Saijo no Osewa ~ Takane no Hana [LN] - V1 Chp 3
Chapter 3: Tea Party
The third day of my school life.
When the second period class was over and break started, Taisho and Asahi-san came over to me.
[Tomonari, how about after school today? I know you said before that you had to go back early, but it’s okay to let loose once in a while, right?]
I responded to Taisho with a smile on my face.
[I’m free today, so I should be able to]
As a result of the discussion I had with Shizune-san the other day, it’s decided I could go after school as long as I report to her. I’ll report to Shizune-san by lunchtime.
[Where do you want to go, Tomonari-kun? If you don’t have anywhere in mind, we’ll decide for ourselves]
[Right I’ll leave it to you then]
I don’t know much about where the students of this academy go to kill time after school, so I decided to leave it to them so I don’t mess up.
[What should we do, Taisho-kun? It’s only a day trip, we can’t go abroad can we?] (TN: talk about a different realm of “after-school” activities)
[It only takes three hours one way to get to Taiwan, but if we only have dinner and go back home, it’ll still take more than a day so I think it’s better to stay domestic]
[Then, how about Kyoto? At this time of year, Kyoto bamboo shoots are tasty]
[Kyoto, huh? I know a good place in Kyoto]
Listening to both of them casually discussing made me break out in cold sweat.
That’s right. That’s right, I forgot. These two are also bourgeois.
[I’m sorry, but I’m not available for that long. Even if I have an open schedule, I have to be back at nightfall, so please be somewhere close if possible]
[I see. Then better not go too far]
If I hadn’t intervened, I wonder if I actually would’ve gone to Kyoto
[How about the cafe in the academy? Isn’t it just the right place to talk?]
[Ah yeah, that would be nice]
Next to Taisho, who expressed his agreement, I nodded.
[The academy has several cafes for tea parties. Some of them are quite authentic, but since it’s in the academy, there’s not need for dress codes, and they’re popular among students]
[I seeI didn’t know that]
But when you go to a real restaurant, you have to pay attention to your manners.
I’ve been taking etiquette from Shizune-san, but I’m still nervous.
[But the purpose of this meeting is to get to know each other better, so a place where we can talk casually is good. Why don’t we go to the cafe next to the cafeteria?]
[That too I guess]
Asahi-san agreed to Taisho’s suggestion.
I inwardly thanked Taisho. I’m glad I didn’t have to go to a full fledged restaurant.
[But it’s going to be a little lonely just with the three of us]
[I guess so. We need a couple more people]
Taisho and Asahi-san said.
[Tomonari, if there’s anyone else you can invite, tell us, okay?]
[Yeah I’ll give it some thought]
Lunch break. Hinako and I were eating lunch on the roof.
[Itsuki, next is kombu] (TN: kombu is seaweed)
I picked up a piece of kombu from Hinako’s lunchbox and brought it to Hinako’s mouth.
[Mmm, It’s delicious]
No, it really is delicious.
As expected of Hinako, she has good taste.
[Hey, why don’t you at least eat your food on your own..?]
[If you can act, that means you can eat on your own if you want to, right?]
[Nu uh, I refuse~]
It’s hard to argue when she says that.
While Hinako was chewing, I switched chopsticks and ate my own lunch.
[Are you going out to play today?]
[It’s not like I’m playing, I’m just going to a cafe with my classmates]
[I’m coming with you]
Hinako said in a matter-of-fact tone.
[If Itsuki goes, I go too]
[That’s fine with me, but have you gotten permission from Shizune-san?]
[…I’ll do that now]
Then Hinako pulled her phone out of her pocket.
Hinako operates her phone in an unfamiliar way, and holds it to her ear.
“Ojou-sama? What can I do for you?”
Shizune-san’s voice was audible to me as she was on the phone beside me.
[I want to go to a tea party. I’m going with Itsuki]
“…I understand. I was originally planning to work around Itsuki-sama’s schedule today, so there’s no problem with Ojou-sama’s participation”
It was easier than I thought.
Like me, Hinako is thought to be a little suspicious of how much she’s socializing. It’s already assumed that, to some extent, Hinako already has plans after school.
“But, Ojou-sama, are you sure? I think we’re getting close to the limit”
Near the end, I heard an unfamiliar exchange, but Hinako quickly ended the call.
[Well then I’ll be looking forward working with you]
[Yeah. By the way, the ones participating so far are Taisho and Asahi-san, do you know them?]
[I know their names]
I frowned at the vague and ambiguous reply.
I wondered if she would be able to have a good conversation with someone she knows only by name.
[You know, you don’t have to force yourself to participate. It’s just a social event, and if you don’t think you’ll enjoy it, it’s better not to come along…]
[…If Itsuki goes, I go]
It’s hard to understand why, but if she’s willing to do it, there’s no need to stop her.
Lunch break is over, thus Hinako and I head back to the school building separately, keeping our distance.
[There’s 4 of us right now]
There were four going after school, including Hinako. I think it’s enough as it is, but there’s one more person I thought of inviting.
[She said she wanted to make friends, should I invite her?]
I went ahead and invited the clumsy and lonely girl.
The person I was looking for, Miyakojima Naruka, was easy to find.
The other day at PE, I found out that Naruka’s class was 2nd year, class B. I was making sure Hinako had returned to the classroom and was wearing her facade, and I immediately headed to the classroom of class B. I found Naruka within seconds.
She’s just there alone.
As I expected, Naruka spent her lunch break alone.
Naruka, who sits second from the back by the window, seems to be eating quietly.
From a distance, she was a beautiful woman with a dignified appearance, but if you looked closely, you could see wrinkles between her eyebrows, and her eyes looked unhappy. No wonder why people don’t approach her.
That’s why I’d like to reach out to her if I could, but
Just as I thought of that, Naruka turned to me.
When Naruka noticed me, she stopped eating and suddenly stood up.
Then Naruka, who looked incredibly happy, approached me.
Meanwhile, Class B was in a state of shock.
[Hey, you’re kidding, right?]
[Mi-Miyakojima-san called out a person’s name?]
I heard a lot of sad rumors and gossip, but Naruka came to me without noticing anything.
Naruka’s eyes sparkled as she opened her mouth, and I may have regretted being too conspicuous.
[W-What is it!? Do you need me!? I-I was free just now! We can talk about anything!]
Don’t get so close
Apparently, she was quite lonely being alone. (TN: myes, the floor is made out of floor)
[Well, can we change places for now?]
[! O-Of course, I’ll follow you! I’ll follow you no matter where you go!]
I walked out of the school building with Naruka as countless eyes stared at us.
I wanted to stay as close to class A as possible, so I could quickly react if Hinako acted unexpectedly. I went to the back of the school building, where there’s less visibility, and turned around to look at Naruka.
