Behind the Scenes: The Definition of Kindness
“Isma. Can you come back to the mansion today?”
It was rare for brother, who belonged to a different unit than me, to call out to me inside the castle.
I nearly tilted my head in confusion because he had suddenly called out to me, but I immediately understood what he meant.
If I’m not mistaken, father was heading to the fief today. Therefore, brother should be returning to the mansion after work, but something probably came up.
Initially, even if father was away from the mansion for a few days, there was no need for my brother or me to return. There was no reason for us to be anxious about the servant’s managing the mansion. However, for example, if a servant『wanted a decision to be made, but it wasn’t urgent』, then they would wait for their master, or someone in charge, to return to the mansion. Especially, if they had said it before father left. Fortunately, I didn’t have a night shift today, so there wasn’t anything that needed my urgent attention.
“It may be possible.”
Brother nodded quietly.
“I see. I’m on duty today.”
“I understand. Then I’ll go home instead of you, brother.”
Brother nodded once again when he heard my reply.
He didn’t say a single word about father, but we have already been brothers for over 2 decades. Even if he’d only said a few words, ours was not a relationship where I couldn’t understand what he meant.
After parting with brother, I wrote the overnight application form which would first be submitted to the deputy commander. It is annoying to fill out the form since the application wouldn’t get rejected in the first place…… Or so some people thought, but the point of moving to the dormitory was so that『we could respond immediately in cases of emergency』. It would be meaningless if something unexpected happened and we’re left asking, 『Where is he? 』 Well, there’s a good reason why I don’t have a roommate in the dormitory. This form wasn’t needed if we just spent the night out while off duty. The deputy commander even went as far as to say, “Your application is really strange,” and was under the impression that I would be leaving for a while.
“Father is at the fief, and older brother was suddenly called on duty. My younger sister is probably anxious too.”
It wasn’t like he was asking me a question or trying to find the reason behind my leaving…… I took this opportunity to say that my younger sister was anxious, but it wasn’t like I thought she would be. This was just small talk.
Then, the deputy commander nodded, “I see,” and then he groaned a little, “Hmm……”
“Isma, there’s nothing that needs your attention right now, is there?”
If I had work to do, then I wouldn’t ask to stay out in the first place, but he must have a reason for asking. What is it? Did I forget anything? I’m sure I didn’t…… I thought about it, and he uttered some unexpected things.
“Then, you can finish up for the day. You don’t have to rush back tomorrow either.”
I was confused by this sudden declaration, but the deputy commander was nodding, “This is fine.” And he continued while looking satisfied.
“Sometimes, it’s good to have time to spoil your sister, right?”
I was thankful for the proposal itself.
But frankly, I just want to sleep.
Last night, the Queen’s car entered a no-entry zone and stepped on a magic alarm net, which resulted in me being urgently deployed all night long. I’m glad nothing happened, but I’m sleepy, and I was told something like that while still sleepy.
Ok! Let’s go home.
I bowed and prepared to take my leave. But, I was halted before I could turn the door.
Don’t tell me he’s going to reject it? I thought, but the deputy commander said, “Uh….. Also……” He’s strangely hesitant. It’s rare for him to be like this. I thought while waiting for him to continue his sentence. The deputy commander eventually told me his request while looking serious.
“Erm…… Since you’re going home, could you ask your sister for some of that medicine to bring back?”
“That scented medicine. I have a feeling that it’s really effective. Thanks.”
Sister, you’ve made a fan without knowing.
Cordelia went with father to the fief two months ago. At that time, father received treatment that used a compress to relieve his stiff shoulders, and she told me a little about the result. She looked delighted, so I joked, “I also want to try using it.” As soon as I’d said that, that kid immediately prepared several kinds of essential oils for me.
It can be used as a sedative for stiff shoulders caused by eye fatigue, something that was used for chronic-like fatigue…… Just like that, she gave me several bottles and different combinations of recipes. She also gave me a nice towel to use as a compress. It looked like something father had chosen for her. I don’t mind receiving it, but, isn’t this something father bought for her? Is it really alright for me to use this?
