Kaede watched as two dozen individuals took one knee on the gold-trimmed red carpet that led up to Queen Katell’s throne. Each of them wore a cape trimmed in white fur and decorated in floral embroidery. Their ceremonial capes followed a similar design as the garment that wrapped around the Samaran girl. Although instead of the icy-blue color used for Royal Chevaliers of the Empire, theirs was dyed a seafoam green — the national color for the Kingdom of Avorica.
The familiar stood at attention beside Princess Sylviane, while the Crown Princess sat on a chair to the Queen’s left. Two rows of various high officials, from dukes to generals to an archbishop, lined up on both sides of the carpet. Behind them was an audience of over a hundred nobles and bureaucrats of various lesser ranks. Though the crowd in attendance didn’t end there.
The Queen’s armigers and guardsmen formed two long lines that ran along the red carpet. They trailed out into the open corridors where more of Roazhon’s upper and middle class stood. The parallel lines then ran all the way to the citadel’s courtyard. There, thousands of the city’s populace waited to catch a glimpse of the ceremony.
It also did not escape Kaede’s attention that the Kingdom of Avorica’s throne room — with its high, cathedral-like ceiling, gilded chandeliers, and huge hanging banners — was considerably more impressive than that of the Emperor’s throne in Alis Avern. Although the seat itself, despite its gilded edge, simply could not compare with the symbolism of the Burning Throne.
Nevertheless, as Queen Katell slowly stood up from her seat, her bodyguard stepped forth and offered a ceremonial sword. With a single, fluid motion, the Queen drew the glistening blade and raised it high into the air.
Rather death than dishonor. Kaede read the inscription on the beautifully engraved blade. It was the motto of the coastal kingdom.
“Soldiers of Avorica!” The Queen began in a magically amplified voice. She lowered the arming sword and pressed its tip against the red carpet. Her regal pose was astonishingly dignified despite the extremely pregnant bulge of her stomach.
“We gather here, today, to celebrate the deeds of your bravery.” Katell continued as she dropped to a more solemn tone. “The past two months have been a dark period for our country, one which has tested the resolve of every citizen. All of us have lost something in this war, be it our homes, our loved ones, or our livelihoods. Many of us have struggled to see the light as a result. And I ashamedly count myself among those who have lost faith, as the death of my beloved husband weighed deeply upon my heart.”
Countless individuals in the audience looked down as they took a brief moment of silence with the Queen. The Avorican equestrian elite had been especially hard hit by the war. Their famous light cavalry had been virtually wiped out in the opening battles. The casualties could be felt even in the audience chamber. There was a notable imbalance of women over men, as far more noble sons than daughters joined the army and consequently perished.
“Yet, the same weakness has not befallen upon the men and women who stand before me.” The Queen continued as her voice filled with seeming pride. “Through your honor, your courage, your dedication, and your resolve, you have brought hope to those who had none. You have given the people of Avorica not merely a victory. You have renewed our faith — the strength to endure so that the sacrifices of our loved ones, our neighbors, were not in vain! And through it, you have ensured that Avorica and Rhin-Lotharingie shall ultimately triumph, as we always have throughout our history!”
Ultimate triumph… Kaede frowned as she reflected on the Lotharins’ victory during their Independence War. Sure, they did win in the end, but only after four failed attempts. The price in blood they paid was phenomenal and could be felt in the country’s population density even today.
Reading about Lotharin Independence always reminded Kaede of the tremendous losses the Soviet Union took to defeat the Nazis in the Great Patriotic War. Russians like Kaede’s father viewed it as a great source of national pride. Yet to Kaede, this always felt like an oversimplified glorification. Yes, it was a monumental achievement, and the people’s sacrifices in the struggle against genocide should be remembered. But what of the many mistakes that cost countless lives and hurled Russia into a demographic death spiral? Are they simply to be pushed aside by the ego of nationalistic rhetoric and heroic romanticization?
