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As Theo said, if Clara becomes the exclusive pharmacist for the Crown Prince, then she won’t be mocked as the family’s ‘freeloader’ any longer.
Isaac is currently bursting with anticipation, imagining that he’ll be able to stay by my side every day. And Louis, who has been acting like a stranger, spending all of his time roaming around out of the house, has been caught by our mom and is now diligently staying at home.
“His Highness Alex looked happy as well.”
The day my entrance into the palace was confirmed, Alex showed a bright, genuine smile for the first time in a long while. Alex was extremely serious and cold in front of the Emperor and when he smiled, everyone around him blushed involuntarily.
“It would be nice if he smiled a little more.”
It’s only right for such a beautiful smile to be spread around as a public service for the benefit of the people. Theo, who heard what I said, shrugged and shook his head.
“His Highness Alex is a cold man by nature.”
I know that. When we first met, he kept staring at me with an expression of displeasure.
Still, I think his impression has softened considerably. Theo braided my hair and continued to speak.
“He mostly kept away from others, so there was no one around him. But it’s definitely changed these days.”
“Because he left for the battlefield?”
“I think there’s probably another reason…”
Leaving it at that, Theo tied a ribbon securely to my hair. He’s such a delicate brother.
“There you are, Ciel.”
Clara stopped by Theo’s room in order to find me. My sister is also busy preparing to leave our beloved house and enter the palace.
“Ciel would never do anything to harm me.”
How could I hate a sister who has such endless trust in me? Clara fiddled with the hair that Theo had braided.
“What were you two talking about that was so interesting?”
“Oh, that is…”
I had decided not to talk about politics with Clara. My sister, whose face revealed everything she was thinking, couldn’t lie.
“I was, uh… talking about marriage with Theo.”
Well, we had been talking about what would happen if I married Stan anyway. Since our conversation had been abruptly cut off and because of what I said, Clara misunderstood what I meant.
“Theo, are you getting married?”
“No! I’m not!”
My precious, flustered brother Theo… His face turned bright red like a boiled octopus because he didn’t know what to do. Clara is quite good at reading the room and she immediately realized that I had been joking.
“Ciel, you shouldn’t make fun of Theo.”
“Theo, I’m sorry.”
As an apology, I approached Theo and kissed him on the cheek. If I lay the groundwork like this, it will be easier for Theo to ask Clara to kiss him on the cheek whenever she’s grateful later.
Ugggghhh. Think of the big picture. Clara was smiling with delight, so Theo happily allowed me to kiss him on the cheek without pushing me away.
“Ciel! There you are!”
The ever-jealous Isaac barged into Theo’s room looking for me. He got a clear view of me kissing Theo on the cheek. Jeeze. I didn’t want to get caught like this.
“Ah! Theo, you’re so mean. You’re the only one getting kisses from Ciel!”
Isaac, burning with jealousy, easily lifted me up into his arms. His slender physique was oddly strong. I had to give Isaac as many kisses on the cheek as I had given Theo.
“You guys are sure having fun.”
Louis, who had entered the room at some point, made sarcastic remarks while looking over at us.
Still, it’s a little sad to think that there isn’t much time left for us to be boisterous like this.
My three beloved older brothers, my precious older sister, and my wonderful parents… I think I would be fine not getting married, so long as I could live with this kind of nice family for the rest of my life.
* * *
In midsummer, under the scorching sun, the social season draws to a close and the majority of nobles vacate the capitol.
However, just as the Emperor cannot leave the capital, those of the historic Duke Valentine’s family also remain. That is, until this year.
“Ciel, are you all ready?”
This year is an exception. Clara, Isaac, and I are leaving home to enter the Crown Prince’s palace, so my parents made a big decision and planned a family trip.
With two weeks left before we enter the palace, my family decided to go on a fairly long summer vacation. When I came out holding Clara’s hand, Isaac, who was more maturely dressed than usual today, greeted me.
“Ciel, you look adorable again today!”
“You’re stylish too, Isaac.”
I had promised to stick with Isaac during this trip. While my sister went to look at some other luggage, I observed the endless procession.
Two adults, three teenagers, and two children… Including our seven family members and all of our attendants there are more than one hundred people on this journey.
If he had been alone my dad would have traveled by magic, but this is our summer vacation. Dad, who secretly enjoyed employing mundane methods, doesn’t use magic for personal matters.
I’ve heard that it’s quite a long ride to the villa. But I won’t get bored along the way because I can plan what I’ll do when I enter the Imperial Palace.
I should start by making a list from memory of the people who could harm Clara, comparing whether their positions are higher or lower than mine is currently. And, of course, I also need to prepare some countermeasures to deal with whatever the Princess brings out in the future.
This is actually my last summer vacation before I make my social debut… And even though I haven’t debuted yet, I still have a lot to do.
