Arc 1, New Moon
Ernst thought back to the spectacle he had seen earlier that day. Everyone had good expressions on their faces. Even though they had been completely defeated, all of the militiamen had laughed with fine cheer. Even that leader of the militia who seemed so hard to deal with had let out booming laughter.
In the sunset, the Dunbertian had laughed, his face the nicest of all.
Ernst smiled bitterly, remembering the expression the head butler had made when Ernst had asked him to light the fire in his room tonight, too. This manor faced some harsh financial difficulties, it seemed.
Tomorrow, Ernst should also check on the status of the finances.
He gazed at the swaying flames. A quiet and contemplative feeling rose within him.
There was a quiet knocking at the door. It sounded hesitant, lost, and beaten down.
His voice, did it tremble a bit? It seemed like he hadn’t settled himself as much as he thought he had.
Ernst prompted the man who entered to sit in the chair. The man’s large body rigidly sat upon the seat. Hmm, Ernst should prepare a slightly bigger one for him.
“I thought over what you told me last night.”
The man flinched, his body trembling in surprise. Where did that bravery from earlier today go, Ernst wondered.
“To love, and to fall in love with someone. I am unable to understand the notion of it; I don’t know what it entails.”
The man hung his head.
“I was happy that you followed me here. Yet if the hunters who had shown me the way had come with me, that would also have made me happy.”
Those reddish-brown eyes captivated Ernst. Ernst’s blue eyes gazed into those eyes which flickered with uneasiness.
“To love someone means to place them above others, is that correct? If that is the case, then inside of me, you would have to have more importance than anyone else? That was what I was pondering over.”
Compared to last night, the candle burnt out much faster than before. A sudden thought popped into his head: they sure prepared a such a tiny one for him, didn’t they.
“I thought about names.”
The man opened his mouth for the first time.
“That’s right. Names. Before, I didn’t think about people as people. I didn’t realize that each and every person would, of course, have their own name. Yet I didn’t find any problems despite this.”
“…There was no helping it. Lord Ernst had been the Crown Prince. All of the beings around Lord Ernst were beings who acted accordingly to even one movement of the Crown Prince’s eyes.”
The man gave a lonely smile.
“That’s true. I had never felt like I wanted to know someone’s name, and I also didn’t realize how to ask for someone’s name. That was how I spent my days in that palace. But you were different.”
In this room where all of the candles had been extinguished, the only light came from the fireplace.
“In that bathing chamber, I had thought to myself – I wanted to know your name.”
The reddish-brown eyes peered at him, the light of the fireplace swaying inside of them. That movement looked like an externalization of the swaying of his heart.
“I thought about how I wanted to touch your body. And when you touched me, it was as if there were sparks in my body. I thought to myself, I want to know your name.”
The man’s body slightly leaned forward.
“Doesn’t this mean that inside of me, you have a place that is higher than anyone else? …Does this mean that I could be considered to be in love with you?”
When Ernst asked this, the man put on a troubled smile.
Just like last night, Ernst couldn’t sleep well. That man was special to him, so didn’t that mean there was love there? Unable to find the answer, he felt frustrated.
If he were in the position that he had been in before, someday, someone would bring someone else over for someone else’s convenience and tell him, ‘Now, please fall in love.’ He couldn’t help but think about how very easy that was.
Yesterday, he had thought that this freedom was incredible, but now he felt tossed around by the increasing choices.
How pathetic he was, to not be able to make up his mind. Ernst derided himself.
Even though the duties he had to work on continued to pile up, he had been unable to concentrate on anything ever since this morning.
That’s right, that was it. Because he had thought that he wanted to know that man’s name in the beginning, he had confused himself into thinking that man was special to him.
At that time, probably, perhaps, there were a lot of things going on – right – so he had maybe felt disheartened. So he had thought that this servant who had been the only one to continue serving Ernst without changing how he treated him was special to him.
Aah, so that’s how it was. That man had continued to serve Ernst, who had been deposed as Crown Prince, with unwavering, unchanging loyalty.
That was why Ernst had felt that he wanted to know his name.
That’s right, his name. At that thought, a sound escaped Ernst’s small mouth.
He realized that last night, he had forgotten to ask for that giant man’s name.
Today, too, he hadn’t been able to concentrate on anything for the entire day. He had spent half the day shut inside his office, and after noon he took a walk, staggering around the manor. His feet had unconsciously brought him to the corridor where he could gaze down upon the militia’s training grounds.
Reclining absentmindedly on the same windowsill as before, Ernst watched the militia continue their training. The Kleber militia lined up alongside the Dunbertian, as if highlighting the trust they had in him.
If the Lux Kingdom attacked, would this militia really be able to face off against it?
For the first time, these fearful words rose within Ernst’s chest.