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Translator: ShimizuA, Shiru Editor: Boomer
Proofreader: Nixie TLC: Yomigaeru
I looked at the desk in my office. Of course, it was piled high with various documents. After reviewing them, I approved of a few, then taking a breath called out to Tanya, who was on standby in the office.
"What's the current status of the firms that are affiliated with Prince Edward? I would like to know more about it." [Iris]
"I've already ordered an investigation." [Tanya]
As Tanya was saying that, she produced some documents. As I've come to expect from Tanya.
While giving my silent admiration, I flipped through the papers and saw the results.
… The customers stopped being patrons after the excommunication incident. In other words, all stores that were headquartered in the Armelia fief were more or less negatively affected, especially the Azuta firm that I directly founded.
Due to his actions and great timing, Prince Edward has dealt considerable damage to me, both in my capacity as the president of the Azuta Firm and as the Feudal Lord's Representative. The evidence of this is that I'm still suffering from his actions, even after I've taken countermeasures.
Truthfully, reflecting on all that went on… I really can't deny the feeling that we've been had by both the Pope, and Prince Edward's faction.
Although the situation has taken a positive turn since I stopped the conflict at an early stage… We've taken a serious blow due to low customer retention, and the fact that we've lost some of the talented people that made up the core of the Firm can't be ignored.
When I thought of what would happen if I couldn't manage to stop the situation… it made me shudder.
"… I am truly grateful that Dean paved the way for a connection to the church through Father Raf Simons when he did. Otherwise, the Azuta Firm would have had to declare bankruptcy, or would have been bought by another firm… No, on the contrary, that would have forced all the stores and firms based in Armelia fief to close." [Iris]
Tanya nodded at my remark.
In reality, the only way that we were able to end the situation at this early stage could be greatly attributed to our co-operating agent… Father Raf Simons.
"… If I were to imagine the worst case scenario… let's suppose that Father Raf Simons never cooperated. We would be lacking a decisive blow in the church's inquisition, ruining the court case. As Milady knew, we wouldn't be able to act in that situation. Given these facts, I believe that sooner or later the industry in the Armelia fief wouldn't be able to stand." [Tanya]
Indeed, for the Armelia fief that was focusing on strengthening its economic prowess, it would be a crippling blow.
If that's what happened during the inquisition… It wouldn't be strange if those various firms and their presidents decided to abandon us. Rather, that would be the right thing to do. Most of those firms don't have any obligation to put their headquarters here. In other words, Prince Edward would be able to destroy the Armelia fief with economic might, instead of brute military force.
… That being said, in the end, this was only an assumption, not the reality.
In the real world, after overcoming the trial of the Inquisition, the Azuta firm has hit the shelves with a brand new product. Thanks to this, customer traffic slowly returned from the other firms.
"… It seems that Prince Edward and his firm have been pushed into a corner, haven't they." [Iris]
These were my impressions after skimming over the documents.
The firm that was under Prince Edward's backing started to run out of steam in the wake of the excommunication conflict. Their pricing was roughly the same as ours. The goods they offered were also the same.
Perhaps it was due to Prince Edward's habit to only poach the workers in charge of production, our customer services were superior. There was also the matter of quality.
… Thanks to those issues, the affair of customers avoiding us because of their distaste for conflict has been settled; and they have started to come back.
On top of that, management on their side was awful and sloppy, so with the decrease in customers, it's been made clear that their situation is out of control.
"As I thought. Due to everything that's happened, both their Human Resources being unclear about employee rights and support, and the fact that the number of customers has fallen drastically, they've been given the final blow, and have lost their motivation to continue. Statements like 'judging solely from the content of the employment contracts, the Azuta firm is clearly better than my current one' have been rising… or so it appears. Again, due to corrupted management, it seems those who have spoken up, have been dismissed from their jobs." [Tanya]
"… They had no hesitation to treat them as disposable goods, huh." [Iris]
"Are you sympathizing with them?" [Tanya]
"No way. But… it just feels kind of wasteful that they were so easily dismissed after they went to such trouble to reel them out of the Azuta Firm." [Iris]
When the management deteriorates into chaos, mass firings of employees is inevitable.
… Regardless if the workers want to accept it or not, they have to bear in mind that it was the last resort that a manager could make (to save costs); they didn't have the right to blame them, nor did they have any intentions of doing so.
However temporarily, it was undeniable that those firms prospered solely due to the Azuta Firm's information, and from the employees that they poached from us.
