Translated by Mojo of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Sagano’s villa stood on the mountainside, twenty minutes from the nearest station. The one who came to pick up Masazumi was a man in his fifties. He introduced himself, saying that he worked together with his wife at the villa. In the off season he would clean the house and maintain the gardens about once a month, but during summer he would pick up guests, prepare meals, and act as a waiter and a receptionist. Apparently, it was hard to make do with only two people.
So from the very start Masazumi felt apologetic that he was being a bother. It was the first time he had heard such revealing details about someone’s household only on their first meeting. He felt embarrassed, but he was also confused. Masazumi couldn’t even drive a car, but he couldn’t help but read this as a vague jab at him, since he had caused such an inconvenience. Obviously that kind of emotion didn’t appear in the driver’s attitude so it was impossible to know his real feelings, but Masazumi’s feelings were mixed now.
The guests who planned to come today had all already reached the villa so Masazumi would be the last to arrive. Since he had started driving, the driver was completely silent, appearing to concentrate on the road, so there was no more conversation.
On the gentle slopes of the mountain they passed groups of cosy-looking villas, but as they continued up the curve of the mountain road a building appeared which looked almost like a concrete box. Masazumi had only ever spent time at western, classical style buildings like the Count family home or his school, so this kind of avant garde style house was rare and interesting to him.
After he had read the social registry, he had checked it again later, and found that Sagano’s company provided import agent services. Its business achievements had grown every year since the establishment five years ago. Sagano himself was well known as an investor and a successful person.
With this cutting edge style of building, it felt like Sagano was demonstrating his respect for himself, proud that he had reached this point without help.
“Welcome, Masazumi-kun. I’m Sagano who sent the letter. It’s a privilege to have you respond to my invitation.” At the entrance hall the man walked towards him, it seemed as if he had been waiting. So this was Sagano Shouichi, Masazumi thought, looking him up and down nervously as if to confirm his identity. He was wearing a shirt with half-length sleeves and slacks which gave off an undecorated air. He seemed relaxed.
He had heard that this gathering wouldn’t be very serious, and it hadn’t been a figure of speech, he could see from Sagano that it was alright to relax. They held out their right hands and exchanged handshakes.
From the voice on the phone Masazumi had imagined that Sagano would give off a soft impression, always moderate and smiling. In reality, though he wasn’t very tall and a little thin, he was overflowing with confidence and had bold posture, Masazumi didn’t get the impression that he was small.
That beautiful voice which spoke so pleasantly had some kind of persuasive power that would grab one’s heart, and Masazumi felt as if he was being won over by Sagano without realising it. If he had some worries, or his emotions were overflowing and he asked Sagano for advice, he would probably be able to leave all the decisions up to him without thinking for himself. Masazumi thought various things like that.
“Everyone else has already gathered, I know you’ve only just arrived but I’ll introduce you to them”
As they went inside from the entrance, straight away on the right hand side of the hallway the expansive lounge was visible. There were expensive-looking designer leather chairs, a set of glass coffee tables in the center of the room, and a bar in the back. The members were all gathered here, they turned simultaneously to look at Masazumi with curiosity.
Masazumi thought about how they must all be omegas, which made his heart race strangely. He said, “Nice to meet you,” to the five people sitting there and bowed.
“From the right, these people are Yoshizaki, Sakurano, Hara, Arita, and Yanagimoto.”
As Sagano called their names one by one they put their hands up or exchanged a few words of greeting with Masazumi.
Yoshizaki was the one with glasses, the one with a small build was Sakurano, the sporty enthusiastic looking one was Hara, the one with a row of piercings in his ear was Arita, and the one who looked hard to talk to was Yanagimoto. Masazumi repeated to himself in order to memorise their names.
“Well, take a seat. There’s a space there” Out of all of them, including Sagano, the oldest looking was Sakurano, who beckoned to him. He sat down awkwardly in the middle of a three person sofa. Next to him were Sakurano, and Yoshizaki. The remaining three and Sagano all had positions on various chairs. There were eyes on him from all around so he felt a little weird, but the atmosphere made it hard for him to come out and say that he would prefer a corner spot. He decided to just interpret it as some kind of baptism for new members.
