The next morning, in Rio’s lodging, the time had only passed 8 .
Rio had just finished his breakfast in a strange situation where two maids were waiting by his side . Private meals were limited due to recent chaos, but the castle still allowed it under a few conditions such as this .
「Haruto-sama, shall I prepare some tea for you?」
「Yes, please do . 」
Then, when the maid closer to his age brought it to him, the sound of the door knocking echoed through the room, and she immediately went to answer it .
「Good morning, Haruto-sama . 」
It was Charlotte coming in .
「Princess Charlotte… Good morning . What do you need?」
Rio returned the greeting, but he was astonished nonetheless . They were going to have a tea party in Charlotte’s room, so he had no idea why she would come to him .
「You promised to have a conversation with me this morning, right? It’s a little early, but I came to meet you . 」
Charlotte replied with a charming smile .
Rio checked the clock settled against the wall . That conversation was supposed to happen at 9 o’clock . She was about an hour early .
It’s not like he didn’t understand coming earlier due to the sheer scale of the royal castle, but this was still…
Well, even if he voiced those thoughts to her, it would have gone in one ear and out the other .
「I see . I’m sorry to make you go through the trouble . 」
「Fufu, I came because I wanted to see you . Please don’t mind it . But if it’s alright with you, would you come with me to Satsuki-sama?」
「Of course . There’s somewhere I’d like to stop by that’s close to her room . Do you mind if we go to hand something off before that?」
「Not at all . 」
Charlotte complied sweetly .
「Then, if you’ll please wait a moment for me to prepare . 」
After making his request, Rio retrieved three letters that he’d left in his item box the night before .
The two of them strolled through the castle at a brisk pace .
Charlotte was grinning to herself, keeping a comfortable grasp on Rio’s arm . In contrast, Rio was already mentally exhausted .
「Charlotte-sama, sticking so close to me like this is a little…」
「Is it unpleasant?」
She asked him straight, looking at Rio with upturned eyes .
「It’s not unpleasant, but about the people around us…」
「Then there’s no problem, yes? I don’t concern myself with such things . 」
「I suppose, if you’re okay with it…」
He managed a smile to answer hers, but he was suppressing the sigh in his lungs . Of course, Charlotte appeared to be lovingly embracing Rio, but there was something strangely sweet about it . Some indication that she was an innocent young girl acting spoiled .
But he wasn’t about to lower his guard just yet . Age aside, Charlotte was still royalty . Fledgling bluebloods were known to be mentally unstable, and they had a tendency to grow arrogant with the power given to them .
Their overly conspicuous conduct and demeanor towards those below them, feeling that it’s completely natural, and pouting when things don’t go their way—although that last thing is still kind of cute .
The problem is when that turns into a tantrum, it’s like walking through a minefield . People start to hold grudges and viciously harass the subject of their ire .
And the most troublesome issue is one of the opposite sex . Namely, women . Rio learned his lesson back when he was still studying in Bertram Kingdom’s royal academy .
Charlotte was 13 years old, right when her emotional period should be reaching its peak .
He couldn’t afford to act carelessly towards such a girl whose true nature he still had yet to understand . It would be rough staying in the castle if he caused a disturbance—basically, he wasn’t about to risk insulting the royalty .
He also had to take into consideration why Charlotte stayed so close to him .
It was by order of King Francois that they were together . Rio knew he had to stay cautious around the king at the very least .
After all, it wouldn’t be off for him to think about using Rio for his own gain, seeing how close he was getting with Satsuki and how close he already was with her friends .
Even if Charlotte wasn’t aware of the purpose herself, the chances of her receiving an order with that goal in mind weren’t zero .
And if it was true, it only made things more awkward for him .
「Do you have some business with Takahisa-sama?」
「No . Rather, it’s with the three people who were under my protection . 」
「Is that so? Miharu-sama is quite the beautiful girl . 」
「Yeah… She is . 」
He kept his feelings from showing, but Rio felt weird for nodding in agreement so obediently, and Charlotte watched his reaction contentedly .
Their conversation ended when they finally made it to the room Miharu and the others were staying in .
They didn’t see the escort knight around, though .
Are they out right now?
He wondered about it for a moment, then brushed it out of his mind as he took a deep breath .
Knock, knock .
