Saturday, December 4, 2021

Have a Cup of Coffee after School in the Fantasy World Café V4 (5 of 6)

 Chapter 12: Princess of Indecency and Marriage Engagement

Translator: Skythewood

Editor: Hiiro

[Tize-chan is a Songstress? I already knew that.]

Celine-san said.

[Sigh, you didn’t know, Shopkeep?]

Pleek-san said.

Like Granny Bonnie said, the Indecents who heard the news all gathered in my shop. Other regulars also came, and the shop became quite crowded. After making it through the waves of orders, I faced a few patrons sitting opposite me at the counter. They were all talking about me being taken away, and what Phyllis-san said.

[Tize-chan… I’m worried about her. She must be lonely.]

Celine-san said. Speaking of which, Celine-san looked lonely as she stared at her hands that didn’t have anyone to hug.

[Well, it’s the right of the guardian to take her away. But telling you to take the money and forget about her is too much. Tize is my daughter too!]

[When did that happen?]

Granny Bonnie was surprised when she heard what Pleek-san said.

To accommodate the visit from Pleek-san’s mother, Pleek-san asked Tize and Celine-san to pretend to be his family. We had fun discussing this back then.

[But what’s your plan? It’s not easy to meet with the Songstress.]

[That’s right… It will be a different matter if they invite us. But it will be very difficult if the other party doesn’t want to meet us.]

I nodded at what Pleek-san and Celine-san said.

[You’re right, I’m thinking the same thing.]

[Shopkeep, you got any ideas?]

Pleek-san said with one hand supporting his cheek.

[No, I got nothing.]

I answered with a smile.

Pleek-san’s face slipped off his hand. He was great at doing reactions.

[What do you mean by nothing. Hey, how can we proceed without a plan?]

[We will be thinking up the plan now. First, will everyone help me?]

I observed the faces of the people seated before me.

[I’m not sure what we should do yet. There is no plan. But I’m determined to help Tize. So first, I need to speak with Tize face to face. That’s the goal. Those who wants to join in this plan, please raise your hand!]

I raised my hand after that.

[Okay, leave the documents forgery to me! I’m already getting investigated., might as well go all in!]

With that, Celine-san raised her hand.

[Well, I can’t do something like forging documents… I’m just a janitor who used to dream of being a chef. Well, if it's for my daughter, I'd even defeat a demon lord.]

Pleek-san raised his hand with a wry smile.

We then looked towards Granny Bonnie

[…… What. I get it, I get it. That girl is my disciple, so she should tell me before going back, right?]

Granny Bonnie then raised her hand, and the participants were all here. Although we didn’t know what to do—— When I was thinking that...

[Yes, I will be right there.]

I said when one of the customers at the tables raised his hand.

I came out from behind the counter, and then saw another hand was raised. And another, and another. I stood stiffly in place as the hands kept raising up.

In the end, everyone in the shop raised their hands.

[Hey Shopkeep, you are doing this for Tize-chan, right? Count me in.]

The adventurer whose face was covered in scars, Ulut-san.

[Hey Ulut, can you don’t address her so casually? It’s Tize-san to you. Shopkeep, I’m in too.]

A long haired man looked my way with his thin slender eyes.

[And me.][Me too. ] Their voices echoed out.

[I can’t let such a nice kid cry by herself.]

[Well said, she is the Princess of our Indecent Alliance.]

[Right. There’s nothing the Indecent Alliance can’t do.]

[Although we are just indecent bums.]

[Leave the sneaky stuff to me.]

[But I still can’t forgive your casual address of Tize-san.]

[I saw Tize-san smile at me before.]

Before I knew it, everyone was talking about Tize. Tize used to visit daily. She was too prominent, so all the regulars talked to her before, and they gradually grew closer. They all knew she was a Songstress, but never mentioned it before.

[Those Indecent bastards,] Granny Bonnie said with a grin. [Everyone loves that girl. And the people here are a nosy bunch.]

It felt like something was stuck in my chest, and I couldn’t say anything.

I wished Tize could see this. I wanted to bring Tize back so that she could see this place.

Everyone stood up and shifted the tables. We all sat in a circle.

[Let’s start the war conference.]

[This reminds me of a Labyrinth raid.]

[Let’s give this plan a name. Like 【Tize-san Liberation Plan】 or something.]

[That’s lame, rejected.]

[Whose the chair?]

[No no, isn’t that already decided?]

[Isn’t it obvious?]

Everyone looked at me.

[See, Shopkeep? You’re the leader. We will follow your lead.]

That gave me immense pressure. I had never spoken to so many people before. And I wasn’t cut out to be a leader.

I stopped all these thoughts as I prepared to speak.

What’s the use of saying something so depressing? Everyone was standing up for Tize, and came to help me out on my whim. And Tize was carrying a burden that was incomparable to mine.

So I couldn’t say something so depressing.

I straightened my back and took a deep breath. I opened my eyes and realized everyone in the shop was looking at me.

I looked at everyone in the shop. There were all kinds of people here. They had all sorts of hair colour, skin colour, looks and races. They were all taking action for Tize’s sake.

