After Story: One Summer Night
— One night around the end of the 8th month, 1550th year, Continental Calendar —
It was a summer evening, where the heat of the day still lingered. In a candlelit room in Parnam Castle, the three students who had returned from the Father Island the other day were working on their summer homework from the Royal Academy.
In short: they were rushing to finish their summer homework.
Because they were sent to the Father Island by official request of the Kingdom, they were exempted from some of it, but they were still given homework for core subjects like math and history where they wouldn’t be able to keep up with the class if they didn’t do it.
“Urgh... I’m so tired... Let it end...” Yuriga said, collapsing on top of the table. Her wings were drooping.
Tomoe and Ichiha were both watching Yuriga study.
“Yuriga, this one’s wrong.”
“You got the equation, but you messed up the substitution at the end.”
Because Tomoe and Ichiha were both good students with strong marks in the core subjects, they finished their own work in no time, and were now helping Yuriga with the parts she struggled with.
Yuriga pursed her lips, looking upset. “I was forced to do manual labor on the Father Island, and now that I’m back you force me to study all the time? Isn’t that unfair? Aren’t we just ordinary students?”
“Hrm... You say that, but doesn’t everyone have their own problems?” Tomoe said, cocking her head to the side slightly, and Ichiha nodded in agreement.
“Tomoe’s right. I don’t think there are many students who get to focus just on studying. Those from noble and knightly families likely have to help out when they go home, and the common people have to work to earn their tuition during the break.”
“Lu works for her family at the Evans Company to earn pocket money, and Vel works at Lu’s fruit parlor as a salesgirl.”
“Huh? I understand Lucy working, but Velza too?” Yuriga asked, and Tomoe nodded with a wry smile.
“Tasty food costs money. And if she works at Lucy’s place, they feed her sweets, so it’s perfect.”
“Oh, yeah, she was always buying and eating things.”
Yuriga recalled the way Velza’s face melted with glee as she ate Lucy’s latest sweets. As Aisha provided another example, dedication to the ones they loved and the pursuit of food were apparently racial traits for the dark elves.
Tomoe chuckled. “But I’d like us all to get together and have fun at least once.”
“Yeah...” Ichiha agreed. “It’s summer break, after all.”
“That’s right!” Yuriga nodded enthusiastically. “Souma said during the entrance ceremony that we have to enjoy our school lives to the fullest!”
“But we need you to finish your homework first,” Tomoe told her.
“Urgh... I know that.”
“Ah ha ha...” Ichiha laughed awkwardly.
Just then, a knock came at the door.
“Come in!” Tomoe shouted in reply, and Souma entered carrying a tray, followed by Juna with a teapot.
“Big Brother and Juna?”
“Hey there, Tomoe.”
“Good evening, everyone. It’s good to see you’re still working so hard late at night.”
Ichiha and Yuriga seemed unsure if they should jump to their feet to welcome the sudden arrival of the king and first secondary queen, but Souma waved his hand.
“Ahh, we’re in private right now, so don’t bother with that stuff.”
The king himself said so, so they stayed seated.
Souma looked at the table the three of them were sitting around.
“So, Tomoe, how goes the homework?”
“Oh! Well, Ichiha and I are finished, so we’re helping Yuriga with hers.”
“Hey! Yes, that’s true, but...you don’t have to say it,” Yuriga protested, puffing up her cheeks, but everyone just smiled at her attempt to hide her weakness.
“It sounds like you’re working hard. I thought I’d bring you all a late-night snack,” Souma said, laying the tray on the table.
“Ohh, I was just feeling hun...gry?”
“Thank you, Your Majesty... Huh?”
“Whatever, I’m just happy for a break... Wait, what?”
When they saw what was on the tray Souma had brought, the kids all looked at him blankly. It was three bowls of white rice, a plate of white sashimi dipped in soy sauce, three sets of wooden spoons, and a set of long chopsticks.
“Rice...and sashimi, Big Brother?”
