Welcome to the final chapter of Volume 3! We’ve got 30 more chapters to get through after this one, but next chapter begins Volume 4.
That day, it suddenly came.
It was during a month when I went to the Vito estate to talk to Daniel-sama’s wife, Anika-sama, as my part time job.
Anika-sama, who thought I was her son, Elias, helped me prepare clothes for the three of us to have lunch together, and while drinking tea after a meal was having a conversation where the validity seemed mismatched. Anika-sama was the same as ever, but that day because the snow was also thawing, Anika-sama also accompanied me to the garden.
From the standpoint of Anika-sama, it’s just a stroll. Daniel-sama, worried that the ground still wasn’t dry, encouraged Anika-sama to grasp onto his arm. She naturally took his hand. And then, the two of them taking a walk, with how this is unsurprising for a married couple, seeing Anika-sama talk normally with her husband made me feel glad, aside from the topic of Elias.
So, I didn’t mind the two of them, and look at the increasing evergreen trees that are still wet from the melting of snow.
「Isaac’s eyes often shine in the unchanging garden of our house, huh?」
Daniel-sama mixes together admiration and amusement while smiling. I answer while looking at the trees crowding together in front of my eyes.
「The difference in arrangement and pruning of holly trees is interesting. The carnelia leaves also are a good color.」
The holly trees, because the atmosphere changes even with only how they’re arranged and pruned, are convenient for gardeners. Even the Ernest house uses them for topiary in the guest area. For this reason, because with the way a gardener uses them, their style comes out, it’s interesting.
The garden of Duke Vito has many evergreen trees such as camellias and water wax trees. I had the feeling I had somehow seen them, but perhaps the gardener of the Vito house prayed for Elias’ health, possibly avoiding deciduous trees. Even the appearance of the holly trees not being pruned, there is a feeling of desiring to have him grow up without worries. It’s my speculation, so just once, I want to meet the person in question and try to ask.
What should I do right now? For me, the garden is properly changing with the season, but according to others, it looks like a garden that doesn’t change like time has stopped. This garden, I didn’t understand whether or not it was good for Anika-sama.
「Even if you have a sense of the season, huh?」
I hold the branches of the holly tree and mumble. As for the holly tree, small white flowers on it signal summer.
When I looked at Daniel-sama and Anika-sama fleetingly, I met Anika-sama’s eyes.
The moment our eyes met, I felt uncomfortable in my inner thoughts and tilted my head to the side. Feeling around for the source of the uncomfortable feeling, I look into Anika-sama’s eyes that are the same color as mine.
Anika-sama looks at me curiously before speaking.
「……who are you?」
I look at her in wonder. I understood the true form of the uncomfortable feeling. If it’s like always, even when I’m in focus, she has a face like she’s not looking at me, but right now, she’s properly looking at me.
I wasn’t mentally bracing and my words got caught in my throat. I was more surprised than I thought I would be.
I take a deep breath.
「I am Isaac Baumgartner.」
「Right, you’re called Isaac.」
Asked for my identity, when I answer, Anika-sama uses my name for the first time. At that, not only me, but Daniel-sama’s eyes go wide as he looks at her in surprise. Surely, Daniel-sama’s surprise doesn’t match mine, right?
Drop by drop, you hear the water drip. I thought about if it was the snow that hadn’t dissolved yet, but Anika-sama was slightly surprised and Daniel-sama was looking this way.
I don’t understand the meaning of the gaze and tilt my head.
Something warm ran along my cheeks and when I realized it’s tears, they’re overflowing from my eyes. Daniel-sama’s eyes changed to worry, and confused, I wiped away my tears.
「You’re wrong. As soon as I thought it was fine……」
I was unable to withstand Daniel-sama’s happy seeming gaze and immediately deny the misunderstanding.
「I’m glad that Anika-sama is looking at me.」
It’s not that I’m happy Anika-sama was cured. I’m happy with myself. I’m not the good person Daniel-sama thinks.
During this job, always, although I was focusing on her, Anika-sama was searching for the face of her son Elias who had already died, and I confronted her with a feeling of challenging that. It’s like playing tennis. It was the first time someone hit back. I was just happy at that response.