After Masazumi sat down he surveyed the room again. There wasn’t a single piece of furniture in the room that looked cheap or compromised, the room had been perfectly arranged. For some reason none of the things in the room seemed calming at all and Masazumi felt agitated. It was a beautiful place but it didn’t sit right with him, that kind of feeling.
“He’s cute” The impactful one with stylish clothes and piercings in a row on the side of his ear was Arima, he joked lightly while looking Masazumi up and down. “He smells good, I can even smell him from here. I guess that’s the son of a noble family for you.”
“Oi, oi, don’t tease him. He’ll get frightened,” Yoshizaki scolded Arita.
“Good grief. In the first place Arita, you’re too much of a playboy for your age. That’s why you just get used by no-good alphas and then tossed away.”
“What?!” Arita grew angry at Hara’s insensitive statement.
“Hara! Don’t go talking about people’s personal situations. And Arita, stop being so rash.” Yoshizaki admonished them again with an annoyed expression.
Masazumi sat nervously listening to the exchange between the three. From his side, Sakurano said, “Don’t mind them” in a calming voice. Masazumi turned to him and responded back, “Okay,” though he was unsure.
“This happens all the time. They know each other well so they speak without consideration for others. They’re actually good friends.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes. If you get used to it too, you’ll be able to ignore them with a straight face like those two over there.”
As he said ‘those two’ he glanced at Yanagimoto and Sagano, nodding to them. Yanagimoto was sitting as if it had nothing to do with him, his chin in his hands. It seemed he had completely lost interest in Masazumi as well. It felt as if he was only there because of social obligation. Masazumi doubted whether he would be able to get to know him by tomorrow.
Sagano sat back leisurely on the sofa, since he was a little bit further back than everyone it looked like he was surveying all of them. He was probably looking at everyone equally as a host should, but for some reason Masazumi couldn’t help but think about whether Sagano was looking at him. He didn’t know if he was or not; he didn’t know a single thing about anyone in this group.
Since Sakurano had given him the chance to start a conversation, Masazumi decided to ask in more detail about the group, “Sakurano-san, do you come here every year?”
“This is my second time. I came last year after receiving an invitation. I’m ten years older than anyone here, so our feelings tend to be different. The longer you live, the more twisted you get. You’re still seventeen, aren’t you? For a young master like you ,our stories of our experiences might be a bit heavy. That’s usually the case for male omegas.”
Akita had his past revealed casually by Hara, and Hara himself seemed to have something going on. Thinking about it, Masazumi’s mood dropped. He was aware that even for an omega he was blessed, but listening to the stories of real omegas, would reveal to him just how warmly he had always been protected. It was possible that no other omega had been treated as favourably as him; it was beyond being blessed, even.
“Our representative is quite successful in society, he has money and can live however he wants. But before he was able to become this way, he experienced all sorts of humiliation. It’s not good if I talk too much about it so I’ll stop there.” As Sakurano spoke about Sagano he lowered his voice to a whisper, and cut himself short.
Masazumi could guess that he was talking about the situation where a brother had been born to the real wife and Sagano’s position had changed. He didn’t try to question any further. Masazumi thought the house made him seem affluent, so he ended up imagining that Sagano hadn’t suffered all that much.
“Is everyone open to the public, about the fact that they’re an omega?” Masazumi had a pairing, and that person was the successor to the Marquis family, so he wasn’t in a position where he definitely had to hide it. But there were probably many who would receive all loss and no gain for revealing it. When a baby was born, the government would send a report of the gender, but when entering a school or being employed the only ones who could check the truth were only the upper authorities. And if they knew, they had a duty of confidentiality.
There was no problem in revealing that one was an omega. Alphas themselves were also relatively rare, so if one wanted to actively search for a partner then the chances of meeting one would increase after coming out. If that alpha had no problems socially, and was kind and likable, then one could make them their mate and ensure a lifetime of protection. It would also be a release from the burden of having to pay for suppressants.
Alternatively, of the omegas living by themselves, there must be some of those who were marked by a bad quality alpha by force, and instead of living unwillingly with that person, hid their true nature.
Before he met Yoshihisa, Masazumi assumed he would also live hiding it. The matter of revealing, or not revealing, seemed just to depend on the thinking of the person themselves.