“Therefore, it is my honor today to present all of you with the sword of a Chevalier of the Kingdom of Avorica.” The Queen declared. “Please consider it a personal token of gratitude from not just your queen, but all the people of Avorica, of Rhin-Lotharingie! You have all gone above and beyond the call of duty. And through your personal examples, you have opened a path forward for our kingdom, our empire!”
“Majesty!” The audience responded by raising their fists before their chests in a knightly salute, a display of solidarity with their monarch.
“<Her Majesty certainly likes to put on a performance.>” Kaede thought. It was mostly to herself. But she also voiced it through a telepathy channel she shared with Princess Sylviane, the Oriflamme Vivienne, and the bodyguard Elspeth while they attended the ceremony.
The Samaran girl thought back to how Katell had the recipients march across the city before entering the citadel, despite the fact most of them already took guest residences within the castle.
“<She is grandiose, yet humble at the same time. Confident and regal in appearance, yet her words elevate not herself, but empower those around her.>” Kaede continued in a slightly impressed tone. “<She feels like a completely different person from the Queen that attended the war council in Alis Avern, when she engaged almost constantly in petty squabbles and power struggles.>”
“<Katell is a schemer and political opportunist, there’s no doubt.>” Sylviane replied. “<However, she is also a leader with a knack for earning the loyalty and trust of those below her. And while she is stingy and petty towards others in the Empire, she has always been generous and kind to her subordinates within the Kingdom. It is a quality that even my late father respects, as frustrated as he often is with her.>”
A leader who pushes up but not down. Kaede raised an eyebrow. That is pretty rare.
“<Isn’t that just because she’s not good at anything herself?>” Elspeth remarked.
“<I used to think that way as well.>” Sylviane smiled to herself. “<But there are many forms of leadership, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. Katell’s style is delegative and supportive. She fights hard in Alis Avern because she knows that every coin she claws back from the Emperor’s demands is one that she can invest in her own people.>”
“<It’s the reason why she can vanish for over three weeks due to depression, yet none of the power players in Avorica tried to seriously undermine or sabotage her position.>” Vivienne highlighted before sending an apologetic nod towards Sylviane. “<No offense, Your Highness.>”
“<None taken.>” Sylviane replied before exhaling an audible sigh. It seemed she herself acknowledged that she could not compare to Katell in this regard.
“Captain Alis Avaugour, please step forth.”
Kaede turned her attention back to the ceremony. She watched as a tall, young woman who looked to be in her thirties stood up rather awkwardly. The Captain took several steps forward with her right leg walking in a limp, before kneeling down again in front of the Queen’s blade.
“Captain Alis, in the bloodbath at the Gwilen River, you led a counterattack against overwhelming numbers which stymied an infidel breakthrough on the left flank.” The Queen announced. “Without your heroic efforts, the main defense line might have been breached before reserves could be brought up. In recognition of your courage, your valor, and your decisive leadership, I present you with the sword of a Chevalier of the Crown of Avorica.”
It was a reminder to all that the victory achieved in the Avorican campaign wasn’t merely the result of commanders like Pascal and Edith. Without the heroic sacrifices of countless men and women on the battlefront, even the best laid plans would have fallen apart.
And in turn, it’s how the ‘hero system’ of any society encourages sacrifice from individuals. Kaede thought. Considering the woman’s noticeable limp even weeks after the battle, she must have suffered wounds that, on Earth, would have resulted in the amputation of her leg.
Her Majesty lifted the sword and performed the accolade by tapping both shoulders, followed by the head. Then, the Queen grasped the intricately decorated scabbard from her armiger. She sheathed the blade and pressed the sword into the upheld hands of the young lady before her.
“Please rise, Dame Alis.”
“Thank you, your majesty. It is an honor to serve my queen and country.” The newly knighted dame stood up and took a deep bow. She then fell back into the ranks. And the queen was given yet another ornate sword as the ceremony moved onto the next individual:
“Master Fletcher Corentin Achards.”
“<Do chevaliers not swear fealty in return?>” Kaede pondered openly.
“<No. Only armigers do that.>” Elspeth answered as though it should have been the most obvious fact in the world.