I made my speech.

[Everyone, I’m very grateful that all of you can participate in this sudden discussion. We have only one goal. And that is to help Tize. It’s not clear how we will do that, but one thing is for certain. Tize is fighting by herself right now. As members of the Indecent Alliance, we have the obligation to help her. As for the reason, it’s because Tize is our important comrade. So everyone, let’s work together on this.]

Applause and whistles rang out in the shop. Carried by the atmosphere, I laughed out loud. My ship was stupidly small, but everyone willingly boarded it. All these adults started laughing like teenagers.

It was late at night. Most people were asleep. But the fire was still on in this shop. The small flame on a matchstick had turned into a large fire because of the Indecents around it. I prayed quietly that it would become an inferno that would change the world.

[In the end, you couldn’t finalize a plan?]

Linaria said exasperatedly, and I nodded quietly.

[There is wisdom in a crowd, but that didn’t happen this time. No matter how many people we have, we can’t do the impossible.]

We held our war conference the entire night, but couldn’t settle on a plan. There were many proposals given liberally, but they were all difficult to execute.

【What are some examples.】

【Suggestions like everyone infiltrating late at night with masks on.】

【That’s a night raid.】

【It’s no joke if we get arrested, so it got vetoed.】

Linaria looked at me with half closed eyes.

【See, that’s a group others consider indecent, so your thinking is trending towards indecency too.】

I wanted to refute, but Linaria just shook her head wordlessly.

【…… What else?】

【They are all plans to infiltrate the hotel Tize is staying in.】

【First of all, an infiltration is already a problem.】

【Well, haha.】

【Don’t try to laugh it off.】

As expected of the model student Linaria. She was strict in her criticism with common sense.

【But there are no other ways to get in contact with Tize. I heard the dignitaries are holding a party, so it will be good if we can know when they will go out. But such information aren’t made public.】

The Indecent Alliance intel network was hard at work, and found Tize's hotel in no time. Based on the intel provided by Pleek-san who worked at the theatre, they had a lively conversation on how to infiltrate the theatre. We even know that Tize will be attending a party with dignitaries as a Songstress. But the problem is, the venue and timing are strictly confidential.

【What do you plan to do if you find out? It’s not as simple as just infiltrating in.】

Her question was the core of the issue.

Even if we infiltrated and met Tize, what would I do next? What was the purpose?

【… To be honest, I’m not sure either. I just have a feeling swirling inside me. It’s foggy and blurry, like the world before dawn. I’m not certain what lies ahead. But for some reason, I felt that I needed to do this.】

Linaria raised her brows, and then smiled awkwardly.

【You are really nosy. Seems like you picked up another abandoned kitten.】

【I think that description isn’t accurate.】

That was something I mentioned to Linaria in the past. I didn’t help an abandoned kitten when I was little, and always hated myself for that.

【It feels somewhat similar. But it’s a little different this time.】

The complicated feelings in my heart were a different colour. That was just my subjective view though.

【No matter what, this is just my willfulness. I just want to meet and chat with Tize again. There is also something I wanted to confirm.】

【Something you want to confirm?】

【This is just my speculation, but there is still a possibility. For both Tize and her grandmother.】

Maybe the thing driving me was my wish to verify the truth.

【First, I need to meet Tize and talk to her. Things will then start there. Although this is a predicament I can’t solve.】

Linaria supported her cheek with her palm and grunted.

[So, you want to come to the academy?]

She caressed the edge of the Café au lait cup and said coldly.

[The academy? But why?]

[The academy will be hosting the Songstress for a party tomorrow night. The relatives of the students will also attend. Maybe Tize will be there too?]


I leaned forward. This was the first time I heard about this. I see, the Arialu Academy’s student body consists mainly of nobles and wealthy merchants. Their parents would definitely want to meet the Songstress, and hopefully speak with them. This party was probably held with that purpose in mind.

[That is a good chance… But aren’t outsiders prohibited from entering?]

I entered the academy once in the past. I wore butler’s clothes, and pretended to be Aina’s servant. However, this was a party with many nobles, would that work this time?

Linaria pressed her hand on her temple for some reason, and started nursing them. She was furrowing her brows deeply. I wondered whether she was upset, but her cheeks were flushed.

[I wasn’t planning to go, but I received an invitation.]

[To that party for nobles?]

[I’m attending as part of the academy. Since I’m the top of the school years.]

A representative as the top performer, huh. Linaria’s presence would make the party.

[I see. You want me to accompany you by pretending to be your butler.]

I understood right away and nodded, but Linaria shook her head.

[It’s a pity, but servants aren’t allowed, unless you have very high status.]

[Sigh…… I can’t go in then.]

I felt depressed about that, but Linaria shook her head.



I looked at Linaria, asking with my eyes if there was any other way. However, she lowered her head when she saw my face, and her lips squirmed as she searched for the words.

She obviously had something she couldn’t say easily. The tips of Linaria’s ears that could barely be seen through her vermillion hair were bright red. I was baffled by this sight. What was she trying to say?

