I do not want a curtain call
First Published on Ainushi
The days rolled by and the season where vivid verdure blinds the eye came around. It was the first day of Golden Week and leisure centres were the hottest topic on every TV channel.
「… He is late.」
It was late at night and long past regular working hours. Alone in the deadly silent company, Kudou Chiharu was waiting in vain.
He was waiting for his subordinate, who should have come in to report after completing his escort duty.
As a special talent directly scouted by Chiharu, the company president, everything to do with reporting on the mission or handing in information had to go to him directly.
For Sakuya who understood this point, it was a habit to stop by and report in after each mission however tired he may be. a habit.
The current contract was from the start of the new school term to the first day of Golden Week.
The Tachibanas hosted a garden party the day before the end of that contract. An engagement announcement and a celebration of the fresh start between the Tachibanas and Hiiragis was supposed to take place.
Once the formal announcement was made, Hiiragi Natsumi would be officially recognized as the fianceé of the heir of the Tachibanas. Therefore, even if anything untoward should befall her, the Tachibanas will be able to deal with it as she was a part of their family.
In the meantime, the escort request with Sakuya was just to cover the gap.
Sakuya’s task was to escort Natsumi to the garden party venue and ensure the betrothal announcement runs smoothly. After that, his job was over.
The party was to start at 11 AM. Whatever the delay, the end of the party should have been long before dusk. The announcement should have taken place even earlier, and yet…
Glancing at the clock, it was 11 PM.
Half a day had passed since the party started.
Something was clearly amiss. Unable to endure any further, Chiharu jumped to his feet with a loud bang. Just then, the smartphone on the desk which he was constantly glancing at vibrated, signalling an incoming call.
Seeing that Sakuya’s name was displayed on the screen, Chiharu breathed a small sigh of relief. However, knowing that it was still too early for relief, he braced himself and pressed the button.
At last! It really was him. Chiharu was now finally able to catch his breath.
But, hearing that husky, unfamiliar tone in his voice, Chiharu guessed that something big must have happened for him to address himself in a business voice.
「 It is late already. I will hear your report at home.」
「 Right now, I am leaving the company. I’ll inform the staff at home, so if you arrive earlier, wait for me at the entrance. And… bear in mind that I am not accepting any objections.」
After speaking his mind, Chiharu hung up without waiting for Sakuya’s response.
After getting in touch with the butler, who was still wide awake awaiting his master’s return, he informed the butler of his return and told him about Sakuya’s arrival together with instructions to prepare for the possibility of Sakuya staying for the night. Chiharu could then finally leave his seat.
「Yes, I am back.」
Setting foot into the entrance, Chiharu was greeted by the butler with a respectful bow as usual.
Noticing Sakuya diagonally behind his butler, standing humbly and enacting the same bowing position, Chiharu’s lips curved upwards forming a small smile.
(Doesn’t he look ragged and worn out?… He must have used the train to go back home like a respectable person?)
At this time of night, he must have narrowly caught the last train.
A blonde-haired, blue-eyed beauty lost in a chaotic space, crammed in with drunkards and overtime workers.
There, drawing the resentment of the males and being hunted by the females on top of already being tired out – from his appearance, it was clear that he received lethal damage.
Even if Chiharu ordered him to get a taxi, he will most likely counter him with『Luxury is the enemy.』
The Kiryuu family Sakuya had succeeded, was not of high standing. They were only descended from a『somewhat old lineage.』
However, two generations ago, (in other words, Sakuya’s grandfather) the third son of the main branch of Schneider, a noble British family, married into the Kiryuu family by marrying the Kiryuu family’s only daughter. Thus the Kiryuus obtained connections overseas.
And so, the only son born from that matrimony took as his bride a young miss born between Christhard, a German family (said to be another direct descendant of the Schneiders) and a Japanese.
The child that union gave birth to was half Japanese, a quarter British nobility and a quarter German nobility. Someone of real pedigree.
However, as a result of growing up watching his prideful parents as they were bound by their purely political marriage without a shred of love for each other, he began to loathe the habit of swaggering, of wielding one’s authority and of wasteful expenditures.
… Despite having a fortune so large, a fortune that he could freely spend without ever lifting a finger.
For now, Chiharu led the still restless Sakuya into the study and offered him a chair. Dragging another chair to face Sakuya, he sat down as well.
「Well, it’s still『today』, even though there’s barely any of it left. We could have kept it for tomorrow, but curiosity got the better of me. So much that it would have haunted me in my dreams. So let’s get down to it, shall we?」
「Yes. Then I’ll start my report.」
Due to the preparatory meeting before the party, Sakuya went to pick her up exactly on the dot, which was slightly earlier than the previously appointed time.
Clad in a pearly pink dress, which – depending on the angle – could be seen as white as well, Natsumi was unusually quiet as she sat in the car.
The moment they arrived at the venue, as Sakuya opened the door to urge her to move, she wrapped her hands around his arm and looked as if she wanted to say something as she stared into his eyes.
Before Sakuya could shake her off, Takayuki’s voice could be heard, calling out to her from across the garden. Natsumi reluctantly let go of his arm. She slowly retreated a step, then two, as the previously entwined fingertips of her other hand was held out midair.
