It has been merely a few minutes after I entered the venue when I lost interest in the party completely.
I stayed at the sidelines with my best friend, who was busily chatting away with the girl he was infatuated with.
Kaburagi Masaya, the direct descendant of the most powerful and influential family in the entirety of Japan. A family who was peerless in every way possible, and had hands in businesses all around the world, and a lineage that was probably only a little less prestigious than that of the royal family of Japan themselves. This guy was my best friend, and he was currently staring doe-eyed at his crush as he happily chatted away with her.
I sighed inwardly.
Its not like I didn't like the girl he was infatuated with (she was just as much his friend as she was mine), but there came a point where I wondered if Masaya knew how painfully obvious it was to everyone else that he was infatuated with her, or if he knew that he was such a troublesome person when it came to his devotion to her.
After all, we had cut the vacation trip our families planned to the Mediterranean a whole week short just to be able to return for her birthday.
If she continues to let him act as he does now, I can only imagine how badly it will affect him when she rejects him later.
Sure, four years did not mean much for adults, but I have seen the way she looks at him. It's the same look I've seen older siblings give to their younger siblings, familial fondness. They may not be related, but the sentiment was the same. She did not see him as a member of the opposite sex, and I doubted that she ever would either. Despite this, Masaya seemed to be oblivious to it (or perhaps, he knew but was ignoring it), and continued to love her wholeheartedly as always.
I sighed, looking away from them both. I heard the music change and turned my attention to the dance floor.
Who is that? I was stunned for a moment when I saw a very cute, and very cheerful girl my age dancing the waltz with one of the older boys.
Those curls... If I remember correctly, we have a classmate with the same curls?
“Hey, Masaya, do you recognize her?” I spoke as I was about to tap him so he would pay attention, but when I glanced at him, he had already been watching her too. He glanced at me from the side as he asked, “What about her?”
“She seems familiar to me. Do you know her?”
“I have no idea.” Masaya began to pout as he watched, murmuring a soft “A dance with Yurie...”
I shook my head and sighed. If you want to dance with Yurie, just dance with her, there is no need to play the bashful maiden, right?
The girl in green giggled as she spun around in the arms of the older boy. When the dance came to an end, she seemed to be in a joyous mood as she glanced around the party hall, a small smile on her face until she ended up glancing in my direction, and her expression immediately turned ugly. I saw her face twitch, eyebrows drawn together and a disdainful grimace taking the place of her smile, then stormed off.
Um, what the hell was that? I raised an eyebrow in confusion as I shared a look with Masaya, who shared a similarly disdainful expression on his face. We seemed to be thinking the same thing.
That girl was definitely scorning us just then, wasn't she?
She had stormed off so quickly that I had already lost her in the crowd. Her dancing partner quickly went after her while shouting what I assume is her name.
"Reika"... Oh, wait, isn't that the name of that girl whose always surrounded by tons of people? Kisshouin... Reika.
I recalled the face and name of my classmate as I brought my drink to my lips. That girl was the incredibly popular one who always had a group of girls at her beck and call, and a handful of my classmates seemed to be infatuated with. Her family was powerful, though less so than Masaya's, but powerful enough that they were considered powerful in their own right.
Though, that expression on her face just then was a big departure from the serene smile I normally saw painted on her face.
Is that good girl image she have a farce?
I couldn't help but wonder as I tried to find her from the crowd. No use, she's completely disappeared.
Still, that expression was strange. I don't recall every talking to her, so there should be no reason for her to show such a disdainful expression when she saw me. Perhaps Masaya had done something? But that couldn't be it either. Masaya hated talking to the girls in school, and was basically intolerant of them. It was the reason why we always ended up staying inside the Petite when classes were not in session.
What's up with her?
I had wandered away from Masaya after having to tolerate him gushing over his crush for over ten minutes. My mind had already begun filtering out his words as I absentmindedly nodded along while waiting for an opportunity to get away. My chance came when Yurie, the girl he liked, had asked Masaya about the short trip we had in the Mediterranean.
Using that, I quickly excused myself saying I was going to go get another drink. They both nodded and told me to come back quick, and I promptly left the two to their own devices.
When I got closer to the beverage area, I noticed that Reika was also there, drinking some juice while the oniisan she had danced with was talking to another person. When I looked closely, I noticed there was a rather strong resemblance between the two. We're they siblings? If so, then that should make the oniisan beside her Kisshouin Takateru, the heir to the Kisshouin group. He was a really talented and popular senior, so I've heard Yurie talk about him from time to time. Though any discussion of guys that wasn't himself tended to put Masaya in a bad mood, thus she rarely talked about any guys.
I think she had a crush on him at some point. I wonder...
I looked at Reika, who seemed to be immersed with her thoughts.Then, she suddenly left, and I heard her brother say something like "she has to go to the toilet", which caused her to flush and storm off.
I walked back when I heard Masaya call for me.
That girl... is very strange.
When we went back to school, we continued the same as usual. Study during class, then eating in the Petite with Yurie and Aira when we had breaks, and after classes.
Aira, Yurie’s best friend, had taken a liking to a certain underclassman in my batch. That person also happened to be the same girl at the party who danced the waltz in the middle of the dance floor.
When I brought this up, Masaya looked at her, and went, “Ah...from that time.” Are you still jealous? If you wanted to dance with Yurie, you could have. Though I doubt dancing with such a short lead would be comfortable for her. There’s no need to hold such a regret, Masaya.
Reika, who still had not introduced herself to us, immediately threw a dark look at me after Masaya retracted his gaze. Huh? What are you so upset about?
After that, I watched her for a bit longer until we finished the break. I noticed something very odd...
She was always staring at Masaya, but not like how his fans would look at him. Instead, her eyes looked unsure and apprehensive, like she expected something very horrible to happen and he was the trigger. This was all while she kept her cheerful smile in place.
I asked Masaya again if he knew her.
Masaya responded that he doesn’t even know her name.
Why was she looking at him like that, then?
Like this, we passed the school year until Yurie and Aira graduated to middle school. Masaya had been so upset about it, but he still went and got Yurie numerous bouquets and so many presents that I had to wonder what he was thinking.
Masaya, we are just congratulating them for graduating to middle school. We are not sending them off to war, so stop looking like you are about to scream at the heavens about unjust treatment.
In the salon, Masaya acts even more reserved than usual. His gloomy aura accentuates his vicious glare, so its keeps all the annoyances away. As his best friend, I couldn’t help but worry for him.
Yurie grows more and more beautiful by the day, and Masaya definitely feels their age gap, and knows that she could end up being taken from him far too easily by a guy the same age as Yurie. Every time I hear a story about a guy attempting to court Yurie, I can see Masaya’s mood plummet while his bloodlust rises. Any guy who approaches Yurie immediately becomes a victim to Masaya’s bloodlust until they run with their tails between their legs.
Unfortunately for Masaya, Yurie probably only thinks of it as her little brother’s jealousy. Truly a tragedy on his part.
It’s been a few months since Yurie’s graduation, but Masaya has quickly begun to suffer from withdrawal.
I heard of lovesickness, but Masaya was bordering ridiculous levels of idiocy right now. If he makes a mistake, he could very well earn Yurie’s ire for the rest of the year.
Sigh~ What am I supposed to do about such a troublesome friend?
I waved goodbye as Masaya ran off to the Pivoine Salon to wait for Yurie. Being the son of the Kaburagi family, no one dared to rebuke him or tell him he was not allowed to enter. Seriously, what upbringing did Masaya have to be so confident in himself... or rather, not care about other people. A sovereign’s upbringing? If I had that sort of upbringing, would I be like him?
I walked to my car and looked around while my driver started the engine. From a distance, I could see two students of Suiran walking to a car while chatting merrily with each other.
“Oh, its Reika-san.” I unconsciously murmured. She was cheerfully swinging her bag around as she talked to her older brother. My car pulled out of the driveway as soon as I saw the pair enter their car.
I... seem to be noticing her a lot lately, huh.
Today is the Athletics Meet.
Due to suffering a broken leg, I dropped out of the baton relay and had someone else take my place instead. I was disappointed when the outcome was Masaya pulling a miracle and dragging his last place class to first place, completely knocking down all the hard work my class had made. Even I, the person who honestly held little interest in winning, couldn’t help but have some bitter feelings towards this development.
I know you are skilled, but shouldn’t there be a limit to how much skill one person can have?
Because of my leg, I had to find different games that would allow me to play but not move much. So I joined the ball-toss games. Unfortunately, the girls who also played began to crowd around me, and I distinctly felt the shift in the atmosphere as a totally different sort of tournament started among the girls. I had to ask them to move away from me several times, and my irritation started to grow when each and every time they seemed to ignore my requests.
I really hate people who stick close to me without a sense of distance.
While I was throwing balls, I noticed one girl who wasn’t trying to get close to me and instead was playing the game properly.
I wondered if I could get her to make the girls stop without having to shout out to her. Even if its me, it would be embarrassing to have to ask her a favor like this in front of so many people. I already knew she was the leader of the girls, so if she commanded them, they would have to listen.
Unfortunately, there was no way to get her attention without shouting, so I endured the crowd of girls and the tense atmosphere silently.
The day after the Athletics Meet, I thoroughly enjoyed Masaya’s suffering at the hands of the girls' antics and their horrific screeches as they congratulated him for his brilliant work in the baton relay. I could see Masaya’s temper rise and I was far, far too amused to stop the girls. Its not like they would have listened anyways.
Oh, there he goes. I watched in silence as Masaya flipped out, angrily telling the girls to go away until he was out of breath, and the girls were terrified. Oh my, you guys do this every year to Masaya. I would think that at least one of you would have gotten used to it.
I chuckle lightly and pull Masaya away, telling the girls goodbye, and headed to the Petite. On our way there, I noticed a girl with princess curls talking to another student.
“Shuusuke, what are you looking at?” Masaya turned around and tried to follow my line of sight, but I just continued forward.
Is she friends with Akizawa-san? I wonder what they’re talking about, Reika seemed very worked up...
When we sat down in the salon, Masaya immediately ordered a chocolate cake along with some tea. I order tea as well and while we waited, Masaya ranted about how annoying the girls were.
“You were born too late, Masaya.” I chuckle as he groaned in response. “Its true, though. If you were born earlier you could have been with Yurie, and perhaps at this time you two would already be dating.” Its such a classic setup of childhood friends turning into childhood sweethearts. Too bad Masaya messed up by being born late.
“D-dating?!” Masaya’s face went scarlet and I laughed. “You’re too obvious.”
“Hey, whose obvious?! And what dating?! Shuusuke, don’t laugh and answer me properly!”
I continued laughing at Masaya and continued teasing him until our orders came. Upset at my treatment, he quickly took the cake and started eating.
“Don’t eat too fast, you’ll choke.”
“I know that!”
In the fourth year of elementary, I witnessed a human transform into a demon.
It was a warm day, just after the end of school. Masaya and I were relaxing in the Petite when the news suddenly reached us.
Apparently, a boy from another school had come to Suiran and was in the process of asking Yurie out on a date.
Almost instantly, this lovestruck friend of mine jumped from his seat with murder in his eyes, and he bolted from the room, heading straight for the middle-school section of Suiran. I quickly chased after him, actually fearful that Masaya would make a mistake and end up really killing someone from jealousy.
When we reached the gate, I saw the guy smiling confidently at Yurie, who seemed to be very flattered and pleased. Seeing such an expression on her face, Masaya snapped and immediately sprinted in that guy’s direction. With a splendid kick to the head, the guy fell to the ground in a pathetic heap. I watched wordlessly as my best friend forcibly had Yurie board his car and then leave school.
Did I... did I just witness my best friend commit assault (the guy) and kidnapping (Yurie)? I dazedly stared at the heap on the floor and sighed. I should warn Masaya not to overdo things before its too late.
I walked back to school, ignoring the heap on the ground and pulling out my phone. Masaya, you better not ignore me this time!
In the following weeks, I witnessed my friend become entirely too possessive and too controlling over Yurie. It was to the point where I felt that if Masaya did not stop soon, he would really get himself into deep trouble with Yurie.
He did it...
I winced as I watched Yurie explode at Masaya. She forbade him from appearing in front of her. I didn’t even feel that sorry for Masaya. If anything, he really deserved it for what he did. Yurie is already in her second year of middle school, and of course she would want to be able to hang out with her friends and have her privacy.
Masaya, you’re a complete idiot...
I sighed heavily as I looked at my friend. Right now, he was comparable to a corpse. His sovereign aura was nowhere to be seen and he seemed soulless in general. What he had was the aura of a defeated loser (idiot).
I looked up when I heard the door to the salon open. A few students walked in, and I noticed Reika was amongst them, and they all sat in a corner quietly drinking tea and having snacks.
Hey, Masaya, look at what your aura did. The Petite is turning into a desert, you know?
I sighed heavily as I drank from my tea. Masaya began to moan and complain as he held onto his head. Hey, Masaya, having the aura of a loser is one thing, but please refrain from sounding so pathetic. Its your own fault Yurie is this angry.
I noticed it around the same time as Masaya did. Someone was watching us. We turned our heads and looked at the source, which was actually Reika.
Before I could say anything, Masaya growled at her, “Oi, you there, if you have something you want to say, then say it!”
Masaya, this blatant rudeness is also one of the reasons why Yurie is so mad at you...
“S-something I wish to say...” Reika fidgeted, looking scared, and I couldn’t blame her. Masaya could be very terrifying when he wanted to be.
“Umm, apparently Yurie-sama wants to rake you over the coals a little!”
The comment immediately caught his attention, and Masaya ended up revealing an even more terrifying expression. Reika shrieked and she seemed to be utterly panicking as she answered Masaya’s questions. I could only look on helplessly as I watched a rabbit be cornered by a tiger.
Masaya mumbled to himself, mumbled something that I worried about as I had a good idea what he was going to say next.
“Alright. You. From now on, you’re my spy on Aira.”
Masaya, you goddamn dumbass! Why do you keep causing so much trouble!!
In the end, Masaya drove out everyone else from the salon until only the three of us remained. Reika looked utterly fearful of Masaya and I could only sigh. Masaya, being this overbearing is going to be what gets you rejected.
She timidly stood in front of us while Masaya rained question upon question down on her. Even when I tried to interrupt and help her, Masaya only angrily rebuked me and continued with his tyranny.
I forced a smile and spoke, “Masaya, you want information on Yurie too, right? Then instead of threatening her, why don’t you do it properly? Well, if it’s Aira, then I could ask for you though.”
I was saying this for Reika's sake. She really looked too scared to continue.
“No. Aira definitely wouldn’t tell you. I’ll use her instead.”
“... That might be right. Then, Kisshouin-san, can we ask this of you?” I turned towards Reika and continued, “Specifically, we’d like to know how angry Yurie is, or when she plans on forgiving him perhaps. Masaya, is there anything else?”
“…Whether or not Yurie even plans on forgiving me.”
I hummed lightly in response, “Yurie said she is only going to rake you over the coals a bit, not completely cut you off, so she has plans. Just listen and behave well for now, all right?”
Masaya tried to retort, and I immediately used Yurie’s name to tame him. Isn’t he just so docile when Yurie appears...
Reika reluctantly introduced herself to us and I smiled politely in response.
“Do your best, Kisshouin-san. If you succeed, your adored Masaya will be grateful.”
She seemed to sour at my words, “I don’t particularly adore him or anything…”
... I figured as much. No one looks at the person they adore with such a fearful face, and when Masaya started interrogating you, you looked like your nerves were split. The look of apprehension in your eyes when you look at him hasn’t changed, either.
“Oh? Really? I mean, I notice you looking at him a lot. That’s why I thought that you liked him too. I mean, look, all your friends loiter around us too.”
Of course, there is no need to tell her that.
“The two of you are quite conspicuous, and so I could not help but look your way. If I have troubled you by doing so, I apologise. I shall pay more attention henceforth.”
She sounded apologetic as she spoke. After that, Reika said her farewells and left school.
I look at Masaya for a moment then shake my head at him, “If Yurie finds out you intimidated a girl to almost tears, you'll be in even bigger trouble than you already are.”
“... It is not my fault.”
“It’s totally your fault.” I roll my eyes and wave farewell. Good luck, Reika.
You’ll definitely need it.
Right after finishing my lessons with my tutor, I received a phone call from Masaya.
“Shuusuke! You won’t believe what she said to me!” Masaya’s shout made me quickly pull my phone from my ear. The hell are you doing, shouting into a phone like that.
“And what was it that she said?” I responded calmly as I lowered the volume on my phone. This is going to be such a lively conversation.
“She said that she was unwilling to help me! And after sticking her nose in my business, she has the gall to say I’m being forceful, can you believe it?” Masaya sounded terribly offended.
I actually can. “You did scare her into helping you...” I start, readying to scold him. I heard a huff from the phone and stopped myself. I rolled my eyes as I wondered whether I should bother to correct his behavior or not.
On one hand, what he does is terribly discourteous and rude, but on the other its somewhat entertaining... I apologize, Reika, but I think I’ll let him continue as is.
I decided to change the topic. “Well, is there any update on her progress?”
Masaya’s tone immediately changed, and he began to report to me everything that transpired.
“She doesn’t have a mobile, isn’t that weird? I mean, we’re already in fourth grade, what are her parents thinking?”
“Perhaps they just don’t want her to waste time on the internet,” I responded logically as I drank tea. “When will you be updated on Yurie?”
I narrowed my eyes when I heard this. “...Morning? But isn’t that the same day Reika will be asking Aira about Yurie?”
“Exactly. I will be getting it as soon as possible so Yurie will hurry up and forgive me.”
... I don’t think that’s how it works, Masaya.
I sighed, giving up on reasoning with him. “I see. Anyways, when you receive the report tomorrow, make sure to properly listen to Yurie’s concerns and reflect on what you did.”
“I reflected hy myself and I’ve even called her countlessly to apologize, but Yurie still hasn’t forgiven me.”
You definitely did not if you can reply like that without sounding the least but remorseful!
Sigh. “Goodbye, Masaya.”
“Bye.” He ended the call.
I looked up at the ceiling of my room and sighed. Why do I feel like a parent taking care of their troublesome son? I’m only nine years old, I shouldn’t be having a son this early!
Monday morning, I was walking around the halls when I noticed Masaya cornering someone in the hall. Oh, isn’t that Reika?
“Masaya,” I called out as I walked over. He turned around and I saw him holding a piece of paper. No way, did he really make her write a written report of what she learned? Masaya, she’s an elementary student and our schoolmate, not your gopher.
“What are you doing here? And with Kisshouin-san as well.” I could more or less guess what he was doing, but I wanted to hear if he had an explanation for his actions. He didn’t drag her out of class just for a report, right? They just happened to meet in the hallway, right?
My gut feeling told me I was wrong, but even I had some hopes he didn’t cause too much trouble.
Instead, with eyes full of satisfaction, he happily showed me her report. Hm? “Eh, Kisshouin-san, you’ve already went and talked to Aira? You really work fast~” I smiled at her as I looked over the paper. This was written very neatly and precisely, and simply too. Masaya, be grateful, its blatantly written what you should fix.
“Well, its just as we suspected isn’t it?”
“Yeah. But I already reflected and I will accept Yurie’s conditions, so isn’t it about time she forgives me?”
I wanted to backhand this idiot as hard as possible. Did you really reflect at all?!
“You sure are an idiot, Masaya.” I smiled at him as his face twisted into a scowl.
“Shuusuke, you bastard, are you picking a fight with me?”
“Hey now, reflect, reflect. That short temper of yours is another reason Yurie is angry, you know?”
He immediately retorted, “Nothing like that was in the report!”
“Didn’t they teach us in Japanese class to read between the lines? Look, right here it mentions that you attacked a middle schooler from another school. Yurie was angry at your short-tempered actions. Get it now?”
Masaya fell into frustrated silence.
I smiled at him as I shook my head, “Anyway, she isn’t going to believe that you’ve reflected from just your words. You need to show it in your attitude.”
“Then what the hell should I do?”
“Let’s see~ Kisshouin-san, do you have any good ideas?” I turned towards her and she looked surprised. Her expression was surprised and clearly showed that she held zero desire to help anymore.
Before she could say anything, the bell rung and we all had to return to class. Masaya told her it was her assignment to think of a way later and report it to him at lunch.
While we walked back to our classrooms, I probed Masaya, “Isn’t it fortunate that you were able to meet Kisshouin-san in the hallways so soon after she talked with Aira? You should properly thank her at lunch for all the help.”
“We didn’t meet in the hallway. I went to her class and asked for the report.”
... Ah. I gave Masaya a blank smile as I nodded. I see, so I have to smooth things over later, right? You really didn’t consider the trouble you would cause for her or for me, did you? Inconsideration has limits, you know?
“We’ll meet in the Petite later. Make sure you tell her that!” Masaya walked off to class.
Since when did I become your gopher?
At the end of my class, I walked back to Reika’s classroom while pondering over how to smooth over the matter of Masaya. It should be fine to just use his name to silence people, right?
“A certain matter? What kind of matter?”
“That is... it is something I do not have the right to talk about…”
I heard the two voices speaking as I neared. Oh, its seems Reika is already being cornered. I should step in now.
I opened the door, “Kisshouin-san, are you in?”
..And am immediately blasted by the screams of girls shouting my name. Why can’t you girls be like Reika and not yell when I appear?
I ignored their squealing and turn towards her. “There you are, Kisshouin-san. About our conversation with Masaya from earlier, when you’re finished with lunch, come to the Pivoine salon, okay?”
I made sure to include Masaya in my sentence. Her gaze was completely hostile and irritated. Hey, I’m helping you out already, so stop glaring at me.
“Er... Umm, Enjou-sama? Is it true that Reika-sama has been entrusted something by Kaburagi-sama?” I glanced to the side as I acknowledged the person. With a smile, I responded, “That’s right.”
There was an even bigger fuss amongst the girls now. I could see their jealousy being aimed at Reika.
“What is it that she’s been entrusted with?”
Perfect timing. “Sorry, but I can’t really say. If you girls pry too much, Masaya will get angry, you know? Won’t that be bad? Kisshouin-san is keeping quiet too, see?” I gesture towards the silent Reika with a smile. Good. She played along.
“Indeed.” The girls murmured in agreement. Masaya, your name really carries a lot of weight.
“See you later, then.” I smiled, before leaving the classroom. Hopefully, with that, they’ll stop hounding her about her conversation with Masaya.
I returned to my classroom and waited for lunch.
A few minutes after I finished my lunch, I was immediately accosted by an eager Masaya, and dragged to the Petite. I couldn’t help but feel a self-pity as I was being dragged. At first I thought I was his parent, but now it seems I’ve been made into his gopher too.
We are in the same boat now.
While we waited for Reika to appear, I had Masaya read the report and explained to him what each part meant, part by part. I totally felt like a father trying to teach his willful son how to read.
Hm? If I am the father, is Reika Masaya’s mom?... But aren’t the mother’s usually the one in charge of child-rearing, while the father comes home every once in a while too treat the kids out?
As I played around with the thought of who would be Masaya’s mother and father in this sham of a family, Reika entered the Petite.
Her complexion was much better than earlier, and she seemed calmer too. Masaya quickly called out to her by calling her slow.
“Kisshouin-san, why don’t you take a seat for now?”
“Enjou-sama, thank you very much for the follow-up earlier.” Oh, she noticed. I smiled at her thanks.
“Oi, what are you two going on about?”
“Nothing important. Anyways, aren’t we here to talk about what you are going to do?”
“Yeah! What do I have to do to prove to Yurie that I’ve reflected?” Masaya quickly started the topic, then looked at us inquisitively. Hm, I’d prefer he think for himself, but... no, lets see if he has any good ideas. “What do you think you should do?”
“I think that in order to convey my feelings, I should visit Yurie everyday to apologize!” He proudly announced his idea.
Masaya, that... my face twitched and I fought down the urge to backhand him for real. That’s the idea of someone who has not reflected at all!
“Masaya, that will have the opposite effect.” I must stop him before he does it. Who knows what else this idiot might do if I don’t.
“Why?!” Masaya cried out in frustration. He looks pissed. “Fine! What do you think I should do?”
“Don’t contact Yurie at all and quietly wait for her to forgive you.“
This damn brat.
Masaya changed targets and immediately looked at her. “Spy, what do you think I should do?”
She revealed an upset expression and spoke, “Kaburagi-sama, my name is Kisshouin Reika. Kindly desist with the ‘spy’-calling please.”
“That’s right, Masaya. She’s helping you out, so at least use her name properly.”
“Well, do you have a good idea or not?” Masaya flicked his chin at her and prompted her to answer.
She came up with an answer I did not expect, “Write a letter to Yurie-sama everyday.”
“A letter? “
She nodded and continued, “How much you have reflected for example, or what you think of the situation and the like. Well, what they call a reflection essay, I suppose. I believe that a message through your phone would feel too impersonal, and would not convey your feelings as well. For that reason, a handwritten letter would be best. Write a letter that conveys your feelings to Yurie-sama. Since ancient times, Japan has always had the tradition of romances that begin with a love letter.”
“Is that true!?” Masaya sounded really amazed. Even I am. It sounded really romantic... or rather, its perfect for Masaya.
Following this, the two hammered out details as she rebuffed him from doing outrageous things. Goodness, the advice she gave was really good. It would keep Masaya too busy from starting trouble, and I could take a break from his dark aura.
“Alright! I’ll use your suggestion! After school we’re going shopping for a letter set! You two know your jobs, right!”
“I will not go.”
“I have lessons after school. And in addition, Kaburagi-sama, I believe it was written in my report earlier: “He will swear not to get other people wrapped up for Yurie-sama’s sake.” If you involve me in this matter, Yurie-sama will become angry again.”
Hearing Yurie might get mad at him again, Masaya relented.
“...Understood. Good work.”
“Yes. Well then, I’ll take my leave. Gokigen’yoh.” Reika smiled brightly as she left. How lucky, she got to get away.
“Shuusuke, you’re going with me.”
Can I refuse?
After purchasing numerous cards and letters, and finding a letter writing set he liked, Masaya brought me to his house and we worked hard on composing letters that would make Yurie forgive him. I persuaded Masaya to write about how lonely he was, how hard it was for him by himself, and a few others so that Yurie would forgive him quicker. I didn’t mention it to him, but I was entirely using the ‘forgive-because-of-sob-story’ method and appealing to Yurie’s motherly instincts and sisterly love for Masaya. I don't think he noticed, either.
Also, I don’t know with Masaya, but he even drew cute little flowers and animals along the borders of his paper. I wonder if he realizes that his letter is steadily becoming as cute as a love letter from a girl? Better not mention it or else he’d throw a fit.
I reminded Masaya to write about how he wanted to dance with her at this year’s summer party, and he happily obliged.
It only took less than two weeks, and Yurie folded. She agreed to dance with Masaya and his joy was all over the place. This maiden was truly in love.
When the summer party came, Masaya put on airs to seem cool and composed, but he was jittery and kept blushing with joy while he danced with Yurie. I snorted and turned my head to the side, noticing someone looking at them with derision.
Reika? Hm, why is she staring at them like that?... Or maybe its Masaya she is looking at?
When the two dancers separated, Reika’s gaze followed Masaya with the same derision in her gaze. Ohhhh, she finally realized this idiot is a mostly harmless idiot. Good job, you've learned that my son is a mostly harmless idiot.
It seems all the writing and reflecting really had an effect on Masaya. His impulsive behavior and stalker-attitude calmed down a lot, and now he works hard to match the older and mature Yurie.
Unfortunately, he is still an idiot on the inside who bothers Yurie somewhat by being clingy, but he has actually matured somewhat.
This is really great. Maybe I won’t need to supervise him as much anymore... I should find a way to pay her back for this.
Every May, Suiran takes us out on excursions to various luxurious place. This year, though, we would be going to an animal farm.
Masaya happily talked about competing on horseback, rafting, and getting to see the animals. He was especially interested in racing on horseback against me.
The competitive spirit he had infected me as well. So as soon as the bus stopped at the farm, we ran to the stables and coerced the stable-hand to let us pick out horses to ride on. Our teacher gave us helpless looks but allowed it, and soon a few other students joined in, picking out horses and riding around the farm. It only took a few minutes for Masaya to command the ranch-hands into emptying one of the grazing pastures for a pseudo-race track.
Mounted on our horses, we raced against each other while people cheered from the sidelines. There were a few other kids who could ride horseback as well, but they weren’t being cheered for. How pitiful...
While we were taking a break from racing, I glanced around the farm while still mounted on my horse. In the distance, I could see a cluster of girls playing with some of the small animals, and saw Reika surrounded by numerous rabbits, and cuddling a small white one to her face.
I merely stared as I saw the rabbit snuggle close to Reika, who happily held it in her arms. Suddenly, she looked up and stared at me. Quickly but making sure to not look like I was staring at her, I diverted my look and turned away from her.
“Shuusuke! Lets race again before we leave!” Masaya called out to me as he mounted his horse again. I nodded and led my horse back to the starting point of the race track.
Of course, the race ended in tie. Masaya happily told me he planned to do horse-riding when summer vacation came. I agreed to race against him when the time came.
I suppose that was the start of Masaya's interest in horse riding.
“So, how about it, Enjou-san?”
“I rather not...” I began to reject, but the teacher looked incredibly pitiful. Aren’t I a member of the Pivoine? Why must I do odd jobs and help out in the Executive Committee? That's the job of the external students.
It's been several days after the excursion, and I was supposed to be relaxing in the Petite with Masaya, but my teacher had requested I stay behind so we could talk. I was originally worried, thinking I might have done something, but instead she was requesting that I go and do odd jobs.
“You don’t have to worry about being the only member of the Pivoine there! Kisshouin-san is also helping out!” The teacher spoke quickly as she lowered her head to me.
I maintained my politely neutral expression, but frowned inwardly. Reika? So what if she's there?
My teacher seemed to have noticed the drop in my mood, because she quickly added on, "Kisshouin-san will be helping out and is very familiar with the work, but I think if there was another member of the Pivoine there, it would help her get along with everyone else. You know how hard it is for Kisshouin-san to get along with the others right? You'll be really helping her out."
... I can pay her back this way, right? I guess there's no choice.
“All right. I’ll help.” I flashed a smile as I agreed to the teacher’s begging.
The executives from 5th and 6th grades gathered before the real preparations for the athletics carnival, and we introduced ourselves.
Among these people, I spotted Reika looking around with a polite but empty smile on her face.
Hmmm... hey, Reika, do you realize that a smile that does not reach the eyes can scare people?
As I expected, the girls in the committee got noisy after I introduced myself. I wished I brought some earplugs from home now. I kept glancing at Reika for help, but she promptly ignored me. Hey, aren’t you the leader of the girls? Make them stop following me around! I bit back my irritation with the girls and went off to do my work.
Like flies to a fire, the girls followed me and chatted noisily behind me. So annoying. Get to work.
The boys in the committee would come over and scold the girls, telling them to work. In response to that, the girls would puff up their chests and declare that they were helping me, then spit some rather provocative words at the boys by saying they were simply jealous. No, the boys are right, you all are being useless and causing trouble. Even when I scolded them and told them to work, if I left one side and moved to another, they would immediately stop working and mess around.
Some of the boys who passed by Reika would cry out in amazement do to something. I raised an eyebrow and asked one of the girls to take a look. When she came back, she said Reika had wrapped a rubber-band around her fingers to pick up paper easier.
I picked up one of the rubber-bands and wrapped them around my fingers. Ohhh~ It really does makes things easier.
I was working when I felt a chill and sneezed. Was someone cursing me?
The next day, while I was working, I took a quick glance at Reika’s station and did a double take. What the hell was with the amount of work she was doing?!
The pile of work she had far outweighed mine, and I watched as she worked at the speed of a demon, but the pile she had beside her barely dented.
When I went over and would ask her to copy something, she expertly handled the copying machine. Her usefulness outclassed the sixth graders with us.
Unfortunately, instead of that spurning them to work harder, they ended up pushing all the work to Reika. Even the girls around me pushed their work to her. I began to feel some guilt because of this, but no matter how much I told the girls to help, they didn’t listen and continued to crowd me.
I winced in sympathy as Reika shuffled through papers and distributed them then ran back to her station to work.
While I was checking the papers, I noticed that there was an underclassmen that had an overlap in their event selections. When I told the others about this, they decided to send me and Reika out to deal with it. Ah, so this is were our Pivoine status came into play.
However, I was rejected by Reika and told to stay here. I heard her mumble something about a ‘court procession’ then walk off.
I wordlessly stared at her departing figure as a couple of the girls slowly begun to my side and noisily talk to me.
Reika-san, please let me come with you! Don’t leave me alone with them!
I, after being delayed somewhat, managed to catch up with Reika at the Year 3 class. Unfortunately, it seems a fight has broken out and Reika has lost control of the situation completely.
I clapped my hands as I entered the room, silencing everyone as I spoke, “Katsuragi, could you perhaps cause a little less trouble for Kisshouin-san? Just hurry up and fix your event entries already.”
I made sure to give him a stern look. What is this moron doing when Reika already properly asked him to fix the problem he caused?
After I calmed things down, I walked back to the committee headquarters with Reika in tow. She seemed to be in a bad mood, though I wonder why. We managed to fix the overlaps in events, so what upset her?
“Kisshouin-san, if you were going to go, you could have told me too.” Why were you trying to handle it by yourself? Are you a workaholic?
“It seemed busy around you, so I supposed that you were busy.”
I smiled helplessly at that. Oh, I see, she didn’t want me to come along because those useless extras would follow. “That, huh? I’m troubled about it too. It looks like quite a bit’s been left to you. I’ll help out too.”
Although I offered help so nicely, she plainly rejected me with an expression that said “Keep yourself and your harem away from me”.
... It isn't my fault that the girls won't stop following me around...
When we got back, I was immediately surrounded by girls once more.
“Enjou-sama, we wanted to go too.”
“We completed the work that you left us, Enjou-sama!”
When I looked at Reika, she seemed to be mumbling something. Hm... Eh? What ‘Lord’ is she talking about? Is she daydreaming or something? I watched as Reika walked off to report our success.
On the day of the Athletic’s Meet, Reika and I were dragged to act as mascots to greet guests. Although I felt irritated, as the heir to the Enjou house, I managed to keep a smile on my face and greet people. Reika fared exceptionally when greeting guests, greeting with a pretty smile and gentle voice, so I saw quite a few guys become flustered thanks to her. I watched silently as Reika managed to charm the guests with a smile and charming greeting. I even saw quite a few guys lingering around to stare at her, but then they'd quickly turn away whenever she would glance in their direction.
Since I had a few games to join, I did not get stuck with the announcement job like Reika did. Her first time doing it, I heard her voice wobble for some parts, but she managed to execute it well. I heard someone mention that she sounded cute, and I turned my head to look at that person. Oh, he looked away? I wonder why.
Later on in the afternoon, I heard a teacher tell Reika to take a rest and prepare for the games she joined. I remembered that Reika would be in the borrowing race, so I went over to find Masaya. He was sitting by himself in a corner, not talking to anyone, and staring out the window.
Stop ostracizing yourself! As your (pseudo) father, I worry about you!
I took a seat near Masaya and chatted with him until the borrowing race was about to begin. We walked to the spectator area then watched as people reached into the box and drew out cards.
I tilted my head as I watch Reika reach in then read her card. She looked up and turned her head towards another class, then quickly ran in that direction. I wonder what she got.
She returned with Akizawa-san in tow. I think there was a "your crush" card in there, so maybe she was infatuated with him? As I pondered over the idea of what she had gotten and how likely it was that her entourage would scare the life out of Akizawa-san for being close to Reika, I heard the announcer read her card. “A fast-running friend”, oh, so they were friends. That Reika was friends with Akizawa-san was surprising though, but I guess it explained that one time I saw those two together in the hall a few years ago.
There were a lot of cards that were related to people, and I saw someone even run and get Reika, because they got the “Girl with ribbon in her hair” card.
A bit later, a brave girl even ran here and confessed to Masaya, and was splendidly rejected. Hah, you overreached yourself.
Besides the baton relays, there was also the main event of the Athletics Meet; the cavalry battle with the Year 5 and 6 boys.
The classes were broken into two teams, and would snatch at each other’s headbands.
Masaya joined the cavalry battle as a rider, and secretly trained people to be his horse. He invited me over to help train them, but I rejected since it would be too boring to watch Masaya yell at them and be a perfectionist.
Watching the battle was incredibly brutal. Masaya mowed down the teams without mercy. Those who faced him head on were mercilessly trampled, and those who ran were hunted down ruthlessly. Honestly, just watching made me feel that Masaya’s ability to train people was outstandingly good.
Of course, I knew his horses were putting all they had into ensuring that Masaya didn’t fall. If they did, they’d make a ton of enemies.
“Aaaah, Masaya has no mercy at all, does he.” I smiled wryly from my seat. Reika blankly nod her head in agreement. Mhm, he’s absolutely obsessed with winning.
In the end, only the Masaya’s unit was left, and they seized a complete victory.
Later on, somebody would compare his prowess in this battle to the legendary Napoleon, and eventually that turned into Masaya’s infamous nickname that followed him for the rest of his life, “the Emperor”.
Ever since he was bestowed with the nickname “Emperor”, Masaya’s popularity in Suiran skyrocketed. His fans among the underclassmen also increased as well. His nickname was so popular that it even reached the middle schoolers, and I listened in as Yurie happily teased Masaya about his nickname, resulting in Masaya sulking for a couple of days.
When a particularly excitable kid called Masaya “Emperor” to his face, an incredibly icy gaze was directed at him until he apologized and ran. I quietly told others to stop calling Masaya that to his face in order to prevent angering him in the future.
After school, I was asked by a teacher to meet them in the faculty.
When I got there, Reika was talking with the teacher about the executive committee for the Learning Presentation. I narrowed my eyes as I heard the teacher plead to Reika, but she refused and walked out. I ended up hiding behind the door to avoid being seen by her.