“How should we split the carriages?”
No matter how big a normal carriage is, it will be cramped if more than four people ride in it. But it’s a bit excessive to make a special carriage for our whole family to ride in.
I thought they’d decide how to split up and then let me know, but somehow everyone was waiting for me to speak.
“What do you want to do, Ciel?”
Oh yeah. Ciel is the little queen of the Valentine family. It seems clear that my mom, my dad, Clara, and Isaac all want to ride in the same carriage as me.
Louis, in particular, was giving me a look, asking me to save him. If he rides in the same carriage as Mom and Dad, he’ll probably have to endure all sorts of nagging along the way.
His desperate eyes were hard to ignore. I glanced in Theo’s direction.
“I don’t know. What should I do?”
Based on the subtle pressure that my brother, who is my partner in our implicit alliance, is aiming at me, he seems to be pleading to join me in whichever carriage I’ll be taking with Clara.
The trip takes three days by carriage and it’s possible that something good might happen if those two are together. As if possessed by Solomon, the decision became clear. 
“I think it would be better to divide up into an adult carriage and a child carriage. I’ll ride with Isaac and Louis.”
“Are you really okay with that?”
If I was someone totally fixated on their sister, of course I would insist on riding with Clara.
When I said that I was willing to ride separately, both our parents and Clara were surprised.
But I had come to this decision after much thought. I clasped my sister’s hand firmly and took her over to our mom.
“I’ll end up returning to the house sooner or later, but Clara is independent now. I’m sure Mom has a lot of things she needs to teach her.”
Now that she’s become an exclusive pharmacist, Clara will continue to live in the palace. That’s why she should try to learn more from our mom before she leaves.
At my incredibly praiseworthy words, Mom looked at me, deeply moved. ‘Our daughter has grown up so well.’ I could hear a voice coming from my mom’s heart.
“Ah, that’s true, isn’t it? Clara has already reached that age.”
I decided to entrust my sister to Theo. I had to make plans for the future with my other two brothers.
It will also be necessary to come up with a strategy to deal with the endless stream of suitors that will appear when she enters the Imperial Palace. As a young kid, my words don’t hold much weight, so I just hope that Theo and our parents will take care of that part and teach her well.
“Then, should I ride with the younger kids?”
An unexpected ambush appeared. My dad said that there might be some issues if the children rode alone, trying to vie for the seat next to me.
“Oh come on, Dad needs to stay next to Mom.”
I smiled sweetly as I crushed my dad’s hopes. Dad, I’m sorry, but today is really not the right time.
I can’t tell my dad about the things related to my sister. If the important Duke of Valentine himself steps in, things will get too big.
Pushing my disappointed dad into a carriage, I climbed into another carriage with Isaac. Having avoided our parents’ nagging, Louis laid himself down across the spacious seat with a sigh.
“Louis. You’re grateful, aren’t you?
Even though he snorted, he didn’t deny it, so it seems like he’s actually grateful.
If there’s one thing I hope for, it’s that my mom and my dad will somehow be able to understand Theo’s feelings.
Now that I’ve started supporting Theo and Clara as a couple, I pray that this chance will help those two realize each other’s feelings.
The carriage started off and we decided to commence our full-scale, operational meeting.
“So, when are you going to enter the palace?”
This idiot Louis doesn’t even know when I’ll be entering the palace.
“There are two weeks left. I’ll be entering the palace right after this trip is over, so Mrs. Lisbon must be busy.”
Since they’re entering the palace for their jobs, my sister and brother have separate work attire. In contrast, I’m entering as a so-called ‘esteemed guest’, in other words, as a ducal princess, which complicates things.
Princess Lotte is well-connected, so a lot of noble wives frequent the Imperial Palace. Now that I’m entering, she will definitely try to ensnare me using any possible means, like a tea party or a ball.
If I show up looking sloppy, beyond just my own honor, it will damage the honor of the Valentines. I’m entirely convinced that will happen, but at the very least, my mom and Mrs. Lisbon are.
I’ve had countless dresses made so that I can wear a different one every day and, of course, I’ve made every effort to ensure that not even a single accessory was neglected.
I’m still growing, so we didn’t have to go overboard, but the adults are making a big fuss, so everything keeps getting bigger and bigger.
Still, if I get a head start on dressing glamorously before I enter, no one in the Imperial Palace will pointlessly mess with me or attack me.”
I stared intently at my two brothers within the moving carriage.
“You two understand why I’m entering the palace, right?
Last night, before we departed, Theo and I roughly explained the situation.
There are forces at play somewhere targeting Clara. Everyone agrees that it’s impossible to predict what else might happen if we send the absent-minded Clara into the palace alone.
However, opinions are divided on whether I need to go myself.
 Solomon, as described in some Abrahamic religions, was a king known for his cleverness and wisdom.