This chapter’s name is literally “tree’s shade” but that sounds funky as a title. Also, sorry if this chapter is a bit of a mess formatting wise. I wasn’t able to do my usual editing because I got pulled into a business trip so I am actually currently doing this from my hotel room before I have to do work instead of my usual set-up, hahaha. Tried my best, but wew, work trips are exhausting. If someone wouldn’t mind putting this on NovelUpdates, that would be neat; I’m like, rushing to get this out the door before work, whoops. Time zone differences suck. Anyways, enough of that, chapter time.
「Zack, where are you?」
Even with his moderate greetings, Nicholas, who had visited the Ernest estate, asked Lydia his friend’s whereabouts.
It was always the same exchange, but today Lydia’s friend was a little different.
「……um, before, I have something I want to consult a little.」
At Lydia, who while seeming to timidly talked while asking, Nicholas tilts his head in confusion. Whenever he was approached to consult about something, eight or nine times out of ten, it was about a friend, but he didn’t have any expectations.
「What is it?」
Since her guard, Eric, did not have good feelings towards the boy who is a gardener’s apprentice, Lydia shortens the distance between them and hides her mouth with her hand while talking with a whisper. Nicholas imitated that, crouching over to make it easy for Lydia to talk.
「……um, I have a feeling he’s avoiding me.」
「Haa? There’s no way Zack is avoiding you.」
At that astounding sentence, Nicholas denied it as impossible.
「That’s what it seems like, but…… certainly, it’s the same as always, but how do I put it……」
Expressing beyond that is difficult for words, so Lydia frowned in careful consideration. For the sake of encouraging Lydia to continue, Nicholas asks a question.
「What kind of time did you feel something strange?」
Encouraged by Nicholas’ question, Lydia rethinks the timing of when she felt something was out of place. Then, at her shyness and hesitation, she suddenly started to speak her mind.
「Um…… the time we went to the secret garden and he didn’t lead me by the hand. After, he still praises me with words, but he doesn’t pat me on the head…… even though he does so with Flora……」
Hearing her words, Nicholas’ facial expression gradually changed into one of shock.
「Simply not being touched is lonely, huh?」
At the presented summary, Lydia became her surprised and her face turned red.
But, when it was pointed out to her just like that, and ended up saying something she didn’t want to, and Lydia shyness and heat on her cheeks competed, with words not coming out.
Seeing Lydia hold her tongue in shyness, Nicholas sighs and talks with an amused voice.
「There’s no way Zack would make a move on another person’s woman.」
「You’re engaged to His Highness, the prince, right?」
Nicholas easily derived the answer. Unable to understand the contents of that answer, Lydia once again froze.
Certainly, if she thinks back on it, after she notified him of her engagement with Roy, the boy who is a gardener’s apprentice stopped touching her unexpectedly. Lydia thought it was the guards that came with her, but even before then, she realized the contact from him had already stopped.
Because he hadn’t changed with the exception of not touching her, not even in her wildest dreams did she consider he was considering her. It might have been unconscious, Nicholas said.
「It seems the butler taught him how to deal with young women, huh?」
Even though it was temporary, if it was the case he received the minimum education for being an attendant, he would have held back in careless touching, and towards a woman who had been engaged, he would pay particular care.
Rather, from the point of Nicholas, from their first meeting, the two were too close. As for the beginning, his head had received a blow, but at this point they were friends, and understood that it seems he was treating her like a younger sister. When she thought about that, at the time she became engaged, he could understand it was time to stop treating her like a little sister and instead as another woman.
「Well, Zack won’t touch you anymore, right?」
The mumblign that spilled out was filled with more hopelessness than she thought. The reality that from here, he would never touch her again, shocked Lydia.
She knew she liked that hand that ordinarily lightly patted her head.
In one breath, the heat of her cheeks shot up in a frenzy.
Unable to just watch Lydia in a daze, Nicholas lightly poked her forehead. At Lydia who was surprised at her forehead being poked, Nicholas smiles.
「You’re unexpectedly foolish, you know.」
「It’s fine if it’s Lydia-sama who touches.」
At the unbelievable suggestion, Lydia’s eyes go wide. Moreover, as for something like voluntarily touching him, she hadn’t even done. The most she had done was grab him by the hem of his clothes.
Even trying to imagine naturally joining hands, she completely couldn’t do it, and again the feverish heat came back to her cheeks.
