Preparing to go out, you and me.
A piece of bread and half a cup of soup. When I finished my usual lunch, Jasmine puffed her cheeks.
To me who stood up with the empty dish, she called me in a strange and soft voice. When I turned around while tilting my head, a large chunk filled my mouth. Inside the mouth I accidentally closed, the sweet chunk melted away. A deep sweetness filled my mouth.
"............Peach?" "Yesyesyes. If it's a fruit like peach, it's easy to eat and get the nutrients, right?" "......I'm surprised you managed to get it in this season." "It's near the festival, so there were many things coming in, and the chef said that this would be good for a young lady."
When I turned my head towards the chef, the ever stoic, frowning man quickly disappeared into the shade of a deep pot. The senescent man had always given me the amount I asked for, but I learned for the first time today that it wasn't that he didn't care. While returning the dishes, I bowed my head slightly. I saw the white hat that could not hide shake.
"It's been a month since you started working for master, but Shirley, you're still eating here. I heard the food over there's nice too." "She's here today because she has work!"
In response to Jasmine who drew closer to him with great momentum, Samua took two steps back and whispered to the boy next to him.
"......Did I say something wrong again?" "I think obstinately being around her might have been a bad idea."
Their conversation could be heard from over here. The boy is a butler-in-training hired three months before I became. With eyes like the ear of rice, he is called Tim.
"E-Erm, Shirley-san, if you're in plain clothes, does that mean you're going out somewhere?"
I learned during this one month, but it seems like Samua speaks a word too much, or isn't very good with choosing words. Before Samua could anger Jasmine more, Tim quickly told the story. From the usual maid uniform I've been wearing just before, I had changed into plain clothes. A grey one-piece dress. It's one of the few property I have.
"Master said that he will be going down to the town, so he requested that she change into plain clothes."
Since going out as a lord causes problems and takes time to prepare, he sometimes goes out secretly. So his attendant is also in plain clothes. According to Carron, he's been busy recently so she thought it would be soon. A simple one-piece dress made using a sheet of fabric. It's one of the only personal belongings I have, but seeing that Jasmine stared up at the sky. Having got closer to Samua, Jasmine pounded the table with a fist with a face full of trouble.
"I-I wanted to her lend her my clothes......! To wear at the festival, I bought this cute pink dress. I wanted to lend her that, but the size.....!" "Aah, you did eat three extra snacks- bu!" "The clothes slip from her shoulders!" "That was a slip of the tongue- ka!? It's the truth...... Sorry, sorry I know that I'm in the wrong so please stop hitting me! It hurts! If the size doesn't fit her, you can lend her something else, right!?" "............Ah, w-wait a bit, Shirley! I'll be back soon!" "Ow!"
Turning at a sharp angle while having Samua seized by the collar, she threw Samua and started running. If she'll be back soon I don't need to sit. I leaned against the wall and gathered my hands together in front my body.
In the dining hall, there's a little less people than at noon. There's a big festival once a year in Laius, so it's busy getting ready to receive guests from other fiefdoms. So there's not as many people as usual during meal times. Once we actually start receiving guests, it will get even busier compared to before. Since it's not as crowded as usual, I might not have needed to stand up. I already stood up. Anyway, I don't plan on staying for long. Not leaning against the wall and standing tall, Tim approached me with a wry smile.
"Those clothes look composed so it's nice." "Thank you."
Though Tim is a young person like me, he volunteers for errands with a smiling face and is very sociable. He is still very boyish, so his sweet and kind expression is probably another reason for him getting loved. He's also good with women, being able to compliment people refreshingly like just before. Standing next to me, with similar height to me, Tim tilted his head slightly and stared at me.
"Shirley-san, everyone's saying that your complexion has got better." "Thanks to somebody."
When I said that, Tim chuckled. He managed to see through the person I obfuscated. Then what he said next was about that person.
"Do you know what master's recent orders about the snacks were?" "......No." "He asked for things that could eaten in single bite."