To ignore the achievements of our workers and to so easily dismiss them, I couldn't help but think that they must have done some drastic things to warrant that sort of treatment.
"It's impossible for human beings to simply throw away the economic strength and social position that they've worked so hard to build up. On the contrary, every person whom they've pulled away from the Azuta firm has filed incredible amounts of complaints after the management began to fall apart, due to their contracts promising huge wages… to sum it up, their demands became the reason for their dismissal." [Tanya]
Even during the zenith of the excommunication conflict, Azuta firm was still leagues ahead of the competition in terms of employment, if you set aside the concern for the future of the management due to my excommunication… or so it seems.
If they were used to the treatment they received at Azuta, it's certainly true that their standards for employment contracts would be much higher.
"Is there any possibility that those people who were dismissed could intrude on Azuta firm in the future?" [Iris]
"That's not entirely impossible." [Tanya]
Upon hearing Tanya's straightforward words, I let out a sigh.
Although it took a considerable amount of time to devise a countermeasure for the chaos at the company after the mass resignations of our employees… Now we must also consider how to deal with those people who want to be hired a second time.
I wonder how troublesome that would be. On the subject of trouble, there's also that issue…
"I wonder why Prince Edward's faction has decided to increase the tariff rate on all entrances to the fief." [Iris]
I grumbled at the problem that I've spent countless hours thinking about.
"To put it simply, maybe it's meant as harassment towards Milady?" [Tanya]
Tanya who was still on standby near me responded.
"Ugh… That's the most probable reason. However, since their demerits were greater than their gains when one considers the whole country, I cannot help but feel like it wasn't solely that reason…" [Iris]
The truth is, the fief of Armelia has fertile land and is ranked about second or third within the country for crop yield.
Due to the recent conflict, however, it's natural that our exports would decrease. Which means that in turn, the amounts of crops that would go to other fiefs would decrease as well.
Other fiefs don't make as much profit from their crop exports… In regards to that, our fief's population has increased, and we should take appropriate measures in case a disaster were to strike… Something such as bad weather would be a major problem because it would result in low crop yields. To combat that to some extent… we should take political measures to have emergency granaries built within the fief. We can justify this by using the fact that it's more profitable to trade with other fiefs than to purchase crops from other areas.
"Well, even if we ponder about it, there is not enough information right now, huh. So for that reason, Tanya, please investigate the movement of the various nobles in the royal capital and make detailed reports. Also investigate the trend of the prices in the capital and their reaction to those changes… At any rate, today's work is finished…" [Iris]
I signed the last document and handed it to Tanya.
Perhaps I should take a walk around the mansion since I've reached a good stopping point for the day. Always sitting in the same posture when I'm working hurts my joints indeed.
Letting my mind wander, I stood up while contemplating what I should do.
I wonder if I should read a book while slowly drinking tea in the courtyard.
While thinking about such things, just when I was about to go for a walk, suddenly I came across Bern.
"Oh my, Bern…" [Iris]
"Elder sister, what are you doing at this moment?" [Bern]
"Since I have finished today's work, I was thinking about taking a small break." [Iris]
"… Could I bother you for a moment of your time?" [Bern]
I intentionally gave a wry smile because of his request.
"Is that, something that could be discussed in the courtyard?" [Iris]
Bern replied with a bitter smile.
"I see. Then, shall we go to the study?" [Iris]
About the tea I was looking forward to, let's have it in the study. Tea won't be long after Tanya has finished delegating the miscellaneous tasks to others to fulfill in her stead.
I took Bern along with me and eventually reached the study.
"So, what has happened?" [Iris]
"Would you like to hear my consultation… or would you prefer a report…?" [Bern]
I could only brace myself to hear some terrible news since he was talking in such a roundabout fashion.
"… A few days ago, a bill for the dismantling of the military was submitted." [Bern]
My eyes turned into tiny dots at the unexpected news. I had a blank look, that was surely unbefitting of a noble's daughter.
"… D-don't tell me, isn't this similar to what that baron's daughter, Yuri Noir has expressed a desire for long ago? To think that she really did submit a bill like this…" [Iris]
I sighed as the words poured from my mouth. At the same time, I had a slight shudder.
The fact that she submitted the bill, means that her word already has enough influence to make it happen…
"Doesn't one need to get the approval of several nobles in order to submit a bill?" [Iris]
"Yes. It seems that this happened while Father couldn't move because of your excommunication." [Bern]
So I was also considerably held responsible… huh.