“Oh, Enjou-san, you’re already here.” The teacher greeted me as I stepped back into view.
As I suspected, I was asked to join the executive committee too.
I smiled brightly at the teacher, “Kisshouin-san isn’t joining, so I won’t either.”
I don't owe her anything anymore. Besides, when Reika was there, things operated smoothly due to all the effort she put in. I don’t have any reason to join if she isn't there.
One day, while I was at Masaya’s house playing a game of chess against him, his mother returned home with a serious expression on her face. As I watched Masaya run over to greet his mother, and that serious expression turn into a motherly smile, I felt suspicious. Despite my suspicions, I quickly put on a smile as I walked over and greeted her as well.
“Good evening Obasan. You came home early, did something happen?”
“Mom, did you bring me any chocolat?”
Uh, Masaya, you just had some desert a while ago, right? Be careful not to get a cavity.
Obasan laughed and shook her head, causing Masaya to pout and puff up his cheeks. This made her laugh even more and pinch his cheeks. While I waited for her to finish spoiling her son, I glanced back at the chessboard. Hm, I’ve won four times already, should I let Masaya win the next round?
I heard Obasan let go of Masaya, and I turned back. With a smile, she suddenly asked us about Reika. What?
“I met her and her older brother earlier after I finished dinner. She’s such a lovely little girl, and I heard from Yurie that you were friends, so I wondered why you didn’t invite her over to play with you two. Wouldn’t playing with more people be fun, Masaya?” A gentle smile appeared on her face as she suggested the idea.
Beside me, Masaya made a crude expression as he vehemently denied being friends with her. Masaya, whats with that attitude towards your (fake) mother?
“She isn’t my friend and she’s no fun to be with!” His expression went utterly cold as he spoke. How can you say that when you haven’t even hung out with her that much? Is it because she scolded you a few times while you had her be your gopher? You’re lucky she stopped you from messing up again.
“Now Masaya, don’t you think you’re being too rude to Reika-chan?” Reika-chan? “Just playing games and expanding your circle of friends, don’t you want to do that?”
“I do not want!”
I felt a bit tired from hearing Masaya argue like a child. Masaya, where is your so called ‘cool-and-collected’ aura girls squeal about? You’ve really fooled most of the girls in Suiran...
“What about you, Shuusuke-kun? Don’t you think it would be nice to have more friends to play with?”
What are you doing, playing matchmaker with sixth graders?
I smiled and shrugged, “Kisshouin-san is a nice girl, but we haven’t had many chances to talk, so it would be a bit awkward to suddenly ask her to come over. Plus, she has her own group of friends, and Kisshouin-san herself rarely converses with boys, so it might be troubling her if we suddenly asked her over...” Plus, she doesn’t get along with Masaya and Masaya doesn’t seem to have any intentions to get along with her, so it will end up with a bad atmosphere no matter what.
“I see,” Obasan smiled helplessly as she shook her head.
“I’ll go check in on your father now, Masaya. Shuusuke-kun, remember to call your parents if you’ve decided to stay for the night!” She walked away. Masaya watched her leave, then quickly left to raid the fridge, saying he would be back soon.
I walked back to the board game and glanced at the pieces calmly. I stared at the bored silently as I analyzed Masaya’s side of the board, then reached over and plucked the queen away from the king’s side.
“Matchmaking Reika to Masaya, huh...”
In June, Suiran hosted another excursion for us. Despite how rich our school is, we had a trip to Kyoto and Nara. I really expected to be going to France this year... oh well.
Despite how plain our destination was, our school definitely picked the highest-class ryokans and hotels in the area. The ryokan we stayed at in particular was a favorite of Obasan’s, so Masaya was already used to being here and ordering the staff around.
Unfortunately, because I’m in the class, its quite noisy and we often get scolded by the teachers to behave and be quiet. I can feel the Class Rep and Vice Rep often aiming resentful looks at my back when the girls weren’t surrounding me. They should be thankful they weren’t in charge of Masaya’s class though, since they were the noisiest and most out-of-control in the field trip.
Also, because of how Reika’s class was running very smoothly and tamely, the teacher’s often compared her class to ours, saying we needed to follow their example. In my opinion, they just wanted the girls in particular to behave like Reika, who often quietly sat in a corner while maintaining the class order with a smile. They pretty much asked the Class Reps for the impossible, though. There hasn't even been one class I've been in where chaos did not follow, and I don't expect that trend to end any time soon.
During lunch, wherever Masaya sat, it quickly turned into a lawless zone. Girls squabbled and talked noisily, and I am sure I saw one purposely spill food on another. It made me want to ask if they were really young girls brought up by good families or animals from the jungle. The class reps in Masaya's class look like they were close to tears as they tried and failed to calm the frenzied girls. Masaya simply ignored the chaos as he ate his lunch. At least I tell the girls in my class to settle down, but Masaya basically allows them free reign and so chaos descends everywhere.
The atmosphere is really bad...
When they were like this as kids, you could write it off as a child’s hyperactivity, but the older they get, it steadily turns into irritating and crude. There are even girls who seem like they’ll become the flashy type of ojousamas in the future, and there’s a bit of a hard-to-describe enmity between the groups of girls.
Reika seems to be perfectly fine though, so it probably doesn’t matter too much.
It didn’t take long for lights out to start, but the girls still noisily surrounded Masaya, and were unwilling to go to sleep.
I saw the class reps and Reika exchange glances before Reika gave a look of defeat and stood up. She went towards the crowd of Masaya-fans and pulled aside one of the girls.
Within just a few minutes of talking with that one girl, all the girls began to quiet down one by one and behave. Due to how deathly silent it became, I clearly heard Reika mention that it was lights out and bade everyone goodnight. The girls obediently responded with a “Goodnight, Reika-sama” in response and returned to their rooms.
That title as Leader of the Girls really isn’t just for show, huh, Reika?
When I spoke to Masaya in the morning, he apparently had received a message from Yurie that scolded him for allowing the girls to create trouble. He seemed so disheartened that I went and got him some chocolate to cheer up. It's okay, Masaya. It's not like Yurie is mad, so no need to look that depressed!
During the day, we also went visiting shrines and temples and went souvenir shopping. Masaya bought souvenirs for Yurie, and I looked through the blessings inside of the shrine. I found a few guys rushing for the romance blessings. I went in when there when fewer people were around.
I pulled out one and it said future curse. What the heck?
While we were in Nara, we saw a girl reciting the manyoushuu. A lot of us stopped to watch her refinement, and a few girls even tried to imitate her but ended up sounding ridiculous instead.
I saw Reika making faces as she listened. She looked like she remembered something, but in the end, she just kept quiet and tactfully guided us all to the next site.
When we entered Yumedono, though, Reika was not as quiet and she rather loudly said “the Emperor of the Land of the Rising Sun”. The tour guide looked very pleased and happily praised her, so a bunch of girls followed and praised her as well. Her cheeks twitched and she smiled happily at the praise. Is she so easy to please?
At Nara Park, an incident occurred.
I didn’t see what had happened, but I was certainly told so by Masaya who had broken into laughter. I personally worried that Reika had gotten injured, since I saw her limping all the way back to the hotel, but Masaya kept insisting to me that it was because she stepped in deer poop that she walked so strangely.
I quietly decided to check on Reika a little later, and she was walking completely fine. Oh, so Masaya wasn't kidding when he said she stepped in deer poop. How unfortunate is she to get attacked then step in poop?
The name "Deer Girl" rang in my head as I walked away from the site and returned to Masaya's side. Masaya seemed to be grinning from ear to ear, but he did not comment any further on Reika's incident.
When we went to Kasuga Grand Shrine afterward, I made sure to pray for good health for my family and friends.
This place also had deer fortunes, but when I happened to catch sight of Reika, she was looking at them with very dark eyes, like she wanted to take them all and burn them one by one. Because of that, I didn’t feel like buying one would be a good choice and bought some other fortunes for my family.
Masaya invited me to get fortunes with him, but when I remembered how my last one ended up, I rejected the offer. Masaya didn’t really allow that and dragged me to get fortunes with him anyways. I see you had no intentions of going alone from the start, did you?
In the end, we both received cursed fortunes. This made Masaya mad enough to throw his into the garbage bin, and proclaim he did not and would not ever believe in superstitions. Although he was so eager to get a fortune earlier...
When I looked back at my curse fortune, I grimaced. I really wasn’t sure how to feel about this…
Today was a very tiring day. All day long, along with Masaya, we signed signature book after signature book. I didn’t want to bother to write anything, but after seeing their hopeful faces, I gave in and wrote a “congratulations for graduating to middle school” on their books. Masaya was even lazier than me, and he only signed his name. Sometimes if it was a person he had a semi-good opinion of, he would even sign their name as well. However, the majority who lined up to get theirs signed were our fans, so we simply stuck to the least problematic thing to write.
I was shown so many signatures that I had begun to memorize them. My head hurt seeing some of the really gaudy and colorful ones, so soon I had people flip to empty pages so I could sign more ‘freely’. Masaya copied me. Later, we learned that there were some who laminated the signatures, so we had to change our signatures later, lest in the future, our signatures get forged and we end up being royally screwed over.
If asked what was one of the most disappointing things for me, it was probably not pretending to be sick that day and skipping school.
Even though I signed so many, I rarely asked for anyone to sign mine, even though I could clearly see that there were a lot who wanted to. I actually almost had to wrestle my signature book out of people’s grasp, so I switched to having it signed privately.
Masaya and I signed each other’s for the sake of it, and we even competed in writing poetry. Masaya, being such a well-read kid with a father who collected literature from all over the world, beat me at it, and he smirked triumphantly until he went home.
While I sat in the salon after school, I flipped through my signature book and saw no “Kisshouin Reika” signature anywhere at all. Seeing this reminded me that Reika was the only member of the Pivoine who hadn’t signed my signature book.
I should build relations with everyone in the Pivoine. With that sort of excuse floating through my head, I got up from my seat and went out of the salon. After asking a few students if Reika had left yet, I learned she was with the class representatives in the meeting room, so I went there.
When I went there and asked for Reika, they told me she had gone off with Iinchou-san. Curious about why she would be with Iinchou-san, I followed the directions of where they said they would be, and found them behind the school building.
Iinchou had a brilliantly red face as he looked at Reika with a somewhat nervous expression. I really couldn’t hear their conversation from this distance, so I had to go by their expressions and actions.
... What happened?
I blinked as I tried to discern what happened, but my mind blanked as I tried to come up with a good reason for him to be red-faced after asking Reika out to a secluded spot.
I’m interrupting something, aren’t I? I should probably leave now.
Although I thought like that, I began to feel uncomfortable. When I saw him show a delighted expression and present Reika with something (it looks like a piece of paper.... is it a love letter?), Reika flashed him a smile and took it. I felt worse when I saw that, and immediately turned away and walked off.
When I reached my car, my chauffeur had a nervous expression on his face, as if he had seen something very bad. I paid him little attention as I entered the car and threw my stuff to the other end. We quickly returned home, and I ignored my father’s calls as I went up to my room.
When I sat down on my bed, I got a text from Masaya saying Yurie had signed his signature book. I turned off my phone and sat in bed for a while, staring at the ceiling of my room as I continued to feel unhappy.
... Why am I unhappy in the first place?
Because this was the last time I would wear the navy uniform, Okaasan decided to take as many photographs as she could. It got to the point where Masaya had laughed at me for being Okaasan 's model.
In response to his insolence, I had let Obasan know Okaasan had taken some photos of me since tomorrow would be our last time in the primary section's navy uniforms.
Just saying it would be the last time, Obasan abducted Masaya and had a first class photographer brought over, and had an entire album made with Masaya being forced to pose and model even more than I did. When it was all done, he glared at me, and it was then my turn to laugh boisterously.
It's one thousand years too soon for you to be fighting with me.
On the actual day of graduation, everyone was fired up. Taking pictures, talking, congratulating each other, but no one had cried. It was probably because everyone here would still be attending Suiran for middle school.
While I was busy leading Okaasan out of school, I felt two people’s eyes on me. When I turned my head, I immediately saw the figures of Masaya with his mom, and Reika with who I assume are her parents and her older brother.
Ah, Reika is holding a bouquet, I wonder who gave it to her?
Definitely not Masaya though.
While I held Okaasan 's hand, Masaya had come over and greeted us. To avoid both our fans and the cameramen, we decided to return to my house.
“Madame, was that the Kisshouins you were speaking to?” I heard Okaasan ask after I came downstairs. I leaned against the wall and listened in, eyes narrowed and ears sharp. Okaasan, what are you doing?
“I heard Kisshouin Reika-san is a girl as lovely as her name, but I've never met her. Does she really match that description as the people say?” Okaasan’s inquiries made me feel uncomfortable, but Obasan calmly replied, “Very. She’s quite beautiful as well, like a finely-crafted doll. Her demeanor is so mild and temperate too, its like she’s not even a child.”
“Oh?" Okaasan sounded surprised. "Goodness, if you say so, then it must be true. Such a lovely girl... I wonder how many admirers she has. She sounds like she'd become a very popular madame in the future."
Suddenly, the conversation shifted, "Shuusuke has told me that she was frequently aiding the teachers and always on the honor roll. My, she is both beauty and brains, isn't she?”
What is Okaasan getting at...?
“Yes, I’ve heard that too." Obasan laughed, "Don’t you think she would suit my Masaya?” I nearly spat blood at those words. Those two? Together? Do you want Masaya to run away from home?
“SHUUSUKE!!! Where are you?!” I heard Masaya yell. The sound of a baby’s cry quickly followed. I glanced at the stairs for a moment then immediately found a nearby maid, and rushed with the maid back upstairs.
I saw Okaasan looking at me as I ran back upstairs. I repressed a shudder as I wondered what she was thinking.
After I pulled on my new white blazer, I ended up becoming Okaasan’s model once more and had to posed for her as she took pictures. Since she was so happy, I allowed her to do it, but I immediately rejected her when she asked me to wear my primary uniform around the house every once in a while. Okaasan, I am not a child...
After I got to school, I checked the class arrangements and found that I was in separate classes from Masaya. Masaya will be fine on his own, but I feel so sorry for his class representatives...
In May, we have the customary excursion, and this time it’s mountain climbing. Masaya had I had already done this quite a lot during camping, so we fared well. In fact, when we reached the summit, we were the first ones there. Not even the teacher who was with us when we started at the bottom was anywhere nearby...
Because of that, Masaya and I looked around for a secluded spot to have lunch at. We wolfed our food down incredibly fast, and managed to put it away a good one hour before everyone else arrived. However, we got surrounded by some girls with a very flashy aura. I did not recognize them, so they must be externals. Where are our regular fans? They’d usually prevent new girls from approaching us.
When I glanced around, I noticed quite a lot of people looked dead-tired, and some who looked like they just began to eat lunch. It seems the majority of our regular fans was among them.
Fine. Its not like these externals were being too outrageous, so we can deal with them ourselves. I got up and followed after Masaya, who went towards the cluster of boys playing games.
When I turned to look at the side, I saw Reika being supported by two of her friends, who looked fairly panicked. Did she faint from fatigue?
When one of the girls from my side had looked at me for a bit turned and looked in the same direction I was, she immediately went to over to aid them. When I looked around at the other girls near me, they too went over to help. Oh my, since when was everyone such good and helpful children? Well, it is good if everyone is so caring about each other.
The gaggle of girls from the field trip was surrounding me every day. From the time in between classes, break time, and lunch, those girls would crowd my desk and give me no way out. It was even the same for Masaya.
We both went to the Pivoine salon to avoid them. Because this was the same year he got to be with Yurie again, the maiden Masaya returned to his high spirits as soon as he got in. He scanned the room for Yurie, and he found her on a table with Aira and Reika.
As soon as we appeared, there was a grievance in Reika’s eyes as she cut her conversation with Yurie and looked at Masaya. Following with that, Aira sent concerned looks towards Reika, who silently and subtly shook her head, as if saying “No worries”.
We only just arrived, why do you look like we’ve done you a great injustice?
“Ah, that reminds me. Reika-sama, it must have been dreadful experiencing that deer attack. The photos gave me a shock. You must have been terrified.” Yurie interrupted the rather tense atmosphere by revealing a concerned expression, along with Nara Incident. Oh, I remember that.
Masaya, stop laughing. Even if it was ridiculous, what would have happened if Reika seriously got injured? The heck is wrong with you?
Reika replied that she was fine, but I clearly saw her eyes darting towards Masaya with hostility. Suddenly, a pleased and sweet smile appeared on Reika’s face.
“Speaking of which, I heard from a friend of mine, but apparently the name ‘Emperor’ is well known even at Yurinomiya.”
That stopped Masaya’s laughter dead in its tracks. The look of horror in his eyes was only matched with his shock. Oh, Reika looks incredibly triumphant.
“Goodness. It looks like it’ll be impossible to extinguish the flames now, Masaya.” Yurie-sama laughed in contentedly as she covered her mouth and hid her grin.
“…It's fine. I’ve already given up anyway.” Masaya sighed, “It’s not like I came up with the name on my own after all. Also, I guess this is still better than being straight-out called ‘Napoleon’…”
He was incredibly fed up with it. Masaya had been complaining about this since the Athletics Meet, so I knew he was resentful. When he finds out who gave him the nickname, will he hunt them down and flay them alive for their crimes?
The cold and aloof impression of Emperor Kaburagi actually suits him, though. As long as you don't count his personality.
I grinned at him, “That’s true. If I walked around town and somebody called out ‘It’s Napoleon!’ I think I’d die from shame on the spot. However, you being called ‘Emperor’ in the middle of a town would be pretty bad too. If I was with you at the time, I might even back away and pretend not to know you.”
“Shuusuke, you bastard…” Masaya growled as I laughed at him while I pricked his ego. His glare was incredibly strong, and he looked like he wanted to burn a hole through my head, but because Masaya is Masaya... yeah. It's too hard to take that sort of threat from him seriously.
“Who knows how long Masaya is going to be called Emperor. At least nobody is calling you Deer Girl, aren’t you much better off, Kisshouin-san?”
Looking at her face that showed a thousand grievances and helpless eyes, I quickly decided to stop teasing her lest she really starts to cry.
“One day, I’ll give you a stupid nickname too!” Masaya frustratedly roared at me. I snorted and laughed harder. Go ahead and try. There is nothing more embarrassing than your nickname.
While I was having fun at Masaya’s expense, I saw him shake his head with disappointment at Reika. Hm? Does she want to give me a stupid nickname too? Ah~ Reika, it's not like I made any horrible nicknames against you, right? Why are you so mad at me?
After I calmed down, they began talking about the problem between the Student Council and the Pivoine. Honestly, this doesn’t even matter... no matter how righteous or strong the Student Council may become, Suiran lives on the bank accounts of the families of Pivoine members. So in a choice between a hundred normals and one Pivoine, it will always be the Pivoine. Suiran cannot afford to trifle with the egos of the alumnus and the current members.
I smiled wryly as I shook my head.
In the meantime, Masaya’s been accumulating jealousy from all the stories Yurie’s been talking about. I hope for your safety, Okishima-senpai, and Student Council President.
The test results from the exam had finally been posted.
When I finished I was looking over my test results, I looked down to check the names at the lower half of the ranking board.
Huh? Wait, let's check again...
I scanned the results three times already, but I still didn’t manage to find her name. I glanced to my side to see the bevy of girls who left and their curly-haired leader who seemed especially quiet today.
Well, her prided smarts had failed to get her into the rankings as usual. I guess it should only be expected, I kept hearing people say “Reika-sama is in a daze”, and “Reika-sama seems so preoccupied these days”, or most recently, “Reika-sama looks like a maiden in love”, even before the exams had concluded. This girl, was she planning to join Masaya in being maidens?
That person who is class reps with her, who was it again?
After I went into Reika’s classroom during the break, I chatted with a few of the boys for a bit before I called out to Iinchou. After he approached, I led him to the hallway and to a more secluded spot near the pillars.
It really reminded me of when I called out to him last year after I caught him with Reika. At that time, he was really surprised and rather nervous, even before I nicely asked him to explain why he had been with Reika. He ended up telling me that he had asked Reika for help in order to get closer to his crush. Well, not those words specifically, but it was too obvious once I asked him if he liked that girl. I like to believe we parted on good terms afterward, but who knows. He seemed to have still been rather shaken from it after I let him go.
“Enjou-sama, is something wrong?” Iinchou asked as we went behind a pillar. After looking him over, I asked, “Is something bothering Kisshouin-san?”
“She fell off the rankings and seemed to be in quite a daze recently. I’ve heard there was trouble brewing among the girls, but I haven’t heard of any problems that she has gotten caught up in. Since you two are so close, I thought you may know if something was bothering her.”
“Mhm, as far as I know, Reika-sama hasn’t encountered any troubles. But...”
I put on a concerned expression and prompted him, “‘But’ what?”
“Well... the teachers think she may have been tricked by a bad person? I’m not entirely sure since I heard this in passing, but apparently, they believe Reika-sama had met a bad influence recently and it has been affecting her studies.”
... I am rather sure neither I nor Masaya had been bothering Reika at all since the Yurie Incident. Who else is it that has managed to get past her retinue of warriors?
“I see. Thank you for telling me. I’m sorry, but could you keep an eye out for Kisshouin-san and inform me if she is being troubled? I owe her a lot, you see, and it would be horrible if something happened to her that I could’ve prevented.”
The expression on his face was rather interesting, eyes wide and full of admiration and respect as he nodded eagerly. “Of course! I’ll do my best to inform you if Reika-sama is facing any difficulties.”
I smiled kindly in response, “Thank you very much for your cooperation, Iinchou-san.”
As I waved him goodbye and left, I turned the corner and saw Reika coming from the student counseling room. Er, I know she fell from the ranks, but did she really drop so low she had to go to counseling?
It was exactly a week after I talked with Iinchou that I learned from some rumors that Reika had been attending remedial classes at Suiran. She had apparently claimed a seat in the back row for herself, and it was now being called the “Chrysanthemum Throne”, so people have been avoiding it in order to not anger the Empress.
When I asked for more details, I also ended up learning that due to her silent and studious actions, never striking up a conversation, and only greeting before the lessons then saying goodbye at the end, that she has been isolated the entire time.
I don't know if it was intentional or not, but Reika seemed to have terrified her classmates quite a bit since she seemed to be incredibly angry the entire break. Everyone kept talking about the "dark aura" around her that seemed to worsen over the break.
Like this, with my group eagerly talking among themselves about various rumors they’ve heard and Masaya coming over to play with Yukino and myself, the break came to an end.
When school started again, I noticed Reika walking outside my classroom. She seems thinner? I heard from Iinchou that Reika goes to both cram school and has a private tutor, so adding remedial classes on top of that, she probably had spent more time studying than resting the entire break. Mhm, although its a bit bad she studied to the point of losing weight, she seems to be in a rather good mood.
“Eh, Shuusuke-sama, who are you looking at?” One of the boys from my group looked in the same direction as me, but Reika had already left.
“Nothing. Anyways, what was it you wanted to tell me?”
“Ah, yeah! So I heard that Kisshouin-sama’s younger cousin would be entering Suiran.”
Reika’s cousin? “Where did you get this information?”
“One of my relatives go to the same school as Kisshouin-sama’s cousin. Kisshouin-sama’s cousin’s name is Kotou Ririna, and she is rather... mhm, well she is practically the opposite to Kisshouin-sama.”
I raised an eyebrow. Opposite to Reika? “Well, it should be fine so long as she doesn’t cause trouble...” I blinked then looked at him. “Wait, why would you want to tell me this?”
“Because you’ve been asking about Kisshouin-sama a lot recently, I thought you may have wanted to know...”
I forced a smile onto my face when I see his expression. “My relationship with Kisshouin-san is not in that way.”
Are you sure? Is written all over his disbelieving face. What the heck. I just asked about her a bit and you conclude I’m attracted to her?
“The teacher is coming, so return to your seats!” The class rep called out and he went back to his seat.
I rested my chin on my palm as I looked at the lessons for today blankly.
A cousin with the opposite personality to Reika’s, huh...
Once again, the Athletics Festival was upon Suiran. However, this time we had a Student Council, the sports clubs, and the athletics committee, so everything had to be finished much earlier and the participant list was much stricter than last year, as it discouraged sports club members from joining the sport their club played.
Anyways, just choosing people for the cavalry battle was incredibly difficult. No one wanted to be mowed down by the Emperor, so naturally, they’d back away as soon as the class rep started to breach the topic. In the end, the class rep forced the boys who had no games into the cavalry battle.
Masaya, meanwhile, had gone through every boy in his class until he had selected a few people that met his requirements. None of them had the courage to refuse the Emperor, so they reluctantly accepted and handed their next few weeks over to him. Masaya was pretty happy, and even showed me the training plan he had in store for them.
Mhm, they would have been better off as Masaya’s foot soldiers than his horse.
It was time for the Athletics Festival to reach the main event, the cavalry battle, I noticed Reika staring fixedly at the battlegrounds with a slight blush on her face.
What the hell.
I turned back and tried to follow who was it that she was staring at. It certainly wasn’t Masaya, who was busily crushing every rider and horse he hunted down, and the only other notable fellow who still remained was...
I asked the girl beside me, “Who is that?”
“Hm...-ah!? Enjou-sama!” The girl was surprised, but she quickly turned towards where I was staring then answered, “That’s Tomoe Senju, he’s a senpai from the third year and is the Student Council President.”
... the Student Council...?
My head began to hurt as I imagined how outraged Okishima-senpai would be if he heard this. A Pivoine girl being starry-eyed over the Student Council President? No, wait. It would be worse if she confessed. Reika is the sister of Okishima-senpai’s idol, Kisshouin Takateru. No matter what happened, whether it be her confession was accepted or rejected, Okishima-senpai and the rest of the Pivoine who favored Reika would launch a campaign against the Student Council.
Of all the people you had to fall for, its the one guy who, if this got out, would end up starting a campus civil war!
I nodded and stared at the battlefield as it ran out of people for Masaya to take down. In the end, it was a battle between the Pivoine’s Emperor and the Student Council’s President.
I felt the bloodlust and irritability from the older members of the Pivoine leak out as the battle between them intensified. I even heard someone grumble, “If that Senju injures Kaburagi-sama, I’ll crush him!”
Good grief... if it got out that Reika liked him, I don’t want to imagine how the Pivoine would even begin to react...
As I watched, I couldn’t help but give the guy some praise. He and Masaya were rather evenly matched. I’ve never seen Masaya struggle as hard as he was now. Could it be possible that this would be Masaya’s first defeat in the battlefield?
Or, so I thought when that guy’s horse stumbled, and Masaya used that chance to steal his headband.
The cheers and cries of victory were deafening. In the wake of Masaya’s victory, I could barely hear myself think while the people cheered. That guy was still smiling like he was having fun, but Masaya had a vexed expression on his face as his hand crumpled the headband he held.
Ohhh~ looks like Masaya’s going to be even more obsessed with winning next year.
At the end of the festival, the scores were tallied, and that guy’s class won. However, everyone was more busy congratulating Masaya, who won both of his relays and the cavalry battle. With the trophy in one hand, he raised it to the sky in triumph. Well, aren’t you having fun?
Right after the festivals were the mid-sem exams. Because Masaya was avidly training this year, he slipped up and ended in second place while I got first.
When I looked through the list this time, I found Reika’s name at sixteenth. She even improved from last time.
When I glanced around, I saw Reika looking through the list as well. Although her face showed indifference, her eyes were anxiously scanning for her name. When she found it, she let out a sigh of relief and finally began to smile for real.
Yeah, it's better when she's smiling.
I am now in my second year of middle school.
It seems that this time, I would be Reika’s classmate. When I saw her name on our class roster, I had apparently made a strange face, because Masaya happily used the opportunity to call me a creep.
In order to teach him a lesson, I reminded him that he should be careful in getting along with his classmates, or else Yurie wouldn’t take him out on a date. It shut him up pretty fast, and I smiled even wider.
Yurie and Masaya had made a deal, as long as Masaya gets along with his classmates and doesn’t raise a ruckus like he did before, Yurie would carve some time out of her busy schedule and take him out on a date.
I sighed as I bemoaned the fate of my son, or rather, my daughter, since Masaya had fallen into the maiden role completely.
When I got to class and sat down, the hoard of girls quickly emerged and swarmed my desk. The noise was, as usual, tremendous. For people who weren’t used to the noise, it was probably hellish.
I glanced to the side as I looked at my new classmates who had on pained expressions. You think this is bad? Wait until break, it gets much worse.
With all that's happened today, I’m rather surprised by Reika’s behavior. Not once did she get mad and tell them to shut up, despite having an aura of irritation throughout the day. Well, I guess that's Reika for you. She’s always so passive that its a bit concerning.
When I entered the salon, I was greeted by Aira, who was sitting with Reika, who had a bad expression on her face. “Shuusuke, it’s just you today?”
“Yeah. Masaya is sending Yurie off. You know that already, Aira.”
I walked over to them and took a seat. Immediately, the bad expression on Reika’s face became worse. I opted to ignore it as I looked to Aira.
“I just thought it was rare that you were coming to the salon alone, Shuusuke. I thought you’d immediately head home if Masaya wasn’t with you.”
“I have something to do after class, so I’m killing time until then. Also, it’d be annoying to stay in class...” I grimaced as I recalled the bevy of girls who would definitely be there to annoy me if I returned.
Aira smiled sympathetically in response, “I’ve heard. You’re in Reika-chan’s class, apparently.”
I glanced at Reika and smiled. Ah yes, we’re classmates. “Yeah. Although, we almost never talk.”
Her expression clearly says she didn’t want to talk to me. How rude, I haven’t done anything to you.
“Shuusuke, don’t cause her too much trouble, okay? Apparently a lot of girls are really lively around you.” Aira suddenly said to me, as if I was a troublemaker. Hey, Reika, just what exactly have you been telling Aira? You know as well as I do that the cause of the noise in our class if the fault of the girls, not me.
“I warn them, but it’s hard getting them to listen. So as long as they don’t do anything extreme, I’m just ignoring them. Reika-san, can’t you do something about them?”
She immediately made a face at me, “Hah? Why must I?”
“Because you’re the leader of the girls, right? If you speak out, won’t they behave?” Although I point this out to her a lot when we talk, she doesn’t do it. Reika, its fine to throw your weight around you know? You know how powerful the Pivoine are, right? You’re the top girl of our batch, it should be easy for you to stop them.
“I do not have such power. Why do you not speak out?”
“I do, you know? But if I’m too harsh like Masaya, then they start crying, and it gets even worse.” I ended up sounding bitter. Its terribly annoying. I tell them to quiet down or behave, then they’ll burst into tears, as if they’re the victim. Its so damn annoying.
Speaking of girls who were annoying, that reminds me. “Speaking of which, don’t you have a cousin, Kisshouin-san? I hear that lately she’s been approaching Masaya and getting into fights with the second and third year girls.”
A look of absolute terror crosses her features for a moment as she cries out, “EHH!?” Just how bad is your cousin that you react like that?!
Her expression immediately turned for the worse and Aira and I exchanged worried glances. “He-hey, Reika-chan, its okay. I’m sure nothing bad will happen...”
“Waiter, bring some sweets and tea, please.” I ordered some desserts while Aira tried to shake Reika out of her trance. Masaya said the Salted Caramel Chocolate Tart was delicious, maybe if I give some to Reika she’ll break out of her trance?
“Kisshouin-san, calm down...”
That girl, Kotou Ririna, was causing Reika‘s aura to steadily turn depressed as time went on.
It even became typical that one could find Reika as long as you follow Kotou’s trail of mayhem. Currently, that trail led to Masaya’s classroom, or almost at the Pivoine salon itself. Still, that girl flaunted herself and tried to hang onto Masaya without a bit of shame. Masaya had done his absolute best to not get mad, but even he was reaching the end of his patience.
As for people who held favorable impressions of Reika, they all began to loathe Kotou to a degree. I could hear people mentioning how much they resent her. It became common to hear someone spit her name with the same kind of derision one would reserve for things that were typically reserved for undesirables. In short, Kotou had made herself the enemy of many, many people. It was rather surprising that she could still walk around Suiran with her head raised so high. However, it seemed the higher that Kotou raised her head, the lower Reika lowered hers.
She's so vexing...
“Yo, Shuusuke, its your turn to row.” Masaya called out to me as he stopped rowing.
“Ah, got it, got it.” I took the oars from Masaya and began to row.
My expression was probably horrible, since after we arrived at the temple, Masaya had taken the initiative and got us a boat, then rowed us this far out. Sometimes he can be sensitive to others emotions.
“... are you thinking about Kisshouin?”
“Her cousin, actually.”
Masaya scowled, “Why?”
“She’s been apologizing nonstop lately. I can’t help but remember the reason for why she does so. Its a bit painful to see...”
Masaya actually showed an understanding face as he nodded, “I’m at my wits end too. I had endured it for this long, but I don’t think I’ll last any longer if she doesn’t stop.”
“Endure a bit more. Maybe she just needs more time to convince her cousin to stop...” although I said it, I didn’t feel confident about it. Reika was much too soft and meek, while her cousin seemed to have an ego larger than the sun. For Reika to have to care for her cousin that much...
“Shuusuke, calm down!”
“I am calm.”
“Stop clenching the oars that hard! You’re starting to break them!”
“I’m not, Masaya. Would you calm down? You’re disturbing the tranquility of the temple.”
“I’ll calm down when you release the oars! Never mind, give them back! I rather row the entire time than let you destroy our only way back to land!”
Masaya grumbled as he snatched the oars out of my hand. I smiled even as he cursed at me vividly.
It was back to a normal school day, and my mood had been worsening since first period.
Firstly, a girl named Tsurahana Maki, who wasn’t even my classmate, an Internal student but not a member of the Pivoine, had went up and snorted at Reika, commenting that she had “such a cute cousin”, and Reika was unable to respond. Reika’s eyes were full of frustration and worry, and she was barely able to raise her head from how much she had to bow it.
Later, when it was break, Reika had left the classroom looking like she was suffering. The disturbed feeling I had when I saw Reika with Iinchou last year resurfaced, but instead it was directed towards Kotou. How much longer does she plan to abuse Reika’s kindness?
My foul mood made me snap at the girls. Even though they cried, I still forced them to leave. My foul mood seemed to encompass the entire class and caused them to freeze, because they all quickly fled.
When Reika came back after break, she seemed only slightly better than earlier. I worriedly kept glancing at her for the entirety of the lesson. She really doesn’t look well.
Yesterday, Kotou finally angered Masaya.
While he was seeing Yurie off, she tried to get close to the two and speak to them.
It’s an unspoken rule among his followers and all of Suiran that they should never approach Masaya when he’s with Yurie, and especially not get in his way. But it seems that that girl ignored it.
Masaya is typically indifferent to the noisy girls around him. No matter what they do, he would not pay them any attention. But when it comes to those who interrupt his sacred time with Yurie, he takes off the mask of apathy he usually wears, and shows his emotions, and those emotions are not the ones the girls want from him, they’re the exact opposite.
It’s because the girls around him know this, they never approach him at these times.
But did that girl not know even this? Since the other nuisances weren’t there this time, she ran over to Masaya like it was her chance, just as he was trying to get into his car. Even though Yurie-sama needed to go to prep school, that girl ignored the atmosphere and tried to hold them back, so Masaya finally snapped.
“Cut it out! Never appear before me again!” and left her standing there, before riding off with Yurie, who was attempting to calm him down.
When I saw her lone figure in the parking lot, with everyone nearby either snickering or mocking her, I couldn’t help but feel some elation that this prideful girl had been yelled at by Masaya. So much so that when she turned around, I unconsciously ended up chuckling while I left.
The rumor that that girl had angered Masaya spread like wildfire throughout the school. So much so that even the typical girls who hoarded Masaya and me kept their distance a little more than usual and noisily gossiped about her with as much resentment as humanly possible.
In return, Reika’s head had dropped and her face had become constantly stuck in an anxious expression.
Although I laughed elatedly when Kotou was yelled at by Masaya, I can’t accept that Reika’s suffering because of this too...
My head began to hurt even more than usual, so I went with Masaya to the Pivoine.
I did not expect what would happen next at all.
Unlike the usual pattern of us entering and approaching Reika and whomever she was with, this time it was Reika who approached us.
“It seems that my cousin caused you problems yesterday. I am truly sorry.” With her doe-like eyes downcast and a voice full of anxiety and sincerity, she bowed deeply until she was at a 90-degree angle.
Immediately, my eyes darted around the Pivoine. It seems that everyone’s eyes were on Reika and Masaya right now. I took some steps back and watched silently. Now wasn’t the time for me to get involved.
After staying quiet for a while, Masaya let out a huge sigh, “It’s fine. It’s not really your fault or anything.”
“...But she is my cousin.” Reika spoke so softly. Masaya looked at her pityingly. No, everyone in the Pivoine was feeling pity for Reika, it was obvious since even the senior members have begun to talk, and I could clearly hear them say Kotou’s name.
“Then do something about it.”
“I have been trying to do something about it, but…”
“You’re pretty useless.” Masaya chuckled lifelessly as he shook his head. Its fine, Reika. Masaya knows you tried, so he isn’t going to be mad at you.
Reika seemed to hesitate a bit, before she let out a breath of relief. She finally raised her head, and along with everyone, I think we all agreed.
Kotou Ririna must be taught a lesson.
The expression of Reika looking so dejected was stuck in my mind, bothering me so much that I couldn’t even enjoy my tea.
I glanced towards the door as I waited for Reika to return. Apparently her shameless cousin had come knocking once again, so Reika had went over to check on her. Finally, I set down my tea and went over to check on them. What I heard made my blood boil.
“I just want to apologize! Reika-oneesama, just get him for me! Don’t be so stingy!”
