Chapter 26: Her story
After the nobles surrounding Charlotte had hurriedly left, she suddenly turned to look at William-sama, who had been staring at their departure.
“Duke Moore, Sir Knight, thank you very much. If I had been alone, I probably would not have been able to get through it safely.”
Saying that, she smiled.
“Well, let’s just forget about this incident as if I had been bitten by a dog. Ah, I wonder what I’m going to have for lunch today!”
“…Miss Charlotte. If you are concerned about me, I will leave this place immediately. So don’t force a smile like that.”
As William-sama spoke, blocking Charlotte’s voice, she shook her body as if she were agitated.
“Wh-what are you saying? I’m not doing anything forcefully. Not at all…”
A crack appears in Charlotte’s forced smile.
Looking at her like that, William-sama speaks quietly.
“You are a strong person, Miss Charlotte. Even when surrounded by a large number of people, you protected your dignity without flinching.”
His calm voice spins words together.
“But no matter who it is, when surrounded by people with more power and facing malicious intentions, it is natural to feel fear… you were afraid, weren’t you.”
At those words, Charlotte’s fragile smile crumbles.
“…I was scared.”
She grips her hands together, trying to suppress the emotions boiling up from within her.
“When I thought that I might not be able to escape safely, it was so scary that I couldn’t bear it. But more than that.”
She mutters, gritting her teeth.
“It was much more painful to see my mother insulted…!!”
Saying that, she lets a look of frustration show on her face.
“This is a smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwich. This one is a quiche with bacon, potatoes, and spinach. The drink is just coffee… good, it looks like it’s still warm.”
“Wow! It looks delicious!”
I sneak a peek at Charlotte as I prepare the plates.
It was past noon and William-sama, worried that Charlotte wouldn’t be able to get her lunch in time, invited her to eat lunch with him.
Charlotte, who was shaking with emotion earlier, is now peeking into the basket with sparkling eyes.
In order to give William-sama more of his favorite salmon, I put a lot of sandwiches on his plate and offer it to him, and he looks away, looking embarrassed.
“Thank you, Leah.”
Watching William-sama say that and take the plate, I hand Charlotte a cup of coffee.
“Thank you very much! um…”
Seeing her falter, I open my mouth.
“My name is Leah Flores.”
When I introduce myself, she smiles like a sunflower.
“So it’s Flores-sama!”
“I’m from the same commoner background as you. No need for honorifics.”
After refusing, she hesitated for a moment before smiling deeply and saying,
“Then I’ll call you Flores-san!”
Taking a sip of the slightly warm coffee and taking a breath, she began to speak bit by bit.
“My father was a terrible person. He would shout and hit and kick us every day, and my mother and I were covered in bruises. I don’t even want to call him ‘father’. My mother and I originally lived in a rural area, but to hide from my father, she brought me with her to the edge of the capital.
My mother looked for work in the capital, but she couldn’t find a workplace that would hire her with a small child. My father had most of the money and we couldn’t bring much with us, so our living expenses quickly ran out. When we were desperate and turned to the government for help, but were pitifully turned away and at a loss, my mother finally found a job as a prostitute.”
William-sama listens silently to Charlotte’s quiet voice.
“There were times when my mother came home with red-black hand-shaped bruises on her neck, and times when she returned trembling with a blue face. Our life was tough, but my mother kept saying [if you have time to work, go to church and study. It will definitely be useful in the future], and kept sending me to church.”
“Those words were not from a normal determination. You had a fine mother.”
Charlotte nods at William-sama’s words.
“I studied madly as if I were about to die. When I was researching plants by borrowing the powers of animals, I was approached by this academy about being a special student because my research was recognized for its usefulness. They also promised to find me a job after graduation.”
Charlotte’s voice melts into the quiet atmosphere in the back of the school.
“I was overjoyed and danced. My mother was also very happy to hear the news… I have been protected until now. I will definitely gain strength at this academy and release my mother from a job that would hurt her mind and body.”
As she says that, Charlotte stuffs her cheeks with quiche.
After swallowing it with a munching sound, she looks at William-sama with a serious expression.
“I knew this dish was delicious!” said the person with a relieved face.
William-sama furrowed his brow in thought.
“I had heard that the safety net for people driven into poverty wasn’t functioning, but I didn’t realize it was this bad… this is a problem that both the country and each territory must tackle.”
Upon saying this, he turned seriously towards Charlotte.
“Miss Charlotte, thank you for speaking with me.”
As William-sama said this, the person happily chewing on the dish became flustered.
“I-It’s nothing, I was just speaking without thinking, rather I’m the one who should thank you for listening to me…”
William-sama seemed surprised, and chuckled as if finding her flustered behavior amusing.
“There’s no need to be so formal. We’re classmates, right? If it’s okay with you, I’d like to be friends from now on.”
“Eeh?! Becoming friends with the Duke of Moore is frightening… um, I mean, it’s intimidating, sir.”
Seeing Charlotte become even more flustered, William-sama continued to smile cheerfully.
“Don’t use such formal language with me. Just call me William.”
“Well, even Flores-san might not approve of that, right…?”
Charlotte looked at me as if asking for help, but I said,
“As William-sama wishes.”
Upon hearing this, Charlotte buried her head in her hands.
For a while, she was silent.
She was groaning, but then she suddenly sat up and said,
“Okay, let’s be friendly with each other as classmates! Actually, I also wanted to talk to William!”
She smiled as she said this.
I watched the scene from the side and thought,
(So it turned out like this.)
I know this development.
Impressed by Charlotte’s dignified appearance surrounded by some radical nobles, William-sama shares lunch with Charlotte.
William-sama is moved by Charlotte’s determination and this incident becomes the trigger for William-sama to fall in love with Charlotte.
As I drink my coffee, I turn my gaze to William-sama, who is happily chatting with Charlotte.
…There must be a faint love in William-sama’s heart for Charlotte now.
However, if the story goes as planned, Charlotte will be married to Prince Finlay. William-sama’s love will never come true.
(I want William-sama to be happy. But I can’t do something that would ruin Charlotte and Prince Finlay’s relationship…)
Thinking such things, I returned to my senses with a start at the worried voices of William-sama and Charlotte, and forced a smile.