Chapter Eighteen: Here comes Mother
Tip tap, tip tap – the sound of clicking heels echoed in the corridor.
That person was marching towards the parlor.
Earlier than expected, Bernard’s heart was racing.
Clutching his fist tightly, he waited for her to arrive.
When Eric’s hand moved towards the door to open it, he stood up. Agnes followed suit.
Standing at the door was an elderly lady. Clad in a collared day dress, she held a folding fan in her hand.
By simply standing there, she seemed to exude a special aura. If one were to meet the lady’s eyes, they would inadvertently bow to her beauty.
「How do you do, Bernard」
「Ah, how are you…」
It’d been a long time since he had a conversation with his mother, so he ended up reacting like a bonehead.
The moment she stepped foot into the parlor, the atmosphere in the room had tensed up.
Bernard began to introduce Agnes to his mother and his mother to Agnes.
As he was extremely nervous, he repeatedly fumbled his words. He looked unbelievably uncomposed that if he had just remembered to calm down, his behavior wouldn’t have ended up seeming suspicious.
His mother, Oceanne, had opened her folding fan and held it up, concealing her lips mid-way through the conversation so he couldn’t decipher her expression.
Narrowing her eyes, she examined her son who was in a feverish haste.
「Geez, Bernard. Fufu, you sure are nervous」
「… No, well, yes」
「Even though we’re family」
While saying 「You don’t have to be polite around me」, she elegantly folded her fan. Her facial expression exposed, Oceanne had a smile painted on her face. Having said that, that did not put him at ease at all.
Bernard remembered the words Gigille had once said to him. 「A woman conceals her true feelings beneath her smile」.
Staying cautious of his mother, Bernard observed as Oceanne gazed directly into his eyes as she walked briskly, drawing closer to him.
As soon as he turned his face away, unable to withstand her probing gaze any longer, she patted him on the shoulder.
「――I’m proud of you. I’m proud of everything you’ve done.」
What’s that supposed to mean? Bernard’s mind blanked out at her words.
On one hand, although his mother’s words were spoken with an air of indifference, her smile showed her affection.
「Judging from that blank look on your face, you don’t understand it at all, do you?」
He reflected upon his actions, trying to decipher what it was she was praising him for. Hypothetically, was she proud of the fact that there was a girl that he was seeing with the intention of marrying her?
「Well, let us set aside that conversation for later—」
Let’s sit first and let him take a moment to calm down. It was perfect timing as Eric walked in bringing tea for them.
It had been many years since Oceanne met Eric so she was feeling nostalgic.
「By the way Eric, are you married yet?」
「No, not yet」
Eric smiled as he responded to her but inside, he completely understood the mixed feelings that Bernard had. While both parties were gauging each other, Eric withdrew from the room.
The room fell silent.
Bernard, breaking away from the unpleasant atmosphere, sipped a mouthful of his tea.
The tea was a herbal tea known for its’ calming effect but it did nothing for Bernard.
It was simply bitter.
Unexpectedly, it was Agnes who broke the silence.
Whilst indicating the cookies on the table, she began to speak.
「Umm, these confections, I baked them together with Gigille yesterday」
「My, is that so?」
「Though I said that, all I did was cut them up with a cookie cutter」
「The molding was skillfully done」
「Thank you. If you like, please have some」
Catching her breath as she drank her tea and ate the cookies, the atmosphere in the room mood lightened up slightly.
Oceanne addressed Agnes.
「Agnes-san, thank you so much」
She bowed her head deeply as she thanked her. Conveyed through that was her great joy that Bernard’s marriage was finalized.
「Growing up amongst his brothers and moreover, since he was in the Order of the Knights for quite some time, he is not accustomed to being around women. Was he ever discourteous to you?
「No. Not once has he done anything of that sort with me」
There was no way she was calm in the slightest.
Was it because she felt guilty when she lies or was it because she felt shy talking about herself to others? It was impossible to tell from the situation.
Once again, Bernard took another sip of the bitter herbal tea, holding it in his mouth.
My son’s expectations and his likes don’t matter, Oceanne thought, taking a deep breath before resuming the conversation.
「Agnes-san, the matter at hand has given me quite a headache. It’s all so sudden that I am speechless」
「No, it’s fine…. I apologize for causing you so much trouble」
「You’re not the one to blame」
「Thank, you …」
Though Bernard had not written about Agnes’ family circumstances in his letter, it was prominently featured in the newspapers that even his mother who resided in the countryside, got wind of it.
Initially, Bernard had suggested that Agnes would pose as a daughter from another household when they were planning out the fake fiancée strategy. It was impossible for him to imagine his mother would ever accept a girl from a ruined family.