『Stupid! Onii-chan’s a pervert! You have no sense of delicacy!』
The sound of knocking was drowned out by a voice similar to Aki’s inside the room .
『W-Wait a minute, Aki! I’m sorry! Really really sorry! I wasn’t trying to peek, honest! I mean, M-Masato is in there, right? I was just looking for Masato! That’s all!』
『If you want Masato, he’s out looking around the castle since we have some free time! Geez!』
The commotion was loud enough for them to hear most of it .
「It seems we’ve come at the wrong time . 」
Charlotte stared dumbly at the door .
「It appears so . Still, let’s try once more . 」
Rio realized they should have read the room and left his matter for later, but he smiled wryly and added some extra force to his knuckles . Any chance that presented itself, he was going to take it .
『Ah—my apologies . Just a moment, please . 』
A reply came almost immediately .
『You have a guest, Takahisa-sama . It may be Haruto-sama . 』
『U-Understood . Right away . Aki, please wait . Let’s talk again when you’ve calmed down . 』
He didn’t know exactly what went down inside the room, but it was clear enough that Takahisa seemed to incite Aki’s wrath .
The door hurriedly opened about ten seconds later .
On the other side was Takahisa, along with knights Kiara and Alice .
「Thank you very much for waiting . We were a bit busy just… now…」
Takahisa awkwardly made his greetings, and his eyes widened when he saw Charlotte gleefully linking her arms with Rio’s .
「Good morning, Takahisa-sama . 」
「Y-Yes . Good morning, Princess Charlotte . 」
Responding to Takahisa’s timidity, Rio joined in with his normal poker face .
「I’m sorry for disturbing you when you’re preoccupied . It’s earlier than expected, but may I ask whether I can meet Miharu-san?」
「Um, let me think… Masato went out for a walk, and it seems she went along with him . 」
「Yes . If it’s Miharu-sama, she accompanied Masato-sama in his exploration of the castle . Hilda joined them as their escort . 」
Kiara supplemented Takahisa’s poor explanation .
「Ahaha… that’s about it . In fact, I just got back myself, and Aki’s here as well, but…」
And Takahisa finished with a cramped smile on his face .
He wrote a letter for Aki, too, but Rio felt that Miharu should be the first to receive them .
As far as he knew, Aki still hated Amakawa Haruto—he could only imagine what kind of reaction she would have upon learning about Rio’s previous life . That’s why he wanted Miharu to read hers before Masato and Aki .
Would it be alright if he let Aki read hers first?
Rio couldn’t really predict that .
He was scared . That’s all there was to it .
「They should return… about half past nine at the latest . I mentioned yesterday that Masato wanted to check out the magic ship this morning . 」
Rio heaved a sigh . No matter how much he tried, he always seemed to just miss the right timing for things .
His freedom was cut during his stay in the castle, and Miharu was lodging in a different room .
But the biggest reason for that was probably—no, the main culprit was definitely standing right beside him, and Rio glanced at her .
When she noticed his gaze, Charlotte gave him the same sweet smile she always did .
I missed Miharu-san last night because of this girl, and it’s happening again now .
He was nearly driven to disregard their status and treat her coldly, barely managing to hold himself back .
No, maybe this is just the best case scenario . At least I managed to confess last night .
If he didn’t tell Miharu his feelings last night, he likely wouldn’t have gotten any time today between Charlotte’s clinginess and having a large group during the meeting they planned this afternoon . Aside from Miharu, there was also going to be Aki, Masato, Satsuki, Takahisa and Liliana .
There was no way he could confess in that situation .
He didn’t know if they could get time alone; he didn’t know how Aki would react; the discussion itself probably wouldn’t have the right atmosphere for it; and it’s entirely possible Miharu and the kids make their decision before then . It might be easier to just say goodbye then .
「If Aki-sama is inside, this should be enough for Haruto-sama to complete his business, right? Takahisa-sama must be a busy person, as well . 」
Charlotte cut in and urged Rio on when he hesitated to speak .
「… Yeah . 」
He agreed to her suggestion with a composed smile .
What to do…
He thought of five options:
1 . Entrust Takahisa to pass the letters alone .
2 . Have him call for Aki so she could receive the letters,
3 . Stay as long as possible for Miharu and Masato to return .
