As I was working in the garden, the butler Heins-san, my teacher, came.
I would visit him for martial arts training, but it’s the first time for Master to come alone.
He always follows the duke.
“Master, is something the matter?”
Master furrowed his brows slightly for a second.
It’s something he always does when I call him, so I think it’s become a habit.
Even though he could have had business with my father, I ended up speaking to him first.
Maybe because dad is quiet, though they’re his co-workers under the Ernst House, he has a hard time calling to the maids.
So if I speak first, the talks progress faster.
In the same way I unconsciously did the same thing with Master.
But Master would have been okay so I might have done something unnecessary.
“Gerald-sama has called for you.
Please come with me.”
This is also a first.
The duke called me.
I thought that he must have had business with my dad, but it was with me.
Did I do something?
Surprised, I followed my master.
As I followed, I thought about the probability of my getting called.
Were the clothes I borrowed for dance practice dirtied or torn? Or were they going to have me clean it before I returned it since I’m borrowing? But for clothes that well-made, it would be better to have the maids clean it than me.
Or was my practice garden exposed? No, that would be a problem with the whole Baumgartner family so my dad should’ve been called, too.
Even in my previous life, I have no memories of being called except for when teachers would call me to the faculty room or the guidance counselling room.
So when I’m called I can’t think of anything but being scolded.
But though I haven’t done anything particularly good, I don’t think I’ve done anything really bad either.
I want to think.
I was lead to the visitors’ reception office.
There wasn’t a speck of dust.
Even the furnishings were first-class, and everything seemed expensive.
I’ve more or less cleaned off all the dirt I could, but was it okay for me to enter in my work clothes?
Master lead me in.
Once I bowed and entered, I met the duke’s eyes as he sat on the sofa before me.
“Sorry for calling you in the middle of work, Isaac.”
“Not at all.”
The duke welcomed me with such a smile that flowers wouldn’t look out of place if they appeared behind him as always.
Opposite him, on a sofa whose back was facing towards me, another person was seated.
This seemed like a reception office because there was a visitor.
But I don’t know why I’d get called here.
As I wondered, the other person stood and turned around.
It was someone I knew.
“Long time no see, Isaac.
Do you remember me, the young noble man smiled a little self-deprecatingly.
I hadn’t forgotten him.
His complexion looks better than last time, when I mistook him for a ghost.
That relieved me a little bit.
I didn’t think that I’d be able to meet him again, so I worried about what to do.
I myself am glad that I got to meet Daniel-sama again, but I still don’t know the reason I was called.
The duke encouraged me to sit down on a one-man sofa between them.
I sat in front of them and put my hands on my lap.
A maid who was casually standing brewed black tea for me and stepped back.
“Um… is this going to be a secret?”
Since I had gotten permission to drink, I asked as I raised the teacup to my mouth.
The duke and Daniel-sama widened their eyes slightly.
What were they surprised about? The maid left.
The only one standing here is my tight-lipped master.
Depending on the circumstances I understood that I should probably keep this a secret.
As I drank my tea with a sip, the duke affirmed my words.
I want you to keep it a secret from Dia and the others as well.
“It depends on what it is.”
The duke asked with a rare, bitter smile on his face, and I answered honestly.
I don’t know if I can keep it a secret or not if I haven’t even heard it.
He narrowed his eyes at my answer as if I had said something funny.
“It’s as you say.
“Gerald, I’ll tell him.”
Since Daniel-sama proposed, the duke gave him the right to explain.
“Isaac, I’ve told you that my wife is ill, haven’t I?”
“In order to heal her illness, I would like to borrow your help.”
I was stumped at the unexpected secret.
What could a child like me do for someone with a heart sickness? Even in my previous lie I was just an idiotic student.
I hadn’t gotten the qualifications to become a counsellor.
I hadn’t even studied enough for that.
“What do you mean…?”
“I want you to pretend to be my son.”
I understand even less.
Sincerity could be felt from Daniel-sama’s eyes.
But why did he go out of his way to ask me, a commoner?
Daniel-sama lowered his eyebrows guiltily as he saw me be utterly confused.
“I know that what I’m asking is unreasonable.
But I don’t think I can show my wife reality on my own…”
“Our son passed away last year.”
