Act 48: Each on their Guard
The next day, Cordelia, who had finished her lunch early, boarded the carriage with Ronnie and headed towards the Big Bookcase.
Today, after browsing books at the Big Bookshelf, she planned to visit her grandmother, Fulvia, a pharmacist. News had come that a medicinal herb that Cordelia wanted had arrived.
“Oh yes, I heard from Emina that a shop with delicious cake has been built, how about we go there before visiting Sensei?”
“That’s a great idea. Then, I have to use my head properly so I can eat those delicious sweets. I wonder what topic I should read about.”
Cordelia was a little surprised by Ronnie’s response. She thought he would look more forward to the cake, so it was surprising to hear him talk about the Big Bookcase instead of what type of cake he wanted to try.
(Ronnie might be looking forward to the Big Bookcase more than I expected. In that case, I shouldn’t get in his way because of my requests.)
Even though he’s acting as my guard, he shouldn’t need to stay by my side in the castle, much less the limited space in the Big Bookcase. I wanted him to get the book I wanted from yesterday, but Clive-sama isn’t by my side like yesterday, and if there aren’t many people in the library, then I should be able to climb the ladder and get it myself without anyone seeing. Also, I chose a dress that had a few decorations.
(It’s thanks to Ronnie that I was able to get the permit, so I should be flexible at times like this)
Hearing the carriage stop, Cordelia got a little hyped up.
“Now, let’s go.”
She visited the castle, which she had just visited yesterday, again.
Up until yesterday, she would have wanted to scream at this situation, but she felt surprisingly calm today.
(Until now, I didn’t know when I would encounter the Prince, but I wonder if I feel relieved because I heard he doesn’t come to the Big Bookcase much.)
It wasn’t like I wasn’t anxious at all, but I’m more excited about the knowledge that I can only obtain from here. And, although it’s different from my aim, Clive-sama is trying his best not to let Sylvester-sama and I meet.
(I felt Clive-sama’s hostility towards me withdraw towards the end, but I don’t think it’s changed favourably. He’s probably still on his guard against me.)
“Ojou-sama? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. Oh, Ronnie, that’s the wrong direction.”
“We turn here,” Cordelia told Ronnie what she had learnt from Clive yesterday.
“I wish you would have told me earlier,” she felt she had heard, but she didn’t care.
After a short while, they arrived at the entrance. Cordelia explained how to use the permit to Ronnie, and they both entered the Big Bookcase.
“Oh. There’s a lot of books here. How long would it take to read them all?”
“Do you have that kind of hobby?”
Ronnie gave his unique impression while looking impressed. They must have been the thoughts of a merchant’s son, but he is looking forward to reading any book from here. Cordelia smiled wryly.
Ronnie, who had said such a thing, looked around and his voice gradually became livelier.
“If I get immersed in the books, then the day will be over in the blink of an eye.”
His expectations seem high after all. Cordelia was relieved to see that Ronnie had forgotten that she had said they would go eat sweets after this. If he’s happy, then that’s great.
“Ronnie, it’s your first time here today, so why don’t you go read the books you want?”
“Is that alright?”
“Yes. It’s a great opportunity.”
“Umm, but, Ojou-sama…”
“You don’t have to worry about me. I also have books I want to read.”
“That’s not it… Well, fine. Even Ojou-sama won’t be able to bring trouble here.”
“Hey, I can hear you?”
Cordelia didn’t worry about his slurred words, but apparently he was concerned about her behaviour.
(I wonder just what kind of hooligan he thinks I am.)
I’ve never plunged myself into anything… She thought, but thinking back, she did get into trouble sometimes. Although it hadn’t been voluntary, Ronnie’s concerns were spot-on considering the results.
Still, like Ronnie thought, no problem would occur if she doesn’t leave the Big Bookcase.
“I’m going down to the basement.”
“Okay. Then, I’ll look around here first before going down.”
They hadn’t decided on a time to meet up again, but they could predict what time they needed to gather since they were going to stop by the office later. They wouldn’t run out of books to read since there were so many of them.
Cordelia walked down the stairs. She thought, if I didn’t have any plans, then it wouldn’t be bad to spend the whole day here, as she walked towards the same bookcase as yesterday.
“I really wish I had more time.”
She muttered as she put her hands on the ladder in front of the bookcase she had reached.
She had never climbed a ladder since she had gotten this body, but she had played with playground equipment such as jungle gyms and monkey bars in her previous life. The hem of her skirt was a little annoying, but it wasn’t impossible to climb the ladder with this on.
