07 – Final Days of Spring Break
I spent the next ten days that preceded the safe arrival of that carriage from Kaldia celebrating the fleeting peace.
I had little else to occupy myself with, after all. Nothing apart from slowly and selectively transporting my things from the old dorm to the new and cleaning up the place, at least. And even then, my role consisted of little more than ordering around servants. Since there was a rather scant number of my possessions that necessitated personal input and instruction, every last thing I owned had been moved before the ten-day period even had the chance to see itself out.
With that avenue exhausted, I attempted to assist with the cleaning. But then Lady Heidemann glared me down with all the ferocity of an ogress, and that was the end of that.
I considered that there might be a chance that I’d only spent these days so listless and with nothing to do ever since I’d been tossed into the military’s base of operations.
Going out wasn’t much of an option, seeing how I wasn’t particularly warm to the idea of running into walking nuisances or being subjected to the disagreeable glares of nobles I didn’t even know by name. Instead, I let myself be at the mercy of one of the greatest luxuries of all time by holing myself up in my home and just lazing the days away. Well… there was only one thing I couldn’t get away from, and that was training with Claudia, who never really knew what to do with an abundance of spare time.
The horse-drawn carriage had departed from Kaldia at the precise date it was expected to, and had taken three days to reach the old dorm. Since this place had made it a valid option for several years that carriage horses could be procured in exchange for money, one could forgo moving between stations and simply leave the matter at that, showing favour to leisure.
“What…? What’s all this, then?”
Dumbfounded and in a home bereft of both possessions and servants, Ratoka muttered in solitude. I having spent the time waiting for the carriage sunbathing in the salon and dozing off as I did, a result of my day-long indulgence, finally opened my eyes.
I offered an explanation, going into detail how royal rule had mandated I be moved along with my possessions and servants, and was promptly met with a resounding, ‘That’s something you should’ve told me earlier, you moron!’ It goes without saying that Ratoka took the opportunity to give my head a good thrashing.
I carefully assemble what excuses I have, keeping in mind how my plans wouldn’t have changed even if I had been more informative, and how I couldn’t find the people who’d usually send the message, and how there was a good chance they wouldn’t find their target anyway, but that just led to another boff to the head.
“Our ruler sure can’t get her head out of trouble, huh?”
I took the chance while we unpacked to explain the royal decree to my associates. What I’d just heard had been muttered by Athrun, accompanied by a sigh as he unfurled the rug and spread it over the floor. I could only assume that he thought the noise might help obscure his voice, but there was nothing my sharp ears couldn’t pick up.
“Oh, that reminds me. Athrun, I want you to guard Lady Emilia on academy grounds. Tira’s her handmaid, by the way.”
Athrun spun around, shock evident in his expression, and I merely offered a shrug in response. I hadn’t said that just to get even with him, of course. Being in the academy required a fairly young chamberlain. If I had to choose people now, before I could call for a new batch of attendants, then it was only natural I’d pick the two of them out of the lot. Emilia wasn’t like me, who only needed to take along Reka whenever I walked about; she was meant to take lectures specifically tailored for women. She’d need a handmaiden.
Under normal circumstances, I’d have set up Ratoka and Tira as attendants, but Ratoka was a special case in this situation. I thought it would be best if he didn’t get too close to Emilia. Both Ratoka and Athrun were perfectly capable of playing the guard, but excluding the former really only left me with one choice.
“Guess that means I’ll be your attendant…”
Ratoka muttered, showcasing displeasure, and Reka sidled up before offering a lukewarm smile and a series of consoling pats to the shoulder.
Strange. Ratoka and the three childhood friends had only come to know each other last year, but they all appeared much more close-knit that I’d expected them to be. Then again, they were the only ones around here who were familiar with Ratoka’s personal history and current peculiar circumstances. Not to mention that they were in the same age group. It was one of those situations. The ones where a shared secret just helped a group grow closer together.
“Now them, Lady Emilia will be here come tomorrow. All the rooms here are ready, including yours. You can take a look later.”
Reka responded with nothing but obedience, and the others soon expressed their own acknowledgement, following his lead.
On the day that followed, we ushered Emilia into the dorm. It was full of life now, a stark contrast to the ten days that had led up to this moment.
The servants had spent the early hours of the morning scampering about, only now getting to whatever unpacking work they’d decided to postpone the other day, fervent in their preparations to welcome the archduke girl from the neighbouring country as if she meant the world to them.
I for one had spent the morning getting my appearance fine-tuned to perfection by Lady Heinemann’s capable hands, was told, rather harshly I might add, to act like the lady of the house and just do nothing. I was reluctant, but I still went to look over the written reports that had come in from my territories.
…There was just something about sitting by and doing nothing whole everyone around was fussing about even the smallest things that kept me from relaxing. I brought the now-cold cup of tea to my lips, feeling as if I was trying to cheat myself out of the natural sigh that was about to escape them.
It was just before noon that something finally happened, blowing away my boredom.
“I’m sorry you had to wait so long, Lady Emilia.”
I could finally get to work when Emilia stepped out of the carriage, at the exact time I’d expected her to be here – yes, I considered our interactions a workload on their own terms – and adopted the best, brightest aura I could conjure, smiling in an effort to show just how happy I was to welcome her.
Almost in opposition to me, Emilia looked on with a heap of discomfort that I’d gotten all too used to by this point. She looked as if she was drawing much too close to her journey’s end.
I watched over her because the king had ordered me to. The minute I’d made that clear to her, she’d become completely unable to swallow down her despondency.
Well, I supposed it didn’t matter how she felt about it. I wasn’t about to change my attitude now, after all. I had no doubt that, had it not been for that royal decree, I wouldn’t have even considered getting into contact with her in the first place.
But since that hadn’t happened and I had indeed been ordered to do just that, I didn’t have the slightest intention of straying from the path the royal court had entrusted me with.
Bearing all that in mind, I offered my hand, an invitation to escort her about. Emilia’s hand overlapped with mine, and while she bore the same looked a lost child might have had, she didn’t bother putting any strength into it.