Chapter 1 Part 9
“Aldia Graetz. Won’t you come with me to the Vulcan Empire…? No, please come!”
It wasn’t a casual invitation; rather, it felt like an order from an absolute ruler.
It surprised me that she would demand such a thing from someone like me, who was from the Kingdom of Leshfeld. But then again, she had told me something similar before, back when we first met on the battlefield.
Was she planning to say this from the moment the engagement with Prince Yuri was broken off?
From Princess Valtrune’s words, I realized something. Could it be that she, too, is like me?
As I fell into silence, she slowly took my hands.
“You must be confused by this sudden request. It’s… understandable. Leaving your homeland and coming to a neighboring country, it’s a difficult thing.”
―― No, that is not it.
Looking at her sad face, I almost responded that way instinctively. But when I heard the rest of what she had to say, my words got choked up.
“But please. I want you…”
It felt like a cry from the depths of her heart.
The scenes from the past intertwined as the figure of Princess Valtrune, extending her hand towards me, overlapped with the image of the Valkyrie I once saw.
“…Valtrune, Your Royal Highness.”
When I called her name, she slightly lowered her head.
Witnessing that sorrowful expression, it felt as if my heart would burst.
Since the moment I realized I had returned to the past, my answer has remained unchanged.
I want to live for Princess Valtrune.
The wish I made on the brink of death still lingers within me, unforgotten.
“…I won’t force you. I may have said ‘please come’ as if I were so great, but I won’t try to recruit you against your will. However, if you have even a little bit of that feeling…”
―― Ah, finally.
“…Then please come with me to the Empire…”
―― Finally, I can repay the favor I received from her.
She must be under the impression that I would reject her, as I could sense the pain seeping through every word she spoke.
She knows that there are many important people to me in my homeland ―― and that must be because she knows about my past. Her sadness stems from knowing the words I said on the day I did not take her outstretched hand, the choice I made to oppose the Empire.
But now, I will not push her hand away anymore.
…I once lost everything. The result of lingering in ambiguity was disastrous.
―― This time, I will never make a mistake in setting my priorities.
Why does she desire someone like me so intensely? I still don’t fully comprehend it. However, the fact remains that she wants me, and I want her in return. So, the answer is already evident.
“Please lift your head, Your Royal Highness.”
I gently spoke to her, who trembled while looking down. She raised her face, but her eyes were moist, and it seemed like she was bracing herself for my rejection.
I stared at her face as she weakly uttered her words. I wish she would not look so anxious.
―― I have sworn not to hesitate anymore. With determination, I gently wiped away the tears that welled up in her eyes.
“I will go with you, Your Royal Highness.”
She wore an expression of disbelief, as if she couldn’t believe it.
‘Why?’, she seemed to want to ask, looking at me.
“Are you sure? Will you come with me to the Empire?”
“Of course. If that is your wish, I will comply. Besides, as a commoner, how can I possibly refuse the orders of a princess?”
“N-No… there’s no need to force yourself if you don’t want to!”
“Is it something I don’t want? It goes without saying that I’m delighted.”
To be granted the privilege of walking by her side, there’s no way I wouldn’t be happy about it. And from her words and actions, it became clear to me. She, like me, retains memories from that time. That’s why she extended this invitation. And if that’s the case… I am obligated to repay the favor I received from her.
I know the moment when her beautiful face warps into sorrow. I do not want that future. I want her to always wear a smile. And I want to be there to support her.
“There’s something I want to tell you, Your Royal Highness.”
“W-What is it?”
Why did I accept her request? If she hears this, I am sure Princess Valtrune will understand. I looked at her with a serious gaze.
“Your Royal Highness… I am truly happy to have met you in this life.”
―― This time, I will not let her future of happiness be cut short.
If that is her desire, I will walk by her side without any hesitation.
Being reunited with Princess Valtrune brings me the utmost joy. And as a dramatic turn of events, she also retains those dreaded memories.
“Aldia… Could it be that you…?”
I was just as shocked as her. I did not expect her to have memories from before her death, either.
And so, I kneeled before her.
“It is as you imagine, Your Royal Highness. I, too, have the dreaded memories of that chaotic war, just like you. I have always regretted not wielding my sword for your sake…”
“Is that true…?”
“It is. I was ―― a knight of the Kingdom who couldn’t be of help to you. That’s why when I realized I had returned to this era, I made a vow. This time, I want to fight as your sword.”
Becoming close to her happened only after everything had been too late. However, it is different this time. The war has not even started yet. Princess Valtrune is right here, alive and well.
“Your Royal Highness. I pledge my loyalty to you in this life. As your sword and shield ―― it is the only way I can repay the favor I received from you.”
Now, the time has come to repay the favor that I couldn’t return back then.
“…Yes, I swear.”
I am nothing more than a commoner. I do not have the noble spirit of sacrificing everything for the Kingdom. The reason I fought on the Kingdom’s side was solely to protect the people dear to me. However, now I need not be constrained by such considerations.
“Your Royal Highness. If you’re okay with me, I will fight for you with unwavering devotion.”
To me, the most cherished thing to protect now is her smile.
“Thank you, Aldia.”
It is I who wish to express gratitude. I have been given the opportunity to serve my chosen ruler, and this time I can fight with all my might, not as an enemy but as an ally. I have obtained a significant purpose for wielding my sword.
“Are you okay with it? I will once again fight against the Kingdom of Leshfeld, just as I did before.”
“Yes, Your Royal Highness. I believe I understand your determination. I will stand by your side, no matter where it may lead.”
After gazing at each other for a while, she reached out her hand to me.
“I am Valtrune von Felsdorf. I hope we can walk the path together in this life.”
“I am Aldia Graetz. I promise to support you to the best of my capabilities. Until my life’s end, I shall be the sword and shield solely for you.”
“Hehe, it feels somewhat embarrassing, doesn’t it?”
“Yes, it does.”
“It feels strange. You were a formidable threat when we were enemies, but now that you’ve become an ally, you are remarkably dependable.”
We have crossed paths once again. Perhaps this is a chance bestowed upon us by the gods to start anew.
The graduation ceremony of the Filnots Military Academy.
On this day, the fate of the world would shake profoundly. The confrontation between the Kingdom and the Empire. It marked the prelude to a great war. And I have resolved to dedicate myself to her cause.
The downfall of the Empire, her execution, the anguish of losing everything ―― None of that shall happen this time. I will eliminate all those elements.
I will obliterate all of her enemies.
―― To protect that lovely smile of hers, I will overcome any adversity that comes our way.