Then what’s Sylviane planning, since she asked me to prepare an oath? The familiar fidgeted.
“<I realize that chevaliers are a rank of nobility while armigers are a profession. But how exactly are these two correlated?>” Kaede spoke with more care this time as she hated being made to feel ignorant. “<Are all armigers also chevaliers?>”
“<Only above a certain level.>” The Princess explained this time. “<It’s tradition that royal and oriflamme armigers are only recruited from chevaliers. However, the lower you go on the aristocratic ranking, the fewer chevaliers you see among the armigers of any particular lord. Though some lords will try to acquire the rank for all their armigers because it’s more prestigious.>”
“<Acquire?>” Kaede raised an eyebrow. “<I take it not all chevalier titles are granted for battle honors?>”
“<Chevaliers carry no title to begin with, only rank.>” Sylviane replied. “<But no. Chevaliers in Rhin-Lotharingie are essentially just a recognition of noble status, which is important to exercise the authority of command. The rank can be given out by any one of the five monarchs. Lesser nobles may also petition to have one of their subjects be made a chevalier. And unless they’re in bad standing with their liege, the request usually accepted.>”
Yet another difference from Weichsel then. Kaede thought, as the Weichsen Knight’s Cross was only bestowed upon those with accomplishments.
“<Wouldn’t that just cause an inflation of nobles?>” The Samaran girl commented dryly. It suddenly felt like the chevalier rank she received from Sylviane wasn’t worth all that much.
“<Inflation…>” Sylviane chuckled in amusement. “<Well… Chevaliers may not be landed nobility. However, the rank is expected to come with an appropriate residence, including passive income that would allow them to live a comfortable life. So it’s certainly not ‘free’ for a noble to hand out.>” The Princess then turned towards Kaede with a smile. “<And don’t worry, you’ll receive yours once we retake the crown lands around Alis Avern.>”
I didn’t even know. Kaede thought before her lips formed a little smile. Though I guess that means I can finally stop worrying about my livelihood.
Ever since her arrival in Hyperion, she had always been concerned by how she was going to make a living. It was one of the main reasons why she had stayed with Pascal, at least until she began to view him as family.
“<Nevertheless, there are certainly issues with nepotism, not to mention wealthy merchants buying their way into the nobility.>” Sylviane then continued. “<It’s also how the tradition of a chevalier’s sword came to be — which, despite its name, not all chevaliers receive. Those given one will have the honor of bearing them even inside the royal court. The same privileges, and more, will apply to what you’ll receive as well, just as soon as Katell is finished with her ceremony.>”
Kaede gulped as she saw the Princess’ expectant smile. It was one thing to receive honor and recognition in a private setting, like how Pascal passed her the Knight’s Cross. However, to do so in a royal audience chamber as hundreds, if not thousands of eyes focused on her?
Suddenly, the Samaran girl was no longer looking forward to what came after the Queen’s accolades.
“Is that girl a Samaran?”
“I heard she’s the familiar to the Crown Princess’ betrothed.”
“But she’s related to Lady Vivienne?”
Kaede couldn’t help but hear the hushed whispers thanks to her familiar-enhanced senses. It was a reminder of what she could almost feel — that every pair of eyes across the entire audience chamber laid squarely upon her right now. And if that wasn’t already bad enough for her nerves, the Samaran girl was also the only recipient in the second ceremony.
It’s just a ceremony. The familiar briefly closed her eyes as she took a deep breath. She felt distinctively light-headed as she strode up the red carpet and took one knee before the Crown Princess of the Empire.
“Your Highness.” She was barely able to keep the stutter out of her voice.
“Dame Kaede Nikita Konstantinovna Suvorskaya…” The Princess announced her name out loud before the people of Avorica.
It was a reminder of the decision Kaede had finally made — that she was going to start using the appropriately gendered version of her surname. This was not a choice she had made lightly or without misgivings. However, as odd as it felt to be reminded by her very name that she was a girl now, it was also a fact that she knew she needed to accept.
The past is now beyond reach. The Samaran girl thought to herself. This is my life now.
