I attended class during the third period, but the level of the teachers here was high.
Such precise teachers weren’t present in Hanaoka Middle School where many teachers wore a complete jersey set with sandals and spoke with rough speech.
However, I must have been hard to deal with to such teachers. I was often absent from school since I prioritized Lady Mary’s coaching, and I also didn’t become close to the students around me.
I mean, I had no idea who the comedians and celebrities everyone was talking about were. When I decided to listen to the radio to hear the recent songs playing, I encountered EDM. I received quite the shock. The musical compositions were interesting and so amazing! And, since I finally obtained a smartphone last night, I watched Alan Walker's and Marshmello's videos! They were amazing! They were so cool!
I was surprisingly the fangirl.
In the end, I graduated middle school without sharing any common topics with my classmates, but I felt like I understood the heart-throbbing sensation everyone had towards their idols.
After I learned that Lady Mary's dementia advanced and Ms. Fuki was abused as a result, I practically stopped attending classes to take care of Lady Mary.
Even if I didn't attend class, having the textbooks alone was enough for me to study. The man who gave me his leftover radio-cassette player also gave me textbooks and reference material from his trade school days, so I wasn't particularly inconvenienced. However, there were no reference materials present that could help me with geography. The Soviet Union and East Germany were no longer here. Leningrad was now St. Petersburg.
Ah, right. Lady Mary often talked about being friends with those who attended the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet in Leningrad. That was probably why I was the city known as Leningrad felt familiar to me.
Even if I could study, I was different from everyone. I couldn't even normally attend classes in school. Unable to experience what normal people experienced, I lived secluded in the countryside. Because I wasn't truly secluding myself, the townsfolk were aware of my existence thought their interactions with me were practically nonexistent. I lived like an invisible person in that town.
I was living a lifestyle similar to my KGB comrade Yoshio hiding in the mountains like a guerrilla soldier. Since I've never seen a guerrilla soldier before, I could only imagine it. He really was my comrade and senior officer. He was much older than me and taught me various things. The only ones who would socialize with me were the landlord and comrade Yoshio. Though, I would occasionally meet Mr. Tanaka of the Mossad.
So, attending this school was completely out of my league as someone who was way below the line of poverty. My current circumstances were wasted on me. I was unworthy of them, and that made me feel very uneasy.
That was why when I was treated as a penniless villainess, some of that unease was alleviated. I felt relieved that there was a stain.
Lady Yuria Sakurada had given me this sense of relief and my encounter with Lady Sara, and whether it was lunchtime or not, she would come to our classroom. Then, she would take the heroine, Miu Yuuki, away. The new students followed suit.
I was also a new student, but I've been magnificently outcasted. I wonder if everyone was beginning to recognize me as the villainess because of Lady Yuria Sakurada. Her classmates were impressed at how diligent she was at protecting the school and important people from the villainess. She had the gusto to make you want to support her.
When I absentmindedly gazed at the girls' back, someone tapped me on my shoulders.
"Rei, let's go eat lunch in the salon."
"U-um, I would like to refrain from being there."
Because I was scared of places with expensive furnishings, I would like to be excused from there.
"Eh? Then, how about going to the cafeteria?"
"That place is crowded, so I dislike it."
"Please don't mind me and have your meal in the salon. I'll eat in the classroom."
Lady Sara and Lord Souju looked at each other.
"In this school, food and drinks are fundamentally prohibited in the classrooms."
"Well, drinks can be overlooked at times."
How could this be?! Food and drinks were banned in the classrooms?!
"Sara, you always eat at the café in the salon, right? So, please do not mind me and go to the salon. I'll eat in the cafeteria instead. I can have my bento there, right?"
"Then, we shall also accompany you! Right, Souju?"
"Sara, didn't you just say that you disliked the cafeteria?"
We headed to the cafeteria. Since Lady Sara said that it would be crowded, I was prepared to be packed like a can of sardines, but it was a let-down.
It wasn't at all crowded.
"Ah, your face is saying that this isn't crowded."
Lord Souju once again read my mind. Lord Souju might be a satori1.
"Ah, you thought of the youkai, satori, right?"
"Are you really a satori!?"
"Of course not."
Lord Souju held his side as he laughed. Lady Sara watched, amazed by our exchange.
"Rei, Souju is simply good at reading the subtleties in people's hearts. Now, let's sit over there."
The cafeteria was wide and its ceiling tall. It gave off the feeling of being an imitation of the Gothic architecture reminiscent of Wells Cathedral. Because I've only seen it in photo books, I can't say anything about its size. But, I'm sure that the actual cathedral was much larger.
Guh, this was the wall of poverty. This meant the lack of opportunity to see the real thing. “To see is to believe” was a heartbreaking saying of the poor. There was a continuation, but it was useless to me who couldn't overcome the prerequisite.
At any rate, there was no doubt that maintaining the air conditioning was no easy feat given the height of the ceiling. The height of the ceiling was probably proportionate to its expense. Based on that assumption, the air here could be described as extremely expensive.
I looked up at the arched ceiling and let out a deep sigh.
"Rei, is something the matter?"
"I was thinking about the cost of air conditioning here. It's such a luxurious space! My whole body is savoring this extravagant atmosphere."