“Ririna, you’ve already caused Kaburagi-sama to get angry! Just stop this already!”
I opened the door and walked outside. I turned and looked at Kotou directly as I spoke with my coldest tone of voice.
“You should really cut this out already." I started, glowering at the girl who suddenly went silent as she looked back at me. "If you anger Masaya any more than this, even I don’t know what will happen to you. I bet you don’t know that your cousin, Kisshouin-san, has been lowering her head to various people for your sake. After all, if you did, you wouldn’t have been acting as shameless as you are now, right? The reason that you’re still fine even after making enemies out of nearly all the upperclassmen is because Kisshouin-san has been doing nothing but apologizing for your sake. It’s because Masaya knows this that he’s stayed quiet all this time, but even that is coming to an end.” I felt so irritated that I ended up scowling. I could even see Reika backing away from my peripherals.
Kotou blanched, her face turning an ugly shade of red, then ran off.
“Umm, I am truly sorry for this. I even bothered you, Enjou-sama.” I heard Reika apologize from my side. I turned around and spoke, “She was bothering us as well. I thought it was about time to do something.”
“Is that so.” Reika had a look of worry on her face as she heard me. Ah, she’s probably worried about her cousin. Reika...
I thought over it for a minute then spoke, “But Kisshouin-san, this means that you owe me one.”
“It can’t be that you thought I was helping you for free? You’re really naïve, huh.” I smiled at her kindly as I reigned in my cold aura. Although I felt bad earlier, seeing Reika’s dumbfounded expression was too entertaining.
“I’ll be collecting my debt one day, so don’t forget, okay?”
I left Reika outside the Pivoine then walked back in. Its not like I was actually going to use that favor, but who knows. It may come in handy.
Masaya saw me come back and he immediately gave me a suspicious look. “What did you do?”
“Nothing important. Just know that Kotou won’t be a problem for us anymore.”
After Kotou had been dealt with, the rest of the term had ended smoothly.
It appears that Kotou had understood my message and backed off. How kind of her to finally think about the situations of other people.
Of course, with the end of the first term came second term, and with the second term came the Athletics Festival.
I had been signing on for relays when Reika approached me, an inquisitive look on her face as she asked me, “Why don’t you join the cavalry battle? Everyone would probably be extremely excited to see both you and Kaburagi-sama on the field.”
The mere idea of entering the battlefield with Masaya as my opponent is enough to make me feel like running.
“Unlike Masaya, I don’t really have much zeal for the cavalry battle. When I see him all eager from up close, it really makes me want to avoid it.” Also, being hunted down and dragged to the ground by Masaya is pretty painful, you know? And terrifying, if I must be honest. He really has no sense of calm. Even when we played games as children, it was terrifying to be hunted down during hide-and-seek...
In the end, the boys played rock-paper-scissors to decide who would play against Masaya. The unlucky candidates were then tasked to increase their nonexistent chances of survival through training. It was around that time that I dropped the bomb.
“Masaya’s been really frustrated ever since that close call with the Student Council President last year. He’s even reading books on war strategy now.” These words caused the unlucky candidates to fall further into despair. Ah, good luck.
The festival this year was very tame and boring compared to last. So much so that even Reika had tried to get everyone hyped up, despite having been playing wallflower for almost the entirety of the first term. Even when it was time for her to play, her posse was much quieter compared to last year, when they cheered her own avidly.
However, nearing the end of the calvary battle, I noticed that Reika was quietly watching someone again. Compared to when she was excitedly watching last year, she was a lot more apathetic as she gazed at someone intently.
“Who is that?”
“That’s... Mizusaki Arima, he is in our year, and he’s an External. I believe that he’s also a member of the Student Council? Not too sure...”
An External and a Student Council member, again, Reika? Do you really want to start a civil war...?
After the Athletics Festival was the midterms, and after the midterms was the Cultural Festival.
Although joining was optional, it seemed that everyone had decided participating would be best. However, when ideas were being proposed, anything that could even have the possibility of me placing my attention on something other than my class was quickly vetoed by the girls. Well, the guys didn’t seem keen on sharing Reika with other people either, so we had to cancel many more ideas. In the end, that only left a handmade candle store.
Together, my class made a variety of candles, from plain ones to mosaic flower candles. The more artistic students went ahead and made small sculptures and some were multicolored. Those were really spectacular, to the point were I even asked them to show me how to make some.
Nobody had thought of making a profit, so we used a lot of good materials and ended up with fairly decent products, considering they were made by middle school children.
Somebody had gotten the idea to make aroma candles, so the girls started mixing perfumes and aromas into their candles as well. The overwhelming smell was so strong that I got a headache and opened the windows to ventilate our classroom.
By the way, the moment it got out we were making candles, I was given a list that held all the names of people who wanted to pre-order some. Since the list exceeded more than a hundred names, I threw it out when I got home and just focused on finishing my quota.
Once we all finished our quotas, we were ready for the day of the Cultural Festival. Unsurprisingly, the guests were limited to relatives and those with very high statuses, or very good prestige. Since Masaya’s parents wanted to come and check on Masaya’s class, Suiran was even stricter than usual with its security. Mhm, being the son of the loftiest family in Japan, it really does show in the difference of treatment.
Eventually people started bidding for my candles, but since the prices skyrocketed―which was utterly stupid since it was just a bunch of candles―that was eventually put a stop to, and there was a lottery instead. Because I didn’t want to bother with hosting that lottery, I went around class looking through our items.
Since everyone was crowding around mine, some of the others got ignored. Reika’s, surprisingly, sold more than some of the fancier candles in our class. Ah, even if some of the others looked more fanciful, Reika made small, red with pink drops, flower-shaped candles. They looked rather elegant and were actually cute. They also had a gentle scent attached to them, and the scent was soothing and soft, so compared to the others that were strong in smell and in appearance, Reika’s were really adorable.
I picked up a few and bought them. After I stowed them away in my bag, I left to go hangout with Masaya, who I later found was busily chatting with Yurie. When I saw how firmly he wanted to keep her there, I left on my own. It would be bad to third wheel after all.
While I walked around, I ended up in the Literature club. I glanced at some of the poems until I read Iinchou’s.
I wonder if he has any plans to confess since he wrote this? Hm, that reminds me, Masaya has been going through a lot of love poetry recently. I wonder if he’s going to make one for Yurie.
“We were accepted!”
The elated smiles of Yurie and Aira were clear as day.
“Congratulations.” Masaya’s tone was a mix between happiness for Yurie, and sadness at the inevitable separation. The two girls eagerly went over their plans for university, including their plans to find jobs in America and gain independence from their families. Masaya’s aura steadily grew gloomy as they spoke.
“Of course we’d still keep in touch,” Yurie added as she smiled at Masaya. I glanced at him as well. His eyes were dark but he still nodded at her words.
“Ah, Yurie, that necklace...?” I asked, glancing at the lily-stone necklace she wore. I remember that. It was from a designer set that costed over thirty-million yen. Mother had been interested in it, but when she went to order it, the necklace had already been bought by someone...
“Oh, this? Masaya gave it to me for my birthday.”
I glance at Masaya quietly as he turned his head to the side.
“I see. It suits you very well, you look beautiful.” I smiled kindly and complimented her, which Yurie happily smiled to.
I sip my tea and watched them silently as they chatted with each other.
Around the time cherry blossoms began to bloom, we all advanced into the third, and final year of middle school.
I was with Masaya as we checked the class rosters. I spotted Masaya’s class fairly quick, and when I was about to point it out to him, he suddenly pointed another name to me.
“Masaya, don’t cause trouble for her.”
“I’m not the one kicking up a fuss because I sat down in class.” Masaya sneered as he stuffed his hands into his pockets. I sighed heavily and nodded. “Whatever. Just don’t aggravate the situation.”
“You’re awfully concerned.”
Well, considering its Reika’s first time being your classmate since your popularity skyrocketed, I can’t help but feel worried about how the situation will be handled.
“What’s with that look?”
“Nothing, nothing. I need to head over to the staff faculty for a bit. You should go to class.”
“... all right. See you at lunch then.” Masaya responded, then turned and walked in the direction of his class.
“I think Kisshouin-san would be splendid as the vice rep.”
I glanced at Bouda who seemed frozen beside me. “Sensei, Kisshouin-san has a lot of experience as a class rep, so she’s plenty qualified already.”
“The problem is that she refused last year...”
“That’s no problem. I’ll persuade Kisshouin-san to see things our way.” I smiled politely as I convinced the teacher.
When I had stepped out into the hall, I was accosted by Bouda. “Did you need something from me?”
“Enjou-sama, about Kisshouin-sama being the vice rep...” he started to speak. “Is it really all right? Kisshouin-sama is like that... won’t she refuse?”
I looked at him for a moment, then smiled, “If I didn’t know any better, that sounded like criticism against Kisshouin-san... but you’re not the type to do that. I’ll just remind you, Kisshouin-san’s posse have ears everywhere.”
A look of terror crossed his face as he paled, “Ah! No, its certainly not criticism against her! I’m just really worried she might refuse.”
“Its fine. I’ll be the one to persuade her. Just don’t try to drop all the work to her, okay?”
“Of course not... I still want to live...” I ignored the latter part of his words and said goodbye. With how much she bends to Masaya’s orders, I’m pretty sure she’s a bit of a coward. I highly doubt she’d refuse.
While I was surrounded by girls, I scanned the halls as I tried to find her. Goodness, just where could she be?
“Enjou-sama, Reika-sama is over there!” One of the girls called out to me. I quickly looked in that direction to see Reika being half-dragged by a livelier girl from her posse.
I approached them as I spoke, “Kisshouin-san. Thank goodness, I’ve been trying to find time to speak with you for a while now. This is a great opportunity.”
“Huh?” Confusion was written all over her face as she acknowledged me.
The girls around us began to kick up a fuss. Ahh... my ears...
“It’s a bit hard to talk here, so could you come with me?” I smiled as nicely as I could, but Reika revealed her reluctance with her eyes, while her face was completely composed. I really have to hand it to her, her ability to mask her emotions is almost as good as my own.
In the end, she agreed, and I led her to the base of a staircase far from the girls who previously surrounded us.
“You see, I actually have a favour to ask of you.”
“Yeah. You’re Masaya’s classmate this year, right? Could you go become the class rep, please?”
“What?” Her tone went dead as she questioned me with a blank face.
“You should already know that the girls in Masaya’s class are noisy each year. Since this is the last year of middle school, and a year with a school trip too, it’s going to be especially bad. A normal class rep won’t be able to handle it. That’s why I thought of you.”
“Uhm, why do you care?”
Aside from the fact that Masaya’s mood has been bad since Yurie will be graduating soon, and that any worsening to his mood would definitely cause him to explode and go on a rampage in Suiran, I really have nothing to do with this.
However, as his father, it is my responsibility to ensure the safety of everyone around my wrathful son and ensure he doesn't go on a rampage.
“Someone requested me to persuade you to become the class rep. Its actually the guy who is supposed to be the class rep this year, and your homeroom teacher already has plans to ask you to be a class rep as well. However, they’re not confident that they would be able to persuade you by themselves, so they asked me to do it.”
Perhaps it was because we were out of the public eye, but Reika’s face began to shuffle through a variety of expressions. It was really entertaining to watch. She doesn’t look like she’s even paying me any attention right now. Just what is she thinking about?
Watching her for a few moments, I started to grow bored of the panicked expression which had been on for quite a while, and called out, “Kisshouin-san, are you all right?”
“Eh- ah!? Yes, I am fine.”
Mhm, you say that but you still looked distracted. “Kisshouin-san?”
“I’m fine,” She said loudly. She paused for a moment, then she shook her head and continued, “Well then, become class rep, was it? I must apologize, but I do not believe I have the ability, so could you possibly ask somebody else?”
“I see. I guess it can’t be helped.” I sighed audibly at her refusal.
You really left me no choice, then.
I smiled darkly at her.
“Hey, Kisshouin-san…" I started as I glanced at her, a smile on my face as I enunciated my words, "Don’t you still owe me a favor?”
Her calm expression immediately turned pale. “When Ririna...”
“Yup,” I smiled, popping the ‘p’ as I spoke, “I’m glad you remember. I think its time for you to pay your dues.”
Her face was completely pale as she went silent. Oh my, she’s overreacting too much.
“I see... I guess I have no choice but to do it.”
“Thank you for understanding, Kisshouin-san.” I smiled kindly and left. Well, its not like I was going to let her say no anyways.
“Ah, Bouda-san, did something happen?” I smile kindly as Bouda approached me. “Has there been any changes in your class?”
“Well... no...” Bouda sighed as he twisted his hands. A slight frown appeared on his face as he recounted what had happened in his class. “... and the StuCo President even appeared and scolded us for not being able to deal with them.”
“I see. It must be hard on you. Kisshouin-san hasn’t been able to persuade them to behave?”
“No, she hasn’t. Its more like she’s been allowing them for quite a while now. She would sometimes scold them when I ask her too, but then they’d brush her off and she’d return to her seat. Her group has begun to fight with Tsurahana-san’s group as well. A while ago, Tsurahana-san even bumped into Kisshouin-san and barely apologized.”
I narrowed my eyes slightly. “Is Kisshouin-san all right?”
“Of course she is. If she had gotten injured, it would have probably started a war between their groups.” Bouda seemed distressed as he responded.
She’s fine... okay, thats good. Masaya though, why haven’t you snapped at them yet? “You seem nervous, is something wrong?”
“Ah, well...” Bouda suddenly became quieter as he trailed off.
“Did Tsurahana-san do more than that?” If she did...
“Its not that. Its just after the StuCo President left...”
Mizusaki, huh. He was elected into presidency this year, if I remember right.
“Does Kisshouin-san have a good relationship with him?”
I choke on my spit. Bouda’s eyes widened and he immediately started hitting my back. “Ugh!”
“E-Enjou-sama, are you all right?!”
I raised my hand to stop him from hitting my back. He pulled away and looked at me worriedly. “What makes you say that?”
“Well, after he left, some girls started asking who he was and Kisshouin-san said his name, then she started to smile to herself a bit... Uhmmm, anyways, she seemed to have a fairly good opinion of him.”
I tapped my fingers on the armrest of my chair as I listened. Good opinion of him? Since when did they meet? How could an External, even with his status as a Student Council member, manage to get past Reika’s posse? I thought only Masaya and I were allowed to freely chat with her... Well, she did manage to make friends with Iinchou, but he’s more of a work friend, he doesn’t count. Is it when she visited the council a lot last year in preparation for the Athletics Festival? But still, her status as Pivoine should have put her at odds with the Council members, and I hadn’t heard any rumors...
“Enjou-sama, is something wrong?”
“It’s nothing. Anyways, I seem to recall that Mizusaki-san is generally ranked third in academics after Masaya and myself. Since he is also a member of the meritocratic Student Council, perhaps Kisshouin-san simply admires him.”
I managed to convince Bouda with those words. After chatting a bit more, I made a promise to talk to Masaya about his class’s situation before things got too out of hand.
I sighed and reclined on my seat, eyes trained on the ceiling as I thought about the situation.
When I went to school next day, at around lunch, a couple of guys from my class had begun gossiping over something they heard from Masaya’s class.
“She’s definitely looking to punish them! There’s no way she would come to school with that flawless of an appearance and not be planning something!”
“Perhaps she’s just trying to get Kaburagi-sama’s attention? After all, even if he likes Suzushino-senpai, Kisshouin-san is beautiful and smart, their families are almost on par with each other, and more importantly, they’re closer in age. So if anything, doesn’t she have the strongest chances with him?”
“You are awfully concerned over this matter.”
“My mother had originally wanted me and my sister to pursue Kisshouin-san and Kaburagi-sama respectively, but when she heard that those two were close to each other, she gave up. My sister did end up becoming Kisshouin-san friend, though. She avidly supports her.”
“But first to get Kaburagi-sama’s attention, would she not need to get rid of the competition?”
“Can you really call Tsurahana opposition for her? She’s a Pivoine hailing from Kisshouin, I doubt that Tsurahana is in her eyes.”
“That is true...” they all nodded in agreement.
“What are you talking about?”
“Eh- ack! Enjou-sama!”
I smiled kindly as I looked at them. “I’m sorry, I overheard Masaya and Kisshouin-san’s names, so I became curious. Has something happened?”
“Well, no...” “Nothing in particular...” “Not really...”
Receiving those kinds of answers, I smiled even more brightly at them, “I know what I heard.”
“Kisshouin-san came to school looking more beautiful than usual, and she has a fan, and she seems to be very impatient for something.”
“We were just wondering why she seemed impatient...”
I looked at the third one who had yet to reply.
“...My friend from her class kept telling me that Kisshouin-san was smiling happily as she toyed with her fan, but the smile didn’t reach her eyes.”
“I see,” I hummed softly. “I’m sorry to trouble you, but if something major happens in their class, could you please tell me?”
When they didn’t respond, I looked them over, and smiled kindly at the one who I recalled as being one of my fans, “Please?”
“Of course, Enjou-sama!” He smiled and agreed. The other two shared a look with each other, but went along and agreed as well.
“Ah, right. However, I’ll say this now, Masaya has no romantic attraction towards Kisshouin-san.”
“All right.” They chorused. I hummed again and left.
Is she finally going to make her move?
When I sat down in the Pivoine with Masaya after school, he was telling me about something he happened to have chanced upon.
“She even made that creepy smile you do!”
“I do not make a creepy smile, Masaya.” I glare at him as he grinned widely.
“So, what else happened?”
“I think they returned to the classroom while her followers kicked up a fuss.” He paused for a moment then added, “I didn’t expect that she was actually like that.”
“Perhaps... or she is tired of having to deal with Tsurahana and has decided to discipline her.” I tilt my head as I responded. Ah, I wish I was able to see that.
I saw the doors to the salon open, and a very irate girl with curly hair enter. I turned back to Masaya.
“Did you do something to Kisshouin-san recently?”
“I haven’t. Why?”
“Cause she’s coming over here, and she looks incredibly pissed.” I pointed out as Reika stormed over.
Her entire being was producing a dark aura, and the expression on her face was livid. She was holding her fan in one hand and was clenching it so hard her knuckles have turned white. Although she was normally so docile, right now she really matched the description of an angered empress that my classmates wouldn’t shut up about.
When she stood in front of us, I went silent. Her expression was so cold that I felt the temperature in the salon drop a few degrees.
“Kaburagi-sama, I need to have a word with you.”
“…About?” Masaya asked, a puzzled expression on his face.
“Could you take some responsibility and begin cleaning up after your own messes? Could you not at least control your own followers?”
I glanced at Masaya, who had a look of annoyance when she mentioned followers.
“I don’t tell them to follow me, they just do it on their own, and they start trouble on their own. Besides, I have never paid them any attention, nor have I ever accepted them as my followers.”
Reika’s face twitched, a darker expression appearing after he spoke. “Oh? Since they followed you on their own volition, it is not your business, is that what I am hearing? You actually dare to say something so irresponsible. It truly makes one question whether you even have what it takes to be the next leader of the Kaburagi Group.”
That hit a sore spot. Masaya’s expression immediately changed, and he roared in response, “What did you say?!”
“Did I misspeak? If you cannot even properly handle such a tiny group of people, I can scarcely imagine the difficulties you will have in the future as the Head of the Kaburagi.”
I quickly stepped in before Masaya could throw himself at her.
“Let’s all calm down. Kisshouin-san, aren’t you letting the blood rush to your head a little?”
She immediately turned her glare on me, and spoke sharply, “Could you stop pushing your friend’s problems onto me? I believe I have more than paid back the debt. I’m so sick of cleaning up after you.”
“Masaya,” I called out, moving a bit so I was more or less in his path to Reika. “Yeah. Sorry about causing you trouble.”
Her expression clearly showed that she didn’t believe I had a speck of sincerity in me at all.
“Hmph, I take my leave. Gokigen’yoh.” With that, she turned and left. When she disappeared through the doors of the salon, I turned around and began to calm Masaya down. It took half an hour, but he finally calmed. He even looked to be reflecting on himself.
I glanced at the doors of the salon quietly and winced.
I messed up big time...
I sighed as I returned to the salon. “Have you found her?”
“No.” Masaya frowned at me as he crossed his arms.
“We really need to apologize.”
“She probably went home already. Its already close to 4 pm.”
“But-“ Masaya cut me off, “Apologizing today and apologizing tomorrow morning isn’t that different. Other than that, she’s probably still mad, so she probably needs to calm down. Shuusuke, why are you tiring yourself out over this?”
I bit my lip and sighed heavily. “Fine. We’ll see her tomorrow morning.”
“You apologize too.”
“I know that.” Masaya frowned.
We walked back towards our cars. When I glanced at my car and saw someone inside, I frowned. “Masaya, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Hm? Ah.” He glanced at my car and nodded. “See ya.”
I walked towards the car and put on a smile.
After my chauffeur opened the door, I bowed slightly as I spoke, “Sorry, I didn’t know you were picking me up.”
The person in the car laughed lightly, “Its alright, Shuu. Did you have something to do?”
“I just needed to speak to someone, however, it seems that they left already. Have you had dinner?”
“Not yet. However, Otousama just came back from a business trip and he wants to have a family dinner.”
“Ah... All right. I’m sorry for causing you trouble.”
“Its fine~ its fine~” She laughed it off as she reclined in her seat. I entered the car and sat down.
It was quiet for a while, then I looked at her and asked, “Yuiko-san, do you think you could advise me on this?”
"There is a girl I ended up angering due to my actions. What should I do to show I am sincerely apologizing?"
“Huh?” Her clear eyes opened up wider as she looked at me. Is that... irritation?
“Do you really need to apologize? Whatever it was you did, it probably wasn’t as bad as you think.” Yuiko responded with a tight-lipped smile.
I really can’t depend on her for advice, huh.
I followed Masaya to his class. The moment we walk in, we’re blasted by the screams of girls.
“Its the Emperor and Enjou-sama!”
I ignored them and looked through the crowd, searching for Reika.
There she is.
“Kisshouin-san-“ I started to speak, but Masaya charged on ahead of me. What are you doing?
He stood in front of her seat with his arms crossed. After a moment, he uncrossed his arms and-
Smacked his hand down on her head.
“NGYAH-!” Reika cried out. I raised an eyebrow at that. That sounded su~per unladylike.
“We’re even now.” He said. After that, he walked back to his seat.
I glanced at him wearily before I headed over to Reika, who was still rubbing her head, “Sorry about that, Kisshouin-san. I kind of have something to talk to you about. Do you have some spare time?”
Her expression was reluctant, but she got up from her seat and followed me. We walked silently to the base of a staircase. Oh, isn’t this like when I asked her to become class rep?
“Is your head all right? He really shouldn’t have hit you, but... well, that is his way of apologising.”
“‘Apologizing’?” She repeated, her expression showed ridicule.
“We had a talk after you left the salon. We realised that we were being irresponsible, and reflected on it. However, Masaya’s just stubborn, so he couldn’t bring himself to apologise honestly. That’s why he said stuff about being even instead.”
Her expression showed disbelief, so I continued, “I explained the situation to everyone in the salon. I told them that we had dome something to anger you. Luckily, there wasn’t a lot of people in the salon. I also forbade them from speaking, so there shouldn’t be any rumours.”
At this point, she finally seemed to relax a bit. “Um, thank you very much.”
I looked at her for a moment then bowed deeply. “I reflected on my actions as well. I apologize for dragging you into our messes and forcing you clean-up after us.”
She was silent for a while, then spoke, “So does that mean that we will forget about what happened yesterday?”
I raised my head then nodded, “Of course.”
When I looked at her eyes, she really seemed to not trust me. “Your expression says that you don’t trust me at all. Am I really so untrustworthy in your eyes?” I asked her. She ignored my question and hummed. I’ll take that as a yes, then...
“I really do feel bad though. As an apology for Masaya’s punch, please give me a good hit.”
I braced myself after I asked her. She had on a hesitant expression. Ah, even though its like that, she really looks like she wants retribution for what happened. I smiled weakly, “If you don’t at least hit me, I won’t be able to feel at ease. Although I am not Masaya, this time we’ll really count it as even, okay?”
“You truly will not hold a grudge? For example, using this to threaten me later.”
“I won’t, I said.” I sighed when she asked.
I glanced at her, then leaned down some more to make it easier for her to hit me.
“GUH!” Painful! Really painful! Did she take classes for punching people?! I clutched my stomach and groaned.
“Well then, I suppose we truly are even now. Right, Enjou-sama?” I heard her ask from above me. I nodded in response.
Hearing a laugh, I saw her feet turn around and she skipped away.
Oh my god, is she an S?! She laughed at my pain! When Masaya said she had slapped Tsurahana with her fan, I didn’t believe that he wasn’t exaggerating!
I groaned and rubbed my stomach as the final pangs of pain left.
The bell began to ring for latecomers. Ah, dammit... I started walking to class.
“Sorry for being late, Sensei.”
“Ah, Enjou-san... its fine. Its your first time being late, so I’ll let you off. Please take a seat.”
I walked back to my seat and sat down. When the attention was finally back on the teacher instead of me, I discretely rubbed my stomach. I have the feeling that this is going to bruise...
When school returned, I was completely exhausted from spending most of the break attending family parties, taking care of my little brother, speaking to bride candidates, and studying for exams. To top off this busy schedule was that the Athletics Festival was approaching.
So that meant I had to supervise my (fake) son to ensure he doesn’t accidentally kill his classmates during his spartan boot camp.
I sipped my ice-cold drink of honeyed lemon as I watched Masaya add an extra couple of pounds to their leg weights, then forced them to run another five laps. Around the entire Kaburagi estate. Which was easily double the size of my family’s main mansion.
“Masaya, isn’t that too much?” I asked as I pulled my sun hat over my head, and walked out from the shade and towards them. God, its so hot. I think they’ll all get sunburn after this. I’m surprised no one had fainted from heat stroke as of yet.
“Want to join us?” Masaya snorted as he wiped sweat off his face. Since they were training from the start of the day until now, everyone was completely soaked in sweat until their clothes were dark. Even Masaya wasn’t able to stop himself from sweating like a horse. “No thanks. I’ll enjoy my nice, cold drink back in the shade.”
“Tyrant.” I grinned as he scoffed. I handed him his towel and his water jug. “Don’t you think its time for their break soon?”
“After another two laps.”
“Masaya, they’ll faint. And some of them need to get home before five, remember?” I chided him as I watched the group of guys reappear from the distance. They were struggling to continue, and one of them looked like they were being dragged by the other guys. How pitiful...
“Fine...” he sighed as he wiped his sweat away. He took a few gulps of his water before passing both the towel and the water jug back to me and ran over to the guys, who were barely able to run anymore.
I watched as they all collapsed dead on the ground, weak groans and moans of pain erupting from their mouths as Masaya left to get more water. I walked over to them and looked at them calmly.
“Don’t worry, you guys are almost done for today.”
“Almost?! What time is it?!”
“Around one in the afternoon.”
“Ahh... shit... I can’t move my legs...”
I smiled wearily as I looked them over. Masaya, what have you done. They’ve actually all grown muscles since they started training... I smiled in sympathy as Masaya returned with more bottles of water. He passed it out to them and they all greedily drank.
“We’ll surely win the cavalry battle at this rate.” Masaya stated determinedly. I glanced at his horses who seemed pretty fierce, but also dead tired.
“Of course you will... was it really okay to not train the other group from your class?”
“Its fine. I just need to win for my class to win.”
How confident. Good for you.
“We’ll be practicing our tactics now, so you gotta leave.” Masaya warned me as he threw my bottle of honeyed lemon at me. I caught it and sighed, “After all I do for you, this is how you treat me? Kicking me out so cruelly on such a hot day?”
“Tch. Some best friend you are,” I snorted at him as I took a drink. I stood up and said my goodbyes to everyone.
When I was about to pass through the gates of the Kaburagi household, I felt someone grab my arm. I looked back to see that it was Masaya holding me back. “What?”
“I just remembered, there’s something I think you may want to know...”
“Huh?” I looked at Masaya suspiciously. “About?”
My eyes narrowed as I turned around fully. “Go on.”
“Well, I heard this from my class’s class rep, but...”
On the day of the Athletics Carnival, the sky was nice and clear. Perfect for the arrival of the Emperor and his warhorse at the battlefront.
Since Masaya was also doing the baton relays as well, he practised for that too. I heard from some of my informants in Reika’s class, but the training was super vicious. Masaya basically became a drill sergeant and he hammered it in to everyone how important it was for the movements to be fluid and to not waste a single action.
Yeah, sounds exactly like what I would expect of him.
I was sitting to the side while I watched the ball-toss event with Masaya. We were chatting, and Masaya was happily proclaiming how well he had trained his class, when a ball went flying though the air and nailed someone on the back of their head.
“Ow!” I immediately followed the source of that voice and found Reika rubbing the back of her head. At her feet were two balls, and I glanced back at her frantically apologizing classmate.
“Masaya, who is that?”
“Hm?” He looked where I was pointing and responded, “That’s Kishido Ken, I think. Ah, damn it, what are they doing? They’re not playing right!” Masaya scowled as everyone begun to throw the balls away from Reika. Is this some persecution-complex? Are they scared Reika will hunt them down if they hit her?
I glanced at the players and noticed some were sneaking glances at Masaya. Wait, don’t tell me...
I pointed out the scoreboard to Masaya, “Look.”
Masaya’s expression became much worse when he noticed how much points his class was losing. While he was busy looking there, I kept my attention on his class. Yeah, I was right. It’s because of Masaya.
“At least there’s the cavalry battle next.”
“... Right.” He responded with a huff, reclining in his seat. I glanced at his classmates and noticed some of them were playing worse than before. It seems Masaya’s bad mood has caused their morale to drop.
In the end, his class didn’t do very well. So when they returned, Masaya was waiting for them with a dark expression. Good luck.
I was walking around and happened to bump into one of Reika’s friends, Kazami-san, I believe. I ended up relaying the incident of Reika being nailed in the head by a ball to her, and the name of the person who did it. With a bloodthirsty light coming from her eyes, she thanked me and ran off.
I learned a little later that Kishido-san had been ganged-up on by the Empress’s retinue of warriors. When he came back to class, he was as white as a sheet, but he refused to relinquish the details of what happened. Mhm, be more careful next time, Kishido-san.
Finally, the time for the cavalry battle arrived.
Appearing on the battlefield with his warhorse, Masaya calmly looked over the crowd, completely overshadowing everyone else. The moment that the airhorn that signaled start blared through the air, Masaya had engaged in a scuffle with another rider.
One by one, Masaya threw down his opponents and hunted down the others with abandon, a dangerous glint in his eyes as he swiftly moved his horse towards each rider in the battlefield.
I glanced around, trying to locate that person Masaya had told me about.
“Kisshouin had apparently been cozying up to the President of the Student Council. Although he was a bit hostile, the class rep said he had admired her during the first year of middle school.”
My eyes narrowed further as I finally located him. He was on the other side, taking down players nearly as swiftly as Masaya was, before he glanced around to look for more opponents. It seems the people who weren’t Masaya nor Mizusaki were fearfully stuck in the middle of the playing field, trying to avoid the both of them.
When I looked to the side, I noticed Reika watching the battle intently. That’s when I heard a yell and noticed someone had fallen. Oh, isn’t that Haruki?
I watched as he fell to the ground after being thrown down by Masaya. Mhm, he’s become completely messy. Masaya, you really have no mercy in you at all...
Masaya’s gaze returned to the battlefield, and he faced off against the StuCo President.
I saw Reika smiling at him, and I inwardly began to hope Masaya would throw him down as well. Perhaps even end up accidentally trampling him with his horse, however improbable the latter would be.
In the end, despite becoming stronger than last year, Mizusaki fell from his horse and lost to Masaya.
Masaya stood atop the podium after he won, and declared that he would retire from cavalry battles entirely. The victory of his battle and the lament for his retirement caused mixed feelings amongst the cheering crowd. I clapped lightly as he came down from the podium with his prize in hand.
“Good job on winning.”
“Thanks.” Masaya grinned happily as he tucked his prize under his arm. Yep, he’s really happy about winning.
I looked at him quietly as I pondered over his statement.
What the heck do you mean by ‘retirement’?
The day after the festival, I was walking around the school when I chanced upon the scene of Haruki seemingly yelling at Reika. I was a bit too far to hear what he said, but it didn’t seem to bother Reika, who calmly walked away after his yelling.
Still, its no good for him to not respect his elders.
“Haruki.” I called out to him as I approached. His expression immediately became more docile as he saw me and responded, “Good afternoon, Enjou-sama!”
“What were you doing yelling in the halls, earlier? At your senior no less.” I asked him as I gave him a disappointed frown. He immediately made a bad expression and retorted, “I was just warning her.”
“Warning her of what? Also, what’s with that disrespectful tone and choice of words? Your parents would be ashamed to hear such vulgarity coming from their son’s mouth.”
“Geh... but! She’s totally coming onto you! Can’t you see that?!”
If only. “Kisshouin-san is a respectable and nice girl. I’d appreciate it if you treated her appropriately, not only as your senior, but also as a fellow student of Suiran.” I paused for a moment then added, “And if I want her company, you should stay out of it.”
He actually revealed an indignant expression at my words. “What about Yuiko-san?!”
I paused for a moment, then looked at him calmly, the smile on my face disapperig entirely, “Yuiko-san? Why, its none of her business either. I’ll overlook it this time, Haruki, but if I catch you acring so rudely to Kisshouin-san again, then I’ll take matters into my own hands.”
That shut him up. Although his expression was bad, he obediently nodded.
“I won’t make you apologize to her since I’m sure you won’t be sincere about it, but don’t do that again.” I sighed lightly as I shrugged. “I don’t want to repeat myself ever again on these sort of matters, understood?”
“... yes, Enjou-sama.”
“Good.” I nodded and walked off.
It was a little while later that I learned Haruki was dragged away by the Empress’s retinye and spoken too as well. However, unlike all the other people who would return with pale faces and trembling all over, he seemed to come out of it fine. I wonder if they were being lenient since he was younger, or his skull was too thick to realize how much danger he would be in if Reika did take offense to his words.
After all, I’m pretty sure that Reika has a majority of the people in school eating out of the palm of her hand. Anyone who got blacklisted by the retinue were basically social outcasts, but if he were to have offended Reika and she chose to blacklist him, then I don’t think Haruki would have any chance to continue schooling at Suiran unless he was fine being brought to the brink of despair every day.
I sighed heavily as I drank my tea. Then there’s the matter with the Uryuus, too...
Today was the final day of middle school. After this, we all would really have to leave behind our childhood and start preparing for the to take over our families and prepare to enter the business world.
The graduation speech was done by Masaya. Although he was an oddball and a cavalry-battle maniac, he was still the most outstanding student in our grade, as well as the face of Suiran and the Pivoine. It was rare that the Pivoine would get someone so exceptional, so of course the school was bias and passed the duty onto him. Though, I’m pretty sure that that StuCo President was boiling with envy right about now. After all, this was the third time Masaya had showed him up publicly. It mustn’t have felt good to endure.
However, Masaya was still a Kaburagi, bred from birth and trained till now to handle social situations perfectly. The address went exceedingly well, and I noticed more than just the girls looking at him with captivation. It seems his indomitable display of power every year as the Cavalry Battle Emperor has cemented his position as the Emperor of Suiran in their minds.
Although that was so, Masaya didn’t even utter a single word about the cavalry battle during his speech, even if it was one of the highlights of his middle school years. It seems he understood it as dark history, and is now trying to bury it. Masaya, no one is going to forget. Its in the school’s yearbook...
When he came down from the podium, he was immediately surrounded by boys who wanted to learn the techniques from the Cavalry Battle Emperor. Even Haruki, who was thrown down by him near the end, was avidly trying to apply as his disciple. Did Masaya start up a cavalry battle craze for the boys of Suiran?
In the end, he rejected every one of them, saying; “Techniques aren’t things you are taught; they are things you plunder.”
What the heck. This idiot- No, all these idiots have cavalry battle mania. I ended up stepping away from them all to avoid being seen as one of them. Don’t mind me, I am not connected with these people at all.
Who knew there would come a day Masaya would really accept his nickname of Emperor, and even act as such. I thought it would be humiliating if it was in town, but here in school, with everyone watching, just being associated makes me feel embarrased...
When we left the hall, we were being congratulated left and right by everyone who came. Even the parents of children we didn’t really know came over and congratulated us. Though, that was to be expected when you were the heirs of powerful families. More than once did some parents come over with their daughter and try to invite us over to their hiuse, but Masaya blankly refused, while I cited my immensely busy schedule to get out of it. Though they looked disappointed, the girls still came pouring in and asking for handshakes. It got to the point where I felt like cutting my hand off just to end this torture...
I was glancing around when I heard a familiarly annoying voice, but in a more cutesy rendition of it. I looked around and noticed it was Kotou, who was chatting up Reika and her older brother.
“Lillies are Ririna’s flowers!” She declared to the male Kisshouin. Hearing the word ‘lilies’ caused Masaya to look in their direction too, though he promptly ignored it and returned to shaking people’s hands.
I was a bit preoccupied by watching them, so I mindlessly shook hands and said words of congratulations. Then they started taking pictures. Tsk, since when did I or Masaya say that was fine?
“Enjou-sama, may I take a picture with you?” A girl came up to me. I was about to reject her when I noticed Iinchou following behind with his own camera, and a blush splattered across his face. Ah, wait, this is... “Honda-san, right? Thank you for taking care of me two years ago.”
“My, its was my pleasure. Thank you for being such a cooperative classmate, Enjou-sama.”
I looked at Iinchou and said, “Iinchou-san, why don’t you take a picture with us as well?”
He stumbled for a bit and blushed madly, but in the end, due to my prompting and Honda’s encouragements, we took a picture. Honda was elated while Iinchou seemed to be buzzing from euphoria of taking a picture with his crush. Such a maiden. That reminds me, Yurie said she would be going to Masaya’s house to celebrate his graduation, wasn’t she?
