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Gateways to Casselonia chapter 7

Sorata’s day had taken a turn for the worst. But fortunately, that part was done with for the time being. He walked quickly on back to where the jewelry stand was, his head hang low in a depressive manner amongst the busy crowds of the Casselonia market streets.

The shameful episode clung onto him like dead weight, only slowing him down the more he went back and thought about it. Never had Sorata experienced anything as embarrassing and cruel like what had just happened. It was uncalled for and unnecessary. This was also the first time he had been discriminated against for anything in his life, only this first time was because he was being mistaken for a certain race he didn't belong to. So it seemed like this world wasn't all that different from our own to begin with. Apart from having gargantuan castles surrounded by floating lights and other kinds of architecture pulled straight out of a fantasy rpg game,there was also the ugly, ever-so-infamous social conflict known as racial prejudice present here as well. Sorata had come from Japan: a predominantly homogenous country where it would be difficult, if not impossible, for him to experience any kind of racial discrimination from his fellow citizens. And because of that, he had no idea whatsoever how to respond to it, he could only stand there stock-still from the shock. But what didn't make any sense was that neither him or Mizuki had felt any hostility from anyone since they were rescued from the river three days ago. Mr. Risenmarc, the inn keeper lady Mrs. Finlogg, lord Maxwell, Lola, and everyone in the village treated them like family even though they were all strangers. So why was it any different now? It didn't make any sense to him.The awkward sensation of being hated because of having a different colored anything was all too foreign to him. Thus, this incident would only serve as a bad memory from now on. If he knew he'd be humiliated like that in the middle of a busy street for everyone to see, there'd be no way Sorata would've left Sir. Bowen's side in the first place. In the end, Sorata came to the philosophical conclusion that no matter where a place was, as long as there were humans living in it, there was bound to be some form of prejudice.

Already near the jewelry stand, Sorata forced his weak neck to raise his heavy clinging head to check if Sir. Bowen was still there, and he was. The knight was having what seemed to be a good chat with the owner of the stand. The two of them were laughing, their faces nothing but smiles. Sorata with an undecipherable expression on his face, looked over at them blankly without giving a clue as to what he was feeling or thinking. Ironically enough, a lot more was happening within him in some of the deepest parts of his mind where conflicting emotions ran amok stampeding all over his mental stability. He wondered if the happy-go-lucky scene in front of him would play out differently if he was the one doing business with the stand owner. A sudden feeling of emptiness then began to bombard his stomach violently without mercy, a kind of emptiness that makes you sick and want to throw up. Everything around him began to darken, and the noise level of the bustling street became louder and louder. It all seemed as though the universe revolved around him, not in any egotistical fashion, but more of being surrounded by a menacing presence with the intent of doing nothing but psychological harm.

To any other person around him, daily life went on without the slightest acknowledgement of his existence. Everything outside of Sorata was the same old mundane routine as far as the townspeople were concerned. They walked past him without bothering to even stop and ask what was troubling him. In a sense you could say he was already dead. Not just in this world, but in his former world where surely everyone watching the news in Japan already classified him and Mizuki as deceased for not being able to find their bodies. And there was some truth to that.

Sorata started to question this reality all over again, as the feeling of being stuck here in this strange world forever rapidly made it's way into his psyche, forcing him to abandon all hope of returning back home. A skyrocketing heartbeat and legs shaking, he somehow managed to not fall over from the overwhelming pressure building up inside.

With each passing second, time didn’t seem to change at all. Those miniscule measurements of time felt more like hours upon hours of the same dreadful mental meltdown messing up Sorata’s mind. “That’s right… I’m going crazy. I’m about to lose it any second now…” Sorata thought to himself, still looking at Sir. Bowen but with his mind completely blanked out.

“Sorata… Hey Sorata what’s wrong? Sorata!” The voice calling to him sounded like it was being said underwater, very hazy, distant, and to a point unintelligible.

A slight grunt sprang out of Sorata’s mouth. Both his shoulders felt shaken by an abrupt force, snapping him awake and out of his mental anguish.

“Sorata what’s the matter? Talk to me, what happened to you?” Sir. Bowen was worried, the tone of his voice reflecting that same troubled feeling.

Blinking his eyes quickly as if finally being able to comprehend what was going on, Sorata quickly came back to his senses like if nothing happened. “Uh… yes, yes I’m okay. Aha- ahahaha… I don’t know what got into me just now. I’m sorry if I caused you any trouble.”