4 . Go on a search for Miharu and Masato himself while they wandered the castle .
5 . Give them the letters personally when they were going to see each other later in the day .
He honestly wanted them to read the letters as soon as possible . They’d probably be left confused when they read them, so he felt it right for them to have time to process the contents .
The tea party he’d promised with Charlotte and Satsuki was to start at 9, and since it was already 8:30 they were going to need to leave soon to meet with Satsuki on time . Even if he and Charlotte waited until the last minute, there was no guarantee Miharu would be back in time .
Rio made his decision .
「… Takahisa-san, may I ask that you give them these letters?」
「I don’t mind, but it’s okay to at least call for Aki, right?」
Saying so, Takahisa turned to go back inside . One of the three the letters were meant for was still in the room, so he thought calling her might be a better choice .
「No . Please wait . 」
But Rio stopped him, and Takahisa looked back .
「There are three letters, but I wish for Miharu-san to be the first to read it . Could you hand Masato and Aki-chan theirs after?」
「… Yes, I understand . 」
That was a lie . He wasn’t able to grasp the meaning behind his explanation, but Takahisa nodded obediently when he saw the pained look on Rio’s face .
The addressee’s names were written in Strahl’s regional language, and there was a sealing wax to keep anyone but the intended reader from opening it .
「Best regards, then . I’ll come to visit again later with Satsuki-san . 」
「Yeah . I’ll be waiting . 」
After Takahisa bid his farewell, Rio turned to Charlotte .
「Charlotte-sama, I’m very sorry to make you wait for the sake of my personal business . 」
「No need to worry, I’m fine with it . But we should hurry to pick up Satsuki-sama . We don’t want to be late and have her come looking for us . 」
Charlotte quickly seized Rio’s arm again, dragging him off with all the grace and finesse of a bull in a china shop .
「It makes you wonder just what’s written inside, riiight? Maybe it’s a love letter . 」
When Rio and Charlotte were no longer in sight, Alice jumped in with a bright and carefree tone . Takahisa, surprised by her voice, took a glance at the letters in his hand, and her senior knight Kiara rebuked her .
「Alice, that’s disgraceful . 」
She normally had a calm and graceful aura about her, but there was a peculiarly sharp edge to Kiara’s words .
「Eh~ . Doesn’t it make you uneasy?」
「It does, but we shouldn’t be peeping on someone’s private correspondence . 」
「Aha, so Kiara-senpai’s bothered by it, too . 」
「You sure know how to run your mouth . 」
Alice broke out in a cold sweat at the pressure exuding from her senior, and quickly moved the topic along .
「Even so, Takahisa-sama seems worried, too . I’m positive, he’s definitely in love with that childhood friend of his, right? And if Liliana-sama enters the stage, we’ll see it turn into a forbidden love triangle…!」
「Hey, that’s why the saying goes…」
Kiara and Alice spoke in a low volume, but it seems that their little exchange didn’t even register in Takahisa’s ears . He was just staring silently at the letters .
Then the door to the room with only Aki inside opened .
Takahisa shook, reflexively trying to hide the letters in his chest pocket . Rushing to hide them, though, the letters slipped from his pocket and fluttered to the floor .
He swung his arms to collect them, smacking one against his abdomen . He felt a disconcerting crushing sensation, but he managed to catch another .
The last one fell at Kiara’s feet . In his panic to retrieve it, he dropped the two he already grabbed .
Takahisa snatched up the two he just lost and clutched them tightly in his right hand . He tried to grab the last letter with his left, but thankfully Kiara had already caught it and avoided him making things worse .
「What are you doing, Onii-chan?」
That’s when Aki came out to see him squatting down with a suspicious look on his face .
And Takahisa snapped to attention, hiding the letters behind his back without checking the damage .
「Oh, um, Aki, what’s the matter?」
He knew he had offended her a few minutes ago, but at the moment he was more worried about her discovering the letters he was holding .
「It’s nothing . It sounds like Haruto-san just came by… Did he say anything?」
Aki replied a little bluntly . She was probably still angry .
「Ah—yes . He already left, but he said he’d come over again with Satsuki-senpai this afternoon . 」
This is bad . I made a promise, but if Aki sees this letter now…
Straining his mind, Takahisa absentmindedly started squeezing the letters in his hand . Tracing one with his fingers, he noticed something peeling off .