Well…… Anyway, I used it when I got back to my room at the dormitory. Then, one day the deputy commander came to my room and said, “What are you doing?” I briefly explained what it was and he said he wanted to try it next time so I lent it to him…… But, he liked the essential oils more than I’d expected he would.
He restrained himself at first, but then when he got used to visiting, he just came whenever he wanted. He came so often that I had to lie, “I’ve already used it all up.”
But, I get it now. Spend time with your sister, he’d said…… But what he probably meant was ‘butter your sister up so you can bring more essential oils back’.
I didn’t give him any problems and vaguely replied, “If she has stock,” before leaving the room.
I wonder how Cordelia would react if she heard about this? I thought as I made arrangements for a carriage to take me home. She probably wouldn’t get angry and say, “Don’t just let other people use it,” but I was a little worried. I guess I should have asked her for permission first…… Even so, the deputy commander coming to my room was a complete surprise, so what could I have done?
He’s not a bad person. He’s also my superior. I couldn’t refuse.
Well, leaving my circumstances aside, Cordelia’s great.
Producing a product from a flower that a grown adult, and in addition to that, the deputy commander of the Imperial Guards would want. He might not be interested in the aromas themselves, which Cordelia has placed great importance on, but he knows full well how effective the compress is.
But I wonder if he knows that Cordelia’s only 8 years old? If he still wanted the aromas while knowing that a kid is making it, then that’s just how amazing Cordelia is.
Because she already has the ability to be recognised by those who don’t favour the Pameradia House, in other words, by outsiders. What an amazing girl.
“Welcome home, Isma-sama.”
“Sorry, Hans. I arrived later than I thought I would.”
“It is fine. Would you like dinner? We can prepare it right away. Cordelia-sama is currently eating right now.”
“If that’s the case, then please do. I’ll go change.”
I said and, instead of going straight to my room, I went to see Cordelia first.
That kid thinks that brother is coming home, not me. So I want to tell her that I came back in his stead.
That’s all I wanted to do. That was all I planned to do.
But I froze for a second when I got to the dining room.
No, I knew this. Cordelia ate dinner alone. It was unimaginable to see her eating with the servants. She looked so small and quiet while eating alone in this big dining room. The scene looked lonelier than I thought it would be.
“Oh my, Isma-oniisama? Welcome home.”
“Ah, you don’t have you get up. Keep eating. I’m home, Cordelia. Brother’s busy with work today, so I came back. Are you surprised?”
“Yes, a little. But I’m happy that you’re back.”
I thought, she’s grown up to be such a good kid, while remembering that uncomfortable feeling.
Because isn’t this too lonely?
The person herself didn’t seem to think that there was any problem with this setting, of course.
Because she has always been eating by herself like this. For her, this was 『normal』. It probably didn’t occur to her that having a meal like this was lonely.
To begin with, I have never been to a bustling dining room table at home before. I mostly had my meal with brother, and, even if we talked, it was always me who took the initiative; so we hadn’t talked about anything exciting. Brother matured early, and I didn’t really care since he was like that. If older sister was here, then we might have had a little more conversation, but she usually had her meals with mother, who was a shut-in.
However, now I have lunch at the dining hall in the dormitory and castle, so I was accustomed to a somewhat livelier scene. Of course, the dormitory’s dining hall wasn’t bustling like a bar and people were better behaved……
“Oh, nothing, sorry. I’m here today so you can tell me anything without hesitation.”
Cordelia must have felt something off since I was silent and I quickly tried to smooth things over, but the questioning expression on her face didn’t fade.
…… Well, of course not. I insisted, “I’m dazed because I’m a bit hungry.” Yup, that’s good. I could also use that as an excuse to stay here.
“…… Hans, do you mind if I wait for my meal here after all?’
“No, of course not.”
I’ll change my clothes later. I usually eat in outfits like this anyways. It’s not a problem. Hans’ expression didn’t change, but I could feel him looking at me with a slightly warm gaze. It’s fine, whatever. I lost all desire to return to my room after I saw this scene.
I told Cordelia, “You can eat without minding me too much,” and put the aperitif to my mouth.
Oh, delicious. I did my best today, so I could drink this……
That’s not it. There’s no point in me staying here if I just drink alcohol in silence.
