To think that it would be this hard just to give it.
Lydia was worried.
As thanks for all the times they spent together, he made pressed flowers from four-leaf clovers.
She made those into bookmarks and gave them upfront to her parents and her maid, Katherine.
They were happy for it, and she was very happy.
But there was just one person she couldn’t give to.
He didn’t have any books so a bookmark would be useless for him.
She should prepare it in a different manner, but she hadn’t thought of that.
She put a small glass case on top of her study desk and stared at it.
Inside it was a small four-leaf pressed clover.
What could she do for the gardening apprentice boy to accept this?
It shouldn’t get in the way, and it shouldn’t be showy.
He definitely wouldn’t accept something expensive, that was for certain.
The more she pondered the farther away she got from thinking of something.
Lydia put her head on her desk.
It wasn’t ladylike, but she was already about to sleep.
No one was around to see her, not even the maids.
“What should I get? I haven’t the slightest idea…”
Her voice was colored with despair.
Recently, she understood a little bit he had no desires when it came to himself.
He would listen to her talk and accompany her for practice, but he didn’t want anything in return.
It was a wonder since he directly said whatever was on his mind.
She thought about something like this in the past.
At that time, she got irritated from what she didn’t understand and asked the person in question directly.
His reply was…
-I’d be happy if you smiled.
Remembering the words he said to her with a relaxed smile, Ojou’s cheeks took on a vermillion tinge.
She ended up remembering something unnecessary, and she agonized alone in her room.
Why did he say something that surprising? Even her Dad said things with a similar meaning, although in a different way.
But even though they were a little embarrassing, she could accept those love-filled words directly.
But without aiming to praise her or make her happy or something, he would simply say what he thought.
And when she saw her face it was obvious that he wasn’t lying.
It was ill-natured of him.
If he were a little embarrassed, she would be able to calm down herself…!
Every time, she’d feel like she lost in some way.
It was frustrating.
After feeling frustrated for some time, she suddenly noticed.
That just as he said, he liked it when people were happy.
That was how he was when he was listening to her, and gardening work was work that made other people happy.
If she recalled correctly, when she talked about how the Prince praised their garden, he smiled with great pride as if he was thinking of his Dad.
He seemed greatly happy for someone who was always near him.
It was good that she noticed what he liked, but it was also a burden.
To think that he didn’t want objects.
Then, a domestic article he could use everyday, she thought.
But he was already working.
He could buy what he needed to an extent.
“Zac you idiot…”
She muttered with a still bitterness.
She wanted to do something, but she couldn’t do anything.
That night, Lydia slept with that frustration in her chest.
Her birthday came while she still couldn’t decide anything.
The rainbow he gave her as a present moved her heart very much, but she felt like she was only receiving again.
The tea party her mother, Octavia arranged for her birthday was meant to give Lydia a chance to make female friends.
Octavia herself felt guilty for being late in holding her tea party, forcing her daughter to make her first debut at the first Prince’s birthday party.
This was also her apology.
They were still at the stage of selecting marriage candidates for the first Prince, and that was exactly why she thought to gauge the true intentions of the other candidates.
“Dia, I’m telling you this since you’ve taken one step closer to being a woman.”
“As a debutante, you must confront even stronger women.
That is why now, you must probe them.
Think of their candidacy for marriage with the Prince as a good basis for your judgments.”
Octavia softly narrowed her peach-colored eyes and said brightly.
From her mother’s words, Lydia remembered the Prince telling her to use him.
Her Mother said to use their positions as marriage candidates to ascertain whether or not they could be trusted as friends.
She felt as if she had caught a glimpse of another side to her gentle mother, the Duchess.
As she understood her Mother’s intentions and attended the tea party, Lydia saw what she had meant.
The young ladies close to her age addressed her in their own ways.
There were those who looked at her with envy in their eyes despite their words, those who would rein themselves in as fellow candidates, and those who buttered her up with praise.
