It’s all good to prepare myself for the worst, but could two people who didn’t even know how to control their powers meet with the princess?
The doubt did occur to me, but it proved to not be a hindrance at all several weeks later.
Set with a precious stone, those chokers were effective at moderating magic strength, and with it installed, only 30% of the boys’ powers were useable.
“Pleased to meet you for the first time, Your Highness. We have been honored with the opportunity to study magic under the tutelage of Lady Irene von Artmann. I am Theo Eilenberg.”
Theo Eilenberg was an impressive young man with fiery red hair, and eyes with an unusual mix of red and black.*
He had strongly sun-tanned skin, a cheerful smile, and a large frame unthinkable on a 13 year old. It would be more appropriate to say he better fit the role of a soldier.
“I’m Lutz Eilenberg.”
The slender pretty boy who subduedly introduced himself had nearly-white silver hair, porcelain skin, and deep indigo eyes.
They were supposed to be the same age, but you could say he was Theo’s exact opposite in many ways.
Treated like a monster all his life, he was defiant and on the verge of becoming misanthropic.
But, he hasn’t become twisted yet.
Okay. I’ll need to create an opportunity to put a dent in his flag!
Well, it’s all fine and dandy to say that, but…Lutz was a tough nut to crack.
I couldn’t figure out how to get close to him at all.
“Princess, princess! What is this medicinal herb good for?”
On the other hand, I got along famously with Theo from the start. Of course I did. He was friendly from the beginning and didn’t put up walls with anyone.
But, I had a hunch that childishness was calculated in order to ease his way through life—the so-called worldly wisdom.
If he focused on establishing contact with the people around him, he could become wildly successful in life.
“You use it to reduce fevers in children. You drink the juice squeezed from the raw plants.”
“Of course it is.”
I smiled wryly at Theo, who was puckering up his face.
“And this? What is it good for?”
“You use that to stop bleeding. If you boil and drink it, you can treat bowel problems. I think it’s also effective for cold sensitivity, stomach aches, etc.”
“Boil, then drink…this is bitter, too.”
“It’s delicious if you bake it with bread.”
“Huh, really? Even though it’s bitter?”
“If you boil it, you can remove the astringency. When you pound it and mix it with uncooked dough, it has a very good flavor.”
To be honest, this herb with the jagged leaves was just Japanese mugwort.
It would’ve been perfect if there were also rice and azuki beans. I’ve looked everywhere but haven’t found any. Someday, however, I believed Master Julius would obtain them for me.
“Amazing, princess, you know so much! I want you to teach me more about everything. Hey, Lutz! You should come over here, let’s learn together!”
Theo hailed Lutz, who stood apart from us inside this huge greenhouse watering the plants.
Theo didn’t seem torn from getting ignored. He smiled and muttered, No good, huh?
I’m so thankful Theo was here with me. If I had been by myself, I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to muster up the courage to talk to Lutz.
“Lutz, may I come over there?”
Even when I called out to him, he didn’t respond. When he shrugged his shoulders, Theo and I looked at each other at the same time, and smiled awkwardly. What’s wrong with him?
But that pleasant mood was destroyed in a second. Suddenly, I sensed a killing intent behind me, so menacing it raised goosebumps on my skin.
Looking back, I gave the owner of that aura a glare, and called him to attention.
Even at the receiving end of my glare, Klaus wasn’t cowed a bit.
Instead of being intimidated, he gave me a radiant smile. Seriously, hasn’t he gotten worse with every year?
“Why is that? When they have been so rude to you, my lady? Their attitudes are intolerable.”
If I let YOU be intolerable, it should be OK, shouldn’t it!
Swallowing the words coming out of my throat, I took a breath instead.
“It’s fine, so stop.”
With a, By your will, Klaus stepped down.
If I gave him commands in a calm voice, he immediately relented. I honestly don’t know what triggers the switch for this guy.
Someone, quick! Take up writing a Klaus instruction manual. I don’t accept that he’ll stay this obedient for long.
