Life is Tough for a Minos: Chapter 4 [Mobuseka x Gunvolt AU]
Chapter 4: The Enrollment 2
A shrill whimper rang out within the darkened room of the daughter of a viscount.
It was early morning. The soft rays of the morning sun peeking through an ultramarine sky were kept at bay by the crimson curtains that were drawn close. But a scant few invaded through a slip in the fabric to break the hold the shadows had on the enclosure, revealing the tremoring tiny figure squirreled away on top of a mattress.
Marie Fou Lafan laid curled up atop a crumpled top sheet, her blanket having been tossed over the side of the bed over the course of the long night. Her nightclothes clung to her lithe figure, damp from sweat and scratching at her skin smothered beneath it. Her trembling fingers cradled her throat that as she fought for breath, each inhalation agonizingly clawing its way down to her lungs.
Damn it…I really overdid it… A haggard gasp for air left her to quail as she felt her vocal cords themselves threatening to snap. It was painful. So painful that she was sure that she would have broken down into tears from the agony of it if had been just three years ago. Where is Kyle?
Her silent question was only answered when she heard a key being slipped into the lock of her bedroom door. A twist of the knob. Scraping of hinges. A frustrated sigh was followed by the door being shut and locked once more and the uttering of, “Sal seria to de sileen.”
She ignored his jab as she forced herself to sit up and simply uttered, “Ap….ea…son…”
“Speak human,” Kyle said in the Holfort tongue. “The last thing we need is for you to say something out of habit and ruin everything. Besides, the last thing I need to hear is you butchering my language.”
Her gaze locked into a pair of eyes not too dissimilar from hers, sporting a look of annoyance. Standing at the foot of her bed was an elven boy who shared her golden hair and blue eyes. He was dressed in servant garbs that had been fitted for his diminutive size, consisting of a white shirt and long socks with a black vest and pants. He was carrying a serving tray in his hands that had on it a tea kettle, a canister, a glass washbowl, and a cup.
“I warned you not to use your Septima since you were still recovering from overtaxing it the last time,” he said pointedly as he went over to the nightstand and set down the tray. “But no, you had to strain it right out of the gate, and I have to waste time making sure you can at least make it to the opening ceremony.”
Snippy brat, Marie mentally snarled, even as part of her noted that he looked cute dressed like that instead of his normal clothes. Now only if he was the silent one. I’ll have to remember to get a photo of him in it to send to Yumeria, though I’ll probably need to make him smile.
He finished the medicinal tea and watched with his arms crossed as she drank it down. Once the effects began to take hold, he slipped on a pair of gloves and pulled out a small flashlight from his vest’s inner pocket. “Come on. I don’t have all day.”
Marie rolled her eyes. Then she opened her mouth wide, sticking out her tongue as he leaned onto the bed… only to wince as he grabbed the tip of her tongue and then pulled it forward while turning on the light to observe the inside of her throat.
“Well, at least this time there’s no blood,” he mused. “And you didn’t end up wetting yourself like a child half my age. I guess that’s progress.”
The moment he let go of her tongue she pulled his ear hard enough to cause him to wince instead as he was brought to his knees. He needed to be reprimanded more often to avoid letting him think he could speak that way all the time. “…Don’t talk to… your sister like that…”
“Nnghh…You’re going to tear it!” He drew in a sharp breath as she released his ear and rubbed it, grimacing. “I swear, what kind of freak enjoys playing at being an older sister to someone else’s kid…?”
Marie stuck out her chest and looked down at him smugly. Was it a little petty for a woman her cumulative age to tug on his ear to get the message across? Yes, it was. But if she had to put up with the sass of a 10-year-old know-it-all who refused to treat her like a woman, then she could play the role of an older sister bully.
Kyle sighed out his frustrations. “Seriously, don’t talk more than you need to for the rest of the day, and don’t use your Septima until I give you the all-clear. If you tear your vocal cords or the backlash becomes severe, it’ll draw attention. We’re already pushing things as it is, and Mother isn’t here to save you if the worst happens. Now, hurry up and take off your shirt.”
