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Seven-year-old Emilia was currently facing the largest impasse in her life.
Emilia was a girl who bore the mark of a misbehaving child.
Her walls were still painted with graffiti, and the sight of her feasting on other people’s snacks before dinner was hardly uncommon. On occasion, she would forget to brush her teeth at night and secretly make it up in the morning.
The adults around her constantly worried about her. Emilia was doubtlessly a clever child with a knack for causing trouble. And this clever Emilia knew when there was no way out of a crisis.
Such as the one she was currently facing.
Fortuna: “Everyone! Help! There’s a huge problem!”
A sharp-eyed, silver haired beautiful woman, Fortuna, was rushing through the forest, her face pale. This was the first time that anyone had seen the always calm and elegant Fortuna in such a panic, and so naturally both the elves and the black clad visitors to the village gather around her.
Juice: “Fortuna-sama, you’re in such a panic… what happened?”
The first person speak to Fortuna was an old friend of hers, a slender man with green hair and the representative of the black clad group. At Juice’s greeting, Fortuna looked up, and, seeing her sorrowful expression, he sobered up.
There was only one person who could make Fortuna form such an expression.
Juice: “Has… has something happened to Emilia-sama?”
Hearing Juice’s shaking voice, Fortuna turned her back to him. Clinging to it was a small, balled up girl with long silver hair. Her cute face twisted in pain as she tried to catch her breath.
Juice: “This is…! Emilia-sama, what happened?”
Emilia: “Tum-tum… tum-tum… my tum-tum hurts…”
Juice rapidly paled as he paced back and forth.
Juice: “Fortuna-sama, I am ignorant as to what ‘tum-tum’ means.”
Fortuna: “‘Tum-tum’ refers to stomach. What’s she’s trying to say is…”
Juice: “Emilia-sama has a stomachache?”
Juice confirmed with Emilia, who tried her best to make her supposed stomachache seem as unbearable as possible.
Of course, that was all a deception.
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Speaking of which, why was Emilia taking her acting so far?
The short answer was that Emilia was a poorly behaved child. The long answer was that it was because of Juice and his group.
While Emilia was locked in the Princess Room, the adults conducted secret meeting with Juice. Emilia had once met him when she’d snuck out, and she felt like they’d become friends with a shared secret.
Fortuna should have known this, but she still stubbornly kept Emilia away from Juice. This caused Emilia no small amount of grief, and she reasoned that if she faked stomach pains, Mother Fortuna would begin to panic. In her panic, she might have said something like “Is there anything you want?” and Emilia would have responded with “Let me see Juice.”
Emilia had prepared to diligently act like she was in unbearable pain, but the plan hadn’t gone the way she’d predicted. Fortuna had flown into a far greater panic than Emilia had anticipated, and seeing her mother’s fear scared Emilia as well. Fortuna had brought Emilia to the village square, and now everyone knew of her condition.
If Emilia dropped the farce right now, her life would, without a doubt, end. So she had to keep running with the lie.
Emilia: “Auh, ow, it hurts…”
Arch: “Emilia, you’re really in pain? You’re not acting?”
Arch, one of the younger elves in the village, directed a piercing question at the desperately acting Emilia. He not only abandoned her in the Princess Room, but saw through her acting and questioned her about it in front of everyone, knowing full well that she could land in even more trouble. How cruel.
Fortuna: “Arch, what a thing to say. Look at how much pain she’s in, she couldn’t be acting.”
Arch: “But, Fortuna-sama, Emilia’s never caught a cold, and she was the only one unaffected by the rotten apples that got everyone sick a while ago. Right now, she looks nothing like the healthy Emilia we know.”
Fortuna: “Then this is a pain that even our healthy Emilia can’t handle.”
Lying in the center of the village square, the desperately acting Emilia surveyed the adults. Fortuna served as Emilia’s defense against a hostile faction led by Arch, who had no way to refute her.
Juice: “This is most terrible, Emilia-sama. If… if there were any way I could bear this pain for you…”
Her cover had prevailed. Kneeling in front of her, Juice held Emilia’s hands with both of his own warm, gentle ones. His eyes were full of melancholy, and his expression filled was with worry.
Juice: “Emilia-sama once provided me with warm support, so this time, please let me pray for Emilia-sama.”
Juice: “Yes, I am afraid that there is nothing else we can do.”
A hush fell over the village square as everyone lowered their heads. Even Fortuna and Arch, who had just been arguing, fell silent. No, Fortuna, with her hand over her mouth, bore an expression that seemed to reflect an unbearable pain, and her shoulders shook lightly.
Seeing this turned Emilia’s world upside down.
How could her mere mischievous prank do this?
She’d made her mother sad, she’d made Juice worry, and she’d completely inconvenienced everyone present. No, no. She couldn’t let this continue.
Ignoring everyone’s peace of mind and imposing her own desires had resulted in this.
Fortuna: “Emilia, your mother will stay close by you until this is over…”
Fortuna: “And afterwards, we’ll play to our hearts’ content. I’m sorry, Emilia.”