“It’s a little different. Here’s what you do.”
Souma put a few pieces of sashimi on top of the rice with the long chopsticks.
“Okay, Juna. Go ahead.”
Juna poured the contents of the teapot over the sashimi.
When she did, the delicious smell of soup stock tickled the kids’ nostrils. It made their empty bellies feel even emptier. Souma offered a bowl and wooden spoon to Tomoe.
“Here you go, it’s ochazuke.”
“It’s a standard dish for late-night snacks in my old world. And Shabon just happened to send me some good tea leaves grown on Yaezu Island. Since I had everything I needed, I thought I’d try making it.”
In the world he came from, Souma had heard that green tea, black tea, and oolong tea were all made from leaves of the same tea plant, and the only difference was the degree of fermentation. He’d been looking for a country somewhere with a culture of drinking green tea for a while now. When Souma found out that the Nine-Headed Dragon Archipelago had a culture of green tea and grew tea leaves suitable for it, he’d asked Shabon to send him some.
The teapot contained a mixture of tea from those leaves mixed with soup stock.
“I wish I had some more elegant tableware to serve it in,” Souma said as he began preparing two more bowls. “I’d definitely prefer to have tea bowls, along with a kyusu teapot or a kettle, but...well, wanting for things I can’t have isn’t all that productive, so I found substitutes. Here, for both of you too.”
“Thank you,” Ichiha said.
“We’re grateful,” Yuriga added.
With that, the three of them each took a scoop with their wooden spoons, and their eyes went wide when they put them in their mouths.
“It’s really good, Big Brother!”
“The soup stock has really seeped into it, and the flavor warms you up.”
“I could eat as much of this as you gave me, even though it’s late...”
The kids messily gobbled away at their ochazuke.
Souma and Juna smiled contentedly as they watched them. In no time, the kids polished off their meals.
“Whew... That was good, Big Brother,” Tomoe said.
““Thank you,”” Ichiha and Yuriga added in unison.
“Sure, it was no big deal,” Souma replied, taking their used dishes. “I hear you three worked hard on the Father Island. Did this help reward you for it a bit?”
“Big Brother... Yes! I feel full of energy now.”
“I do too. Now that my stomach’s satisfied, I think I can try a little more.”
Yuriga, who had been grumbling earlier, was ready to go again. Not long ago, she might have felt obligated to say, “What’s the king doing bringing us snacks?!” But by now, she was pretty used to this country’s style—or rather the royal family’s style—and wasn’t thrown by minor things like this.
Souma nodded with satisfaction as he looked at the kids.
“You should get your homework done. Before it’s time for the event, at least.”
“Event?” Yuriga asked.
“Oh! That’s right!” Tomoe clapped her hands with a look as if she’d just remembered.
“Lu and Vel wanted to go together too! Come on, Yuriga! Let’s hurry up and finish your homework!”
“Huh? Where’s this sudden motivation coming from? What’s going on?!”
“Come on, move that pen! Ichiha, you help too!”
“Seriously, what is happening?!”
The kids suddenly got a lot noisier. Souma and Juna looked at one another, smiling, and then left the room so that they wouldn’t be in the way.
◇ ◇ ◇
— Evening, two days later —
“Heh heh! You look good like that, Yuriga,” Tomoe said.
“You too. But you wear clothes that look like this all the time,” Yuriga replied, a little embarrassed by the compliment.
This evening, they were both wearing yukata. Incidentally, Souma was the one who made them, and while they were actually all made for Tomoe, she had given Yuriga a light blue one. They were about the same height, so the length didn’t need to be adjusted all that much, but the hole for Tomoe’s tail needed to be closed up, and new ones cut for Yuriga’s wings.
“I just put this on because I was told this was the thing to wear at festivals, but it’s pretty nice,” Yuriga said, holding her sleeves as she looked at herself in a yukata. Feeling like that was a compliment to her brother, Tomoe smiled with satisfaction.
