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Chapter 115 Reserved
I was in the middle of preparing dinner, but these four children burst into the kitchen.
“It’s dangerous here, children. Didn’t I tell you to tell your teacher before you came in?”
All of them were staring at the floor, looking remorseful. I hurriedly bottled up my anger and stopped what I was working on to face them.
“Is there anything you want from me?”
“Um, Miss Iris is here.”
Their answer scared me, to the point that I couldn’t help but shout. Seeing how unnatural I was acting, the children started to look a bit confused.
“Le–no, Miss Iris is here? Are you sure?”
I needed to hurry and prepare tea…although that was what I wanted to do, we didn’t have any left and there wasn’t enough time to go and buy more. Plus, I had decided that we needed to be more frugal before the next donation came.
“A-all in all, we need to go out and welcome her…”
“Apologies for the disturbance!”
Yep, that was Tanya’s voice. There was nothing else I could do but walk toward the entrance. Although I did not look presentable enough to meet her, it was even more impolite to keep her waiting.
“W-welcome…I…Lady Iris, Miss Tanya.”
Although it was only a short way, because I had run over and because of how nervous I was, I felt that I could barely breathe.
The sight of Lady Iris filled me with a strange feeling. She seemed slimmer than I remembered, and her skin was even paler than pale, almost to the degree of translucence.
“Don’t be so nervous, Minae. I’m just a normal friend coming to her friend’s house to have some fun.”
Lady Iris’s stunning words disarmed me, and I spoke once again immediately.
“Oh yes. Isn’t that what everyone else thinks as well?”
“Miss Iris, what are we going to play today?”
“Hey, hey, Miss Iris, I can read now!”
“Miss Iris said she was going to play with me!”
These kids…they were surrounding her with smiles on their face, speaking whatever came to their minds.
But this didn’t seem to bother her at all. In fact, her smile seemed quite genuinely happy.
“Haha…that’s true, we did make a promise. Then let’s play a new game before we start reading!”
The children cheered, taking Lady Iris’s hand to prepare to play a game.
These kids…how could they talk to a lady like that? It seemed like it was too late for me to stop them.
Lady Iris was of noble blood, and was a substitute leader…I had kept these secrets from the children. Even if I asked them now to be less impolite to her, they probably wouldn’t obey if I couldn’t give them a reason for it.
“To me, Minae, you and these children are important friends. Your attitude is making me sad…as a matter of fact, you’re blocking the way!”
Just like that, she was already playing games with the children. When she passed by me she didn’t forget to joke with me.
Iris seemed to be setting the kids up as thieves, while she chased them around the room.
And she was a noble…although the scene before my eyes was a bit shocking, I still watched them quietly. The maid next to me also watched on, with a protective look. She was surprised too, but still smiled.
“Ah, caught you.”
Hearing Lady Iris’s voice, my eyes couldn’t help but follow. What I saw was a genuine smile on her face…one that seemed to come from the bottom of her heart.
“…Lady Iris, why…”
“What about Miss Iris?”
Miss Tanya asked me this in a harsh tone of voice after hearing me murmur under my breath. The sound of her voice sent chills down my spine.
“I’m sorry. Why is Lady Iris being so gentle to us?”
My words made Tanya’s eyes go big. It was rare to see her look so comical. But I felt more sadness from the expression than anything else, the same feeling as when you don’t really know if you’re smiling or not.
“She was dragged down by us, but she never blamed us. Not only that, but she came here especially to visit us.”
The whole riot had given Lady Iris so much trouble, and we were the root reason for all of that. If we…no, if I could have worked harder, then I wouldn’t have to ask so much from Lady Iris.
It was all because of us that she had been painted as guilty. But even so, her attitude hadn’t changed at all. We couldn’t do anything but be guarded and protected by her, and that in itself was somewhat tragic.
“That’s the kind of person that Miss Iris is.”
Tanya seemed very proud as she said this.
“You seem to be having a lot of fun. Would you like to rest for a while?”
As if responding to what we had just been talking about, Tanya appeared next to Lady Iris with a towel she’d gotten from who knows where.
When did she get over there? And where is that towel from? Even though I couldn’t help but question things like this, my eyes still stayed fixed on Lady Iris.
“What’s wrong, Minae? You look so glum. Has anything happened?”
“No, of course not. We’re being looked after so thoroughly.”
“Is that so? That’s good. If anything comes up, don’t hesitate to let me know.”
…really, why did she have to be so…
She was nobility, after all, the heiress of a duke’s family that normal citizens wouldn’t even dare imagine talking to. An existence above the clouds, so to speak.
Why is it that she had to be so courteous, so kind, so thoughtful when interacting with insignificant people like us?
“I am very thankful for your attention…Lady Iris, may I ask you a question?”
“Is anything the matter?”
“Lady Iris, do you no longer take walks on the streets?”
“Um…why ask something like that?”
“We haven’t seen you in a while, so we were worried!”
All the people she had visited–the lady that ran the flower shop, the man who owned the food court on the corner, and everyone else who lived along that road–were very worried about her.
Anywhere on this street, you’d be able to hear people talking about Lady Iris. It just showed how much she had become a part of our community.
In response to our question, Lady Iris flashed a bitter smile.
“…after I’ve shown myself like that on a higher level, I couldn’t walk on the streets like I did in the past for safety reasons.”
She was right. I lowered my head in disappointment, even if I had no right to be disappointed.
