「Ardis―! Ardis―! 」
As if forgotten any other words than that, Fillia and Riana were hugging onto Ardis tightly while repeating his name. The platinum blonde hair sticking on him were at one head lower than him.
Their height that should’ve only been around his waist when he first met them had become considerably taller. The strength behind their arms are also stronger than expected.
Of course, it’s not at a level that would hurt Ardis but, it was enough to let Ardis acknowledge their growth. Ardis suddenly recalled what the Duke said.
(I see, it’s just like what he said……)
While thinking like that, the twins’ voices slowly became muddled.
「Ardizu―! Hicc, Ar, dis――! Hic! 」
The happy voice of calling Ardis’s name suddenly became cries, then totally became wails the next moment.
「Uuu, uwaaaaa! 」
The twins became wholeheartedly crying while clinging onto him. While being clueless what to do, he noticed someone getting closer.
「A late return, I must say, my master. 」
With Aliceblue hair swaying in the air, there was a woman looking in her seventeen or eighteen approaching him.
The impeccable canvas that seemed to portray a perfect angelic existence seemed to have a strained smile. It was Nere’s appearance that had not changed from a year ago.
「Yeah, sorry. 」
While feeling relieved and apologetic, Ardis said.
「It’s fine, returning safely is the most priority. 」
Nere said so bluntly as well. After the twins eventually calm down, they still didn’t seem willing to let go of Ardis at all.
「Uhm―……. How long should I keep standing here for? 」
「For the past year, they’ve been terribly worried, isn’t it fine to indulge them for a little now. 」
Certainly, Ardis had gone missing for an entire year without any communications, so he had nothing to rebuke.
It wasn’t because of what Nere said, but he decided to give up until the twins had their fill. That’s why, thirty minutes had gone by with Ardis standing still while waiting them to finally stop crying.
「I’m back. Fillia, Riana. 」
「Welcome back, Ardis……」
「Sorry for making you worry. 」
Ardis smiled towards the both, then the twins returned a smile with still watery eyes. Finally, he had returned to where he belongs, though Ardis felt a little strange about that fact.
「Let’s go home now shall we. 」
「Here is good 」
Though, the two seemed to not budge at all, and the self-proclaimed servant never did offer a saving boat for him who is stuck in such a situation, and left on her own to the house.
――With no choice, after much compromising, it became that Ardis lent both his hands to each twin and having them cling onto him along to the house.
The Duke residency in the night. Minerva was challenging her homework once again before sleep. Ten minutes had passed while she examined the small stone she was given just as she was instructed.
As her vision started to daze, Minerva started to massage her eyes. A year had passed in this world, even though she herself had only experienced two days.
It’s not like she could see anything different even if she peered any longer into the stone. But, she felt like her normal life returned because she was doing that.
After extinguishing the light and diving into the bed, Minerva suddenly relived the intense experience she had. The unfamiliar scenery, beasts, and even the night.
None of them are unmemorable, they were all things that exclaimed another world.
Minerva recalled the guarding eyes of Ardis and his adult form clearly in her mind. A man who looks totally different than the Shishou she knows.
With muscles that covered his entire body even more than Commander Greystar, even his posture showed off his unbending will that wouldn’t waver in front of any absurd beasts in the other world.
However, at the same time, the dangerous atmosphere that were like blades around him rejected anyone from approaching.
(Is that the real Shishou? )
She only knew the Shishou with an appearance that is not much different in age than her. It was surprising to find out Ardis was actually about the same age as Commander Greystar but, what was most surprising was the difference in atmosphere around them.
She couldn’t say the Ardis she knew is all caring towards her. But still, he didn’t show any obvious anger or irritation while teaching her.
(But, if that’s the true him……)
That is probably his true emotions that he buried deep inside himself. That night, when Ardis’s hands restrained Minerva’s arms, the images and people she saw, and the feelings she felt.
She felt like countless shards were cutting into her heart. The hatred seemed to glow ever so brightly and would consume anything in its surrounding.
That’s the cry of his soul that is buried forcefully, Minerva knew by feeling.
『That, Shishou……? 』
『What is it? 』
『Umm………………. Never mind……, it’s nothing. 』
She wanted to ask Ardis who went to greet her before returning to his home about what she saw, but couldn’t bring herself to in the end. It’s probably Ardis’s past that should never be touched.
She felt that it’s not something she can easily ask. She was sure that what she saw were Ardis’s memories, and the scars left in his mind.
Although she had no proof, she felt that it can be nothing but that. And strangely, she felt like she was somehow similar in nature with Ardis.
『Ojou-sama, look out! 』
An older servant suddenly jumped at Minerva. Pushing away Minerva whose heart was right in the trajectory of the dagger, she became her substitute, with a dagger in her chest.
『Kyaaaa! Leyla―! 』
『Shit, this woman! Let go! 』
『No, way……, even if I die……! 』
Holding onto the dagger stabbing into her chest with both her hands, she used her whole body to hold down the assassin.
『Leyla! S-Someone! Leyla is! 』
The guards that arrived. The assassin that was apprehended. And the body on the ground soaked in blood.
A whisper of someone’s name was heard. The person that Minerva considered her own sister had taken a blade for her, from her time view, it was an incident half a year ago. The overflowing and uncontainable sorrow filled under her shut eyes.
Minerva and Ardis both have the will wanting to protect someone, and also having lost someone dearest to them being their motivation.
If Ardis had managed to become so strong because of wanting to protect someone, then she would also――
(I can become strong too……. No, I must)
At the same time, she knew the wounds that Ardis carried are much deeper than her own. Ardis must’ve wanted to stay in that world. After all, Minerva and the others had waited for a few hours for Ardis to arrive, that is surely because he was hesitating.
The regrets and remorse, self-blaming and impatience, sorrow and hatred that she had felt from seeing Ardis’s past. Cutting off all of them, Ardis had chosen to return to this world knowingly throwing away the chance of getting revenge on his nemesis.
It must’ve been a stupendously tough choice. Minerva’s existence should’ve also played a role even if it’s a little in his decision.
She didn’t intend to take all credits for it, but she was certain that he was looking out for herself and also Commander Greystar.
(Even though he’s suffering so much pain, he would go that far for us……)
Her gratitude for Ardis is indescribable, as well as her sorriness.
(I hope my strength can be of help one day――, though I doubt a time like that can come)
There was a large disparity in strength between them. In the first place, it’s questionable to think that Ardis would ever need Minerva’s strength.
What she has that Ardis don’t have is at most a noble bloodline and the political power that comes with it.
However, leaving aside if she is the acting lord of the house, a lady who isn’t even the house’s successor would have little to nothing political power.
(I can’t even properly return his gratitude with what I can do)
While feeling worthless at her own powerlessness, Minerva’s consciousness slowly fleeted away.