However Gigille rejected that notion, saying that typically there was no such scenario where a fiancée cohabitated with her fiance.
Moreover since Bernard’s mother, Oceanne was strongly sentimental, Gigille asserted that the rebellion would have no effects on her when it came to the affairs of him marrying Agnes.
Therefore, Agnes will remain as herself and be introduced as such.
Gigille’s prediction came to fruition, he thought as he witnessed his mother wiping her tears with her handkerchief.
Once more, he took another sip of the herbal tea.
Somehow it felt like he was calming down. He thought the effects were kicking in when—
「So, would you mind telling me how it all began till the both of you got engaged?」
The unexpected question caused him to spurt his tea.
He had braced himself for it but he had never expected her to ask about it this soon.
Oceanne grasped her handkerchief tightly, looking at him with her gaze full of anticipation.
With a monotone voice, Bernard began to narrate the lies he had memorized of their budding romance.
「…We met five years ago」
「Oh my, that far back!?」
Even though he was frantically trying to recall the details while he talked, his mother’s interjection caused him to forget the sequence of events.
While he tried to recollect the next event that occurred, she arbitrarily spoke to Agnes.
「Agnes-san, what was your impression of my son when you met him?」
He wanted to stop his mother from asking such a highly difficulty question but with her face hidden behind her folding fan so that it was unseen by Agnes, she silently sent a「Don’t get in the way」stare at him.
Struck by her exceptionally piercing gaze, he was at a loss for words.
If he had spared a glance at Agnes’ face, he would have noticed much earlier that she was no longer as nervous as she was before.
However, there was nothing in the script about their first impressions of each other. He was immediately at his wit’s ends. All hope was lost.
「We met at an evening party, the year I debuted in high society」
「Oh my, really?」
Although Agnes was slightly nervous, she wasn’t as open about it as Bernard was. So she kept going.
「The first time I heard his name from my attendant, I was surprised… At that time, I was engrossed with a story about a bear that was a knight. Never would I have thought that I would meet a knight bearing the name of the bear in real life that unconsciously, I started wondering what sort of person he was—」
On that day, five years ago, the meaning of Agnes’ indiscernible gaze towards Bernard finally came to light. It was her shortsightedness that caused an outrageous misunderstanding.
As one could hardly imagine that her reason for squinting her eyes was so that she could see better, there was nothing she could do about it.
After that, somehow or rather, the conversation progressed smoothly.
When the dread of meeting her in person had come to an end, he returned to his room to rest whereupon his mother, Oceanne, in walked.
He was astounded, given that Eric had let her waltz in.
「I-Is there something?」
「Well, I thought of having a little chat with you」
Even though this was his room, he offered his seat to his mother and choose to stand.
「… Well, about what?」
「There’s no need to be guarded with me. All I want is to hear your part of the story」
Puzzled, Bernard determined that his mother was still not pleased.
He wondered whether she would rejoice if he had a promotion but it was unlikely to happen.
「That was quite a decision with Agnes. Making a decision on household matters without consulting me is not something praiseworthy, and by no means should you have done that」
The king didn’t seem to have a good opinion of Agnes’ family. If it was discovered that they had saved the daughter, there was a possibility that Bernard’s family, the Orlellian’s, standing will deteriorate.
「Please forgive me. I did not think the matter through…」
「It’s fine. Unlike the capital, it had little to no effect in the far distant territories」
Bernard realized he had not considered the effects it would have on his family if his act of saving Agnes was exposed.
His mother had forgiven him already but he apologized once more.
「Well, still. How about we forego the engagement announcement party?」
「Yes, of course」
She then ordered him to protect Agnes henceforth so that she would not feel unwanted.
Bernard was convinced that the conversation was coming to an end. Alas! It was not.
「Let’s hold the wedding ceremony in our territory」
「Agnes’ family? Her father is dead but what about her mother or her siblings?」
「Her mother passed away when she was little and she doesn’t have any siblings so–」
「I see. If that’s the case, I don’t need to sit down and discuss Agnes’s wedding dress with them at all」
The conversation was progressing so quickly that Bernard was in shock. Whilst he was in that stupor, she mentioned to him that it was considerably late even if she were to act now since it takes a while to design the wedding dress.
「I’ve been yearning for this, you know? To get you a bride and organize your wedding. Ah~ my long cherished dream has finally come to fruition」
「Wait a seco-…….」
「Time is precious. And so, I bid you adieu, my little bear」
「Wha– little bear!? Oy!?」
While Bernard was at loss for words, Oceanne exited the room.
Upon his mother’s exit, while gazing at the shut door, Bernard pinched his cheeks thinking that this had to be a dream.
It hurt like usual.