(Alright, I got it. But I’m also curious about the book next to it.)
The books are a little heavy, so I can damage them if I pile them up on top of each other, she thought as she picked up the first book and climbed down the ladder. She placed it on the nearest desk.
(Alright, one more time.)
She thought with enthusiasm as she put her foot on the ladder again. She didn’t hesitate like before since this was the second time she was climbing it, and she was able to take the book in no time. When she was about to climb down, she heard footsteps approaching.
He had said that he would come to the basement later, but she felt that it was still too early for him to be here. Did something happen? She wondered, and the person who had appeared was not Ronnie, but Clive who had his eyebrows knitted together.
Like the surprised Cordelia, Clive opened his eyes wide the moment he saw Cordelia.
(I thought no one would come… The me right now isn’t very lady-like.)
It wasn’t good to greet someone from the top of the ladder.
Cordelia held the book carefully and quickly climbed down the ladder.
“How do you do, Clive-sama.”
She greeted him with dignity as if nothing had happened.
She also had a so-what attitude, it’s no use since he saw me climb the ladder. Not being seen was the most desirable, but she could say with dignity, “Because this is the library.” Isn’t he looking at me bashfully or like I’ve done something wrong?
(That’s right. I’ve been invited to this place as a researcher. As a researcher, I should be able to come up with an excuse for something like a ladder.)
However, in contrast to Cordelia, Clive’s raised his voice.
“What on earth are you doing?!”
“What’s wrong? You seem flustered.”
“Of course, I would be… It’s absurd, isn’t it?”
Clive, who had quickly shortened the distance between him and Cordelia as he said this, put his feet vigorously on the ladder.
“What book do you need?”
“Huh? I’ve already taken all the books I want.”
She was grateful for the kind yet unexpected offer, but she already had no uses for the ladder. The crease between Clive’s eyebrows deepened, but Cordelia couldn’t do anything about that.
(But, he doesn’t loathe me.)
He might be a good-natured person, she thought as she held back her laughter. He might be displeased if she laughed at his kindness. I should act calmly.
“You’re pointing out that it’s dangerous, aren’t you? Thank you for your consideration.”
“Naturally. It would be intolerable if you fell and hurt yourself. It might end up like yesterday.”
“Thank you for your concern yesterday. Fortunately, it wasn’t a big deal.”
“Even so, you don’t know when you’ll get hurt again.”
Clive looked at her suspiciously, but Cordelia kept silent with a smile on her face.
“You really are like Vernoux-dono, but you should be careful about your behaviour as a lady. Wasn’t your servant given a permit as well? Is he not here today?”
“He didn’t come here as a servant, but as a researcher. As a researcher, I’m more like the apprentice, so I thought it would be a good idea to let him browse books on his own.”
“Not only is your taste in men weird, but your way of thinking is very free.”
Cordelia understood that he was calling her eccentric in a roundabout way.
However, she felt no hostility in his voice. He seemed stunned like yesterday.
“Can you not accept my way of thinking, Eames-sama?”
“I didn’t say it was bad.”
He had accepted it, but it probably wasn’t something behaviour he would praise since he hadn’t given a consensus answer.
Cordelia concluded that the ditch would get deeper if they kept on talking about this, so she quickly changed the topic.
“By the way, why are you here today, Eames-sama?”
Clive had called his permit a pass, and wouldn’t enter this place without a purpose.
Cordelia tilted her head and made a sour face.
“I’m looking for Vernoux-dono and His Highness because I didn’t see them. They’re mostly go to the garden, but I heard that you were here, so I came by thinking they would be here too.”
It seems I have to withdraw my previous remarks. I thought that the hostility that Clive-sama had towards me had faded, but it seems he still considers me as a dangerous person.
(Even so, it’s not as bad as yesterday, and I’d be happy if he kept me away from His Highness.)
Was it that shocking for Clive-sama to learn that my type was someone like Otou-sama? In any case, it was convenient for me if he doesn’t want me to get close to Sylvester-sama like now. Even if I were to encounter Sylvester-sama, I’m grateful that it seems like he would immediately let me withdraw.
However, Cordelia sympathised with Clive over one thing.
“You have it hard.”
Thank you for your excellent work, Cordelia added in her mind.
It was really pitiful that she could tell everything even though he was silent.
“… You’re a pretty talkative girl.”
Clive said with a stiff expression and averted his gaze.
(I wonder if he’s telling me that I shouldn’t talk anymore.)
Cordelia looked at his awkward appearance and decided to stop talking about this topic. Although she had selfishly thought this, she was one of Clive’s worries.
