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I Reincarnated into an Otome Game as a Villainess With Only Destruction Flags… (Light Novel) - Volume 3 Chapter 2 — Everyone’s Respective School Festival Part II



Volume 3 Chapter 2: Everyone’s Respective School Festival Part II

The school festival will be held at the magic academy I attended up until last year. When I was a first year, I participated as a student council member, but at the time, due to many difficulties caused thanks to my classmate Nikol Ascarot, all I can remember is that it was stressful.

It’s been two years since then, back when I was deceiving myself by calling myself Sirius – someone else’s name. I now work at the Ministry of Magic under my real name Rafael Walt. And now today, I’ve come to participate in the magic academy’s school festival again to fulfill one of my duties at my job at the Ministry of Magic.

My job today is to supervise the Ministry of Magic’s exhibits in one corner of the school festival, where students are displaying and selling works they made. Very close by, Maria Campbell, who had been a student council member with me last year, is supervising the academy’s side of this area as well as selling sweets that she seems to have made herself.

While I caused her no end of grief during the incident I caused last year, she accepted my apology unbelievably easily and forgave me. She then said kindly “From now on, please live on as yourself,” and smiled.

Until then, I had been getting a bit tired of a certain someone clamouring about how Maria was an angel and how Maria was a goddess. But at just that moment, I thought that perhaps she really was an angel. If I hadn’t already had my eyes on someone else, perhaps I would’ve been drawn to Maria.

However… I was drawn to her before I was to Maria.

My gaze was immediately drawn to her figure as she walked, brown hair waving in the wind. She’s the type of girl to brighten her surroundings just by being there.

“Katarina-sama, it’s been a while.”

After I call out to her, that girl I was so drawn to – Katarina Claes – opens her light blue-coloured eyes in surprise.

“Rafael! You were participating too then.”

“Yes, I was placed in charge of the exhibits sent to the magic academy.”

After causing the incident, I changed my appearance. My original appearance was much too flashy for me to reclaim my true name and live a new life. And so until the commotion dies down, I’m now a completely plain and unassuming stranger.

And yet, Katarina immediately realized who I was even disguised. She then looked at me with that direct gaze of hers - just as usual.

Even though I did something so terrible that she should really never talk to me again, Katarina smiles at me kindly – just as usual.

“You’re working hard.”

“Yes. Since I’m a bottom-rung employee, it’s hectic with all the work.”

But I’m currently very happy. I’m living a life where I don’t hold long grudge after grudge, where I don’t have to deceive myself. I’m very happy that I was able to regain something I thought I lost when I was young.

I hadn’t even dreamed of living happily like this until Katarina reached her hand out to me last year.

Although the magic academy and the Ministry of Magic are on the same grounds, since Katarina and everyone else has to study while I have to work, I can’t meet them that frequently. Thus I was overjoyed that I was I was able to meet Katarina in this way for the first time in a while.

I hear about what Katarina’s been doing lately, and I tell her about what’s been going on with me. Then as I was listening to Katarina for the first time in a while to my heart’s content, Maria, who noticed us, came over.

“You came, Katarina-sama – this is your portion,” says Maria before holding out some handmade sweets she had been selling.

“Wow, you set some aside for me? Thank you! How are they selling?”

Katarina accepted the sweets, looking very happy.

“Yes, honestly, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to sell sweets like mine, but thanks to you, I’ve sold almost all of them,” says Maria, also looking very happy.

To tell the truth, when I first heard that she would be selling her handmade sweets, I wondered if they really would sell. After all, aside from Maria, the only people at this academy are noble girls and boys. Considering that generally they would never cook themselves and have cooks make all their food, I wondered whether they would eat sweets made by an amateur.

Apparently Katarina was the one to think up the idea. I was surprised that she thought up something crazy yet again. I had been pretty surprised last year too when she said in the student council room that she wanted to eat Maria’s sweets.

I was born a commoner and often ate my mother’s homemade sweets when I was young… but Katarina is a pureblood noble – the daughter of a duke. To think that Katarina, who likely ate high quality food made by cooks every day, would say that she wanted to eat sweets made by an amateur – let alone a commoner like Maria…

At first I thought she was just being kind to Maria, who had been out of place in the academy, but it seemed that wasn’t the case. Katarina had been genuinely looking forwards to eating Maria’s handmade sweets.

In this way in response to Katarina’s demands, Maria’s sweets were indeed so well made that you could consider them more delicious than those made by a run-of-the-mill cook. After then, Katarina continued to ask for sweets from Maria, eventually growing close with each other.