It wasn’t proper to rush her, so I waited quietly. The noise from the morning crowd outside the shop was getting louder. Pushed by the sound of vendors selling their wares, Linaria looked up and glared at me with sharp eyes. Her face was completely flushed.

[I don’t want you to misunderstand.]

[Erm, yes.]

[The guests are permitted to be escorted by a family member. For example, parent and child, husband and wife, and also… your fiance.]

[Oh, I see.]

Oh, so that was it. I answered right away, then turned stiff with a smile on my face.

Huh, that meant I had to pretend to be her family or fiance to go in. Pretending to be family was too forced. Our hair colour and face looked too different. The only option was to be her fiance.

[That’s why I told you not to misunderstand. I want you to know that you need a reason like that if you want to go.]

[That’s right! It’s just acting, so it can’t be helped?]

[Can’t be helped? Does pretending to be my fiance make you that upset!?]

[I didn’t say that! It’s a great honour!]

[Don’t say something so embarrassing!]

After getting worked up for no reason, we averted our gazes. Looking at each other and speaking was too difficult for both of us. It felt more embarrassing for some reason. Ever since Linaria stayed over and we worked together, I became more conscious of her.

[… Can someone just claim to be a fiance?]

I said while facing the door and sneaking sideway glances at Linaria.

Linaria was facing the other way, and only looked at me with her eyes. When our eyes met, we withdrew our gazes again.

[We can just claim that ourselves for a normal party. However, we might be asked to show a letter of engagement and an emblem of engagement.]

[The letter of engagement is an official document, right? What is the emblem?]

[It’s a symbol drawn on the back of the hand with magic. It can be used as a proof of matrimony before the official ceremony.]

[Hmm, something like a provisional license, huh.]

[What should we do? It would be a problem if they asked us to show these proofs.]

I glanced sideways at Linaria, and she also looked at me. How should I interpret her gaze? Should I ask her to make a real engagement with me? Was going along with a wedding engagement like this really fine? No, that would be troubling for Linaria. But like Linaria said, without any proof, I might be denied entry. I needed a countermeasure for that. However, that meant Linaria and I would need to be engaged. But an engagement at our age… Wait?

[— I have an idea.]

Linaria turned my way when she heard me say that softly. I looked back with a smile.

[I happen to know a great ghost writer.]

Chapter 13: Just a Little Sneaky Idea

Linaria went to school, so I closed the shop. I wouldn’t be running the shop as usual at night though, since I would be providing free food and drinks for the Indecent Alliance.

I had gotten used to it, so I cleaned the shop as always, and flipped the sign at the door. I could finally relax, and sat down on a chair by the side.

According to what Linaria told me, I found a new possibility to meet Tize. Tomorrow evening would be the decisive timing. I would speak with Tize at that time, and then what?

Would I really get to speak with Tize?

Phyllis-san and the guards all knew my face. If they saw me at the party, they might chase me out.

After conversing with Tize, I needed to talk with Phyllis-san too. That was the most difficult part, since she said an outsider like me shouldn’t interfere.

I wanted to tell her that I wasn’t an outsider— And if she didn’t think I had any worth, she would ignore what I say.

An effective method… Did I have any such method?

I couldn’t help but smile. When people ran into a problem they couldn’t overcome, they couldn’t help but smile.

Speaking of which, what did I need to do to let others acknowledge me? I didn’t know my own worth in the first place.

But I could only move forward. Panicking wouldn’t help me think of a good idea. I could only consolidate the information I know for now, then think of a way after going through them.

First of all, I needed to ask Celine-san to forge a letter of engagement. I will then infiltrate Linaria’s school party with this, and speak with Tize.

The next step… The door was knocked urgently at this point.

The shop was clearly closed, who was it? I opened the door, and before I could see who it was, that person came in. It was Celine-san with sweat on her forehead and her shoulders heaving.

[What’s wrong?]

It was clear at a glance that something was wrong. Celine-san sat down to catch her breath, adjusted her glasses, then looked up at me.

[I-I think the people from the bureau found me.]

[That person looking for Celine-san because of the forged documents…?]

[Yes, that person.]

[Isn’t that bad!?]

I said in a panic. Even at a time like this, Celine-san smiled and said:  [How troubling.] I was more anxious than her.

[People wearing bureaucractic attire came to my house with my forged documents. They asked me if this is my handwriting.]

They were definitely looking for Celine-san.

[I escaped from the backdoor in a hurry, and came here.]

Celine-san finally caught her breath. I nodded firmly.

[Got it. Please hide here for now. Use this time to think of a solution.]

[N-No need.]

Celine-san put her index fingers before my lips to stop me.

[Thank you very much, Shopkeep-san. I’m fine with this. This is a mistake I made, so it can’t be helped if I get found out. I will turn myself in later.]

Celine-san showed no hint of fear or regret, and said that with a smile. I couldn’t say anything after seeing her like that.


Celine-san continued.