Right behind him, Kiara stiffened up, while Alice stared at the letters with a dangerous 「ohh」 slipping from her lips .
「By the way, did you pick something up? You were on the ground just a second ago . 」
「N-No, that’s not true . 」
Takahisa denied it with a fake smile, his grip on the letters strengthening as he did .
「Is that so…? You’re not trying to hide anything, are you?」
「It’s the truth, I’m not hiding anything . 」
He answered Aki’s prying eyes with a shrill voice, averting his gaze out of guilt . He could feel the sweat drenching his body .
But then Aki’s expression shifted as if she noticed something, and she glared at him with flushed cheeks .
「You forgot what you saw earlier, right?」
Takahisa figured it out as soon as he repeated the question .
He had just come back to their room after escorting Liliana to meet with the king . Since he couldn’t find Miharu or his siblings in the living room, he callously barged into Aki and Miharu’s bedroom .
And thus he bore witness to the immodest sight of his stepsister changing her clothes .
He nodded vigorously .
「So, j-just forget it already…」
The sharpness of Aki’s glare grew with the redness of her face, but she gave him a bit of leeway knowing it was unintentional . Takahisa knew it was his fault for not knocking, though .
「It’s not like I have a wonderful body I can show off, but there’s no way I could defend you if Miharu-oneechan was here . 」
Unlike Aki and her washboard chest so flat a bra did more harm than good, Miharu had a very well-developed femininity betraying her petite stature .
Takahisa was left speechless .
「Well, Miharu-oneechan would probably still let you off because of how kind she is . 」
「I-I’m very sorry . Honestly . Please forgive me . 」
He bowed repeatedly to show his sincerity .
「It’s okay, I guess… More than that, about Haruto-san . I’ll say it now since Miharu-oneechan and Masato are out . 」
Then Aki suddenly changed the topic .
In reality, she was the one who lured Masato out of the room, and convinced Miharu to follow him and make sure he didn’t get into trouble .
She let out a sigh, knowing she took a rather roundabout method to getting a private conversation with Takahisa .
His face stiffened up .
「Y’see, I… It’s just my own idea, but I think it’s okay for Haruto-san to come with us . If he does, Miharu-oneechan will come, too . 」
「I think so, too . That’s why I told Haruto-san the same thing yesterday . 」
Takahisa replied with a nod, having already reached the same conclusion .
「Eh? Is that so? When?」
「Last night, after everyone went to sleep . 」
「I see… What did Haruto-san say?」
「He told me after the party last night that he has some kind of errand in the west of Strahl . Do you know anything about that, Aki?」
When he asked, Aki thought back .
「Not really . We lived in the same place for a long time, but he never told us much about himself or what he does… Maybe he has something to take care of in Almond?」
Aki’s answer left a huge question mark on Takahisa’s face .
「Yeah . That’s the place we lived up till now . 」
「So that’s where… Though I can kind of tell he won’t come to Saint Stella even after he finishes his business . He didn’t say anything about what he needed to do, but I don’t think it’s anything bad . 」
「In that case, I think we can use that time to persuade Miharu-oneechan to join us . 」
Takahisa just stared in amazement .
「I get it . We can go that way, too, huh? You’re brilliant, Aki…」
At least, since he was lacking in flexibility, he couldn’t have thought of it .
「It’s obvious if you take a second to think . You’re just uncreative, Onii-chan . You can barely hold a proper conversation, right? You’re lucky I’m helping you here . 」
「Yeah… you’re right . 」
Soon, Takahisa’s cheeks loosened up seeing Aki beaming with pride .
「Another thing . If we’re doing this, you have to make sure you win over Miharu-oneechan, you know . You can’t stay a hopeless case forever . 」
「H-Hopeless? What are you talking about? I mean, I, uh…」
His face shone red, stumbling over his own words . He was trying to keep his crush secret, and his little sister could tell so easily . Aki’s sighs grew heavier at his reaction, as well .
「I know you love Miharu-oneechan, right, Onii-chan? You’re like an open book . 」
At this point, Takahisa wasn’t even trying to hide his feelings .
By the way, they were speaking in Japanese .
Thanks to his divine raiment translating for him, Alice and Kiara listening off to the side could understand Takahisa, but Aki didn’t have one, so eavesdropping was a little difficult .