There are plenty of arrogant nobles that due to their position, look down on those of lower status. And yet Katarina isn’t like that in the slightest. She doesn’t flirt with royalty like the princes and doesn’t look down on a commoner like Maria. Things like social statuses may not even register in her mind.

However, even if that’s the way Katarina is, the same doesn’t go for the other students. This is why I was worried about whether her sweets would sell…

Glancing over to where Maria had been selling her sweets, I see that she’s almost all sold out, with only two, three left to sell. Katarina, seeing the same sight, is surprised.

“You’re really popular. As expected from Maria’s handmade sweets.”

“I respectfully disagree, this is all thanks to Katarina-sama. You encouraged people to buy some, right?”

It seems as though the sweets sold so much partly thanks to Katarina recommending them to the other students. However, looking at Maria’s state today, I feel Katarina isn’t the only reason.

Maria had been rather out of place in the noble-filled academy when she first started school, but it seems that she’s meshing in rather well now. The noble girls who had avoided her not so long ago came up and talked to Maria as they bought Maria’s sweets with a smile. To boot, despite often showing stiff expressions in the past, Maria’s expressions today were calm and soft… this was probably thanks to Katarina’s influence.

“It’s true that I advertised, but it wouldn’t sell so well unless they really were delicious. They got so popular because your sweets are truly delicious,” says Katarina happily, proud enough to make you think that she was talking about herself.

“… Katarina-sama, thank you very much,” says Maria, cheeks lightly dusted in red.

This girl, Maria Campbell, is drawn to Katarina just like me. That’s probably why she made her decision.

“Oh, Campbell-san, I heard that your job at the Ministry of Magic has been finalized.”

Her entering the Ministry of Magic had been quite the hot topic lately. As the Ministry had been inviting her to come join since the moment she started the academy, the people at my workplace were pretty excited.

“What?! Maria, you’re joining the Ministry of Magic?!” Katarina says in surprise.

Apparently she hadn’t yet told Katarina.

“Ah, yes. I decided to enter the Ministry once I graduate school.”

“I see… but Maria, in first year, didn’t you say that you wanted to return home and live there once you graduated?”

That’s true, I did hear Maria say that once as well.

“That’s true. For a while after I began school, I wanted to just go home and live quietly without standing out… but… if I do that, I won’t be able to be with you anymore,” says Maria with eyes full of conviction.

“Huh?”

Katarina looks at Maria with a blank look, seemingly unable to understand what she means. However, I understood what Maria meant well. After all, I have the same feelings as her.

“I requested this of you at last year’s graduation ceremony as well, but I want to stay by your side from now on. But despite wielding light magic, I’m still just a commoner. I need a fairly high position in society to stay by the side of a duke’s daughter like you, Katarina-sama. And so, I decided to join the Ministry of Magic to gain such a position.”

Maria’s words were just like a passionate love confession – Katarina, the recipient of her words, turned bright red. To make things worse, on seeing Katarina’s blushing face, Maria belatedly becomes embarrassed at what she just said and blushes as well.

Both blushing in embarrassment, Maria and Katarina face each toher.

True, this is because of the conversation topic I brought up – but what’s with this exclusive atmosphere between the two of them? This isn’t funny. And have these two forgotten that I exist?

“Excuse me, I’m sorry for intruding into your little world, but… you two do realize that I’m technically here too…” I say, unable to bear this feeling that I’ve been forgotten for any longer.

“Oh, don’t be silly, Rafael. Saying that we’re in our little world…”

Finally, Katarina turns back to me. Maria’s cheeks still seem a little flushed, but it seems I’ve finally entered her line of vision. I speak to her.

“Still, I’m impressed, Maria-san… for the reason you joined the highly-admired Ministry of Magic to be because you want to stay by Katarina-sama’s side.”

The Ministry of Magic is the largest organization in the country, and wields power second to only the king. That’s why many people enter the Ministry with lofty goals of furthering the research and development of magic. This makes Maria’s reason for joining rather odd.

“Um, I understand that my motives are lacking. But I plan to work as hard as I can once I join, so please treat me well regardless,” says Maria firmly to me.

“I don’t think wanting to be by the side of someone you hold dear is a lacking motive. If I were in the same position as you, Maria-san, I think I would do the same thing, but…”

“But?”

“Even if you join the Ministry of Magic, if Katarina-sama immediately married the prince and grew busy, wouldn’t you be unable to meet up anyways?”