“In recognition of your dedication to duty in Alisia, your heroism on the banks of the Gwilen River, your contributions to the victory at Lysardh Point, and your wise counsel in the aftermath of Glywysing….” Sylviane’s voice resonated across the audience chamber as she listed the familiar’s merits. The Princess even acknowledged the events at the Academy, which Kaede once begrudged that she didn’t receive any recognition like Reynaud did.
The Samaran girl then heard the sound of cold steel being drawn from its scabbard. A swish followed as Her Highness raised the sword into the air, before lowering it onto the familiar’s left shoulder with a graceful tap.
“I, Crown Princess Sylviane Etiennette de Gaetane, hereby recognize you as a Royal Chevalier of the Empire of Rhin-Lotharingie. And on my authority as the successor to the Burning Throne, I promote you to the office of the Grand Squire of the Empire.”
The familiar heard audible gasps from not just among the audience, but also from Queen Katell’s highest advisors. Even her own lips fell open as Sylviane hadn’t revealed a word about this ahead of the ceremony.
Grand Squire… Kaede’s eyes swelled to the size of saucers. Although apart from its grandiose sounding name, she wasn’t actually sure exactly what the position was responsible for.
— Though someone in the audience partially addressed her curiosity as she heard their awed whisper: “that is one of the Great Officers of the Crown!”
The girl almost looked up before the sword on her left shoulder lifted. The weapon might be ceremonial, but it also had a sharp edge which immediately put a stop to the Samaran girl’s desire to move.
“<Y-your Highness…>” The Samaran girl spoke reluctantly over the still-open telepathy channel instead as she felt a tap on her right shoulder.
“<Shush Kaede, I’ll explain my choice to you later.>” Sylviane responded kindly before raising her mental voice slightly in warning. “<Do not embarrass me and accept the position like a good girl.>”
The Princess then finished the accolade by laying the tip of the sword against the back of Kaede’s neck. It was an act that Queen Katell did not perform with any of the other chevaliers. And the reason for it became clear as Sylviane reminded:
“<Kaede, your oath.>”
For a brief moment Kaede could only stay in her kneeling position, stiff as a statue and completely speechless. Her mind was almost entirely blank as a result of the overwhelming surprise. And as the silence lingered while countless eyes remained fixated upon her, she could feel her panic slowly setting in…
“<I swear before the eyes…>” The Princess then reminded her in an encouraging voice.
Memories of the words she recited countless times suddenly flooded back into her. The preparations that Kaede had made last night — when she read aloud the same paragraph over and over for hours — had at least left an imprint in her mind.
“Your Highness, I swear before the eyes of all Lotharins and of the Holy Father, that I shall be ever loyal and faithful to the Empire of Rhin-Lotharingie. I will obey the Crown of the Empire and its rightful sovereign, to defend the interest of Rhin-Lotharingie to the best of my abilities. In the name of the Realm, the Crown, and the Holy Father, Noblesse Oblige.”
The Samaran girl then looked up slightly and saw the Princess’ extended hand. She leaned forward and kissed the round, star sapphire adorning the royal ring. Then, as Sylviane pulled back the hand to sheath the accolade sword, the familiar raised both of her palms up and into the air.
“Dame Kaede, I entrust to you one of the Royal Swords of the Crown of Rhin-Lotharingie. From now on, whenever you present this sword, you are to be given the same authority and respect as if I myself am present. In addition, you may fly the royal standard and coat of arms, just as if you were one of my armigers.”
Then the Grand Squire is… the crown’s personal representative?
Kaede stared in awe as Sylviane pressed the beautifully decorated scabbard in blue and gold onto her fingers. Emblazoned on top was the coat of arms of the Gaetane dynasty. The arming sword, along with all the rights and responsibilities it represented, weighed heavily in Kaede’s hands as the Princess released it.
“Y-your Highness…” The familiar’s voice was barely audible before she raised her wispy voice. “I humbly accept this charge and the faith you place upon me. And I swear that I shall only use this to the benefit of Rhin-Lotharingie.”
