The Academy Spring Trip (4)

“Long time no see.
Bree, Leah.”

Vivian greeted first to break the cold atmosphere.
I hadn’t seen him for quite some time.

“How was the exam?”

“……Don’t talk about exams.”

“Oh, sorry.”

Speaking of the exams, I think our results would be released on the bulletin board in the main building after this trip is over. 

“Well, I’m glad you’re doing well.
To be honest, I had a hard time because of the traditional ceremony the other day.”

“Ah, me too.”

Vivian, who sympathised with me, nodded when I told him about my struggles.

The nod was so strong that I naturally burst into laughter.
Vivian then shared about his experience so far.
While we were laughing together, Vivian closed his mouth and stared at me blankly.
I smiled awkwardly, wondering if something had happened. 

“Nothing has changed, Bree.
I never thought I’d be talking to you like this again.”

He said, scratching his head.
In fact, I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel awkward with Vivian after his confession.

I didn’t avoid him, but I could sense that Vivian seemed uncomfortable with me.
Even when I greeted him first, he would either laugh it off or leave with the excuse that class was starting.
Thanks to that, my relationship with Vivian gradually returned to how it used to be before we became friends. 

As time passed, even though we took the same liberal arts class, it was almost impossible to sit together and say hello.

“Actually, I haven’t been able to face you since I was rejected.
Even if I said it was fine, I guess I really liked you, Bree.
I thought I would be a burden if I got close to you, so I kept my distance at first, but that was foolish.”

I didn’t know how to respond to his frank words.

“Oh, I never meant to burden you.
I just……truly want to be good friends with you now.”

Vivian smiled casually.

“I’m greedy, can I be good friends with you too? Just like how you and Leah are.”

“I also wanted to be good friends with you too, Vivian.”

I meant what I said.
Vivian is not only good-natured and kind, but he also got along well with me.
Vivian let out a long sigh as if he was relieved by my sincere reply.
He seemed to be inwardly nervous.

“I’m so glad you agree, Bree.”

I was having a good conversation with Vivian, but somehow the atmosphere in the carriage became a little cold.
Leto was still staring intently at Vivian with his arms folded.
Those watchful eyes were sharp.
Vivian was also nervous, but he finally opened his mouth after looking at Leto.

“I want to be friends with you too, Leah……”

Vivian didn’t manage to end his sentence.

“I don’t hang out with three people.”

“Leah.”

What is wrong with Leto? Confused, I hurriedly grabbed Leto’s arm, but he glanced at me and opened his mouth again.

“So, you want to hang out with us?”

“Ah, if I may say so……”

“If three people hang out, one person would naturally be alienated.
That’s why I hate odd numbers.”

What’s up with that meticulousness[1]?

[1] PR/N: means showing close attention to detail.

“I see.”

I felt sorry for Vivian who readily agreed with Leto’s stubborn words.

“Then what should I do?”

When Vivian asked, Leto finally unfolded his arms.

“Simple.
Bring one more person to hang out with us.”

“Does gender matter?”

A polar question appeared.
Leto was startled before suddenly glancing at me, who remained silent.

“……It would be better if it was a man.”

I wasn’t sure if I understood Leto’s standards.

*  *  *

I got off the carriage and got my ticket to board the train.
When I was young, I always sat in the economy class whenever I rode the train.
I’ve tried to sneak into the VVIP seat before, but the manager blocked my way, so I couldn’t get inside.
He blocked my way with a stern look on his face.

I tried to sneak around him, but the manager forcefully pushed me back without allowing me to see a glimpse of the VVIP seats.
Thinking about it made me feel slightly uneasy.
Anyway, if I were to write a letter to my parents later, I thought I should definitely mention that I sat in the VVIP seats.

Then, my parents would definitely be proud of me.
I suddenly imagined a scene where my mother proudly bragged about her daughter to her neighbours.
Considering that they might actually tell the whole neighbourhood, I wondered if I should really be proud of it.
Truthfully, my parents liked to make a fuss.

It was the same case when I got accepted to the Lexley Academy.
It was understandable that they would boast around since it was the pride of the family, but it shouldn’t be to the point where they stop everyone passing by just to brag.
When I went to the market in another town, my mother laughed and talked about me at every store she went to.