「T…… that, wouldn’t it become what Zack called sekuhara……!?」
At Lydia’s question made in confusion and her corresponding panic, Nicholas replies without hesitation.
「Because there’s no way Zack will dislike it, it’s fine, you know.」 [T/N: NICHOLAAAAAS]
It only applies in the situation the other person is unwillingly, Nicholas said he heard from a friend. At Lydia’s eyes which seemed to be whirling in confusion, while thinking inwardly it as amusing, calms her down by saying there’s no problem.
First, the amount Lydia could touch him did not amount to much. Nicholas experienced it in the past, that she wouldn’t turn her gaze towards him if he directly touched her skin. Rather, this feeling is that he can poke her only with this finger.
「……for Zack’s birthday, what if you do it a little bit upfront?」
Making no progress as it was, Nicholas raised the idea of his friend’s birthday. If he didn’t give the chance to begin such an action, she would always be worried.
「You haven’t decided on a present yet, right?」
Lydia, who had been hit right on the bullseye, was made to be at a loss for words. What would the boy who is a gardener’s apprentice be happy to receive, as even last year when she didn’t have a rough idea, this time of year greatly troubled her. If she asked the person in question directly what would be good, because the one time she asked she received an answer that was bad for her head, Lydia doesn’t have alternatives.
Nicholas’ proposal is something she can do herself, and it’s something that corresponds to something only done on his birthday, so Lydia felt a sense of doubt.
「……That sort of thing is fine, right?」
「Oh my. Although you haven’t done it until now, why say ‘that thing’?」
This time, she didn’t even make a sound. Lydia, who was at her wits’ end, for a moment, as if to grasp her determination, made fists with both of her hands.
「Today, I will try to be a little upfront.」
At Lydia who declared that and had been cheered up, Nicholas helped her persevere.
Around the conclusion of that, at Eric who looked to be sulking at having been left out, Lydia apologized and faced the garden. Then, she became confused at what she should say to the boy who is a gardener’s apprentice that they found, so Nicholas who also accompanied her greeted him first.
It seems the first move had been taken, but seeing Nicholas who easily touched the boy who is a gardener’s apprentice, Lydia memorized the feeling of frustration.
「If Ojou and the others are happy with it, that’s fine, you know.」
However, with the words of the boy who is a gardener’s apprentice, that much changed.
In that way, isn’t it as if everything you’re doing isn’t for yourself? Why does the answer to the question if he can continue his simple work become like that? He really is bad for the heart.
He isn’t identifying only her by using the plural form, but even if she tries to persuade herself that by not pointing to the Ernest house that it’s not necessarily representative of her and that is strongly conceited, the beating of her heart accelerated. Becoming fraught with emotions at the reality of how he is thinking of her even at the times she isn’t there, that fever reached her head and she seemed to become dizzy.
Somehow or another she makes herself stop her agitation, and when she bites her lips to endure her heartbeat, the voice from the boy who is a gardener’s apprentice startles her. In the time she wasn’t listening to their talk, Eric seems to have incurred Nicholas’ wrath. Because it was evident the anger was about the boy who is a gardener’s apprentice, Nicolas was rebuking Eric about recognizing who his friends are.
Although it’s inside the limits of the Ernest house, Eric resisted common people and nobles talking with each other, and even with several attempts at persuasion, they were not able to get him to understand. Even Lydia herself, until she had met the boy who is a gardener’s apprentice, because she had been concerned about her social status, she didn’t have a solution to the problem. However, if she can do something, she wants the three people who are planned to be her guards to understand.
Lydia reaffirms the issue from here on after, and is encouraged towards the promenade’s bench, where the boy who is a gardener’s apprentice asks the same question as usual.
「Then, what’s wrong today?」
Usually, she reports about her sister Flora, her fiance Roy, or what she became able to do better with her lessons. however, this time, being upfront with the boy who is in front of her, is her goal.
Because she declared it to Nicholas beforehand, she can’t renege, so she has to tell him that she’s here just to meet him.
「~~if I don’t have any business, I can’t come?」
She tightened her fists and the words that came out were twisted.
Moreover, she can’t look directly into his face and ended up turning her head away. Instantly noticing her blunder, her inner thoughts shouted abuses at herself.
「No? Since I’m happy to meet with Ojou, it’s fine.」
Rather, the reply that exceeds what the other party wanted, causes surprise to her heart. How does he say such things so simply?