Today was the city-wide summer festival in Parnam.
At the request of Roroa, who’d wanted some kind of event to get the economy going, Souma proposed a summer festival like the ones in his world, where there were rows of food stalls and they launched fireworks.
Incidentally, when the king proposed this idea, the third primary queen had a question.
“What does the summer festival celebrate, darlin’?”
“Hmm? What do you mean, ‘what does it celebrate’?”
“I mean, it’s gotta be celebratin’ somethin’. That’s what festivals are for, ain’t it?”
“Now that you mention it... What does the summer festival celebrate? Because it wasn’t just at shrines; we had them on shopping streets too...”
And that was how this all started. Eventually, they settled on this festival celebrating their sadness over the departure of summer. Now that it was being held, Tomoe and her friends were here to enjoy it. In fact, you could even say that they’d struggled through that homework hell just to be here.
“Heh heh! It’s a good thing you got your homework done, huh, Yuriga?”
“Tell me about it. I thought it was going to be death by homework for me... By the way...” Yuriga looked all around. “Where did Ichiha go?”
“Ichiha? He’s over there.”
Tomoe pointed towards a pretty girl in a yellow yukata that Ichiha was pulling along by the hand. The girl wasn’t used to the length of it, and struggled to walk.
“I’m sorry, Ichiha. I just can’t get used to this outfit.”
“It’s okay. Here, hold on,” Ichiha said, offering a hand to the yukata-clad girl. “Let’s go, Big Sister Sami.”
Sami Chima—as you might expect from the younger sister of Mutsumi, who was like an embodiment of the ideal traditional Japanese beauty—looked really good in Japanese clothes. Her hair was shorter than Mutsumi’s, and tied off at the side.
She looked at Ichiha apologetically and said, “Thank you... Even though I’m supposed to be your bodyguard here.”
“Don’t worry, sister. I’ll be counting on you when it matters.”
Sami was the one chosen to chaperone the children at the festival. Because they were expecting crowds today, the Black Cats could only protect them so much from the shadows, so Souma and the others had wanted at least one person at their side.
That said, having a gruff warrior like Inugami around during a happy time with their friends would feel out of place, so the task had fallen to Sami. She was a similar age, and also an accomplished mage, which made her a good candidate. It also seemed like it wouldn’t be good for Sami’s mental or physical health to stay cooped up in the library forever, so it was also a good way to have her get out. Incidentally, her yukata had been borrowed from Roroa, who had a similar build to her.
“Is this...all right?” Yuriga mumbled as she looked at Sami.
“Yuriga?” Tomoe said questioningly.
“My brother killed someone important to her, you know? Is she okay with being around his little sister?”
For Sami, Fuuga and Hashim were the ones who’d murdered her adoptive father, Heinrant. However, Yuriga had happened to overhear Sami saying that she had nothing against Yuriga just because she was Fuuga’s sister. In fact, she’d even said “The way she’s been jerked about at her brother’s whims, I feel a sort of kinship with her.”
Still, there had to be some feelings she couldn’t get over.
Tomoe grabbed Yuriga by both arms and said, “It’s okay, Yuriga!”
“Big Brother and the others decided that it was safe to leave our protection to her. Sami knew you’d be here when she accepted the job, so you don’t have to worry about any of the stuff you’re thinking of!”
Tomoe tried to push past this with pure momentum. Yuriga blinked, then, smiling slightly, she grabbed Tomoe by the cheeks.
“You’re acting awfully cheeky for a little kid. I haven’t fallen so far I need you worrying about me.”
“Jeez... But anyway, you’re okay with that?” Yuriga asked, letting go of Tomoe’s cheeks to point at Ichiha and Sami.
Sami was holding onto him tightly as they walked along.
“Those two look awfully close to me.”
“Huh? Isn’t it good for siblings to be close?” Tomoe said, rubbing her cheeks as she gave Yuriga a blank look.
