Translated by Mojo of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
“You look a little pale, are you feeling unwell perhaps?” Takanori asked Masazumi, drawing his eyebrows together in a worried expression and placing his elegantly controlled knife and fork on his plate. Masazumi, who had been caught in his thoughts, and whose focus wasn’t in the room, confusedly leant his head to the side.
“Sorry—! My body is fine. I was just spacing out since I am able to meet you for the first time in so long.”
At the table covered with a white tablecloth, Takanori sat in a three piece suit without a flaw in his appearance, and looked to be enjoying his lunch.
“Are you worrying about something, other than your health?” Takanori had laced his words with sympathy, trying to close the distance between them.
Masazumi felt he was loved by Takanori, and although he was happy about that he also felt ashamed. Without thinking that it was the obvious thing to do given that they were brothers, even now, though everyone was considerate of him, he would want to talk for even a minute or a second more, to greet him, casting those who wanted his attention away without a glance.
Masazumi had a monopoly on Takanori, “If you say stuff like that so energetically, people will look…”
When he was together with Takanori, he was stared at so much it wasn’t even comparable to usual. Towards Takanori, the sighs of admiration would accidentally escape, and towards Masazumi: envy and cynicism. The hushed voices of adult women would float over to him: ‘When you compare the two, the younger brother looks so dainty and unreliable.’ It made it hard to keep his cool.
“Yes, they are a little annoying. My mistake. I’m sorry for burdening you.”
“I should be used to it by now, but sure enough it’s because you’re incredible.”
“When you say that kind of thing I don’t know how to react, it’s a little troubling. You, whose beauty increases every year, even makes me a little flustered. It’s not me they’re all looking at, but you. I wish you’d become self aware already.”
The beautiful one is you, was what Masazumi wanted to say, but he felt too awkward and couldn’t form words. His cheeks felt flushed. Takanori had been the object of Masazumi’s admiration for a long time. He had wanted his graceful posture, and seen him when he put glasses on in secret to do his research. However, his body just would not change, and so instead of imitating the imposing demeanor of his brother, he just became elegant.
“Is it possible… you’ve developed a crush on someone?” Takanori gave Masazumi a caring look, and said that suddenly.
It had been such an unexpected question that Masazumi almost dropped his fork. He started to deny it, but abruptly a face flashed across his mind. It was Miyake Yoshihisa, who he had just seen recently with the Toudou Marquis in the greenhouse. Why had he thought of that face? He was perplexed by himself. “W- why?”
“You just gave me that impression for some reason. Don’t be so surprised. I’d even recommend it, it would be better if you liked someone. Though of course, follow your heart without forcing it.”
“If you say something like that to me I don’t feel like your little brother anymore… it’s lonely.” Masazumi expressed what he was really thinking and weakly smiled. If he seemed obviously down then Takanori would be overly attentive to him, so he tried to joke warmly.
“Truthfully, it’s not my true intention to hand you over to anyone else, but if it were a partner who promises to protect you their whole life… no matter what their social position, or gender, I would be thankful. Mother and Father are the same. Just keep that in mind.” Takanori’s earnest words echoed in Masazumi’s chest.
A crush– in fact, he had suppressed a part of himself so that he wouldn’t develop one. Now it was being recommended, his feelings were complicated. To be precise, he had never happened to meet anyone who he thought he might like, who he had to suppress feelings for. At this point, he had no idea what sort of person he was supposed to fall for.
“You don’t have to think so carefully about it. If the time comes, your beating heart will let you know.”
Hearing the words ‘beating heart’, Masazumi tilted his head in confusion, “Does that mean, you have experienced something like that too?”
“Ah. I have.” Takanori took the napkin placed on his knees and pressed it to his mouth. Masazumi looked at his eyes and it was as if he were seeing them for the first time. His eyes seemed to blur with colors, they were bright and clearly affirmed the question.
It would appear that his brother had someone he liked.
Masazumi wondered what sort of person it was, and wanted to meet them. It felt sad that his brother didn’t just belong to him, but in exchange he would get another brother or sister, which he was happy about. If it was someone his brother had chosen, then there was no mistaking that Masazumi would like them too.