I finally managed to escape the crowd almost an hour later. There were still many students who were staying behind and taking pictures, so I went and grabbed my camera from my attendant and returned. I took a few photos with a couple of people, and Masaya and I ended up bumping into some seniors we had gotten along with, so we took pictures with them as well.
I scanned over the crowd and quietly approached the exit of the school. I was watching for a bit when I saw the Kisshouin family car fade into the distance.
I sighed and decided to return to the ceremony hall, when I heard a voice call out to me from behind.
“Shuu! Congratulations on graduating!”
“Ah... Yuiko-san. Thank you for coming.” I smiled tightly as she approached. Her hair was done in a side braid as she wore a simple white dress. With a gentle smile, she handed over a bouquet of flowers. I glanced them over and noticed they were anemones and stephanotises.
I glanced back up at her and smiled, “Thank you.”
She smiled sweetly in response, “No problem. I’ll send you home today, okay.”
With those words, she brought me back home. She wasn’t able to stay for dinner since she had a previous arrangement planned, but she promised to join the celebratory party my parents would host tomorrow.
I looked at the bouquet of flowers and threw them onto my desk as I groaned heavily. Anemones and stephanotises? Does she really believe we’re already engaged?
I sighed and massaged my forehead.
While I was contemplating what to do with the bouquet Yuiko gave me, my phone dinged as I received a message.
It was from Iinchou. He had sent me a photo of Reika, who was happily posing for the camera while holding up bouquets of flowers with a genuinely cheerful smile on her face.
At the bottom of the text, he had typed, “Thanks for the picture with Miharu-san!”
I glanced at the photo for a while and saved it to my phone.
I hope no one ever finds out I have this picture.
The meanings of anemones and stephanotises are ‘expectation’ and ‘marital happiness’ respectively. By gifting those to Enjou, she’s basically saying “I expect a blissful marriage with you.” Its why Enjou got irritable in the end.
The entrance ceremony for the arriving high school students was on a cool April day, graced by fair weather and blooming cherry blossoms that scattered in the wind.
I sat in the back row, surrounded by my group and ignoring the fervent glances of the other students. On stage was the high school section’s Student Council President Tomoe Senju, who was giving a welcoming speech to the new students. Up next was Masaya. When he took the stage, I heard several people suck in a breath. Yep. My son is handsome, isn’t he?
I watched Masaya take the stage and deliver the speech, representing all of the new students. Several people seemed to be captivated and I knew then and there that Masaya’s popularity had went up again. Several groups would grow noisy whenever Masaya would cast his gaze around the stage, and I entertained the idea of throwing something at the people to shush them.
The one who should be introducing us is that Mizusaki fellow, but if Suiran did not give face to the Kaburagi's heir, I don't think there would be even one member of the Pivoine, current or former, who wouldn't fly into a rage.
Eventually, the welcoming ceremony came to an end. Masaya left the stage, and together we went to check the class rosters that were posted outside the hall.
After I found my name, I checked the list to see who would be my classmates.
It seems neither Masaya nor Reika would be my classmates, huh...
“My name is Enjou Shuusuke. I hope we can all get along this year.”
I smiled politely and ignored the clapping from the Internal students, and the bemused expressions of the Externals. When my teacher nodded, I took my seat and the others began to introduce themselves one after the other.
I glanced out of the window in boredom. There’s no interesting people in my class...
After the teacher picked out the class reps, it was decided that the people for the various other roles as well as a tour of the school would take place during tomorrow’s home room period, so with that, class ended, then we were all excused.
When I arrived home, I saw Okaasama resting in the living room and drinking some tea. I greeted her before I went upstairs and to my room.
Before I got in, I could hear the sounds of someone moving inside. I opened my door and saw my little brother, surrounded by stuff that came from my opened and now messy closet, with his back to me, holding something in his hands.
“Uhm, Yukino?” I call out to him as I dropped my bag on my bed. My honey-haired little brother turned around, eyes wide, before smiling brightly at me. “Oniisama! Welcome home!”
“Hi... What are you doing?” I ask, walking over to him and carefully picked my way through the mess. “I wanted to find that pretty scarf you had, but I found this instead! She’s so pretty, like a princess! Who is she?”
“Princess?” I looked down at his hands and found Reika’s graduation photo in them.
“Yukino, don’t go through my stuff!” I ended up using harsh voice on Yukino. Yukino jolted and the photo dropped from his hands. He looked up at me, teary-eyed, before lowering his head and muttering a soft, “Sorry, Oniisama.” He kept his head down and didn’t say anything else.
Although its him who went through my things... well, he said sorry.
I sighed and sat down beside him and picked up the photo. “Sorry, Yukino. I shouldn’t have raised my voice.” I rubbed his head gently. “I’m not mad, don’t worry.”
I look at him, then lightly tap his head with the picture. “You asked me who she was, right? This princess.”
I hummed softly, as I looked at the picture.
“She’s a really interesting and fun person that I know from school. A lot of people don’t approach her because of how she looks like she wouldn’t give them the time of day, but she’s actually a gregarious person. She‘s very beautiful as well, so a lot of people would sometimes come to our class to stare,” I bit my lip, remembering how many times Reika-fans would gather at the classroom doors in fifth grade, looking at Reika, or like in sixth grade, where the boys would noisily talk about her. Unlike with Masaya and I, she had a group who was fiercely protective of her, and wouldn’t allow people near at all...
I continued, “She’s actually a very docile and good person, though she is frightening when mad.”
“Oh~” Yukino smiled as he looked at the picture. “Oniisama, do you like her?”
I glanced at Yukino and smiled, “She’s just a friend.”
A confused expression crossed Yukino’s face, “But you sound like you-“
A knock on the door cut Yukino off. “Young masters, dinner is ready. Please come down to eat.”
I huff and stood up. I placed the photo back in my drawers as I glanced around the room. I’ll just have the maids clean up...
“Come on, Yukino. Its time for dinner.” I held his hand and tugged him towards the door. Although he was pouting, he quietly followed.
“Will she become my Oneesama?”
“We’ll see.” I hummed as I walked away from the room, Yukino still giving me an odd look.
Though, considering how much Reika avoids me, if I want to make her my bride, I’d have to work really hard...
The next morning, it was time for the various other responsibilities to be handed out. I looked over the list of names and wondered what to do.
Speaking of which, last year, I just gave the various roles to some Externals. I glanced around the classroom, thought for a moment, then revealed a charming smile, “Would anyone want to volunteer?”
A flood of volunteers from the girls came forth. I smiled kindly at my class rep and left it to them to deal with the assignment of roles. I sat back down in my seat as I watched the flurry of girls crowd them. Mhm, be careful to not get stepped on, Class Rep.
After that was done, we began our tour of the school. One building after the other, the new Externals seemed to be suffering some rather extreme culture shook. After the reveal of the state-of-the-art laboratory and the mere introduction to the main library, I’m half sure some of them begun to truly realize the ridiculousness of the school’s wealth. The Suiran Brand is really not just for show.
For me, though, I could clearly see the Pivoine students’s eyes glistening with pride at all the equipment and buildings of their school. I could already sense the hierarchy between the normals and Pivoines being established in the background...
We arrived at the Student Council room a little later, just as another class left. When I looked at them, I noticed that there was a girl who had left her mouth wide open. Uh, mind closing that? You look kind of... stupid.
As soon as we entered, we were faced with a very calm and serious senpai, the Student Council President, Tomoe Senju.
“Oh, hello there.” Tomoe-senpai smiled politely. He, along with the rest of the Student Council, introduced themselves, then gave a brief lecture on the rules. As well as throwing in a warning for the Externals.
“The Pivoine is a group that receives special treatment here at Suiran. For the details, you can ask some of the Internals. That red peony pin on the lapel of Enjou-san’s blazer is a symbol of membership of the Pivoine, so be careful around those who wear them.”
... You totally just said I’m a dangerous person in a roundabout fashion, didn’t you, Senpai?
“If you have any problems at all, come talk to the Student Council. However, I believe things should be fine since you have Enjou-san anyway. He’s good at keeping the order and he’s very helpful, so just ask him for help if you need it.”
Don’t throw me under the bus because you don’t want to be troubled by others!
Although I was inwardly retorting, I kept my smile on my face and left with my class.
I’m not Reika, don’t try to hand off odd jobs to me!
Its been several days since the start of the year, and things have been progressing rather smoothly. Or, as smoothly as it can be with some of the Externals still floundering around like a fish out of water. Well, its to be expected. The difference between a normal school and Suiran should be worlds apart.
Still, they are having a rather hard time acclimatizing to the school environment, but that is the concerns of the class reps and other class officials, not me.
While I was having lunch with Masaya in the reserved seats for the Pivoine, I noticed a group of about forty students, and one person standing over them, like a host. That person then took a seat after saying something, and everyone began to eat.
Oh wait, thats Reika!
I watched quietly as I ate my food. In a few minutes after they sat down to eat, they grew noisy and were chatting amongst themselves in a lively fashion.
“She’s really good at that.”
Huh? I glanced to my side and saw Masaya watching as well. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Kisshouin. She’s always been good at communicating with people and managing them. When we were classmates, everyone was quick to give her whatever she wanted and even the teachers seemed pretty partial to her- even more so than they were to me.” He responded with a shrug.
My eyes narrowed slightly as I asked, “Since when have you been observing her?” My tone was a little sharp, so I quickly added in a smile to soften my words.
Masaya looked at me then slowly thought over his words, and said carefully, “I noticed that you’re always watching her, so sometimes I get curious and look over as well. I don’t really pay that much attention to her otherwise, though.”
I see. I smiled at him and finished my food. “Hey, Masaya, what happened to Kishido-san?”
“Ah, Kishido?” Masaya thought over it, then said, “He joined the basketball club now, I think? He’s very careful when we play sports now. He actively warns and reminds us to mind the people walking around or staying at the sidelines so they won’t get hit. I guess he’s still repenting for having nailed Kisshouin in the head last year.”
I would assume so, since he got dragged away by the Empress’s generals. “I see.”
Masaya looked at me, then shrugged and finished his food.
“Kisshouin reminds me of my mom, managing social events like that.” He said after a while.
Like Obasan? Hmm... I compared the last Kaburagi party I went to with Reika’s little event and shrugged, “Its similar, but it isn’t as fancy.”
“The idea to bring everyone together through a luncheon sounds like an idea my mom would think of though. Actually, I think she did that just a month ago.”
That... “Yeah, true. Your mom does love to manage social events.”
Masaya nodded his head and we left the cafeteria.
“So, have you figured if you wanted to join any club, Masaya-kun?”
Okaasama asked as we eat dinner. Yukino is sitting at Okaasama’s side, while I’m on Masaya’s. The chair Otousama normally sits in is empty, the owner being away on another business trip for the company.
“I don’t really want to join any clubs. None of them are that interesting for me.”
“I see.” Okaasama glances at me and I shrug. She already knows I have no plans to join one.
That aside, Yukino adds, “When I go to Suiran, I want to join a club!”
“You probably won’t be able to get into a sports club, Yukino.” Masaya responds. I kick him under the table as I turn to my brother with a gentle smile and say, “Nonsense. If you get better, you’ll be able to join any club you like, Yukino.” Masaya rubbed his shin and glared at me heavily, while I smile at Yukino.
Okaasama smiled wryly as she watched us silently.
“Mhm~ yeah!” Yukino smiled cutely and continues to eat.
I noticed him pushing his vegetables to the side and scold him, “Eat your veggies, Yukino. Those are good for you.”
“Wahh~ you’re not the boss of me!” Yukino pouts.
“I’m your older brother.”
“Still not the boss of me!”
Okaasama laughs and interjects, “Come now, Yukino, you should just eat your veggies. Here, we even sweetened yours a bit so it doesn’t taste bland.”
Yukino pouts as Okaasama feeds him herself. Masaya watched in amusement as he ate his dinner.
“Mhm...” Yukino, finally finished with his food, turns to me and reveals a bright smile. Ah, why do I have a bad feeling about that...?
“Masaya-niisama, do you know a girl with princess curls?”
“Princess curls?” Masaya looks at Yukino, befuddled, before he continued. “Yeah, I know someone like that. Why?”
“Yukino, wait-” I attempted to stop him, but was ignored as he continued on with a growing grin.
“Because Oniisama keeps a picture of her in his room!” He shouts out, revealing it to everyone.
I swallow thickly and grab my glass of water, chugging it down and avoiding Masaya’s blank stare. Yukino happily starts asking Masaya about her.
“She’s an incredibly pretty and popular girl according to Oniisama, but he didn’t tell me her name! Its weird though, the picture looks like a graduation photo, so why didn’t Oniisama just take a picture together with her if he likes her so much?”
“Yukino-“ I try to stop him, but he continues on, speaking over me as he happily starts exposing me. Even Okaasama is showing an interested expression.
Quit it you little demon!
“When I asked him if she would become my Oneesama, he said ‘we’ll see’! Is she Oniisama’s girlfriend? Hey, Masaya-niisama, is she a good girl like Oniisama says? If you had a say, would you think she’s a good bride for Oniisama?” Yukino smiled innocently as he finished exposing me. I feel my gut churn as Okaasama looks at me quietly.
Masaya is silent for a moment, then answers, “I’m not sure if we’re talking about the same person, but the girl that I know about is named Kisshouin Reika. She’s pretty normal in my opinion, but she has indeed helped me out before, so she is a... good person, at least. As for her being Shuusuke’s girlfriend and becoming his bride...” Masaya looks at me wordlessly. Stop giving me such a disappointed look like I’m a creep! You have tons of pictures of Yurie too
I felt my face begin to burn, so I shook my head and coughed, which made them turn their attention to me. I forced on a smile and said, “Kisshouin-san is merely a friend of mine. That picture I have of her in my room was given to me by a mutual friend of ours, and the reason I didn't take a picture with her was because she left while I was busy taking photos with other people. Besides,” I shot a look at Yukino who showed a doubtful expression, "Yukino, you shouldn't have been rummaging through my closet to begin with."
"Sorry, Oniisama." Yukino said halfheartedly as he turned his attention back to his plate, seemingly no longer interested in pursuing the topic.
Okaasama though, seems to still be unconvinced. I continued to smile as I spoke, “Its the truth.”
I ignore Masaya’s stare and focus on repairing the situation. Ugh, Yukino, why must you expose me at the dinner table...
“Well, its normal for people to keep pictures of those they are close to.” Okaasama finally speaks. Although I’m relieved we’re dropping the topic, Okaasama doesn't seem to believe me at all...
“Yeah...” Yukino adds in quietly. I ignore his disappointed expression.
“But I must say, I'm surprised you called her your friend. Didn't you say to Madame Kaburagi that you weren't close?"
"That's in the past. We're pretty close now." I responded quickly, and Okaasama nodded as she finally dropped the subject.
I ignored the cold stare aimed at my back. Masaya, stop looking at me so coldly...
“So... Kisshouin, huh.”
Masaya starts as we enter my room. He looks at me warily and crossed his arms. “How long exactly?”
“You know, I invited you over to play video games, not to hound me over something you hear over dinner.” I respond as I kneel in front of my drawers, searching for my game collection. Masaya isn’t helping me. He’s just lazily sitting on a chair with my album on his lap. Since he didn’t believe me, one of the first things I did when we got to my room was throw that album at him. That bastard still doesn’t look like he believes me.
“Yeah, but this is the first I ever heard about you liking someone, and the first I hear that you’ve got her picture, so care to elaborate?”
“I don’t like her.” I snap at him as I go through my game collection. Masaya snorts, “Suuuuure you don’t. I mean, watching her constantly, making follow-ups whenever you notice something happened to her, and persistently asking people about her is totally not indicative that you like her. Totally not.” He closes the album and leaves it at his side.
I throw one of the ornaments inside my drawers at him, and he catches it with ease. This annoying bastard.
“As if you’ve never done it yourself.”
“Yeah, but I openly tell Yurie I like her. You, on the other hand, are not only in denial, but also stalking her through her classmates.”
I get up, holding a couple of games, and walk over to Masaya who’s lounging on my seat with a smug expression on his face. “By the by, since when were you two close enough to be friends? If I remember correctly, she avoids us like the plague.”
I prepare the system while he continues talking. After a while of listening to him talk, I respond, “Its ironic that our love lives are like this, aren’t they? However, the difference between us is that while Yurie may speak with you and like you, it is only to the extent of a little brother who she cannot abandon. I, on the other hand, have a chance with Kisshouin-san since not only are we the same age, but I don’t have to worry about her leaving for university, unlike you.”
Masaya’s glare is vicious, but I ignore him as I load in the first game.
“A fighting game, really?”
“Why not.” I shrug.
“I’ll beat the shit outta you.” Masaya plops down beside me and grabs a controller. I snort as we chose our characters.
“Oh my, wanna bet?”
I hummed softly as I had lunch in the Pivoine. Since I won our fight yesterday, I decided that in order to punish Masaya for his insolence, I banned him from sweets for a week.
“You’re a monster.” Masaya hissed at me as he sulkily ate his lunch. Yeah, you’re the one who lost so suck it up.
While we were battling it out on the game yesterday, we both decided to not ever bring that Dinner Incident up again. One, because we both said some harsh words (mostly me, though), and two, it wouldn’t bode well for any girl who became our crush. Although I have a feeling everyone would accept it, I have a feeling a riot would start if one of us proclaimed we liked Reika... and not because our fans would not accept her as my girlfriend.
A bit away from us where some senior Pivoine members and Reika. They seemed to all be getting fired up over something, and I found out it had to do with Reika’s Luncheon yesterday. Apparently, she had went and gotten permission from the Student Council, instead of just doing it. Seems the seniors can’t accept that the Student Council may even have a sliver of power over the Pivoine.
Still, we are new students, so it makes sense we would try to avoid angering the senior students. It seems Reika also understood this as well, cause she used this to explain herself, then adopted a rebuked and sad expression, which made all the seniors back-off instantly. Yep, good job at controlling the situation, Reika.
The conversation turned towards clubs, and Masaya and I joined the conversation. A couple of the seniors tried to entice us to their clubs, but we rejected them.
“Which club did you want to join, Reika-sama? I heard that you went to check them out.”
“Yes, although I am still having trouble deciding…”
Oh, I heard about that too. I listened in as Masaya drank his tea.
“How about the Tea Ceremony Club or the Flower Arrangement Club?” Ah, the traditional Pivoine girl clubs... I imagined Reika in a kimono or furisode, arranging flowers and pouring tea. It would definitely suit her image.
“I have teachers that I have been learning both under since young, so there is really no reason to join those clubs as well.”
“I see. Is there anything else you wanted?”
“At first I was interested in the sports clubs, but…”
Masaya and I looked her way when we heard that. Reika in a sports club? She could barely survive the mountain climbing trips. I sincerely doubt she has the stamina for it.
“I’ve heard that the Suiran sports clubs lean towards the intense side. Wouldn’t it be a little harsh for you, Reika-sama?”
“Yes. I realised that it was impossible for me after having a look.”
I looked away, hiding my laughter and swatted Masaya who looked close to bursting into laughter. Stop it, we’ll get caught!
We were having fun making fun of the idea of Reika in a sports club. The notion was too ridiculous to us. She was so clumsy and her stamina was so low, and I sincerely doubt that aside from PE, she had joined any sport. Masaya thought so as well. When they were classmates, when he asked who was most suitable for what, he ended up learning Reika was only fairly average in the events she annually joined for the Athletics Festival.
We also happened to have seen her suffering the mountain climbing from time to time. I mean, even when we started at the very back and her class in front, we ended up surpassing her. It was rather pitiful.
While we were all talking, we heard someone say, “Huuuh~? These seats are free, guys~”
Immediately, the mode around the seniors turned ugly. We all looked towards the source and found a somewhat plain-looking girl coming closer and about to take a seat. What is she doing?
I glanced towards where the sign of the Pivoine should be, and immediately found that it was gone. Huh? Who took it away?
The atmosphere grew tense and I noticed some of the seniors getting ready to stand and yell. Ohhhh~ this is going to go bad.
“These seats are reserved for the use of members of the Pivoine only, so normal students cannot sit here, you know?”
Reika stood up and warned the girl.
The girl blinked, then turned around and noticed a group of people, perhaps her friends, were stock still and pale. Hey, if you know these seats are Pivoine seats, why didn’t you warn her?
“I’m sorry! I didn’t realize. I sincerely apologize,” she exclaimed as she bowed, low, before rushing back to her friends.
After she left, the seniors began to make a ruckus.
“What was that meant to be. A new External? Let’s find her name later and issue a formal warning. She’s setting a bad example for the rest.”
“That girl did not seem as though she belonged here. Could it be that she was a scholarship student?”
“That’d make things all the worse.”
Seems like she’ll be targeted...
“Umm! There is really no need to go that far. I am sure she is simply still acclimating. Could you perhaps turn the other way just this once?”
I looked at Reika, who was earnestly trying to smooth the matter over. Hm, the seniors don’t look happy about that.
“Of course it would not do to simply leave things, so I will personally talk to her class representative to give her a warning, as well as properly teach her about the Pivoine. Please?”
Seeing that Reika would go so far, the seniors stopped. Well, Kisshouin is ranked higher than them, so of course they have to give Reika some face.
“…Then just this one time, in deference to you, Reika-san.”
“…Yes. If Reika-san is willing to go that far, then…”
“My! Thank you very much!” She smiled brightly and nodded.
Masaya and I ate while we listened. It doesn’t really matter. Well, if our fans tried to take Pivoine seats and bothered us, Masaya would surely lash out and then there would be a great massacre as the Pivoine would lash out as well.
I finished my food and glanced over at Reika. Hm, is it just me, or does she look like she’s experiencing stomach pains?
A little later, I asked the seniors about the Pivoine sign. It seems it was supposedly taken down to be cleaned and was supposed to be back up today, but cleaning took longer than expected. Janitor-san seemed worried that there might have been trouble caused, but because Reika deflected it, there wasn’t any trouble at all.
Still, I’m a bit surprised Reika noticed her and warned her before the seniors did. The panic in her eyes and how stiff she was was too much for just trying to avert a conflict between the Pivoine and a normal student. What’s with her...?
In the month of May, we will have the Kamakura trip.
The news was announced to us during morning homeroom. Apparently, the itinerary would be that after the morning hike, we would return to the reserved hotel’s banquet hall, have a seafood lunch together as one whole batch, and then the newly-arrived Externals from each class would do a performance for the rest of the students, like a really embarrassing baptism into Suiran. When the Externals in my class heard it, they instantly revealed pale and ghastly expressions.
“Hm... well, from what I have heard, aside from choirs and concerts, dances or short shows are quite popular choices to perform.” The class rep spoke out to the disheartened Externals.
“Considering how tired some of us would be from hiking, how about skipping the shows and just perform a song instead?” I suggested.
“If thats what Enjou-sama would enjoy...”
“Lets do that instead!”
“Do you have a preference, Enjou-sama?”
I stay silent at the stream of questions that were aimed at me. This is the Suiran-baptism for the Externals, not a private performance for me, so why are you asking me?
“I don’t have one. You should all do something you’d be able to enjoy.”
“Geez, you guys, stop bothering Enjou-sama!”
I glance at the class rep who herded them off. Ah, seems thing will be slightly less noisy this year since class rep is so serious.
“Aside from that, don’t you know about his relations with the Makkie?”
“Makkie... Who is that?” One of the Externals asked, confusion written all over his face.
An Internal suddenly spoke up, “Makkie?! Wait, that was real?! I thought she was with the Emperor!”
“Isn’t the Emperor after Suzushino-senpai?”
... Hm, going by their conversation and that Masaya has only one female he is close to other than Yurie, “Makkie” should mean Reika, right? But to make her nickname “Makkie” (curls) from “Makkigami” (curled hair), that’s rather mean... Well, its still leagues better than being known as “Deer Girl”.
Their discussion completely derailed due to the class rep’s explosive statement. Now, even if I was in the room with them, there were people noisily arguing over my relations with Reika, and her relations with Masaya, and what that meant for us three over all. I even heard someone saying "love triangle" incessantly sounding utterly convinced.
I clapped my hands together loudly, drawing all of the attention to myself. I spoke blandly, “Don’t you all have to plan your skit for the performance?”
We finally finished the majority of itinerary for the Kamakura trip.
After hiking and the banquet, the new External students began to do their performances. Some classes sung choir, some did a dance, and some played instruments and had a concerts, while others did magic tricks.
However, if I had to pick which was the most entertaining to watch, it was the performance of “Benzaiten and the Five-Headed Dragon”. According to the story, a village had been plagued by various troubles due to a five-headed dragon that lived in the surrounding area. The villagers prayed to the Goddess Benzaiten, and she descended from heaven to stop the dragon. When the dragon saw how beautiful she was, he begged her to become his consort, but Benzaiten refused since she would never marry someone so wicked. The dragon, in repentance, then became a dormant part of Enoshima island.
The people playing dressed as well as they could and played their parts exceedingly well. Even the person who played as the waves was going, “ZAZAAAN~ ZAZAAAN~” enthusiastically, athough most of the attention was placed on the actors of Benzaiten and the Dragon. Still, it was better than playing the role of the dormant part of the island.
When every performance finished, the winning performance was the “Benzaiten and the Five-Headed Dragon”. The Externals received a generous amount of tickets for free lunch in the school cafeteria. Considering how expensive the school meals are, I wasn’t surprised by their grinning faces.
I noticed during the performance, but Reika seemed particularly invested in it, and was watching with a rather critical gaze. I followed her line of sight as best as I could, but it really made no sense to me. Why was she so invested in the person acting as the waves?
After the midterm-exams, it seems Masaya had found someone interesting. Or, at the least, is what I assume he finds interesting since I now often catch him being more aware of her than any other girl.
Yep, my almost-girl-phobic bestfriend has found a girl, besides Yurie, that he is at least slightly interested in. I mean, Reika was one thing, but she wasn’t really ever in his eyes. I guess it was because he couldn’t accept that she publicly dressed him down in the Petite’s salon when we were younger, calling him an unsuitable heir to the Kaburagi House.
Anyways, this girl’s name is Takamichi Wakaba. As soon as Masaya had seen her name on the third place rank, he asked who she was and she was pointed out to him almost instantly.
I really had expected something from a third ranker who got so close to our scores. A very serious, diligent, and studious person, a classic megane-san, even, but instead we were presented with something... beneath our expectations.
It was... disappointing, rather? I mean, I guess she was kind of cute if you liked the types who tended to be dazed or were a little air-headed. But, with unruly hair, her mouth wide-open, and a gobsmacked expression, she really didn’t seem like the type who had gotten third place in academics, and so close to our scores as well, nor like a proper student of Suiran. I mean, her appearance was a bit too unruly for the classic image of a Suiran student.
It also didn’t help that Reika and her posse were there as well, so when you saw all the surrounding girls and compared them, her appearance ended up dropping several ranks. If I compared her to Reika, it would really be “Princess and the Pauper”.
Speaking of princesses, the Pivoine's princess was staring at this girl for a while now with some emotion in her eyes. I couldn’t tell exactly if it was concern or something else, but I could tell that she had some concern for this girl. If I remember correctly, this should be that girl who tried to sit in the Pivoine seats, right? When did Reika and her get so close...
After being presented to us, Masaya gave her one look over then walked off. I followed as well.
We were some ways away from the crowd when Masaya suddenly spoke up.
“Kisshouin was looking at you.”
Masaya was silent for a moment then said, “Aren’t you gonna act like a fangirl and blush and squeal that she paid you attention? After all, you whined throughout the break that she avoids you like the plague.”
“Masaya, shut the hell up.”
Later in the day, as I was chatting with my friends in my class, one of them said they had seen Reika talking with the girls in her class. They were pretty noisy over the results of the midterms, and seemed to be angrily speaking amongst themselves until Reika managed to calm them. He said that Reika had praised our (Masaya and myself’s) accomplishment of staying on the first two ranks, despite the competition from all the Externals that entered this year.
One of my companions added on, “Kisshouin-sama hardly ever gives such praise. You must’ve really impressed her this time!”
“Yes, Shuusuke-sama, defeating all those Externals, you really are talented!”
I smiled politely, intending to tune out their praise, until one of them suddenly said, “But Masaya-sama had gotten higher than you, so she must be even more impressed by him.”
Ah... why did the topic suddenly turn to Masaya?
“Masaya-sama was the King of the Athletics Festival back in middle school, wasn’t he? I think Kisshouin-sama had been his classmate in the last year of middle school. She must’ve been so pleased that he won for their class.”
“I heard a rumor that the reason he only trained one horse that year was because he wanted to flaunt his indomitablity in front of Kisshouin-sama.”
“Oh, I heard of that one! Gosh, I heard that she had even went out with him on a date afterwards to celebrate his victories.”
What date? As far as I remember, Reika couldn’t stand Masaya’s idiocy, and always avoided him.
“Honestly, I’m amazed their parents haven’t set them up to be engaged yet. They’d suit each other very well. The name ‘Kaburagi Reika’ actually has a nice ring to it.”
“Her initials are already ‘KR’, so she might as well keep them that way.”
“They’d suit each other. I mean, Kisshouin-sama is really cute, so if she’s beside someone like Masaya-sama who is so powerful and indomitable, her cuteness only increases.”
I ended up dropping my book back on my desk loudly. Because of that, they looked back to me with surprised expressions, then they showed immediately showed panicked expressions.
“Shuusuke-sama, we didn’t mean it!”
I smiled brightly, “Oh, really? Which part didn’t you mean; the ‘Kaburagi Reika’ part or the part where you thought they would suit each other?”
“Neither. We were just messing around...”
I continued to smile at them brightly.
“... uhmm, I heard from my Aniki, but Kisshouin-san was invited to the Student Council.”
I immediately dropped my smile. “Huh? She was?”
“Mizusaki-san was also invited. Considering he was Student Council President last year, he’ll probably be the Prez once again when we hit junior year.”
My mood instantly soured.
“The tensions would really be horrible that year then, wouldn’t they?”
I stayed silent and processed the information.
If Reika joins the Student Council, then she’ll be spending more time with Mizusaki, but it should be fine since they don’t like each other that way, right? But Reika is usually so aware of him, what if its because...
“Yo, Shuusuke- what’s wrong?” I heard Masaya’s voice and heard his footsteps come close to my spot.
“Good afternoon, Masaya-sama.”
“Hi.” Masaya responded. I felt a hand on my shoulder, shaking me slightly, “What’s up with you?”
“... It’s nothing.” I replied.
Iinchou approached me during afternoon break. Since its been a while since we last spoke to each other, I had him accompany me for a walk around the school halls. We chatted about some mundane topics, learning each other’s recent activities and experiences, school work, and other stuff, until he finally breached the topic he most wanted to talk about.
“Would singing to a girl with a song you composed for her be a bad action to take?”
“Unless the two of you were very close to begin with, I wouldn’t do that. By the by, how did the poem turn out? Did Honda-san have anything to say about it?”
Iinchou smiled as he said dreamily, “She said it was nice.”
“Did you tell her it was for her?”
“Wha-what?! No!” Iinchou blushed and shook his head wildly. “Its waaaay too early for that! Be-besides, we aren’t even that close. Even Kisshouin-san told me that it was a bad idea to just make a poem for her like that.”
“So was passing the chocolates through Kisshouin-san. Which reminds me, how is Kisshouin-san?” I asked as he recovered.
He immediately responded, “She’s been helping me with my love journey. But as for her personally, I don’t really know. Ah, earlier, when we were talking, Mizusaki-san went up and asked me if she was doing anything bad to me.”
That guy again... “Mizusaki-san seems to have a rather poor impression of Kisshouin-san.” This wasn’t the first time I heard of him assuming the worst of Reika, though I wonder why. Did he happen to have seen Reika use her fan on Tsurahana before? Other than that incident, Reika has a pretty good record in Suiran. Especially for a high-tier member of the Pivoine.
“Well, in the end, Kisshouin-san took him away to chat. He left afterwards and she seemed rather dejected. She wouldn’t tell me why, so I guess Mizusaki-san must have said something that had upset her...”
Well, if their relationship sours, its has nothing to do with me.
“Well, that matter aside, Kisshouin-san is a pretty resilient girl, so she’ll be fine.”
“Right.” Iinchou smiled. “Oh, right. I almost forgot to mention this, but I heard from my friend, Satomi-san, that Kisshouin-san was under the weather today. I’m worried, so could you go check up on her when you see her?”
“She’s sick?” I asked, surprised.
“Perhaps? She says the heat has been hard on her, so its been affecting her quite a bit. She’s even lessened the amount of food she consumes.”
... That sounds fake.
“I’ll check up on her when I can.”
I was sitting in the Pivoine before I would go home, when I noticed Reika sitting off in a secluded corner and having a drink.
I went up to her and I could see she was only having a drink. Ah, was this because she had been getting a bit fatter? Reika, I think you’re a bit too thin, though? You also look unhappy at having to reject the food.
Putting on a smile, I said, “Do your best.” And left.
Mhm~ Is it just my imagination or is Reika glaring at me? Why. I just said do your best...
I was enjoying tea in my house while I watched over Yukino when Masaya suddenly called me.
“Come with me to my Mom’s tea party.”
“What? No, I refuse.”
I heard a frustrated sigh on the other end of the line. Amused, I patted Yukino’s head and left his nursery so that I could speak more freely with Masaya.
“Why not? Are you busy?”
“Not at the moment, but I do enjoy spending some time to myself, you know. Besides, attending your mom’s tea party would be like suffering a strange sort of punishment game. Which reminds me, is this a punishment from Auntie because you tried to fly off to the UK to spend time with Yurie?”
When he didn’t reply, I sighed. So it was a punishment from her. “I’m not inclined to suffer your punishments with you, Masaya. Besides, you’ll be fine as long as you just keep up the minimum amount of courtesy.”
“Kisshouin will be there.”
“Oh, what time is the party again? Should I bring something for Obasama, or would you prefer I get you something to busy yourself with during the party?” I spoke into the phone as I headed downstairs. I stopped in the living room where Okaasama was drinking some tea with Father.
“The party’s at eleven, but probably will start at around twelve. Bring me chocolat.”
“Got it.” I ended the call and went straight to Okaasama. “Okaasama, Auntie is having a tea party at the Kaburagi estate. Masaya invited me, so may I go?”
Mother looked up from her tea and asked, “Did you already finish your homework?”
“You may go. Remember to come back before dark, and say hello to Madame Kaburagi for me.” Okaasama smiled gently as she gave her permission. With a bright smile, I thanked her then went to my room to prepare.
“Oh, get a box of chocolates from that patisserie that just opened.” I ordered one of the servants as I fixed my attire.
I sat down with Masaya and played around on my phone as I waited for the party to start. So annoying~ I should have went and gotten the chocolates myself if I knew it would take a while for the party to start.
“Hey, Shuusuke, I know I said she’d show up, but you don’t have to get so grumpy cause she’s not here yet.”
“I am not grumpy. Aren’t you the one who lured me here to begin with?”
“If getting you to agree to something only takes mentioning her name, then aren’t you the one whose too gullible?”
“Oh? Since when have you resorted to calling the kettle black, Mr. Pot?” I quipped at him as I pocketed my phone. Masaya glowered at me as I continued to smile at him.
When Obasama returned to our table, she had a cutely dressed Reika trailing behind her, who was carrying a box of chocolates in her arms. After setting down the box, she left our table and went to walk around the venue. Since the majority of attendees here were girls, and because of Reika’s sociability despite her reclusive attitude towards parties, that there would at least be a handful of people that she knew and wanted to converse with before she had to return to our table.
“Isn’t that Sarara-san?”
“Hm?” Masaya looked over where I was gazing at, and nodded. “Oh, yeah, she is. Dad’s fond of her since she enjoys reading as much as she does, so Mom invited her over.”
“Is she included in your fiancee candidates?”
“As far as I know, probably.” Masaya slumped into his seat as he groaned. Of course, being forced to do nothing but behave for almost an entire half day would be excruciating. Even Masaya, who had to build up his tolerance since childhood, was incapable of tolerating the overwhelming boredom that came with these sort of parties.
After conversing with others for a while, Reika returned to our table. She smiled kindly as she chatted with some of the others and drank her tea. She seemed to have been in a good mood, and was happily munching on some chocolates when Obasama returned to the table, accompanied with a girl with short hair with lightly curled ends.
“This is Maihama Ema-san from Yurinomiya. Everyone get along with her. Now that everybody is here, we shall begin the tea party!”
Thus started one of the most painfully boring parties in my existence. The only saving grace was that Reika was being entertaining, so I often found my gaze drifting back to her, even when I was conversing with someone else or drinking tea. Masaya nudged me after the fifth time, then started conversing with me, while forcefully rebutting Maihama from entering our conversation.
A while later, Masaya, still being morose, picked up a chocolate and put it into his mouth. His face betrayed faint surprise as he slowly savored the taste. I looked back and noticed that it was a chocolate from one of his favorite French patisseries, and one Reika had brought.
Obasama quickly pointed that out, and Masaya in turn started asking Reika questions concerning the chocolate. The atmosphere around them was pretty amicable, and definitely more so when you compared it to Masaya’s earlier bluntness and curtness with Maihama. I could see that girl throwing jealous gazes at Reika ever since Masaya’s attention went to her.
“Reika-san, the other day you stayed at one of our hotels with your Okaasama, didn’t you? How was it?”
“Yes. Your exclusive amenities were excellent. It was almost a shame to use them. I also enjoyed your garden, the way it lit up at night was simply magical.”
“My! Thank you! I’m glad that you enjoyed it.”
“Kisshouin-san, you stayed at one of the Kaburagi Group’s hotels?” I entered the conversation as I asked curiously. Why would she stay here? Doesn’t she have some grudge against Masaya that makes her avoid anything with Kaburagi on it like the plague?