His chuckling sounded more or less nervous, but that wasn’t what got Sir. Bowen so worked up. Soon after the knight finished talking to with the jeweler, the first thing he noticed as he turned around to head over to the stand where his order of horseshoes were at, was someone standing in the middle of the street gazing at him like they were terror-stricken with eyes about to burst out from their own sockets. He did at least flinch a little after seeing those unsightly eyes. And the next thing he noticed that really got him questioning for answers, was why the hell does it look like Sorata is getting the soul sucked out of him?

"Are you sure nothing's wrong? You were standing there with no reaction whatsoever. And I called your name about three times."

Scratching the side of his head and mixing a hint of laughter into his voice Sorata embarrassingly tried to explain. "I think I got lost in my thoughts pretty deep. Sometimes I tend to daydream so... it happens." He lied straight through his teeth. And the reason was because he didn't want to explain what happened back there. It was too humiliating to even think about, and Sorata would rather again go through the belittling insults Mizuki had so swiftly mouthed at him and his friends on the day before the field trip, than get beaten down for real by someone three times bigger.

Sir. Bowen wasn’t completely buying what Sorata was telling him and he had good reason to have doubts of his own too. People don’t just stop in the middle of busy places like that and become nearly unresponsive unless something as random like becoming hypnotized were to occur. That, and also the tone in Sorata’s shaky voice as if he was holding something back out of fear. Looking at him with a skeptical look, Sir Bowen further examined Sorata with his eyes, scanning for any clues that might explain why he became that way. Upon further inspection, one crucial thing was missing that Sir Bowen expected to see by now, and that was the new horseshoes he had ordered Sorata to get for him just a few moments ago before they’d split up.

“Hey Sorata, show me the horseshoes I asked you to pick up for me please.”

“T-the horseshoes… oh! Right right… the horseshoes you ordered. Ummm, yeah… a-about that.” It was obvious now he was trying to hide something. Just by looking at his reaction gave him away. Consequent to hearing about the pick-up order, Sorata’s voice became that much shakier and he paused frequently without really making the conversation go anywhere.

It couldn’t be help. Either way, the subject would’ve had to come out one way or another, whether Sorata wanted it to or not.

"I'm sorry...I couldn't get the horseshoes like you told me to." Feeling a sense of responsibility, he bowed at the knight as a means to apologise.

"Why couldn't you pick them up? Did you get lost or something?" Surprisingly or not, Sir Bowen's voice had no signs of anger spewing out.

"That's not it. The truth is... well..." Standing up straight again, Sorata juggled around the idea if he should actually say he was made into a victim of discrimination by the stand owner or not. He didn't want Sir. Bowen to go back and maybe argue with the owner. Getting into more trouble was the last thing he wanted right now.

But before Sorata could continue saying anything, the same words he expected to relay instead were given form by Sir. Bowen, as if he'd read his mind.

"The guy kicked you out because he thinks you're an Aldgrundian. Is that it?"

"Uh, huh... How did you know?" Impressed by how accurate the guess was, Sorata asked with a dumb look on his face.

"I can't believe I forgot."

"Huh, forgot what?"

"The guy that runs the stand. He's not too fond of Aldgrundians or anyone who isn't a Casselonian. But calling it that would be an understatement." Sir. Bowen placed the palm of his right hand on his metal helmet and closed his eyes tight as a way to convey his disappointment in himself to Sorata. "Ugh... I was so awestruck by the ring I wanted to buy Lola that I totally forgot I was sending you to that extremist geezer. I'm sorry Sorata, I never should'a let you go by yourself."

"N-no, it's not your fault Sir. Bowen. I just don't know how to handle those kinds of situations on my own. So it's my fault for not being able to do anything."

The only thing Sorata didn't want to go through was a second round in one day with the same barbaric meat head. For all he knew, Sir. Bowen was capable of stomping over there and letting the owner have an earful which could lead to violence. All the more he panicked in his head as he saw the displeased expression the knight was making.

"Come on Sorata, let's go to the weapons shop."

"W-what? Wait! Sir. Bowen, what about your horseshoes?" Sorata asked in a frantic voice while Sir. Bowen turned around and began walking a different direction.

"Leave them. My horse and I can still make do with the ones we've got. That guy's gonna be the one losing money for the materials to make them in the first place. So let's go."