[Well, there’s a lot I need to talk to you about. I haven’t been able to explain what happened the other day]
[The other day Ah, right! I still haven’t forgiven you!]
As if she had come to her senses, Naruka’s face turned red as she revealed her anger.
[Y-You were taking care of me, but how did you suddenly work for Konohona-san! T-This, ugh, y-you traitor!!]
[No, I was with Naruka in the past]
[S-Saying it was just in the past is cruel! I’ve always wanted to live with you again!!]
[Eh. Is.. that so?]
When I was surprised, Naruka seemed to realize what she said, and her face turned even brighter.
[U-Uaaaaa!? T-That was nothing! Nothing! Forget about it!]
[Y-Yeah It’d be great if you calm down a little]
Isn’t it even worse than it used to be? I’m starting to feel bad for her.
[About the thing yesterday the short version is, I’m adopted]
[Yeah. My current father is the president of a medium-sized company. And the president has a relationship with the Konohana family, so while I’m attending the academy, I ended up working for the Konohana family]
[Muuu wait. How can that be? Just because you’re related to the Konohana family doesn’t mean you have to work for them]
I knew she’d say that.
Calmly, I remembered the settings from last night.
[You know what an apprenticeship is?]
[Yeah. In Japan, it became popular around the Meiji era (1862-1912), and in Europe, it’s been a customary since the middle ages] (TN: a sudden history lesson)
She’s studying hard. Naruka is also a Kiou Academy student and her intelligence and cleverness is incomparable to mine.
[I’m working for the Konohana family in a sort of apprenticeship. I don’t know anything about etiquette, after all. That’s why instead of studying, I work at the Konohana house]
[…I see. So that’s what it is]
Once again, I’m amazed at how Shizune-san was able to come up with such an idea. The cover was perfect, and even if it was investigated, it’s able to be covered up to a certain extent.
[B-But if that’s the case, my house would’ve also been fine]
[No, even if you tell me that, the first thing that came to mind was the Konohana family]
[If you can, don’t tell anyone about this]
[…I know. Being an adopted child is a fragile position]
There were other reasons for keeping it a secret, but Naruka was able to make her own conclusion.
That’s all I have to say about me and Hinako.
[By the way, Naruka. Are you free after school?]
[After school? Yeah, I’m free]
[Then, why don’t we talk in a cafe?]
[Talk in a cafe? C-Could it be a tea party!?]
[Well, something like that]
[I’ll join you!]
Naruka’s eyes instantly lit up and said that.
[A-Ahhh, to tell you the truth, I’ve always wanted to go to a tea party! I’ve never had anyone to invite me to one I thought it’d be something that never happened until I graduate]
[I-Is that so. That’s, um, hard for you]
Every time I talk to Naruka, I feel even more pity for her.
[By the way, so far there’s only 3 participants besides us, Taisho, Asahi-san, and Konohana-san from class A]
[…Eh? T-there’s other people..?]
[Yeah. It’s supposed to be my welcome party]
[Welcome party, I see. From what I’ve heard, Itsuki just transferred the other day]
It seems that transfer students aren’t uncommon here, but rumors still circulate.
Naruka also seemed to know that I recently transferred.
[I’d like to join but I’m nervous. I might not be able to speak well]
[You can talk to me just fine]
[That’s because Itsuki knows the old me, and there’s no need for me to try and hide it]
[Then, isn’t it fine if you don’t keep up appearances to others?]
[If I could, I wouldn’t have any trouble!!]
Naruka said as tears started welling up in her eyes.
[And this isn’t my personal problem either]
[…What do you mean?]
[The Miyakojima family is quite big, if I do say so myself. Therefore, most students get intimidated by my family background. Not because I’m clumsy, but they’ve been frightened of me from the start]
That’s certainly not Naruka’s only problem.
[In that aspect, Konohana-san is an amazing person. I don’t like to admit it, but I’m really envious of her popularity regardless of gender. Normally, with a family as big as the Konohana family, most students would step back. But even so, Konohana-san has been approached by many people without hesitation. I wonder how she can be like that]
Naruka said, as if she’s mocking herself.
I’m sure I know why Hinako is so popular. It’s her acting. Hinako is the perfect Ojou-sama, and she’s trying her best to give an all-too-familiar act.
But that fact can’t be known by the public.
[I don’t know why Konohana-san is so well liked but if you talk to her, you might find some clues]
[…Yeah, you’re right. Itsuki’s also there, and I’d love to join you for tea after school]
As if she’s gathering courage, Naruka clenched her fist and said.
[B-but, will it be fine? I don’t want them to think I’m unhappy or uncomfortable]
[I think we’ll be fine, maybe]
I cheered up Naruka, who was anxious, with a sigh.
Neither Asahi-san nor Taisho disliked Naruka. In particular, Asahi-san said that she tried approaching Naruka herself to deepen their friendship. If that’s the case, they wouldn’t mind Naruka’s participation.
I was about to leave Naruka and go back to my class.
From the far end of the corridor, I heard 2 female students talking.
[T-Thank you very much!! That helped me out!]
[Your gratitude is unnecessary]
A student with golden hair and vertical roll replies to the bowing girl with an imposing attitude.
I couldn’t help but mention her name when I saw her conspicuous appearance.
[Ara, you were that one]
The eyes of Tennouji-san squinted.
Speaking of which, we had a sloppy farewell before. I quickly looked for something else to talk about, because it’d be bad if she was reminded of that time.
[Um, what were you doing?]
[It’s not a big deal. They were carrying some materials for class, so I just helped her out]
I’ve thought of this before when she helped me get Hinako’s wallet, but regardless of her appearance, Tennouji-san is kind.
Apparently, she has been taking initiative to help others on a daily basis.
[Speaking of which, I’ve heard about you. You are a transfer student, aren’t you?]
[Yes. My name is Tomonari Itsuki, and I transferred the day before yesterday]
After all this time, I remembered that I hadn’t introduced myself.
[Then Tomonari-san You seem to have come to school with Konohana Hinako. There’s a rumor going around]
Ah right, does Tennouji-san see Hinako as an enemy?
I don’t want to be seen as an enemy, so I’ll make an excuse.
[The first day of school we went together, because I was shown around the school. But yesterday and today we went to school separately. Konohana-san and I only have parent relationship, nothing more]
[I wonder. Are you part of the Konohana faction?]
When I tilted my head, Tennouji-san explained.
[It’s just my own term. There are many students at the academy who worship Konohana Hinako, so it’s a general term for them]
It’s like a fan club. The academy is also surprisingly profane.
[…Tennouji-san, do you dislike Konohana-san?]
[I-It’s not like I disliked her! It’s just because of her, my true dignity is fading!]
Suddenly in a panic, Tennouji-san said.
[I admire Konohana Hinako’s abilities. She’s as good as I am in both looks and grades. How can she not be popular?]