“Our hotel had some fasting course. To lose weight.”
Masaya dropped those words carelessly and a dark cloud took over Reika’s face. Wow, Masaya, your lack of tact is really something else.
I fought down a smile as people began to gather around our table and converse with Reika. It was almost startling how a mere mention of fasting had managed to turn Reika into the star of the party, answering inquiries left and right as she turned the tides of the situation.
Sadly, although Obasama tried to make it sound like Reika was only there to accompany her mother, it was evident to anyone who had been paying attention to Reika for now that she had gotten a bit round in the face. Even the senpais from the Pivoine seemed to have realized, but they didn’t dare to open their mouths and refute the Matriarch of the Kaburagi household, or further embarrass the Princess of the Kisshouin house.
“Gosh, I wish I had a daughter… Sons really aren’t cute at all.” Obasama muttered as she looked at Reika with a fond look.
Because of his mom’s words, Masaya ended up feeling dejected as he slumped into his seat more. Ah, it must be hard for this child, who was once the apple of his mother’s eye, to listen to her not dote on him. Such a fragile soul~
Then Maihama cut in.
“I know that you have a rule against home-made chocolates, but I’m attending desert school so please try one of mine!”
“Don’t want. If I’m going to be eating some amateur’s mistakes, why shouldn’t I eat a professional’s successes instead.”
Maihama, shot down and rejected completely.
In the end, due to the almost endless amount of people coming over to our table to speak to Reika, it became incredibly lively. She was regaling her experiences and tales to each person who came by, like a great sage imparting wisdom, or in this case, a kindergarten teacher reading stories to her prepubescent students. Since most were stories concerning dieting, many people became interested in the fasting course and decided to join as well, so in the end Reika even managed to act as a real-live, walking billboard for the Kaburagi Hotels.
At the end of the day, when it was time to leave, Auntie said, “Today was really lively thanks to you. Come again, okay!” To Reika.
I looked at her blankly as I guessed what she wanted. It seems that Reika has become the prime target for Masaya’s marriage partner.
What the hell is this! Those two can't even stand each other!
”My apologies, but the Pivoine party is for Pivoine members only.” I spoke into the microphone of my phone as clearly as possible. Perhaps it was just bad timing, or maybe she was just much more persistent than I originally thought, but it seemed that the fact I had cancelled some ‘previously arranged’ plans due to needing to attend a Pivoine party had somehow reached her ears.
My money was completely on it being Haruki who snitched to her.
“But, Shuu...” the voice on the other end called out with a sorrowful voice. “We had already made plans.”
I massage my forehead as I held back a groan. What ‘we’? It was only you who had pushed for such things. “I did say I wouldn’t be available around this time. Yuiko-san, wouldn’t this be a good opportunity to meet with Haiyama-san? You did say you were interested in visiting his family’s famous restaurants in the past. I’m sure Haiyama-san would be more than happy to escort you.”
“Haiyama-san...? Oh, but I wanted to go there with you.”
I glanced out my car window, watching the scenery pass by me as we got closer to our destination.
“Well, I am busy from now until the start of school. I’m sure you have someone else who would enjoy accompanying you waiting?”
I heard an intake of breath, before she suddenly spoke hurriedly and excitedly, “Ah, Shuu, are you jealous? Please don’t be! I really have no fancy towards them. I really only like-“
“I’ve arrived at my destination. Yuiko-san, have a nice night. It was nice talking with you again.” I spoke quickly as I ended the call. I sighed and got out of the car. My chauffeur looked at me quietly before he returned inside and left.
I stood outside the venue for a while, looking up at the clear sky and ignoring the blazing lights that came from inside the party hall as I allowed the exhaustion to take over me for a moment. I sighed heavily and turned around, placed my phone into my pants pocket, and entered the hall. It barely took a minute before the girls noticed my arrival, and quickly swarmed me. It seems Masaya had yet to arrive, so all the attention was focused on me. I couldn’t make one step inside the hall without an obnoxious bevy of girls following as well, so I resorted to standing near the walls and acting as a wallflower. Or, as much as one as I could be when almost a quarter of the entire party’s attendance was crowded around me.
It took a half hour before Masaya showed up, and soon half the flock of girls split and went over to gawk at him, who simply went over to me and greeted me. It seems his mood was a little sour, so the girls were farther away more than they normal were- which wasn’t much, mind you- but it did wonders in helping me feel less claustrophobic. We were surrounded by them for almost two hours until I gave up trying to talk with the other attendees inside the hall without the girls trying to crowd around and listen in. I turned and left as soon as I had my chance, leaving Masaya to deal with all the girls left.
I escaped to the outdoors and breathed in the fresh, not-perfumed air greedily until I was sure I wouldn’t die from asphyxiation. Feeling the fatigue rear its head, I quickly looked around to find a way to stave it off. It won’t do for me to appear so haggard at such a formal event. Father would be angry if I ended up causing trouble like this.
I heard the sound of bells ringing and immediately looked in the direction it came from. I noticed the rose arch and two small children, probably from the Petite, ringing the bells loudly as another, youthful but older figure in a pink dress appeared to be urging them on, and held a small camera in her hands as she smiled gently at them.
I was hit by a flood of nostalgia as I recalled that scene almost six years ago, back when I was a child and things were certainly less troublesome for me than they were now. Of a girl in a green dress who smiled happily as she danced with her older brother and then went to ring the bells with him, which also happened to have become a kind of fad for the girls of the Pivoine who believed it granted good luck for love.
I unconsciously started walking towards the girl in pink before I could stop myself.
The two children left and the girl was looking through the pictures in her camera with a smile on her face. A genuine one, not the stiff and forced ones she typically put on when Masaya or I conversed with her.
“Good evening, Kisshouin-san,” I greeted as nicely as I could. I saw her jolt as she turned around quickly, eyes slightly wide from surprise before her composure quickly returned, as did that forced smile of hers.
Reika was giving me a look, as if she was trying to find a way out of this situation, or trying to calculate her answers. It made me feel some guilt as well as irritation at myself, knowing that she had every right to be suspicious of me, considering everything I have done.
“You’re not going to ring the bell this time?” I asked as I looked at the rose arch. If I remember correctly, wasn’t this something Aira said that Reika was super-excited about doing when she had her first Pivoine party?
“Ehh?” Her face looked dumbfounded as she looked up at me curiously. Oh, since its been a while since we actually talked with each other, it seems I’ve gotten taller than Reika. Was she always this cute?
“Didn’t you ring it before? With your Oniisan, if I’m remembering right.”
Her face immediately revealed her surprise. Her eyes clearly said ‘Why does he know that!’.
“It’s because Masaya looked like he was really envious of you.”
Now Reika looked somewhat dissatisfied, a small pout began to tug at her lips and I smiled widely. She’s really so much more honest than those other girls. Much more expressive, too.
I looked down and took in her apparel. A layered, light-pink chiffon dress that ended just above her knees. It would have been too cutesy and awkward on any other girl, but on Reika, it just made her seem so much more fragile and sweet. Her mother probably dressed her with the intent to make her adorable daughter even more lovable, and I have to hand it to her, it worked splendidly.
“The dress you’re wearing tonight really suits you. It looks like your dieting really paid off.” I said it from the bottom of my heart. Since Reika was so concerned about her weight, maybe this would cheer her up.
Her expression had cleared and returned to her typical Ojou-sama mask, and she quietly muttered a “Thank you” back at me.
A lot of guys had been glaring at me ever since I approached Reika. It was so much more intense than when I was surrounded by girls earlier. It seems that Reika’s popularity had risen once again.
Thinking of her rise in popularity I recalled something unpleasant enough to cause me to impulsively speak, “Masaya’s mum really loves you now, you know. She was talking about how she wanted to invite you to her dinner party too.”
A blank expression was on her face as she disinterestedly said, “Hm.”
“You don’t look happy to hear that.”
“Oh, no, I feel very honoured.” She smiled politely as she gave a typical Reika-ish answer. I half-wanted to ask if she would attend, but after seeing her eyes show traces of disdain, I knew she would reject.
“Hmmm.” I looked at her seriously as I tried to figure it all out.
Not just the thing with Masaya’s mom, but everything. Reika simply had so many secrets she didn’t seem like she’d ever spill. When I looked into her eyes, it was like I was unable to comprehend something that was just out of reach no matter how much I wanted to understand.
It also made me realize one thing.
I really like Reika.
The idea made me freeze as I realized all the complications that came with. Whether it was as a friend or as a member of the opposite sex, I don’t know exactly how or why, and I don’t think I want to know, either.
Reika's presence had an amazing amount of power over my mood, and I didn’t want to turn into a lovesick fool or suffer rejection.
“The wind is getting a little strong. I think I shall head back inside.”
Reika’s voice snapped me out of my train of thought by dragging me back to reality. I wasn’t able to reply before she turned back and walked away.
I ended up chuckling to myself as I decided to bury those feelings deep inside, so deep that I would forget them. Or, at least, they would fade with time.
I looked at Reika’s retreating back and absently looked up at the sky once again.
Things were so much simpler when we were all children.
It’s been quite a while since the party.
Because of Yuiko telling Okaasama I had cancelled plans with her, I was forced by Okaasama to act as Yuiko’s partner to some parties we attended in the past week. My exhaustion must’ve shown through though, because there were quite a few times a conversation partner I was speaking to would comment on my state of health, then follow up with well-wishes and worried warnings not to overwork myself. Ironically, not one asked who was the cause of it. Well, even if they had, I couldn’t just throw Yuiko under the bus, so I probably would’ve lied to throw them off.
Between attending classes, sessions with my tutor, helping Yukino with his studies and playing with him or keeping him company, and generally doing damage control and acting as Masaya’s PR manager, it was rare for me to find time to myself these days. In fact, school had become increasingly more of a haven for me than home was. All this time having to spend on others was emotionally draining, and starting to pick on my quickly fading tolerance.
Perhaps that's why Okaasama finally let up and said I could stop having to attend parties as Yuiko’s escort. Okay, maybe me letting it ‘slip’ to Mother that Yuiko was usually surrounded by a throng of men whom actively flirted with her may have had something to do with her decision, but the point stands was that I was finally free of Yuiko. It also seems Yuiko was pretty satisfied too, since she had lessened her calls and visits. I wish she wouldn’t come though. Yukino seemed to have a bad impression of her and she always put him on edge.
It was days passing by like this that I lost track of time. It was only when the class rep was asking me what sport did I want to join did I find out that it was only a few days away from one of the school’s biggest events.
The athletics festival.
Wow. Stress really does mess with your sense of time.
I blandly responded that I would join the sprints. As soon as I said that, class rep quickly tried to coerce me into joining the cavalry battle, even going as far as to cite Masaya’s retirement from cavalry battles as the perfect time for my ‘debut’ into the battlegrounds of the cavalry battle. Class rep even mentioned that the two people who squared off with Masaya during the cavalry battles would definitely be joining this year, and I became incredibly tempted.
However, when I realized that if word of me joining the cavalry battle reached Masaya, he would definitely try to give me a training regime and pick out my horse for and train us until we reached his standard. Last year I was having fun watching them and drinking in the shade, but to actually be a part of that and undergo Masaya’s brutal training?
No. No no no no no. Thanks, but no.
Perhaps because I was denying it so hard, the class rep backed off. However, class rep did ask that I participate in the baton relay instead if I wasn’t going to do the cavalry battle. I quickly agreed.
It was only after class rep left did I realize what had happened.
Damnit! I’ve been tricked!
I was drinking from my water jog when Masaya suddenly approached me. We were on the gym grounds and he was looking incredibly competitive.
“Race with me.”
With a sigh, I followed Masaya to the tracks as I resigned myself to my fate. There was simply no way to deny his request when he was already this hyped up on competing.
“Ready your marks... get set... GO!!!”
The moment “go” sounded, Masaya and I left our fellow racers in the dust. Literally. We were running ahead of them by quite a long stretch, it would be really impossible for them to manage a miracle and touch our shadows.
The shrill screams of girls sounded as we passed them. I took in my surroundings, and I noticed a girl with doe-like black eyes watching me attentively.
I instantly felt more energized than I had in the past few weeks and focused on my race. My heart was pounding in my head loudly but I ran faster than I did before, finally overtaking Masaya and crossing the finish line.
“Shuusuke, one more!” Masaya shouted as he crossed the finish line. He was burning up with competitive spirit, and the girls were busily cheering loudly as humanly possible.
“C’mon! Again!” My willful best friend shouted and began a slow jog back to the starting line. My heart was still pounding and I was still high on adrenaline, so I ended up following him back. In the end, we competed endlessly without break. Sometimes Masaya won, and sometimes I won.
In the end, I lost to Masaya as all the fatigue overtook me and made me slower. With that, I finally managed to get Masaya to stop his challenges.
As soon as the adrenaline left my system, and the fatigue rolled in, I ended up feeling sore and tired. Ahhhh~ why did I stupidly go along with Masaya?
I relaxed on a nearby bench and drank my water. It wasn’t enough to quench my thirst, so I even ended up accepting some of the honeyed lemons the girls were pushing on me.
“One, two! One, two!” I heard a girl’s voice yell out. I glanced over and saw two girls who were likely practicing for the three-legged race training themselves by pacing and synchronizing their movements.
“Oh, is Kisshouin-san partaking in the three-legged race this year?” I ended up murmuring aloud. Hearing this, the girls immediately went into a frenzy and tried to get my attention again. However, I only listened to this one girl who came from Reika’s class, who was telling me the details in full.
“Originally, we wanted Reika-sama to join the quadrille, but she refused it in favor of the three-legged race. That girl beside her is Ikoma-chan, an External.” The girl explained happily as I looked at her. “She’d still be joining ball toss, though.”
Some other girls who I assume were her classmates chorused together. I nodded in response as I drank quietly.
“Who is your class rep? Besides Kisshouin-san.”
“Oh, his name is Satomi Yukinari. Ah, why?”
“Nothing really. Thank you for the honeyed lemon.” I smiled gently as I returned the jug to her. She blushed heavily and accepted it back, saying in a squeaky voice, “Anything for you, Enjou-sama!” While the rest of the girls glowered at her.
Mhm~ Its been quite a while since I’ve had any friends in Reika’s class. Satomi-san sounds like an interesting person, perhaps he’ll agree to be my friend.
A run down on how the athletics carnival was going so far.
Firstly and unsurprisingly, the guys in Masaya’s class dominated the baton relays. Their movements were fluid- almost like clockwork. Well, since Masaya was frustrated over being unable to join cavalry battles, he probably channeled all of his energy into the relays.
Why did he even say he would retire? Till now, he refuses to answer me. My guess was that it was an attempt to curb the Emperor nickname, which only backfired horribly. Still, a lot of people were happily joining this year now that the Emperor of Cavalry Battles was retired, so I guess there was a silver lining to his retirement after all.
My class faired only slightly better than the rest. After my sports were done, I headed to the Pivoine’s garden near the Salon, and stayed in the shade for the majority of the festival.
Also, there were two incidents that happened, and both were apparently caused by Takamichi.
The first one I heard about after my return was that Takamichi had tripped Reika and stole first place. Because she tripped, Reika went crashing down into the ground while Takamichi gloated her win in front of her. When I heard about this, I was taken aback.
I mean, Takamichi really doesn’t seem like the type to purposely do something like that. Still, a majority of people were saying the same thing, but that might be because Reika was far too loved at school, so everyone would side with her instead of an External.
The second was that she had thrown a ball at Dite’s hand. Apparently it had caused quite a fiasco because Dite kept proclaiming that his hand was broken and his life as a violinist was ruined. Well... from my experiences with him, I think Dite was likely overreacting. Its because of this that Takamichi’s class ended in last place.
After listening to these stories, I asked my companions for the time and we realized it was time for the costume race. We all shared a laugh as we talked about the contestants, particularly the burly and giant Iwamuro who would be playing as Cinderella, running in the event. Some of them started talking about how Iwamuro showed up with really clear and pretty skin today, so they all began to gossip over if Iwamuro was like that.
Well, whether Iwamuro was interested in crossdressing or not, it wasn’t my problem. In fact, they were saying Reika was having tons of fun helping turn him into a ‘pretty girl’, so soon the whole class became amped up to prettify him.
However, I certainly didn’t expect to see what I did when the race started.
Earlier, I had been trying to find Reika to invite her to sit with Masaya and myself, but I wasn’t able to find her before the event started, so I gave up.
It was odd though.
Satomi, the class rep from Reika’s class, said that Reika was very busy preparing for her event. I was rather surprised since I only remembered her joining the ball toss and the three-legged race events, but he persisted on keeping her whereabouts hidden.
So I sat with Masaya and a few friends, creating a barrier of sorts between us and the fangirls who tried to get close. We all commented on the racers’s costumes and laughed over the more funnily dressed ones. Well, I was commenting, but Masaya was criticizing every animal-costumed racer heavily. Geez, Masaya. Calm down, won’t you?
It was around this time that the racers from Reika’s class emerged.
First it was Cinderella, then a girl in a really vague costume came out. The once boisterously loud cheers of the arena turned into noisy chatter. I went wide-eyed at the appearance of incredibly familiar curls.
Satomi told me I would want to bring my phone to take pictures, but I didn’t listen since it would only be a hassle to run back to my locker and back. Now I regret it.
“Is that... Is that Kisshouin-san?” I ended up saying in surprise. Masaya was stunned silent beside me.
“Reika-sama! You’re so dignified!”
“Do your best, Kisshouin-san!”
I turned my head in the direction of the cheers and found Reika’s posse and Iinchou cheering for Reika loudly. So it IS Reika.
“What the heck is she supposed to even be...?” Masaya asked as he looked at her. Wow does she run slow.
“She’s still as cute as ever.” Said one of our companions. When I looked over at him, he immediately said, “I mean, her costume is cute!”
“So you’re saying Kisshouin-sama isn’t cute?” Another companion of ours asked with a teasing grin.
I smiled at the guy while I spoke, “I think she looks plenty cute, don’t you?”
The guy responded with a strained smile, “Yeah, yeah. Whatever you say, Enjou-sama.”
I looked away and returned my attention to the race. Meanwhile, the guys took turns teasing the despondent guy and Masaya returned to criticizing costumes.
In the end, Reika’s class didn’t win, but they were definitely the most surprising of the racers today.
Hm, I can easily see this becoming the talk of the school tomorrow.
After a lot of other events, it was finally time for the cavalry battle.
There were a lot of popular teams this year. Every time one of them entered through the gate, the cheers would get louder and louder. The most popular team from the first years was Mizusaki Arima, the newest member of the Student Council, and the cheers from his fans beat all the former excitement into dust.
However, the one who gained the most cheers though was Tomoe Senju-senpai, the ex-Student Council President. If I thought Mizusaki’s was bad, Tomoe’s fan’s caused the seats to shake from the force of their cheering.
I could also see Reika clapping enthusiastically from her seat. Again, she was watching him with a blush on her face. I felt my face twitch as I turned away, the uncomfortable feeling coming back and irritation bubbling up. She still hasn't gotten over him?
I focused my attention on the battlefield in front of me. The battle was even more intense than in middle school. Probably due to the huge difference in physique and power.
Despite that, Mizusaki’s group was battling evenly with the seniors, and snatching headbands from everyone who crossed his path.
As the groups dwindled, it meant the battle for the King of Cavalry drew ever closer. Mizusaki turned and his group came into conflict with Tomoe’s group.
Their horses rushed each other and their riders grappled for their opponents headband. They were locked in stalemate until Tomoe made a feint and Mizusaki fell for it.
The opening allowed Tomoe to steal the headband from Mizusaki.
I heard someone curse and I turned to look at them. It was Masaya. His expression was both mortified and irritated. No doubt the idea that he was staying out of such an intense cavalry battle made him want to recant his decision to retire.
At the end, Tomoe squared off with another 3rd year team and won, becoming the king of this year’s cavalry.
I noticed he was looking into the crowds of his fans. Suddenly, he revealed a smile and thumbs up, then winked in their direction. His fans went wild. He was grinning widely as he waved to someone from within the crowd, then departed with his friends.
I looked into the crowd and saw a beet-red Reika.
What the heck is your relationship with him!
As I expected, the relationship between Reika and the former Student Council President Tomoe became the talk of the school after the calvary event.
Reika seemed surprised by the news and had been attempting to quell the rumors all day, but its pretty hard to believe there’s nothing between them. After all, if she was just another student, then it wouldn’t have mattered at all. But she’s Kisshouin Reika, the leader of all girls and the most eligible bachelorette in all of Suiran. Not to mention that Reika had typically kept a pretty calm facade on and rarely ever showed such fervor for anything, including guys and romance, so for her to suddenly start cheering so passionately like that?
Well, it was enough to make Tomoe the enemy of the Kisshouin Fan Club.
It was due to this that he was hunted down and interrogated for answers.
I just so happened to have been passing by when it happened.
“What is your relationship with Kisshouin-san?” A third-year student asked. The speaker was backed up by several other guys, and I noticed a fair amount of them were members of the Pivoine. The atmosphere in the hallway was like a tundra, incredibly cold and deadly silent.
Bystanders watched anxiously as a former Student Council was surrounded by members of the Pivoine.
In response to the glare, Tomoe simply and calmly replied, “She’s just a junior.”
“Are you intending to lead her on?” The roar of the Pivoine was terrifying. I could see students beginning to bolt but unable to tear their eyes away from an inevitable bloodbath. It was simply amazing how Tomoe managed to keep calm despite it all.
“No, I am not. She’s just someone I happen to be know of. She’s a good girl, you know?” He responds lackadaisically, “Rather than that, aren’t you all overreacting? Cornering me like this, what do you intend to do?”
I gulped at his words. He’s courting death by acting like that!
Although I was similarly interested to find out about his relations with Reika, I had never once thought about ever causing conflict between the Pivoine and the Student Council.
I entertained the idea of leaving things as is. There's no reason for me to get involved in something that doesn't concern me. The Pivoine and the Student Council clashing isn't a new thing. The Pivoine would walk away unscathed even if a fight were to break out. I couldn't say the same for Tomoe. He'd probably be forced to carry all the blame if something did happen, and considering the pride of some Elitist Pivoines, they would definitely drag their families in to it if they wanted to.
It could end in his expulsion.
I fully intended to leave, but I felt guilt niggle me. I recalled Reika's enthusiasm for Tomoe during the Athletics Festival, and the uncomfortable feelings grew. I knew that I could get rid of him if I just let everything be, but wouldn't that upset Reika?
I stepped in. “What’s going on here?”
“Oh, Enjou-kun, how are you?”
The two completely different responses to my arrival were obvious enough. I looked over both of them seriously as I tried to think of a way to diffuse the situation. I cursed myself for acting on impulse, but put of a calm facade. How the hell was I supposed to deal with this?
“Why’re you cornering Tomoe-senpai in the hallway?” I asked. The third years quickly loosened their indignant expressions and began to voice their complaints about an External (Tomoe) acting all high-and-mighty just cause he won the Athletics Festival. Tomoe silently endured their complaints and instead looked at me silently. He knew I had been watching. He probably didn't feel the need to explain himself.
I inwardly sighed. “From my perspective, there seemed to be a bit of a fight about to happen between senpais, or am I wrong? Takahashi-senpai.”
I looked towards the speaker of the third-years who didn’t respond, then turned to Tomoe. He looked at me silently, and I could see some gratitude in his eyes. Hah? I didn't step in for you, so wipe that look off your face.
“Ah, Enjou-kun, its really nothing." Saying so, he turned to the rest of us and said, “Well, I must head home now. Goodbye, everyone.”
Some of the senpais continued to glare at his retreating figure, but none dared to pursue him. At least, not while I was around. Perhaps it was because some of them were people who had been trying to flatter their way into my and Masaya's good graces. They wouldn't want all their hard work to come undone, would they?
They all began to leave, until the only ones left were me and Takahashi, one of the Pivoine's third year members.
“Sorry for causing you trouble, Enjou-sama.” Takahashi finally responded when everyone left.
“Why?” I asked and crossed my arms. Takahashi was a senpai from the Pivoine that I actually respected, and he was normally a passive and calm person. Why was he so riled up today? Enough to even go after someone from the Student Council?
“Well... Don’t you like Kisshouin-san?”
I almost choked.
“...what does that have to do with anything?”
“I’ve seen how you are when it comes to her. I couldn’t help but think that it’d be horrible if all the effort you’ve put into trying to build goodwill with her went down the drain because of Tomoe. I was going to ask him privately but then my buddies came up and... well the situation devolved.” Takahashi seemed almost embarrassed as he explained. “And it would be horrible if he ended up leading her on when he already has a girlfriend. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to see Kisshouin-san heartbroken either, right?”
“He has a girlfriend?” I asked.
Takahashi nodded sagely and said quietly, “My childhood friend, Kasumi... well, they’ve been serious for a long time. I didn’t want to trouble Kasumi-chan with this so I went myself. It would be horrible if he ended up hurting both of them, so I wanted to warn him to not mess around.” He sighed. “That guy’s quite dense. I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t know Kisshouin-san likes him.”
Takahashi patted my back, “You’ve still got a chance though, Enjou-kun! Don’t worry too much!”
I swatted his hands away, “I don’t like her that way! Quit acting as if I do!”
”Of course you ‘don’t’.”
I headed to the Pivoine salon with Masaya.
We were walking in when I noticed Reika was already packing up. Ah, is it time for her to go home?
I was about to bid her goodbye when Masaya suddenly spoke, “Oh, the stupid mouse.”
I turned to him and frowned, “Masaya.”
The whole salon went dead silent.
I looked back at Reika and she had a stiff expression on her face. With a soft voice, she said, “...Gokigen’yoh, Kaburagi-sama, Enjou-sama. You must be excusing me.”
She was about to leave again when Masaya spoke again.
“Where was your mouse nose? What were you even supposed to be? Put in a bit more effort next year.”
“Masaya.” I called out louder. Seriously dude? Is that what you’re so intent on focusing about? Do you have to call her out on it in the middle of the salon?
When I looked back at Reika, her expression was dark. I shivered as I remembered the time she went full-Empress mode and ripped into Masaya.
I fully expected a fight to break out between them but instead, Reika simply shifted her bag and stalked past us.
“Geez, can’t she take some constructive criticism?”
“That was constructive?” I asked him incredulously. It sounded more like mockery.
“Well, for a member of the Pivoine to do that...”
I glanced towards the speaker and felt irritation bubble in me. So what if Reika decided to help her class out!
“I heard that the original runner they had had gotten hurt and was unable to run. Since no one else wanted to take up the role, Kisshouin-san took it upon herself to help her class out.”
I sat on a sofa with Masaya on the other end. I kept talking loudly, “I think Kisshouin-san is quite a good girl. I mean, even if she didn’t want it, she tried to help her class out. However, she’s so small that the costume probably didn’t fit her so they had to find something to make do with since it was so last minute.”
“Oh, so that’s it.”
“Ahh, Kisshouin-san is too kind.”
“So she was forced to, huh. Poor Kisshouin-san.”
I heard people chatter after I talked. It seems that the information I got from Satomi managed to change their view a lot. I breathed a sigh of relief. Since no one wanted to believe Reika would actually do something so weird on her own, they’d all accept the fact she did it to help her class.
Its definitely the Reika-effect at play. No matter what weird thing she does, people will interpret it in a good light for her, huh.
I sighed as I drank my tea.
“Oh yeah, Masaya, that wasn’t constructive at all. If you want to criticize Kisshouin-san’s wardrobe, please do so appropriately next time.”
"I heard that Kisshouin-san's class is doing a gimmick cafe for the cultural festival." I started the conversation.
Yurie, Aira, and Masaya were with me as we drank tea in the Pivoine salon. Once again, the sitting arrangements were Masaya, Yurie, Aira, and then myself, around the table. Aira and Yurie perked up at the word "gimmick ", and immediately began to ask me for more details. Even Masaya held a slightly curious expression.
"I haven't heard much details, but apparently Yukinari-san, the class rep, said that the class decided on having a... cross-dressing, goth lolita maid theme?"Actually saying it out loud made me question the sanity of Reika's class. I continued, "They're planning to call it Cafe Sheep Dolly."
"Is Reika-chan going to be out front?"
"From what I've heard, she is supposed to be the mascot."
"Oh, so it's a hitsuji (sheep) because she's a shitsuji (butler)?"
"Sounds about right."
"She better put effort into her costume this time. What she wore during the Athletics Carnival was disappointing." Masaya commented as he ate a macaroon. Yurie raised an eyebrow, "Disappointing?"
"She practically put no effort in at all." Masaya defended himself when Yurie levelled him with one of her scolding looks.
"I think she was pretty cute. What about you, Shuusuke?"
"She looked fine, I suppose." I responded calmly and drank my tea.
"Huh? Weren't you the one getting all uppity because someone was saying Kisshouin wasn't cute?"
I choked on my tea. I lowered my cup and wiped my face as I responded, "That's not what happened..."
"No, I'm pretty sure that's what happened. You even had that black smile on your face, so I'm pretty sure of it."
"Oooh~? Does Shuusuke have a crush?" Aira teased.
Yurie looked at me too, her eyes slightly wide, before breaking out into a giant grin, "Reika-chan? You two would suit each other!"
"I don't-" "Let's go to her cafe when the day comes!" Yurie smiled so brightly, Masaya quickly agreed, and sealed my fate.
"W-woah." Aira looked stunned as she looked at the long line to Cafe Sheep Dolly. The sheer number of people who were entering the cafe was intimidating. I caught several people laughing as they exited, going through their phones, or even giggling as they were escorted out by one of the maids, who would then promptly bid them goodbye.
I looked at the long line and began to feel annoyed. We would have gotten here earlier, if it weren't for Yurie inviting someone unwanted. Well, at least she's busy bothering Masaya and not me.
I was ready to wait before we could be seated, but then the people at front noticed us. They quickly gave us their spots, and we ended up skipping the entire waiting period. Yurie and Aira tried to reject the offer, but Masaya just took it. At least you're good for something, Masaya.
Of course, like usual, chaos descended upon the cafe at our arrival. I could see guys turning around to stare at Yurie and Aira, and girls trying to catch my and Masaya's attention.
We were seated, and a girl butler came over to our table to serve us.
“Long time no see, Reika-chan!” Aira called out immediately.
Reika smiled and greeted us in return.
“Kisshouin-san,” I smiled, “First a rat, and now a sheep? Everybody’s talking about it, you know.”
“Where’s the sheep nose?” Masaya criticized as he looked her over.
“A nose would make it difficult to breathe.”
“Take this more seriously.”
I ignored their banter, but when I looked at the girl who decided to glue herself to Masaya's side, I noticed she had a sneer on her face as she addressed Reika.
“For the lady of the Kisshouin family, you sure wear strange things." She twirled her hair around her finger as she tried to contain the venom in her tone. Hm, it must be because Masaya actually paid attention to a girl- that wasn't her. She had been whining for his attention for quite a while now.
“Ema,” Yurie chided “I’m sorry about her, Reika-san.”
“Yurie-oneesama~” whined Maihama. I wanted to groan. Why did Yurie invite someone so annoying?
Maihami stopped her whining, then looked at Reika and sneered, “Dressing up, fasting, you sure do a lot of odd things, Reika-san. Huhu,” she laughed.
I saw Reika twitch slightly. I sucked in a breath, annoyed. This girl...
“That sounded an awful lot like criticism of Masaya’s mum. Maybe I should tell Obasama about this,” I smiled brightly at Maihama. She immediately changed her mind and corrected herself. Idiot.
Reika left after she took our orders. While waiting, Yurie and Aira began to evaluate each maid, noting which ones were especially effeminate and which ones were a little... too masculine for it to work. Surprisingly, the big and burly Iwamuro actually looked good. Masaya and I did a double-take in surprise. Iwamuro caught us staring and even came over to say hi.
"Who did your make-up?" Maihama asked with surprise as she looked at him.
"Reika-sama did. It looks great, right?" He smiled as he touched his face. I felt Masaya look at him disbelievingly, before he blurted out, "Why is she the only sheep?"
"Oh," Iwamuro paused as he looked around, "It was Satomi's idea. Ah, I need to go now. See you guys!" He sped off.
Maihama had a dumbfounded expression before she shook her head and continued to try and garner Masaya's attention. Because of what she was doing, a lot of attention was being placed on our table. Negative attention.
I sighed and looked back to where Reika disappeared to. Hurry up and come back!
Masaya was talking with me and deflecting all of Maihama's attempts to talk.
"Here are your orders." Reika returned with the teas and some cookies. Masaya looked at them curiously, but Reika told us the cookies were only for female customers. She placed the yellow sheep cookies in front of Yurie and Aira, then placed the black sheep cookie in front of Maihama.
I drank my tea to prevent snorting at her. That cookie suited her perfectly.
We all left afterwards. Masaya already making plans with Yurie to walk around school together. Aira and I shared a look after Maihama ran after them.
"It's not going well, is it?" Aira asked me softly as we watched them leave.
"Nope." I sighed and cracked my neck. Well, not like I was helping.
Aira looked after them and sighed. "Oh well. Maybe if they just spent more time together..."
I really doubt that.
I was going through my computer and sorting my emails. I checked my inbox, and noticed I had two emails. One from Yurie, and one from Masaya.
I opened the one from Masaya and read it. It said; She rejected me.
I immediately went over and checked Yurie's email and confirmed my suspicions. Shit.
I quickly called Masaya's phone, hoping he would answer. When I went to voicemail, I called him mom.
"Obaasan, where is Masaya?"
I haven’t been able to see or speak to Masaya since he suddenly locked himself away in his room. Everytime I entered the Kaburagi estate, he stubbornly refused to meet with anyone.
I was going through Masaya’s things when I happened across several books hidden under his bed. After I pulled them out, I noticed that several of them had been carefully marked, and that there were highlighted passages in each book.
But the one that concerned me the most was the Kuroi Kaiju book. I remembered Masaya talking about this only once before, and his comments on the book made me even more worried for where he headed.
He... he’s not really going to go through with it, is he?
But as I recalled that conversation, Masaya’s flair for the dramatics, and how despondent he was, the chances he was really going to do it climbed higher and higher. Finally, I took the book and went to straight to Auntie.
“He may have went to Aokigahara.”
Uncle said that none of Masaya’s bank accounts had been touched since last year, so there was very little possibility that Masaya had taken tickets and left Japan, so we focused most of our search on the nearby islands and cities.
We debated over the idea of sending out search parties to every location to hasten the search, but the possible consequences of that were too much to dare attempt.
On one hand, it would probably help lead us to Masaya faster, but if Masaya caught wind of them, he might just rush in and claim his life then and there.
In the end, we all decided to check three places each. If we couldn’t find him, then we would send the search parties... and pray that we don’t find a corpse.
I went home shortly after. Mother had already agreed to let me go looking for Masaya, so it was only a matter of packing my bags and leaving come winter break.
Yukino was the first to greet me when I came home.
He smiled and ran to me. I moved forward and picked him up. I held Yukino close as I sighed heavily.
“Promise me that if anything ever happens, you’ll talk to me first, okay?”
“Eh... why, Oniisama? Oh! How’s Masaya-niisama? Is he still away at camp?” Yukino asks innocently.
I grimace as I remembered the lie I told him. How could I tell Yukino that Masaya’s off on a heartbreak journey and contemplating suicide? Heck, I’m not even sure if I believe it myself. Masaya planning to kill himself?
“Oniisama, whats wrong?” Yukino sounded confused as I hugged him. Well, why wouldn’t he be. For him, I’m acting completely randomly.
I’ve known him since we were little. The idea that he’d... he’s just a weirdo who loves sports and competing with me over the silliest of things. He’s a moron, but he’s loyal and honesf and he cares about his friends, in his own way.
The fact he would just chose to commit suicide is—
“Oniisama, you’re crying! Are you okay?!”
“Ah... it seems I am.”
I try to laugh it off as I rub my eyes, somewhat embarrassed that I cried in front of my little brother.
“No, Oniisama is sad! Tell me what’s wrong!”
“It’s really nothing, Yukino.” I smiled as I pushed my panic down. Deep, deep down so I didn’t have to think about it. At least, not right now, when everyone can see me.
What would he think if I ruined my carefully constructed image of a reliable older brother?
“Oniisama, if you want me to promise you to tell you everything, you have to do the same with me. Tell me whats wrong, please?” Yukino hugged me this time.
I... I can’t let a kid worry about my troubles. I pat Yukino’s head and smiled gently at him. “Oniisama is just really lonely and stressed. I’ve let the stress build up too much so now I’m tired.” I leaned into his hug and sighed softly.
“Is that all, Oniisama? I won’t tell anyone if you say something, I promise.” Yukino puffs his chest out and tried to look stern. “If someone’s bullying you, then I’ll protect you!”
I laughed in response, “Thank you, Yukino.”
I bit my lip as I thought about it.
I sighed, “Well, Yukino, I actually have something to tell you about Masaya...”
I ended up telling Yukino a half-truth.
I told him Masaya had runaway from home, so now we were struggling to find him. I told him we didn’t know why he ran away, and that’s why I’ve been at the Kaburagi estate almost everyday now. I’ve been trying to find clues as to where he was headed. I told him that because of this, I wouldn’t be at home during Christmas.
Yukino listened attentively and patiently while I crafted a story of half-truths concerning Masaya’s disappearance.
Of course, I didn’t tell him Masaya left because he was heartbroken. I didn’t tell him that I was ninety-nine percent sure Masaya left because he was planning to commit suicide. After all, Yukino may be smarter than kids his age, but he was only a kid . I wasn’t going to tell a three year-old that someone he knew was going to take their own life.
When I finished my story, Yukino told me I was a good friend to Masaya, and that he wouldn’t tell anyone I cried. I laughed a little at the latter, but I thanked him nonetheless. It felt... good to get some things off my chest.
I picked up Yukino and walked to his room and tucked him in for the night.