Feeling lost and confused, Sorata looked back in the direction of the stand where he was so cruelly treated, and then over to Sir Bowen who was walking away. Then back to the stand and Sir. Bowen once more. "But the- the order and the..." He finally gave up and let out a big sigh, walking in long strides to catch up.

Deep down he was relieved he wouldn't need to go back. Sorata was a real coward when it came to complaining about any sort of bad customer service. So much, that even one time when he bought a variety pack of instant ramen at the convenience store near his house, he found out that he had accidentally given the cashier a ten thousand yen note instead of a one thousand yen note like he intended. When he realized his mistake after getting back to his house, Sorata believed it would be best to leave it at that. If the cashier wasn't honest enough to give the money back in exchange for the right amount, then he would rather let them keep it all instead of having to hassle with complaints and making the situation ugly.

 

Back in the village, Mizuki was on the second floor of the manor house where she was dusting the windows with a big, brown feather duster, swaying it right to left in her right hand.

Her cleaning pace had begun to die down however, only taking half as much time on each window from when she first started. Part of it was due to her already being fed up with cleaning, since back in Japan, Mizuki's parents had hired two live-in maids to clean their house since before she was born. And the second reason was because Mizuki wasn't taking this new world all that serious. She still had hopes of waking up one day in her own room again and regard everything that had happened up until now a dream. But if only she knew she was causing more bad than good to herself with such a childish defense mechanism, she could avoid the devastating consequences of having false hopes. Since Mizuki's work output was already on the decline, she decided to take a break on the cushioned seating area of a large bay window a few steps away from where she was. The good thing was that Lola had ordered her cleaning duty on the second floor, while her and the other maids did the first floor. So Mizuki was in literal terms, left all by herself with no one around to supervise her.

Continuing to hold onto the wooden handle of the duster, she adjusted her dress for a comfortable seating position, and sat casually with her right leg on the large cushion and left leg hanging off the raised platform. Her gaze turned upwards at the window to the mid-afternoon sky, where up above she saw a white, puffy cloud slowly drifting above and a smaller one trailing behind as if wanting to catch up.

She stayed this way for a few peaceful seconds. The afternoon light coming in from the window reflected brightly on her skin, hair, and clothing. Making it look like she was coming out from it.

A warm sigh gently exhaled from her nostrils.

She then looked over at the countryside landscape behind the manor. Beautiful endless meadows of grass and wildflowers spread across as far as the eye could see. Batches of trees were scattered here and there on hilltops everywhere.

Just as Mizuki stared at the scenery before her, her left hand instinctively began to dig into a small pocket hidden under the white apron of her maid uniform. When she finally felt the smooth metallic object kept away from everyone else's eyes, she pulled it right out.

And a black and shiny smartphone with a sleek frame, sat neatly in her left palm.

She continued to press the "on" button and waited only a couple seconds for the home screen to show and immediately fill up with all her apps.

Battery gauge shone in yellow at thirty three percent full. It was low at this point and without her charging cable and no power outlets anywhere in this world, it was only a matter of time before it completely died out.

Mizuki wasn't showing any signs of discontent for it. The truth was, this wasn't the first time she'd used it since they got here. Any time that no one was around her, she would turn it on briefly to look at her picture albums, which were nothing close to creepy like Sorata's secret stash of Mizuki pictures. She even tried logging into all of her social media apps to see if her feeds could update or not. Of course, nothing worked because no wireless signals existed in this world, but she still had high hopes of miraculously seeing a few "life saving" bars gradually appearing on the top-right of the screen.

Despite the technological reasoning, Mizuki launched her contacts app and scrolled down until she found her house number. Automatically, her right index finger tapped on it, changing the screen into a phone call interface, and placed it over her left ear.

Riiing... riiing... riiing...

The ringing continued for a moment. No answer.Then it stopped after ten continuous rings.

"Again, still no answer."

For there to be a ringing despite the lack of any signal was pretty bizarre in it's own way. But it seemed as though Mizuki had already gone through this more than once already. The fact that no expressions hinting to surprise or discovery made themselves clear on her face were signs that it had become the norm at this point.

In spite of her nobody home face, every time the sensation of having a tiny hope of someone picking up from the other side was crushed at the end of the last ringing actually made her feel like she died a little on the inside. Since there was no answer and her battery was low, Mizuki went ahead and turned off her phone for the time being and put it back into her pocket underneath the apron she wore.