It seems Maria hadn’t realized this at all. Her eyes widen in shock. Maria, despite seeming all put together, can sometimes be a bit foolish.

However… why is the person in question, Katarina, shocked as well right now… this makes me shocked. Putting Maria aside… Katarina’s the person in question…

I knew that Katarina, despite looking just a bit foolish, was actually so incredibly stupid it was outside of the realms of imagination… but to think it was this bad…

“That was right… Katarina-sama, you’re a prince’s fiancée. If you marry immediately after graduation and go to the palace, you’ll be so busy we may not be able to meet… I don’t want that to happen.”

“That was right, if I stay Jared’s fiancée we’ll eventually marry, and I’ll become royalty… oh no. I’m only barely managing as a duke’s daughter, I can’t manage royalty…”

Given how Jared dotes on his fiancée Katarina, at this rate it’s guaranteed that they’ll be married as soon as possible. And since it’s Jared we’re talking about, I’m scared as it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he whisks her away into the depths of the castle and never lets her see the light of day.

However, it seems as though the too-dense Katarina has not realized Jared’s feelings in the slightest. It also seems from her murmurs that she doesn’t agree with marrying Jared and becoming royalty.

I decide to give some advice to Katarina and Maria, who seem so shaken. Or rather, to be honest the reason I brought up Maria’s placement in the Ministry of Magic in the first place was to bring up the following topic.

“Katarina-sama, why don’t you join the Ministry of Magic as well?”

Katarina, being as shaken as she was, immediately jumps on the idea.

“Huh, I can do that? Wait, if I join the Ministry of Magic, can I avoid getting married?”

“Generally, so long as you’re referred by someone with a fairly high position in the Ministry, you’re able to join the Ministry of Magic. Well, while I don’t think you’ll be able to avoid getting married, considering that the Ministry has the right to choose the next king, I don’t think you’ll be dragged off to the palace immediately.”

To tell the truth, I’ve been thinking about this plan for a while. I was brainstorming about what to do in order to prevent Katarina from becoming Jared’s as soon as they graduate. Given that I spent long years plotting terrible things for motivations not my own, I’m pretty good at thinking up these plans.

And so, hearing that Maria was going to enter the Ministry of Magic, I surmised that I could use her as an ally. Just as I expected, Maria’s eyes were sparkling as she desperately listened to my plan.

However, despite jumping on the idea at first, Katarina’s expression clouds.

“Um, but Rafael. My magic, as everyone is aware, is pretty weak…”

“Ah, it’s true that the Ministry of Magic generally has a lot of strong magic users, but there are also a fair number of people with weaker magic. It isn’t impossible for people to join with just an interest in magic and magical power.”

It’s true that the Ministry of Magic has a lot of magic users who are strong, but there are many who are not. Just because someone has powerful magic doesn’t mean that they’re smart, and in laboratories it’s not uncommon for there to be fewer strong magic users.

“I see, awesome! So then, if I work hard… oh, but you need a reference from a higher-up in the organization, right? Ergh, that’s a bit tough… I don’t know anyone who might write me a reference letter…”

The Ministry of Magic is a rather special organization. In order to gather talented people, they hold entrance examinations every year, but only a small handful can join the Ministry through the exams.

This is as those with strong magic are invited while they’re attending school like Maria, and magicless people talented in research almost all have connections and are chosen through recommendations by current employees.

That being said, it isn’t like an employee can recommend just anyone. It’s impossible for a bottom-rung employee like me who just joined to recommend someone. However.

“You don’t need to be so sad. There is someone who might write you a reference letter.”

“… What?!”

“My superior has been pretty interested in you, Katarina-sama. I’m sure that person would love to write you a reference letter.”

In my mind, I bring up the face of my superior, who’s considered to be odd.

Last year, when it was decided that I would be taken in by the Ministry, all of the other employees didn’t seem to know what to do with me. That couldn’t be helped, given that I was a criminal from a Marquis’ house who had wielded forbidden dark magic, even if it was only for a short while. No one would want anything to do with me. And yet in that hubbub –

What, no department wants him? Don’t you think such a rare existence is just marvellous? If all of you don’t want it, I’ll help myself.

Saying that, that person gave an alluring smile and took me in. Now, I’m working as a regular Ministry of Magic employee, never given any special treatment.

