Chapter 8: In the Duke’s House
I stood in front of a heavy, withered-leaf colored door at the end of a long, wide hallway.
(William-sama is on the other side of this door)
Feeling my heart rise, I swelled with joy.
It had only been a few days since I was decided to be recommended as William-sama’s escort knight.
As soon as I received the notice, I was forced to move immediately to the Duke of Moore’s main residence.
Since I was an orphan, I didn’t have many belongings to begin with, so I was able to move with just one bag.
Although I felt a bit of loneliness at the thought, I reminded myself that [I could go to William-sama’s side faster without the hassle of organizing my belongings].
With my belongings, a few books, a spear that I had treasured since my apprentice days, and a jar of shells that I had collected at the coast on a whim since coming to the Duke Moore’s territory, I arrived at the Duke Moore’s main mansion.
And today is the day that I, as an escort knight, will meet William-sama for the first time.
Wrapped in my brand new escort knight’s attire, I feel a sense of tension standing in front of William-sama’s room.
I knock on the door nervously.
“This is Flores, the newly assigned escort knight for Duke Moore. I request permission to enter.”
Upon asking to enter, a calm voice of a young boy responds,
I open the door while speaking.
The first thing that caught my eye was a vast number of books that filled the walls.
The large number of books were stacked as if they were consuming the floor.
In the center of the room, the young man who would become my lord was writing on a bundle of papers on his desk, but when he placed the feather pen he was holding on the desk, he turned his sapphire-colored eyes towards me.
“You’re the new knight who was assigned as my first escort, right? May I ask your name again?”
“Yes, my name is Leah Flores, Your Grace Duke Moore.”
I answer and bow.
William-sama looks at me, who has bowed, and furrows his brow slightly.
“… Flores, haven’t you and I met somewhere before? Sorry, I can’t remember where we met, but for some reason, I feel like I’ve seen your face before…”
I was very surprised to hear that.
William-sama and I had only met once, when I was a newly appointed apprentice at a water source.
To remember the face of an apprentice who had only briefly talked to him a long time ago…
(William-sama has an excellent memory)
While rolling my tongue inside my mouth, I opened my mouth to reply to William-sama.
“…Yes, William-sama and I have met. It was a long time ago when I was still an apprentice, at the water source of the garrison of the security forces unit…”
“Ah, I remember. I made you feel uncomfortable at that time.”
While saying that with a pained expression, I shook my head.
“That is not true. That is already in the past.”
“Thank you, Flores.”
He thanks me and slowly stands up.
“Hey, I’m sorry, but can you bring the chair on the side of that bookshelf over here and sit down? I’m going to make some tea now.”
“My Lord ‼ To make a make tea by yourself is… ‼.”
William-sama headed towards the cupboard and said,
“Don’t worry about it. I’m used to making tea.”
He gave a slightly lonely smile.
(William-sama is the son of the Duke. It is “unusual” for a person of his status to serve others himself. And he said he was “used to” it. Why…?)
While I was thinking about this, William-sama said,
“Flores, is one sugar enough?”
William-sama’s word brought me back to my senses.
Across the desk, as we sat facing each other, William-sama started speaking after seeing me moisten my mouth with tea.
“You came here on the recommendation of the commander of the security forces unit and the instructors, but I have not yet signed the documents regarding your appointment. In other words, you are not yet officially my first escort knight.”
Hearing this made me feel as if the blood had drained from my face.
[I have not yet signed the documents regarding your appointment] means that William-sama himself is refusing my appointment as his escort knight.
(Did I do something to offend William-sama… or is he indirectly saying that he has doubts about my ability…?)
Seeing my pale face, William-sama hesitantly opens his mouth.
“Don’t misunderstand. You are the kind of person who has received recommendations from many senior knights. I’m sure you are a wonderful knight… I don’t have any complaints about you. The reason I haven’t appointed you as my escort knight right away is because there are other reasons.”
“… What are those reasons?”
I asked this in a voice that I couldn’t help but tremble.
“I want you to think carefully before deciding whether you really want to be my first escort knight. For the next week, you will spend it with me as my temporary escort. After one week, I want to ask you again about your intention to become my escort knight or not.”
While I was stunned, William-sama continued.
“Of course, I will make sure that you are not blamed if you decide to resign as an escort knight, and I will personally help you find your next job. Don’t worry, if you want a different job, I won’t let anyone blame you.”
His words gradually sink into my head.
[I want to ask about your intention] While saying this, William-sama’s words seem to be convinced that I will resign as an escort knight after one week.
“Why would I want to…”
Even if I ask this, he just gives a sad smile.
(Why is he saying such a thing? Does he not like me and wants me to resign?… No, that’s not a straightforward way of doing things. Also, I can’t imagine William-sama saying something like this without a reason. There must be a reason. But…)
As I think about William-sama’s words, I become overwhelmed with sad, painful, and unbearable feelings.
([After the one-week trial period, this knight… Leah Flores will “voluntarily” resign from the position of escort knight] It seems that William-sama is seriously considering this. Even though I lied about my gender and vomited blood from training, I have lived until now only to protect you. It is impossible for me, who has lived to openly protect you, to willingly give up the position to do so)
My lips unconsciously tried to speak but eventually remained silent without being able to weave words.
(William-sama doesn’t know how I feel about being here. He doesn’t know how much I think about protecting him, or how much I have endured harsh days just to protect him… I know that wanting to protect William-sama is just my own self-satisfaction. But… even if William-sama doesn’t feel that way, it’s painful for me to be doubted by him.
I close my eyes and take a deep breath.
I grit my teeth.
(Calm down. William-sama and I are almost strangers. I am just one of the many knights. No matter how strongly I wish to protect William-sama, it is something that he does not need to know. What I should say to William-sama now is…)
I quietly open my eyes.
And I look at the face of William-sama sitting in front of me.
“Duke Moore. I have come here with a strong determination to serve you. I cannot decline the appointment as your escort knight.”
I look into the deep, ocean-colored eyes.
“If you want me to reconsider for a week, I will follow your wishes. I will talk to you again in a week about my feelings.”
I said that to William-sama and looked at him intently.
But he still just smiled gently and sadly.