La Faust Arc
31 The Wealthy and the Common People (revised edition)
The day after the athletic festival was a day off in return for having the event on the weekend.1
"Meru-nee. You should go rest at home after all."
Kei said to Meru. Coincidentally, today was a day off in exchange for an event at his school, too. And so now, Meru and Kei were shopping around the city. Kei had a mixed expression looking at Meru's foot while she walked beside him.
Yesterday, Meru had gotten injured that badly. However, whether it was because Hayate's treatment had been good or because of something else, her pain wasn't nearly as bad as it had been the day before. As a result, Meru herself felt that walking around the city wasn't a big deal, but Kei was worried.
"I want to pick out the ingredients with my own eyes."
Mariko was there if she stayed home. She would definitely make Meru stay in bed and rest. Doing nothing and staring blankly into s.p.a.ce gave an extremely large amount of free time.
It's true that giving it her best in full for the month leading up to the athletic festival was tiring and she didn't really want to do it. However, doing nothing was another story. Such a pointless waste of time was remarkably tiring.
In other words, strolling around the city wasn't simply just for the sake of shopping, but for a mental break from that waste of time.
"Then, would you take a break from club activities if your foot was p.r.i.c.ked with a thumbtack, Kei?"
"Right? My injure is the same as that."
"That's definitely wrong!"
Kei shouted in a moderately loud voice, but Meru treated it lightly. As expected, it was impossible for Kei as the little brother to persuade Meru.
Maybe if it wasn't Kei, but instead Hayate, Meru would have reluctantly given up on going to the supermarket.
"Hey, Kei. Are you hungry?"
Meru asked, changing the topic like that. It was perfectly lunchtime, right around the time one would start to get hungry. It seemed that Kei had the same thought, so they decided to have a light meal before going to the supermarket.
"Where should we eat?"
"Is there anything you want to eat, Meru-nee?"
"Not really. What about you?"
Meru asked, inclining her head. As she did, Kei scratched his cheek and said, "Ahh…"
"My friend's mom has a café around here… No matter how many times I go, the Napolitan is really delicious."
"Then let's go there."
Meru said, so she and Kei headed to that cafe.
They walked for several minutes.
In a place not too far away, they saw their target. It was a fashionable cafe stuck in between two buildings. Its exterior was done mainly in a dark brown, lending it an adult vibe.
When they opened the door, good smells drifted out from the store. The first impression it gave was that it wasn't that big, but had a comfortable atmosphere.
"Welcome. …Oh, Kei-kun."
As they entered the store, a woman with long, brown hair tied up in a bun ran up to Kei. Her face had wrinkles that showed her age, but she had very kind looks. Her dark brown ap.r.o.n that matched the store suited her well.
"h.e.l.lo. Is this young woman next to you your girlfriend?"
After returning the greeting, the woman's eyes turned to Meru. Kei's cheeks reddened in an instant upon hearing the woman use the word 'girlfriend' to ask about Meru. He waved both of his hands in front of her.
"N-No! This is my sister!"
"Eh? Ah, so she is…"
She said as she turned her focus back to Meru again. At the same time, Kei began introducing the woman to Meru.
"Meru-nee. This is my friend's mom. She the cafe's manager."
The woman bowed, and Meru bowed in return as she gave her own introduction.
"I'm Kei's sister, Kusuhara Meru. Kei is always in your care…"
"Ahaha, it should be my idiot of a son who's always in his care."
The woman replied in that manner with a helpless laugh.
"Sit wherever you want. Ah, Tooru-kun is here, too. He's sitting in the back.
The woman said as Meru and Kei were proceeding into the shop. Meru tilted her head in confusion, but Kei said, "Seriously?" in excitement and walked quickly toward the back.
Kei called out and rushed up to his friend who had his study materials spread out in the seat furthest back. At his voice, the pet.i.te boy raised his head, sending his topknot swinging.
