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Gateways to Casselonia chapter 5
The door of the entrance now closed, Mizuki continued to gaze in the direction where Mr. Tybalt had taken Sorata with him. Her mesmerizing eyes didn’t budge a centimeter, even though she couldn’t see him anymore.
“You and I should get going now.” Mizuki turned her head back to the front at the sound of Lola’s voice. “ I have a good idea as to where I’ll have you work today Mizuki.” Lola winked and smiled, she knew something was up with Mizuki and having her mind busy on something else could be a good distraction.
“Come on, let’s go.” Grabbing her by the hand, the enthusiastic maid lead Mizuki down into a hall next to the big staircase. A big smile on her face and giggling echoed down the long corridor.
“H-hey! W-where are we going?” Mizuki asked in a semi-worried tone.
“We? You mean you.” She answered almost laughing in a teasing manner.
“Have you ever cooked anything before? Have you ever made a meal? Like roast pork, potato stew, bread, and things like that?”
“What? Uh- ummm… n- not really? I mean, I... not those in particular…”
“I see. As long as you have some experience in cooking anything, that’s good enough. I can tell that you’ll learn fast.”
Still getting dragged down the hallway, Mizuki began to feel butterflies in her stomach. She figured she’d be taken to work in a kitchen or something, since they were talking about making food. This wouldn’t be her first time cooking. She had already cooked many times back in Japan with her mother and grandmother for a considerable amount of time. She also enjoyed baking homemade chocolate and pastries from time to time as a hobby, which came in handy whenever Valentine’s Day came by. And right before she even came to Casselonia, she was cooking during the field trip. A feeling of reassurance mixed itself with the butterflies she had. If cooking was the first thing she’d be assigned to, then she should be okay. The only minor thing would be to get used to new recipes and possibly other cooking methods.
Mizuki glanced over to the right where there was window after window on the wall. She could see the back yard of the manor which was hardly any different from the front, except there were no houses. Only batches of trees, hills, and green grasslands dominated the terrain. Only small cottage- not part of the village- far away could be seen on another hilltop.
With a half-blank half-interested expression on her face, she stared at the simple yet refreshing scene outside. You could say it helped her relax a little more, and it most likely did on some level, but not even she could tell.
“Alrighty we’re here.” They stopped close to the end of the hallway in front of a dark brown, rustic door that was slightly underground. And by underground, it meant there was a two-step mini staircase you had to take to be exactly in front of the door.
Lola let go of Mizuki’s hand and took the miniature stairs to knock on the worn out door.
Mizuki looked around shortly to examine the hall. Everything in it from the windows, the walls, the doors, and the ground all had many of the same elements of medieval architecture. Looking at every detail possible, somewhere deep inside her was actually interested and excited
about being there, even if it was just for a second. A few seconds went by, and then the sound of footsteps slowly became slightly louder as someone on the other side came to answer.
The door opened and a short surge of smoke came rushing out, dispersing shortly after.
“Yes?” A feminine voice answered the door.
“Hi there Arabella. Mind if I drop by for just a minute?”
“Oh, it’s you Lola.” The person on the other side- Arabella- then proceeded to open the door completely. “Come on in. We’re just about to begin making lunch. I’ll cook something for you real quick while you’re here.” The sounds of pots, pans, silverware, and busy people scurrying all over the place came out of the room in an instant. A strong smell of food being prepared escaped as well.
“As much as I’d love to, I’m still pretty full from the delicious breakfast you made for me this morning. So I’ll pass.”
“Awww shucks, you’re just being nice like you always are, saying my cooking is delicious and all.”
The woman at the door was one of five cooks working for lord Maxwell in the manor house’s kitchen. She had on a plain pinkish-beige dress and a white apron tied around the waist. Her orange hair tied in a fancy knot in the back of her head, shimmered with bright streaks in the light coming in from the windows of the hall. And a few freckles adorned her shiny pink cheeks. She looked slightly older than Lola, and a bit more plump- but not as plump as Mrs. Finlogg from the day before.
"Well, you know me Arabella. I get full pretty fast sometimes. Supposedly I got that from my father, or so my mom used to tell me whenever I was little."
"No wonder you're always so thin Lola. But I guess as long as you don't stop eating regularly, you'll stay in good health."
"I hope you're right about that." Lola said tilting her head a little and giggled at what she considered a compliment. Arabella closed her eyes and giggled along with the maid. Giggling and what not, the duo looked like a couple of highschool friends gossiping afterschool about the many subjects encompassing what it is to be young. That's how Mizuki saw it from her perspective. The scene was all too familiar for her. While she looked intently at the two women in front of her having fun talking, it brought her back for a moment when she and her friends used to talk during breaks at school.
Sometimes even in the student council room, all the female members used to kick out the male members out of the room or make up excuses to be left alone so they could gossip about the spiciest subjects in school.
Mizuki almost smiled out of nostalgia at the mundane events playing out before her.
Noticing someone else behind Lola, Arabella abruptly stopped talking. Her face made it clear that she was curious about the unknown girl dressed in the same maid uniform as her co-worker. "Hey Lola. That black haired girl behind you... don't tell me... she's--"
"Oh. You mean Mizuki."
Hearing her name being said, Mizuki became startled and her back turned stiff in the blink of an eye.
“She’s the girl I told you about earlier. The one who lord Maxwell said came in last night with a boy.”
