Translator: Silver Editor: Namorax
I hide the trembling caused by Suwa’s father suddenly appearing at this party and stood up as naturally as possible.
“Suwa-sama, thank you for the inviting me over on this day.”
What was his full name……
The names of the Suwa family members were supposed to contain the 『Ori (織)』character.
Like Shiori and Iori Suwa.
Since Ritsuko-sama married into the family, she wasn’t bound by that rule.
His name was Toori-sama 『とおる』.
To forget or mistake a person’s name, rather than being seen as impolite, may be taken as an insult.
When attending a party, it would be a major incident if one was incapable of matching all of the attendees’ faces with their names.
It was the same when someone addressed you.
It was good to remember things like that. However, I hadn’t been able to remember!
“No, thank you. I’m sorry for inviting you on so such short notice, without considering your schedule.”
The father nodded before urging me to sit with a welcoming smile on his face.
If the invitation had been sent to my house, the head of the household could have declined it, but it was impossible to decline a direct invitation.
Unless the status of the recipient is higher than the sender’s it was impossible to refuse, even if it was an inconvenience.
Even if the statuses of the houses were equal, if the one sending the invitation was the head of the household, it was impossible for a minor like me to refuse.
Iori, the next head of the Suwa family, had been the one to give me the invitation.
So, his father’s apology was a superficial one at best.
I laughed ambiguously at the father’s words.
Normally I’d reply with a『Not at all, I’m honored to be here』or 『 I am glad to have received the invitation』, but I think such a thing was appropriate here.
The father smiled wryly and remained silent.
I couldn’t blame him.
From my point of view, I’d been coerced into attending without any regards for my circumstances.
“What can I do for Suwa Iori’s parents? I was invited to an open tea party that doesn’t seem to have any other guests.”
Smiling, I called out their invitation for the lie it was.
The parents, who detected my anger, smiled delicately towards me.
“Ara, so wonderful. That was more than I expected.”
“……I told you so, didn’t I? This young lady is quite clever.”
Husband and wife started a meaningless conversation.
Apparently, Ritsuko-sama had thought I’d accepted the invitation without knowing anything, and Toori-sama had expected that and came here himself.
“Sorry. It was the only method I could come up with to speak to you directly.”
“Even if we invited you to a normal party, Sagara-sama would immediately decline it. Iori isn’t in trouble, is he?”
“I understand Iori’s actions. I also understand my grandfather’s decision. Why did you suddenly need to contact me?”
The mother and father who’d obediently apologized examined my expression when I asked for an explanation.
It felt like an interview or interrogation.
I didn’t know what exactly they wanted, but I could only move forward from here.
Sitting up straight, I looked the pair in the eyes.
It took strength to not avert my gaze, as I tried to observe even the slightest gesture of the opposition.
It might be considered rude, but I didn’t care.
If they didn’t plan to reveal their secret intentions, then I needed to grasp any information I could.
Don’t look down on people with societal experience.
“First of all, it’s related to our branch family. The Sagara have been suppressing them, haven’t they?”
“I know nothing about these things. What seems to be the problem?”
Instead of smiling, I maintained a blank expression.
“Do you know? Your indifference towards the branch family has been our salvation. The Sagara’s anger is quite great.”
“I doubt that any number of apologies will be significant enough. For a girl of your age to have been so heavily scarred…… let our son take responsibility for their foolishness…… though I know that is impossible.”
Suwa’s strong mother brought up the incident as she examined my visible scars.
When I’d been injured, I believed that I wouldn’t survive, so I had prayed for Suwa and Shiori to be hit too so that we could at least die together.
My elder brother had told me that, before one of my operations, I would clench my fists so hard that my palms had turned bloody.
The fact that I could meet with Ritsuko-sama showed that my family’s anger towards the Suwa's main family had subsided, but the same couldn't be said for the unapologetic branch family.
