Chapter 4: The Day of Sierra’s Absence
The following day…Sierra was absent from school.
Within the classroom, the seat that was always the center of attention, that was normally radiant like a flower in bloom, was starkly empty. Currently in the middle of English reading class…The girl who stood up from her seat started reading, her voice resonating like an incantation throughout the quiet classroom.
Until just the day before yesterday, he wasn't even aware of Zadou Sierra's existence…And yet, now, the classroom without her presence felt like it was missing its color, seeming as if time had stopped and the world was in grayscale.
Not really listening to the reader, the other students whose eyes were all glued to their textbooks also seemed to be like lifeless dolls. It felt as if, without her there, all the energy had disappeared from the world.
“Jin. Well aren’t you looking unusually sharp today.”
Hearing Yuuya’s voice, Jin reeled in surprise. Class was already over, and the board was already erased by those on duty.
“Ah…so class ended?”
“I feel ya. I can barely keep awake myself in English class.”
Yuuya laughed then pinched Jin’s collar.
“You dried your clothes by the window last night, right? As I thought, when you wash it by hand, you don’t have to use an iron to get it crisp like this. I had no idea that you cared so much about looking good.”
“Ah, no. This wasn’t my doing…”
“Using the dorm’s laundromat, they end up all wrinkled, you know. I’d like to wash mine by hand too, but…If my hands get too rough, I won’t be able to play the guitar anymore.”
“I see. So handwashing…makes your hands rough, huh.”
Jin looked down at his shirt. Although it hadn’t been ironed, it had been properly washed, spread out, and dried. That Sierra, who had until recently had everything done for her, had washed it with her fair hands that had probably never even touched a scrubber before.
I really said something quite mean… he thought to himself. He should have been well aware…that she hadn't done it just for money or to level up as the Genie of the Lamp. After she had smiled so happily when he praised her omelet too...
“Yuuya. Have you ever, hurt someone’s feelings by saying something you shouldn’t have?”
Jin hung his head as he questioned Yuuya.
“Tons of times, I should think. What about it?”
“Afterwards…were you able to patch things up?”
“Well, they said they’d never forgive me as long as they lived, so I guess not?”
“They must have been really pissed off…”
Jin let his shoulders slump. Replying trivially, Yuuya tilted his head to the side, completely clueless as to why Jin was acting so depressed.
Staying home from school, Sierra was in bed wrapped up in her silk sheets. As of yet, she had not gotten out of bed even once today though the clock read three in the afternoon. About time for afternoon tea, there came a knocking at her door.
“Excuse me, Lady Sierra. I’ve brought you your tea, may I come in?”
Merely glancing out from within the bundle of sheets, Sierra replied in a thin voice,
The door opened and Nikolai Pavlov, the butler, walked in. Atop the gold-colored cart he pulled along, there sat a Samovar kettle, which looked like an old-fashioned furnace.
“I am surely being a nuisance, but as my lady has yet to eat anything all morning, I was worried and took the liberty to prepare this. If it is hay fever…Well, I have heard that black tea is effective against hay fever.”
“Thank you. However, it is just a cold.”
“Black tea works for that as well. It warms the body, and it is even gargled to prevent catching a cold.”
Opening the Samovar’s tap and pouring out hot water, Nikolai cooled the teapot before preparing a rich black tea. Sitting up in bed, Sierra donned a shawl over her negligee. Though one might call it a negligee, it was magnificently crafted with such an abundance of silk that it was more like a dress.
“I always enjoy drinking Nikolai’s Russian tea.”
Sierra drank the hot black tea while eating the apple jam prepared by the maids with a spoon. Bathed in the warm steam, her pallid face began to take on a reddish tinge. Nikolai adjusted his monocle while maintaining a poker face.
“Because you have shut yourself up in your room, the master is starting to worry.”
“Mm. I don’t feel like seeing Papa’s face at the moment.”
Sierra was feeling a considerable amount of bitterness against her father. If only she hadn’t been born into this lineage as a Genie of the Lamp, then she wouldn’t be suffering like this.