“Sagano and I are public about it. Even then, it’s not like we boldly proclaim it and put it on our business cards. We just have it so that the information is available for anyone who wonders. If you live a relatively normal life like Sagano, people tend to assume you’re a beta, and often nobody realizes. Though he’s set up this community, maybe if he hid the fact that he was an omega he wouldn’t have got the trust of the members.”
It was true that Sagano didn’t have a particularly small build, and his appearance created a pretty strong atmosphere, so it wouldn’t be clear he was an omega at first glance.
Sakurano looked up and down Masazumi’s body and face so closely it was almost rude, and as if he had found something funny a cruel smile came to his face, “Maybe you were fooled into thinking that this is all your growth period or something, but let me tell you it only gets harder from here. Though I suppose your family’s your real family, and depending who you ask, it seems you’ve got a life lined up with a terrific alpha. It’s the perfect social position! I’m so jealous.”
The last line was tinged with mean sarcasm, but Masazumi barely noticed as he was suddenly overcome with fright that everyone in the room knew about him to that extent. He had to find out how they knew.
“Ah, don’t worry. We won’t leak the information to anyone. Because we don’t want to betray Sagano-san.” Masazumi was going to ask, but Sakurano brought up Sagano’s name before he got the chance. So there was no need to go to the effort of trying to find out the culprit.
“Though it’s still some time before the announcement ceremony… rumors spread fast.” Sakurano had said something like that so casually, and Masazumi had immediately worried about it. Sakurano seemed to think that if Masazumi wasn’t going to hide his gender then there was no need to be so sensitive.
“That guy, he knows a lot of people.” Likely thinking that Sagano would overhear, Sakurano spoke of him without mentioning his name. Masazumi was interested in Sagano, and wanted to check what the other members were up to, so he turned around to survey the room.
Arita who had been angry for a moment earlier was now talking to Yoshizaki, Sagano and Hara were talking about tennis. Masazumi heard them talking about going to see some of their senpais before the regional tournament in Autumn. Suddenly a thought came to him.
At first, he thought that Nashiba must know Sagano and had leaked information to him, as revenge. But since he had fallen out of favour with the Marquis family Nashiba would probably not cross any bridge that threatened to lower his social position further. So it couldn’t be him, but Masazumi remembered another person. The sports scholarship student Nakamori.
He hadn’t directly attacked Masazumi, but he had assisted Nashiba at least, and lost his scholarship. For financial reasons, he was then unable to come to school, rumors had spread about his voluntary withdrawal all the rest of the semester.
If anyone had leaked his secrets as revenge, the highest probability was Nakamori who had the least to lose. Masazumi saw no reason to doubt that it had been him. This had probably been revealed to multiple people already and even if he knew the details of the rumour, it wouldn’t change anything.
Sakurano saw everyone chatting calmly, and an expression came over his face. Masazumi couldn’t really understand it. It looked like he was disappointed about something, “Hara and Arita’s appearances and personalities make them complete opposites, and they fight all the time, but they also really like each other. They’re close in age too.”
Masazumi wanted to ask if there was something wrong with them getting along. Of course, it would be too rude, so he didn’t. He decided to ask about their ages instead, “How old are they?”
“Hara is twenty seven, Arita is twenty six. They’re similar ages to Sagano as well. Yoshizaki is the next oldest after me at thirty five, Yanagimoto is unexpectedly quite young, except he’s not friendly and always looks sullen so he seems older than is but he’s still twenty three. Incidentally, he’s also the only one with a husband. The chances for that kind of thing tend to decrease as you get older, but if you get together when you’re still young there’s more chance of it falling apart. So there are many who have no partner. If you don’t put in the work, you can end up straying down the wrong paths.”
Sakurano said this with an air of self-deprecation, biting his lip, “You come from a big old noble family, so I suppose that even if you get abandoned you can just cling to him, cry a little and he’ll come back to you. You’re blessed. Oh, I’m sorry, I’ve said something rude– I’ve heard about how your partner is completely in love with you, so just as long as your looks don’t decline, you have nothing to worry about. And don’t think about having kids too early either.”
