Saturday, January 8, 2022

Have a Cup of Coffee after School in the Fantasy World Café V5 (4 of 5)


Translator: Skythewood

Editor: Hiiro


The nights were getting colder, and one such night was upon us. The air was heavy and chilly. My freezing ears and nose felt painful.

My shop was in an alley beside the main road leading right to the labyrinth, and was quite near the entrance. So a good percentage of pedestrians were adventurers, and most of my patrons worked in that line. There were weapon and armour shops further down the road, and many bars and taverns too. But since my place was close to the city center, it was normal for average pedestrians to pass by.

The lights of the shops around me were put out late into the night. There was just a faint yellowish light in the distance, and the faraway laughter of people making merry and drinking.

How long did I sit in front of my shop? I already finished closing up the shop, but didn’t have dinner yet. I didn’t have an appetite, so I was fine with not eating.

My waist felt heavy as I sat on the ground. I leaned against the wall with my hands on my bent knees. I was cold, but still stayed here.

The chill of the night penetrated my body. My breath was white, and the stars in the night sky were twinkling brightly.

Aina’s words echoed in my mind and lingered.

I thought my feelings would change if I let my body cool, but it was in vain. I just felt cold. I didn’t want to stand up despite that, because I wanted the cold to keep me awake. I might feel better if I slept, but I didn’t want to sleep with this feeling weighing on my heart. I wanted to sort out my feelings.

She was getting married, huh.

What was marriage anyway? I also didn’t understand what nobles were either.

She didn’t like it, but still had to marry?

Why did Aina accept this?

My thoughts were interrupted by loud laughter. For some reason, that made me mad. Aina was going to marry and might be leaving this city, so how could they laugh?

I knew I was venting, but I couldn’t suppress my emotions.

Since Aina already accepted this marriage, it was strange for me to feel unhappy about it. Marrying someone she didn’t love didn’t mean she would be unhappy. Maybe I should wish her happiness as she embarks onto her next stage of life.

I looked up at the night sky in a daze as I tried to make sense of these questions, but my heart still couldn’t accept it.

If I did something different, and spoke with her about it casually, would things turn out different?

I didn’t need to take any responsibility anyway. So even if I said something irresponsible behind my shop’s counter, it wouldn’t weigh on my mind like this.

Maybe I was so anxious because I knew I was powerless. I didn’t have the right to interject about Aina’s problem, nor take any responsibility.

I could only stand behind my counter, while Aina sat on the other side. To Aina, I was just a friend. That was all.

I took a deep breath, and the icy air filled my lungs. I sighed heavily, and it turned into a long exhale.

“It couldn’t be helped.” It would be great if that was true.

As I immersed my vague consciousness into the cold and lost myself in the dark, a figure slowly approached me. Moonlight shone on her face. It was Aina’s personal maid, Doddo. She wasn’t wearing her usual maid outfit, but the plain clothes of a city girl.

【What are you doing here so late?】

Doddo cocked her head and asked, as I sat in front of the shop. I couldn’t help smiling, seeing she was still the same.

【… That’s my line. Is something the matter? This should be the first time you are coming here so late.】

In order to help me out when the tourists were flooding the city, Aina and Doddo stayed over in the second story of my shop. However, Doddo and I didn’t grow much closer. She was always with Aina, and had never come over alone.

【The Young Lady told me. She informed Yuu-sama about the marriage.】

【I did hear about it.】

【The Young Lady is stubborn, so she probably didn’t tell you clearly. I slipped out of the mansion in order to explain it to you.】

Doddo said expressionlessly.

【You slipped out? Is that fine?】

【Fine or not doesn’t matter. I just do what must be done, that’s all.】

She was firm and direct.

【What do you want to tell me after going so far?】

【First, regarding the Young Lady’s marriage, I don’t think anyone can stop it. It is incredibly difficult to overturn the decision of the Old Master.】

【Did Aina’s grandfather make that decision on his own?】

Doddo looked a little troubled.

【The Old Master dotes on the Young Lady a lot. He had never decided on something with no regards for the Young Lady’s opinion before. And the Young Lady is still attending the Arialu Academy on the Old Master’s strong recommendation.】

【So it’s abnormal for the Old Master to make such a decision?】

Doddo shook her head.

【I’m not sure. However, the Old Master knows that the Young Lady is supposed to marry after graduating from the Academy. Everyone feels it is strange for him to interfere with the decision of the current head.】

Doddo bit her lower lip, as if she just said something she shouldn’t.

