She is someone with guts, Petra Leyte had such pride.
Otherwise, she will not be able to devote herself to her new surroundings, nor will she have the courage to catch up with the people ahead of her.
Therefore, Petra has been desperately using her small body to move forward with all her might.
Some may say that the time and effort she spent is nothing remarkable, but that has nothing to do with Petra.
As long as that person and those people don't laugh at her, that's enough.
Therefore, she won’t be bothered by it.
???: [That's the maid over there, isn't it? The one who is rumored to have caused the fire at the residence of the Margrave.]
The topic was unfolding softly on the scene.
The speaker was not deliberately attacking Petra personally. Petra, who was just a maid and had no personal influence, was not worthy of being put in their eyes.
And Petra herself understands this. Therefore, she will not feel depressed by this.
Obviously, that should've been the case, but as she was about to confront the bearded man who stated this fact, suddenly the tall cloaked man next to her said...
Rosawaal: [...Unfooortunately, the cause of the fire was duuue to my own negligence, Viscount Aluz.]
These words, as if they were protecting Petra, made Petra feel ashamed.
...After seeing off Subaru and the others who were setting off for the Watergate City, Mathers and his party, including Petra, also set off for the western border for a meeting according to the scheduled plan.
???: [Remember not to get in the way of Roswaal-sama. In addition, the people in the meeting are a group of people who are even more dubious than you could possibly imagine. Remember to not show them any weakness. Keep your eyes and ears open at all times.]
This is the advice from a solitary person. No, although she is not alone, Ram stayed behind in the mansion.
In order to take care of Rem, who's asleep, and Meili, who was imprisoned in an underground confinement room, Ram did not accompany them on this trip. To be honest, even if Ram came with them, she wouldn't have been of much use as a maid, but her presence can bring an aura of peace that the others can't replace.
She doesn't know if these kinds of thoughts were showing up on her face, or if Ram’s gaze was like a torch blazing with wisdom. Before leaving, Ram gently patted Petra on the shoulder and gave her warning.
Petra: [Always keep your eyes open…]
Repeating this sentence subconsciously, Petra remembered it in her heart. Although these words weren't repeated constantly to her, since then it has been engraved deeply into Petra's heart.
Keeping your eyes open at all times. Keeping your head up at all times. ...It's a very good feeling.
???: [Petra, are you nervous?]
Seeing Petra putting her hands on her flat chest, Frederica, who was sitting next to her on the dragon carriage, spoke aloud. Facing this ideal woman with long flowing blonde hair who squinted her emerald eyes, Petra gently shook her head.
Petra: [No, just thinking about something. Something that Ram-neesama told me before we left.]
Frederica: [Is that so? That's great. If you’re getting nervous now... it would spell trouble for us during critical moments. But, it seems like that child has also said something to you.]
Petra: [Emm, there is nothing to worry about nee-sama. However, it's something that makes me feel really good.]
Frederica: [Hmm... ahahah, hearing that makes me a little bit jealous.]
Pursing her lips lightly, Frederica gently stroked Petra's little head. The gentle touch made Petra's cheeks tighten. Petra enjoyed it for a moment, then shyly laid her head on Frederica's chest.
Frederica felt a little awkward due to Petra's words, and this discovery couldn't help but make Petra feel happy. Even if she is not worried, Petra's most respected and beloved woman is Frederica. Although Ram was a little lonely as she did not come with them, Petra was happy to be able to be with Frederica.
Roswaal: [...Really, I can’t staaaand it. Even I would feel sad to be so blaaatantly isolated by my compaaanions. Even if I don’t want to, these next few days are a triiip with the three of us. Let’s get alooong.」
Petra couldn't help but feel tired of the man who showed such a frivolous smile and possessed a cheeky manner of speech.
As soon as she laid her eyes on someone with such a nasty face, Petra's face flushed red with anger.
Frederica: [Master, please seriously consider the matter of the meeting!]
Roswaal: [Don't be so unfrieeendly. This time, you took the initiative to come alooong, so I was looking forward to the opportunity for our relaationshiip to get cloooser. ]
Frederica: [Master, please stop saying such baseless things. Truly.]
Upon hearing his fake words, Frederica also came to the support of Petra. The man who became the target of the crowd, could only raise his hands and reluctantly surrender, then he sat down deeply into his seat in the dragon carriage.
However, his lips marked with violet lipstick were still muttering softly, and he had a slightly resentful expression on his face.
And this person is the Margrave, Roswaal L Mathers. Not only is he the owner of the mansion that employs Petra, he is also the core figure of this meeting, and at the same time, the person that Petra hates the most in the entire world.
...The talks on the western border are literally just a gathering of people.