"However, since your matter was settled earlier than expected, father and grandfather… that is to say, Marquis Anderson and his faction, made a united front against the opposing faction and were able to defeat the bill at a critical moment." [Bern]
"In other words, the dismantling of the military was rejected. How did this come to be?" [Iris]
"I hear that they cited the wartime regime law." [Bern]
"…Wartime regime law…?" [Iris]
It seems that I have heard about it somewhere before… I tilted my neck as I racked my brains after hearing those unfamiliar words.
Suddenly, I remembered that I have seen that law in some book at the fief's mansion a long time ago.
"Ahh, it's that old law that's been piling up dust, right…" [Iris]
If I am not mistaken, it was a law that was established when the country first came into being.
As its name would suggest, it was a law that stated that the country would take priority over anything else during wartime. It has been enforced only once, several hundred years ago, and has never been used since.
During the time before it was used, the autonomy in each fief was much stronger than it is now.
At that time, the country didn't have any standing army; rather, each feudal lord controlled their only military forces, those forces would, in theory, would be supremely controlled by the royalty and monarch.
In that period, any lord who refused to dispatch their forces to the war would be forced to do so by this law, and before this law was created, their fief would be confiscated after the war.
By doing this, the country's standing army slowly morphed into its current form.
… That being said, nowadays it has become a double standard where each fief owned at least a minimum amount of troops, under the guise that they were guards.
During these past several hundred years, this law was never implemented simply because "there was no need for such measures."
Now we have a standing army. Basically, during the country's great war in the past, the country was united in one direction since each of the nobles gave their opinion that they should be united in the face of their enemy.
In other words, by that law being brought up for the second time, it is already as good as publicly announcing that the country has cracked. 
"… So in the end, it was an armistice, not a truce. To sum it up, that means that this law would only be effective in wartime, correct?" [Iris]
"Yes, that's right." [Bern]
"Looks like father is also having a lot of trouble. However, it's good that we were able to avoid the worst-case scenario of the national military being dismantled." [Iris]
To be honest.
As father surely is thinking, for now, we are only in the middle of a ceasefire, not a lasting truce.
And also… From what I gathered when I investigated that baron's daughter, Yuri Noir and her background, I suspected that a certain country was moving quite deep below the surface.
Nevertheless, as father has warned me, I'm only a single feudal lord in the end. I don't intend to actively intervene.
"Yeah. That's… about it…" [Bern]
"Do you still need something?" [Iris]
"No, from here on it's just a consultation… Father gave me some homework, in this particular case." [Bern]
"Yes. 'What is the biggest problem in this matter?' Father told me to reflect on this." [Bern]
"What is the problem… huh. Anything else?" [Iris]
"No… If I reported this to you, perhaps I could get some hint from your opinion on the matter." [Bern]
"Did father instruct you to report this to me?" [Iris]
I pondered for a moment.
If my guess hit the mark… father wasn't talking to me as the daughter of the prime minister, but by handing me this information, he was acting as the current head of the house of Armelia, to me, the acting feudal lord, wasn't he?
In other words, he was preparing me to succeed him.
"… By the way Bern, who are the nobles who approved this bill?" [Iris]
"The second prince's faction, and the neutral faction. As for me, I believe the fact that the neutral faction being swayed by the second prince's faction was the largest problem, but.." [Bern]
"You were told that you were incorrect, weren't you?" [Iris]
And then, I heard from Bern which noble houses voiced their agreement to the bill in particular.
Ahh, this country is screwed… I unintentionally looked skyward when I heard the names Bern listed.
"By the way, did they also include the soldier's pension when they submitted the bill for approval?" [Iris]
"Yeah. According to the bill, if the soldier wished for the pension, he would go to the territorial military (lord or lady's private army) during peacetime. In case of emergency, they would be recruited in the country's name in case of war. In other words, each fief will be solely responsible for the current military expenses." [Bern]
Ahh, just like I feared… I let out an unconscious sigh.
"… Bern. I…I, do not know if my opinion is right or wrong. Father most likely wanted to see 'how you would act after considering the future, rather than deeply thinking about issues that do not have an answer' … or so I think." [Iris]
I was always thinking about this when I worked. How easy would this be, if it had a clear answer, like an exam at the Academy?
"I see…" [Bern]
"Speaking of the neutral factions recent inclination towards the second prince faction… I see that it was a threat, huh. However, is it only that?" [Iris]
"What do you mean by 'only that'?" [Bern]
"Consider the issue from every angle. What sort of calculations made the neutral faction give their approval, and what result were they aiming for? Please think about this. Since there is no such thing as a right or wrong answer, think about it slowly, bit by bit, and you should be able to deal with anything." [Iris]
Bern looked like he was pondering my words… and before long he gave a nod.