【What I want to tell Yuu-sama is— No, I actually have a request.】

She knelt down before me and leaned forward. The moonlight illuminated her anxious eyes.

【Can you buy some time for the Young Lady.】

【Time, huh… From what I have heard, I don’t think there is anyway for me to interfere.】

【Alekhin’s Chess set.】

Doddo got right to the point.

【I’m not sure of the details, but the Old Master is collecting that Chess set. I heard he won’t do anything else before gathering it all. It’s the same with the Young Lady’s marriage, it’s still at the stage where we don’t know who her marriage partner is.】

【It seems the Old Master likes to play Chess.】

I joked, but Doddo just continued without a hint of a smile.

【The Old Master is incredibly strong in Chess. Before he retired, he was the Chess teacher of the Royal family.】

【That’s…】 I thought for a moment. 【... Amazing.】

I couldn’t get a good grasp on this. How good was he, if he could tutor the Royals? I could only tell he liked Chess more than normal.

【Someone so amazing is collecting the Chess set, and I have a few on hand. That makes me shiver.】

【You are shaking in anticipation of a battle. How reliable.】

【I’m shaking in fear though.】

【The Old Master becomes another person when it comes to Chess, some says he is stronger than a dragon, but don’t worry.】

【Which part of that is supposed to ease my worries?】

I scratched my head. We were going off topic.

【Ah, really now. As long as I have the Chess pieces, Aina’s marriage will be delayed indefinitely, correct?】

Doddo affirmed with a nod.

【So I just need to hold on to the Chess pieces to stop Aina’s marriage?】

【That’s impossible.】

Doddo said with utmost confidentiality.

【The Old Master is a man of his words. He said he will collect the Chess pieces, and will do so even if he has to do it personally.】

【I just need to win against the Old Master, right?】

I said it on a whim, but Doddo’s expression never changed. She continued speaking with an even tone.

【I don’t really know about Chess, but people said the Old Master is stronger than a dragon, and had been given the title 『Dragon Chess Saint』】

I nursed my temple gently.

【That… sounds really difficult.】

【However, he will probably not move personally. He will entrust the task to another person.】

【So, I just need to protect the Chess pieces from that person? That sounds easier than winning against the Old Master.】

【I’m really sorry.】 Doddo said with a bow. 【The Young Lady isn’t mentally prepared yet. She seemed troubled.】

【Troubled about the marriage?】

No, Doddo answered and bit her lips. She said with a hint of regret:

【The Young Lady is prepared for marriage, and thinks of it as an obligation of a noble lady. However, she can’t let go of a small dream.】

【A small dream?】

【After she met Linaria-sama and Yuu-sama, the Young Lady started to change. She realized that she didn’t exist just for her clan, and she could choose a goal in life. She probably felt something when she saw Linaria-sama pursuing her dreams.】

It was rare seeing the usually cold Doddo say something with such warmth.

【The Young Lady sits at her desk late into the night every day, writing something. She is writing desperately as if she is out of time. To the Young Lady, this is something important. She will lose her current freedom after marriage, so she wants to finish it before the time comes.】

Doddo straightened her posture.

【Please, Yuu-sama, can you buy some time for the Young Lady? One day, or even one second is worth more than gold for the Young Lady. I can even offer myself if that’s what it takes. I can fulfill any of your requests. So, please, for the Young Lady…】

After saying that, Doddo put her hands on the ground and bowed deeply.

【W-Wait, please raise your head!】

I couldn’t stay calm when an older lady treated me like this. I hurriedly pulled Doddo’s shoulders and helped her up.

We were close enough to touch, and our eyes met. Doddo’s eyes were serious.

【— Please.】

I couldn’t refuse her when she looked at me like that.

【I get it, I get it. I don’t know how much I can do, but I will do everything that I can.】

That sounded unreliable to me too, but that was the best I could do.

Doddo bowed again. She thanked me, but I couldn’t accept it sincerely.

She requested that from me, and asked me not to hand the Alekhin Chess pieces over, but Aina had already given up, right?

She told me that I could do whatever I wanted with the Chess pieces.

In the beginning, Aina was considering the same thing as Doddo. If I didn’t hand the pieces to her grandfather, she could buy some time. However, she cancelled that request today.

Had Aina already given up on her dream?



I woke suddenly with a start. I fell asleep without realizing it, and my senses felt wonky. The ceiling was bright, as if it was lit by the sun. Shadows were squirming in the room.

I shifted my heavy body to the side, and realized the fire in the fireplace was getting smaller.