“Oh… you mean, her and another one are gonna start working here now?”
“Yes. And that brings me to why I’m here in the first place. Would you mind taking her under your wing for now and have her help out around in the kitchen? I can tell that she’s a fast learner, so there’s no doubt in my mind she’ll be a big help.”
Turning her head around, Lola signaled Mizuki with her right index finger to come closer.
Seeing this, Mizuki took a few steps forward and then went down the two-step miniature stairs. The maid put her right hand on Mizuki’s shoulder and introduced her to the cook. “ Arabella, this is Mizuki. She’ll be staying at the manor with us from now on as another employee. Mizuki, this is Arabella and one of five cooks hear in the kitchen. She makes the best potato stew you will ever taste in your entire life. I guarantee it.”
Both Mizuki and the cook remained quiet throughout the short introductions. But as soon as they were over, Arabella greeted Mizuki with a big smile and an unanticipated hug.
“Well hello there Mizuki! It’s such a pleasure to have someone else offer themselves to come and help out during these tough times. Oh I feel so blessed! Not to mention you’re so young and full of energy. Welcome to our kitchen sweetheart.”
Mizuki became stiff as a board again. She was startled at the immediate hug she never saw coming, almost gobbled up by the jolly woman. Her eyes wide open in disbelief at the open display of affection she was given by this stranger.
“W-w-w-what is s-she doing!! I can’t… I can’t believe this. I feel so uncomfortable right now!! Why does everyone here have to be so lively? Don’t they know how to hold back on their emotions?” There was no way she could put her thoughts to come out of her mouth, so instead Mizuki just went along with it as best she could without showing signs of being disturbed by the cheery hug. Alternatively, she tried smiling to conceal any displeasure and responded “Th- the pleasure’s all mine…” with a hint of trembling in her voice. By the way things looked, Mizuki would not only have to learn how to cook new things- that was the least of her problems- but in addition, adapt to more frequent physical contact with others. People in this new world were more open and honest about their feelings, unlike to what Mizuki and Sorata were used to. But at the very least there didn't seem to exist any 'kiss on the cheek' gesture as a greeting so far. Because if there was, that might just be the last straw for both of them and some lines would have to be drawn.
“I’ll be taking my leave then.” Lola bowed slightly, excusing herself.
"You're leaving already Lola?"
“Of course. As head maid, I have to oversee the work of my juniors throughout the manor house.”
Now out of Arabella’s arms, Mizuki looked back at Lola as if not wanting her to go, but it was something that needed to be done sooner or later. “See you in a few hours Mizuki and have fun working.”
She opened her mouth, on the verge of giving voice to her thoughts. And then nothing.
Again, Mizuki didn't want Lola leaving her with a group of people she didn't know. The surprising thing was that she was able to get used to her fairly quick though. Not an hour had passed yet since they first met, and Mizuki herself was somewhat uncomfortable around Lola at
the beginning. So in reality, there was really not much to worry about, it was Mizuki who just couldn't see it for herself.
“What do you say we start working now, eh Mizuki? That food isn’t gonna prepare itself.” Arabella gently patted her on the left shoulder.
“Hey everyone, stop what you’re doing for a minute. We have a new set of hands here to help us out. Let me introduce her.” Arabella and Mizuki both turned around and walked into the busy kitchen. The door behind them slowly closing as a small crowd gathered around Mizuki, surprised to see a new face.
About three hours had passed by now. The sun was high in the sky, close to it's peak, and shone down on the entire village with a bright light. Temperature wise, nearly thirty degrees celsius with only a few clouds drifting in the endless sky.
The villagers were hard at work, carrying loads and taking livestock from one place to another. The blacksmith's shop was one of the noisiest. Sounds of iron clanking, rods of hot metal boiling in water. It was just another ordinary workday in the blacksmith's shop as far as he was concerned. Some children played about running here and there. Others chased after a rubber ball while another group of younger kids played with their wooden toys. A pair of little girls were braiding each other's hair, taking turns sitting on a stool and chatting to pass the time.
In the backyard of the Tybalt residence, Sorata was chopping away small logs of wood down the middle with an old axe. Unfortunately enough, he couldn't quite chop every piece neatly down the middle as Mr. Tybalt had shown him prior to moving on to this chore. Some pieces were shorter than their counterparts, looking more like wedged objects. And sometimes he missed the log completely, making the axe's head bounce off the edges of the chopping block, coming dangerously close to his legs. So there were times when he needed to swing at the same log more than once.
“This is harder than I thought. When Mr. Tybalt showed me how it was done, it looked like a piece of cake, but in my case… things could be going better.”
Drenched in sweat and arms feeling heavier than ever in his life, Sorata had never had to do this kind of work before until now, much less mow a lawn- for example- because no one living in a city as big and compact as Tokyo had enough land to grow acres of grass.
City boys like himself enjoyed the perks of having others do the heavier work for them. One could just go to a convenience store and find what they needed without beating a sweat. That wasn't looking too bad for him right now.
Sorata's body was feeling the effects of the lack of experience in outdoor labor and exercise. This small amount of work seemed more than double its level of difficulty for the very little stamina in his slim physique. He felt pitiful about it on one side, but on the other he would rather be playing video games in his room or surfing the net or hanging out somewhere with his friends.
