When Ester was twelve years old, there was a time when she couldn’t see me for about a month because she was assisting Her Majesty the Queen with her duties. Until then, we had met every holiday, so I eagerly awaited the day we could meet again. And finally, when she came to see me…
Ester was clearly acting strange. I panicked and asked her if she was just tired and feeling unwell.
Ester, can I see you again soon?
. . .Sure, I’ll come again.
However, after saying that, she started avoiding me. Until then, we had talked a lot without hiding anything from each other, even venting our weaknesses.
I still remember that time well. I kept thinking back to the words I said and the actions I took towards Ester, wondering if I had done something to make her dislike me. But I really had no idea, and I even asked her directly…but.
Ester, did I do something wrong…? I swear I won’t do anything to make you uncomfortable again. So…
No, there’s nothing like that. So please don’t worry about it.
With those words, Ester turned her back to me and walked away… Her choice of words had returned to being formal, even though it had been more relaxed before. It felt like she wanted to keep her distance, and it pained my heart.
She hardly ever came to see me anymore, and when I went to see her, she pushed me away. Only during events where a partner was required or official events where she had to be accompanied by her fiancé, did she reluctantly stay by my side, saying it was her duty.
Ah, she must have come to dislike me… I understood that, but it took me some time to accept that fact.
To say that it wasn’t painful would be a lie. However, I continued to work hard, hoping that she would love me again… because I couldn’t bear to let her go, even if Ester hated me.
I loved Ester.
So I never expected to hear possessive words coming from Ester’s mouth. Just the memory of it made my lips twitch, and Roland looked at me with a piercing gaze. I coughed, trying to hide my embarrassment.
“So, why were you talking about the king’s consort?”
In the end, Ester left after reporting to the queen that I would participate as her partner as usual. I wanted to accompany her at least part of the way, but she refused and told me to return to training.
I asked Roland again, who seemed to be having a fun conversation with her earlier.
“…That means she praised you for becoming the vice-captain.”
“Oh… about that.”
“you seem to think that Her Highness was indiscriminately hitting on everyone, but I only… no, that’s not good either.”
Embarrassed, Roland scratched his head. It was a past story, and I was more bothered by the fact that Esther seemed to be enjoying her conversation with him earlier, so it didn’t matter.
“It seems like she still doesn’t know that Theodore was the one she protected at that time.”
“Ester was only five years old at the time, and I didn’t even introduce myself…”
Yes. Ester seems to think that our engagement was our first meeting, but we actually met when she was five and I was seven years old.
Born to a mother who was one of the most powerful magic users in the country and a father who was the vice-captain of the knight order, I inherited both of their abilities strongly. As a result, I was always at the top of my class in the knight school that most noble sons attend, and was even called a prodigy. I was also considered the most likely candidate to become the fiancé of Princess Esterize, the first princess.
“You’re acting all high and mighty with the power you inherited from your parents… If it weren’t for you, I would be the next king consort!”
Roland often took out his frustrations on me because of that. In reality, if I weren’t there, he would have been the closest to that position, and I knew that he had been working hard for it since he was young. That’s probably why he couldn’t stand that I, who was stronger than him without much effort, didn’t have to struggle as much as he did. Of course, I had been trained rigorously by my father since I was young, so it’s not like I didn’t make any effort, but no one acknowledged it.
“…But I don’t really want to be the king consort or anything…”
“Shut up! I’m the eldest son of the Duke Oberti family! I’m more important than you, the son of a count!”
That day, just like always, I was pushed and hit for being cheeky. It was true that Roland Oberti came from a high-status family, and no one was willing to help me to the point of defying him. In fact, maybe everyone, including Roland, had the same disdain for me.
I consulted with my parents, but my mother said, “You won’t be fit to be the next king’s consort if you can’t avoid such a brat,” and my father said, “You won’t be able to protect the princess if you don’t become strong enough to not care about such things.” They didn’t take my pain seriously and instructed the guards to stay still unless it was a matter of life and death. What was the point of having guards then? My pain seemed like a trivial matter to them.
I didn’t want to become the fiancé of a princess or a king’s consort, even though I had never met them. I didn’t become strong because I wanted to.
“If you’re so great, does that mean it’s okay for you to hit people?”