“Hmm—” Yuriga said with a suppressed laugh. I wonder how she would’ve reacted if it wasn’t his sister hanging off of him like that.
Tomoe seemed to have been paying an awful lot of attention to Ichiha since around the time of the Monsterology symposium, so it was about time she became more aware of it herself—is what Yuriga, Velza, and Lucy had been saying. The only ones who didn’t know were Tomoe and Ichiha themselves.
When she saw how Yuriga was watching her warmly, Tomoe stared back at her with suspicion.
“Sorry for the wait,” Ichiha said as he and Sami caught up. Sami bowed her head to them.
“I’m sorry for taking so long, you two.”
“No, it’s no problem at all,” Tomoe replied.
“It’s not your fault. You’re not used to that kind of outfit,” Yuriga added.
Sami smiled at them softly.
“Well, shall we be off, then? We’re meeting up with your other two friends who aren’t here at Ginger’s Vocational School, right?”
“Oh, right. That’s Lu and Vel!”
Sami blinked at Tomoe’s reply.
“Both of them are girls too? Ichiha, are you popular with girls now?”
“Hold on, sis! It’s not like that!”
““Ah ha ha...””
Tomoe and Yuriga could only smile wryly at the way Ichiha turned bright red as he tried to deny it.
◇ ◇ ◇
The four of them met up with Lucy and Velza in front of the vocational school.
“So, why are we meeting up here?” Yuriga asked.
“Heh heh heh, obviously, because they’re doin’ this,” Lucy said, pointing to the main gate of the school. It had an arch that said “B-Grade Gourmet Exhibition Site” in big letters.
“It’s been some time since His Majesty and Poncho started recreating dishes from His Majesty’s old world, and the number of recipes has only increased, so the plan is to show all of them off here,” Ichiha explained, and Lucy nodded.
“There’s gonna be a whole mountain o’ good eats. I’m thinkin’ we oughta fill our bellies before we get goin’.”
“Good eats... Do you suppose that will include sweets?” Velza asked, her eyes sparkling at the mention of delicious food. This was standard for her, so Tomoe and the others chuckled, and decided to just head inside.
There were food stalls all around the school, and a myriad of dishes being sold. Some of them, like okonomiyaki, horumonyaki, ice cream, and Napolitan spaghetti, were familiar to Tomoe and the others who lived in the castle, while others weren’t.
“Huh? Lady Tomoe?”
Turning to see who’d called her name, Tomoe saw Jirukoma and Poncho’s second wife Komain both wearing aprons as they worked at a stall with a sign that read “Sunny-Side-Up Egg Yakisoba.” In front of them was a hot steel plate with yakisoba noodles and sunny-side-up eggs frying on it. It was surreal seeing this pair that looked like Native Americans dressed in aprons, with triangular bandannas on their heads and a spatula in each hand.
“Komain? You have a stall here?” Tomoe asked, blinking.
“Yes!” Komain replied with a smile. “There are a lot of stalls at this event that my husband is helping with, and the people involved with the Lastanian royal family don’t have much to do other than provide security, so I had my brother come help.”
“Not much to do beyond provide security? Well, I suppose that’s true,” Jirukoma said with a complicated expression on his face. Komain ignored him and kept talking.
“I’m sure my husband is running all around the event site right now. What do you say, Lady Tomoe? Would you and your friends like some yakisoba?”
“Ohh, that’s soundin’ pretty good. How about we buy three plates and we’ll share?” Lucy suggested, and Velza nodded enthusiastically.
As for Yuriga, on the other hand...
“No, I’m more concerned about what I’m seeing behind them...” she said, pointing behind the stall.
The school building was right behind the stall, and the closest classroom was brightly lit.
“Come on, don’t fight, you two. Play nice now.”
“Oh, are you sleepy? Come on over here.”
There were about ten children between the ages of one and three in the classroom, and Jirukoma’s wife Lauren and Poncho’s first wife Serina were looking after them.
