I waited outside for about 5 minutes. As the awkward situation continued, the door slowly opened. On the side where the door opened, Adelia cautiously stuck only her face out. Her cheeks were slightly flushed, probably because of what had just happened.
“Do we really have to talk about it in my room?”
“It’s kind of important…”
“…Even though I’m all sweaty and probably stink?”
When I replied that it was okay, Adelia hesitated for a moment, her lips twitching, and then she slowly opened the door. I took a look at Adelia’s changed appearance.
I wondered how she managed it, but she had wrapped herself tightly in a blanket, like a cocoon. It seemed like the best option since putting on clothes would make her feel sticky due to sweat, and taking a shower would take too long.
I felt somewhat awkward seeing her like that, but I went inside anyway. Adelia followed me inside with a careful step.
Her personality, which had always been lively, was now overshadowed by shyness, making her appear refreshingly different.
“Do you smell something strange? I did open the window for now…”
Adelia asked cautiously as I stepped inside. I heard her question and immediately sniffed the air.
Honestly, I couldn’t detect any specific odor, it was just the typical fragrance associated with women. Given her personality, she probably wouldn’t be the type to wear perfume, so I assumed it might be a scent of sweat.
Rose scent. Yes, it was a rose scent. Sometimes when she teased me, I would catch a whiff of rose scent from her, so it seemed like it was her natural scent.
“I don’t smell it? I mean, you didn’t just spray any perfume right after I came, did you?”
“You know I don’t use perfume.”
“Really? That’s strange. I can only smell something nice.”
In response to my compliment, Adelia’s ears turned bright red, and she buried her face in the blanket that was wrapped around her. Her reaction was a mixture of embarrassment and shame.
Though a momentary amusing incident had occurred, my purpose for coming here was deeply related to her. Adelia, perhaps realizing this fact belatedly, mumbled something before lifting her face from the blanket.
Her face was still quite red, like she had caught a cold.
“So, um… why did you come? I don’t know what’s going on, but why did you want to talk in my room?”
Before answering directly, I looked around Adelia’s lodging. Although I briefly saw it when we came to the academy together, I have never entered her room before.
Compared to the rooms where academy students stay, it’s not very spacious, and the facilities are not that great, but it seems she has managed to make it work in her own way.
Especially, various exercise equipment was scattered here and there. She must have used them just a moment ago.
According to what my father said, Adelia was not only talented but also incredibly hardworking. It’s probably because of the influence of her difficult family background when she was younger.
I briefly considered whether to talk about Hiriya at this moment, but it’s something I must tell her, for her sake.
“I have something to tell you that’s very related to you, especially concerning your family.”
As I mentioned the family, the word seemed to startle Adelia. Fear took hold of her large, sky-blue eyes.
“What? My family?”
“Why all of a sudden? Did someone… someone come here?”
As if to prove that trauma had deeply rooted itself in her heart, Adelia’s voice trembled. When they met at the exhibition, she couldn’t say a word and stiffened completely, so it’s a natural reaction.
Always confident and full of vitality, Adelia, who had a unique energy, seemed like a small, restless animal in my eyes. Her delicate voice, dilated pupils, and the cold sweat that flowed. I looked at her with a sympathetic look and mentioned Hiriya, whom I had just met.
“Hiriya, the princess… you know? I heard she transferred here as a teaching assistant. I just met her by chance on the way here.”
“Rumors say it’s for the sake of relations with the Minerva Empire. Our territory, where the exhibition was held, is known to be Xenon’s birthplace, so there must have been a lot of pressure.”
In hindsight, it was my fault. I had teased Hiriya to some extent that I intend to develop the Michelle Territory into a cultural city.
So, I had to help Adelia in any way possible to lead a normal life. If Hiriya found out that Adelia was here from my side, the situation would become extremely complicated. The best way here was to send Adelia back to the mansion.
As seen at the exhibition, just meeting her family would stop all her actions and she would show severe anxiety symptoms. Moreover, she had been unjustly denied her family right in front of her, so the psychological shock would be tremendous. In my judgment, she would never be able to lead a normal life.
“I know how scared you are of your family. So, if possible, to the mansion…”
“Oh, no. I, I’m fine.”