Originally, the title of Margrave only referred to the possession of lands within his territory. In other words, his title has attracted so much attention as a key role in national defence, that the territory owned by Roswaal is referred to as "Margrave's Western Territory". The participants in this meeting are powerful people who assist this powerful man in ruling the western borders.
The attendees ranged from noblemen with titles to high officials holding mayoral positions. There were farmers who owned huge farms and wealthy merchants in the territory.
And since it is Roswaal who gathered these numerous and disorderly people together, he is in a position where he must correctly guide the direction of the talk.
After the dragon carriage arrived at the destination, as soon as he entered the mansion's magnificent hall, the attendees who knew of Roswaal's arrival all cast their gaze upon them.
The emotion contained in their gaze was so complicated and strange that Petra couldn't understand it.
However, one thing can be inferenced, that is, all the participants have hidden motives and are evaluating the things that they're interested in, in an unobtrusive manner.
Roswaal: [Ohohoh, everyone has arriiiived. Truly gathered up neeeatly.]
???: [...What are you talking about? Margrave Roswaal is the one who came here so soon, I am really flattered.]
To Roswaal, who greeted the people standing in the magnificent hall from a distance, a man with a beautiful beard immediately responded.
Seeing the man walking over the carpet and approaching this way, Roswaal's smile deepened silently.
Roswaal: [Viscount Aluz, thank you veeery much for preparing your mansion for the meeting on such short notice.]
Aluz: [I am honored. I understand that the Mathers's consideration is a very important matter. I am very grateful to have the opportunity to speak to you.]
Hearing such fake polite remarks, Petra couldn't help but sneer inwardly at the social interactions between the nobles.
About half of the participants have gathered in the hall. Originally the meeting was scheduled to start tonight, but it seemed that a lot of people had arrived before noon.
It is said that by coming early to such meetings, one becomes able to grasp the direction that the topic will head in advance, to some extent. This also applies to the ill-intentioned Roswaal, who arrived at his destination half a day early.
As it is now, he’s like an opera performer who is watched by people with a sense of enjoyment, maybe this is his bad karma.
Aluz: [That's the maid over there, isn't it? The one who is rumored to have caused the fire at the residence of the Margrave.]
Inadvertently, Petra was also put onto the stage. At this moment, even though she was dumbfounded by the accusation, she just showed a firm expression and couldn't help but want to boast.
But that's the end of the performance that she could receive praise for.
This is the moment of the greatest humiliation in Petra's life.
Petra: [I.., I feel so horrible.]
Reflecting deeply, mutters spilled out of her mouth, and Petra drooped her shoulders in a manner not unlike that of a child.
This is Petra not long after she was caught in the middle of the crossfires between the nobles and drowned in humiliation. In order to prepare for the evening meeting, Roswaal was resting in the guest room of the mansion at this time. Similarly, Petra and Frederica, were also assigned a personal room. They were also ordered to take a break due to their work preparations at night, but...
Petra: [Mu... I can't relax at all…]
Although she knew that her manners were not proper, Petra couldn't help but pace back and forth in the mansion of Viscount Aluz. As soon as she walked out of her room, she looked for a way to dispel her sense of humiliation.
...In the eyes of the people around her, Petra has never made any mistakes thus far.
After all, this is just a question of the goals set by Petra.
Petra has harsh standards set for those close to her, so harsh that they would be in shock from hearing their scores. This behavior is no exception for Petra herself.
In addition to her own appearance, Petra's evaluation of herself is also extremely strict.
Petra: [This is all the Master’s fault...Eh?]
Petra, who was groaning and cursing Roswaal’s being, suddenly raised her eyebrows. A group of servants of the mansion who seemed to be hurriedly running around for some reason, came into her sights.
Petra: [Excuse me, did something happen?]
Petra stepped forward and asked her question.
Servant: [Yes, we can't find the chef in charge of tonight's meal... Although it's said that they have a strange personality, if this continues, they will definitely miss their meals.]
After listening to the explanations of the brainstorming and chattering servants, Petra offered to help.
Having said that, she just heard the report, and can't help much.
Petra: [Seeing other people having trouble makes me feel a little relieved... I really am a bad child...]
Although this is rarely seen, for Petra now, everything will be linked to self-loathing. At least for now, she hopes to make some contribution to finding the chef through hard work, as a way to untie the knot in her heart.
Petra: [If I asked for Frederica-neesama's help, maybe she could find that person with her sense of smell, but…]
Frederica, who has the blood of a beast human, should be very good at finding things. Petra often asks Garfiel to help find missing items, and then secretly gives him some raw meat as a reward.
It's just that Petra is reluctant to treat Frederica in the same manner as Garfiel.
???: [...Hey, little girl, the little girl over there, can you hear me?]
At this time, a voice flicked past Petra's ears, who was walking through the mansion deep in her thoughts and worries. She turned her head in confusion and saw a slender white arm stretching out from a hedge.
