“Now then, please wait over here.”
The one who bowed reverently was an old man dressed in a holy robe with plenty of gold and silver ornaments. He was introduced to me as the administrator of the cathedral in the royal palace, but the holy belt he wore was purple, the highest color, and the embroidery was gold, so he probably had a good standing.
The people in the cathedral are generally polite to me.
The sanctuary is a cathedral, and it may have found some meaning to my blood.
At the old man’s signal, two old men, also dressed in formal attire, closed the door in front of me.
The large door, which is more than twice my height, is closed with a creaking sound.
…Night has come…
I was left alone in a space closed off by darkness.
Strangely though, I didn’t have a sense of fear.
…It’s a mysterious place…
This place, in the basement of the royal palace, was called the Prayer Room.
It had the highest ceiling of any building I had ever stepped into.
For a while, I sat on a platform, letting my eyes adjust to the darkness.
It has been a day of quite a few things.
These days, every day has been so dense and with so many things going on, that it’s felt like a roller coaster ride.
If I take my mind off of it for a moment, it doesn’t make sense even though it’s happening right in front of me.
…Perhaps His Highness Errol was working in the dark to take Nigel-sama’s position?
And then he exposed it in front of me while I was hiding in His Highness Nigel’s office earlier, and was discouraged.
…I wonder how much of a crime that would be?
The punishment would also be quite severe if taken as it was said, even when reducing the crime to first class.
Nigel-sama’s tone had been so flat that it didn’t seem realistic.
As I think about it vaguely, my eyes are gradually getting used to the sight.
“Well…it’s time to go.”
Once my eyes adjust, I can maintain a reasonable sense of equilibrium in the dark. I walk on the dark path, which is not very wide as I was taught.
…After this tunnel, there is a flower garden. I spend the night in the pavilion in that flower garden.
That’s the Jieusai, they say. (*** The word used for Jieusai was 潔斎だ which had multiple translations that weren’t clear to me. I think it might be referring to some sort of purification or cleansing ritual though)
The tunnel goes on for a while. It may seem long, but it’s a single path and there’s definitely an exit, so I was told to proceed in peace.
I need a flashlight…nope, in this world, it’s either a candle or a lamp…
However, in Jieusai, they say that the rule is to pray alone.
And His Highness, who is also performing Jieusai at the North Tower, said he would pick me up when it was time to go.
How do I know the time in this place? And how will His Highness come to pick me up from the North Tower? A few questions come and go.
Even though I’ll find out tomorrow, I’d still like a better explanation.
Nigel-sama did not explaining things well enough.
I suppose there are many things that cannot be explained. But I feel like he even neglected even the minimum necessary explanation.
Even so, I wonder if I’m still walking…
True darkness…In this darkness, not a single ray of light shines through, and I can only walk by touching the wall to advance.
I’m not sure if it’s because I can’t even see my feet, but I almost feel as if I’m floating in the darkness.
…There’s something strangely reassuring here…
It was a strange feeling.
It wasn’t a place I was familiar with. Rather, it’s the first place I visited today.
And yet, the absolute sense of security that comes with a strange nostalgia…It was a completely different kind from when I was in the arms of His Highness.
This outfit, if someone saw me, they might mistake me for a ghost.
The all-white outfit of a simple white gown, white shoes, and a white ribbon tying my hair together…It did not blend in even into this darkness.
I daw a faint light at the end of my vision.
A single ray of light shines into the darkness, casting white circles on the stone floor of what appears to be marble.
Looks like a spotlight.
Finding the light has made me walk much faster.
At that moment, just as the toe of my shoe may or may not have stepped on the edge of the circle, my field of vision halted and was covered in a blinding white.
I closed my eyes reflexively.
…What’s that?…I was just about to find out what it was…
Something flashed in the corner of my mind, but it disappeared into the light, leaving only its outline hazy in the back of my brain.
I felt as if my feet were wobbling, so I squatted down on the spot.
How much time had passed?
It seemed like a moment, and I think I waited a long time.
I groggily opened my eyes and opened them, adjusting to the light a bit more.
There was a lot of admiration.
Because this was amazing.
