I’ve decided to follow along quietly, on the condition that Freesia doesn’t come with us.
Freesia and Mariwa aren’t acquainted with each other, but I would never think of introducing Freesia to Mariwa. There would only be chaos. And so I felt compelled to take responsibility.
Not bringing Freesia along had a great effect on getting me to calm down.
I gulp as we arrive on the doorstep of the reception room in the school.
Once we open the door, we will see Mariwa inside. I can’t help but get nervous.
Besides today’s debate, it’s been three years since Mariwa and I have seen each other face to face. I still have a bad impression of her pounding her teachings into me as a private tutor. I can’t help but get nervous.
“What’s wrong? Hurry up and go in. Otherwise I’ll kick you inside.
“Well, I mean…… Hm?”
Ignoring her violent remarks, something she said caught my attention.
“Surfania, are you not coming in with me?”
“What? You want me to go in with you?”
I was under the impression that we were going in together, but Surfania looks surprised.
“I know better than to spoil the mood, you know? And just the idea of seeing you cry in tears while being reprimanded…… Well I guess it’s a fine opportunity for me to intrude.”
“Stop right there.”
More unnecessary remarks. She’s hopelessly rude.
I was about to tell her to stay where she is as she had originally planned, but she seems to have understood my intention. She takes a step forward.
“No way. Now that it’s come to this, no matter what–”
“Leon, stop her.”
“Wha-?! You traitor! Let go of me, Leon!”
“Come on, let’s not spoil the mood. You won’t make new friends if you keep going on like that. Control your desires a little more. You like to hurl abuse at the slightest incident. That’s why ordinary people stay away from you.”
“Mind your own business!”
Leon holds Surfania back just as she suddenly starts getting excited. I take a deep breath and let it out as I knock on the door.
It’s alright. Mariwa may be a demon, but she’s a reasonable one. So I should be able to salvage the situation if I come up with an excuse. I just have to prove the validity of my reason for being a delinquent since enrolling in the Academy.
Telling that to myself, I enter the room. It feels like I’m a condemned criminal walking up to the gallows on my own free will.
“I-I’m coming in.”
I enter the room where Mariwa is in.
She was probably there when I knocked earlier. She stands up from the sofa and gives me a graceful bow.
“Good day to you, Miss Noir.”
She straightens her back as if she’s glad to see me. Even though we’ve known each other for so long, she’s still speaking so formally with me.
I feel lost because of the unexpected greeting.
It was as if she was greeting a stranger.
That’s only natural. Mariwa is no longer my private tutor. From her point of view, it’s only natural for her to treat me with respect.
That said, I still didn’t expect her to behave this way.
“It has been some time. Is something wrong? Or did you need something, perhaps?”
Mariwa asks me as I’m standing speechless.
Another unexpected response. It’s like she’s greeting a customer. I wonder if something is related to her current attitude.
Maybe Surfania said something to Mariwa.
“Um, did Surfania say anything to you?”
“No, she has not. Miss Calibrachoa merely invited me to be the judge of the debate, that is all.”
So she hasn’t said anything. To a certain degree, I was convinced that was what happened, but what Mariwa told me blew all my expectations away.
“I have fulfilled my role as the judge for the debate, so it is time I should be going home. I was just thinking about proceeding with the formalities to take my leave from the office–”
“W-wait a minute!”
I’m still confused because I thought Mariwa and Surfania spoke to each other prior to this. I call for her to stop in order to calm myself down.
If Surfania said nothing to Mariwa, then why the hell did she drag me here? I feel like crying right now.
“What is wrong, Miss Noir? My deepest apologies, but I am a busy person, you know. Would you care to tell me what it is you wish?”
“Oh, well, um……”
With my thoughts all jumbled up, all I could do was lower my head.
In response to my abrupt and awkward apology, Mariwa tilts her head slightly.
“Why are you apologizing all of a sudden? You may be a student, but someone of your status should not be lowering your head as you please.”
