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   The Georg in my memories had a wishy-washy air, and was like a bright ray of sunlight in Spring. He and his mother were like two peas in a pod with their sweet good looks; his shy demeanor when he blushed was very charming.

   I now got a completely different impression from the boy standing before me.

   I smiled, come face to face with this boy who was clad in a cold and dignified air, like a wintry morning.

   “It must have been four years since last met in person. If I remember correctly, the last time was for the celebration of your ninth birthday.”


   Even daunted to some extent by the atmosphere which made it hard to approach him, I forced myself to make conversation.
   It really had been a long time, so I didn’t know how to start, but it was less discomforting than keeping silent. He wouldn’t respond, though!

   “You’ve grown really tall. Although we were around the same height before.”


   “Is auntie doing well? It has been more than half a year since I’ve been able to visit, but I trust her physical condition hasn’t gotten worse?”



   “She seemed to be in good spirits from the letters I received, but there really are a lot you wouldn’t know unless you met in person.”



   Could it be he didn’t remember me? ……can’t be, earlier I swore I heard him say my name.

   Georg kept looking at me like a block of stone, silent. It bothered me.


   “…………Miss Marie……?”

   Oh. He finally spoke.
   Georg blinked, lashes so long women would be jealous slowly moving. I followed the motion with my eyes, and I smiled in response.



   There was the sound of breath catching. His stared at me with wide eyes.
   Unknowingly, I copied his expression. What was his problem?

   I tilted my head to the side, staring back at the confused and lost Georg.
   His beautiful face flushed bright in an instant.


   He was red to the tips of his ears like a ripe fruit, and I stared, a little taken aback. I had no idea what was going on at all.
   What, what? What the hell happened, young man?

   “Eh, ah…uh.”

   Mumbling incomprehensibly, Georg took a fumbling step forward, and I wanted to tell him he shouldn’t.

   “Uh, Georg…”


   And then, sure enough, he wavered.
   Right away, he planted his hand down on the desk to save himself, but the stacked books were knocked and they began to fall from the desk.


   The sound of rustling pages rose into the air with the avalanche of books and documents. Georg’s outstretched hands fumbled through the air, and his elbow knocked over a pot of ink with great enthusiasm.


   The emptied pot fell hard on the floor, but thanks to the the carpet it did not break. The mahogany surface of the desk was left in a tragic state, and Georg picked up the safe documents in a panic.

   What a disaster.

   “Agh! Wait…”

   “Um, maybe…”




   It might be difficult to tell from only sounds, but you could probably take a good guess what happened.

   He lost his footing, and fell when he pitched over the books, diving to the floor. There was nothing else to explain.

   An extremely unpleasant hush fell inside the room. I stood stock still, unable to do anything.
   What sort of expression should I make at a time like this?

   “I want to die,” Georg whispered in a low voice from where he’d face-planted on the floor.

   I understand your pain, but live on!
   And then, stand up quickly as if nothing ever happened.



   After the long silence, a stifled sound burst through the air.
   Speechless, I turned to my neighbor, wondering if some sort of escape method had appeared.

   I trusted Master Julius to do something to break the ice.
   That he would come up with a smart and elegant response the rest of us couldn’t to deal with the situation, saving his nephew’s pride and myself the worry.

   But, heartlessly, the figure in the guise of a gentleman standing next to me was clutching his stomach and mouth, desperately holding back his laughter.

   “Uhmm…Master Julius.”


   Wait a minute, this was unbelievable.

   The next moment, he seriously began to roar with laughter.

   “Hahahaha…!! I, I can’t! This is too good!”

   The cheerful sound of it began to fill the previously silent room.

   No, no, no. That was definitely not the right way to go about it. Throwing the spirit of a young man with a bright future into a mixer after smashing it, then pulverizing it, was the act of an ogress.

   My fallacy was evident in the way Georg clutched the carpet—trembling at the humiliation.

   “You find your nephew’s blunder so amusing…?” he asked.

   “N-no. S…sorr…pft.”

   “Master Julius!” I said.

   “I-I apologize. Could you, snicker, hehehe, cough, wh-wait a little? Ahahahaha!”


   Without finishing his apology, Master Julius relapsed into another round of laughter. It was horrible, even for him, and I tried to stop him but to no avail.
   Tears fell from the corners of his eyes as he continued to laugh, even through a coughing fit.


   The words were unsuitable when aimed at a good-looking man in the latter half of his 20s, but I took Georg’s feelings into consideration.
   I could not stop the tears from shedding for Georg, still lying prone on the floor.

   While I was at a loss, Michael had crouched down beside him before I knew it.
   I watched as Michael quietly handed Georg a handkerchief and looked on him kindly.

   “Use it.”

   “Oh, thanks…”

   Georg abruptly pulled himself up and took the handkerchief, pressing it against his slightly reddened forehead.
   Michael looked at Georg sympathetically when the other looked down, an embarrassed expression on his face. Yeah, I understand, his face said. From the way he was nodding, it seems he recognized a fellow companion.

   “Until when will you laugh?”

   Georg dusted off his clothes as he stood, looking coldly at the uncle who was still laughing himself silly.
   At the sharp edge of his piercing glare, Master Julius stopped, raising both hands in surrender.

   “It was wrong of me. Don’t be so angry.”

   “How well you can say that when you laughed to such an extent.”

   “My nephew, famed for his unbelievably capable character, fell flat on his face in the scene I’d been dying to see most…haha…unbelievable, isn’t it?” Master Julius let his words break off, and turned his face away. Another wave of laughter seemed like it was coming.

   “So you wish to be killed. I understand. I will urgently prepare a skilled assassin for you,” Georg said, expressionless. I must have seen wrong the vein that popped up on his forehead.

   “Sorry. I apologize. I won’t laugh anymore.”

   “Even without you kindly telling me, I know I displayed myself in the worst light possible. I also understand that in the most important moment of my life, I irrevocably made a fool of myself. Yes, a nobody who tossed away his golden opportunity. Dregs. Filth no longer qualified to be human. So I ask you, what about it, blast you!”

   “I’m truly sorry.”

   His nephew going ballistic, Master Julius soberly bowed his head in apology.
   However, Georg had fluently flown into a self-disparaging tirade, and would not stop. Droning on and on like he was chanting a spell, until someone gently tapped him on the shoulder.


   “It’s OK. I often fail at the moments when I want to show myself in a good light.”


   Georg stared wide-eyed, and Michael gave him a thumbs up.

   “Besides, it’s natural as a man to be nervous because the princess is cute.”

   “…………thank you.”

   The youths smiled in secret understanding. A wry smile appeared on the face of the watching uncle.

   And now I’ve been ignored for more than ten minutes.


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