“Lydia-sama, happy birthday.”
“Tordelise-sama, you’ve come to visit?”
I wanted to talk to you again, Lydia-sama.”
“I as well.”
At such a time, without the slighest mention of the Prince, the daughter of the vice captain of the chivalric order, showed her an honest smile.
Other ladies would bring up the Prince at every opportunity.
Her consideration made Lydia happy.
TN: Changing “knights” to “chivalric order” ‘cuz I think it sounds cooler
“Um… my birthday is next month.
If it is well, may I invite you?”
Even if it is not your birthday, I would like for us to meet again.”
Tordelise said shyly, to which she replied immediately.
Her expression softened in happiness.
“Then may I invite you after this as well…?”
I will do the same.”
The marquis’ house was lower than the duke’s, so it was difficult to call out to her right away.
That was why she needed the consent of Lydia, whose house was higher than hers.
But Tordelise had the courage to wish for it.
Her relaxed smile, as her Father had commented in the past, reminded one of a brown bunny.
But just because of her family lineage of knights, the little girl had a firm will.
“This is not related, but what kind of presents do you offer to men…?”
“Men? Will you offer something to Gerald-sama?”
Desperate enough to grasp at straws, Lydia unconsciously asked then panicked.
She realized that having a friend of the opposite sex at her age aside from her family and her betrothed was rare.
She was saved by Tordelise interpreting it as her Father.
“The other day, I gave my Father a present… but I don’t think it will serve as a reference for Gerald-sama.”
“What did you give to him?”
“An undecorated silver necklace.
He doesn’t wear rings because he has to grip his sword, and he wouldn’t like it if it had to be kept in perfect condition, so I selected it from a jewelry shop that had a diverse clientele.”
He also wore gloves so he wouldn’t use a ring.
Indeed, a necklace wouldn’t get in the way of his work.
A diverse clientele, probably meant that their commodities were geared towards and could be used by commoners as well.
“Tordelise-sama, if it pleases you could you please tell me the name of that store?”
Her joy overflowed because she finally had a prospect for something to give.
She grabbed Tordelise’s hand with both of hers and thanked her.
Tordelise widened her eyes, but she smiled at how happy Lydia seemed.
“I am glad if I could be of use.”
A few days later, she ordered an item from the store Tordelise told her about.
It was a cheap locket pendant.
It was unfit for a lady to buy, so her maid Katherine helped.
Even though she hadn’t told her who it was for, she also prepared a present wrapping for it, so she might have noticed.
When she neatly moved the four-leaf clover from a glass case to the locket, she suddenly realized.
Would he accept it without any reason? Even if she told him that it was thanks for the times they spent together, he seemed like he would give something in return again.
There would be no meaning in that.
How could she give it to him without him saying no?
That aside, in order to be even a little more nonchalant in giving it, though she felt guilty for Katherine, she made to give it as it was without the wrapping.
From there she chatted with the gardening apprentice boy in the conservatory time and time again.
But she always missed the right time to give him the locket, which was hidden within her sleeve.
Why was it that once she failed to give it once, it gradually became harder to do so?
Before sleeping, Lydia was distressed, alone and on top of her bed.
Why couldn’t she give it…!?
Puff, she buried her head into her pillow with the locket in hand.
After a little while, when she raised her head and looked sideways, she saw a glass door that led to the terrace.
Beyond that, on a tray on a table, a white rabbit entered her vision.
It was covered with a glass case shaped like a dome so it wouldn’t be affected by the rain and the wind.
After asking her Father, he gave it the protection of the snow spirits, so she would hold the thing he gave her until spring came.
Its round and cute red berry eyes made it lovable, and Lydia loved it.
She was thinking of showing it to Tordelise.
She also wanted to show her because she remembered Tordelise as she looked at a reason she was doing this.
She said that she liked things like stuffed toys, so she would probably understand how cute it is.
“Rabbit-san, what do you think I should do?”