That was the first time I heard it. I thought he had been able to place snacks into my mouth recently. I just thought Kaid liked small snacks because he's busy. But to think that it was to easily put it into my mouth. Next time, it might better if I cover my mouth when speaking. I made a wry smile as I pressed my lips with my finger, while Tim put his hands behind his head as he went, "A—ah." A gap appeared between his sleeve and his glove. There was a mole on his wrist, which for some reason I stared at.
"Master's snacks must be nice. I want to try some too."
I silently stared at him as he felt disappointed that it might have been his turn. I thought so too. Apparently, people who got used to work are put to work over there. So he was thinking that it would definitely be his turn soon. Even if it's the same faces, people are replaced out of necessity. I wonder if that's there to watch the person that the next person could be shifted in without delay. Maybe he's holding a grudge against me, who was barely here for ten days while he was here for three months. But, that doesn't mean a thing.
"It's unfortunate that it wasn't me, but if it's Shirley-san."
To Tim who winked and smiled mischievously, I let out a sigh. Seeing that, Tim made a bitter smile, but not wanting to change the subject he placed his lips near my ear and lowered his voice.
"Everyone says that you two look good together." "......Please tell everyone that's being insolent, no matter how kind master may be." "You are the one he takes most interest in though." "I do know that I am unsightly." "......Master's marriage is the wish of all the servants."
Tim covered his face to hide tears. It's me who feels like crying.
"He's soon turning thirty, but he's refusing all marriage offers and there are no rumours either. The head butler's hair is growing greyer by the day!"
I wonder about a fifteen-year-old butler-in-training lamenting about that. I sighed again. Hearing that sigh, Tim dropped his shoulders sadly.
"It's a good story for Shirley-san too, right? You don't dislike master, right? You'll be marrying into riches! We servants are your allies! Truth be told, I think the head maid is at the centre of it, but fortunately she seems to like Shirley-san!" "Master is a very charming man, so if he feels like he will soon find a partner. Stir him up. He'll surely find a lady of proper status. Then the peace of Laius will be protected better, and there's nothing to be disappointed for me."
I took a step away and bowed with my hands together.
Then, Samua who had been rubbing his bruise opened his mouth.
"Stirring things up is fine, but pressuring is not."
Tim dejectedly dropped his shoulders and shut his mouth. The way he knows when to stop must also be a reason why is likeable. But please know that stirring things up is not good either. Tim apologised and laughed bitterly.
"So you like Laius." "It is the land I was born in." "But then, will you not be here when you turn sixteen? This is the best place to work for Laius though." "............I'll do my best during the short time here.
To be honest, I am a bit thankful to the orphanage director. For the opportunity of being able to do something for my first and second homeland. No matter how petty, that I could help. In my last life, I could not help, but only harm. I was unnecessary. There's no way I can't make up for everything in the short period of a year and then I'll be spending the rest of life in prayer for the future of Laius. However, that's still not enough. What has already been destroyed cannot come back. Every time I learn about things lost in the times when death always hung around, I think that. Lands, stores, people, Laius, they all fell to ruin. Those who were rich in that period have more work than one death can solve. So when I got a second life I wanted to return it to the people who were murdered unjustly during that age. Just that would have been the salvation for the people who were lamenting their losses. I wouldn't have squandered it away, not knowing what I should do for redemption. How will I use this second life? How should I use it to atone for the sins of my family against Laius too.
As I sighed, I heard pitter-patter sounds of footsteps. When I turned around, there was Jasmine panting with her face slightly red.
"Shirley, look at this!!"
What she showed me was a necklace with a blue decoration. When I closely examined what was shown to me, there was a small flower.
"Hyacinth?" "Right, I bought it because it was cute. But then, it didn't go with the one-piece dress so I had kept it in a drawer. I'll give it to you, Shirley." "I," "I do think I am being nosy, but for a maiden my age to not have any luxuries... Fufu, Shirley, you always tie your hair up, so it's easy to put on a necklace."
After saying that, she quickly put her hands behind my neck and then backed away. Then, a blue ornament was hung on me. Jasmine, who put the blue colour on me, looked at me up and down.
"I did have a white one, but I accidentally snapped it some time ago......"