A voice that didn’t match the situation, as delicate as the sound of a bell. Even Roland stopped stepping on me and turned his gaze toward the source of the voice.
“Then you can’t complain about anything I do to you, right?”
There was a little girl standing there, smaller than us.
“That veil… Is that you, Ester? Oh, what is it?”
“What is it? It’s what you’ve been doing!”
“Ow, it hurts! She’s here!”
The little girl, wearing a black veil like the queen I had seen from afar, had a mysterious strength hidden somewhere in her small body and knocked down Roland with surprising force.
I was stunned by the scene unfolding before my eyes. Roland, who had been unilaterally using violence against me just a moment ago, was now being helplessly beaten by a young girl.
Even in the midst of it all, I could tell that the girl who Roland couldn’t fight back against was none other than Princess Esterize, and even Roland’s guards couldn’t lay a hand on her. The princess’s own guards and maids were also confused.
Later, I heard that she happened to be visiting the knight school that day.
“. . .Do you think it’s noble to hit someone weaker than you? Or is it just because he was a weak opponent?”
“Ugh. . .”
“Your power is not meant for things like this.”
Even I, who had been subjected to violence by him, felt a little sorry for Roland, who had been beaten up so badly that he was in tears, as he bowed his head to the young girl.
“I’m sorry. . .”
“I’m not the one you should be apologizing to.”
“. . .I’m really sorry.”
“Oh, no. . .um. . .it’s okay if you won’t do it again.”
It wasn’t that easy to forgive him, but I didn’t want to make things any worse for him, so I answered that way for the time being. Then Princess Esterize, who seemed satisfied, bowed her body.
“Well, I’m sorry too.”
“Your Highness, please raise your head. . .!”
“Oh? Then I’ll heal your wounds. I don’t know how to hold back. . .I went too far.”
The princess cast a healing spell on Roland, who frantically raised his head. The healing magic I saw for the first time danced around, showering the surroundings with a sparkling and warm spring-like light. It was very beautiful.
Generally, magic is the ability to create one or more of the four elements: fire, water, wind, and lightning. By adjusting its form and power, it can be used in battles and daily life…that’s what it is. Regardless of the amount or strength of magical power, every human being can use at least one of the four elements, from babies to the elderly. However, only the female royal family of Acardi can use a saint-specific magic other than those four elements. Healing magic is one of them.
That’s why they should be protected more than anyone else, and their husbands, who stand by their side as guardians, must be exceptionally strong.
“You too, come on, show me.”
After sending Roland, who had been healed, home, Her Highness squatted in front of me, who was sitting on the ground, and said so.
“No, it’s just the usual for me… I can’t trouble you with this…”
“But it still hurts, doesn’t it?”
Asked like that, I couldn’t say that I was fine. Certainly, I had become accustomed to this situation and had given up, but that didn’t mean that my sense of pain had disappeared…it had been hurting all along.
For some reason, I felt like crying and looked down so that she wouldn’t see my face.
“It’s okay. It’s only natural for the strong to protect the weak.”
Her Highness puffed out her chest proudly.I felt pathetic, thinking that I was being seen as a weak person who needed protection by a smaller girl… but it was the truth, so it was truly pathetic. Perhaps sensing my inner thoughts, the princess hastily added.
“Huh, I didn’t mean to say that you’re weak, you know? Look, I’m a girl, so my magical power is the strongest.”
She defended me in such an odd way of explaining, and the sense of tension in front of the most powerful person waned.
From the gap in my lowered bangs, I could see Her Highness praying with her hands clasped, casting healing magic on me. The painful and damaged parts disappeared as if it were a lie, and the wounds closed up and disappeared as if they had never been there.
“That should do it. Are there any more painful spots?”
“Yes. Oh, but Your Highness, your hand seems to be injured too. What about that?”
“It’s fine. It’s just a little scrape. I’m strong, so it’s nothing.”
The back of her soft fingers were red and rubbed raw from striking Roland with all her might. It looked painful, enough to make a 5-year-old girl cry, but she laughed cheerfully and waved her hand.
If only I had the knowledge and skills to treat her… No, even if I could provide medical treatment, as a mere second son of the count’s family, I wouldn’t be allowed to touch someone of her noble status. That fact made me feel somewhat lonely.