He readied a new cylindrical piece of wood on the chopping block, holding it steady in place vertically with his left hand for a few seconds. Taking a step back, Sorata positioned himself, axe in both hands over his head. He took a good look and aimed carefully before swinging down. A drop of sweat rolled down his left cheek, building suspense. The curved edge of the ax went
down on it's target with a swift thwack, managing to cut the log neatly in half successfully in one blow, both parts flying off to the sides.
Seeing the clean cut he had just achieved, Sorata happily rejoiced his efforts with a short chuckle.
As he tried to pull out the axe from the chopping block, He saw he couldn’t pull it out easily like other times. It was deeply wedged in and it wouldn’t budge no matter how hard he pulled on the handle.
“Arrrrrgh! Come… on… Stupid… you stupid axe. Arrrrrgh!” His hands suddenly lost their grip on the axe’s handle which made Sorata stumble backwards and then fall flat on his bottom with a thud.
"Ugh!... Ow ow ow..." He groaned for a few seconds and then got back up on his feet. With both hands, Sorata brushed off any dirt he had and then with a half disappointed face, looked down at the axe, still stuck on the thick block.
Suddenly widening his eyes as if remembering something, Sorata hastingly dug his hands into the pockets of his pants. Searching for something frantically in the baggy garments. Then his expression changed to that of excitement. Raising his right hand out from his pants' left pocket, a device revered by modern civilization to be as crucial for survival as food itself, all of a sudden laid in his hand like a holy relic.
The black screen on Sorata's smartphone quickly reflected a flash of light from the afternoon sun above. The thin and lightweight electronic device brought a child-like smile to his face. His own smartphone was like a safe haven, a piece of his own world had followed him all this way so he wouldn't be alone.
Sorata turned the phone on it's right side and glanced at the “Power” button. He then turned it to it's former position, resting it on his hand. Swallowing a heavy gulp and bracing for disappointment, Sorata placed his right thumb over the button. Who knew if it still worked in the first place. If it was here in this world, that meant it obviously went through the same deep water hell Sorata so desperately fought to survive. It could be permanently damaged by now for all he knew.
He then suspensefully and gently began to press down on it, focusing as if disarming a bomb.
"It works... my cellphone... it still works..." Voicing his thought in a whisper mixed with a joy of laughter, Sorata Gasped sharply at his discovery. He quickly unlocked the lock screen. The same old digital abstract art he had as wallpaper appeared and all his apps filled the screen from top to bottom. He checked his photo album and scrolled through the pictures he took with his friends Takeru, Sousuke, and Tsutomu, along with other pictures of the school, and places they hung out together.
How thoughtful! How loyal! How kind of his phone to not desert it's own master! Some of the most important parts of his old life were safe and sound.
"That's right, I need to check that." Scrolling down to the very bottom was an unnamed file. He tapped on it and another nameless file appeared and tapped that one and again, another
nameless file. He clicked away a few more times on similar files until finally he arrived to a secret folder Sorata had named "My Everything".
Bracing himself again, he tapped on it and...
Dozens upon dozens of pictures of Mizuki began to overflow the screen at an incredible rate.
A sense of relief bigger than passing any entrance exam rushed like a herd of wild horses all over Sorata's body. His most precious treasure above any other was safe, and he put his phone close to his chest embracing every photo of Mizuki he had.
One could argue that Sorata had somewhat of a stalker's hobby of taking pictures of the girl he liked without her knowing.
He was fully aware of that.
And to be honest, it even bothered him to an extent. He did have plans to confess to her before they graduated, and he knew that if he was able to go out with her all his photos would have to go, just in case she ever looked around in his phone.
Of course, now that they were here, those plans had been foiled. Or at least for the time being.
Sorata then looked out in front of him and went back to the field trip in his head. "Takeru, Sousuke, Tsutomu... I probably got you guys in some really deep trouble right?... My family and you guys are probably worried sick about me...They're- they're probably arguing with the school and your families as well at this moment. The same must be true for Mizuki. Her family most likely reported her disappearance to the media I bet." He paused for a brief moment. A gentle breeze came in, brushing the grasslands and carrying with it the aroma of the flowers in the flower fields.
"Mom, dad, Shiori…I’m so sorry. Please… forgive me. I don’t know what happened to me. Where I am exactly. Or what this place is… But I’m okay… I’m alive.” A few tears bundled up at the edges of his eyes, and then scurried down his cheeks.
While Sorata looked on at the endless fields, he noticed that far, far off under a lone tree, was a figure similar to the one of the guard- Sir Bowen- he had seen that very morning. With his eyes locked on, Sorata immediately stuck his cellphone at eye level and tapped on the camera app. Using the zoom in feature, he hastingly placed it at the maximum zoom level to get a better look of what it could be. “What is that?... Looks like someone’s on a horse.” He couldn’t make out everything in full detail, but he did get the chance to confirm that it was indeed someone on horseback.
He concentrated harder, almost squinting his eyes forcing them to see even more than they were meant to. He then saw the person on top of the horse look in his direction and staying perfectly still like a mannequin, almost aware that he was being watched and staring back as if to let Sorata know.
“What the…” Eyes widening to a degree, Sorata slowly moved his head back a few centimeters as he began feeling creeped out by the almost non-human on his smartphone screen.
He lowered the phone from his vision to see with his own eyes if what he was seeing was real. No words came out of his mouth.
