The old butler hurriedly wiped away his tears and hunched down to shake hands with Rere.
“My name is Allendra Celtel. You may call me Allen. In the past, I worked as a butler for the Petri Family. People call me Old Butler since I worked as a butler until I grew old.”
Hearing his affectionate way of talking, Rere only chewed at her lips without answering.
After quite some time, Rere opened her mouth.
“If that’s the case, I’ll call you Old Butler, too!”
“I’d be happy if you called me that, but…”
The Old Butler’s eyes turned to Ian. His eyes quivered endlessly as if he didn’t dare to use that name in front of the Duke.
“If it’s okay with you, I’d be grateful if you let us call you that. It seems the child wants it that way.”
“Yes! I’m fine with that.”
He looked really touched by that. It was at that point he wondered if it was okay for him to be this happy.
His wrinkly hands trembled.
It was hard for someone to devote their entire life to one master only. But the old butler was kicked out in an instant after spending his whole life like that. He had every right to be angry, but he looked at Rere affectionately as if he had been waiting for this day.
He was just like her grandfather. The oldest person Rere ever met, and the one who cared more about her than anyone else. I was happy watching him.
“Don’t you have more to discuss with me? Instead of standing around like this, would you like to talk over a cup of tea?”
“Sure. Let’s go inside, Rere.”
At my urging, Rere went straight into the house.
We were too stunned by what had just happened to react at the time, but the old butler turned around and grinned like a grandfather who had grown accustomed to his adorable granddaughter.
“Then, shall we go in?”
Ian and I looked at each other before nodding.
“Big Bunny! Big Bunny! Come here, quick!”
Having entered first, Rere was busy calling me as if something big had happened. I rushed to the source of the sound in case something really happened.
But what I actually discovered were two cats that were each about the size of an adult male’s palm.
As if to show their strong uniqueness, one had black fur, and the other had white fur.
Catching up to us from behind, the old butler laughed.
“I didn’t know since there have been no visitors at home, but these guys seem to like people very much.”
“Have you always had cats as pets?”
“Yes. I already owned them when you came to visit. But since the situation was still vague at the time, I left them in my room. They’re my babies and my family.”
The old butler wore a proud smile and continued.
“A family of cats lost their mother in a carriage accident a few months ago. Since nobody took them, I did. Only the remaining two of the five siblings did not leave, still acting as though they own my house.”
In the meantime, the cats circled around Rere, who was squatting down.
“They must like me!”
“I guess so.”
The cats cavorted in front of Rere and meowed.
“I must be really lucky. I’m talking about having the three of you come to my house. Today is really a strange day. I went to buy bread in the morning, and suddenly thought of buying cookies. Even though there’s no one to visit…I bought cookies that I don’t even eat.”
“Maybe I had a hunch this would happen. I had been worried that I didn’t treat you properly last time.”
With a big smile, he walked to the place where he served me tea last time.
There was a sofa that looked cozy, and a basket on the table was full of cookies.
“Did you buy this many cookies today?”
“W-Would you please sit down first? I’ll bring out the tea.”
He looked happy when he saw Ian nodded at his words.
He looked like a grandpa who was waiting for his grandchild to come during holidays, preparing foods that his grandchild might like. The old butler must have been buying cookies every day in anticipation that we might come. He thought of us even if he himself didn’t eat sweets.
I got emotional for a moment.
“I should have come earlier.”
“I’m already grateful that you’re here.”
Meanwhile, the old butler was busy preparing plates and boiling water, then awkwardly scratched his head as he passed by us and disappeared into the kitchen.
“I don’t think he only bought these today, Leona.”
And Ian observed the basket and spoke with very sad eyes.
“Each of the cookies has the date made on its bag to ensure freshness. And if you look here..the dates are all different.”
“He must have anticipated our visit…I told him before that we’d pick him up.”
Then, he returned from the kitchen.