I moved unconsciously for the wood piled by the fireplace. I grabbed one while still lying down, opened the wire mesh and put one in. I added another, so it would last till dawn. I relaxed my body and curled into a ball.

There was a crackling sound as the new wood caught fire. The heat warmed my face. The warmth encompassed me, and I felt drowsy again.


When I entered the shop, the old chime rang. Quiet classical music was playing in the background. This scene, music, and atmosphere was so nostalgic. I spent most of life here, and this shop felt as familiar as my own body.

[Oh, Yu-kun, welcome.] Takumi-san from the tofu shop was in a booth seat, and raised his hand slowly. [You are rather late today.]

[Takumi, it’s your turn.]

Grandfather who was opposite Takumi-san said. He then looked at me with a smile.

[You are finally back. Where did you go?]

[I need to do a little something.]

I said without thinking.

[Something? That’s good.]

Tok, the sound of a Chess piece placed on the board rang out. Grandfather faced the front again, then crossed his arms.

[You are giving up your Queen?]

[It’s fine, I will equalize later.]

Today was the same as always, the two of them were enjoying Chess. Grandfather and Takumi-san were childhood friends, and competed in Chess since their youth. They even competed overseas, I didn’t know if that was true though.

When I reached the counter, my father was standing there as usual. He was brewing Coffee with a serious face.

[Oh, welcome back. You promised to call if you are going to be late, right? Your mother is worried.]

[I went to a place without any phones.]

[Where could that be? Even farming villages have phones now.]

My father poured the extracted Coffee into a cup, then took a sip.

[Hmm, this mixed Coffee isn’t good. The beans are over roasted.]

[Isn’t that how you usually fail?]

[I will succeed on occasions though.]

He said proudly with his chest puffed out.

I heard a cry further behind the counter. It came from the store room, and was from my mother.

[Yuu-kun! Where have you been!?]

My mother rushed over with the pitter platter of her slippers. She was slender and shorter than me. Her rolled up sleeves revealed her thin arms, and glared at me with her fists on her hips.

[I’m so worried because you never came back! Why didn’t you contact us!?]

[Well… I wanted to do so, but…]


She looked up at me with her round eyes glaring. It wasn’t scary, but it was still a fact that my mother was angry.


[Hmmp, it’s fine. Don’t do it again.]

My mother squinted her eyes in a smile. That smile was so nostalgic that I felt like crying.

[Remember to apologize to Kaya-chan too. She is worried about you.]

That name shook my heart for some reason.


The cold made me shiver.

The fire in the fireplace was still burning intensely, but the heat couldn’t reach deep into my body. I hugged myself, and curled up into as small a ball as I could.

Was it raining? I could hear the sound of water hitting the pavement. It sounded intense, with no gaps between each drop.

The stars are visible tonight, so it won’t rain.

Who said that?

I nodded in agreement.

Then what was that sound?

The rain was still falling.

The noises were non stop.

The rumbles of the thunder.

I could hear noises from everywhere.

I heard the sound of something falling over.

The wall collapsed.

Several stone walls fell over like dominoes.


Look, over there, my mother pointed. A girl was sitting at the booth seat by the window. She was supporting her face with her hands with a bored expression, twirling her long, dark hair with her finger.

She looked my way when I came in. Her eyes looked curious, like that of a cat, shining from the sunlight coming through the window. Her skin was as white as snow, looking really prominent in the dim shop.

【You’re late.】

Kaya said quietly.

【I said I’m sorry.】

Her smile was just as I remembered, and I sat opposite Kaya.

【Where did you suddenly disappear to? You are always making others worry.】

Kaya narrowed her eyes, and I stared right at her.

【… What. You looked as if we haven’t met in years.】

She had a dumbfounded face.

Kaya was my cousin, and we played together when we were young. I always felt her expressive face was very bright.

For some reason, her face turned blurry. Was the light shining in through the window too strong? Kaya’s face glowed white, and her black hair was shimmering. I wanted to shield my eyes with my hand, but Kaya stopped me.

【So, where have you been?】

【… I actually went to a different world. I even opened a Cafe over there.】

I thought she would mock me, but Kaya leaned forward with a curious grunt.

【That’s interesting. Tell me more.】

Oh, I remembered. That’s how Kaya was. I couldn’t help but smile, and my tears started flowing.