A chill passed my chest.
A shadow fell on his leaf-like eyes.
He told me that if he had lived he would be my age by now.
“My wife has always had trouble giving birth to children.
Having a son was like a miracle.
My wife and I treasured that child, who smiled brightly though he was feeble.
After losing him, my wife hasn’t been able to accept that he’s no longer here.”
That was the illness plaguing Daniel-sama’s wife.
After their son was born, the doctor informed them that they couldn’t have another child.
His wife must’ve gotten quite a shock.
I was clenching my fist.
Daniel-sama, who had kept talking as if to deal with the pain, looked at me and his expression softened.
“I was surprised when I saw you, Isaac.”
“You look like my son.”
It seemed that the color of my eyes and hair were the same as Daniel-sama’s son.
They weren’t identical, but in some way they gave off a similar air.
Indeed, I have the same hair color as Daniel-sama, but that’s not unusual.
It’s an ordinary hair color.
Even the color of my eyes isn’t rare.
Many people have it.
I could’ve denied it, but I couldn’t say anything because I knew that it wasn’t that superficial.
He looked at me with eyes of sadness and longing and I didn’t know what to do.
Noticing that, Daniel-sama turned away for a second.
“If you, who looks like our son could talk to her, I thought that maybe she would feel that something was wrong and start recovering little by little.”
It’s difficult to talk with someone who’s not of sound mind so I won’t force you, Daniel-sama tried to comfort me with a smile.
Everyday, he never ran away from something that painful.
When I thought that, my chest hurt.
But I can’t accept this until I have a proper resolve.
I thought clearly, exhaled, looked Daniel-sama in the eye and said.
“I can’t pretend to be your son.”
Daniel-sama’s voice sounded discouraged and hopeless at my answer.
“But I want to visit Daniel-sama’s wife.”
The man widened his eyes.
The Duke also seemed surprised.
I am me.
I could never replace anyone else.
But if I talk to someone outside of my family, maybe I could help them.
If I didn’t do anything after learning this much about Daniel-sama’s harsh situation, I might not be able to smile in front of Ojou again.
I’d meet her provided I won’t pretend to be her son.
Daniel-sama replied dubiously to my proposal.
“Is that okay…?”
“I do not want to let this go and pretend it never happened.”
I was the first to approach Daniel-sama when he was like a ghost.
I have to take responsibility for my actions.
He smiled with an expression that looked like he was about to cry.
The duke, who had been silently and elegantly sipping his black tea, put his teacup aside and deliberately looked towards me.
“So will you keep this a secret?”
I gave a firm nod.
Because though a part of him probably didn’t want this scandal to be exposed to the public, I knew that more than anything, he didn’t want to let his precious family be saddened.
I don’t want Ojou to cry either, so I definitely won’t say a thing.
After that, we decided to have my visits every once a month.
The duke and Daniel-sama forced me to promise that if it got painful or if I didn’t want to do it anymore, I’d tell them right away.
A few days later, I arrived in front of Daniel-sama’s mansion.
Daniel-sama tried to greet me in a carriage, but I politely refused.
Whether this was near the Ernst House or my own home, this would only stand out in a bad way.
If I’m not imagining this, Daniel-sama seemed to be the type of person to be so kind that he would occasionally do something careless.
When I gave my name at the front gate, a servant politely led me inside as if he had been told beforehand.
Daniel-sama greeted me with a kind smile and led me to his son’s room first thing.
Directed by his master, a male servant opened a closet to reveal clothes lined in a row.
“He wasn’t really wearing any of these because he was feeling sick.
Wanna try wearing one?”
“Um, I’ve forgotten.
Your rank is…”
“I’ll wear one.”
I knew he had a high rank since he’s a friend of the duke.
Daniel-sama tilted his head curiously at my reply.
Meeting with a marquess in a commoner’s outfit would be rude.
The people in the Ernst house knew that I was a commoner and I only ever stayed within the territory.
If I do something rude in someone else’s house then the Ernst house will be inconvenienced.
The servant man had just finished taking my size with a measuring string when his expression turned a little sour.
I wondered what that was about.
He went to Daniel-sama and whispered something into his ear.