After the meal, he walked around campus a bit with his brother. There were preparations that he needed to make for the stage and at 2.30, he had to be in position. Although thirty minutes still remained, they walked around the comparatively unpopulated garden.
They passed by the greenhouse managed by the gardening club, but it was locked now and nobody was inside.
Unintentionally, he considered whether his brother would know about the Marquis’ supposed illegitimate child, but he didn’t want to be told that it was improper to want to know about other families’ situations. Just like that, after such a short time, they were supposed to go their own ways.
“It’s unfortunate that you won’t be appearing, but I’m looking forward to the production. Props manager, please do your best.” Takanori patted Masazumi’s head as if he were a child, and waved, heading into the crowded square.
Masazumi tightened the leash on his emotions once more, and set off towards the stage.
As the festival which lasted two days came to a close, there was a dance that started at six p.m. At normal schools, it was common to have a dance party on the sports grounds, while a campfire burned. But at this boarding school, they would be using a two story reception hall which was on campus. Faculty and guests were allowed to come, and it was a full-scale ball.
After graduation, many of the students would be making their debuts in society as the sons of famous families. This was a place to gain experience for that, one part of their educational program.
For this day, only the students’ curfew was extended to 10 o’clock, and instead of their uniform they would wear tailcoats, their formal clothes. Guests would also return to where they were staying and change into something more appropriate. To the students, ever since middle school, this was one of the most important events they would experience all year.
Masazumi also went to this party, wearing a tailcoat which he had got tailored during the spring holidays. There weren’t many opportunities to wear the formal uniform during the year, but ever since he had entered high school he had been growing taller bit by bit, and had to get it refitted. Unsurprisingly, he hadn’t changed that much since last year, but if it was even one millimeter away from fitting, his father would frown. His father had inherited his own father’s habits, but Masazumi didn’t seem to have formed them in turn.
While he was enrolled in his third year of university, as the next in line to lead the family, Takanori would act as a proxy for their family when they were overseas. Last night he stayed until the school’s dinner party, and slept in a nearby hotel, but he had checked out early in the morning to head home. Masazumi had hoped to see him in his formal clothes for the first time in a while at the ball, but it would be impossible. Disappointing, but it couldn’t be helped.
He appeared at the ball alone, entering the first floor in his formal uniform. Voices called out to him from all sides, he received many greetings from students’ parents, and he was asked to dance with many older and younger sisters. If he danced with even one of them, it would become harder to refuse the others, it would be never-ending, so from the start he stated his bad physical condition as his reason to refuse.
“Yesterday, I was one of the overseers for our class’ production, which turned out to be quite taxing. I was also roped into guiding some of our special visitors around the school… so I am a little tired.”
The admirers at his side all sympathised with him.
Masazumi only said “ah” in response to their conversation from that point forward. According to the people surrounding him, there was another student who had felt sick and been absent from the ball. It would seem he was resting in his dorm room.
“Though it was Iwahashi, one of the members of the tennis club with the most stamina… It’s hard to believe he would collapse.”
Masazumi’s followers all thought it was about as likely as the devil getting sunstroke. Some of them half believed he was just trying to get out of the ball, without a hint of concern.
Upon hearing the tennis club member Iwahashi’s name, Nashiba’s face floated in Masazumi’s mind. Iwahashi was a kouhai one year lower than them, who obeyed Nashiba like a subordinate. From what Masazumi had heard, his father was a businessman, who owed a favour to the Nashiba Viscount family. It appeared as if that power dynamic had translated over to their sons as well.
Masazumi had spotted Nashiba earlier. He was on the dance floor, dancing with a beautiful woman, and moving around with the utmost confidence in himself. He would inevitably jump into one’s field of vision. In the wall of people which had formed in the middle of the floor, Masazumi could see Toyonaga and Nakamori who were always with Nashiba, they were clapping along with his dance moves.
Since he had bumped into Masazumi at the water fountain, they had not exchanged words. Before the school festival, they would pass by each other in the hallways while switching classrooms, or see each other when they had a joint class activity. Even during previous school festivals they would meet, but this time they had not run into each other at all. As if Nashiba were possessed, he had given up his interest in Masazumi. Just what kind of mental change he would have to go through to do that, Masazumi couldn’t even imagine. At any rate, if his fixation had stopped then it was something to be pleased about.
