Within the darkness, where not a speck of light existed, I laid barricaded.
A normal 7-year old would burst into tears in such darkness, however the genius I was not afraid of the dark. Even though the visibility was low and I couldn’t move around too well, I unknowingly managed a sense of calm while cradling my knees.
This was something I could do forever.
My current gloomy mood and the room have a sense of harmony. Doing nothing but cradling my knees, my heart was able to calm down. As I lay here considering to breathe my last breath or to open my eyes, gradually a weak feeling of wonder began to spread.
Little by little my awareness dissolved, melding into the darkness of the room. Aah, finally I achieved equality with the world and achieved enlightenment but in this moment light from above shone on me.
「I found you, Ojou-sama」
「…… It’s Mariywa」
To my eyes that grew accustomed to the dark, even the faintest of light was blinding.
Hugging my knees in an empty box of in the pantry, I squinted my eyes looking up at Mariywa.
「The residence has become quite noisy you know? I’ve heard that Christina Ojou-sama suddenly vanished」
「……They should be. It’s because I’ve been hidden here all along. How did Mariywa know I would be here?」
I was in the pantry that was deep inside the estate; on top of that, I was inside an empty box. After my demand for Mishuly was rejected by father, I’ve been hidden since then. To be able to find me in such a place, that’s a miracle.
However, Mariywa found me seemingly effortlessly.
「It’s not difficult to fathom a depressed child’s hiding place, Ojou-sama」
I snorted lightly and turned away.
Comparing the genius I to those wanton little children, there’s a limit to how arrogant of a comment you can make. I moved not with feeling and instinct, but because I knew that hiding in a box in the pantry was the best place to hide.
Nevertheless, the lid of the specific box in which I was hiding was splendidly opened by Mariywa. It would be unbecoming of myself to complain here.
「And? Have you come to drag me out?」
I was supposed to have etiquette lessons right now. The ball at the royal palace is due in 3 days. The plan was to wrap-up all the etiquettes learned since now.
To skip that, her mood must be very bad. I’ll probably be punished with the whip or be forced to endure the harshest of lessons to date. Regardless, my future only seemed bleak.
However, I right now wasn’t afraid of the punishment.
「Be it the whip or anything else just do it, Mariywa. No matter how much my body is bloodied or battered, I won’t give in. I won’t have anything to do with etiquette lessons.」
It may have been out of desperation, but the I today was absolutely fearless in the face of critical danger.
The reason for hiding myself in the food warehouse was due to the turmoil that happened the other day when I revealed my dress.
Because the dresses were made together, I misunderstood that Mishuly would also be going to the ball. Father didn’t have any ill will; since I was having a dress made, he with his “overflowing” parental love decided to have one made for Mishuly as well.
However, that love backfired.
Father’s genuine goodwill fostered my misunderstanding. I am not hateful towards father’s spirit in trying to please his children. In fact, when Mishuly and I were shown to the dress shop, we were cheerfully shouting in excitement.
The problem lied in the “small” detail I revealed in front of the newly dressed Mishuly that day.
Having thought that Mishuly would also be participating, I mistakenly unveiled that father was in fact keeping the news of the ball a secret from Mishuly.
From that blunder, the reason why I started playing hide-and-seek was simple.
Rather than participating without Mishuly, I’d rather not participate at all.
「Why must I attend a ball that Mishuly will not? It’s unpleasant. Absolutely unpleasant. I absolutely won’t go to such a ball. Neither will I continue with etiquette lessons whose purpose was for the ball.」
If the reason Mishuly couldn’t participate was due to her young age then it would be acceptable. If it was because Mishuly hasn’t acquired the proper manners, I would barely consent.
However, it was different.
Mishuly would not be allowed to attend any balls in the future.
From Mariywa’s perspective, I probably look like a child throwing a tantrum. Even so, I didn’t care. I put strength into the arm that is holding my knees and curled myself up. I was small but I put all my strength into shouting.
「How is it fair that I will be able to attend these balls but Mishuly will always be excluded?」
Mishuly cannot appear on the glittering stage of high society. If it was a small, family party, then she had the opportunity to attend. However, anything beyond that was completely stripped from her choices.