「Why, you ask… Anyone could figure it out if they just look at you . You’re always trying to be alone with Miharu-oneechan, but when you get the chance you avoid her . Then there’s times where you’re awkward and can’t even look her in the eyes . 」
Every point she listed off hit the mark .
Put simply, Takahisa was a coward . Sometimes he’d even act cold when the two of them were alone .
「I… It can’t be helped . Things like that would happen for any normal man . 」
Aki heaved a deeper sigh to his answer, then peered at him inquisitively .
「Aren’t you uneasy? About Miharu-oneechan and Haruto-san . When they disappeared during the party yesterday . Wonder what they talked about . 」
Takahisa was worried about it, too . He couldn’t help thinking about what Rio and Miharu spoke about during the evening party .
「I tried to ask her, but…」
「W-What’d she say?」
He was startled at Aki’s remark, since she did something he couldn’t bring himself to .
「Um, what’d they talk about?」
「It wasn’t anything important . We interrupted them before they got into it…」
「Is… Is that so…」
Takahisa let out a breath of relief as if he’d been holding it in .
「Still, don’t you think those two were acting suspicious?」
「No—ah, well… what about you? Haruto-san, he seems like a good person . 」
Feeling like he was hit with a loaded question, Takahisa tried to dodge it with a vague answer, and Aki knitted her eyebrows hearing it .
「Haruto-san is a really amazing man, you know . He’s a bit clumsy, but he’s gentle, cool, handsome, reliable, and he can cook, too . And…」
After bringing Takahisa’s nervousness to a boiling point, Aki paused with a gloom in her face as she thought on her next words . The figure of Amakawa Haruto, her former big brother, came to mind .
Takahisa gulped down his saliva when Aki hesitated .
「It’s nothing . Maybe Miharu-oneechan has someone she likes . If she forgot about him, she might come to like Haruto-san instead…」
From that, Takahisa looked like he’d taken a few hits to the head from a blunt object, and his face lost its color .
「Someone… she likes? Miharu?」
「No . Well, yeah . Probably…」
「So, that’s how it is…」
His spirit dropped inch by inch, then Aki started to cheer him on as if she was preaching .
「B-But, maybe that man will never appear in front of Miharu-oneechan again . This is your chance, Onii-chan!
That’s why you can’t run away now! Sure, I’m indebted to Haruto-san, but if you can’t get between Miharu-oneechan and Haruto-san now, all you’ll have left later is regrets!」
Takahisa trembled, then righted himself .
「… That’s right . I’ll give it a shot . I’ve got a bit of confidence back now . Thank you . 」
「Yeah! You can do this, Onii-chan!」
Aki raised her fist high when Takahisa smiled at her . And that’s when Kiara impatiently spoke up .
「Takahisa-sama… About that…」
She was staring at the crumpled letters behind his back .
What did she mean by that?
He was distracted . But after a look in her eyes he immediately realized he wasn’t in a position for holding a conversation .
「A-Ah… that’s right . Aki, can you go back in the room for a little while? I have to take care of something real quick . 」
Takahisa spoke with a rushed tone .
「Okay, but… you’ll be back soon, right?」
「O-Of course . 」
Reassuring her, Aki left the hall . After she left, Alice pointed to the letters more directly .
「Um, what should we do? The letters are…」
Takahisa froze as he glanced at the letters in his hands . Two were crushed so badly that the sealing wax had mostly come off .
「W-What do I do…?」
He looked at Kiara as if she had the answer, and she replied anxiously .
「E-Even if you ask me… We don’t have any choice but to restore them as much as possible before we hand them off to Miharu-sama and the others, and explain the situation when we do . We mustn’t forget to apologize to Haruto-sama, as well . 」
「That’s… Yeah, you’re right . 」
「Please lend it to me . In this state the letter inside is surely crumpled, too . Since the wax has peeled off, let’s remove the letter and smooth it out properly on the wall . 」
She wanted to do it inside the room, but Aki was inside, and she couldn’t neglect her guard duties as a knight . So she decided to take care of things where they stood .
「… P-Please do . I’ll help, too . 」
「Alice, please help Takahisa-sama . 」
「Kay~ . The letter please, Takahisa-sama . 」
「Thank you . 」
After Kiara received a letter, Takahisa removed the one addressed to Aki from its envelope and handed it off to Alice . As expected, the letter was messed up as badly as the envelope .