The person on horseback then pulled on the horse’s reins and rode off into the distance, leaving Sorata somewhat confused as to what the encounter was all about. “What the hell was
that? Something about that person was totally off. Kind of creepy to say the least, they just stood there like nothing and then looked over here at me. No reaction, nothing…”
“... I guess maybe they were lost or something. Yeah, that’s gotta be it, they were lost and trying to figure out where they were.” With this thought in mind, Sorata felt a little more at ease and tried forgetting about the whole thing.
He then looked back at the phone’s screen. The time was 3:00 pm, and the date was at September 5th, 2025. Two days ago on September third they had set out for their field trip to Saitama prefecture, which meant the date and most likely the time as well were unaffected by being here.
He checked his phone’s battery level. It was at seventy five percent. The good thing was that Sorata charged his phone completely before going on the trip, and hadn’t used it since.
“Guess I should turn it off so the battery won’t run out on me. After all… this will be one of the last times I’ll be able to use it like this. Better use it wisely...” Sorata hung his head over the phone in a glum manner while he pressed and held down the “Power” button to turn it off.
“Hey Sorata! Are ye finished choppin’ that wood lad?” Mr. Tybalt called out all the way from the village’s main road. Approximately twenty three meters away from the house’s backyard where Sorata was standing
Turning around on instinct, Sorata looked over to where Mr. Tybalt’s voice was coming from. “Over ‘ere lad! Over ‘ere!” Being surrounded by a few carriages and other villagers using the road, he saw him waving an arm up in the air to make himself easier to spot.
Cupping his right hand next to his mouth, Sorata responded, “Uh. Y-yes. Yes… I’m all done. The firewood is ready now.”
“Huh!? I’m sorry what was that!? I didn’ hear ye lad, say it again!”
“Ughhh… I’m too embarrassed to say it any louder. Everyone around him is gonna hear how stupid my voice sounds when I speak up! Then they’re gonna look at me all weird too. Dammit, what should I do? This is so awkward...”
Seeing as there was no response from Sorata, Mr. Tybalt looked over at him confused. So again, he called out to him but with a different question. “Lad! Is everything alright!?”
“You’re kidding me. Now he thinks something’s wrong.” Groaning again and letting out a sigh out of frustration, Sorata shook his head hard trying to forget about being stared at and just let his voice flow out loud enough for the farmer to hear him. He was there to help out, not make things harder for everyone. Cupping his right hand again beside his mouth, he readied himself, taking in a deep breath… And like a chemical reaction, Sorata swiftly produced a loud and clear enough voice to be heard. “Yes Mr. Tybalt! I’m done chopping the firewood now!”
“Oh! That’s Great! G’ job lad! I’ll be there in a minute! Give yerself a break if ye want!”
“O-okay! Thank you very much!”
Lowering his hand back down, Sorata slowly turned his gaze back over to the tree where the horseman was under. It was empty, just like a few minutes ago.
Sorata! Come ‘ere for a sec! There’s someone I wantcha t’ meet lad!” Mr. Tybalt called out shortly again to Sorata, this time wanting him to meet a friend.
"I'll be there shortly!"
He shrugged it off once more as someone who had lost their way and coincidentally stopped under the tree for shade. It was nothing more, nothing less.
And off he went.
A beautifully adorned carriage resembling those in many children’s fantasy books, rode into the village via the main pathway, causing the villagers to temporarily pause their lucrative activities. A pint-sized chauffeur with a gentlemanly short mustache dressed elegantly in colorful garments, guided the cart with the assistance of two large horses equally elegant enough for a rally or parade. The villagers crowded the edges of the street in the dozens, waving their hands, arms, handkerchiefs, and hats in the air at the seemingly important figure being carried inside. Shouting things such as “Welcome back” and “We missed you”, the villagers were all smiles.
Glares caused by the afternoon sun’s light, bounced off the fancy glass windows of the carriage, making it almost impossible to see the face of whoever was inside. That didn’t trouble the villagers one bit though, for they already knew who had arrived into their vicinity.
Of course, the decked out carriage’s main destination was none other than the manor house on top of the hill. Appearing in such a manner definitely meant someone was there to do important diplomatic business with lord Maxwell. Maybe it was another nobleman equally respected for his kindness and goodwill to those below him coming to visit the lord.
Once arriving at the front entrance of the large estate, the miniscule chauffeur diligently helped himself off the elevated driver’s seat almost comically due to his short stature, and walked on over to the side of the carriage. Pulling a golden handle with his left hand, he opened the door for the person of stature sitting inside.
“Thank you so very much chauffeur. I’ll take it from here.”
“Do you not wish for me to knock on the door for you, Milady?”
“Thank you, but I took an extra key with me to my relative’s house, so there’s no need.”
Stepping out of the carriage with help from the chauffeur, an aged woman dressed in crimson and golden colored clothing, exited the refined transit. An orange cylindrical hat sat on her head, and a white veil wrapped over her hair and covered her neck. She inhaled a generous amount of outdoor air wearing a pleased expression on her face while stretching both arms above her head, and exhaled it out. “My word, what a long journey that was indeed.”
“I agree Milady. Five hours with only a single stop along the way can be awfully tiring.”
Stretching her last bit, she answered, “Maybe leaving a little later was a mistake after all. But if I hadn’t, no doubt I would’ve stayed another night, leaving my poor Cedric all alone here worried sick about me.”