[If I got caught, then I won’t be able to help you. Shopkeep-san, what can I do to help Tize-chan? I just want to confirm that with you.]

I couldn’t hold back my sigh. She was a really good person.

She was almost caught, made her way here desperately, just to ask what she could do for Tize.

I was almost moved to tears by her selfless actions.

[Sorry, I can’t think of any good ideas. But I still want to help Tize-chan. That child always seem so lonely, as if she is living in another world.]

Her words punched me in the guts.

[I think Tize-chan has something she can’t discuss with others. No one understands, and she can’t talk to anyone, so there isn’t any way to resolve it. I think that is very, very lonely. So, shopkeep-san.]

Celine-san held my hands and looked right into my eyes. There was a fire burning in them, and it spread into my body.

[Pease go to her. Tell her that she is not alone.]

Her words could definitely move the heart of a loner deeply. Did Celine-san know about that?

Hmm, I couldn’t help smiling at the thought.

Why didn’t I realize something so simple. It was so obvious.

I held Celine-san’s hands too.

[Yes, leave it to me.]

What I needed to do became clear in my heart. It was a very simple matter.

Meet with Tize, and tell her she wasn’t alone. That was all.

[Celine-san, can you forge a letter of engagement?]

My suggestion shouldn’t sound too strange. But Celine-san was all smiles when she heard that, and cocked her head.

[That’s no problem, but do you just want a forgery? Why not use the chance to get married for real?]

[…… I will pass on that.]

That made Celine-san smile again.

[Hmm, it’s a rush job, but it suits you well.]

Momon took a step back to check my appearance, and nodded.

[Is that so? I feel really uncomfortable wearing this.]

I dug at my neck with my fingers. The shirt collar was buttoned up tightly, and secured with a bow tie. This was different from a school uniform or a butler’s attire, but formal attire for a dinner party.

[That’s how formal wear is. You’ll get used to it.]

[Sorry for the sudden requests. It should be a busy period for you right now.]

Momon-san laughed with a shake of his belly.

[Yes, it’s really busy. Companies dispatching maids to serve customers are really popular right now, and I often end up shorthanded. So I have to personally bring the clothes and manpower to you.]

Momon spread his arms to gesture at it all. The people around him were bustling around. The Indecent Alliance were mixed with the employees brought by Momon, and this shop was operated like a fancy restaurant for just one night. The tables were repositioned to maximize seating, and the chefs helped with the preparations.

[But is it fine to provide all these for free?]

Not just the manpower, Momon also made the minute arrangements like the food and decor. It probably cost a lot of money. But Momon shook his head.

【That’s my line. Yu-san, the idea you gave us made a lot of money for my company. We should be the one paying you.】

【I see, I will accept your gracious offer then.】

I bowed at Momon. The clothes were probably too suffocating, which influenced my demeanour too.

【But for you to attend the Welcome Song Party, Yu-san. You are really incredible.】

【Welcome Song Party?】

【It’s a party hosted by the academy. Only a select few nobles and big merchants are invited. I didn’t get an invitation.】

【… I just happen to know someone who can hook me up.】

This was more incredible than I imagined. I felt sweat flowing down my back. I gently touched my chest, on top of my pocket. Inside was the forged letter of engagement Celine-san made for me yesterday.

Was it fine to infiltrate a place with so many amazing people? This might be bad.

[Hey, shopkeep.]

It was Pleek-san who was dressed in a white attire of a chef. He walked out from the kitchen, and scratched his head with an irate face.

[It might be strange for me to say this, but is it really fine to be doing this? Everyone is still worried about the little girl.]

I shook my head.

[It’s fine, or rather, this is important too. Pleek-san, just continue being a chef and put your mother at ease. As for the customers… They don’t really look like nobles.]

All the customers here were from the Indecent Alliance—— the shop’s regulars. Pleek-san mentioned in his letter that nobles would visit too, I could only hope his mother wouldn’t notice.

Pleek-san smiled wryly.

[This is good enough. I’m really grateful that you’re going along with my lie… Although I’m missing my wife and daughter.]

Celine-san was supposed to act as Pleek-san’s wife, but she left after giving me the forged letter of engagement. She had probably given herself in already.

And Tize, who was cast as his daughter, was being confined as a Songstress.

[I will try to bring back your daughter.]

I declared and Pleek-san bumped his fist against my chest.

[I’m counting on you, Shopkeep.]

Momon watched our interaction and then stroked his jaw.

[Oh, you thought of a new sneaky idea? Corleone-san evaluated Yu as someone who is interesting to watch, and I’m slowly getting what he means.]

[I have no plans on doing that. But if possible, you can have your dinner here. It will probably give you an interesting story to share.]

After I said that, Momon-san smiled with squinted eyes.

[I will do just that then. Should I invite Corleone-san here too?]

Momon-san said as he exited the shop with his tummy wobbling. Was he planning to invite Corleone-san over?

[That guy is the Monte Company’s owner, right?]

I nodded at Pleek-san’s question.

[And Corleone is the one who controls the back streets.]

I nodded again.