「Please do your best to not tear it and render it unreadable . 」
The most composed of them, Kiara was quick to take the lead and give them orders, and with careful dexterity they smoothed out the crumpled papers . It was a little comical seeing the three of them against the wall outside their room like this .
I wonder who this letter’s for .
While pressing out the wrinkles of the envelope in his hands, Takahisa started thinking to himself .
Aki’s name was written on the surface in Strahl Regional . Although his divine raiment translated speech, he still couldn’t read the languages in this world .
To his left, Alice was smoothing out the letter, mumbling under her breath .
「Mmm, I can’t figure these weird letters out one bit . 」
「H-Hey, Alice! I told you before you shouldn’t be peeping on someone else’s private communications!」
「Ehh, but it was facing me, so it couldn’t be helped . Besides, I can’t even understand any of this . What small country are these characters from? Shouldn’t it be fine to just write in our common language?」
Despite her mutterings, she was still doing her job .
「… You should have done it from the back . I swear, this girl…」
Kiara continued her work as well, after voicing her dissatisfaction with her junior .
The language she called “common” is one used by the majority of the countries in the Strahl region, referred to as Strahl Regional .
However, other languages aren’t suppressed, so they can develop in parts of the region or in individual countries . Some even become a national language .
And his curiosity piqued by the knights’ little spat, Takahisa took a peek at the letter Alice was taking care of .
Going by the characters on the envelopes, Takahisa was convinced the letters were written in Strahl Regional, but the one he got a look at was in bonafide Japanese .
He hadn’t read or written much of anything in Japanese in the months since he’d come to this world, but it was still his native language; he’d recognize it anywhere .
「Hm? Takahisa-sama, you can read this?」
「Eh… No, yeah, I can…」
Takahisa nodded in affirmation .
Why did Haruto-san write his letter in Japanese? You could say the others were teaching him, but this level of fluency is…
Just from a glance he knew it wasn’t something that could have been written by a novice who only started learning a few months ago .
The grammatical structure of Japanese resembled Strahl’s language, but the sheer number of characters and its vocabulary made the former far more difficult .
Guessing from a sentence that caught his eye, the letter in Alice’s hands was meant for Aki .
It would have been a lie to say he didn’t feel bad about it .
He was driven by the temptation, eyes running back and forth over the first few sentences .
I can’t do this! I shouldn’t be reading it!
Takahisa shook his head, trying to get it out of his mind .
It was against his morals . Against all decency .
There probably wasn’t a punishment for reading it, but he felt he couldn’t invade someone else’s privacy .
But maybe because it’s been so long since he’d seen Japanese, he couldn’t pull away .
Getting into a famous prep school back home wasn’t just for show, his reading comprehension was a cut above the rest .
But the letter in front of him threw his heart into disarray .
His face paled .
His vision narrowed .
He thought maybe he was going crazy .
「Aki’s… brother? Previous life?」
Takahisa couldn’t wipe the dumbfounded look off his face if he tried .
In the letter addressed to Aki it was written that Haruto was originally Amakawa Haruto, Aki’s older brother .
There was no making sense of it to him .
He stared at the characters to make sure he didn’t possibly read it wrong, but there was no mistake .
「Can you… let me see that letter for a bit?」
「Eh? Ah… here . 」
Confused herself, Alice obediently handed it over .
How can Haruto, someone of this world, be Aki’s older brother?
He couldn’t understand .
Takahisa’s heart pounded, his brain flooded with adrenaline .
It was enough to overpower his sense of guilt from crudely reading someone else’s letter, and he stared at the paper intensely .
Alice watched on, but Kiara was just barely too late to catch wind of Takahisa doing exactly the thing she said not to do .
「Hm? Ah—T-Takahisa-sama! What are you doing?」
She started to scold him when she finally noticed, but Takahisa wasn’t listening . He was scanning the letter again and again, eyes wide in shock .
「Takahisa-sama, please cease at once! You shouldn’t be doing this!」
But she was too late .
Takahisa already understood everything the letter meant to say .
Maybe because he finally accepted it, the grim look on his face grew worse by the second .
