“It is an honor to see you again after such a long time, Lady Indra.”
The ones bowing at me were the former head maid, butler, and moreover the veteran servants and maids.
Given their not wearing any formal clothing, they’ve maybe come here on vacation? Good work in expressly troubling yourself to make the long journey.
“Long time no see. Are you in the middle of traveling? Well, no point in talking out here. Come inside,” I tried to invite them into the mansion, but they firmly refused to go beyond the entrance door’s threshold. “Don’t be such sticklers to formality. I’m already a commoner and thus of the same social standing as you. And the owner of this mansion is Sword. I’m something akin to a freeloader, but I’m Sword’s partner and as such he lets me do as I please. Anyway, follow me to the dining hall. I’m sure the others must have missed you as well.”
I forced them to enter the mansion.
“Still, you guys are all going on a trip together, huh? For that Earl Springcoat to give you a vacation… Did he eat something weird or something like that?” I asked while looking back at them, just to spot all of them kneeling. “…What’s wrong? A sudden stomach pain?”
Did they eat something weird?
“…We have come here to confess to you, Milady,” answered the butler for all of them.
….Huh? Did they do something requiring repentance?
I called Sword over to have him listen to their story as well. He looked quite bothered, but still humored me by showing up. Well, in reality I tightly hung onto his arm so that he wouldn’t escape.
“I got it, I got it, don’t worry, I won’t run away,” he said and gently caressed my head.
So, according to the butler, everyone present here had apparently served House Springcoat since the previous earl. The head maid and the maids under her came to the family as maids of my birth-mother, a former ducal daughter, whereas the butler and the servants had served under the old earl and decided to stay back out of obligation when Sword had invited them to come to our mansion, or so they said.
Okay, but what about it? It’s got nothing to do with me, has it?
Those were my thoughts after having heard their explanation up until this point, but those senior maids and servants sure had a strong sense of duty towards their respective lords. Mother had been useless trash for me, but because she had gone completely mad out of love for the earl, the maids attached to her had been tormented by their guilty conscience for having been unable to stop her or remonstrate her for this obsession.
The butler and the servants of the Earl family had decided in their hearts that they’d serve the family for their whole life as the old earl had been a man of character who possessed outstanding abilities in administration, but as it was often the case with such people, he had no eye for women. Moreover, the present earl was born late, and rather than caring about the education of him as the heir, the old earl prioritized dotting on him. The butler warned the old earl about the issues with that, but at that point it was already too late, or maybe it was simply his character by birth, either way, the present earl turned out to be a useless playboy who only messed around.
As that guy would be unable to run the earldom, the butler begged the old earl to adopt a son and bring him up as heir who would be able to protect the fief and House Springcoat. The old earl apparently sympathized with that notion, but just as he was about to put it into practice, he was met with an accident, suffering heavy injuries. Being told by the old earl to support House Springcoat and help his son where possible while on his deathbed, the butler and servants couldn’t turn down the plea, agreed to it, and tried to reeducate the son by repeatedly admonishing him, but the son ran away.
Winning over a ducal daughter while aiming for her dowry and marrying her was a good idea, but flinching away from his wife’s deep jealousy, he ran away once again.
In the meantime, the senior servants ran the territory. Despite the old earl’s plea, they quickly gave up on the son and instead pinned their hopes on me. At a tender age of three my language comprehension was perfect and so were my manners. They believed that I’d definitely become a talented woman in the future… They believed that I’d be able to protect House Springcoat as long as I didn’t get deceived by a weird man and married him, and as such, they apparently hardened their determination to help me wherever possible as a united front. Though I didn’t have a clue about any of that.
…However, once his wife died, the husband returned while bringing the daughter from his lover into the house. He shunned me while dotting on his other daughter.
After remonstrating him over and over again, they somehow managed to get the earl to manage the fief, but he didn’t listen to their advice at all and treated me coldly as he hated to run the fief, wanted to go out to play, and was eager to spend money.
While all of this was going on, I, as their last ray of hope, almost died and then left the house later on. The butler and servant apparently regretted and became terribly mortified by this.
……Ah okay, but now after all this time I don’t really care anymore. I’m happily living over here as Sword’s partner. Besides, even I’d have hated to manage a fief.
“Well…if it helps you to apologize, feel free to do so. Personally I don’t mind the past either way at this point, and thanks to my meeting with Sword, I’ve been having a blast. Rather, I feel like celebrating over having been able to escape from being an earl’s daughter. After all, I doubt I’d have been able to get out if I had been dotted on like Primrose. …Still, did you come all the way here to apologize? I can’t believe that a guy like Earl Springcoat would readily let you visit me, though.”
“We were discharged.”
Sword’s and my voice overlapped.
According to the butler, the fief’s management had recently gone downhill. The earl somehow managed to make Primrose enroll at the capital’s academy with the objective of her finding herself a rich marriage partner, but the earldom itself was deep in the red. Earl Springcoat was apparently considering remarrying to sponge off yet another dowry, but he wasn’t as young anymore, and since rumors about him had spread wide and far, he couldn’t find a partner.
And then it eventually reached following point:
“Hannibal, you failed at the administration, so I’ll dismiss you,” the earl had said and fired all the naggy servants of the old earl’s era in one swoop, the butler explained.
Since Primrose was currently absent as she had gone to the academy and because the earl himself was almost never at the mansion, the earl declared that the least required amount of maids to keep up the mansion would do, and fired all the maids of his previous wife, the head maid explained.
In short, he’s pulled off a downsizing. Apparently he couldn’t pay them any severance pay either, though.
In reality, those he dismissed had given up on the earl long ago and expected that they wouldn’t be given a severance payment anyway, so they didn’t feel salty or angry at that, but now without a job, they started to wonder what they should do next.
The head maid said, “I told everyone that, if possible at all, I wanted to meet Your Ladyship once more and apologize to you, before considering what to do about the rest of my life. Hearing that, everyone agreed.”
Since they had heard from the servants and maids, who left first, that they were making liquor in Ys together with me, all of them apparently came to visit from afar and apologize.