“Why is that?” Kids were said to be links. Masazumi had always thought it would be good to have kids early and strengthen their bond, so he tilted his head in confusion.
“I don’t know about your partner, but there are inhuman alphas who think that an omega’s purpose is fulfilled once they’re pregnant, and sever the bond between you, throwing you away without thinking twice.” This time he spat his words out bitterly, and Masazumi felt like this conversation was agitating Sakurano. They had better stay away from this topic. After nodding his head vaguely he stayed quiet for a little bit.
Just then Sagano called out Masazumi’s name, so the conversation with Sakurano was able to end naturally. Up until now Sagano had added a “kun” to his name but since he had arrived it had been dropped. He didn’t mind it, he wasn’t very familiar with being addressed like that so whenever someone said that to him it startled him. He wondered whether the other members would copy Sagano and just call him by his name.
In the thirty minutes that had passed, Masazumi felt like he had been able to get a sense of the atmosphere in the room. Sagano was the representative of the community and the owner of this villa, so it was no wonder they were all attentive to his opinions. Other than that he felt a strange something between the members of the group. It was as if they were all keeping each other in check so that nobody became more friendly with Sagano than anyone else. On the surface they were all just regular members who assembled every year, but Masazumi couldn’t work out what was going on in the minds of a single one of them. He wondered whether this atmosphere would have an effect on him too.
“About your suitcase, I’ve had it left in the guest room where you’ll be staying.” Sagano said.
Masazumi said “Thank you very much for your help,” thanking him politely and bowing.
“Ha”, someone breathed out a whispered laugh that sounded like it was making fun of him. Without turning around he could tell that it was Yanagimoto based on the location of the sound. He felt horrible but he told himself that it was better to pretend he hadn’t heard it and ignore it.
“It’s a bit small and imperfect. But it’s only one night, so I think you can make do.”
“I usually live in a dorm room anyway. …As long as there’s a place for me to sleep.” He hadn’t known how to respond and ended up sounding a little stiff. He had never been told something like that before and it had confused him.
“There is a lock on your door so the privacy is flawless.”
Masazumi took the key from Sagano and held it in his hand, slowly realising that he must be trying to get rid of him for a while. When he thought that and looked at Sagano, he saw that his body was nonchalantly pointing towards the exit. Also, his eyes seemed to be urging Masazumi to move so there could be no doubt.
“See you later, Masazumi.” Yoshizaki’s voice called out to him as if to support Sagano’s intentions. And he hadn’t used ‘kun,’ either.
“You might be lonely having to find it yourself, should I go with you?” Arita spoke like he was just going with the flow of the conversation, and seeing his crooked smile, even someone as inexperienced with the world as Masazumi could tell that he was being made fun of.
Sakurano and Hara faced away from him. Yanagimoto remained sitting in his chair making a disinterested face, not even moving. Masazumi hadn’t really expected anything from anyone so he didn’t care about their reactions, and from the start he hadn’t believed that it would be that easy to make omega friends for him to talk to. The goal of this had been to meet some just to find out what they were like.
“Dinner is after seven. Once you’ve unpacked your things you can rest a little. Let’s all talk again over some food. I’ll explain the activities of the group in more detail as well. If you have questions then don’t hesitate to ask us. We’ll be playing some cards and board games in the games room, and drinking. We tend to go past midnight so prepare yourself, maybe take a nap now.”
It seemed he would have to go along with them after dinner. Masazumi gripped the key and turned away from the living room. He went up the marble staircase in the entrance hall and reached the second floor.
Numbered rooms were lined up on either side of a hallway. His room number was engraved on his key, and his room was the furthest at the back. There was one room next to that with no number on the door. He turned the knob out of curiosity and it opened slowly, revealing a back staircase for servants.
Oh, he thought, and then prepared himself for the worst as he put his key in his lock.
The room didn’t betray his expectations, it was cramped and gloomy. The window was facing north, so the midday sun barely filtered through. It was the size of a 4.5 tatami room, with a single bed for him to occupy, a small closet fixed to the wall, and a writing desk placed underneath the mid-sized window. That was all. His suitcase had been left there at random.
