November marked the end of fall, and signs of winter were becoming stronger. Recently my job is to collect the fallen leaves.
Even after hearing Ojou’s engagement talk, we didn’t change very much. Only the times that Ojou came decreased in frequency. With a frequency of once a month, it seems Ojou is meeting with the prince. In the period of her being carefully examined as a fiance, the prince appears to have to meet with several people periodically.
For Ojou and the prince, although they’re younger than me, talking about marriage before love is difficult, I think. But, because meeting with someone you’re on good terms with seems to be fun, I was glad.
I don’t understand the nobles who generally get married for political reasons. Even in my world of Japan, and even in my city now, marrying for love is common. The values system is different, so if I meddle, it’s no good.
But, even so, I want Ojou to be married to someone she really likes.
I can only think that, since by no means can I stop it.
When I saw Ojou cry, I was seriously surprised. It was completely different than seeing a small animal cry. I listened to her story, and those were tears I should have cried, but with my face, I was able to show sympathy, but I didn’t want her to cry.
I heard that getting married for political reasons doesn’t seem enjoyable. Compared with someone you don’t like, marrying someone you like must make you happy.
I absolutely want Ojou to be smiling.
That doesn’t mean there is anything I can particularly do, but so Ojou can choose her happiness, I’ll support her.
Or perhaps I should say, that is all I can do……
While sweeping fallen leaves, I let out a sigh. Even with the fallen leaves now that will become fertilizer, although they will be helpful to the forest, I’m miserable and pathetic.
「You really are amazing, you know.」
I look at the garden and envy it. Because the fallen leaves of the autumn colors of the deciduous trees have meaning, the imposing feeling of the evergreen trees gives a sense of security. Because the only seeing green helps a person, I give my respect.
「Zack, who are you talking to……?」
When I looked over my shoulder at the voice, there was a puzzled Ojou.
「That, at least say something like the birds or spirits……」
Hearing the target of my conversation, Ojou makes a complex facial expression. As for birds, anyhow, for me, because I can’t see spirits, I haven’t talked to them.
「So, what’s wrong?」
I see Ojou hesitate to talk, and in anticipation, put on a forced smile. That way, she won’t hesitate to tell me.
「The other day, the prince came.」
「Is that so? The dark red dress with the appearance of autumn is great……!」
When I rouse her, at Ojou who blushes and starts to talk, I smile. It seems like Ojou, for talking with the ikemen of a prince, doesn’t seem to be improper, and for her mother Oku-sama and Katherine, the maid, she hasn’t said anything. Therefore, except for me, there isn’t anyone else she’s told this to. The feeling of listening is half the pride of a friend, half the fan of an idol. Because they’re different from girls of my past world, and don’t suddenly let out shrill screams, my ears are grateful. I heard that girls who raised the tension, to that extent their offensive ability is high, it seems. Surrendly resounding in the classroom, you’ll be surprised, you know.
In my previous world, because my sister supported different companion characters than me, we’d fight, and towards me, she’d get excited about characters she likes and talked about them. Why we had those usual dangerous fights, I didn’t really understand.
If you compare it to my younger sister’s craze, Ojou’s talk as a fan is cute. For some reason when she talks about the prince, she hesitates on deciding one thing to talk about, but when she opens up, she really happily talks. Being able to talk about things she likes is good.
「Under Roy-sama, the princess….. his younger sister is there, and her golden hair that is the same as Roy-sama’s seems to be very cute. He has many memories of his younger sister, and because of that, I can also talk to him about Flora……」
While looking in Ojou’s direction as much as possible, I sweep the fallen leaves. If he makes her this level of happy, the prince is a really good guy, I think. His appearance and his character are flawless.
Ojou, who is talking about the prince, shows an honest smiling face. It’s a feat that I, who often gets her angry, can’t do.
「Talking about the prince, Ojou is really cute.」
As expected, it’s better when Ojou is smiling, and when she hears that, Ojou suddenly goes silent and her face turns red.
「Ojou, what’s wrong?」
「…….What’s wrong is your words! What are you saying so suddenly!?」
「Eh. What kind of thing did I say?」
It’s only saying back what’s expected, but somehow I used improper words, it seems. Although she was rarely smiling, again I made her mad.. What a waste.