“I also bought tea that is popular these days. O-Of course, I didn’t buy it solely for Madam. I just felt too isolated…s-so I wanted to try something trendy.”
Before I knew it, a steaming white tea was poured in front of me.
Given that the aroma emanated only by pouring water, the tea leaf must be of high quality.
“It smells very good.”
“That’s a relief. I bought cocoa for my young lady because I didn’t know what you like. I heard adding marshmallows on top of it is also popular among young aristocrats.”
“Did you buy something for Rere, too? Just in case we showed up…?”
“I apologize if I burdened you.”
“Not at all. I didn’t feel burdened at all. I’m just grateful that you care about us like this.”
Silence lingered over us for a moment. Ian only sipped the tea that the old butler served without a word, and I just looked at Rere as she played with the cats.
“Rere, you don’t want to drink cocoa?”
“Yeah! I’ll drink it later!”
Meanwhile, the old butler fluttered his fingers like someone who was ruminating, before finally smiling.
“Actually, I even thought you might not come back after leaving like that.”
“I didn’t inform you about the time then.”
“No, I may just have been anxious. I really can’t believe that you’re looking for me like this…I feel like this is more than enough. All I wanted is to see you once again. So thank you very much.”
“So please don’t feel burdened. This is really all I need. This old man won’t have any regrets even if he were to die today.”
Looking at him like that, I nudged Ian on the ribs.
“But I don’t think you should die this way.”
“Come with us.”
The duke who should have visited here and apologized to the butler no longer existed. Nevertheless, Ian looked at him despondently. Luca is Duke Ian Petri. And I was sure that Ian shared the regret that Duke Petri felt for the old butler.
That was why Ian looked at the butler with affection. Ian slowly opened his mouth as if he had made up his mind.
“I am unable to say sorry for everything. Old Butler. I’m sorry that I kicked you out even after taking care of me since I was a child, and even leaving you in this state.”
“I’m sorry for repeatedly trying to get you to leave this place only because I thought you, who knew about my past, may pose a threat to my life.”
Ian’s voice trembled.
I could tell what Ian was thinking just by his voice. I was aware of how hard it was to own one’s faults and apologize.
Especially when he was an aristocrat who never bowed his head to anyone since he was born.
So I held Ian’s hand tightly so that it wouldn’t tremble.
Only then did Ian’s trembling subside a little.
“I’m not asking you to accept my apology. I’m apologizing for my own peace. So you don’t have to be pressured to accept my apology.”
“I think it’s enough to hear you say this. Actually, I don’t resent you. I understood everything. If I have to be honest with you, I might have erased all of the hatred I had for you. The moment I saw you three standing outside that door…I’m just grateful to be alive.”
The old butler wiped his tears while smiling widely.
“So it’s alright now. You really don’t need to be sorry. I mean it.”
“I’m really grateful for what you said, Old Butler. So I’m going to bother you a little today.”
Suddenly changing the subject, Ian raised his teacup and drank it.
“If you don’t mind, would you like to return with me?”
“To the duchy. Like before, I need you to stick by my side and give me advice if I make a mistake.”
“…Is it a difficult request for you?”
He rose from his seat with his hands trembling, and bowed his head hastily.
“Thank you very much. I’ve been longing for this day to come. The day I can return to the duchy. It’s not difficult for me at all.”
“Then, will you come with us?”
“Yes! I will gladly return to the duchy.”
Then Rere rushed over from playing with the cats and stood in front of the butler.
“Then, how about the old butler come and live with us?”
The child’s ears pricked up like a rabbit at our conversation, and she grinned brightly.
“Then, let’s go now!”
“What do you think? I think the child wants you to come with us.”
“Can I do that…”
“Of course, you can.”
“I’d like to go right away, but..I have to prepare…”
Rere looked at the old butler hesitating then drank in one gulp all the cocoa he had served and ran somewhere.
She then approached us while holding two cats on each side under her arms.
“They’re going right away!”