Part 65: My Preparations Are Already Complete
October 4th, 2:00 PM
BGM: Doorway of Summer
"I agree. Especially because we were so young, we've grown a lot in these six years. If I hadn't been introduced, I might not even have remembered you."
"Really? I figured he was Battler right away. And when he opened his mouth, I was sure."
"Uu-. I just met him for the first time. Didn't know him six years ago."
"That's right. Maria-sama was only three years old then."
"Well, the same goes for me. I only knew Maria when she was three years old, and since she's grown so big, of course I wouldn't recognize her."
After lunch, we had all gone out to the beach to walk around, talk, and take it easy. Our parents were apparently having a suspicious, complicated discussion, so we ended up leaving them behind. Well, just as I'd guessed from the start, the conversation focused on me, since I'd been away for six years.
"Still, you've really gotten tall. I wouldn't call myself short, but your height really surprised me."
"That's right. I remember well what Battler-sama was like six years ago, but I was surprised even so."
"Yeah, seriously. I can hardly believe this is the same Battler we knew back then."
"I'm surprised how much everyone remembers about it. My memory's all hazy."
"Yeah, I'll bet. Looks like it's taking you a while to remember us. You know, that hurts a bit."
"Come on, this was six years ago, right? I'm the one who has it bad, being forced to remember...!"
"Well, your memory's great, after all. You remember the kind of things Battler did and said back then pretty clearly, don't you?"
"Come to think of it, that's right. Shannon's memory can be incredible when you'd least expect it."
"Uu-. I'm horrible at remembering. I remember fun things, but can't remember boring things at all. Uu-."
We all laughed, saying that everyone was like that.
"Shannon. By the way, what was Battler like six years ago? Remember any interesting episodes?"
"Let's see... I'm sure that he said something like this when he left. 'I'll be back, <see you again>. I'll surely come for you riding a white horse'."
"Gyaaahahahahaha!! Sounds just like something you'd say! Yeah, I remember you always used to be full of those stupid lines, Battler! Waaahahahhaha!!"
"Hahahaha. It really does sound like something Battler-kun would've said back then."
"Uu-. Embarrassing? Is that embarrassing?"
"...Yeah. Horribly embarrassing... Maria, I'm sure that when you're in middle school, you'll want to say embarrassing stuff like that... When that happens, make sure you write it down and read it three times before saying it out loud. If you don't, you'll definitely regret it..."
"Still, everyone has to pass through that pitiful period... That's right, that's how you learn your place, learn shame, and become an adult. Yeah, it's one of those bittersweet things everyone does in adolescence as they transition to becoming adults, a memory you just wanna forget... Aarrggwaaahhh..."
But now that those words were being recited to me, they were as embarrassing as all hell. I only recently came to understand this weakness... and was working hard to avoid such careless outbursts, but... I guess I was just born with the habit of speaking without thinking, and there's nothing I can do about it.
"Shannooon, do you remember any other embarrassing stuff?"
"Yes, well... I remember a few other things, but... since it looks like the person in question wants to forget them, I think I'll refrain from saying any more..."
"To be brutally honest, I don't remember this at all. Please, don't make me remembeeer."
"...Uu-. Shannon's bullying Battler...? Uu-. You can't. You shouldn't bully people."
"Hahahahaha. She isn't really bullying him. Let's leave it at that, okay? But Shannon, you'll have tell me all about it sometime Battler isn't around. It sounds pretty interesting."
"N-No, you can't, Shannon-chaaaaaaaaaan...!!"
George looked like he was flirting with Shannon, but he seemed somewhat open and frank about it. He was always that way with his cousins, but he usually took on a reserved, gentlemanly attitude when he came in contact with the servants. When I thought about it, I got the feeling he was being a bit overly friendly, which seemed strange.
Maria started scribbling in the sand with a stick, and George-aniki and Shannon-chan joined in. This left me and Jessica off to the side, so I asked her secretively.
"Ooooh? What the, how'd you guess?! Battler, you've got a keener eye for people than I thought."
