Act 40: The Witch, the Earl, and Reminiscing
Cordelia questioned Ronnie on the way to the Witch’s shop as she held a basket which contained the muffin.
“Say, Ronnie, I’d like to talk to Sensei alone today. Could you go outside in the meantime?”
“Eh, is it really okay?”
“I said it’s okay… Ojou-sama, you said it, didn’t you?”
She had certainly asked so, but she was a little surprised that Ronnie had answered so quickly. She didn’t think he would refuse, but she thought he was going to hesitate for a bit. But Ronnie naturally accepted.
“Of course, I’ll be waiting outside the shop. If I’m too far away, then I won’t be able to make it if something happens and there would be no point in me being an escort.”
“Yes, of course.”
“Something must be bothering you for you to say that. Then you should quickly resolve it.”
Ronnie stretched and crossed his arms behind his neck. He looked as if he was ignorant of tension, as usual. Thanks to that, Cordelia’s tension also went away somewhat.
They eventually arrived at the Witch’s shop. Cordelia separated from Ronnie for now and entered the shop.
The Witch spoke to her as soon as she entered the shop. The Witch put the bottles of medicinal herbs onto the shelf before walking up to Cordelia.
“Thank you for the other day. It was a disaster, but… are you alright, with a lot of things?”
“Yes. I’ll be visiting Oulu Village again.”
The Witch, who had sounded worried, might have also been worried about Cordelia’s physical condition when she said ‘a lot of things’, but Cordelia didn’t mention it. I’m almost in good condition, and Sensei would just be worried if she found out that I spent time in bed. Cordelia held out the basket with both hands to deflect the conversation.
“I made the muffins that Sensei taught me today.”
She smiled when she held out the basket, and the Witch blinked a few times before relaxing and smiling.
“Oh my, they’re lovely. I’ll make you a special cup of tea.”
“Thank you very much. Actually, I didn’t bring tea in anticipation for that.”
Cordelia replied a little impishly, and the Witch also joked.
“Mick was very remorseful. He apologised to Toto for ripping her papers, and he copied Lara’s materials to give to Toto.”
“Lana didn’t want to give him her copy because she thought he was going to tear it up, but he kept lowering his head to her. She finally lent it to him, and he copied it. But Toto told him that his writing was messy, so he rewrote it over and over again.”
“It would be nice if they could make up.”
“But he said he didn’t want to see you again.”
“Why is that?”
“Apparently, he wants to apologise in a cool way. However, he hasn’t found the way to do that yet, so he doesn’t want you to come for a while.”
“I’m… very troubled by that.”
Cordelia smiled bitterly while feeling relieved that he hadn’t rejected her outright. She didn’t understand what a cool apologise was.
“But the other kids want you to visit, so he’ll have to put up with it.”
“Then, I’ll pretend that I didn’t hear about his cool apology plan.”
“Yes, that would be for the best. Thanks.”
After they smiled wryly at each other, the Witch prepared the tea utensils and urged Cordelia to sit down. The Witch gave Cordelia tea and an empty plate where Cordelia placed the muffin.
They carried the cups to their mouth once everything was settled.
Cordelia, who had moistened her throat with the tea, asked the Witch.
“I have asked you this before… But, Sensei, have you met my father before?”
But, as soon as she’d said that, she regretted that she’d brought up the topic too abruptly. Furthermore, the Witch had prevaricated the last time she had asked that, so she should have taken more caution when broaching the subject.
Luckily, the Witch didn’t seem offended. She slowly asked Cordelia.
“What did your father say?”
“Father didn’t say anything. But please tell me if you don’t want to talk about this. I won’t ask anything else.”
It sounded like she had added that on, but she said it just in case. She was worried about the connection between Elvis and the Witch, but it might not be something she could hear just because she was curious. But she was really hung up on the fact that they had neither denied nor confirmed their connection.
Cordelia quietly waited for the Witch’s answer. The Witch exhaled a short, but long breath before dropping her gaze.
“He just doesn’t want to talk about it. But, if the Earl is going to tell you that what I said is a lie, then I want you to hear his truth from him.”