“I’m sorry, do you prefer quiet?”
Cordelia, who was a little distracted, joked, and Clive looked stunned.
“My type doesn’t have anything to do with you. I just thought that you look like the Earl and Cyrus-dono, but you talk a lot. However, having said that, you’re not modest like Isma-dono either.”
“Oh my, have you talked to Otou-sama before?”
Even if she had only been half-listening to him, she had to be careful about this matter. If he had a problem with Elvis after having an actual conversation with him instead of because of rumours or the relationship between their parents, then she was curious as to why.
However, Clive frowned at Cordelia’s question.
“Do you think the Earl would have anything to do with me? If he does, then he would just glare at me.”
“Oh my, then you might be mistaken. Otou-sama and Cyrus-oniisama don’t have many expressions. Otou-sama often makes a complicated face even when he’s at home.”
“If that Earl is your type, then you have a really rough type.”
“Everyone has their own type, and they don’t always look like that. Of course, I’m worried because they might be tired.”
Cordelia only stated her true feelings even if he looked at her suspiciously. However, there are times when she thought he was being sarcastic, so she smiled a little and replied.
“Speaking of complicated faces, Clive-sama, you also make complicated faces often, don’t you? If you keep making those expressions, then you’ll have wrinkles between your brows even though you’re young.”
“That’s not true.”
Cordelia hadn’t met Clive for very long, but he always had a crease between his brows.
“Even if I do have such an expression, then it’s because of you right now.”
“Oh my, I’m sorry.”
That’s definitely not the only reason, she thought as she moved lightly and Clive sighed deeply.
“I can’t afford to be as relaxed as you. Even though I’m from a Marquis House, the third son has to quickly establish a clear position for himself…”
The words which he had muttered quickly were cut off halfway.
Cordelia tilted her head a little, and Clive looked bashful.
“I’m sorry please listen to me.”
She blinked at those awkward words and was at a loss on how to answer.
I thought that he plotted to keep undesirable people away from His Highness because of his cautious personality, but it doesn’t seem to be the only reason from his previous remark.
(But, it’s natural to think about protecting oneself.)
If I were in the same position as him, then I would look for a stable position too. Our positions are different, but I’m avoiding the Prince for my protection. Rather, what’s wrong with seeking a stable future?
(But, on the contrary, I think he’s capable of obtaining a stable future. If he wants His Highness to like him, then he shouldn’t warn His Highness and Vernoux-sama. It would be easier for him to overlook them.)
He’s faithful to his duties and doesn’t just act like a follower, and his fastidious appearance, which shows disgust for his own circumstances, is awkward but worthy of trust.
When she thought that, she became concerned that he frowned because he overthought things. Maybe, he’s not good at taking breathers, and his shoulders are too stiff? Wait, does he take any breathers in the first place?
“… What’s wrong?”
“Clive-sama, this may sound rude, but do you have any hobbies?”
“Hobbies? I don’t need them.”
“Then, how do you take a break?”
“Why do I need to use time for that?”
Cordelia twitched a little at the words that were clearly dismissing this topic.
I was going to get over the lowest hurdle and tell him that wasn’t true no matter what, but he kicked me away.
(He doesn’t take any breaks.)
I think people can have any hobby they want as long as it doesn’t bother others. Even if one has a lot of shallow hobbies or focus on one, even if one isn’t inclined to a hobby, that’s easy to change, it’s enough even if they just nap to alter their mood.
However, Clive-sama’s reply implied that he didn’t need to spend time on something like that. No, he had actually stated that.
“Clive-sama, it’s important for people to take breaks.”
“If you don’t take time to look after yourself, then you would overwork your body and mind, and your vision will become narrow. Clive-sama, you put too much strength into your shoulders, that’s why your stiff shoulders are pretty bad, aren’t they? It can also lead to headaches and insomnia.”
Clive winced a little at Cordelia’s consecutive questions.
However, he was a strong-willed person who could lecture Sylvester. Clive immediately glared at Cordelia.
“Then, does the Earl also have a hobby?”
“Clive-sama, who do you think Otou-sama is?”
No, I know that Otou-sama had horrible stiff shoulders before, but he relaxed with horse riding and swordsmanship. No, it might be an occupational disease, but they’re definitely hobbies. She decided to declare.
“His Highness would be worried if you collapse. If you think hobbies are also efficient for work, then isn’t it worth a try?”
Well, if his worries originate from Vernoux-sama and Sylvester-sama, then they need to change their behaviours… That was outside of Cordelia’s control.
