-Start of Arc 4: Winter of the Ancestors-
“Seiren-samaa, good morni-ng!”
I was awaken by Oriza-san’s cheerful voice this morning as well. After I sluggishly got up from the bed, ah- for some reason, the morning’s cold air quickly invaded. Uh-, so cold, so cold.
“M-morning… Uh-, so cold-.”
“It’s inevitable, since it’s winter after all! We have put up the fire in the fireplace, and Minoa will quickly come here while bringing some hot water-.”
When I tried to return to the bed, I was stopped by Oriza-san who smiled cheerfully. This is better than being stripped away from the bedcover, though. Yup.
Or rather, when I glanced a bit, certainly there was fire inside the fireplace. Since I still felt the cold air earlier, it seemed that the fire was still warming up the room.
“Thank you-…Or rather, Oriza-san is full of spirit, huh-?”
“I can’t go on if I am not full of spirit-. After all, cold weather is still cold no matter what.”
“I guess so.”
In the middle of our conversation, Minoa-san entered and said, “Good morning,” while bringing some hot water. After I wiped my face with the wet towel, I did my best and changed my clothes.
After Leo-san returned to the capital, autumn passed by in no time. No well, Tou-san was also busy with something or another just like Taiga-san, and I also diligently studied.
Now, the season is the cold winter. Ah-, there’s also a penetrating cold even in this world. I now totally understand why they’d design the carpet quite thick.
What’s slightly interesting is that though we used magic for the light, for the heating, we used a fireplace and some firewoods. I wonder what’s so different about the two of them?
Well, in the other world, we’re using electricity to generate light, and as for heating, we could use gas and also kerosene, so I think it’s something similar to this?
Anyway, as usual, there is a special week in winter, which is the Week of the End of the Year. Once it ends, then it will become a new year.
Now then, about the end of this year. To put things bluntly, it eems like there are things such as winter solstice, Christmas, and New Year—furthermore, there’s even Halloween here. What a thing!
According to the legend, the God of Sun who created this world was said to get tired and had his power weakening during winter. Then, after recovering from it, it will become the spring.
Then, the coldest period of winter is when the God of Sun’s power is the weakest, so apparently, evil spirits will come to commit mischief. Therefore, everyone made a ruckus with the End of the Year’s Festival in order to drive away the evil spirits and to let the God of Sun recover calmly at the same time.
…In short, the people of this world like to be merry. Since the god also likes things to be lively, the people would absolutely love that as well.
“How is it going with the wrapping up of the sweets?”
“Hmmm, it’s around halfway. It’s quite difficult to do the last step of tying the ribbon.”
“It’s quite a sensitive work, right? I’m also a little stuck, so why don’t we do it together?”
“Ah, that’s a nice idea.”
Oh well, since it’s also mixed with Halloween, there’s also the distribution of sweets during the Week of the End of the Year. It was targeted specially for the children, but there’s no problem at all even if we give sweets to adults.
Which is why, in order that we can participate in the distribution, our Shiiya household is also preparing the sweets. We entrusted the making of the sweets to some professionals, and Kaa-san and I were entrusted the tasks of wrapping those sweets. Obviously, we also did it together with the maids, and just like the conversation from earlier, Kuon-sensei was also helping out.
The sweets were made just barely at the last moment so that they won’t get spoiled despite it being winter, and naturally, it puts on more pressure to the ones who’re in charge of wrapping them up afterward. Since it seems like we can’t do anything else other than to do it one by one, well, that’s quite a great amount of time and efforts.
For that reason, the study time that started at the noon was quickly changed into candy wrapping time just like that. Well, let’s say that my reading and writing skills have reached the level where I wouldn’t be troubled for the time being, so it’s fine, I guess. My correspondence with Taiga-san also continued with the pace of one weekly letter, so it seemed to have shown a good result on my study, too. Well, it’s only reading and writing, though.
The sweets made this year were cookies, and we took around two pieces of them and wrapped them in a scrap of cloth. After bundling four corners of the cloth and tied the cord, we also have to tie a multicolored ribbon on top of it, then everything’s completed. Then, we put them all inside a big box. I don’t know how many are made in total, but it seems that there are 3 columns that are my part, and if worse comes to worst, then there will be a total of 4 columns.
“Ah, that’s right, Seiren-sama-.”
During a break that we took in the middle of it, Oriza-san began the conversation while making a tea. Incidentally, the tea snacks these days have been the failed or chipped or cracked sweets. Yup, otherwise it’d be a waste, since the taste itself doesn’t really change as it remains delicious.
“During the Week of the End of the Year, perhaps the ancestors would appear, so please be careful.”
What’s up with the sudden mention of that? Or rather, the ancestors in this case are perhaps the so-called people who are equal to the deceased people who have become guardian spirits after the reburial process, huh? Well, in other words…
“Yuzuruha-san told me-. It seems that he has ever seen the Shiiya family’s ancestors-.”
