༺ Date ༻
The food at the restaurant was exceptionally excellent. It was indeed like a restaurant in one of the top hotels in the Empire.
The meat was perfectly grilled and the dessert had a sweet and luxurious taste. As I’m not a foodie, I couldn’t feel any other impressions besides that the food was delicious, but I could tell that this was a high-end cuisine that I wouldn’t normally get a chance to try.
There was a minor incident where Instructor Lirya was confused by the variety of forks and spoons and had to ask the staff for help, but overall it was a peaceful meal.
Of course, I simply used one fork and knife and had a simple meal. Everything looked so similar, why bother distinguishing them? There were times when I had to tear everything up with my hands on the battlefield.
However, after the meal, I was concerned that Instructor Lirya’s expression did not look good.
Normally, I wouldn’t have cared much about other people’s moods, but it was different if it was Instructor Lirya who had been very helpful so far.
So, I asked somewhat awkwardly but carefully.
“Do you have any concerns?”
Instructor Lirya looked at me with a slight surprise. And then, she shook her head with a faint smile.
“No, it’s not like that. Just… I guess I’m not used to dining in such a fancy restaurant.”
“It seems like I took you to an unnecessary place.”
“What!? No, not at all! The food was really delicious. When would I ever come to a place like this again? It’s all thanks to Instructor Graham. Just…”
Her voice trailed off, and a faint shadow crossed Instructor Lirya’s face.
After a moment’s hesitation, she slowly opened her mouth.
“I had planned to guide Instructor Graham today, but wherever we went, there were too many people, and I only received help from Instructor Graham, and we couldn’t even go to the restaurant we had booked… It feels like nothing went according to plan.”
So she was worried about that.
It seemed that when we first met today, her offer to guide me around the institution was not just a simple statement, but rather quite sincere.
I originally came here with the intention to pay off a debt, so I didn’t particularly care about such things.
After a moment of contemplation, I spoke.
“Still, the performance was quite fascinating. It was my first time seeing something like that.”
“Ahaha, really? Thank you for saying that.”
Instructor Lirya gave a slight smile, then dropped her eyes with a bitter expression.
“But honestly… I didn’t really enjoy that performance.”
I swallowed dryly. It felt like stepping on a magical landmine on the battlefield.
“It was very different from what I wanted to show Instructor Graham.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes. I’ve loved the Märchen Theater Group since I was a child. Back then, it wasn’t a famous group like it is now, but a small theater group that staged small performances… but my younger self always eagerly awaited their performances. It was my only joy in childhood.”
Even if she wasn’t a direct-line noble, it was quite strange that the granddaughter of the previous Earl Bennett spent her childhood eagerly awaiting such a small group’s performances.
While I don’t know much about the life of a noble, was her environment so lacking in entertainment? Or was Instructor Lirya’s childhood somewhat different from other noble children?
My intuition told me that the latter was more likely.
“The performances of the group I loved were not like this. I thought it had changed a lot over the past few years, but especially today’s performance was too blatant. Maybe it’s because they started receiving sponsorship from the royal family.”
Instructor Lirya ended her words with a bitter expression.
“Why is it that the things we love change or disappear as time goes by?”
I could only deeply resonate with her words. I had experienced those emotions and had those thoughts before.
Losing companions on the battlefield, seeing loved ones leaving before my eyes, I too had asked such a question.
Of course, there were no answers to give back.
Instructor Lirya smiled, her expression clearly striving to appear cheerful.
“I had a lot of fun today! I feel sorry for taking up more of busy Instructor Graham’s time, so it would be best if we part ways for today.”
I hesitated for a moment. Would it be alright to just let Instructor Lirya leave like this?
If I did, I felt that an uncomfortable and unsettling feeling would remain within me.
In the end, somewhat impulsively, I spoke out.
“Instructor Lirya. Could you spare a little more time?”
I was riding out of the city with Instructor Lirya on the back of the bike.
The roar of the bike, and the surrounding scenery rapidly whizzed by.
Instructor Lirya sat in the backseat of the bike, hugging me tightly. Her small arms, which at first held onto my shoulders, were now tightly wrapped around my waist.
“In, Instructor Graham! It’s too fast!!”
“Do you want me to slow down?”
Instructor Lirya shouted in a loud voice.
Surprisingly, she was enjoying the speed of the bike.
I had slowed down considerably for her, who was riding a bike for the first time, but it seemed like I could speed up a bit more.
As I pulled the throttle and increased the speed of the bike, Instructor Lirya’s scream grew louder. However, her arm, hugging me, tightened its grip, but she did not ask me to slow down.
I continued to drive the bike, heading straight towards our destination. After about 30 minutes of driving, we arrived at the desired location.
