the Order is that you can’t see your beloved fiance due to the hectic schedule, right?”
When she teased him with a smile, he almost spat out his tea and coughed.
Riley glared at her angrily, but the one being glared at just picked up a biscuit with a cool expression.
“Isn’t that the case? You went to see her last weekend, didn’t you?”
He silently affirmed it.
For some reason, I feel like his ears are turning red.
“It can’t be helped… She’s a countess’s daughter, so she has to attend tea parties as part of her job. Since those always fall on my days off from the Order, I just want to see her occasionally when our days off overlap.”
As I watched Riley mumble this, I couldn’t help but feel a little amused. Poppy playfully punched Riley’s shoulder.
“I’m envious of my own little brother! Ah~ I wonder if someone nice will appear for me…”
Poppy let out a sigh and then looked at me.
“Leah, are you going to continue with the Order?”
“Yes, that’s my plan. I’m thinking of taking the recognition exam next. The recognition exam can be taken from the age of 12…”
“It’s so Leah-like to go take the exam as soon as you’re old enough! If you pass the recognition exam, you’ll become a full-fledged knight, not just an apprentice, right? If you pass, let’s get together and celebrate again!”
Poppy said with a smile.
“It’s too soon to tell…”
I couldn’t help but smile wryly.
“A celebration for Leah’s recognition, and a farewell for Riley… hehe, it looks like we’ll be busy!”
Poppy’s smile deepened even further.
Then, as autumn deepened, Riley left the Order to study business at home, and around the same time, I passed the Order’s recognition exam.
The next day, we held a farewell party for Riley with our fellow knights, and celebrated both my recognition as a knight and Riley’s departure.
These friends, who had been supporting me ever since I told them that I wanted to become a knight to guard William-sama, and they were delighted that I had become a full-fledged knight and was one step closer to becoming an escort knight.
As I watched them, I felt a little sad at the thought that
(I might not be able to see these two very often from now on…)
But the two of them, who seemed to have noticed my expression, offered me a promise to stay in touch and I was touched by their strong determination not to let our bond fade.
As winter arrived and the cold wind blew fiercely, I walked down the chilly hallway and headed towards the knight commander’s office in the middle of the garrison.
The knight brigade of the Moore duke’s household can be divided into two main categories.
One is a security force that patrols the city and is contracted to go out in the event of an emergency.
The other is the security force that guards the Duke of Moore’s estate.
Each squad has a commander, but I was summoned this time by the commander of the security force.
I knock on the ostentatious door.
“Excuse me. My name is Leah Flores.”
As I say this and open the door, several young knights have been gathered in the room.
Following their example, I fold my hands behind my back and stretch my spine to wait for the words of the commander of the knight group.
“We’re all here.”
The commander of the knight group, Leo Morris, with a strong muscle, looks around at us who are correcting our posture.
“…I called you guys to decide who to recommend to the guard.”
The security force, which is responsible for protecting the lord, does not take apprentices.
The security force raises a large number of apprentices every year and cultivates the foundation of a knight, and among the knights of the security force, those who are excellent are recommended to become the guard team.
When the commander says this, the young knights in the room are in turmoil.
The knight commander took it by the hand.
“The reason I gathered only young knights is nothing but this. I want to recommend one of you as the first of His Excellency, Duke’s son, William-sama.”
When the commander said that, the young knights who had been stirred up earlier looked at each other with confused expressions.
William-sama has a weak body.
Therefore, he is not able to attend social gatherings very much, and it is rumored that he is coldly treated by the current duke and duchess.
If you become the first bodyguard knight to support William-sama, you must be prepared to share your fate with William-sama.
If William-sama fails as a successor, there is also a danger of being expelled from this territory together.
They probably know that.
The gathered young knights are hesitant to speak.
“Is there anyone among you who wishes to be his excellency’s escort knight?”
The knights fall silent, embarrassed at the commander’s renewed question.
Among them .
“Yes, I do!”
Upon hearing the loud response, the commander narrows his eyes slightly.
“What is your name and affiliation?”
“I am Leah Flores, affiliated with the Seventh Squadron.”
The commander flips through the bundle of papers in his hand and moves his gaze.
“…I see. You won the all-out tournament and passed the qualifying exam recently. You have been recommended by several instructors. You are both age and skill wise unobjectionable, but…”
The Knight Commander gives me a sharp gaze.
“Are you sure this is what you want?”
Feeling the heavy pressure, I nod resolutely.
“Yes. I am ready to be William-sama’s shield and share his fate.”
The commander looks at me for a while, then sees that no other knights are coming forward.
“Fine, do your best… Leah Flores is decided as the first escort knight for the young duke. you are dismissed.”