It would have been fine even if they didn’t have money so long as they could live together happily as a family. But, without money, their family was going to fall apart. At this rate, she couldn’t be the Genie of the Lamp. She was going to end up losing it all, the money as well as her family…And just losing Jin was already enough to hurt her this badly.
Sierra clutched her chest tightly with both arms. Since the moment she had woken up, she had felt a stabbing pain in her heart.
“Nikolai. If I were to become completely destitute…You’d surely leave me too, wouldn’t you?”
Slightly taken aback by the sudden question, Nikolai stopped to adjust his monocle. Then, without faltering, he responded firmly.
“I would not, my lady. The Pavlov family has been a lineage of servants for generations. Before, we even served the royal Romanov family of Russia. Among the serving families, ours is among the most prestigious. I have been raised from birth to be a quality butler. And now, as I am able to serve such a wonderful master as my lady, I am content. I do not serve for money. I shall work for no other, only for you, my lady Sierra. If by some slim chance, this house should happen to fall, I shall remain and go to any lengths to restore it to its former glory!”
Nikolai proudly puffed out his chest. With a pained look, Sierra shook her head side to side.
“Thank you…Nikolai is quite strong. I cannot accept my fate so readily…”
“Has something happened?”
Looking at Sierra with a worried look on his face, Nikolai asked with some reserve.
“Before, I heard that someone placed an insect in my lady’s shoe rack, but…Could something else have happened after that?”
“Ah, no. That, it ended there, so it’s fine.”
“Then…Araki Jin. Could it be something involving a classmate by that name?”
Hearing Nikolai casually speak that name, Sierra was taken aback, her face turning suddenly red.
“W…where did that come from?!”
“The other day, while taking that young girl named Aika Kasumi to the Sakura dorm…I apologize, but I overheard my lady Sierra speak such a name.
Sierra quickly fell silent, bringing her hand to her mouth. It seems I was somehow on target, Nikolai thought, and while maintaining his distance from Sierra, started speaking in a calm voice,
“That girl from the middle school division, I don’t know if it was because you felt she was a rare sort or maybe because she was a kind girl who worried about you so much after the incident with the insect in your shoebox…but my lady was unusually open with her feelings during that conversation.”
“W-What do you mean by saying ‘unusually’?!”
“Along with my father, I have served in this house from a young age. I know my lady well, about as early as her birth. My lady always goes to such extreme lengths to present herself well, matching other people’s expectations without fail and consistently conducting herself with the utmost elegance. However, such a perfect human being does not exist, I should think. So, is it not difficult to act like that?”
Certainly, it was just as Nikolai said, Sierra thought. She and Jin even shared a secret…even though they had started off with an argument, she had been able to speak freely with him. She had certainly gotten angry; however, for Sierra who had never been able to express her anger to anyone else, it was refreshing. For the first time she had been able to openly show her feelings like a normal person. But, now she and Jin were on permanent non-speaking terms.
Unable to watch Sierra curl up seemingly in pain, Nikolai placed a gentle hand upon and kindly caressed her shoulder.
“If you would like, please call upon me anytime for advice. I would like to be my lady’s pillar of strength.”
“Thank you for the offer, Nikolai, but it’s fine. That is, if I were to lay bare all my feelings, I would end up losing my protective shell. Then if I was hurt a second time, I doubt I would be able to stand back up again.”
“But the weight of such a shell, surely it would make it impossible to stand back up a second time as well.”
“It is much preferable to being hurt.”
“I heard my lady say something to that girl named Aika. That, in your class, there is someone ignoring you…That there is a boy who simply reads books all the time without acknowledging your existence. And that, as you have never encountered such a boy before, it was weighing on your mind. About that, is there a problem?”
Momentarily taken aback, Sierra hung her head. Really, she would have never considered the possibility that Aika would be Jin’s childhood friend. Fortunately, it seemed like Aika wasn’t treating what Sierra had said with too much significance and hadn’t told Jin about any of it, so at least that was a relief.
