After losing consciousness during my battle with the masked man, I ended up getting hospitalized.
…I really only got punched and blacked out, though…
Upon asking the staff, they said, “We’ve been ordered by the country to nurse you with utmost care!”. If I had to guess, it’s because I’m nobility.
The next day, while I had more time than I knew what to do with, someone visited my room.
“You alright? I’m here to pay you a visit and finish up my report.”
It was Firvus.
“This is from Flin. She looked like she wanted to come with me, but she’s got her hands full with the Kingdom Festival and all…” he said, placing a goody bag of candy on the desk to the side. “How’re you feeling?”
“Fine. Nothing feels out of the ordinary.”
“That’s good to hear,” he replied. He began telling me about Sarles’ death. “The bastard up and killed himself. Do me a favor and don’t tell anyone else… It was all a huge, complicated mess. The academy’s keeping it under wraps; the official statement is that he got expelled.”
“Understood.” In exchange, I asked about something else, “What is Darkness?“
—…So Sarles is part of Darkness, huh…
I clearly recall Firvus saying that.
“It wouldn’t be that big of a deal if I just told you right now, but… Carlyle says he’s gonna get you up to speed with that once the Kingdom Festival ends. Wait until then.”
“Fine by me.” I nodded.
Then, after some light-hearted chit-chat, Firvus stood from his seat. “Well, I’ll be on my way now. Flin’s gonna get pissed at me if I spend too much time slacking off.”
“She’s real scary when she gets mad, you know.”
“You can say that again!” Firvus said, cracking up. “…To be frank with you, I wasn’t sure whether I should invite Laura or not.”
“She’s probably worried sick about you, but she doesn’t know which room you’re staying in, so she can’t even come visit you.” Firvus paused for a moment and continued, “I thought about it for a while, but I decided against bringing her. Why do you think I chose to do that?”
“Because I want you to find an answer on your own.”
“Have you figured out what’s really important?”
“Great.” Firvus gave me a satisfied nod. “I don’t know what the answer you came up with is, but you’re confident in it, right?”
“I’m fine. I’ve already… made up my mind.”
“Alright, good.” Firvus flashed a bold smile. “Show off how cool you are, hero,” he said, exiting the room.
After Firvus left, I spoke with the hospital and got discharged then and there.
Today was the first day of the Kingdom Festival, and there was one place I wanted to go to no matter what.
I returned to the dormitory and retrieved a formal suit for social gatherings, which I had been given when I left the Luminous territory.
I stared hard at it…
Hesitated a bit…
Then decided against it.
That isn’t what I should be wearing today. The uniform I’d been wearing thus far was a bit dirty, so I changed into a brand new one.
Then, I headed toward the ballroom, where the academy students were gathered.
Today, a ball was being held for the academy students in celebration of the start of the Kingdom Festival.
The room brimmed with students dressed up in showy suits and dresses.
…That being said, the only ones dancing were the noble students.
Commoners don’t ever learn how to dance, so they have every reason to feel uncomfortable about going to the center. They didn’t own any formal wear either, so they were wearing their academy uniforms.
They all gravitated toward the walls. I assume their reason for being here is the free food and drink being served.
I scanned the surroundings and approached the person I was looking for. “Kyria.”
The nobles surrounding Kyria looked at me in unison.
Kyria began speaking, “Oh, have you been discharged already? Hm…? What’s with your outfit…?” He stared at me in my uniform with a puzzled expression.
I paid no attention to that and responded, “Mind sparing me a bit of your time?”
Kyria and his servant, Fay, followed behind me.
No sooner had we exited the hall and entered a vacant room than I said to Kyria, “Sorry, but do me a favor and don’t associate with me from now on.”
Kyria widened his eyes in surprise.
The first to speak up was the servant, Fay, “You bastard, how dare you say that to Sir Kyria—!”
However, Kyria lifted his hand and stopped him. “Albert, what do you mean by that?”
“Exactly what I said. I want you to leave me alone. Tell that to the other nobles as well. You’re their spokesperson of sorts, so you can manage that, right?”
Kyria shook his head in response. “Albert, you’re my elder, so it somewhat pains me to say this, but—this isn’t a wise decision,” Kyria said with a soft chuckle. “Nobles have relationships that last over many years. He didn’t invite me back then, she didn’t give me a response back then—those tiny misgivings accumulate, which can lead to a total loss of trust in each other. That attitude of yours will cost you dearly in the future, you know?”