The smug expression she wore melted as Marie undid the button of her nightgown. She slipped through the small sleeves before pulling them off, and then she let her nightclothes steeped in sweat fall to the floor with a heavier noise than fabric should make. Her gaze then turned to the mirror affixed to the dresser across the room and her reflection revealed the blemishes of the body she inhabited in this life compared to the last.
She was petite to the point of only slightly being taller than the 10-year-old boy by a head. A scar running between her breasts felt rough as her finger traced down the thick ridge from where the skin had been stitched shut. It was discolored with a hue that stood out against her pale skin, joined by track marks from the countless injections over the years.
Marie squashed down the emotions she began to feel. It was the price she had to pay. The scars were nothing that makeup couldn’t cover, and what she got out of it had been worth it. Then her gaze turned to Kyle and her mind vividly recalled things she didn’t want to remember. At least this gets him out of that place for a while.
She closed her eyes as Kyle turned back in her direction, knowing he’d just become petulant if he caught a hint of sympathy in her eyes. He might have only been half-elf, but he cultivated the pride most of them loved to exude…despite the fact that he hated the majority of them.
“It hasn’t gotten any worse since your stint back in the Lafan territory, fortunately,” he said as he finished examining her. “As for what I need to report… I guess we can confirm that it works on the Azure Striker even in its current state. That should at least satisfy them for the time being.”
It worked a little too well, Marie ruminated as she stared down at where Julius had grabbed her. She knew how the scenario had supposed to go. He would be outback sulking when he heard the heroine’s voice and then be drawn to it. He wasn’t supposed to rush her down and grab her like that.
It had brought back unpleasant memories for a moment.
Marie wondered if she had put a little too much into the song since she couldn’t be sure the lyrics would get the same results. They retconned it to Olivia subconsciously using the Muse in the supplementary materials and audio drama to get his eye, so she used the Septima to set the scene and make sure it would be love at first sight. But the songs used to trigger the Muse in the game didn’t work for her since they were powered by emotions, so simply copying the song without feeling wouldn’t do a thing.
It took a powerful emotion that stirred the heart. Something that Marie had thought she’d lost after being trapped in the ironic hell of the game that had killed her brother. Being separated from the one thing that brought her joy in her life after he was gone and then born powerless to those people…
Not that they’d be a problem for her ever again.
Still, since she couldn’t risk a repeat of that happening to any of the boys, Marie focused on what she knew that Julius felt thanks to the audio drama from his perspective. Overlaying her own desires with those he held, fueled by her memories from the life she once lived and would never get back, she called him to her like a Siren tugging on his heart. It had worked, roughhousing aside, and the food stall scene played out perfectly.
I should be able to handle the rest without the Muse for now, Marie decided. Health concerns aside, she only needed it to get the key event out of the way. Boys like them should be simple enough to wrap around her fingers using her previous life’s experience and, with their help, she could gather the rest of the artifacts.
Maybe then she’d be able to take back even a glimmer of the happiness she once had.
[—Julius Ralpha Holfort—]
As Julius stood upon the auditorium stage and spoke out towards the audience of students attending this year, eyes roamed over the hundreds in attendance.
He ignored the dozens of women whose less than pure intentions flared as his electrifying gaze passed over them. He passed over Angelica’s grinning visage, no doubt smug in the knowledge of her guaranteed throne. Instead, he focused on finding the one woman whose gaze wouldn’t be like theirs until…
Sitting there amidst the crowd was the lithe figure of Marie. Her azure eyes seemed more surprised than anything else, blinking as if she was struggling to make sure she wasn’t seeing things. He couldn’t say that he was surprised given this was how she discovered his secret identity.
That Julian, a simple noble of no importance, was Julius, the crown prince of their very kingdom.
Yet despite the evident confusion, she gave him a bright smile to contrast the barely visible wave when she spotted his eyes fixed on her. Then maybe he hadn’t completely alienated her then. It brought him a sense of relief as he continued with his speech.
It was once his duties were done that the complications began. Naturally, he tried to reach Marie. He wanted to explain why he lied to her about who he was and apologize for it. To make sure that there were no misunderstandings. But throngs of women impeded his path, singing empty praises on how heartfelt his speech was when there wasn’t a drop of emotion in it.
All they did was serve to get in his way as Marie vanished from his view.