【It might be a different world, but things weren’t completely different. For some reason, I could converse with them verbally, and our culture didn’t differ too much. There were beastfolks, elves, and even a labyrinth. But the way the people there think isn’t too different. There are many sad and depressing things, but also happy and uplifting ones too. Everyone is living their life to the fullest.】

Kaya listened intently.

【It seems that people from this world had gone there in the past, and they spread all sorts of culture and inventions. For example, the rules of Chess are the same there. I even spoke to an old lady who met someone from our world before. It seems that person suddenly disappeared.】

【That person went back.】

She sounded very certain.

【She went back?】

【Isn’t that obvious?】 Kaya said. 【That person didn’t have a place in that world. People from a different world will one day return to their own world.】

I couldn’t see Kaya’s expression anymore. I could only tell that it was her voice.

【Hey, Yuu.】

Kaya stretched her hand out and placed it on my right hand. Her hand was warm.

【Come back. Everyone is waiting for you. Yuu’s father, mother, grandfather, friends, and me. Everyone is looking for Yuu. Ever since you disappeared. We have been waiting all this time. So, come back.】

I couldn’t answer. Asking me to return to a place I couldn’t go filled me with pain.

【The people around Yuu had left, right? They left the city to pursue their dreams, and to marry. Be it the girl on your mind or your friend, they are all going away. Your shop might be a place to return to for some people. However…】

Kaya continued. I wanted to shake off her hand and cover my ears.

I didn’t want to hear it, but her voice became clearer. But Kaya didn’t let go of my hand.

【Is that your home? Everyone will leave you in the end. Is the shop where you are alone the place you should return to?】


My forehead felt cool, but my body was hot and heavy.

I felt a chill down my spine.

My body was shivering.

My senses were dull, but I could tell that someone was touching my forehead.


【Who is Kaya?】

An exasperated voice seemed to be coming from afar. It sounded muffled, as if I was listening through water.

【Oh, it’s a dream… It’s impossible for Linaria to be here…】

【Yes, maybe it’s a dream. Really now, why are you burning up like this? Did you wander around outside without dressing warmly?】

【I won’t do something so stupid… I just sat outside for a few hours.】


She flicked my forehead. There was a dull echo in my head.

【Just stay still.】

I didn’t have the strength to move, and wanted to tell her so when Linaria’s hand stopped me. A light different from a fire could be seen through my closed eyelids.

【Amazing… This is like magic… Linaria, could it be that, you’re a mage?】

【… Your fever is really bad.】

I could hear a sigh.

【I see… A fever, huh… That’s why I had a strange dream… No, is that a dream…?】

【Enough, don’t talk. I will make you feel better right away.】

The bright light seemed to penetrate right into my head. It wasn’t painful or uncomfortable, I didn’t feel hot or cold. My consciousness was wavering.

【Kaya, told me, I should go back… But I don’t know how… what a nostalgic voice…】

【Is that so? Speaking of which, I still don’t know where you’re from.】

【I never mentioned it in the first place… It’s a far away place…】

【— Do you want to go back?】

【How should I put this… I had almost given up… I’m not sure what to think.】

But I continued in a quiet voice.

【She asked, whether this is the place I belonged… and I couldn’t answer… Is this my home…】

【Isn’t this the place you belonged to?】

【I don’t really understand… However, I will think at times… Is it fine for me to stay here, since I don’t belong here… I shouldn’t be here… It sounds silly, right…?】

I heard a pathetic laugh. It took me a while to realize that was me laughing.

The heat in my body had subsided before I knew it. I didn’t feel cold, and it was really comfortable.

【I don’t know why, but I’m really sleepy…】

【Then sleep. It’s fine, everything will be alright when you wake.】

My hand was held gently. It was a little cold, but that was an unshakable anchor in this blurry world.

I wanted to grip back, but I had fallen asleep. I didn’t dream this time.


Someone was shaking my body. It started as calm as a lullaby, then got stronger and quickly. Finally, that person started hitting me.

【Got it, I’m awake, I’m awake.】

I opened my tightly shut eyelid, and a strong light shone in. I covered my face with my hand and turned away. After my eyes got used to the light, I finally realized who that small figure was.

【… Oh, good morning, Nortri.】

Nortri looked at me in relief for some reason.

【Good… you’re alive…】

【Of course I’m alive.】

【But… the shop… is dark, it’s already morning… and Yuu is collapsed on the floor…】

When I heard that, I surveyed the area.

The sun was high up in the sky outside the window. I was lying before the fireplace that was extinguished. I really looked like I collapsed, since most people wouldn’t lie on the floor for an entire night.

