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A few days had passed since we had arrived at the Capital.
Everyday, we would take Shuri around the Capital to sightsee many different places. We had even visited Sanya-san and Gazar-san.
I had also brought the girls to my Bear House, and we had cleaned it together then played with the Bears in the yard.
We had busied ourselves well, and in no time, the day of the festival arrived.
「Well then, I have to go and get ready. When the festival starts, please come straight to the academy. I will meet you at the entrance, so please don’t go running off before I come and get you.」
「Onee-sama, you’ve told me that several times already…」
「Oh, also, did you get the money? If you forget it, you won’t be able to buy anything.」
「Mother gave me some, so I’ll be fine.」
Actually, Noa hadn’t been the only one who received money from Eleanora-san. Both Fina and Shuri had also gotten an allowance. Fina had been reluctant and wanted to refuse at first but, with Eleanora-san’s unwavering insistence, eventually gave up and accepted it.
Eleanora-san had tried to give me money as well, but I told her she had already paid me for my escort services and had managed to refuse.
Shia kept pacing back and forth, trying to think if there was something else she should remind Noa about.
「Onee-sama, I will be fine! Please hurry up and go, so you aren’t late.」
Noa scolded her older sister, who should have already left a while ago.
「Ugh, fine. Yuna-san, please take care of the girls.」
「I will. Good luck with your stand.」
「Thank you. Okay, I’m heading off now!」
Shia ran out of the room with her skirt fluttering behind her.
「Geez. Onee-sama thinks I’m still a child.」
「Well, you still are, aren’t you?」
Now that Shia finally left for school, the room suddenly fell quiet.
We still had some time before we had to leave, so what should we spend it on?
「Oh, that’s right. Come here, Noa.」
「What is it?」
She trotted over to me slowly.
「Sit down on the chair.」
Noa did as I asked, so I moved behind her back, took out a comb from the Bear Box, and started to go through her long, golden hair.
「W-what are you doing?」
Noa asked, a bit startled.
「Well, Cliff asked me to make sure weird, evil bugs don’t get close to you at the festival.」
「You really believe what Father said?」
「Don’t you believe him, Noa?」
「I’m not sure. Still, I don’t think anyone is going to approach me unless it’s at a party.」
While I understood Noa’s point of view to some extent, my only knowledge of nobles came from fantasy stories. Here, I wasn’t sure how or where people would approach Noa.
It was possible that some male noble might come up to us at the festival and ask to look around the place together. If he was only around ten years old, I didn’t think anything bad would happen, but if an older person showed up… When it came to noble marriages, it should be fairly common for there to be an age gap, and putting the two together…
「So, why are you combing my hair?」
「I thought we should change your hairstyle. With that, people who don’t know you that well shouldn’t be able to recognize you.」
The chance that somebody could recognize her from afar should be low if she looked a bit different. Usually, when searching for somebody in a crowd, a person would look for some defining characteristic. In my case, if I changed from my Bear Suit into some plain clothing, nobody would recognize who I was. Changing Noa’s hairstyle should most likely do the trick in her case.
「We’re doing it just in case trouble does come around. Well, if you really don’t want to change your hair, we can put the idea aside.」
「I’m fine if you’re doing it for me, Yuna-san.」
With Noa’s permission, I began changing her hairstyle.
「Tell me what looks good. Fina and Shuri, give us your opinions, too.」
While combing through Noa’s beautiful long hair, I thought about what hairstyles would suit Noa. First, I parted her hair in half and made it into twintails similar to Shia’s.
「It’s the same as Shia-sama’s.」
Fina brought a mirror and placed it in front of Noa.
「It really is the same as Onee-sama.」
Noa touched her hair with a delighted smile.
「It suits you, but sadly, we can’t do this style.」
「I mean, if you look like Shia, people will find out who you are immediately.」
I had already known beforehand that it wouldn’t be a good idea, but I couldn’t resist wanting to see Noa with twintails. As expected of sisters: when I made her hair like that, she looked just like Shia. Shia must have looked very similar to Noa when she was younger.
Next, I tried a ponytail, and after that, a side ponytail.
「Noa-sama, you’re so cute.」
「Noa-neechan, you’re cute.」
Whichever hairstyle I tried, they all looked cute on Noa. I was having a hard time deciding which one fit her best.
As I continued to play with Noa’s hair, Eleanora-san entered the room.
「My, what are we doing in here?」
「We’re playing with Noa’s hair.」
「Yuna-san, that’s not it.」
Noa pointed out and proceeded to explain to her mother what we were actually doing. Playing with her hair was a part of it, though.
「I see. In that case, I have to join in.」
Eleanora-san took over from me, and we began to come up with more and more hairstyles. Dumpling hair, braids; there was no style we left out. We even came up with many variations, and each and every one of them looked cute on Noa.
「Noa, which one did you like best?」
「Ugh, my head hurts. Mother, Yuna-san, aren’t you two just playing with my hair?」
Yup, we were. Getting to play with such beautiful, blonde hair like Noa’s was a rare opportunity that I wasn’t going to let slip by. I would have played with Fina’s hair, too, but there was only so much that could be done with her short hair. Noa’s longer hair was much easier to style.
