The Smile of Happiness
“Thank you very much for today.”
When they left the salon, Violette had the misapprehension that time had started to move again. It wasn’t like something interesting happened to the point of her forgetting the passage of time, but it might be because every second had felt too slow for her.
“No, it’s me who took your time.”
“Still… the tea was delicious.”
“…I’m glad to hear that you like it.”
It was a harmless and inoffensive conversation. Inside the depths of their heart, they were reminding you to forget whatever just happened inside that room.
Considering the time, what both of them could do was only return home. Even if their grade was different, the school gate was only in one place, so their destination was the same. That means, there was no reason for either one of them to especially leave the other behind.
There was no need for the two people to walk side by side, but even if their walking pace was different, they had the same destination. It would be bad if they looked like someone who was being tailed by another person.
However, they were not close enough to have a friendly conversation, so the atmosphere around them was quite strained.
Even if they were only on their way back, it would take some time to walk out since the school building was too large. It wasn’t like both of them were silent from beginning to end, but compared to the long path, the number of words were few.
Although they had solved the matter of the misunderstanding, it wasn’t something that would completely change Violette’s impression in her relationship with Claudia, and it wouldn’t write off Violette’s previous behaviour until now.
Both of them felt awkward, so when they finally saw the gateway, of course both of them would relax their shoulder.
When they were about to exchange words of farewell, Violette turned to face Claudia and lightly picked up the corner of her skirt──no, before she could even do that, someone called out Violette’s name.
The delightful tone of voice sinked to the ground in an instant. The joyful smile was still preserved in Yulan’s face as it darkened, it was a very skillful feat. Even that was only because he was still in front of Violette. If he had been facing Claudia alone, he wouldn’t even bother to make the effort to keep up his appearances.
“Yulan, why are you here?”
“I heard from Gia… my friend, that Vio-chan was looking for me. I saw Vahan family’s carriage in the usual place, so I thought that I can meet you if I wait here.”
“Ahh, if you already heard from… him, then you could have just looked for me tomorrow, you know?”
“Uh huh, I just wanted to wait for you.”
Whatever Violette wanted to say to Yulan, what was important to him was the fact that Violette visited him, and the reality was that he had wasted a chance to meet her.
The message from Gia reached Yulan’s ears earlier than Violette expected. Yulan felt like he was going to get unreasonably angry at the girl who called her out and made him avoid meeting Violette who visited his classroom for the first time just because of a slight time lag.
Fortunately, Violette hadn’t left the school yet, so her surprise should be considered a success without any problem… except for this one foreign object he couldn’t overlook.
“So… Why is Prince Claudia here?”
The sweetness that Yulan directed towards Violette completely disappeared with just a little bit curve in his gaze. It was a rather refreshing transformation, but it was also amazing since it was within the limits where the surrounding public wouldn’t think that Yulan’s gaze was imprudent. It was simply because of the difference between Yulan and Claudia’s experience, but knowing that did not make Claudia very happy.
Violette didn’t know what Claudia and Yulan talked about today, and they also wouldn’t tell her. Similarly, both of them couldn’t tell Yulan what they just spoke of before.
Claudia couldn’t make any good excuse under Yulan’s sharp gaze that was concentrated on him. He also wasn’t frightened to the point of exposing everything clumsily, though.
It was different from anger… the closest was probably jealousy. It was certainly because Yulan was unable to stomach the fact that Claudia and Violette were together.
“We just met by chance, and Claudia-sama treated me to tea.”
“…Hee, I see.”
Was Violette’s help making things better or worse for Claudia who couldn’t make excuses well?
Of course, Yulan was not stupid enough to swallow those words just like that. If he had been alone with Claudia and he made the same excuse, he would have attacked the flaws in that excuse thoroughly.
But in fact, the one who made that painful excuse was Violette. No matter what her words were, Yulan had no choice but to accept it.
“I’m surprised since this is such a rare combination, but… that sounds nice, Vio-chan.”
“Yeah. Thank you very much, Claudia-sama.”
“I was the one who invited you, don’t worry about it.”
There was a tense atmosphere and peaceful atmosphere coexisting, but the boundaries were so clear to the point that it looked like there were different dimensions right next to each other. The way Yulan’s strict gaze leaned towards Claudia’s remarks… Yulan wouldn’t make a blunder that would make Violette perceive it, but he couldn’t help but to feel gloomy, unable to express his dissatisfaction.
“But then, maybe that means I shouldn’t invite you today…”
“I was thinking about taking a detour somewhere, but let’s do it some other time, okay?”
When Yulan heard of the relayed apology, he thought that this was a chance for him. He had confidence that Violette wouldn’t refuse him even if he invited her without a reason, but if they had a common purpose, it would be easier to make Violette nod.
If they met a little earlier, Yulan would have carried out his plan, but as expected, they wouldn’t have enough time to go out now.
It shouldn’t be Violette’s misunderstanding that Yulan’s face was smiling, yet his tone of voice sounded a little bit disappointed.
“Then, tomorrow… If Yulan doesn’t have any plans, how about going out after school tomorrow?”
“I definitely don’t have any plans that have priority over Vio-chan!”
“What are you saying…”
Violette couldn’t endure and a smile reflexively blossomed in her face, in the gap between her assertive figure and her serious expression. But then, there was not enough pleasure in her smile, the change was just her slightly raising the corner of her mouth and narrowing her eyes.
