I lacked sleep but still made it to school on time the next day. As a scholarship student, I couldn’t afford to be late.
Normal lessons would start today.
Just like yesterday, I had my hair tied in a braid. Since the tips of my hair were a mess, I couldn’t let it down. This was a result of me cutting my own hair.
Because I have never been to a beauty parlor in my whole life, I didn’t know the normal cost of a haircut. I had Ms. Fuki cut and even out my hair up until now, so I felt that paying to get a haircut was a kind of grand luxury.
The barbershop near the station on my commute to school advertised 1000 yen for a haircut. This was probably cheaper than average since they went out of their way to advertise it as 1000 yen.
I looked up the general price of beauty parlors on my smartphone. And, I was astonished.
How could this be? It was close to a whole month’s worth of expenses! All just to chop off the tips of my hair?!
“Why do you have such a surprised look on your face?”
Lady Sara with her usual, wonderful ringlets appeared before my eyes.
“Hum, you were researching beauty parlors. Looks like you’ve gotten quite accustomed to using a smartphone.”
Lord Souju peered into the smartphone in my hands.
“G-good morning. Thank you very much for yesterday.”
I panicked, turned over the smartphone, and greeted them.
“You have some faint bags under your eyes. You stayed up late last night, huh, Rei.”
“…I’m sorry. The smartphone was so wonderful that I just couldn’t help myself.”
I thought about declaring that I had no self-control, but because I really didn’t have any control over myself, I couldn’t make any excuse.
“Well, it isa modern-day form of amusement. It’s no wonder you were completely absorbed.”
Lord Souju laughed, but Lady Sara had a stern face.
“It’s not good for your complexion. If you stay up late in the future, I’ll have to restrict your app use. How about I make your phone only capable of communication?”
Lady Sara, that’s mean. Please don’t take away the joy of a smartphone from me.
Then again, this smartphone was kindly lent to me by those two. How greedy must I have looked to have used it outside its purpose of security? According to Lady Mary’s words, I was like a beggar.
“I apologize for shamelessly using it to play even though I’m only borrowing it.”
“Wha! That’s not what I meant!”
I felt like I slightly understood Lady Mary’s sentiment when she received donations from others. If something was donated, they were not on equal standing. Although, for Lady Mary’s case, it was simply a matter of her pride not allowing her to accept.
As I was having such an exchange with Lady Sara, Lord Ryou Takanashi, who gave the formal address as the representative of the new students at yesterday’s entrance ceremony, approached. And, the first thing out of his mouth was absolutely unthinkable.
“Huh? This is different from what Miss Sakurada said. Ain’t Miss Hongou bullying the villainess?”
Ah, this was the idea brought about by the delusion comments from Lady Yuria Sakurada. This Lord Takanashi was a capture target. Before Lady Sara could object, I raised my voice.
“Isn’t that rude of you to isolate this instance and denounce Lady Sara for bullying me. That is incorrect. She was concerned and acted out of consideration. Please don’t say such things on a mere assumption.”
I looked right at Lord Takahashi. He scratched his head as he apologized.
“My bad. I was only cracking a joke. Miss Hongou and Miss Villainess, um, I’m sorry; I don’t really know your name.”
I wasn’t a villainess but penniless, but since correcting him would lead to trouble, so I let it slide.
However, Lady Sara’s anger couldn’t be quelled.
“Leaving the matter of myself aside, don’t call Rei a villainess. How impolite!”
Lady Sara furrowed her eyebrows, crossed her arms, and stood in an imposing stance. What a waste of her adorable face.
“Sara, I’m fine being the villainess. Because you call me Rei, I don’t care at all if others call me a villainess.”
When I said that, Lady Sara was suddenly lovestruck. How cute. When I thought that everything was over, an intruder arrived. It was the star performer: Lady Yuria Sakurada.
“Takanashi, don’t be fooled! Just now, she only made it seem like Lady Sara was bullying her. This was a calculated move on her part. She’s putting on a heroic act. She really is a devious villainess.”
Oh, dear… I sensed that her disease was more serious than I had thought. Well, unlike with Lady Mary, she could still be easily handled.
When I thought that, Lord Souju stood in front of me and announced with disdain deep in his heart towards Lady Yuria Sakurada.
“You’re annoying. Hurry up and go back to your own class. You too, Takanashi. Rei is my friend. If you do something ridiculous again, I’ll respond accordingly.”
Lord Souju’s terrifying and cold attitude made Lady Yuria Sakurada hold her breath. However, she resolved herself to say this before leaving the room.
“I pray that you quickly open your eyes, Lord Souju.”
Her face looked like she was truly concerned. Lord Takanashi and Lady Yuria Sakurada finally left the room.