The Sagara branch families, particularly the branch that existed solely to protect the main family, had wanted to eradicate the Suwa branch family when they learned that said family’s daughter directed the danger towards me.
In fact, there were rumors that when certain businesses tried to made transactions, the other companies were talked out of the deal.
Because sanctions had been placed on the Suwa branch family, they’d been concealing the issue and mislead the main family about their decline, so the main family hadn’t found out until now.
At least, that’s what my brother told me.
“It’s very difficult for me to bring this up, but…… for now, I’d like to live a normal life. Iori is a good classmate.”
Even if I could attain a normal life, my scars would never completely fade.
If possible, I wouldn’t like to be reminded of that fact, but Ritsuko’s gaze suddenly dropped.
“I’m sorry if the members of the Sagara family have troubled you. I will speak with my grandfather to ratify this matter.”
“No, it’s all right. The Sagara aren’t at fault here. The blame lies with us. The leadership of the Sagara family is quite enviable. No, I suppose the branch family wouldn’t support an inept head.”
I could hear the self-ridicule in Toori-sama’s voice.
The branch families' support.
The branch families always prop up the main family.
Even if it meant sparing the main family from hardships.
They protected the main family, even if it meant becoming a substitute for them.
It was the same across all the houses.
The children of the branch families were raised to protect the main family at all cost.
Perhaps, Shiori was raised in that manner as well.
Shiori-sama must have realized Suwa had feelings for her, but she prioritized his well being above anything else.
If so, then Shiori-sama’s behavior……
My conversation with the Suwa couple went through one ear and out to other.
I couldn’t remember what they said or how I responded.
I was too busy thinking about Shiori’s behavior from two years ago.
Why did Shiori deliberately shout my name back then?
I’d thought she’d been trying to make me the kidnapper’s target, but that may not have been the case.
Could she have been diverting the men’s attention away from Suwa?
If so, then she completely succeeded.
The man pushed away Suwa and ran after me.
While Suwa didn’t exactly get away unscratched, he only received a few cuts and bruises at most.
If she sacrificed me not to protect herself, but rather to protect Suwa, then Shiori-sama had acted as an exemplary lady.
High-schoolers aren’t as adult-like as other children thought.
They have no societal experience and are short-sighted.
What they knew of the world was gained from behind a screen.
Simply interacting with people at school wouldn’t give someone the ability to cope with adults who intended to cause harm.
It wasn’t much better even when you became a university student either.
Men gained experience in corporate management, while women could avoid the subject.
In that case, if you were the young daughter of a Suwa branch family, the only thing you could do to protect the main family's child, was to drop my name.
At the same time, if you wanted to atone for your actions you’d attempt to enter and serve the Sagara family.
If she was trying to protect herself and Suwa at the same time, then it meant that I had simply been dealt a bad hand.
It would have been counterproductive to call out Suwa’s name if she wanted to avoid him being injured.
Suwa, who couldn’t help but try and protect Shiori, had been physically and mentally affected by that event.
Shiori, who I’d been keeping my distance from, probably hadn’t considered what happened to Suwa in the aftermath.
Even after being rejected, Suwa was still trying to find ways to protect Shiori.
Yes. It was quite a messy situation.
The Suwa family was rather unlucky. It’s decided.
Being involved in other peoples’ romances was waste of stamina.
With my conclusion reached, my consciousness returned to the Suwa couple.
What topic were we on now?
“……I’d like to ask you something.”
Ah. Thankfully, the topic was about to change.
“What is it?”
“How did you manage to drag our son out of his depression?”
Toori-sama chuckled as he asked his question.
“As soon as school ends, he comes to my office and observes my work. He’s quite enthusiastic about it. It was be interesting to see him handle it when I left work early once. Of course, he is just a high school student and simply imitating everything I do.”
“……Is that so?”
“Well, his imitation of me won’t be useless in the future. At this stage, it could be said that this is more than good enough. Therefore, would you please tell me what you did to break Iori out of his depression?”