The woman approached the doorstep, spare key in hand, and stuck it in the doors' keyhole. On the other side of the door, you could easily hear the key's movements if you stood still enough without making any noise. Also if you really paid attention, possibly any chatting happening on the doors' other side.
Which was exactly what Mizuki was doing at that moment while she stood alone next to the glorious staircase, carrying a tray of dirty dishes. She heard voices just outside the doors and couldn't help but stay to see what it was all about.
The large doors opened and the woman entered without the least bit of hesitation, humming a jolly tune.
Mizuki's eyes slowly widened a bit. Seeing a well dressed stranger randomly open the front doors of the manor house and walking straight in as if they owned the place, made her a little uncomfortable. As the fancy woman walked toward the staircase, she noticed Mizuki- fully dressed in maid uniform- who she had not yet seen before in the manor and abruptly stopped. "Oh. Why, hello there." With a slight twitch, Mizuki instantly froze in place from being noticed. Her eyes widened a bit more out of fear, and the tray in her hands shook quietly. Changing her route, the woman approached Mizuki and said, "And who might you be young lady? Since when are you working here in my estate?" Stopping a mere meter away, the elegant woman smiled compassionately at Mizuki while awaiting an answer. Not being able to give a reply, Mizuki only muttered and stuttered choppy words, making no sense whatsoever.
“What… what do you mean your estate? I- I- I should be the one asking her that. Who is she, and why did she come in here so casually?”
Mizuki was making more sense in her head than she was in talking. But the real mystery here was why she couldn’t compose herself like in previous times. She had already talked to other women in the manor before, but for some reason this time was a little different. It could be that since the woman before her was dressed a lot more elegantly than the others and gave off a somewhat authoritative aura, even though her warm smile said otherwise.
She looked at Mizuki rather puzzled and asked, “Are you feeling alright? You look a little tense darling. Is something the matter?” The sound of her warm and soft voice wasn’t helping Mizuki calm down.
“What’s your name?”
“... uhh… mmm… E- excuse me. I… I have to go now.”
Finally able to speak, she bowed and turned around heading towards the hallway leading to the kitchen, face flushed red from embarrassment with a shaky tray in hand.
“Uh…Who was that girl just now? She’s lovely, but a little too shy maybe”. With that thought in mind, the woman smiled looking in the direction where Mizuki had scurried off to.
“My dear Endolyn welcome back.” Coming out from another hallway, lord Maxwell called out to the woman near the staircase.
“Cedric. Oh Cedric, I’m so glad to be back at the manor.” Lord Maxwell made his way over to the woman- Endolyn- with both arms out ready to embrace her. Likewise she did the same and they both took hold of one another in their arms.
“I missed you so much dear.”
“I missed you too. These five days seemed more like five months to me.”
“Hehehe, really? Did it feel that long to you?”
“Of course it did. Why? Did it not feel as long to you without me here? Or is it because you don’t love me as you say you do?”
“Don’t be ridiculous my dear. Nothing in this world could ever fill the absence in my old heart like you do when you’re not around.”
“Hmmm. I know I know. I was only joking with you Cedric.”
“Hahaha that’s a relief. I know how horrible your silent treatments can get, so knowing that I’m being spared is a miracle in it’s own.”
The truth was, this woman who had just arrived at the village riding in the carriage was none other than lord Maxwell's wife. She was off on a short holiday at a relative's residence for
five days at the time when Sorata and Mizuki had been hired. And lord Maxwell hadn't mentioned to his two new employees that he was married, so the awkward encounter between lady Endolyn and Mizuki earlier was bound to happen if there was no explanation. Now out each other's arms, lord Maxwell looked at lady Endolyn and asked, "So how did your visit go? How is everyone?"
Sighing softly, she said, "Well, everything and everyone is fine to be honest. My youngest niece recently got engaged to a young man from another noble family. Apparently that boy is currently in training to become a knight."
"Is it because of the rumors going around that we'll have to go back to war with Koringia soon?"
"I don't know why exactly Cedric. But I'm afraid you might be right. It's been this long with the truce we have in place right now. Hopefully we can continue it, or better yet, finally come to terms with a peace treaty or something. It's awful how long this war has gone on for."
"Yes I suppose..." Saying this in a soft and half saddened voice, lord Maxwell grabbed lady Endolyn's right hand using his left hand firmly. "That would be the best way for us to finally have some form of closure... right Endolyn?"
"...mmm, yes. It would."
They both looked at each other with saddened faces, but at the same time, they were smiling as if supporting themselves through tough times. The war with the sovereign kingdom of Koringia had lasted up to that point for a century and a half. A war going on for that long without a doubt carried a lot of resentment on both sides, though it didn’t stop the two countries from trading with each other during times of peace, that was the only good thing.
“But on a lighter note,” lady Endolyn continued, “You know they’ve been saying there’s going to be renovations to the Central Clock Tower in Casselonia’s main square right?”
“Hmmm, so they finally came to a decision on that I see.”
“Yes, and guess what? My brother-in-law, Brunhilde's husband, he is going to be the architect in charge of the project apparently.”
“Oh, well isn’t that marvelous? But wasn’t he set to retire this year? I remember he told me about it not so long ago.”
“Yes, but you know how stubborn he is. He wanted to leave his own mark on the city before doing so, and then next year would be his last.”
