A chill ran down my spine.

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What is it?

I stopped my hands from pruning the roses for a second.
When I looked, there was nothing around me but my Dad and roses in full bloom, filling my vision.

When I tilted my head, Dad warned me to pay attention to my hands so I wouldn’t make a mistake.
If too many rose flowers are gathered, the nutrients would get scattered and the flowers wouldn’t get enough nourishment.
It was preferable for one flower to bloom well rather than all of them blooming halfway.
Though I think they’re pretty either way.

Probably because of the way I think, I couldn’t quite understand or remember the standards for pruning.
As I cut I’m checking with my Dad so I don’t make a mistake.
I look at how my Dad prunes and imitate him, but when I point and ask him if I can cut a part, over fifty percent of the time he would tell me to redo something.

But whenever I’m in the rose garden and it’s blooming I feel very out of place.
Neither my Dad or I are the type of person to look good with flowers, but I feel that all the more with roses.
They usually go with nobles after all.

Well of course there are roses here since this place is a noble’s home.

We finished pruning before noon.
I was leaving the courtyard with a basket full of roses that I had cut.
They’d go to waste after finally blooming so I was bringing them to the maids since they might be able to find a use for it.
It should be usable for potpourri or something.
Dad was headed to the kitchen to check if they could use it for decorations.
While he’s at it I wanted him to have the cooks share some food with us.

I suddenly stopped moving.

Then from the courtyard, I opened a glass door leading to a hallway.
Someone I didn’t know was there.

He should have been looking out into the courtyard, but the eyes on this old man, no, this young man, didn’t feel like he was seeing anything.
Maybe I thought he was an old man because his presence was thin, or because the air around him was murky.
Yeah, murky.
We’re having nice weather at the beginning of summer, but even the color of his face was quite pale.

I didn’t really need to hide so I just passed him by.

But the young man didn’t even react to my footsteps.
I tried going near him but he still didn’t respond.

Was I able to see ghosts?

A year passed since I had started working in the Ernst household, but I’ve never seen this man.
And he looks like a noble, but unlike the Ernst family members, his hair wasn’t blonde but brown.

Maybe this guy was the one giving me chills.
But could ghosts be seen this visibly? Even in my previous life I didn’t recall being able to sense ghosts.

“Mister, are you alive?”

“Eh…?”

I asked the person himself if he was a ghost or not.
When I called out to him, the man finally noticed me.

His eyes looked like fresh green leaves, but I couldn’t really feel life.
It was like a dry leaf.

After staring blankly for a little while, the man who was looking at me, or rather at my direction, slowly focused on me.
Ah, our eyes finally met.

The man noticed me.
I saw him open his eyes in surprise before he smiled somewhat sadly.
But just a little light was returning to his eyes.

“Aah… I’m fine.”

“If you’re not fine you don’t have to smile do you?”

I couldn’t shake the feeling that he was forcing himself to smile.
He didn’t have to mind himself around a kid he didn’t know like me.

Not seeming like he knew how to react, the man hardened his expression.

After confirming that he could hold a conversation, I took a yellow flower from my basket and gave it to him.

“Here.”

The man took it by reflex and stared at the yellow flower in bloom.

“I’ll give it if you want.
If you plant it, it’ll bloom.”

Yellow is a color that kinda brings out energy.
And I feel like the yellow ones had the best smells among all the roses in the garden.

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“Thank you.”

The man seemed to soften after seeing the flower.
His eyes looked more like fresh leaves as he narrowed them.
Yes.
He’s smiling naturally now.

Now, what to do.
I don’t know if this guy is a ghost or not.
Can I leave him be like this? If it’s a ghost, then he’s obviously the type who can’t rest in peace.
If I remember, for times like these, you should ask about their life story.

“Why are you so unalive?”

Ghosts by default don’t have any life in them so that might have been a weird way to phrase it.
But this is what I’m curious about.

“My wife is always sick…”

Ah, he started talking.
Maybe he really is a ghost.

“She can’t get healed?”

Saying it myself, I felt the sense of despair from my previous world for a second.
I met an accident right after I got diagnosed with my terminal illness, but if I had lived out the rest of my three months, maybe I would have had such a lifeless face too.

“Yes.
It can’t get healed… because it’s a mental illness.”

A shadow fell over his fresh green eyes.
If the problem is with the mind then there’s no medicine or anything.
Even in Japan, they only had medicines to abate the illness that came with side effects of their own.

“At this rate, when I think of what would happen if her body gives in and I lose her…”

Pann!

I took my hands off the flower basket and clapped.
The man, who had bene trying to scratch his hair off with the hand that didn’t hold a rose, snapped his head up.

“Mister, are you eating alone?”

“…Yeah.”

“You’re not eating well are you?”