[A roundabout boasting]
Please share some of that confidence with Naruka.
[But Konohana Hinako is being too pampered, and they put the Tennouji Group aside! The Tennouji Group is a business enterprise on a scale comparable to the Konohana Group, and its history is much deeper! In other words, it should’ve been me! The one at the center of the Kiou Academy!!]
She glared at me as she declared firmly.
[If you weren’t from the Konohana faction, you’d think so too, wouldn’t you?!]
[Eh? Yeah, well..]
[That’s right, that’s right!! I don’t like it at all! Why does she stand out more! I’m sure she’s just a lazy person who lounges around when she gets home!] (TN: She just solved the whole plot, truly best girl)
She just casually guessed the truth. Let’s keep quiet.
[…After all, is it because she’s friendly? No, as someone of noble birth, she should be resolute and decisive like I am. Too much smiling can be detrimental for your dignity, and too much teaching what you don’t understand in your studies can be detrimental to your partner. Besides, she did it again the other day]
I then told Tennouji-san, who was mumbling by herself, what I thought.
[Tennouji-san sure knows a lot about Konohana-san, doesn’t she?]
[What!? N-Not really, isn’t it normal!?]
The red-faced Tennouji-san denied with great exaggeration.
[Me and Konohana Hinako are rivals! Yes,we’re rivals! So it’s only natural to do research! It is said if you know your enemy and you know yourself, a hundred battles will not be lost] (TN: Sun Tzu reference, nice) (EDN: Sun Tzu, The Art of War if you didn’t know)
While she was hurriedly explaining, I thought a little about Tennouji-san’s character.
Naruka was saying that.
If you carry a big family name, the people around you will step back.
She carries the big family name of the Tennouji Group on her shoulders, but maybe she’s just as lonely as Naruka.
However, if it’s Hinako If it’s someone with the same family size she can surely establish an equal relationship. I wonder if Tennouji-san is aware and obsessed because of that.
[Um… are you free after school today?]
[After school? Well, it certainly is vacant, but what for?]
[I’m planning to have a tea party at the cafe next to the cafeteria. By the way, Konohana-san will be there too]
[Ko-Konohana Hinako too!?]
Tennouji-san’s eyes widened in surprise.
[Y-You are trying to make me soften up to the Konohana faction aren’t you..!?]
[Why are you so on guard..? I’m just inviting you normally]
She’s too conscious of Hinako.
[W-Well if that woman insists on me coming, I won’t have any choice but to join you, I guess?]
[No, Konohana-san didn’t say anything]
[…Um, I think she did mention you after all, so can I ask you to join us?]
[T-Then it can’t be helped! I’ll join you!]
The atmosphere became awkward, so I decided to give a white lie.
Tennouji-san’s eyes sparkled. She wanted to participate after all.
[It’s said that if you know your enemy and you know yourself, a hundred battles won’t be lost]
I heard that already.
Then, after school. Taisho and Asahi-san’s eyes lit up when they saw the group gathered at the cafe.
[I did say you could invite anyone and just do it but this is one hell of a group]
Taisho said as he scanned through the faces of the females gathered.
A group of six, filled with 2 men and 4 women were gathered around a circular white table. In addition to the original members, Taisho, Asahi-san and me, I also brought Hinako, Naruka, and Tennouji-san.
None of the three Ojou-samas have the temperament to be swayed by the atmosphere of the place. Hinako had a gentle smile on her face as her facade was on, Naruka was sitting next to her, wondering if she was going to do anything, and Tennouji-san was proudly sipping her tea.
[H-Hey, Tomonari-kun, what kind of connections are these? How come you met such great people on the third day of being here..?]
[If you’re asking me why, it just happened]
Aside from Hinako, the reason I invited Naruka and Tennouji-san was because I thought it’d be a good opportunity to deepen our friendship respectively.
[By the way, this was Tomonari-san’s welcome party, wasn’t it?]
After placing her cup on the table, Tennouji-san looks at me.
[It’s late, but first of all, let me congratulate you on your transfer. Although the academics here are stricter than normal schools, graduating from this school will certainly lead to a fruitful future. I look forward to your future successes]
[T-Thank you very much]
I was surprised, but I thanked her anyway.
I felt happy when I heard that from Tennouji-san, who had an imposing appearance.
[ This is the first time I’ve spoken to some of you, so let’s introduce ourselves again. I’m Tennouji Mirei, I’m the daughter of the Tennouji Group]
Taisho and Asahi-san followed Tennouji’s lead.
[My name is Taisho Katsuya. My family is in the transportation business]
[I’m Asahi Karen. My family is in the retail business but I guess their main business is electronics retail stores]
Following them, Hinako and Naruka also introduced themselves.
[I’m Konohana Hinako. Nice to meet you]
[I-I’m Miyakojima Naruka. Nice to meetsh you]
She bit her tongue but I pretended not to notice.
Hinako and Tennouji-san’s expressions didn’t change. Either they didn’t notice, or they didn’t care. On the other hand, Taisho and Asahi-san had a strange look on their faces. Their faces said “I didn’t think Miyakojima-san would bite her tongue”.
[My name is Tomonari Itsuki. My parents run an IT company]
Finally, I’ll tell them my name and family business.
After everyone finished introducing themselves, Tennouji-san opened her mouth.
[As I said earlier, there’s no need to worry about my family history. You can use your usual tone of voice. Taisho-san and Asahi-san had a slightly more frank tone, didn’t they?]
[Ugh w-well, what’s the point if they know?]
[Haha, I guess so. Well, I guess I’ll just do what I always do]
The two of them looked awkward for a moment, but quickly relaxed.
Then, Tennouji-san looks at Hinako.
[Konohana-san, what coincidence to meet you here]
[That’s right. I’m always indebted to Tennouji-san]
[….Is that sarcasm?] (TN: Tennouji.exe stopped working) (EDN: Rebooting initiated)
Tennouji-san gave a twitchy smile.
However, Hinako didn’t seem to notice this and was drinking her tea in a leisurely manner.
Naruka and Tennouji-san are both beautiful girls, but Hinako has a special elegance unique to her. The sight of her sipping her cup gracefully drew the gaze of everyone present.
[U-Um! Konohana-san! I’m in the same class as you. Did you know that?]
[My, of course, Asahi-san. Thank you for always being the mood maker of Class A. Thanks to you, I feel the classroom is comfortable every day]
[A-Ahaha, you’re welcome. Wow, geez. I’m really happy to hear that from Konohana-san]
Asahi-san tried to desperately hide her grinning face with her hands.
[W-What about me! Do you know me!? Konohana-san!]
[Of course, I know you too, Taisho-san. I think your friendly attitude towards everyone is very admirable]
[O-oh! I feel like I’m getting a lot of virtue right now!]
I don’t think he is, but he looked very happy, as if he rose to heaven.
