Author: rolypoly

“…Wife.”

 

“I just loved the girl who appeared before my eyes one day. I guess that was really all my mother had.”

 

“….”

 

“Thank you for letting me realize it, Clarisse.”

 

No way.

 

Clarisse lowered her head as she said that with just the shape of her lips. 

 

At the same time, she didn’t want to let go of Brielle’s hand, so she put a little more pressure on the hand that was holding it. 

 

Even though her hands were dirty and rough from holding onto the tree, Brielle held Clarisse’s hand tightly together. 

 

For some reason, Clarisse felt as if she had received a very large birthday present.

 

She doesn’t know exactly what it is.

 

Brielle accompanied Clarisse to the door.

 

“I’ll ask Rosalie to take a bath. Take a rest for a while. And today is really…” 

 

She stopped talking and looked around. Perhaps conscious of the fact that Sir Benson was watching her, she lowered her voice significantly.

 

“Congratulations.”

 

Clarisse quickly added a clue.

 

“Are you congratulating me on climbing a tree?”

 

“Of course.”

 

They giggled together, whispering like children sharing secret codes.

 

“It was great to see you climbing the tree without giving up until the end. It was a great achievement. Congratulations, Clarisse.” 

 

It felt like she was being congratulated on her birthday. 

 

Clarisse tried to suppress herself, saying, ‘This is a story about climbing trees.’

 

“I, I’m really glad you congratulated me.”

 

When she finally got her mind together and answered like that.

 

The door opened right behind Clarisse.

 

“…!”

 

When she turned around in surprise, she saw Maximilian, who was also startled, coming out of Clarisse’s room. 

 

He seemed to have heard their conversation, as he looked at Clarisse and Brielle alternately with wide-open eyes.

 

‘W, what should I do? The Duke must have misunderstood this as a story about celebrating my  birthday!’

 

Clarisse turned pale.

 

“D, Duke.”

 

Maximilian, hearing the child’s trembling voice, took a few steps back.

 

Since he wasn’t here with the intention of making the child feel scared, he tried to make his face look as normal as possible, but… 

 

…It seemed that his efforts were of little use, seeing as Clarisse flinched immediately when their eyes met.

 

“I heard you.” 

 

“I, it’s a misunderstanding…!”

 

“You climbed a tree.”

 

“Yes?”

 

Clarisse looked as if she had heard something unexpected.

 

Maximilian carefully asked a question with his eyes narrowed.

 

“The gardener told me about it a little while ago, wasn’t it?”

 

The girl rolled her big amber eyes and nodded slowly.

 

“Ah… that’s right! That’s true, but…”

 

“…Hmm.”

 

Maximilian tried to say something more but stopped. 

 

It seems that his appearance ruined Clarisse’s feelings. 

 

‘Well, it won’t be good to see me on her birthday.’ 

 

Not only did he ban the party, but on this day a few years later, he planned to cut Clarisse’s neck with his own hands.

 

He would be the most difficult opponent to encounter on a day like today.

 

He slowly moved away and tried to return to his office.

 

Although it was a little quicker for Clarisse to ask him first.

 

“Well, did you have something to say to me?”

 

“I was only told that you had climbed a tree for the first time.” 

 

“…that’s why you came here?”

 

Maximilian nodded as if it was obvious.

 

In fact, until this morning, he didn’t know that he should congratulate the child who succeeded in climbing a tree.

 

It was his wise wife, Brielle, who told him this.

 

「Duke, in the village where I grew up, I congratulate the first child who succeeded in climbing a tree.」

 

As a prince, he always respected the fact that each region of the Kingdom of Saphers had different customs.

 

Although he had never heard of the custom she was talking about, he didn’t think it was particularly strange. 

 

He also had a passion for climbing trees when he was young. He never forgot the great sense of accomplishment he felt when he succeeded.

 

It was Maximilian who taught his younger brother Lysander to climb trees.

 

Although he didn’t succeed in climbing the tree because he fell and was injured, Amelda, the concubine at the time, scolded him. 

 

In any case, Maximilian at the time would have also said ‘Congratulations’ if Lysander had succeeded, so he was able to quickly nod to the custom that Brielle had taught him.

 

The only thing that bothers him is…

 

It happened to be Clarisse’s birthday today.

 

Although the child never revealed her actual birth date, the Duke and Duchess knew it from the registration of her birth they had brought with them from Grezekaia. 