That’s exactly why I tried doing the impossible.
As a result, I ended up losing sight of the one thing I shouldn’t have.
“But I’ve decided already.”
My duty as Albert Luminous, and my life as plain old Albert—I’m too clumsy to juggle both. I need to keep one and discard the other—and the choice here was obvious.
—No matter where we find ourselves, I’ll always be your friend. I swear it. I will never break this promise, come rain or shine.
I couldn’t bring myself to break my promise with her.
She looked my way when no one else would. She befriended me when the curtains to my life had already closed.
When I was on my last legs during my battle with the masked man, she prayed for my victory with every fiber of her being, giving me the strength to keep fighting.
I can only guess how much her smile has kept me going.
I can only guess how much her voice healed my heart.
What exactly was dear to me?
What exactly was important to me?
I didn’t need to spare another second thinking about it.
If I have to cast aside all the time I’ve spent with her to be Albert Luminous, then I’ll gladly call it quits.
I made myself clear as I spoke, “I’ll refrain from associating with nobles at the academy.”
“…Alright. If that’s what you’ve decided, I’ll let everyone know.” Kyria continued, “But know this, Albert Luminous. This doesn’t change the fact that you’ve piqued my interest. If there’s ever a time you find yourself in a pinch—or if you ever change your mind—give me a call. I’ll be more than willing to put in a good word for you.”
“…I give you my thanks.” I gave my parting remarks and exited the room, returning to the ballroom.
I gave the nobles dancing about in the center of the room a sidelong glance and scanned the students by the wall.
…There wasn’t any guarantee that she’d be here.
The main stars of this party were the nobles and nobles only; there weren’t many commoners who’d come here just to sit by the wall and watch.
Nevertheless, I had a feeling she’d be here.
After all, she knows me just as well as I know her.
All students were encouraged to participate. A diligent girl like her would diligently do as she’s asked and come.
…She’s probably standing all by her lonesome, too.
As expected, I found her.
Standing by the wall, a white-haired girl silently gazed at the dancing nobles.
“Ah, if it isn’t Albert.” A group of noble female students dressed to kill called out to me. “This is a great opportunity, so why don’t we dance?”
“No no no, dance with me.”
I shook my head as they rattled on and on. “I’m afraid I already have a reservation with someone else. I apologize,” I said, walking over to where Laura was.
“Albert?” Laura seemed surprised by my sudden appearance. “Is your body alright?”
“That’s a relief… I’ve been worried sick…” Laura said, looking genuinely relieved from the bottom of her heart.
Her thoughtfulness for me made my heart race.
I took a deep breath to calm myself down. “Laura, uh, if you wouldn’t mind…” I extended my hand, “would you like to dance together?”
“Huh? But shouldn’t you be with the nobles—”
“No, I’m through with that.” I shook my head. “I’m done associating with the nobles at the academy. From now on, I’ll be with you.”
“—!” Laura looked at me wide-eyed. “B-But…”
“It’s fine. I’ve made up my mind.”
“But, um, there’s no point in dancing with someone like me… and I’ve never learned how to dance to begin with…”
“No worries. You see, a novice dancer doesn’t need to worry about if they can dance well—it’s about who they dance with.”
Laura held her breath in surprise.
Then, she squeezed her eyes shut and said, “…A-Albert.” She took my hand with her white hand. “…I-If you’re alright with someone like me, then…”
“Let’s go.” Laura and I made our way to the center of the room.
Facing each other, I put my arm around Laura’s body.
Her face beet-red, Laura spoke rapid-fire, “Um, I really! And I mean really—don’t know how to dance! So please teach me as we go!”
“Sure. That’s the least I can do.” I chuckled.
I’ll teach you how to dance for as long as you want.
You taught me something far, far more precious.
I was stuck in the past, but thanks to you, I’ve managed to make it all the way here.
You taught me how to live.
In my solitude, you looked at me with kindness.
I can only begin to imagine how much I owe you.
I wonder if I’ve returned the favor some? No matter how much I pay you back, it feels like my debt to you only grows larger and larger.
Just being near you fills my heart with so much contentment.
Just by gripping your hand like this, I feel like I’ve been rewarded in full for my decision today.
“Let’s start slow. Make sure you don’t let go of my hand, Laura.”
We slowly began doing a basic dance.
Today’s second chap. Nice wholesome one at least. Gonna be gone most of tomorrow for thanksgiving so won’t be able to translate. You guys enjoy your thanksgiving too, thanks for reading.