[Gununu… why didn’t they ask me anything!]
As Hinako kept all the attention to herself, Tennouji-san was clearly in a bad mood. I think it was simply the way the conversation went, but I’ll change the topic just in case.
[Has Naruka ever talked to any of the people here?]
[Y-Yeah. I’ve only participated in a minimal number of off-campus events]
The way you say the minimum amount, do they hate you that much..?
Just as I was muttering to myself, I noticed that everyone was staring at me.
Someone said, they were bothered by the fact that I was calling Naruka by her first name.
I wondered if I should’ve explained the relationship between me and Naruka first.
[M-Me and Itsuki have met before when we were ten years old. It was through that connection that I was invited to this tea party]
[Heee~ I didn’t know that]
Asahi-san was surprised by Naruka’s explanation.
Naruka fell flat on her face. She was simply embarrassed, but her expression was stern and some onlookers might think she was in a bad mood.
I was the one who invited Naruka here. So I’ll follow up.
[I think people misunderstand her, Naruka isn’t that scary. She seems to have spent most of her childhood in her house, so she’s just not very good at communicating]
[…Is that so?]
[Yes. And all the rumors are a lie]
I assure Asahi-san, whose eyes widened.
Naruka was so moved she had tears in her eyes. I hope this will be a good opportunity for Naruka to make some friends
[As I recall, Miyakojima-san’s family was a sporting goods manufacturer, right?]
Tennouji-san asked Naruka.
[Y-Yeah. T-That’s well you know]
[Please be humble. There is no student in this school who does not know the Miyakojima family. The rumor in question can be easily denied with a little research. I don’t see you at many social gatherings, how do you usually spend your time?]
[U-Usually I usually spend time at home, training]
[Ah, there’s a dojo in our house. That’s where I usually sweat everyday. Nowadays, I’m often asked to try out samples for home products]
[I see. You seem to be living a very fruitful and fulfilling life]
Tennouji-san looked impressed.
Next to them, Asahi-san and Hinako were conversing.
[I would like to ask a question to Konohana-san, how do you usually spend time at home? Do you study all the time?]
[Studying is important, but so is relaxation. I read and sometimes I eat sweets and rice cakes]
[Oh~, so you like sweets too, Konohana-san? What kind of sweets do you eat?]
[Hmm… Scones for example]
All you like are potato chips.
[Come to think of it, do Konohana-san and Tomonari-kun have a family connection?]
Asahi-san asked Hinako.
[Yes. My father and Tomonari-kun’s father know each other]
[You two hadn’t met until recently?]
[That’s right. But now we’re close enough to sit together like this]
When Hinako replied with a smile, Asahi-san said [Hmm~] happily.
[Something’s fishy here~ Are you sure that’s all that is between you two~?]
[Oi oi, Asahi. I don’t think that’s a good idea]
Taisho said with a bitter smile.
[Yeah but… The connection between parents is like a sign for arranged marriage, and it’s the standard for a love affair. Maybe you two are already in such a relationship..?]
Somehow, I could tell from the tone of voice it was just a joke.
However, in response to Asahi-san’s question, Hinako said nothing and slowly drank her tea.
Oi, what’s with the sudden silence?
I also felt a meaningful silence. Asahi-san, who had been jokingly asking, gradually turned serious.
Tennouji-san wrinkled her brows and wondered. And Naruka was staring at me with a blue pale face.
[Um, that that’s not true]
Hinako doesn’t want to answer, so I’ll do it.
[It’s not that we have a special relationship, as Konohana-san said earlier, it’s just that our parents were acquainted. Moreover, me and Konohana-san aren’t an even match]
On one hand, she’s the daughter of a famously known group, the Konohana Group, and on the other hand, is the heiress of a medium-sized company. Even my status is enough to make a difference.
[Well, whether it’s an even match or not Tomonari-kun, you’re still having troubles with your studies right now. Isn’t that the case?]
[That’s about right]
As I smiled at Asahi-san’s words, Naruka turned her to me.
Naruka muttered in a voice only I could hear.
As long as she keeps her mouth shut, she seems to accept that she will not spread my relationship, but she still feels dissatisfied by the fact that I work for the Konohana family.
That said, things are generally going well.
Naruka seems to have adapted to the group safely, and Tennouji-san is friendly, except for her relationship with Hinako. I’m glad that I invited them both.
I relaxed and drank my tea on the table.
Then I got a look from Tennouji-san.
[Tomonari-san. When you drink tea, it looks better if you hold the cup closer to the mouth instead of the other way around, you know?]
[I-I see… Thank you]
If I’m not careful, I’ll be found out in no time.
If you look closely, you’ll see that everyone except me was drinking tea with such a gesture. I have to reflect on this. I remind myself that I’m different, that I’m here under a false pretense.
[Did Tomonari go to a normal school before he came here?]
[Yes. So I’m a little unsure about etiquette]
I nodded my head in response to Taisho’s question.
[When I was a freshman, a friend in my class told me that normal schools have a lot of interesting cultures. For example, Warikan]
Taisho tilted his head at Asahi-san’s words.
Everyone looked at me strangely. It seems I have to explain to them.
[Warikan is basically, paying for the things you bought while splitting the expenses with your friends. Don’t the students do that here?]
[I don’t. Wouldn’t it be faster if someone just paid for it all at once?]
[That’s true, but wouldn’t that mean you’d have to buy me a full round of drinks?]
[If it bothers you, you can pay for it next time, but basically you shouldn’t care about buying a drink or being bought a drink. Whoever invited you, or whoever wants to pay, should pay for it, right?]
I wonder if I should care too much when I’m buying a drink. (TN: The drink they’re talking about are vending machine drinks) (EDN: Something that seems to be sadly lacking in some countries like mine)
[Then, there was…. Was it something called borrowing without returning?]
[Yeah yeah. That’s the kind of thing where you steal when borrowing something, right? I wonder why they don’t just buy it]
[N-No, that isn’t a culture]
I break in between Taisho and Asahi-san’s conversation to correct their knowledge. It’s not uncommon for us commoners to do that, but even if we do, it’s usually accidental.
[Didn’t your previous school have anything like that, Tomonari?]
Since I could tell that they were genuinely curious, I tried to think of something that’d be interesting for them.
[How about the 3 second rule?] (TN: ah yes, the classic)
[3 second rule?]
Asahi-san tilted her head. No one else seemed to know, so I continued my explanation.
[The rule is that if you drop a food and pick it up within 3 seconds, it’s still edible]
[W-what the hell is that]
[It’s not that big of a deal but It’s faster to show it huh]
Then I picked up one of the baked goods in the middle of the table.
It’d be a shame if I dropped it all, so I nibbled half of it to make it smaller.
[If you drop something like this when eating]
I purposely dropped the pastry on the table and quickly picked it up.