“When Masaya-niisama comes back, tell him I want to play with him again and that I miss him too. Tell him if he has any troubles, he should talk with us instead... we’re family, right? Or at least, as close to it as we can get.”
I laughed softly when Yukino pulled a “we’re family” card. “Yeah, I’ll make sure to tell him.”
“Good night, Oniisama.”
“Thanks, Yukino. Good night to you too.”
When winter break came, I woke up to the morning lights shining down on me from my window.
Ah... I raised myself up from bed and put on my slippers. Oniisama will be leaving today... I hope he can find Masaya-niisama.
My mood went sour as I realized I would have to spend Christmas break alone. Sure, Mother and Father would be with me, but they’re still pretty busy. Plus, Mother will be hosting a family Christmas party. All our relatives would be coming over, and that included the Uryuus. Thus, that meant she was coming over too.
I left my room and went down to the lounge of the family estate. How eerie. I thought as I walked through the strangely empty halls. Usually, at this time of day, there would at least be two maids scurrying about preparing breakfast, with Mother on the veranda enjoying her morning tea, while Father in his study doing some work. Sometimes Oniisama is awake at this hour, and those times he’d be busily fixing his schedule or chatting with a friend of his or some other person from his school. When Oniisama sleeps in, however, it was best to let the sleeping dragon lie there peacefully rather than start a storm.
Yep, I am completely aware of Oniisama’s true personality.
Well, I’d have to thank Masaya-niisama for that. After all, Masaya-niisama loves telling me stories of all the things that happened to them in school. Oniisama’s stories are particularly interesting, since Masaya-niisama enjoys recounting Oniisama’s schemes. I wonder if Masaya-niisama was aware that he was included in a majority of them, though I doubt it. Masaya-niisama was a little... slow in picking up those sort of things.
Still, to think he’d run off somewhere...
I made my way to Oniisama’s room and opened the door. Eh?
“Oniisama, are you leaving now?” I asked in bewilderment. Oniisama was decked in his winter outfit, and he seemed to have been going through his duffel bag before I walked in. “Aren’t you going to eat breakfast?”
“Ah... no. My train leaves early, and I need to make sure I get there before Masaya does anything stupid.” Oniisama shrugged helplessly as he zipped up his bag. “I’ll make sure to grab a bite after I head out, though.”
“But its so early!” I reasoned in a whiny voice. Gosh, Oniisama! You tell me to mind my health when you skip the most important meal of the day? Sure, Masaya-niisama ran away, but your making it sound like he went off on a heartbreak journey and is planning to kill himself or something!
“I know, I know.” He checked his watch and pulled his duffel bag on his shoulder. “I have to go now. Be good while I’m gone, Yukino!”
He ruffled my hair on his way out. I quickly followed him and kept warning him about the dangers of missing out on breakfast.
My noise was apparently enough to drag Mother into our conversation.
“Shuusuke, dear, why don’t you at least have some oatmeal before you go?”
Oniisama stiffened as he heard Mother’s voice. He did a complete 180 and agreed with her.
Hmph! Mama’s boy!
I stick my tongue out at Oniisama from behind Mother and trot alongside them to the breakfast table.
Surprisingly, or rather, unsurprisingly since its Mother, there’s already a bowl of unsweetened oatmeal with Oniisama’s favorite cup of tea awaiting him on the table. Father smiles kindly as he looks up from his newspaper, and greets us all with the same gentle voice Oniisama uses to trick all the girls in Suiran.
“Yukino, what’s with that look?”
Oops. “Nothing, Oniisama!” I smiled sweetly and hopped onto my seat beside Mother.
Oniisama gives me a suspicious look before taking his own seat. When the rest of us are served breakfast, Oniisama begins to eat.
“So where will you head to first?”
“Kegon Falls. After that, I’ll likely head over to Toujinbou then Aokigahara.”
“Those places...” Mother seemed bothered by his response. Meanwhile, I raised an eyebrow in confusion.
What’s wrong with those places? Aren’t they all tourist spots? Kegon Falls is known for its changing colors (though isn’t that during fall and not winter?), Toujinbou has a pretty landscape, and Aokigahara... at this time of the year, I think the caves fill with ice at this time, and... hm, I think there was a book about that place? I can’t recall... but they’re all such popular tourist spots. Did Masaya-niisama really run away or is he on a tour of Japan?
“Oniisama, buy me souvenirs please!”
“I don’t think you’d want souvenirs from those places, Yukino.” Father says firmly.
There’s a kinda morbid glint in Oniisama’s eyes. It reminds me of when he finds humor in creepy things. Like dark legends and creepy dolls. Dolls are his favorite topic recently. Especially the one that gained popularity recently, Lulu Hashimoto.
I remember Oniisama jokingly tell me that if I met with Kisshouin-neesama, I would be meeting a real life Lulu Hashimoto. That was enough to deter me from asking him to bring me to Suiran and meet her.
Dolls are scary...
“Shuusuke!” “Thank you, Oniisama!”
Oniisama gave Mother his usual charming smile then he finished off his food.
“I should head over now.”
“Make sure to call when you find him.”
“Of course. See you all soon,” Oniisama waved as he turned and left.
“Can I go to Kegon Falls too?”
But aren’t the falls pretty? Well, I guess its too cold for me to come with Oniisama anyways...
A week had passed since then and Mother has had the mansion prepped to receive all our relatives for Christmas. Unsurprisingly, a majority of our relatives had brought their young daughters over, and were dumbfounded to learn the Oniisama would be gone until next year. The girls themselves either had a crestfallen expression, or were slightly mirthful. I’m guessing it was because it meant they didn’t have to try to shamelessly cozy up to Oniisama for an entire evening.
Still, I had some hope that Oniisama’s departure meant she wouldn’t come, but it seems my wishes were ignored, since Yuiko was standing in front of me, holding two presents in hand while smiling gently at my parents.
I flinched away from Yuiko when she came closer.
I already didn’t like her because her aura made everything go still, but now that I have that image stuck in my head, I don’t think I’ll ever get comfortable with the idea of being friendly with Yuiko.
Waaaah, Oniisama, why have you forsaken me?!
“Ahm, Yukino-kun? Is something wrong?” Yuiko asked as kindly as possible as her eyebrows furrowed in confusion.
“No... nothing.” I responded stonily.
I turned my head and saw a bevy of female relatives in Oniisama’s age range come over. I gulped when I noticed that they all came bearing gifts.
“Where’s your Oniisama?”
“Are you well, Yukino-kun?”
“Here, presents from Oneesama!”
“Your Oniisama really is lucky, to have such an adorable little brother.”
I felt my face begin to cramp as I put on a pleasant smile for the oneesamas around me.
“Since you’re alone, we’ll take care and accompany you tonight!”
Please, no. I don’t want any of you to accompany me.
From the corner of my eye, I saw Yuiko’s frigid smile as she looks at all the girls. As soon as they notice, they begin to quiet down considerably. Then, with perfect grace and timing, Yuiko smoothly steps in front of me, and holds my hand, and I resist the urge to pull away.
“I hope you don’t mind, but, Yukino-kun and I will be resting for now, ladies. I’m sure Shuu wouldn’t appreciate you tiring his little brother out by forcing your company on him, would you?”
I force my face to remain stony as Yuiko spoke. I don’t like them, but I don’t like you either. What, are you trying to win brownie points with Oniisama through me? It won’t work! I gave a loud yawn and rubbed my eye, pretending to be sleepy.
“I’m sleepy...” I yawned out and the girls quickly part while wishing me goodnight. Yuiko then leads me to my room.
Yeah. As much as I don’t like Yuiko, I’m not above accepting her ‘help’.
“Yukino-kun, I’ll tell Obasama you went to sleep, okay?” She smiled sweetly as she opened the door to my room. She helped me remove my suit jacket and shoes, then helped me into bed and tucked me in, before turning around and closing the lights.
“Sweet dreams.” She calls out softly and closed the door.
I wait for a moment then sigh, heavily.
Oniisama, I don’t mind who you pick as a wife... just don’t bring strange people home... or creepy dolls like Yuiko!
While I think about that, I remember the picture of a pretty girl Oniisama had in his room.
Kisshouin Reika, huh. I wonder if she’s like Yuiko. She sounds waaaaay too good to be true.
After all, attending the Christmas party was all for reconnaissance on Oniisama’s potential brides!
I huffed and sat up in bed. Then, I pulled out my phone from under my pillow and flicked to my Notes. Specifically, the ones I had on Kisshouin Reika.
Currently, my information was just at the level of rumors and hearsay from the some people in high society. However, there is a big problem that I learned about from a particular source who happened to have come from a Kaburagi party that both Oniisama and this Kisshouin attended.
Auntie wants to make Kisshouin Masaya-niisama’s bride.
I raised an eyebrow as I stopped typing into my phone.
I wonder what Masaya-niisama thinks about it...
I paused and reread my last sentence.
Oh my... I tilted my head as I thought about it.
Oniisama likes this Kisshouin girl, and this Kisshouin is a potential bride candidate for Masaya-niisama, and Masaya-niisama ran away from home... that could mean...
I gasped to myself as it all made sense to me.
Masaya-niisama’s trying to avoid Oniisama’s wrath by running away!
Ahhhhh... Masaya-niisama, even if you run all the way to Europe, I don’t think you can escape Oniisama’s wrath if you snatch his girl from him!
You guys wanted it, so I provided it. An Enjou Yukino’s POV chapter. This takes place from the winter break when Shuusuke goes looking for Masaya to bring him back from his suicide trip.
Obviously, Yukino has some big misconceptions about the situation concerning Masaya, but thats intentional because this is honestly A) more fun, and B) no way is Yukino going to know Masaya’s real reasons for disappearing.
 - Toujinbou, Kegon Falls, and Aokigahara are all very famous suicide spots in Japan. Ironically, they’re also famous tourists spots. So I’ve found a legit reason as to why Enjou buys souveniers from there- they’re actual tourist spots.
- Kegon Falls is usually swamped with visitors who like to watch the colors of the water change during the fall.
- Toujinbou is located near the Sea of Japan and is rather pretty, and also has a heartbroken legend concerning a priest that was killed by a jealous admirer of a woman they both liked and tossed off the cliffs. Legend says that he is still haunting the place to this day.
- Aokigahara is Japan’s number one suicide spot, but its also a pretty popular destination aside from seeking death. The western edge in particular is known to have caves that fill with ice during winter, and the porous lava absorbs sound, so it gives a sense of solidarity and beauty.
 Lulu Hashimoto is a popular model/trend in Japan started by the young fashion designer Hitomi Komaki. Basically, its a trend wherein one ‘becomes’ a doll by putting on a doll head mask, doll ball-joint stockings, and dressing up. Its really pretty but also kinda creepy. I think the eyes look quite dead and would suit Yuiko, who I can only think of as being a haunting type of beauty.
 Yukino is concerned about Masaya, but because he’s under the (incorrect) assumption (planted by Shuusuke) that Masaya had just run away from home, he isn’t too worried about him.
 I’m pretty sure Shuusuke canonically enjoys black humor. It also seems strangely fitting that he’d like dolls (think about his appearance and personality. The creepy factor is perfect for him).
 In case you don’t get why Yukino doesn’t enjoy the company of the girls, its because he knows they’re just trying to get close to his brother through him. Yuiko would be the biggest offender of this since I can see her using her seniority and closer ties with the Enjous to take all the chance to be with Shuusuke.
After spending all of winter break searching for my suicidal best friend, we returned home.
Masaya’s condition was utterly terrible. Even after recuperating at home for almost two weeks, his pallor still had not returned to its usual color, and the bags under his eyes had only lightened a few shades. Because of such a horrible appearance unbefitting of the heir to Kaburagi household refused to disappear, his parents kept him at home for even longer.
Their worries had only been escalating due to Masaya’s descent into sickness, so the amount of medical personel and servants to cater to his needs increased exponentially. Of course, to ensure that this wasn’t some ploy to kill himself, his windows were sealed shut, servants would be sent in to check on him every hour, and there were servants stationed outside his room, at the gate, and around the Kaburagi estate, ready to intercept Masaya should he go rogue.
Though with how heartbroken he is, I doubt he was faking it...
I left his room after having a brief conversation with him. I had snuck him some chocolates, but I clearly saw that the ones I left for him yesterday were sat, uneaten, on his bedside table.
I rested my head against the cool car window as I was brought to school. Masaya was sometimes easy to predict, and other times, he would fly completely out of my expectations. His heartbreak journey being the worst an example of that.
In order to ensure he would at least not do something stupid, I filled up Masaya’s schedule relentlessly. From having breakfast, lunch, and dinner together, to dragging him out of his room and walking around the estate, to even bringing him to the library and proding him to read a few books. My plan to slowly ease him back into his regular routines and find ways to cheer him up were futile. It did not help that his parents had him monitored and secluded from everything. This extreme seclusion and lack of privacy his parents were giving him was unhelpful at best, and downright destructive at worst.
Did they not want Masaya to return to society? I sighed as I thought that. If they kept secluding him like that, they might as well lock him up in an ivory tower in the middle of nowhere, and throw away the key.
He’s not getting any better... what do I do...
“Happy New Year, Kisshouin-san.”
I approached Reika as soon as she entered the salon. In my hand were some souvenirs I had gotten from all the suicide spots I visited last month.
“Happy New Year, Enjou-sama.” Reika’s soft voice returned the greeting and I smiled politely. I felt stares on my back so I quickly took her away to a more secluded area in the salon, then handed over the souvenirs. I looked at Reika solemnly as I considered my next action.
“Here, this is for you. Technically a souvenir from when I went here and there to fetch Masaya. Actually your hush money.”
I saw her face blanch for a brief moment before she hesitantly accepted my gift.
“…I... thank you for the consideration.”
I was pondering over how to breach the topic, but Reika ended up asking about him before I could say anything.
“You mentioned that Kaburagi-sama was down with a cold?”
“Yeah. He’s at home resting right now, actually. He went somewhere awfully cold, you see. But I guess it’s true what they say about sickness beginning with the heart. He was really weakened.”
So weak that he lost enough weight that I could haul him on my back and carry him back to the car...
Reika seemed to be deep in thought.
“But he’s not feverish so he’ll be fine in no time. Once Masaya’s back, I’ll leave things to you.”
I’m sorry, Reika-san, but I really am desperate.
I nodded solemnly, and Reika ended up laughing. I am not joking, Reika...
A few days later, Masaya’s finally returned to school.
His skin was dull and pale, and his eyes had dark circles underneath and were like a dead fish. I sat beside him in the Kaburagi car, and tried to keep up a conversation despite the somber atmosphere.
In the end, I slowly drifted off and shut up. No matter what I did, he would not respond. At this rate, he might as well cut out his tongue and ears and give them to someone else, since he certainly wasn’t using them.
His extreme change was noticeable to everyone in school, even members of the faculty were giving questioning looks as they saw Masaya’s lifeless appearance. Nobody dared to go near Masaya, but not out of respect or intimidation like before, but out of confusion and perhaps trepidation. With Masaya like this, it was like Suiran had become a graveyard, devoid of life and deathly silent.
“Has something happened to the Emperor?”
There were still many people who asked me that, and despite my insistence about it being an illness, there were quite a few who believed Masaya was suffering from heartbreak.
Some rumors floated around over why he was like this. Some had the correct assumption that it was a case of being rejected, others believed he was truly sick and only barely recovered, and the few who had their heads far up in the clouds believed he had gotten into a fight with Reika and was now gloomy since she was avoiding him.
The last rumor actually made Masaya react. .
He responds if it’s Reika... perhaps...
I picked up my phone and dialed in Aira’s number. As soon as she answered, I said, “Could you convince Kisshouin-san to console Masaya?”
“Have you seen where Masaya had gone off too?”
I asked his classmate as I looked around the entrance of the school. I told Masaya to wait for me here, but where was he...?
“Ah, a girl in the Yurinomiya uniform suddenly grabbed him and then departed with him.”
“Yurinomiya?” I turn my head to look at the departing car that was already quite far from school.
Maihama Ema! Its definitely her! Masaya doesn’t have any other fangirl as shameless as her!
“E...Enjou-sama, you— are you o...okay?” The person in front of me asked.
“Ah... yes...” I forced a smile as I held my phone in a death grip. “I’m fine... I must be going now. Good bye, Kishido-san.”
“Ye... yeah.” He nodded frantically then ran away.
I massaged my forehead and unlocked my phone, dialing Auntie’s phone number to tell her Masaya had been taken away by Maihama.
At the edges of the throng of people who witnessed Masaya’s kidnapping, a curly-haired cute girl snuck away. I watched her go to her car and then depart from the school as well.
“Oh, good afternoon, Shuusuke-kun. Since you’re calling so shortly after school ended, did something happen?“
“Ah, Auntie... Masaya was taken by Maihama-san. Could you make her return him, please?”
Although my tone was light, I noticed a few people who turned around to look at me turn pale. Oh, I wonder what they saw.
I sat on an armchair in a stylish but quaint apartment, drinking a cup of jasmine tea while the person who sat opposite to me was despondently staring into her cup.
“Yurie, its not your fault.”
I spoke gently as I reminded her. Last time I saw her, it was before I went off to find Masaya, and she had a terribly tear-stained face as she begged me to find Masaya quickly.
“Please find him!”
Yurie sobbed as she held onto my sleeve. Her beautiful face was stained with tears and she looked tired.
“Of course I will.”
Yurie had always been a gentle and caring person, but also firm in her decisions. It was why when she told Masaya that she would never be able to return his feelings, she did not change her mind no matter what he did. The endless letters, bouquets of flowers, the calls, and visits to her home, none of them swayed her.
I closed my eyes, remembering when Masaya lashed out violently against the guy who housed Yurie and Aira at his home in America for a year.
He was so feral...
I recalled having to grab Masaya by the scruff of his collar and pulling him back before he could lunge at the guy. His words were cold and hurtful, and his attitude was completely like a mad dog escaped from his cage. He was just short of frothing at the mouth at the poor man.
“How dare you act like that, Masaya!”
Masaya snapped his head towards Yurie, eyes filled with betrayal and anger, but Yurie was angrier. Far, far angrier.
“Whoever I chose to date has nothing to do with you! I don’t want to see you anymore!”
I felt Masaya deflate in my grip at her words. What was once feral has turned cowardly, then I heard him crack.
His voice was so weak, so scared. I knew that I looked at his face, I would probably see only a heartbroken boy.
“Don’t appear before me ever again!”
If I had to say, I don’t think Yurie was in the wrong, so I don’t want her to feel guilt. Her words were harsh, but Masaya was being a complete bastard.
“... is he getting any better?”
“No.” I sighed softly as I leaned back in my seat. I didn’t want to look her in the eye. I knew if I did, she’d be able to figure out his current state, and him being like that... I didn’t want Yurie to suffer anymore than she already has.
“I shouldn’t have yelled at him.” She muttered quietly as she slumped in her seat, cradling her head in her hands as she went silent.
“You weren’t in the wrong, though. Masaya was acting like an animal.” I grimaced as the memories came back. I would be lying if I said that Masaya deserved any pity, considering that the entire situation was completely his fault to begin with. I did care about him, but I wasn’t about to make excuses for his behavior, especially when he was like that... God, if he was like that when they weren’t dating, how bad would he be when he does get into a relationship with someone? When he’s jealous? I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d end up behind bars.
Yurie remained silent.
I looked at her, and said softly, “I asked Aira to convince Kisshouin-san into helping Masaya.”
“I hope it goes well...”
I sighed, “I hope so too.”
Later that day, I called Aira and asked her how her talk with Reika went.
Although Reika was reluctant, she agreed to try and aid us in cheering Masaya up. I breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed.
If Reika’s helping, then maybe he’ll get somewhat better...
“What will you do if something happens between them?” Aira asked suddenly.
I smiled wryly, “You are of that opinion, aren’t you... but if something were to happen between them...”
I thought of Masaya’s state, he was a complete mess, and no matter how kind Reika may be, I doubt she’d fall for him knowing how he is towards the girls he falls for.
But if something did happen between them...
I closed my eyes, imagining Reika’s happy smile— except this time, it was directed at Masaya, and he was smiling back at her. Reika was an empathic girl with an ever gentle aura, but a coward. Masaya was headstrong and authoritative, but he always had troubles when it came to controlling his emotions.
I think their personalities would clash too much, but if Masaya straightened up then...
I remembered the widely agreed upon saying by almost every person who has seen them.
“They would suit each other so well.”
“If they’ll both be happy, then I’m ready to support them with everything I have.”
I could feel Aira’s pity for me through the phone, and I ignored the dark feelings that were bubbling up.
As long as they’ll be happy, I’m fine.
The next day, I anxiously waited for Reika to approach us. Also, considering Maihama’s stunt last time, I was carefully watching Masaya this time. If it weren’t for Kishido informing me where Masaya had disappeared to, I probably would’ve suffered a heart attack then and there.
I’m too young to be experiencing heart problems...
I was sitting next to Masaya in the salon when Reika finally appeared.
She called out to Masaya as she approached. Unlike usual times where she was reluctant, she actually seemed slightly more confident in her approach. I smiled at her. Hopefully she thought of something good.
“Why not leave behind the troubles of the material world and join one of the strictly male convents in Europe? How about it? The World of Roses awaits you.”
Tonsure then throwing him into a monastery in Europe?! Reika, what kind of advice is that! Also, what even is “the World of Roses”? Are you suggesting to our son to become gay?!
I quickly stood up and grabbed Reika’s arm, “Kisshouin-san, could I have a word with you?” I felt a stiff smile on my face as I dragged Reika away from the unresponsive Masaya.
As soon as we were far enough, I released Reika and questioned her, “Why exactly does Masaya have to get a tonsure and join a convent? And in Europe too.”
“As a scion of the Kaburagi house, I believed it suitable for him to go to the true home of convents.”
“Vetoed.” I felt my smile cramping on my face. I did not drag him back just to have you ship him somewhere farther from home!
I saw her pout slightly, but I refused to bend. Hurry up and say something that is not dangerous! If he actually does that, I’ll blame you for it!
Reika walked back to Masaya, and I followed behind her.
“Kaburagi-sama, Japan has Mount Hiei and Mount Kouya. How about it? Throw away your worldly ties, shave your head, and enter the service of the Buddha. I think the shaved-look would suit you very well, Kaburagi-sama. You might even get a chance to meet Saigyou’s homunculus.”
What had Masaya done to you for you to want to get rid of him so much?!
Quickly, I grabbed her arm, “Kisshouin-san, could I have a word with you?”
I dragged her away yet again. “Do you think you could maybe step away from advice that involves running away from home? Kisshouin-san, you’re really just trying to seal something troublesome far away, aren’t you?”
“Goodness, no! I thought that it might be best if he had a change of pace. My intentions are entirely pure.”
“Liar.” It’s written all over your face, you want to seal him away somewhere where he can’t bother you.
Her face scrunched up a bit, her rosy cheeks puffing up in indignation as she looked at me.
“A tonsure… Monkhood…”
I heard my stupid son mutter. I flinched and turned to look at him. No!
“You see? Kaburagi-sama seems to be interested as well. Kaburagi-sama, I personally recommend the tonsure!”
“Kisshouin-san, that’s enough out of you.”
I shooed her away as quickly as I could after that.
Masaya, if you shave your head and join a convent, I am going to kill you!
Later that day, after I told Aira what happened, I told her to cancel Reika’s services as quickly as possible.
Reika has a really ugly crying face.
I sat on one of the higher seats in the auditorium as I watched Reika congratulate the Romeo and Juliet pair.
She has snot running everywhere.
The girl- Kasumi-senpai- was holding Reika's hands and her snot-filled handkerchief. I couldn't really hear what was being said, but it probably was something sentimental since it restarted Reika's waterworks. Senju-senpai smiled and his hand went up, and gently patted Reika's head while he had this amused look on his face.
"Shuusuke-sama," I felt someone touch my shoulder and I turned around. Oh, it was the graduated seniors from the Pivoine.
"Congratulations on graduating, senpais." I smiled at them and I saw their faces flush. Wow, how weak-hearted.
I sneaked a glance back to where Reika was, and saw that she was still being comforted by Kasumi-senpai and Senju-senpai.
Ah... so annoying. Get your hand off her already.
"So what happened?" I asked Masaya as we had tea in the Kaburagi Manor private rooms. This was one of the ones that Masaya particularly favored, as his father had remodeled the room to suit Masaya's tastes. It was pretty indeed, and the largeness of the room and interior designs were great, but the room felt closer to a throne room than a simple private room. He really was raised like a little emperor, wasn't he...
As I mulled over the thoughts of a toddler Masaya being dressed in ceremonial robes and tyrannically ordering people around to build his throne room, Masaya seemed to be glowing with vigor. "Masaya?"
"I've decided," he said slowly as he put down his cup. When he looked up, I saw a fierce and bold light in his eyes. One that I hadn't seen in months. "Kisshouin has shown me that I cannot just wallow in despair. As Yurie moves on with life, so should I. I cannot wait for her forever and if she cannot see me as anything more than her brother... then I must accept it."
"That's quite a change in tone. What happened exactly after I asked you to check on her?" I had an inkling of an idea what had possibly happened, which was why I sent him, but considering he's been surprising me and Reika has never conformed to my plans that much, I had to make sure.
Thus, I was regaled with the tale of how Masaya had found a crying Reika and formed some odd camaraderie through both being broken-hearted and rejected by the people they love... Not. From my understanding Masaya had not even let Reika explain herself to him. I have a feeling this is really all one-sided on his part.
"I hope she doesn't do anything too rash. I told her she can come talk to me if she has any troubles, but I wonder if she will..."
I stayed silent for a moment as I pondered over his words. Hmm...
"It would really help her if you stayed close by. You'd be nearby if she needed to talk to you, and she probably wouldn't feel so alone then." I smiled at Masaya as I put down my tea.
"Oh, good idea! I'll even give her the love anthology you found for me. It helped me, it would definitely be able to help her!"
"Wait, Masaya, I don't think that's a good idea..."
He had already run off to look for it before I could stop him. Wait, you idiot, I'm not done talking to you!
He ended up giving it to her just before classes started.
Reika had this unsure and confused expression on her face, as if she really did not understand what was going on but did not want to be a part of it. She tried to return the book, but Masaya pushed the book back to her firmly.
"Our feelings are in this book..." He said solemnly as he had a hand on her shoulder.
Oi! What's with those easy to misconstrue words?! Masaya! You're doing this on purpose, aren't you?!
The people around them had been frozen solid as they watched this take place. I heard someone mutter "a royal love affair" and I immediately looked around to find the source. Which one of you said that?
Its not like I don't understand what they mean though. The handsome and dominating Emperor and the beautiful doll-like Empress standing together in the hallway with the Emperor handing over a love anthology while looking into her eyes sincerely... its a scene straight out of a shoujo manga.
It made me want to throw my bag at Masaya full-force.
Masaya seemingly noticed all the stares that they were garnering, so he allowed his hand to fall from her shoulder as he looked at her seriously. "Also, Kisshouin, take care about your crying face. You look pretty horrible."
I immediately saw Reika's face flush, and I heard the gasp of the people beside me. The Empress had cried and the Emperor had seen her, and possibly comforted her? I could already hear the rumors spreading before they even opened their mouths.
What is with this bastard and his ability to misconstrue things? Did he learn it from me? I thought he never listened to me when I talked, seems like I was wrong...
Apparently Masaya had said all that he wanted to. So with a satisfied expression, he turned around and left for his classroom.
I'll shave his head.
I smiled in thought as I imagined all the ways to get back at Masaya. The little bastard. Does he not notice how easy it is to misunderstand his words? Then again, he always acted like that... I'll just replace all his sugar with salt.
I was about to leave, but then I noticed Reika was still frozen in the middle of the hallway. Ah, I guess I do need to thank her, she did turn Masaya back to normal.
“Because of you, Masaya’s looking a lot better now. Thanks.”
I said this sincerely, but she just had a dark look in her eyes as she stared at me. Oh, she was probably mad at Masaya... why was she so tense? It looks like her shoulders are too stiff.
I quickly left after that, deciding that I shouldn't get too involved in her business. What was the promised price I would pay if she managed... did I ever tell her? Oh well. Knowing her, she would want me to stay away or quell any of the bad gossip surrounding her... that would be easy to do, right?
Or not, I think as I stepped into my classroom, which was abuzz with the news of Masaya giving Reika a love anthology. After my presence was noticed, however, the room went silent. My classmates had varying degrees of pity on their faces as they looked at me. What the hell?
"It's okay, Shuusuke-sama. I'm sure that you are still the Empress's favorite!"
What the hell?!
The finals came then went, and the results were published for all to see a few days later. The rankings looked like this;
1. Enjou Shuusuke
2. Takamichi Wakaba
3. Mizusaki Arima
5. Kaburagi Masaya
Huh, I actually expected him to get into the top three. Well, that's to be expected when he spent more than three months depressed over his failed love life.
I quietly thanked the girls congratulating me for first place as Masaya stared up at the board wordlessly. He's probably annoyed that he didn't stay in the top three. Actually, I don't think I've ever seen him go lower than top three before, other than the time he went missing, so this must be new to him.
I glanced around as I waited for Masaya to return from his reverie. I caught Reika looking over at us, but she promptly stormed off. Why is she so mad all the time, geez.
I glanced through the board again, and focused my attention on the lower ranks, looking for her name. Did she not get in this time? She looked upset... what if I go tutor her? She'd definitely be happy if she can get back on the scoreboard, right?
"Shuusuke, let's go."
"Coming." I muttered as I walked away. Would she let me tutor her is the bigger question. I have the feeling she would reject me before I would even bring it up...
It's White Day today, huh.
About two weeks after the graduation of the seniors finals, and the publishing of the test results, Suiran was full of annoying love-decorations and lovestruck students flitting through the halls and passing presents. The sheer amount of love coming off of them was enough to make me want to leave school early. I would have too- if it weren't for the fact that I was unsure if this day might cause Masaya to regress. Sure, he's been fine so far, but I can't be too lax.
At around lunchtime, Masaya said he wanted to go take a walk around the school alone, so I let him go. I walked to the third story window and observed the lovestruck fools of Suiran quietly in peace.
Wait a moment, is that Reika? Why is she running?
I watched as Reika came to a halt and skipped the rest of her way over to the duo near the gates. Thats... Senju and Kasumi, right? They seem to be holding quite a few bags...
I felt my gut churn and I looked away. I felt frustrated as I went down the stairs and headed back to my classroom. Tch. It seems even Reika's been infected with the lovesick atmosphere thats infested Suiran.
I thought about it for a moment and scratched my head, "Thinking back... wasn't Masaya headed in that direction too? I wonder what he would do if he saw that."
I heard a really fun rumor when the class day ended.
"Uhm, yeah. Kisshouin-sama was holding a bunch of bags and she seemed to have given Kaburagi-sama a White Day's gift. She seemed pretty embarrased though, because as soon as she gave it to him she ran away as quick as she could. Kaburagi-sama seemed to be frozen still in the hallway as he watched her leave."
"A White Day's gift, is it."
Tap, tap, tap.
I ignored the frightened looks of the three guys before me as I tapped my fingers against my desk. The rest of my class had gone home, and in quite a hurry I might add. I wonder why, we still had about five minutes before homeroom was to be dismissed, but everyone ran out as soon as Class Rep said it was fine to leave.
Tap, tap, tap.
The door to the room slid open, and Masaya appeared. He seemed to be chewing something.
"Masaya, eat at the cafeteria if you're hungry. Don't walk around while eating, it's bad for your stomach."
He swallowed his food and opened his mouth, "I heard it helps digestion. Anyways, if I didn't eat it now it would've melt."
"The French marshmallow Kisshouin gave me. It was peach, by the way." He said it cheerfully enough.
I felt my mood plummet as I stared at this satisfied guy.
"We... we're going to go now!"
"Good bye, Enjou-sama, Kaburagi-sama."
After they left the room, Masaya looked at me and raised an eyebrow, "Why do you look so upset?"
"Nothing." I gritted out with a smile.
But really though... why was I this upset over it...?
It was the middle school graduation the next time I saw someone make a commotion over Reika.
"Haruki," I called out as I saw him shout loudly at a car that was already speeding away. I glanced at the plate number and held in a sigh. That was the Kisshouin car... looks like he's been disrespectful to Reika again, huh.
"Haruki, what was that?" I asked him as I crossed my arms, looking as disappointed as I could.
"That... I..." He stuttered as he looked back between me and the disappearing car, his face ashen as he realized he's been caught.
"What was my warning last time."
"But it was her fault this time! Seriously!"
I raised an eyebrow at him and wordlessly nodded, encouraging him to continue. Thus, he told me how Reika had told him a fake cursed story about ghost samurai coming to take his head...
I won't even question why he would even think it was real to begin with, but what the hell. I rubbed the bridge of my nose and contained my sigh. I feel like I'm dealing with a child.
Well, then again he was younger than me.
"Shuu? Haruki? Whats with the tense atmosphere?" I heard a saccharine voice call out to us. Haruki stiffened as the woman approached, but I didn't even turn around.
Oh... she came.
I stayed silent for a moment then put on a smile, "It was nothing, Yuiko-san."
I sat at the dinner table with the rest of my family, smiling and laughing when appropriate, and responding when spoken too. I glanced to the side and caught Yukino's dissatisfied expression. I reached over and patted his hand under the table.
"It's only a few more minutes." I muttered softly as I glanced at my watch. I quickly turned back to the conversation when I felt a hand on mine- the hand that was still on the table and holding my glass. I glanced to the owner and saw Yuiko smiling at me sweetly. I carefully retracted my hand and took a sip of my drink as I nodded at her, giving a gentle smile in return.
"You two complement each other so well."
I look at Mrs. Uryuu wordlessly as she stares at me and Yuiko, who responds affirmatively to her mother. Mr. Uryuu seems to be busy discussing with father, but mother was paying close attention to what Mrs. Uryuu was saying.
"My Shuusuke is quite a gentleman, isn't he?" Mother said proudly as she looked at me with a smile on her face. I smiled faintly at her and nodded my head, "I try my best."
"Such a humble boy too. You raised him well."
"Thank you, madam. You raised such a charming daughter yourself. My, I don't think I've heard of any other girl as sterling as Yuiko."
"I have," Yukino muttered. However, it was loud enough for everyone to hear. I looked to him at the same time as everyone else did. Yukino's eyes widened as he realized what he said, and immediately coughed, looking away from mother as his chubby face flushed.
I felt a cold aura behind me, and I glanced back to see Yuiko. You better not have been glaring at my brother.
"Oh, you have? Who is she?" Mrs. Uryuu inquired as she honed in on Yukino.
"Kisshouin Reika..." Yukino replied as he glanced at me nervously. I tensed as I tried to think of why he would even bring her up, or how he would have known about her reputation enough to consider her "sterling". I mean, I talk about her quite a bit but its all about the weird stuff she gets into.
Across from us, Mrs. Uryuu responds thoughtfully, "The Kisshouin's daughter? Oh, I've heard of her... I haven't met her myself, but Mrs. Kisshouin is a delight. Have you met her, Yuiko?"
"I... don't believe so." Yuiko sounded mystified as she glanced at me.
"But I believe there have already been plans to engage her to Kaburagi Masaya, right? I hear Madame Kaburagi is quite fond of her. Especially after she heard about the love anthology her son gave her a few weeks ago."
I took a deep gulp of my drink and lowered my glass back on the table. "Masaya hasn't said anything about any engagements."
"I wouldn't be surprised. I hear that Reika-san's rather demure, and Masaya-sama has only recently begun his advances on her, right? Its unsurprising if that romantic would try to court her before he approached marriage with her."
I smiled as I heard the word. Romantic. Well, it Is one way to describe him.
"Yukino, be careful what you mention during dinner." I softly warned my brother as I tucked him into bed. Mother and Father had went to see off the Uryuus while I was instructed to tuck Yukino into bed. Well, more like Yukino wouldn’t have accepted being put to bed early if I wasn’t going to be the one to tuck him in. He was stubborn like that, but it saved me the trouble of having to keep up my facade in front of the Uryuus.
Plus, it helped me avoid Yuiko’s questions about Reika.
"Sorry, Oniisama." Yukino responded softly from under his covers.
"I’m not mad. Just be careful about what you say." I sighed and pecked his forehead. "Go to sleep, Yukino." I got up from his bedside and walked towards his door. I turned off the lights then pulled open the door.
I paused at the door and glanced back at Yukino, "Yeah?"
"Are you really going to marry Yuiko?" Yukino sounded almost distressed.
I checked outside my room, looking for any signs that my parents or one of the Uryuus or any of the servants were lurking around. I didn’t see anyone, and I heard my parents bidding the Uryuus goodnight downstairs. I stifled a sigh of relief and glanced back at Yukino.
Would I marry Yuiko? The idea, although logical and based on which would provide the Enjou group the greatest likelihood of gaining more power, left me feeling disgruntled.
“I would marry the person I think is best for me.”
Whatever that means, I suppose.
In the morning, I was rudely awakened by someone barging into my room.
For the love of God-- I opened my eyes and threw the pillow behind my head at full force. The pillow sailed across the room before landing with a unsatisfying thump against the intruder's face.
"What the hell-" Thwack!
Well there goes my second pillow.
"I thought I told you that you couldn't barge into my room unless it was important, Masaya."
The intruder growled at me and I held up my third pillow, a harder one than the last two which would probably do more than just thump against his annoying face.
"It is important." Masaya glared with crossed arms as he picked up the pillows on the ground.
I shake my head at him and glance over to my clock. Eight o'clock... I suppose I should be awake by now. "What was it that it was so important that you needed to barge into my room?"
"It's about the cherry-blossom viewing party tomorrow. You said you wouldn't go?"
"Yes. What of it?" I asked as I stretched. Since he's gotten back on his feet, he's been pestering me about my own love life, even though his was in complete shambles. I have no idea why he would be interested though. I hope he isn't planning to try and add me into his "brokenhearts club" like he did Reika.
