"You've really learned how to make tea well."
"P-please forget about that past incident." Seiran blushed as he remembered how in the past, he was asked to make tea, and so he put the tea leaves directly into the cups and added hot water. Although the members of this house did drink it all.
The spring garden was looking more lovely compared to a month ago. The plum blossoms were in full bloom, and the faint scent of those blossoms wafted over.
"You should do as you want to."
Seiran trembled slightly at those words as he gazed at the plum tree. He looked over at Shouka and saw him smiling gently.
"From the time we took you in, and together with my wife, gave you your name, I've always thought of you as my own child. Parents shouldn't become heavy burdens for their children. So you don't have to worry about me at all."
Seiran felt a lump in his throat as Shouka smiled.
"I know that you're troubled over something. Fight with it as much as you like. No doubt, in the end, you'll reach the right decision for yourself. That's why my late wife entrusted Shuurei to you."
"...No. Madam gave me a promise."
She gave him his smile, heart, and happy times. She gave him a family. She gave him "Seiran". She even gave him what he most wanted - a gentle place where he belonged.
[It's a promise, okay... Seiran? That you'll protect that child. Even though I'm gone, that promise is still in effect. Until the day that that child can walk her own path. All right? It's a promise.]
She smiled to the very end. And with her hoarse voice, she gave him a promise to keep and to keep him tied to this world. At that time, he was foolish and was prone to try giving up his life so easily. He thought that his life was worthless. Despite having spent such long gentle times with them, he still continued to feel that way. She even took the time on her death bed to worry about him. She gave him gentle fetters because he was so foolish that, without a reason, he was unable to do anything. That it would be okay for him to continue to live in this home--.
"I wasn't protecting her ladyship. Rather, by doing so, I was protecting myself. Because I wanted... to stay in this home always. I wanted this time to always continue."
But the end to that promise was approaching. The girl he'd protected by his own hand, was starting to try to walk her own path.
Shouka gave a small wry smile. "I told you, you're our family. Even without being bound by a promise, you can come back here any time. You can stay by my... and by Shuurei's side."
"...Master, I can be quite selfish and do what I want."
"Yes, I know. And you're also so very kind."
Seiran didn't know how to respond having that said so easily to him.
"That's why the decision you make after struggling over things won't be wrong. I'll say it again. You aren't to live for our sakes. You're to live for your own sake."
Shouka set his tea cup aside.
"There's still a little time before Shuurei's placement is decided. Take your time and think things over. I won't push you. Because you've got a lot of pride in yourself."
Seiran nodded - almost like a small child would.