Chapter 14

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After Palwick's introduction, there was only the middle-aged knight(?) in the work clothes to go.
He was perhaps the oldest person in the room.

"I'm Galluzzi. I'm technically a knight, but mainly I deal with the weapons and equipment. I don't really get involved with the fighting and whatnot. Gotta consider my age, and all that. Although sometimes I act a bit like a combat engineer I suppose," he said, before handing Fii a sheathed sword.

At a length between the standard knight sword and a knife, Fii found it weighed quite lightly in her hands.

"It's our congratulations for passing. For a tiny fella like you, the blade length should be just right. I've also done various other things to keep it light. But it should be as tough as any sword, so rest easy."

"Wah! Thank you very much!"

Without unsheathing it, she gave it a swing to see how it felt.
It almost felt the same as the wooden sword she used during the match. With this, even the feeble Fii could swing it properly.
After staring at it with sparkling eyes, Fii happily hung it by her hips.

"If there's anything else you need made, come find me. If I can make it, I will."

Galluzzi gave her a calm smile.

The unidentified objects that she noticed earlier had probably been made by him.
Fii decided to ask him about them next time she had a chance.

With this, everybody in the room had been introduced.

"There's actually one more person, but they're on a special mission, you see. Not here at the moment. I'll introduce you when you meet them."

But according to Crow, there was apparently still one more person.

It was Fii's turn to introduce herself now.

"I've been accepted into this division as an apprentice. My name is Heath! I'm not very skilled, but please take care of me!"

That last line sounded just like a Japanese bride.
Placing a hand on Fii's head, Crow added, "Apparently he comes from Theonore. That's how it is, so I hope you'll look after him."

(Eh-...?)

She never told him where she was from.
Or rather, what he said didn't even match up with the fake backstory she concocted.
She hadn't even heard of Theonore before.

"I see."

"Understood."

"Aye."

But all four knights readily assented.

In fact, Theonorea was an implicit code for illegal immigrant children, impoverished children without a nationality, or children with other legal issues.

These children would formally gain citizenship if they became knights, but while they were apprentices they were technically staying illegally.
And so it was decided that they came from Theonore, and all details would be ignored during the duration of their apprenticeship.

Crow had completely decided that Heath was an illegal immigrant.

After all, Fii had been wearing ragged clothing during their first meeting, and on top of that she started crying just because he gave her some meat. Not only that, but everybody saw what sticky fingers she had during the match with Gorms.

He was completely convinced.

There were a few things that felt a little out of place. For example, she was well-spoken despite her accent, and her blonde hair and blue eyes were common amongst nobility, but it wasn't unheard of for entire noble families to be crushed into poverty for some reason or other.

(He must have suffered...)

Crow found himself empathising with this small boy, and wanting to help him out. And he himself was aware of how rare this was for him.
Seeing how confused Heath was, Crow made sure to whisper into the boy's ears that he would explain things later.

Heath responded with an obedient nod.

"Umm... I..."

To be honest, everybody here seemed amazing, and Fii had suddenly lost confidence in her ability to become a knight.

"I'm not all that good with a sword, but I'll give my everything during training. I'll train my body as well... so I don't collapse any more, and I'm going to get better at fighting too. Also..."

Still, this was the only place left for her.
So she wanted to tell them that she would give it her all.
They had picked her up, so she would refine herself until she could help them during a crisis.

"Now, now, don't look so serious, Heath-chan. Take it easy, okay?"

"Right, right. Overworking yourself now won't change a thing. The road ahead of you is quite long, okay?"

Conrad and Crow seemed to be trying to soothe her.

(Everyone is so kind here. I have to try even harder so that they don't turn back on me...)

To Crow, however, compared to the concern that Heath would end up as a useless knight in the future, it was much more worrying that like today she would injure herself by overdoing things.

He had only known Heath for a short while, but whether or not it was because of the environment she grew up in, Heath seemed to have a tendency towards setting her heart on rather extreme ideas.
Even though he and Conrad tried to calm her down just now, she had become even more determined instead.
At this rate, she was going to injure herself again.

"You know, Heath――"

"Heath."

Just as Crow was about to calm her down again, somebody cut over him.

(Captain York...)

Although his voice was low and calm, it resounded through the room.

His blue-grey eyes showed neither a calming smile, nor an angry glare. They simply gazed at her in seriousness.

"I need you. That's why I put you in our division. Had I not needed you, I wouldn't have," he said. "――So be prouder."

I need you.

Those words seemed to echo in Fii's heart.

Need.

Fii had been invisible to most people. Her parents paid almost no attention to her, and she was a princess whose existence was meaningless.
Even so, people looked after her. She was a princess, after all. But it was those same people who spoke ill of her, behind her back. Even so, she was thankful to them.
There were people who truly worried for her. Her sister, her maid friend, just a handful of people, but Fii loved them. Even so, they were always taking care of Fii, and she could never do anything in return.

Nobody actually needed her.

This was the first time.
The first time that somebody told her that she was needed.
The first time in her life that she had met somebody that needed her.

Captain York.

(In my whole life, this is the first time, that somebody told me they needed me...)

"How about it, Heath. If you understand, then answer me."

His eyes were dead serious, and she believed that he meant every word.
Holding her head high and with accented words, Fii, Heath, replied to the captain who had picked her up.

"Yes, Captain!"

Here in this new place, filled with kind people, and by the side of the Captain who needed her, began Fii's new life.

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