I Thought I Had Married A Poor Knight, But…! - Chapter 2.3
Chapter 2: The Debut – Part 1 (3)
With Cermiane escorting me, I walked with a smile on my face. I was already happy from my conversation about hunting with Cermiane, and this was the first time all the attention was focused on me, so I was even more giddy. Well, actually, I did get in the spotlight of attention back in the territory, but that was for all the wrong reasons, where I would get chased by a crowd of angry adults, yelling at me.
“Are you not nervous, Ral?”
Cermiane asked me with a slightly stiff smile.
“Why? Is there any reason I should be?”
“…No, there is not. You truly are a unique young lady.”
“Anyway, could you tell me what to do? I have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing here.”
“I’m impressed and curious as to how you’re able to remain so confident.”
Once we reach the base of the steps, we kneel. We place our right hand over our hearts and lower our heads. That was what Cermiane politely explained to me beforehand, so I did exactly that. We keep this position until the Emperor gives us his approval to stop. I see I see.
“Announcing the arrival of His Majesty and Her Majesty!”
The chamberlain announces so, and all the nobles lower their heads at once. After a little while, a dignified voice fell upon us.
“Raise your heads.”
Nice. He gave his approval. I was about to abruptly raise my head, but Cermiane sharply hissed, “Slowly!” so I was able to slowly raise my head. Apparently, every movement an aristocrat makes must be done gradually, courteously, and gracefully.
Even when I raised my head, I couldn’t see His Majesty the Emperor well. He appeared to be a tall, chestnut-haired man in his fifties. He had a beard. …He seems pretty strong. He’s definitely stronger than the strongest old-man soldier back in the territory. Later on, I learned that in his younger days, he was a valiant general who ran wild as a fierce warrior on the battlefields. You can’t call yourself a good huntsman if you can’t immediately perceive the strength and power of your opponent. My instincts told me I should never anger this person. I knelt down with a docile expression on my face.
“O future members of the Empire’s most respected people! On behalf of the almighty God, I bless you all.”
The Emperor’s deep voice resonated throughout the hall. Then, the Empress, who was next to him, smiled and spoke up as well. Her Majesty the Empress was a slim, black-haired woman.
“Congratulations. May the Almighty bless your futures.”
Once she finished, a sea of applause arose from all the nobles. The orchestra that was on standby in the depths of the room started playing a celebratory piece. To be honest, I’ve never even had the experience of having my birthday celebrated, so being celebrated like this felt pretty good. I honestly wanted to throw my hands up in celebration, but on my right, Cermiane’s eyes were telling me, “Please behave yourself,” so I resisted that temptation.
“Now, please stand up one by one, starting with Lady Ralphene from the Caliente Marquisate.”
Prompted by an important-looking man (he was apparently the chief chamberlain of the palace) who was standing at the foot of the steps, Cermiane escorted me up the steps. There was a certain way I was supposed to go up the steps, but I had forgotten what they were. I’ll just nimbly go up then. Cermiane simply smiled in a strained manner and didn’t say anything.
Once we reach the top, I greet His Majesty and Her Majesty. As I had predicted, the Emperor had sharp eyes and emitted a powerful aura. But, his smile was overflowing with unexpected warmth, so it seems that he is also a kind man. The Empress was also smiling brightly, so it appears she also is a kind-hearted person as well. I hold the skirt of my dress lightly, bend my knees, and slightly lower my head. I did it exactly as I was taught. Then, I recite the greeting that was taught by my tutor.
“O gracious Emperor, the deputy of the all-powerful God, the Great Sun of the Empire, seated in the brilliant Throne of Glory, the One who unites the East, West, North, and South, the Guardian of the Sword and Scale, I, Ralphene Caliente, swear my eternal loyalty to you and promise to offer my entire being to the peace and prosperity of the Empire.
His Majesty nods in acknowledgment and holds out his right hand. I stand up, come closer, kneel again, take his hand, and kiss his fingertips. After doing that, I stand up again, kneel in front of the Empress, and kiss her fingertips too. Finally, I return to where Cermiane was. Phew, that should be all! I’m pretty sure I was able to do everything without making a mistake?
“You are the sixth daughter of Marquis Caliente, no? I don’t think I’ve seen you before – were you not in the Capital?”
His Majesty suddenly spoke to me. I had been told the protocol was for me to greet His Majesty and Her Majesty, receive a ring from the chancellor, and then immediately go down the steps. Cermiane also looked slightly surprised, so this must be straying from the official procedure. Taken by surprise, I accidentally acted like my usual self.
“Yep, that’s right.”
After getting warned by Cermiane, I finally realized I messed up. Uhhh.
“Y-yes, Your Majesty. I grew up in the… Caliente territory? Yes, the Caliente territory.”
The Emperor and Empress were just laughing in amusement and weren’t angry at all. Maybe these people are pretty chill?
“I see. I heard this young man call you by a nickname just now — were you two previously acquainted with each other?”
“Huh? Are you referring to Mia? I just met him for the first time today.”
For some reason, Cermiane’s face was bright red and he was looking up at the ceiling. What’s up with him?
“You two just met, but you’re already close enough to call each other by nicknames?”
“Yes? Isn’t that normal? Where I’m from, if we get along well after we first meet each other, we give each other nicknames.”
“So that means you two get along well, I see.”
“Yes, we got closer by talking about hunting.”
His Majesty found this so amusing that the nearby chancellor and elite knight were looking perplexed when he started chuckling non-stop. Her Majesty was also giggling.
“Is that so? ‘Mia’?”
“It’s my first time hearing that you had such a cute nickname.”
His Majesty and Her Majesty addressed Cermiane as if they were teasing him, but he just put on an even more solemn face and simply stood, facing forward. At this time, if I had just been slightly more alert, I might have wondered why the Emperor and Empress were speaking to Cermiane, a regular knight, in such a friendly manner.
Still surprised by the Emperor speaking to me, I received the proof of nobility, a gold ring (earls and higher-ranked nobles get a gold ring, everyone else gets a silver ring) from the chancellor and hopped down the stairs after bowing one last time to His Majesty and Her Majesty. Oh, oops! Cermiane just smiled in defeat and elegantly descended the steps after me.
Once we return to our original position, the people around me and the other debutantes look at me with bewildered eyes. Hm? What? When I look around in confusion, Father and Mother were staring at me with faces so blue they looked like they were moments away from fainting. Hm??? What’s going on?
“Did I… do something wrong?”
“Having no self-awareness is… impressive, to say the least.”
Cermiane replied in utter amazement. However, since we had just met today, he did not know me well at all. Thus, he didn’t understand. He had yet to realize this little incident today was nothing compared to all the types of debacles I would get myself into in the future.
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