After Christof and Klaus left, silence descended in the room.
What was I going to do…? My heart was ready to beat right out of my chest.
Calm down, calm down, I was telling myself, when he called my attention.
“Your Royal Highness.”
“Ye-…yes!” I replied in an extremely surprised voice, the opposite of what I’d wanted.
I was simply mortified.
Sir Leonhard looked at me without batting an eye, completely serious.
“I am only forbidden from eating while on duty. I am reluctant to ask, but…may I speak with you?”
I never expected Sir Leonhard to break the ice first.
Unintentionally, my posture and expression went stiff. My palms were covered in sweat, and my pulse slowly picked up even more speed.
It had been my intention to apologize all along, so even if I was in for a reprimand, it didn’t matter. The order of things merely changed around. Right, that was it.
You don’t know whether it’s for better or worse, I reasoned with myself, trying to regain my peace of mind.
He stared at me fixedly as I freaked out, then bowed his head for some reason.
Taken by no small amount of surprise, my voiced failed me.
“My deepest apologies.”
“It has always been my wish to convey my apologies to Your Royal Highness once more. However, there was never an opportunity to meet, and it has been long delayed.”
Why was he the one apologizing?
I was thrown off course at this unlikely turn of events.
“Please raise your head. Sir Olsein, I never expect to receive an apologies or anything of the like from you. None at all,” I told him impatiently, and he did as I ordered.
He’d probably sensed my discomfort.
“The apology should be coming from me. Half a year ago, with nothing but my own judgment I acted by my own authority, and caused great trouble for everyone in the Order. Under normal circumstances, I should have consulted with you or Klaus the moment I had perceived wrongdoings afoot. Please accept my sincerest apology. I know I thought too highly of myself, misguidedly believing that there was something I could do.”
I hung my head down in shame and regret.
“Your Royal Highness,” Sir Leonhard said.
When I looked at him, I could see myself reflected in his sincere eyes. Eyebrows lowered sadly, he slowly shook his head.
“Please do not judge yourself so harshly.”
“Your judgments were not wrong. If you had done nothing, Hilde Kramer could not have been saved. If you must condemn someone, then this one is to blame. You were hurting, but without even thought spared for your sake, I only told you to endure your anguish…I should never have said those words.”
I am truly sorry, he said, deep regret affecting the sound of his voice.
I was at a loss for words.
The moment Hilde was in danger of losing her life, I’d completely lost it. It was only thanks to his directions that I’d managed regain my composure, so I it had never crossed my mind to blame him.
Yes, that was really how I felt about it.
I’d been been blind to my own shortcomings.
“The fact that you would not bring yourself to rely on me nor Klaus was very frustrating. ‘Why must you be so obstinate, insisting on carrying on by yourself?’ There were also times I wondered to myself in impatience. However, at one point, I realized why. It is not a matter of you refusing to rely on others, but that you cannot bring to do so.”
I blinked. I stared at him blankly, a step behind in comprehension.
But it proved to be no illusion when he knelt before me and picked up my hand. From below, his dark eyes without a hint of shadow pinned me down, and my heart shook.
“I wished to one day convey to you my wish for you to depend on those around you. At the time, I thought perhaps you disliked relying on others because of your sense of royal duty, of your obligations. But there was more. I felt your pain.”
“You look down when you have something want to say, and that has not been the only stubbornness I have observed. To make no further mention of that, though, someone who thought too highly of herself would not be able hold herself back in such a manner.”
He paused, peering at me. The girl reflected in his eyes looked extremely pitiful.
She had an insecure look on her face, dismay mixed with relief. She looked like a child who had been lost, and had finally found her way home.
The strong palm was slowly covering up my hand.
“When you are alone, what do you… Do you not carry a great burden inside?”
I couldn’t react right away.
The hand he held shook. My voice was stuck.
Far from doing all the things I should, I put up with my desire to burst into tears because it was all too much.
I’ve been so anxious this whole time.
Even if I wanted to confide in someone, there was no one. I could only keep telling myself it would be okay.
Even while I hold the hand of the person dear to me, the one who asked me to open up to those around me, I can only think of flags weighing on my mind. I’ve been enslaved to this unreasonable notion that I must do everything on my own, by myself.
Now I knew a little more.
When I tried to protect everyone, I was protected in return, wasn’t I? I refused their helping hands, turning my back on their kindness.
I didn’t know my own abilities either, a truly hopeless child.
And yet, he still watched over me. He stilled worried about me.
Many times over he held out a kind hand to the charmless child even though she rejected it, asking her to rely on him.
“If you do not wish to speak of it, you need not force yourself to share. However, if you ever feel that which you hold inside is too painful…then please share your burden. I, too, hope you will allow me to protect that which you desire to safeguard.”
There was a painful pressure on my chest.
Moved by a sudden impulse, I flew into the kneeling Sir Leonhard’s arms.
For a moment he held his breath in surprise, but he didn’t tear me off.
His big hands patted my back, trying to calm me down. They moved a little awkwardly, like he didn’t know how to use his hands, but they were gentle. It was a gesture that spoke of handling something fragile, surely so that I would not become frightened.
Each time I feel his concern and kindness, I think…
I love this person.
Love, love, love.
Not the character from inside the game, the Commander of the Royal Knights from “UraSeka”.
Once again, I’ve fallen in love with this person…with Sir Leonhard von Olsein.