“…I don’t really have an appetite.”

“Mister, if you’re a noble then don’t you have lots of friends?”

For nobles, society was involved in their work.
So fundamentally speaking, they should have high communication skills.
He must have a lot of acquaintances.

“Lots? I don’t know about that…”

“It’s okay even if it’s just every once in a while.
Eat with your friends.”

After honestly answering my question, the man gaped at my words.

“It’s because you eat alone that the food isn’t tasty.
And if your wife is sick then that means you have no family to care for you.
So you have to properly take care of yourself.”

People who nurse their family alone get cornered easily.
It’s because they forget that they can choose to rely on someone else.
If they forget, then even if you tell them that there are people around them they can trust, they may or may not listen.
So they only need to recognize that there are people near them.
All the better if they can create leeway to take care of themselves.

Well, of course he won’t just gobble these words up if a kid he doesn’t know suddenly comes up and says them to him, but it’d be great if this can give him a push.

He must’ve come to the garden because he wanted to feel healed a little bit by the greenery.

Don’t make such a gloomy face.
Be happier.
Even if I give him abstract encouragement, the one who will take care of his wife from now on will also be him.
The man himself must keep an eye on his emotional stamina, or else he won’t be able to go on.

The man widened his eyes and looked at the rose in his palm again.
Then he brought it to his face and took in the scent.
Seeing that, I was reminded that he was indeed a noble.

“I… even forgot how to appreciate flowers.”

The man smiled pitifully.
He spoke like he was about to go to heaven, but he is surely alive.
His eyes look alive now.

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Hm? Which means…

“Daniel, I noticed that you weren’t following.
So you got lost at a place like this?”

The Duke called out with a bit of anxiety in his voice.
After seeing the young man’s figure, he changed his volume as if he was relieved.

“Gerald.”

The man reacted to being called Daniel and stared at the Duke.
The Duke tilted his head at his sudden stare.

“What is it?”

“I see…”

The man smiled as if something was funny.

“So you were taking me into the mansion?”

Seeing the man purr, the Duke seemed to think for a little while before turning to me with an awkward smile.

“…Isaac, did he tell you?”
(TN: The word for tell here is the word for expose, which has the same pronunciation as rose in Japanese.)

“Huh.
Tell me what?”

What on earth was he talking about? I didn’t even know that the Duke and this man were acquainted, and he didn’t say anything about the Duke so I didn’t learn anything.
Ah, I gave him a rose.

I tilted my head as far as it could go.
The Duke smiled helplessly and introduced me to him.

“Daniel, this child is Isaac.
My house’s gardening apprentice.
Isaac, this is my friend Daniel.

If he’s a friend of the Duke then he’s a high-ranking noble.
Oh no, I spoke to him so casually.
I lowered my head and apologized right away.

“I am Isaac Baumgartner.
I’m sorry for speaking rudely just now! I thought you were a ghost from how absent you seemed.”

I heard a sound erupt above my lowered head.
When I raised it, the Duke was stifling his laughter with his hand to his mouth, and the man was smiling bitterly.
No, Daniel-sama was smiling bitterly.
(TN: I should mention that Daniel is pronounced like Dan-yell, not Dey-knee-el.)

“Being mistaken for a ghost by a child you don’t know, how fitting for you Daniel.”

“I’m actually conscious about it…”

In reply, the Duke opened his eyes a little bit more and smiled softly.
I see, a friend like him would worry.
I don’t know the situation, but if the Duke is relieved then this might be okay.

My stomach suddenly growled.
I was supposed to have lunch after taking the roses to the maids.
Come to think of it, we might have only been talking about food to begin with because I was hungry.

Daniel let out a chuckle.

“That’s a good sound.
Now I’m feeling hungry.”

“Um, er…”

“You were on your way to get some work done weren’t you? You can go back and have lunch.”

“Yes.”

Since I got permission from my superior the Duke, I picked the basket back up and excused myself with a bow.

“Isaac.”

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Someone called me and I stopped moving my feet.
Truly fresh green eyes met mine.
The yellow rose I gave him bloomed at his chest.
Daniel-sama pointed to it and said.

“Thank you.
If it blooms well I can show it to my wife too.”

I’m happy that he’ll take good care of the flower.
I returned a smile and went on my way.

After I delivered the flowers to the maids and had lunch, I was to work some distance away, past a few hallways at the summer house.
I was to prune the mini-roses surrounding the summer house while my Father would look after the water lilies and the water.

To an extent, the mini-roses could bloom well even when they’re tightly grouped together, so I didn’t have to cut much and it was easier for me.
I might only think that it’s a waste to cut them because of my cheapness.
I put the parts I cut off in the basket that was lowered at my waist.

“Please wait, Era-sensei!”

