Part 41: Furniture and People
October 4th, 1986, 6:00 PM
Ever since they had met Maria in the airport, she had been romping around about Halloween the whole time. But maybe she had cut loose a little too much, and acted a little too boisterous on the plane, on the boat, and during lunch, because Rosa had warned her several times. In times like that, aunt Rosa would rarely scold her in front of people. More commonly, she would call Maria into the shadows, and scold her when they were alone. So since Maria had been called off somewhere, they thought she must be getting scolded.
When they looked at the clock, they realized that it was almost 6:00. They couldn't really imagine that Maria had been scolded this whole time. Maybe it was time for some anime she watched every week to start. She had probably stayed in the mansion's parlor the whole time.
"That's because Maria-chan thinks of Battler-kun as a new friend. I'm sure it was tons of fun when she played Halloween with Battler-kun at the airport."
"Battler was messing around a lot himself. Even though that guy's gotten big, he hasn't changed a bit since long ago."
BGM: Moonlit Night
"Shannon, do you remember about Battler-kun six years ago?"
"Yes. Because he was, well, very energetic. *giggle*."
"I also remember how the four of us used to play six years ago. Shannon acted a lot like a big sister."
"That's right. I get the feeling that she was even more level-headed then than she is now. Ahahahaha!"
"B, back then I, umm... didn't act fitting for my place so... umm, I did some rude things..."
"...It's alright to act like that. Forget when you're working, when you're taking your break, like now, I want you to stay with us and be friendly."
"That's right. Treat the servant Shannon and off-duty Sayo differently. You aren't a slave, you're just working as a servant, right? I think of you, Shannon, no, Sayo, as my oldest friend."
"...Thank you very much, Milady."
Apparently, George had also been informed about that history, more or less. As George approached the window, he looked up at the darkening rainy sky...
"...Even though Kanon-kun is still young, I think that he's starting to grow a bit in his way of thinking."
"Uhh, hahahaha... C'mon, quit it already. Well, umm, I think there's been some times when I've been sucked in by the atmosphere... Well, umm... maybe after looking at you two, umm, I got a little jealous, and sometimes started feeling a little rushed."
"...Wh, what happens to me isn't important. More importantly, how's it going between you two? Looks like it's goin' pretty well, eh? Ehehe!"
"Err, I... I wonder..."
"Yes. It's going very well."
Shannon was lost for words, her face red, while George answered brightly and immediately. That carefree attitude made it obvious that their relationship was proceeding so perfectly, it would make anyone envious.
"Heh, I'm jealous. That mean Shannon's gonna resign and have a party soon?"
"I, I wonder... I am, umm..."
"I wonder, right? How could I know?"
"I have a dream. It isn't only an ambition to become the leader of my own domain in business. I also have a dream to build a family together with a partner I can spend my life with."
"...I want two kids at the very least. And I'd like to do some sports that the whole family could do together. And many more things besides that. I often talk with Shannon about that kind of thing... Although every time I talk about that sort of thing, Shannon always laughs and says I'm getting ahead of myself."
"...For some reason, even at the age I am now, I've started having some calmer thoughts like I'm in my old age. Healthy grown kids, and grandchildren running around. If only I could spend the rest of my life at a slow pace, surrounded by that, and together with Shannon forever."
"You're definitely getting ahead of yourself. But, how should I say it, it sounds like you, George nii-san."
"Being surrounded by that family would probably be so wonderful... The ideal family that I've painted in my mind is something like that."
...To Shannon, who had been raised in an orphanage, that harmonious image of a family was probably something she yearned after. And George, who promised that he would definitely grant that wish for her, was surely a fitting person for her to spend her life with...
Shannon was an important friend to Jessica. George was surely the one most fit to entrust that friend's future to.
"Well, I don't want to throw cold water on you guys, but forget about uncle Hideyoshi, what would happen with auntie Eva? Wouldn't it be tough to convince her?"
"Ah-hah-hah-ha. There's no reason for anyone to worry about something like that. No one can worry about who I chose to be my partner. Shannon makes me happy. Whose permission do I need?"
"Whooooa. George nii-san, that was cool... I can't believe you can say something so embarrassing out loud. I thought George didn't used to be that kind of character."
"If you don't see a boy for three days, you should watch them closely. Even I grow up. I plan to study more and more to make Shannon happy and grow to be a suitable man."
"It's alright. I'm sure Mother will be difficult, but you can leave that to me. I'll show you that I can make all of the relatives accept you as my partner."
"Awesome... I'm jealous of you Shannon, seriously!"
"...I, if you will go so far then... I, I'm sorry to trouble you..."
"Wait a sec, I'm starting to feel like I'm getting in the way. Would it be better if I leeeft?"
Before Jessica picked up the receiver, wondering what business they could have, Shannon looked at the clock, taken aback. Somehow or another, it seemed that she had taken too long on her break.