"Huh... whaaaaaaat?! I was just kidding, but they're actually going out?!"
"Shhh! Your voice is too loud! It looks like they're keeping it secret for now, okay? It'd be better if nobody found out about it, especially Aunt Eva."
"I-I see... Love with a servant, huh...? Y-Yeah, but, since when? Whew, I guess a lot can happen in six years... But yeah, Aniki's an amazing person, and Shannon-chan seems to be kind and brave, so they might make a pretty good match."
I see, she really fits well with George-aniki, nothing I can do about that. Goodbye, my fleeting first love of six years ago...
...Which means that... the collection of embarrassing lines Shannon-chan had just held back on... probably had something to do with that... Aaaaaaaaaaarrghh, I can't take it...
"How long have they been going out?"
"That depends on what you call going out, but I think it's been at least a year. But if you count the time they both had one-sided feelings, it'd probably be several years."
Before I'd realized it, the two of them had separated themselves from the group and were walking down the beach, talking about something. They looked calm, and rather than a light relationship between two lovers, it looked like a more serious one, as though they were already engaged.
"...Six years ago, huh? That's a long time. What did those six years mean to me? I've just gotten taller. It was just a waste of time, six years I spent obstinately fighting with my dad."
"What about you, Battler? You got a girlfriend?"
"Hmm, I wonder. There's a few girls that I have fun with. But there's no 'only one'. I guess I'm just a kid. I think it's more fun to be noisy with a large group of people than being alone with one person."
"Aah, that's so you, Battler. But take your relationships with your female friends seriously. When girls get wrong impressions or form a group, it can be scary, you know? They might be having secret feuds over you behind your back, with people getting hurt or crying."
"That's so weird. I think I remember getting the same bit of advice from one of the girls in my class just last week. What's this all about? Why can't everyone just have fun together? Do people really want to couple up that much?"
"...It's probably because you've never found a partner like that, Battler. Well, you might run into someone sooner or later. You've just gotta wait patiently!"
"What? It almost sounds like you've already found a partner like that. What about you? Have you gotten a boyfriend?"
"Huh?! M-Me?! No, err, wahahahahaha..."
"Come on, that reaction's so easy to understand... From the looks of it, there's some boy you're thinking about, but you haven't been able to confess to him yet, something like that."
"N-No, umm, that's not, umm, uh! Sh-Shut up, who cares about that...!"
"If you're the one who brought up this subject, why are you yelling at me now? Women are creatures who always ask questions, and yet almost never answer them. What cruel creatures, seriously."
"...W-Well, umm... I did try... to confess once. Well, umm, I struck out pretty badly."
"Did you get an 'I'm sorry'?"
"No, umm, well, uh, my feelings were seriously one-sided, and they didn't really know how to respond, I guess... It was like they didn't view me that way at all."
"Well, I can understand that. You talk like a man, after all. If you don't act a bit more graceful, you won't be able to catch a boy's interest."
"...Hmm? Well, umm, how you talk isn't everything, but when people like you, who usually have a rough style of speech, suddenly start working hard to talk more normally... well, there are guys out there whose heart'll skip a beat when they see how determined you are."
"I-Is that really true...? I see, yeah..."
Jessica suddenly started talking more meekly, and then her face instantly went slightly red. I see, even though her confession didn't go well, it looks like she still hasn't given up. But still, I get it. After seeing how close George-aniki and Shannon-chan have gotten, I also kinda want to find a girlfriend.
Six years. Six years of puberty are pretty important, and they went by pretty fast. As the typhoon approached, the clouds grew steadily grayer, but even so, I had this really refreshing feeling. Maybe I'll try thinking more seriously about the opposite sex, more than just the size of their boobs...
"By the way, it looks like George-aniki's going out with a servant. Don't tell me it's the same for you?"
"Huh, whaaaat?!?! Wh-Wh-Wh-Wh-Why do you think that...?!"
"Come to think of it, that kid Kanon-kun, who greeted us in the rose garden... You were covering for him pretty intensely, considering he was just a little awkward at talking."