"Kisshouin will be going."
"Still not interested." I huff as I felt my back make a satisfying pop. "Why should it matter to me if she goes?"
"Did something happen?" Masaya sounded utterly daunted as he stared at me wordlessly. "You've been in a bad mood since March, what's wrong?"
"It's nothing important." I calmly responded as I got off my bed. I should take a shower...
Masaya narrowed his eyes, a stern tone inflecting his voice as he said, "Didn't you tell me that we'd be open to each other and tell each other if we had problems?"
"I suppose I did..."
There he goes, using my own words against me. Should I be proud or exasperated, I wonder? I seriously considered changing the topic and throwing him in for a loop so that he couldn't keep asking me, but upon seeing the insistence and determination on his face, I knew that that would get me nowhere.
Sigh. "Its nothing much. I guess you could say I was just accumulating stress since March and something just happened to have made my mood even worse, that's all."
"What was this something?"
"The rumors floating around Suiran... it doesn't matter anymore. I'm just tired, I really don't feel like going."
Masaya looked at me silently.
Then, he dropped a bomb, "I was the one who invited Kisshouin to the party. I thought it would help cheer her up after her heartbreak, but my mom thinks I'm doing it to try and get together with her."
I stilled completely.
"So... you want me to go and stop your mom from trying to set you two upind, is that it?"
"That and I thought that you liked Kisshouin." Masaya said blankly.
Cheer up Reika while giving me a chance to talk to her all the while only informing me at the last moment possible, just because his mother threw a wrench into his plans... "Wow that's a plan I never thought I would hear from you. Are you sure you're Masaya and not an imposter?"
"Quit your bullshit!" Masaya roared and threw the pillows he had on hand at my head. I laughed and caught them, narrowly avoiding being smacked in the face. "If you were gonna act like this I shouldn't have told you at all!"
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry." I laughed as I rubbed my neck. "I didn't mean to belittle your good will. Its just... you messed up and now you need me to fix it."
Masaya sighed and slumped onto the floor, a groaning coming out of his throat. "Yeah..."
"Well... It's a good thing I'm used to cleaning up your messes. Give me an hour to myself though, I need to take a shower."
"Thank god. You were starting to stink."
I threw the third pillow at him as I walked off to my bathroom, ignoring his indignant whining. That brat.
I sat on the seat opposite Masaya as we discussed the party. It would be fairly easy to disrupt Auntie's plans, but I was worried over whether it might become too obvious to her and result in her getting mad at me, or worse, her voicing her concerns to my mother. I did not need another round of "Who do you like?" questioning from her. Especially after last night's dinner.
Masaya seemed to think that avoiding Reika for the entirety of the party would be fine, but I told him that since he had extended the invitation himself, his mother would undoubtedly give him an earful if he didn't accompany Reika at least once.
What was more important though was making sure Reika or Auntie would always be engaged in conversation or with someone else. This would be easier on Auntie's part, seeing as she was the hostess, but I wasn't too sure if Reika would be sociable. After all, a majority of her friends were non-Pivoine members, so there is a great likelihood that she wouldn't be socializing much at the party.
"Well, if worst comes to worst I can always drag you off to meet people. I'm sure Auntie wouldn't mind it."
Masaya had an annoyed expression on his face, "Great..."
On the day of the party, it turned out the plan was almost completely unneeded to begin with. Kind of annoying since I had asked Masaya to give me the guest list to see if I could find people who Reika would willingly talk to and send her way to avoid Auntie. Very annoying.
Still, I guess I should be grateful that he got me to come. Reika looked great today, and definitely like a Rococo with her gold dress and curled hair. She did look paler than normal however. I wonder what happened to her?
Still, after Masaya talked to her the first time, I found myself greatly amused by the silent argument that went on between the two girls with him. Maihama was insistent on getting his attention, but clearly she wasn't getting it when Reika was there. I internally laughed as I remembered one of the unofficial and unsaid rules of the Kaburagi parties.
When Masaya is talking to a girl, no one should disrupt him.
At first that rule only held true for Yurie, but soon it became blatantly obvious to everyone that the rule had begun to shift to meaning Reika. It was pretty rare for anyone to join in on the conversation between the Emperor and Empress of Suiran, and it was much rarer for anyone to be able to draw out responses from him. Masaya didn't care at all if he came off as rude and he would ignore anyone who annoyed him. It was pretty much worse when Reika was around, since the difference in treatment would be like heaven and earth.
Case in point, Maihama. I almost felt bad for her when I saw how hard she tried to get Masaya's attention.
“Masaya-sama, thank you very much for inviting me today. I’m so happy that you called me here!”
“Thank my parents. I’m not the one who invited you.”
Its almost painful to see how blatant Masaya was with dismissing her.
She didn't seem discouraged though. She had quickly grasped his arm and tried again, “Masaya-sama, I hope you’ll invite me to your home again. Your Okaasama said I was always welcome.”
“If you wanna meet my mother then go ahead. It’s none of my business,” he responded, slipping out of her hold. I saw the faintest traces of irritation begin to appear on his face. Goodness, she should stop now before he gets mad.
Instead, Masaya's attention had went to Reika, who stood just behind Maihama. "You came too, Kisshouin?"
The sickly-looking Reika simply smiled at him politely and rose from her seat. I think Masaya looked rather worried as he gave her a look over.
"Thank you very much for inviting me here."
Hahaha... Masaya, you do realize you just said that in front of a girl who you specifically told was invited by your parents and not you? It looks like favoritism from where I'm standing.
“Masaya-sama, even though you went out of your way to invite her, Reika-san doesn’t seem to be having much fun, does she.”
That caused Masaya to raise an eyebrow. Of course, if he had invited her over to cheer her up but instead she was upset, it would've defeated the purpose of him inviting her. He opened his mouth to say something but was immediately cut off by Reika talking.
“Speaking of which, Maihama-san, I heard that you received a wonderful present for White Day.”
“Eh-” she flinched.
Oho? What's this?
I listened intently as I watched, drinking some mocktail as I enjoyed the battle of words between the girls.
“The mystery man is all anybody is talking about at Yurinomiya. How nice. Just who was it? Please do tell.”
“That’s…” Maihama's eyes were beginning to swim. I haven't heard the rumors, but considering her expression she probably had said something like "I am the Emperor's girlfriend!", hadn't she? It was the only reason I could think of for why she looked so utterly mortified and kept glancing at Masaya.
Luckily for her, Masaya remembered something and said it aloud, “Speaking of White Day, that marshmallow was good stuff. I suppose those were time-limited, huh.”
“Huh? Marshmallow?” Maihama seemed confused before she turned suspicious. "Masaya-sama, what do you mean by marshmallow?"
“I got a peach-flavoured marshmallow from Kisshouin on White Day.”
“From Reika-san!?” she exclaimed as her head snapped towards Reika. She looked livid.
“Masaya-sama didn’t give you a White Day present so you give him a marshmallow yourself? That sounds like a pushy hint to me.”
Oh right, Masaya had gotten chocolate from her, right? I don't think he ever ate it though. I think he gave it over to some of the servants since he had an overabundance of them.
“Hint? To begin with I never gave him any chocolat. The marshmallow was just sharing a treat.”
“You’re lying! What do you mean you never gave him chocolate!”
“It is the truth. Is that not so, Kaburagi-sama?”
“I don’t remember who I get chocolat from,” he said calmly. I looked at Maihama's face and sure enough, she had flinched from his coldness. “But since I gave you that poem anthology I guess the marshmallow counts as your thanks.”
Oh... he really said it.
No matter how one looked at it, right now it looked like Maihama was a jealous woman who had tried to come between a couple. Why do I say couple? Because Masaya had went and did the reverse of traditions and gifted Reika a present first then received what would be a thank-you gift back. I guess anyone who didn't know the full-story would totally see this as Masaya's typical doting behavior towards the girl he liked.
Seeing as Maihama was about to blow a fuse and probably start a fight with Reika or end up crying because of Masaya, I quickly waved him over. He said goodbye and walked over. Ugh, how brutal. He was facing more towards Reika when he said that, it looks like he only cared about her.
"What was that?" I asked as I raised an eyebrow at him myself. That was pretty chaotic, though Reika handled it rather well for someone who was sick.
I glanced over at them again as I led Masaya away to a group of my associates who I wanted him to meet.
Maihama looks really jealous.
For the rest of the party, it seemed Reika had taken to wandering from place to place by herself. I'm rather surprised no one had tried to approach her, I wonder if her speaking with Masaya earlier had anything to do with it?
Oh, she finally sat down. Hm, now would be a pretty good time to talk to her.
While I made my way over there, I noticed that another guy was headed in the same direction. I felt an uneasy feeling grow in my gut as I glanced at him.
"Shuusuke-sama!" My arm was grabbed and suddenly I was surrounded by a swarm of girls. Where the hell had all of you come from?
"Oh... Good evening," I forced a smile as I slipped out of the woman's hold. I didn't recognize her face. Goodness, was grabbing people now at random acceptable now? First it was Maihama grabbing Masaya now its random women grabbing me?
It took me quite a while, but I managed to finally get out of their grip. When I did, I saw that the guy had taken a seat beside Reika and was speaking with her amicably.
And what was Reika's response?
Flushed red cheeks and a lovestruck smile. Completely similar to the one she had when she fell for Senju Tomoe.
Today marks the start of my second year in Suiran's high school section. It was rather windy today, so I quickly entered my car and took a seat. I double-checked my bag to make sure I hadn't forgotten anything then nodded to my driver, who quickly started the car then drove off.
I wonder who would be my classmates this year?
"Oniisama~!" Yukino held onto my sleeve and I smiled at him kindly. "When will you let me meet Reika-oneesama?"
As I walked closer to the noticeboard, I noticed how utterly frantic people were being. First, there were some people openly cheering over the class allocations, while some were being consoled. I wordlessly walked over and took a look at the sheets.
Not with Masaya... nor with Reika... oh wait, I have class with that Takamichi girl and... that seems to be the only interessting people I know, huh...
I looked off to the side when I heard someone call out Reika's name. A girl that was styled like an ancient Japanese beauty had run over to Reika with a smile on her face.
“Reika-sama! We’re in the same class!”
"What's her name?" I turned and asked the person beside me. The guy was startled and immediately looked over at the girl, then turned back to me, "Uhm, do you mean Kisshouin-sama or Shirasagi-san? No, I'm sorry. You obviously know Kisshouin-sama." The guy was flustered as I kept looking at him. Goodness, stop acting as if I'm going to slice your throat. What reputation do I have for people to act like this?
Well... whatever. The guy quickly informed me of what I wanted to know and I glanced over the class allocations again, this time looking for Reika's name. Oh, there it is. Hm... seems like Iinchou is in the same class. I'll go and talk with him after this.
"So Reika is the vice rep again?" I asked with amusement as I walked alongside Iinchou. At this point, he had already known about my... feelings towards Reika, and I trust him to keep his word about keeeping our talks about her secret, so I freely said her name without worry. Well, it wasn't like I was shouting out her name or speaking loudly anyways, so it was fine. It would really only be a problem if Reika or one of her clique heard me say it... or Tsurahana, I suppose. But I haven't heard of her doing anything for a year already, I doubt she'd try to start a coup again so early in the year.
"Yep. I'm glad. Our class has almost no trouble students this year, so things should be peaceful for us."
"Well we have Dite... You know how he is."
"Oh I see. If he causes any problems, I think Reika would be able to set him straight?"
Iinchou laughed, "You have a lot of faith in Reika-san."
"Of course I do. Who else would I have faith in?" I responded immediately. Iinchou kept laughing at me.
"Sorry, its just... I don't think you've noticed but almost half the school knows your smitten with her." Iinchou smiled at me, though that quickly wilted. "But there were some new rumors floating around..."
I raised an eyebrow. What rumors?
"... Are these perhaps the rumors concerning the royal couple?" I asked rather sarcastically as I used the nickname that referrenced both Masaya and Reika's non-existent relationship.
"You've heard of that huh... but I'm talking about the one that came from your social class. Er, the High Pivoines, if you will." Iinchou seemed to fumble as I continued to stare at him in confusion. Is this really what other people call us? It sounds like they're talking about another species altogether... though I guess when you consider the difference between someone on my level with some low-tier Pivoine member, the difference would be astounding.
"Its the one that Masaya-sama had personally invited Reika-san to the last Kaburagi party and had clearly showed favoritism to her in contrast with the other women he associated with. I wasn't to sure if it was true but..."
Ah... I get it.
"People think we're fighting over Reika?"
I didn't even need any confirmation from him. It would make sense, what with the way everyone parted for me earlier and the seeming silence when Masaya had come over to check the noticeboard too. Although we were conversing like normal, it seemed like there were more eyes on us than usual.
"They expect us to fight over a girl?"
"Well, it's not just any girl. Reika-san is the Madonna of our school."
I chuckled lightly and looked away, suddenly feeling utterly annoyed with the entire situation. Why the heck couldn't people keep their noses out of our business.
"Madonna? That's new. Is it a more popular alias than Empress?"
"Well its the one her clique doesn't take offense to... Empress as well, but the generals can get pretty moody over it so its pretty much disused. What about you?"
"I think calling her Reika is just fine. Its cuter that way too."
Iinchou grinned, "You really sound like a guy in love!"
"Hey, lower your voice. I don't need anyone else to hear..."
I stretched my arms as I looked down at Yukino curiously, "A friend's birthday party? Do you want me to drop you off?"
"No!" Yukino stubbornly refused as he glared at me. Ah, did I make him mad recently? I don't recall doing anything... well I do keep putting off letting him meet Reika, but that's because I really can't tell if he'd end up telling her about all the stuff I keep saying about her. Plus, when he asked me whether I'd make her my wife or not and I answered so stupidly confident... I want to die. No, I must ensure that he doesn't meet her and spill all my secrets.
"Eh, why? I usually drop you off?" His behavior is just plain weird.
"I don't want you too!"
"Okay, okay. I won't do it. Just have fun at the party, okay?"
I watched my brother’s departing figure silently as I mulled over his behavior. Is there someone at the party he doesn’t want me to meet? He’s talked about Mao and Yuuki fairly often, and he gets along with the children in the Petite, so I don’t think there’s any reason for him to be so against me meeting anyone?
Well... maybe he’s just in his rebellious stage. Goodness, I already had to deal with Masaya’s rebellious stage, what more of Yukino’s?
When Yukino came home that day, he seemed to be very amused. I tried asking him why, but he wouldn’t tell. So I decided to leave it at that.
Two days after the birthday party found me bowing my head to my younger brother one evening after the school day had ended.
I was careless.
Yukino smiled at me deviantly as he happily recounted his activities at school today while I sat opposite him in the living room, my hand holding my pencil tightly as he giggled cheerfully at me.
"Hey, Oniisama, Reika-oneesama is much nicer than in the rumors! She's also a really positive thinker, she probably hasn't noticed your stalker-like behavior towards her at all."
"Name your price." I immediately said as I lowered my head to my little brother. For the love of God, please don't tell her anything.
"Geez, Oniisama. What's with that behavior?" Yukino smiled at me angelically as he kicked his feet.
Ugh, to be fearful of my own little brother...
Yukino happily recounted how he met Reika to me as I served him tea and cookies. I swear that if any of the servants saw me, they would definitely be having a panic attack seeing the young master of the illustrious Enjou group bending over and serving someone else tea. Well, at the least Yukino was making it easy on me by not requesting I do some tricks for him.
Reika lacks common sense.
I observed that wordlessly as I drank from my thermos while watching people flee from the Handicrafts club room in fear, some of them mentioning "Hades", "snacks", and "imprisonment" whilst they ran. Unsurprisingly, the moment they saw me, they quickly changed direction and ran the other way.
Well, considering how most people have become used to seeing me as one of the highest-ranking members of Reika's harem, a rumor I would divulge at a later date, it was only natural that they would try to avoid me if they were talking about Reika. This actually only made me realized just how much people talked about her, honestly. When everyone assumes you're in a relationship with the person you're gossiping about, it tends to lead them to run away from you to avoid confrontation.
Take into account that I'm apparently the second highest in the ranking in her harem, and people begun to avoid me like the plague. Well, that only was when they were talking about her. There were still quite a lot who would try to stick to me without a sense of space. Thankfully, it would only take me looking in Reika's direction or her appearing in the same room to make girls quickly pull away.
Reika is an amazing deterrent.
That said, she was also doing some amazing work deterring people from entering her club. That must've been the fifth person I saw run from the room this week.
I chuckled to myself as I turned around and left. My thermos was already empty of coffee, and I could only find so much amusement from seeing people flee from Reika before I get tired.
While I was walking away, I certainly heard a bositerously loud voice call out to Reika. It appears Kotou had appeared.
I weighed my options, considering whether or not I should take a peek and watch the debacle that would surely happen when those two cousins were together, and in the end I went over to watch.
Reika had kicked Kotou out of the clubroom with a cold expression on her face. As expected, everyone else fled as well.
I held in a snort of laughter as I saw the Club President direct Reika way from the people and deeper into the clubroom.
Aw, poor Reika. I snickered inwardly as I walked away for real this time. She had such a cute defeated expression on her face as she was led away.
A while later, I was speaking with Iinchou who seemed to be struggling with his love life.
Why is it that every time we get together to talk there seems to be a new problem with his love life? I couldn't help but wonder as we discussed. I mean, he may not be on the same level as me, but he surely has at least a few admirers right? Its not like every girl in school had fallen for me or Masaya.
"Honda-san has gotten closer to another guy in her class..."
As he agonized over his issue, I drank my tea wordlessly. Sure, I could've acted more concerned, but it was difficult considering that every talk concerning Honda could easily be resolved if he asked her out already.
Well, I don't have any right to criticize his actions.
Still, it was pretty concerning when he had his head in his hands like that, so I opened my mouth to talk, "Even if she did happen to get closer to that guy, you two have had a longer history together and you have a stable relationship. There isn't any need to feel so troubled."
"But what if that guy tries to get close to Honda-san?"
I raised an eyebrow, and shrugged my shoulders, "I am sure that you'd think of something before then. You've gotten bolder since we were children- I mean, you actually talk to her now without asking Reika to be in the conversation as well."
Iinchou seemed to have relaxed, but he made a troubled expression again soon after, "Here I am complaining about my love life when you must be as troubled yourself, Shuusuke-sama. I heard Reika-sama had went on a date with another man not too long ago. It must feel horrible-"
"Iinchou," I cut him off as I placed my cup nack onto its saucer with a clink. "Reika is not my girlfriend, and even if she was I couldn't possibly deny her from meeting whoever she wants to, that would be utterly selfish of me."
"Besides," I hum and look down into my tea, the dark waters reflecting my own visage as I spoke, "I don't think that man will be a problem for me much longer."
"What do you mean?" Iinchou asked. I glanced at him, a serene smile on my face as I looked outside.
It was such a sunny day.
Such a perfect day to make a very important, and very serious phone call.
"Have you ever heard of Reika's older brother, Takateru Kisshouin? I'm sure he'd love to have a word with that man whose been taking his darling sister out on dates recently."
When the school announced the destination for our next trip, I almost vaulted out of the room to run to check on Masaya.
Nikkou, which was were Kegon Falls, a place I would never want to visit again in this lifetime thanks to what I associate it with, was out destination for this year's school trip. My stomach churned as I could only imagine what could be running through Masaya's when he finds out about this. It's too early, far too early. Perhaps his parents would disallow him from embarking on the trip with us, but it would be worse if we showed him that we did not trust him.
What if he does something dangerous while we're there?
My gut churned and I leaned my head onto desk. He can't... We just got him back to normal. It hasn't even been a year since we've been there, now we were heading back? I laughed dryly as I imagined how Masaya's parents would take it.
I need to keep an eye on Masaya.
We gathered early in the morning for the day of the trip. A lot of people were still pretty much asleep and some where stumbling around like drunken children. I, on the other hand, was keeping a firm watch on Masaya who quietly waited to arrive at our destination.
When we went arrived and we departed from the bus, I quickly latched onto Masaya's side and stubbornly followed him around. Masaya didn't seem to mind, as he was busy gazing at the flora around us while we hiked. It was a silent trip as we hiked our way to the top of the mountain.
As usual, we were amongst the first to arrive, so I led Masaya to a clearer spot and we sat down and had our lunch. Neither of us felt like talking, but I had to breach the subject with him. Even if it was just me wanting to selfishly confirm he wouldn't do something dangerous.
"Masaya, will you be alright?"
The first words I've spoken since the trip started. How would he react, I wonder.
"I'll be fine."
"Are you sure?"
He was quiet. The uncharacteristic dullness in his attitude made me panic, fearing I had reopened wounds that he was still healing from. "Masaya, I-"
"I won't jump, if that's what you're worried about."
I stared, silent, as Masaya finished his lunch and kept sitting down. It seems that he had no intention to wander around for now.
I hurriedly finished my own food and packed away my things, then I turned back to him.
"I'm taking a nap."
"O-oh, alright." I stumbled over my words and cursed myself inwardly. For the love of God, its like I'm more terrified of this place than he is.
"You can walk around if you want. I'm not gonna leave."
"Yeah, dad." He said sarcastically as he leaned back on his bag, already prepared to take a nap.
I waited for a while, making sure he had actually taken a nap, before getting up and taking a walk. I didn't dare to walk too far just in case, and I made sure I could have a clear path to run to Masaya should he attempt something.
I clenched my hands as I walked around. I stuffed them into my jacket pockets as I huffed, trying to find something to take my mind off of bad memories for even a moment.
Suddenly, I saw Takamichi grazing around the area.
"Takamichi-san," I called out as I walked forward. She turned around and greeted me in a polite tone, looking surprised.
We ended up conversing for a few minutes, exchanging pleasantries and what we knew about this place. In turn of my more morbid history sharing concerning Kegon Falls, she had a few interesting stories of her own to tell. Particularly about family trips and relatives in the area. How nice. In response to her comical stories, I gave her ideas for souvenirs. Nothing more than the some charms they sold here and the shortbread I had given Reika less than a year ago.
I began feeling someone staring at me, and I glanced around discreetly to notice Reika was looking at us. In turn of the Empress staring at us, her retinue begun to stare as well, and soon a cacophony of shrill voices were in the air who were berating Takamichi's closeness to me.
I begun to feel bad for her, so we quickly parted ways.
Barely five minutes after, a new girl appeared and sidled up to me. I quickly recognized her as the second-in-command of Tsurahana's little gang. I had attempted to leave her, but soon a horde of girls arrived and I was trapped.
Perhaps she thought I was unaware, but I clearly saw Ms. Second-in-Command glaring hatefully at Takamichi's back.
Did... I just make Takamichi's situation worse?
In the afternoon, we had arrived to Kegon Falls.
I stuck close to Masaya the entire time as we were directed around the area. I knew these woods well, and for the reason why made my stomach drop and made me want to glare at the place.
It was a little warmer than when I was here last time.
It did nothing to repress my horrible memories, though.
Well, even if I had bad memories Masaya had it worse. He had become completely silent as soon as we set foot in Kegon Falls, and he seemed to be in a world of his own as we walked around.
I caught him staring at the water at the base of the waterfall. I silently reached over and grabbed hold of his arm.
Just in case. I thought silently as he continued to stare. Just in case.
When it was time to leave, Masaya still had not spoken a word, and was still in his own world. Due to that, I had to be the one to pull him back to the bus.
The situation was familiar. The only comfort was that this time, I didn't have to drag back a brokenhearted and suicidal best friend. Only one who seemed to be lost in his own world.
When we got back to the bus, Takamichi was smiling at me brightly as she proudly presented a souvenir bag to me. ‘Kegon Falls Shortbread’ it read.
Masaya finally spoke when he saw the bag, but I simply nodded to Takamichi with a smile.
“I never tried them myself, but I gave them to somebody who told me they were great.”
Yukino did say they were nice...
At the next place we visited, I caught Reika staring at Takamichi wordlessly.
I wonder what's up with those two?
Exam week had come and gone, and teachers have finished grading our papers. Today, the ranking board has been posted.
1. Takamichi Wakaba
2. Kaburagi Masaya
3. Enjou Shuusuke
4. Mizusaki Arima
What a dangerous development...
I was silent as I looked at the scores.
Last time Takamichi ranked first place, she had joyfully celebrated a bit in front of our shell-shocked classmates, and received their ire as a result. In order to stop her, I ended up having to warn Takamichi to not celebrate her successes in front of our schoolmates since it was detrimental to herself. However, the other students seem to have taken that as an indication of me disliking Takamichi. Thus, they took it upon themselves to give her a verbal lashing in the middle of the corridor, that only ended when Mizusaki came and told them to knock it off.
But now that she surpassed Suiran’s precious Emperor, of all people... I doubt that the harassment would end at some verbal lashing this time.
“…Shuusuke, this Takamichi Wakaba is in your class, right?”
I glanced to the side, looking Masaya whose narrowed eyes were transfixed on the ranking board.
“Yep,” I nodded lightly as I tore my eyes away from the board. “She’s a girl with a lot of energy.”
From the corner of my eye, I noticed a familiar, messy-haired girl come up to gape at the ranking board.
“Ah, speak of the devil.” I smiled wryly as I turned around to face her. “Takamichi-san, congratulations on 1st place.”
“Eh... First!? Th… Thank you very much…”
Takamichi didn’t seem all that happy this time. Unlike before, she seemed to be hesitant to even smile about it. She did a good job, though. Its unfortunate the jealous and small-minded students of Suiran wouldn’t allow her to enjoy the fruits of her labor.
It really would’ve been fine if the conversation ended there. In fact, it would’ve been better if it had, because then the animosity directed at her would’ve been much less.
Masaya, however, was the undisputed Emperor of Obliviousness.
“So you’re Takamichi?” He questioned as he looked her up and down. Takamichi shrank under his intense stare, but she affirmed his question nonetheless.
The cogs in Masaya’s brain seemed to be turning, and I wondered what he was thinking. Unlike popular belief that I was a telepath and could figure out anyone’s thoughts simply by looking at them, I really couldn’t, and it was often me relying on deductive reasoning to figure out what people were thinking about.
And I had zero clues as to what Masaya could be thinking about.
Masaya’s gaze slowly lost its intensity, then he turned away, no longer focused on Takamichi.
When Masaya begun walking back, I bade my farewell to Takamichi, who looked like she had been forced to lie in a bed of nails.
If I’m not wrong, then within the week, the Pivoine’s President would be calling a meeting to discuss how to deal with Takamichi-san.
I tilted my head, wondering about that future discussion. Masaya and I have stayed as far from the politics of Suiran as possible, and with the way the Pivoine sees us, they wouldn’t attempt to waste our time over a rather pointless (in my opinion) discussion about an External’s behavior. If anything, I’m sure that they’d be calling upon Reika to deal with the matter.
Reika had brilliantly displayed the power of not only the Pivoine, but the Kisshouin group, and crushed a rebellious External group in her final year of middle school. An action that only furthered the divide between the Externals, Internals, and Pivoine, and cemented the Pivoine’s status as members of the elite class they could not dare to offend. If not me or Masaya, then Reika was the model Pivoine member. Perhaps she was even better, considering she was actually an active and diligent participant in the politics and survival game of trying to stay at the top. While Masaya was uncontested due to just how lofty his background is, Reika and I would resort to carefully handling the affairs around us to benefit ourselves. While I kept myself invisible though, Reika was too conspicious to ignore.
Considering how Reika was so engrossed in Suiran’s politics and was one of the most prominent members of the Pivoine, how she choses to deal with the matter could result in Takamichi’s fall from grace in Suiran.
... But, considering how Takamichi is neither threatening Reika’s position nor disgracing her in any form, I don’t think Reika would take any action against her. If anything, I think Reika would attempt to help her. I mean, she has always been generous... I just can’t see her actually destroying someone socially. It would be completely out of character for her.
As I expected, Masaya and I were not asked to the enter the discussion. That was fine, considering I only wanted to listen, but it really was something else to know about the Pivoine elitists, and actually hearing them talk.
“By the way, there’s actually a 2nd year causing problems…”
“Ah. That Takamichi girl?”
Oh, so it has begun.
I had my attention split in three ways; one with Masaya who was eagerly talking about sports, one with the President and her discussion, and one with Reika, who I had no doubt would be called to act on the situation.
In all honesty, other Externals did really well on the exams too, not just Takamichi. Mizusaki Arima, for example, had always been competing with Masaya and I for places on the top three, at yet no one had ever said a degrading comment about him. Sure, there had been grumbles amongst some members of the Pivoine who felt they were slighted by him, but all the positive comments generated by him far outweighed the negative, and no one ever dared to openly bully him, or make any attacks on his character.
Even I, with my distaste for him, held a fairly good opinion of him.
Takamichi, on the other hand, was a plain commoner girl who could be frequently caught with her mouth wide open and staring into the distance. Add in the fact that Masaya and I had spoken to her casually before, and the few times she’s walked around campus with a messy appearance, and you’ve gotten the recipe on how to anger every elitist member of Suiran’s Pivoine.
“Heavens… At any rate, we can all agree that she doesn’t belong in Suiran. To begin with, who knows if those grades are her own ability…”
“Beating Kaburagi-sama and Enjou-sama…? How could that ever happen…”
Well, if you actually studied than you’d probably be able to get on the ranking board. Besides that, she got first rank through sheer ability, since Suiran bought intelligent students so that the school wouldn’t be known for having only rich but stupid students.
The scholarship students get paid for their high grades.
I mean, they could complain to us and tell us to work harder.... Just kidding. There’s absolutely no one in the entirety of the Pivoine who would actually dare say that to us.
“At any rate, that girl needs to be watched. Those of us in 2nd year need to pay special attention to her. Reika-sama.”
I turned my attention to the conversation. So here it is...
“I hope you’ll cooperate with us on this matter as well. Please purge the undesirables.”
Her choice of words were scary, but Reika’s soulless smile was infinite times more terrifying.
I looked away, returning to my conversation with Masaya as I feigned ignorance of Reika’s dead gaze.
I can’t get involved without Takamichi receiving backlash, sorry. You’ll have to deal with this on your own.
When I came home, Yukino was happily playing around inside my room.
I know I spoil him a lot, but my bedroom is not his playroom... well, the box of toys over there are his, but its still not his playroom.
I raised an eyebrow as I saw something in his hand, “Yukino, whats that?”
“Oniisama!” Yukino called out happily as he stood up, and quickly presented the thing to me with a delighted expression. “This is a snow rabbit I made today with Reika-oneesama!”
I glanced at the item, a white hemisphere with green rabbit ears and a pair of bright red eyes.
“Oh, its really cute. Kisshouin-san helped you make it?”
Yukino nodded proudly. “She taught me what to do!” He eagerly hugged the rabbit then looked up at me with a smile, “I ended up telling Reika-oneesama about how you and Masaya-niisama would make snow rabbits and snowmen for me since I couldn’t go out to play with you. She seemed really surprised about that, but I think I managed to improve her opinion of you a little bit!”
“T...thank you.” I stumbled over my words as I held in my surprise. Huh, I didn’t expect Yukino to actually try to improve my relations with Reika.
Wait a moment.
“What’s the catch, Yukino?”
“Oniisama~ Nothing at all! Can’t I help you out without you being suspicious?”
I gave him a look and Yukino pouted.
“Cause Oniisama sucks at getting into her good graces, so I thought I should help. Even Masaya-niisama says your hopelessly raking up bad points with Reika-neesama.”
“I’m not that bad.”
I’m going to punch Masaya when I see him.
“Oniisama, when I told Reika-neesama the story she had a look on her face that screamed ‘this villain can actually be nice?!’. How exactly are you ‘not that bad’?”
I stepped out of my car and headed to the entrance of the school. Coincidentally, I ended up bumping into a familiarly curled hair girl who you'd be hard-pressed to mistake for anyone else.
Reika noticed me immediately, and I am sure I saw her stiffen up when she looked at me. Rude. I haven't done anything to you in a really long time, there's no reason to look like the devil has cornered you. I look at her silently until she forced on a wide smile, returning the greeting with her usual composed and polite tone.
“Good morning, Enjou-sama.”
She had turned around and attempted to leave, but this was a rare opportunity to actually talk to her without having to rely on chance meetings when she was alone. Which rarely ever happened- Reika was always surrounded by her clique or at least had one or two friends following her. If I wanted to talk to her, I would have to either rush to her classroom the moment lunch break started, or go up to her when she was with her friends and take her away.
I had never done the former, though. I wasn't that desperate. Plus, the commotion would be way too big if I did.
We ended up walking to the second-year classrooms together, and ended up drawing a lot of attention to ourselves. Similar to Reika, I was glancing around the halls. The girls were blushing and squealing, meanwhile the boys had a terrified expression on their faces as they averted their eyes. When Reika had finished glancing around, she focused a resentful glare at me.
“What’s wrong, Kisshouin-san?”
“I see.” I smiled at her brightly, but she looked unimpressed. Ever since we met in elementary, my smiles have never worked on her. It was always a mix of feeling frustrated and feeling amused whenever it happened.
Today, it leaned on amusement. I simply let her irritation slide off me as we continued walking to our classrooms.
How unfortunate that we aren't classmates... it would be easier to talk to each other that way-- What the hell am I thinking.
“Are you not with Kaburagi-sama on this morning?”
“Well it’s not like we go to school together.”
Reika's resentful glare turned into a disbelieving look. I wonder what she's thinking... I swear if she thinks that Masaya and I are walking the path of roses together I'm going to give her trouble.
When she continued to look at me with disbelief, I hastily added on, “Wait, don’t tell me you think that each morning we happily ride the same car here? Wouldn’t that be pretty creepy for two high school boys? We go to school at the same time, so I guess we bump into each other a lot.”
“My, is that how it was?”
I felt my smile strain itself as I continued,
“Speaking of which, there actually was a period when I went to pick him up. I couldn’t really take my eyes off him at the time. I still have to thank you for your help back then.”
I will pay her back... at some point. I mean, I'm even making sure that those annoying schoolmates of ours quit bothering her with their stupid courting. I just need to pay her back in equal amount to her reviving Masaya... and possibly embarrassing her by sending him to her when she was in such a sad state.
“It was thanks to you risking life and limb that we somehow got Masaya to cheer up. Thanks again.”
“You are welcome…”
I changed the topic when I noticed her expression turn resentful again.
“And it looks like my brother has been in your care too. The other day he brought home this toy that he said you taught him to make.”
Reika’s eyes light up, and I forced my smile to remain neutral as she grinned at me without reserve.
“Oh, the snow rabbit!”
“So it’s called needle felting. I had no idea you had that kind of hobby. My brother was quite happy about it.”
“I see. Then it makes me happy that he enjoyed it.”
A joyous expression fills her face as she happily reminisces over my younger brother. I couldn't help but understand how she felt. When Yukino wasn't being bratty nor using blackmail material on me, he was quite cute. He had mother and several of our female relatives in the palm of his hand, and it seems like Reika is the newest addition to the long list of girls who've fallen to his cuteness.
Which reminds me, how does he know so much about Reika? She's conspicuous and famous, but he even knows about the Tsurahana Rebellion incident, and he wouldn't stop asking me about details. Or if he wasn't asking about that, he was talking about how graceful and perfect she was, or giggling over all the stories I've told him.
Like that one time she stepped in pigeon poop or the other time when a bunch of pigeons started raining down on her...
I was lost in my thoughts until I heard Reika start speaking again. Oops.
“It seems that the snow rabbit had special importance to him. He told me about how you and Kaburagi-sama built snowmen for him. You really spoil him, Enjou-sama.”
Well, doesn't that just bring back good memories.
“Well, we’ve got quite an age difference after all. And he hasn’t got the best constitution either. Doesn’t your own brother spoil you quite a bit too? Why according to the rumours, you’re practically a brocon, Kisshouin-san. Although lately it’s been leaning towards fathercon instead.” I smiled at her widely as I revealed a little bit of the information that's been circling through every party the Kisshouins either attended or hosted. Reika's brocon status was certainly something, since no one could deny that Reika was infatuated with her brother.
The fathercon thing was hard to believe, though. Especially when you saw the way she stiffened up and begun to grow resentful to her "dear" father whenever the topic was brought up.
Reika looks surprised but she quickly forced on a polite smile once again.
“It is certainly true that my brother and I have always been close, but I have not the faintest idea how the accusations of being a fathercon came about."
“Ohh? I see.”
Thought so. The fathercon rumors just didn't fit in with what I knew about her. Well, given her eccentric behavior, you couldn't be too sure. If you only knew the superficial Reika, she was a beautiful and perfect ojousama. But if you kept watching her whenever she thought she wasn't in public... she was quite clumsy and had a really long string of misfortunate accidents.
Like the bird poop incidents...Stop thinking about that, Shuusuke. What the hell.
We ended up reaching my classroom sooner than I expected, and I paused. "Oh, by the way."
I turned and grinned at her. Speaking of weird rumors concerning Reika...
“Is it because you love your much older brother so much that your taste is also for older men?”
Reika's eyes went wide with confusion and surprise, and I quickly turned around and entered my classroom. I bit the inside of my cheek as I ended up chuckling. That surprised face is so cute, I wish I had taken a picture.
I placed my bag down on my desk and looked up, my classmates looking at me with smiles and smirks on their faces.
"You look really happy today, Enjou-san."
Oh crap. "Um, yeah."
Class Rep gave me a side glance and spoke with a moderately amused but factual tone, "You walked with Kisshouin-sama to class today."
Class Rep grinned, "So when are you gonna pop the question?"
"I have no idea what you mean." I frowned at him but my classmates were already muttering among themselves over Reika and I. So annoying... I even heard someone say "The Empress has bestowed him royal favor!"
"Oh," Class Rep started, "Did you know Tagaki-kun goes to the same cram school as Kisshouin-san?"