“Ojou?”

I heard Ojou at her wit’s end.
Curious, I looked towards the voice to find her coming out from an entrance in the hallway next to the central building.
Who was she chasing so frantically? She was rapidly moving at a speed walk.
Considering their difference in stride, Ojou could never catch up.

Who was that middle-aged lady? All her hair was pulled back tightly in a ponytail, and she somehow had an amazing spirit about her.

When she stopped moving for a second halfway down the hallway, she looked to the direction of the summer house I was in.
I felt as if we had made eye contact, and without thinking my body froze up.

The middle-aged woman made her way to the summer house in a straight line.
I wasn’t imagining it, she was going towards me.
She came right in front and looked down on me as if to glare.

Suddenly getting glared at by an adult I don’t know was very scary.

“You are the young lady’s shadow, yes?”

“Ha?”

I didn’t understand the meaning of her declaration.
I’m not a shadow but a human being.

“Era-sensei.”

Ojou looked panicked as she called out to the woman, trying to interrupt her.
But the woman called Era-sensei didn’t pay her any attention.
She said what she wanted to say as she looked at me fixedly.

“Your lowliness has had negative effects, even on the young lady.
If you are her shadow, then act properly!”

After speaking quickly, Era-sensei grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and took me away.

“Eeeeh?”

Without understanding the situation, I was taken away just like that.
As I left, I saw my Dad in a state of shock although his expression didn’t change much and Ojou chasing after us desperately.

Our destination was a room that had almost no furniture despite having quite some size.
On the way, I was forced to change my clothes.
I didn’t like having someone else help me change them, so I did it myself.
I didn’t know why I had to wear a scarf so I didn’t wear it.
But then a maid forced me to and combed my hair at the same time.

“What are we doing here?”

What was it? I got a bad feeling from this get-up.
I can almost imagine something, but I don’t want to accept it so I asked the other people in this place.

“This is the dance practice room.”

Era-sensei said nonchalantly.
Seriously?

“So.
Whose clothes are these?”

The fabric was really good.
They felt comfortable unlike my usual clothes, but also creepy.
And I really felt like the clothes were wearing me.

“They’re from when I was a child.”

When I looked towards the door, the Duke was smiling in enjoyment.
Huh, the Duke wore unexpectedly simple clothes.
I imagined him wearing more lacy and fluttery clothes.
No, I mean he looks good so there might’ve not been any need to dress him up all flashy.

“It’s nice that you’re wearing my clothes from when I was a child.
Isaac, what do you think? Won’t you be my son?”

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“Please stop joking.”

There are unreasonable jokes you can say.
I can’t stand next to beauty.

“That’s too bad.”

The Duke shrugged his shoulders lightly.
Ojou stiffened next to him.
She was completely motionless since we had entered the room.
What was she reacting to?

“Ojou, are you tired from running?”

When I peeked at her face, she seemed surprised and took some distance.
I didn’t do anything that surprising though.

After her eyes swam here and there, they flicked themselves the other way.

“We… Well, it suits you, doesn’t it?”

“Eh? Thanks.”

It obviously doesn’t suit me though.
I thought that it was like her to say that and said my thanks.

“If you want I can give them to you.”

The Duke said without any hesitation or delay.
I was surprised.

“Eeh, I can’t take them!”

I don’t need it.
I don’t have any opportunities to wear clothes this valuable.
I don’t know why I’m wearing them now though.

“Then how about as a birthday present? It’s close isn’t it?”

“Eh…”

“How come you know about Zac’s birthday Father!?”

“Because he’s an employee of my house.”

I don’t even know the date, Ojou seemed to be saying in frustration.
The Duke replied with a smile.
He doesn’t need to look so smug about something like my birthday…

No, it’s unfair, you can ask the person himself.
She pestered him.
Why is my employer and his daughter fighting over my birthday of all things?

“Please stop the idle chatter.”

Heels clattered on the floor, and my back straightened on its own.
She was once again looking down on me from my front.
It was scary so I wanted her to stop.

“Isaac, they said? From here on out, I will have you attend the young lady’s dances.”

“Y-Yes…”

Her intimidation compelled me to give a yes or a no.
Could I say anything but that? Even though she wasn’t the one being spoken to, even Ojou nodded her head in fear.

I finally knew why I was getting chills.

“Madam Kuhnert is quite enthusiastic about your education.
Will you comply, then, Isaac?”

“Please at least give me a rental.”

Ojou and I were spooked as the Duke continued smiling sweetly.
I really do respect him.

TN:
Hey, I’m really sorry for the delay for this chapter.
I regret to say that I won’t be able to pump out any more chapters for the next two(2) weeks either, since it’s my exam season.
But don’t worry because I don’t intend to drop this series either.

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