My body...I can’t move anything.
I feel so numb.
Ah. Everything is going black.
Sorry, Sou-chan. I couldn’t stop you.
“This sure is a lively place”
A week later, Gaku, Mitsuki and Riku arrived in a distant bustling town with several canals running through. The bricks used to make roads in the town were white so overall, the town looked nice and clean.
The three set off in a carriage with their own personal driver. Gaku insisted it was for safety. Momose was asked if he wanted to travel. He declined the offer saying he wanted to focus on mastering his power and that someone needed to keep the decorated garden beautiful. Tsumugi was in charge of the order in the mansion. Several other servants were relieved of their duties because, with soon-to-be-powerful geomancer joining the team, the remaining general jobs were easily taken care of by the Tsumugi and Gaku.
The plan was to travel from town to town every once in a while. The three would let Tsumugi know of their whereabouts and tell Tsumugi to send things such as medicines as needed.
“Um..Gaku and Nanase-sama” Momose spoke while having afternoon tea a few days ago. “Your clothes might be...too flashy? Like they’re a total giveaway that you’re high ranked nobles.”
“Hmm?” Riku observed his own clothing before giving a confused look. He was wearing his ‘comfortable’ attire and even that, those clothes had complicated golden patterns sewn on with buttons made of carefully polished opal gemstones. “Do they? How so?”
Gaku took a good look at his lord’s clothes and for the first time he noticed those delicate details. He knew his lord’s clothes were expensive but damn, those were something else. “My lord...do you really need to ask?”
Momose couldn’t help but laugh. He had gotten much more comfortable around the two and Riku liked that. Gaku was happy as long as respect was shown to his lord. “How about you let me design your clothes, my lord and Gaku? I can’t weave them but I know Manekko-chan can~” Momo winked.
“Wait“ Gaku’s mouth dropped a little. “I agree Nanase-sama needs some new clothes but-“ He looked down. He was wearing a black suit with a white pleated scarf. The scarf had a big green jade pinned to hold it in place. It was a butler uniform, sure, except it was way to ‘extra’. “This is my pride, you know? How are people going to know I am Nanase-sama’s faithful butle-“
“Oh Gaku stop it. You may be my butler but you are to be my travelling friend.” Riku knew the uniform Gaku was wearing had been passed down on the Yaotome bloodline for generations. Of course, Gaku was proud to have earned the right to wear it. “I have been seeing you in those clothes for years. Time to change to something else.” Riku smiled.
“And and-!” Excited Momose smiled widely. “You can’t be wearing fancier clothes than our lord, Gaku!”
So at present, Riku, Gaku and Mitsuki were wearing clothes typical nobles would wear, except the designs were quite unique thanks to Momose’s creative mind.
Riku recalled one more thing. While Momose was measuring his sizes with his green vines, “Nanase-sama, it would be better if you speak casually. People will feel much more at ease.”
“Let’s go in!” Mitsuki could hardly wait to see what other towns were like.
After the three got a room booked in a 4-star inn, they went to explore the town for the rest of their evening. Mitsuki of course handled checking in as he had to give a name. “Yaotome” or “Nanase” would shock the innkeeper too much. Now, the two did not mean to hide their identities, they only wanted to blend in as much as possible.
Gaku and Mitsuki had the hardest time keeping an eye on Riku. The boy was so excited he kept hopping around from one place to another. Riku did not go in any of the shops knowing it was getting late and food was their priority right now.
“Hey how about that place?” Mitsuki pointed to a relatively large wooden, dimly lit tavern which did not seem too busy. They served both food and alcoholic drinks at a cheap price.
“Hmph not bad” Gaku nodded after reading the chalkboard menu. He then pulled Mitsuki close to him and whispered. “Stay close to Nanase-sama at all times. I doubt my lord has ever been in a place like this.”
Mitsuki whispered back. His eyes were on Riku who was watching people rowing boats along the canal. “Can Nanase-sama drink?”
“Isn’t it obvious? Nanase-sama is 18” In Silica, drinking age limit was 20, but Mitsuki knew about this difference already.
“Not that, I mean, HOW MUCH can he drink?” Mitsuki doubted such as innocent soul could survive a single shot.
“Well, from what I know my lord has never tasted alcohol. If my lord wishes to drink, we have to be on our guard.” Gaku frowned.