Or rather, with only asking if it’s good or bad, why does it become that kind of answer?
Because it’s excessively bad for her heart, she ended up unconsciously scolding him. But, him easily going over the efforts of other people is also bad. Nicholas, who seemed to praise Lydia’s efforts, told her to persevere and patted her head.
Afterwards, Nicholas handed over his present to the boy who is a gardener’s apprentice, but Lydia didn’t understand the purpose for the metal rings. It seemed to possibly be for protecting his hands. With how the boy who is a gardener’s apprentice seems to know their use, with the fact his facial expression weakened, he doesn’t appear to be happy.
Even if it isn’t something he likes, he knew to accept kindness, but Lydia wants to give him something that he would like. Even if the present from his friend, Nicholas, is no good, the anxiety of if he would like her own gift rose.
When she’s in the middle of those kinds of thoughts, Nicholas’ voice calls to her. It ended up being her turn, and Lydia seemed to unconsciously leap up in surprise.
Clearing her throat and pretending to calm herself, Lydia indicated to sit down next to her, and the boy who is a gardener’s apprentice obediently sat down.
However, at the time she tried to change her determination to actions, she met copper eyes, and her tension increased.
「It…… it’s fine if you don’t look!」
「Even if you say that, I’ll worry.」
「Mouuu, close your eyes!」
Lydia, inwardly, regrets yelling at him again. Her nervousness is exceedingly winning and the room she has to honestly ask him is becoming nonexistent.
Although her social standing is higher, shouldn’t he run out of patience with how her younger, charm-less self that only scolds him? Looking at him with his eyes obediently closed, she began to worry.
From here, is it only her own self-satisfaction, possibly? She worries if he’ll like it, but stopping here means she won’t move forward. The boy in front of her, she has to make an effort to be even a little bit honest with him.
Taking as deep a breath as she can, she quiets down the tension and anxiety.
To be able to reach him, she kneels on top of the bench, and puts her hand on his reddish-brown hair. The red-brown hair she touched, it wasn’t dry, but bathed in sunlight, it’s warm and soft. Lydia enjoys the feeling of hair that is beyond her expectations.
Although she pats his head, when she’s immersed in it, his eyelids open up and copper eyes look at her.
Her hand unconsciously stopped, but she couldn’t pull her hand away from the soft sensation. When Lydia tries to take the offensive, she decides to tell him that this was intended to be his birthday present.
「Z, Zack is an apprentice, but even still, he does a good job, so…… happy birthday, I will straightforwardly praise you……」
Again, the way she said it ended up becoming twisted, but somehow or another she was able to convey the important part. For the sake of not being embarrassed, Lydia increased the rate she patted his head.
For herself, the degree of difficulty is high, so this kind of trivial act was really a gift. His reaction is scary.
「I’m incredibly happy. Thank you, Ojou.」
The boy who is a gardener’s apprentice, at the moment he understood her intention, smiled back, seemingly truly happy.
The sunlight filtered through the leaves in the shade of the tree increases how dazzling that radiant smile is, and Lydia had the hallucination it was like wearing warmth.
「……! It’s hard to do, so don’t look this way!」
She became relieved that he was happy about the gift he received, but didn’t think he was happy with just that. At the unexpected reaction, Lydia forgets to act honestly and ended up complaining. However, with that smile that is bad for her heart facing her, the truth is it’s hard to continue patting him.
At Lydia’s objection, the boy who is a gardener’s apprentice leaves aside his smile while obediently following what he was told, and again faces ahead and closes his eyes.
Afterwards, while reflecting on the reality that he was happy, she feels satisfied with at the sensation of the hair she patted.
「Oh my, that made you happy, didn’t it?」
On the way back from the estate, because Nicholas naturally shows a smile, Lydia becomes a little frustrated.
「How do you know so much about Zack?」
Although she doesn’t understand it at all, the way Nicholas has a thorough understanding is unfair.
「My, my, who do you think I am?」
Implicitly showing off his position as a friend, Lydia bites her lips.
「I don’t understand!」
At the abrupt anger in shi voice, the conversation comes to a stop. When Nicholas faces the voice that interrupted their conversation, Eric is frowning and hanging his head down. He’s clenching both of his fists.
「That gardener’s apprentice, I can’t possibly think of why Lydia-sama recognizes him as a person.」
Because he had been holding himself back, at Eric whose endurance seems to have run out, it seemed that he was no longer able to stay silent.
