My heels clicked as I strode down the sidewalk. There was no sound of anyone following behind me.
Finally-almost there. I could see the tall tower with the school emblem-a pointed, eight petaled flower-rising up beyond the outer wall. It was a magnificent sight, befitting the school that held the title "The Highest." Unconsciously, I quickened my pace, eager to arrive at the auditorium so that I could practice my speech.
Or so I told myself.
Despite the lack of sound, I knew that someone was following me. Although I could not detect his presence in the slightest, I knew that he was trailing in my wake, shortening his strides to match my pace, always exactly three steps behind.
Of course, it was only natural that this person should be there. If he was not by my side, then where would he be?
So why does his presence bother me so much...?
Shaking off these thoughts, I focused on the task ahead. Right now, I should be thinking of how best to please my upperclassmen and make a favorable impression on my teachers, not mulling over why I feel uncomfortable in the presence of my own bodyguard.
...Yes, I have a bodyguard. Although, in my family we use the term "Guardian" to refer to these individuals. The difference being that a bodyguard protects so that he can eat, while a Guardian eats so that he can protect. Basically, a Guardian's whole life is devoted to protecting their principle, and they do not even have the option to quit. Aside from dying, the only way for a Guardian to be relived of their duties is if their principle decides to let them leave.
Again, I shook my head. Why was I thinking of such things? I should be focusing on my upcoming speech.
Every year, only two hundred students were accepted into this prestigious school out of the hundreds who applied and took the exam. And then, from among them, the top entrant was selected to be the Freshman Representative and give a speech at the school's opening ceremony. It was like being named valedictorian on the first day of school.
As the one granted this honor, I was obligated to set the tone for the new students. And I couldn't do that if I was constantly concerned over someone who was, if I spoke cruelly, just a tool to be used and then thrown away.
Straightening my back, I strode through the front gates of the National Magic University affiliated First High School, completely ignoring the looks I received from the upperclassmen who were already there. I have often been told that I possess a remarkable beauty, that even actresses in the entertainment industry cannot rival. While this sometimes makes it easier for me to get what I want, it is infinitely more troublesome in all other regards. I have enough false flattery heaped upon me because of my abilities and status without adding my looks into the mix.
After entering the grounds and finding a secluded spot where no one was around, I finally turned to my 'shadow,' who had followed me all the way here. "I'm going to the auditorium," I informed him. "You probably won't be able to follow me in. You should wait here until the ceremony starts."
He bowed to me. "As you wish, Ojou-sama," he said simply. His face and voice were, as usual, without expression. I could never tell what this person was thinking.
Squashing down my irritation, I turned on my heel and left.
The assembly was long and tedious, but I refrained from fidgeting in my chair. After all, as a participant of the ceremony, not to mention someone who was in full view up on stage, manners dictated that I sit composedly and wait for my turn to speak. The event was being recorded for posterity, and I would not be remembered as the Freshman Rep who couldn't even sit patiently through the Principal's speech.
Finally, it was my turn. I stood up, feeling all eyes on me, and strode to the podium. There was a collective intake of breath as the lights struck my visage fully for the first time. Ignoring it as usual, I commenced my speech.
"I thank you for your words of welcome," I began. "Representing the freshman, I am proud to be a member of First High School. Fellow students, we should all study hard together, and work towards improving ourselves in all aspects..."
As I continued my speech, I had to consciously stop myself from looking for that person in the crowd. Of course, he would be there. He had to be. After all, my Guardian was an incoming freshman as well.
I know it may be strange to think that the one entrusted with defending my life was only a high school student, but when I consider that this person was assigned to protect me at the tender age of six, it seems less strange, if only by comparison. At the time, I myself was only five, so perhaps another reason this seems normal to me is that it has been going on for so long it would seem stranger not to have him by my side.
As I finished my speech, thunderous applause rang out. In the midst of it all, I caught sight of one head that was not turned my way. A boy in one of the back rows, while still applauding, was too busy conversing with the girls next to him to even look at me. A rare occurrence, almost to the point of being unique. I was not overly offended, since I knew that the reason I was receiving so much attention in the first place was primarily because of my looks, but I was still a little annoyed.
As the boy turned back around, I realized to my shock that he was my usually silent and stoic Guardian. The slight expression I thought I saw on his face melted away as soon as our eyes met. But he had just been talking, if not animatedly, then at least politely with those other girls. Why would he talk so willingly with them, but never with me...?