“Do you want to say something?”
“You said my vision is narrow, but do you know about this? Some say that you’re a lady who consumes the treasures of the Earl.”
Cordelia was surprised at what he had suddenly said, but she immediately realised that it wasn’t sarcasm. Clive wouldn’t stir up trouble for someone he doesn’t like.
(But I don’t think he’s just warning me. Perhaps, the reason why he’s keeping me away from His Highness is that I’m a 『High-cost lady』who wants to approach His Highness, and he was afraid that His Highness’s reputation would fall.)
If I think back to our first conversation, then it’s highly likely that Clive-sama imagined that I was a lady with a bad reputation. This is probably his way of confirming this.
(The Pameradia House’s greenhouse is famous, and it wouldn’t be odd for someone to think that I asked Otou-sama for something expensive.)
However, since the same thing was built at the castle later, the greenhouse at the Pameradia mansion was generally thought to be a prototype, and not for Cordelia… Cordelia shrugged.
“It’s the first time I’ve heard this, but it isn’t surprising. It doesn’t feel nice, but everyone has animosity from someone else.”
If someone did say that to me directly, then I can refute and say I got my money through trading, so there’s nothing to feel guilty about. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s a disadvantage in general because if someone thinks that I’m just an incompetent lady who just demands things, then they’ll let their guard down during negotiations. I can get my revenge on the other person by getting the advantage.
In the first place, I already know my reputation to some extent. In the first place, I don’t have time to worry about someone who has weak information gathering abilities.
“It’s not worth worrying about, is that what you’re saying? People call that negligence.”
“That’s right. But did you think Otou-sama would remain quiet if it were a problem?”
I once heard from Cyrus-oniisama that Pameradia House has a spy network. I’ve never gotten information from that route, but I don’t think Otou-sama wouldn’t hear about those rumours. Moreover, if Otou-sama doesn’t say anything, then it’s not a problem.
“The Earl? It seems like I have to be more vigilant against you than I thought. I can’t tell what you really think because you’re too calm. As expected of Vernoux-dono’s childhood friend.”
Clive was as harsh as ever, but she felt he had opened up to her a little since he had informed her that he needed to be vigilant against her. Also, she felt that his malicious expression had faded.
“… I can’t waste time in a place like this.”
“Then, have a nice day. I hope that you find His Highness.”
“You don’t need to tell me that.”
Clive-sama left like that, but a lot of time has passed. I’m sure Vernoux-sama and Sylvester-sama are spending time leisurely. ――― She thought, as she spends time reading the books she had chosen. No one else visited during that time.
After that, she entrusted Ronnie, who had found a suitable time to find her, with the carriage arrangements. Then, she viewed the flowers near the Big Bookcase as she waited.
The carefully maintained flowers were those she should know the names for, but she felt that the petal shapes and colours were slightly different and rare. She felt as if they were unique varieties.
(I heard from Vernoux-sama’s Okaa-sama that Her Majesty is conducting selective breeding at the tea party… But I wonder if she did that on these flowers.)
She was interested in the rare flower, but she didn’t have a chance to ask her directly. Even if she had the opportunity to ask, unfortunately, she didn’t want to get close to the royal family. I’ll search for a book on it the next time I come to the Big Bookcase. I’m sure it exists since it’s the royal family’s library.
When Cordelia thought that, she suddenly felt someone’s gaze on her and looked around.
She didn’t know where the gaze was coming from. However, she felt as if it was silently calling out to her.
She muttered, but couldn’t confirm a figure close enough to hear that. On the one hand, she thought she had imagined it, but it was a creepy feeling that she had never felt before.
(This is inside the castle. It should be closely guarded.)
With that in mind, Cordelia concentrated and slowly headed to where she had felt the gaze.
She knew she should wait until Ronnie returned, but she didn’t feel anything like malice or hostility from the gaze. I’ll just look a little and then come back.
Cordelia concentrated magic power into her eyes and searched around for a presence. The castle is closely guarded in one area, but they were probably in a place far from the most important part of the castle. The place a few steps away from Cordelia wasn’t closely guarded.
There’s no way someone would be here.
She said with that reason in mind, but she received an answer at the same time wind passed through her.
“It’s been a long time, Pameradia-ojousan.”
It was a voice she hadn’t heard for a long time, but she definitely didn’t want to hear it.
“… Why are you here? No one expects a ghost to appear in the day time, do they?”
A low voice naturally escaped from Cordelia at the voice she hadn’t heard in two years.