Eventually the whole neighbourhood knew that I was going to the Lexley Academy.
It became common to see whispers and glances whenever I passed by.

‘Yeah, let’s not brag about it this time.’

Having made a conclusion, I looked at the train that just arrived.
The red train, which emitted a big smoke and arrived with a loud sound, had a Gothic style.

“Bree, I’ve been thinking.
Does Leah, perhaps, not like me?”

We were currently waiting for the train to completely stop.
Vivian, who was beside me, leaned closer and asked in a quiet voice.
Looking at Vivian, who realised this all too late, I thought about what to say and opened my mouth.

“No, Leah said that because she’s worried about you.
If there are three people, one person would be neglected.
So she might be worried, don’t you think?”

While I was talking, the train station started becoming noisy.
The gaze of the tourists, and even the students, faced backwards.
My eyes turned towards the direction the crowd was facing, wondering if a famous actor had appeared.
However, due to the large crowd, it was difficult to see and I couldn’t tell what was going on.

“I think a famous person came.”

“Who?”

I could hear the students next to me chatter.

The rumours might have spread quickly, so the students did not get on the train and instead, headed towards the crowd.

“Bree, what about Leah?”

Vivian looked around and noticed that Leto wasn’t there.
Then, I realised that Leto was nowhere to be seen.
He was definitely next to me when I got off the carriage earlier……

“Did she go there?”

Vivian pointed towards the crowd.
Knowing Leto’s personality, he wasn’t the type of person who would join crowded places.
Furthermore, he was never the type to care about famous people.
I was about to reply, saying that he might have gone to the restroom, but Vivian was already heading towards the crowd.

“Vivian? Leah won’t be there!”

“Isn’t that Leah?”

What?

I looked closely at where Vivian was pointing.
I couldn’t see very well, but I could see a red hair amidst the crowd.
The top of the head that was visible since Leto was very tall.
That specific dark red hair was definitely Leto.
Did he have a favourite actor?

I followed Vivian and headed to Leto.
When I squeezed through the crowd and looked ahead, I saw knights blocking the crowd to expand some space.
Seeing how there were knights accompanying them, they didn’t appear to be an actor, but rather a high ranking noble.

I found someone from afar.
Soon, I realised why Leto was here.

“It’s the Duke of Arsene.”

It was Leto’s father.
A man with black eyes and red hair, similar to Leto.
The tall, striking, middle-aged man must be Duke Arsene.
There was someone beside him, a man who looked exactly like Leto.

If you looked closely, you could notice the differences, but from a distance, that man seemed indistinguishable from Leto.
He was clearly Leto’s older brother, Rainier.
Living a life of debauchery, he was walking with an extremely arrogant expression.

“It’s Duke Arsene.
There’s Master Rainier too.
How is he so handsome?”

“Wow, how cool.”

Everyone looked at Duke Arsene and Rainier, and muttered something.
The only person who was watching them silently was Leto Arsene.
He looked quite surprised as if he hadn’t expected the two of them to appear here.
Duke Arsene and Rainier looked around and frowned at the familiar uniform.
The two of them slowly came closer.

“Bree?”

“Leah…We have to get to Leah.”

I quickly pushed myself forward to get to Leto’s side.
However, it was difficult to take even a step forward due to the large crowd.
Eventually, I shoved myself forward and stared blankly at Leto, who was still far away.
Just…a little…bit more.

Despite my hopeful wishes, Duke Arsene and Leto’s eyes met before I could reach them.
Duke Arsene halted, and Leto stopped breathing.
The two of them looked at each other silently.
The crowd who felt something off, looked closely between the two.
Only then did the Lexley Academy students notice Leto’s presence and whispered even more.

“Come to think of it, Arsene’s daughter entered our school this year.”

“I’ve seen her.
She’s really pretty.”

“That’s true.
But there’s a rumour that she has a really weird personality.
Oh, speaking of.
During orientation……”

After a while, Leto tried to bow his head to greet his father.

However, just right before that, Duke Arsene moved again and uttered a word to Leto.

“Useless bastard.”

The voice instantly silenced the noisy train station.

Only the sound of Duke Arsene’s words to Leto echoed like a vibration.
The atmosphere that already seemed cold from the wind froze in an instant, and Leto clenched his fist.

It was a complete public humiliation.

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