Contrary to the knight’s worries, Valia easily fitted in with the knights. She knew quite a lot about swords and weapons. Common ground was the most important factor in making human-to-human relationships friendly. In addition, knights were people who took pride in serving ladies. The knights were kind to Valia and she could enjoy their conversations.
“I heard that great swords are good for blowing off the entire neckbone.”
It was a conversation that was a little different from what was usually talked about between a knight and a lady.
“Yes… You’re right…”
“I heard you need monster-like strength to hold a sword and shield in each hand. As expected, knights are amazing. But a great sword is enough to defend. Why do you need to hold a shield together?”
“Oh, the reason is…”
The knights answered in a laid-back, yet sincere manner. Valia’s knowledge of weapons was not deep, but it was enough to have a conversation with the knights. It was only natural for the knights to be warming to Valia. In particular, there was an ultimate accomplishment for this lady.
“Hahaha! Unlike other ladies, milady is very interested in weapons.”
Valia was having fun talking to the knights and their commander, Shaun, whose interest was piqued. Suddenly, a voice interrupted their conversation, drawing people’s attention to it. It was a knight who suddenly cut in on their conversations while laughing out loud.
“Other ladies are always interested in jewelry, lace, and ribbons. When I see them chatting about accessories, it can’t be helped that they look stupid at times. They don’t even have any interest in topics like weapons… You’re certainly different in that respect. Hahaha!”
Valia answered calmly.
“Well, just being a lady doesn’t mean that they prefer accessories from birth. They were just educated like that. If they were to take interest in weapons, they would be scolded. Things like that are not for ladies after all. And yet, are they the ones at fault for that?”
“I don’t think it’s right to use the word ‘stupid’ just because you have different interests. Knights are people who take pride in respecting ladies. It was like that in my Kingdom. I guess it’s not like that for you, is it?”
“She’s right. Apologize, Ark.”
With Valia’s reasoning and even Shaun acting like that, Ark finally apologized.
Ark was a knight who was infamous for speaking bluntly amongst the knightage. And so, when he humbled himself and apologized, many of the knights were relieved. They were thinking that, either they would never be able to serve a lady like Valia anywhere else, or that all the ladies in the Kingdom were like Valia.
2. To the Empire
It was late at night. A brown carriage arrived at the gate of the Gel Empire’s capital. The carriage was not noticeable because it had an appearance similar to a common carriage. However, if someone had sharp eyes, they would know that the carriage was made carefully with only good materials.
The carriage, which had made a faint creaking sound with its small wheel, ran off the pavement of the capital. Its destination was the temple that was located in the capital of the Gel Empire.
After entering the Empire, opening the carriage window was entirely prohibited for security purposes. Thus, Valia had to stay calm throughout the trip. No matter how comfortable it was, she was still in a carriage. Valia wanted to sleep on an undisturbed bed with her feet stretched out.
“Milady, we have arrived.”
Just when she was about to get bored, Valia heard the voice of a knight. She twinkled her eyes. Usually, Valia would have been overcome by a fear of unknown places. But due to her tired body, she did not have any other thoughts.
“Can I get off?”
Valia’s voice was full of expectations that it could be heard even from outside the carriage. A smile slipped into the face of a young knight who had been in charge of entirely taking care of her for the day. He was just about to open the carriage door, but suddenly, his voice became sharp.
“Milady, don’t come out until I say it’s okay.”
Without time to answer Valia’s counter-question, the knight immediately closed the door. The knights guarded the carriage as if they were protecting it. Their faces became more cautious because of the crowd approaching with lanterns in the backyard of the dark temple. A chaste traced after them. They were the priests.
“From what I know, the discussion had already ended in advance. What’s going on?”
Shaun, the knight commander, asked first. He had been firmly alerted by the Marquess not to yield the temple princess to the temple because he must see her first before the High Priest.
“‘She is in this carriage.”
Then, the High Priest came forward. The knights showed their courtesy in unison.
“Greetings to the High Priest.”
“Get up. I’m just here to briefly greet the guest in the carriage.”
“His Lordship must see her first.”
“My, oh my. The knights are so loyal.”
He already expected it, but they were firmer than he thought. The High Priest looked at the carriage with a helpless look, for it seemed like they would not show her face no matter what.
As a High Priest whose top priority was to inherit God’s will, he was worried that the Marquess would not be happy with the woman in the carriage and that the marriage would not happen. Thus, he wanted to bless her in an informal way. However, the knights were hard to the bone. It was a secret only to the high-ranking priests that priests could bless someone personally so he could not even tell the truth in front of these many knights.
‘’Gracious heavens. I have good intentions, but I can’t even tell them.’
The Marquess would arrive in a little while. The High Priest thought hard and cleared his throat.
“Hmm, Lady Valia.”