“I think I understand your concern. Like a rose, even if my lady does not speak up, she attracts considerable attention. But for someone to not take notice, they must be quite the odd one. Could he possibly hate me, or maybe there is something about me he hates even though I have never done anything to him… Such behavior as his would surely make a girl worry and ask herself such questions, but someone as splendid as my lady does not have any characteristics that would warrant others’ spite. So please, do not mind it too much.”
With all his might, Nikolai continued on.
“To be interested in mere archaeology books rather than my lady Sierra, this boy’s ideal girl is probably something outrageous like a mummy or some such. Since he has such a skewed sense of aesthetics as that, there really is no helping it.”
Nikolai was trying so hard to encourage her. It was precisely because he was always like this, worrying about her so much, that Sierra couldn’t confide in him. She didn’t mind if it was someone like Aika who would basically shrug it off afterwards…But she didn’t want to needlessly trouble Nikolai, who would seriously worry himself for her sake.
“I guess so…”
Pretending to accept his take, Sierra forced a smile.
“Thank you, the tea was delicious.”
Acting like she was fine, she returned the cup. Nikolai understood this to mean "please leave already." However, as he was still worried about her, he asked just to make sure.
“Would you like seconds?”
“No, thank you.”
For Nikolai, her empty smile and words were full of loneliness. Because, he understood that Sierra would continue on in her confusion by herself without confiding in anyone else.
“Well then, excuse me. If you need anything else, please call for me right away.”
Reluctantly, Nikolai bowed and moved the cart out of the room. Right outside, he found Mary, the head maid, waiting. She had her arms crossed and looked a bit angry.
“Mister Pavlov. The servants have been looking for you, since they cannot proceed without your command.”
“Ahh…my apologies, Miss Savant. Thank you.”
He gave a small bow of his head, then just as he was passing by Mary’s side, she murmured.
“Conversing with the mistress is a job for the maids.
“I apologize…As the mistress’s driver, it was simply accidental. I was by no means trying to intrude on your territory, Miss Savant.”
“Let me give you a piece of advice…Of course, I am sure that, with your pedigree as part of a serving lineage that even served the Romanov royal family, you must have heard what I am about to say before.”
Mary was looking at Nikolai with a sharp glint in her eyes.
“We are merely serving staff. A master and a servant are of decidedly different levels, a difference that cannot be overcome. A romantic relationship with a master is forbidden…That is an absolute law for butlers and maids.”
“I-I know that!”
Nikolai’s pale face reddened with anger. While Nikolai was frazzled, Mary turned an even colder glare upon him.
"Oh my. So even Mister Pavlov gets angry, I see. Showing emotion so openly is unbecoming of a servant. Handed down through the generations from my ancestors who served the royal families of England, that is a personal family tenet."
“N-No, it’s not like I was actually angry.”
Nikolai hastily tried to put on a blank expression, but as flustered as he was, it was simply impossible. Thinking that at this rate, he'd be further criticized, Nikolai hastily made his escape. Watching him go, Mary released her ice-like expression and let out a mild laugh.
"Such an easy boy to tease. I’ll make him realize that Russian servants are no match for England, the motherland of maids. That, even as servants, we are still of different status…Taste the pride of the British Empire!"
Mary did an about face on her heel. Elegantly and magnificently, her apron dress fluttered as she turned. Then, facing the battlegrounds where her next job awaited her, she walked heroically forward.
At the same time, after drinking the black tea, Sierra was feeling warm and sleepy.
As she was on the verge of sleep within the embrace of her bed, her cell phone that she had left atop the bedside table began ringing. Checking the caller ID, she didn’t recognize the number.
“Probably a solicitor?”
Sierra covered her head with her sheets and attempted to ignore the call. However, the phone simply would not stop ringing. Finally, unable to stand it any longer, Sierra reluctantly picked up the phone. Immediately, there came a quiet male voice.
“You were absent today, weren’t you, Genie of the Lamp.”
