In the mansion.
Although the room Lilisha spent most of her time in wasn’t that far from the study, it still required some walking.
That was partly because the villa was just too big, but it was also because she was hesitant to use the master room, which belonged to the king, when she was just a princess.
The study was close to the master’s room, but the rest of the family rooms were some ways away.
It was a floor arrangement that took into consideration her position as the second princess.
Along the way…
“Hey, Stella… Did you intentionally appear at that timing?”
The princess’ happiness was visible even from behind, but she suddenly turned around and asked Stella that question, who nodded matter-of-factly.
“Yes, I won’t ask what you were planning to talk about, but with all due respect, Lillisha-sama, you trust him too much.”
“I would lose to you in that regard, though.”
“…What do you mean?”
The princess continued walking backwards even after turning but stopped when Stella said those words.
Her voice was filled with genuine confusion, and that shocked Lilisha.
“You’re not aware? I heard he gave you a pendant and you immediately put it on while barely asking any questions.”
“Who told you that? …I just think he can be trusted when it comes to troublesome matters.”
Evidently, there were some rats with lips too loose. Stella resolved herself to investigate the matter and hand out punishment accordingly.
But of course, she didn’t forget to answer the princess’ inquiries briefly and promptly.
“See? I knew it!”
But for some reason, the princess looked elated, as though her words did not get through her.
At the same time, she smiled a smile filled with an oppressive aura, as though she wouldn’t allow her, her servant, to deceive her.
It wasn’t a powerful aura by any means to Stella, but she nonetheless felt it.
It has only been half a month, yet the changes brought about by that black-hearted yet natural airhead of a boy was nothing short of extraordinary.
“…I am grateful to him. Not only did he rid us of our arrogance, he brought back that carefree smile of yours as well, Lilisha-sama. It’s a pity that you also learned to smile so nastily, however,” Stella said.
“What could you be talking about?” Lilisha said with a composed face, yes, the very face in question. “Sigh… Well fine. I am grateful as well.”
There were indescribable difficulties and constraints in the royal palace where she grew up.
Especially when the queen, the mother of the princesses, passed away. It was as if the light had left them.
The country’s hardships and the factional struggles that followed was like a domino effect, and they mercilessly dragged the feelings of the Earthgant princesses with them, transforming the yet young Lilisha’s smile to become something else altogether.
“Of course, I feel the same way, Stella. He is cunning and loves to tease, but… Deep down, he’s a sincere and kind person. He’s bad at telling lies, and he’s a bit of a worrier and a pushover, but he’s really a good-natured person. Thanks to him, all my ill will and everything else has been eliminated.”
“…I think I can understand.”
She has witnessed his true nature in this half month that they’ve spent together.
Being uptight, faking their expressions, and hiding their true feelings all seemed somewhat ridiculous before him.
In fact, just knowing how cruel and emotionless he was when they first met made them somewhat proud to see him choose to reveal his true nature to them.
Princess Lilisha looked meaningfully at her, but she immediately turned around and continued walking as she casually said.
“Stella, I’m fine if it’s with Shin.”
“What are you talking about?”
“If you’ve found someone you want to serve, then by all means, go for it.”
It was rare to see Stella so surprised and agitated, but that was because she understood what she was trying to say.
This was something unique to the two of them, a master-servant contract to protect Lilisha and the secret of the maids, a contract that was never meant to last long.
“It was just a temporary contract, but in the end, I kept relying on you all this time. Father and Mother never expected the palace to remain in such disarray for so long, and I found out about the situation too late.”
“It’s not something that you should feel responsible for…”
“Perhaps. But you were like family to me, and I didn’t want to let any of you go. That’s why my selfishness played a part in it too.”
Though she hadn’t meant to, she still apologized for prolonging their contract.
Yet despite how solemn her words were, the tone she used was bright as though she didn’t want the atmosphere to turn heavy.
And she said that she would be fine if the master she chose was Shinichi.
“Youko has been persuading him so aggressively this entire time and just managed to get a yes from him recently, so I’m sure it won’t be easy to get him to agree, but… He’s a really kind person, so…”
───Please find happiness with him.
Because it probably wouldn’t be possible for her to follow him.
That consideration, that wish, and that resignation…
Stella had been taking care of her since she was a child and understood it all.
‘Back then’ that was the safest path for her and her sisters to be able to live safely.
That’s why she had no complaints, only gratitude, but she also understood the danger of continuing indefinitely.
She has always been watching over the princess and wanted nothing more than to continue to do so, but at the same time, she knew that if their secret were to be found out, she would bring a great deal of trouble to both her and her country, and she didn’t want that.
That’s why she could only maintain a silent attitude that neither denied nor affirmed anything.
However, Stella couldn’t endure the heavy silence that followed, so she jokingly pointed out the problem that would arise if they were to leave.
“But then who will take care of you, Lilisha-sama?”
“…Oh? Has it already been decided that all of you will be serving Shin?”
Stella was stunned to see her master turn to her with a smile and point that out.
She thought back to what she said, and her expressionless mask crumbled.
──I can’t believe I just said that!
“Fu fu, ahaha! To think that that Stella would make such a weird face!”
That was indeed the kind of smile she wanted to see the princess make, but the way she laughed while clutching her stomach was completely void of the elegance a lady ought to have.
“…What’s so funny, Princess?”
It was Stella’s duty to admonish the princess for her unladylike manner, so she gave voice to her annoyance with much frustration and with considerable pressure, but the princess just shrugged her shoulders.
“Oh, how scary. But if that’s the case, then once everything has been dealt with, I might as well change job and become a maid myself. Do you think it would be a problem for a maid to be a former princess and be capable of using cataclysmic class spells?”
Lilisha suggested with a smug expression, and Stella snorted.
“My dear princess, you can’t even brew a cup of tea properly, how could you possibly become a maid?”
And it wasn’t just tea too. When Stella pointed out all the things that the princess struggled with, Lilisha could only drop her shoulders in disappointment. But then again, she was the princess of a great power.
It was only normal for her to be lacking in such things, but the realization that her chance of becoming a maid was nil was surprisingly shocking.
“…Don’t worry. That just means we’ll have to train you from scratch, so please do prepare yourself.”
“That’s… A rather terrifying proposition.”
The head maid was basically her second older sister, and when she showed her concern in that manner, Princess Lilisha couldn’t help but shudder and wonder what kind of terrible fate awaited her.
Both of them knew that such a future was impossible, of course, but they still shared a smile.
Especially, since they knew that something bad would happen soon.
After all, as unfortunate as it was, Shinichi’s intuition had never once failed them in this half month that they’ve spent together.