Looking up, Kaede saw the Princess’ smile grow wider as she nodded at the familiar.
“Please rise, Dame Kaede.”
The Samaran girl’s knees still felt weak as she slowly rose to her feet. Part of her couldn’t believe what had just happened. She wasn’t just made a chevalier, but the top representative of the future empress. And as she glanced to the sides of the near-silent throne room, it was clear that most of the audience couldn’t believe it either.
“A commoner, and an outsider at that.” Kaede heard a mutter.
“How could Her Highness…”
Yet, it was at that moment when a pair of hands began to clap. Glancing over, Kaede immediately spotted the face of Lord Perceval, heir to the Duchy of Baguette. He stood with a wide grin near the front of the audience’s left wing. His acclaim was immediately joined by Sir Gerard and Lady Ariadne to his left and right, as well as Sir Reynaud who stood near the head of the armigers’ line — though this attracted a few stares from his companions as he was supposed to be standing at arms.
Regardless, the applause they started quickly began to spread. Colonel Hammerstein, General Macdonald, and Lady Lynette led the other military leaders to join in. And before a half minute was over, the entire audience chamber was in full ovation.
—– * * * —–
“Your Highness, why did you…” Kaede couldn’t help but voice the moment she closed the door.
The two of them had retired to Pascal’s room after dinner. They had met Perceval briefly as the healer did his nightly check on his patient’s condition, before departing with the medic who watched over the Landgrave today. Unsurprisingly, Pascal had spent much of the day sleeping, which included the hours of the accolades ceremony. His biorhythm had yet to recover from earlier in the week when the healers’ magic left him unconscious for over sixteen hours a day.
Now, the young lord sat upright in the large, four-poster bed wearing a set of velvet pajamas. In front of him was a large silver tray placed on a wooden frame, where several plates presented leftovers from the night’s banquet.
Pascal had a spoon in hand as he had grown somewhat accustomed to eating with a blindfold on. Nevertheless, the Avorican preference for shellfish required more dexterity than he had at the moment. A cushy armchair had been pulled up next to the bed, where Sylviane now sat as she helped him with his food. She used a fork to pull the meat out of a lobster tail before offering it to him.
“Say ‘ahhhh’.” The Princess smiled with a slight blush.
“I am not that crippled.” Pascal retorted with a scowl. He turned his head away before sinking his spoon into his soup bowl.
Sylviane pouted her cheeks, before she gave a soft sigh and placed the de-shelled lobster tail into his chowder instead. She then redirected her fork to attack some mussels for their meat.
“You do not have to peel every little thing, Sylv. I can eat by myself.” The young lord complained as he slowly brought another spoonful to his lips. Though the straining muscles on his right arm showed that he still had trouble maintaining his grasp.
“Your body is still recovering and you need more proteins.” Sylviane answered. “Better that I make it easy so you eat more.”
“You are acting like my mother.” Pascal groaned.
For a moment Sylviane laughed and opened her mouth to speak, only to close it right away as she thought better of it. A melancholic smile came over her lips as she seemed to remember that Pascal never knew his own mother. After all, the late Landgravine of Nordkreuz had died as a result of battlefield injuries when Pascal was still a baby.
“Well, it’s not like I have time to do this often, so let me feel like your fiancée for once today.” The Princess replied with a solemn smile as she continued to add food to his bowl. She then turned to Kaede as the familiar dragged the other armchair towards the bed.
“Sorry Kaede, were you saying something?”
“Yes, elder sister.” The Samaran girl nodded as she sat down. “I wanted to ask — why did you make me the Grand Squire today? Actually, what exactly is the Grand Squire?”
A faint, choking noise came from Pascal before he began to cough. Clearly, the news was a surprise to him as well.