Sierra’s face went stiff. The only ones who should have known that she was the Genie of the Lamp were her father and Jin, no one else.
“You…Who is this?”
Holding the cell phone in both hands and sitting upright in bed, Sierra asked while trembling. From the other end, there came only a laugh.
“Right now, your lamp is in my hands…If told you that, what would you do?”
“Eh? W-Why do you have it?”
“I could make you my servant right now if I rub this lamp. Oh, I know…Wouldn’t it be funny if I called you out in the middle of the school, to let as many people find out as possible.”
“D…Don’t joke like that! That sort of disgraceful…Rather than that, anyone would refuse becoming the servant of some stranger!”
“I thought you’d say something like that. Besides, it wouldn’t be good to change ownership of the lamp midway anyway…Since your level will return to zero and all the spells from the spellbook would disappear, after all.”
“How do you know about that?”
“If I summoned you, you’d understand…you’d even find out who I am.”
*Clink*, she heard a metallic sound. Thinking it might be the sound of the lamp, Sierra desperately gripped her cell phone tightly.
“W-Wait! If it’s money, I’ll give you however much you want, so please don’t rub the lamp, just give it back!”
“Are you that opposed to becoming my servant? What’s so good about that Araki Jin?”
“A…About Araki Jin?”
Sierra’s face turned bright red, blushing as if on fire.
“It’s not like I actually want to be his servant or anything! I, it’s just that I don’t want to go back to level zero after finally leveling up, so…Never mind that, just give back the lamp!”
“Well then, you should come to the school at midnight tonight.”
“I can’t leave my house that late. Mary is very strict, plus my driver Nikolai would be asleep then.”
“When midnight comes, I’ll rub the lamp. Then, you’ll be my servant…permanently. Until I rub your head, you won’t be able to return. I'll never let you leave my side.”
“W-What are you thinking?! That’s horrible!”
“Well, make sure to come to the school then.”
“Why are you doing this to me?! Do you have a grudge or something?”
“A grudge…well, I guess you could say that. You could also say I hate because I love. My love letter, you threw it away without even reading it, didn’t you?”
“Love letter? I didn’t receive anything like that, are you sure you didn’t get the wrong person?”
“…I’ll be waiting for you at the school.”
“Wait a moment, just deciding all on your own…!”
Sierra shouted, but he had already hung up. Dumbfounded, Sierra just stared at her cell phone. The lamp had passed from Jin’s hands into those of a stranger…She just couldn’t believe that had happened. Maybe it was a lie. But in that case, he knew too many things that no one else should know.
She was scared to check for sure. But, she had to check. While struggling to calm her racing heart, Sierra got out of bed and rang the golden bell that lay atop her bedside table. Right away, Mary and another one of the maids arrived.
“You called, my lady?”
“I’m going out.”
Mary respectfully nodded. While she brushed Sierra’s hair, the other maid pulled out a change of clothes from the closet and started getting Sierra changed.
Standing still like a dress-up doll, Sierra thought about Jin. Even though she had told him that she didn’t want anyone else to see her dressed in a maid outfit, for him to have given up the lamp, she just didn’t want to believe that he could have done such a thing. Rather than anger, she felt an overwhelming sadness.
As she allowed the maids to dress her, Sierra sighed bitterly.
Long fingers closed the cell phone with a click.
They belonged to the one who called Sierra…That is, to Konoe Ukyou. Dressed in his uniform and seated comfortably in the student council room, Ukyou wore a devilish smile upon his carefully readied face. Upon the president’s desk in front of him was the magic lamp.
“President, are you here?!”
Hastily knocking as she passed, Eriko Himuro the vice president rushed into the room.
Eriko, a second-year, was relatively tall and was stylish like a model. Her expression tended to be rather cold, and perhaps because of that, her sharply designed glasses suited her quite well. Along with her semi-long hair, she really gave off a mature impression. With a blank face, Ukyou asked Eriko.
“What’s the matter? It’s not like you to make a ruckus.”