He clenched his teeth before his foster brother set a hand on his shoulder and gestured for him to follow with his head towards the back rooms, which he was hesitant to do. At least until he heard Angie’s voice coming from the back of the crowd, who was the last person he wanted to see now. He followed until they entered one of the rooms and he shut the door.
“The rabble should clear out soon enough,” Jilk said now that they were alone. “You seemed distracted on the stage. Was there something on your mind?”
“Someone,” Julius said with a frustrated sigh before turning to him. “I’m sorry to impose on you again, but I need to borrow your power. I’ll explain later.”
“You needn’t ask.” He produced a cloak and then, with a flourish, viridian flames burst from where he grabbed hold of it. Those flames consumed it entirely until there was no sign of it before he made a motion as if draping it over Julius. “It won’t last long, so you’ll need to be quick.”
The Azure Striker vanished from view, but his voice rang out. “Thank you, Brother.”
Jilk inclined his head before making his way over to the door and opening it, only for Angie to be standing there. “Can I help you, Lady Redgrave?”
“Where is his Highness?” she demanded. “I wished to compliment him on his speech.”
“His Highness feels like being alone,” Jilk said pointedly as he stepped out of the room and in front of her, clearing enough space in the doorway as she took a step back. He then put his hands behind his back and gestured for Julius to escape.
The crown prince, draped within the veil of invisibility, slipped out. He moved with hurried steps, bypassing Angie as she tried to talk her way into the room he’d just left behind. Down the hallway that had been crowded before, now vacated with her followers flanking it, he slipped back into the auditorium and then made his way out onto the school grounds.
Now the question was finding Marie. He figured that she couldn’t have gotten far as he wove his way through the crowd and avoided bumping into others to alert them to his presence. The entire time he searched for her flowing locks of gold that ran down her petite back and her wonderous azure eyes, his thoughts were still back at the day they had spent with one another and just… talked.
Marie had told him that she belonged to a Viscount Family named the Lafans. She had been a sickly and frail child, born with such a weak body that she had to be cared for constantly. Thus, she had spent her days sequestered away within one of the isolated manors within their domain, only known to few save the elven doctor and nurse who oversaw her care.
Not that she was unloved. In fact, it seemed their family had taken out massive loans as she would later learn, all in the hopes of finding a cure for her unspecified illness. They had even hidden the truth of the expenses under the guise of being gambling debts, as they feared neighboring noble families might try to exploit her to their own ends—such things weren’t uncommon sadly when attempting to claim territory or crush households.
Living alone save for her caretakers, Marie could only lament that she was such a burden. Unable to leave the care of the grounds, never knowing when her life would come to an end, she admitted to feeling like a caged bird whose wings were too short for her to fly with. She wanted nothing more than to repay the love and dedication her family gave her, yet all she had was her voice. So, she began to weave songs in the hopes that one day she would be healthy enough to share them with them.
But, over the last year, her frail constitution had miraculously improved. She became healthy enough to function, even if the long-term medical care had left her growth stunted. Yet it seemed tragedy had stricken her family as an incident left her as the only living member of the Lafan household. So, she had come here to receive the education she needed to properly manage her estate, which was currently in the hands of a steward.
Julius found her spirit to be remarkable in light of that. And it also made him feel even more guilty for lying to her the entire time they spent together. That was why he desperately wanted to see her again.
He combed through the crowd and, for a brief moment, thought he spied her amidst the horde. But it turned out to be another young woman with shorter hair, even though her eyes were the same color. She was walking alongside a plain fellow with black hair who looked bored with the proceedings.
Upon realizing that, Julius kept looking and looking. Eventually, he found the angel walking alongside a smaller figure with similar hair but elven ears, dressed in a servant’s attire. He steeled himself before reaching out from behind his invisible veil and setting a hand on her shoulder. He felt her small frame jump in his grasp before she quirked her head in his direction. “Marie, it’s me. Can we talk?”
A soft noise escaped from her throat as she opened her mouth, only for a small hand to settle on her other shoulder from the small elven boy next to her. Those piercing eyes he held went past her and towards him, even though it didn’t reflect in his eyes. “So you’re the one to blame for her voice then?”
That caught the crown prince by surprise. Then the boy gestured towards the back of another building before guiding her in that direction, no doubt expecting him to follow. Julius did so, of course. Once they were there and out of sight, Julius pulled back the hood as the boy stood between them. “Who are you? And what did you mean her just now about voice?”