Valia, who was leaning closely against the carriage window, flinched. She could not see outside but as she was already aware of what was going on, she knew that the atmosphere outside was unusual. She was wondering whether she should answer or not.
“I’m High Priest Philemon. I have something to tell you so please open the door and get out of the carriage. I swear to God that I will never harm you.”
‘The High Priest?’
Valia widened her round eyes. A High Priest was one of the top three high-ranking positions among the priests. Obviously, his status was also high. If Valia had a little more devout faith, she would have come out as if she was possessed.
[Milady, don’t come out until I say it’s okay.]
But Valia remembered the warning from the young knight. In the end, instead of opening the carriage door, she only put her shaking hands together in a praying manner.
‘O God, you saw that I didn’t do it on purpose. Please don’t punish me.’
A little time had passed. The carriage door did not even move. The High Priest’s complexion became darker and the knights let out sighs of relief. They were helpless because they would not dare to touch the High Priest. Shaun grumbled.
“High Priest, it will be difficult for us if you keep doing this.”
Just when the High Priest was about to open his mouth, someone interrupted him.
“He’s right. It’ll be really difficult for us.”
The faces of the knights were instantly brightened by the voice heard from behind the backyard. It was in contrast to the dismay that appeared on the High Priest’s face. The sound of the footsteps coming closer. Clear red eyes with well-balanced facial features. His eyes, adorned with flickering shadows, were pointed directly at the High Priest.
“Don’t you think so, High Priest?”
“My apologies, milord.”
The High Priest hurriedly took a step back. Regardless of good intention, this was certainly his fault. The Marquess agreed to the temple princess selection with numerous conditions, one of which was that the first person to be able to face the temple princess upon her arrival in Gel was neither the High Priest nor Emperor, but only Schuden Garth himself.
“We will discuss this later.”
His red eyes glared at the High Priest coldly. With his condescending and patronizing tone, along with his nasty expression, all of it was considered as bad treatment when meeting with a High Priest. But since the blame had already been laid with the High Priest, all he could do was to accept it silently.
“The temple will make sure to make up for this.”
Schuden Garth fully knew that the High Priest did not mean anything bad. He was just afraid that Schuden would not like the temple princess whom no one knew when she would appear again. But it was two different matters. Since the High Priest’s circumstances do not justify breaking his promise with Schuden.
Schuden took his eyes off the High Priest and approached the carriage. The young knight quickly muttered to the carriage.
“You can come out now, milady.”
Schuden briefly glanced through the young knight.
Did he already inform the temple princess just in case something like this happened?
He thought that the young knight was quite sensible. The carriage door, which had not moved at all, slowly opened. All the attention of the people standing in the backyard was on the carriage.
‘Oh my goodness.’
Valia, who was about to come out carefully, gasped and took a breath. There were many more people than she thought. In addition, everyone was looking at her as if they had already planned to do so, so she was almost suffocated by the pressure.
‘What situation is this…?’
In addition, Valia had never experienced so many people staring at her at once. She was already familiar with the knights because they traveled together throughout the day, but not the priests. Moreover, one of the people present was the High Priest, and it was said that there were only three of them in the entire continent. But above all, this man. Presumably from the conversation, the man who was holding out his hand in front of her was certainly…
His face was not clearly visible due to the backlight of the lantern held by the priests, but she could tell by intuition. Besides, it seemed that he was trying to escort her. Valia put her trembling hand on him. And when he was about to step on the carriage stairs.
Her legs, which had been sitting in the carriage for a long time, eventually gave out due to the tension. She stumbled down her steps, and in an instant, she fell forward. The knights standing nearby hurriedly reached out to her.
While Valia was falling, she felt a strong hug to her waist. She was not mistaken. She fell off. However, the only difference was that the place where she fell was not the backyard, but the arms of the Marquess. The only thing that fell on the backyard was the blue cloak that was wrapped around her shoulders.
“You must be very tired from traveling.”
A voice came right from above her head. At that moment, Valia thought that it was a really nice voice to listen to. However, she could not bear to raise her head to check. Her head was filled with the thought of wishing that she would just melt away and disappear.
Suddenly she felt that her legs no longer touched the ground. Valia’s eyes opened widely. His hands held her waist and thighs, respectively.
“It seems that you’re having difficulty walking, so I will carry you.”
It was only a one-day trip. Valia was not weak enough to lose her energy like that. But now she felt like she was suffocating with shame and she could not shout out bold lines like “I’m healthy so I will walk on my own!”. She eventually chose to stay still. The Marquess glanced down at Valia—who were red until her ears—and raised his head.
“Show me the way to the guest room.”
“Guide His Lordship.”
The priests guided the Marquess, who strode along with Valia in his arms.
‘I hope all goes well.’
The High Priest looked at them getting further away with a half worried and half concerned look.
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