"I, I am sorry...! I forgot it was time for work...! Th, then, if you will excuse me...!"
At the same time that Jessica picked up the phone, Shannon began dashing out of the room.
"Ah, Shannon! Again, same time, same place."
"Y, yes. E, excuse me!"
"Hello, it's Jessica... Ah, Genji-san. Yes, Shannon is going back to you guys now. We held her up. Please don't scold her. Yeah, yes."
"I see. So it will be time to prepare dinner very soon."
The number of plates that were lined up there... was 19. That number was one more than were lined up during the family conference every year.
Gohda-san flared up at Genji, paying no heed to the pot that was boiling over. The Master enjoyed having his food alone in his study, so the food needed to be set out in the study. However, this always happened. Gohda-san really wanted to set the table for the Master with his own hands, as he had put his heart and soul into his cooking. But the Master had imposed a strict rule that none but the servants bearing the Golden Eagle crest could enter his study. So while Gohda-san could greet the Master from outside the study, not once had he been granted the honor of carrying his cooking into the study. Gohda-san was always unsatisfied with this.
Of course he was a newcomer in terms of years of service. However, he had piled up plenty of experience from his previous jobs, and he was strongly confident that he would always be able to perform in front of Kinzo in a way that would not insult him. And yet, just because he was not permitted the Golden Eagle, he still hadn't been blessed with this honor.
Because tonight, there was a person other than the Master who wanted their food carried to their room.
Gohda-san must have wanted to earn some points by serving this honored guest with his own hands. Because he was a person of strong vanity. If he wasn't qualified to serve the Master, then at least a guest of the same rank... He couldn't have made time during lunch no matter what, so Kanon-san had gone for him. Therefore, he truly desired to serve tonight's food, the best dinner of the year.
But Genji-san had had a problem with that. Something about how Gohda-san didn't have the Golden Eagle. After being scolded that he wasn't qualified again, Gohda-san had lost his patience. Aah, so heartrending, Gohda-san...
"Kumasawa-san, if you have enough free time to dawdle around, please prepare the dining hall. Is the tablecloth ready?!"
"Hoh-hoh-hoh-ho... oh my, my apologies..."
When it became her turn to bear the brunt, Kumasawa softly disappeared into the hall.
"Beatrice-sama is of exactly the same rank as the Master. We must respect this rule in the same way we do with the Master."
"...Gohda-san, if you would, please devote your attention entirely towards the task you are confident in, for all of the relatives..."
"I don't mind if it's you, Genji-san, but is it really alright to let a child like this go to such a guest?! If she made some blunder, it would be quite rude."
"I know that they have served here for a long time, but that doesn't mean that they have been trained in the proper areas. If you will allow me to speak freely, they have no foundation which makes them able to interact with this guest!"
Even though Shannon was waiting there in the kitchen, Gohda spoke so bluntly. Shannon was the one who Genji had ordered to carry the food to Beatrice's room. By the ranking system among the servants permitted the Golden Eagle, Shannon was surely the second highest ranked. If the highest ranked, Genji, went to set the table in Kinzo's room, then it fell to Shannon to set the table in Beatrice's room. Gohda pride was always horribly injured when he was shown this ranking system. In times like that, he would speak out bluntly and rudely about Shannon and Kanon. Gohda kept raising examples of each one of Shannon's failures until now, making a ruckus about how this was wrong and that was wrong.
Shannon, who listened to this and hung her head in shame, heard Kanon's voice from behind her. Kanon had heard everything, having approached from a blind spot in the hall along the wall near the entrance to the kitchen. He probably knew that if he entered the kitchen, sparks would start to fly his way.
"...B, but, it would help to build up a foundation of experience on how to entertain someone. Gohda-san has learned a lot, so he could be a good reference...?"
"Hmph. Nee-san, you sure are nice."
"...More importantly, is the guest in the honored guest room... really Beatrice-sama, as they say?"
"...Yes. I met her when I was made to set the table for her during lunch. There's no mistake, it's her."
"R, really? Was she doing well?"
Kanon remembered that he and Shannon had different impressions about Beatrice. To Shannon, Beatrice was a cupid of love, who had granted her magic to create her relationship with George. Judging by the expression that rose to her face, it looked like she couldn't wait to inform Beatrice of how her relationship with George had progressed. However, Kanon already knew. That witch had come here with a terrifying goal in mind. That vague witch that only they had been able to see in the past, had now walked in openly through the front door, and had revived enough that they could now carry food to her.
In the past, when she had disappeared from in front of Kanon... The witch had said something about how her own power was still weak.
And she had said that. She had definitely said that she had known of his failure and had sown the seeds of love.
She had said something else. She had definitely said that the day on which the door to the Golden Land would be opened had finally come.
