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September’s story, with the Silver Clan.
The original Japanese text is kindly provided by .
Chrysanthemum Festival by Furuhashi Hideyuki
When German-sensei, that is, Adolf K Weissmann, a teacher for Ashinaka Academy, returned to his dorm room, he found his two roommates busy playing tag.
The fleeing side was represented by his roommate #1, a certain Ameno Miyabi also known as Neko, running chaotically through the room with a cloth wrapped bundle clasped in her hands. The one doing the chasing with his hand on the sword at his hip was the roommate #2, Yatougami Kuroh, or simply Kuroh. For the two possessing physical ability beyond normal for humans, jumping over the tea table and bed was not enough, as they kicked off the walls and ceiling, running about the narrow space across all its surfaces like 2 mice in a cage.
“I’m home. So what is this commotion about today?”
As he called out to them from the door, Neko immediately took it as her cue to slide behind Weissman’s back and use him as a shield, explaining, “Kuroh is a bully! He steals yummy things from me!”
“Enough! Just put that bundle where you got it!” Kuroh ordered, standing in front of Weissman. Crouching slightly, his stance was that of a man ready to draw his sword and strike at any moment, his ability and intensity being such that you wouldn’t put it past him to cut the two in front of him down in a single swing.
“Easy, easy, for starters, tell me what happened,” Weissman requested in his carefree manner, and the high-strung atmosphere of the room loosened. Kuroh relaxed from his battle-ready stance and Neko handed the bundle she was clutching to her chest over to Weissman, albeit reluctantly. Weismann held it out to Kuroh while giving it a once-over.
“This wrapping paper… looks like something from the Japanese confectionery shop downtown. It’s wrapped very nicely, is it a present for someone?”
“Uh-huh. I thought I’d give some confections on the Respect for the Aged Day to the benefactor from my home town I owe a lot to…”
“I suppose I have yet to mention the lady named Watanabe-san to you, do I…?”
“Oh, you did mention her, the old lady you’re indebted to from back when you were with Miwa-san, right?”
“Yeah. Like Ichigen-sama, she treated me as part of her family,” Kuroh nodded deeply.
“Mn!” Neko spoke up. “I’m indebted to grandma Watanabe, too! She fed me! It was yummy! I liked it!”
For a period, Kuroh and Neko wandered all across the country, trying to find out Isana Yashiro’s whereabouts. It was at that time that Neko accompanied Kuroh to the village where he grew up, and for a few days that she stayed there, she had been visiting the old lady Watanabe.
“That’s right! You, too, want to do something for Watanabe-san, right? So you can’t be eating the dorayaki I’ve prepared for her.”
“Ehh, it’s dorayaki?! But I love dorayaki, among other things!”
Kuroh dodged Neko who jumped at the bundle in his hands, now raised high overhead. “I told you, this is a gift for the Respect of the Aged Day. It’s not just snacks, they’re meant to express the feeling of respect towards the elderly.”
“Mn? …Mnmmn, true… grandma is really old…” Neko folded her hands, thinking hard, and then, “But I got older by a year, too, compared to last year, so it should be OK for me to have at least a mouthful…”
“What kind of logic is that!”
“Besides, I’m going to try hard next year and overtake you in age, and you won’t have any right to be all bossy with me anymore…”
“It doesn’t work that way. When a year passes, everyone gets older by a year. There’s no catching up or overtaking when it comes to age.”
“Ahaha… Say, Kuroh, that Watanabe lady, how old is she right now?”
“Hm…? A few years ago, she had celebrated her 70th birthday, so now she must be 70-something.”
“I see.” Weissmann, looking like he was up to something, flashed a mischevous smile. Usually fitting the description of a calm young man in his twenties, it was at times like this that he looked awfully young. “…That means she’s a lot younger than myself.”
As the Siver King imbued with the attribute of unchangeability, Adolf K Weissmann spent almost 70 years inside a private blimp. Possessing supernatural power capable of rewriting the world map, he, nonetheless, insisted on remaining a mere observer of the world below. It could be said that his position was the exact opposite of the attitude of his companion, the Gold King Kokujouji Daikaku who was taking an active part in national and international politics, employing all kinds of means, both clandestine and public. Perhaps, the Silver King’s voluntary isolation was a result of Weissmann’s wish to avoid friction and conflict with the powerful kings lining up down on the ground, but in the person in question’s own half-joking words, he led a life with his feet not planted firmly on the ground.
“Oh… It’s true, isn’t it,” Kuroh faltered and nodded seriously.
The strange air about Weissman, inexplicably combining naivete of a child and maturity of an old man in a young man’s body, stemmed from the unimaginable loneliness he had lived in. A glimpse of the grave history as an Ubermensch lurking behind the back of this man they considered their equal and friend was enough for Kuroh to stiffen, both mentally and bodily.
