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He and Him
“Are you really going back? You might as well stay for dinner.”
“That will be too late for me. The sun is already setting.”
After the exchange, Chloe stepped out of her home to see off Soujirou.
Autumn brought along long evenings to the town, drenching it a dull crimson.
Soujirou strolled back to his lodging on the island, near the hills.
While the town had trams and stagecoaches, he felt like taking a stroll at that moment.
Evenings were a bustling time in the town, with people returning from work and chilling coming back from school. Calls could be heard from stores here-and-there, inviting their patrons in, making the town come to life.
As he opened the front gates to his boarding, a graceful woman of considerable age, who managed the dorm—Madame Thérèse, just happened to pass by.
“Oh, welcome back Soujirou. You must be tired after the entrance ceremony. Should I give you your dinner at the usual time?”
No matter what you said, the food at the boarding house was delicious. While it was his oddball of an uncle, who was well known to be eccentric by the family who introduced him to the place, Soujirou was quite grateful to him just for this fact.
“Yes, please do that.”
“Yeah, by the way, some package of yours arrived. I carried it to the maids’ room for the time being.”
“Got it, thanks as always.”
It must be something strange his uncle sent. Or perhaps his family must have been worried and sent a ton of things from back home.
As he mused over what it could be, he gave a quick bow to the Madame and left for his room on the second floor.
Just as his hand touched the doorknob—
“Oi……you can’t hide anymore.”
“I told you to not hide, Leord. Come out.”
“…How did you know? Are you a ninja, a ninja master?”
“You’re just too large to hide. Also, this is the third time you tried to hide behind the decorations. If anything, you seem more obvious.”
As he spoke, the other sluggishly stepped out of the shadow of the decorations.
Brilliant blond hair and height of 6 feet (180cm) with well-proportioned muscles. His chiseled features were ‘manly’ no doubt, but his personality also carried hints of a refined English nobleman.
He was Soujirou’s friend at the boarding house, and also a new student at Alstroemeria Academy.
“Well, some mail arrived for you today, right? I thought maybe it’d be something from Japan, something like Ukiyo-e and stuff.”
“I don’t think people usually send Ukiyo-e as an allowance.”
“Don’t you know? Ukiyo-e was originally created as a substitute for cushioning materials…”
…He was obsessed with Japan. People said it was due to his parents’ influence. He was extremely elated when he came to know that Soujirou was Japanese.
“I understand, I understand. Gee, you’re strange for knowing such obscure facts about my country… Well, if that’s what you’re here for, come in. In exchange, you help me open my mail.”
“That’s the Soujirou I know! If there’s Ukiyo-e, lend it to me.”
“Nah, it won’t be there…maybe.”
Helped by Leord (even if he tried to chase Leord out of the room, he would still want to help), he opened the package from home. During the unpacking, the chatted about the entrance ceremony.
“I won’t forget your proud face on the stage, brimming with confidence, for a lifetime.”
“You’re really…Soujirou, you also had the same look on your face.”
“No, you did.”
Earlier in the day, when the top ranks were being announced, Leord’s name was called even before Soujirou. He was the fourth rank, while Soujirou was the seventh.
“Soujirou’s partner was the one with the odd hair color, right? She was tall.”
“She’s probably shorter than you, Leord. Well, her hair color was unique though. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone with such beautiful green hair. And your partner was…”
“My partner’s even cuter! I wish I could say that, but…”
Leord’s hands froze in midair as he took out the parcel from the wooden box. He let out a sigh. What was the boy who was clearly very lively, troubled about?
“That, well, ignoring her external appearance, what’s on the inside can’t be called cute in any way…”
His large hands ruffled through his blond hair as he scratched his head.
“She’s French. And as you can see, I’m British.”
Soujirou didn’t know it in much detail. The neighbors on the opposite ends of the channel— England and France, had a long history and deep ties between them. Yet they were on bad terms…or so it seemed.
Perhaps it was like the discord between the east and west in Japan. Soujirou mused idyllically.”
“It’s only the beginning and we’re already off to a rough start.”
“But still you would have accompanied each other after the entrance ceremony, right?”
“Our eyes didn’t meet at all, and there were no attempts at small-talk from the other side, and though I spoke, all I got were short replies. I looked at you two from the corner of my eye and you seemed quite chummy.”
“I don’t know if you’d call that being ‘chummy’.”
Soujirou reminisced of the day’s events. It was obvious at first glance that he was a foreign student from the east. Thus he was very much on guard at the beginning and worried if his words would be understood. Originally he felt that his partner’s attitude of treating them as equals was a little impolite, but thinking back, it was much better than being at odds like Leord and his partner.
“Rather being chummy, I’d call it being over-familiar.”
“That’s rich coming from you. I’m sure she just wanted to get along well with you.”
“I-Is that so?”
“Gosh, I’m so jealous. …Oh, this bottle of soy sauce seems nice. It looks refined and sophisticated. Give it to me once you use up the soy sauce inside.”
“It’s just an ordinary bottle of soy sauce. In fact, I don’t think there is any refinement or sophistication in it. If anything, it seems tasteless.”
Soujirou glanced at the large bottle of soy sauce he had seen often in Japan. As it wasn’t a product for the common people and rather expensive, it looked pleasing to the eyes. However, a soy sauce bottle was still, a soy sauce bottle after all.
“I-I see…refinement and grace…along with tastelessness…how profound…!”
A sigh escaped Soujirou.
Perhaps being over-familiar was a common trait among all westerners. Leord and Chloe were both oddly clingy.
“Well, let’s have a proper meet up next time.”
“Yes, with your partner. I’ll introduce mine too.”
“…I’ll think about it. First, get to know your partner well.”
Packed at the bottom of the wooden box were…not Ukiyo-e, but newspapers. But still, Leord seemed quite excited and exclaimed, “It’s full of Japanese writing! How exotic!”. There seemed to be no problem on his end.
“By the way, which club are you going to join?”
His hands sorting the scraps paused as he was lost in thought.
“How about entering the Fencing Club as a representative of the Japanese Samurai?”
“Fencing…is it about swordsmanship? That’s not a bad idea, but I would prefer a cultural club. What do you think?”
“I used to practice archery…what do you call it… right, kyudo! Won’t you join me? I’ve heard that the best Samurai can fight with both the sword and the bow.”
Leord gestured as if pulling a bowstring. Soujirou replied curtly.
“Didn’t you hear what I said? I’d like to be in a cultural club. Yeah…I’d like one where I can read as many books from the west as I want.”
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