“W-what do you mean……”
Confused by her question, I look within myself and come to a sudden realization.
What exactly am I apologizing about? There are a few superficial things I should apologize about, but most of all, it’s my unladylike behavior in the Academy since I enrolled. I’ve soiled Mariwa’s teachings and failed her as a student.
But even before that, I’ve always felt like I could never look her straight in the face, that I’ve felt guilty about something.
Why is that?
I think I’ve found the reason.
I’ve always been deceiving myself. Because of that, I clung to Mariwa’s words.
It’s because I want to believe that I can definitely save Michelie.
“I’m sorry. For many things.”
I can’t express it well in words. I’m not a person who believes that fate is something that has already been determined, yet I convinced myself otherwise. I have no excuse whatsoever for changing my beliefs and slacking off in my efforts. That’s why I couldn’t help but say such vague words.
She’s going to hit me.
She’s going to get angry over my immaturity because I’ve defied her teachings completely.
Surfania was right when she said I haven’t matured at all. Having relied on Destiny to guide me to Michelie’s future, I’m probably no different from the Christina in my past life.
I hear her sighing.
Just as she sighed, I could feel her mood changing.
“Please, calm down.”
She places her palms, which I have feared all my life, on my head.
It’s been so long since Mariwa last patted my head.
The palms seem to be smaller than it was long ago. Now I wonder if she wasn’t using all her strength to discipline me. But now I can feel the warmth.
I look up and make eye contact with her without having to go above eye level.
I noticed that we’re looking at each other straight in the eyes. For the first time, I realized how much I’ve grown.
“I think I know why you are apologizing. However, there is no need for an apology at all. It was most likely my fault.”
Her hands really are warm.
Even though they’re a little dry and clumsy, it’s enough to make me cry. I look down to hold back the tears from overflowing.
“Like I said, there is no need to apologize. Even then, you were still a little brat.”
Her evaluation of me is a little unbelievable for a person of noble status.
“……Did you just call me a little brat?”
“Yes, that I did.”
My tears dried up from her immediate affirmation.
“And even now, you still are an impertinent little brat.
“I see. Is that really what I am?”
“Yes. That is what you are.”
She’s affirming herself again.
“And I was a fool as well for making a slip of the tongue. When I heard your pet theory at the debate, I had to refrain from hitting you in front of the public.”
“D-don’t do that.”
“No, I will now.”
It was probably no more than a joke, but it was scary nonetheless.
“I suppose you are already regretting your current situation. And so, I will not tell you what you should do. It would be unbecoming for me to ingrain reason and logic to a carefree one such as you.”
She adds that she’s failed in doing that in the past.
“However, allow me to say this one thing.”
Mariwa brings my head to her chest as if consoling a young child. I close my eyes and put up no resistance.
Her warmth and heartbeat feel so pleasant. I feel secure.
“I like you the way you are when you act as you please, without a script.”
Tears are blurring my vision just slightly.
I feel no remorse or guilt, only overwhelming happiness.
“What is it, Chris?”
This will most likely be the only time.
She called me Chris.
“I’ve done horrible things to Michelie.”
“You have, haven’t you? Shall we go to her later, where you can offer your apologies?”
“I wonder if she’ll forgive such a useless sister like me.”
“Your worries are unfounded.”
“……I wonder if I can redo the future.”
“But of course.”
She listens to my regrets and reassures me.
“Everyone fails once or twice. We do not know what will happen in the next second, but a day must mean much more to you than a month means to me. And you have three hundred and sixty-five of those days in a year. What do you have to fear?”
I wonder why her words resound so well within me.
“What is it?”
“Is it okay for me to be myself?”
“Please do not be mistaken. You are you, no matter what happens.”
Hearing her reassure me fills me with confidence, and my face turns into a smile.
We break off from our embrace and look straight at each other again.
“Thank you, Mariwa.”
As if thanking her with a broad smile is a rare occasion, Mariwa smiles slightly herself.
“You are very welcome, milady.”
Her smile seems to widen a little as she says it.