First Posted at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu
The morning breeze blew in the faintly lit room,
Waking up, Lutora stretched and let out a short yawn.
It was early morning. Seeing how he couldn’t hear the morning prayers, it must have been quite early.
But Lutora promptly leapt out of bed, washing his face and mouth in the basin he had filled with water the night before. Throwing away the used water, he rinsed the basin and filled it with fresh water. Returning to the side of the twins sleeping soundly on the bed, he lightly tapped their heads.
“Cain, Abel, wake up!”
“Hey, wake up quickly! Don’t you know what day it is today?”
“Wasn’t someone going to come today?”
The twins opened their eyes with a snap.
The two young ones leapt out of bed in tandem, waking up to Lutora’s words.
“That’s right! Today…”
“That’s right. Lady Julieta is to come for a visit today.”
“Hey, wash our faces and dress up. Don’t forget to brush your teeth too.”
As the twins scurried about, Lutora, who had gotten ready before the twins, left his room. The room had become his sleeping quarters for these past three months. He gave a quick glance across the hallway.
En route to the chapel just beyond the hallway, a very familiar man spotted Lutora standing beside the door, and gave him a small smile.
“Good Morning, Lutora.”
The Head Priest, on his way to the morning prayers, had a peaceful expression as always.
“Are Cain and Abel in your room again? I did advise them not to attempt a midnight rendevous in your room. I told them your lover would get angry.”
“I’m telling you, Morino isn’t my lover…might as well have you sneak into my room at night.”
Malacia heartless laughed off Lutora, who had inadvertently revealed his inner desires.
“Hahaha, what a funny joke.”
“Good Morning, Reverend Malacia.”
“Yes, good morning to you too.”
As the twins, who rushed out of the room next, clung to Malacia, the words, “I’m not joking.”, that Lutora spoke as he scratched his head, did not reach Malacia.
“Both of you woke up early. Well done.”
“You see, today’s the day Lady Julieta comes to visit.”
“Yeah, she’s praying right now. After that, she told me that she would come to play with you all.”
“Yay! I love Lady Julieta!”
Standing beside Abel, who raised both his hands and jumped, Cain, nodded as his cheeks turned crimson.
“My my. Lady Julieta seems quite popular.”
“That’s because she’s being considered akin to a [Saint] right now…Sigurd’s overprotectiveness is scary even from afar.”
“Well, it’s great if brother and sister get along,”
It had been more than a month since Anderheim and Julieta, the pair of father-daughter had left the Prime Minister’s residence.
Their new residence was a mansion on one corner of a hill that gently extended from the west gate of the capital.
Surrounded by a small forest, the mansion was not that large but was nevertheless enveloped by verdant greenery and flowerbeds full of roses. Led by her father and brother, Julieta happily strolled in the garden, brushing her face against the roses and cheerfully smiling. Rumours of her beauty soon spread far and wide.
Various anecdotes accompanied it. ‘The former fiancée betrayed by the Crown Prince’; ‘The woman who was forced to become the Sacrificial Priestess instead of the Crown Prince’s beloved lover’, and ‘The descendant of Sage Asbal that endured bitter pain for ten long years’. These half-truths soon manifested as gazes of sympathy towards Julieta and the simultaneous sense of hatred towards the Crown Prince and his fiancée.
Young noblemen came uninvited, day and night, in the hopes of interacting with Julieta. Indignantly muttering with his mask-like poker face, Sigurd rejected them, saying, “I won’t let anyone catch a glimpse of Julieta.” It made Lutora’s blood run cold.
The four of them offered their morning prayer at the altar and had lunch together. Malacia left for the chapter for his usual morning duties and the twins left for the orphanage, saying they had to make preparations for the reception. Left alone, Lutora decided to got to the outer court to meet the two who were visiting.
As Lutora walked in a leisurely manner, a temple knight came rushing to him in panic.
“Hm? Amy? What happened?”
She was wearing her Sugarloaf Helmet as she was on duty, but Lutora quickly recognised her voice and gait. As Amy reached Lutora’s side, she cupped her hands near her mouth and whispered to him.
“This is bad, Sir Lutora. Under the staircase, His Highness and his fiancée have arrived by carriage.”
“They didn’t announce their visit, did they?”
“Of course they didn’t! What was His Highness thinking!?”
“It’s time for Lady Julieta and Sir Sigurd to arrive soon…what to do!?”