[The rule is that if you pick it up in 3 seconds, you can still eat it]
[Huuuh… you think of interesting things]
Are you stupid..?
No, they’re not stupid, but I honestly don’t think I should be impressed.
This is normally bad manners. (TN: IMPORTANT PLOT)
I was about to tell them that they shouldn’t do it too much when-
[Would it be like this?]
Hinako, who sits in front of me, imitates me and drops a pastry on the table.
She began to pick it up and chew again.
[Yeah, something like that]
I affirm in a shaky voice to Hinako, who was smiling adorably.
Everyone in the room was surprised to see Hinako, who was so beautiful and full of grace, behave in such a way.
At that moment, Tennouji-san coughed and cleared her throat.
[Commoners do think of something interesting from time to time, but I don’t think this 3 second rule is something proper]
Tennouji-san says after putting her cup on the table.
[But actually, I can understand why you might think this rule isn’t a problem. I think I’ll try that when I get the chance]
[It’s probably a hygiene issue. I’m sorry]
Tennouji-san chided me. She wasn’t serious, and quickly replied [Well, you’re right].
The tea party then went on without a hitch.
The memorable first tea party ended peacefully without any problems.
After leaving the cafe, we walked straight to the school gate.
There were several black colored cars waiting in front of the gate.
[I’m sorry for making you wait, Ojou-sama]
[Oh cmon, stop with the Ojou-sama thing]
Asahi-san chuckled and got into the car driven by the servant.
A little later, Taisho got into the same car.
[…Hm? Are you and Asahi-san always together?]
[Yeah. Asahi and I live close to each other, and we’ve known each other for a long time]
[The servants in our houses take turns welcoming us and taking us home]
Just like the predetermined relationship between me and Hinako, Asahi-san and Taisho also seem to have a family connection.
[Well then, we’ll excuse ourselves first]
[I had a good time today. See you tomorrow]
The car carrying the two of them went away.
Nearby, Tennouji-san’s car was also waiting.
[Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go]
Then Tennouji-san slightly bowed her head.
Besides Tennouji-san, there were several servants dressed in suits. Unlike Asahi-san’s servants, this one was casually keeping an eye on the surroundings like an SP. (TN: SP is Security Police)
In response to Tennouji-san who called out to Hinako in a tense manner, Hinako just had her usual soft and gentle smile.
[This is the first time I’ve had a private tea party with you but it wasn’t too bad! The next time, it would be great if we could talk a little more in-depth about your studies and family business!]
[Yes. If we could get a chance, I’d love to]
Tennouji-san made a promise to come back next time.
After smiling happily, Tennouji-san quickly pulled herself together and looked at me this time.
[Ehem, and Tomonari-san]
Coughing intentionally, Tennouji-san said.
[You had your back straight today. It’s much more attractive than before]
When I heard those words, I stiffened for a little.
[T-Thank you very much]
I didn’t expect to be complimented, so my reaction was delayed.
After a giggle and a smile on her face, Tennouji-san turned around and got into her car.
[…You two get along quite well, don’t you]
[It’s kind of a social praise]
[No, Tennouji-san is an honest person. You can take it as an honest compliment. Even though, it’s only your third day, it’s impressive getting a compliment from Tennouji-san]
Naruka was somewhat frustrated as she told me this.
Unlike Tennouji-san, Naruka doesn’t seem to praise me honestly.
[Thank you for your hard work, Ojou-sama, Itsuki-sama]
At that moment, two black cars pulled up nearby, and I was approached by someone from inside.
Shizune-san, dressed in her maid outfit, appeared in front of us and bowed.
[You must be Miyakojima Naruka-sama. My name is Tsurumi Shizune, a servant in the Konohana family]
Naruka, who didn’t expect to be called, jumped in place.
[I’m sure you’ve already heard about the circumstances from Itsuki-sama. As for our family, Itsuki-sama’s family is a close business partner of ours, so we would appreciate it if you could keep quiet of this matter]
[A-Ah! I’ve heard about this from Itsuki, and I trust him. I won’t tell anyone, so no need to worry]
[Thank you very much]
Shizune-san bowed reverently. Apparently, Shizune-san went out of her way to appear in front of us in order to talk about this matter again.
Naruka knows that I work for the Konohana family, so when me and Hinako ride home in the same car, Naruka won’t have any doubts.
[Has Naruka been picked up yet?]
[Ahh. They should be here by now]
When I said this, Naruka became quiet.
Naruka takes her phone out of her pocket and puts it on her ear. There seems to be a call.
Eventually, Naruka ended the call and let out a small gasp.
[Ah, it seems there’s traffic and my pick-up is a little late. Fortunately, they seem to be close by, and I’ll head there myself, so Itsuki and the others can go home first]
Even if she says to go home first
As someone who has been recently involved in kidnapping, I’m a little concerned about leaving Naruka alone.
[Shizune-san. I’m going to take Naruka home]
When I told them, Shizune-san and Naruka’s eyes widened.
I looked at Naruka.
[I’m sure your car is close by, right? I’ll go with you until there]
[T-That’s fine with me, but is that okay?]
I turned my gaze towards Shizune-san, Shizune-san nodded as if she understood my intention.
[I understand. Due to Ojou-sama’s busy schedule, we will return to the mansion first. We will have a replacement waiting for you, so please use that one, Itsuki-sama]
Shizune-san then looks at Hinako, who got into the car first.
[You don’t mind, Ojou-sama?]
Hinako replied with a smile.
[Thank you very much]
I thanked her and decided to send Naruka back.
As the car pulled away from the academy, Hinako let out a deep breath.
[I’m so tired]
[Thank you for your hard work]
Hinako stopped her facade and let out a lazy sigh. She then turned around on her knees in the back seat and looked out the window.
[Muu… Itsuki’s getting along with others]
[If you didn’t want that, you shouldn’t have allowed it]
[…Is it fine to keep him all for myself?] (TN: she’s going the deep route rn sweats)
[That’s a gaffe. It would be unnatural if Ojou-sama denied Itsuki-sama while in that state]
Itsuki’s idea of sending Naruka home was gentlemanly. The perfect Ojou-sama can’t let her selfishness prevent him from doing so.
[Hey, Shizune. Do you know what the 3 second rule is?]
Hinako asked with a smug look on her face.
She thought that she could tell her, since she wouldn’t know, however-
[Yes, I know]
[Because of that famous misunderstanding, there has been a great amount of research on that subject. A woman who was a high school student in the U.S. at the time is famous for her research that won her the lg Nobel Prize. But that was actually the 5 second rule] (EDN: For those who don’t know, the Ig Nobel Prize is an award for unusual or trivial research)
By all accounts, Shizune knew more than Hinako. Hinako was just overly sulking.
Shizune gave a small smile to Hinako.