“That’s right. I’d been preparing to undertake the task myself, but you handled it for me. Could you tell us what kind of trick you used?”
“What I did was nothing special. I was asked to do something about about the god of depression that Iori had become after getting rejected, so I told him to become an adult that Shiori would admire. Fortunately, Iori said that he had a good example in his father. When it comes to handling women, I suggested that he should study at his mother’s side.”
I honestly answered their question.
They didn’t seem to have expected that answer.
The way their mouths hung open made me wonder if what I said was too surprising.
Hmm. I won!
I reveled in my sense of superiority without losing my composure.
I wasn’t often one had the chance to see the shocked expressions of the Suwa family's main couple.
It felt as if I’d taken the upper hand.
Toori-sama’s face twitched.
A moment later, both Toori-sama and Ritsuko-sama burst into laughter.
There were tears in their eyes as their laughter grew louder.
Laughing so much seems to have refreshed them.
“Wonderful! To so easily lead that child by the noise, that's quite impressive.”
“It’s just like he said, this young lady is quite amazing!”
It was a great success.
No, please don’t praise me so much, it's embarrassing.
I continued to watch the pair as I said that in my heart.
“No, how should I say, this is quite an amusing conversation. It’s like we’re speaking with a lady of our age rather than a child of our son’s age.”
I had to bite my lip at that compliment.
I noticed it only just now.
24 years of my previous life + 15 years of this life = 39 years old.
My age is read the same as 'big mackerel'……
I suddenly staggered and had to place my hand on the sofa to support myself.
It was a great shock.
He calmly said I was getting old!
“You! No matter how you look at it, it’s rude to say such a thing to a high school girl. Mizuki-sama may be extraordinary, but she’s still a young lady.”
Ritsuko-sama rebuked her husband immediately, but I wasn’t capable of recovering yet.
It’s pitiful that I didn’t know how to behave as someone my age should.
“I…… apologize. I meant no disrespect!! …Young Lady?”
Toori-sama panicked when he noticed my disheveled state, but I hung my head and ignored him.
I heard the sound of a door opening.
“I heard that father was here, but…… Sagara!?”
Suwa let out a surprised shut as he ran up to me.
“What’s the matter Sagara? Are your wounds hurting?”
He knelt down, placed his hands on my shoulders and looked into my eyes.
“No, my wounds are fine…… I just heard something that I can’t recover from……”
Suwa turned to his parents when I spoke of my aching heart.
“What did you say to Sagara!? Who did it!?”
He made an unexpectedly frightening expression.
“Father! what did you say to my master!?”
Ritsuko-sama seems to have directed her gaze towards Toori-sama.
Suwa directed his anger at Toori-sama.
“I’m apologise. I am feeling rather unwell, so I’ll excuse myself for the day.”
Suwa entered just at the right time and I was saved.
It was too difficult to probe the Suwa couple any further.
“Y-Yes. Please forgive my mistake.”
Even though Ritsuko-sama was still shocked by Suwa’s anger, she still acknowledged my intentions to leave.
Perhaps Suwa received his passion from Ritsuko.
The mother and child did resemble one another a lot.
“Very well, I shall take my leave then.”
I stood up and bowed before I started walking towards the door.
“Sagara! I will send you off!”
Sawa seemed to give me priority over his anger towards his father.
I breathed out a relieved sigh once the door closed behind me.
“Are you alright? I don’t know what my father said, but I apologies.”
“No, it’s not your fault Suwa. However, I’m fairly certain that I was a little hurt, so I won’t be able to attend another party even if I were to be invited.”
“I understand. I shall inform my parents. I’m sorry.”
I felt a sudden sense of nostalgia as I watched Suwa apologize on his family's behalf.
Who else had that dog-like temperament?
Even if I fail I, must ensure that the term 'arafō' (around forty) is not associated with my current self again.
“I’m all right. See you at school.”
I left the Suwa residence after that.
There were a few things I needed to confirm with Shiori-sama.