Right now, Anika-sama is looking at me, and my voice is reaching her. At just that, the tears are trickling out.
When I earnestly wipe my tears, Anika-sama crouches down to match my eyes.
「I’m sorry for everything until now.」
「It’s not that……」
It’s not that I want to blame Anika-sama, so I shake my head. Because I don’t want to cause a misunderstanding, I try to stop my tears, but it doesn’t go smoothly.
Waiting for me, Anika-sama softly smiles.
Saying that, Anika-sama wraps me up with both arms.
「Thank you from me as well.」
You really did your best for me, Daniel-sama says with a gentle look, patting me on the head.
With how I’ve only occasionally encountered Anika-sama returning to consciousness, it doesn’t mean there’s anything I can do. So, I don’t want the two of them to thank me, but right now, when I open my mouth, there’s only weeping, I’m silent and shake my head left and right.
Although only Anika-sama recovered, at the kindness of the two of them worrying about me, I couldn’t stop my tears.
Afterwards, Anika-sama, who had returned to consciousness, went to rest in her room with her somewhat chaotic memories. After my eyes had drawn back from their swelling, I left the Vito estate. Daniel-sama told me he would send a message when Anika-sama had calmed down.
I had a feeling that next month my part time job would end, and to me it was a strange feeling. I don’t feel like going home immediately, so I take a detour.
Arriving at a street with a familiar wall, I enter through a door in the wall. Because the key to the door is dial-style, the employees of the house who know it can come and go as they need. After I enter, I make sure it’s locked, and go towards the trees that are like a forest.
It’s a day off, however, checking on the self-study garden would be nice. Confirming the state of the thawing snow, I’ll want to think about the time to plant seeds for the coming of spring.
When I go through the hedge fence, something reflecting the pale sunlight entered my view.
When I realized it’s Ojou’s hair, Ojou looked over at me at the same time.
Why are you here, she asks, curiously looking at me, and I smile broadly.
「Ojou’s amazing, huh?」
At my sudden words, Ojou tilts her head.
「…? What’s wrong? Today is a holiday, isn’t it……」
「I wanted to meet Ojou.」
When I encountered her, I realized it. I, because I became happy, I wanted to talk with Ojou and came here. With a place I can go, this only seemed like a place I could seem to meet Ojou.
However, I thought there is no way something so convenient would happen. So, Ojou, who was exactly there, is amazing.
Today is a day that something like a miracle happened to me, and while the feeling of amazement was delayed, Ojou didn’t have any reaction. She seemed to have frozen stiff with her eyes wide open.
What’s the matter, I asked, and when I approached to examine her, Ojou’s face instantly turned red.
Maybe she wanted to scold me, but the words were getting broken off and wouldn’t come out. Because it doesn’t look like she was eating anything, did saliva get caught in her throat? If that’s the case, it would be good to pat her on the back, right?
Before I can lend a hand to help, Ojou, as if to show she has it under control, raises a hand, giving me a sign to wait. Because of that, I waited for her to speak. While I was waiting, Ojou pressed down on her chest several times, taking deep breaths.
「W, with that, what…… business did you have meeting me?」
Ojou, who finally calmed down, looks away from me while asking.
「Something good happened.」
「Yep. I only did my best just a little, but today it finally paid off.」
「That’s…… good, isn’t it?」
Because I explained it frankly, Ojou tilts her head while giving me congratulations in return. Becoming happy with that, I smile. Then, somehow, the blush on Ojou’s cheeks that was about to die down increased.
「…………is that… all?」
At my smiling face, after I tell her I don’t have anything more to say, Ojou’s facial expression shifts as if to ask if that’s even possible. I simply nod back.
「Because I was happy, I wanted to tell Ojou.」
「I…… I see.」
Ojou, with her reddened face, slowly turned her gaze away from me like a creaking door. If it’s the same as usual, even if I only lend my ear while working, during those times we walk, Ojou wouldn’t take her eyes off of me. Today’s Ojou is rare.
Seeing Ojou was red to her ears, since the season was still chilly, and when I worry if she’s getting cold, I’m scolded about coming to my workplace even on a holiday and am sent away. Certainly, because my mother would do the same, I obediently returned.