“What did you do today, Cordelia?”
“I took care of the flower beds because new seeds arrived today.”
“You did? You seem happy.”
“Yes. I can finally do new things, and it’s fun.”
“Do you want to go look for plants again?”
“…… Could I?”
She held back from accepting my invitation, but she looked pleased and smiled.
It wasn’t a big deal, but if she was this happy about it, then I wanted to do it. It’s too much if you think this boring way of eating is natural.
(…… Even so, I wonder if she’s pleased about it. I’m not too sure.)
I didn’t want to doubt her smile, but I have past experience with this. Of her being troubled that is.
She also acted very naturally at that time, so I do wonder…… If she’s also troubled right now.
There was also a phrase called ‘overdoing it’.
If so, then it might be good for me just to drop it…… But, it wasn’t like that. Frankly speaking, I think I’m only meddling with her for my own self-satisfaction. This kid might not even be dissatisfied with eating alone, and she comes up with a lot of plans for her favourite research. Therefore, it wouldn’t be a problem for her if I don’t get involved with her at all.
But I’m sure that’s just because she 『doesn’t know』. This kid is a genius. I even think that she would accomplish more if she could get her hands on more information.
Honestly, I’ve never thought like this before. Or rather, I felt that it would be better if I put a certain distance between us. But now, I really want to help her out because she looks so frank and hardworking.
A kid who believes that she could 『do it』. She was completely different from me, who gave up because I noticed my own limits early on. That’s why I want to be of some help to her.
But, I also think that this is me pressing my own expectations onto her. Even I know that I’m a bad brother. I wish I could love my little sister a little more honestly.
I thought as I ate the appetiser that had already been placed on the table…… Then I noticed it.
“…… The dressing looks like it’s changed a little.”
The vegetables in the salad were the same as usual, but the seasoning was slightly different. I thought that it might have been a new recipe and then Cordelia smiled happily.
“The recipe for the dressing is still the same, but the herbs used are different.”
“The chefs used to use imported herbs, but now they’re using the herbs that I grew in my greenhouse. The seeds the head chef got me have already grown, so I wanted to try it. I also got them to use new herbs with fish and meat. The new aromas are also being extracted from this herb.”
Cordelia said that and I shrugged my shoulders; she really likes medicinal herbs, doesn’t she?
I know that I have better taste than most people, but I don’t eat at home much, so I didn’t notice this straight away…… But the flavour is that different, huh.
“Mm…… It’s not like I’m a glutton or anything, okay?”
My eyes widened at those words.
I didn’t think that way, but Cordelia’s words could certainly be taken that way. No, well, if she were obsessed with food then she would have been focused elsewhere, ――― like on side dishes…… But since this little lady looked so cute worrying about her own reputation in her own way, I chose to keep my mouth shut. I hope she can forgive this much from me.
But, I didn’t want to make it worse, so I changed the subject. Well, it was actually a request.
Yes, it’s about deputy commander’s request.
“Cordelia, could you please give me more of the ingredients in the compress that you gave me before?”
“Huh? Of course, I can.”
Cordelia was surprised at the sudden change of topic.
Was it too abrupt? I thought while feeling relieved that she accepted and continued.
“That’s great. The deputy commander really likes it and came to me to ask for this favour.”
“The…… deputy commander?”
“Yes, the deputy commander of the second corps.”
Cordelia froze for a second.
Her expression said that she didn’t understand how the essential oils got into that person’s hands. Well, of course, she would look like that, yeah. I get it. But this is the first time I’ve seen her really puzzled. She stared at me and spoke as if she’d finally resolved herself.
“So, that Deputy Commander-sama likes the product…… Is that what you’re saying?”
“If that’s the case, then I’d be happy to give it to him. If possible, could Deputy Commander-sama tell me about his lifestyle and bad conditions? That way I could mix and match the essential oils to suit him.”
She has a lot of courage.
Was it natural for her to adapt this fast, even though she was surprised? She had already calmed down and was making sale pitches like a merchant.
And isn’t that good for you, deputy commander. My sister readily agreed.
But, I feel a little uneasy with a proposal that would make that deputy commander happy.