Instinctively, Mizuki turned a gaze to a door parallel to where she sat in the bay window across the hall. She hadn’t been in there yet which poked at her curiosity of what could be inside as the thought of entering popped into her head. Yet again, if it was another room behind that door, then she might as well go right in since she was appointed to dusting the manor’s upstairs portion anyways. Mizuki lifted herself off the bay window sitting area, eyes locked onto the door handle a few meters away. A bit of hesitation surged throughout her body at first, a bad premonition maybe?

She went ahead and turned the knob anyway. The door croaked loud at first as if it hadn't been used in a long time. Left leg stepping in first, she quietly called out to the dark room. "E-excuse me, I'm here to do the cleaning." Her voice died down at the very end, seeing that the room was vacant of any people. A bright ray of light seeped in through one of the windows to the right, hitting the red tiled floor and softly refracting throughout the interior. The room was actually pretty much empty of anything. Only a small bed and three thin arched windows at the far end, an empty bookshelf, a wooden desk,and a small lantern hanging from the beautifully carved wooden ceiling made this abandoned space their own.

With her curiosity levels still rising, Mizuki walked onward with caution, closing the door behind. The aura emitted by the empty room was far from creepy like in scary movies where dark 

and abandoned places are portrayed as being haunted. If anything, the room was in fact conveying a kind of story with it’s emptiness. These walls had seen their fair share of joyful moments, as well as wistful times. But other than that, someone had definitely lived in here even if it was for a short time, calling it their very own room.

Mizuki’s eyes scoured the entire place from top to bottom as she continued to slowly walk deeper inside, feather duster still in hand. Close to the floor on one of the walls she noticed scribbled lines in many different colors. They seemed to have specific shapes depicting everyday things despite being poorly scribbled on many times over. She then averted her attention to the desk facing the stoned part of the wall.

It was a very small desk to say the least, almost miniature in size, making it look rather cute. What made her raise an eyebrow at it though, was the fact that it was covered in heavy dust with thin threads of spider webs stretching from the wall and onto the working area of the desk. Looking at how it was poorly maintained the obvious question of “why?” promptly resounded within her brain. Why was it that this room hadn’t been routinely cleaned like the rest of the estate?

Weird theories came about into her head as to why no one had cleaned here in what seemed to be years. To a point she even felt it was irresponsible of the rest of the maids to disregard this room to the point where it became too dirty to live in. Even to lord Maxwell and lady Endolyn this should be unacceptable, she thought. Just a few minutes ago, Mizuki’s give-a-care engine already began to run low on fuel halfway through her cleaning duty, and now she found herself concerned over this little abandoned room that could literally go on in it’s filth and it would never affect her in any way. But something big tugged at her enough to make her this concerned over it.

Finally, Mizuki walked over to the small bed at the opposite end of the room. The three pointy arched windows above majestically glittered their outdoor light onto the bed below acting as spotlights, tentatively drawing attention.

As she neared closer, a shape similar to a tiny human body laying on the bed blurred it's way into Mizuki's field of view amid the auroral rays.

Immediately seeing this, Mizuki's expression changed to that of shock. Her eyes bulged out a little, making the pupils dilate and her lips opened slightly enough to reveal a bit of white from her teeth.

She reached out with her left hand until it became lost in the light.

Then as soon as she felt a good grip, she began to pull the small human shaped figure out from the thick rays.

A doll made of cotton fabric emerged with her left hand. Dressed in a white and green dress, a white cap covering long orange hair, two large grey buttons as eyes, and a cute small mouth shaped like an "x" made of thin black strings looked at Mizuki as she did the same.

"It's a doll... What is it doing in here?..." She whispered as if expecting an answer.

But then...

As she finished her soft words, the door behind Mizuki slowly opened while forcing It's hinges to cry out from the lack of oil."Hello?" Hearing this, she quickly turned around a full one hundred eighty degrees in a heartbeat, the doll still in her possession. "Oh, Mizuki... Did I startle you my dear?" That sweet and tender older voice resembling a grandmother's rang quietly across 

the room and into Mizuki's ears. The person standing at the door was none other than lady Endolyn herself. She looked at Mizuki with a wondering expression as she saw the doll in her hands.