“Don’t you want to drink, Yaotome? I’m sure you don’t get to drink much as a butler.”
“True. I can’t deny that I crave an icy cold beer.”
“What are you two talking about?”
The butler and the doctor felt shivers down their spine when they felt Riku’s presence right behind them. Gaku quickly straightened himself. “Nothing of importance, Nanas-mmhmpphh“
“Baka!” Riku covered his butler’s mouth with his hand. “Riku. Ri-ku.” Gaku wasn’t extra loud but his normal voice was certainly not quiet. People passing by were turning to look at them.
As expected, the tavern only had a handful of customers. Since Riku’s aim was to connect with people, the three sat behind the barkeep’s counter so they could chat with the locals.
Riku went for tomato sauce fried rice with a sunny side up. Mitsuki was asked if he wanted a kid’s meal and he got so angry Riku had to calm him down while laughing at the same time. Gaku settled for the classic fish and chips.
Gaku had been staring at the drinks menu as if the piece of paper in front of him was a target. He wasn’t kidding when he said he CRAVED beer. In fact, it had been so long since he last drank he wanted everything from wine to sake.
Riku sighed. He called for the barkeep without waiting for Gaku. He ordered the food everyone wanted and added “2 pints of beer” in the end. Both Gaku and Mitsuki’s eyes went wide hearing that. They stared at Riku who was sitting on the leftmost side. Riku caught their gazes. “What?”
“Riku...are you drinking all that?” Mitsuki leaned forward since Gaku was sitting in the middle. Nice timing as the barkeep set two beer glasses in front of the redhead.
Riku smiled and Gaku’s face went pale. My lord, you can’t be serious.
He used object manipulation magic to move each beer glass to Gaku and Mitsuki. He then rested his chin in both hands. “It is for you two.”
“What about you, Riku?” Mitsuki asked, though tempting, he had not touched his beer glass.
“I’m alright with this tonight.” Riku lifted a glass of his orange and red mocktail to show to the two. “Both of you drink your fill. Lifting your unconscious bodies back should be easy enough with my magic” The lord hummed happily. He had never tasted alcohol before and as a lord, he did not want to get carelessly drunk in public in case someone knew his true identity. More importantly though, he knew his butler deserved this humble reward.
Gaku looked between the icy cold bubbly beer in front of him and his lord’s face. “But my- Riku I-“
“Mou Gaku, just drink it already!” Riku pouted. With that, Gaku lifted the glass and had a mouthful of the drink he longed for. The butler smiled, welcoming the bitter taste of the foamy and refreshing alcohol on his tongue.
“This is the best”
Around an two hours later....
“BWAHAHAHAHA Man this place is great! The beer here is to die for HAHAHAHA”
Gaku’s super loud voice turned heads to the three of them.
“Yao-Gaku has gotten really drunk!” Mitsuki had a pint of beer and stopped there. He was slightly woozy but still knew what he was doing. This Majabahn beer was much stronger than any Mitsuki had in Silica.
Well, Gaku had 4 whole pints. His face was red and he could hardly remain on his small, round seat without falling over. Riku’s mouth hanged open. He had never ever seen his butler acting this way.
It was rare to see Gaku smile, laugh and let loose of himself. Riku wished he could watch the guy forever.
“Seriously this guy” Mitsuki laughed and spoke to Riku. “He said we need to protect you. Now look at him. I doubt he could even stand! Hahahaha”
“Whaaaat? You said somethin’ brat?” Gaku shot Mitsuki his scariest sharp glare before going back to laughing like a mad man. For a second, Mitsuki thought he would lose his head.
“Ahaha...perhaps we should head back” Riku was calling for the barkeep to pay when Gaku shouted. “No! I want more!”
“Come on Gaku you’ve had plenty” Riku placed a bag of golden rings on top of the bill then tugged his butler’s arm. “Let’s go”
“Nanase-sama is so meannn” Gaku mumbled. He unwillingly stepped off the chair. He wrapped his arm over Riku’s shoulder and leaned most of his body weight on his lord for support. Riku almost fell over. Mitsuki wanted to help but he himself was also tipsy.
“Hmph. Calling me mean after I bought you beer. Talk about ungrateful.” Riku spoke teasingly. With that, the lord said thank you to the barkeep before dragging Gaku out the door. Mitsuki was following closely behind. Riku then used his magic to lift his butler all the way back to the inn.