Standing prim and properly, the elven boy folded his arms behind his back. “My name is Kyle, Milord. I was hired by the steward of her family to act as her caretaker while she’s on the campus.”
“You’re an Exclusive Servant?” Male elves often ended up in such a role due to their rather attractive appearances, though he was far more on the young side. Of course, Julius might have been wrong. Their race was a rather odd one considering their longevity and physical abilities that they were said to have evolved into having to make up for a lack of Septima.
Marie sat a hand on the boy’s head, brushing it affectionately before speaking in a hushed whisper. “He’s more like a little brother to me.”
Kyle scoffed. “I believe she told you about her past. I happen to be the child of the elves who took care of her, and so some would consider our relationship to be akin to siblings. I would ask that you please do not insinuate such things about my Mistress or myself again, Milord.”
Julius grimaced as he caught the implication. It was well-known that women of the middle ranks of nobility tended to take lovers and have dalliances with demi-humans. He had all but implied that she was sleeping with the boy that was a little brother to her. “Believe me, I didn’t mean anything of the sort.”
“I know,” Marie whispered. “You aren’t like that.”
“Mistress, please,” stressed the boy, causing her to bring her hand to her mouth as if she caught herself doing something she shouldn’t. “Don’t speak unless you absolutely have to until your voice has healed.”
“…What happened to her voice?” Julius asked, concerned.
“She strained it,” the boy answered in her place. “Her constitution may have improved but speaking for such prolonged periods takes its toll given how unfamiliar it is to her. I wish you had considered that before lying about who you are and then gallivanting off with her the moment she left my sight, but alas…”
Julius looked away. “I’m sorry, Marie. For not considering your well-being and lying about who I am. I just…”
He trailed off, unable to finish the words that weighed on his heart. That he wanted the moment to last forever since he was comfortable with a woman for the first time who wasn’t trying to manipulate him for his position or take advantage of him. Yet he had done the same thing in lying to her, using the comfort she brought him while blissfully ignorant of his identity.
“I’ll understand if you never want to see me again,” Julius settled on, turning away from her. He had no one else to blame for this but himself. All he could do was treasure the day they spent together. But, to his surprise, as he turned to leave the angel stepped forward and set a hand on his arm. “Marie…?”
The sight caused the elven boy to sigh. “Well, fortunately for you, my Mistress is rather kind. And it seemed that she had a lot of fun spending time with you, despite how far apart your stations are. Far be it for me to deny her happiness, but please be more considerate of her feelings in the future, yes?”
“Are you… really okay with spending time with me?” Julian asked her, uncertainty lacing his voice. “Even though I lied to you?”
She nodded slowly and put on a smile that was so bright as to be blinding.
Truly she was an angel.
[—Leon Fou Bartford—]
“That took forever…” Leon mused aloud as he took a seat at a table by the window within the cafeteria.
Now that the opening ceremony was done, the students were allowed to spend the rest of the day roaming and acclimatizing themselves to their new surroundings since their classes would begin the next day. Leon had opted to take advantage of his enrollment to enjoy the food that was on the menu given how rare a chance it was prior. He had invited Olivia to join him as well to work on getting to know her better in light of the decision they reached last night.
The consensus that Leon and Lola had reached was for the time being they would try to figure out what happened to Olivia in the past that caused the divergence. Since they couldn’t be sure that the scenario would play out as it should without that first event, it would be more convenient if Leon took the place of the Love Interest as a platonic stand-in. At least when it came to dealing with the Muse Artifacts.
The easiest one to reach would be the one in the Dungeon. However, until they could be sure that they could get to it given the sheer number of monsters, they would have to play it safe. He could spend the weekends working his way down and getting a gauge of the danger, along with making some extra Dia to send home, since he was a licensed Adventurer already.
And then there was the question of whether Olivia would be capable of using it. They had about a year in the game before she was tossed into the Dungeon to find the bracelet, but there was no guarantee that would happen this time around. That was probably for the best since the Love Interests didn’t have a reason to pursue her unless they could catch up on the missing flags, and if she really couldn’t use it safely then they would have to go with one of Lola’s other suggestions.
