Part 98: Sprout of Love, Root of Love
BGM: Moonlit Night
Jessica's room was filled with laughter.
"It was one hell of a reality check...! I thought this guy was a bit cool, a bit adult-like. And then I see him with some of the other guys in our class, talking about dirty stuff with this creepy laugh!"
"It's true that boys always act like little kids when they're together."
"Well, it's not like girls are any better!"
The fun chat between girls continued without end. Tonight, Krauss and Natsuhi were out late at a meeting on Niijima. Normally, Natsuhi was always watching, so Jessica would always make sure to be curt with the young servants, but when Natsuhi wasn't around, Jessica never did that. She had invited the servants of similar age to her room, and they were chatting away noisily...
At that age, everyone wants to know about love. Thanks to the rigid and constricting way Jessica had been brought up, she enjoyed talking of love all the more...
"But you're pretty incredible, Milady. And you're that age! Aren't there any boys you're interested in?"
"W, well, I'd like to fall in love, but there really aren't any... g, good ones around...!"
"I think you should be a bit more proactive. You can act all relaxed now, but not for long, right? Once one of your friends starts going out with someone, it'll turn your world upside down."
"Th, there's no way that'll happen... None of my friends are traitors... I, I think."
"Ah, no, no, no! The outbreak of love is the one time you can't rely on friendship between girls! If you met someone you liked, you'd betray your friends and go out with the guy without a second thought, wouldn't you?!"
"A, ahahahahahahahahahahaha... Wh, what about you, Shannon...?! It's not fair if I'm the only one who has to talk!"
"I, umm, don't have anyone like that around..."
...Not around. He's far, far away, and like Orihime and Hikiboshi, I don't get to see him very often. In fact, I don't even know when I'll be able to see him again. However, I believe that he'll come for me someday. I believe it.
"Don't you betray me, okay, Shannon?! If we get boyfriends, we'll get them together, okay?! Right? Right? We promised, right?!"
"Well, you might not believe it, but it's not at all rare for girls just like Shannon-chan to get a head start! *giggle*giggle*!"
"Shannon, confess!! You aren't going out with anyone, are you?! You aren't, right?!"
"I, I'm not. Really..."
"We'll get boyfriends together, okay? No matter what happens, okay?! Anyone who lies has to eat porcupinefish!!"
"Y, yes... I promise..."
"Looks like she's lying! I'm willing to bet Shannon-chan's the first of us all! I can tell. It's always the quiet ones that go first...!"
"Shannon, how could you?! Confess, confess!!"
"P, please stop, Milady...! Th, that tickles...! A, ahahahahaha...!!"
I worked my way out of the fight and looked up at the sky through the window. Is Battler-san happily chatting away with his friends somewhere right now, just like I am? As I think of you like this, are you thinking of me...? But if I ask that, it's the same as admitting that I don't trust you. I'll wait. And, when you do come for me, I'll announce then and there that I'm quitting my job. I've already prepared myself to do so... But... you haven't come yet. That isn't because you won't come, but because I'm not determined enough yet, right? It's because I haven't clearly envisioned a future with you, right?
I'll wait. No matter how long. Until you come for me, riding a white horse... I will always treasure our promise. The promise of our precious resolve...
Thinking that she had read my mind, I spun around. Of course, she hadn't...
"Well, as far as that goes, I think guys and girls have different ideas of what's important."
"No, that's not it. You've got it all wrong. On the whole, girls tend to be dreamers, and guys just do stuff without thinking."
"I guess understanding between the sexes is pretty much impossible after all."
"At least, I think it's pretty hard. Girls often have the bad habit of thinking they know exactly what the guy is thinking right away. They search for hidden meanings behind words that guys say for no reason in particular, and just get the wrong idea."
"Ah, yeah, I've known girls like that. Those girls who hear something that's trivial, as any outsider could tell them, but think it means that the guy is totally into them. Yeah, I see it all the time."
"It's a bit sad when a girl gets the wrong idea for no reason."
Ahhahahahahahahaha. The pair of them laughed together.
When a girl... gets the wrong idea. Could that be... me...? No, that can't be. After all, Battler-san clearly made a promise. He said he'd come for me riding a white horse. I mustn't doubt. I'm sure this conversation I'm hearing is just another one of God's trials. So, I won't listen. I won't care about it.
