Day 5, the last day of the week for school…finally arrived.
As promised, all of us would be returning back with Ein today. I was really nervous when I had to welcome this day, but as time went on, the nervousness disappeared and what I thought was ‘meh, whatever.’
Since there would be so many of us, Ein’s family prepared a carriage that would fit all of us in it. Including Ein and myself, fifteen people were there. Now that I think of it, my group of friends was really big now. It was something I could never imagined as Reinst.
To save up time, the driver activated the teleportation feature of the carriage to make us move right away to the North Riviera. From there, he deliberately walked the carriage at a normal pacing. Ein showed us around from the carriage.
We were teleported in front of the gate to the Ferne city, the North Riviera’s capital. The Loera residence was here.
When I was Reinst, I had come here several times due to my involvement with Nicole. So, when Ein introduced the places to me, I had a nostalgia. Nicole once did the same thing to me.
The place had changed a lot. Even so, there were traces of the old place in them.[Hoo, so you’re preparing yourself by getting connected to the old you from now on, huh? How well-prepared.]
‘…That’s not it, I’m just getting nostalgic… So many things have changed.’[I can relate… The world is changing so fast. That’s what made it beautiful.]
‘…If you put it that way, it’s true. But changes are also…scary.’[Leaving something you’re familiar with for the unknown is surely scary. But sometimes, we need to do that. Just like what we’re going to do after this.]
‘I know. I hope things will go well.’[Worry not. We’ve gone over this plan many times.]
Since I knew almost all of the places here, I communicated with Fenrir while listening to Ein.
It didn’t take long for us to arrive at the Loera’s main residence. The sun was setting by the time we arrived. The maids and the butlers in the Loera residence greeted us.
“Mummy and Daddy aren’t home yet, but they told you all to make yourselves at home,” Ein said as he walked together with us and the maids and butlers of the residence to the guest hall.
The Loera’s main residence was really big. Among all the four ducal houses of Riviera, I think the Loera’s residence was the largest. It still lost to the royal family’s residence, the royal castle, though. As such, there were several teleportation spots in the residence. But since we were at ease and the distance from the front door to the guest hall wasn’t that far, we just walked together.
There were a few rooms in the guest hall and we were free to pick which room we wanted to occupy. One room was supposed to be occupied by two people, but three people fit in there.
After a little bit of bickering, it was decided that I would share a room with Iris and Carbuncle. Harvey, Alt-nii, and Clavis were obviously together. Leticia, Freyr, and Freyja were together, too. Despite us initially thinking that there needed to be someone older staying with the little ones. There would be maids and butlers who would assist us, so it would be of no problem.
Then, Briar, Valerie, and Dmitria were together. Although at first Briar insisted she wanted to sleep with me…
Luca and Kiri were together, just the two of them, since Ein would just sleep in his own room.
All of us put our belongings and took a bath while waiting for dinner time.
“Mummy and Daddy would be home soon, but they also need to wash up first. We’ll see one another again in the dining hall,” Ein said before he also went to his own room to wash up.
And as expected, Ein—or Nicole and Clyde—tasked at least a maid or butler to one guest room. We were served some of the finest tea and light snacks. They even asked us if we needed any help washing up, to which I declined.
Iris felt uneasy, so she declined as well. But…
“Interesting! Come, serve me! I wonder what it’s like becoming a noble in the human race,” Carbuncle laughed heartily and accepted the maid’s offer.
Iris and I looked at each other with the same expression and look in our eyes.
This dragon is way too unpredictable!
I thought she was going to refuse for sure, since she was almost always doing everything by herself, since she claimed, ‘I’m capable and I don’t need any help, especially from non-Draconis.’
I didn’t know how it went with the other rooms, but the maids and butlers called us when dinner was ready. We were also escorted there, too. The hospitality that the Loera residence had was really amazing.
By the time we arrived in the dining hall, Ein and his parents were already sitting there, waiting for us. I also saw two people that I knew, that I didn’t expect would be there. They were Nicole’s parents, or Ein’s grandparents. I saw them in Ein’s birthday parties but I thought they were spending their time normally in the family villa or… just not here.
So, they’re living together with Ein, Nicole, and Clyde? Well, this residence is surely too big for just three people…
“Welcome to our house! Dinner’s ready, so won’t you sit here? You’re free to choose,” Nicole greeted as she pointed to the many chairs that were already lined up around the long table. Nicole was sitting on the furthermost of the table, alone, a single chair… Yep, definitely the chair for the head of the family.
Clyde was sitting close to Nicole, leaving an empty chair next to him that was quickly taken by Ein. Sitting on the opposite side of Ein and Clyde were Nicole’s parents. Their names were Cyril and Nikki. Cyril, Nicole’s father, had the same blue eyes as Nicole’s, but his hair was silver. Meanwhile, Nikki, Nicole’s mother and the previous duchess, had the same marigold hair as Nicole, but her eyes were purple. They were kindly smiling, encouraging us to sit close to them.
“Big Sis Lyra, here, here!” Ein tapped the chair next to him, telling me to sit there.
…Should I say ‘yes’ or ‘no’? W-well, I guess it will be alright, consider it as my repayment for their hospitality…
So, I sat next to Ein and the others followed suit.