Come to think of it, there was a white flower on a necklace whose chain snapped. I picked up as Jasmine was screaming, so I remember it well. I did that quite a few times in the past. With the thin chains, it was too late when I realised it. It had already snapped. Feeling the touch that I was not used to know, I unconsciously stared at my fingers. Jasmine grabbed that hand with both her hands.
"Then, maybe for living together, or for getting closer, whatever reason's good, so it would be nice if I got anything from Shirley...... To be honest, I thought that it was the same colour as Shirley's eyes, so I ended up buying it immediately. Sorry, I bought it without knowing what your favourite colour is. This time, I want to go to the village together with you. So, tell me what your favourite colour is or what you like the most!" "Jasmine-san." "You always say you like Jasmine...... Shirley, your skin is cute. Eh? Master's snack? Is it because of the snacks!? Can you ask him what's in those!?"
I blinked hard as her face got closer to me than her hands gripping my hand and the topic changed quickly. I stepped back a bit and desperately jogged my memory. If there's something, there's only one thing.
"............I think it might be the tea." "Tea confectionery!? Oh my, that must be good for the body!" "No, not a mix." "Then something made with tea?" "No, not solid but liquid......"
Liquid. Tea is fundamentally had in liquid state. I noticed that it got unnecessarily complicated from trying to explain it and thought a little. Easy explanation, easy.
"It's just normal tea. So it has such an effect? Then we won't have to worry about the profits. I think I should investigate a bit......"
From the voice that came from behind, everyone flinched and turned around.
To Kaid who was waving from outside the window for some reason, Samua hurried over. I stared at Kaid on the spot and was unable to move from the spot. His hair colour was different. He looked like a minor noble too. Though he doesn't wear luxurious clothing usually. He's closer to a villager than that, though. Kaid's hair, which was brown like Helt's, glistened in the sun. He put a hand on Samua who was panicking.
"If you had called, I would have headed there, sir!" "There's someone bothersome, so I'm heading out through the back. I sorry, but please return the prepared horses." "Eh...... a bothersome person, sir?" "He will probably come here looking for me, but please act as though you don't know where I am. Shirley, shall we go?"
I was called, so I detached my hand from Jasmine's. Actually, my hand was gripped. Well, doesn't matter either way. From that action, the blue flower on my chest swayed. Each other's gazes overlapped on that. Feeling the glance, I thought a little.
"............Thank you." "Y, eah...... Yeah! Thank you!"
She took my hand again. With that hand as the axis, Jasmine hopped about. My field of vision was suddenly turned around and I was pushed on the back.
Seeing Jasmine who looked more excited than me who was going to the town, Kaid who was leaning against the windowsill with his elbow smiled wryly.
"It is still work though?" "But it's still more fun cleaning or preparing the guest room, sir!" "Mn, true."
I was pushed again and stumbled. Grabbing my hand that almost crashed into the window, Kaid smiled wryly again...... So the flow is that I'll be exiting through the window. I wonder if Kaid will look the other way when I lift my leg. It will be a little difficult if he's looking over here. Would it be rude to ask the lord to face the other way? But at this rate, it will be rude in another sense. While I was pondering what to do, Kaid leant over using his tall height.
"Did you have lunch?" "Yes." "Did you have a lot?" "......I had the usual."
Kaid smiled wryly. He makes this expression often. Not just him, others too. It's probably because of my attitude.
"Well, you don't lie."
His hand that was extended along with the wry smile took the place behind my knees. I clung on to Kaid's head in surprise as he leant over. His dishevelled hair was stiff compared to the past. It did not compare to a fourteen-year-old's hair, but it feels very familiar to my fingers for some reason. The warmth I felt in the past did not change for some reason, so the emotion that started moving again brought pain. I hugged Kaid's head as he lifted me up through the window and muttered something next to his ear.
"......I told enough lies already."
Kaid stopped mid-movement as he was crouching over to let me down. I laid my hands on those shoulders which were supporting me awkwardly and got off on my own. I stood up, took my hands off his shoulders and mumbled.
Noticing the strain, I curled my lips. It wasn't just that my facial muscles which were out of use for a long time was frozen. There were many things mixed in. It's a good thing I had my back towards Jasmine and the others. This face should not be shown for those who don't know that period. I grabbed my index finger and middle finger and silently bowed.