What was spread out in the light was an entire flower garden.
Flowers, flowers, flowers…Everywhere I look is filled with flowers in full bloom.
“…It’s like being in a painting.”
A murmur escaped me.
Pale shades of flowers, and large flowers in bright primary colors of red, yellow and orange.
Or maybe this is just a dream…
Before I knew it, I thought I might be asleep already.
Because the flowers bloom here ignore the seasons.
Kodemari is probably a spring flower, and the crimson roses over there would have been winter blooming.
Light red, white, cream and light purple…This cute little flower of seven pieces comes in a variety of shades. Perhaps because it is the national flower of Dardinia, it can be found in many places around the country.
It is easy to grow and tolerant of cold weather. It is widely popular because it is the flower symbolizing the meeting between the founding king and his queen, the Fairy Princess.
Come to think of it, I’ve only seen blue rosephilia in my room.
Even in this flower garden, the blue rosephilia is the most common.
Blue…The color that symbolizes the royal family of Dardinia.
Come to think of it, there was a Rosephilia in the coat of arms of Elzevert, too.
Elzevert’s coat of arms is the same two-headed dragon as the royal family.
…I wonder if that means they have the same blood?
I can picture each coat of arms in my head.
Is it based on this founding myth that the royal coat of arms has a crown on it and the Elzevert coat of arms has a crown of Rosephilia flowers on it?
Incidentally, Grachies in the north have a bow and arrow and a winged lion, Alhanes of the south have a trident and a sea dragon, and Feldies in the west have a sword and a unicorn as their coat of arms. You can tell which family one belongs to by looking at their coat of arms.
“By the way, where is the arbor…?” (***An arbor (四阿) is a shady garden alcove with sides and a roof formed by trees or climbing plants trained over a wooden framework)
It is a sea of flowers as far as the eye can see. A white one floats in the distance…Is it that one?
Unintentionally, my feet stopped in their tracks.
…Up there…How far is that?
If I look closely, I can see a small island in a sea of flowers. There is a white dome-shaped roofed arbor.
“I wonder if I can reach it…”
No. I have to get there! I clenched my fists tightly, determinedly.
No wonder it wasn’t sandals or heeled shoes that they made me wear. Although they were white in color, the lace short boots that went all the way to my ankles were easy to walk in.
“…I need to take a break…”
However, there are flowers everywhere here, and there is no place to sit.
This pathway, paved with white, shiny stones, is the only part where flowers are not blooming.
In this pure white attire, I can’t just sit there casually. I am closer than before. But…but…I still have a long way to go.
It was when I was thinking about sitting there.
I heard a voice. His Highness’ voice was familiar to my ears.
I look around with a big smile on my face.
He was dressed in the same simple all-white outfit like me—A loose-fitting shirt and pants that fit his legs. His Highness’ boots were also white.
Nigel-sama picked me up as if it were a matter of course.
“…Is it time to leave already?”
“No…I used a little subterfuge.”
“Yeah…I thought you were in trouble…”
I thought it was amazing. Then I was filled with a feeling of gratitude, and was so happy and joyful that I didn’t know what to do.
Nigel is my hero. He always comes to my rescue.
I didn’t know what to say in words, so I hugged him tightly.
“Thank you for coming to get me.”
“……No, it’s nothing.”
His Highness Nigel tilted his head slightly, then re-hugged me as I clung to him, and gently stroked my back.
“This is said to be the Garden of Beginnings. However, the Founding King and the first Queen did not meet here. It’s going to be a place further underground from the Prayer Room where you entered.”
“Yeah. The royal palace on the surface. Below that is the fortress ruins, and this place is further underground of the fortress ruins. The royal palace stands on top of the multi-story ruins, and the lowest level of it is here.
“It’s not that far down, though…”
It’s true that the prayer room I entered was underground, but I haven’t gone down to that lowest level.
“…The prayer room ascends and descends.”
You mean that whole big room was an elevator? Huh? How awesome is that?
I had thought it was shaking. When I was trapped in that darkness, I was going down into the basement, room by room.
“The same thing is in the north tower. You can only enter from these two places.”
“What’s the security like?”