“It’s a serious problem, so I felt I needed to inform you directly.”
Placing her hands on Ukyou’s desk, Eriko leaned forward and with an almost vicious air, vehemently expressed her concern.
“The boys from room 204 of the Tachibana dorm brought the freshman Zadou Sierra into their room! It’s a clear violation of the dormitory rules!”
Ukyou practically snorted. Eriko hit the desk roughly with both hands.
“It’s true, President! Sierra often calls the pizza place where I work part-time to order things off the special menu, and…last night, she wanted to place an order to the centermost room on the Tachibana dorm’s second floor!”
“The ones in that room are her classmates, Araki Jin and Utada Yuuya. Yesterday, as punishment for breaking regulations, Araki was deprived of dinner, so feeling sympathetic, Zadou must have been trying to send him something, don’t you think?”
“No, it didn’t seem like that at all!”
“If, as you say, she was in their room, then do you really think they would have ordered food or anything like that? All the dorm residents know that girls and ordering out are prohibited, after all.”
“You…no, all the students of our school even, they have been completely taken in by Zadou Sierra! Even now, I’m a little hesitant to say it since it might sound like mere slander, but…I know for a fact how cunning she is. That girl is nothing like the perfect girl everyone seems to think of her as. She’s just pretending!”
Eriko was standing with her fists in the air as she stressed her point, but Ukyou disregarded her without interest.
“It’s an impossible story.”
“I don’t think it’s good for someone with authority to involve personal feelings into their decisions.”
As Eriko watched him with a concentrated look in her eyes, Ukyou asked with a hint of suspicion.
“To the president who would always say ‘boys and girls should be kept separated after age seven’ and kept his own distance from all the girls, only Zadou Sierra became an exception…You gave a love letter to her, didn’t you?”
“W-What nonsense are you spouting?!”
Eriko pressed the bewildered Ukyou even further.
“I found it while I was cleaning the president’s room.”
“And so you just went and read it?”
“…As the vice president, I want to know everything there is to know about the president.”
“Hmph…And here I thought that at least you were different from all those other foolish girls.”
“Y-You’ve got it all wrong! This isn’t jealousy or anything like that…!”
“Get out. Please, if you would, so you don’t disappoint me any further.”
Ukyou coldly pointed to outside his room. Eriko gulped without trying to argue, but quietly, she murmured.
“…In that case, I’ll just have to get proof and make it clear to him. I’ll remove Zadou Sierra’s mask and completely erase the president’s attachment to her…”
Eriko ran out of the president’s room. However, she ran into a boy who was walking down the hallway and fell.
“Oh, sister! Are you alright?”
The one she had run into was a large-eyed, large-haired, and all around large looking version of her younger brother, Keita. The near-sighted Eriko had dropped her glasses and couldn’t see anything properly.
“M-My glasses, my glasses…”
“They’re right here, sister.”
Keita picked them up and placed them onto Eriko’s face. Sitting on the ground with eyes like a puppy’s, he was looking worriedly into Eriko’s face.
“Sorry, I was in a hurry…”
“It’s fine. How about Keita, you weren’t hurt, right?”
Calmly readjusting her glasses, Eriko asked as a big sister in a genuinely kind voice.
“Yeah, I’m totally fine…”
“That’s good, as long as nothing happened to my precious Keita. If anything does happen, I’ll…”
Eriko hugged Keita tightly. The small Keita fit snugly into the taller Eriko’s arms. Keita was completely embarrassed and a little unsettled.
“U-Umm, sister? Could it be that your pay from your part-time job has been reduced?”
“Eh? Whatever do you mean?”
“Sister, even though you’re here on scholarship and commute from our house, which is far away…To let me concentrate on my studies, you work late into the night and put me up in the dorms, right?”
“That’s only a matter of course. Keita is a boy after all, so I want you to study whatever you want and follow your dreams. As your sister, I’ll work to that end as much as it takes.”
“But you study after that late into the night too, which is why your eyes have even gone bad…”
Keita clutched his pained heart.