I found a familiar jacket draped over me.

【Is that yours, Nortri?】

I pointed at the jacket and asked, but Nortri shook her head.

I picked it up, and it was too large to be Nortri’s. There was embroidery on the sleeves too. It’s from the Arialu School of Wizardry.


My memory was roused.

I recalled something that might be a dream or a fantasy. A nostalgic place and meeting nostalgic people. I heard Linaria’s voice too. I didn’t see anything, but the cool sensation on my forehead and the feeling of holding someone’s hand still lingered.

【… It wasn’t a dream?】

I probably had a fever from the cold, but that had passed. I had made a full recovery.

Something hit my shoulder.

【Don’t… ignore me…】

I apologized to Nortri who was puffing her cheeks, then stood up.

【Thank you for waking me.】

I gently patted Nortri’s head. Nortri stared at me with a dissatisfied grunt, then closed her eyes with a comfortable face.

No matter what I dreamt, what I heard, or what I thought, the unchanging days began again. In this world, in this place, this was my everyday life.

A dream was just a dream. My dream might not turn true, but there was definitely a dream I could realize. Even if that dream wasn’t mine.

Chapter 5: Where That Dream Leads to


The crowd was loud.

A group of men was surrounding a table. In the beginning, there wasn’t anyone at the table, but now, there were six. Everyone was staring at the Chessboard.

【Did you see that move coming?】

【Don’t be silly, I already lost track ten moves ago.】

The whispers didn’t reach the ears of the man sitting opposite me. He covered his mouth and looked at the board seriously.

【Kirby is quiet.】

【A kid shut him up.】

I looked out the window. It was almost evening, and the walls were dyed a warm red colour.

【Hey, you.】

Kirby said with his eyes still on the Chessboard.


【Why are you so strong? Are you a Noble?】

【No, I’m just your average commoner.】

【That’s impossible. At your level, you can become a Noble through Chess alone.】

Kirby-san reached out with his hand, then changed his mind and pulled back.

I answered with a vague smile. It wasn’t my own strength, but the accumulated experiences over time.

The main style of Chess in this world was to swiftly develop the pieces and launch a fierce attack against the opponent's King. This was only possible because defensive techniques had not been adequately researched. From the perspective of the Chess I learned, this was a style from several generations ago.

The move of every piece would secure the crucial squares, and the time it took to develop your pieces would determine victory. I was only borrowing the research results of top class players who spent centuries researching Chess. So I couldn’t take any pride in this even if I was praised.

Kirby-san stopped moving his hand, sighed, then toppled his own King.

【It’s my loss. I don’t see anyway of winning.】

The sound around us weren’t sighs nor cheers.

【I thought he would win, so it wasn’t possible, huh.】

Kirby-san took out a small pouch, then placed it on the table.

【Here, the piece as promised.】

Four Pawns, a Black King, a white Queen and Bishop. They were all Alekhin’s Chess pieces.

【So, only the 『Shopkeeper』 and 『Noble-sama』 are left, right?】

One of the men standing around us said.

【What about Persimmon, the fishmonger?】

【I heard he lost to 『Noble-sama』 yesterday.】

【What a shame. He lacked the guts of a commoner.】


I raised my hand, and everyone looked at me.

【Who is Noble-sama?】

The men looked at each other, then at me.

【A young man who is collecting the Alekhin Chess pieces. He acts really manly, and has lush blonde hair.】

【Completely opposite of your thin, pitiful hair.】

Laughter then erupted.

【Shut up, leave me alone! Really now, that man is strong. You can tell at a glance that he is a Noble, I heard he is gathering the scattered Alekhin Chess pieces on behalf of the aristocrats.】

Another man stood up and added:

【Since Kirby lost, there’s just 『Noble-sama』 and you left. I will cheer for you.】

【Me too. Let him see the guts of us commoners.】

I thanked them for their support as I thought about that youth’s figure. The person who wanted to buy Alekhin’s Chess piece off me. He glanced at the old men’s board, and thought of the same move as me.

【He knows that I have the pieces with me, right?】

I asked, and Kirby-san confirmed my suspicion.

【Of course. Word have spread that the 『Shopkeeper』 here is incredibly strong.】

I felt troubled. Who spread that news?

I then remembered what Doddo said. That Noble youth was definitely helping Aina’s grandfather to collect the Chess pieces. Which means, I would have a match against that youth in the near future.

If I lose, then Aina’s stalled wedding plans would proceed. What would happen if I won?

