While walking down the passageway, Sakamoto noticed his friend circling around the bushes in the courtyard, pushing his way through the grass, sticking his head deeper inside them and tilting it around, before moving on to another area. He called out to him, wondering what he was doing.
Fumiya responded without raising his head.
“I-I’m just… s-searching for something.”
“A-Akamatsu-senpai’s… fountain pen. It f-fell from the… w-window.”
“I’ll help you look for it.”
Sakamoto went straight down to the courtyard.
“What does it look like?”
“I-It’s mostly… black, but… it has some g-gold on it, too. And on the lid… there’s a m-mother-of-pearl design…”
“Whoa, that sounds expensive!”
The two of them knelt down and began pushing through the thickets.
Shiga, a kendo club member who had been with Sakamoto, was still in the passageway, watching the two small boys.
It fell from the third floor? Okay, if the desk was right in front of the window, it might be believable, but people don’t generally put fountain pens on window frames.
Thinking it suspicious, he looked up at the third floor.
He noticed Souichirou standing by one of the windows. Dressed in his usual hakama, he was standing tall and proud, watching his underclassmen searching for his fountain pen.
…What’s with that?
If he had the time to watch them, he could at least try and search for it, too.
Many of the younger students looked up to Souichirou – he was accomplished in both the literary and military arts, he had a sense of justice and he was fair – but seeing him now, Shiga couldn’t help but begin thinking he would need to reconsider his opinion.
It almost seemed like he was taking advantage of the fact he had an underclassman as a roommate.
Souichirou would make Fumiya do ridiculous things, like make him do the laundry instead of the servants which were hired by the staff or make him draw water from the well out the back after the sun had already set or deliberately make him go buy something that could only be bought from a faraway shop so that he would have less time to eat dinner…
Every time, Fumiya would just nod and do what he was asked without complaint; Shiga couldn’t help but think that Souichirou’s conduct was uncalled for.
I didn’t think he was that sort of person…
Shiga was glaring up at Souichirou before he even realized it.
Though I suppose for the son of an earl, treating people like slaves is a normal thing to do.
When he realized his underclassman was looking at him with such a scornful gaze, Souichirou returned an even fiercer glare back—but when Shiga flinched at that, Souichirou sneered at him instead.
In that sneer, there was self-deprecation, but in Shiga’s anger, he could only see it as being filled with arrogance.
“Stop it, stop it! Stop searching for Akamatsu-senpai’s fountain pen!”
Growing angrier at that, Shiga crossed over to where the two were still searching.
Sakamoto lifted his head up in confusion, but Fumiya continued to shove his head straight into the shrubbery without a single worry. With an outstretched arm, he pushed the branches aside.
“I-I found it!”
Leaves and twigs were sticking out of his scraggly hair and small cuts and grazes adorned his face, and yet, despite all that, his shout was one of pure happiness.
“I’m glad you found it!”
Sakamoto clapped his hands together in joy.
“T-Thank you… for s-searching for it… with me, Sakamoto-kun. I-I’m going to go give it to him!”
“I’m sure he’ll be happy you found it.”
After Fumiya had left, Shiga let out a sigh.
“He obviously dropped it on purpose. Why on earth was Kobori searching so hard for it?”
“Because Akamatsu-senpai told him to, probably.”
“He should get angry when people tell him to do such ridiculous things, whether it’s an upperclassman or the son of a noble. If he doesn’t, he’ll always be treated like a servant.”
As he watched Shiga clench his fists in anger derived from his sense of justice, Sakamoto laughed, asking why he was the one getting so angry.
“Kobori-kun isn’t the kind to get angry at anyone, and besides, he wanted to find it for him.”
Even though Sakamoto said as much, Shiga still couldn’t accept it.
“I was wrong about Akamatsu-senpai!” he spat out in disgust.
“I personally haven’t been treated badly by him… And thinking about it, Akamatsu-senpai isn’t really unkind to anyone except Kobori-kun. Did he do something to you?”
“He didn’t, but… But, why? Why is Akamatsu-senpai always like that to Kobori? It must be because he’s irritated by Kobori’s obedience.”
“It doesn’t look like he’s taking his anger out on him to me.”
With a slight smile, Sakamoto tilted his head to the side.
The next time Fumiya and Sakamoto met again that day was at dinner.
The grazes on Fumiya’s face that he had got while searching for the fountain pen were glistening like they had had oil rubbed on them.
“I see you went to the first aid room, then,” Sakamoto said. But Fumiya responded with a shake of his head.
“A-Akamatsu-senpai said that… this m-medicine worked wonders… on c-cuts and grazes. H-He… went and g-got it from Kanazawa-san who c-came from Toyama… for me. And then, h-he even put it on for me…”
“That was nice of him.”
Sakamoto couldn’t help but smile. He wasn’t particularly worried about Fumiya and Akamatsu, but he was happy that Fumiya could confirm for himself that his upperclassman really did care for and respect him.
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