I knew Ariarose was nice, but is being too nice really a bad thing?
After walking for several minutes, we arrived at a church.
There were a lot of people there. It was like some kind of refugee hospital.
"...What is going on here?"
It is common for churches to provide basic accommodations for war refugees from neighboring countries. But I remembered that lately things have been very calm between nations, and there are almost no wars.
I noticed that there are people sleeping around the church with blankets over their heads, all of them looking sick.
The sick could hardly stand or walk. Some are lying on the ground, unable to move, while others are groaning continuously. Some of them are already dead, wreaking with the smell of decay with flies swarming around them. Some mothers continued to feed their babies among the dead people.
It was a tragic scene I was observing, but the more I saw the people, the more I realized some things.
"...They all have gray skin. They also have scales, like dragon scales. is this the 'stone scale disease'?"
"Exactly. How do you know?"
"When I was a child I used to hide in the library of Estark Castle, and it was on one of those sleepless nights that I read about such a disease in a book."
I continued my explanation.
"The skin becomes scaly and gray, eventually becoming hard as stone. When it reaches the internal organs and bones, it can cause instant death."
"I see you are very well informed."
"Thank you, but why are we here?"
After speaking those words, we entered a hall where there were several tables with many people eating on them. This is where food is offered to those who have no homes, or in which case, people who are sick... Among the people there was a figure that stood out, it was Ariarose, she was handing out food to the sick.
"What is the princess doing!?"
"Quiet, otherwise she'll know we're here!"
I was suddenly embarrassed by my recklessness in raising my voice in such a place. Marie made it so that I could moderate my voice and keep it at a level that only she could hear.
"...I see you still haven't removed your hood."
"Exactly. Ariarose-Sama is secretly running the soup kitchen."
"Did you really come all the way from the royal capital for this...?"
''...We're not that dumb, Ariarose-sama came because she stole a medicine that was being experimented on in the royal castle's laboratory."
"So she's a rebellious princess."
"That's right. Ariarose-sama cares for the less fortunate."
"But why take such a risk in stealing medicine?"
"Why do you say that?"
"It was a matter of time before the capital acted and distributed the medicine in the country, this way people would recover, all without the need for you to risk your lives."
"It's true, we are dealing with a pretty nasty disease. It's a matter of time before they take action. However, what if the special medicine for stone scale disease manufactured by the government is sold by someone else? What if it never gets here?"
"Balmunk, the Minister of Finance, who is stingy and greedy, is also the former director of the Institute of Pharmacy."
"I see you're a quick learner."
"Still, it's too dangerous, Ariarose is at risk of contracting this disease. If she gets infected, there's probably no turning back."
"What do you think will happen if Ariarose-Sama gets infected?"
"I don't know."
"If you get infected, you will die. Ariarose-Sama would rather die herself than see it happen to her people."
Unbelievable. I thought it was simple or bold, but Ariarose was doing exactly what Marie said. She had taken the hand of an old man who was now in the throes of stone scale disease.
He directs a trembling hand to her hair.
Those who suffer from the stone scale disease have an unpleasant appearance. Some look like ghosts or decaying corpses. Yet Ariarose allowed her hair to be touched without the slightest resistance.
Ariarose probably reminded that dying man of some relative. The fact that there is no one here accompanying him suggests that his family is already dead.
I hope this man has found some peace in his last agonizing moments. That was all I could judge in such a situation. The princess stood in front of the dying man, smiling at him as if she were bidding him farewell.
It was like seeing the figure of the Virgin Lucia.
"I think I have found my reason for living."
I muttered to myself.
In the holy bible, they mentioned a woman so pure, she brought God into this world from her womb. She was the purest woman on earth, the Virgin Lucia. Perhaps Ariarose was her reincarnation.
Ariarose saw me, smiled and said;
"Good morning, Licht-Sama."
Her smile exuded calm and warmth.
If I could protect her, how much satisfaction would I feel?
I wondered how much meaning I could bring to this meaningless life of mine.
That's why I knelt down in front of her and drew my divine sword.
I give it to Ariarose.
She probably understood my intentions without saying anything.
"It looks like you've made up your mind."
She placed the tip of the sword on my shoulder with a fluid motion.
"I, Ariarose von Latculus. Descendant of the people created by God, and daughter of King Lylexian and Queen Dorua, declare the following."
Ariarose solemnly read her title before continuing.
"The bastard son of Count Tessius Estark, Licht Estark, do you offer me your allegiance?"
"Will you die for and defend me at all times and in all ways?"
"Will you give your life to protect the citizens of this country?"
Ariarose nodded with satisfaction and concluded.
"From now on, you are the knight among knights. On this day, you will renounce the name of the Estark and take the name Icehilk."
It is the name of this city. A poetic surname given to a beautiful princess full of compassion and vanity.
When I say that name, I feel as if my heart is mysteriously purified.
I used to feel inferior to the surname Estark, and every time I engrave the surname Icehilk in my heart, I feel my past fade away.
Or perhaps I was born and brought into this world to receive this name.
Such was the appropriateness of the name Icehilk.
The accolade ritual comes to an end.
And so, the bastard Licht Estark, became Licht Icehilk, the princess's personal knight.
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