The one to tell me to change my appearance and to teach me how to do it was also that superior. It was a shock to learn that my superior knew Katarina. One day, after running into Katarina by chance on the grounds and talking with her before returning to the workplace, my superior came up and demanded: ‘Hey you, are you close with Katarina Claes?’

“Your superior? Your superior knows me?”

“Yes. I believe that my superior will come to greet you sometime, considering how much excited talk there was about going to talk with you.”

Apparently, my superior met Katarina once and really took a shine to her (though I wasn’t told how they met). Since then, my superior has been having fun by gathering all sorts of stories about Katarina, but always talks about wanting to talk to her again. Given how much my superior seems to like Katarina, I’m sure that my superior will write as many recommendation letters as Katarina wants.

“U – m, what kind of person is your superior?”

“My superior is a bit of a unique character, but still a very good person in my opinion.”

I’m sure that given that Katarina is similarly a unique character, they’ll get along well.

“E – excuse me!”

Maria, who had been passionately listening to us talk up until now, aggressively wedges his way into the conversation. She seems pretty frantic.

“W – what’s the matter, Maria? You’re looking frantic.”

Maria looks with a fiery gaze towards Katarina, who seems perplexed.

“U – um, if I summarize the conversation, if Rafael-sama’s superior writes Katarina-sama a reference letter, then Katarina-sama will join the Ministry of Magic… and then we’ll be able to always be together, right?!”

Maria was responding just as I had predicted.

“That sounds right.”

Maria’s desperate face melts into a happy smile when I smile at her kindly. And then.

“Katarina-sama, let’s join the Ministry of Magic together. I’ll do whatever I can to help! I insist, I insist,” says Maria with sparkling eyes as she takes Katarina’s hands in hers.

Ah, things are proceeded just as planned. Maria’s become an ally, and Katarina will head to the Ministry of Magic where I can be with her next year as well.

Sorry for using you, Maria. But I don’t want to hand Katarina over to Jared just yet.

I want to stay by her side for even just a bit longer.

************

Water is spurting out from the centre pond like a fountain, creating a rainbow. The earth sculptures morphed at every glance, vibrant flames dancing around them. The wind, almost a whirlwind, scattered about flower petals.

Side-eyeing that fantastical view, I greet the never-ending stream of customers with a fake smile.

Unlike parties and balls that are only a few hours long, the entire day so far has been this tiresome and I’ve begun to get sick of it. My fake smile is strained.

However, my twin brother Jared next to me is giving everyone a perfect smile just as usual. Although he’s my own brother, I have to say he’s pretty amazing.

I, Alan Stuart, was born sixteen years ago as Jared’s twin brother. When I was young, I nursed a strong inferiority complex towards Jared, who could did anything flawlessly with a cool expression.

That’s when I met that strange noble girl.

Despite being a noble’s daughter, she held up her skirt and ran, and climbed up trees like a monkey. Katarina Claes – she was so different from anyone I had met before.

She was the one to teach me that everyone had their strengths and weaknesses, that everyone was unique. And so I was able to finally take things easier, and eventually even the strong inferiority complex I held towards Jared disappeared.

Since then, for some reason I began to really want to stay by Katarina’s side, since being by her felt so good.

I just wanted to be by her side… but as the years passed, if I touched her without thinking, blood rose to my face and my heartbeat rose. As I was wondering why such a thing was happening, it happened. Katarina got involved in a certain life-threatening incident. That’s when I realized my feelings. Somehow, I had fallen for my twin brother’s fiancée.

It wouldn’t have been as bad if it had just been a political engagement and they didn’t get along well, but even a stranger could see that Jared doted on Katarina to an embarrassing degree (though Katarina – the crucial person – hasn’t realized this for some reason…).

I have my own fiancée to boot – Mary Hart, a Marquis’ daughter. Intelligent and beautiful, she’s said to be the very epitome of a noble girl. She’s so amazing she’s wasted on me. I like her, and have always treated her preciously.

However, I don’t love her. I like her like an older brother would a younger sister.

When I realized my feelings towards Katarina, I also realized what I really felt for Mary… and so, feeling as though I couldn’t continue the engagement while holding feelings towards someone else, I explained things to Mary.

Of course I didn’t go as far as to reveal that I was in love with my brother’s fiancée, but I did say that it was someone that I wouldn’t be permitted to love.

That’s when Mary told me she loved someone else as well – someone who she wasn’t permitted to love, just like me.

Mary pointed out that even if we dissolved the engagement, we’d just get engaged to someone else, so we might as well continue our engagement. I agreed, and so the engagement continues even now.