“I somewhat feel bad. You lent me this smartphone out of goodwill, but I was completely entranced by its charm. I truly am a weak-hearted person… Um, I’ll return the smartphone. I’ll buy and install security measures today, so please be at ease.”
I said and returned the smartphone.
“That’s not good! Not only your own home but the school grounds are also dangerous. Such dangerous people are close by!”
“I agree with Sara. We’re friends, right? We’re just worried about you.”
I fell silent for some time. I never had such close friends before. Lady Sara and Lord Souju were my first friends.
“I am grateful for your concern. But, if I one-sidedly receive such a donation, I don’t think we can be described as friends, no?”
I frankly asked. Lady Sara and Lord Souju lived in a different world from me. To them, this smartphone was surely nothing grandiose.
“I didn’t give it to you as a donation.”
“It’s the same for me. Is there something wrong with trying to protect a precious friend? Besides, you gave us such a wonderful performance yesterday. Your performance was worth much more than this smartphone.”
I didn’t know how to respond and ended up hanging my head.
“I believe that giving donations implies a sense of pity. I don’t have any such feelings towards you, Rei. In the first place, I’ve never pitied anyone before since I’m not interested in others. Of course, I give donations. It’s a kind of duty for someone of my standing. But, I don’t have any feelings there. That’s why this smartphone isn’t a donation. It’s for my own sake. If anything happened to you, I would hate it.”
How much were they willing to give me even though it had only been a day since we first met?
Even though I have absolutely nothing. Even though I was a worthless, penniless person.
My chest began to hurt, and I was about to break out into tears.
“If it’s bothering you, Rei, I’ll ask for some compensation. Right, how about letting us hear your performance as pianist Mary Shirasagi’s granddaughter and her only disciple? The minimum I ask for is once a week. But, in that case, one smartphone wouldn’t be enough.”
What kind-hearted people. It was the same with the riceballs yesterday, but they extended their hands so I wouldn’t feel burdened.
“Can my performance work as compensation?”
“Of course! You’re the only granddaughter of the fabled Mary Shirasagi. No, that doesn’t matter. Your performance alone is worthy!”
Shirasagi was Lady Mary’s maiden name. Even after marriage, she continued to perform under the name of Mary Shirasagi.
While she was alive, I was dragged around the place by her, but even after her passing, she helped me in such a way.
“When I talked about yesterday, both Grandfather and Grandmother also wanted to hear your performance.”
“…Thank you very much.”
The tears finally spilled from my eyes.
Even someone as alone and poor as me could make such amazing friends.
With Ms. Fuki gone, I was really and truly lonely. I wasn’t the least bit unperturbed.
I was lonely.
“Oh no, oh dear. Don’t cry! Now, it really looks like I’m bullying you!”
“Yup, it looks just like that!”
“What did you say, Souju?!”
I laughed at Lady Sara’s and Lord Souju’s exchange.
But, the tears didn’t stop.
I was lonely. Ms. Fuki was gone, and I missed her.
“I-I’m sorry. My tears are not stopping…”
I pulled out a handkerchief from my pocket and patted my eyes, but they still didn’t stop. This was no good. When I tried to stop, sobs would come out.
Lady Sara kindly stroked my back. Her hand was warm.
“I’ll bring her to the infirmary for a bit.”
As I cried ugly tears, I was taken to the infirmary.
Dr. Ichijou saw that I was crying and asked if Lady Yuria Sakurada had done something again, but I shook my head from side to side while still in tears.
“I…want to see Ms. Fuki. I was lonely the whole time.”
Dr. Ichijou didn’t seem like he understood, but that was the only answer I could muster. As I was crying like a child, he didn’t ask any more questions. And, Lady Sara continued to stroke my back until I stopped crying.
By the time the first period ended, I finally calmed down. Because my eyes were puffy, I was recommended to cool down my eyelids until the second period. Naturally, I felt sorry for having Lady Sara accompany me, so I stayed alone in the infirmary.
Dr. Ichijou came to ask me if something had happened as I cooled down my eyes. Together with delicious tea and some bonus cookies. The aromatic scent from the cookies tickled my nose. I talked about what happened this morning as well as about Ms. Fuki.
“Are you worried about Lady Yuria Sakurada? This morning, I felt her sense of justice. If she could be reconciled with me playing as the villainess, I do not mind.”
“No, but, then I would worry about you.”
Butter was used in these cookies! There was no shortening! Oh, how so extravagant! I’m in heaven!
“I’m not troubled, so please do not worry yourself over me.”
“If it truly becomes a problem, I’ll come back for some advice.”
I enjoyed the black tea and cookies and left the infirmary.