09 – The Opening Ceremony (Part Two of Three)
“Ah, Lady Kaldia, Lady Emilia. You’re here.”
“I’m pleased to see you’re doing well, Your Highness. You as well, Viscount Dovadain, Sieghart.”
Just before where I’d moved with Emilia under Eric’s guidance was a stage, located in the deepest section of the Schtelt Hall. The crown prince was there wearing his usual smile, and alongside him was Grays, who looked on with little warmth to speak of, as well as Sieghart, who lightly raised his hand in answer to my superficial greeting before exchanging pleasantries with both Eric and Emilia.
“Well then, let’s go over our plans. We have welcomed Lady Emilia as a transfer student to this academy as a symbol of the peace between us and the United Kingdom of Lindharl. We have to make this clear to the other students.”
We all nodded at the crown prince’s words. I could faintly feel the tension creeping back into Emilia, but knew that there was nothing I could do for her now. In the days that would come, she would have to stand in front of the masses so many times she might get sick of it. There was nothing I could do but allow her to adapt to such a notion.
“Grays will escort Emilia to the middle of the stage, while Kaldia will take on the role of her guard. She will, for this purpose, wear the ceremonial rapier and follow her. Eric and Sieghart may stay close to me and for protection. Not much of a change from the usual.”
“Here, Kaldia. The sword.”
I accepted the rapier Sieghart held out to me and carefully placed it at my hip. The awe-inspiring and elaborate craftsmanship that had been put into the thing was enough to make me balk at the idea of wearing it, even if it was only for a short while.
“The blade’s been shattered, but don’t let that stop you from drawing it if something happens, Kaldia.”
The crown prince’s nigh outrageous words came the second the belt had been fastened around my waist.
“Albert, please. That’s a little too much, even for a joke…”
Grays had spoken up, less due to forethought and more on instinct. He wasn’t wrong, I was willing to give him that much. Even if the crown prince had meant to lighten the mood with a small, passing jest, he’d certainly put far too much weight into it.
Every child born of noble standing attended this academy. It was only reasonable that the guards would be aware of the gravity of such a situation, and that they would spread all throughout the grounds. There could not, by no conceivable means, be given room for more than a petty squabble between students.
“Oh no, Grays. I wasn’t joking. The king himself has ordered that Princess Emilia be guarded by Kaldia, after all. Do not think of her as a mere decorative bauble. And we should always have a plan ready for emergencies, wouldn’t you agree?”
With a light shake of his head, the crown prince had completely denied any reason for reprimand. The conversation was teeming with restlessness and further hidden implications, but no one could find the words to counter what he’d said.
“You jest, surely. This is the academy. I sincerely doubt we’ll have to deal with any emergencies –”
“You might have a point. But nevertheless, what bears mentioning must be mentioned, regardless of where one might find oneself. Isn’t that so?”
The grim expression that warped Grays’ features was immediately recalled by the man himself. I had a feeling that he didn’t want Emilia, who was now observing this development with wide eyes, to see his expression.
“Pardon. That was too forward of me.”
“Don’t you worry about that. You did nothing wrong. Kaldia… are you ready?”
“Of course, Your Highness.”
I nod at his voice, which seemed more of a reminder than anything else. I couldn’t say that I’d completely rationalised the crown prince’s thought process, but at the same time, I knew that I was no longer allowed to show even a sliver of emotion that Grays had displayed.
“Your Highness, the ceremony is about to begin. Please, come this way.”
The crown prince gave Grays’ shoulder a light tap as one of the instructors called him over, then turned to me for a split second and gave me a smile. When he passed by me, he spoke again. I could hear the faintest whispers of an apology.
He didn’t wait for me to turn around. Instead, he simply rose to the stage with Sieghart and Eric at his side. The only thing he’d left in his wake was a feeling of uneasiness.
“Lady Emilia. This way, if you would. We should still have some time left, so please, take a seat.”
Grays wasn’t looking our way, and I seized the moment to sit with Emilia upon the couch that was so close to the wall until we were called.
“Excuse me, but… what happens now?”
“I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you. I’m sure that His Highness just doesn’t want me to get too lax. This academy is a place where all noble-born children of this kingdom come together, be they from the castle or the archduke house. The security is as strict as you’d expect. His Highness simply means to make me realise that I’ve been asked to protect you, Lady Emilia, and that I have no reason to grow lazy regardless of where we might be.”
Knowing that it was best to relieve her of any misgivings, I offered her an explanation that presented the prince’s words as a mere wake-up call, though I had a strong inkling that that wasn’t the case.
The relationship shared by those in Arxia and those in Lindharl was beyond sour. Though we had achieved peace largely through our control of the lands, Lindharl and Arxia had never merged, the former being left with some semblance of governmental autonomy and international influence.
Voices that expressed their displeasure with this would spring forth, undoubtedly so.
Above all was the issue with the family circles of nobles that had seen no profit from the ordeal, the same nobles whose utter disgust for Lindharl was so bordering on the irresponsible that one would be foolish to turn a blind eye to them.
Provided that the kingdom’s treatment of her remained outside of the nobles’ sphere of knowledge, then today was surely the day any ill will towards her might reach its peak, though only once she’d confirmed her status.
As for the rapier, I wouldn’t have to return it to the crown prince’s hands until this ceremony was completely over.
Though I refrained from letting out a sigh while in Emilia’s and Grays’ presence, the mere thought of what was to come was a heavy burden. While I was still standing guard, I remembered thinking of nothing but the fact that I wanted to go home.