She was the third daughter of Marquis Calibrachoa, and while it may sound like sarcasm coming from such a genius as I, she was rather intelligent for a nine-year-old. She had enchanting chestnut colored hair and mahogany eyes that suggested much coldness. She was one of the very few people that I could show my true self to, and she was also my best friend.
“Well, I’ve given my opinion now. May I return to my book? I hate being interrupted while reading almost as much as I hate speaking with my older sisters.”
“Of course you may not. You must listen to what I say.”
Those were incredibly icy words, but I was not such a weak person that I could be shot down by that alone.
First, I confiscated the book from Surfania, who was already starting to flip the pages when she pretended to ask for my permission.
Her hands stretched out in an attempt to retrieve the book, but Surfania was quite small for her age. She was nearly the same height as Mishuli who was seven years old. On the other hand, I had grown tall and healthy. Once the book was raised high above my head, there was no chance of her ever reaching it.
“Give it back. You better give it back!”
Surfania was on her toes and reaching out desperately, but it was all a wasted effort for her. I had no intention of returning it. In the first place, it was unfathomably rude to try to read when someone was trying to have a conversation right in front of you.
I looked up at the book I was holding and skimmed through it with a sigh.
“I can’t believe you are still reading these popular entertainment novels.”
I only needed to read a few lines to tell that it was an adventure story.
I read books for the purpose of increasing my own knowledge, but the books that Surania preferred were different.
She had an obsession with reading the kinds of adventure novels that were popular on the filthy streets.
It was a complete waste of time and intellect. I sighed at the wastefulness of it all, but Surfania glared at me in return.
“What! What is wrong with reading adventure novels? I won’t forgive you for slandering these books. They are entertaining!”
“Of course it is wrong. You will only become stupid if you keep reading these.”
“No, I won’t. It won’t matter how many adventure novels I read, there is no possibility of me becoming a bigger idiot than you!”
Surfania gave me a most unfitting label as she started to hop around. By the way, Surfania was a bit of a shut-in and her athletic abilities were unfortunate at best. No amount of hopping about would give her the height needed to reach the book.
“If anything, you are living proof that no amount of educational texts will make a person truly wise. And yet that living proof is trying to mock adventure novels? That is something only an idiot would do. Chris, you really are an idiot after all!”
“You sure have a lot to say, Surfania. Who, is a what? Say it in front of the face of this genius one more time, if you have the courage.”
“You are incredibly stupid. Well, it’s true, isn’t it? What’s wrong with calling a spade a spade?”
“Surfania. What is it with your attitude today? Am I not the proud daughter of a duke? We are of the three great families. And more than anything, I am an officially invited guest. I am superior to you from every vantage point. You must treat me with more respect.”
“I refuse. I too am an illustrious daughter of a marquis. We are great enough not to bend to the wrongful authority of a duke. And first of all, a guest? What a laughable thing to say as someone who came without notice. Why must I entertain such a fool as you? That does not seem right… Ahhhh kyaan!”
Surfania had been hopping around so desperately that it was only inevitable she would eventually slip.
And of course, there was no question of her having the reflexes to recover her balance, and she fell on the floor as if she had been crushed.
That was most surprising.
“Oh, hey. Are you alright, Surfania?”
“…Of course, I am.”
I called to her frantically.
Surfania peeled her face off of the floor and slowly got back to her feet. She pretended to be calm, but there were tears near the corners of her eyes. She had hit the floor face first. That would have been painful in spite of the carpet.
“Whatever, just give me my book.”
“I couldn’t do anything if she was willing to go to such lengths. Surfania’s strong will had pushed me, and I had to return the book to its owner.
After she pulled the book out of my hands, Surfania held it tightly to her chest as if it were something precious.
“Hmph. That went according to plan.”
“Ah… oh. Is that so.”
She was insisting that she had fallen on purpose in order to get her book back. She was as proud as ever.
“But, to fall like that after jumping around a little… Don’t you think you should go outside once in a while?”
“I don’t want to.”
Perhaps it was because I had taken the book from her the last time, for she now kept it close and held it against her as we talked.
“A noble lady should wear gloves even when in her house and live without ever leaving her room. That is what I strive to do. I am not like some idiot duke’s daughter who runs around her garden and becomes sunburnt.”
She had to drag out my past mistakes and make such far-fetched arguments just to justify her seclusion. While what she was saying wasn’t necessarily wrong, if not a little over-generalized, she truly did have no intention of ever being a part of society. She was a true shut in.
