In the land that extends behind the residence, there I was. Because this is a spare place for drying laundry, few people come.
「Your posture has become better, hasn’t it?」
「Is that so?」
Incidentally, when I finished practicing martial arts, my teacher, Heinz-san the butler, who I didn’t realize was there, spoke to me.
I was dripping with sweat, but my teacher as always, with an unreadable facial expression like a calm water’s surface, was refreshing to look at. In the end, even though I received a small adjustment, it’s strange. I wonder how his sweat glands are. No, he could throw me without receiving a single hit.
「Yes. Because it seems you were hunched over, I was thinking you should correct it.」
My teacher says I saved him the trouble. Certainly, for nearly all of my gardening work, because the times I was bent over are many, it seems I’ve become like a hunchback. Because my father’s stature is tall, I do the work that needs you to squat, and the truth is I heard from my mother it’s helping him, and being helpful makes me happy, but that kind of harmful effect is there.
「What are you doing?」
「Um…… ah, I’m sure to stretch before strength training.」
I have an understanding. But, because I can’t say anything, I say that. The increased stretches are a lie.
When I make that lie in front of my teacher, I feel like he can see through my secret, and my heart pounds. At such a time, I think that things like turning your head away aren’t good, and quietly look back into his eyes.
「Is that so? From here, as well, please continue doing that.」
Somehow I avoid referencing it, and my heart is relieved.
Maybe my posture’s improvement is because of helping Ojou’s self-study. As for what Ojou is doing, it’s only the basics of waltz, she was saying, but I wonder about the other dance varieties that exist. But, the foundational practice, for me, is tough. Because it uses muscles I’ve never used before until now, being conscious of my posture is more tiring than memorizing martial art forms.
First of all, stepping on Ojou’s feet is frightening, and so even how to move your feet, I was desperately learning.
Somehow, I’m unskilled with rhythm, isn’t that right?
According to Ojou, triple time and four-four time are different, it seems. The songs I often sing use four-four time as a basis, so the triple-time of waltz is difficult.
I call out to my teacher who has to leave when practice is over, since there was something I wanted to ask him.
「……what is it?」
He answers in a single beat. As for the feeling of resignation in his voice, I wonder why that is.
「Something was weighing on my mind before, but are there servants like master who can fight like I’ve heard about?」
「There aren’t many, but the ones hired from knight families can. Since regular guards can deal with it.」
「Among them, I have to assign several of them to Lydia-sama……」
Master, who put his chin on his fist while really thinking carefully, somehow after glancing at me, mumbled that sort of thing. From now on, because the chances for Ojou to go outside would increase, an escort would become essential. That is to say, for people like Duke-sama or Oku-sama, there are servants trained in combat.. Before the time we met for tea, I completely didn’t think that kind of person would be in those maids, but perhaps there was. [T/N: Literally ‘servants of armed struggle school’ for ‘trained in combat’, but I opted for something less weird-sounding in English. Also Heinz definitely staffing Isaac with Lydia.]
I heard that Ojou, sama, gu…… people close to her age will increase, right?
「Certainly, there are expectations to choose sons and daughters of close age, but is there something?」
「No, Ojou…… sama, I hope, is able to make friends.」
「You’re carefree, aren’t you……」
Ah, master isn’t hiding his amazement. His facial expression is new. I, did I say something strange, I wonder?
For people like nobles, until around the time they would go into Japan’s compulsory education system, because they have something like a private tutor, I have the impression the chances they have to spend with those of the same generation are small. There are guards, but it could be that she is able to be with the same age as her, it would be good. Which reminds me, in elementary school in my previous life, there were few guys who could use the monkey bars, and if you could do them, when you used them you would be called a monkey, huh. Ah, now, also, when I tried to compensate for my lack of height with a dropkick, because my Master said I was like a monkey, not much has changed.
Click, and my thoughts were derailed by the sound of Master confirming the time with his pocket watch.
「Our time for chatting is up. You should also go back to work.」
「Yes, sorry for keeping you!」
When I reflexively bow as a farewell, master’s eyebrows only slightly furrowed. However, when he immediately returned to a calm facial expression, he turned on his heel and went back to the estate.
After I wiped my sweat off with a towel, I returned to my father’s work and did my chores. On the days that I received instruction from Master, I told Ojou not to come. Because it would be disagreeable for Ojou to smell of sweat, and if you also look, it wouldn’t be funny.
Besides, I don’t want her to see something uncool. Ojou is always getting mad at me and I’m undignified for my age, but if I can do it, I don’t want her to be disgusted.
I have a strange feeling, and then turn around. However, there’s nothing. In the middle of the residence, there are maids who are cleaning the windows, though. Recently, when I was working on the estate grounds, I have had a strange feeling. Sometimes I have a feeling of something creeping around the nape of my neck, but with only the servants diligently working when I turn around, there’s no changed appearance.
「I wonder if a spirit is playing a prank on me??」
Because I can’t see them, I have an image of mischievous fairy-like spirits. Because they’re also delighted with my songs, I have a feeling they enjoy anything fun.
I understand that feeling of an unknown cause and returned to work.