“… So, you do know my father, after all.”
“I do. Honestly, I’ve known ever since I first saw you.”
The Witch said as she slowly raised her face to look at Cordelia.
“But I don’t know much about the current Earl. The person who I will be talking about is not the 『Earl』but the little rascal『Elvis』.”
Cordelia doubted her ears for a moment.
Cordelia’s thoughts stopped for a moment because of that unexpected word. However, the Witch continued seriously.
“My name is Fulvia. I was born into a Baron House. I worked as a servant in the Pameradia House to help my impoverished family, and I am Elvis’s birth mother.”
“This is a story about no one becoming happy. It’s a little long, but it’s an old story.”
The Witch named Fulvia slowly began to talk.
“I was introduced to the Pameradia House at the age of sixteen and started working for them as a servant. Shortly after I started working, I met the former head in the attic where I was cleaning. He went up there to hide and take a nap. I had similar encounters with him several more times after that, and we began to talk… and by the time I’d noticed, I was already attracted to him. Of course, I didn’t think my feelings would get through to him because of my status.”
“So, when the previous head told me his feelings, I was delighted and sad at the same time.”
“Why is that?”
“The former head lost his parents early, so he had few backers. So, he had a fiancée to protect his position.”
Cordelia was stunned by Fulvia’s reply. Oh yeah, the fact that I have a grandmother who is not Obaa-sama… means that the previous head had an official wife. And Obaa-sama had said that no one became happy before.
“So, I should have ended everything there. But, when I was about to tell him that, his fiancée… the previous lady summoned me. 『I don’t care what kind of relationship you and the Earl have, as long as you don’t threaten my position』, she’d said. She also told me that she loved someone else.”
“I was surprised. I hadn’t expected that she could tell with a glance, when even my colleagues hadn’t noticed my secret.”
Did she sympathise with Obaa-sama? Or maybe she sympathised with the former head? Or did she say that to reject the former head because she couldn’t be with the one she loved?
I don’t know what the previous lady’s motives were, but I can imagine that those words sounded like a sweet temptation to Obaa-sama when she was young.
“I was grateful for those words and acted on her goodwill. But I should have seen the truth. I noticed it after I became pregnant with Elvis.”
“Even if the lady was the only one who knew our relationship, I couldn’t stay in the mansion anymore. I took time off and left the royal capital to go south. It was challenging to get used to an unfamiliar lifestyle, but thanks to that, I didn’t have time to feel lonely or reflect. That’s probably why I was punished. I got sick when Elvis was four, and I couldn’t move. We couldn’t buy medicine either because it was too expensive. That was when the previous lady appeared before me again.”
“… She knew where you lived.”
“I didn’t know until then, and I didn’t think that the previous lady knew about Elvis. She told me that she would give me medicine if I hand Elvis to her. She said that Elvis would also face hardships if I didn’t take medicine and died. Still, I declared that I would heal and refused her. But, Elvis took it upon himself. Apparently, she had told him, 『If you want your mother to be cured then come here』. He didn’t want to go, but he didn’t want me to die. And… he said that nobles say horrible things and that they were horrible people. So, he’ll use whatever methods he had to, to become great, and that he would make life easier for people like me, and that he would come to pick me up.”
Fulvia said that all at once and then closed her mouth.
Cordelia stared at Fulvia in silence.
“… So, I couldn’t say it. The lady hadn’t said anything bad. I had to tell him that this was all my fault… But I didn’t dare to tell him the truth.”
“But… didn’t the servants find it weird when a four-year-old boy suddenly showed up at the mansion?”
“The former lady also gave birth to a child a while after Elvis was born. But… that child was sent straight to her parents’ home to be raised after he was born. No one in the Pameradia House knew what that child looked like. The lady said that they would feel reassured if they met Elvis.”
“Is the former lady’s child perhaps…”
“… The child might not have looked like the former lady or head. But I don’t know.”
If so, then that had nothing to do with Obaa-sama’s illness, and she had planned on welcoming Otou-sama back one day. Of course, this is only my speculation. But I understand what Obaa-sama meant when she said 『a story about no one becoming happy』.
