Author's Note: I am updating the title and PN following the transition to print copies.
These changes will be reflected starting in the next few chapters.
Thank you for your support and patronage.
There are people who dampen my mood the moment I step out.
It's the type of people who are aggressive in their own territory, but they become weak and silent once they take a step outside their comfort zone. There's an expression from my past life that describes this type of person as "a lion at home and a mouse abroad". This type of person has a strong temperament at home, but is otherwise weak.
What's my point? Surfania fits into this category.
It's only been a few minutes since we departed her home. The only thing we've done is get on the carriage, and she's already saying that with a gloomy expression.
"Well, the carriage is shaking. Just sitting in here robs me of my already lacking strength."
Just sitting there takes up her strength. I can't sympathize with her poor constitution. In truth, Surfania isn't really frail. As far as I know, she doesn't get sick despite her unhealthy lifestyle. She complains about being uncomfortable in the carriage, but she doesn't get motion sickness. She also has the stamina to walk long distances, as she proved at the festival two years ago.
Surfania's not athletic in any way, but she's born without any health problems. She should at least be grateful to her parents for that.
"Where are we going exactly?"
"To the church."
Her ignorance is annoying, so I tell her our destination. It's a small church at the outskirts of the town. Others who visit the church have an unshakable trust in the Calibrachoas, so we're easily permitted there.
「I see. The church, huh……」
She nods, giving a distant look.
She's giving me the impression that she's trying to look for an excuse to turn back. I want to tell her that nothing's going to happen, but it doesn't seem like she's going to listen.
"I don't have any business there though. If it's about contributing money, my family should have that taken care of."
"No, and we're not going there to flatter anyone, okay? In fact, we're going there not for any particular reason."
"Then there's no reason to go…… no, that's not it. Chris. I don't believe in any gods in the first place, so it would be an insult if I went. I would probably receive some kind of divine punishment for stepping into the premises for not being a believer. So let's go home."
"You're too much of a bad loser."
I'm too tired to point out the contradiction in her statement, so I just crush her with those words.
I don't have a good impression of the church either. I know from my past life, but I don't like the way they preach fatalism.
I don't give a damn about fate.
I don't need fate, since I already have Michelie.
I want to live my own life. I want Michelie to be happier than she was in the story.
"……Chris? Why are you pouting like that?"
I didn't realize I was making a long face.
"Oh. It's nothing."
Telling Surfania won't solve anything. I quickly go back to normal. Surfania looks at me searchingly, but there's no way she can see through me like Michelie does. I keep quiet and avoid her gaze, pretending not to notice.
She gives up right away, looks away and makes a small sigh.
I doubt it's just my imagination that she was sulking. I cast a sideways glance at her, and she's looking away. It doesn't seem like she's going to talk.
The carriage proceeds despite the halt in our conversation. I spend some time regretting the fact that I made it awkward. We finally reach our destination.
This church is tiny compared to the cathedral in the capital. It looks like a humble building even from where I'm sitting.
Mariwa greets us with a troubled sigh as we get off the carriage.
Surfania raises her voice in surprise.
"Yes, that's right. Good day, Miss Surfania."
Unlike Surfania who's taken aback, I expected Mariwa here from the beginning.
"Yup. We're here, Mariwa!"
"Yes, yes. My, how did you find out…… Well, I suppose it matters not. This way, please."
She briskly enters the church.
Mariwa's really different when she's off duty as a private instructor, especially the lack of her usual strictness while going straight to the point.
"Hey, Chris. What's all this about?"
"Heh heh heh. Actually, I heard that an acquaintance of mine would be in this church, so I came here."
She becomes even more surprised. I have no intention of dragging out the unpleasant mood from earlier. When I tell her my purpose for coming here, she becomes shy and her expression stiffens all of a sudden.
We can't just stand here, so I drag her along and start walking.
"It's alright. It's an acquaintance of yours too."
Going after Mariwa, I grasp Surfania's hand firmly to prevent Surfania from escaping as she's glancing back at the carriage. I'm keeping the name of our acquaintance as a little surprise.
I drag her into a chapel lined with long wooden seats.
"Please excuse us. I have something special for you today."
The person I dragged Surfania along to meet is here.
"Ah, Miss Mariwa. What do you mean…… Eh, Chris?!"
"Call me Lady Chris, you commoner."
I give my old acquaintance a joking smile.
Seeing my usual attitude, the acquaintance makes a nostalgic expression.
"Whoa…… You haven't changed a bit. I mean, you're still aristocratic as ever, Lady Chris."
"Of course. And you still haven't gotten any wealthier, even for a commoner."
"Ugh, shut up. And I thought you were supposed to be something special as Miss Mariwa mentioned."
"You shut up!"
It's been two years, but we still heartily exchange brutal yet acceptable jokes.
After confirming the fact that neither of us have changed, he looks at Surfania who's behind me.
"Ah, that would be Surfania Calibrachoa. Would you prefer if I call you Lady Surfania?"
He throws in a little joke as a greeting for their reunion.
He's still as friendly as he was two years ago. In contrast to our considerate and frank acquaintance, Surfania looks at me anxiously.
"H-hey, Chris. Who is…… this person?"
"Have you forgotten me?!"
The commoner we met two years ago, Leon Nardo, shouts out loud in response to Surfania's cruel question.