Green eyes widened and I got curious.
“Is something wrong?”
“No, it just seems that my son’s size is a little small for you, Isaac.
I’ve overlooked how fast children grow.”
That’s because they aren’t my clothes, but I think that the fact that they’re too small for me also means that I’ve grown.
It makes me happy.
But Leo is shorter than me too because he’s younger than me.
“Would it be rude to meet her like this?”
“No, I don’t mind since we’re within the mansion…”
I didn’t have any other clothes so I wanted to get permission to meet her like this.
Daniel-sama seemed to remember something when he said he didn’t mind.
He said something to the servant man and had him prepare another set of clothes from the closet.
He brought brand new clothes in front of me.
Daniel-sama smiled sheepishly.
“My wife prepared this.
It didn’t fit anyone so we were going to have to dispose it…”
“That is a waste.”
For a second I wondered if nobles didn’t have the idea of recycling, but I realized that if they were to lend it to someone else then they would ask the reason why.
Even when this outfit was being tailored, it might have been challenging to control the information.
“May I borrow it?”
There’s no meaning in having an article if we can’t use it.
This is far better than letting it go to waste.”
It seemed that although he is a noble, Daniel-sama values his things.
That’s a very likable trait for me, a commoner.
There are many furnishings within the mansion that have calm colors.
Even the paintings feel gentle.
There are many landscapes.
You can see Daniel-sama’s character from the interior design.
I took him up on his offer, took the outfit and wore it.
I changed in his son’s room.
There I saw a photo and looked at it for a while.
It reflected Daniel-sama, a woman who seemed like his wife, and a boy who looked like my age.
When I looked around the room, I noticed that it had been maintained in such a way that it could accommodate the occupant if he ever returned.
I wonder if this was how my room felt for a while after I died.
In the previous world I was Tanaka Taichi.
My death was sudden, so my family wasn’t just a little surprised, were they.
I’ve never seen them after I died, but I knew that this was how it felt after seeing a place where a family member had passed away.
I felt something clogging up my chest.
One more time, I looked at the quiet boy in the picture who didn’t resemble me.
“Is he the same as me?”
Cutting off your family.
I felt like that was something we had in common aside from hair and eye color.
“Kept you waiting.”
I finished changing and left the room.
Daniel-sama was a little surprised.
“…It fits you well.”
He seemed like he was holding something back.
As he spoke, Daniel-sama gently offered me a string tie with metal fittings the same color as young leaves.
“Thank you very much.”
I felt like he was filtering himself to an extent as I said my thanks.
Just like the hand-me-down from the duke, these clothes seemed expensive.
At any rate, I put them on.
We arrived at the room of his wife not long after we left his son’s room.
Daniel-sama nocked and raised his voice.
“Annika, I’m coming in.”
After waiting for a few beats and getting no refusal, he opened the door.
There was a woman sitting on her bed in the room.
We could see her side profile as she gazed at the garden through a glass door and as she slowly turned towards us.
She muttered that name with a blank gaze as if she was half asleep.
That must be the son.
“Elias! When did you return?”
She finally saw me, and her eyes shone.
That happy voice is not directed to me.
The boy her pupils reflect is not me either.
I felt the sensation of someone else’s existence being painted over mine with a chilling dread.
But seeing Daniel-sama looking at me worriedly, I endured.
It’s okay, Daniel-sama knows it’s me.
I took a single deep breath.
“Nice to meet you.
My name is Isaac Baumgartner.
This is a visit.”
I went to the side of her bed and lowered my head.
Then I presented a bouquet that I had been holding behind me made from yellow and white zinnia flowers and orange sandersonias.
Instead of soaproot, mint flowers were prepared.
“Oh, how pretty.
But did we have flowers like these in our home?”
“These are flowers from the mansion I work at.
I asked my Dad to give me son.”
“Oh no, to think that you would refer to Daniel like that.
Are you in your rebellious stage?”
Annika-sama, Daniel-sama’s wife, laughed pleasantly.
Yes, we are not holding anything resembling a conversation.
A maid prepared seats for Daniel-sama and I to sit on.
I sat on them as I spoke.
“You don’t look very well.
Are you eating your foo – meals?”
“Don’t worry about me.
