“Father, why do I have to wear this?”
In an immaculate white palace, a young child looked at a tall man with a helmet in arm. It was a question that had been buried in the child’s heart for the longest time, and the man didn’t seem to be too surprised by it either.
Armor was not something a typical child would be fond of, especially when it was so heavy that it hurt just to wear it. It was only normal for a child to want to take it off.
Having to impose such a burden on a child riddled the man’s mind with guilt.
A breeze swept in through the windows, prompting a fluttery dance from the white silk curtains. Knowing that this was necessary for the world, the man sitting on the throne took some time to harden his resolve.
“Based on the prophecy from the Tripartite Alliance, we might face a great catastrophe in the near future. As my successor, you are obliged to conceal your identity and accrue great power. For that, it’s necessary for you to don this armor.
“This armor will hide your weaknesses from the rest of the world. It’ll bring out your true potential and pave your way to the top,” the man replied with a solemn voice.
The child’s face crumbled sorrowfully.
“B-but… the other children won’t play with me when I’m dressed like that!”
“Enjoyment is unnecessary for you. Such distractions will only make you weak. You only need to do things that will make you strong!” the man emphasized.
The child’s head lowered even further.
Silence settled in the palace. Feeling that he might have been too strict, the man rose from the throne and walked down the steps till he was finally standing before the child. He squatted downward to meet the child’s eyes and sighed softly.
“The Twilight Sages Assembly has been destroyed. That clan has declined for several centuries now, but we must uphold the vow. It’s our responsibility to regulate the world’s order in the wake of their disappearance. This is the only way we’ll have hope against the catastrophe.”
The child knew about the vow their people had made with that clan a long, long time ago.
“So, I just have to hold on till they return?”
The child looked at the man with hopeful eyes.
“The chances are slim, but if such a miracle does happen, the awakener from that clan is likely to be a great person who can overcome all odds and achieve the impossible. If such a person does appear…”
The man fell into deep thought for a brief moment. Then, he ruffled the child’s head and smiled.
“… find him and entrust it all to him, Wilhelmina.”
In a dream about her distant past, a young woman heard a long-forgotten name echoing in her ears, causing her eyes to shoot open.
It was in the dead of night, and there was hardly any light in this exquisite bedroom she resided in. Silence loomed heavily in the surroundings.
The woman clutched her forehead before slowly sitting upward. The earlier dream had chased away her sleepiness, leaving her with nothing but confusion.
Why would I suddenly recall the past at a time like this? Is it because I took off my armor today?
The woman looked at the heavy armor placed by the bedside and shook her head.
It was rare for her to take off her armor, and logically speaking, it should have improved her sleep. It was hard to imagine why the contrary would occur.
“Is there something wrong with my body?” she murmured under her breath.
She slipped down her bed and made her way to the full-body mirror by the window. Under the faint moonlight, she stared at her own reflection for the first time in a long while.
The woman in the mirror had a beautiful body that had clearly been through intense training, be it her toned legs or slender waist. Her skin was fair and her chest bountiful. She had blue-gray hair, tangerine eyes, and distinctive facial features that made her countenance ravishing yet regal.
Long eye-lashes, crescent shaped eyes, cherry-blossom lips, and a lustrous complexion that gave off a beautiful natural glow—this woman could easily hog the spotlight just by dolling herself up a little.
The only thing that was hindering her femininity was her unique air of valiance.
The young woman’s slender body harnessed the Dragon Bloodline, a bloodline exclusive to the Cambonyte Royal Family. This was a secret she had been hiding from the public, though admittedly, she was rather fond of the abilities that came with it.
None would dare to be insolent before a dragon’s might.
This ability was exceptionally useful when it came to curbing the sequestered houses that had chosen to meld into the shadows. It had resolved many problems she faced along the way.
The effects of Dragon Might differed when she had her armor on. The cold metallic exterior of her full body armor made Dragon Might terrifyingly oppressive, but once she took off her armor, her aura felt more inviolable rather than frightening.
Having been instilled with the knight’s chivalric code from a young age, the young woman developed a personality with an extreme degree of seriousness that made her appear obstinate. It was this very personality that prompted her to search for the reason behind her insomnia.
She carefully inspected her impeccable physique shaped by her Dragon Bloodline, but she couldn’t find anything amiss. Frustrated, she breathed out deeply and returned to her bed.
Having eliminated the possibility of her insomnia being a physical problem, she had no choice but to turn to the other possibility in her mind.
“Is it because I’m about to meet him?”
She thought about the man she had met under the northern lands’ aurora not too long ago, and it made her heart skip a beat. Even someone as stoic as her had to admit that Roel’s miniaturized form was a lethal weapon that could make any woman’s heart melt.
She was affected as well despite having always viewed herself as a man.
Thinking back, that might have also played a part in her extending an invitation to him in a fluster. What a pity it was that she didn’t receive a positive response from him.