Pleek-san turned still, then he hugged his body with his shoulders trembling.

[Oh no, I’m going to pee myself.]

[Whatever, just work hard on your cooking.]

[Can I still hold a kitchen knife properly…? It had been years.]

He looked out the window with a melancholic face. My gaze was drawn over too. Rows of buildings could be seen opposite the road, and the clouds had a tint of orange as they blocked the sun. Above the clouds was the dark blue sky. Night was falling.

Both Pleek-san and I were going to challenge tonight with lies on our backs. The results would be clear at the break of dawn, whether it ends with failure or success.

I reached into my pocket and took out a matchstick. That was the lone matchstick Granny Bonnie gave me.

I looked at Pleek-san. Pleek-san sensed my gaze and looked back.

[Alright, let’s give it our best.]

[Yeah. Let’s go all out.]

We nodded, and I walked towards the entrance. I left the shop to Pleek-san, while I walked towards the world outside.

I would be going towards a strange party for nobles in formal wear. I wonder how I would react if I told that to the me from the past. I wouldn’t have believed myself.

I straightened my back and pushed the door open.

Chapter 14: That Song Will Be the Kindling

There were long lines of carriage in front of the academy. They were all large carriages, flaunting the wealth of their passengers. It was night, but the academy was lit brightly by torches, illuminating every corner of the campus.

The carriage stopped before me, and an attendant opened the door. A man alighted and stood there. He gently tidied his greying hair, and surveyed the surroundings with sharp eyes. He had a dignity that made the people around him step backwards. I locked my gaze with this man for an instant before looking away.

He must be a noble. My stomach started to churn at the thought of infiltrating into a place where so many people like him were gathered.

After arriving at the entrance of the Academy, I waited by the side. This was the spot where I would meet up with Linaria. The guards at the entrance would check the invitation letter from the guests, so I couldn’t enter alone.

The people passing by were all in formal wear or elegant gowns.

When they saw me standing by the side, they would whisper something quietly. I also knew that I was out of place here, since I didn’t look like a noble or a kid from a wealthy family.

Did I really need to go in?

I felt uneasy. No matter how you diced it, I didn’t suit this place. I might be refused entry even if I wore formal wear.

I couldn’t calm down and scratched my neck gently. I then realized the passing nobles were all looking at one place. No one was looking at me. Bothered by that, I followed their gazes, and held my breath.

Opposite the entrance, on the stone paved road illuminated by the streetlights, a lady was walking over. She attracted the gazes of all who passed her by, but still walked confidently forward. On top of her vermillion hair were glittering silver accessories. Her gown covering her slender body was as red as her hair. Her matching colours contrasted with the paleness of her shoulders and nape, making her look extremely beautiful. Her eyes contrasted nicely with these colours, sparkling like the stars in the night sky.

Linaria stood before me with her head cocked, her earrings swaying along with her.

[Sorry for the wait. We will be going with that snarky idea of yours, huh. You even prepared the gown, shoes and even make up.]

[… Well, Momon told me to leave it to him, so I did just that. This is really...]

I tried to fudge things over with a smile. I wanted to say something to her. Like, you looked different, so maybe your personality would change too. Or, it’s rare seeing Linaria wearing make up. All sorts of words flashed across my mind, but I held it all back.

[What. Just say it out loud.]

Linaria glared at me with her hands on her hips. I felt relieved that Linaria was acting as always. However, her eyes felt different than usual, and made my heart thump more intensely.

[It suits you really well. Erm, you are beautiful.]

It sounded cliche like a line from a movie. I never thought I would ever say that. But I didn’t regret it or felt ashamed. Those were my true feelings, so I think those words were just fine.

Linaria looked at me with her mouth agape, then covered her face with her hands. She was blushing from her neck to the tips of her ears.

[… Don’t say something so embarrassing. I don’t even know what kind of face I should make.]

[You can hold your head up high. Be prominent enough to overshadow me. Since people will be suspicious of a man like me having such a beautiful fiancee.]

I said jokingly, and Linaria raised her head and smiled. Her face was still red, and my chest felt warm just looking at her face.

Linaria reached out naturally to straighten my bow tie.

[Don’t mind it, you look great too.]

[I’m happy that you said that, although it would be better if you sound more convinced.]

[That’s too hard, give it up.]

[Can’t you let me fantasize a little?]

[Isn’t it already dream-like for the two of us to attend the Welcome Song Party?]

[You’re right.]

Linaria invited me to a party hosted by the academy in the past. I rejected her back then. I never thought I would still have the chance to go again.

[Well then, let’s go.]


We nodded together and walked forth. I observed the nobles walking nearby. The men all offered their hand, and the lady clinged to their arms. I mimicked their motion and offered her my hand.

Linaria reached out stiffly, then moved to my side. I could smell a floral fragrance. She must have put on perfume. I would never forget this scent for the rest of my life.

I took a step forward. Linaria stepped forth too. Linaria was beside me. I could feel the warmth on my arm, and a light weight. I didn’t dare turn to look. Having Linaria walking by my side felt like a dream.

