Act 28: The Deceiver and the Deceived
After finishing her meal, Cordelia returned to her room to prepare to go to the Alcott mansion.
In less than half an hour, she left the mansion with Emina and headed towards the Alcott mansion.
Cyrus gave her the deep crimson diary before she’d left. Of course, it was boorish to read other’s diaries, so she suppressed her curiosity and wrapped it in a cloth topped with a ribbon. She was sure that this would prevent her from 『seeing the contents when it dropped』. That was important. She might have seemed absurd, but she wanted to eliminate any chances of that happening.
Cordelia firmly held the diary as she sat in the carriage and she noticed a glanced from in front of her.
“What’s wrong Emina?”
“Ojou-sama. If something does happen, then please prioritise your safety first.”
“It’s rare for you to say something like that Emina.”
“I’m sorry if I’ve offended you.”
“You didn’t. You’re saying that because you’re worried about me, right?”
Cordelia just simply said what she felt, but she thought that her way of speaking could have been perceived as her talking down to Emina, so she quickly explained. But, it was indeed rare. Emina wasn’t the type of person to speak freely.
“Are you worried about something?”
“No. But I don’t have a good feeling about this.”
“Yeah. I don’t think anything good is waiting for us.”
At least, the desired result wouldn’t be achieved if this was a fraud case. However, she never thought that Emina would say something so obvious to her, since she had watched Cordelia grow up.
(…… Did she hear something from Onii-sama?)
If Cyrus, Christina’s host, had ordered Emina, then it wouldn’t be strange for her to receive instructions from him. He had also warned Cordelia vaguely about the matter, but he didn’t give her any information directly. She presumed that he had also done the same thing to Emina.
“Okay. Thanks, Emina.”
She was only spectating, he should have explained what he could to Emina.
(If Emina does know something, then she’ll give me some kind of signal. My job is not to miss it.)
Cordelia believed that and decided that she would observe Emina carefully. But, at the same time, she also reflected on that fact that she got Emina involved in that mess.
(I really have to do my best to thank her.)
I feel awful that she still hasn’t taken her holiday for the Founding Festival, and now she’s being involved in something that requires caution.
The carriage stopped slowly as Cordelia thought that. They had arrived at the Alcott mansion.
Cordelia and Emina got off the carriage and were guided to the parlour by a servant.
“Good morning, sister-in-law.”
“Good morning, Cordelia-sama and Emina-san.”
Christina appeared not long after them, and her maid followed behind her.
Her maid was pushing a cart with tea and bite-sized cheese tarts.
(…… I can eat some calories if we’re going to walk later. The tarts aren’t that big…… If I exercise a little when I get home, then it’ll be fine.)
She had eaten enough at breakfast, but she couldn’t refuse because the cheese tarts were small and Christina also urged her to eat in a charming voice, “Please have some.” She put the cheese tarts into her mouth and the rich taste of cheese and raspberry burst in her mouth. She was in an excellent mood.
“Do you like it?”
“Yes, it’s very delicious.”
Christina laughed happily.
“I’ll go over the plans for today again…… There’s another store that I want to visit apart from the stores I told you about yesterday.”
“Yes. We don’t have time to waste but……”
“Of course, I have no problems with this if you want to go. Which store did you want to visit?”
Christina probably wouldn’t overdo it with her request, but Cordelia had no idea where she wanted to go and tilted her head in curiosity.
“The sweets yesterday were very delicious, so I also want to give some to Cyrus-sama…… He also likes sweets, so if he would forget about work for an hour then-……”
“Huh? Onii-sama likes sweets?”
“Oh my, he eats it a lot, doesn’t he?”
“Eh? Yes, so he does.”
I’ve never seen him eat it before.
Cordelia swallowed those words and nodded vaguely. It’s not strange for him to like sweets…… Cordelia thought as she became vague.
Christina became bashful, “I’m glad.”
“He always gives me chocolate whenever we meet. Oh…… But he might be used to the sweets in the Royal Capital because he eats them all the time. He might not be happy with sweets that he’s used to.”
“You don’t have to worry about that. Even if he’s used to eating them, he still eats it because he likes it. He won’t be disappointed.”
Cordelia added, even though she had never seen Cyrus eat chocolate before.
(Perhaps…… He just bought them to gift to sister-in-law……)
She wanted to say, but she couldn’t.
Even if Christina was speaking fondly of her loved one, a third party should not butt in. But, she wanted both of them to realise their feelings for each other. She contained herself.
(They’re just not communicating enough.)
To solve this, Cordelia had Cyrus write an exchange diary. She placed the cloth on her knees and untied the ribbon to take out the deep crimson diary.
“Sister-in-law. I got this from Onii-sama.”
“Yes. It’s a letter, but it’s written in the form of a diary so that you have a record of your correspondence, I kind of forced him to write it. Do you want to take a look at it?”
Christina received the diary from Cordelia and looked at it in wonder. Then, she muttered again, “It’s a diary.”
“If you don’t mind…… you can write in it later. Could you write your reply on the next page?”
“Sure, of course, I’ll do it……”
I’m not surprised that Christina-sama is puzzled, she thought as she smiled and asked. Christina would become even more confused if she’d looked anxious.
However, Christina’s response was a little different from what Cordelia had imagined it to be.
“Cyrus-sama always sends me a letter when the seasons change, so I was a little surprised.”