“But, I’ll try my best to become an exemplary dorm resident, so maybe the dorm head will recommend me for the living fees exemption. I actually came here to talk to the dorm head about that.”
“Hmm, exemplary resident? Amazing, as expected of the brother I’m so proud of!”
As Eriko hugged him one more time, she took to wiping dust from his uniform and brushing his hair, pulling at the edges of his clothing to straighten them out, and generally making sure he looked his best.
“There we go. Well, take care. And make sure you don’t do anything rude in front of the president.”
“Yeah, thank you.”
Kouta gave a meek nod before going into the president’s room. Ukyou turned to look at him.
“I’ve been waiting, Himuro. I have your recommendation letter written here.”
“T-Thank you very much, dorm head!”
Kouta gladly took the envelope from Ukyou’s hands. Taking a glance at the magic lamp sitting on his desk, Kouta asked Ukyou.
“Um, dorm head. About that lamp…I took it from Araki-sempai’s room like you ordered, but…is it really okay?”
“Of course. Bringing personal items is prohibited after all.”
“But, even if it was the dorm head’s orders…To just sneak into his room without permission while he was away, don’t you think there’s something wrong with that?”
“In a dorm, the dorm head’s orders and rulings are absolute. There is no room for those who question it. An exemplary resident should accept that completely, Himuro.”
Ukyou placed a hand on Kouta’s shoulder. Then, he whispered quietly.
“You know, your sister seems to have some unusual dislike for Zadou Sierra and is useless to me…But, it seems like I may have some use for you.”
“Himuro, what do you think of Zadou Sierra?”
Kouta started blushing furiously. It seemed that, unlike his sister Eriko, he admired Sierra as much as any of the other students.
“W-Well…I think she’s extremely pretty. I’ve never seen anyone as beautiful as her…Ah, of course, with the exception of my sister, that is.”
“Would you like to confess to her?”
“Of course not! She’s on another level, just like everyone says. Sierra is like a celebrity, so it’s enough to just admire her from afar. For someone to even try to monopolize her, it just wouldn’t be allowed.”
“So you’re saying that the probability of being rejected if you confess is too high…so you wouldn’t want to risk it.”
“Eh…No, that’s not what I…”
“I get it completely, you’re worried that your pride will suffer as you’ll be the only one rejected.”
“W, what are you saying?”
“Love is not something to be reasoned with…You should take what you want without hesitation.”
In that moment, Ukyou’s body shined bluish white. Along with that radiance that was hard to look at, there came a shrill noise…The high pitched noise resonated in Keita’s head. Before he knew it, he was on his knees, holding his head.
“It’s splitting! My head is going to split open!”
“I see. Separate the heart from reason. By liberating the subconscious self behind the consciousness, a human being can reach a potential several-fold greater than usual.”
As an unbearable pain filled Kouta’s head, he continued to wail loudly. But then, all of a sudden, he fell silent. As he lay crumpled on the floor, the light had gone out of Kouta’s eyes.
With nary a thought in his head, Kouta whispered her name. Ukyou grinned.
“I hope you come, Zadou Sierra. And I hope you bring that man with you…”
Like a phantom, Kouta rose to his feet. While still shining bluish white, Ukyou gave a low laugh.
Around the same time, Jin had stopped by Alf Layla again on his way home from school.
He hadn’t been able to find Yuuya, who usually walked home with him, so he thought maybe Yuuya was here though it turned out not to be the case.
“Hey, sorry for the wait!”
Good-naturedly as ever, Alf brought him a large plate of Persian curry. Fluffy white rice topped the manhole-sized plate, along with a great deal of sweet-and-spicy curry that included pomegranates. There was even a heap of green salad.
“Ah, wait. I’m just here looking for Yuuya…Also, I’m broke right now.”
“That’s why I brought you this, since it’s free as long as you finish it in ten minutes. Our Persian curry is the best on earth, so eat it with gusto!”
Full of cheer, Alf slapped Jin on the back.