"N-No, that's not... Wahahahaha, now you're getting paranoid...!!"
"Then tell me just one thing. Right now, is the boy you're after within one kilometer of this spot?"
"W-Well about that, umm, I-I-I wonder..."
Kanon-kun was the only boy on this island now who could possibly become her boyfriend. So, judging by her reaction, I was right on. I didn't think of the Ushiromiya family as a noble family, but love with a servant... I wouldn't have dreamed that two pairs of Romeo and Juliet would be right next to me...
Aunt Eva would probably become an obstacle to George-aniki and Shannon-chan's love. If Aunt Eva ever learned that Shannon-chan was the partner of her only beloved son, she'd probably scream at her for trying to steal away her precious George. And a relationship between Jessica and Kanon-kun would probably be just as full of difficulties. Aunt Natsuhi was also very strict about that kind of thing. After all, Jessica's husband would probably become the Head of the Ushiromiya family in the future. If that person had once been a servant working for the family... well, things would get complicated.
"Well, love is different for every person. As long as you're with someone who's fun to be around, does anything else matter? When two people pair up, they don't need anyone's permission, as long as they accept each other. Worrying about what your parents or family will say means you've already lost. Don't forget that. You'd better not go out with someone with mixed feelings."
"...Tch... I can't believe you're saying something so philosophical-sounding when you haven't even been in love."
"...Pfft, wahhahhahahahahahahahahaha!! George nii-san, Shanno-n, listen, liste-n! This guy, he's said another one of those lines!!"
"I didn't say anything, I didn't say anything!! Waaah, don't make fun of me, don't make fun of me!!"
"Uu-, I heard it! <See you aga-in>, <see you aga-in>!!"
For a while, we forgot that the wind was getting stronger and played around on the beach. I grew a lot these past six years... and being able to celebrate my youth and meet with all of my cousins was truly refreshing. It was a bit late now, but I realized that I should've gotten back together with everyone a lot sooner, and returned to the Ushiromiya family...
"It sure is nice to have all the cousins together every once in a while..."
"Uu-! I like it too! It's really fun when all the cousins get together!"
"That's right. We're already old enough. It's not like we couldn't meet each other when our parents aren't around. It might not be a bad idea to gather the cousins together and play every once in a while."
"That's a good plan. Maybe we should set up something like that the next time we get a chance."
"Yeah, I agree. I hope we cousins can stay friends forever."
"Hey, hey, if you make such a big deal of it, you almost make it sound like relatives usually end up hating each other."
George-aniki and Jessica laughed, but it felt just a little strained. Did I say something wrong? Judging by how our parents made quiet expressions and tired faces every once in a while during the boat ride and at the airport, maybe I should've kept that to myself.
"Uu-! Me too! We're all friends!!"
"That's right. Yeah. We'll always be together. We'll always be friends."
"Heheh. Man, we've been saying some pretty embarrassing stuff. I feel kinda awkward."
"But I think it's very important. People are creatures who find it very hard to stay together, much less remain friends, unless they truly desire it."
"That's right. You really can't take everyone being friendly for granted."
"Uu-. A witch I know said it. Happiness won't be granted unless everyone believes in it."
"That's true. Maybe some magic exists in the power of belief. If we all believe in that, I'm sure it will bring us happiness."
"All right. Well, if we're doing embarrassing stuff already... Let's all swear to believe in this together, okay? That we'll all always be friendly, that we'll always be happy."
Like hell we'll end up like our parents. As if we'd ever search for each other's weaknesses, going after Grandfather's fortune...
"Okay! We'll always be friendly and happy. Let's all believe in that."
...I wonder if the typhoon will pass and let us see the clear skies before we leave this island. Who cares about what our parents are planning? Who cares about the inheritance and the honor of our old family? As youthful as we were, we were renewing our old friendship. And we all believed together that we could find happiness.
That's why... I want this pair of days to end... without anything weird happening, in peace and happiness... and calmly...