[Truly, ever since Itsuki-sama arrived Ojou-sama has changed]
[Ojou-sama has attended several tea parties in the past, but all of them were under the order of Keigon-sama. Isn’t this the first time Ojou-sama has attended a tea party on her own?]
[Hmm… I think, that’s true]
Hinako says in a small voice as if she doesn’t care.
Shizune casts a worried glance at Hinako.
[Ojou-sama. How are you feeling?]
Hinako answered languidly.
When the car with Hinako drove away, Naruka exhaled deeply.
[No, it’s just I finally got to relax my shoulders]
Apparently, she felt relieved and her tension was finally lifted.
[You said you weren’t good at talking to people, but you were able to talk just fine]
[It’s not like I have control over it. I’ve had a lot of help from a lot of different people, I just managed to hold on]
Well, I guess that’s true.
Asahi-san and Tennouji-san were especially attentive to Naruka. Asahi-san always tried to liven up the conversation so that Naruka could join in, and Tennouji-san tried to draw Naruka in by asking her questions.
[Itsuki… Really, thank you]
Suddenly, Naruka thanked me in a refined manner.
[If it weren’t for Itsuki, I’m sure I would’ve been a loner till graduation]
[…That’s not true. I just helped out a little, that’s all]
[No, I know what I’m talking about. Today was a life-changing day for me]
Then Naruka looked at me.
[After all, Itsuki is my hero. When I was little, he taught me about the outside world and this time, he saved me from my loneliness]
That’s an exaggeration. I didn’t intend to make it to such a big deal.
[That’s why it’s unfair]
Naruka lowered her gaze and said.
[Unfair. Unfair, unfair, unfair!! Konohana-san is unfair!!]
[…Still on about that?]
[Of course! I’ll say it again and again! Because, it’s just too much! Why are you at Konohana-san’s house when we just had a chance to meet again!]
[That being said it’s just convenient for my parents]
[Kuuuh! I know you said you had an apprenticeship, but what else do you do!? Don’t tell me you also work there!?]
[I guess. But it’s just taking care of the surroundings]
[Konohana-san doesn’t need to care about her surroundings! Isn’t she perfect from the beginning!?]
I’m in a pinch because she’s not. Of course, I can’t say that, so I’ll just shut my mouth.
[…When does the apprenticeship end?]
[Well, I don’t know about that]
[T-Then, why don’t you come to my house after you’re done? See, Itsuki must’ve missed our time together too, right!?]
I certainly do, but it will be difficult since I’m scheduled to be employed until graduation.
[Whenever I feel like it]
[That’s just flattery, isn’t it!?]
I’m not Tennouji-san, so I can at least flatter someone one or two times.
[That’s the end of today’s training. Thank you for your hard work]
[T-thank you for your help]
At the Konohana family dojo, I answered, dripping with sweat.
Lessons were not cancelled on the day of the tea party. Rather, the lessons were more packed, so I was very exhausted.
At that time. The door to the dojo opened and Hinako appeared.
[…It’s that time already?]
The time was 10 p.m. I worked up quite a sweat, so I also wanted to head to the bathroom, but
[Ojou-sama. Could I ask you to go back to your room first so I can talk to Itsuki-san?]
[Nn okay. Hurry up]
Hinako nodded at Shizune-san’s words and left.
[A talk, is it?]
[Yes. Well, I’m not going to take up too much of your time]
Shizune-san said with a hesitant look.
[I don’t want to keep Ojou-sama waiting, so I won’t go into detail but Ojou-sama’s health hasn’t been good lately, so please be careful just in case, Itsuki-san]
[Health, huh? She looked fine at the tea party]
Did I overdo it?
[Strictly speaking, I think she will be ill in the near future]
I tilted my head, not understanding the meaning of her words.
[It’s fine if you’re careful. Now, Itsuki-san, please head to Ojou-sama’s room]
With that said, Shizune-san began cleaning up the dojo.
I didn’t understand the conversation, but I’ll keep an eye out for it because she said to be careful.
After entering Hinako’s room and changing into a swimsuit, I went into the bathroom.
[Ahh it’s Itsuki~]
[…Sorry to keep you waiting]
I approached Hinako, who’s already inside, and quickly washed her hair.
[Are there any itches?]
Washing Hinako’s hair became a daily routine, and I was also learning from Shizune-san about how to wash her hair as well. Warm the scalp with hot water collected in the hand, and wash with shampoo carefully. Then, take the conditioner and rub it into your hand and let it soak through the hair.
[…But, Shizune-san also made something amazing]
As I washed Hinako’s hair, I looked back.
A private shower room was set up there. It’s like having a bathroom inside a bathroom. Shizune-san said “you wouldn’t be able to wash your bodies with swimsuits on”, so she prepared a shower room so we can wash it ourselves.
[Hinako, can you get the bucket there?]
Are you making a joke with “Ok” and “bucket”..? (TN: Bucket in Japanese is “Oke”, and it took me a while for this)
I ask Hinako to get the bucket, which I’m not sure was filled with water or not.
But Hinako dropped the bucket midway back.
The sound of it dropping echoed.
Hinako quickly picked it up as if she had an idea.
[3 second rule]
[…Well, I guess so]
I didn’t know how to respond to the smug Hinako.
[This is interesting]
[When you say it like that, it makes it all worthwhile]
I would prefer her not doing it in public though.
[After you left me today… What did you talk about with Miyakojima-san..?]
[No matter what you say “I just had a good time at the tea party”, normally. That’s about it]
Seemingly convinced, Hinako changed the subject
[Itsuki is my caretaker]
In a small voice, Hinako muttered.
[…don’t go anywhere]
Her voice was so small that I couldn’t understand what she was saying.
However, when I asked back, she didn’t answer.
Hinako’s body slowly fell over to me. I suddenly was in close contact with her and became shaken.
[H-Hey, you’ll catch a cold if you stay too long]
I said, shaking her body slightly. But Hinako didn’t answer.
Clearly something was wrong.
When I looked at her face, Hinako was dripping with sweat and letting out painful moans.
After Hinako collapsed in the bathroom, I immediately carried her body to my room and called Shizune-san.
At first, I thought she was being overzealous, but her breathing was ragged and heavy. After wiping Hinako’s body, I asked Shizune-san to confirm her condition.
[A mild fever]
Shizune-san said as she gazed at Hinako lying on the bed.
[First of all, let’s let Ojou-sama sleep in her room]
Shizune-san already had the tools to take care of her.
While I was out of the room, Shizune-san quickly changed Hinako into nightwear, and then gave her a tablet of medicine to drink with water. The familiarity of her actions made me feel a small sense of difference.
[No, it’s just you’re very calm]
[Yes. Because this happens on a regular basis]
Shizune-san answers my question.
[The reason to her collapse is because of her acting]
For a while, I couldn’t understand what she meant.
[Stress from acting, could be from her keeping up an act every single day?]