“So, eat a lot, then once you’re plump..."
“Ah, no, nothing.”
Alf covered her mouth. From in between her fingers, drool was seeping out her mouth. Jin scowled.
“…Hey you. You couldn’t possibly be planning to eat me, could you?”
“No way, no way!”
A bit too hastily, Alf repeated back like a parrot. Actually, now that he looked, he noticed the shop owner and mistress looking his way for some reason, suspiciously enough.
“I’m going home.”
Feeling uncomfortable, Jin stood up.
Alf desperately grabbed onto Jin’s collar and clung to him from behind. Jin, unable to support her weight, fell on his face, surprising all the nearby customers who were eating. He wondered if Alf might be the type who looked thinner in her clothes than she actually was, because as he lay pinned beneath her, he could feel her chest pushing amply against his back. However, as his face was pressing painfully against the floor, now really wasn’t the time for such idle thoughts.
“What are you doing, that hurts!”
“Now now, don’t hurry yourself, just take your time being eat…I mean, let us eat…I mean, eating, okay?”
“Do you want to eat me so much that you messed up twice?! Or rather, why would you eat humans?!”
“No, it’s not that we eat humans.”
Alf was trying to completely contain the struggling Jin beneath her, but then when she felt the hard lump on the left side of his collarbone, she stopped moving.
The instant Alf paused, Jin desperately escaped from beneath her.
“Ah, wait a second! I can do something about your shoulder!”
“It’s just a swollen lymph node, well see ya!”
Jin shook Alf off of him. Just as he was about to escape the shop, the shop door opened and Sierra rushed in.
Jin was surprised breathless. Besides the fact that they had fought the last time they met, it was also the first time he had seen her wearing plain clothes. Made extravagantly with top-grade chiffon georgette, covered in frills and flowers, a pale pink…it looked just like the kind of clothes a flower faerie might wear.
“It’s Zadou! And in her own clothes!”
The students nearby were making a ruckus. They had all been enraptured by her and left gaping. Crouching down in front of the collapsed Jin, Sierra held her anxiously pained heart as she asked.
“…You, did you hand over the lamp to anyone?”
“Eh? The lamp?”
Bewildered, Jin just stared at her blankly. Then, Alf poked her head in from the side.
“What’s this about a lamp?”
“Ah, nothing, please excuse us a moment.”
Taking Sierra by the shoulder, Jin quickly made his way out of the shop.
“I said to wait, didn’t I! Geez already…What about the curry?!”
Alf shouted at Jin’s back.
Outside the shop, Jin kept a firm grip on Sierra’s arm and led her to a narrow alleyway between a couple of buildings so that they would be out of the public eye. Making a sullen face, Sierra shook off his arm.
“That hurt! Don’t touch me so familiarly, commoner!”
“What were you thinking, with all those people there! Weren’t you the one who said to keep the magic lamp thing a secret?!”
“You’re the one who leaked the secret, weren’t you? You even gave the lamp to someone!”
“It seems like daydreaming must be your specialty, huh.”
“I must have been annoying you, so you just pawned me off on someone, didn’t you?!”
“Well you certainly have been a bother! But, you did say that you’d be embarrassed if anyone else saw you wearing a maid outfit, so I’ve kept it a secret that you’re a Genie of the Lamp and I haven’t given the lamp to anyone either!”
“But, I just got a call from someone saying that they have the lamp!”
“If you don’t believe me, come with me to the dorm. I’ll show you the lamp!”
“Fine, I want to see it!”
Responding in kind with vehemence, Sierra shouted back.
In front of Tachibana Dormitory, Sierra waited. All the dorm residents were peering out their windows, generally making a fuss.
“Hey, why is Zadou in front of the dorm?”
“Oh man~! She’s cute out of uniform as well~!”
“What’s the meaning of her coming here with Araki Jin? The nerve of that freshman!”
Amongst the dorm residents, rumors and speculation spread along with admiration and jealousy.
