A tense atmosphere.
The majestic, pure, and sacred throne room.
From the door where Mika and the other knights had been earlier, a royal blue carpet ran straight to the feet of His Majesty.
The white chalk pillars that rose on either side of the carpet were modestly yet beautifully decorated. The dome-shaped ceiling was painted in pale blue with a fairy-tale history of the country’s rain blessings. Behind the throne that was a few steps up, lined up a row of large arched windows. The lights shone through from behind as if they were His Majesty’s halo.
No matter how many times I visited this place, I couldn’t help but sigh in amazement at the divine atmosphere.
In the center of the room, were several knights kneeling while bowing their heads.
Next to His Majesty sitting on his throne, were Brother Seth, Brother Vincent, and I lined up in that order.
The ceremonial velvet cloak was unbelievably heavy. On the shoulders of the cloak dangled a large coat of arms with an ostentatious ribbon featuring a bear, rain, and a sword. I’m now haunted by the delusion that I might have looked like a cloak ghost.
In the end, the formal attire that Marie had prepared extensively while glaring at me was mostly hidden by the cloak. I thought that it was all for naught, but I didn’t say anything about it because I was too afraid of her angry expression.
“I hereby begin the investiture ceremony. Knights of the first prince, Seth Ancene Pluvia, come forth.”
The voice of His Majesty echoed through the spacious throne room.
Flapping their blue cloaks, three of the knights that were kneeling stepped forward. Then, they bowed before His Majesty, and with a resounding thud, knelt on their knees again. Holding the ceremonial sword, Brother Seth took a step forward.
My brother’s quiet, calm voice rang out.
“Oswald Didier, come forth.”
Oswald, the knight with short black hair, —the second son of the Marquis of Didier, stood up and knelt right in front of the throne platform.
“Oswald Didier. Will thou become my sword, and pledge to protect the people together with me?”
“If it be so, make thy pledge.”
Oswald was also the childhood friend of my brother. They were always together, so it seemed natural that my brother would make this choice.
I remembered feeling warm inside when I saw Oswald shedding tears in the shadows after he had been chosen. And then, I also remembered his heroic final moments. Right now, with a sharp and manly face, he gazed at my brother’s sword and slowly lowered his eyelashes.
“My sword shall be under my own righteousness, shall be a shield and a lance to protect my Lord Seth and his people, and be the foundation for the prosperity of the Kingdom of Pluvia.”
My brother’s sword tapped Oswald’s right shoulder, then the left shoulder, and stopped.
Oswald then gently kissed the tip of that sword.
As Brother Seth smiled in response, Oswald stared firmly back at him.
It was the way the future king and his knight should be.
I believed it to be so. I didn’t doubt that everyone also believed so.
And then, I lost— the two of them.
My guts contracted. The anger that I felt back then almost flared up in the pit of my stomach, so I clenched the back of my teeth. My eyes met with Mika’s, who was looking at me with a strange expression on his face, and I turned my eyes away.
“I don’t have to think about that now”, I thought to myself as I frantically pat my trembling body under the cloak.
In the same way, Brother Vincent who had deep blue hair, appointed Jelaire Barthe as his knight. And then, Jelaire made his pledge, saying “My sword shall be a shield to defend my lord Vincent and his justice, shall be a lance to build his ideals, for a better and brighter future for the kingdom of Pluvia.”
There was nothing wrong with the wording of that pledge, but it still sounded thorny. That pledge alone made it clear that Jelaire wanted Brother Vincent to take the throne.
When I glanced to the side, I could see Brother Vincent huffing proudly, and Brother Seth, whose eyes were not smiling at all.
(From this point on… no, the conflict has already started at this point, and from long ago.)
The first and second princes ended up being in the same school grade. The factional strife between my older brothers was fierce. The fact that their birth mothers came from opposing dukes’ families was also a factor in the conflict.
My mother, who passed away soon after giving birth to me, was a princess who had come to marry from a neighboring country. I was raised by the queen along with Brother Seth. The queen was a very kind person, but I’m sure that she also had self-interest that wanted me to support Brother Seth, although it should be obvious.
I had no backing in the factions of this country, but considering that my grandfather was still alive and well in the neighboring country, I wanted to believe that even for a little bit, I could be as useful as possible to Brother Seth.
I took a deep breath and slowly let it out.
My body trembled, even though I wasn’t this nervous the last time I chose a knight who was recommended to me by others.
I took a step forward. And then— I called his name.
The name— of my knight.
“Mika Lennart Chardin. Come forth.”
I could see that Mika’s shoulders visibly twitched.
Most likely, he had never imagined this. After a moment’s pause, Mika flapped his blue cloak and knelt before me, who was on the platform.
“Mika Lennart Chardin. Will thou become my sword and pledge to protect the people together with me?”
“If it be so, make thy pledge.”
Mika’s eyes were looking back at me intently. In actuality, he was supposed to make his pledge while still lowering his gaze. And yet, he said it while looking at me straight in the eye, as if he was challenging me.
“My sword shall always, at all times, as long as I live, for my one and only Lord Nagi.”
I blinked my eyes at those words.
While forcibly trying to suppress my inner confusion, I tapped my sword on Mika’s right shoulder, then on his left shoulder, and looked at his demeanor. I was the one who intended to surprise him, but Mika’s pledge was something that I hadn’t expected, so I ended up feeling embarrassed and flustered.
Mika then slowly brought his lips to the tip of my sword.
My whole body was covered in goosebumps.
An indescribable feeling that couldn’t be said as joy or fear spread throughout my body. I unconsciously gulped.
Mika’s eyelashes, which were supposed to be lowered down, were now turned to me before I realized it. His jade green eyes looked translucent. My heart started to race, gradually pounding faster at the glint of the sword that he had pledged to me alone, forsaking peace, people, and justice.
(This is… just like a pledge of love…)
I felt like my cheeks were almost flushed in cinnabar color involuntarily, so I clenched my back teeth.
The beautiful light from outside fell like a path through the skylight, making Mika’s jade eyes gleam.
Then, I said,
“I, the third prince, Nagi Lucian Pluvia, hereby declare Mika Lennart Chardin as my knight for life.”