When I returned to the house, with how we had stew full of ingredients I liked, so it was a good day.
One month after that, Daniel-sama contacted me.
When I visited the Vito estate, I was let into the guest parlor as usual. When I was wondering if I should try the tea that was set out for me, Daniel-sama and Anika-sama entered the room together.
「Thank you for the invitation today.」
I immediately leave my seat and greet them, Daniel-sama forces a smile and calms me down with his forest green eyes.
「It’s fine not to be so humble, you know. Certainly we called you today as a guest, but you are already my small friend.」
Isn’t that right, Daniel-sama says, and I somehow feel embarrassed. Even if I couldn’t obediently nod, I mumbled a thank you.
I meet Anika-sama’s eyes, and she smiled.
「I apologize for not properly greeting you. I am Anika von Vito. I’m jealous Daniel-sama made such a cute friend, you know.」
「Um, I am Isaac Baumgartner. I’m an apprentice gardener for the Ernest house.」
I couldn’t decide if I should say it’s nice to meet you, so I did my self-introduction again.
After standing around and talking, Daniel-sama encourages us, so everyone sits down. After the maids prepared Daniel-sama and Anika-sama’s portion of tea, the maids left the room.
Anika-sama doesn’t try the tea prepared for her, and suddenly starts to talk.
「Isaac-kun, I’ve done something cruel towards you. Using you as a substitute for Elias……」
「No, I asked Daniel-sama for permission, and only came to see you.」
It was only viewed as a filter from Anika-sama, and when I firmly told her that I wasn’t pretending to be Elias, Anika-sama lowers her eyebrows and smiles.
「Is that so?」
Anika-sama talking normally in this way feels strange to me. When I make a confused face, Daniel-sama and Anika-sasma exchange glances and force a smile.
「But, in my head, I ended up mixing in memories of Elias, so there are places I can’t tell them apart.」
「Is that so?」
An apologetic Anika-sama says that, but I don’t think there’s any helping it. Anika-sama only knew me last month. Even encountering me as me, it just isn’t the same for Anika-sama. Furthermore, it doesn’t mean it’s completely out of reach for her, I think.
「Isaac-kun, thank you for everything until now. Especially your assistance. How should I thank you……」
「No, I already received my reward each time. For me, even if it was a little bit, if I was able to help, I’m happy.」
I tell Daniel-sama the thanks is enough with a thoughtless smile. Somehow, Daniel-sama makes a face like he’s overcome with emotion, tightly clenching his fists.
「……now that you mention it, before you said you were having trouble with Geordo’s way of saying thank you, right?」
「Eh? Duke-sama’s hug attack? Yes, although I think I’m a little taller, I’m treated like a child.」
「Is that so……?」
「But, why suddenly ask?」
「Nothing, I just thought about how to show thanks to a friend.」
I tilt my head at the sudden change of topic, but Daniel-sama only returned a weak smile. However, Duke-sama’s surprise attack methods are something that won’t change, aren’t they? Being hugged by a guy isn’t something that makes me happy. Even if it’s to show appreciation, only using words is sufficient.
I thought about if it was a noble custom, but when I started interacting with Daniel-sama and the others, I realized Duke-sama was unique. Even if dirt is stuck to me, because my master, Heinz-san the butler will properly prepare a change of clothes, even recently it seems like he’s given up.
Daniel-sama, clenching his fists as if enduring something, is caressed by Anika-sama as if to comfort him. After that, he looks in my direction.
「Isaac-kun, I started to read in the Merkel Church’s orphanage.」
Speaking of the Merkel Church, from my house, it’s the closest one. In the downtown area, because the literacy rate of children is low, I think it’s good to aloud to them. Anika-sama contributes things like the adventurer stories Elias liked. The children like them compared to scriptures.
「Just like how I was in despair that I lost Elias, there are children who have had a hard time with their parents…… I was thinking that I want to help them keep on wanting to live.」
Anika-sama, from here on seemed intent on giving her all to do charity work. Somehow, it feels like the talk of an overseas celebrity, I thought, but the house of Marquis Vito is a high-rank noble, so she’s a normal celebrity. In any case, Anika-sama found a reason for living. Seeing her eyes full of life, Daniel-sama also seems to happily smile.