“Princess, you are a strange lady,” Theo said in a small voice when I dead tiredly returned to maintaining the beds.
When I looked at him, he had an extremely serious look on his face. A strange one, he said. What was so strange about me?
My outer appearance resembled my mother, but you can find what’s inside among common girls everywhere?
“Really? I believe myself to to be normal.”
Cocking his head slightly in doubt, he squeezed his eyes and gave a forced laugh.
“I do not understand what your definition of normal is, but the Sir Knight’s reaction was correct. If a person were to act rudely toward the princess, they could not complain were they punished. Lutz and I were raised at the orphanage, and are uncultured brats. By all rights, we should not even be able to approach the princess. And yet, not only does she not take us to task for our breach of manners, she is kindly looking after us.”
You are a strange lady, Theo said one more time, his voice friendlier than before.
Getting praised to my face, instead of feeling shy, I felt awkward.
Stop, don’t look at me with those bright eyes…!!! Especially when I think of myself as a lowly person!
“Theo. You’re getting tricked.”
—not such a great person.
Since when did he get so close? Lutz stood behind Theo, glaring daggers at me.
“She’s only acting friendly on the outside to win us over. On the inside, she must be heaping insults on us, calling us monsters.”
Even with Theo warning him not to, Lutz didn’t stop. He bared his hostility to me.
“You’re better off not hiding it, princess. The truth is, you find us frightening, don’t you?”
But his upfront feelings had the opposite effect on me.
He was like a stray cat hissing, so I found it rather cute. Since he had decided to open up to me, I gave him the truth.
“You’re right. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid.”
And his face crumpled in pain.
What an honest child. So much more innocent than I am. Was this the reason why he bared his fangs, so that he wouldn’t get hurt?
“Magic is an unknown power to me. Because I don’t understand, I’m afraid, but I also want to know. I feel the same way about you two.”
I don’t understand, so I want to.
When I honestly told him my feelings, Lutz swayed with confusion for a second.
“We don’t need your pity!” he growled in a low tone. Without waiting for my reply, he turned his back to me and left.
Abandoned, Theo meekly bowed his head.
“My friend has acted unpardonably. Please, find it in your heart to forgive him.”
So his innocent act, and childish speech and conduct really were just a front. His true self was much more mature than his actual age.
“It’s fine. You were put in a tough spot, but we’re the only ones here right now.”
“You are very gracious, Your Highness.”
“I want you to stop talking like that, too,” I said, smiling wryly.
He nodded and reverted back to more casual speech, “Got it, princess.”
“Besides, I do fear, and pity, the two of you,” I said without reservation.
After gaping at me in astonishment for a moment, Theo gave me a big grin.
“Y-you really don’t beat around the bush! It’s rather manly.”
“Even if I hide it, you’re both so perceptive you’d notice it.”
“Princess, you really are a strange lady. Even if it means the same thing, there should be a lighter way to phrase it,” he said, trying to hold back his laughter, no animosity in him.
I’m much more bewildered Theo would still treat me in the same friendly manner as before. Even if he wasn’t as straightforward as Lutz, I had expected him to put a little distance between us.
Lost in my thoughts, I didn’t notice how he smiled a little differently now, more low-key than the ones he’d given me up to now.
“But that forthrightness puts me at ease. It’s much more believable than the carefully crafted artifice of others who only speak in pleasantries.”
“I believe Lutz feels the same way. He’s just a stubborn guy, so he can’t easily give in. I’m sure if you give him a little more time, he’ll let his guard down.”
At my thoughtless words, he boldly winked.
Just as he said he could find my bluntness trustworthy, I wondered if I could believe that he’d also let down his guard a little.
Only a “little,” though.
Well, that was plenty for now.
If I took that into consideration, their attitudes were surprisingly friendly.
“I’ll do what I can to help you, so good luck.”
He smiled like he was having fun.
I gave him a faint smile in return.
I don’t know how hard I’ll have to work, but I’m gonna give it a try.
“First off, I want you to tell me what his favorite foods are.”
…let’s start by feeding him.