「What… What the hell is all this?」
Takahisa’s gaze turned to the letter at Kiara’s feet—the one addressed to Miharu .
He only came back to his senses when the slip of paper was already in his hand, consumed by his curiosity .
「You can’t! Takahisa-sama!」
Kiara tried to get ahead of him and keep the letter away, but he moved first .
「Doing something like forcing open the seal of a noble’s letter by anyone other than the recipient is a crime, you know? To say nothing of reading its contents…」
She couldn’t go openly go against him as the hero he was, but Kiara still hoped persuasion by reason would work .
Unfortunately, Takahisa didn’t care, having gotten absorbed in reading .
The letter itself was beyond saving, too, crumpled as badly as it was .
「P-Please return the letter! This is really a crime!」
Kiara was whispering as loudly as she could, restlessly glancing back and forth down the hall .
「Too late, senpai . He already finished the first one . 」
And maybe she just didn’t understand the gravity of their situation, but Alice’s tone was particularly carefree .
「Geez, I don’t know anymore . Can’t tell you what’s going to happen to us…」
To Ayase Miharu .
Last night, I confessed to you selfishly and one-sidedly, which may have confused you .
My deepest apologies for doing such a thing .
What followed was unexpected, but this letter is so I can tell you what I couldn’t last night .
Maybe what you’re about to read isn’t a very interesting story .
In fact, maybe it’s not even something I should say, since it might disturb Miharu-san to hear it .
But this is something I want to tell you, no matter what .
That’s why, even though I’m not happy with the method, I decided a letter would be best .
If you can’t bring yourself to keep reading, there’s no need to force yourself .
This is all for my own satisfaction as it is . In case you won’t read further, please forget everything about me, live together with Takahisa-san and the others, and look for a way to return to Earth .
I’ll do all I can to help you, but if you don’t want to be involved with me, I promise not to approach you .
The preface was a bit long, but from this point it’ll be my story, step by step .
You might have already noticed it . I met Miharu-san in my previous life .
My name was Amakawa Haruto . I was your childhood friend .
I believe I used to call you “Mii-chan” when we were kids, right?
I remember Miharu-san called me “Haru-kun” .
Twice in my life as Amakawa Haruto, I was with Miharu-san .
First was up until we were seven years old, before I moved away . Then there was a brief moment just as we were entering high school .
Although, it was just me who saw you during the entrance ceremony .
Do you remember?
Miharu-san was by my side, and I by yours . It felt like those days would go on forever .
If you ask me why, it’s because I love Miharu-san . There was nothing I could do; I was head over heels for you .
But, that only lasted until elementary school .
I was forced to separate from Miharu-san and move to another city . I lost all contact with you since .
It should be about nine years ago for Miharu-san .
At that time, we made a promise to each other .
Normally something like a promise you made as kids would be something you give up on as you grow up .
Not to mention the ridiculousness of trying to fulfill that promise . It could be a fool’s errand .
Even so, that promise with Miharu-san is Amakawa Haruto’s strongest support .
Because he loved you .
Because he wanted to see Miharu-san’s smile again .
Because his memories with Miharu-san were an irreplaceable treasure to him .
The me at the time was kid . When I think on it, I didn’t understand the how or that reuniting with Miharu-san would be a distant future .
But, I thought that I would be able to meet you again as long as I tried my hardest .
Then a feeling came over me that the Miharu-san I wished for would leave if I didn’t .
So I did my best in everything without exception, like a single-minded idiot, just for the hope of meeting Miharu-san again .
Growing that way, maybe as a reward for my efforts, I got the chance to enter the same high school as Miharu-san .
From a passing glance, even now I can still feel my body trembling when I saw you that day .
But the Amakawa Haruto at the time had become a bit of a sore loser . Seeing Miharu-san so friendly with an unknown guy, I ran away hoping I wouldn’t have to face the truth .
Of the fact that maybe Miharu-san forgot about someone like me .
While I was hiding from you, you suddenly vanished without a trace .
Although now I know it’s because you were summoned to this world .
I never got over my regrets ever since Miharu-san disappeared .
I couldn’t stand never being able to tell you how I felt .
I took those regrets to my grave . But somehow, I was reincarnated here .
That’s why I was so surprised, but I was overjoyed .
Being able to meet you again in this cruel world .