If you think about it, it’s reasonable. Right now, the existence of Mishuly borne from the late princess could not be known to the public. Currently, she is recognized as the duke Noir family’s adopted daughter, hence Mishuly cannot be shown off. That’s why the situation wasn’t limited to this ball. From now on, I could only leave behind Mishuly and debut in high society.
This was something I couldn’t accept.
「If you want me to participate in the ball, it must be with Mishuly. If not, I won’t move from this spot. I absolutely won’t!」
After saying what I held in my heart, I buried my face behind my knees and fell silent. Here is the pantry. Surviving three days until the ball is over is an easy battle to win. To be honest, while persevering through the boredom, I was gnawing at the food around here.
Mariywa is unlikely to accept my selfishness. That is only natural. As she was employed to be my private tutor, it was her job to force me to be a lady. Soon, I will be dragged out from the box through brute force and have character severely beaten into me.
However, I will absolutely not follow what she says. I will stubbornly resist to the end.
To I, who was stubbornly holed up in the box, Mariywa acted unexpectedly.
Mariywa neither hit me nor scolded me.
She only sighed once. Without pause, she sat down next to me.
「…… What’s the matter, Mariywa?」
「Today’s etiquette lesson is on hold」
I looked up at those unexpected words. On hold, in other words, cancelled. It was unlike Mariywa who would, up until now, no matter how much I ran away, soon appear and drag me away
Although I wondered what was wrong, to my regret, I could not see Mariywa’s face who was sitting behind my box.
「Christina Ojou-sama. You are a wise child.」
「……What are you saying so suddenly?」
I am obviously a genius, but to say I am “wise” rather than “smart” or “intelligent” gave it a slightly malicious feel. [ED: Like being called old, well you are inside Christina!]
「You would often run away from class or engage it much tomfooleries, but as the instructor, I also understood that your memory is very good. You remember everything I taught before, no? While you always used a vulgar, unladylike language, you were able to perfectly demonstrate the etiquettes I taught with no room for criticism」
「…… To that extent, it is only natural」
「That’s true. Therefore, even if one lesson was to disappear, it would not make a visible difference. And also…」
Letting out a deep sigh, Mariywa continued in a somewhat exhausted tone.
「A depressed child is very bothersome, Chris-Ojou-sama」
Rather than her usual strict voice, it was very passive.
It was unmistakably her real feelings. I understood I was simply being selfish here, but I still turned my head away and bluffed.
「……fuu. Say whatever you want」
Mariywa speaking ill of me so frankly and treating me like a child, it didn’t prick at my pride as a genius, no really.
「Nee, Christina Ojou-sama」
「What is it, Mariywa?」
「You’re a wise child」
With the same exact face and tone as before, Mariywa brought the previous topic back with the same line.
「You’re a child that can understand everything. You’re also a child who can guess what’s not taught. You’re a child who can understand her surrounding situation well. That is why you understand, don’t you? …… You and Mishuly-sama are not true sisters」
Those arrow like words pierced deeply into my chest.
I understood it however, the unavoidable truth hurt more than I expected. Not wanting to admit the wound in my heart, I excessively and unreservedly shouted to deny Mariywa’s words.
「Mishuly is my younger sister」
「No. No matter how well you get along; no matter how much you cherish Mishuly-sama; the fact that you do not share a blood-relationship is the undeniable truth. The fact Mishuly-sama alone cannot attend the ball should be evidence, no?」
Mariywa gouged the arrow of words deeper without consideration.
「Admit it. This is the truth. No matter how much you shout and rebel, this is the reality. You do not have the power right now to deny that fact」[ED: I italicized “right now” because I felt it was important]
「…… Shut, up」
Even while acting strong in my responses, every word that I received caused my body to tremble. Gradually, tears began to blur my vision. The truth I do not want to hear, the truth I do not want to recognize was beaten in and I’m already crumbling apart. The tear glands bursting after holding out for so long; I firmly squeezed my eyes and press them against my knees.