Lord Maxwell let out a quiet sigh of relief, “I’m glad to know that your family’s doing well. It’s always nice to hear some good news.”
“It is.” She nodded back in agreement.
“That’s right. One more thing dear.”
Tilting her head lightly to the side, lady Endolyn listened carefully to what lord Maxwell was about to say.
“Yesterday. While you were away, my old friend Mr. Risenmarc came to deliver the seafood I ordered from him. And to my surprise, he had with him two youngsters riding on his wagon when he came back.”
“Oh, is that so?”
“Yes. He also said that he saved them from drowning in the middle of the Grand River the day before. So he took them to a local inn for the night, and the next day he decided to bring them
over to us so they could work in the manor. And those two that he brought, apparently they’re not from Casselonia."
"Hmmm, I knew something was off." Lady Endolyn put her fingers under her chin as she thought back on Mizuki.
"What do you mean by that?" He asked her.
"A few minutes ago, before you called out to me, I crossed paths with a young black haired girl I had never seen before, dressed in maid uniform next to the staircase."
"Oh, yes yes. That was Mizuki. She came along with another boy her age in Mr. Risenmarc's wagon yesterday evening. She's a bit shy actually, but I'm hoping that she'll become more outspoken once she gets used to living here."
"I see..." She said in a skeptical manner, looking down at the ground.
Lord Maxwell noticed his wife become pensive suddenly and asked, "What's the matter dear? Is something wrong?"
"No... nothing." Her skeptic expression then turned into a smile. "Why don't we go to the study where we can talk more about the family?"
"Hehehe, sure my dear. Right this way." Still holding hands, they went into the hall where lord Maxwell had come from and lady Endolyn continued on about Mizuki. "That girl Mizuki, she's really cute actually. The maid uniform makes her look like a doll." She giggled softly.
Dim lights from candles on the two iron chandeliers above, lit the great hall of the manor while peasants, maids, cooks, and even the night guard Sir Bowen and the village priest alike, all joyfully ate dinner on the long wooden table. The great hall was very big and spacious. The ceiling was high, almost two stories, and had many heraldic banners and flags hanging on both sides. Tall, gothic style windows decorated the walls. There was a lot of chattering and laughing, chewing and drinking. Clinking silverware and dishes resonated with the sweet melody of a lute player in a corner where some villagers crowded around with their kids.
Sorata and Mizuki sat together on one end of the table, now dressed in normal, medieval style clothing, talking with those around them. Sorata was the most talkative though, not so much that he wanted to, but he couldn’t catch a break for himself. As soon as one person finished talking with him, another one came by only a few seconds after. Luckily enough, he had already finished eating his food.
“So laddie, where did ye say ye were from again?”
“Uhhh right, well… You see I ummm. I’m from an island to the east. It’s very very far from here. And not too many people know about it.”
“Oh! Ye mean those little ones that are secluded? The ones that are mostly fishing towns and such right? Yep, I’ve heard of them actually. Their languages are very hard to learn, I think… hahaha! But laddie… ye did well in coming over here and learning our language. Ye did yerself a huge favor. Happy birthday!”
“Y-yeah. Happy birthday hehehe…”
The villager he was talking with was drunk, which in a way made it easy in case Sorata found himself trying to evade any difficult questions.
“Excuse me laddie. I needs to go and- and find me wifey. I think she’s lost or something.”
“Good luck with that sir…” He replied and smiled friendly, trying to hide the fact that he felt a little uncomfortable.
Looking over to his left side, Sorata saw Mizuki sitting quietly with her arms under the table, eyes half closed as if spacing out. He saw that she had only eaten a portion of her meal. The only thing gone from the plate was the rice, some vegetables were still scattered, and the duck leg only partially eaten. He looked at her with a concerned expression. Sorata didn’t want Mizuki to stop eating just because they had been misplaced in another world because sooner or later, she would be eating less and less, causing her to lose weight and becoming thinner.
“I know what’s wrong with her but, she’s eaten so little on her plate. Should I ask her something? Maybe… maybe if I ask her in an indirect manner she’ll tell me what’s wrong.”
Looking at her attentively, Sorata nervously gave voice to his question in mind. He still didn’t have the guts to talk to her in a more casual fashion, but hopefully by helping her out, they could get to know one another better and Mizuki could build more trust in him. It was the only way.
“Uh… M-M-Mizuki. You’re… you’re plate… it-”
He was cut short of his sentence. Mizuki turned her attention and looked over at him. Her beautiful, hazel colored eyes immediately captured Sorata, enchanting him with their charming shades of brown and the sound of her sweet voice, left him almost speechless.
“... Ummm, no I… I just-”
“Dammit! Why does she have to be so gorgeous to the point of leaving me speechless!? This is so unfair.”
"What?... What is it? Mizuki continued looking at him, a bit of confusion in her expression but she patiently waited for Sorata to continue his sentence.
Then. Before he could continue, the head maid- Lola- who sat just across from them, stood up from her seat and clapped her hands loudly a few times until she had everyone’s attention. “Ahem… Excuse me everyone! But may I have your undivided attention please?” Every person in the great hall stopped all of their social activities and lended their eyes and ears to Lola. “Thank you. First and foremost, I would like to thank everyone who came here today to have an enjoyable time before tomorrow morning’s religious gathering to honor our goddess: The Lady of Victory. And second, unfortunately we are going to have to call it a day now. It’s late, and lord Maxwell and lady Endolyn are sleeping now. They were kind enough to let us use the great hall again for a little fun. So it’s time we all head back to our houses and rest now.”