“I mustn’t mess things up this time around,” she murmured with a deep sigh.
She gazed at the moon outside the window and prayed that everything would go smoothly.
Saint Freya Academy’s central district, assembly hall.
In a staff room located at the back of the assembly hall, a formally dressed Roel sat on a chair as he browsed through the letters Nora and Charlotte had previously received with trembling hands.
Not too far away, the two young men whom Roel considered to be his deputies had stiffened looks on their faces.
“… Who wrote these?”
After carefully reading through the letters twice, Roel Ascart finally raised his head and posed a question to his two deputies with a gentle smile. It was terrifying, so terrifying that the two criminals decided to drop the act and come clean.
“Chief, they were written by Paul Ackermann!”
Without any hesitation, Geralt pointed a finger at Paul and cried out with a pained look on his face, as if he had been trying to hide this secret for his good friend but could no longer bring himself to do so. He shook his head in deep remorse as he tried his best to squeeze out tears to perfect his act.
“When Paul told me about this matter, I immediately asserted that our chief isn’t that kind of person and that he must have misunderstood something. However, he insisted that you have eloped with Senior Lilian and that you have even got her pregnant… I-I…”
Geralt spoke with such an anguished tone that it was as if he had faced grievous injustice.
Paul Ackermann was utterly dumbstruck.
You were the one that said that feelings have no place in the circle of nobility. You were the one who suggested this course of action! Why am I the one taking the fall now?
Is this what nobles are like? Utterly despicable!
“Big brother Roel, don’t listen to him! I concede, I did misunderstand the situation between you and imperial sister Lilian, but it was Geralt Stephenson who beguiled me into writing those letters! He was the one who came up with this lousy idea!”
Refusing to bear the blame all alone, Paul Ackermann exposed Geralt as the mastermind of the operation. He even went to the extent of sharing excruciating details about Geralt’s philosophy regarding the circle of nobility.
With neither willing to take the fall here, a shitstorm thereby commenced.
“You were the one who signed off the letters!”
“You wrote the letters with your own hands!”
“You were the one who sourced the letters!”
“You were the one who sent the letters!”
Such words were spewed across the room. What was amazing, though, was how their mudslinging skills were visibly improving real-time. From childish accusations, they grew to the level of clearly laying out each other’s crimes and substantiating it with their own eye-witness account, all with a logical flow of thought. Eventually, they even began nitpicking each other’s testimonies.
“When did I say that they are criminals? Don’t try to twist my words!”
“You said that big brother Roel got my imperial sister pregnant, and the two of them escaped together. Isn’t that implying that they are criminals?”
“That’s called elopement, elopement! How is that a crime?!”
“… Enough! Stop arguing.”
Unable to take their nonsense anymore, Roel finally silenced them. He glanced at the duo, who had quietened down after their outburst, and took some time to consider this matter. In the end, he let out a helpless sigh.
There was not a shred of doubt that what they had done was utterly foolish—they nearly condemned him into the deepest level of hell!—but even so, their primary purpose was to help him. Considering the circumstances back then, their actions were actually fairly risky, and it must have taken them quite a bit of courage to pull it off.
It was human nature to avoid problems, but the duo took the initiative to help him instead of feigning ignorance, which meant a lot considering how huge of a matter it was for him to ‘elope’ with the esteemed imperial princess of the Austine Empire.
One must know that nothing good could come out of getting implicated in such a massive scandal.
To be honest, Roel would have been touched by their sentiments… if not for the fact that they had chosen the worst way to help him.
What further horrified him was that they actually had a ‘follow-up measure’. Had he not returned in time, they would have begun spreading news that he had eloped together with Lilian. That would have indubitably caused a scandal on par with Watergate!
Argh, I really want to give them a pummeling the more I think about it, but it wouldn’t do for me to punish them too harshly either. The important thing is to get the message across.
Roel pondered for a long while before finally speaking up.
“The two of you will be responsible for cleaning the Azure Manor this month. I’ll have someone conduct routine spot checks. If I find out that any of you have slacked off, I’ll extend your punishment.”
Both Paul and Geralt were stunned by Roel’s ‘punishment’. They didn’t expect it to be so light. Hearing the doubt in their voices, Roel’s eyebrows shot up and he asked sharply.
“Or would the two of you prefer corporal punishment instead?”
“Cleaning sounds wonderful to me!”
“M-me too! I’ve been wanting to clean the Azure Manor for quite some time now!”
Roel shook his head and harrumphed. He rose to his feet and began making his way out of the room.
“Let’s conclude things with this. Make no mistake, I don’t condone what the two of you have done, but I don’t want to spoil the mood tonight.”
The moment Roel opened the door, the loud cheering and applause coming from the assembly hall gushed in. Amidst this bustle, he turned around to look at the stunned duo and smiled.
“After all, tonight is our night.”
Changing ‘alliance of the three races’ to ‘Tripartite Alliance’ for the sake of coolness :D