They still might have to as things stand.
“Mnn.” A soft noise slipped out from Olivia’s throat from next to him. She was chewing on a fruit slice behind closed lips, plucked from her tray which was surprisingly diverse in her selection of food choices—bread, meat, fruit, and vegetables. In comparison, a lot of the other women whose trays he’d seen in passing were loaded with salads and exotic sweets.
“Is it really that good?” Leon asked, supporting his head with one hand as she finished swallowing. Olivia nodded before sliding her tray towards him and gesturing for him to take one to try for himself. “You sure?”
“…Well, if you’re offering,” Leon jabbed his fork into a slice and took it into his own mouth. It was tangy and sweet in a way that reminded him of a mandarin orange back in Japan, but with a creamy texture from the juices. In return he offered her a bit of the pasta that was on his tray, decorated with a poignant sauce and meatballs that he found to be pretty good.
She gave it a try… only for her blue eyes widened and she suddenly reached for her cup. He might have neglected to mention it was also pretty spicy, which earned him the soft pout Olivia gave him, her cheeks slightly puffed out as she picked up her pen and scribbled on a small pad: You could have told me it was spicy.
Leon clasped his hands together as an apology. “Sorry. Sorry. I’ll get you something sweet to make up for it. Do you have any preferences when it comes to snacks or foods?”
Her pout melted away as she tapped her chin in thought. Then she turned her attention back to her pad and wrote: Not really. We couldn’t be picky at the church.
“Make sense.” He thought about the kinds of foods that would be eaten at the church on his father’s lands since he imagined they wouldn’t be too different. Something simple would probably do. “Give me a second and I’ll be back.”
He rose from his seat by the window and made his way to where they had the desserts. Notably, the desserts weren’t included in the boarding costs. The Royal Academy took advantage of how eager vendors would supply them with more exotic treats that the women would happily splurge on—either on their coin or someone else’s.
His eyes fell onto what was labeled a Honey Crispel behind the serving glass. It was a pastry fried in olive oil and glazed with warm honey. And it was at a reasonable, for this place, price. “I’ll take one of those, if you don’t mind.”
“I’ll have a slice of cake,” said a voice across from him. He turned to see there was a girl there who looked to be around his age, tapping her chin as she eyed what looked to be a cheesecake that had fruits and powdered sugar on top of it—Samobocade, according to the label. “He’ll be paying for it, of course.”
What poor sap did she sucker into paying for that? Leon wondered idly for a moment until he noticed the cashier getting ready to add it to the total of his order. He stopped that right then and there. “Don’t ring that up on me. I’m not paying for that.”
The refusal seemed to baffle the cashier and the girl alike, more so the latter as the gluttonous gaze she had towards the cake turned into confusion as she faced him. “Excuse you?”
“I’m not purchasing a slice of cake for someone I don’t even know,” he elaborated in as simple terms as he could. “If you want it then pay for it yourself.”
Her head turned slowly as she slowly processed what was happening. There was also a notable lack of sound in the immediate area or coming from the line where others were waiting to make their purchases. Then a form of realization seemed to dawn on her.
“I see. Word must not have reached whatever backwater island you came from about etiquette.” She shook her head as if addressing a child before pointing a finger into his face. “Listen here, you hick. It is common courtesy for boys like you to adhere to the requests of your betters in exchange for our attention. Knowing that now, are you trying to spur my generosity by letting you buy me a confection?”
“Pretty much,” Leon said, which caused her to draw back as if she had been slapped. “Your generosity would be better directed to another who needs it.”
His piece said, Leon turned back to the cashier and paid for his pastry before heading back over to where his seat was. Olivia was sitting there engrossed in her tray until he presented the treat to her. “Here you go.”
The mute heroine quirked her head slightly before she broke a piece of it off and brought it to her mouth. This time her reaction was much more favorable as he could make out the elation as she eagerly chewed on it. But then she used her knife to split it in half before gesturing at the untouched section for him, silently telling him they would split it.
“I had bought it to make it up to you,” Leon stated.
Her response was: It wouldn’t feel right to simply take the whole thing for myself when you paid for it.
“Okay, but no takebacks.”