Elias is still growing, so eat a lot and get strong.”
“I eat… I eat a lot so don’t worry.”
(TN: Isaac is about to say kuu but says taberu.
Both mean eating but kuu is apparently masculine.
Not sure if it’s also impolite.)
She stroked my hair as if to comfort me, but I wasn’t so soft.
The rough pats my Dad would always give me felt just right.
But it’s hard for me to keep talking politely.
I’ve been talking energetically to fit Annika-sama’s mood, so I felt like speaking casually.
Daniel-sama watched me fumble over my words amusedly.
“Um, you don’t have to eat it if it tastes bad, but I made a carrot pound cake.
If you want…”
“My, Elias cooked? Did you get burned!?”
“I’m okay, so please just try a bite!”
I tried it, I said as I took out a cut of the pound cake and handed it to Annika-sama.
She took it and stared at the cake for a while, absent-minded before she brought it to her mouth.
“It is delicious.”
It was just her impression.
But I wanted to hear how she felt.
It didn’t seem like she had lost her sense of taste.
I smiled in relief.
I had heard from Daniel-sama that she hadn’t been finishing her food, so I prepared a filling pound cake.
“I had my Mother teach me.
I’m glad it suits your taste.”
Annika-sama looked at me smiling and froze.
Then she blinked and laughed pleasantly again.
“You had the chef help you.
That’s a relief.”
Damn, was this really not gonna work? It was as if she was altering all the information she didn’t like.
I knew this wouldn’t be that simple, but it’s frustrating that we can’t hold a conversation at all.
Being frustrated would get me nowhere, so I regained my bearings, took another slice of the pound cake and offered it to Daniel-sama.
“Please help yourself if you wish Daniel-sama.”
“Are you sure…?”
“But of course.
Ah, may I eat too?”
“Yes, I don’t mind.”
“Then I’m digging in.”
After seeing Daniel-sama accept his slice, I joined both of my hands in prayer and stuffed my cheeks with my portion.
Then I chewed thoroughly and complained.
“I knew it.
This would’ve been better if it was freshly baked.
Annika-sama, you prefer freshly baked food too, right?”
“Yes, that’s – right…”
Though she seemed dazed, Annika-sama replied on reflex.
Ah, that was a little conversation-like.
Though slowly, Annika-sama ate the cake little by little.
I thought it kinda looked like a slow replay of a hamster eating.
Daniel-sama stared at Annika-sama in amazement.
Then he smiled as if a part of him relaxed.
As he ate his cake, he looked at me.
“Apologies for the crude food.”
I smiled broadly.
Eating food and calling it delicious.
Though it’s small, it’s a small happiness.
If she keeps accumulating happiness like this, she might save up the power to keep on living.
Well, this is pretty much the only thing I can do.
After that, though it wasn’t a conversation, I talked to Annika-sama for about an hour as she continued to treat me like Elias.
Then I changed back to my previous clothes.
Daniel-sama treated me to tea at the reception office.
Even when we ate the pound cake the maids had prepared black tea.
Since I was talking energetically, my throat got dry so I was thankful to them.
Tea with milk is gentle on the throat.
“Isaac, what do you want as a reward?”
“You listened to my reckless request.
Though as an apprentice you are already working.
I want to give you appropriate compensation.”
As he said, this took half a day on a rest day.
But I did it because I wanted to.
I don’t do things I don’t like.
I didn’t really need a reward, but I thought a little.
If this will take a while, then it might be easier for me to think of talking to Annika-sama as a part time job.
I decided to take Daniel-sama up on his offer.
“Then please, show me your mansion’s garden!”
“Garden? My house’s garden is not as big as Gerald’s, and there are no rare flowers either…?”
“I want to see it.
I don’t get many opportunities to see gardens that aren’t handled by my Dad!”
The garden could be seen through the glass door from Annika-sama’s room earlier.
It looked like a pretty landscape painting with greenery spread around.
I’m interested in gardens made by other people.
It’s not everyday that I’m invited to another noble’s mansion.
I can’t waste this opportunity.
I stared into Daniel-sama’s eyes.
“I really can’t tell if you have desires or not, Isaac.”
He laughed, having succumbed to me.