Emilia: “No, wait, stop…”
Juice: “Emilia-sama, I do not know if I have the qualifications to pray for the blessings of the elves, but please let me do so.”
Fortuna gently touched her cheek, Arch covered his eyes, and Juice earnestly entered a ceremonious prayer.
Seeing this, Emilia herself wondered if she would suffer an illness and die. Tears began to well up, and she unwittingly begin to cry.
Fortuna: “Something that makes my sweet Emilia hurt like that must be awful.”
Emilia: “No… I’m… not in pain at all…”
Emilia: “My… tum-tum’s already stopped hurting, so…”
Unable to bear the guilt of her sin and the horror of her supposed death, Emilia gave a confession.
Although there was a chance that everyone would be angry, causing everyone so much sadness was obviously more important to remedy.
At Emilia’s confession, Fortuna exchanged a glance with her. Perhaps, to keep everyone from worrying even more, another lie needed to be sprinkled into this. Eventually, maybe they would tell everyone.
Emilia: “Mother Fortuna, my stomach has…”
Fortuna: “Stopped hurting?”
Emilia nodded as if sentenced as a sinner.
And this was a grand crime. Perhaps she’d have her snacks taken away, or her bedtime would be set earlier. But, beyond the Emilia’s worst-case scenarios,
Fortuna: “Emilia, that’s great.”
Emilia, who had been prepared to face a punishment, was lifted into the air by Fortuna. Fortuna, Arch, the elves, and even the black clad people; everyone cheered for her. Needless to say, so did Juice.
He gently stroked the panicked Emilia’s hair.
Juice: “Emilia-sama, your health is more important than anything. To keep Fortuna-sama and the rest of us from worrying, please remember to use a blanket in cold weather.”
Emilia: “Yeah, I will… sorry, Juice.”
Juice: “Please do not apologize, a ‘thank you’ works just fine, especially for the people who care about you. Remember that if you trouble anyone for anything, you needn’t apologize. Rather, you should thank them.”
Emilia: “Thank you, Juice.”
In response to his gentle smile and gentle words, rather than apologize, Emilia thanked him.
Don’t say sorry, say thank you. For some reason, Juice’s words lingered in her heart and were engraved into her mind.
Emilia: “Mother Fortuna, thank you. I worried you so much…”
Fortuna: “Well, you did. I was really worried. Try not to worry me so much in the future.”
Emilia: “But you’ll be more prepared to deal with it in the future.”
Fortuna: “… I wouldn’t even begin to know where to start lecturing this child.”
But Fortuna’s frown soon morphed into a beautiful smile.
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Fortuna: “Sorry you had to put on that act with me, Juice.”
Juice: “Not at all. For the sake of Fortuna-sama and Emilia-sama, I would do anything. … Although, in the beginning, I began to panic and felt like I couldn’t do it anymore.”
Fortuna give him a wry smile. Juice was slightly bent over to accommodate Emilia, who’d fallen into an exhausted sleep. Right now, she was drooling cutely into Juice’s black cloak.
Fortuna: “Ah, Emilia’s drooling… I think we have an extra cloak at home.” (The wording of this was ambiguous, but the “home” being referred to is Fortuna’s.)
Juice: “If it’s from Emilia-sama’s mouth, than for us it’s a sacred, holy blessing.”
Fortuna: “That’s taking things a bit far. If that’s true, it’s pretty disgusting.”
Fortuna tilted her head with a wry smile. Reflected in her amethyst eyes was Emilia’s sleeping form.
Fortuna: “That said, I’ll be happy if you just refrain from saying strange things in the future.”
Juice: “Of course, I watch myself in the future… She has a smile that can not conceal things, and I will pray that she’ll have a healthy and happy upbringing.”
Fortuna: “When we first came here, seeing the worry in her was terrible. Even if the guardian’s duties have been handed over to Arch, I can’t leave her side. And now, even more…”
The girl she loved was adorable, and she worried constantly. The desire to always be by her side was overwhelming.
Hearing Fortuna’s unspoken words, Juice moved his lips soundlessly. The two of them were caught in a brief silence, and then,
Emilia: “Mother Fortuna… a crybaby… just like… Juice…”
Far away in a dream, Emilia muttered a few words. Fortuna and Juice exchanged a look, and couldn’t help but laugh.
Fortuna: “She’s obviously in a dream, to be forgetting who’s protecting who.”
Juice: “Indeed. She’ll grow up to be a splendid adult. Fortuna-sama was the same way when she was little, with your brother…”
Fortuna: “Stop bringing things up from so long ago! Honestly, the people who’ve known someone since childhood are always like this. Stop treating me like a kid already.”
Fortuna turned her face away from Juice, who hurriedly searched for an explanation.
Juice: “No, no, that wasn’t what I meant…”
Emilia: “Arguing… no more…”
Toward Emilia, who used her sleep talking as advice, Juice and Fortuna shared another laugh. And, for a long time, this scene persisted.