[Yes. If you’re acting out of character so much. It’s natural to feel stressed]
Shizune-san tells me in a straightforward manner. Those words gave me a shock.
Indeed, Hinako always acts on a daily basis. However, as soon as she returns home, she would immediately revert to her normal lazy personality. She looked like she was having a hard time, but didn’t seem to be in any pain. I knew stress would accumulate while acting but I never imagined it would be until she collapsed.
[Wait, why are you being so casual about this? It’s built up to a burden to the point of collapse, right? There’s no way we can just overlook this]
[Even if she does collapse, the fever will go away in a few days. There’s no need to worry so much]
[No, but, if she’s going to collapse like this, she might as well stop act]
[You need to know how to behave yourself]
Shizune-san’s eyes flashed sharply and she glared at me.
[This is the consensus of the Konohana family. It’s not something that can be dealt with personal emotions and of course Ojou-sama is aware of this]
Hinako knows this. Those words repeated in my head.
The price of acting is for Hinako to collapse. She’s knowingly acting to the point of collapse. So who am I supposed to be mad at? Where do I direct these feelings?
[When she’s out in public, she focuses on her performance. That’s why, when she’s in the mansion, she drops it for the sake of relaxation and rest. It’s no exaggeration to say that the reason Ojou-sama is lazy when home is because of the fatigue and exhaustion due to acting]
[…So you’re saying that Hinako being lazy was recoil from all the acting, when she’s out in public?]
[That’s right. Of course, this is her real personality but… She gets more energetic when it’s on holidays where she doesn’t have to act]
I knew nothing. I had no idea Hinako had such circumstances.
[Itsuki-san. If you don’t go to bed soon, it will affect classes tomorrow]
[…I’ll still be going to school while Hinako is sick?]
[Of course. Considering Itsuki-san’s academic skills, it’s best to not be absent as much as possible]
[But, I’m Hinako’s caretaker and…]
[The right person in the right place. I’m well versed in what to do when Ojou-sama collapses]
Saying this, Shizune-san looked me straight in the eye.
[I will concentrate on taking care of her, so please go back to your room, Itsuki-san]
The next day, I went to the academy by myself.
[Hey, Tomonari! We had a blast yesterday!]
[…Is that so]
When I sat down in the classroom, Taisho called out to me innocently.
As soon as I spoke to Taisho, Asahi-san arrived as well.
[Speaking of which, Konohana-san didn’t show up today]
[Yeah well, maybe the usual]
Hearing Asahi and Taisho-san’s conversation, I tilted my head.
[Ah, Tomonari doesn’t know. Konohana-san sometimes takes a break from the academy. I heard that she helps out with the family business. Konohana-san must be working hard]
Taisho told me, and I thought about it, while giving him an appropriate response.
That’s how it’s supposed to be.
It seems that Hinako’s periodic collapses are a secret from her classmates. It may as well be kept a secret from everyone in the academy.
But then no one is going to worry about Hinako.
Even if Hinako is hiding her true self by putting on a facade.
Who in the world would stand by Hinako’s side?
When Hinako is having a hard time, who’s going to be close by and help her?
With mixed feelings, more students arrived at the academy and school started.
[Thank you for your hard work]
Shizune-san, sitting in the passenger seat, calls out to me as I get into the pick-up car.
With Hinako gone, I occupied the spacious back seat all by myself. However, I didn’t feel good about it.
[Shizune-san. How is Hinako..?]
[She’s still resting]
In other words, she hasn’t recovered yet.
[…How long would it take for her to recover?]
[That’s right Well, by the looks of it, she would likely recover by tomorrow or the day after. Fortunately, tomorrow is a day off, so she should be okay by Monday]
Thank goodness it’s Friday. No it’s not. On Monday, Hinako has to go to the academy again. In other words, she has to act.
Why is this happening..?
The name of the person who surely knows the answer passed into the back of my mind.
[Um… Is Keigon-san not coming?]
When I asked, Shizune-san replied while looking at the front of the car.
[Keigon-sama is at work. He is at the main residence]
[But, he knows Hinako collapses, right?]
[Keigon-sama is the head of the Konohana group. He is not in a position to simply stop work just because Ojou-sama has fallen ill]
In a way, I thought it was a bit cowardly to emphasize how different of a world we live in.
I don’t understand their common sense. No matter what they say.
[Then, what about Hinako’s mother..?]
After a short pause, Shizune-san answered.
[…She has already passed away]
The answer was surprising. Looking back, Hinako’s mother has never been mentioned. If she had already passed away, it would certainly be difficult to talk about her mother.
It was also something I didn’t know. It’s obvious, I haven’t been a caretaker for very long. Of course I wouldn’t know a lot of things.
However, her father, Keigon-san, is unable to visit, and her mother has already passed away.
Then, how many people can stand by and support the suffering Hinako?
I wonder if I could be one of them.
[…Um. Can we cancel today’s lesson?]
[I don’t think so. Itsuki-san still has more to learn]
[If so, please let me finish earlier than usual. I’ll do my best to make up for it]
When I said this, Shizune-san widened her eyes slightly.
[…I understand. Then let’s do it 1.5 times faster than usual]
It seems like a hellish schedule, but I can’t turn my back on it.
After arriving at the mansion, Shizune-san was very harsh on me.
Preparation, review, etiquette training, self-defense. I was tired to the point of headaches after finishing everything faster than usual, but as a result, I was able to get 2 hours of free time.
[That finishes today’s training]
[T-Thank you… Very much. May I go to Hinako’s room?]
[It’s not a problem. I will be on my way later, so please take care of her]
After leaving the dojo, I went to my room for a quick wash and then went to Hinako’s room.
Hinako’s room was dimly lit by an orange night light. I approached the bed where Hinako was sleeping, watching my step.
[Ah… it’s Itsuki]
Hinako, who was laying down, noticed my presence.
[Sorry. Did I wake you up?]
[It’s fine… I’ve just been spacing out for a while now]
According to Shizune-san, she slept almost the whole day, so she must’ve had enough sleep.
[Itsu.. Ki. Thank you]
Suddenly, Hinako thanked me.
[I’m glad you came]
[…It’s obvious. I’m your caretaker]
Hinako, who looked anxious and lonely, gave a smile of relief.
[Let me know if there’s anything you want me to do]
Hearing that, Hinako turned towards me and opened her mouth.
[Okay, hold my hand]
Hinako slowly held out her hand.
I did as she asked and held her hand.
It was a very small hand. Hinako’s hand, which was more noble and better than anyone else’s at the academy, was so thin, small, and fragile it seemed like it could break with a single touch.
[….Did you sleep?]
Hinako let out a rhythmic sigh.
Holding her hand, I looked around. Being alone in such a large room could increase the sense of loneliness. It’s also common that sick people get lonely easily.
That’s why someone has to be there to take care of them.