More than that, it was Kase and Miyake who Masazumi found interesting, and would accidentally find himself searching for them. The last time he had seen Miyake was in the greenhouse with the Toudou Marquis, but he had bumped into Kase at the play they were putting on together. However, when it came time for the actual performance everyone was rushing around on edge, and it wasn’t the kind of atmosphere where they could have a conversation unrelated to the play, so Masazumi still didn’t understand anything about their exchange at the greenhouse.
Whether his relationship with the Marquis was just as the rumors had said, was of a little interest. But mostly, he wondered what the intentions were in warning him about Nashiba. Without being told to, he had been careful of him, but if Kase knew something specific or was considering something, Masazumi wished he would just tell him without holding back.
He knew that this wasn’t the sort of place where Miyake would be so he didn’t look for him, but he was overly conscious of where Kase might be. Nine o’clock approached, however, and he still hadn’t found him, so he gave up. Thinking about it, he realized that Kase was a man who hated those sorts of flawless ceremonial events, and it was hard to imagine him making an appearance at this miniature version of upper-class society. Maybe if the Marquis had been here he would have come, but the Marquis had only come for one day.
He was truly beginning to feel a little tired now, so before he left he said to his followers, “Please excuse me,” and returned to the dormitories.
In order to decorate the end of the festival, one hundred fireworks were to be set off. They would be lit at around nine thirty, so there weren’t many people who would return to the dorms before then. So as Masazumi pushed open the gate doors and entered, the whole building was hushed. No light leaked from the students’ windows. Even if there were some people in there, it would be because they felt sick and the second-year Iwahashi was probably the only one.
He unlocked his door, and as he stepped into his room he felt a dim sense of unease.
He had properly locked the door so it was hard to believe that anyone had tried to force their way in, but there was a scent in the room that he had never smelled before, mixed with the air. Being sensitive to smells was a symptom of the heats that he was fated to have as an omega. Every twenty eight days, for a three day period, his heat would visit without fail. Though Masazumi suppressed it with medicine and he had never experienced one before, he had heard that it was unbearable to the point of losing one’s sanity.
Despite drinking the medicine, there were some subtle changes in his body, like being able to smell things he couldn’t usually, or being unable to keep his composure as he would normally do.
While he had been away, someone had entered this room– this was the only explanation for the dim scent that remained in his room.
Who? For what purpose?
As he was thinking about it he had an unpleasant premonition which sent a chill down his spine. He couldn’t bear to stand still.
He scanned his room, there was nothing missing. The furniture hadn’t been moved. The drawers on his desk and dresser showed no signs of being opened. In the first place, he didn’t have anything of high value or interest in his room that would be likely to get stolen. His wallet, bankbook and various cards were all in their place, unmoved. There were no traces of someone touching them. There was only one thing that if stolen, would be distressing; something which meant nothing to anyone other than Masazumi.
The medicine that Masazumi took every day.
No way, he thought, and entered the bedroom.
The moment he opened the door, he understood that the intruder had entered this room as well. The scent was more prominent in the air of this room. Masazumi rushed over to the chest of drawers placed at his bedside, and opened the draw.
The medicine which should have been there – it was entirely gone!
There was no mistaking it, the draw was empty. He felt the blood drain from his face. The day after tomorrow, his heat would come, and at this kind of timing, the precious medicine had been stolen. Without believing it would help him, he opened the draw again and again. No matter where he searched, he could not find a single pill.
For now, he had to talk to the school nurse and get a new supply, but this medicine was very specialised. It had all been entrusted to Masazumi. No problem like this had ever occurred before, until now it had always been the same. This unforeseen situation had Masazumi on the verge of hysterics, but he repeated the words, ‘It’s alright, I can solve this’, frantically trying to calm his heart.
After his breathing had somewhat stabilized, just at the moment when he had regained his calm, there was a crash that made the glass pane of the window shake. He was so surprised by it, it felt as if his heart would burst out of his chest. He let out a shriek of alarm, flinching.
The space outside the window suddenly grew bright, as the night sky was lit up with florid colors. Masazumi chewed on his lip and tried to suppress his anxieties, without noticing the fireworks flying one by one into the air.