"I don't think I understand."
A short time later, Lord Souju returned to the table carrying two trays.
"Sara, here you are."
The two were on the same wavelength as they passed the trays. Unlike yesterday at the café, today's lunch was standard: omelet rice, soup, and salad. Yet, their cost was still something unattainable to me.
I brought out my lunch box filled with the rice balls wrapped in bamboo skin, steamed bamboo shoots, and pickled vegetables. I prepared plenty of steamed bamboo shoots.
Those two had their eyes set on the rice balls today as well. Their lunch menu today wasn't something that could be exchanged. Could it be that they really enjoy rice balls? I'm glad I made four balls today just in case. I had intended to stop by the park and eat them as a snack if I had any leftovers. Come to think of it, the standard snack I had during my childhood was roasted, dried fish.
"Um, if you'd like, please have a rice ball."
I offered my rice balls. The two delightfully grabbed them and brought them to their mouth.
"Ngh! It really is delicious! How did you get it to taste this good?"
"How did you cook the rice?"
"I cook it normally with a gas stove. In an extremely ordinary pot. Did you think that I had cooked it inside a furnace or something?"
No matter how dirt poor I was, I was still living a civilized life at the very least. As expected, I didn’t cook my meals over firewood. But, as my KGB comrade Yoshio has a furnace, I did have the ability to cook rice in a furnace. I wonder if it would taste definitively better than a gas stove.
I also ate one of my rice balls. It was a normal rice ball that was neither excellent nor horrendous.
"If you'd like, please take a steamed bamboo shoot. I dug them up the other day."
The two ate the bamboo shoots.
"There really is an elegant flavor to them."
"Ms. Fuki taught me, after all. She taught me everything I know about housework."
Ah, when I recalled her, tears were about to spill out.
When I firmly tried to control myself, Lord Katsuragi, who would be stalked by Lady Sara, showed up at our table. Dr. Ichijou had explained that he was the pompous prince character.
"Sorry about yesterday. My maid said that there was a key inside your uniform and gave it to me. Is this ward key some kind of protective charm?"
That was the key to my house. Calling it a ward key had a nice ring to it, but it was only an old key from the Showa era. From a functional standpoint, it can only be described as a kind of protective charm.
Since it was correct in that aspect, I didn't deny it and simply expressed my gratitude.
"Can I also sit here?"
Lord Katsuragi sat down next to me before any of us could respond. This was a pompous character. The annoyed Lord Souju opened his mouth.
"Mr. Katsuragi, I apologize, but if you're this close to Rei, that Yuria Sakurada would do something strange again. Just this morning, she called Rei a villainess."
"I actually wanted to talk about that. Ah, can I also call you Rei, Rei?"
He called me Rei before I consented. As expected of the pompous character. His to-be stalker, Lady Sara, looked to be in an extremely bad mood. She was expectedly upset that she would become a stalker for someone didn't even like.
"Lord Katsuragi, can you please not call her Rei without her permission? It's a special privilege given only to her friends like us."
"Eh, then, I'll also be your friend. That works, right?"
"What!? What are you saying without Rei's acknowledgment? I absolutely cannot believe you!"
I watched the two argue and pondered what I should do, but since I had low interpersonal skills, nothing good came to mind. When I looked at Lord Souju, I saw the rice ball in front of me that was ignored by them.
"Would you like a rice ball? I had some cookies in the infirmary, so I'm not that hungry."
"Eh, I can? Yay! Thanks!"
I partook in three of the most delicious cookies in the infirmary.
When I was about to hand over the rice ball wrapped in bamboo skin, Lord Katsuragi snatched it from the side.
"How elaborate. To wrap it in bamboo skin…"
Lord Katsuragi said as he ate it. While Lord Souju was frozen and Lady Sara voiced her disbelief, I was dumbfounded by the behavior of the pompous character as he exceeded my expectations.
"This is super delicious! Did the chef in your house make it?"
"Hey, I was supposed to get that one. What are you doing?!"
Lord Souju was angry. Quite angry.
"Ah, sorry. It's just so unusual. It's just like I'm in old Japan. I'll treat you next time to apologize. You guys always eat in the café, right?"
"Mr. Katsuragi, there's no substitute for Rei's rice balls. Besides, don't you feel bad for causing her trouble? To begin with, it was Yuria Sakurada's fault that she was injured. Because you talked to her, Mr. Katsuragi."
"Ah, about that. I already heard from Mr. Akimi. Ah, I mean, Dr. Ichijou. He lives close to my house, so he's like a brother to me. Anyways, Mr. Akimi took the situation seriously and told Yuria's parents. I think you'll get an apology from them today."
Lord Katsuragi's one-sided conversation reminded me of Lady Mary. An egotistical and pompous character was exactly that of her. Pompous and a prince. What a terrifying combination. If such a person held power, I don't think I can bear to look.
When I thought of such a thing, another person who closely resembled Lady Mary in a different sense—Yuria Sakurada and her friends appeared before me.
- Satori is a Japanese folklore monster that looks like a monkey and can read your mind. It’s also a concept in Buddhism for enlightenment. ↑