My eyes shone as he guided me to the garden.
We went slowly, but before I knew it I was looking here and there.
“Daniel-sama, there are Saint John’s Worts here.
And the Orange Jessamines smell good!”
As Daniel-sama said, this garden had a lot of green.
Flowers bloom at every important spot.
You can feel the turn of the seasons from one place.
I may be weird for getting excited over a relaxing garden.
But I was riled up.
I could study gardens made by other people.
They were interesting.
“Is it arranged like this so you can see the Orange Jessamines and the moon at the same time? This scent will reach the rooms from here… come to think of it, there’s also the fact that fruit jam is delicious.
Do you like jam made from Orange Jessamines, Daniel-sama?”
When I turned around, Daniel-sama was dumbfounded, taken aback.
Oh no, I was talking to myself.
I apologized meekly for getting carried away.
“Please excuse me.”
“No, it’s okay… I completely forgot was planted here…”
I was just remembering, Daniel-sama said a he stooped down and touched the Saint John’s Worts.
His nostalgic gaze fell on the worts.
“Elias taught us well about the plants that bloomed here.”
“Did he like flowers?”
The only things that child could freely wander around were the storybooks and the garden in my house.”
Maybe he held himself back, Daniel-sama said as his face twisted in bitterness.
“Didn’t you say he smiled brightly?”
Then there should be no lie.
He must’ve been good at enjoying himself with what he had.
“Yeah… he smiled until the end, saying he’d be fine before long…”
“Hmm, what a strong guy.”
Daniel-sama’s eyes widened at my impression.
Not everyone can die smiling.
But he never gave up even to the end, did he? Wasn’t he really strong?”
I really think it’s amazing.
After I got my death sentence in my previous world, I couldn’t smile.
The thought of doing my best to forge on hadn’t even occurred to me.
I was just scared.
On the other hand, Daniel-sama’s son was strong.
He was a boy who could live with all he had until the end.
I respect that.
“…Yeah, that’s right…”
A stream of tears fell from his green leaf eyes as he muttered.
“Elias Von Viito was our pride.”
After smiling pridefully, Daniel-sama wept.
I was a bit surprised, but I patted his head until he stopped crying.
That was all I could do.
He must’ve not been able to cry since he was busy supporting his wife.
Looking at him weep, my chest tightened painfully.
I realized how idiotic I was in my previous life.
I should have struggled until the end.
The reason I didn’t think about consulting my Mom or anyone else was because I was stubborn, like a fool.
No, I wasn’t like a fool, I was a fool.
I didn’t run from Daniel-sama and his wife like I did in my previous world.
This time, I wanted to face them without looking away.
Though I don’t think that will be enough to atone.
Elias was too strong.
To think that his parents would think of him as their pride, the difference between him and me from my previous life was like that of heaven and earth.
I feel like my stubborn old man would have probably called me an embarrassment for causing trouble for others.
It was so pathetic I wanted to laugh.
After crying for a bit, Daniel-sama smiled, embarrassed and thanked me.
I shook my head.
I hadn’t done anything.
Then I left Daniel-sama’s mansion – Marquis Viito’s mansion.
I got home by nightfall.
I opened the door pinched between pots of Myrtle plants.
“I’m home Mom.”
“Welcome home, Zac.”
I breathed a sigh of relief at my mother’s eyes that saw me for me.
She seemed like she was tense for some time.
I now notice that.
Mother stopped preparing dinner, came to me, knelt and looked me in the eye.
Not knowing what she wanted, I tilted my beck.
If anything, I should start helping her with dinner.
Mom looked at my eyes and put me in her arms.
“Is something wrong?”
“Hm-? It’s just that you seem like you’ve been holding out.”
She replied after I asked.
Her palm came around to my back and comforted me unreservedly.
Those palms, the hands that wrapped around me, and her heartbeat I could hear were all so warm, and I buried my face in my Mom’s shoulder.
I felt like I was really bitter for some reason.
“This time, I’ll definitely live a long life…”
My Mom stayed like that for a while without minding the wetness on her shoulder.
TN: I’m really, really sorry that this chapter came so late.
The turn of the season hasn’t been kind to me.
I swear I’ve been coughing for an eternity now.
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