Adelia noticed that I was trying to send her back to the mansion and urgently spoke, her voice already trembling uncontrollably.
It was evident to anyone that anxiety symptoms had already set in. With a sheepish expression I quietly said.
“Even your voice is shaking. Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Uh, yeah. I’m fine… ah.”
Now, she couldn’t even meet my gaze, and her sky-blue irises were vibrating intensely. Her lips were trembling, too.
I knew the reason why she didn’t want to go to the mansion, even though she was displaying such behavior. It was undoubtedly because of me. She had become a knight to be with me at the academy, after all. A woman in love could be so fragile.
“I’m, I’m fine, you don’t have to worry.”
I sighed as Adelia repeated the same words over and over. It seemed like she had no intention of returning to the mansion at all. Persuasion only works when the other person is willing to listen, and stubbornly insisting like this was pointless.
In that case, there was only one thing left to do. To alleviate her trauma even slightly and make it possible for her to lead a normal life.
‘But that’s not as easy as it sounds…’
I’m not a psychologist, and trauma is extremely difficult to resolve. Trauma often elicits physical reactions before you even consciously think about it. Just like a person who has been through a major explosion might startle at the sound of fireworks, Adelia reacts similarly. She’s sensitive to the keyword ‘family.’
If I were a clergyman who used miracles, I might be able to help a little, but it’s tough. I know how to receive divine grace, but I don’t know how to use it.
‘There’s not exactly no way…’
That way requires a significant improvement in Adelia’s and my relationship and the consent of those around us. It’s a very unconventional method, and I’m embarrassed to even mention it.
In the end, all that’s left is to provide enough stability to cover the trauma. For Adelia, that stability is either her close friend Nicole or her unrequited love, which is me.
I decided to take one step at a time, like climbing a staircase. Starting with Hiriya.
“…Alright, but instead of ‘Hiriya,’ call her ‘sister.’”
“Can you tell me about Princess Hiriya?”
“When you ask about Hiriya?”
Adelia’s sky-blue eyes widened at the request. Her hidden thoughts seemed to be asking why I would make such a question.
I need to understand something about Adelia and Hiriya’s relationship if I’m going to help in any way. If she sees commoners as completely worthless, there’s a high chance she’ll unilaterally dislike Adelia.
In addition, just by seeing Adelia’s recent signs of anxiety, one can roughly sense how rudely Hiriya acted.
“Yeah. I’m curious about who she is. If she’s not a good person, I won’t be polite either. She’s an assistant, so I won’t go to the training hall then.”
“…She’s not that bad.”
Oh my. Such gullible words were already coming out. I almost burst into laughter at Adelia’s timid response.
Adelia is the type of person who can laugh it off even when she’s being harassed because of her personality. Furthermore, she was family, so she must have forced herself to laugh it off.
She must have treated her family well to that extent. Hiriya’s little sister, Lara, even approached Adelia with a bright smile as soon as she saw her.
Of course, Hiriya immediately stopped her. I looked at Adelia with mixed feelings and spoke quietly.
“We can put good and bad aside for now. What’s important is what that princess did to you as your sister.”
With a firm statement, Adelia raised her head, as if she felt something. Wrapped tightly in a blanket, she looked cute.
After looking at my face for a while, she lowered her eyes and cautiously brought up the past. Her distinctive husky voice resonated in my ears.
“…She used to listen to me well. When I was training in swordsmanship, she trained alongside me, saying she would become like me someday.”
Huh. Surprisingly, the past doesn’t seem so bad, does it?
As soon as I had that thought, her true colors were revealed.
“However, was it from the age of 14? She began to envy and feel jealous of me. She even shouted, ‘Why do you have such skills as a mere illegitimate child?’…”
“I was surprised, but when I tried to console her, she pushed me away and insulted me. Eventually, we naturally grew apart. Later on, her skills improved, and I kept losing to her.”
Listening to Adelia’s lament, I could be sure. Princess Hiriya was simply a spoiled brat from the beginning. Moreover, she probably concealed the truth and made it sound more bearable. In reality, it must have been even more dreadful. Such severe trauma doesn’t develop easily.