"Uwah, if it isn't Kei!"
"You doing homework?"
"Nah, supplementary a.s.signments…wait."
Top knot-kun who was talking to Kei saw Meru standing behind him and his eyes widened.
"Kei, you came? Wah, seriously! If you were gonna come, you shoulda let me know ahead of time!"
A boy on the taller side with his hair dyed brown appeared from the store's kitchen. He must be the auntie's son. He was wearing the same ap.r.o.n as her, so it seemed that he was in the midst of helping out.
Dyed brown-kun headed over to where Kei and top knot-kun were, but when he saw Meru, his eyes widened the same way top knot-kun's had.
"You guys, what's with that reaction…"
"Kei! Who is that!?"
"You, when did you get a girlfriend!?"
Top knot-kun shouted while pointing at Meru while dyed brown-kun shook Kei's shoulder while making noises. Faced with the excited states of his two friends, the sound of something snapping came from Kei's head.
And like that, he struck the heads of the loud duo.
"She's not my girlfriend! Meru-nee is my sister, idiots!"
Kei yelled at the two. Even though it wasn't something worth getting angry about, Meru thought with a troubled smile.
"Eh, Kei's sister?"
Upon Meru being Kei's sister coming to light, the duo stiffened for some reason. Kei looked at them, wondering what was wrong this time. But before that, Meru let an "Ah" out and lightly bowed her head to the two.
"I'm Kei's sister, Kusuhara Meru. My brother is always in your care."
"Rather, it's us who are always in Kei's care."
Meru introduced herself politely as she had to the auntie before, and the fl.u.s.tered duo also bowed their heads to her.
"But, this person…is Kei's sister, huh."
Dyed brown-kun stared at Meru and muttered. Top knot-kun also stared at her.
"It's somehow surprising. I expected more…ah, no, nevermind."
Top knot-kun muttered ambiguously. Meru raised her eyes to look at Kei, since it seemed as though he had mentioned something at school. However, because Kei also looked like he wasn't sure what they meant, she decided not to inquire further into their reaction.
In the end, Meru and Kei sat down in the seats next to top knot-kun. Dyed brown-kun, who seemed to have just received a break from the auntie, sat down across from top knot-kun and the four of them talked a bit.
"Meru-nee, here's a hand towel."
"How are you on water? It looks like you'll be out soon, so do you need a refill or anything?"
"I'm still good."
Dyed brown-kun and top knot-kun began to talk with Meru with kind smiles while scrutinizing Kei and his staggering consideration.
"Mmm… I imagined it would be more or less like this, but…"
"…If the soccer club managers were here, it would be insanity."
The duo let out a sigh while drinking cold water.
A short while later, Meru and Kei ate the recommended Napolitan.
"Ohh, it's delicious."
"Right? Well, Meru-nee's is just as delicious, though."
Meru gave a trouble smile as Kei said that awkwardly. Next to them, top knot-kun and dyed brown-kun smiled with half-closed eyes. Kei's way of speaking was 100% that of someone with a sister complex.
While they were talking pleasantly, the door to the shop opened. The sound of a bell chimed throughout the entire store.
In the same way as she had greeted Kei and Meru previously, the auntie dashed to the register with a smile. However, upon seeing the person who stood in the entrance, her expression stiffened.
"You've gotta be kidding me…"
Upon hearing his mother's voice, dyed brown-kun's face became one of impatience in an instant. He ran off toward where she was.
Worried about dyed brown-kun's reaction, Meru, Kei, and top knot-kun all directed their gazes to the front of the shop.
The young man standing in the entrance was around the same age as Meru, Kei, and the others. However, the people in black suits accompanying him alone indicated his social status.
Furthermore, the uniform he was wearing would be known by any j.a.panese person.
"A student from La Faust Academy?"
Kei muttered in a voice unable to conceal his surprise.
The insignia on the vest the young man was wearing was, without mistake, La Faust's.