The guards waved at us at the entrance, and asked us to present our invitation letter with a strict tone.

Linaria took out a folded paper from the purse hanging on her elbow, and gave it to me. This seemed to be the job for the men. I handed the letter to the guard.

[The confirmation is complete. My apologies, but who might you be?]

[I’m...] Saying this took quite a bit of courage[her fiance.]

When I said that, Linaria gripped my arm tight. I tried to smile as naturally as possible.

[Pardon me, but could I confirm your proof of matrimony?]

He was careful with his words, but was insistent on his demand. I handed him the letter of engagement prepared by Celine-san. My heart was racing when the guard checked the letter.

The guard looked at me with a blank face. I gulped.

[Please come in. Have a wonderful evening.]

The guard passed the letter of engagement back to me with a smile. I put it in my pocket with a smile of relief.

[Yes, thank you.]

The two of us walk in at a slightly fast pace. When we were out of sight from the two guards, we exhaled in relief.

[… I was so nervous.]

[Me too. My heart is still pounding.]

Linaria looked at me with a blushing face, but her smile was more cheerful than usual.

[Doing naughty things occasionally isn’t bad at all.]

[That doesn’t sound like something the top of the school year should say.]

We then laughed, then mixed into the crowd.

[Look, everyone is gathered at the front courtyard.]

Like Linaria said, the beautiful courtyard nearby was filled with people. Long white tables were placed all around the venue, with vibrant dishes placed on top. Servers walked around, serving beverages in glasses from their tray.

[A standing buffet in the courtyard. Amazing.]

[It’s a culture unique to nobles. It’s done really well.]

[If we are going to eat, I will rather do so sitting down.]

[I know how you feel. I can’t taste the food properly in such a haphazard fashion.]

She said while eyeing the bite-sized meat dishes. I couldn’t help smiling at Linaria’s comment. Contrary to her slender figure, she was a glutton.

We walked around the venue slowly, and I observed my surroundings, careful not to miss anything.

[How is it? Is she here?]

[No, not here. Maybe she isn’t here yet.]

I answered quietly. I didn’t see Tize, Phyllis-san, Claire-san or the two male guards.

[Well, it’s common for the host to show up late.]

Linaria said.

A cool night breeze blew through the courtyard. Linaria pulled her hair behind her ears. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from her innocent movements.

Sensing my gaze, Linaria cocked her head slightly to ask me what it was.

In that instant, I didn’t know what I should say. My words were going to spill out quicker than my mind could process. This must be the urge to express the emotions building up in my chest.

Before I could say it out loud, a voice interjected from the side.

[May I know what the two of you are planning to do?]

I looked over to the source of that familiar voice. It was Aina, Linaria’s friend, who was also a noble. And of course, she was wearing an elegant dark blue gown and all dolled up. She looked completely different from the usual Aina in her school uniform.

[Oh, instead of that, Linaria-san! You look amazing in that gown!]

She was still the same old Aina. She approached Linaria with sparkling eyes and her hands before her breasts. Linaria stepped back and used me like a shield.

[Why, thank you. You look great in your gown too.]

[It’s an honour to be complimented by Linaria-san! I thought Linaria-san won’t be attending, is there a reason for your presence? Well...] Aina glanced at me sideways. [I can guess the gist since you are also here. How did you sneak in?]

Should I praise Aina for being astute? Or should I feel troubled by her assumption that I was always up to no good? This was a conundrum. In any case, since Aina admired Linaria twice as much as normal people, I couldn’t tell her I was her fiance. I might get stabbed on the spot.

[Well, I got my connections.]

[You did something again, didn’t you?]

She might look like she was smiling, but Aina was looking at me with narrowed eyes.

[It’s rude to say ‘again’. It’s not that frequent…]

[Do you dare say you didn’t do anything?]


I fell silent.

Well, Aina once helped me when I was in trouble. She helped me sneak into the academy when I wanted to meet Linaria, and even worked for me in the shop. Embarrassing to say, Aina was right.

[See, you can’t refute that.]

[… No, nothing for today yet.]

[Yet? So you will be doing something later?]

I couldn’t say anything as she leaned in menacingly. She was right anyway.

[I don’t know what you are scheming, but give it up. This isn’t your shop. This is a gathering place of the movers and shakers in this city. If you did something dumb, it won’t get laughed off as a joke.]

Aina looked serious, and I could clearly tell that she was worried about me. That made me glad. She was Linaria’s friend, but also a friend of mine too.

[Thank you for your advice, I will keep it to heart.]

[… Really now, that’s worrying. You are always doing something scary without any premonition.]

[I’m grateful for your concern, but do you know where the two Songstresses are?]

Aina looked at me when I asked that, then closed her eyes and massaged her temples.

[… I feel an oncoming headache. Did I hear wrong? I don’t think it’s true, but are you going to do something rude to the Songstresses?]

[No, not at all. It’s just, right, I just want to have a few words with them.]

[Linaria-san, you are getting involved too?]

Linaria shrugged at Aina’s question.

[I’m just accompanying him.]