I glanced at the now saddened Adelia with a heavy heart, and suddenly, one thought crossed my mind. Just earlier, she mentioned that she had sparred with Hiriya and consistently lost. As a legitimate royal, Hiriya would have received more attention and support than Adelia.
Especially in martial arts, you can’t learn without the guidance of a mentor. It’s natural for there to be a difference in skill. However, what if she used this difference in skill to physically harm Adelia under the guise of sparring? And what if she said words that should never be said as a human being? It’s not an entirely implausible story, and it’s actually quite common in a world like this.
“Could you uncover the blanket for a moment?”
“I need to check something. It’ll only take a moment.”
Adelia’s face turned rapidly red at my sudden request. However, upon seeing my serious expression, she hesitated for a moment before taking action.
Slowly, like shedding a cocoon, she lowered the blanket, revealing Adelia’s healthy and well-proportioned figure in all its glory. Her body was adorned with firm muscles, a testament to her hard work over time.
I briefly lost my gaze to her figure, but soon refocused my attention on her body, taking my time to examine it thoroughly. Previously, I hadn’t had the opportunity to study it closely due to the circumstances, but now I had a clear objective in mind.
First, I examined her arms and abdomen. Her skin was not exceptionally pale but had a sun-kissed tone, likely from training outdoors as a knight. However, there were noticeable marks that caught my eye, particularly bruises that had healed but left scars. These were more prominent not only on her arms but also on her abdomen and thighs.
These were the scars of injuries. Especially in the case of bruises resembling beatings, they could have healed cleanly with proper treatment, but seeing them turn into scars…
‘…These are clearly the result of violence.’
It could be one of two things. Either Hiryaa had subjected Adelia to brutal beatings during their sparring sessions, or she hadn’t received proper treatment. Perhaps, it could even be a combination of both.
With such significant scars on her body, it was inevitable that trauma would build up. If you’ve seen how much suffering school violence victims endured in my past life, you’d understand.
Furthermore, Adelia has probably heard hurtful words her whole life because she’s a child born out of wedlock. It’s fortunate that she has a kind heart, but if she didn’t, she might have taken her own life or even harmed her family long ago.
I raised my head, looking at the faint scars scattered here and there with a sympathetic gaze.
Did Adelia notice what I saw? She smiled widely, showing her gums, trying to express indifference.
“Yes, I used to be wounded, so what? I’m fine now.”
Seeing Adelia forcing a smile to reassure me made my heart ache even more. I reached out slowly as I watched her discreetly cover herself with a blanket to hide the scars. And I gently held her hand that held the blanket. Adelia’s eyes widened in surprise when I held her hand.
“Noona, do you remember what I said at the exhibition?”
“Uh, uh? W-what did you say?”
“I said, your confident smile is the most beautiful. You don’t have to force it.”
Adelia made a confused expression at my words. I gave her a gentle smile and held her hand. As if symbolizing all the suffering and hardships she had endured, Adelia’s hand was covered with calluses and hardness.
“I won’t send you to the mansion as Noona requested. Instead, if you ever really can’t stand it, just let me know. Okay?”
“And I hope you understand this much. I’m always on your side. If things get tough, just tell me. I’ll do whatever I can to help.”
What can I not do for the girl who likes me? Even though I might not accept her feelings, I need to do at least this much to ease my mind. You might call it self-satisfaction, and I might be criticized for it, but so what? It’s what I want to do.
Above all, the Ters royal family will never know. They mocked and looked down on Adelia, calling her a bastard and assaulting her, but in reality, she is Xenon’s bodyguard. That alone was enough to make them eat their words. And Adelia will have to make a choice then.
I will prevent her from choosing to return to her family, no, not a ‘family’, but to the Ters royal family. More precisely, I will make her heart lean in this direction.
“I’m planning to work out this weekend. Would you like to join me, sis? I hope you can help me a bit.”
With a kindness that her family had never heard before, Adelia blinked her clear eyes like a clear sky in response to my request.
Then, with the confident smile I mentioned earlier, she replied energetically.
“Sure. But I won’t go easy on you, even if it’s tough, okay?”
“That’d be just fine.”
I hope that this will help Adelia heal even a little from her trauma.
Time passed quickly, and the weekend approached.
“Why is this bitch here?”
Fate came faster than I expected.