Jin was in his own room, looking for the lamp in the trashcan where he had tossed it. However, as hard as he looked, the magic lamp simply was not there. All the rest of the trash was still there, so it’s not like it had been taken during trash collection. He wondered if he might have left it somewhere else on accident…So, he looked all around his room, even in his bed, but it wasn’t to be found anywhere.
Now pale, Jin walked out of the dorm. After waiting impatiently, Sierra rushed to meet him as he came out.
“Hey, that freshman is talking with Zadou!”
“And I haven’t even talked to her once yet!”
The stares of the other residents pierced Jin’s backside. Jin, after moving somewhere out of view from all those guys, took a breath and confessed to Sierra.
“Sorry. I’ve lost the lamp.”
“What do you mean you lost it?!”
Sierra was shocked, and gripping Jin’s hands, she started shouting hysterically.
“How could that have happened?! It’s such a small sparse room, just how do you lose something like that?!”
“I have no idea! I threw it into the trashcan. Because I didn’t think I’d be calling you ever again!”
“What did you say?! Just because of one teensy-weensy mistake, you were planning on never calling me out again? Moreover, to throw such an important lamp into the trash, you’re such a narrow-minded commoner!”
“You know, you really don’t seem to have reflected on your mistake at all…”
“Couldn’t it have been thrown out with the trash?”
“No, the rest of the trash is still in the trashcan. So in other words, the lamp must have been taken by the guy who called you, right? There must be a thief living in the dorm, how troublesome.”
“Forget about that, I’m the one who’s troubled! That messed up guy called me and…”
“Should a lady be using the term ‘messed up’?”
“This isn’t the time to be criticizing my choice of words! That messed up guy said he was going to summon me and then he’s never going to rub my head.”
“Well then, can’t you just become an independent Genie of the Lamp?”
“I'm filling the satisfaction gauge so that I can go home, don't you see? If my head isn’t rubbed, then the satisfaction gauge won’t fill up and I won’t be able to go home ever. I’ll be trapped in a room!”
“Isn’t that called…confinement?”
Jin finally grasped the gravity of the situation.
“Also, if he calls me out in public…Then everyone will find out that I’m a Genie of the Lamp. They’ll see me in that embarrassing maid outfit! If I have to suffer such humiliation, I’ll bite my tongue and kill myself!”
“Maybe that’s a good idea as a last resort, but can’t you think of another way out of this?”
“Like buying a doomsday weapon or something?”
“Umm, I was thinking more along the lines of taking back the lamp.”
Jin replied calmly to the overly extreme Sierra.
“He said that he’d give back the lamp if I come to the school at midnight.”
“That sounds too much like a trap.”
“And I have a curfew, so walking around at night is…”
“Yeah. And I bet you’re scared you’ll run into perverts and the like.”
“As if! I won’t be scared if ghosts appear!”
Sierra shouted, her face pale. She really seemed serious. Gripping her hands tightly into fists, she insisted vehemently. His eyes turning into points, Jin couldn’t help but start laughing.
“…Ghosts? You actually believe in them? You’re surprisingly childish, huh.”
“There’s a Genie of the Lamp standing right in front of you, and yet how is that you can’t accept the possibility of ghosts!”
Being laughed at, Sierra puffed up like a transparent meat bun in her anger.
“Besides, if I go meet with that creepy unknown man by myself, then who knows what he’ll do to me. To begin with, if a certain someone hadn’t lost the lamp, then I wouldn’t even be thinking about any of this stuff…”
Sierra glanced at Jin with a hint of accusation in her eyes. Jin put on a steadfast expression and, for a while at least, ignored her, but as she continued to stare at him, he eventually couldn’t play innocent any longer, and his shoulders slumped.
“…I understand. It’s my fault since I lost the lamp…I’ll go with you.”
Hearing him say that, Sierra relaxed. However, instead of showing gratitude, crossing her arms and upturning her face,
“That’s right. It’s all your fault, so take responsibility like a man.”
She replied haughtily. Seeing how troublesome this was likely to become, Jin sighed deeply.
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