“It was because of that incident that I wanted medicine that even commoners can get. I know that it was me atoning, but by the time I’d noticed, I was studying under a doctor day and night.”
“Have you met Otou-sama since then?”
“I’ve seen him from a distance. He stood out when they made a triumphant return from their campaign, and I thought my heart would stop when I heard that he had gotten seriously injured to protect His Majesty. But he has never asked to meet me, and it would only harm him if we met.”
“Why is that?”
“Being a noble comes with gossip, and gossip can lead to one’s downfall. Of course, the chances of them thinking that I’m his mother are low, but there’s no need for him to worry about unnecessary things.”
Fulvia’s voice never grew louder, but her voice was firmer than before.
“If Elvis wanted to run away from the noble world, then I still want to help him get to the ends of the world. But I shouldn’t meet him now.”
It sounded to Cordelia as if the Witch was persuading herself.
She stared at the Witch and was convinced about something.
“You said you knew who I was as soon as you’d meet me. You have always been watching Otou-sama, haven’t you Sensei?”
There are only a limited number of places where I appear as Earl Pameradia’s daughter. For her to understand that I was his daughter at first glance means that she has been quietly watching over him, even though she was away from the royal capital for a while.
“… Dilly-chan, don’t you have something to say to me?”
“If you’re asking me if your actions were correct, then it’s difficult for me to answer. But, what’s worse is that I want to call you 『Obaa-sama』, but if I do that in public, then I’ll be causing trouble.”
It certainly isn’t something to be praised.
But this doesn’t end just by placing blame on someone, and I have no reason to blame her. I don’t have any words for someone who regrets this more than anyone else.
“This sounds selfish of me, but if you hadn’t chosen the choice you did, Sensei. Then, Otou-sama, and I, even my Onii-samas and Onee-sama wouldn’t have been born. I wouldn’t have been able to talk with Sensei. I still want to learn a lot of things from you.”
Cordelia surmised that she hadn’t said anything that the Witch needed to thank her for, and she wasn’t sure if those were words she ought to end a conversation with. She also didn’t feel as if Fulvia felt refreshed by talking about it.
(She did talk about this, but nothing has been solved.)
However, something was bugging Cordelia about the story.
(Perhaps… Otou-sama wasn’t hiding their past, and he cares about Obaa-sama.)
It’s because he cares about her that he didn’t mind if I asked Obaa-sama about this. I didn’t feel any resentment from him for the guilt that she feels.
(But if this is true… why won’t Otou-sama meet Obaa-sama?)
It wasn’t easy for Obaa-sama to meet Otou-sama, even if her feelings weren’t in the way. But it wasn’t hard for him to summon her. Obaa-sama knows a lot about herbs, so he could invite her over as a pharmacist. Even if there are servants who know what she looks like, it’ll be fine if they just think of her as a nostalgic face. Nevertheless, what is the reason he won’t meet his mother, who he promised to see again?
However, Cordelia, who was thinking as she stared at Fulvia’s face, suddenly noticed something that bothered her a lot about her 『Obaa-sama』.
“… Sensei. I would like to ask you something rude.”
“What is it?”
“How old are you…?”
She is older than Otou-sama, but I never imagined that she would be old enough to be his mother. Fulvia went blank at Cordelia’s question and then opened her eyes wide in surprise.
“Dilly-chan, you don’t ask a woman’s age, now do you?”
She said in a teasing tone.
But I can roughly guess her age, even if she doesn’t tell me, since Otou-sama is already in his 50s. The words 『Beautiful Witch』occupied Cordelia’s mind. Obaa-sama must be using some kind of beauty method.
(… Wait, my thoughts strayed.)
Cordelia retorted to herself as she pushed the question out of her mind in response to the Witch’s words and vague smile.
Why won’t Otou-sama meet Obaa-sama?
(I’m sure Obaa-sama wants to meet him.)
I’ll talk to him about this. It might be meddlesome of me. But, I want them to meet if he doesn’t have a valid reason.
After all, these were two people who Cordelia loved.