I don’t know who Mary loves, but she said that she’s continuing to try her best, refusing to give up. I’ve promised to dissolve the engagement should Mary’s feelings to the one she loves ever be returned.

After revealing our feelings to each other, Mary and I have become even closer. I’ve even begun to tell her about Jared’s movements at her request. It seems she doesn’t like Jared monopolizing all of her best friend Katarina’s time.

I feel bad using Mary’s pure feelings in this way, but in all honesty, I’d be happier if Jared and Katarina didn’t get any closer, so I’ve been actively helping out. Today as well, Mary asked me to make sure that Jared doesn’t get any time alone with Katarina.

Using the pretext of ‘being asked by my fiancée’ to butt in between Jared and Katarina – it seems as though I’m not the type to give up easily.

As I was thinking deeply about Mary, I realized that Katarina had come by Jared’s side. They’re talking quite comfortably with each other. Even while thinking that I’m being a bother, I remind myself that I was asked to by Mary and head over.

“Hey, you. You finally came. I thought that you weren’t going to come anymore, since after saying ‘I’ll go buy you some things to eat,’ in the morning you disappeared,” I say between the two of them, wedging myself in.

“My apologies. A lot happened,” Katarina says.

“I see, I assumed that you’d forgotten the time as you ate at the booths.”

“…”

Katarina looks troubled – seems as though I hit the nail on the head. She’s just as easy to read as usual…

“I brought you some snacks as gifts. Please enjoy eating it,” says Katarina, obviously trying to change the topic. She holds out the bags she holds in her hands.

Apparently it’s handmade sweets made by fellow student council member Maria.

Jared asks about how they were selling – in response, Katarina says proudly like she’s talking about her own accomplishments that they were extremely popular and had almost sold out. But when Jared says ‘I see, that’s good’ back to her, she begins thinking deeply about something.

Then she stops responding even when we speak to her. It seems as though she’s completely lost in her thoughts.

“… Katarina, this again?” Jared says, sounding exasperated.

‘This again’ is an accurate descriptor. Katarina sometimes ends up lost in her thoughts like this, completely ignoring anything around her.

“Hey, Katarina Claes! You idiot noble girl! It’s no good, she isn’t hearing us at all.”

I try raising my voice a little and calling out to her, but she doesn’t respond in the slightest. Thinking that just speaking to her won’t do the trick anymore, I lightly hit her head.

“Wh – what do you think you’re doing?!”

I hadn’t put any strength into it, but it seems she had been fairly surprised. She glared up at me. In response, I say that she was in the wrong for not listening.

“You could’ve just called out to me normally! You didn’t have to hit me on my head,” shoots Katarina back. But we called out to her plenty. It seems she really didn’t hear a thing.

“What are you saying? I called out to you plenty! But you just wouldn’t respond – it’s your fault,” I say.

Katarina pouts. Ergh, looking up at me with that expression – she’s pretty cute. Feeling shaken, I unthinkingly ruffle Katarina’s hair.

“Alan, leave it there. Could you not touch her so casually?”

Jared holds my hand tightly, stepping between Katarina and myself. He’s smiling just as usual… but his eyes aren’t as cheerful.

“… Jared, you…”

Without thinking, I sigh.

This twin brother of mine – normally, he’s all aloof about everything, but the moment Katarina’s involved he lets his emotions get the better of him. Like right now – I just touched her a little and now he’s giving me a complete death glare.

I want to show my past self, who thought Jared was so perfect, how Jared looks right now.

Jared Stuart is a small-hearted man who’s crazy for his fiancée and gets jealous terribly easily. My fiancée Mary even said that Katarina will eventually run out of patience with him if he keeps on trying to hold her back and glare at everyone around her.

“You’re a bit small-hearted… Mary says that Katarina will run out of patience with you if you continue this way.”

“Please tell Mary that it’s none of her business.”

He looks at me with very cold eyes. It’s no good – he’s way too crazy for his fiancée. And his grip on my hand is steadily getting stronger… I just touched her head a little bit, right?

Jared goes as far as to embrace Katarina – he’s really small-hearted. As I face Jared, feeling completely fed up with him –

“Jared, Alan.”

I hear someone call out to us. Looking towards the source of the voice, I see two couples of men and women heading in our direction, the man in front waving at us with a smile.

Ugh, it’s someone even more annoying than Jared.

“Geoffrey-niisan, I see that you came,” Jared says to our older brother and firstborn son Geoffrey Stuart. His face is all soft and limply. He waves his hand at us back and forth.