Some people in the crowd nodded, while others retorted with a quiet “Alright” and other complying gestures.
And so, everyone began to pack up and say goodbye to one another before leaving.
It didn’t take long for the great hall to be almost vacant despite the number of people who were inside.
At the door of the hall, Mr. Tybalt, accompanied by his wife and kids, was talking with Lola before departing. Sir Bowen was at her side, also conversing with Mr. Tybalt. Sorata watched on the encounter with Mizuki, they both still sat in their chairs at the table.
“Okay then Lola, Sir Bowen, we’ll see the two of you tomorrow morning at the chapel.”
“Of course. We look forward to seeing you all tomorrow too.” In the midst of the goodbyes, Lola and Sir Bowen held each other’s hands at waist-level, almost like they were a couple.
Noticing this affectionate action, Sorata looked at them with a bit of surprise in his eyes. He never would’ve guessed that the head maid and the night guard were having an affair, or maybe it wasn’t that, perhaps they were in a legitimate relationship. That’s how it seemed, since they were holding hands right in front of Mr. Tybalt and his family without the slightest raising of eyebrows.
Mr. Tybalt then looked over to Sorata sitting at the table and waved his hand at him before leaving. “See ye tomorrow at the chapel lad!”
“Uh, y-yeah! See you tomorrow Mr. Tybalt!”
Sorata waved back as the man and his family turned around and walked off.
Then out of nowhere.
Lunging her entire body, Lola jumped into Sir Bowen’s arms and gave him a most romantic kiss on the lips, holding it for a good ten seconds.
Swallowing a gasp, Sorata jolted his entire body at the sight of the maid's bold actions, making his face become red and his eyes wider. He looked over at Mizuki next to him and her face was also as red as a tomato. The only difference was that she had her head facing away, not wanting to stare or anything.
They hugged after the long kiss, and held hands once more. Lola then called out to Sorata and Mizuki, wanting them to meet Sir Bowen.
"Sorata, Mizuki, this is Sir Bowen, the guard we saw coming into the village in the morning. Remember?" Examining Sir Bowen, he had short blonde hair and grey eyes, and his height was exactly two meters tall. He wore a sleeveless, red surcoat tied with a belt at the waist, and a blue, long sleeved doublet underneath. His legs were covered in woollen stockings, and were protected by metallic leg armor, as were his shoes. Despite being heavily clothed, it couldn’t hide how well built the guardsman’s body was under all those layers. After all, he was currently in military training.
Sorata nodded his head slowly a few times. The kissing scene he just saw was replaying wildly in his head over and over. Leaving him somewhat expressionless. Sir Bowen extended his right arm at Sorata for a handshake.
"Good evening Sorata. My name's Bowen, Mereck Bowen. It's a pleasure to meet you." Quickly snapping out of his fantasies, Sorata pulled himself together and stretched out his arm for the handshake.
"I- I'm Sorata Honda. The- the pleasure's all mine... Sir Bowen."
"And this over here is Mizuki. Her and Sorata came here together on the same day."
"Really? Is that so?" Sir Bowen again extended his right arm, but this time at Mizuki. "Nice to meet you Mizuki. My name's Mereck Bowen." He smiled kindly, seeing how her body language made her look timid and insecure.
Reluctantly taking her right arm out from under the table, Mizuki saw herself with no choice but to shake hands. To her surprise though, Sir Bowen gently turned her hand so that the palm faced downward. He pulled her hand close as he leaned forward and gave it a soft kiss on the top instead of greeting her with a handshake. Mizuki froze instantly from the sensation, her eyes widening and her face blushing all over again.
Sorata sat in silence, equally bombshelled from the unexpected kiss on the hand of the girl he liked. And a feeling of jealousy suddenly ran through his veins like a flood. But rather than him growing gany feelings of anger toward the guard, he felt more of an inferiority complex along with
the jealousy. If only he could also play things so smooth like that, maybe Mizuki could see him as more of a man, Sorata thought to himself. But there was absolutely no way he could do that, not now at least.
Giggling, Lola said to Sir Bowen, "I think you may have overdone it a little. They’re not from here, so it probably bugs them.”
“U- uh… you’re kidding?” He continued with an embarrassed apologetic laugh. “My apologies Mizuki. I went and did something I shouldn’t.”
Lowering her head and blushing slightly, she shook her head slowly. “No… it’s fine.”
A short moment of silence followed.
“Anyway, Sir Bowen. Isn’t it about time you begin your guard duty now? It’s already this late and all…”
“Huh? Uh, yeah. You’re right. It’s already time for me to begin isn’t it? Well, it was nice meeting you two. I know you’ll grow to like it here soon enough.” He bowed and said, “If you’ll excuse me.” Before leaving, he gave Lola a smile and a wink, then finally headed outside. She giggled once again.
Now with everyone out of the great hall, Lola directed herself at Sorata and Mizuki. “Forgive me for not telling you two about this in the morning but… Sir Bowen and I… we’re in a relationship. It’s been like this for almost a year now and we’re very serious about it.”