“Uhh… I-I-I uhh…” Articulation of words were near impossible for her right now. Mizuki didn’t know exactly how to respond because she didn’t know if what she was caught doing was a good or a bad thing. The worst case scenario of being kicked out of the manor forever cracked in the back of her head. But seeing as how she was on the brink of panicking, lady Endolyn refrained from raising her voice or showing any signs of discontent. Instead she let an understanding smile stretch her lips and she began to walk over to Mizuki, both her hands down on her lap.

“Don’t worry my dear, I won’t get mad at you. You were obviously not informed about this room in the first place.”

“Huh? This… room?...”

Lady Endolyn nodded in agreement.

Again, Mizuki couldn’t figure out exactly what to say in this situation. Sure the lady of the manor wasn’t angry at her, but she felt she’d done something out of line, it didn’t matter whether she wasn’t informed about it or not.

So as a result Mizuki excused herself in haste. “I’m terribly sorry my lady. I’ll be taking my leave.” She bowed quickly before turning around and replacing the doll back on the bed.

“Wait Mizuki.”

A soft spoken command but ironically strong, Lady Endolyn stopped her before she could take a step away. “Since you’re going to be working here from now on, I think it would be best for you to know more about this room and why it’s in this untidy state. It wouldn’t be fair if you were the only one working here who had no idea about it. Don’t you think so yourself?”

Though Mizuki felt awkward being in this position, she still had the curiosity floating around inside her since discovering this room and now having the opportunity of uncovering it’s past only teased her like fishermen do to fish with bait.

So she nodded without saying a word and looking away shyly.

Lady Endolyn took a slow and deep breath . “About forty years ago when lord Maxwell and I were in our mid twenties, he enlisted in the Queen’s royal army to go fight in a war against Koringia, a neighboring kingdom to the south. This war has been going on for quite a while now, more than a hundred years to this day. And Cedric, lord Maxwell, he was given the title of general one day after a very bloody battle against our southern neighbors where his former general was killed in a brutal sword fight against a Koringian general. After the death of his general, when he was appointed as the new one, he vowed to take revenge against him the next time they met on the battlefield. Lord Maxwell told me that he was personally invited to a meeting with the other general by a messenger, and when he went he said they were heavily underestimated and mocked by the Koringian officials. That they went so far as to secretly offer large sums of money if they purposefully lost the war. Lord Maxwell tells me that was the last straw for him, so he got up from his chair and flipped the table to the side with all his rage, saying “What kind of fool do you people take me for? Money can’t do a thing to bring back my general, money can’t do a thing to erase the suffering our countries have gone through, and it definitely won’t make me into your slave. And we’re still calling this a holy war? The next time we meet on the battlefield, have no doubt that I will charge into a hailstorm of arrows to knock you off your horse.” Supposedly there 

was a lot more hype and tension after that meeting. Both sides had received word of what happened in the meeting, but things were a little different according to Koringian sources. Lord Maxwell had not only been infuriated himself, but the officials at the meeting felt disrespected for what he did to them. And so they were equally diligent to kill him.”

Mizuki stood in silence already deep in the story she was hearing. Her eyes never diverting anywhere else except focusing on lady Endolyn.

“When the day of the battle finally came, Lord Maxwell kept his promise about not backing down no matter what, and after a long and gruesome fight, he took out the same Koringian general that killed his former general. And even though the battle was won, both countries agreed to another temporary truce shortly after for many different reasons. But lord Maxwell had told me that after the battle, a group of surviving Koringian soldiers vowed they would take revenge on him, and that's when it all started..." She paused for a few seconds, taking another deep breath.

"Four years after the truce, I became pregnant with our first child, and nine months later I gave birth to a baby girl named Thea after lord Maxwell's late mother. Thea was a very smart and playful daughter, and even at such a young age she began to learn to read and write. Lord Maxwell and her were very close, maybe more than I was but we both loved her equally as did she. A few of our adult serfs in the village right now were friends with her when they were young."

Mizuki began to feel a bit uneasy as she noticed lady Endolyn speaking about her daughter in the past tense. It also seemed strange to her as to why her daughter wasn't around. "Maybe she was already married and had a family of her own" is what she thought.

"But one day when Thea was six years old, she was outside playing in the woods during the evening hours with her friends. She took the doll you have in hand with her that same day. Her favorite doll that I had made her for her sixth birthday.”