After I went with Ojou for her independent study, one month passed by unexpectedly quickly. Until now, Ojou told me when to come, and our practice time was rearranged only so it couldn’t leak out to our surroundings. It’s amazing now, however, Ojou came to me alone, and didn’t search for anyone else. Even so, it’s expected that every time she takes a 「walk」, it will be long. It’s inside the residence grounds, so it’s fine, is that what she was thinking, or is it because Katherine-san is following you, I wonder.
First of all, the day before the party would become our final practice day. I, up until the end, would meet with Ojou with the best effort I could do, even if I didn’t sufficiently understand how to dance. At the end of practice, I worriedly ask.
「Is it okay to practice with me……?」
「Yes. When I was taught by my teacher, because it’s one person, so I understood to be careful when I have an actual partner.」
Given that Ojou really says her satisfaction, I’m relieved.
「Is that so? I’m glad……」
I, who was openly giving a dull smile, am reflected in Ojou’s light blue eyes. As expected, with being unused to dancing, I was nervous.
Ojou mumbles while opening her mouth. She isn’t calm, maybe, and poking her index fingers together, is bending and straightening them out.
「……um, helping me with practice, I, I was saved, and I…… um, so……」
Ojou, turning her eyes away, after closing her lips, looked at me.
Like a bud about to bloom, it’s a little awkward, and Ojou smiled.
If I can see Ojou with this kind of face, I think I’m glad I did my best even if it wasn’t sufficient. I happily grinned.
「Do your best for your performance.」
Together with my encouraging words, and with a prepared paper bag that’s handed over, Ojou receives it and looks at it.
「Because I can’t go with you, as a substitute, it’s a charm.」
Ojou slightly widens her eyes, and takes out the contents of the paper bag.
What’s taken out from inside is a charm of a white baby rose about to bloom attached to a blue ribbon.
「It’s cheap, so it’s unreasonable to have to wear it.」
In order to make sure, I clarify. It’s the quality of ribbon I can buy with my pocket money, so it’s not something like silk.
The baby rose is one I asked my father if I could pick it from the greenhouse.
Because the charm of the baby rose was more difficult to make than I thought, I made a lot of mistakes. I thought of the name of blizzard, and froze it, and on the third try when I froze the water, the volume had increased but I realized the cells had been destroyed. After that, I rethought the system of drying flowers, and tried to pull out the water portion of the flowers, but there was the problem of osmotic pressure, and with the degree of adjustment being large, with ten tries I preserved the current status and succeeded in only pulling out the water. For things like science, I’m bad at it, although I hadn’t manipulated water on a nano level, I regretted trying to do it. Because I futilly used my nerves, for a while I didn’t want to become a water wizard.
Tomorrow, concerning Ojou, something like a recital is like an examination, so with the intent of something like a prayer for academic success, I wonder if I made too many. From some time ago, staring at her hands as it is, there is no response. More or less, I made a ribbon that would not seem to get in the way. Ah, putting in the paper bag, as expected, was clumsy, huh?
「I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking if it was more preferable, and put it in the paper bag, but……」
A box for decorations would have been expensive. I looked, more or less, but the main part of the charm wasn’t even as expensive, and it was out of my reach.
Again, there’s nor reaction. She isn’t pleased with it, it seems, but I picked and chose a pretty flower.
「If, by chance, you aren’t pleased with it, you can throw……」
「I will absolutely not throw it away!!」
Before I finish speaking, as if to protect it, Ojou hides the ribbon. She isn’t being threatened with taking it. It’s already Ojou’s, so it won’t be taken. She seems pleased with it, so it is okay to say it’s good?
First of all, to Ojou who’s holding the ribbon, for the sake of appealing to someone like a threatened cat, I openly show both palms and make a gesture of having no hostility. Ojou, who understands it won’t be taken, lowers her guard.
Quietly opening her closed hands, in the middle of her now open hands, she checks the flower.
「It’s pretty…… and cute……」
Ojou begins to show a happy facial expression. Her mumbling is soft, but I was able to hear it. She’s happy with it, I’m glad.
「I’ll do my best tomorrow.」
「Don’t be too nervous. It’s the real prince.」
「How did you keep it alive…… if I look at this, I’ll remember Zack, and if I get discouraged, it will be okay.」
「Ehhh, am I not being spoken badly about?」
The feeling of support was put in, but that sort of sense of that feeling being attached isn’t there.
「In some way, I am praising you.」
In some way. Well, because the charm wasn’t for nothing, it’s acceptable.
Around sunset, the stone gazebo, the surrounding pond, with everything turned orange, we match smiles. We aren’t tense at the end, it seems, but we have a feeling it will be fine.
Certainly, Ojou will be fine. For me, who saw the appearance of Ojou putting in hard work, I believe tomorrow will be a success. I don’t understand noble parties or how to be successful at them, but if it’s Ojou, she’ll succeed in being cool and come back.
Returning home that day, before leaving the estate, the eyes of the maids I saw were red. Is it summer fever? The flowers of the estate we use to decorate have pollen, so it’s to be expected. It weighed on my mind, and then when I consulted with my father, because it seems there are flowers close to the estate that I am unfamiliar with, I’ll investigate them. The next time I practice, I’ll try to ask Master if I can receive his cooperation.