For Yulan, it was without a doubt a smile… For Claudia, it was a very surprising expression.
It was not something obsequious or something that insisted on Violette’s bewitching beauty, but it was more inclined to a drop of the emotions that spilled out from her heart. Even the gesture of her thin white fingers pressing on her lips was beautiful, making it so that one could see a glimpse of her soft tenderness.
For Claudia, who only knew Violette as a luxurious and gorgeous noble lady who wouldn’t hesitate to use her influence and wealth, that expression was a bolt out of the blue.
He had never tried to know that Violette could laugh like this.
Was this her true nature, or—was this because she was talking with Yulan?
“Well then, I’ll pick you up after school, okay!”
“It’s fine, we can just meet up at the school gate…”
“But I want to go… can’t I?”
“…It can’t be helped then, just do as you like.”
“Yay, thank you!”
The two radiated the tolerance of an older sister that pampers her younger brother, and a love that passes all kinds of classification, without having a romantic relationship as if it were a parallel line altogether.
Even though both of them were just laughing together, it was so relaxing. It was something that Claudia couldn’t find in his memory at all.
“Now, let’s go home… Claudia-sama, please excuse me.”
“Y-yeah… Take care.”
“Yes, thank you very much.”
The dull-colored eyes were wrapped in doll-like stiffness, looking at Claudia.
Nothing was strange, the one who was in front of Claudia was the reproduction of Violette from his memory that he knew well, and there was no need for him to feel uncomfortable.
Even so, those eyes looked rounded and silvery just a moment ago.
“You’re looking too much.”
It was only after Yulan’s voice reached Claudia’s eyes that he realized that Violette had waved her skirt, her back becoming more distant with her uniform still perfect without any wrinkles.
Claudia’s shoulders jumped at Yulan’s voice while knowing that Yulan was standing by his side. He felt unpleasantly cold at the sweat that was forming on his back, but rather than fear… it was more like being in a panic after being cornered, even though he had no reason to be panicked.
Yulan’s voice was so small that only Claudia could hear it, and it didn’t sound like it came from the same person who laughed happily just a while ago. Dislike, disgust, and hatred. The negativity was transparent in his voice, and it turned into poison when it reached Claudia’s ears. It was not too straightforward to the point of expressing anger, but it was also not lukewarm enough for those few words to be considered as pouting.
Yulan who used his body to obstruct Claudia’s view of Violette continued to pour out his emotionless gaze using his height. Even though Claudia didn’t have a guilty conscience, he felt uncomfortable in his heart, as if Yulan was grabbing it tight. Claudia wondered if the reason of this unpleasant atmosphere was because the feelings he had for Yulan himself were not beautiful.
Claudia calmed his beating heart and prepared for Yulan’s second attack. Even if Yulan wouldn’t abuse him with a loud voice, he expected him to have some kind of complaint.
However, his expectation was betrayed, and Yulan ended his expressionless stare.
“…Then, I’ll also excuse myself.”
His voice was not calm, but it was also not thorny. It was just the usual farewell words at the first glance, with no good nor bad emotion in it. Yulan tilted his head a little, even the movement of his swaying hair was like an artificial product’s.
Although this movement was beautiful, it was the same as a lifeless material that wouldn’t make one feel the warmth of human body. The only emotion that was floating was inside the depths beyond that smile.
There was a hint of ridicule in those dimly shining golden eyes.
All the light that was projected in those eyes were filled with hidden thoughts.
Serves you right.
It was the first time someone aimed such emotions at Claudia. No, he didn’t even know if that was an emotion. Although there was some kind of thought there, the form was too clear for an emotion.
Even if Yulan reached out to Claudia, there should be an unreachable distance between them, but Claudia felt his heart tighten as if Yulan was grinding it.
Yulan’s figure moved away, leaving Claudia’s swaying train of thought, as if telling Claudia that he didn’t need any reply for his greeting. The current Claudia didn’t have any reason to make him stay.
He didn’t even understand what the meaning was of Yulan’s gaze.
Yulan, who turned his back to Claudia, was aware of the concern that filled his mind, contrary to the smile on his mouth. There was the discomfort that he wanted to just spit out, and the sense of superiority that was difficult for him to swallow.
Claudia understood himself about the details of Violette’s emotions that Yulan had in his hands.
The important, and beautiful Violette. Claudia must’ve witnessed how sacred her smile was… but then.
“You’re way too late now.”
For Yulan, that smile was for him alone. It was the result of the efforts that Yulan had put in over the years to be able to see it without any filter. Too precious, to the point that he didn’t dare to touch it.
Claudia should just cry for his own stupidity that made her murky in his own preconception and prejudice.
“Vio-chan, wait for me!”
“We almost reached the carriage, you know.”
“Even so… let’s go together?”
Please? Yulan leaned his face and tilted his neck with that thought in mind. Violette laughed as if she was troubled after a while.
“It can’t be helped then.”
Violette’s eyebrows were hanging down, and the depths behind those narrowed eyes were duller than her hair color. Violete didn’t like it very much, but in Yulan’s eyes, they always sparkled even more than those expensive gemstones. What made him the happiest in this world was the fact that he could see himself reflected in those gray color.
“…? Why are you suddenly laughing?”
“What a strange kid.”
Yulan wouldn’t surrender, and he wouldn’t hand her to him. He would never be late again.
He wouldn’t give her smile to that guy, absolutely.