La Faust Academy came to mind as the number one ultrcelebrity school in the country. It was an academy in the neighboring town that gathered all of the country's respectable daughters and sons. It was a place with which ordinary people had no relation…
The auntie welcomed the young man with a stiff smile.
"Um…I'll bring tea right away, so…"
"Ahh, you don't have to lead us into your store. The splendor of your store…I already know it ve~ry well."
The young master from La Faust Academy smiled as he delivered that sarcasm. Auntie and dyed brown-kun turned red with shame.
Meru and the others also grew uncomfortable just by hearing his voice. Simply from those first words of his, they knew that they couldn't have a favorable opinion of him.
"That kind of thing doesn't particularly matter. Let's just cut to the chase. I'm busy, after all… Well, it seems that you all are a bit free."
The young master said while sweeping his gaze around the store. Truthfully, at the moment, only Meru and the others were there. But Meru and the others had the day off while it remained a normal weekday for the rest of society. Even though it was lunch time, it was normal for there not to be many people because of that.
However, that explanation wouldn't fly with the other party.
"This kind of desolate store… You should be glad for me to buy it out."
Listening to his words, the auntie and dyed brown-kun's shoulders shook. Meru and others also felt sensitive toward what was said and reacted.
"Without your agreement, as one might expect, I cannot carry out my plans."
"I have to make arrangements for the daughter of the I company who will be coming from the United States of America shortly. I will use your plot of land to create amus.e.m.e.nt facilities to please her."
Meru was also astonished upon hearing that. Basically, he was buying out this coffee shop and several of the surrounding buildings to build amus.e.m.e.nt facilities for a personal goal.
"If it's now, I will prepare plenty of remuneration. Furthermore, I will cooperate with you to finance building your store at a different location. Are you still unsatisfied with that?"
The conditions weren't bad. While it may be true he was buying them out, there was no burden on the mother-son pair.
However, the auntie refused his offer, shaking her head.
"This is the important store left behind for me by my late husband…"
"I'm already tired of hearing that worn-out story. It's unfortunate, but even if I listen to it this time, I won't be moved to tears by your long-awaited sob story."
"Wh… This is where my mom's working with all she's got. There may not be many people now, but usually there're…there're regulars and stuff."
Dyed brown-kun began to shout with his face flushed red. Auntie said, "Ryuu!" and reined her son in.
The young man shook his head with a "Good grief" while looking bothered.
"The talks aren't productive I see. This is the last negotiation."
At the young man's statement, the auntie's face became hopeless.
At that moment, Kei spoke out in a loud voice.
"This Napolitan is suuuuper good. Isn't it, Meru-nee!"
"Eh? Ah, yeah. It's really delicious."
Meru was surprised by Kei suddenly asking such a thing.
It seemed that the mother and son duo felt the same way as they looked back at him despite being in the middle of negotiations with the La Faust student.
"There're no places where you can eat Napolitan this good, so it would suck if this place closed down!"
Kei said with a glance at the entrance of the store. With that, Meru and top knot-kun understood what Kei was trying to do.
"Seriously! This kind of comfortable store doesn't barely exists. There's no way they could shut it down."
"It's really incredibly delicious, it seems like there would be a lot of regular customers."
Meru, Kei, and top knot-kun didn't interfere with the negotiations. However, they ruined them by pretending to chat.
However, even with that, the young master from La Faust Academy looked on as though he wanted to say how humorous they were.
"How absurd. I suppose if the shopkeeper is like this, then the customers will also be similar."
He looked toward his watch as he said that. "The lunch break is over, so I have to head back to La Faust Academy soon," he continued boastfully.
"The negotiations will come to an end here."
The auntie tried to stop him, but it was useless.
"If you don't want a lawyer to get involved, please bring the letter of acceptance to La Faust Academy by the end of tomorrow. Goodbye."
Letting out a laugh at the end, the young man disappeared through the door, leaving the chime of the bell behind him.