Would her grandfather come over personally? No, that was impossible.


With the change of the seasons, night fell earlier. There was still some time before dinner, but it was completely dark outside.

There weren't any customers when Aina came, so it was just right for her to teach me writing. Since Aina didn’t have much time left, Tize’s letter that was laid out on the table was being explained to me.

【Listen up, Plebeian-san, this is known as a shorthand, used between close associates or during emergencies. It might say “I’m concerned about your affairs”, but if you interpret it with shorthand, it will become “Are you well?”】

【What a pain.】

I complained, and Aina continued with a nod.

【I understand how you feel. Unless it’s for a very formal letter, we would usually use shorthand.】

【Then why are you teaching me this?】

Aina’s eyes behind her spectacles curved up in a smile.

【Oh, I taught it by mistake. Ohoho.】

She was obviously doing this on purpose.

【You are still bearing a grudge over that incident with Phil-san. I already said I’m sorry.】

【Oh, what are you talking about, I have no idea. So I’m not bearing a grudge at all, yup.】

【Aren’t you really bothered by this?】

I looked right at her, and Aina straightened her back with a blushed face.

【Bearing a grudge or not isn’t a problem. I’m reflecting on myself for getting too emotion back then too.】

【By too emotional, you mean you almost cried?】


She glared at me with a flushed face.

【It’s ungentlemanly to repeatedly bring up a lady’s past. So forget it right now.】

【Alright, alright, I get it.】

【Wait, Plebeian-san, do you really understand. Even though I didn’t cry, scrunching my face is unbecoming of a Noble lady in public. Are you listening?】

Aina was glaring at me with her usual attitude, as if she had never mentioned her marriage before. She seemed to be hinting that I shouldn’t bring that topic up, so I didn’t.

I was tutored as usual, and Aina taught me like always. It felt as if our normal days would continue forever. Maybe Aina’s marriage was just my fever dream.

Partway through the letter, Aina called for a break.

【I will brew some Coffee.】

【Oh, thank you.】

I went behind the counter to prepare, and Aina took out a scroll of papers from her bag to read.

Doddo mentioned that Aina was writing something passionately.

After thinking about it for a while, I couldn’t help but asked:

【You had been engrossed about that recently. What’s written on it?】

Aina’s shoulders trembled, and she raised her head slowly. She peeked at me through the gap in her glasses.

【Well, erm, right.】

Her cheeks were flushed as she hugged the scroll preciously. A while later, Aina raised her head and looked at my face.

【Can you, promise not to laugh?】

【Is it something funny?】

【No, I mean, don’t tease me and make fun of me.】

She said quietly with a pout.

Feeling curious, I nodded, acceding to her request.

Aina alternated her gaze between me and the scroll, then finally squeezed out her voice:

【I’m writing a story.】

【Story? Like a novel?】

I asked, and Ainia nodded bashfully.

【A story, huh. You did say you like them.】

Aina was fond of adventure tales, Doddo told me that in the past.

【Isn’t that strange? For a woman to write a novel.】

She sounded like she was probing me.

【It’s not strange at all.】

There were many female authors, so writing stories wasn't strange. Although my common sense might not be true in this world.

【Sorry, but is it strange for women to write stories?】

I asked, and Aina stared at my face in a daze. She then covered her mouth with her hand, lowered her head, and quivered her shoulders.

【Aina? What’s wrong?】

She wasn’t responding, but I could hear her trying to stifle something. I thought Aina was crying, then realized she was laughing.

【Why are you laughing so hard?】

I wasn’t joking here.

I tried to express my unhappiness, but Aina wasn’t fazed. She finally stopped laughing a while later. Aina wiped the tears from her eyes and said.

【You really don’t have any common sense.】

How strange, she muttered.

【After talking to you, my troubles seem so trivial.】

【Is that a compliment?】

【What do you think?】

That teasing smile was the most calm and relaxed that I had ever seen her make. Maybe that was Aina’s true face.

【Well, let me read that story when you are done. In the meantime, I will study to learn to read.】

Aina squinted her eyes with a smile.

【That’s true, it will be nice if I can complete it.】

I couldn’t feel the determination to finish it from Aina’s tone. She sounded like she was inspecting a gem inside a box.

【You don’t think you can finish it?】

【No, but I wonder if there is any meaning in writing this. I don’t have much time left. After my marriage, I won’t have the time to write anymore. I even cut into my sleep to write my draft, but even if I finished, nothing will change. I couldn’t help but think this is just escapism.】

Aina put the scroll of papers that were growing thicker on the counter, then caressed it lovingly.

