Chapter Sixteenth: Agnes’ Sincerity & Love
Agnes woke up from the kitten’s meowing early in the morning.
The sun had yet to rise.
It seemed to be hungry so even though it wasn’t time for her to rise from her bed yet, she rubbed her eyes and got up.
A habit that Miel the cat had from the time it received milk from its’ mother was stepping on Agnes’ chest a lot by pressing on it with its’ legs. This action was to make the milk flow out better.
Apologetically, she told Miel that was trying its best to press on it,「Milk won’t come out……」
They always ended up in that situation since they were sleeping together every night. Dominic had made a cat-bed for it but it would always slip away from it and crawl into Agnes’ bed.
As it was meowing, demanding for its’ food, Agnes told Miel to wait a little while more.
She took out a gray livery dress to change into from the dresser and placed it on the bed. There was also a set of armor-like correction undergarment (corset) used to slim down to the body line placed beside it.
First, she took off the overly large nightgown. Agnes who had only worn clothes made from silk remembered the discomfort she had at first but after a week, she had gotten used to it. Unexpectedly, she didn’t think she was bound to be adaptable since it was her. So it was admirable.
She didn’t wear anything under her nightdress. It’d been like this ever since she was a child.
The strings on the heavy correction undergarment (corset) had to be fastened first before wearing her underpants underneath it. Since the string had to be completely fastened till the end, she put as much strength as she could into tightening it.
She was surprisingly skilled in the work she put into wearing the correction undergarment (corset). It didn’t mean that the lady attendants serving at Agnes’ house hadn’t wrung her as much, but when she looked into the mirror, it was passable.
She put on an apron over the plain dress.
Tucking in a strand of her hair in front of the mirror, she washed her face and brushed her teeth in the bathroom.
Finally, her getup was complete after she put on a light makeup in front of the dressing table and tied her hair up neatly.
Agnes breathed out a small sigh after seeing the contents of her cosmetic-kit that were almost exhausted.
Placing Miel into a basket, she headed to the kitchen intended for the servants on the third floor.
She was told to make the cat food there too. It wasn’t used that often back then so now the kitchen was exclusively used to make the cat food for the kitten.
Agnes held the knife amateurly and started making a meal for Miel.
As if it couldn’t wait, it cheerfully meowed inside the basket.
「Good morning. It seems to be lively early in the morning.」
「Good morning, Gigille-san.」
Midway, Gigille showed up. She was carrying a plate with breakfast piled on top of it in her hand.
While she boiled Miel’s『simmered chicken tenderloins』in a saucepan, it was time for breakfast.
「Miel, just wait a little bit more, okay?」
As Gigille said that, she covered the basket Miel was in with a cloth. By doing so, it settled down.
On the plate was a leftover croissant 1 from yesterday, a bit of butter, fried spongy eggs, a sausage with its’ skin split open and a slice of pear.
Agnes knew Gigille would come so she had boiled water and milk to make café au lait. Then, she poured the brew into a cup.
After washing her hands, she placed the plate with her breakfast on her lap. She did it as there was no dining table.
「Does the cat still crawl into your bed? 」
「Yes. Even this morning, it was stepping on me……」
「It’s probably still going to behave that way even when it gets older.」
「Oh, I see.」
As the cat was in her bed, the relief from the warmth it gave, allowed her to sleep soundly. Agnes felt happy knowing that even when it gets older, they would still sleep together.
While they were talking, Gigille tore a piece of her croissant, dipped it into the café au lait until it was drenched in it, then threw it into her mouth. Agnes too dipped her croissant into her café au lait that had been topped with lots of sugar and milk.
Even though the bread was leftovers from yesterday, since it was reheated on the stove, the surface was crispy, and the sugar on its surface melted, wafting a sweet aroma.
The combination of the bread and the café au lait was superb.
Agnes felt embarrassed after she exclaimed her thoughts out loud. Gigille just replied,「This is the best way to eat it, right~」
When she was still a noble, this way of eating would be unacceptable but when she tried it out using the method Carol and Celia had taught her, it was surprisingly delicious.
「There are so many things outside in the world that I don’t know about……」
「Are you enjoying it?」
After she was done with breakfast, Agnes smashed and pressed Miel’s chicken tenderloins further so it would be easier to eat.
She waited for it to cool down before serving the food.
Miel began to get excited for its long-awaited meal. However, until it was served, it wasn’t able to eat it on its own yet.
Agnes scooped the chicken tenderloins with her fingers and brought them to its mouth. She observed it as it ate whilst feeling ticklish from the kitten licking her fingertips.
After its meal, she didn’t forget to urge the kitten to excrete. Since kittens couldn’t do it by themselves, it was necessary to stimulate its butt with a lukewarm cloth.
She left Miel in a corner of the kitchen. Every thirty minutes, she checked in on it to make sure that it wasn’t in any danger. After that was done, she would head down to the first floor.
She asked Gigille if there was any work that she could assist with.
