Both Lunamaria and Lilianne, who had exchanged so many strikes with each other that it could be called an even match, looked exhausted as they faced each other with their weapons at the ready.
It won't be long before the battle is settled. This is something that the audience thought, but when the participant herself, Lilianne, thought about this, Lunamaria smiled.
[……I guess that's enough.]
[It means I've already achieved my goal…… I forfeit.]
Nonchalantly raising her hand and declaring that she gave up, Lunamaria started collecting her weapons lying around the stage and put them into her magic box.
After a few moments, Lilianne came to her senses and picking up a nearby axe, she held it out to Lunamaria and spoke.
[……Seriously, what in the world are you thinking about]
[Ahh, thanks…… It is as I said. I've already achieved my goal. Rather, I would have finished it quickly if I had fought Lili in the first round, but since we were in different blocks, I have no choice but to go through to the finals. I'm not really that interested in winning this tournament.]
[……You really are……]
Hearing Lunamaria say such a thing with a bright smile on her face, Lilianne was about to say something but Lunamaria spoke, as if to interrupt her.
[Lili, was it fun]
[……Yes, I was quite irritated at first, but after that irritation disappeared…… I felt refreshed.]
[Then I'm glad…… It seems like you've also relaxed.]
[You must have thought you were quite admirable huh. As a princess, you have to carry the expectations of those around you and behave in a manner appropriate to your position…… I'm sure you thought that such actions were right. But you see, people aren't designed to live by straining themselves all the time. If you're too tense, you're bound to be ripped apart somewhere…… I believe that sometimes, one needs to forget about what others think and let your stupidity move your actions.]
Those were words Lunamaria understood from experience. When Lunamaria first became an adventurer, she was in a hurry. She wanted to become a full-fledged adventurer as soon as possible so that she could make things easier for her mother…… and thus, she completed her requests at a fairly high pace, and was even willing to tackle difficult quests.
However, her impatience narrowed her vision, and ignoring the unease whose identity she would have realized if she just asked a veteran…… which resulted in her, exposing her mother in danger.
[It's alright. You can bring out your own personality more…… be the "Lilianne you want to be", instead of the "Princess Lilianne the people wanted you to be". I don't mean to say that you shouldn't care about others anymore, but I think it's important to be yourself. If you do that, there will naturally be "people who want to follow you, regardless of your position as a princess".]
[……Is that so But if I do that……]
[Of course, it will be alright. One's position is nothing but an external position. At least, to me, the Lili innocently smiling while fighting just now was more desirable than the Royal Princess I saw a year ago.]
After telling her such in a gentle voice, Lunamaria finished putting away her weapons, stood up, and with a light wave of her hand, she turned her back on Lilianne and walked away.
[What is it]
[Thank you. For helping me…… For helping "Lilianne" to get out of the cage called "being the Princess".]
[It's I told you. I want to help you, so I'll do what I want.]
[……Will we meet again]
[I guess so. Well, when that happens…… Let's have some tea together. We're friends now…… so even if I have to force you, I'll make sure that you can relax.]
Looking back once at Lilianne, who looked happy at being called a friend, without saying anything else, Lunamaria left.
Leaving definite warmth in the heart of the girl named Lilianne……
And then, as Lilianne welcomed the new year with a new mentality in mind, Lunamaria suddenly appeared in front of her.
[And with that, assigned to the Second Division of the Royal Knights, I'm Lunamaria! I look forward to working with you from now on.]
[Huh Eh L- Luna W- Why is…… an adventurer here]
[I quit being an adventurer. Well~~ if Lili tells me a scouting line like "Will we meet again", I guess it can't be helped! As a top-ranked adventurer, it sure is easy to get a special recommendation~~]
[Eeeeehhhh! No, I'm not planning to scout you back then, I just mean meeting in a normal way…… Eeeehhhh……]
They met again too soon. Lilianne was simply astonished to see Lunamaria quit her job as adventurer, something she had done for so many years that she had even earned a nickname, and started over as a knight.