On the bed there were immaculate starched sheets and the mattress was good quality. He wouldn’t have trouble sleeping. If the bed had looked as off putting as the rest of the room, then he would have hesitated to stay, but they had done the basics of hospitality, and it would be hard for him to say that he wanted to go home without appearing selfish and haughty.
Was the state of this room purposeful, or did they really only have this room for their sixth guest, was this unavoidable? Masazumi couldn’t decide. Were they teasing him, or was there no hidden motive? As he opened his suitcase on top of the bed and began hanging his clothes, or lining them up on the closet shelves, he nursed his gloomy feelings.
If he was being teased then he was fine with it, but the method was childlike, and he couldn’t help feeling disappointed at Sagano. He had written such a polite letter of invitation to a seventeen year old, had the goal been just to see if he could make Masazumi cry, and beg to go home? It was such a let-down he didn’t want to even consider it.
For now, he would do as he had been told, and test out the comfort of the bed. He didn’t think that he would be included in what the other members were doing if he went downstairs again now. He had surmised that they all followed some kind of rule preventing them from going against Sagano in any way, so it might be better if he obeyed as well.
He had only brought the bare minimum of clothes and toiletries, so his unpacking was done almost instantly. He peeled away the clean bed cover and lay down. It was unquestionably comfortable.
It probably wasn’t teasing after all… as he thought that and relaxed a little, he spread his legs out under the covers.
He felt something squishy with his bare feet.
His leg jerked back out of the way. He had never been so bewildered in his life. Had it been his imagination? He slowly inched his foot forward again. This time he felt something like animal fur under his nails, and he threw back the covers and stood up.
The overhead light was switched off but the curtains were still open, so he could see the room quite well. When he looked at what had been below his feet his eyes opened wide and he had to stifle his scream. He gulped air.
He had missed the timing to cover up his mouth with his hand, so it was very possible he had made some kind of scream. And as he rolled out of the bed in fright he may have made noise.
Laying at the end of the bed was a white furry thing which didn’t even twitch. It was strange that he hadn’t noticed this, the covers had appeared to be flat, and he didn’t remember anything off about the bed. But it was possible he had just overlooked it.
His next thought gave him a jolt. What if this mouse had been crushed by his suitcase? He got goosebumps. Suppressing the urge to vomit, he averted his eyes from the white thing.
He thought to call someone to the room so they could get rid of it, but there wasn’t a bell or phone in the room. It also didn’t seem appropriate to go find the husband and wife who ran this place and ask directly. He didn’t want to go out in his pajamas either, so between the extra effort and just dealing with the weird thing himself, he chose the latter.
Anyone would find it disgusting to clean an animal corpse and he would feel bad making the staff do it. Since the bed had been made so meticulously it was hard to believe that the mouse had just crawled here by accident. Regardless of whether this was harassment, he wanted to place as little burden as possible on the staff, who were uninvolved. It made his whole body shiver in disgust, but for the time being he decided to at least move the thing from his bed, and gathered his courage.
He took a piece of paper from a notebook he tended to carry with him, and approached the white thing. Was it really dead? It was better to carefully make sure, so it didn’t start moving if he picked it up.
Only then did he finally realize it was a fake mouse.
He was immediately relieved of his nervousness, and felt like he would collapse to the floor. When he pinched the tail and held it up it was undoubtedly a toy. It was so detailed he wasn’t sure whether to call it a ‘toy’ or not, it had been made to look more like a real mouse than something cute, but as long as it wasn’t a real corpse anything was fine.
“They’re so cruel.”
The lowest of the low, and other things, he whispered to himself. For what purpose were they harassing him? He couldn’t think of anything. It was so impossible to understand that for a while he just stood there not thinking at all.
His desire to nap was gone. Even knowing that it was a mouse, there was no way he could lie down again now. His skin crawled so much he couldn’t stand it.
He felt like he had to say a few words of complaint to Sagano. If he stayed quiet and pretended like nothing happened, then the person who put it there might realize that there had been no result and regret it. But what he really wanted to do was find out who it was and hear the reason. Just doing nothing wouldn’t sit right with him. Despite his appearance he hated to lose, and he had his pride as well.
In the end he changed back into his clothes, irritation at this absurd situation swelling inside of him. He put his best clothes on and combed out his hair. This was his battle uniform.
He locked the door and headed towards the living room.