After classes had ended, I headed over to an infrequently used courtyard and sat down on a bench to ponder my next move.
“It’s not a good idea to go home in my current state.”
But you also can’t stay here.
I’m sure someone has already reported your whereabouts to Arnold.
If you remain on campus much longer, someone from the estate might come to question why you aren’t coming home.”
“For the time being, what if we hide out at Duke’s place”
It’s not like we are actually engaged, so staying with Duke-Sama should be an obvious ‘no’, right
Gilles continues with a serious expression on his face.
“Since it’s Duke we’re talking about, he’s probably already figured out your current situation…..
plus, you’re going to have to get engaged to him eventually, Alicia.
You know that, right”
“I have no intention of getting engaged to him.”
“……I don’t think it’s something you’ll be able to avoid forever,” Gilles whispers softly.
….I won’t be able to avoid it
If Gilles’s the one saying that, then I get the feeling that it really will be impossible.
“Alicia!” a familiar voice calls out to me…..
I turn around, but before I can even see the person’s face, his arms are already around me.
Now this is the heartfelt reunion that I would expect after all these years….! Even though he technically already saw me once back in the dining hall.
Ugh. But this position is actually a lot more uncomfortable than I was expecting.
His arms are a bit too strong.
“…….Um, Henry-Oniisama, this kind of hurts,” I say, and thankfully he loosens his hold on me a little.
Hm We’re still embracing Wasn’t that enough
“I was too surprised when I saw you before,” Henry-Oniiisama admits, still clinging tightly to me.
Through his touch, I can tell just how much he must have worried for me over the last two years.
Putting his hands on my shoulders, he slowly pulls away from me so that he can get a good look at my face.
And for the first time, I get a good look at him too… He seems taller than I remember him I’ve also grown quite a bit taller, so that means that Henry-Oniisama must have shot up a considerable amount.
“You’re taller now,” Henry-Oniisama notes, echoing my thoughts.
And as he speaks, he affectionately ruffles my hair.
“Were you really that worried about me“
You were shut up in that hut all alone! Though, compared to how worried Duke was, I practically wasn’t worried at all.”
“Duke-Sama was He was that worried about me”
In my surprise, my voice gets a bit louder than was likely necessary.
He hadn’t shown any indication of that the two times I saw him today.
I mean, Duke-Sama hadn’t even given me a welcome-back hug or anything…..
“I think he was the one that was most worried about you.”
Come to think of it, when I first saw in him the forest behind the academy, he had seemed calm but he was also breathing a bit heavy and his hair had looked slightly disheveled…..
Had he run all the way there….
At the time, I’d been too surprised by his sudden appearance to notice, and I was also a bit too conscious of Mel to ponder too deeply about anything else.
“But anyway, Ali, have you heard the rumors flying around about you They’re insane!”
“Yeah, I’ve heard them.“
“And in order to get rid of them, Duke-“
“Get rid of them!“
At least listen until the end, would ya In order to get rid of the rumors, what do you think Duke did to the guys going around badmouthing you”
….Wait, he’s asking me How should I know ….But, well, Duke-Sama is a fairly kind person, so I’m sure he didn’t do anything too harsh to them.
“Did he get them suspended from school for a while“
At my answer, Henry-Oniisama snorts out a laugh.
“It would have been nice if that was all he did.”
“Alicia, you’re probably the only one who thinks that Duke is that good of a person.
He acts cold towards everyone except for the people he trusts.
He couldn’t care less about anyone else.
So, if those insignificant bugs start badmouthing the girl he’s in love with, there’s no way it would end at suspension.
The least he would do is get them expelled permanently from the academy,” Gilles interjects emotionlessly.
Somehow, it seems that he has a better understanding of Duke-Sama’s character than I do.
“Duke-Sama’s a cold person That’s rather unexpected.”
“Really The first time I saw Duke, it felt like ice was trailing down my spine,” Henry-Oniisama says, shuddering.
“Because he was too beautiful” I ask.
Henry-Oniisama smiles a bit at that.
“Well, sure, he was quite the beauty….
but that wasn’t it.
Even though he was just a kid like the rest of us, his expression was surprisingly mature.
He didn’t feel anything like a kid.
It was like a tiny adult had come up to us.
And it wasn’t just that.
Even back then, his eyes were ice cold.
I felt like I was looking at a glacier when I saw them.”
Hmm, when I first met him, he hadn’t seemed that way at all.
“But Henry-Oniisama, aren’t you guys all friends“
“Yeah, I guess. Now we are.
But it took him forever before he even deigned to speak with us.”
“He’s not really friends with Albert and the rest of Liz Cather’s lackeys anymore though, right He seemed like he was barely bothering to reply when they talked to him directly,” Gilles notes.
“Yeah, they’re not so close anymore.
But Duke’s an adult now, so he doesn’t let his hostility show so easily on his face.
Though when he hears them badmouthing Alicia, then he can’t seem to help it.
Sometimes I swear it looks like he’s about to murder them.”
“Duke doesn’t say anything though He just sits there and listens as they talk smack about her”
“Wait, so then what does become of the people who are speaking ill of me” I ask as if suddenly remembering that Henry-Oniisama never gave a decisive answer about it.
I messed up.
I was also curious why Duke-Sama doesn’t say anything when my brothers and their friends talk bad about me.
Two of them died.
And then after that I guess nobody dared say anything bad about you in front of Duke anymore,” Henry-Oniisama says a bit wryly.