However, despite her astonishment, the joy on her face was something she couldn't hide……
While Lunamaria became a member of the Knight Order, becoming completely familiar with her new lifestyle…… Sieglinde, who was training her subordinates, stopped her hand and moved her gaze when she felt someone's presence.
[Hyiiiiihhhh, i- it's just light mischief……]
[What light mischief! I will definitely not forgive you today!]
This scenario has already become a familiar scene for the members of the Second Division. Brandishing her sword, Lilianne would chase after Lunamaria, who had been playing pranks at her ever since she joined their group. It is a scene that has become so familiar that the Second Division became known for this scene.
[……They're at it again huh. Division Commander and Lunamaria-san.]
[Yes, they really do get along well.]
Looking at the two chasing each other with a kind expression on her face, Sieglinde responded to her subordinate's words.
Lunamaria's presence had a very positive effect on Lilianne. Whenever Lunamaria recognizes that "the things Lilianne carries on her shoulder were difficult for her, she would tease Lilianne in a variety of ways so that she would relax.
Thanks to this, Lilianne isn't as stiff as she used to be, becoming more friendly and popular with her subordinates.
Lilianne has become so popular these days that people are even saying that she should be made the King or the Knight Commander.
Lunamaria's presence has also changed Sieglinde's way of thinking. Until now, Sieglinde had tried to be Lilianne's friend, respecting each other's intentions while improving side by side. However, rather than a friend, she realized that she had instead been trying to become her rival instead.
However, what Lilianne needed wasn't a rival, but someone she could laugh with. After realizing this thanks to Lunamaria, Sieglinde also began calling Lilianne "Lili", spending more time chatting with her rather than talking about stuff regarding work.
[Ahh, Sieg! Just the girl I want to see! PLEASE HELP ME!]
[……Luna, thank you. You have changed me in many ways. I really appreciate it.]
[W- What's with the sudden words of gratitude]
[No, I just thought that it would be nice to have a little fun every now and then.]
Hiding behind Sieglinde's back to escape from Lilianne…… Sieglinde spoke to Lunamaria, who she was now close enough to call her best friend, in a gentle manner…… and quickly going towards Lunamaria's back, she bound her arms from behind.
[Now, Lili! I've caught her, do it now!]
[Eeehhhh! What a cruel betrayal this is. You're even ganging up on the helpless me…… Couldn't you call this bullying already]
[……Putting aside you stupid commentaries, are you ready, Luna]
Before they knew it, she, Lunamaria…… had become an irreplaceable presence for both Lilianne and Sieglinde.
She, who always tries to be an equal friend to the both of them, was quite dazzling…… and a very warm person for the both of them.
In a room in the royal castle, Lunamaria was bowing to Illness, a maid rumored to be the most skilled in the castle.
[……Teaching you huuuuuh. I don't really miiiiiiiind, but are you going to be a maaaaaaaid]
[Yes, I intend to. I was "stripped of my knighthood after all"……]
[I heard thaaaaat you "took the blaaaaaame" so that My Lady and Siegliiiiiinde won't be stripped of their knighthood thouuuuuuugh]
[What I wonder what you're talking about I just summarized the information objectively and reported the most obvious fact that I was the biggest factor for not noticing that incident.]
[The way you said iiiiiit makes it easy for people to misunderstaaaaaand.]
[Those two were being overwhelmed with lots of things already…… so there's no need for them to carry unnecessary burdens like taking responsibility. It's not like I wanted to be a knight in the first place, nor did I feel that proud being one.]
What they were talking about was the recent incident where the Second Division had set up camp at the site of a mass monster outbreak.
The incident, in which the Deputy Division Commander was seriously injured, was understood by those knowledgeable to have been a set-up.
But be that as it may, someone needed to formally take responsibility for causing an incident that could have annihilated an entire division with one wrong move.
In response, Lunamaria directly spoke to the king, and fortunately, being that there were no deaths…… and it was settled in the form of "Lunamaria's withdrawal from the Knight Order".