"If there's one thing I never want to be, it's one of those poor girls who thinks a guy's heart is linked to hers for no reason."
Those demonic sneers tormented me and tried to lead me astray. I'm sure he'll come to the next family conference...
Bit by bit, things were changing from the way they had been at the last family conference he came to. Everyone had gotten completely used to Kyrie-sama, Rudolf-sama's new wife, and she came down off the boat with a familiar stride. Her daughter, Ange-sama, was growing well, and all of the family focused their attention on her. Also, Maria-sama, though she was still small back then, was already five years old. She was full of energy, and old enough to enjoy playing with George-sama. Jessica-sama and George-sama had already stopped talking about Battler-san's absence. It was the same with the other relatives too. No one touched upon the subject, as though they had forgotten that Battler-san was missing. Maria-sama had only been three when she last saw Battler-san. It was doubtful whether she even remembered him.
...In just two years... All trace of your existence... has been erased from the Ushiromiya family conference. That made me sad. And so...
"True. Feeling a bit lonely?"
"Uncle Rudolf and Aunt Kyrie don't even bring him up anymore. It looks like Battler-kun was much more serious than we thought."
"I wonder if he really will stay away forever."
"Looks like it was leaving the nest after all. He's spread his wings and left for a new stage of life. Don't you think so?"
"...He's always been crazy and reckless. Well, what more'd you expect from a guy?"
"Well, we know Battler-kun. I'm sure he's adapted to his new life and is enjoying himself. So, there's no reason to worry."
When George-sama said that with a smile, I felt a bit uncertain. What does he mean by 'there's no reason to worry'...?
"Yeah, I'll bet he is. And I think that's the best for everyone. Thinking for himself, his family, and his late mother, Battler-kun decided to find a new life. So, I hope he lives that new life to the fullest. If he forgets about the Ushiromiya family, that's just perfect."
George-sama smiled at me, expecting me to agree. After a moment of shock, I smoothed my expression over and found the expression he was expecting. Is Battler-san... living happily, having forgotten about the family, about me, about our promise...?
That can't be true. It just can't be. Battler-san must be looking forward to that day of decision just like me. I'm not mistaken about that. He promised me. He said he'd come riding a white horse. I never asked him to say that. He said he'd come for me on the day I decided to live life for his sake. He made that promise himself. For two years, I've believed that. I've done all I could to make it through God's trials and the whisperings of demons that tried to throw me from my path. And yet, the things both George-sama and Jessica-sama are saying... are so cruel. Battler-san has forgotten about us and has started a new life? Why are they telling such lies...?
The Battler-san in my dream... wasn't the Battler-san I believed in. It was the Battler-san that George-sama and Jessica-sama had spoken of, the one who had forgotten everything and started a new life.
Morning. I woke up with a tear-stained face. The face I saw in the mirror... cried and told me it couldn't wait any longer. If I've managed to wait this long, why can't I wait any longer...?
This is a trial. So, we must believe in him and wait. But the me in the mirror spoke. It was sharper than a fragment of glass.
Wasn't Jessica-sama talking about it? That some girls are dreamers who get the wrong idea? And wasn't George-sama talking about it too? He said that Battler-san had gotten used to his new life and had forgotten about the Ushiromiya family.
...And by now, he isn't the only one who's forgotten. Unless I ask about it, everyone on this island has forgotten his name. Even Rudolf-sama doesn't say his name anymore. If I weren't here to remember his face, perhaps his existence would have been erased from everyone's hearts. I don't believe that. So, I won't doubt. Battler-san must still remember his promise. We're both waiting for the day of decision, the day we'll be together.
...Battler-san. I've firmly made up my mind. Does the fact that you're not here mean that, after all, I'm not determined enough? No. It's because you and God are testing me, isn't it? In that case, I will endure. Until that promised day inevitably comes... So, please. Battler-san. I want some proof... that you haven't forgotten me...
It was the crack that ran across my ceramic-like heart. I had to acknowledge it now. It may be... that I'm pretending not to notice something terrifying and sad.
Battler-san... makes me yearn for him.
Battler-san... makes me sad.
Battler-san... makes it hurt...