“I did it! I’m his first,” Aristel said.
“…Um, phrasing please? That kind of phrasing is really misleading,” Shinichi pointed out.
Aristel intended to mutter that to herself, but she was right next to him on the bench, so of course, he heard her loud and clear.
It might’ve been because of the difference in the Garestonian language and Japanese, but Aristel herself did not notice the implication of her words, words that were bound to cause a misunderstanding if not for the expression on her.
Understandably, Shinichi had to warn her, and Aristel did nod, but it was doubtful that she truly understood. Helpless, Shinichi could only shake his head and return to the original topic.
“So those two were your head servants, huh. It’s admirable that they put you above all else, but… They were really excessive.”
“I-I’m sorry. I’ve been telling them to clean their act up again and again, but it seems to have had the opposite effect.”
Since Aristel did have an abrupt change in attitude, she decided to only give them a verbal warning so long as their attitude wasn’t too bad, but the two servants were so spoiled that their heart only grew harder by the day, and she had no choice but to strongly reprimand them again and again only to make them even more stubborn.
“Servants with no will of their own who just do whatever they’re ordered to like a puppet are plenty problematic, but servants like these that don’t listen to their master are an even bigger problem. I know that you know that a servant’s mistake is the master’s responsibility, but those two didn’t think they were doing anything wrong at all.”
“Y-Yes, it’s very embarrassing.”
Aristel’s face turned beet red again, but this time it was for a different reason.
The way her servants had been acting made it seem as though they had zero idea how they looked to others.
Since she was right there when they were strutting their stuff, she found the matter even more embarrassing.
“Well, they are still young, so there’s still plenty of leeway to correct their mistakes. I just pray that their attitude won’t reach a point of no return.”
“If it reaches that point, I will cut them down myself.”
Shinichi’s scathing remarks were met with a resolute response.
Her words were so resolute that even Shinichi found himself with eyes open wide and his tongue caught.
The golden eyes beneath the pair of glasses were decisive.
“I’ve known Rizet and Ortho for a long time, but at this rate, they won’t just hurt the people around them, but the House of Padyuel and the people of our territory as well. I will do my best to fix their behavior while they are still children, but… Should my efforts prove to be futile, I will not hesitate to exact judgment even if they’re my childhood friends.”
Although it was clear as day that she was conflicted from her shaking shoulders, that was only because she had a clear image of what she would do if things reached a point of no return.
Because of that if ‘such a time’ were ever to come, she would not hesitate.
Was it her lineage? Was it her duty? Or was it simply her own disposition that she could be so decisive?
“…You’re strong. I could never be so decisive.”
Shinichi’s eyes fell. He couldn’t judge his own childhood friend as resolutely as her.
He had spoken so firmly to Frire, but deep inside, he himself was still conflicted.
He had many excuses, such as there’s no evidence or it’s just speculation, but it was precisely because he knew what the truth was that those were excuses.
That’s why he respected her answer and prayed that such a day would never come for her.
“Really? But I believe that no matter how conflicted you are, when the time to act comes, you will act without hesitation.”
But Aristel didn’t agree.
He didn’t specify what exactly it was he was referring to, but she must’ve figured it out.
She even acknowledged his own doubts toward himself.
“Even if you hurt yourself in the process and even if you have to live with the consequences for the rest of your life, I believe you will still act appropriately. Such an attitude isn’t cold and it’s not weak either, if anything, it’s noble.”
When she said those words, the aura that she normally wore could be clearly felt.
At the same time, a gaze so full of envy not even the glasses could hide it bore into him,
“Is that really how it is?”
Shinichi averted his eyes, but it was less because he doubted her and more because the gaze she looked at him with was too strong.
Those eyes that might as well have been sparkling was a formidable foe to Shinichi.
Putting it bluntly, the young manager was correct.
“At the very least, that’s what I’ve observed watching you. Just like last time and this recent incident, I’m sure you’ll step up and put yourself on the line for someone and lead them. It’s because you’re like that that those kids could find a path and break free from stagnation. You could have solved a problem like that so easily, and yet you still went out of your way to do things in such a troublesome way. But it was precisely because of that that there were people who were saved and people who were able to advance. If such a thing could not be called noble, then what could?”
She laid bare her feelings so honestly and with such ardent respect that Shinichi couldn’t help but become embarrassed.
It would indeed be a lie to say that he hadn’t had such intentions, but she was painting this whole thing in an overly positive light.
“I don’t think it was really that noble—”
Shinichi tried to deny, but for some reason, his words lacked conviction.
It really was a rare sight to see this boy get cold feet and be so restless.
Aristel chuckled at that and struck where he was weak.
“But you did know that they would benefit in that way, right?”
Shinichi frowned and became speechless when she pointed that out.
That was no different from a tacit affirmation. Before anyone knew it, the person teasing and the person being teased had switched places, and a grimace found its way on the boy, while a smile shone from the girl.
“If so, then I’m sure it’ll be the same when you have another goal. If anything, I think it’ll be even more wonderful for a single action to hold many meanings and effects.”
He could have just fabricated something completely to fool her, but when those pure eyes that have found their mark so perfectly gazed into him, he couldn’t find it in himself to.
He could easily lie to villains and enemies, but it was hard to do the same to someone that needn’t be deceived.
This was one of the reasons why people close to him describe him as ‘clumsy’ or ‘overly sincere’.
“Fu fu, you really are bad at a lot of things.”
“…Well, excuse me. Sheesh.”
He started grumbling when he realized she’d found out how bad he was at being praised, but Aristel found that charming too, and the smile on her grew even bigger.
Embarrassed by that or perhaps simply finding her smile too dazzling, he turned away and stuffed the crepes into his mouth in one go.
The way he grumbled was truly just like that of a child’s, drawing the smile on the girl to bloom further.
As she faced that back so full of opening, Aristel dropped a bomb.
“It’s not a bad thing at all, you know— After all, I love you like that too.”
Aristel cheerfully said as though her affections for him were a matter of fact.
For a moment, the world seemed to pause, then Shinichi hastily turned and was greeted by a carefree smile.
Aristel wasn’t the slightest bit flustered, so Shinichi quickly found himself analyzing her words, but…
“D-Did you just— Umugu!?”
When he was about to ask her about what she’d said, something blocked his mouth.
Caught off guard by the sudden confession, Shinichi could not help but become flustered, and in the midst of that confusion, something soft gently touched his lips, a sweet aroma wafting up to his nose.
At the same time, it was so delicious──────he could melt.
To think that she would ‘say ahh’ now of all times.
Aristel had fed him her remaining crepe.
Previously, he had indeed said he wanted a taste of her crepe, but he likely only said that to tease her two servants.
Moreover, this ‘ahh’ was clearly meant to stop Shinichi from talking.
“And just to make it clear, the love I’m talking about here isn’t the kind between friends, but the passionate ‘love’ between a man and a woman.”
How could she say something like that with such a nonchalant face?