"Tagaki-kun?" I asked. With amazing timing, the door opened and another one of our classmates walked in.
"Oh, Tagaki-kun! Speak of the devil, I was just talking about you to Enjou-san! Come here, come here. Why don't you tell him about Kisshouin-san?" Class Rep waved the shocked boy over and I put on one of my brightest smiles as I greeted him.
"Hello, Tagaki-san. I heard you go to cram school with Kisshouin-san?"
Eh, why is he shaking? I'm not going to do anything to you, so please calm down.
"Pl-please have mercy. I swear I have no intentions towards Kisshouin-sama, so please don't..."
"I'm not going to do anything, please calm down..."
"Enjou-san, I don't think we have even one classmate who doesn't know how fierce you are when it comes to Kisshouin-san." Class Rep muttered and walked off.
Oi, you only made Tagaki-san worse. Come back here and help me, you prat.
Takamichi is acting weird.
I quietly observed her as class began. This morning, she bowed to me as she greeted “Good morning, Enjou-sama” then kept her head down as she promptly moved out of my way.
That’s... very odd.
I couldn’t help but be puzzled over the sudden development. Just a few days ago, she was treating me just like she did with any other of our classmates, but now she’s been treating me like a highly valued customer who’s entered her shop. She was even using the polite servant speech that I was accustomed to hearing from the servants I had back home. I almost ended up reflexively asking her to prepare my usual afternoon tea when I heard her speech.
Thank god I didn’t. We’d both just end up in a highly embarrassing situation, and I had a feeling that our classmates who held less than kind opinions of Takamichi would take it as an indication of me indirectly declaring that treating her as a servant would be perfectly fine.
I turned my attention back to the teacher when I realized that I had drifted away from the lecture. Good grief, I really should pay more attention to my surroundings...
The class ended and I packed my things away in my book bag. I bade everyone goodbye and then headed for the salon to wait for Masaya.
I didn’t suspect that when I got there, I would be accosted by a concerned Reika.
“Ummm, Enjou-sama, is it true that Yukino-kun is feeling ill…?”
I glanced at her wordlessly as I wondered wear she got that information. We’ve only just admitted him a few days ago, and I keep family matters private, and the teachers know better than to gossip about the family life of a Pivoine member. Perhaps Yukino’s friends in the Petite? Now that I look at her closely, Reika looks somewhat winded, almost as if she had run here from the Petite to interrogate me for answers.
I nodded “You heard about that fast. Yeah, we had him admitted into hospital because of his asthma.”
She paled, “Eh!? Hospital!?”
Reika looked like she was about to work herself into a frenzy over the news. Ehhh, his health isn't as bad as you think, its just asthma.
She begun to grimace as she tapped her foot, seeming to be lost in thought as she fretted over my little brother.
... When were they so close? I couldn’t help but wonder as I brought her out of her reverie, “It’s not that big of a deal, okay? It happens every year around this time. We’re just having him stay in the hospital in case.”
It seems my attempt at reassurance only made Reika even more worried. Her glum expression still on, she said, “But if it warrants a hospital admittance then is that not quite bad already?”
“Well, not exactly?” I responded. Its not like its life-threatening, it was just a precaution. “It’s just quicker to have responders if he’s already in hospital. And I think he’s used to being admitted to hospital already.”
It was a matter of fact. Yukino had been in and out of the hospital a lot since he was an infant, so by now he’s become desensitized to hospital visits. I visit him everyday after school, and all he does is whine at me that he’s bored.
I say as much to Reika, but it seems to make her fret even more. Oh no, how do I fix this...?
As I pondered over my current dilemma, Reika suddenly shouted at me, “Enjou-sama! If that is the case then should you not be heading there right now instead of wasting time drinking tea? He must be so lonely!”
I answered absently as I shrugged off her concerns, “There’s no need to rush. He’s used to it already, so it’s fine.”
I almost snorted at her response. How cute of her to get so worked up over my brother. Its kind of endearing, honestly.
“Right now Yukino-kun must be staring out of his rainy window, waiting silently for his oniisama to visit him. ‘Is Oniisama coming yet? It’s so lonely…‘
I fought down the urge to laugh as I listened to her idealistic vision of how Yukino spent his days in the hospital. What kind of thoughts are those? It sounds like something straight out of a movie.
“I’m pretty sure he’s watching a DVD or playing a game right now.”
Reika immediately went silent as she looked up at me with an indignant yet pouty expression.
“Haha!” I felt the sides of my lips lift into a grin as I laughed at her. Reika’s displeased features stayed on her face and I forced myself to stop. Controlling my laughter, I said, “Sorry. Anyway, you really don’t have to worry so much. Today I’m going there with Masaya so we’ll be heading out the moment he’s here.”
“Goodness. Kaburagi-sama is going as well?” Her eyes went wide by a fraction as she looked at me in surprise. Masaya’s mentally Yukino’s age, so its like bringing a playmate over for him.
As soon as I nodded, she seemed to have decided something and she took a nearby seat as she waited. Hm? Was she trying to assure herself that we’d go visit Yukino? Reika, even if you didn’t stay to watch we’d still be heading over to visit him, you know?
“Kaburagi-sama is taking a while. I wonder what his class is doing.”
Her impatient tapping started once again, and I calmly drank my tea as I tried to put her worries to rest.
“Well, I think he should be here soon… See? Speak of the devil.”
Masaya entered through the salon doors with his book bag in hand. He quickly strode over to us but paused when he saw Kisshouin.
“Shuusuke- Huh. What are you frowning about?” He questioned her as he saw her impatient face.
I answered for her, “Kisshouin-san here has been getting annoyed at how slow you were. Right, Kisshouin-san?”
“Annoyed at me? Did she need something with me?” Masaya looked at her in confusion, no doubt wondering if she had finally decided to open up to him about her love troubles like he’s been hoping for her to do as a fellow member of the “Broken Hearts Club”, or if he had somehow done something to offend her again. That was his usual train of thought when it came to Reika.
Said girl responded sharply, “No, I did not. More importantly, I think you should hurry along. Visiting hours might be ending soon.”
I got up from my seat as I took note of Reika’s worry. It seems, however, that the President and her lackeys had caught sight of Masaya.
“Kaburagi-samaaa! How about having some tea with us?”
Reika’s expression became dark as she just as quickly stood up and begun urging us to leave. I couldn’t help but smile at her concern as I dragged Masaya away, declining the President’s wishes as we left the salon.
Once a few feet away from the salon, Masaya slipped out of my hold and begun walking on his own. He turned to me, a single eyebrow raised as he questioned me, “What’s up with Kisshouin?”
“Nothing, nothing.” I smiled at him as we headed to the carpark, “She was fretting over Yukino being in the hospital. We should go now before visiting hours end.”
Satisfied by my response, Masaya nodded then got into the car with me. He then proceeded to pull something out of his bag and show it to me with a proud expression on his face, “I got this for Yukino. I’m sure he’d like it!”
I raised an eyebrow as I took the item from his hands and checked the cover.
“A zombie horror movie... seriously, Masaya?” I asked him bluntly as I readthe cover.
“What? Yukino’s not scared of zombies anyways.”
“He’s still only six...”
“Psh. Quit acting as if he’s scared of his own shadow. He’s not that much of a baby anymore.”
I sighed and handed back the DVD to Masaya, already wondering if I should really bring him along.
Whatever, Yukino would probably be happy to see Masaya. Regardless if he’s bringing along a horror movie.
The next day, I was assaulted with the strange feeling that I was being watched. It was rather unnerving, and I deduced that whoever it was that was watching me couldn’t possibly be my classmate, since the time I felt the gaze on me happen only during early break and lunch.
It had begun raining earlier today, so I had taken my umbrella out of my locker and headed for my car, ready to go home and work on my assignments for the day.
I heard the pattering of feet on wet tiles and wondered if I should pick up my pace and head to my car. I wasn’t in the mood to deal with a late-day confession when I had more important matters to attend to.
“Kisshouin-san?” I quickly turned around and saw a slightly soaked Reika rush over to me while cradling something to her chest. I swiftly moved closer and covered her with my umbrella, forcing us to get closer than normal.
I forced my tone to remain even as I asked her calmly, “What’s up?”
“Could you please hand this to Yukino-kun?” She asked my politely as she held out a ribboned cloth parcel to me.
“What’s this?” I took the item as I felt the smooth wrapping paper under my fingertips. Its a bit heavy, but its also quite sturdy and thick. Is this a book?
As if confirming my unspoken question, Reika spoke, “A book. I thought it might help with his boredom.”
“Oh? Well then, thank you. May I ask what kind of book?” I quietly wondered what type of book Reika would give. She’s more sensible than Masaya, so I doubt that she’d give Yukino some sort of horror story, but I can’t really imagine what kind of book she’d be giving-
“Das Wirtshaus im Spessart. A fairy tale that I enjoyed as a child.”
That made me pause, “Fairytale?”
Her eyes gleamed as she nodded, “Yes.” Then, a worried expression took over as she unsurely asked, “Eh!? Could it be that Yukino-kun does not enjoy fairy tales?”
I quickly tucked the book under one of my arms and shifted the hold on my umbrella as I reassured her, “No, that’s not it. He loves books, so I’m sure he’ll appreciate it. Thank you for this,” I smiled at her as reassuringly as I could.
I saw a hint of doubt in her eyes so I quickly added, “Anyway, I’ll make sure he gets this.”
“Thank you. Ah, I apologise for holding you, Enjou-sama. I shall take my leave. Gokigen’yoh.” She smiled at me as she prepared to leave.
Oi, wait. If you run in the rain you might slip.
I bade her goodbye as I simultaneously tried to hand my umbrella over to her.
“No need. It is but a short run away. Goodbye!”
With such a prompt refusal and swift exit, she quickly ran back to the safety of the school as I was left standing in the rain with her present in my hand.
“Young master, please get in already!” I heard my driver call out to me. I snapped out of my daze and quickly headed to the car, being careful to keep the present dry and safe by clutching it to my chest. As soon as I entered, I placed the book on the seat beside me as I closed my umbrella.
“Change of plans. Take me to the hospital.” I ordered my driver as I pulled out my phone to tell Mother I would be visiting Yukino.
My driver looked at me nervously through the review mirror and asked, “But isn’t Uryuu-sama supposed to be visiting today?”
“I’ll cancel.” I responded calmly. “More important matters have come up. I’ll take the blame anyways, so just drive.”
“Yes, young master.”
The car soon pulled out of the car park, and I watched the scenery outside pass by as I ignored the ringing of my phone. I glanced at the caller ID and saw Yuiko’s name in front. Seeing that, I waited until call stopped and I picked up my phone. I swiped through my settings and blocked Yuiko’s number.
That should by me enough time until this afternoon.
When I got to Yukino’s hospital room, he was sitting down and playing on one of the game stations Mother had brought over for him. My sudden visit seemed to have surprised him, but he quickly recovered and smiled at me.
“Oniisama! I thought you said you wouldn’t be able to visit today?” He seemed happy, but then his eyes fell on the package in my hands. “Whats that?”
“A present from Reika.” I answered as I walked in, dropping my book bag on the nearby table as I strode over to Yukino and handed him the book.
“Wow! Really?!” He clambered from his sitting position as he took the book out of my hands and began to unwrap it. “Oh, Oniisama, isn’t this the book from that author you like?”
I nodded with a smile as I looked at Yukino. “He’s a talented author, I’m sure you’d enjoy reading his work.”
I thought back to the pile of work resting on my study desk at home... I guess I’ll just stay up a little later tonight to finish every thing.
“You’ve already read this to me before.” Yukino hummed as he opened up the book. A surprised “Wah!” escaped his lips as he suddenly shoved a piece of paper in my face. “Oniisama, look! Reika-oneesan wrote a letter for me!”
I glanced over the contents of the letter as I noted the pleased smile on Yukino’s face, “Oh.”
“How kind of her,” he muttered softly. I noticed the happy smile on his face as he skimmed through the book. “Hm, Oniisama, since this is your favorite story, could you please read it to me?”
I raised an eyebrow as I looked at the somewhat thick book. “Are you sure? It’d probably take us two days to finish it, and its not really a bedtime story.”
“Its fine~” Yukino smiled, “Plus, I distinctly remember that you had a date with Yuiko this evening. If you’re busy accompanying me, then even Yuiko would be unable to do anything about it.”
I ended up snorting as I agreed to his logic. For Mother and Father, the most important thing to them was their children, and they were especially soft-hearted with the sickly Yukino. Even if Yuiko was the one barging into the Enjou residence, she’d be completely defeated by my parents’s adoration of Yukino.
“When we’re done, why don’t you write a thank you letter to Reika for the book she gave you?”
“Ah, yeah! Oniisama, lets read now so I can start on the letter!”
Like that, I spent my next two visits reading fairytales to Yukino while helping him make a thank you letter for Reika.
She smiled brightly as she read the letter, and I couldn’t help but smile in return.
I think this is the first time I’ve met a girl my age actually care for Yukino purely for him, and not as an extension of him being my little brother.
It feels nice to know there’s another person who genuinely cares for him.
Chapter 38: Enjou Yukino’s POV: Interim
Yukino Enjou POV
It was a rainy afternoon, and I had been playing on my console when the door to my hospital room opened, and Oniisama came in carrying a neatly wrapped item in his hands.
I turned towards him, placing my controller down as I addressed him, “Oniisama, I thought you said you wouldn’t be able to visit today?” I dropped my gaze to the present he carried, “What’s that?”
Oniisama calmly took a seat as he placed his bag on the table beside him. His fingers slid over the cover of the item in thought as he responded, “A present from Reika.”
“Wow, really?” I raised an eyebrow as I wondered if there were any holidays today. Why had she prepared a present? I know she’s quite fond of me, but receiving a present is quite sudden. However, Oniisama didn’t seem to question the existence of the presence as much as I did, as he simply handed the book over to me. I unwrapped the gift to see a hardcover edition of Das Wirtshaus im Spessart. As the fingers of my free hand traced the embellished letterings, my mind drifted to a similar tome in Oniisama’s personal library. When I question him about it, he nods affirmatively.
“He’s a talented author, I’m sure you’d enjoy reading his work.” He responded in a pleased tone, as if finding something amusing. Thinking about it, this book has a few dark stories... is Reika-oneesama like Oniisama? It would make sense for his affection then...
Thinking that, I turned my attention to Oniisama who seemed to be preoccupied with his thoughts. I wonder what’s gotten him so distracted... I rack my brains trying to think what could be bothering him, and recall a conversation Mother and Oniisama had a few days ago.
Ah, the Uryuus are supposed to be visiting today. Did Yuiko do something to irritate Oniisama again?
It was a bit of a secret (except to me) that Oniisama didn’t like spending time with Yuiko. I can’t recall when his fondness for Yuiko turned into dislike, but I recall that one of the incidents had occurred one summer when Yuiko-san incessantly visited the manor to ask for him to escort her at every party she attended.
Oniisama had rejected her advances and invites, but she persevered every seemed to take it as a signal to strive harder. This annoying habit caused Oniisama to rebuff her for several weeks until she had complained to her parents about Oniisama’s avoidant nature towards her.
For some reason, Mother was also in a poor mood with Oniisama that week, so she had him comply with Yuiko-san’s wishes for the last weeks of the vacation. Henceforth, every time Oniisama came home, he looked more and more haggard and irritable. Even outsiders were asking about his health, to which he responded that he was merely under the weather. Yet, that didn’t deter Yuiko from dragging Oniisama out like a medal to flaunt in others’ faces. Truly, Yuiko was more concerned with herself than Oniisama, and I hate her for it.
Recalling such memories made me frown, and I looked at the weary and dazed Oniisama again, wondering if he was in another of his moods. Those moods always managed to get him in trouble, as evidence by the Uryuus near-constant presence in the estate nowadays.
At this point, I felt like we could build a second mansion on the grounds purely for the Uryuu use. Its been so long since they’ve had dinner at their own house, that I’d be surprised if they remember what the taste of their chef’s cooking was.
Thus, I inwardly sighed. Oniisama, you’ll be punished again, you know...
I turned my attention away from him as I absentmindedly commented on the book. When I opened it, I was surprised to see a pretty cute stationary letter written with elegant handwriting, and signed at the bottom was Reika-oneesama’s name.
“Oniisama, look! Reika-oneesama wrote a letter for me!” I picked up the note to show him. I was definitely surprised. Who the heck writes letters anymore? Yet, the thought was nice. I guess I’ll keep this.
Oniisama glanced over the letter with mild amusement, a slight smile on his face as he responded, “How kind of her.”
Oniisama, you really aren’t in a good mood today, huh...
Keeping my thoughts to myself, I skimmed the different sections if book as Oniisama seemed intent to sit and watch. When I saw his focus blur, I began wondering what’s going through his head, homework, the Uryuus, or Reika-oneesama?
“Oniisama, since this is your favorite story, could you please read it to me?” I asked him as I leafed through the first chapter. The Japanese used was, although meant for children (upper children, definitely, I think as I glance at the vocabulary of the writer), was rather difficult for me.
“Are you sure? It’d probably take us two days to finish it, and its not really a bedtime story.” He said as he looked at me more attentively. I glanced at the thick book and nodded. Besides, what better excuse to avoid Yuiko than to be spending time with your sickly, lonely, hospitalized younger brother? Anyone who argues that I wasn’t deserving of attention would definitely be eaten by Mother and Father... if you didn’t get to them first.
Even if its Yuiko, she will lose.
I smiled as I reaffirmed my choice, “Its fine. Plus, I distinctly remember that you had a date with Yuiko this evening. If you’re busy accompanying me, then even she would be unable to do anything about it.”
Oniisama easily conceded then pulled his seat closer to my bed. After a moment of glancing through the pages, he says, “When we’re done, why don’t you write a thank you letter to Reika for the book she gave you?”
“Ah, yeah, Oniisama, lets read now so I can start on the letter.”
We were halfway through one chapter of the book when a nurse came in, and told Oniisama that visiting hours were over. Oniisama glanced at the clock, a displeased frown tugging on his lips as he packed away his things and turned to the nurse. His melancholic expression still on his face as he thanked her for reminding him and for taking care of me. I silently wondered why he was going through such a lengthy farewell until I looked at the clock.
Oh. If he left now, he’d still make it back in time for dinner.
In the moment it took me to look at the clock, Oniisama had somehow managed to fluster the nurse as she accepted his compliments and signed something before handing it to him. She then meekly said goodnight and closed the door.
I raised an eyebrow as Oniisama turned around, a delighted smile on his face as he flashed me the signed document the nurse gave him. An overnight visitor’s pass.
“She’s quite a kind lady, isn’t she.”
“You’re really bad, Oniisama.”
After two more days of being hospitalized, I returned to school.
My classmates happily welcomed me back and caught me up on the lessons. I felt my smile strain when I hear how far behind I was on some of the lessons and made a mental note to ask Oniisama for help when I get home.
Speaking of people welcoming me back, after I had taken a seat in the Petite, a highschool student came in and happily welcomed me back.
“Yukino-kun! Welcome back!”
I got up and trotted over to the target of my brother’s affections, “Reika-oneesan!”
For some reason, she immediately stopped me and a worried look crossed her face. “Ahh! You should stay seated, Yukino-kun!”
“Ehh~ I can at least stand, you know?”
“No, no, you only just left the hospital. Come now, sit.” She ushered me back to the seats as she followed suit.
“Okay.” I took a seat as she composed herself. Meanwhile, I could see Mao-chan glaring at me from across the room. Eh~ Jealous I have the attention of your precious Oneesama, Mao-chan~?
Ignorant of the crackling air between Mao-chan and myself, Reika-oneesama said “You were unwell recently, so you must avoid pushing yourself.”
“But I’m not pushing myself. I’m fine.”
I cut her off and put on a bright smile, “I’m really fine. But thanks for worrying, Reika-oneesan.”
I thanked her for the book, and she ended up asking about my hospital stay.
“Was it rough living in the hospital?”
“No, it was just like usual.”
“Like usual… How many times have you been hospitalised?”
“Ehh~ I don’t really remember… How many times has it been?”
I had only meant it as a jest, but she immediately looked worried. Thus, I continued, “I’ve always gone to the hospital whenever I have a bad attack. But there are lots of kids my age there, so it’s fun, you know? And the doctor puts on a Santa costume during Christmas and we have a party.”
“Eh!? You’ve been to hospital during Christmas as well!?”
“Yes, just the once though.”
That once was very fun though. Plus, there wasn’t a family banquet like last time.
The look of guilt on Reika-oneesama’s face worsened. Ah, if you keep doing that you’re face will stay like that.
“Don’t look like that, Reika-oneesan.” I soothed her as I smiled placatingly, “My family came to visit me and gave me lots of presents. And last year I was feeling better so I celebrated at home too.”
“I see. Then you enjoyed yourself with all of your family last Christmas?” She asked, finally in better spirits.
“Yes. Ah, but Niisama wasn’t there.”
“My! And after you were finally at home to celebrate too!” A look of anger crossed her features and I wondered, blankly, if her poor opinion of my brother was making its appearance again.
“Oniisama went with Masaya-niisama to the Sea of Japan.” I started, faintly insulted for Oniisama’s sake. I mean, no matter how bad Oniisama is, he cried (and that was the first time I’ve ever seen him cry!) and chased after Masaya-niisama, so its pretty serious. I think. “He brought back crabs as a souvenir, you know? I heard that because of the blizzard the sea was really dark and stormy.”
Ahh, she looks guilty now. Maybe she knew Masaya-niisama ran away from home too? Good. Understand Oniisama’s troubles! If you pity him enough, you might even go on a pity date with him! That’ll probably be the highlight of his year (as long as he doesn’t find out its a pity date).
Then, the subject returned to my hospitalizations.
“Still, I had no idea that you were so ill that you had to be repeatedly hospitalized… The treatment must be rough.”
“It’s just inhalers and an IV, so it’s fine.”
“So they give you an IV as well…”
“Actually this time they couldn’t use the vein in my arm so they used the back of my hand instead. See?” I showed the still healing red mark on my hand to her as she blanched.
“Eh-, the back of your hand!?”
“It doesn’t hurt that much, you know? What really hurt was when they used the back of my foot. Just once was enough.”
Ah, does she have a fear of needles or something? Her face has gotten quite pale. Actually, she looks sick. I think I’ve accidentally traumatized her.
“Yukino-kun! If there is anything I can do to help, let me know!”
I inwardly laughed at her exclamation. “Thanks, Reika-oneesama!”
After that, I went on to talk about all my favorite things. When I mentioned my desire for a pet but inability to because of my asthma, Reika-oneesama showed me pictures of a really cute and glossy dog. When I mentioned I liked cats too, she promised to get me pictures of a really cute cat next time.
Uwaaaah~ I seems like I’ve gotten someone to become my connection to the world of cute fluffy pets.
How sad that I can’t pet them.
After Reika-oneesama left, Mao-chan came over to me and pouted, “You took all of Oneesama’s attention!”
“Awww, I just came back though, Mao-chan. Can’t you let it pass?”
She continued to frown before a smile lit up her face. Ah, what has gotten her so happy this time?
“Well, I guess I can this time. Since Reika-oneesama is going to be accompanying me tomorrow and the next few days with Haruto-niisama!”
My smile froze.
“As in your uncle, Haruto-san, Mao-chan?”
“Of course. Who else?”
Oh... Haruto-san, I pray that my Oniisama is merciful to you.
If there was one thing I lacked, it was an informant.
Perhaps that was an oversimplification of the issue, considering that I had, in my own opinion, the largest and most diverse information network in the entirety of Suiran. I had friends in every grade, and in every social circle. I had informants who were willing to tell me what I wanted to know with a simple change of my expression or at the chance of currying favors.
What truly irked me was that I didn’t have anyone to go to when I wanted information on Mao-chan’s Uncle and his relationship with Reika.
Hell, I didn’t even know his name.
Despite his niece being a member of the Petite Pivoine, the man himself was a mystery. All I had on him was that he was a decade older than Reika, loved food, and was constantly taking her out on dates. The age difference between him and Reika set off warning bells in my head, and it seems that it did so as well in Kisshouin Takateru's. He noted that Reika had been rather busy recently, but he had merely assumed it was with a boy her age... not someone who was even older than himself. I really wonder who had developed Reika's taste in older men...perhaps it was his bestfriend, Momozono Imari. I heard he frequently prepared romantic presents for Reika and routinely visited the Kisshouin estate when they were younger. It wasn’t much of a stretch to believe he had a role in developing Reika’s taste for older men. I wonder how he deals with him.
So, when Yukino came home and gave me information on Mao-chan’s Uncle, an Ichinokura Haruto, I listened attentively. I also sent his name to one of my informants to dig up some more information.
Yukino merely had a blank expression on his face as I thanked him for his help.
“Oniisama, I don’t mean to pry, but, wouldn’t it be better to let Ichinokura-san mess up on his own?”
“Hm? What do you mean?” I turned towards him as I raised an eyebrow. Let him be his own downfall? How? Reika was practically smitten with him and he took her out on dates often. At this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up trying to court her properly when we graduated highschool.
“Did you notice that Mao-chan and Reika-oneesama were getting fat?” Yukino continued, his face pleasantly innocent. “I think Ichinokura-san is making them eat a bit too much nowadays.”
I tilted my head, understanding his ploy. “To use a girl’s greatest insecurity against him... Wouldn’t it be hard to convince them they were getting fatter though?”
“Yuuri-kun asked me if I thought Mao-chan had gotten fat yesterday. I’m pretty sure a word from her fiancé would be enough to scare Mao-chan.”
“I don’t think that’ll be enough,” I said calmly as I leaned on my desk. “They might blame themselves for getting fat. What we need is for them to feel betrayed by him.” I muttered the latter part as I heard my phone ring.
Oh no, was it Yuiko again?
I kept brainstorming ideas as I unlocked my phone and went to my messages. After the whole hospital ordeal, I unblocked Yuiko so that she wouldn’t complain I was avoiding her. I glanced through my message and grinned. Oh, this wasn’t from Yuiko.
“Yukino, I found the perfect solution to our dilemma.”
If Yukino noticed the delighted Schadenfreude in my tone, he didn’t comment. Instead, he pleasantly smiled as he said calmly, “I’ll instigate Yuuri-kun to ask about Mao-chan’s weight. I hope all will go well, Oniisama.”
Yukino kept me informed about Ichinokura-san’s activities through whatever Mao-chan had told him about their outings. Apparently, the outing last time was an international trip to Taiwan for lunch, and Reika enjoyed herself by buying all sorts of teas and snacks.
While its good she’s having fun, isn’t she the least bit concerned that an older man went ahead and brought her to another country? I wonder what Ichinokura-san was thinking when he did it.
Its raining today.
The somber mood brought on by the rain caused the musician in Masaya’s soul to come out, and he went and reserved the grand piano in the Pivoine Salon for himself. It wasn’t an uncommon occurrence for Masaya to play songs on the piano, but he really only did so when he felt like it. No one else could get him to play songs he didn’t want to.
So when the music played, the salon went silent to pay their respect to Masaya and enjoy the music. It was Chopin’s Raindrop, a pretty cheeky choice and one that lifted the mood of the people listening.
At the end of the song, the Pivoines broke out into applause and several brave girls went to the piano and lauded Masaya in their praises, some even asking him to play the song again.
It was while this was happening that I was glancing around the Pivoine, and saw Reika standing alone as she watched the bevy of girls surrounding Masaya. I went over and smiled at her as she noticed me.
“Since you’re already listening, how about a request, Kisshouin-san?”
I didn’t give her a chance to refuse as I placed my hand on her back and pushed her to the front of the girls, right in front of Masaya. I pulled my hands away and grinned down at my bestfriend, who stared at me with a bit of annoyance on his face.
“Masaya, play a song that Kisshouin-san likes.”
Reika’s eyes went wide as she turned to look me in panic. I smiled and softly whispered, “As thanks for Yukino.”
I realized I was a bit too close to Reika and pulled away slightly. The fervent gazes of the Pivoine were locked on her, and I merely smiled.
“We’re always in your care, Kisshouin-san. So any song, just name it.”
The pianist glared at me as he cut in with his two cents, “Oi, who’s supposed to be playing this exactly?”
“Hm? Well you, Masaya,” I smiled.
Masaya seemed to be in thought as he pondered whether to play or not. Come on, its not like you have any difficulties playing piano. One song wouldn’t kill you.
Reika is really easy to surprise, huh. Her eyes swam as she thought of a song, and finally said, “Then, Chopin’s Fantasie-Impromptu please.”
Ignoring Reika’s shock, Masaya stretched his fingers as he readied himself to play. I grinned as I glanced at Reika, who seemed to be shocked at Masaya’s ability.
Today was a nice day.
Today, the scores for the exams were posted.
I yawned quietly as I walked beside Masaya, who tried to keep a composed look on his face as we walked to the ranking board.
"Stop being so nervous. You studied until three in the morning for the exams, I doubt that you of all people would fail."
"I'm not nervous about failing!" He hissed as he rubbed his hands together, taking in a deep breath as he looked around. "I'd definitely make it into the top three, you and I both know that. It's just…"
Ahhhh, he's worried about that, huh? "Yeah, it'd be embarrassing for you if you ranked lower than Takamichi-san, huh? Though I doubt Obasan would really care too much…" I think.
"It's Kaburagi-sama and Enjou-sama!"
When we reached the board, there were already a crowd of clamoring students surrounding it.
- Kaburagi Masaya
- Enjou Shuusuke
- Takamichi Wakaba
I glanced at the top for a moment before my attention went to the bottom of the rankings, while Masaya stared at the top of the rankings seriously. I saw the tension leave his body as he let out a soft sigh of relief, his mouth twitching slightly as he stared.
Oh, I found Reika's! Seems like she dropped a rank. Was she okay? I discreetly glanced at her and found her already watching us. Or more like, she was watching Masaya.
"You're amazing, Enjou-sama!" I heard someone praise me.
"Ah, thank you very much." I smiled as I was given praise.
… Mhm, I really wonder what type of guy Reika likes. She's never been impressed with my grades, nor my athletics. Did I not suit her type or something? I think I'm pretty close in personality to her Oniisama, though. She did like Senju-senpai, though. Does she like the wild-type?
As I pondered over this, I noticed Masaya suddenly go over and pat Takamichi-san on the shoulder, saying, "Ah, well, do your best next time."
I paused for a moment, recognizing the jealous atmosphere and taking note of the smile-less Reika who merely watched the transaction, and the gazes of our schoolmates as they glanced between Takamichi and Reika. I could see the worried glances and the cold eyes of Reika's retinue as they stared at Takamichi-san, and I swear I could see more than one person grit their teeth in frustration.
Aha… I feel like, despite today's results, Takamichi-san's going to receive an even worse backlash than when she took first place and celebrated, huh.
I walked away with Masaya, already deciding that I wasn't going to involve myself in the girls' problems.
Good luck to you, Takamichi-san.
A few days later.
Before I entered the salon, I noticed that there were a noticeable amount of servers preparing sweets and snacks on trays and dessert carts as they headed in as well. Masaya was distracted by the sweets, going into his dessert guru mode as he begun to list off all the desserts he planned to eat, and which ones he would just have his family chef recreate for him later. The strangely fancier-than-normal display made me wonder what they were doing, and my answer was immediately answered when I went in.
There, on the other side of the room with Reika, were two kids from the Petite.
Yukino's friends, that's Mao-chan, isn't she? So the one beside her should be Yuuri-kun then. I put a smile on my face as I noticed the younger girl with Reika flush as she looked at us. "Hello. Might you two be from the Petite?"
"Yes!" The girl responded quickly as she looked at me.
"Do you know my brother then? His name is Enjou Yukino."
"Yes! I talk to him quite a lot in the salon!"
At these words, the boy beside her watched us silently, and I noticed a glum expression quickly starting to settle in the more I talked to her.
"I see." I smiled kindly, opting to not acknowledge her fiance's growing displeasure with our conversation. Masaya, however, seemed to be staring at them with a bemused expression on his face. I continued, "Thanks for getting along with him. You'll keep looking after him, won't you?"
"Yes, I will!"
"So what's he like in the Petite Pivoine?"
"Huh. Friends of Yukino, then?" Masaya asked. He didn't even give her time to respond when he lightly tapped her shoulder, saying, "If Yukino causes you any trouble, let me know."
I suppressed the urge to roll my eyes at his words as I kept my smile on my face. Mao-chan's face had turned completely red, and I lightly entertained the idea of pampering her for a bit to see if all the blood would rush to her head and she'd faint.
Meanwhile, her fiance seemed to be completely sullen.
Encouraged by our antics, the beet-red Mao-chan began telling me everything about Yukino-kun's school life. Hm, it seems he's faking as much as I am, the little brat. Oh well, at least no one's bullying nor alienating him. I had been worried his constant sickness would put a distance between him and his classmates, but it seems those worries are unneeded.
While I was engaged in conversation, Masaya took notice of the sullen Yuuri-kun and bluntly asked, "You're jealous?"
Yuuri-kun flinched, surprised at the attention suddenly placed upon him by the famous Emperor.
"Get your act together, man! Are you going to let Shuusuke," he gestures in my direction with a playful flourish, "take her from you!" He laughed as he reached over, and rubbed Yuuri-kun's head, messing up his hair.
You brat, what do you mean by that?
"That isn't it at all!" Yuuri-kun cried out as he valiantly struggled against Masaya's assault.
"In that case tell me all about it. C'mon, let's hear your love troubles," he said before dragging the poor Yuuri-kun over to a sofa in the corner.
You're not in the least bit qualified to discuss love with someone else! I internally shout at him as I continued to smile and chat with Mao-chan, who went on to talk about how Yukino was usually at the top of the classes despite his numerous absences. Well, I'm not surprised, I always double-checked his work before I let him go and play.
I noticed Reika paying close attention to Masaya and Yuuri-kun's conversation, and her composed yet disappointed expression on her face before it turned relieved.
"Enjou-sama?" Mao-chan called out to me. I quickly turned back to her, "Hm? What's wrong?"
"Do you like Reika-oneesama?"
I managed to not choke on my spit this time. Keeping myself as composed as possible, I let out an eloquent, "What?"
Mao-chan quickly looked down and played with the hem of her blazer, shyly responding, "You seemed to be half-distracted during our conversation, and, just now, you were staring at Reika-oneesama… Also, Yukino-kun told me you like her."
I opened my mouth and begun to deny Yukino's words when she suddenly froze up. I paused, wondering if my face had contorted into a scowl or something to shock her, but instead she looked left and right feverishly, before running off.
Her target was the slightly farther away couches that Masaya and Yuuri occupied. Seems that she finally noticed her fiance had been dragged away by Masaya.
Knowing I wouldn't be able to drag her away and correct her thinking, I sighed. I got up and took a seat at another couch, ordering tea as Masaya went over to the piano and began to play, taking requests from the little couple to play music. I hung back and watched silently as Masaya had his little recital.
Even Reika was listening, off to the side. I hummed along to the music softly as I let myself relax to the range of pieces Masaya played.
At the end of Masaya's performance, several girls were practically begging Mao-chan to come back to the salon. Masaya seemed satisfied with himself and even extended the invite to Yuuri-kun, who seemed a bit reluctant to accept the invitation. In the end, Yuuri-kun accepted and Reika swiftly came over and collected the children, telling them it was time to go.
Ah, I guess this time I get to be the one to tell Yukino something about Reika and Mao-chan.
"How come I didn't get to go?!" Yukino whined sulkily as he huddled under the covers of the bed. Correction, my bed. As soon as we got home and after we had changed out of our schoolwear, Yukino had gone to my room with a bundle of papers in his arms.
I merely glanced through his work, checking his answers as I responded calmly, "Well, at least you got the prefectures down properly this time. Let's see, I think we should start on your Japanese class next…"
"Sorry, sorry. You were saying, Yukino?" I feigned sincerity as Yukino huffed at me. "It's not like I was the one to invite them to the Pivoine. Don't be so angry."
"You were ignoring me!"
"Was not." I rolled my eyes at him. "Anyways, your lessons…"
Yukino glared at me before a devilish smile appeared on his face. "Okay then. I was going to tell you about the Ichinokura situation, but I guess you don't want to know any more, Oniisama."
"Eh? Something's happened already?" I asked, surprised at the quick development. Wasn't it merely a week or two ago that we thought of "dealing" with this guy? Wait. "Hey, hey, tell me what happened."
"Oniisama wants to ignore me though, so I think not."
"… I'll bring you to the Pivoine next time."
"I'll keep Yuiko from visiting the estate for a week."
"Deal!" Yukino shouted quickly. "You promised. You can't back out now. You definitely can't let her come within the estate grounds, even!"
"Okay." I laughed inwardly. Poor Yukino doesn't even know Yuiko's busy with exams, so she isn't going to be visiting anytime soon. "So, what happened with Ichinokura-san?" Even though I asked this, I had a feeling I already knew what happened.
"Ah, remember that he had a girlfriend? It seems he self-destructed worse than we expected. Mao-chan is even refusing to call him 'Haruto-niisama' anymore, and is now calling him 'Ojisan'."
Well, that’s to be expected. His girlfriend is a really slender model, while Reika and Mao-chan were putting on weight. It must've felt like mockery, huh. "I see. So they're no longer close? I almost feel pity for him."
"No, you don't." Yukino quipped happily.
"Hm, you're right. Anyways, let's get back to your lessons. See, here you're supposed to…"
Chapter 41: Author's Note
Apologies for anyone hoping this is an update.
I have decided to drop this story because someone plagiarized my work. I have no plans to finish the story, but I will keep this work available for any member of the Kenkyo Kenjitsu community to read if they want.
If anyone is wondering how to know if they are reading plagiarized work, its this; the only two places this should be available are here on AO3 under the account of Scarlet_Skies, and on NovelUpdates under the account of RedBean.
If you read this anywhere else, then it's plagiarized work. I have no other accounts.