I spoke to Instructor Lirya, who had her head buried in my back.
“Ye, yes…? Ahh!”
She realized only then how tightly she was clinging to me and recoiled in surprise. Both her cheeks blushed with embarrassment.
“I, I’m sorry! I didn’t realize I was…!”
“It’s fine. Rather, take a look over there.”
Instructor Lirya turned her gaze in the direction I pointed.
What unfolded before her was the view of the city of Shangria. Under the sunset, the white marble walls and the towering palace shone like platinum, and the landscape of the city spread out far and wide could be seen at a glance.
She stared blankly at the sight, her mouth open.
“Wow… it’s so beautiful….”
I was glad she liked it.
I discovered this place on the day I finished testing the bike and was returning to the city. When I climbed a nearby cliff, the landscape of the city was revealed all at once, and the spectacle was quite impressive to me, so it remained in my memory.
I wondered if Instructor Lirya had the same thoughts as I did. She quietly stared at the landscape of Shangria spread out beneath the cliff for a long time.
“From here, people look really small.”
The city that seemed bustling with people just a moment ago looked merely like tiny dots from such a height.
Of course, thanks to my excellent vision, I could recognize faces even from here if I focused, but to Instructor Lirya, it must have looked that way.
“So many people live in such a big city. Compared to that, my worries suddenly feel quite small.”
“That’s hard to say. The depth of one’s worries is relative.”
“Is that so….”
Instructor Lirya, who had been staring blankly at the landscape, suddenly opened her mouth.
There was a heavy worry in her words that she had been carrying in her heart for a long time.
“My childhood… was not very happy.”
“It was when I was about ten years old. The war began and my grandfather and father, who were the hereditary Earls of Bennett, went to the battlefield. Up to that point, nothing had happened, but not long after the war began, both of them passed away. After that, my father’s brother… my uncle was the only male left in our family.”
Hearing her words, I realized one fact.
I had heard before that the current Earl Bennett was Instructor Lirya’s uncle. At that time, I thought the uncle inherited the family as the eldest son, and Instructor Lirya, who was not a direct line of the eldest son, became a gentry.
However, that was my misunderstanding, in fact, Instructor Lirya’s father was the rightful heir to the Bennett family.
A young daughter left by the eldest son. And the mature second son who could not become the heir.
It was not difficult to imagine what had happened.
“What could a ten-year-old girl who lost her father and grandfather in an instant do? My mother also passed away giving birth to me, so the only adult I could rely on in the family was my uncle. Until then, he was really a good person. Naturally, I trusted my uncle….”
Instructor Lirya finished her sentence with a bitter expression.
“But my uncle sent me to a secluded villa in the city. After that, I could neither go outside nor meet people. My life was nothing more than watching the scenery outside the window… If it weren’t for the occasional theatrical group, I might have gone mad.”
I furrowed my brows and asked.
“Is that possible? The Royal family…”
Instructor Lirya shook her head slightly.
“The war was in full swing then. The royal family probably decided it would be better for my uncle to take over rather than cause confusion because the heir to the Bennett family was only a ten-year-old girl. In fact, my uncle managed the rear supply effectively. It would have been impossible for me at that time.”
“When I turned eighteen and became an adult, I was finally released when I signed a document stating that I would renounce my earldom and transfer all my rights to my uncle. But my uncle, not content with imprisoning me, tried to marry me off to a suitable family. If Dean Heinkel had not come, I might have been sold off like that and married.”
“Not many people know this. When I was young, my uncle spread rumors in social circles that I was ill, and when I grew up, that I gave up the earldom due to pressure. People wrongly assume that I was born into a noble family and grew up in a good environment, but this is the truth.”
“I’m not the great person that Instructor Graham thinks I am. Instructor Graham survived the battlefield at a young age, rose to the rank of Captain, possesses excellent skills, and is recognized by both Dean Heinkel and the Marquis Kalshtein….”
“I couldn’t even escape from there on my own. I’m just someone who became an instructor a little earlier than Instructor Graham, a noblewoman who can’t even hold a fork and knife properly… just a worthless person.”
At the end of her lengthy confession, Instructor Lirya looked at me with slightly fearful eyes.
There was a trace of tears at the corner of her eyes that seemed ready to fall at any moment.
“I was both happy and scared when Instructor Graham came to me for advice. I’m such a pitiful woman, I was afraid he would be disappointed if he knew my real self… I, I wanted to show only my good side…!”
Finally, Instructor Lirya couldn’t hold back her tears and let one fall.
So that’s why she was so nervous about our appointment today.
She wanted to show me only her reliable side.
After a brief hesitation, I took a step closer to her.
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