And the person coming up a little behind Geoffrey is…

“Ian-niisan, you came as well, I see.”

He’s our other older brother, Ian Stuart. Opposite to Geoffrey, he has a serious face and a stiff expression. He bows.

Since entering the academy, I’ve barely seen my older brothers. Rather, even when we were living in the same place, the two of them were too busy fighting each other for the throne to pay attention to their two younger brothers, so we’re not that close.

Despite that, before entering the academy we were technically living in the same place so we did see each other fairly often. But I never got along well with the two of them, especially the firstborn Geoffrey…

“Oh, if it isn’t lady Katarina Claes. It’s been a while,” Geoffrey speaks to Katarina with a face so relaxed you wouldn’t think that he was a prince.

It’s true that Katarina met our older brothers once at my and Jared’s fifteenth birthday party… but judging from Katarina’s expression, she doesn’t remember them in the slightest.

Jared, used to this, seems to have whispered the necessary information in her ear.

“Ah, yes. It’s been a while, Geoffrey-sama, Ian-sama,” says Katarina before stopping.

Since she hadn’t remembered my older brothers, she naturally wouldn’t remember their fiancées as well. Jared whispers in her ear again.

“It’s been a while, Randall-sama, Burke-sama.”

Even though she definitely just was told their names by Jared, she greets my older brothers’ fiancées as if she had known all along. The fiancées cheerfully return her greeting.

“What made you all decide to come here?”

Geoffrey responds with a beaming look to Jared’s question.

“Why, to see the younger brothers I love so much be in the spotlight, of course.”

Ah, this brother of mine never changes. This firstborn son has always been this way. The rumours I hear of him have always been positive, and I’m sure he’s pretty talented in reality… but well, I don’t really understand him well.

He’s neat and proper in public, but in private, he always looks lazy and unreliable, and says ridiculous things.

Jared naturally knows this well.

“Right, and what’s the real reason, Ian-niisan?” asks Jared to Ian, coolly ignoring Geoffrey.

“Oh, I came to inspect the magic academy to fulfill my official royal duties. Geoffrey’s probably the same.”

Ian’s no different from usual too. He’s always stiff and serious.

“Probably? Oh, so you didn’t come together.”

“That goes without saying. We just coincidentally ran into each other a moment ago.”

Geoffrey and Ian are fighting each other for the right to inherit the throne. And so, there’s no way that they’d come together, all friendly.

That being said, from what I’ve seen up to now, it doesn’t seem as though they don’t get along. However, they’re formed their own factions and are always watched by those around them, so it could be just that they can’t be seen getting along well.

Suddenly I realize that Geoffrey, who had been ignored by Jared and Ian, had turned his gaze to me. Just as I think that this could be bad –

“Wow, Jared and Ian are both so cold. Hey, Alan, your cute brother came to see you!”

“What – stop it, don’t hug me.”

– he embraces me. Despite being brothers, it feels creepy to be embraced by a fellow man considering how old I am. I desperately push Geoffrey away.

As we did this and that, the bell rang, clanging. It’s a signal that there’s only a small amount of time left before the school festival ends.

Oh, it’s already this late.

In a little while, the school festival will end, and after that, we’ll move to the school ball – that could even be called the school festival’s ‘night portion’.

“Oh, we have to head to the stage for the play soon,” says Jared on hearing the bell.

The plan is to perform the student council play after this. Truthfully, I don’t want to act, but by strong request from the student populace, I was unfortunately made to participate.

“Ooh, Jared, Alan, you’re going to perform in a play? I want to see it,” says Geoffrey. Ian rebukes him.

“Geoffrey, stop saying stupid things, we’re heading back quickly.”

“What, you’re no fun… wait Ian, you’re going to go back with me?”

“Stop spewing such idiocy, of course I’m not.”

It seems as though the two of them get along as well as usually.

The playboy firstborn son who says ridiculous things and the serious, neat secondborn son…I don’t have much in common with them and I don’t know how to deal with them … but I don’t think I dislike them.

Well, I’m sure to think ‘Ergh!’ the next time I see them either way.

“See you!”

“Well then, I’ll take my leave.”

Giving polar opposite farewells, the two brothers left. And then we left as well, for the stage.

On a side note, Katarina is still holding bags of what is presumably large amounts of food. She should’ve already given everyone their snacks, but could everything remaining be possibly all for her…?