“Yes, I always receive a postcard from him. The postcards are nice, but if he writes in here, then he might write more than usual.”
Christina narrowed her eyes and said that, and Cordelia was relieved. Christina, who was gently stroking the cover, looked a little nervous.
“…… Do you want to read it now?”
“We still have a bit of time left before the stores open. I also want to enjoy my tea.”
“Th-then…… I’ll just read a little.”
Christina was surprised by Cordelia’s suggestion, but immediately put her hand on the cover. She slowly read the words, and her face gradually turned red.
(What did you write, Onii-sama……?)
She was curious about what was written in the diary, but she couldn’t tease Christina about it, so she drank her tea. Christina’s response to the diary was cuter than she could imagine and she thought, if only I could act like that…… She’s reacting so innocently, but if I do the same, then I would probably look like I’m trying too hard. Only certain people could pull off this reaction.
However, when she suddenly shifted her gaze, Emina looked overjoyed.
“What’s wrong? Emina.”
“Nothing….. I’m sorry, but I thought you two are alike.”
“What are you talking about?”
She tilted her head curiously, and Christina looked at Emina.
“When you read your letters Cordelia-sama, you also use your finger to trace the words like Christina-sama. You two are also alike when you read your letters so happily.”
Cordelia was surprised.
But come to think of it, I really do have that habit. The letters from Hazel-sama are mostly appointments and contain few words, so I don’t have to do that, but I certainly do that when reading letters from Gille-sama. And it wasn’t wrong to say that I enjoyed reading them.
(But I’m sure I don’t give off the aura of 『a maiden in love』like sister-in-law does……!)
She was afraid to say this out loud, but it was a huge misunderstanding. I don’t think I’ve ever shown such an innocent smile while reading before. No, there might not be a deep meaning behind Emina’s words.
“Cordelia-sama, do you also like letters?”
“Yes. I have a friend who I can’t meet, so we communicate through letters.”
“So that’s why you recommended this to Cyrus-sama. Thank you very much.”
Christina, who hadn’t noticed that Cordelia was panicking, smiled and Cordelia twitched a little in response.
However, the conversation ended there.
“Oh my, it’s almost time to leave.”
Cordelia agreed with Christina, who had looked at the clock. Thank god, she thought. On the other hand, Christina looked like she regretted it a little as she took the diary to her room.
When Christina returned, she smiled.
“I’m sorry for keeping you waiting.”
“It’s fine; shall we leave?”
“Yes. I’ll write my reply when we get back.”
“The diary isn’t going anywhere.”
Cordelia joked a little, and Christina laughed.
“When I’m with you, I don’t know which one of us is older.”
“Oh my, it’s obvious if you look in the mirror, right? I’m proud to have Christina-sama as my sister-in-law.”
Cordelia said, and Christina’s face turned red again.
Then, they visited two stores by noon.
The first store was gorgeous. The owner had studied abroad and actively adapted new styles in his store. The second store was a very traditional store and was linked to the clothing museum next door. Christina was extremely interested in the clothing museum, but they left after she’d said she would visit again.
And, as they’d confirmed earlier, the two stores didn’t sell flora silk and Christina didn’t find anything suspicious about the two stores.
They had lunch and headed towards the last store when Cordelia heard an unexpected voice.
“Huh? Aren’t you the young ladies from yesterday?”
When Cordelia turned around, she saw the man from the store, which sold fake flora silk, from yesterday. He approached Christina and continued speaking with a grand gesture.
“This is such a coincidence! The weather’s perfect today so it’s perfect for going out.”
“Yes, it is.”
Cordelia took half a step backwards in response to Christina. Her face said that she didn’t want to meet him today if possible. Christina also seemed to be thinking the same thing, and she looked a little hesitant. However, the man didn’t seem to notice it.
The man showed interest in the store that Cordelia and Christina were about to enter.
“You’re visiting this store today……?”
“Yes. Father allowed me to get a well-tailored dress, but he wanted me to visit various stores before deciding.”
“If you want a nice and cheap dress then you have to get it done at my store. Look, for the price of a dress at another store, I could also make your sister’s dress too.”
The man didn’t stop even though Christina had evaded him well.
(We’re in front of another store, you know?)
She wanted to tell him to stop, but if she were to be too blunt, then it might hinder future investigations.
(I wish he thought about where he was.)
Cordelia held back her sigh, and pulled on Christina’s sleeve while tilting her head a little.
“Sister-in-law, we shouldn’t discuss business on the streets, right?”
“Yes, you’re right.”
Cordelia acted a bit childish, and Christina noticed her intention. The man was startled.
“Oh, yes. I’m sorry. Then please come to our shop again. The wholesaler will be coming today.”
Cordelia and Christina were both surprised by that word.
“Will you be discussing new fabric……?”
“Yes, we will. If you decide right now, you might be able to get special flora silk?”
Cordelia also spoke at the man who was brimming with confidence.
“Sister-in-law wants to decide on the colour, so she can’t agree without seeing it.”
“Then, do you want to see it? You can’t decide on the colour without seeing it, right?”
Cordelia looked up at Christina after the man spoke. It’s worth going. If it comes to it, then we can leave by saying that you don’t like that colour, so we have to go.
“Then…… I’ll go see it.”
Christina said gently, and Cordelia nodded when Christina looked at her.