Nicholas’ reaction is to hit the joints of his fist, but Lydia holds him back with her hand. She wants to have her subordinates entrusted to her, and with that intention conveyed, Nicholas metaphorically sheathes his sword.
Lydia stands opposite to Eric. She remembered a sense of deja vu at the situation. With the worldly knowledge of only herself, she decided she was right, and didn’t recognize anything outside of that, and her self of two years ago overlapped on top of him.
「Am I someone that Eric would recognize as a person?」
「Of course, with how you are the daughter of the Ernest house that is fair and treats all neutrally, with how you are the fiance to His Highness, the first prince, you are the future queen! That I am able to work for you, to me that is a great privilege!」
When she raises a question about herself to Eric, he raises his head that he was hanging low, and this time answered in a loud voice with excitement on his face.
The elevating compliment naturally had every title Lydia held. Certainly it was something Lydia held, but they were things others gave her, not something of herself.
「Then, if I were not the daughter of a duke, if I were not engaged to Roy-sama, Eric would ignore me, right?」
When Lydia lets out a forced smile, Eric’s facial expression suddenly became flustered.
「T…… that is……!」
The appearance of Eric being unable to say no is one of words being lost and anguish.
If he is a noble aiming to become a knight, it was likely that someday he wanted to be part of the Royal Guards. Guarding the fiance of the first prince is one shortcut. Relinquishing that would be expected to be regrettable. [T/N: “Royal Guards” is more properly “Imperial Guards”, because of how it seems to be a kingdom rather than an empire I felt this fit better.]
Becoming amused at his docile answer, Lydia smiles a little.
「I am not saying that it’s bad. I’m proud to have been born into the Ernest family.」
She was born to a loving father and mother and wanted to be someone who both of them could boast about. So, Lydia became the appropriate person. When she thinks on how Eric’s compliment that acknowledged that, she’s happy.
Taking Lydia’s words, Eric lets ot a sigh of reassurance.
「Normally, like Eric, I am evaluated while keeping in mind that I am a noble, the daughter of a duke, and a member of the Ernest family.」
That’s natural, but until two years ago, she had been misunderstanding the expectations of both of her parents.
「But, Zack is different, he judges me for myself.」
He doesn’t judge her with how she’s the daughter of a duke, it’s Lydia’s actions that he uses to gauge in his own way if he sees right or wrong, even praising her or scolding her. The times he compliments her are the times she puts forth her own effort, and the times he chides her are times she doesn’t hold dear.
「Thanks to him, I will not lose sight of myself.」
There is someone who comes across her and respects her for her own wishes. That is, the extent to how much he helps, he probably doesn’t know.
Naturally, a smile comes on her face.
「For me, Zack is a person who is hard to come by. You may not immediately understand, but when you do, you’ll be happy.」
Rather than be scolded, he was smiled at, and Eric suddenly froze up at this. He understands he should nod after attempting to be persuaded by his master, but instead there’s jealous at how it’s the reverse, that is he being protected by his master.
「……but, that boy is sneaky.」
He thinks he’s unfair. It’s only when it regards Zack that Eric can’t obediently consent.
「Why do you think that?」
His master, Lydia, who tilts her head in curiosity, directly looks back at him in response. Unable to endure those eyes, Eric again bows his head.
「It’s because, that guy, rather than me, he met Lydia-sama first and earned her trust.」
The time he was assigned, he thought he was the only boy close to her age. If that’s the case, certainly his master Lydia would feel a sense of trust, and had been thinking he could immediately earn her trust. However, a boy who wasn’t even aiming to be a knight already earned her faith, taking the wind out of his sails.
「He isn’t even Lydia-sama’s caretaker, he’s just some guy who touches dirt, and yet the times Lydia-sama is with him, she’s very happy.」
「T, that is……」
Lydia became red in the face and unconsciously tried to deny it, but Nicholas who was carefully watching directly pointed it out.
「Just because he was born two years ahead of me, he’s taller than me, and he’s always making a calm face, but at any rate that guy is sneaky!!」
「In the end, I strongly agree.」
While thinking that in his head he earned his master’s displeasure, Eric, who hadn’t been able to stop speaking out, couldn’t believe he had earned an impossible agreement from Lydia, and his surprised words stopped.
Not minding Eric had frozen up, Lydia nodded.