Well anyways for now, I’d better report to Mary that I didn’t let Katarina and Jared be alone once we reach the stage.

************

After a little while, the school festival will finally end. It was a truly boring, tiring day. Despite being the long-awaited school festival, I was stuck doing work, unable to spend the day with Katarina. Even though as the day of the school festival neared, I was too busy with preparations to spend time with Katarina – pissing me off even more.

To make things worse, when I invited Katarina to my room before things got busy, Keith came along like he was meant to be there and got in my way, and when I tried to go to Katarina’s room, Alan or Mary got in my way.

Katarina is my – Jared Stuart’s – fiancée… and yet they don’t seem to intend to give up at all.

My fiancée, Katarina Claes, an Earl’s daughter, is odd. She’s outside of the norm whether it be for a noble girl or a normal girl. I’m never bored when I’m by her side, and I haven’t gotten tired of being around her despite knowing her for years.

It’s because of Katarina that I, who was unable to hold any interest in other people, was able to fall in love so deeply with someone.

However, Katarina has a fatal flaw thanks to her charm in the way she attracts way too many rivals. Unknowingly, she seduces both men and woman.

Her own stepbrother to begin with, then my younger brother and his fiancée, and her childhood friends – the prime minister’s son and his younger sister. Then the light magic user genius girl, and finally even the man who tried to kill her. As a result, my rivals just keep on increasing.

Like today for example – after Katarina finally arrived after likely wasting time eating, I thought I had a rare chance to talk with her alone. And yet Alan came and got in my way. To make things worse, he dared to casually touch her head. Don’t touch my Katarina.

When I immediately rebuked Alan I was told that I had a small heart.

Well, I do recognize that it’s true that when it comes to Katarina, my emotions – which normally don’t react to anything –react drastically more quickly.

To be honest, I end up displeased just by seeing Katarina talking with another man. But with the number of enemies I have, it really can’t be helped. I end up worried to death about whether or not she’s going to seduce and charm yet another person as well.

I remain in a bad mood as I head to the stage – I was barely able to speak with Katarina when she had finally arrived. We were finally able to meet, yet Alan as well as those two brothers of mine have some terrible timing. They didn’t have to come the moment when Katarina finally arrived.

I wasn’t doing anything important for hours beforehand, so they could’ve just come sometime then. So why of all times right then…?

I kind of don’t really like dealing with my lazy oldest brother, though I’m okay with my neat and proper next-oldest brother. Though of course, I don’t let those feelings show – I’m not Alan, after all.

Generally, I can understand what anyone is thinking – but since I was young I’ve been unable to read my oldest brothers’ thoughts. It creeps me out a little that I can’t figure out what he’s thinking at all.

Well, it doesn’t seem as though he intends harm towards me, so I’ll just ignore him.

Thanks to my brothers’ unexpected questions among other things, when we finally arrive at the stage almost all of the other student council members had already arrived. Some among the girls had already changed into their costumes.

Something happened the moment I thought to immediately go change into my costume and prepare.

“We’re in trouble! One of the actors has taken ill!” cried one of the backstage helpers, running towards us.

Apparently, one of the first year student council members slated to act in the play suddenly took ill and had to be taken to the doctor’s office. Thankfully there was no issues found during her diagnosis and she would apparently get better after resting a bit, but obviously she wasn’t able to act in a play that was just about to start.

“We have no choice. We’ll have to use a stand-in,” I say as I sigh internally that something like this had to happen right before show time.

I look towards everyone who was working backstage. We’ll have to get one of them to act – they’ve likely seen our recitals a number of times. However, everyone hurriedly averts their gaze.

Well, it’s a natural reaction to being told to go act in a play with such little notice. Not to mention, things probably wouldn’t turn out well for them if they thoughtlessly acted in a play filled with popular student council members and thus faced the general student populace’s wrath.

Then we need someone who has a fair level of popularity to act in the play.

I turn my gaze towards her, but she averts her gaze with incredible speed.

She’s averting her eyes way too blatantly… the people around her are avoiding my gaze a little more naturally, but as expected from Katarina.

However, the people around us started speaking up without me having to say anything.

“In that case, I think that Katarina-sama would be a good choice.”

The voice echoed around the quiet room, leading to voices of agreement one after another.

“I think that Katarina-sama would be good as well.”

“I think that if we have to pick someone to perform along with the student council members, there’s no one other than Katarina-sama.”

“Yes, I think the other students would accept Katarina-sama as well.”