When he left, the auntie fainted.
Dyed brown-kun hurried to support his mother. He laid her down on the sofa in back and hurriedly turned the store sign from "Open" to "Preparing."
Back in the store, dyed brown-kun was crouching down looking like he was about to cry.
"Hey, you okay?"
Kei moved to his side and stared at him worriedly.
However, there was no way he was okay given the crisis of his mother's store being bought out.
"Uwahhh, seriously, what should I do? If there's a lawyer, it's bad! There's no way we could win…"
Saying so, dyed brown-kun tore at his hair.
"H-Hey… Wouldn't it help if you gathered signatures?"
Top knot-kun strained his lacking brain and suggested in order to help his friend. However, dyed brown-kun shook his head and rejected that plan.
"Mom gathered 'em. She got help from the regulars. But that big-headed guy just brushed them aside."
Looking at the despondent dyed brown-kun, Meru was also overcome by the feeling of being unable to endure further. It was likely that the mother and son duo had no chances of success.
"It's because this store is a memento from my old man. Mom doesn't wanna part with it…but it's impossible… Tomorrow, I'll take the letter of acceptance over. I'll take the day off from club activities."
Dyed brown-kun said and stood up.
"Sorry for this, after you went through all the effort to come here."
"You don't have to care about us, but…"
Kei and top knot-kun were at a loss for words.
They couldn't help either.
"Well, even if this store closes, I won't change schools or anything, so it's okay."
Dyed brown-kun said with a smile.
If the young master from La Faust Academy provided sufficient support and capital, the mother and son duo wouldn't have any troubles.
Even knowing that, the reason that they resisted him so much was because this store was important…
"…Hey, if you're going to the academy, is it okay if I go with you?"
When Meru, who had been silent up to this point, spoke, Kei, dyed brown-kun, and top knot-kun all raised their heads. The three of them stared at Meru with strange expressions, and she smiled wryly.
"I want to take a look at La Faust Academy."
Dyed brown-kun looked in puzzlement at Meru who said something so carefree. However, he was just going to hand over the letter of acceptance, so it didn't matter who accompanied him.
"It's fine, but…?"
Kei was looking at Meru strangely. He didn't know why she was planning to go with.
But since Meru was going, Kei naturally said that he would go as well. For some reason, top knot-kun also decided to go along.
Meru and the others left the store after finishing their Napolitan. With the current situation, they couldn't continue to hang around in the store.
"Ahh, I can't believe this store is going to close."
Top knot-kun was at his wits' end.
"Let's try asking them once more before they hand over the letter of acceptance."
Kei said, continuing to console top knot-kun. Kei also didn't want this store to close down.
Looking at those two, Meru took a breath.
In any case, they would be heading to La Faust Academy in the neighboring town tomorrow.
Right now, Meru was thinking of a reason to leave the student council early.
Of course, she had no way of knowing that this visit to La Faust Academy would be the rising of the curtain on brand new troubles.
1 In j.a.pan, when a school event falls on a weekend (usually a Sunday to allow parents who work during the week/on Sat.u.r.days the chance to come see), the following Monday is often a day off to compensate. Schools still sometimes do Sat.u.r.day cla.s.ses, so Sunday becomes the true "weekend." Side note, the “revised edition” is something in the original work. I didn't revise anything.
The author went to the trouble of giving Tooru and Ryuu names, and then proceeded to call them top knot-kun and dyed brown-kun the entire time. I cannot. LMAO.
Also, sorry y'all. Last time I said that things had calmed down, but apparently saying that enraged Murphy. Everything proceeded to get even worse in every imaginable way. :') Anyway, I still can't promise consistent releases yet, but I'm aware of how annoying it is to wait 10 years for the translator, so I apologize. Seriously.
That said, this was a really long chapter lol.
Side note, the “revised edition” is something in the original work. I didn't revise anything.