「That’s already enough……!」
「I’m sorry, Ojou. It’s because I was seriously listening. Then?」
「For today, it’s enough.」
「If I said something strange, then as for what was bad—」
Because Ojou turns away, I lower my eyebrows and apologize. Because now it’s important to change and understand, to a smiling Ojou as much as possible, I was listening to her story. But, even though I had the intention of being careful, why does she occasionally get mad?
In the end, that day, Ojou returned without talking more.
While I, for the purpose of making fertilizer, near the hut, in the opened hole am putting in the fallen leaves, I talk with my father.
「Father, if Ojou comes soon, should I send her back to the estate?」
Recently, it’s gotten considerably colder. As for the royal capital, there isn’t a lot, but there are regions that have fallen snow. In the cold, talking while standing around with Ojou is something I can’t bring myself to do.
「Work there. The fallen leaves are already used up.」
When Ojou comes, it’s good to be working in the greenhouse if I got permission. Because the flowers of the greenhouse are fragile, I’m not even readily assigned chores there. The purpose for Ojou is also understood, but the extent of the work that I can do is increasing, so I’m genuinely happy.
「I can work in the cold room before long?」
「……there will be some time.」
If I load up my anticipation and ask, only a glance is bluntly returned. I’ll very likely experience a refusal, but as expected it’s disappointing.
In the Ernest house’s garden, there’s a hemisphere shaped greenhouse next to the pyramid shaped cold room. Plants of warm regions are the important part of the greenhouse, and plants of cold regions are the important part of the cold room. The mechanism that used magic stones was installed, and two large pipes coming and going are connected. It’s a mechanism that releases the respective heat or cold that’s important, it seems.
In the direction of the cold room, my hand, as well as my five senses, grow dull, so control is difficult. Chores, anyhow, as for having perfectly been entrusted with management, without having been recognized with someone qualified, is unreasonable, perhaps.
Ojou will quickly become an adult, and I declared that, but while my gardener work steadily piles up, skipping a grade is unreasonable. If you’re an exclusive gardener, when you don’t experience the change of one year’s garden or many years, you won’t understand that garden. The part where I became an apprentice earlier than usual, did it move ahead by several years? The year my parents gave birth to me, was it three years earlier, sixteen? No, it’s seventeen at most. Will I be in time, I wonder…
If I quickly become an adult, my father will still be on active duty. Because my father is amazing, I’ll only be helping, huh. If I’m entrusted with as much as one part, it’ll be most satisfactory, won’t it?
I think about it to that extent, and arrive at the conclusion that in the end, I will persevere in the things I can do. No matter how much I hurry and have anticipations for the future, if I don’t have the ability, they’ll only change into delusions.
「Father, what should I do next?」
After finishing my work, when I ask about the subject of the latter half of the day, my father is silent as I look. Because he doesn’t talk much, being silent is his default, but the time I asked for an indication, even if he doesn’t speak, somehow or another there is a reply.
I think with curiosity, and when I wait for a reply, my father’s large hand stretched out and put his hand on my head. As it is, my head is being patted.
When he finished patting, my father walked ahead of me. Because he’s going to the next workplace, I should follow, is what I thought. Puzzled about those actions from before, I followed my father.
Several days later, the previous day, I, who felt an indication that snow might fall, reported it to my father, and for the purpose of the work that was necessary before it fell, we went to the Ernest estate early in the morning.
For cold mornings, the sounds and atmosphere are quiet, and I like the somehow serious feeling. My face feels refreshed. In my past world, it’s the time I would be wrapped up in a futon. The me of the past world was a wasteful person, perhaps. Or because our lives are different, our feelings are also different, I think.
In the garden, Shepherd’s Purses, Primroses, and so forth are near Oku-sama’s room, but because in snow they’re weak, if we don’t let them go into the greenhouse, it won’t be good. Taking such things into account, my father is putting them into potted plants, it seems.
When I’m waiting for my father to bring the wagon that will be used to transport the potted plants, the sound of grass being stepped on can be heard gradually. The expectation is I should be using animal repellant, but it’s only a rabbit or a cat, maybe. In either case, because it’s meddling with the garden’s grass, after I capture it, I’ll bring it to the mountains and release it or search for an owner.
When I turn my eyes towards the direction of the noise, something completely unexpected entered my sight.
It was Ojou who was coming at a jog, with her hair down and appearing with pajamas I thought were a dress. Obviously, she was waking up.