"Thank you very much, elder sister." [Bern]
"Think nothing of it. Rather, thank you for the information." [Iris]
Bern exited the study with a more refreshed expression than the one he wore when he came into the room.
Tanya returned to the room with Ryle and Dida, passing by Bern. It was perfect timing.
"I feel bad for issuing orders immediately after you've just arrived, but… Tanya. Please report the number of reserve troops in the fief under my jurisdiction. Ryle, Dida. Please survey the current amount of active guards, including Armelia Duchy's private army, and their commanders." [Iris]
"Understood." [Tanya, Dida]
"I will begin at once. However, milady, what exactly happened…?" [Ryle]
Tanya quickly lowered her head, followed closely by Ryle and Dida, but Ryle questioned if there was possibly something amiss, given my instructions.
Well, I guess that was bound to happen if you were suddenly given orders like that.
"A short moment ago, a report arrived from my father, via Bern. He stated that a bill was introduced, advocating the dissolution of the military." [Iris]
"Wha!?…" [Tanya, Dida, Ryle]
I continued speaking while they were caught by surprise.
While there was the fact that they were citizens of the Armelia fief and the Duke of Armelia, and they were under grandfather's tutelage while he was serving as a general… They were not surprised due to those facts; rather they were genuinely worried for my grandfather.
"Fortunately, the bill was defeated thanks to both grandfather and father centering the opposition." [Iris]
They gave a sigh of relief at those words.
"The issue now is that thanks to these course of events, the bill will be forced in every other direction possible." [Iris]
"… What do you mean by that?" [Tanya]
"I must remind you in the first place, this is only my personal opinion. There are times where I could be wrong." [Iris]
The three nodded at my opening remark.
"Firstly, let's discuss the course of events. The issue started this time due to that baron's daughter, Yuri Noir's bill." [Iris]
"It was that woman?" [Ryle]
Ryle spat out his words, without even attempting to conceal his distaste.
It was unusual for him to openly show his emotions, and moreover showing annoyance like this.
"Judging from what I gleaned from Tanya's report, while I am unsure what shape it took exactly, I believe that she shares a connection with the Towair Kingdom." [Iris]
Specifically, I don't know at what level, or the details of the connection.
Perhaps… she may truly be blackmailed by them, or she is just being used without her knowledge. It is also possible that she really is a saboteur for them. I still cannot be sure about that, since there is no definite proof detailing her connection.
However, while I was thinking over this, I am hoping that my suspicions were wrong.
"While father was unable to move because of my blunder, the bill for the dissolution of the military… a draft so terrible that it was unfavorable to even the Towair kingdom, has come to the forefront. Looking back, perhaps that personal attack on me by the Pope was to ensure that father couldn't oppose the bill, and Miss Yuri… perhaps was the one who pulled the strings behind the scene." [Iris]
Considered that way, the situation fits.
It could be that the reason why the Pope was hellbent on aiming for a complete boycott of the Azuta firm was because they had promised a reward for him.
I could hear those three clicking their tongues in disgust.
"So. Now, here's something to consider… this time, the members who gave their approval for the bill are…" [Iris]
"Naturally, it was the second prince faction, right?" [Ryle]
As I expected, Ryle immediately replied.
"Actually, it's not only them, you know. The truth is, this time the neutral faction also voiced their approval." [Iris]
"Even the neutral faction, is it…" [Ryle]
Ryle muttered as if surprised. Beside him, Tanya and Dida wore grim expressions.
"But, what merit does this have for them?" [Tanya]
"… They would be able to expand their military force legally, or that's my impression." [Iris]
"What do you mean?" [Tanya]
"As you three know, especially Ryle and Dida, at the moment, the feudal lords only possessed a minimum amount of military force… the size of these forces is determined roughly by the size of their fief." [Iris]
This was a remnant from the time when the power of the feudal lords was still huge.
There was fierce opposition when the country attempted to centralize the military forces in a single organization, known as "the National Army", and the result of those efforts left us in an incomplete state like we are in now.
"Based on this system, the feudal lords were keeping each other in check, and the ones with excessive war potential would also be monitored closely by the kingdom." [Iris]
Utilizing this system, the aim was to prevent an uprising of the feudal lords.
