I was curious about what Sir Shubart was doing, so I followed him and found the children hidden by a person involved in the auction house. They were all locked up in a cage, wearing short-sleeved shirts that could only be worn in the summer when it was freezing winter and worn-out trousers dangling over their ankles. They didn’t even wear shoes.
“Why are those boys being like that?”
Even if you wear thick clothes, a hat, and a fur shawl, you still get cold and white breath comes out every time you talk.
“Looks like there’s an adult who does bad things here.”
It was a soft tone, but Sir Shubart was obviously angry. Sir Shubart was clearly working in the underworld, but he was not a person who did such bad things.
“Can’t Sir Shubart save their life? They look freezing.”
“Yes, I hope so. If you save them…”
Sir Shubart raised his eyebrows as if there was something he wanted.
“You don’t have to buy me a present today.”
After careful consideration, I answered carefully. For me, it was a huge thing to give up. Even if you don’t know how the world works, you know it’s not easy to save those kids.
“Are you really going to give it up? Is that okay?” asked Sir Shubart, startled.
I shook for a moment but soon calmed down and nodded.
“Yes. If you can save those boys, I’m okay.”
Sir Shubart smiled as she stroked my head. Shortly after that, Sir Shubart rescued all three boys from the cage as I asked. That day I got a huge pile of presents too for making a good decision.
Two of the three had minor injuries but could walk without difficulty. However, one boy was seriously injured and got a fever. It seemed like he was going to die at any moment. So the two boys were taken to a shelter where they could be cared for, and the one who got seriously injured came home with us for treatment.
Maybe about three months, in that short time, I had an older brother. Sir Shubart said he would send him back to his home after he got better. After that, I became alone again. Although I wasn’t very lonely, I was a little disappointed that the person I wanted to play with had disappeared.
* * *
“Why are you laughing? Why did you change your name?”
And now, I failed to keep pretending not to know. I remember his name was Jess. I don’t know if that was his real name or not, but it was his name that he told me.
“I must erase the past to serve the young Lady.”
“…You could’ve just said you don’t want to do that. Why do you come here and erase your past for doing dangerous things?”
“That’s what I wanted.”
“Are you going to pay me back? I didn’t save you for that.”
And it wasn’t me who really saved him; it was Sir Shubart. I was just the person who asked Sir Shubart to save them.
Ian was still smiling. It felt rather awkward to see him when he always made an expressionless face.
“You didn’t go back to your home?”
Of course, I thought he went back his home.
When I was young, I thought of Sir Shubart as a superman who could do anything, so I took it for granted that he would have found his house and brought him back there.
“It was a place I didn’t need to return to.”
I listened quietly, then realized it and nodded.
“Ah… that’s true. If it had been a place where you could return, brother wouldn’t have been imprisoned back then. So, did you keep in touch with Sir Shubart?”
Ian said that with the help of Sir Shubart, he got a place to stay and received proper training at the mercenary training center. That’s why he lost contact with Sir Shubart at that time. After finishing all training at the mercenary training camp, he returned to Sir Shubart himself.
I also said it was a fact he later learned that if he hadn’t been saved that day, he would have been sold as a slave to another empire. It was fortunate I saw him that day when he was almost sold to another empire. But now that I think his life might be in danger because of me, I felt like I had saved him for nothing.
Our relationship came like this because of my childhood curiosity. The relationship should have changed as soon as he got involved with me.
“…this is your last chance. You can’t back off anymore.”
“You know what I’m gonna do? You know what I’m thinking?”
“It doesn’t matter how you will use me.”
He used to do whatever I told him to do when we were playing house. I didn’t know it wouldn’t change until now. The only difference from the past was that he spoke informally at that time.
“I’m going to stop my mother. If I can’t stop her, I will eventually run away.”
“So, if it gets really dangerous, go away on your own. Don’t do anything else.”
“You don’t have to worry.”
He answered without a moment’s hesitation. Why don’t you hesitate a little bit? He seemed to be the same no matter what I said.
As I thought I had already given enough warning, I raised my body that was buried deep on the sofa.
“Someone will come from Iskar soon.”
“What should I do?”
“For now, when Sir Shubart asks, answer him the same way as you always do. Sir Shubart is pretty alert.”
Let’s think again when the maid comes.
Saying so, I decided to close my eyes for a while to lower my fever until Sir Shubart and mother came back in the evening.
* * *
As scheduled, only after darkness had come entirely did my mother appear.
All the servants left, and only mother, I, and Sir Shubart gathered together. Mother didn’t get angry or make a fuss, but she looked at me as if she were checking my condition. Perhaps she felt more worry than Sir Shuabrt, making her gaze stinging.
“I’m sorry to worry you, mother.”
In the end, I was the one who opened my mouth first after only wiggling the hem of my dress.
“It’s nothing for you to be sorry about.”
Next to her, Sir Shubart gave an apologetic expression on the contrary.
“You must have gotten a lot closer to the second prince.”
Soon her tightly closed red lips opened.
“…I think so.”
“Don’t get too close.”
Unknowingly, I lifted my head up at the resolute voice that was close to a warning.
“I’m telling you to get used to his face in moderation. Your power can only be used on one person anyway, but you’re the only one who’s bothered.”
I bit my lips for a moment, then smiled.
“I’ll do that, mother. I thought it would be fun to just hold and shake the two. The empress loves her two sons very much.”
“I’m going to get rid of him anyway, so don’t lose your strength.”
“The second prince?”
“Why are you so surprised? It’s not like I didn’t tell you.”
“Ah, I just thought you haven’t already made up your mind.”
“It was decided in the first place.”
Was it decided?
Naturally, I thought that my mother would wait and see which of the two would benefit her more. As I stared, my mother made eye contact with me. Somehow, there was anger in his eyes.
“Because he shouldn’t have survived anyway.”
I was pressing down on curiosity, but I couldn’t overcome it this time.
“What do you mean? Does it have anything to do with what I told Sir Shubart last time? That he almost died when he was young.”
It might be a story of getting the opportunity when he couldn’t be killed then.
“They stole someone else’s things and survived, so of course, they have to pay the price.”
But even at my question, mother said things I couldn’t understand.
Stole someone else’s things. Because she lost the emperor to the empress? At first, I thought like that.
Although the villainess rarely made an appearance, there were words with such nuances in the original. So, of course, it was revenge made because mother liked the emperor. However, when I looked at my mother, her emotions were different. There was anger towards the other person but no longing or affection. She had no sign of getting the emperor back. It was something deeper, which I don’t know, was felt with raw contempt and anger.
“Do you like the second prince?”
Mother’s voice interrupted my moment in thought. I raised my head in surprise.
“When the second prince is being talked to, it seems that your words are somewhat lengthy.”
“Did I? He looks like the empress, so I guess he would be more helpful without me knowing. If he’s useless, I have to throw him out.”
My mother’s gaze sank. I smiled with relief.
So, in the first place, she had no intention of keeping Valery alive. She seems to hate him as much as the emperor, but it’s just my feeling.
“We are going to join hands with Radwike.”
“Radwike? Are you talking about Marquis Radwike?”
“Isn’t he close to the empress’s family? I thought their family was in a special relationship.”