To my Beloved Servant
On the day of the Orso family’s exile, I brought the commoner with me to the customs checkpoint stationed at the border between our kingdom and Appalachia.
This checkpoint, which Lene would have to pass through to leave the kingdom, was about half a day’s carriage ride from the capital.
In order to give Lene a proper farewell, both the commoner and I took leave from the academy.
With most of their assets confiscated, the Orso family only had the bare necessities to take with them to Appalachia.
There they would rely on one of their distant relatives, who would help them settle into the country.
Appalachia, home to plenty of fertile soil, was a nation centered on agriculture that historically held friendly relations to our own kingdom.
While it wasn’t known as a particularly wealthy country, thanks to its stable government, the nation managed to accrue stable wealth and influence.
As they were also relatively welcoming to migrants and refugees, one could say that it would be the perfect place to start fresh.
Though Appalachia may be our neighbor, migrating to another country was not so simple as merely crossing the border.
It was entirely likely that our farewell today would be the last one we shared.
Contrary to the melancholy I felt within, the sky was a vast blue without a cloud in sight.
Frustrated, I found myself poking at my shadow with my parasol.
“Really nice weather today…”
As we watched over the checkpoint, we saw the entire Orso family come into view.
The checkpoint was a fortress stationed on the main road that connected Appalachia to Bauer Kingdom.
The fortress had huge gates on each side, and in emergencies these gates would close to prevent invasion.
The entire Orso family was currently under inspection to pass through the checkpoint.
In the kingdom, the family had made their livelihood mining and distributing magic gems, but as part of their exile, they were forbidden from taking those techniques and technologies with them.
With how vital magic had become in military matters, it only made sense.
But while physical goods, equipment, and paperwork could be checked and accounted for, it wasn’t as though the kingdom could do anything about their knowledge or skills.
That said, it would be difficult for the family to use that knowledge to make a living in Appalachia.
The Appalachian government wanted to maintain their good relations with the kingdom, so it seemed that they would be keeping the Orso family under close watch.
Simply put, the Orso family would need to find an entirely new way of life, unrelated to the gems.
“Will the Orso family… Be able to live a proper life in Appalachia?”
“There’s no saying for sure.
I’ve heard that their current head, Bartley, is a capable man.
Even if it may be difficult for them to secure the same success they once held in the kingdom, I doubt they’ll see any trouble just getting by.”
Even as I replied to the commoner’s question, something else weighed on my mind.
“I suppose things may be more difficult for Lene and Lambert though…”
“… Yes, I think so too.”
As a result of their forbidden love, their whole family nearly met capital punishment.
It was only natural that they would be punished.
After their immigration, Lene and Lambert would be disowned by their own family, forced to fend for themselves in the unfamiliar land.
They wouldn’t have the chance to inherit the family business―I was sure the significance of that weighed on them heavily.
“Even so, they must live on.
So long as they do, I’m sure they’ll manage.”
That, of course, was not the current reality, but a wish.
“Look, they’re past the inspection.”
Just as the commoner stated, the Orso family were now moving toward the gate.
As someone who knew the family, the number gathered here was surprisingly small.
With most of their servants dismissed, those gathered here were primarily those who held direct blood ties to them.
To offer a number, there were at most twenty.
Of course, Lene and Lambert were present as well.
The moment she came into view, the commoner leaned over the iron fence and called out to her.
It appears that Lene noticed her and came toward us.
“Rei-chan… And Claire-sama too…”
“Claire-sama insisted that we come to say goodbye.”
“I did nothing of the sort! Aren’t you the one who threw a fit and insisted that you would go no matter what!”
“Ahaha… It’s been a while, but I’m relieved to see that nothing’s changed.”
Lene put on a small smile.
It was a weak one, but there was no helping that.
For a few short moments, silence fell over us.
Unable to bear it, I asked the one thing that I wanted to confirm the most.
Have you perhaps come to resent me?”
“!? Absolutely not!”
The moment I timidly posed my question, Lene rushed to give her response.
“Under normal circumstances, our entire family would have been executed.
Just the fact that we’re still alive is all thanks to Claire-sama’s appeals.”
“Even then, I was the one who put you in that predicament in the first place.”
I do not believe that what I did was a mistake.
No matter how many times I faced that same choice, I could confidently say that I would make the same one.
That said, it was the undeniable truth that my actions drove them both into a corner.
If… If I had offered her a chance to discuss her anxieties with me before things had escalated… Or perhaps there was another way… I couldn’t help but consider such possibilities.
“Not at all.
I am more than grateful that you prevented us from harming anyone.”
“It feels like both my sister and I have finally snapped out of something.”
As Lene emphasized her gratitude, Lambert joined in and added his own.
“They say that love is blind, but in our case, it feels like all we were capable of looking at was each other.
As we lamented over our forbidden love, our field of view only narrowed.”
And this tragedy was the result, Lambert spoke in clear anguish.
“I wanted for someone, anyone, to affirm my love for my sister, I wanted it so badly.
That man knew that, and he took advantage of it.
It was a very painful mistake.”
Lene nodded as Lambert forced the words out as though he was coughing blood.