"So. About the details of the draft of this bill that was submitted, after the military was dismantled, the soldiers currently in service to the nation would now be allocated to serve under the supervision of the feudal lords. Each of the feudal lords would shoulder the expenses, and present both the troops and financial responsibility to the nation in case of emergency (war)… This pure sounding situation wasn't their true intention, they simply wish to go back to the old days, when the power of the feudal lords was at its peak. The numbers of nobles in the neutral faction who wish for this are not just a few." [Iris]
"They want to secure large military forces needed for a time of emergency… Well, frankly speaking, doesn't that mean that they have abandoned the kingdom?" [Dida]
Dida blurted out words that I wanted to say.
"It is something along those lines. Though I am unsure whether they are actively planning to revolt, or if they are just secluding themselves in their own fiefs." [Iris]
"And so? After investigating their military forces, does my princess intend to exchange blows with those fellows? Are you thinking to become the Kingdom's sword and shield, to fight on their behalf?" [Dida]
"As if that could be the case. It is simply for protecting the fief, should an emergency arise out of the current situation where troubles pour from both internal and external sources." [Iris]
"Hmph… But you know…" [Dida]
Dida's tone was aloof as usual, but there was a serious element mixed in.
Is it because of that? …
I don't know if he was shocked by the content of the bill that was mentioned not too long ago, but Ryle that would normally criticize Dida for his tone remained quiet.
"When that emergency comes, the one who will command the fief's soldiers is my princess, who is standing in as the acting lord, right?" [Dida]
"… You're correct." [Iris]
This is just my guess, but I think that father will spend his time fighting in the center of politics.
Supposing that I wasn't here to fill in the position as the acting lord, even if it took time, he would still give instructions in important military decisions from the royal capital directly. Even Sebas, who has been entrusted with the fief a few times until now, did not have the authority to make any such decisions.
However, there was no need for that if I, who possesses equal authority as the lord, was present. Rather, it will be crucial to respond to situations promptly. In addition to that, I suppose that I don't want to use someone, just because they can be used.
"My princess, do you have the resolve?" [Dida]
Dida's face was unusually serious when he said that.
"If it spirals into a fight, the opponent will attempt to kill you. They might even want you to hurt yourself, and perish from your own weakness. With one command from my princess, everyone else will stand up to fight." [Dida]
Ryle came close to me and called out to Dida, as if trying to rebuke him.
"Do you have the resolve to kill someone? Could you do it if my princess ordered you to kill an opponent?" [Dida]
Despite the shout, Dida's mouth was clamped shut as Ryle's sharp voice echoed in the room.
For an instant, it became silent.
"If it's about going to war, everyone should be prepared. The truth is that you can lose your own life, or the sword that you wield might be painted with the fresh blood of an opponent. There is no need for milady to be burdened with this alone." [Ryle]
Due to Ryle's resounding words, it fell silent once again.
The soft echo of those words shook the room for a moment.
"Well, about that. I've already prepared myself. However, it is necessary for my princess to share that same resolve, don't you agree? With my princess's command, we will plunge into the battleground without a shadow of a doubt. Even if we were to lose the leading soldiers in charge of command, my princess's life will be our guide. Our shoulders are burdened with the lives of our comrades. But, my princess not only carries the responsibility of everyone on the battlefield, but also the 'aftermath', she must bear that responsibility too… Isn't that right?" [Dida]
At Dida's query, Ryle's mouth closed.
"And if it becomes a direct face to face battle… When the order is given, my princess's hands will be stained with blood, just like ours." [Dida]
Dida's words are correct… It's for this reason that my chest feels like it's being impaled.
I don't want to be conscious of this fact… no matter what others think of me. For the sake of protecting them, I must and will say these words… If we fight, I will give the order to take the life of the opponent.
With just one instruction from me, lives really can be extinguished. Even people who don't desire conflict will be dragged in… If a war does break out, I wonder if I have the resolve to order soldiers to fight.
"… Right now, I am not able to show that resolve. However, if we were to give out instructions to prepare, my princess should also be able to look ahead, and use this time to decide." [Dida]
I posed this question to myself, but no answer came out.
"That's right… it's just as you said, Dida." [Iris]
It was a considerably pathetic voice. However, it can't be helped.
Truly, just pathetic.
While giving out orders to Dida and Ryle to get prepared, I felt as though I was the only one who wasn't prepared.
"I'm still unable to answer your question. Just, give me a little more time." [Iris]
"I understand. Then, we will go ahead and make preparations." [Dida]
Most likely, they wouldn't have moved from the room without hearing some sort of answer first.