Her gesture was as if something invisible was connecting their hands to each other.
「She seemed unusually theatrical.」Sakuya rounded it up resolutely.
「 Well, let’s leave that aside. Was there a problem during the party itself? 」
「 Yes. Some time after the party had begun, I heard a mild voice making the rounds, seeming to greet everyone in attendance. Just when it was about to settle down, I heard voices yelling『What is the meaning of this?』.」
Those voices resonated from the Hiiragi couple.
The Tachibana family officially announced their ties with the Hiiragi family and introduced Natsumi as their son’s fianceé.
Everything up to that point went fine.
After that, the head of the Tachibana family spoke about the annulment of the previous engagement that had happened not too long ago, and about the fact that Natsumi was raised in an inferior, low-class family. He announced that her engagement to Takayuki was approved, but her acceptance as a『prospective bride』would be postponed until she learned the family’s customs, basic skills and knowledge etc.
That is not what you promised, the Hiiragi couple reacted with indignation. However, they argued the fact that the previous fianceé, Saya, had undertaken and easily cleared the same training. Natsumi, who was silent till then, suddenly raised her voice:『 I will try my best to receive your approval.』
Just like that, the party gradually came to a close.
The assembled guests kept their congratulatory gifts and left in small groups.
「…I see. Your duty was until the engagement was successfully established, so… as it is, you couldn’t take your leave yet. What happened after that?」
「I waited until the party ended so that I could discuss it with Mr Tachibana. According to him, our agreement was not yet fulfilled, but the expiration of the contract period was a fact, so I was free to go. That was when Miss Natsumi expressed her desires to go home and be alone. As her parents weren’t leaving yet, the unfortunate task of bringing her home fell upon me.」
「…I feel as if your expressionless face is gradually cracking wide open…Oh well, carry on.」
Inside the car, Natsumi intermittently grumbled things like「Why!?」or「Even though I worked so hard!」, until finally, as the car arrived in front of the Hiiragi mansion, she was close to tears.
Even after he opened the door and urged her out as usual, Natsumi didn’t budge, still slumped on the seat.
Just as Sakuya reluctantly leaned forward to peek inside the car, his neck was embraced and he was pulled into the back seat.
『 You are still my escort for the rest of today, right? So stay with me. Protect me. Please.』
Being squeezed in her inhumanly strong embrace, he struggled to peel her off as he responded with『The contract is only up to the party’s betrothal announcement.』and『I’ve officially received Mr Takayuki’s permission to terminate the contract.』
In order to free himself, he tried to push her aside. This in turn drove Natsumi to cling onto him even more whilst screaming “No no!” and shaking her head from side to side.
『…I…I love you, Sakuya』
『I know it is something unforgivable, something I should never speak of, but I can’t stop this feeling.
I feel sorry for Takayuki, but when I realised that we might not meet again, I just can’t stay silent!』 Natsumi cried and pleaded with those words.
『I know it’s wrong and I will strive to forget, to give up on these feelings… but at least let me keep some memories of this ephemeral love.』
As Natsumi softly closed her eyes, pleading for a kiss, Sakuya silently turned his back on her.
The same girl – who just declared in front of so many people that from now on she will do her『best』 as Tachibana Takayuki’s fianceé – was now coaxing a kiss from a hired-for-a-month bodyguard. For him, she was an off-putting, incomprehensible being.
The car he used until now for his escort duty was something borrowed from the Hiiragis. Therefore, it was fine for him to just leave it and head on home. Concealing his steps, he tried to take his leave quietly.
Because she vigorously hurled herself at … err, rather, thanks to the impact from her rushing over to embrace him, he lost his balance and his private cell phone smoothly slipped out from his breast pocket.
The cracking sound of something breaking could be heard.
Fortunately, the phone itself was not broken.
However the rustic, folded glasswork strap that has acted as his only cell phone decoration, was ruthlessly shattered to pieces.
In her panic, Natsumi rushed to pick up the fragments, but Sakuya brushed her shoulder aside, knelt down and carefully started gathering them.
However, her enamel-pink pumps obstructed his movements.
She dealt a final blow by trampling on them with her heels and grinding them into the ground as she moved about. After following her movements with his eyes, Sakuya slowly looked up.
He saw her face distorted by fury.
『That must have been be a precious memento, but the dead will not return! They are gone already!Rather than that, look at me! I am here! I am the one in front you!!』
At this point, Sakuya stopped talking and sank into silence.
Chiharu shrugged his shoulders with a sigh and quietly gazed at him.
But Chiharu was also the first to break the awkward atmosphere.
「… I remember you telling me the story of this strap. You received it from a dear friend when you were studying abroad, right?」
「How is that person right now?」
「I don’t know. At that facility, we always referred to each other by our nicknames… I can’t even remember if that person is Japanese. I came back here earlier so…」
「 Is that so?」
Even so, Chiharu continued.
「 I wonder why she thought that it was a memento from a『deceased』?」
After expressing his ignorance, Sakuya muttered quietly:
『What does she know about me? To what extent?』
Author’s Note: Next time, the lead should show up