Well, everyone understands that thinking about it rationally Katarina is the best choice. Katarina may not be a student council member, but she’s fairly popular, and she’s the only person outside of the student council to have a fan club – even if it’s not public (though she herself has no idea about this).

“I – I can’t do it…”

Katarina, desperately trying to turn the offer down, looks towards me with a gaze that seems to be pleading me to be her ally.

She’s very cute looking up at me with wet eyes. I smiled beamingly.

“Alright then, Katarina. I’m counting on you.”

When I place my hand on her shoulder Katarina looks so full of despair you’d think the world had ended.

Though she dragged her feet, Katarina accepted the script and was changed into her costume. Luckily the girl who wasn’t able to perform was almost the same size and shape as me and so the costume fit almost perfectly.

However, I hadn’t realized this at all when the original girl was wearing the costume… but isn’t that costume revealing too much skin around her chest? For her to go out in front of others wearing that… but there’s no time.

In the end, I had her wear a stole to hide the skin. The person in charge of costumes did say ‘Um, I feel like this doesn’t really match,’ but was silenced with a single look from me.

Katarina herself seems to have thought that the costume was supposed to look like this.

Finally the curtain rises on the play. Katarina had ended up slated to play the protagonist’s stepsister who bullies the protagonist. It’s a role that doesn’t suit her well, but it can’t be helped.

Honestly, I would’ve been happiest if she had played the protagonist – my partner role. However, it was all very sudden and it probably would’ve been tough on Katarina who’s struggling so much with the few lines she has right now.

The protagonist Maria heads on stage, and shortly after it’s Katarina’s turn. Katarina seems to have been repeating some mysterious breathing actions before heading to the stage in a fluster.

Then Katarina stops the moment she walks out on stage.

Could this be – has she forgotten her lines? It would’ve been less understandable if she had practiced them a lot, but this was all very sudden. For Katarina, who’s always true to herself, it must be tough enough for her to just act.

Since I had predicted that something like this could happen, I went to go back her up – but that’s when –

“My, how you’re unaware of your position in society.”

A voice rose from the stage. It was a line completely different from what had been prepared… when I look towards the stage in surprise, I see Katarina standing there, looking like a complete stranger.

To be honest, I didn’t think someone foolish like Katarina could play a role that bullied someone else, even if it was just a role. I thought that since I knew how she ticked very well, I knew that she didn’t match up well with the role, but…

Katarina is on the stage - and yet it feels like a different woman who isn’t Katarina is also on the stage.

That face, laughing down at the protagonist mockingly, is the face of the bullying stepsister no matter what angle you looked at.

To think that Katarina could act like this… As expected from Katarina - I thought that I wouldn’t be surprised at anything she did anymore after being so surprised at so many things nine years ago but apparently not.

“I rather think grovelling at my feet fits you best.”

Before I realized it, I was unable to tear my eyes from Katarina who naturally adlibbed lines that weren’t in the script. There stood a Katarina I didn’t know.

Even while being enthralled by Katarina’s acting, I successfully performed my role and the play successfully ended.

The moment the play ended, Katarina was immediately surrounded. Apparently I wasn’t the only one to be enthralled by her performance.

Argh, I’m happy I was able to see a Katarina I hadn’t seen before, but at this rate the number of people who want to steal Katarina away may increase. I shouldn’t have let her out in front of all these people.

Even as I regretted my actions, I cut my way through the crowd of people towards Katarina and praise her.

“I’ll properly escort you at the ball after this, my fiancée,” I then say, to restrain the people around me.

I was glared at by the other student council members, but it’s a given that her fiancé would have the role of escorting her to the ball – there’s nothing they can do.

Since I wasn’t able to talk with her at all during the day, I plan to have as much fun as possible during the night.

At the ball, I’ll be able to embrace Katarina as much as I want. Katarina, oblivious to the reactions of the people around her, thinks that kind of thing is normal and will let herself sink into my embrace.

The other rivals will probably invite Katarina to go dance as well, but I have no intentions of letting Katarina go so easily today.

After seeing a Katarina I hadn’t seen before, my body feels rather warm and my heartbeat won’t slow down. At the ball, I want to have my fill of Katarina until I calm down.

As I do some final clean-up for the school festival, I think about being able to have Katarina all to myself at last.

Ah, I need to hurry up and finish working so I can go pick up Katarina… but when I go to pick up Katarina in the room she had been in, she wasn’t there. And even when the ball began I wasn’t able to find her.

Katarina was last seen on the stage before disappearing from our sight.

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