“The Grand Squire is one of the ‘Six Great Officers’ of the Crown of Rhin-Lotharingie.” Sylviane answered calmly as she brought a cup of water to Pascal’s hands which he gulped down. “The other offices include the Grand Chancellor, the Grand Master, the Grand Chamberlain, the Marshal of the Empire, and the Admiral of the Empire. The Grand Squire was originally placed in charge of the royal stables and organizing the crown’s entourage when traveling. However, as that role was later assumed by the Royal Armigers, the Grand Squire’s role has become largely diplomatic.”
“Diplomatic?” Kaede’s eyes swelled as she connected the dots. “You mean… I’m to represent you in political affairs?”
“Both internally and externally, yes.” Sylviane turned towards her with a broad smile, which only made Kaede feel more faint in her head.
“But I have no diplomatic experience!”
Yet, Kaede’s almost distraught words somehow only made the Princess giggle.
“Kaede, you say that about almost everything.” Sylviane spoke mirthfully before her tone grew more serious. “But alas, nobody is born with experience. Everyone has to learn it. Rest assured, Kaede, as I did not give you the position of Grand Squire just to elevate you to an important position…”
No? Kaede frowned as it was exactly what she had presumed. After all, Sylviane needed a reason to bring Kaede into the Grand Council as planned.
“No.” The Princess beamed with a confident and determined gaze. “I chose you because I am certain that you will be excellent at it, Kaede. Not only do you have an earnest and forthright personality that is rare among those politically astute. You also have a strong sense of honor and reciprocity that is readily apparent to anyone who exchanges words with you. And that doesn’t even include your patience, your loyalty, your tendency to act as a mild-mannered mediator, or your ability to think from another’s perspective.”
Pascal hadn’t even fully suppressed his coughs before he began to nod alongside Sylviane’s words. Even Kaede couldn’t refute the Princess, as Sylviane highlighted everything from her Japanese mannerisms to her education in political realism to her appreciation of karma.
“Trustworthiness is, above all, the most important quality in diplomacy.” Her Highness then continued. “Everything else — from negotiation tactics to rousing speeches — can be learned over time. However, an individual’s character cannot be easily changed. All statesmen have keen instincts when it comes to whether the other side can be trusted or not. And you, Kaede, are a natural when it comes to steadily gaining others’ confidence.”
Kaede tried to interject as she felt like Sylviane was only picking her good points. There were also other factors — such as the fact she was an introvert who developed social anxiety in crowds — that would claim otherwise.
However, Sylviane stopped her with a raised hand before commenting:
“Kaede, do you remember the answer you gave me when I offered you a fief?”
The familiar nodded as she thought back to the morning after the Battle of Glywysing. After the Princess introduced Kaede to the plans for the Grand Council, Sylviane asked if the Samaran girl was interested in becoming a landed aristocrat. And despite the temptations of status and wealth, Kaede ultimately rejected the offer later that day after much thought.
“Yes.” The Samaran girl answered. “I said that I do not believe I can meet the responsibilities of a landlady given my current situation and duties. My life is too closely tied to Pascal. And in the aftermath of Glywysing, I realized I could not even spare enough time to properly look after a Banner of Rangers, let alone the peasants of a fiefdom.”
It also wasn’t the only reason, as Kaede had left the other unsaid.
The Samaran girl knew that being given too much independence would not be to her benefit. Not only was she inexperienced, she also hated risk-taking, was easily stressed by too much responsibility, and often lacked decisiveness when facing unclear choices. Her ideas and breadth of knowledge had helped her significantly in an advisory role. But she was certainly wary of running afoul of the Peter Principle — when someone was promoted past their realm of competence into a position they performed poorly in.
After all, political and military affairs were not a realm where mistakes could be tolerated. Here, even a simple error in judgment could cost the lives of thousands and seal the fate of nation-states. And in the aftermath of Glywysing — when the human costs of Kaede’s careless revelations to Pascal weighed heavily upon her mind — she simply couldn’t bring herself to accept even more authority.
“You know, Kaede, you’re probably the first person whom I have ever heard of to reject a fiefdom.” Sylviane chuckled with a knowing smile. “Father had always told me, that those who are most fit to lead others are also often those who least desire authority. The burdens of leadership certainly weigh heavily upon those who truly grasp the results of their own actions and responsibility.”