Yet, she was high-born and the third daughter of Marquis Calibrachoa. One really wondered what went so wrong as to produce such a girl as this. I had to conclude that the Calibrachoa’s had made some fatal mistake in the education of their children. Yet the first and second daughters were talented young ladies. So perhaps it was just Surfania’s character. Most likely, Surfania had missed attaining honesty during her growth and left consideration for others in her mother’s womb.
And it was this Surfania who glared at me and said:
“And what of you then? Isn’t today the day that Prince Charles is to visit?”
“Hmm? Oh, I’ll leave by the time Charles arrives.”
“Hey, you should be sad about it.”
She turned away and ignored my request. She seemed very cat-like when she acted like this.
“Well, even if I do end up having to stay here longer or Charles comes too early, Mishuli will be there to entertain him. So do not worry.”
Within these past two years, Charles and Mishuli have met ever so often. As they were the same age, there were many times when they would speak to each other with less diffident words than they would have used with me.
My assurance that she should not worry had the effect of turning Surfania’s mood into something close to depression.
“Prince Charles will likely not even be there by the time you return.”
“And why is that?”
I didn’t understand how she could reply like that after I had explained why everything was all right. On top of that, Surfania had said ‘he won’t be there’ with an expression that might suggest, if not by accident, that he would be gone from this world.
“You are quite dense. You are such an idiot because you cannot see such things. Well, I’ve benefited a little, thanks to the extent of your stupidity, so I will not blame you too much.”
“I’m trying very hard to interpret that as a compliment, but it just sounds like an insult. Pray do tell, how exactly is it a benefit to you. Hmm?”
“It is simple. For the past two years since we first met, you’ve continued to come unannounced. And so my parents will leave my schedule free. Thanks to this, I have not been forced to participate in bothersome social gatherings. This increases the time I can dedicate to books. Chris, you are a great shelter from the wind.”
“Hey, Surfania. I’ve been thinking about this recently, but do you perhaps think that I cannot feel hurt, no matter what you say?”
“I know very well that your heart can be crushed easily, like a cheap hair ornament. But the thing is, Chris…”
Surfania was raised in such high-ranking nobility, that it was unlikely she had ever touched a cheap hair ornament in her life. She was young, but she was clever and pretty. There was now a cold smile on her face that matched her very well.
“It doesn’t matter how hurt your thoughtless heart becomes, my heart is tranquil. The adventure books that you disparage and call boring have always brought me emotions of many colors. But you are not able. No matter when I look at you, I can only see a fool.”
“Very well then. It will be war!”
Even I could no longer stay silent at this verbal attack without becoming angry. Along with my declaration, I pick up a board game that was lying around.
“It’s a contest! Let us begin, Surfania!”
Now, it may seem like I was just relying on whatever momentum I had, but this was the usual flow of our meetings.
We would have a small argument and then play a board game after that. Even Surfania had a liking for these kinds of games. She tried to act solemn all the time, but as a genius, I could see that she looked forward to playing these games that required an opponent in order to play.
“Fu fu fun. I will allow you the first move.”
The first move gave you a slight advantage in this game, but I did not mind. I was so full of confidence as I lined up the pieces that I happily accepted any handicaps. I’ve played against Surfania almost every time that I’ve visited, and so far I have won every single game.
“I am a genius after all. No mere disadvantage can shake me!”
“…You are right. I am inferior to you in regards to board games, and I have not read as many books as you have. But, Chris,”
Having finished lining the pieces, Surfania made the first move as she said:
“I don’t know why it is. That even if I am inferior to you in everything else, I don’t feel like I’ve ever lost an argument with you.”
“Oh, you’ve done it now.”
My best friend took her true feelings and stabbed me with them without restraint. But I was happy to react to this provocation.
“If you are going to go so far, then you should try and beat me then. Am I not a genius? I won’t lose a board game much less an argument so easily. After all, I was winning arguments against my father since I was five-years-old.”
“Yes, I know. …Ahh, that’s right, Chris. This is not related to what we were talking about, but as someone with two older sisters, let me give you a warning. …If you pay too much attention to your sister, she’ll start to find you obnoxious.”
“Uh, whaaa, no way!?”
While not at my level, this third daughter of a marquis had a bright mind. I could always refute father, but not always her, my argumentative rival.