The pastry shared, they finished their meal and Leon escorted Olivia back to the female dorm entrance. Leon then went back to his own only to be accosted by two boys as soon as he entered the First Year boy’s common room. One of them was tall with tanned skin and short hair, well-built from physical labor. The other was shorter with a bowl-cut and wore glasses.
“Can I help you two?” he asked.
“Uh, listen,” started the shorter of the pair. “We haven’t met yet, but we thought we should probably explain things since it occurred to us back in the cafeteria that you might not be aware of how things work here. I’m Raymond Fou Arkin.”
“And I’m Daniel Fou Durland,” the taller one added.
Leon crossed his arms as he recognized the names. “Oh right, you’re the two who had to be carried in after getting drunk while you were out with the rest of freshmen. Must have been some welcoming party. Shame I wasn’t invited.”
He had known some of the upperclassmen had been gathering up the freshmen yesterday, after everyone had arrived. There was technically a curfew on the campus for First Years, but Third Years could skirt it and so they basically held a get-together welcoming the others. He was also chiefly aware that he had not been invited to join the get-together as the hushed whispers outside his door had not escaped Lola’s attention when they were still deliberating what to do about the Muse situation.
“Well, about that….” Raymond began to rub his head as he looked away. It was probably a good sign he didn’t just come out and say that they intentionally had chosen not to because of his status. Or the rumors that were sprouting about considering his enrollment.
This was the first year that there were scholarship students. Both were Minos and thus should be Commoners at best. However, he had earned a title via buying it with his adventuring and so a lot of people had mixed feelings on the topic.
Leon waved him off. “I’m fully aware you aren’t sure how to feel about someone who bought their way into nobility, and I imagine it’d be awkward to talk about stuff like that with the person in question around. I’m not taking it personally.”
He simply didn’t have the time nor effort to care about being excluded from a bunch of classmates he likely wouldn’t see once their schooling was over. It was the same back in Japan and that was when there weren’t hundreds of miles between them, filled with monsters and other looming threats. He was an adult who had to worry about an impending genocide, after all.
“To speed things along, I grew up in a rural barony in a baron household with a sister currently in her Second Year here. I know how things work here, and how it was probably expected for me to get her that cake. I just didn’t want to because I didn’t know her and she didn’t even bother asking my name—which is Leon, by the way.”
“Then you know by turning her down like that you’re going to make things more difficult for yourself,” Daniel pointed out. “One of the major reasons for attending is finding a marriage partner by graduation. Otherwise, your reputation will suffer.”
He shrugged. “That’s one less person for you guys to compete with, I guess… Anyway, thanks for at least trying to reach out. See you around.”
“Wait,” Raymond called out to Leon as he moved past them towards his room. He paused his step and turned back. “…Is your sister single?”
Leon considered it. Then he shook his head at the realization that Jenna would probably use him for all he was worth and then not even give him the time of day. The poor bastard would probably thank him for just the opportunity, but he wasn’t that cruel and didn’t want to help her transitioning into Zola along if he could help it.
Leaving behind those two, Leon made his way back to his room where he found Lola floating over his desk and flipping through the pages of his textbook… somehow. He didn’t question it. “I’m home.”
“Welcome back,” she responded, looking up from the pages. “How was the opening ceremony?”
“Boring and uneventful.” He’d honestly struggled to stay awake at how long it had been. “Learn anything interesting in the textbooks?”
“They’re adequate for beginners when it comes to the basics of Mechatronics, so you’ll at least learn something once classes start tomorrow.” She closed the book and then drifted up into the air. “But I can explain anything else you need to know in practical details on any subject, so you don’t have to worry about it.”
“I’ll make it up to you,” Leon promised yet again. He genuinely did want to learn and would do his best, but they didn’t have time to deal with failing grades. “Hopefully it won’t come to needing to borrow your help too much, but I really want to make sure we sort out the deal with Olivia and the Muse.”
“Don’t sweat it, Partner.” Lola chimed. “Just enjoy your time as a student. It only comes around once… er, well I guess that’s twice for you now.”
“Wasn’t that great the first time around, but I suppose times were easier then,” Leon admitted as he sat on the bed with an almost wistful look, thinking of simpler times. But those days wouldn’t come back no matter how long he thought about them. Better not to linger. “Well, I guess all that’s left is to see things through tomorrow on.”