The Crown Princess of the Empire then stared intently into Kaede’s rose-quartz gaze:
“And while I respect your choice, Kaede, I would be a fool indeed to not recognize your value and try to utilize you by other means.”
Kaede frowned. It wasn’t as if she didn’t want a position in the Rhin-Lotharingie hierarchy. After all, she had already made her decision to be part of this world. She would not just stay near, but also involve herself in the great events of Hyperion history that were sure to come.
However, the question was a matter of where she wanted to place herself. And in that, she couldn’t help but dread being put into a position that exceeded her abilities, leading to ruinous outcomes that would become yet another fable of history.
“I’m still not sure it’s a good idea to have someone as inexperienced as me lead diplomatic embassies.” Kaede muttered.
“You don’t have to, certainly not at first.” Sylviane beamed as she reached out and rubbed Kaede’s soft hair.
“Kaede, diplomacy is not like military affairs.” It was Pascal who pointed out next. “The art of war inherently promotes the centralization of authority to a single decision maker. Even the most brilliant rulers are often of no help due to the lack of information clarity imposed by distance. As such, the burden of responsibility falls solely upon the highest ranking local commander.”
“Yes, but the same cannot be said for diplomacy.” The Princess added. “One of the advantages of statecraft is that negotiations are, by its very nature, a field where decisions must be made with consent. Being my personal representative does not automatically make you the sole leader of any delegation. Furthermore, not only do you have others to advise and aid you, you will also be maintaining direct communications with me over any decisions of state policy.”
It was a reminder to Kaede that all treaties brokered by ambassadors still had to be signed by monarchs or ratified by senates. Therefore, it would probably be more accurate to view diplomats as ‘middle men’ — individuals who formed a bridge in communications that would help both sides reach an understanding.
In other words, it was not too different from the ‘historical advisor’ role that Kaede had always aspired to claim. Though in this case, it meant connecting the leaders of one country to the historical influences, cultural viewpoints, and political interests of another state.
“I think I understand then…”
A slight smile formed across Kaede’s lips for the first time since the awards ceremony. The Samaran girl finally felt like she not only understood, but appreciated, the role and position that Sylviane had chosen for her.
“Then, do you accept?” The Princess’ wisteria gaze locked onto the familiar’s rose-quartz eyes as she sought for not just a perfunctory, but an earnest answer. “Will you, Kaede, be my personal representative in matters of statecraft where I need you the most?”
“Yes, Your Highness.” The Samaran girl declared in reply.
At first, Sylviane didn’t seem completely satisfied by the response. Though before she could open her lips to interject, Kaede stood up and dipped into a slight curtsy before the Princess.
“And yes, elder sister.” The familiar reaffirmed again with a beaming smile.
The Princess grinned as she finally received the answer that she sought. Sylviane leaned over and pulled the smaller girl into a tight hug. Then, as she pulled away and sat back down, her hands straightened Kaede’s pseudo-uniform before roaming down its sides.
“Though, I’m not sure this is the appropriate outfit for an emissary.” Sylviane thought out aloud as she traced Kaede’s figure and examined her posture.
“I think, before I send you off on any diplomatic missions, we really should work on your outfits and buy you a proper corset.” Sylviane commented with a half-teasing look. “You may not be royal of blood, but you certainly are a member of the family, which means your poise could use more dignity. And that’s not to mention your table manners, which definitely need work.”
Kaede groaned as the thought of being squeezed by a corset did not entice her one bit. However, while she knew her posture could be improved as she had a tendency to hunch when reading, she didn’t remember ever being rude at meals.
“What’s wrong with my table manners?” The familiar objected with a raised eyebrow.
“You ate sausages by delivering them to your mouth without even cutting them first.” Sylviane berated as though Kaede had committed a cardinal sin. “I never thought any girl except an actual barbarian would be so uncouth.”
Kaede frowned as she had to puzzle for a moment to even remember. The familiar then exhaled an audible sigh as she thought:
You’re never going to let me forget that are you?Author's Comment
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