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    W-wait, if I remember correctly, the effects of the youth potion shouldn’t wear off for another week, right!?

    How in the world did it happen so early… Ah!?

    Th-that’s it, the magic dispelling potion from earlier!

    The one the lord mentioned, the “magic dispelling potion procured from the black market”! The one with terrible side effects because it wasn’t a proper potion!

    At first, it only reversed the magic that changed my hair and eye color, but with a delay, it also dispelled the youth magic…!

    …No wonder the lord was so utterly perplexed.

    From his perspective, the person in front of him suddenly transformed into a crossdressing grown man.

    It’s almost like a pervert suddenly appeared before his eyes. He must have been quite shocked. For that, I sincerely apologize.

    “But this is troublesome…”

    I had planned to casually leave this lord’s mansion while the lord was paralyzed and unable to move… But there’s no way I won’t be seen as suspicious if I move around the mansion in this form! I’ll be reported as a deviant in no time!

    “Um, some clothes, a change of clothes…”

    For now, I tear the skirt with my hands, take off the vest, and unbutton the shirt.

    However, that doesn’t lower my level of deviancy.

    As I was wracking my brain over what to do, someone suddenly grabbed my ankle.

    “Whoa!?”

    Startled, I lifted my foot, and the hand that had been grasping it let go.

    Looking down, I noticed the smokescreen from earlier was gradually dissipating. Within it, the lord was curled up on the carpet, reaching out towards my ankle.

    “Ngh…”

    It seemed the lord was still under the effects of the smokescreen’s paralysis, as there was little strength in his hand. Therefore, I could easily shake him off just by lifting my foot, but that was surely only a matter of time.

    I need to hurry and procure a change of clothes and escape from here before the lord regains control of his body…!

    But a change of clothes… Ah, what if I strip the lord of his clothes and borrow them?

    My conscience twinges at the thought of doing something akin to robbery, but this is an emergency. In the first place, it’s because of this person’s scheming that I ended up crossdressing.

    “W-wait!”

    As I inched closer to the lord, he called out to stop me.

    I thought he had realized I was about to strip him, but for some reason, the lord was gazing at me with an expression of deep emotion.

    “To think that I would meet you again… in a place like this…”

    “…?”

    I wonder what he means by “again.”

    As far as I know, today is the first time I’ve met this person…

    “…If a member of the Black-winged Knights is here… does that mean the Blue-winged Knights have already obtained the petition? Was the one you gave me a fake?”

    I silently nodded in response to the lord’s question.

    It seems the lord knows me. He even appears to be aware that I’m a member of the Black-winged Knights.

    Come to think of it, he mentioned the triumphal parade in the capital earlier. Perhaps he remembered my face from that time? If so… he has an incredible memory!

    “…If the real petition has already been handed over to the Blue-winged Knights… there was no point in risking your life to save that young man. Why did you come to rescue him? Are you two really siblings?”

    The lord looked up at me with an expression filled with bewilderment. Ironically, our positions had reversed from earlier.

    “No, we’re not siblings. The first time I met him was when I saved him from being attacked by your subordinates.”

    My words only seemed to confuse the lord further.

    He stared at me as if looking at something incomprehensible.

    “You went out of your way to risk your life to save a complete stranger…? It wasn’t a mission for the Black-winged Knights, was it? Why would you do that?”

    “Why, you ask?”

    “Why would someone as young and beautiful as you involve yourself in such dangerous matters… If it were me, I would never let you experience such hardships. I would have given you a life of comfort and provided you with anything you desired… Why…”

    The lord bowed his head, shaking it from side to side with a sorrowful expression.

    However, I should be the one asking “why.”

    Does he still not understand?

    “He… Rido, isn’t he one of your people? And yet, you of all people refer to him as ‘a complete stranger’?”

    “…!”

    The lord looked up at me with a startled expression.

    …Ah. I feel like this is the first time today that our gazes have truly met.

    Somehow, it feels like he’s finally seeing the real me, here and now.

    “You’re a pitiful person. If you can’t even value the lives of your own people, your love will never be requited.”

    “I-I…”

    I don’t know who in the Black-winged Knights this person fell in love with—whether it’s Iris or someone else… But regardless of who it is, there’s no one in our order who would be happy with this approach!

    Well, I suppose this person too was driven to such actions out of desperation and being consumed by love…

    Perhaps for him, never receiving a single reply to his letters was a completely unexpected turn of events.

    He’s the lord of such a large territory and a noble at that. So, he must have had absolute confidence in himself.

    This person possesses social status, wealth, appearance, and prestige—everything. He probably lived a life where he was constantly popular without having to do anything himself.

    However, the object of his affections completely ignored the letters he sent.

    Considering the values of this world, he probably never imagined he would receive such a response.

    Could it be that this caused his feelings of love to become completely twisted?

    Thinking about it that way, I can’t help but feel a bit sorry for him… But still—

    “…I see. I was mistaken from the very beginning.”

    As I was lost in thought, the lord muttered sadly.

    “No matter how much money I offered or how high I raised my rank… from the start, I was not a man who could obtain such a flower.”

    The lord had a somewhat lonely expression. But it also seemed as if a burden had been lifted from him.

    He raised his head again and gazed at me with passionate eyes.

    “But, if you don’t mind, could you tell me one last thing? …For example, what kind of love letter would have moved your heart?”

    “Hm? Is my opinion good enough?”

    “Yes.”

    A love letter, huh?

    Well, there’s no need to overthink it.

    “There’s no need to write anything complicated. If it were me, I’d be happy just knowing that you like me.”

    “…!”

    Rather than suddenly offering to hand over half of his territory or whatnot, I think it would have been better if he had simply written that.

    In the end, this person probably lacked the courage to straightforwardly tell the person he liked that he liked them. That’s why he resorted to all sorts of roundabout methods and ended up sabotaging himself.

    If only he had someone around him who could have advised him on such matters…

    —As we were talking, the hallway suddenly grew noisy.

    Someone knocked on the door hastily.

    Oh no! Could it be the knights from earlier returning!?

    “Gorera-sama, we’ve returned! May we enter?”

    “…No, don’t come in. Don’t even open the door. Stand by there.”

    However, in contrast to my panic, the lord calmly addressed the knights outside the door.

    His words seemed to surprise not only me but also the knights outside, who let out a confused voice.

    “Huh… But, that girl from earlier is still in the room with you, isn’t she?”

    “Yes, we’re together. But you don’t need to worry about this child. More importantly… hurry and send someone to summon the captain of the Blue-winged Knights here. And give the order to withdraw the knights from Belkarna as well.”

    “Wha…!? B-but, that’s…”

    “Just go, quickly! …Don’t worry, I won’t hold you responsible for this.”

    There was a lingering sense of confusion outside the door for a while, but eventually, the knights slowly departed.

    I stared at the lord in front of me, surprised. He seemed to have finally recovered from the paralysis, as he stood up unsteadily and looked at me with a faint smile on his lips.

    “Now then… let’s have a change of clothes prepared for you before the guest arrives. That outfit is cute too, but it’s a bit too stimulating, you see.”

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