「Shut up, shut up shut up shut up……!」
Why was Mariywa piling up such harsh remarks one after another? Was this the revenge for thwarting the etiquette class? This is bullying. It’s too much. So mean. If only you could be kinder with your words——
「The noisy one is you, Christina Ojou-sama.」
……I don’t want this anymore.
Exhausted and having lost all energy, trying to endure crying has become irrelevant. That’s right. Let’s just cry already. Without thinking about anything, I’ll just single-mindedly cry. If I do that maybe Mariywa will be troubled.
To my head which was thinking such things, something warm and gentle was placed on it.
To I who reached my limits to the point of suffocation, doubt suddenly spread my mind. What could the identity of this small, warm, and comfortable sensation be? Slightly anxious, I revealed my face a little bit and saw something unbelievable.
Mariywa’s palm was gently placed on my head.
「You and Mishuly-sama are not true sisters. After taking in that unavoidable truth, you will arrive at more absurdities from the world which you must overcome」
To I, with widened eyes, who was too surprised to cry anymore, Mariywa gently stroked my head once.
「If you are able to recognize the unacceptable truth and comply with society’s evaluation, you will, if only a bit, come closer to becoming a splendid lady.」
Those were not kind words. Neither were there any agreeable logic. Strict and unreasonable, however, Mariywa’s words about the spirit of a lady struck and etched itself into my body with power.
「……Even after doing that much, are they still not considered to be a splendid lady?」
「It’s the truth. A true lady would, as easily as breathing, repeat and perform what I just stated」
「……Is that so」
If that was the case, a lady would be very strong, smart, and noble.
Beyond what I believed it to be, by far.
「Now, if you still insist on not attending the ball, these words shall instantly motivate Christina Ojou-sama」
Even though I already mustered some motivation, I wonder what it is? I’m interested.
To my ears which was anxious about the upcoming words, Mariywa thrusted out horrendous words.
「If Ojou-sama stays indoors and skips the royal palace’s ball……From now on in etiquette class, I will harden my heart and use a cane instead」
Hearing the most unbelievable words yet today, I stared in disbelief at Mariywa.
「You, your body and soul has long since been a sadistic demon—ow ow ow ow ow!」
Using two fists to grind against my temples, this confirmed that Mariywa was surely a denizen from hell.
Using my pupils moistened from pain, I glared at Mariywa. The gentle hand from before must have been an illusion!
「……fuu. It’s already time my carriage has arrived. I shall retire for tonight so Ojou-sama may stay confined in the box as you please. I shall even close the lid for you」
「Wa, Wait. Stop trying to confine me!」
I began to stand up resisting Mariywa who was shutting the lid.
「Oh? Didn’t you want to seclude yourself in the box?」
「I’m ending this hide-and-seek. It doesn’t suit me and I won’t be able to see Mishuly!」
I confidently strutted and asserted a daunting stance. In the first place, if you think about it, under normal circumstances not meeting Mishuly for a day was already unbearable, but I could endure not meeting Mishuly for 3 days in the future.
I, who was liberated form the box, began walking behind Mariywa. Mariywa’s pace going out of the pantry was constant and the feeling of walking and stretching out my back was comfortable.
To her retreating figure, I called out in a small voice.
「……Today, I’ll see you out」
It was the first time I offered Mariywa such words since her employment, but she showed absolutely no change.
「It’s Miss Toinette」
She said the same phrase as always without looking back. As though she was familiar with the estate’s exit, Mariywa walked towards it without any pause in her step.
To Mariywa’s appearance which was ramrod straight, my dissatisfaction was agitated for a moment.
「……Haa. What is it, Christina Ojou-sama」
「The upcoming ball at the royal palace, I will do it perfectly. Praise me lots when I behave splendidly without a single error. This lady, Christina Noir’s name, shall resound throughout the high society. I am a child that gets better when praised」
「Because Ojou-sama is a child who will get carried away when praised, I do not intend to change the current Spartan policy」
Mariywa who wouldn’t even whisper a semblance of gentleness, as expected was the nastiest, worst, cruelest, merciless private tutor.