As if from divine protection, the red berries didn’t lose their vibrancy, and they seemed to be alive.
Unconsciously, Lydia asked the snow rabbit.
It didn’t talk back, but right after Lydia asked, something white gently crossed her vision.
Her curiosity grabbed by that white thing, Lydia walked towards the terrace and neared the glass door.
Snow fluttered down.
When she put her hand on the door she felt the coldness of the air.
It seemed that she should close the curtains for tonight.
“Christmas is near.”
From Christmas until the new year opens, snow often fell.
Swallowing that fact alone, Lydia picked up on her own words.
Christmas was a blessed day.
Hymns would be offered up to God, and parents would give their children presents, praying for blessings to be upon them.
But children gave to their parents, siblings, and even their friends.
At least that’s how it was in the Ernst House.
In other words, under the pretext of Christmas even he would accept.
Then, Lydia would also find it easier to give it to him.
The white rabbit became the trigger for Lydia to think of an excuse to give, and she thanked it with a smile.
“Good night, rabbit-san.”
After saying that, Lydia closed her curtains.
The next day, she had time right on the afternoon, so she gathered her courage and went to the young gardening apprentice.
What’s the matter today?”
He welcomed her with his usual line.
Being spoiled by that calming, relieving smile, she ended up starting the conversation with Roy-sama like always.
Lydia thought that Roy was wonderful as a prince and as a human being, so she accidentally put passion into her words.
Just a few days ago, he visited the military’s headquarters and listened to how they coordinated between the city patrol, the vigilante corps and the local government.
He already had his own thoughts about public order, and he told Lydia in such a simple way that even she would understand.
Her Father also told her about his work in such a way that she would understand, but Lydia knew that being able to do that was amazing.
She went around to give greetings on Roy’s birthday party.
It seemed that over half of the parents she greeted prided themselves in their posts, but they spoke not in a way that was easy for a child like her to understand, but in the way they were used to speaking.
That didn’t happen with her parents, the servants or her private tutors, so it was an opportunity for Lydia to see how blessed she was by her surroundings.
He was close to her age, but even still he was able to talk in a way that was easy for his conversation partner to understand, and Lydia thought that was amazing.
She wanted him to understand that so she talked about it, but the gardening apprentice boy seemed bored as he gave half-hearted replies every now and then.
She scolded him on reflex, but every time she did so she would always reflect since she did not have the lovable charm of a child.
She couldn’t talk in a way that was easier for him to understand like her Father or Roy, but he still listened to her until the end.
Why? It crossed her mind whenever she reflected.
“I’m glad I could meet you Ojou.”
That was sudden.
What was he saying with a smile on his face?
The words he dropped without any context in the middle of the conversation made Lydia stop thinking.
That was the answer to what Lydia was curious about.
Why did he stay with her when she only received and gave nothing in return? Though she didn’t ask, he suddenly replied with a complete affirmation.
What should she do? Her understanding caught up.
Happiness and embarrassment jumbled together and closed in on her all at once, and her face reddened.
“…You weren’t listening to me again were you!?”
In the end, she couldn’t do anything but scold him without any cuteness.
Then in order to calm herself down, she desperately started talking about her little Sister, her biggest healing factor recently.
While she spoke and recalled her exchanges with her little sister, she calmed down little by little.
Anyway, she had to give the locket today.
If she ran away, then the next time she would see him would be after Christmas.
Lydia resolved herself, took out her locket when they said their goodbyes and gave it to the boy.
Because Christmas is near, was how she wanted to explain, but she wasn’t able to speak well, so she ended up getting straight to the point.
As if he still understood her intentions, the gardening apprentice boy accepted it.
She avoided his eyes, but she heard the sound of the lid of the locket opening so that he could check the contents.
Her heart raced.
“It’s small and cute like Ojou.”
As she waited for his reaction, a kind voice came down on her.
Taken by it, she faced her eyes towards him and regretted not being able to see him open it.