Tenn and Iori sat quietly on a couch with their heads down in a large living room at Yamato’s. Yuki had shut himself in one of the bedrooms, refusing any food Ryuu brought to him. It was a day after the earthquake hit District One. A part of Izumi’s house was destroyed, so here they were, staying at Yamato’s.
The TV was kept on and the only thing showing on it was about the disaster. The number of reported injuries and deaths were only rising. Yamato went to the meeting for elite scientists regarding the incident. The scientists simply agreed on running an investigation of how the earthquake happened and whether there could be another.
“Must be tough being a Regulator at a time like this” Upon leaving the meeting, Yamato turned to his old friend.
“Oh Yamato” A man with blond hair and sky blue eyes responded. Somehow, he could still smile despite having his hands tied with meetings and plans. “I am merely a figure, a person who supports the public when it is needed and a person who smiles when things are at peace.” He bowed gracefully. “With the help of wonderful scientists like you, I am never alone.”
Yamato rolled his eyes. “I don’t know how you always come up with those cheesy lines. Suits you I guess, Regulator Nagi” He waved his hands and left the room.
Nagi went into another soundproof room with AI broadcasters. The automatic metallic door shut behind him.
“People of Silica. I am your Regulator, Nagi Valhart Von Northmare.”
Nagi Valhart Von Northmare held a position of great pride called ‘Regulator’. A regulator was not a lord, but a person of authority who governed Silica with the help of elite scientists, academics and AIs. Nagi watched over the operations in Silica, identified any problems and suggested improvements to be put in place. He was elected to be a regulator two years ago, yet he did not seem inexperienced.
Nagi was giving a live formal speech to let people know they were doing all they could to find out the cause, plan preventions and restore public spaces.
Another day had passed, all the rubbles were cleared out. Nagi and his team had deployed several AI units to rebuild the buildings. Within one week, Silica District One was renewed as if the earthquake never happened. However, grief and sadness remained as a painful reminder to the people who survived. Tenn and Iori moved back home, but someone remained still.
Yamato opened the door to find a pale person curling in bed. His eyes were so swollen he could not cry anymore. “Ban...Ban...” He muttered.
Yamato pulled a chair and sat in front of the idol. “You look awful. You know you need to eat something.”
Ryuu and Yamato had been trying to take care of Yuki who had been drowning in grief. Yuki wouldn’t leave the room or ate anything, so Yamato had to buy nutrient tablets and put them in water for Yuki.
Tenn and Iori started to function normally. Tenn was contacted by Anesagi so he began his idol training while Iori returned to school.
A few days later...
Iori was sitting on the couch instead of the table this evening. “No homework today?” Tenn asked while setting his duffel of stuffs down. The student shook his head in reply. Tenn sank into the couch next to Iori. For minutes, silence filled the room. The only movement was from people walking in the streets seen through the glass window.
“Nanase-san, will you go back?”
Tenn slowly turned his head to face a pale boy who was glancing at him with a pair of sad eyes. “To Majabah. If we found a way for you to go back...”
Sighing, Tenn replied. “Am I not supposed to?”
Iori bit his bottom lip.
“But if I could choose, I would stay here. Majabah is nothing but hell and my existence is never welcomed. Even with Riku there, I’m not sure how long I would last before reaching my breaking point.”
Tenn was looking straight at Iori. “For everything I did, I was in the wrong. Wrong for being born with little magic. Wrong for trying to save my brother’s life. Here, people are being treated as human beings and I am overwhelmed. Sometimes I doubt if I deserve to be treated so well like this...”
Iori could hardly stand it. According to what he had heard from Tenn, he disliked Majabah. He disliked the Nanase for not doing anything to change the system. “Of course you do. This is your life. Your birthright cannot determine your fate, especially now.” Iori touched Tenn’s shoulder and moved closer to the magic user. “You deserve to be loved, Tenn-san”
Tenn closed his eyes, breathed out and gave a little smile. "Why are you asking me this now?"
"Probably because of Yuki-san" Iori's eyes turned sad. "Ever since Ogami-san was gone, he became unable to do anything." There was a flush of redness on Iori's cheek. "So if you were gone, I honestly don't know how I would react"
Tenn raised his arm and gave Iori a gentle head pat. "Let us see if we can do anything for Yuki-san"
I can't promise you anything, kid. The only thing I can show you is that we have to keep moving... no matter the circumstances.