Suddenly flustered, I wondered irritatedly if these girls were really so interesting. Craning my neck slightly to see over the crowds, I caught sight of their faces. One had shocking, vibrant red hair matched with a beautiful face that had traces of European ancestry, at least from what I could see from so far away. The other, surprisingly, wore glasses and was rather cute.
Ah, please do not misunderstand me. I do not mean that she was cute in spite of her glasses, but rather that it was rare for anyone to wear glasses in this day and age. I wondered if it was a fashion statement or something...
Well, even if it was, it was no business of mine. Forcibly dragging my attention away from this scene and any emotions it may have evoked, I turned to the approaching Student Council President, Mayumi Saegusa.
One could tell from her name that she was a member of the Ten Master Clans. Unsurprisingly, she was also in a position of authority over the student body. Since First High School was a proponent of student autonomy, her position as President of the Student Council carried a surprising amount of weight. As our eyes locked, she smiled graciously at me, and I returned her smile without any hesitation.
"That was quite the speech," she congratulated me. "I especially liked the parts where you talked about everyone working together, and how you didn't place a lot of emphasis on magical ability."
I stiffened. "Magical ability is not nearly as important as how magic is utilized." That was one lesson I had taken to heart after my Guardian had repeatedly beaten me in mock combat despite an overwhelming inferiority in all things related to magic.
However, not everyone had this kind of experience under their belts and many magicians seemed to assume that magic was an end, as opposed to a means. As I was not sure what President Saegusa believed, I would have to tread cautiously here.
But she only continued to smile, and said earnestly, "No, I wasn't trying to point any fingers. Its actually the opposite. In fact, the Student Council is looking for-"
But at that moment we were rudely interrupted by another student. By the looks of him, he was another first year. Barging straight up to us, he apologized hastily to President Saegusa and then turned to me. "You were amazing up there," he exclaimed. "As expected of the Freshman Rep, you're pretty and smart as well. Fitting the title of bloom, you're like a flower budding amongst us the highest."
He continued to rave on about my looks and skills, while I smiled and nodded and did my best to tune him out. I hate this kind of false flattery that is only used to cover up someone's jealousy or get them something they want.
However, one thing he'd said did get my attention, if only for the wrong reasons. He'd called me a bloom, referring to the eight-petaled flower that was emblazoned on the left chest area of my jacket. It was the emblem of our school, so naturally it wouldn't be strange for it to be on my school uniform.
What was strange was that not all the students had it on their uniforms. Of the two hundred students that were accepted every year, the top hundred were called course one students, and had the emblem on their uniforms. They also received personal instruction from the very limited number of magic instructors. On the other hand, the bottom hundred entrants were course two students who could not receive instruction, and also did not bear the eight-petaled flower on their uniforms.
The slang phrases used to refer to these two groups were "bloom" and "weed" due to the presence or lack of a flower. The term "weed" was actually considered derogatory and was banned at this school, or so I had heard. While this kind of discrimination bothered me, I was not going to make a big deal out of it on my first day, especially because I was being called a bloom, which was not considered offensive.
However, I couldn't help but imagine what my Guardian would feel if he were called a weed. Yes, that person was a second course student. Why would someone weaker than me be assigned to protect me, you ask? I often wondered that myself. Still, his combat prowess clearly exceeded mine, so perhaps it wan't that much of a misplaced assignment.
Once more shaking these thoughts from my head, I stared out over the crowd of people who had joined that first year student in congratulating me. Ardently wishing to be somewhere else, I half turned towards the Student Council President.
Seeing my look and taking pity on me, she came over at once and said, "Aren't you supposed to go back with your brother? You shouldn't keep him waiting."
While her words surprised me and I rather wished she had come up with some other excuse, I still knew a way out when I saw one. Swallowing and nodding, I said, "That's right!" Pasting a smile on my face, I turned to the people around me and said, "Excuse me, but I really do have to go." And with that, I followed the president out.
We walked a little ways in silence (depressingly, I noticed that my admirers seemed to be following a little ways away), but eventually my curiosity won out and I had to ask. "Excuse me," I repeated, "but how did you know that my brother was waiting for me?"
"Oh," she laughed, "I met him outside. I wanted to talk to him because he's been quite the hot topic among the teachers lately."