「You idiot, you’ll catch a cold!」
I rush up to her, interrupting what Ojou was going to say, and yell. Immediately, I put my cold-protection jacket on her, then stop in front of her. The excess length of the sleeve will substitute for gloves.
「With this, Zack……」
「Since I’ll be working from here, it’ll be fine.」
Saying the reason for her to understand, Ojou’s objections are silent.
「Then? Why did you come?」
It becomes words like blaming. Although Ojou is a young girl, being this lightly dressed early in the morning and going outside, just what is she thinking? Maybe, even if she’s a noble girl, she’s the outdoor type?
「I woke up early…… and when I looked out the window, Zack was there, so……」
Because I was getting mad, she mumbles with a small voice and anxiously lowered eyes. But, because it’s quiet, I can make out Ojou’s words well.
I fell to one knee and looked at Ojou’s lowered eyes.
「If I was there, you don’t have to hurry and come out, okay?」
「Today…… because we can’t meet……」
I don’t understand the meaning of what Ojou is saying and tilt my head to the side. Because of things like practice, spending time with family, or Ojou having errands to run, it’s natural there are days we can’t meet. From the start, we are meeting only every few days.
「In the afternoon, since it was expected it would be open…… but, in the estate, we invited the daughter of one of mother’s acquaintances, and it became that we’ll be having tea as celebration for my birthday, so……」
「Ojou, today’s your birthday?」
Only finding slips of the tongue, I ask. Ojou slightly nods her head.
It’s risky, I don’t have anything prepared. What should I do? Moreover, it looks like she’s going to cry. No, but if she catches a cold, it’s no good.
I think round and round in circles, somehow or another arrange my priorities, and sigh. There, because when Ojou was scolded, she misunderstood and was scared, I force a smile.
「……It’s fine, we can meet at any time.」
When she just realized that 「anytime」 absolutely won’t continue, Ojou suddenly hurries. However, Ojou shouldn’t prefer me, she should prefer herself.
「Was Ojou concerned that I would catch a cold?」
Ojou again slightly nods her head.
「Then, you know that I worry about Ojou?」
After tightly closing her lips, Ojou nods.
「……I won’t do it anymore.」
I smile, then pat Ojou’s head. She understands that I’m no longer mad, and I see Ojou with a smile full of relief, so I’m relieved. For showing me that smile, thank you.
「Go back, since the maids might arrive before you return.」
I wanted her to return to the warm estate before she got cold, but Ojou seems lonely. I don’t want her to make that kind of face.
I want her to smile.
What should I do, for a moment I’m troubled and look up at the sky. There’s the faint light of the white sun that is starting to rise, but the whole garden shines. I see that light, and come up with an idea.
I call the name of Ojou who is hanging her head dejectedly, and she lifts her head.
「This, it’s your birthday present!」
I gather water magic in my hand, and scatter those particles across the sky. Then, struck by the sun’s light, near us, tiny rainbows come into view.
Ojou’s light blue pupils open up as much as possible, looking up at the rainbows. Reflected in her eyes are the seven colors of light, sparkling prettily.
For Ojou’s mumblings, they’re separate from things I thought were beautiful.
「Congratulations on your birthday, Ojou.」
When she smiles, and says those words, Ojou shows a smiling face that is like a flower blooming.
「Zack, thank you!」
I like Ojou’s smiling face.
Being able to see the moment she blooms, it feels like I received something. Although I gave Ojou something, this is the reverse.
「Again, next year, will you also show it?」
「Mmm, of course.」
This much is no problem. If I can see Ojou’s smile, I’ll create any number of rainbows.
When I ask whether or not she’ll go back, she says after a little bit, and then for a moment, the two of us, in the morning sun, gazed at the rainbows.
Awww, that was a nice, heartwarming end compared to the sudden shot to the heart from last time. There are some points like that, but they usually serve to help make moments like this one stand out a little more.
Not much to say for this chapter, though. Next chapter will obviously come out next year, and I’m on vacation.
Oh, but cool announcement! I’ll actually be presenting a panel at Katsucon 2022 about how you can use novels like this one I’m translating to learn Japanese, as well as how to get started. The panel is called “A Novel Way to Learn Japanese”, so if you are able to make it to Katsucon, I’ll see you there.
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With that, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year! Thank you for supporting me for all of 2021, and I hope to continue to have your support in the future!