[That’s great, then slip away with me. Let’s run before this plebeian cause any trouble.]

[It doesn’t sound like a joke when Aina says it.]

I said with a smile, but Aina’s eyes were serious. Oh, she wasn’t joking around.

[Plebeian-san, listen up, plebeian-san.]

[Don’t say it twice.]

[I will explain it to you with simple terms you can understand. Being involved with the Songstress means being dragged into the world of politics. You will be drag in by money and power to a place you can’t see.]

[I see..]

Just the Songstress visiting was enough to fill the city with crowds. Even a small shop like mine made a killing, and the experts in the business would make even more money. Intentional or not, the movement of the Songstress would cause a big financial windfall. Hence, it was natural for those in power to get involved.

[If you accidentally become too prominent, you will get marked. You don’t want that, do you?]

[That’s right, I’m shivering at the thought.]

[I’m not kidding.]

Aina glared at me with raised eyebrows.

[Thank you for your concern. I know how serious it is. I might look naive in Aina’s eyes, but I still know that much.]

I was taken away in cuffs once before. I was lucky and got taken to a hotel room, but there was a possibility that I would end up in a prison somewhere. I could feel a chill down my back at the thought of that.

[But there is something I needed to tell them.]

[Hey, I’m only asking now, but] Linaria looked me in the eyes. [Why are you going so far to meet the Songstress? You are not trying to return a favour, right?]

There were many reasons, and it wasn’t difficult to list them out. I didn’t notice Tize’s cry for help, and regretted it. I couldn’t bear seeing a good kid like her suffering. Everyone in the Indecent Alliance was waiting. Whatever was fine, those weren’t the reason I chose. I was here for a much simpler reason, and only Tize and I would understand.

[I think I understand that child’s feelings. I really, really understand. But I can’t convey my feelings to her. Tize still feels that she is alone. I will regret it if I leave things be. I don’t want to live my life thinking about what I should have done in the past.]

My words flowed out smoothly. I said something I just realized myself. After declaring that, it took definite shape in my heart.

Aina looked at me and sighed.

[You are a really weird person. You snuck in here for such a reason. I’m surprised by your initiative.]

[It can’t be helped. This guy just can’t ignore an abandoned kitten.]

[Abandoned kitten?]

Aina asked puzzledly when she heard Linaria. Linaria just brushed it off with a smile. Aina relaxed her brows, as if she had given up on that line of question.

[… Only Lady Phyllis will be attending the Welcome Song Party. She should be here soon.]

[So, Tize isn’t here?]

That would be a problem. But Aina shook her head.

[She should be on campus, since they just informed that she isn’t feeling well.]

[Thank you Aina, you’re a big help.]

Then it was possible to proceed. I needed to find Tize who was somewhere on campus, and talk with her without being discovered. Hmm, that sounded simple.

I nodded to encourage myself, then saw Aina squinting at me as if she was looking at something bright.


[… It’s nothing, I’m just thinking that someone like you can be the protagonist of a story.]

[In the adventure stories that Aina likes?]

After I said that, Aina blushed and she cleared her throat.

[I don’t really understand adventure stories, but challenging things that are said to be impossible is something I can’t do.]

[What do you mean?]

Aina’s words seemed to be implying something specific. Her face looked a little lonely.

But Aina just shook her head to end the conversation, then looked at the deep end of the courtyard.

[Look, the guest of honour is here.]

The people around us noticed too, and stopped their conversations before looking in the same direction. There were many people who walked forward, as if they had waited for a long while.

There were stairs in the deep end of the courtyard, linked to the school building. The door before the stairs opened, and the lights from the building spilled out into the courtyard. The Songstress appeared in the light. She was wearing a dark dress with a long train, but it was plain with almost no decoration. Phyllis-san’s wings were spread wide behind her, her standing posture seemed to imply she needed no decoration.

She bent her knees and bowed gracefully. That movement was met with applause, which spread to the entire courtyard. Showered in applause, the Songstress walked down the stairs. She smiled after reaching the courtyard. She was used to compliments, which was probably natural for a Songstress.

After Phyllis-san came to the courtyard, she was surrounded by a crowd. From my position, I couldn’t even see her now.

[She is really popular.]

[She might be old, but she is still a Heavenly Tigress. The powerful old men are youths in the past too. They must be happy to speak with the Songstress they admired for so long.]

Aina said calmly. No matter the era, the gazes of women looking at men would always be so cold.

[What’s that about the Heavenly Tigress?]

[That’s her nickname. She used to be as fiery as a tigress, and is unstoppable because of her wings. That’s what they said]

[Ehh, that’s...] I suddenly realized something. [Whose the first one to say that?]

I asked, but Aina just shook her head.

[Who knows. I don’t know that. Aren’t the origins of nicknames always unclear?]

[… You are right.]

I nodded, then surveyed the area. Since Phyllis-san was here, then I should be able to spot the person I wanted to find easily.

I turned to Aina and Linaria.

[Since the scary Heavenly Tigress is surrounded by old men, I will use the chance to search for Tize.]