“Rei-chan, you be careful too, okay? So that you don’t let anyone take advantage of your feelings for Claire-sama.”
“Lambert, Lene, we’ve got to go.
Someone from the Orso family called out to the two.
It seems that they would finally be on their way.
I felt that I had to say something, but my feelings got in the way and no words came to mind.
As I was at a loss for words, the commoner rushed to hold Lene’s hand and said something to her.
Me too… I too needed to…!
“Well then, this is goodbye.
Claire-sama, Rei-chan, thanks so much, for everything.”
“See you, Lene.”
With that, Lene gave a very deep bow.
To the very end, I wasn’t able to say anything.
Lene offered one final lonely smile before turning and walking away.
The two moved further and further away.
“Claire-sama, are you sure you’re okay with this? Not saying goodbye?”
There were so many things I wanted to say to her.
Like how grateful I was for her service until now, or firm encouragement as she prepared to face her new life, and many, so many more things…! And yet, I just couldn’t collect my thoughts.
When I opened my mouth, the only words that seemed to come were ones asking her to wait, to stop.
Even though I knew that wasn’t possible…
It was then that Catherine’s words ran through the back of my mind.
『I get that it might be a bit tough~』
『But it’d be nice if you could send her off with a smile~』
『… Yes, I think so too.』
And before my thoughts had a chance to catch up, I screamed out.
It seems that my voice reached her.
Surprised, she suddenly turned around to face me.
It may have been my imagination, but I thought I saw something glimmering in the corner of her eyes.
“I won’t say goodbye! Let’s meet again one day! Until that day comes, please take care of yourself!”
Lene was just about to pass through the gate, so I couldn’t be sure that my words reached her.
For a moment, I thought I saw her smile, but that also could have been a delusion created by my own wishful thinking.
It wasn’t long before Lene and the rest of the Orso family disappeared into the distance.
“They’ve really gone.”
The commoner stated the obvious.
I was about to snap back to say that I didn’t need her to tell me that, but the words didn’t quite make it out.
If I were to let anything out, I was sure that I’d cry.
“What is it?”
Even though I was trying so hard to contain myself… Couldn’t she catch the hint?
“Can I hug you?”
“Of course not.
Let’s hurry home.”
I barely managed to contain myself to just those words as I turned and walked away.
“You’re too stubborn, even at a time like this.”
The commoner muttered those words behind me.
Hmph, go ahead and say whatever you’d like!
“Kyah!? What are you doing! Let go!”
“I won’t let you go, but instead, I’ll just let it out.”
“Cut it with your nonsense!”
When I tried to shake her off of me, the commoner renewed her strength and clung on.
“You know it’s okay to cry, right?”
“! A-Are you stupid? She was but one lowly maid, that’s all.
Why would someone of my stature cry over―”
“Claire-sama, I’m currently behind you.
That means that I can’t see your face.”
“I’m telling you, I…!”
The commoner strengthened her embrace and continued.
“You didn’t want to part with Lene, did you.”
The moment she put my feelings to words, some tears escaped my eyes.
“Really, life just never goes how one wants.
It won’t even allow people to love freely.”
I’m sure she meant to include herself in that statement, but I just didn’t have the mental capacity to recognize that at the time.
『My name is Lene Orso, it’s my pleasure to make your acquaintance.』
『Hmph, I couldn’t care less what your name is.
After all, I’m sure you’ll quit your post within a week, just like all the others.』
Memories from the distant past.
『Uhm, Claire-sama… Really, the maid’s uniform is more than enough for me…』
You serve me, so you must have at least one proper dress!』
Of the days we spent together.
『You may be a commoner, but you’ve also come as close to nobility as a commoner can be.
So that you won’t bring me shame as my personal maid, you must aim to be the greatest commoner, the greatest maid.』
『I, Lene Orso, swear to become a praiseworthy maid that that will bring no shame to Claire-sama’s name.』
Spare no effort.』
Of when we opened up to each other.
『I’m sure that it’s really painful, but please, don’t ever say, “If I were to die.” Such words would surely only serve to upset your mother.』
『My mother and I… Parted ways while still in an argument… I’ll never have the chance to say sorry…』
During the difficult times.
『Lene, Lene! I’ve met my prince!』
『I’m so happy for you.
And so? What is the name of your destined prince?』
And the happy times.
We had gone through it all together, and yet here and now, our paths would split.
However, I was sure that this parting would not be final.
Yes, I decided to believe so.
“Hmph, you really are much too cheeky for a commoner.”
When my emotions finally calmed down, I tossed an insult the commoner’s way.
“Yes, please punish me for being oh so cheeky!”
“I’d really rather not.
Knowing you, it would just end up becoming a reward, wouldn’t it?”
“Claire-sama, to think that you’d take the time to deepen your understanding of me… Well then, I guess all that’s left is for us to get married!”
And with that, I was back to my usual self.
While she happily accepted one insult after the next, the commoner caught up to walk next to me.
“It’d be nice to see them again, wouldn’t it.”
The commoner turned back to face the checkpoint one last time as she whispered that.
“We’ll see them again, I’m sure of it.”
That was both a wish, and a conviction.
After all, no matter how far apart we may be, we both continued to live under the same blue sky.
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