Dinner was server right after everyone sat down. As we ate, we talked, too. Ein’s parents and grandparents asked about us, and we answered. And then…
“Hey, there are only five people living here, but why’s the house so big? Or are there the others living here?” Carbuncle asked.
“Well, in the past, there are a lot of us here. Main and branch families living together, but as we prosper… The branch families are living in separate building connected to the main residence. We can take a look over there and get to know to Ein’s cousins too if you want,” Nicole answered.
“But for tonight, I think you should rest. It’s been a long day at school, right? You all must be tired,” Clyde said.
“We can walk around the city tomorrow! We’ll also eat out, too!” Ein said excitedly.
“Tonight, why don’t we all play some games?” Nicole asked.
“Gamessss?!” The little ones were the most excited, but I must admit I was excited for it too.
“Yes, it’s going to be fun!” Ein smiled.
That was how, after dinner, we all went to their family room as Clyde and Nicole brought out several games. Some were board games, some were digital games. They all had similarities: they were games that focused on our strategical thinking, if not games about trades. As expected of the Loera.
Since there were a lot of us and our interests varied, we split into different groups to play the games. It was really fun and I never really played games like this before. Ein was really great at them, it was obvious he had played them often.
Looking at me losing, Ein didn’t lose his interest in me, unexpectedly.
“Big Sis Lyra just needs to get used to the games first!” Ein said.
His words might be true. Each game’s mechanics are different.
In the end, we played until it was close to midnight. Even the little ones weren’t sleepy yet as they liked playing the games. But the adults had to remind us of the time and call it a day.
We were tidying the games up. Even though there were maids and butlers, Nicole and Clyde seemed to think it was important to teach the children how to tidy up their own mess, it was nice.
As I put a board game to where it belonged, I happened to spot a small frame of a picture on top of the shelves. There were three children in the framed picture. And… they were all familiar.
When was this photo taken?
I didn’t even remember, but it was a picture of Nicole, me—as Reinst, and Clyde.
“Ah, are you wondering who they are? Can you guess?”
Nicole’s voice almost made me jump as I was too focused on the picture and didn’t sense her standing behind me…
I quickly turned to look at her and at the picture again and said, “Uhm, this must be you and your husband…And this person here…?”
I gotta act like I didn’t know who… I was.
“That’s my best friend over there! And also my husband’s half-sister,” Nicole answered as she took the photo and let me look at it closer.
In that picture, I believe we were around ten years old. Which meant, that was an old picture.
“This was taken during our school’s study tour. We went to a different school from you and Eine, you see,” Nicole started reminiscing of the past.
“Her name is Reinst. She’s the one whose name I took as an inspiration for my son’s name. Also, she’s the one that I said had similarities with you, oddly. Although you two are unrelated…”
“R-really? Well, that must be a coincidence! I’ve read about how there might be people similar to us in terms of appearance, way of speaking, or other things, despite us being unrelated!” I quickly came up with an excuse.
“Haha, you’re right. There are similarities and coincidences like that in this world. Perhaps I was still trying to look for her shadows and found them in you… Then I thought it must surely be fate, Lyra-chan,” Nicole said with eyes that showed sadness.
“Why were you still trying to look for her shadows?”
“…She died very suddenly during a comet shower. Right after her coming-of-age ceremony, too. None of us saw it coming. We all only thought that she would be engaged to the crown prince soon after that. Ah, that would be Titus-sama, Luca’s father,” Nicole said.
“E-eehh? I can’t imagine that,” I tried to sound as natural as possible.
“Mhm. And it’s quite ironic as I consider her my best friend, but we… I don’t think we are that close. I feel like she’s taking some gap from me. It’s like my feeling was unrequited… So, when I talked about how I was still searching for her shadows even long after she was gone… It was because of this. I wish I could’ve spoken with her heart-to-heart before her passing…,” Nicole smiled wryly.
“…Regrets always come late,” I said.
Because I regretted not doing that to you before I died, too.
“That’s right. Sometimes I wish I can summon her ghost to talk with her, haha,” Nicole said.
“Nope. I can technically find and hire someone to do that for me, but… How do I say it, I’m afraid of bothering her again? She must be resting in peace now. I’m also afraid… of getting her answers,” Nicole said.
“Haha, what am I telling you, Lyra-chan? It’s odd how my words just flew out on its own. Well, I hope you won’t have that kind of regret in your life,” Nicole said as she patted my head and put the framed picture back in the spot.
“Alright, are we all done? It’s time to sleep, children! We’re going to depart in the morning!” Nicole clapped her hands and said.
‘Fenrir, no, that’s just a coincidence.’[A coincidence that’s in favor of us. Do it before she’s out of reach.]
‘You’re right! I almost forgot!’
As Nicole was about to leave me, I lightly touched the back of her clothes and put a special invisible mark there. Or more precisely, Fenrir put his mark with the help of my hand.
Yes, Nicole’s going to be the first.
She has done a lot for me, both in this world and… in the trial world I visited when I first met Fenrir. I find it easier to talk to her than Clyde first.
That night, I tried my best to fall asleep. Fenrir could commence the plan once Nicole and I were both asleep. It took me a bit longer to sleep, and I fell asleep as past memories of Nicole and me flooded my mind…