Hearing this, Mizuki reflexively looked down at her hands where the doll was. She tightened her grip on it as the feeling of being connected to it’s original owner tingled in her hands.

“And according to Mr. Tybalt when he was with her on that day, a man dressed in black and riding a horse of the same color approached them, asking if they knew about lord Maxwell. Thea responded saying she was his daughter and would take him to see her father. And as she did, that's when the dark horseman took out his blade... and... and he-" Eyes widening open already guessing the outcome, Mizuki stood in shock feeling a hot sweat coming in.

"He cut down Thea with his weapon, telling her friends to leave at once. The man left a note on her corpse saying that he had successfully taken revenge for his fallen general eleven years ago, and if lord Maxwell should return to the battlefield again he would meet his end. That’s when Cedric lost it. He plunged himself into a deep depression and grudge, he even went so far as to beg the queen to declare war again. Of course that didn’t happen until a few years later when the truce ended and war broke out again. Lord Maxwell fought again almost losing his life several times because he was blinded by rage. It was thanks to all those instances where he almost died that he began to rethink if he was on the right path and if Thea would be proud to see him in that state if she were still alive. So after he retired, we became even closer than we had ever been. The decision to not have any more children was a mutual one and we both decided to forget all grudges forever so we could finally live our lives and our daughter could rest in peace, and that is why we’ve left her room this way for more than twenty years already. We both agreed to leave it almost empty this way so Thea can decorate it as she pleases and change it as she 

gets older... or so we say. Because to us, she may not be alive anymore but here in her room she will always live on.”

Mizuki was left practically speechless at this point after learning the truth about this room, not to mention she was holding a precious item in her hands that was without a doubt worth more than any amount of money in this world to lord Maxwell and lady Endolyn. Surprisingly enough to her, lady Endolyn didn’t shed a single tear while she told her story. Except for an abrupt moment where she paused and had to repeat a word or two in order for her not to break down in the middle of the story.

Even up till now lady Endolyn only wore a short smile on her face. Never showing any sign of falling apart. But even with it on, her eyes couldn’t help but hide a modest amount of sadness hiding deep within her heart.

“And that is why no one comes in here to clean. Lord Maxwell and I decided it to be this way, and everyone working here on the manor respects our decision. But don’t feel bad Mizuki. They probably just forgot to tell you about it.” Lady Endolyn said with a heart warming smile.

They say that eyes are a window to the soul, and this couldn’t hold any more truth as Mizuki looked at her. The woman in front of her was strong enough to tell the heartbreaking story of her daughter’s own death all while keeping her composure. It didn’t matter if it had happened a long time ago, reminiscing the death of a loved one always has the power to bring sadness to one’s self.

Mizuki glanced once again at the cute doll in her hands. Her eyes glazed with thin layer of saline knowing that the person standing before her had made it with their own hands for their daughter. Likewise the daughter loved it so much to call it her favorite doll. It made her remember her own mother and and the pain she sometimes made her go through because of her stubbornness. One time Mizuki became so upset with her for not letting her go alone to their luxury townhouse condo in Seoul, South Korea with friends to celebrate the new year, she went so far as to secretly starve herself for two days and then cut her own wrist a few days after new years when she was home alone. Luckily she was found by the maid shortly after and rushed to the hospital where she received treatment.

“Mizuki. Why don’t we go downstairs now dear. I’m sure dinner is almost ready.” Looking back at her, Mizuki quietly replied with a nod. She quickly went and put the doll back on the bed where she had found it and then followed the lady of the manor out of the room, closing the door behind them with a soft Clack.

 

A few hours later, Sorata and Sir Bowen had safely returned back to the manor right after sunset thanks to the shortcut the knight knew about.

Shortly after arriving, Sorata helped round up as many people as possible so they could witness Sir Bowen propose to Lola with the beautiful ring he’d bought that same day. She said yes to him. Lord Maxwell, lady Endolyn, and the local priest gave them their blessings and that evening the entire village was in a festive mood. A last minute mini-banquet was even prepared to celebrate their engagement that same night.

Now midnight, Sorata and Mizuki were in the external servant’s quarters already in pajamas ,getting ready to sleep so they could work early again the next morning. The crackling fire from the two torches and the crickets chirping outside were again the only audible noises around.

The night was quiet with hardly any conversation between the two, just like every other night since they got there.