 

So the Duke had an ugly wish that Clarisse wouldn’t succeed in climbing the tree today. 

 

He thought it was a bit strange for Maximilian, who was not someone else, to say ‘Congratulations’ to the child… 

 

He was also worried that she might get hurt. 

 

“Hmm… yeah.”

 

He answered awkwardly, hesitated for a moment, and then took a step further to the side.

 

“I think it would be better to rest now.”

 

He couldn’t leave the child standing in the hallway forever.

 

Maximilian nodded and greeted Brielle and quickly left the room.

 

After he returned, Clarisse discovered something through the slightly open door of her room.

 

It was a cake.

 

It was filled with white whipped cream and strawberries, and it had a really lovely shape.

 

“Oh, the Duke must have come to give you this.”

 

“To…me?”

 

“Yes, of course.”

 

For some reason, Clarisse blinked her big eyes in disbelief for a moment before quickly turning around and running down the hallway.

 

Fortunately, Maximilian had not yet returned to his office.

 

Clarisse quickly followed him at a stomping pace.

 

She had completely forgotten that she must always be polite in the mansion.

 

Maximilian turned around and looked at her, as if he had heard something following him.

 

“Duke!”

 

“…Clarisse.”

 

“Oh, uh…I’m sorry for running in that hallway. However, I wanted to tell you somehow…”

 

Clarisse tried to calm her gasping breathing and held her hands close to her rapidly beating heart. 

 

It was her first time receiving a celebratory cake on a day like today. Even though it’s not a birthday cake. 

 

“T, this is my first time. Receiving such a large cake as a gift…”

 

“If you’re thankful, you should say thank you to the chef. He just showed off his skills. It looks like he’s still worried about not giving you candy on the day you were sick.” 

 

“Still… I would also like to thank the Duke. That’s a cake to celebrate me…”

 

Clarisse quickly corrected it so he wouldn’t feel uncomfortable. 

 

“So, this cake is to celebrate my success at climbing a tree, right?!”

 

The Duke would be much more comfortable if he knew she didn’t interpret it as a birthday cake.

 

No… Maybe he wasn’t that conscious of things like Clarisse’s birthday.

 

It may have just been a kindness of wanting to deliver the finished cake.

 

“Hmm.”

 

He hesitated to answer for a moment and then answered in a slightly hesitant voice.

 

“Yes, this is a cake to celebrate your success in climbing the tree.” 

 

“Thank you for even taking care of that.”

 

Clarisse bowed and greeted him.

 

“It’s not about taking care of it…I.”

 

He hesitated for a moment, and Clarisse straightened her posture and looked up at him. 

 

“I’m… trying to congratulate you.”

 

“…”

 

“Congratulations, Clarisse.”

 

For some reason, his rough voice seemed to be full of such deep emotions that Clarisse felt like she was being congratulated on her birthday.

 

“Hehe.” 

 

She was smiling with joy, so the Duke stroked her head a couple of times.

 

“Go back and eat now.”

 

“But what about you, Duke? Aren’t you going to eat it together?”

 

“I don’t eat ca— hmm!”

 

Clarice just stared at him, but somehow he felt uncomfortable and quickly cleared his throat and changed the words.

 

“Okay. I will just eat one piece.”

 

“Really? I’m happy. Is the Duke eating cake with me?”

 

“Take the lead.” 

 

He talked to the butler and asked him to prepare three cool drinks in Clarisse’s room.

 

Then the butler smiled and replied.

 

“I have already brought it to Clarisse’s room because the madam asked for it.”

 

The two faced each other and quickly returned to the room.

 

“I knew you would come together.”

 

The Duchess stood up and offered the two people a seat next to each other.

 

They’ve sat together like this before, but today was the first time it felt as awkward as it did today. 

 

“Well, shall we cut the cake first?”

 

At Brielle’s suggestion, the Duke took the knife himself.

 

“Duke, the person being celebrated is the one who cuts the cake.”

 

“Yes?”

 

The Duke looked at the big, sharp bread knife and Clarisse alternately with a troubled face.

 

“I can’t give you this. The knife is dangerous…”

 

“The Duke is right. A prisoner can’t carry such a big knife. Because it’s threatening.”

 

Clarisse quickly agreed with Maximilian’s words.

 

But… Maximilian, who heard the story, bothered to give the knife handle to Clarisse.

 

“Take it.”

 

 

 

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