“Of course, the deputy commander would be happy if you can dispense something for him. But, he might get so happy about it that he might let it slip. Then, the other members might want it to. You’ll be troubled if that happens, right?”
“That’s…… You’re right. It’ll also take up a lot of time. But, if it makes them happy, I’ll be happy to do it even if it might be challenging.”
Cordelia smiled, and I thought, she’s really a good kid, but then straight after, I felt like I heard the words, “Advertisements are important after all,” and swallowed my words…… There’s no way she said that, probably. Yeah, it’s not like an eight-year-old kid to be that calculating.
“I should thank you. Cordelia, if there’s anything you’re troubled over you can rely on me.”
“What is it? Are you troubled over something?”
I was just telling her to keep that in mind, but I didn’t think that she would have something that she was troubled over right now. I can’t imagine anything troubling her.
“I wouldn’t go as far as to say it is troubling me…… But actually, I’d like you to teach me how to play cards.”
…… I see. So to summarise, her troubles involve the Flantheim’s young master. That is to say, the Flantheim’s young master learnt a card game and proposed that they play a game. However, Cordelia didn’t know the rules. It seems that he did teach her how to play, but he had only explained it, so she still doesn’t get it. Therefore, they still can’t play seriously against each other.
Well, of course. There are times when you might expose your hand by asking questions if it’s only two people playing. So, it wasn’t suitable to do so when playing one-on-one.
But, if that’s Cordelia’s request, then it’s a piece of cake for me. Anyhow, I knew so much about card games that people mistakenly call me a gambler.
“I don’t mind. It’s easier to understand if you play the game anyways. I’ll ask Hans to help out later too. Cordelia, you should sit behind me so you can see my hand. I’ll teach you what happens each time.”
“Thank you very much, Onii-sama.”
“Play with me sometimes too when you remember the rules. Oh right, I should also invite brother to play with us.”
“…… Isma-oniisama, you’re really kind.”
“Oh my, do you not realise it yourself?”
What tremendous things are you suddenly saying? She looked as if she was having fun unrevealing a riddle.
But, I didn’t understand what she meant.
“I’m not kind.”
However, she didn’t agree with me and refused without changing her tone.
“Onii-sama is kind. Otou-sama said that being humble isn’t a virtue, you know?”
“I don’t mean to be humble at all.”
However, Cordelia’s expression got cloudy while I was speaking.
“I’m sorry, Onii-sama. I put you on the spot.”
And then she said that.
Dammit, I failed. My tone might have gotten a little harsh. Aren’t you a bit childish towards your little sister? Such things crossed my mind, and the words that Cordelia said next were absolutely unexpected.
“People who are kind don’t usually say that they are kind, do they?”
“Oh, yeah. I guess…… So?”
On a closer look, her expression wasn’t cloudy, she was just slanting her eyebrows.
I understand what Cordelia is saying. People did it as a joke, but I’ve never seen a kind person say, “I’m kind.”
“If you really don’t think you’re kind at all, Onii-sama, then I’ll be worried that you’re a natural womaniser, you know?”
Where did she learn that word? A book? Did she learn it from a book or from Ronnie?
But, if I deny it now, then she’ll conclude that I’m a womaniser. I don’t want that to happen.
“…… I’ll try.”
I wanted to say a lot of things, but I compromised first. No matter what I say, she’ll just reply with an unexpected answer.
Instead, I decided to ask her one thing.
“Why do you think I’m kind, Cordelia?”
“Because Onii-sama chooses things that makes me happy.”
Her reply was quite simple.
But that’s normal, isn’t it? What would happen if I force things on her that doesn’t make her happy? ――― I thought, but……
“So even if Onii-sama doesn’t think of himself as so, I’ll still think you’re kind.”
Any objections I had were dissolved with those words. Oh yes, 『kind』might be a word that someone says to you and not something you decide yourself. I had a lot of complaints, but Cordelia had said she’ll still think I’m kind, so her opinion of me won’t change no matter what I say.
But, her thoughts were really creepy. No one has ever given me a pure compliment. But, I do have something that I want to say.
I’m sure my expression doesn’t match my tone.
But, I feel a little lighter.