What had happened today in the streets of the capital to Sorata was still lurking around in his mind, including the explanation Sir. Bowen had given him as to why the Aldgrundian race was somewhat discriminated against not only in Casselonia but in many other kingdoms too. Conflicting feelings were crashing all over inside Sorata. He was contented to know that Lola and Sir. Bowen were finally engaged, but the uneasiness of not belonging here still stabbed at him every time it had the chance.

He debated strongly in his head whether to tell Mizuki now why he thought living there long term might mean they could face racial discrimination, although in reality they weren’t Aldgrundian, they only looked it because of their hair color. He came to the conclusion that he would have to tell her anyway sooner or later, and better now with him than to let her experience it herself the hard way. “Hey Mizuki-” But he was cut short. Mizuki opened her mouth and began to tell him the following.

“I tried calling my house number again today, and as expected... no one answered.”

“Huh?... You mean, you have your cell phone with you?...”

She nodded without looking at him.

“So… that means it also made it over here safely then.”

“What do you mean? You have yours too?” She turned her head and looked over at him. Which in turn he replied with a nod and said.

"Yeah. Just yesterday when I was chopping wood for Mr. Tybalt I remembered I still had it with me. I haven't used it much to be honest. Not because the battery is low or anything like that. I just want it to last as long as possible. But, you said you tried calling your house again right? Does that mean you've already tried it before?"

Again she nodded, and with her usual soft voice she answered. "It's strange though. This place doesn't seem to have any form of modern technology, and yet... I heard my house phone ring on the other side."

"That does sound strange now that you mention it. This world looks exactly like medieval Europe in so many ways, but like you said, you were able to get a connection a few times already."

They sat on their respective beds in silence, briefly thinking about the possible explanations for Mizuki's cell phone to be able to get a connection in a place such as this.

Though for Sorata it was more surprising to him for Mizuki to have had the initiative to begin a conversation with him.  

Mizuki then directed herself to him once more, her beautiful voice quickly taking over his senses.

"Hey Sorata."

Before he responded with anything he slowly repositioned his eyesight to look at her. "Uh... w-what is it?" Sorata became a little nervous out of nowhere hearing her voice again. Something about her sounded a little different this time. The tone she spoke in was still bland, but it felt a little weaker, a little more feminine, and a little more vulnerable.

Mizuki lifted her body out of the bed, sliding her feet into a pair of slippers in the process. She walked three short steps over to Sorata, stopped, squated down in front of him about half an 

arm's length away from his face, and looked him directly in the eyes. Sorata had no other choice but to instinctively move back and put his back against the rocky wall behind him and blush uncontrollably. Mizuki crawled closer to him as he went back. His heart rate immediately picked up speed like a drag race car from seeing the girl he liked so close to his face.

"Our first night here two nights ago, you promised you would protect me. Remember?"

"U-uh?... wha... No, I mean. Yeah, yeah I did didn't I? Aha-ahaha..."

"You really meant that, right? Because yesterday you never said anything. So I was wondering if maybe you were lying to me."

"Uhh... well that..." Sorata looked away to the side feeling dead embarrassed at how straightforward Mizuki was being with him. It's not that he disliked it in particular, more or less because he was also getting to see this other side of Mizuki he never thought she had. Yes she was waiting anxiously for an answer and staring right at him with somewhat cold eyes, but just being able to be in that position alone felt like a one in a million chance to him. Kind of a masochistic boy if you think about it.

"Well? Are you gonna do it or not?" She reiterated  again, a hint of annoyance rocked her voice.

"Tell me. Did you mean what you said or were you lying just to make me feel better? Which one is it? Who are you really Sorata Honda? And why am I here?" She was starting to get on his nerves for a moment, as if he could give her a realistic answer to her second question. "If you think this is funny then let me tell you something: It's not... not one bit. You can't just say something like that and not follow through on it." She began to pull on the collar of his shirt. "Will you really protect me when I'm in danger? Dammit! Tell me already!"

"Yes!" Sorata blurted out with a rock solid tone just like that, his head still turned away. No hesitation whatsoever. Leaving Mizuki speechless for a moment as she still looked at him, but now with a bit of shock on her face not expecting such a blunt answer.

She let go of him and got up after a few seconds after. She went back to her bed, pulling the white sheets over herself and laying with her back turned against him. "Turn off the torches when you go to bed."

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