Dida's previous words, they truly surprised me.
"… Yeah. Good luck." [Iris]
After Dida and Ryle departed, I went back to my usual duties.
However, the recent conversation is still playing in my head.
"… Ah." [Iris]
The result of that is, I splendidly made a mistake while writing documents.
Since I feel so restless, I should probably assign someone else to take care of this… Somehow, I can't stop my thoughts from surfacing. I temporarily put my pen down and stretched my body with all my strength.
A popping sound that was surely unbecoming of a young lady resounded throughout the room.
The exchange from earlier floated through my mind once again.
… A correct answer, there isn't one.
Of course, I've thought about letting a feudal lord representative make the military decisions countless times.
However, I've run into a wall again.
This is just a 'what if' situation but, it would be a simple matter to discard a feudal lord representative.
At that time, I would have to steel myself and lie to everyone else, that doing things this way would be a better way to resolve the problems.
Although in that case… Dida wouldn't agree with that answer.
What's more, if my layer of lies is exposed at the last moment, I will surely fall.
If such a time was really to arrive… I suspect that I wouldn't be able to lie even to myself anymore.
I scattered away from the unsightly figure of myself in that situation that arose in my mind.
Until now, I have been entrusted with the fates of people, many times… even their lives. An incapable lord kills the nation's people. That's way…
… However, the situation is in a completely different realm this time.
I will be directly involved with the exchange of lives and burdened with the responsibility that carries. The lives of the citizens rest on my shoulders, more than ever.
… My previous life was a far cry from my current one, I feel that having to suddenly bear something so heavy is what's causing my restlessness.
If no one gets hurt, that would be great… That's just the excuse. I'm just afraid of giving out orders.
If this truly was the world of a game… perhaps it would be a world that was kind to everyone. A world where no one gets hurt… like a story where all the dirty portions are wrapped up in a condensed bubble to the side, it would be a moving story to narrate.
No, even in the game… The villainess Iris was solely responsible for all the dirty, terrible portions.
Truthfully, there may not be a world that is nice to everyone, perhaps.
At any rate, this world is the reality.
If it were otherwise, there would be no reason to show everything in such detail.
There are various explanations for the muddy fight between the aristocratic factions.
This sort of scene wasn't told in the story; the disparity between the rich and poor make me want to knit my eyebrows.
Various thoughts and perspectives occurred in each sphere. Therefore, I am worried and unsure what to do because of this.
… I should probably call out to Tanya, and eat something. I can't do any work in this state.
Abandoning my train of thought, I tried to call Tanya.
With that timing, the mountain of documents collapsed. Countless papers fluttered in the air.
Ahh, I've really done it now…
I even went to the trouble of categorizing them, they're all mixed up now.
To be honest, I feel exhausted just thinking about the amount of time it would take if I sorted through all of this again.
"… Tanya." [Iris]
"Yes, I am right here." [Tanya]
"Sorry to trouble you, but I'll be heading to the drawing room. Give out instructions to prepare some tea. After that, is it alright if I leave the sorting of these documents to you?" [Iris]
"As you will." [Tanya]
In the end, I abandoned everything to take a break. I'll be in the drawing room by myself, drinking tea elegantly.
The decorated furnishings along with the fresh flowers in this room would normally help me feel relaxed but… today I just don't feel that way.
"Oh my, Iris. Whatever is the matter? Wearing a sunken face." [Mellice]
A soft and cheerful voice rang out, it was mother.
"You there, I'll have the same tea as Iris." [Mellice]
While she said that, mother took a seat on the opposite side of me.
"Are you taking a break, I wonder?" [Mellice]
"… Ah, yes. I was just a little bit tired." [Iris]
"It's not good to push yourself too hard. Truly, you're exactly like your father." [Mellice]
Her smiling and giggling face were as beautiful as always.
As mother brought the teacup to her lips with beautiful conduct and grace, I was unknowingly fascinated by that action.
"I wonder, are you really only tired? Or is there something that is worrying you?" [Mellice]
Mother's words shocked me and I stiffened my posture.
Am I really that easy to read?
"… Iris. Let's sojourn outside for a moment. If you keep secluding yourself inside, you will only think about bad things." [Mellice]
Mother caught my hand after she said that, and began walking.
"Eh? Eh?" [Iris]
With a strength that belied her appearance, Mother mercifully pulled me along.
When I looked at behind me, her flustered attendants were reflected in my eyes.
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