[Alright, be careful.]

Linaria said with a wave of her hand.

[… How worrying. Don’t do anything dangerous.]

Aina said with furrowed brows.

I nodded at them and left. Fortunately, the gazes of everyone in the courtyard were focused on Phyllis-san, so no one paid attention even if I walked around.

I went around the crowd surrounding the Songstress, and approached the stairs. That person was standing quietly in the shadow. She seemed to have noticed me, and our eyes met. I stopped about three steps away.

[You must be Claire-san. Good Evening.]

She was a dark-haired beauty who suited her butler clothes. She was the one who picked up Tize at the Café, and sent me back. Her face didn’t change after hearing my greetings. A while later, she said with a sigh.

[Where should I start? This is troubling.] She then shook her head gently. [You are just wasting your time. Leave before Phyllis-sama admonishes you.]

[I thought as much, but since I’m already here, can I see Tize?]

There wasn’t much time, and I wasn’t confident about convincing this person through glib of tongue. After getting straight to the point, Claire-san closed her eyes.

[… You came all the way here just to see Tize?]

[That’s right.]

I nodded, and Claire-san looked at me seriously. Her eyes were implying she had never seen such an organism before.

[You took such a big risk just for that?]

[Is there any reason more important than that?]

I replied immediately. Claire-san’s expression changed for the first time. She was staring and her mouth had softened.

[I can arrest you right now, and send you into a real prison.]

That was true, she did have that authority. I couldn’t refute that, since I was still holding the forged document.

[But you won’t do that.]

[Are you looking down on me?]

Her narrow, icy eyes were prickly, but I endured it and shook my head.

[Because I know you are worried about Tize.]

When she came to my shop, her expression softened when she saw Tize. She was definitely relieved after confirming Tize’s safety. She even held back Tize back then.

[You must be the one taking care of Tize, right?]

Claire nodded to affirm my question.

[Yes, but that doesn’t have anything to do with arresting you, right?]

I took a deep breath. This was the crucial moment. This person definitely knew where Tize was. So I needed her to show me the way. That was the only method. I needed to convince her.

[What if I can solve Tize’s troubles?]

[That’s hard to believe.]

She rejected me coldly, which was expected. To Claire-san, I was just a stranger she had met a couple of times.

But I couldn’t back down here.

[Tize can’t sing right now, correct?]

Claire-san looked at me with eyes wide open.

[Tize told me about that. The only ones who know are Phyllis-san and the person taking care of her—— which means, you.]

[… You are saying, that girl trusts you that much?]

[That is a fact. Tize came to me for help. However, I didn’t succeed. That’s why I came here to meet her.]

Claire narrowed her eyes to a slit.

[I see, it’s not a surprise if Tize told you that much. I don’t know why that child trust you so much. So, what can you do? Nobody can understand the pain that child is feeling.]

[I can’t be sure that I understand. However, I can empathize with her. What Tize is thinking, what she is rejecting, and what she wants, I can understand all that.]

I said firmly. To be honest, I wasn’t that confident that I could do anything. Even so, it was still important to say that. In order to make her trust me, I needed to show the resolve of taking responsibility.

[—— Why are you so confident about that? Tize’s pain and solitude isn’t something...]

[I know the pain of solitude very well. More than anyone in this world.]

Claire-san locked her gaze with me. I had to stand firm here. I didn’t have any basis I could tell Claire-san. I could only hope she could understand my feelings of wanting to help Tize. My presence could help Tize, and I had that value. Aside from making her believe I was capable of that, I didn’t have any other way.

How long did we stare at each other? I could only endure the gaze silently boring through me. Finally, Claire-san closed her eyes to cut off her gaze.

[That child,] She said. [Had been worried about you since yesterday. She felt that she caused you trouble. It was rare seeing Phyllis-san meeting you directly and declaring you innocent.]

She then opened her eyes. Claire-san turned around.

[Please come this way.]

I stared at her back after she started walking, then followed hurriedly. I was happy that Claire-san acknowledged me, and felt relieved.

Claire-san walked up the stairs and entered the campus. We walked without hesitation. After turning the corner, we climbed up more stairs. If I fell behind, it would be difficult for me to leave alone. That was how big and complicated the layout was.

She finally stopped before one of the rooms at the highest level. It had a extravagant door not commonly found in a school campus. It had the style of a top class hotel.

Claire-san knocked the door, then opened it without hesitation. She opened a path for me.

[Please go in.]

I walked into the room, and the door was closed behind me.

The light wasn’t on, and the room was dim. The room had a large window, and moonlight shone in from there. The light illuminated a small figure. Her back was against the window as she sat on the floor. She was hugging her knees and buried her face in her lap.

The unmoving small figure felt dream-like, as if she would fade away in the faint light. Just like that rainy day when I found her in the ally, loneliness loomed over her shoulders.


I called out as if to confirm she was still there.

She raised her face with a start. Her dazed eyes caught sight of me. Tize was silent, and so was I. In the dim room illuminated by moonlight, we kept staring at each other.

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