Jirukoma and Komain looked at each other and smiled wryly.
“N-No, um, this is, well... You know,” Jirukoma stammered.
“If you put me and my brother’s children together, there are six of them, so we set up an impromptu daycare.”
Jirukoma and Lauren currently had four children, while Poncho had one each with Serina and Komain. All together that made six children that needed someone to watch them, so they’d decided they might as well look after the other participants’ children while they were at it.
Komain narrowed her eyes at Jirukoma.
“I mean, my family is normal. It’s my brother, popping out four kids within a few years of being married to only one wife, that’s weird.”
“There’s one set of twins in there, so you can’t really blame me...”
“That doesn’t make it any less trouble for Big Sister Lauren.”
“But Lauren is the one who keeps saying the kids are so cute she wants lots of them...”
As those two were arguing...
“Hee hee, doesn’t this make you want a second, Lord Ginger?”
At some point, the principal of the vocational school, Ginger, had appeared with his wife Sandria wrapped around his arm.
When Komain noticed them, she smiled and said, “Good evening. Are you two making the rounds?”
“Oh! Yes. We were checking to make sure nothing is amiss.”
“Forget that, Lord Ginger,” Sandria said, tugging on his sleeve. “I want our second now.”
“Huh? We agreed we’d wait a while, didn’t we?”
“We did, yes, but now that I’ve seen Serina surrounded by children like this, I find myself wanting another.”
Maybe it was because they were both maids, but Sandria paid a lot of attention to Serina, who had been less interested in romance than herself before, but now Serina was happily surrounded by lots of children. Me too, Sandria thought, seeing this scene.
“Let’s try hard starting tonight.”
“Oh... Okay. I understand.”
“Um... Could you do that sort of family meeting somewhere else?” Komain complained with a wry smile, and Ginger flushed red.
Tomoe and her friends, who had also been listening to them, were blushing too. They all had a basic knowledge of this sort of thing from lessons at the academy.
Meanwhile, Sami, who had been eating yakisoba as she watched, smiled wryly and mumbled, “It’s so peaceful, yet so loud... What a weird country.”
◇ ◇ ◇
Boom, pop, boooom! A great many fireworks were spread out across the sky.
In the country Souma came from, they valued the ephemeral feeling of the fireworks fading away, so when they sent up fireworks it was one shot at a time, in slow and fast bursts. However, in this country, there was no such culture, and the artillerymen brought in to act as pyrotechnicians were judged on who could more efficiently fill the whole sky without any breaks. The former was like looking at a flower arrangement in the living room, while the latter was like seeing a mountain of blooming cherry blossoms. It wasn’t a case of one being better than the other.
You could tell that from the way that the kids’ eyes sparkled as they stared up into the sky. They were on the roof of the Royal Academy, which Tomoe and her friends attended.
The academy, which felt a sense of rivalry towards the newer, more cutting edge Ginger’s Vocational School, had decided that if the vocational school was going to open up their campus, then they would also have events with music and stage performances.
Tomoe and the others had heard that the academy’s roof was going to be a good spot to watch the fireworks, so they brought the food they’d bought at the vocational school and had sat down to enjoy the show.
“Tamaya!” Tomoe suddenly shouted, and Yuriga looked at her with wide eyes.
“What was that about?”
“Big Brother told me that’s what they shout while watching fireworks in his world.”
“Oh, yeah. That’s interestin’. Tamaya!”
When Lucy shouted, Velza and Ichiha joined in too. Yuriga and Sami, who were watching, would feel a little left out if they didn’t participate, so they did the same. And so, the six of them ate food they’d bought at the stalls, and enjoyed a sky full of fireworks.
“We were able to make a good summer memory, huh, Yuriga?” Tomoe said, sounding like she was enjoying herself.
“Well, it wasn’t a bad one,” Yuriga replied, shrugging.
Although she said that, this scene of watching the fireworks at night with friends would be carved deep into Yuriga’s heart.