I’m not sure if I’m the right person to do so.
Such a thought crossed my mind.
I wonder if Hinako really feels at ease with me by her side. Even if I am her caretaker, it’s still just a job. I don’t know how Hinako really feels about me. (TN: she doesn’t either, for now)
A replaceable follower. A convenient servant. I’d like to believe that I’m not seen like that. However, the feeling of distance and detachment is present.
Am I just overthinking now?
At least I know that she’s relying on me right now.
Then, for now, I’ll just have to live with it.
[Hinako… it’s okay]
Hinako’s amber colored hair was sticking to her forehead with sweat.
I brushed her hair lightly to the side and patted her head.
Then Hinako giggled and smiled.
When I heard her mutter.
I understood my role as her caretaker.
I know what Hinako thinks of me.
At the same time, the strange distance we’ve had now made sense.
Hinako must be yearning for family.
I remembered what I’ve been doing for her. I remember the lap pillow, taking a bath with her, and now I’m sure, Hinako is looking for the warmth of a family.
[…I know that feeling]
I talked to myself as I stroked Hinako’s head.
[Family is something you long for, right?]
This reminds me of my own family. Both of my parents are hopelessly lazy people, but because of that, their kindness and gentleness at a moment’s notice, will always be in my memories. When I was injured, they took care of me. They would also buy me a cake on my birthday. Although I still resent the fact I was left alone while they fled in the middle of the night, those memories aren’t lost to me.
As the daughter of the Konohana family, Hinako always lived separate from her own family.
Her mother already passed away and her father, Keigon-san, always works at the main residence, so he’s rarely seen. Instead, there are many servants in the mansion, all of whom were hired by Keigon-san. Hinako, who doesn’t like their formal atmosphere, probably didn’t fit well with them.
A voice called out to me. When I turned around, I saw Shizune-san standing there.
[How is Ojou-sama doing?]
[…She just fell asleep]
Shizune-san looked at the sleeping Hinako, and gave a small nod.
[Itsuki-san. May I ask you to leave the room for a moment? I have something important to discuss with you.]
Shizune-san asked me with a serious expression, so I decided to comply.
But as I was about to stand up, Hinako grabbed my hand tightly.
I silently make eye contact with Shizune-san.
[…We have no choice. Let’s talk about it here]
I nodded to Shizune-san, who said in a small voice, with a complicated expression on her face.
[It’s about the situation of the Konohana family. Do you remember what Keigon-sama told you before the reason why Ojou-sama is acting?]
[If I recall, the Konohana Group’s economy is in bad shape, and we’re trying to find a good fiance for Hinako]
[That’s right. But that would only be the second objective]
Shizune-san answered my question.
[The main reason why Ojou-sama’s acting, is to welcome an adopted son-in-law into the Konohana family]
Not to be a fiance, but rather, to receive a son-in-law. In other words, when a man is invited to the Konohana family as a son-in-law for Hinako?
[The Konohana family has a legitimate heir. He is the eldest son of Keigon-sama, Takuma Konohana. the older brother of Ojou-sama]
[Older brother… is it?]
[Yes. However, they are older siblings and hardly know each other. Takuma-sama began living in a different residence when Ojou-sama was 5 years old]
Apparently, her brother is as distant from Hinako as her father.
[Takuma-sama, however, has been questioning whether he’s worthy as a successor of the Konohana Group. If he does not become the heir, then it will be passed to a son-in-law]
The stories connect. The reason they’re searching for a son-in-law is for him to become an heir.
[The Konohana family is not only represented by the head of the family, but also by the wife of the head of the family. In other words, if the son-in-law is chosen as the heir, Ojou-sama will also be deeply involved with the work of the Konohana family in the future. It’s with this future in mind that Ojou-sama acts every day. Since she will eventually lead the Konohana Group together with the head of the family, she must be perfect and have a personality that will be respected by others. If she has a bad reputation, there will be friction within the Konohana Group. This friction could spread to the point where it could affect the company’s fortunes and cause many casualties]
Saying this, Shizune-san looked at Hinako’s face as she slept.
Konohana Hinako is no ordinary girl.
The Konohana family’s total assets are approximately 300 trillion Yen. Everyone who lives in this country knows the Konohana Group, a financial conglomerate. She is the sole daughter of this influential Group.
[Do you understand? What Ojou-sama is carrying on her shoulders]
The other day, I felt compelled to help Hinako simply because she was suffering.
I’m sure that idea isn’t wrong. But before that, I should understand Hinako’s situation.
[Am I not allowed to do anything?]
[If Itsuki-san is willing to help Ojou-sama, I have no right to stop him]
I widened my eyes in response.
[But yesterday, you told me to behave myself]
[Yes. That’s why, please be reasonable and support Ojou-sama. That is the role of a caretaker]
Shizune-san looked me straight in the eye, turned around, and left.
After watching the door quietly close, I turn my attention back to Hinako.
[Support Hinako to a reasonable extent]
I repeat Shizune-san’s words.
There are several conditions that must be met for Hinako to stop acting in public.
First, Hinako’s brother, Takuma, must take over the Konohana family. If this happens, Hinako will marry into another family and will not be involved in Konohana Group’s business.
Second, even if the son-in-law takes over, Hinako should be in a position where she doesn’t need to be involved in the business. That way, when Hinako’s true nature is revealed, it will have less impact.
But neither is something I can do. After all, I’m just a hired hand. There’s no way I can overturn the guidelines and traditions of the Konohana Group.
[The role of a caretaker]
There are things I can do. I can do something to support Hinako as her caretaker.
“The role of a caretaker is to protect Hinako’s reputation as the perfect Ojou-sama. In other words, they support Hinako behind the scenes to prevent her true nature from being exposed”
I remember the words of Keigon-san. He said that the role of a caretaker is to protect her reputation. But I don’t think that’s the case.
In reality, the role of a caretaker is to allow Hinako to take a break.
Heal Hinako, who is exhausted by her acting, as much as possible.
Become someone who Hinako can show her true self to.
That I can do.
[…Let’s do it]
The appearance of Hinako, who is struck by fever, overlaps with her younger self, who was cared for by her parents.
Hinako, who was sleeping while holding my hand, looked so adorable.
I want to protect her.
I want to be kind to her.
I think I need to be kind to her.
Because Hinako, with such a small body, is carrying something very large.
Someone has to be kind to her.
If Hinako says she collapses from fatigue, then heal her from that fatigue.
For that reason, I’ll give you the warmth of a family.
[Hinako… I’ll do my best]
I swore as I clasped her small hands.
I didn’t do this chapter to parts because all it needs was edits so I just waited for that to finish. If any of you find any mistakes/off sentences, please let me know. I’ll try to work on chp 4 now, 60 pages isn’t easy, I’m 1/3 done though so wish me luck ^~^