「So, what is it……」
Anika-sama looks at me. Her expression has a strange tension, so I ended up putting myself on guard.
「In order to skillfully speak with the children of the orphanage, would it be fine to perhaps sometimes consult you……?」
「If you don’t mind me, that’s fine.」
So it was that sort of thing, I thought, and I nodded with relief. But, Anika-sama didn’t seem to expect me to accept so readily, her eyes going wide.
「Anika, you have to properly say it.」
Daniel-sama speaks to Anika-sama with a tender voice. With his hand tightened up until a little bit ago, this time it envelops hers.
「I know a good story about insects. However, is it fine to check the answer with you?」
「Check… the answer……?」
「Which memories of mine are of Isaac-kun, from now on, I want to meet and to be taught that. I want to properly know you.」
When my part-time job finished, I thought I wouldn’t stay in contact with Daniel-sama and the others. When Anika-sama saw that reality, it was because my visiting isn’t needed.
So, not expecting that kind of thing to be said to me, I was surprised.
Naturally my expression loosens.
If she feels a debt to me that she doesn’t have to bear, it’s fine just to apologize. With that, if Anika-sama doesn’t worry about that, I’ll also cooperate. But, Anika-sama, from here, wants to know me. Rather than give an apology that isn’t necessary, this is better.
Because today isn’t the end of being with Daniel-sama and the others, I’m happy.
Anika-sama has a smile float onto her face full of relief, and Daniel-sama smiles, saying that’s good, isn’t it.
These are good people. Towards me, who by being an ordinary commoner, isn’t even a mob in the otome game, sincerely faced me. Daniel-sama and the others, from here, if we could smile and meet, it would be good.
「Now that you mention it, do I have to keep it a secret we’re meeting from Ojou?」
「No, since I’ll ask Geraldo again, it’s fine not to hide it from Lydia.」
「I’m glad. I don’t want to keep secrets from Ojou.」
「……Isaac-kun, what kind of relationship do you have with Lydia-chan?」
Hearing Daniel-sama and I’s conversation, Anika-sama curiously asks. Certainly, an apprentice gardener casually using the name of the daughter of the house he serves is strange.
I’m worried a little bit because I can’t just answer we’re an ordinary servant and daughter. Is it fine to say we’re friends? But, because it doesn’t feel like that I can talk about anything like with Nico, and I also didn’t play around with my female classmates in my past life.
It’s common in shounen manga, huh. I don’t want to show my weakness, but recognizing the other person, and triggering their drive to do their best……
「Ah. We’re rivals.」 [T/N: If only you could hear my laughter when I read this.]
「Yes. When I see Ojou, I think to myself that I don’t want to lose.」
That’s right. From the beginning, Ojou was expected to be the rival girl in the otome game. Even my younger sister from my past life was saying she’s the type who wins and loses fair and square, so she has a quality that makes people do their best.
At my answer, Daniel-sama and the other widen their eyes, and after a moment, Anika-sama smiles a bit.
「I see, that’s a wonderful relationship.」
For me, who had been able to put it into words, I cheerfully agree.
In that way, after my part time job, I was promoted to being Daniel-sama and the other’s friend. I’m only an ordinary gardener’s apprentice, but this little growth made me happy.
I can’t compete in the same area as Ojou due to our social status and other things differing, but I declared that I’ll continue to do my best at becoming a fully-fledged gardener. Around the time it spring came, together with the buds, my drive also sprouted.
Short and sweet. Honestly, that moment when Zack tells Ojou “I wanted to meet Ojou” was like HNNNNG inducing. Right in the heart.
Also, good news, I passed my JLPT. I don’t plan to stop here even after that, as I would like to carry this to completion. I’m hoping to try to get some time on the weekends to accelerate the translation speed but I’ve got quite a few things stacking up such as some publishing stuff.
See you all next chapter, where we begin Volume 4!
5 thoughts on “40. Thawing”
Made me smile!
Congrats on passing the JLPT!
Thanks for all the hard work
we are rivals LMAOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
Congrats on passing!!; 🥳🎉