Of course, this was kept a secret from Lilianne and Sieglinde, but Ryze had also encouraged Lilianne to quit the Knight Order and become a Duchess instead. This publicly looked like a punishment for Lilianne, but it was actually to protect her from the people who had set them up.
However, since Lunamaria took the actual responsibility for this incident, the government provided various assistance to Lilianne in setting up her Duchy.
Perhaps, Lilianne may have realized that Lunamaria had taken responsibility because of the lightness of her punishment. However, she didn't have the time to think about it now.
[And soooo, becoming a maid, riiiiiiight You do knoooooow that My Lady would also need people in charge of the mansion's security, riiiiiiight]
[……Lili is very unstable right now. Sieg also feels quite responsible, but more than that, that girl blames herself. That's why, she needs someone to stand by her side and support her.]
[Why are you going that faaaaaar]
[Well, that's because I want to.]
[……I understaaaaaand. If you're fine with meeeeee, I will teach you what I caaaaaan.]
[Thank you very much!]
Hearing that she agreed to teach her the ropes of being a maid, Lunamaria deeply bowed to Illness. She then went to Lilianne's room, deciding to discuss with her the details later.
In the luxurious room that was typical of a princess, she saw Lilianne with her head down, seemingly packing her things.
[……Lili, what are you doing Your hands ain't moving, you know]
[……Luna…… What am I supposed to do All of it was my fault…… If only I had been more firm with them…… Sieg wouldn't have……]
Hearing Lilianne's words as she spoke with her head down, Lunamaria slightly smiled…… and resolutely slapped her on her cheek.
(T/N: cheek on her face.)
[Ouch! Wait, even though you aren't using Body Strengthening Magic, why the heck am I the one who got hurt……]
[Erhem…… How long are you going to dwell on the past, idiot Lili!!!]
[ ! ]
[Alright, listen here, okay Sieg is not dead, she's alive! Stop thinking about what you should have done, "just think about how to heal Sieg's wounds"! You can pretend to be the tragic heroine all you want, but that won't change anything!]
Hearing Lunamaria's yell, Lilianne became astounded…… and grasping Lilianne's shoulders tightly, Lunamaria continued.
[There must be a way out there. A way to cure Sieg…… It's alright, I'll be there with you. With the two…… No, with the three of us working together, we should be able to find it.]
[……Are you going to follow me Luna should still be in the Knight Order…… and you also have your mother……]
[I quit the Knight Order, not like I'm that obsessed with being in that group…… As for Mom, well…… I'll be expecting a salary, okay My~~ Lady~~]
When Lilianne saw Lunamaria's bold smile…… Lilia relaxed and smiled as well.
[Fu… fufu…… I guess that depends on your work, don't you think]
[Whoa, now you said it. Well, you better be ready. There will come a day where you will pull my leg and scream "I can't do this without you, Luna!"]
[Ahaha…… I'm looking forward to it then, Luna.]
[Yes…… Now then, let's start packing. We don't have much time, do we]
As if to change the subject, Lunamaria stood up and started setting up the luggage in the room…… Looking at her back, Lilianne quietly muttered.
[……I'm really glad that Luna is here. Though I guess it's too late to say it now huh. Especially at a time like this….. I can't do this without you.]
[……Unnn Did you say something]
[No, I didn't say anything……]
[Ahh, look here! Lili, it's one of those toys back then! How nostalgic. I used to have one of these, you know Let's play a bit……]
[Didn't you say we didn't have much time]
[Oops, completely forgot about that. Well~~ What a blunder. Oya, this is!]
When she saw Lunamaria stopping to talk to her when she found something interesting while cleaning up, Lilianne smiled, looking truly happy.
[……Always pretending to be stupid like that…… What a troublesome best friend, I have.]
Serious-senpai : [……Now that's good seriousness. That aside, pretending to be stupid…… Was that also the reason why you highly appreciate Lunamaria]
: [Yes, as I said before to Kaito-san, I like those who play the role of the fools. I feel closer to them after all.]-