"Thank you." "Eh, what?" "For helping me out the window."
To Kaid who was absentmindedly staring at my distorted face, I held my palm out to his left. The stable was to that direction.
"Let's go, sir. Shall we get going to the town?"
When I called him that, he looked at me with a very strange expression. So I furthered the distortion.
As we walked without conversing about anything special, we arrived at the stable. Kaid stopped. I was looking down at my feet, so soon I bumped into him. When I hurried to the side, I could see what was ahead. There was a young man leaning against the entrance of the stable. He had his golden hair tied up and had on the casual clothes of a minor noble, rumpled on purpose. The man that I remember seeing somewhere, winked his beauty spot next to his eye and smiled.
"It's been a while, but you're being rather cold to me, Kaid." "I'm seeing hallucinations. Looks like that tea does not work for hallucinations."
Completely ignoring that young man, Kaid had his body turned towards me. Ignored even though he was on our path, the young man raised an eyebrow and approached us with quick steps.
"Is that any proper attitude for the next lord of another fiefdom that came from far away for Laius Liberation Festival?" "I received the news that the guest from Gimii is still in Gimii just yesterday. The arrival should be at least ten days later." "Well, it should be empty inside." "Dammit."
After shaking off the arms behind him, Kaid faced that young man.
"Why can't you just come normally." "No, I heard that Fatlin is aiming to meet up with us near the entrance to Laius and I couldn't be bothered so I took only a few and came by horse." "The lord of Darich is Joplin." "About Fatlin, did you know that he got inflated even more?" "From there?" "Right. The carriage floor fell out I heard."
In my memory, the lord of Darich was twice as wider than my barrel-like father. If he got even fatter, the floor would fall out, I absentmindedly thought. And then I understood why I felt like I saw him somewhere. Though, all I remember was how he was a lovely doll-like ten-year-old boy. I hadn't met him often.
"Now, won't you introduce that lady to me? Lord of Laius, Kaid Falua." "If you wanted me give introductions as a lord, you should have come through an official meeting." "That's true."
The young man, as his thin cape fluttered, laid a hand on his chest and bowed gently.
"Heir-apparent of the House of Gimii, Isador Navarro. Pleased to make your acquaintance, lady." "Master's maid, Shirley Hince, at your service, sir."
I neatly gathered my hands and bowed deeply without bending my back.
"......Nice, her posture's fine and there's nothing unnatural to her accent either. Has it really been just a month since you hired her?" "Don't lay your hand on my maid." "I'm not stupid enough to fool around with women in Laius where the scary wolf lord resides. Just what did you do when the guest from the fiefdom Wyfar tried to hit a maid at the mansion? The lord of Wyfar still hasn't come to Laius. According to rumours, he faints from just the mention of the name of Laius." "It's just because he tried to fool around in my mansion. I just made doubly sure so that there won't be a second time for lords. Shirley, you can raise your head. Rather, the heir-apparent of Gimii is not in Laius yet, so this person is just a suspicious person." "Not someone suspicious. You could at least have said that I am your bosom-friend." "Let's go, Shirley."
When I raised my head, Isador who was ignored in the flow slightly puffed his cheek. Then he shrugged at me and looked at Kaid who went to prepare the horse. He's definitely coming along. Kaid looked displeased but just sighed at his stubbornness.
"You, if you follow you'll have to help me." "If it's carrying things, please spare me. I haven't lifted up anything heavier than women." "Then, you can carry most things." "............You'll get stabbed if you say that."
Glancing at me, Kaid shook the saddle a few time, lost in thought.
"Shirley's heavier than a saddle. That's a relief." "You should be saying that she's light as a feather, what are you being all serious for." "If she's light as a feather, that means she's about to starve to death. Then I'd hurry and send aid and a medical team." "......You know there's something called figurative speech, right?"
There were the two men who are shouldering Laius and the future Gimii. I fixed my posture and looked at them talking to each other.
No matter how many times I blinked, I could only see the brown hair that once existed on this land and the blond young boy that once visited this land, playing together.
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