Sometimes, he smiled in a way that was bad for her heart.
For him to smile like that towards the clover in the locket, it was embarrassing and she felt like running away.
As her embarrassment left her without words, copper eyes looked her way.
“…Why do you say such unnecessary things!?”
She protested without thinking.
Why couldn’t she accept it normally?
Even as Zac was perplexed by her protest, he thought and came up with a suggestion.
“Uum, then I’ll just keep it to myself.”
“Zac, it shows on your face so it’s all the same!!”
Him being able to show his feelings so eloquently on his expression even without words as he did just now was the most troubling thing.
“…Should I not be with you?”
Then she heard an idea she had never thought of, and her heart squeezed for an instant.
“Tha-That would be… I don’t want, that…”
She never wanted that.
She was troubled on how to deal with him, but there’s no way she didn’t want to be together.
Her feelings reached her mouth before she could think.
A face full of relief.
What he said just now was out of consideration for her, and not his real feelings.
She could see that in his eyes.
“I mean, that’s…! …it’s fine already.”
Though she felt the same happiness and relief from his reaction, Lydia couldn’t reply honestly like he did.
She wanted him to at least control himself, but if she objected any more than this, she would simply come to hate her dishonest self, so she gave up on pinning him down.
“So is this yours?”
He should have noticed that it was for him since she had given it to him, but contrary to expectations it seemed that the gardener boy hadn’t.
After being told that it was like her, did she have to say that it was a present? After what he said it was extremely hard to say.
To the point that she somehow felt like saying something else.
The goal was to thank him for all the time they spent together and nothing else.
And she couldn’t leave him out despite having given to others.
That’s what Lydia told herself, and she somehow managed to say.
“I gave the pressed flowers to my Father to make bookmarks, but Zac doesn’t have any books right? So have this instead.”
He looked on blankly, so she made sure to explain that he wasn’t the only one she gave to so that he wouldn’t get any weird ideas.
But he didn’t react.
Did he not like it? Accessories weren’t rare with noble men, but were they strange for commoner men? But she intended to pick a design that more or less fit him.
Or was it hard for him to accept because he was thinking about the cost?
“It’s not expensive! It’s cheap!”
Just in case, she added that it was cheap.
If he were a noble then she would have made sure to give him something more expensive.
Until she met him, she didn’t think that she would have to be considerate in the exact opposite direction.
I’ll take care of it.”
His expression unravelled into a happy smile, and Lydia was relieved inside.
His smile was somewhat too warm, so she felt self-conscious about unnecessary things, but since she was able to achieve her goal she would call it a success.
After that, he spoke guiltily, saying that he hadn’t prepared anything, so she took revenge for what he did to her before.
She honestly told him that she really liked the snow rabbit.
The gardening apprentice boy made a face like he had been caught with his pants down, and that satisfied Lydia.
He’s always the one surprising her, so he should be surprised himself every now and then.
After a while, for some reason he burst into laughter.
Lydia didn’t know what on earth was so funny.
She stared at him wide-eyed.
After laughing for some time, he showed his index finger with a smile on his face.
I’m beat, he said? Lydia tilted her head at words she wasn’t used to.
“If anyone makes you cry, tell me.
I’ll punch them.”
“Why are you suddenly saying something so troubling…”
She couldn’t imagine him acting violent whatsoever.
All the more because his words didn’t match his expression.
“Just remember that.”
Lydia felt a definite will in his quiet voice and nodded although she didn’t understand.
He rarely even got angry.
She didn’t understand why she said something like that.
But she vaguely felt like she had to prevent it from coming to that.
May he keep on smiling.
Lydia didn’t notice.
That for a while after that, whenever she would see the locket with a four-leaf clover in it, she would remember his words and feel embarrassed…
If you read the last chapter yesterday before I updated it and noticed some discrepancies with this chapter, it’s because I edited it to match what Lydia says in this chapter better.
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