【I’m a daughter of Nobility, and my life has been decided since birth. I had been educated since young to only do things that I should do. Writing stories is unnecessary for a noble like me.】

【Isn’t it your dream?】

Aina turned towards me.

【If considered from the perspective of necessity, dreams shouldn’t be pursued. No one can guarantee success, and nothing will be left after failure, and others might even mock you for it. However, that might be the beauty of a dream. Loss and gains didn’t matter, you are only chasing the things you want to do. Giving your all to pursue a dream that had little chance of panning out, maybe that’s what makes life meaningful?】

Aina looked at me wordlessly. I felt a little bashful about discussing such a sentimental topic so seriously.

【Well, instead of not doing anything, it’s better to try it out.】

I raised my voice to fudge it over, and wasn’t sure what I was saying either.

Aina smiled very warmly when she saw me act like that. Somehow it looked a little sad.

【That might be so— I see, so that’s what a dream is.】

Aina said softly as if she was indulging in the aftertaste, and her smile deepened.

【Dreams are really bitter. It brings you joy and is so bright, but is so far away.】 I closed my eyes and sighed. 【To me, my dream is just like a fairy tale.】

I just stared at Aina.

When I was still schooling, I never considered my future or dream seriously. Life seemed so free, and I could decide on my future as I pleased.

But in this world, Nobles couldn’t even pursue their dreams.

Aina reached for the scroll, gently touching the words written on it. That was Aina’s dream. It couldn’t be contained with just a few hundred pages, and the story within was the entirety of Aina’s dream.


I didn’t hate cleaning dirty dishes. Wiping the grime with a soapy rag, then rinsing with water. Repeating these steps would calm my heart as I thought about other things. There wasn’t anyone in the shop. The sign outside had been flipped to “Closed”, and I was finishing up for the day.

The night was quiet. I could hear the sound of the water flowing and splashing onto the utensils. The number of dirty dishes were dwindling, but my mood didn’t improve. The matter with Aina still lingered on my mind.

It couldn’t be helped, but the situation bothers me. But if this was the norm in this world, I couldn't complain either.

But was this really fine?

Would Aina continue writing stories after marriage? If making money wasn’t the goal, writing as a hobby was fine too, right?

I asked myself, and the answer was no. I thought about what was wrong, but couldn’t get an answer. I just knew it wasn’t right. However, I couldn’t get a clear answer, just vague ambiguities.

I turned off the tap after washing the last glass. I was wiping my hands dry when the chime indicated the arrival of a new guest.

The one who entered was the youth I saw before. Delicate features and styled blonde hair. He looked fashionable just by standing still.

The youth looked at me, and I looked right back at him.

【You’re the 『Shopkeeper』, huh.】

【You’re 『Noble-sama』, huh.】

Our voices overlapped, then laughed at our own nicknames.

【That doesn’t sound right.】

【Indeed, that’s true for the both of us.】

The youth took off his glossy black coat and looked around the shop.

【Sorry, I haven’t prepared a coat hanger yet.】

The youth nodded and folded it over his arm, and walked over.

【This is our second meeting. Pardon my rudeness during my first visit. I didn’t know you play Chess.】

【Because I don’t look like a Noble, right?】

My joke made the youth laugh.

【Your sense of humour is better than a Noble. Do I need to explain the reason for my visit?】

【For Alekhin’s Chess pieces?】

【That’s right. Only you and I are left. Let me ask again, do you have any plans to sell it? You will be paid handsomely.】

I shook my head, and the youth nodded without any hesitation.

【Well then, let’s decide things with Chess.】

The youth walked to the nearest seat, then took out a small portable Chess board. He hung the coat over a chair, then sat down.

I took off the apron around my waist and left the counter, then sat down opposite the youth.

The youth started setting up the board. I picked up a chess piece.

【There’s something I want to check.】


We didn’t stop setting up the board.

【Who hired you to collect the Alekhin Chess pieces?】

The youth suddenly stopped moving. His gaze fell on my face.

【What about you?】 The youth asked. 【Why are you collecting them? For money?】

What’s my reason for collecting them?

【Someone asked me to. To buy time.】


【A person who will be troubled if all the pieces are gathered. I started with a Knight, and things became like this before I realized it.】

The youth laughed. It was a friendly laugh.

【Someone asked you, huh. You are a nice guy.】

【Isn’t it the same for you?】

The youth shook his head.