There were a lot of tasks to do for a servant, such as mopping the floor, doing the laundry, cleaning the bathroom, etcetera, etcetera.
Whenever she was done with one, she’d go to see Miel, then return to help again, repeating the cycle. In a blink of an eye, it was lunchtime.
Gigille brought over her meal at the same time as she finished feeding Miel. Agnes thanked her and took the plate.
「By the way, have you heard the news from Master yesterday? 」
「About the talk of Milady’s visit? 」
「Yes. And also about his plan.」
His plan was to ask Agnes’ to act as his fiancée. Gigille asked her if she was really okay with it.
「I don’t know if I can pull it off convincingly but I’ll give it a shot.」
「…… You don’t have to force yourself, okay, Agnes-san?」
「I’m not forcing myself. I … felt delighted.」
「To act as his fiancée? 」
「Yes. I, too, have a role that I can play.」
「Oh, that’s what you mean.」
Gigille thought without a doubt that she meant that she was happy to be his fiancée even if it was just a role. Knowing that it wasn’t that, she felt somewhat let down.
「But why would you go that far for Master’s sake? 」
「Because I’m indebted to Master.」
「Were you acquainted with each other originally?」
「No, it’s one-sided for me……」
「For you? 」
Swallowing the personal sentiments that had unconsciously slipped out of her mouth, Agnes instead spoke of the time when she was indebted to Bernard.
「He helped me once at a tea party.」
It was a year after her social debut.
Agnes was invited to a tea party organized by the second prince. Calling it a good opportunity, her father told her to get close to the prince.
According to him, her debut was a failure. At that evening party, the prince was supposed to notice her.
That’s why she was told strongly not to fail this time.
The night before the tea party, Agnes was unable to sleep.
The mental strain was disturbing her good night sleep.
She wasn’t even able to swallow her breakfast and had headed to the tea party in a dizzy state.
To start with, most of the people there were drunk.
In addition to that, she had strayed away from her attendant. Since Agnes’ eyesight was bad, it was hard for her to discern things.
She quickly gave up on her attendants, prioritizing her original objective.
Squinting her eyes, she looked around, searching for the prince.
As he was surrounded by a crowd of people, it was easy to identify his whereabouts.
She quickly marched to the centre of the venue.
Although she nearly made it through the centre of the crowd, someone suddenly grabbed her arm from behind.
It surprised her so she turned around, but since she had bad eyesight, she couldn’t make out who it was.
As if he was stumped, the other party named himself.
The second son of a marquis household. Her attendant had told her not to get involved with him as there were a lot of bad rumours about his character.
Conscious of his good looks, Ernesto found Agnes’ reactions refreshing and took an interest in her.
It was simply because she was short-sighted that she was unable to discern her partner but for him, it was the first time he had ever been looked at in that manner.
She instinctively shrunk back, letting go of his hand.
When he saw her guarded reaction, Ernesto began to call Agnes ‘kitten’.
He tried to invite her to go somewhere quiet to chat. Agnes declined, telling him that she was in the middle of searching for her acquaintance.
However, Ernesto did not withdraw.
Increasingly terrified, Agnes bowed and hastily departed, but Ernesto chased after her.
Quickening her pace twice as fast, Agnes took refuge in the rose garden.
「It was there that Master helped me.」
When they met, she felt relieved that she was discovered by a knight but it was not as if Ernesto had committed a crime. Though she sought his assistance, she was hesitant.
But when she looked closely at him, she realized he was someone she was familiar with.
―― Bear Knight (Bernard)-sama! !
With the image of the bear knight from the story, Agnes admiration overlapped with Bernard’s figure, and she asked for his help.
「That is the debt you owe him?」
「But you don’t need to be indebted to him., Master was just doing his job as a knight.」
「Yes, that might be so., It’s it’s embarrassing to say, but that wasn’t the only time he saved me――」
It was three years after her social debut.
Agnes was once again chased by Ernesto. She ran in a panic to the garden and managed to somehow slip from his grasp, but this time, she was lost and didn’t know the way back to the venue.
「At the moment, I coincidentally bumped into Master and he guided me to the venue.」
「I wanted to thank him for helping me once again and also for that time in the rose garden but before I could, he was already gone……」
「That definitely must have been embarrassing.」
「Is it really? 」
「I’m afraid so. All men in their twenties are childish.」
Agnes listened to Gigille’s personal opinion with a troubled face.
It was five years after her social debut.
Only Bernard extended a helping hand to Agnes in her distress when her household fell into ruin and her money had run out.
「I was resolved to become a nun (sister).」
「Eh ! ? 」
「But the nun (sister) from the orphanage stopped me and here I am now.」
In the story, 『The Grand Adventures of the Bear Knight』, whenever the Cat Princess fell into peril, he would appear suddenly out of nowhere and save her gallantly.
Just like him, Bernard had saved Agnes many times from the dangers she faced.
「――No matter how much I thank Master, it wouldn’t really be enough.」
Agnes blushed as she talked.
Her expression was that of a maiden in love but Gigille pretended that she didn’t notice it.