“Both the Prayer Room and the North Tower are only accessible to those who are qualified…And both only open to the underground during the Founding Festival.”
“What are the qualifications?”
“For example, some of the high priests can enter during prayers.”
“And the North Tower?”
“If one is part of the direct royal line.”
“Is there anyone who can go in both?”
“That’s you and me.”
“You are the ‘Princess of the Key.’”
I see. So the ‘Princess of the Key’ is a physical key as well?
“What are we doing here?”
“For the time being, we’re supposed to reflect on the legacies of the founding king and his queen and pray to the goddess.”
“The prosperity and further development of this country, I suppose…Yes. Maybe everyone will be prepared for this night.
—Preparedness. That’s what I need.
Prepared to stand next to him.
Prepared to be his queen.
Prepared to protect this person and this country.
…Yeah. All right.
I thought it was surprisingly easily.
I have already decided to walk together with Nigel-sama…and live with him. If that’s the case, now is the time.
“…Well, it’s a formality.”
“What is this Jieusai ceremony about?”
“I mean…Is it for the coronation ceremony or is it for the Founding Festival?”
“It’s both. If it is only for the Founding Festival, you as the Maiden will only enter the Prayer Room. If the maiden is not the Key Princess, the prayer room will not be elevated, nor will it open the way to this place. Tomorrow morning, the clergy will open the prayer room and the sword will be offered to the king.”
“What about me?”
“There’s nothing in particular that needs to be done…but I would like to confirm the ancient folklore here.”
His Highness’ eyes sparkled.
“Yes. There are several variations of that story, which is also known as the founding myth. The anecdote of the royal treasure sword, Rufanazat, was added in later times. Hence, the sword used in the ritual was of course made in later times. But was it a complete later addition?— I think the sword was there from the beginning.”
His Highness begins to speak lively, like a fish in water.
“The Founding King received the sword from the Princess, which means two things.”
“What are the two things?”
“One was gaining the sword in material terms. The other was that he was given the command of the Princess’ armed forces. The fact that he had been given command was especially significant. Because the Princess’ armed forces at the time would have been part of the Empire’s most elite.”
“What makes you think they were so elite?”
“After reviewing the history books of the Empire, we know that the core of the princess’s knights would have been the Kings Guard. The Kings Guard is the most elite of the elite. Most of the nobles in the East are their descendants.”
Dardinia’s obsession with bloodlines may be due in part to that.
“What happened to the material sword? At that time, considering that the ring, which is said to have been given together, still remains, the line that it has decayed is thin. If so, it must still be there somewhere…I believe it’s here.”
“Because it’s the safest place to be.”
“But there is no hiding place.”
‘There would be no need to hide it.’ His Highness pointed to a stone statue.
The kneeling knight and the princess receiving it—The sword was indeed at the knight’s side.
“…Luthia, touch it.”
I do as I’m told and reach for it.
When I touched it, the sword glowed white and the light glowed like a flash.
This light, it’s similar to the light I saw when I arrived here…
When the light subsided, a sword was left there.
His Highness has a very mysterious expression, even though he said it himself.
“…I’ve been wondering about it for a long time, and had developed a number of hypotheses, but to have those hypotheses proven so easily, it’s just too good to be true.”
I slipped out of His Highness’ arms and picked up the sword. It felt heavy and I lifted it with both hands and offered it to His Highness.
“Here you are, Nigel-sama.”
His Highness gazed at the sword, and then took it with his right hand.
He checked the weight and made sure that he couldn’t pull it out of its scabbard if he tried to.
“…Do you want to try the ritual with the real thing?”
The real sword is completely different from the current treasure sword. The scabbard is undecorated and very plain.
If this sword is real, it is the right thing to do it with this sword.
“Yeah. Let’s do it.”
His Highness Nigel was very receptive to my suggestion.
“…If we perform the ritual with a real sword, will something special happen?
“…Let’s check each one of them out.”
It was strange to see His Highness poking around with the sword he had obtained, placing it on the bench of the arbor and checking the writing and carvings, or peering at the jewels set in it. It made me feel happy.
Little did we know that something strange had already happened at this time.
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