“But that’s ultimately an excuse. No, it’s a big factor…but the biggest one is just fear.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes. I’m afraid to see how people think of me out there. After they learn ‘Iris’’s true identity, it’s inevitable that their attitudes will change. I’ve prepared myself for that. But haven’t I burdened everyone immensely this time? Although it’s good that no riots started…but if they knew I was nearby, they would probably at least complain a bit. How would everyone blame me…I can’t help but be afraid of that. All I want is for you to please forget my lack of capability as a substitute leader.”
In the end she seemed to smile weakly. But my field of vision was already dark, so I couldn’t really see her expression.
What tainted my vision–fury that I could barely suppress? Or desperation at my own powerlessness?
It seemed that it was both, but also neither. Compared to that, a bitter, suffocating urge seemed to surge from within me.
“Lady Iris…I know what I’m going to say is rude, but please let me say it.”
I felt my voice trembling, but not because of fear, but because I was trying to hold back the urge to shout.
“P-please don’t treat us as idiots…”
In the end I still shouted the words out.
“It’s true that from your point of view, we are weak and pitiful existences, living our lives in a narrow world, completely ignorant of what happens above us, trying our hardest just to maintain our own lives.”
Every day all we did was work and eat, and repeat that every day. In our dreams, all we hoped was that the next day would be just as peaceful as this one.
But at least we knew the value of peaceful days, of not having to worry where our food would come from tomorrow, or not having to worry about how we would get our salaries.
Whatever fancy policies the people above were using to affect our lives–that we didn’t understand. It might as well be something that happened above the clouds. Even if we did understand it, there wouldn’t be much change. But we live as if that were a guarantee. That’s why we could talk about what was going on up there like it happened in another world, spreading the word as if they were just some irrelevant, fun rumors.
When it reached the point where we could feel the environment around us worsening, many of us would lose our jobs and our money. The prices would gradually begin to rise…and then the atmosphere on the street would become dreary, everyone wearing an exhausted, hopeless face.
I’ve seen days like that before. Before I was picked up as a nun, I saw it in other territories.
But it was only then that people would really start complaining upwards, which would result in oppression from above. That would only make the people even more resistant, and things would just get worse and worse on the streets.
Everything that happened with Lady Iris this time did make everyone a bit restless, and people did start blaming her.
“Even so, we’re not idiots. Lady Iris, you’ve done so much for all of us. We know that…”
Of course, many of us were supporters of Lady Iris.
For example, hasn’t life become easier recently!
It seemed like she was a good leader who thought of us after all!
All that beforehand must just be some kind of weird miscommunication.
We didn’t know what happened with Lady Iris. Even if we did, we might not be able to understand the details. But Lady Iris has made everyone’s lives more comfortable, put smiles on more faces. That much I can understand.
The number of doctors has increased, and it’s much easier now for people to go for a visit to the hospital and get the care they need.
More and more people can read and write, meaning fewer and fewer are being deceived or embarrassed by salesman from other lands.
More and more children smile while talking about their future hopes and dreams.
Even the people who couldn’t plant crops have found other ways to make money.
So many people supported Lady Iris together.
Of course, there were still many others who treated the whole thing as a novelty, and just talked about her as a matter of gossip.
“We are weak.”
Our positions weren’t the same as hers. What we possessed was different. The power we possessed and the resulting force available to us was different. Of course, our level of wealth was vastly different. Even so, even so…
“But we don’t want to use our own weakness as an excuse to blame Lady Iris.”
Lady Iris is only human. Even she can become so thin, so pale.
The people who would still blame their benefactor after she got to this stage–I won’t forgive them.
The woman who runs the flower shop, the man who runs the food court feel the same way.
All of us are remorseful. Especially after we found out that the “Lady Iris” we had thought was so above us was actually one and the same with the “Miss Iris” who stood by our sides.
We wanted to do something about it, but we couldn’t. We hated ourselves for being poor and weak, but never used it as an excuse.
And it wasn’t just us on this street.
People who know of what me and the children have been through yet can’t do anything about it are the same.
Somewhere where I don’t know of, there must be many people who are being helped by Lady Iris, treating her as “Miss Iris” without knowing her true identity.
“So I ask of you, Miss Iris. Please don’t continue to blame yourself. I won’t forgive anyone who blames you, even if it’s yourself.”
I said it. I said everything I wanted to say, but the sense of achievement only lasted a little while.
Seeing Lady Iris’s expression blew all of my tiny sense of achievement away.
W-why was she crying?
I’ve said too much…immediately, I felt all the blood drain from my face.
Lady Iris looked so beautiful as she cried silently. I couldn’t help but stare.
No, no, I had been rude…right when I was unsure what to do, all the children gathered by my side.
“Ah! Teacher, you made her cry!”
“Teacher did something bad…”
Even the children were angry with me…I did seem to have said too much. Would I be arrested for it?
“…That’s wrong, everyone. I’m happy right now.”
“Happy? You’re crying.”
“Yes. Sometimes you cry when you’re too happy. Your teacher has said something that made me very happy. I was so happy I couldn’t help but cry.”
“Really? Wow, it’s just like our teacher to say something so awesome.”
The kids seemed to believe her words. I breathed a sigh of relief.
“…All right, everyone. Today I brought delicious treats. Go and line up in front of Tanya.”
All the kids flocked to Tanya happily.
“N-not at all. I apologize for my lack of manners. Please don’t blame the children. If you want to punish anyone, please punish me.”
Lady Iris lowered her head, looking confused.
“Why would I punish you? You made me so happy!”
Heh…Lady Iris wiped her tears away with a smile on her face.
“…After I’m finished with my current work, I have to consider coming out again and visiting!”
Her words made me lower my head at first, but soon enough I understood what she was saying and smiled.
“Everyone will look forward to that day.”
Yes. We needed to spread our smiles to Lady Iris.