I wondered if that was because of the fact that even though he was the elder brother of the Freshman Rep, he flat out couldn't use any magic. Thinking about that, I politely kept quiet.
"Yep," President Saegusa continued, oblivious to my thoughts, "it really is amazing, isn't it? On the written portion of the exam, he got the highest score in the history of First High School! Especially in the subjects of Magic Engineering and Magic Theory, he got a perfect score for both! And he had an overall average of ninety-six percent... Shiba-san is amazing, but your brother is also amazing! Eh, Shiba-san, what's wrong?" she added, peering up at my suddenly pale face.
"It's nothing," I said as calmly as I could. I congratulated myself for not stuttering. This had come as a complete shock to me, so naturally I would be a little rattled, but at least I had managed to cover it up slightly.
I distracted myself from thinking about what the president had said with these self-congratulatory thoughts. The president seemed to realize she had hit a nerve, and chose to remain quiet for the rest of our walk. However, her words kept echoing in the back of my mind regardless.
Highest score in the history of First High School... Perfect score in Magic Engineering and Magic Theory... Ninety-six percent average...
I had always known that person was good at studying. In fact, in terms of paper grades all throughout our elementary and middle school years, he easily dominated the field no matter how hard I tried. However, I had always thought that I would be better at magic related tests...
The next thing I knew, we were outside and approaching a familiar figure. My Guardian stood off to the side, talking with the two girls he'd been sitting next to in the auditorium. Feeling a sudden flare of annoyance, I stalked forward and leveled a withering glare at him.
"How interesting, are you going on dates with your classmates already?"
I know that this is an unfair charge. I know that I am being rude and incorrigible towards this person, to say nothing of how I was treating the two girls beside him. But the accumulated stress from the speech and what happened after needed an outlet, and before I knew it I was taking it out on this person.
For a moment I thought I saw confusion pass across his face like a ripple across a still pond. Then he said, "No, we were just chatting with each other while we waited. These two are going to be in the same class as me..."
"Hi!" said the girl with the red hair enthusiastically. "I'm Erika Chiba. It's nice to meet you."
"I'm Mizuki Shibata," the girl with the glasses added shyly. "It's a pleasure."
"Hello," I replied. "I'm Miyuki Shiba. And I'm sorry for saying weird things," I added in apology, already feeling guilty for losing my cool.
"No biggie," said Erika. "Hey, do you mind if I call you Miyuki?"
"...Sure," I said after a moment of hesitation. Since we were in different classes it seemed unlikely that we would converse that often, but I did not want to appear rude in front of these girls any more than I already had. "May I call you Erika?" Erika gave her blessing to this, and Mizuki chimed in that I could call her by her first name as well.
"You know, when Tatsuya said he was waiting for someone, I didn't think he meant the Freshman Rep herself," Erika continued in a vaguely surprised tone. As I tried to cover my amazement that she was already referring to my Guardian by my first name, she added, "So what's the relationship between you two?"
Apparently, Erika was the kind of girl who was very forward with people she had just met. As I tried to come up with a response, Mizuki muttered, "Eh? I thought it was obvious. Aren't you two siblings?"
After a stunned silence wherein the three of us gazed unblinkingly at Mizuki, causing her to blush beet red, Erika suddenly snapped her gaze from him to me and back. "Oh," she said, "I see. Now that I look closely, you do kind of resemble one another. Huh. You have a good eye, Mizuki."
Mizuki looked vaguely uncomfortable at this remark. Under ordinary circumstances I would have wondered why, but right now I was too busy feeling uncomfortable myself.
Yes, it was true. My Guardian, who had scored far higher than me in the written test but far lower in the practical exam, who was labeled by the school elite as a "weed" and called me "Ojou-sama", and who was meant to act as a human shield and throw his life away for mine if necessary was also-
-my older brother.
Well, who were you expecting her Guardian to be? XD
This idea has been bugging me ever since I read Reminiscence, so I decided to write a chapter about it, and it turned out well enough that I wanted to put it up here and see what everybody else thought. So what do you think? *hint*Review*hint*
I'm planning on continuing this (eventually), but there's not going to be any set release schedule because I'm currently in the middle of writing another multi-chapter fanfic which DOES have a schedule (that I am desperately trying to keep) so I'll probably only write for this when I have time until that one's over. But I won't forget about this story. Promise.
Anyway, thanks for reading my little experiment. Hope you enjoyed it!