【I’m doing it for something in exchange. It’s for my own sake.】

After setting up the board, the youth picked up a black and white Pawn, then clasped his hands together. He shook his hands three times, then pulled his hands apart, then extended his fists my way. This was a way to decide who will have the first move.

【Right hand, white.】

The youth opened his right hand, revealing a Black Pawn. I guessed wrong, so I would be using the black pieces. The board before me spun around. The youth replaced the two Pawns, and we were all set.

【I will be in your care.】

We bowed, and the youth moved his Pawn to e4. I responded with the Black Pawn to e5. The youth didn’t hesitate to move f4, placing another Pawn besides his first Pawn.

This was an opening called the King’s gambit, a dangerous line, and would often lead into a messy board. It really lived up to the name’s origin, “gamble”.

<TL: Despite what the Japanese author thinks, the origins of the word “gambit” is not related to “gamble”. >

I had three options with my Black pieces. I could take the f4 Pawn with my e Pawn. I could push my d Pawn up in a countergambit. And the last option was…

<TL:,_Falkbeer_Countergambit >

【How cautious.】

The youth said after seeing my move. I moved my Bishop to c5. I declined the Youth’s gambit to offer a Pawn to draw me in, and just developed my pieces. Accepting the gambit would intensify the match, but I prefer to open the match steadily.

The youth didn’t move immediately. In this world where Chess was treated like an intense match, my move might be considered cowardly.

【Are you not trying to win?】

The youth said as he moved a piece. I played right after him.

【I don’t plan to lose.】

【Is that different from winning?】

Just a short clash, and compared to the aggressively attacking youth, I was defending stubbornly.

What the youth said was true, but I had no reason to win. The important thing was to keep Aina’s grandfather from getting the Alekhin Chess pieces. For that sake, I didn’t choose victory, opting not to lose instead.

Since draws were possible in Chess, there were ways to intentionally create them too. I didn’t need to take risks for victory, I just needed a draw.

If I beat the youth by mistake, then the grandfather who tutored the Royalty might show up.

As the Chess game progressed, the youth read my intentions.

【Not set on victory, huh. You are just buying time.】

The youth closed his eyes and thought for a moment. He then opened his eyes and looked at me.

【I offer you a draw. Will you accept?】

It was a little early to offer a draw. Normally, you would wait until the end game and neither side made any obvious mistakes, then you will offer a draw. We were just about to enter the middle game. What was he scheming?

Seeing the question in my gaze, the youth shrugged.

【I understand your level after playing so far. If you are set on defending, I can’t beat you. Continuing with this to the end will just be a waste of time.】

He was too forthright in his thinking, and his snap decision surprised me.

【So, how about it?】

I agreed to the draw, and the youth swiftly kept the pieces.

【I admit that It is difficult for me to take the pieces from you. It’s unfortunate, but I have to relay that to my client.】

【Erm, that’s a little…】

This was a little different from what I expected. It would be a problem if he withdrew so decisively.

【You might want to buy more time, but I don’t have much time left. I will be leaving this city soon. Please liaise directly with my client.】

He folded the Chessboard, stood up, then picked up his coat.

【Erm, please wait, I will be troubled if the grandfather shows up next time.】

【Grandfather? You mean the Dragon Chess Saint Joseph-sama?】

The youth looked at me, as if he was telling me that I was mistaken.

【I had never met Joseph-sama before. My client is Caires-sama. He is Joseph-sama’s son, the current Count of Foyaroges.】

After saying that, the youth turned to leave. I didn’t stop him.

The youth said he wasn’t working for Aina’s father. Not just that, his client was Aina’s father?

But like Doddo said, the grandfather was collecting the pieces. The marriage talk couldn’t progress before he finished his collection. That was why she asked me to buy time.

I didn’t really get what was going on.

【I thought..】 A voice came from behind. 【You were working for him.】

I turned and saw the youth turning halfway towards me.

【There are two people collecting Alekhin’s Chess pieces. One of them is me, working for Caires-sama. You know who is the other person, right?】

This speculation was logical. The problem was, I didn’t have any clue on my end.

The youth turned without a word and reached for the door. At this moment, the door opened by itself. The cold night breeze blew in. Linaria was standing there.

【Ugh, it’s cold.】

I heard a quiet voice, but it stopped abruptly. Linaria remained still after opening the door. Her face was blocked by the youth’s back, so I couldn’t see her.

The youth suddenly bent his back and knelt.

【Princess-sama, I never thought I would meet you here.】

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