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We’re not good enough.
Those sorrowful whispers wouldn’t leave his mind.
The Temple Knights had confronted the men, who under orders from the Dragon Priestess Melia attacked the Shrine, to rescue Malacia. In the end, they were no match for them, and despite being seriously wounded, under the care of the infirmary staff they were all recovering well. With the Temple Knights short-staffed the shrine’s security was taken up by Lutora’s colleagues, the Royal Knights. Under the authorization of the Knight Captain Jolga and the Crown Prince, they assisted the Shrine in shifts.
Even though the shrine belonged to the national religion of the Dragon God Faith, it was widely known as a place with many secrets and had a firm grasp on its internal affairs. As such, the Royal Knights were doubtful that the shrine would accept their help. However, the priests and ladies-in-waiting who worked at the shrine had welcomed the Royal Knights with surprising ease.
This was of course, largely due to Lutora’s influence.
In the eyes of the Temple Knights and the Priests, several of whom had been orphans themselves; the Royal Knights, composed primarily of aristocrats, were akin to knights of a foreign land.
However, Lutora, introduced by Malacia, overturned that impression. Contrary to his noble upbringing, he had a friendly and caring disposition. Even his playfulness with the children whilst uttering complaints was quite endearing.
Additionally, he wouldn’t hesitate to listen to the Temple Knights, was courteous towards the women, and took the initiative to handle the menial labor.
A Knight of the Royal Order.
He was unlike them, an existence far above.
Yet he was just like them, a human who laughed and cried.
Seeing the priests and ladies-in-waiting honestly hold him in high esteem, the knights of the Royal Order too, held goodwill all the same.
The members of the Royal Knights were mostly of noble birth. As children, they were given special education, with the natural expectation they would one day become someone who could support the country. The daily life of aristocrats was filled with politics, and it was only when they were swinging their swords with their friends that they could have time to rest.
However, the priests and nuns had absolutely no wish for such matters.
The daily life of Head Priest Malacia, who had up til now been regarded as a “dangerous person” amongst the castles’ residents, boosted the respect the knights felt towards him.
He was so busy that it bewildered Lutora, who once accompanied him daily. He spent his days devoting himself to the citizens of the Kingdom of Palcemith, as well as the Ancient Dragon they regarded as a god. When going to the royal castle, Malacia appeared wearing a comfortable Dalmatic made of loose cloth. His white hair that had been tied up would be crammed into a Mitre, making him appear taciturn. But now that he had a head injury, he skipped the Mitre and full formal wear. He’d often appeared in the residential areas of the Shrine, wearing a comfortable and light tunic.
If you met his gaze, he would smile, and gracefully offer his thanks. The Royal Knights soon became his admirers.
Inversely, Lutora’s mood got worse as he attended to the preparations for [The Light of the Spirits] and had been unable to accompany Malacia. Whenever Lutora heard his fellow knights praise Malacia, he would nod with pride saying “Right?”, but at the same time, he would whisper, “It would be better if I was the only one who knew”, a gloomy feeling simmering in his gut.
Malacia had recently become comfortable with Lutora, and completely let down his guard around him. At the end of the day, he would stop by Lutora’s room to chat, and then saying “It’s too troublesome to go back” would sleep unreservedly in his bed. In the darkness, Malacia’s translucent skin and pale white hair blended into the white folds of the sheets he was wrapped up in. When Lutora reached out a hand and gently held him close, the body hidden under the cloth was so delicate one would not think it belonged to a grown man.
Despite Malacia himself not realising it at all, everyone else was well attuned to
Lutora’s feelings. Conspiring to leave Malacia and Lutora alone together, however, would end with Malacia roughly trampling all over their plans, and effectively ruining the mood they set up.
And so, a few days before the [Light of the Spirits], on a certain afternoon.
Lutora was summoned by Amy, who was still in the infirmary.
Being called upon by Amy who he considered to be like a sister to him, he wondered what was wrong and visited the infirmary, and was told something.
To [protect] the Shrine and the children.
The tragic devotion that Malacia had dedicated himself to a long time ago.
“…We’re not good enough, Sir Lutora.”
She couldn’t even move from her bed yet.
Tears welled up in the corners of her eyes as she sorrowfully mumbled.
“We are children of the Shrine. We are protected… by Lord Malacia. It is by the grace of Lord Malacia that we have lived this long.”
When they found out how they were [allowed to survive].
It was only after they were old enough to understand the meaning of it.
“Up until ten years ago; the relationship between the royals, the nobility, and the Shrine were not great. If they did not interfere, it would still be fine. But they had meddled too much. With the Shrine, that is. The royalty and nobility kept making unreasonable demands of them.”
At that time, Malacia was eighteen. Exactly the same age as Lutora was now.
To those children, Malacia, who was also an orphan like them but had already become the Head Priest at eighteen, was a presence they looked up to.
The smile he aimed at the orphans was always kind and gentle.
“Sir Lutora… Lord Malacia is beautiful, isn’t he?”
Amy looked up at Lutora while smiling through her tears.
“But humans, you see… want to crush something, the more beautiful it is.”
“Lord Malacia would, Lord Malacia would… to prevent us, to prevent the children from falling prey to those [unreasonable demands]…”
“Always, always, by himself. He would be summoned by a group of nobles, alone. Ever since he was younger, much younger. Much earlier than we knew the truth. Until he came to the former Prime Minister’s attention, due to Lady Julieta becoming the Dragon Priestess.”
“Sir Lutora. I think that Lord Malacia is probably quite fond of you.”
To the children of the Shrine, Malacia was their father, their brother, their savior.
Because they had been together for so long, there were things they understood. There were also things that they could guess.
The relaxedness that Malacia deliberately showed Lutora, felt like the result of his faint feelings.
“But someday… Someday, should Sir Lutora find out about that, about his past. That’s why, I’m sure.”
Maybe that’s why, from the start, he pretended not to notice. So as not to… hurt Sir Lutora.
So that Lutora would not continue harboring feelings for him.
The words that Amy said, sobbing with her eyes closed.
Simply resonated deeply with Lutora.
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