「I don’t understand his intentions, but because Zack does what I can’t calmly do, he’s unfair.」
Recalling an example, Lydia’s facial expression became a little angry. Able to sympathize with his master’s discontentment, Eric had a glad look mixed with consent.
「He easily admits fault and apologizes.」
「He easily praises people.」
「……you two, that’s something to praise, you know?」
Amazed at the contents of their complaints, Nicholas points that out to the two of them.
「No, it’s a problem. I can’t do it, it’s unfair!」
「That’s right! He says things like you’re beautiful, you’re cute, saying those things freely is strange!」
「Ahh, is that so…..」 [T/N: Nicholas’ facepalm can be heard through the text alone.]
They’re already doing things to their own convenience, Nicholas thought, giving up hope of correcting them. If they are thinking this about the person in question, there’s no helping it.
「Do you hate Zack?」
Directly stared at by Lydia as she asks that, Eric is at a loss.
Then, he was surprised at how he didn’t immediately return a reply that he hated him. There wasn’t any expectation of that, and he rethought on the irritating example.
Before, the day Eric was guarding, the boy who is a gardener’s apprentice handed over handmade cookies to Lydia. Those plain things, he tried to stop her from eating, but Lydia said she wanted to eat them again and it seems she asked for them, so his request was obstructed.
In return, his master Lydia let him try them before her, and when she said that, he easily consented, and was given his portion of the bundle for three people. From the beginning, he was prepared to give each of them their portion, and when he tasted the single flat cookie, although it was a simple flavor, it was generally good. Later, in the employee waiting room, while having snacks with tea, he ended up being the first one to finish. Petra warned she wouldn’t given any of hers, and Emilia scolded him for swelling up like a glutton.
That’s right, he was embarrassed to lose face to him. Recognizing he was an irritating existence, Eric opens his mouth.
「……I don’t like him. But, I’ll rethink my attitude from now on, possibly.」 [T/N: This sentence was infuriating; there’s like 3 levels of uncertainty/denial that it was easier just to skip it.]
He hadn’t even thought about how he prepared a portion for him beforehand for poison tasting. Even from now on, if he properly prepares for poison tasting, it would be good to reconsider his attitude.
「But, I hate that girl-like guy.」
Holding a finger up to point, Eric declares that. Nicholas, because he protects the boy who is a gardener’s apprentice, he opposed him very much.
「Who are you rejecting, you stupid brat?」
At Eric’s words, Nicholas, who popped a vein, froze up while also sweetly smiling. His vocal pitch dropped one octave, and although he was smiling, because there was an air of intimidation, Lydia interrupted to pacify him.
By all rights he should apologize to his master, but when he tried to apologize before, he had been told by Nicholas because they can settle this face to face, it’s unnecessary. Lydia really doesn’t understand fellow guys very well. Because of that, in order to keep things from deteriorating, she stays.
Confirming there won’t be an argument, Lydia once again stands in front of Eric.
「Eric, I may be an imperfect master, but if you could think on Zack, I would be happy. Thank you.」
Lydia happily smiles and when she puts her hand out, she pats the short hair on Eric’s head. At the movement of praise, Eric stares back at his master, seeming curious.
At that appearance, Lydia tilts her head in confusion.
「No…… it’s different from the time with that guy, it seems more easily done, I think.」
Hearing the words from Eric that it was a honor, but also this point was also a little strange, Lydia blushed, and becoming panicked, released the hand that was patting his head.
「T…… that is……!?」
At how his master suddenly lost her presence of mind, Eric tilts his head to the side. Did he say something strange, maybe?
At the sight of his mysterious master, a question spilled out from Eric.
「It’s too early for you to understand Ojou-sama.」
Although they were only two years apart, he was treating him like a kid, and Eric snapped at Nicholas’ words, with Nicholas fighting back.
Although she calmed down her own agitation, Lydia, at her limits, waited a while to stop their argument.
I liked this chapter, mostly for Lydia’s growth. It was very satisfying to see how Zack had changed her perspective on things when it came to Eric. Also, awww, that was such a sad note at the beginning when Lydia realized why Zack wasn’t patting her anymore. Makes me real eager for when the otome game’s protagonist will really come into play.
Aside from that, not a whole lot to say. Remember there will be no updates in November as I study for the JLPT. Updates resume on the week of December 11th, which would be December 16th if I’m looking at the calendar right. Just want to build in some extra time even after the exam so I can build a little bit of a backlog, haha.
Until next time, everyone.