Although she did not know the exact details, Amy did know that this combination was a recipe for disaster, and rushed to find Lutora in the Shrine.
“It would be fine if it were on His Highness, but Nasha too…it’s hard to show my face…”
Two months ago. Lutora had volunteered to gather inside information about the Shrine at the study in the royal castle. But he was eventually outed by Melia, who told her older sister Nasha, that her use of Suimo began at Lutora’s behest.
When she asked Lutora why he didn’t stop her, Morino defended him, saying “If it weren’t for that, Melia would have gone crazy.”But what the both of them received was a harsh yell from Nasha. She replied, “It’s because of your incompetence that my sister became a victim!”
Abused and called traitor, Lutora left the castle heartbroken. Malacia, who welcomed him back, was shocked to see his haggard appearance. Informed of the situation by the weeping twins who clung to him, Malacia cradled the crouching Lutora’s head, spending the whole night beside him without a word.
I was scorned by the Nasha, the one I live. Yet I do not hurt. It’s all thanks to Malacia.
Lutora had to admit, the impossible had happened.
By no means was he an angel. He was a man who would willingly dirty his hands for the sake of the Shrine and the kingdom.
His fortitude as he smiled, taking pride in his disgrace, should not have captivated Lutora.
Even his task of spying on him was now a mere excuse. The children of the orphanage were cute and the temple knights idolized him. Spending his days beside Malacia, whom he despised as a foe, he realised the other could be so gentle, so full of affection.
This time, I want to become Malacia’s strength.
I want to be relied on. I want to be told, ‘it’s no good if you aren’t there’.
“Maybe I should say I will be hard to face them…I’ll go and welcome His Highness and Nasha. When Sigurd and Julieta arrive, guide them along the outer court to the orphanage. The chance of them checking on Melia’s condition is high, but I don’t think they’ll visit the orphanage. What about Melia’s medicine this morning?”
“On Malacia’s instructions, they administered her a diluted dose. She is calm now.”
“We can do nothing but pray that the medicine doesn’t wear off…let’s go.”
As he urged Amy to the base of the stairs, below the arch stood a carriage with the royal seal engraved on it. She prepared to take Vikram’s hand to alight from the carriage. Questioning Lutora’s appearance at the base of the stone steps, she denounced him, speaking loudly on purpose so everyone around could hear.
“You traitor! You said you’ll stay by Melia’s side!”
“Nasha! What are you saying!?”
The Crown Prince immediately remonstrated her, but the person in question, Nasha, puffed her cheeks in complaint.
“But Your Highness, you heard it too! Melia was made to drink Suimo on Lutora’s orders!”
“But isn’t it medicine to ease the Dragon Priestess’ sufferings? It’s no doubt a powerful medicine, but if it weren’t for that, Melia would go crazy. Didn’t he explain that? You’re barking up the wrong tree blaming Lutora.”
“Then at least let Sigurd be by Melia’s side instead. If her lover Sigurd is by her side, even Melia will be at peace.”
“Sigurd is now Lady Julieta’s guard.”
As he alighted the steps, a frighteningly composed voice escaped his lips.
Distancing himself from the days when he was carried away by love, from the days when the fire burning again in his heart left him at a loss.
What he saw was the ugly side of his former love. One who was self-centred and egoistic, not bothering to hide her low birth at all.
“Protecting the Sacrificial Priestess is an important duty of the royal family. You have experienced it first hand, you should know it, right Nasha?”
“Don’t call me so casually.”
She drew closer the Vikram as if to hide behind him. From the shadows, Nasha glared at him.
“Sigurd is Melia’s fiancée. Using the excuse of him being her brother, staying together with a man who already has a fiancée, that woman knows no shame, does she?” [Hasr: irony much?]
Looking at her actions a few months back, it was the pot calling the kettle black.
Receiving a dubious gaze from Lutora, Vikram felt ashamed.
“I don’t have any recollection of ever getting engaged to Melia. May I ask who you meant while talking about a shameless woman? Was it my sister Julieta?”
There was no doubting who spoke with a tone heavy with wrath.
Sitting beside a veiled woman was an imposing youth dressed in a knight’s uniform.
Sigurd Isys Asbal.
Hasr11: Got my finals this week (to be exact, from today). So I probably won’t get time to post a second chapter this week. Expect 24 to be up by next Tuesday.
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