Season 2, Episode 8
Just a year ago, she’d never ever ridden a bicycle before.
It was just one of those parties that celebrated the start of yet another financial year, and somehow, she found herself talking to the president of a bicycle manufacturing company.
They talked all night, with topics spanning from politics to the current situation of toilets in Japan, and amidst all this, Nadeshiko was hit with a realization.
She’d never ridden a bike before. Ever.
Like, she’d been on cars before, that was her usual mode of transport, and sometimes she’d walk for her training. She’d taken the aeroplane and the boat, and once upon a time even sat on the bullet train. Then of course, there were the cruises and luxury trains when she travelled abroad.
But despite being able to list out an impressive amount of vehicles, Nadeshiko could not truthfully say she’d sat on a bicycle before.
This was intriguing indeed. She had to try it.
Ordering her servant to purchase a bike for her, Nadeshiko hastened to try it out. She had hear tell that it took quite a while to master the skill of balancing on a bike. But of course, being the genius that she was, it took her all of two tries to get to grips with the whole thing.
Since then, she’d take her bike out with her on her morning jaunts, past the area where she normally jogged, into commoner’s territory.
It was refreshing to see herself being able to peddle a vehicle and move it along her desired path.
And then –
The idiot commoner’s idiot car just flew out of a bend so idiotically that it was hardly her fault that she fell down in fright.
Her reflexes, brilliant as ever, propelled her quickly to her feet, but even as she made to chase after the car, her plan got caught in a snag. Her bike had been broken. No matter how furiously she peddled, her bike wouldn’t move.
It was like cycling on air.
Around her, she could see commoners staring at her.
It was so embarrassing that she felt her head start to spin.
No, it wasn’t possible. How was it that this had befallen her, the great Nadeshiko? And in front of unworthy commoners, no less.
It was all that bicycle’s fault. Stupid, stupid –
“Hi there, would you like me to fix this for you?”
A voice, out of nowhere, broke through the haze.
Squatting down in front of the bicycle, the boy proceeded to give it a thorough check.
“As I suspected, the chain’s gone lose.”
Following his finger, Nadeshiko could make out some sort of metal chain that seemed to dangle from her bike.
Grabbing the pedal, he started to turn it.
“And just a little bit here…”
A loud crack, and the chain seemed a lot less loose around the edges now.
He took the pedals out for a test drive, moving them in circles, watching as they emitted a creaking noise indicative of gear contact while the bike’s wheels turned in tandem with the pedals.
It was amazing.
For the first time in her life, Nadeshiko had nothing to say. It was as though she had forgotten how to speak.
To her, his handiwork seemed almost god-like in its glory, simple though it was. He had saved her. And that in itself was worthy of praise.
He smiled, seemingly satisfied with his work.
In that moment, he was the coolest guy on earth.
She’d have stopped him, just to thank him of course, but he clearly had no time for her. Brushing off the dust, he got up and headed off on his own merry way with a quick goodbye.
“Damn, I’m late!”
He was muttering as he swept past her.
And then, things went back to normal.
Nadeshiko rode home and kept up her bicycle. Following this incident, she somehow just happened to search for him, somehow just happened to locate the high school that he was going to next spring, somehow just happened to change her own plans for high school, and just somehow happened to bump into him on the day of the entrance exam.
“Oh, what a surprise!”
He had forgotten all about her.
Carrying Nadeshiko on piggy back, Shun headed towards the nurse’s office in the Celebrity Course building.
Surrounding him were the Red Star Lily Squad, all of them equal parts worried about Nadeshiko and equal parts wary of him.
It was his first time in the Celebrity Course building. The walls, the rooms, the tables, heck even the toilets, they were, for lack of a better word, breath taking.
Shun felt like a tourist in Europe – new, foreign and utterly overwhelmed.
The weight on his back shifted. Nadeshiko started to stir.
The Red Star Lily Squad were on their toes immediately.
Turning around, Shun was greeted with Nadeshiko’s rather blank stare. Her eyes were unfocused, looking as though she had just taken a jog down memory lane in her dreams.
