“Have you come to see His Highness?” Ruben inquired.
“Yes, that was my intention. Since he wasn’t in the study and the door wouldn’t open, I was contemplating going up the stairs.”
“The staircase is quite dark. It would have been wise to bring a light with you.”
“It didn’t occur to me. Has the Duke gone out?”
Ruben shrugged his shoulders and cocked his head to the side.
“Well, I also stopped by to check, but since Sover isn’t here, I reckon he may have gone for a territorial inspection. Alternatively, he could be at the training grounds in front of the castle where the knights reside. Would you like to go and see?”
“Now?” Elise questioned.
“If you desire. Have you explored the castle yet?”
Elise hesitated for a moment before nodding her head. Since there was little to occupy her time within the castle, she saw no harm in enjoying some fresh air. With a sense of enthusiasm, she promptly followed Ruben.
“The mighty military strength is one of Rotiara’s prides! You’ve come to Rotiara, but can you simply overlook the castle and move on?” Ruben Diark, a cheerful and spirited knight, exclaimed. Elise had mistakenly assumed that all knights were as cold and indifferent as Rezette, but it seemed she had been mistaken. Among all the people she had encountered in Rotiara, Ruben was the most talkative and engaging.
“The size of the castle is truly impressive, isn’t it?” Elise complimented.
“There are a lot of people here, you see. It’s nearly impossible to train a force of around two thousand soldiers in a typical territory. But this is Rotiara, and our lord is the Duke, so it becomes possible,” Ruben explained.
Whenever Elise posed a question, she received lively and animated responses that would last for minutes. Thanks to Ruben’s constant chatter, Elise didn’t feel the need to hold back or feel awkward.
Before she knew it, the topic shifted to Rezette Kyrstan.
“It doesn’t happen often, but there are times when His Highness personally becomes a sparring partner. The knights of Rotiara go wild and eagerly jump in. It’s like facing an insurmountable mountain, but that’s the kind of spirit we have—to challenge the impossible,” Ruben shared.
“Don’t you get injured?” Elise asked in concern.
“Oh, could one get injured during a sparring match? It’s just part of our daily life,” Ruben replied casually.
“Daily life?” Elise responded, surprised. The words “injury” and a man with an iron-like physique seemed incompatible, like water and oil.
Ruben nonchalantly scratched his chin.
“Well, he’s my lord, but he’s quite rigid, so he treats sparring as if it were a real battle. There’s no way to take it easy on him.”
“Some knights even persisted without admitting defeat until they were on the brink of collapse. Haha, poor Jacob ended up like a well-kneaded dough. Oh, but of course…”
As Ruben cheerfully recounted the story, he suddenly noticed Elise’s presence and glanced at her.
“Of course, it must be hard for the Princess to imagine.”
It appeared that frequent injuries were not a common occurrence for Rezette. Elise inwardly breathed a sigh of relief, yet at the same time, she found his intense sparring style to be quite fitting for him.
“I suppose so. He seems rather cold-hearted.”
“Oh, cold-hearted, you say? He actually pays special attention to Your Highness. He can be gentle and kind.”
“Is that how he comes across?”
“Yes. To us, he’s like a sword. At times, it feels as if he’s a dragon, sending shivers down our spines. If we happen to cross paths with him during those moments, it’s like bidding farewell to the world… Although, such instances are rare. By the way, when I look at Your Highness, well, you’re like a perfectly ripe peach, so delicate that one might hesitate to touch.”
Was it like being a ripe peach that would wither within a week of arriving at the castle? Elise couldn’t help but feel as if all the peaches in the world had turned into dried-up seeds.
As they made their way through the courtyard of the main tower, Elise couldn’t help but silently snort in amusement. They were now approaching the castle where the knights resided, and it exuded a distinct atmosphere compared to the main tower.
“This is where the knights who guard the castle reside. We have about five knights and roughly fifty soldiers stationed here. The rest stay at the military grounds outside the triple defense line in the north, where soldier training takes place. We don’t need to walk there since we have to descend outside the castle walls. This way leads to the stable,” Ruben explained.
In the stable, Elise spotted familiar horses. One particular large black warhorse was being groomed by the stablekeeper as it munched on hay. Filled with joy, Elise approached the horse.
“Hello, it’s nice to see you again,” she greeted with a warm heart.
“Oh, Your Highness. It’s risky to touch him carelessly…” Ruben hurriedly reached out his hand, but it awkwardly froze in mid-air.