Petra's eyes widened at the hand that was repeating the call of "little girl".
???: [You came at just the right time. Come over and grab my hand. I accidentally fell in!]
Petra: [Fell in... how did you fall in... Uh-huh, let's ignore that for now. Uh-huh, hay!]
Putting aside her doubts, Petra grabbed the hand which had a prideful tone and pulled on it with all her might. Petra's small size doesn't have much strength, but fortunately, the other person’s body is very light. Soon, there was a sound of someone’s lower body getting plucked from the soil, and a whole-body leapt out of the hedge.
It was a young girl wearing a white hood. She is petite in stature and is about the same age as Petra. And such a girl was just buried in the hedges of the aristocratic mansion just now.
Petra: [How so very strange… Mmmph.]
???: [Stop, stop, I can understand your feelings, but please don't yell, little girl.]
Just as she was about to yell, the girl covered Petra's mouth quickly. Staring at Petra who was struggling, the girl asked seriously…
???: [Will you stop shouting?]
Petra nodded heavily.
???: [Moi am not a suspicious person. Okay, now continuing the conversation. Moi am…]
Petra: [Ahhhhhhhhhh! Someone h… Mmmph!]
???: [You really are a girl who people can't put their guard down around. Although that's quite likeable, it is quite troublesome right now.]
Once again, Petra tried to pull a clever stunt, and the girl quickly put her hand in front of her mouth. The girl looked as if she had lost to her. When she saw Petra's wide-eyed expression, she sighed in frustration.
???: [What? This time, you won't scream anymore, so let go of your mouth? Even if you say that to Moi......]
Petra: [Fuha, didn't you just let go? Ack, what are you doing?]
???: [Humu, yeah. Let's say that I escaped from an uninteresting situation, I guess.]
What an exaggerated person.
Her voice was cute and clear, but for some reason, she felt an incredible majesty that did not correspond with it.
However, it was precisely because such words came out of this person's mouth, it made Petra clench her fists unconsciously.
Petra: [It's impossible to run away because you are not interested. If you always run away, you will develop a habit.]
???: [Huh? How courageous, you dare to lecture Moi. But! Moi has always ignored unpleasant situations and lived as she pleased. This meeting will continue to be. So, what's wrong?]
Petra: [If this goes on, won't you one day be abandoned by people important to you?]
???: [Isn't this the thinking of the weak who shifts their own way of living onto others?]
She doesn't know if it was Petra's words that ignited her fuse, but the girl suddenly lowered her head. On the side of the hood, golden bangs were reflected in her blue eyes underneath a faint glow.
The young girl's words are unusually firm and strong, containing an unshakeable will. However...
Petra: [It is not a matter of being strong or weak! Nor does it have anything to do with the idea of being annoying or troublesome! What's so strange about wanting to be gentle with people?]
Petra: [It's difficult to be gentle with others. But if you keep insisting on not doing it, you'll develop the habit of running away, you really won't be able to do it ever. So...]
Beyond those words, Petra felt a vortex of emotions swell inside her heart.
Yes, it is difficult to be gentle with others. In the past, back when she thought she was the centre of the world, Petra didn't discover it as a matter of course until the end. Something that a gentle person taught her.
She has been living blissfully in the gentleness of gentle people.
...So, Roswaal must've protected Petra as well.
It seemed that she had said something that was not very pleasant, and she seemed to have lowered her head unconsciously, but Petra immediately raised her head.
In her mind, that voice echoed. ...Keep your eyes open all the time.
???: [Well, what a wonderful encounter. What a heart-wrenching expression.]
In front of Petra like this, the girl crossed her arms and murmured softly in an inexplicably happy mood. The smile at the corner of her mouth made Petra feel a sense of deja vu.
That's right, this is the ill-smile that Roswaal often showed to Petra.
???: [Moi likes you very much, little girl. In respect to your frank and awe-inspiring opinions, Moi shall step back this time. Since you are in this mansion, surely you must also be attending the dinner party? Moi shall bring you heavenly pleasure.]
Pointing to Petra's chin, the girl spoke with confidence. Petra looked confused
Petra: [Uh. Speaking of which, who are you?]
???: [Fufu, don’t be scared when you hear it. Moi am Dias Lepunzo Elemanso Oplane Fatsbalm VI! Little girl, be proud! It's really amazing for a temperament master like Moi-self to be taken aback! As for this reward, you shall receive it tonight!]
With such a declaration, the girl, Dias walked out of the atrium with a big laugh. Then she was quickly seen by the servants of the mansion and was carried away on their shoulders and taken away.
Petra half flinched and furrowed her eyebrows
Petra: [What a strange name...]
She can't help but whisper the feeling that any ordinary person would feel when they hear it.