There’s the story about how the ancestors would appear as the weakening God of Sun’s proxy in order to patrol the riotous violent spirits. And while they’re at it, they also come to look at their descendants’ circumstances, is it?
But that is only a legend, right? By them appearing, is this the winter’s ghost story? Or perhaps I should say, so there also exists such things as the spirits appearing for that kind of purpose in this world too, huh? Wow.
“Yeah, I have also heard about it. My timing is quite bad, so I couldn’t see it, but Alica has ever experienced it twice or three times.”
Minoa-san who packed the cookies who have been completely wrapped up said words that went in an agreement with Oriza-san’s words. I guess since Alica-san has ever seen them, it means that it isn’t like a ghost story, but instead, it is an ordinary story in a sense, or is it?
Now then, what about the other person who hasn’t joined in the conversation yet?
“Have Kuon-sensei seen them, too?”
“Well, now that you mention it, not in the least. Though it seems that they will mostly appear latw at night, they don’t appear in the house where I and my grandfather live in.”
Kuon-sensei was smiling as she bit the crunchy cookie which was broken right in half.
…Hey, Sensei. Could that possibly be due to the barrier that Jigen-sensei erected in the mansion?
“Yeah. If it’s the ancestors of the Shiiya family, they do appear at times.”
When I came across Yuzuruha-san before meal and tried to ask him, he calmly nodded.
“They appeared in recent years and specially during the year when we welcomed Saryuu-sama. Not only in the Shiiya family, but in the other families that have continued for quite a long time, apparently they also come to see the conditions of their descendants during the year when something important occurs.”
“Did they seriously appear…?”
“Yes. They stayed in the mansion for a few days, then they will return after that.”
..He nodded very seriously. It seems to be a honest answer. Or rather, it seems that they are treated like some guests who visit during the winter.
By important thing occuring to their descendants, in this case, it’s the birth or the adoption of an heir, huh? Well, for this kind of a world where the heredity system is imposed widely, certainly it’s an important matter.
“Since Seiren-sama was separated from this mansion as soon as you were born, it seems that the ancestors would come to see you at the end of this year, doesn’t it?”
“To see me?”
“Yes. After all, you’re their descendant and they haven’t met you yet immediately after you were born.”
…Is that so?
At the end of the year when I was born, I was already gone from this house. The ancestors haven’t got the chance to see me yet.
Wait, no, no, no.
Is that why they appear as a spirit? Is that fine though, dear ancestors? Also, god, are you fine with that arrangement, too? About how it was said that this all occurred during the god’s weakest period and such things.
“…And how do they look when they appear?”
“Aah, from their appearance alone, they don’t change that much from how the people usually look like, so please be at ease. It’s just that their feet would be slightly transparent, and we can’t touch them.”
To put it simply, it seems like the ancestors are ghosts. Ah- well, I’d better be careful so that I won’t be too surprised if they do appear. Or rather, I feel like they’d understand my circumstances and would take that into consideration, for some reason.
After dinner, I continued my work restlessly. Ah-, I remembered that time when I helped out the wrapping of the Christmas presents at the institution. With some money, we collected things like stationaries and then wrapped them using cheap wrapping papers and tape. The last step was to tie the ribbon.
Since I know that the orphanage director was doing that up until alte at night, I also occasionally helped out. After we were done, he’d say, “Thanks-,” and brought me a hot cocoa. He knows that it’s my favorite, after all.
…As I was indulging in my memories, I realized that it was already quite late when I looked at the clock. I quickly started to tidy everything up, as if we didn’t do that quickly, the maids wouldn’t be able to get enough sleep. Since I was still awake, they also couldn’t sleep ahead of me. That’s why I was able to lead a healthy life, though.
“Good night, Seiren-sama.”
“ Night-. Thanks for your hard work.”
After we tidied up, I crawled into my bed. Thanks to the hot water container, I felt warm inside even during my Circulation.1 That’s why, it was quite tough for me when morning came.
Ah really-, perhaps because I unconsciously was eager to do it, my hands are now heavy. For the time being, I have heated them in the hot water, but I wonder if my hands would be okay tomorrow?
After I hugged the hot water container that was packed inside of a pouch, I became sleepy. Ah really-, this is a justice in the winter.2 I’m so sleepy, let’s sleep, then…
[Fou-nd you!] “…?!”
No, as expected, one would wake up and jump up to one’s feet when you heard someone’s whisper close to your ear.
Or well, who was it? That voice just now isn’t Minoa-san’s, Oriza-san’s, or even Alica-san’s. Much less Kaya-san’s or Kaa-san’s, or rather, when I tried to look over at my surroundings after waking up, there was no one around. Nah, it was completely dark, though.
I heard that voice again. When I turned around, there, or on top of my pillow to be exact, I could see a faint figure.
…Or well, I could clearly tell that it’s a blond-haired Onee-sama who seemed to be highly domineering.3
She seems to be the ancestor who came to see me.