I kept thinking I would never see Miharu-san again .
I was truly happy that day .
And yet, all I did was run away from Miharu-san like before .
I had enough of regrets, is what I thought, but I was scared .
Whether in this life or the last, I’m an ugly, self-centered coward .
Over time, constantly thinking, the fleeting wish I pursued slowly crumbled, but I still lived in those inexorably shattered dreams .
I was lost, and even now I still hesitate to continue writing, afraid of this dream finally fading away for good .
I am—Amakawa Haruto is already dead .
I myself still don’t understand what happened to me, but the man called Amakawa Haruto died four years after the disappearance of Miharu-san from Japan .
Then the Amakawa Haruto who was supposed to have died was reborn as an orphan named Rio .
That’s why, though my circumstances have me calling myself “Haruto”, I write this letter not as Amakawa Haruto, but as Rio .
This body is different . Even with the memories and personality that made up Amakawa Haruto, I’m an existence born of the fusion of two souls .
It’s strange, but it was surprisingly easy to accept when I reincarnated in this world that “I am Rio . ”
Naturally I’m aware that I was Amakawa Haruto, but I don’t think the current me is him .
No matter how many of his memories and personality traits were left behind, the man called Amakawa Haruto became a completely different person in the nine years after regaining his memories .
The me now understands that if someone is trying to injure me or take my life, it’s necessary to defend myself . I won’t hesitate to fight back, and kill in return .
There are times where I completely disregard my ethics, and only think about risk and return to decide my actions .
In fact, I’ve hurt and killed for reasons that, if I were Japanese, people would think I was insane .
And there’s a man I’m seeking revenge against .
If I meet him, I’ll probably kill him, even if it isn’t necessary .
Because I hate that man from the depths of my soul .
Such a self is so ugly that even I know I’m broken somewhere, but I don’t see myself changing .
I’ve already accepted that part of me, so the only way I can move is forward .
That’s why when I met Miharu-san, who didn’t change at all, I was afraid .
Maybe the me of that previous life really was Amakawa Haruto .
Maybe this personality, these memories, they’re not fakes given to me by someone else .
But even if I was once Amakawa Haruto, I wonder if I’m not a completely different person .
Is the different me qualified to love you?
Is it okay for a dead man to love someone who’s still alive?
The point is, I don’t fully understand what I am myself .
I definitely feel that I love Miharu-san .
But, that’s because there’s so little left of when I was Amakawa Haruto .
Everything that is Amakawa Haruto is gone, except for his love for you .
Somewhere in my heart I wondered that perhaps this desire just happened to mix in with these memories .
I couldn’t help it .
I was scared to be rejected by you when I tell you about all this .
I was scared that Miharu-san would hate me, knowing what kind of person I am . What I’ve become .
So in my fear I chose to live with Miharu-san and the others while hiding my identity .
I want to confess these feelings of mine . Nothing will change if I don’t .
I understand that .
Otherwise, one day you may disappear from my side again .
But even if I know my time with you was just a transient dream of my own imprudence, I was happy to live under the same roof with all of you .
I truly feared the moment that dream would fall apart once I confessed .
But eventually, I managed to say the words I’ve always wanted to . I didn’t want to make the same mistake I did last time .
Maybe you want to go back home .
Maybe you already have someone you like .
I know it’s selfish, but before Miharu-san disappears again, I don’t want to be left with the regret of giving up before I even start .
I already know it all too well .
I don’t want to lose Miharu-san this time without being able to convey my feelings .
That’s something I dread more than even being hated by Miharu-san .
That’s why, if I’m going to say it, I want to say it from the beginning .
So I never feel that regret again, I’ll confess my love for Miharu-san once more .
The time I spent with you was short, but it made me realize .
My feelings for you aren’t fake, or influenced by anyone .
Not as Amakawa Haruto . Not as Rio . None of that matters . I am me, and the me right now is in love with Miharu-san .
It took me a while to notice something so simple .
And it’s thanks to Miharu-san that I could .
So, please let me say it again .
I love you, Miharu-san .
It’s no longer possible for me to fulfill our promise from when we were kids, but will you stay with me after this?
Year 1000 Sacred Calendar, Month of Spring, a certain day .
P . S . When we can next meet, please look forward to my birthday present for you, Miharu-san .