“Are you alright?”
His voice by her ear seemed to jolt her awake.
Pushing hard against him, Nadeshiko screamed.
“Y-You insolent –“
Shun dropped Nadeshiko to the floor.
Her cheeks were stained red, as though she had run a marathon or something.
“W-Why are you carrying me?”
“Hey, don’t look at me! You were the one who refused to let go.”
“W-What are you saying? You rascal!”
Shun couldn’t have felt more wronged.
“After the match with Rosalie, you fainted, remember? Then, when I went up on stage to try to chase after her, you grabbed hold of me so hard, I couldn’t get away. Even those girls had a go at prying off your fingers, but nothing worked, okay? You were just –”
Nadeshiko had shut him out.
All further explanations were pointless.
Her whole body seemed flush.
Was she really that angry?
“I just lost controlled for a while back then. This has absolutely nothing to do with my will, or my wants in any way, do you understand?”
The Red Star Lily Squad were wearing similar expressions of worry and had started to surround the fallen Nadeshiko.
“It’s best if you rest a little… The nurse’s office is just around the corner.”
“Y-Yes, I suppose so.”
Nadeshiko looked relieved as she picked herself up and let her loyal followers lead the way.
A few seconds later though, she turned around once more and addressed Shun.
“T-Thank you, I guess. Well then, have a nice day.”
She then picked up the pace and rushed towards the nurse’s office.
He never really understood Nadeshiko the tyrant. He doubted that he ever would.
The sun was starting to set by the time Shun made his way out of the Celebrity Course building.
Turning around, Shun spotted Rosalie standing by the statue.
“Why are you here?”
“Because I saw Shun heading in just now.”
Tome seemed to have escaped.
Rosalie’s features on the other hand, were much less fortunate. Caked in blood from the previous nose bleed, she looked akin to those ghastly faces that one saw in the dead of night.
Tugging her hand, Shun dragged Rosalie to the nearby fountain.
“What is it, Shun?”
Grabbing a tissue from his pocket, Shun proceeded to wet it and wipe down her face.
On her part, Rosalie screwed her eyes shut so as to make Shun’s job that much easier.
Shun gave a wry smile.
If someone had told him just a day ago that he’d get to witness the heroine princess of the popular RPG game Dragon Bless wearing such an expression, he’d have asked them to get their brains checked out.
The stream of water pouring out of the white statue served to reflect the light of the setting sun, showering the two teenagers in a prism of incandescent light. A light mist was beginning to descend, chasing away the afternoon heat and bringing some peace to those enveloped in its midst.
“Thank you, Shun.”
“Thank you for eating the bento.”
A pause. His hand frozen on her face.
“I was really happy.”
Her next smile could really have sent a thousand ships to war.
“When I saw you eating the bento that I had made, my heart was so full of happiness I could have burst out in song.”
Small, tiny little rainbows of light had formed, courtesy of the mist and setting sun.
There really weren’t that many people in the world, Shun thought, that could be so happy just from the simple act of giving.
In the face of her honest revelation, Shun felt his cheeks suffuse with heat.
What in the world was he to do with this girl?
She turned his plans upside down and upset his entire life altogether. Trouble tended to stick to her like the pandemic, but somehow, through it all, he felt glad.
Glad that he was able to endure all this, glad that he had endured all this, if only to be able to see her this happy.
“Shun is very strong. Stronger even than cream puffs.”
Rosalie was not making much sense, but the way she uttered the words was as if she were divulging a sweet and beautiful little secret.
“Shun, you are my husband.”
His heart was beating so hard, he was surprised no one heard it.
The grounds had become so silent, it was as though they had walked into an air pocket all of a sudden.
There was no one else around.
No better time than now to –
Strange, that almost sounded like –
Tome peeped out from the bush in front of him, looking tired within an inch of its life.
Shun finally found his voice.
Rosalie turned around, wanting a better look for herself.
And then, she spotted it.
It wasn’t long after that the fountain was dyed red.