“…So, Kuroh, make sure you buy some dorayaki for me, too, on the Respect for the Aged Day, okay? A posh set with more of them than for Watanabe-san would do. I’m much older than her, after all,” Weissman chattered.
“Hm, I don’t really have objections…” Kuroh said evasively, feeling awkward and looking away. “But on the other hand, you don’t exactly strike anyone as an aged person. You don’t have enough presence or dignity for that. Aging without dignity and accomplishment is not the way to go.”
“Mmn~” Neko attempted to deliver a light kick to Kuroh who had entered what she dubbed as ‘unintelligible lecturing mode’.
Checking her attempt with one hand, Weissmann let out a chuckle, “Ahaha, I’ll just have to make up for what I’d skipped in life experience from now on, I guess.”
“That you must.”
The awkward exchange was awkward, complete with just as awkward encouragement. There still was some mutual reserve and hesitation when it came to topics like that.
Watching Weissman, Kuroh breathed a sigh of relief.
And that’s when the door ring chime resounded.
The visitors that had arrived to the three’s modest living room were several individuals in rabbit masks and kimono - the Usagi of the Gold clan. Formerly, they ruled the whole country as the extensions of Kokujouji Daikaku, but presently the Gold clan, Timeless Palace, withdrew from actively participating in government matters, and like a big old tree slowly withering, they seemed to dissolve their organization or, perhaps, were on the way of transforming it into a commonplace shape, independent of superpowers.
There had to be a special reason for these people who retired from their trade to pay a visit to Weissmann, a King.
“I would like to ask what business I owe this pleasure to,” Weissmann inquired ceremoniously.
“In accordance with the dying wish of His Excellency,” the head of the Usagi answered, “we called on you to congratulate you with the seasonal Chrysanthemum Festival, sir.”
Having arranged rice boiled with chestnuts, eggplant dishes and other traditional food in an amount enough for the three, as well as chrysanthemum sake for Weissmann, the Usagi bowed deeply and made themselves scarce.
“—One of the five annual festivals, the Double Ninth Festival, also known as the Chrysanthemum Festival, huh… Come to think of it, you were observing the Respect for the Aged day even back in your country.”
“Yeah, because the Lieutenant… Kokujouji Daikaku came from a line of exorcists, and they tend to be very particular about stuff like that, as I found out.”
“I see. Back to the present though, unexpectedly, I have been rid of the necessity to cook dinner. …I suppose I’ll spend the free time I suddenly have on my hands to write a letter.”
“Can I eat already?” Neko was reaching out for the food, and Kuroh said to her, “Neko, you come here, too. If you have a message for Watanabe-san, I’ll append it to my letter.”
Neko sat down next to Kuroh, who produced an inkstone case, placing it on the low tea table and starting to rub the ink stick, and peeked at what he was doing. They looked like siblings who got along just fine, and Weissmann couldn’t help a smile as he leaned against the wall and opened a slip of paper he held in hand.
It was a private message from Kokujouji Daikaku that the Usagi had left.
I pray for your longevity and good health. -signed: Daikaku
Evidently, he wrote it when he was still alive. Just one short line, but the solemn brush strokes of the written words expressed the writer’s character thoroughly, bringing his image to life in the mind’s eye: Kokujouji Daikaku, back ramrod straight, sitting at a low Japanese writing desk above the vast sea of clouds and writing with his brush…
“Hey, Kuroh, earlier…” Weissmann called out to Kuroh’s back. Although Kokujouji possessed a lot more dignity, perhaps there still were some core things that could be communicated through how you sit.
“Yes, what is it?” Kuroh turned to look over his shoulder, his brush suspended in midair.
“…Ah, no, nothing. Sorry, sorry.” Checking the words he was about say, Weissmann dropped his gaze to the slip of paper in his hands again.
—Earlier, you said that when a year passes, everyone gets older by a year, and that there is no catching up or overtaking when it comes to age… But it’s not quite true. Those in the sky don’t age, only those on the ground grow old. Those on the ground catch up and overtake those in the sky in age. That’s why in the past I didn’t age, only the Lieutenant did. And presently, it’s the opposite: the Lieutenant up in the sky doesn’t age, only I’m growing old, and the gap in distance and in altitude we had let open is now being closed, little by little…
Weissmann’s eyes swept to Kuroh and Neko.
“Hey, Kurosuke, Kurosuke. If you just write, 'Thank you, it was yummy’, it’ll make grandma much happier!” Neko was saying, while surreptitiously reaching for the bundle with dorayaki, until Kuroh slapped her hand away.
…That’s right, these little heartwarming scenes are what is going to leave age marks on me, one after another, from now on.
“Fufu… 'longevity’ and 'good health’, huh…” Weissmann smiled lopsidedly. “That slydog Lieutenant… he plans to make me into an even older geezer than he himself is, eh.”
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