Sorata and Mizuki looked closely at the way Lola expressed this fact, as if they were in the climax of a romantic movie. Her tone became a tad more feminine, and the pitch a little higher as she talked about Sir Bowen. She had her hands clasped together on her stomach while speaking. “In all honesty, he’s the first person whom I’ve ever romantically loved this much in my entire life. Words are limiting when I have to explain what I feel when he’s close to me. One day it just happened, we met for the first time and just like that, we connected perfectly on all levels. Lord Maxwell, Lady Endolyn and the entire village know about us, and they acknowledge our relationship. They even said they would help us out in planning a wedding, which we’ve talked about already. ”
Sorata managed to bring a smile to his face. Seeing this other side of Lola only made him admire and respect her more. “Don’t worry Lola.” She paused and looked at him. “If you love Sir Bowen that much then… then you can count on us for whatever it is you need. I mean… we’ll also help out if you wish to get married and whatever else you want.”
Mizuki raised her head back up and offered a warm smile to Lola, agreeing with Sorata.
She became a little teary eyed, but no tears managed to rundown her cheeks. Instead, she smiled back at them and holding back tears of joy said hoarsely, "Thank you."
Back at the external servant's quarters, Sorata and Mizuki were getting ready for bed. Sorata was in the hallway changing into pajamas, while Mizuki was in the room doing the same. It was quiet, with the only noise being that of the chirping crickets outside and the folding of clothes.
"You can come in now." Mizuki quietly uttered to Sorata, letting him know she was fully dressed in her sleepwear now.
He stepped back into the room, and unconsciously looked over at Mizuki sitting on the edge of her bed with an open book in her hands. The faint light of the torch inside the room made Mizuki appear somewhat mysterious. The way it casted shadows on her face, arms, and hands, not to mention her now habitual bored expression. You could show this setting with it's obscure lighting and live model to any artist around the world and they would all fight over getting the chance of painting it first. Thinking this only made Sorata want to continue staring at Mizuki for the rest of the night, but no way that could happen.
In place of that, maybe a bit of small talk before sleeping would be a good idea. "That book... is it interesting?"
"Ok, I started out nice and smooth. Hopefully we can get a conversation going." Sorata had taken the first step in starting a conversation. If Mizuki was reading something that piqued her interest, she might want to talk about it with him, and that could earn him favorable points. It was a simple plan, but also a very good one.
"I can't read these letters."
With a boring, monotone voice, Mizuki swiftly answered the question without looking up at Sorata.
"O-oh yeah, I forgot..."
"It was inside the desk's shelf."
"I said this book was inside the shelf of that desk. The one at the foot of your bed. The only desk in this room." Closing the book, Mizuki raised her head and made eye contact with Sorata.
" Ah, you're right. Hahaha... what a stupid question to ask."
Sorata obviously knew there was only one desk in their room. He just responded interrogatively out of habit. Other than that, what kind of shot him down was the way Mizuki answered him, as if she was explaining it to a toddler. It took away the strong initiative he had in the beginning to start a conversation with Mizuki, and confidently get a chance to know each other better.
All of that effort was thrown out the window.
He figured the only thing left to do now in order to save face was to sleep.
"Okay then, goodnight." As Sorata turned around to set foot on his bed, Mizuki quickly stood up from her bed and walked over to him.
Feeling the lower back of his sleeping shirt being pulled, Sorata stopped what he was doing and slowly looked over his shoulder only to find himself and Mizuki in almost the exact same position as yesterday. Those long, black front bangs covered her tearful eyes from his view.
“Mizuki.” Her name came out of his mouth almost on impulse.
“Shut up Sorata!” She yelled sharply at him, silencing him on command.
“Just shut up and let me stay like this for a minute! I’ll hit you… I swear I’ll hit you if you say anything to anyone about this!” Mizuki continued her sobbing, her head against his upper back.
She then whispered in a low and painful voice, “I… I miss you mom… I miss you, dad…” Sorata stood there at a loss of words. His heart strings felt like they were being pulled on. “I wanna come back home and be with you… I’m sorry… I’m so sorry mom for telling you to disappear out of my life before the field trip. I shouldn’t have gone like you told me to. You were
just worried about my wrist and I… I went and said those awful things to you. Please… forgive me… and let me go back to my house… please.”
Those soft whispers mixed with heartbreaking sobbs and pain, suddenly felt like millions of sharp knives sinking all at once into Sorata’s chest. Mizuki- the girl he liked- was crying on his back and there wasn’t a single thing he could do to make her feel any better. Her demanding cries for her family soon became his as well. Sorata missed his parents and his younger sister just as much as Mizuki was hurting for hers.
Hot tears ran down Sorata’s cheeks like yesterday, except he felt more hopeless now, those tears were heavier. He didn’t have the strength to make a fist anymore, his hand trembled from raw fear and confusion of the unknown that awaited up ahead. Perhaps every night from now on before sleeping, this little disheartening ritual would take place between the two of them. The only time they could let out all the stress, anger, sorrow, and pain in their hearts with someone else going through the same ordeal. It was a dark and lonely time...
Mizuki tightened her grip on Sorata’s shirt, her head still against his back. He could feel some of her hot tears going down his body, she was in real pain to be crying that much. But then she began to slowly calm down. Taking in a few deep breaths at a time until she stopped shaking, Mizuki opened her mouth and asked Sorata in a vulnerable tone.
“You’re going to keep the promise you made me… right, Sorata?”