"...Shannon. She will hold some bizarre ceremony with the Master, and will surely do something unimaginably horrible... And no one can resist that."
"What are you talking about...?"
In the past, the two of them, as furniture working for Kinzo, had been told what opening of the door to the Golden Land meant. Therefore, even without asking a single question in response, Shannon understood everything... So, she grew deeply hopeless.
...Something tore at Kanon's heart as he looked at that expression twisted with grief...
"...How could... why... why now..."
"...Didn't I tell you? We are furniture! Because we acted like humans, because of love... we can't obediently accept the day when our service is over...!"
"...At one time, in the past, I wished that this day would come. But it never came after so much time... I didn't know how long we would be able stand being tormented as furniture... So I thought. I thought that day of rest wouldn't come for all eternity."
"...That's what I thought! But I believed that it would definitely come someday! So I never forgot that I am furniture! But Nee-san, you forgot that!"
"...It's... my fault, isn't it... I'm..."
"Yeah, it's your fault, Nee-san. If only you hadn't known love... we would both be happy that this day has finally come! You built up shameless regrets! Even though it was a world that you must not leave!!"
"...Yes. Then, she said this to me. Tonight, George-sama will probably give you an engagement ring, Nee-san."
That was a fact. George should have snuck in an engagement ring in his pocket today. And surely, he would hand it over tonight.
"...She joined you together, planning to use you and George-sama as the sacrifices of the second twilight. Understand? By tempting you, Nee-san, she took advantage of you!"
"...That's right. I never thought of that."
"There will be 13 people as sacrifices. Only five people will be left alive. The chances of us being a part of that group are really slim. However, if only you, Nee-san, can take advantage of that promise, those chances rise higher! I want to take that bet! Our salvation is in the Golden Land. If we can make it that far, we can become human. And I want to walk through life as a human, together with you, Nee-san...! If we do that, we might be able to achieve... true love!"
"...In the past, we used to dream about being able to go to the Golden Land. If we go there, any wish will be granted. We will be saved from this pain. We believed that."
However, in the past, Shannon and Kanon had thought that whether they reached the Golden Land, or were made sacrifices, they would still be released from their duties as furniture. So in other words, this ceremony would definitely give release to furniture like them.
"I don't like it. I want to take back everything painful that we lost until now, together with you, Nee-san. I won't become a sacrifice. Nee-san and I will remain alive. And we'll reach the Golden Land together."
"...So I won't let you become the sacrifice of the second twilight! Please, Nee-san! Don't accept that man's ring! If you don't accept that, she promised not to select you as a sacrifice, Nee-san!!"
"...I... cannot do that. Tonight's ring is very special. My heart won't permit me to not accept it."
"Nee-san...! The sacrifices of the ceremony are decided on the witch's whim! That witch has promised to overlook just you, Nee-san!! Only you will definitely be able to go to the Golden Land!"
"...Only me? What about you, Kanon-kun?"
"The witch's game... is enough for me. I'll slip through her evil hand. I am not powerless. I'll forcibly grasp that small chance..."
"After all, our lives are temporary, aren't they? In order to begin our real lives, let's drag ourselves to the Golden Land. Then... we will gain humanity."
"...And when we've done that, maybe I want to... be able to know love, like you, Nee-san. Can I still... let a person cry just because I'm furniture...?"
"I... don't like being furniture anymore...! I'll definitely... become human... From this pain, definitely...!"
By now, Kanon had noticed. Shannon hadn't been the only one to know and suffer the taste of love. He had too. The tears Jessica had shown him that day, and Jessica's pitiful face as she tried to smooth things over and brighten her mood until today, had slowly wrought some kind of change on Kanon's heart without him knowing it...
Shannon was taken aback by Genji's sudden voice. Apparently, she had been called for repeatedly. She hurriedly answered. When she turned back, Kanon had disappeared. It seemed he didn't feel like showing his tears to anybody...
"Y, yes. I'm sorry for being careless..."
"I entrusted Kanon with lunch, but it should have been you, as the next in rank after me, that carried it. Beatrice-sama is the most honored guest of this house. There is no more honored guest than her. Please think of her as another Master, and be polite."
"...Is that alright? I sincerely ask that you make no blunders. It is quite painful for me to entrust this to someone inexperienced as yourself, but there's nothing we can do about the house's rules. I am sincerely counting on you."
Gohda had officially agreed, but he threatened Shannon with an expression that told her that he definitely wouldn't forgive any mistakes. Shannon thought that Gohda should just go if he wanted to that much, ...but she thought of her responsibilities as one who had been granted the Golden Eagle, and had to give up.
...Besides. I wanted to meet Beatrice. What will we talk about? What will I hear? ...I don't know.
Will I show gratitude? Or else, grief? Or else, what? I don't know.