“Thank you very much.”
“No problem. May you become a good guardian of this country.”
I had only shown a shameful appearance at our first meeting, and I didn’t introduce myself because I didn’t want to disappoint her as the top candidate for my fiancée. I would realize the meaning of that later.
And on that day, when I returned home, I was summoned by my mother, the head of the Kieza family. I was sure I would be scolded for bothering the First Princess, but I headed to my mother’s office, ready to accept it.
“I heard you met with Princess Esterize today.”
“Y-yes. She not only helped me, but also kindly used healing magic on me. However, However, I didn’t treat my own hand because it was my own fault…”
“I have received a report from the guards about what happened… Princess Esterize’s kindness is truly admirable, but as a vassal, I must know.”
My mother sighed heavily as she spoke. It seemed that what she was about to say was different from what I had expected. As I sat down on the sofa at her urging, she continued.
“Princess Esterize’s healing magic doesn’t actually heal injuries, but rather returns the body to its state before the injury occurred.”
“Does that mean she can manipulate time?”
I couldn’t help but stare at the part of my body that had been injured. I remembered feeling as if the wound had never existed, rather than having been healed. But manipulating time would require an immense amount of magic power, far beyond what a typical four-elemental magic could do…
“Yes. Therefore, it requires a considerable amount of magic power. Princess Esterize is only five years old and was already using all her power to heal two injured children. She is currently bedridden due to magic exhaustion.”
My mother chuckled wryly, saying it was a fitting punishment for a child who had gone too far.
Magic exhaustion. I had deliberately experienced it once during a training session to gauge my remaining magic power. It was a feeling of severe anemia and hunger that made me feel as if all the blood had been drained from my body at once. Even though I couldn’t fully convey the pain, it was so intense that my head felt like it was splitting, and I was so nauseous that I couldn’t get out of bed for several days.
“Out of magic power…and yet she didn’t show any signs of it…”
“Hehe, even though the solution is childish for someone your age, you seem to be incredibly patient.”
It’s not hard to imagine why she pretended to be okay. It was probably to avoid worrying me or making me feel guilty.A 5-year-old girl, and for someone like me whom she didn’t even know.I couldn’t become strong for the sake of a princess I had never met… That’s what I used to think.
My mother looked at me with eyes that seemed to understand my feelings and spoke as if to console me.
“Do you understand who you should serve and protect?”
“. . .Yes.”
For the first time, I thought that I wanted to become stronger for that child. I wanted to become someone who could protect, not just be protected.
“I gave up the position of the next king’s consort that day.”
“That’s okay. I’m here for you.”
“You say that, but you used to say that you didn’t want to become the king’s consort.”
“That’s because…I didn’t know anything about Ester.”
I never thought that I would go through such painful days, not wanting to give up that position to anyone since that day, when I had thought that I didn’t want to become the king’s consort, as Roland had said. It was something that I couldn’t have imagined before.
At that time, I didn’t know whether the feeling I had was loyalty, love, or both.
It was three years later, on the day we decided to get engaged, that I realized I loved her. She was delighted with the ugly flower crown I made for her, acknowledged my efforts, and called my scarred hands cool. I felt like everything had been rewarded, and at the same time, it was natural that I had fallen hopelessly in love with her.
“Well, I’m worried about the third princess, but… if you show off your lovey-dovey side like earlier, it should be fine.”
“I’ll do that even without you telling me.”
Roland waved his hand and returned to training, and I, who had originally left to find Ester, followed him.
Since getting engaged, I have never neglected my training or let my guard down, for fear that someone stronger than me might appear and take my place. I never intended to give it to anyone in the first place, but hearing Ester say she loves me made me even more determined.
I’m glad Ester was born in Acardi. If this were another country, there would be no way for me, the second son of the Count’s family, to stand next to her as a member of the royal family. But in Acardi, as long as you are strong, you have the right to stand by her side.
Ester is now 17 years old. In this country, women usually get married at the age of 18, but recently, demon beasts have been increasing, and investigations, subjugations, and reconstruction of affected areas have kept us busy, so the plan has been postponed. It is said that we should get married by the age of 20 at the latest…
“…I want to get married soon.”
Will this possessiveness that fills my heart be somewhat satisfied when I get married and see the face under the veil?