Still, if we didn’t decide soon, we would have to leave for the festival without having accomplished anything.
After debating a while longer, we finally settled on a hairstyle. We gathered Noa’s hair up in a ponytail and tied it with a large ribbon.
A ribbon ponytail wasn’t too special of a hairstyle, but if it stood out too much, her disguise would lose all meaning.
As it was already time, we set off for the academy soon after. Eleanora-san wished she could go with us, but sadly, she had to go to work.
We went by foot, and Noa happily skipped down the road with her ponytail swinging back and forth behind her.
「I’m so excited!」
「Noa, is this your first time going to a school festival?」
「Yes. They don’t let me go to the capital alone, after all.」
Well, of course they wouldn’t let a ten-year-old girl travel to the capital all by herself. She had been nine-years-old last year, which was even more of a reason not to let her go.
「Shuri, you can’t let go of my hand, okay?」
「Mhm, I know.」
「Also, make sure you don’t drop your money, okay?」
「I won’t. Don’t worry so much.」
Next to Noa and I, an older sister was worrying about her younger sister.
Since the academy we were going to was attended by nobles, Fina had warned Shuri not to act so casually like she had with Princess Flora the other day. Fina hadn’t been able to scold her at that time, but had done so the moment we left the castle. It would be troublesome if we got involved with some strange noble, and it would cause problems for Eleanora-san as well. That was why Fina was now holding Shuri’s hand tightly to make sure she couldn’t run off.
Fina noticed I was smiling at them.
「What is it?」
「Hmm? I was just wondering if this is what all siblings are like. Shia was also very concerned about Noa, so… 」
「Onee-sama worries too much.」
「That’s right, Onee-chan worries too much, too.」
Shuri agreed with Noa.
A child never knew the extent of their parent’s love, or in this case, the extent of their sister’s love…
As we got closer to the academy, we started to see more people heading in the same direction. Consequently, more and more eyes fell upon me.
Naturally, I hadn’t forgotten the fact that the more people there were, the more stares I would get, but what could I do? I heard children whispering to their parents,「Bear-san?」and 「It’s a Bear-san from the school festival.」, but I could only do my best to tune out those whispers.
By the time we arrived at the academy, we were practically drowning in stares.
「Onee-sama hasn’t come to get us yet.」
We couldn’t find Shia around the entrance.
As we waited, festival attendees slowly flowed into the academy. At the gates, they all held out either their citizen or guild cards, as required by the academy to ensure no criminals could enter.
Having nothing better to do, I watched other children running around near the entrance. Then suddenly, one of them ran up to me and hugged me.
One after the other, children slowly began gravitating towards me.
「What a cute suit. Was it made specifically for the school festival?」
「What a cute Bear-san.」
「Mother, I want to see Bear-san, too.」
One by one,the adults let go of their children’s hands, and the crowd of children around me kept growing bigger.
Could they please not do this? I pulled down my hood to cover my face.
The three girls called out to me in worry.
Now wasn’t the time for that. They should be helping me get away from this swarm of children. Had they been monsters or some other foes, I could have just used magic or a Bear Punch to blast them all away, but I obviously couldn’t do that to the children.
「Bear-san is so soft.」
「Sorry, but can you let go?」
I asked the children kindly but to no avail. Eventually, I was still stranded in the sea of kids with no way out while the adults simply watched and smiled.
Could they please stop them instead of just watching?
I cried out for help.
「Yuna-san? What is going on?!」
My lord and savior goddess, Shia, appeared out of nowhere.
「Shia, help me!」
I called out to her. Shia took one look at all of the children around me, sighed, and began extracting me from my predicament.
「Come on, Bear-san is troubled. Let go of her.」
As Shia persuaded them, the children let go one by one, and I was eventually freed of their encirclement.
「Thanks, Shia. You really saved me there.」
「Yuna-san, what in the world were you doing?」
Shia looked at me with a bit confused.
「We were waiting for you here, and then the children just kept coming at me.」
All I had done was stand here. I hadn’t done anything else.
The children continued staring at me, as if I was a gigantic stuffed toy they desperately wanted to grab onto. Maybe I was being overly conscious about it, but I never thought that getting attacked by children could be this terrifying.
「Yuna-oneechan, are you okay?」
When the girls came to me, the other children looked at them and started approaching me again.
I immediately told the girls to stay where they were, and luckily, Shia quickly found a solution.
「If we stay here, the children will come after her again, so let’s head inside.」
We agreed, and Shia escorted us towards the academy. The children who were left behind looked very disappointed, but that couldn’t be helped.
「Shia, thank you so very much. I don’t know what I would have done without you.」
「Yuna-san, you’re always wearing that outfit, so it makes sense you forgot what could happen. It stands out quite a lot, after all.」
It wasn’t like I forgot. I just didn’t think the children would see me as a festival attraction.
Could I even walk around the academy like this?
I don’t think anybody remembers original Shia’s hairstyle, but in the publication, I changed her hairstyle to twintails (there’s an illustration of it there if you want to check it out).
As per usual, I changed it to twintails in the web version as well.
I really appreciate all your support, getting me this far.
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