“What’s with you all of the sudden?” Shinichi asked.
Before Frire knew it, she was clinging tightly to the boy’s hand.
She hadn’t rejected him and just let him do as he pleased, so the boy looked at her anxiously, but then Frire smiled.
Because she saw the boy’s concern for her.
‘Which part of that is supposed to be the face of a terrorist concerned about others?’ she thought.
“…It’s nothing. I just wanted to touch your hand,” she said.
“R-Right…” Shinichi said.
An excuse that wasn’t really an excuse. Was she just wanting for human warmth?
Before long she even started rubbing her cheeks against his hand.
He was supposed to be younger than her, but for some reason, he gave off a feeling that resembled that of a father.
Or perhaps, it would be better to describe the air about him to be that of an older brother’s, but regardless, it was so comfortable that Frire let her guard down completely.
It was rare for the boy to be so troubled, but she didn’t notice that and just immersed herself in the comfort brought by his warmth.
A strange warmth that was both different and yet reminiscent of the comfort her older brother had given her.
That’s why she found it so nostalgic and came to a conclusion on her own.
“──────I promise you, Nakamura Shinichi.”
When they’d first met, his wanton display of selfishness had left her at a loss, but after seeing him express her concern for her in the strangest ways, she now wanted to cling to him.
She knew she shouldn’t, both as an adult and as a teacher, but she feared losing this warmth even more.
“For as long as I live, I’ll try to do my best not to become your enemy.”
That’s why she imitated him and swore that.
She left it at ‘try’ because she wasn’t bold enough to declare it with certainty, but she also believed that as long as he doesn’t choose the wrong path, they would never meet each other as enemies.
It was a small vow compared to his, which was born from an earnest wish and his deep-seated timidity, but regardless, it took the boy by surprise, and he found himself shyly scratching his cheeks.
It was then that she finally realized that a strange expression had found its way on his face.
“You’re blushing? I didn’t intend anything weird by promising that, but… I see, so even you can make a face like that.”
Frire nodded as though she’d discovered something interesting, but the boy frowned.
Unfortunately for him, his blushing face just made him look adorable.
Frire laughed all the more at that, and the boy couldn’t help himself, but retort by ruffling her hair with his other hand.
“H-Hey, stop it—!”
“…I feel so embarrassed for misunderstanding…”
Shinichi hid his true intentions behind that complaint.
He had made a habit of reading in between the lines, so sometimes he would end up reading in between the lines even though there was nothing to read.
That’s why her words resounded in his ears as ‘I will always be your ally’, and his thoughts froze there.
When on top of that she even rubbed her cheeks against his hand, there was no way he could remain unaffected.
But of course, the reason behind his blush was actually because he realized he was reading too deeply into her words.
“U-Uu, you’re such a kid sometimes..”
Believing he’d ruffled her hair as payback for laughing at him, she glared at the boy, and pushed down on her ruffled hair. Because of that she had to let go of his hand.
His hand free, Shinichi opened and closed it as though he didn’t know what to do with it..
“…I don’t want to be told that by someone who’s still a kid inside… Anyway, go get some sleep already. You’re just too sincere for your own good. You didn’t even sleep when I carried you because you didn’t want me to carry you while you’re just sleeping, right?”
Shinichi said as he hit her lightly on the head to hide his own embarrassment.
He was right, so she didn’t have any words to rebut with, but wasn’t he the same?
Apparently, that showed on her face, as Shinichi sighed, but this time he gently caressed her head.
“I’ve been getting more sleep than you at least… I’ll wake you up at lunchtime, so just treat me then. I need a ton of calories to make up for all that sweat,” Shinichi childishly said in a spoiled and innocent manner.
Frire opened her eyes wide at that, but she immediately frowned and wryly smiled.
“You’re a kid only when it’s convenient for you, huh… Fine, fine, I’ll treat you. There’s a steak house I frequent, how about eating there?”
“Sure, I’ll eat until your wallet’s empty.”
“Sounds promising,” Frire smiled at that, and bid him goodnight, then she closed her eyes.
As soon as she did, all strength left her body, and she started breathing in a regulated manner.
“Wow, that was quick, almost as quick as a certain primary school student that wears glasses.”
Was she just that tired or was she just the sort who could sleep easily?
As an expert who’d tricked his own servant by feigning sleep, she was definitely asleep this time.
“Hmm… But this time she left herself defenseless on her own volition. If she trusts me that much, I won’t feel like playing a prank on her anymore…”
‘How annoying,’ his expression seemed to say, but he watched over her sleeping face with a smile nonetheless.
〈Judging from the tone of your voice being gentler than usual, it can be inferred that you initially didn’t intend for this. 〉
“…Hey, don’t start analyzing people on your own now.”
But of course that was until an unassuming artificial intelligence interrupted him.
Shinichi glared at the terminal equipped on Frire’s arm, but of course, it wouldn’t care, it was a machine.
〈I beg your pardon. 〉
The AI said that, but it was clearly just an apology programmed into it for the sake of being diplomatic.
“What’s the point of an AI being so glib? Ah, whatever… More importantly, does this girl even have any money on her?”
〈The change in topic is too abrupt. Moreover, the intentions are unknown. Please make your objectives clearer. 〉
“I need to adjust my appetite according to the size of her wallet. Wouldn’t actually want to make her broke, now, would I?”
〈I finally understand what the master meant. There is indeed a discrepancy in your mental age and actual age.〉
“To be precise, it’s all over the place.”
Just awhile ago he’d declared that he’d eat enough to empty her wallet, but evidently, there was a big difference between his conduct and other children his age.
But of course the person himself was aware of that, and he even provided more information to the AI’s judgment.
Regardless, the AI had judged his reason to be proper, so she went ahead and explained.
〈The master receives a pension as a member of the ten great nobles, but it is limited by the operating funds of the territory. On the other hand, roughly 90% of her earnings from the army are still with her. Even if you eat every menu from all of Kutoria, you won’t even be able to knock 5% off that, so please feel free to order what you want.〉
“So in other words, she had a huge salary, but never used it, and it just piled up?”
As it turns out, that was the only part about her that looked exactly as her image suggested – a private life that’s all work and no play.
〈 Yes. It is a virtue, a lifestyle with zero financial problems.〉
“…That’s definitely an answer you were programmed to give.”
Shinichi noticed that Shirayuki’s response was a little off, so a certain possibility popped up in his head.
〈 Yes. I have been programmed to try and appeal should a male that meets certain criteria appear. 〉
“What in the world was your developer thinking?”
Frire’s friend was jut too playful with her, Shinichi frowned.
Though if Frire were awake, she would have surely retorted, saying, I don’t want to hear that from you!
〈 The developer’s comment was recorded; allow me to play it for you. 『 We have some tier-1 goods right here, but it’s pathetic how no one makes a move because it’s too good and overpriced. None of the men that approach even dare take a look what’s inside, and even when they do, they can’t see anything anyway. It’s sooo annoying. 』 Is what she said. 〉
For a moment, Shinichi found himself blinking when the lively words of a woman suddenly resounded, but immediately after, a gentle smile appeared on him.
“That’s a good friend she has there… But no, I’m sure it goes both ways, being a good friend, that is.”
Impressions and aspirations, huh.
As Shinichi gently muttered that to himself, he combed Frire’s messy hair.
It might’ve been his imagination, but for some reason, the expression on her sleeping face became happier.
“…Hmm, to both thank and apologize her for this incident, maybe I should come up with a fitting prank? Fu fu fu.”
Without anyone knowing it, a boy laughing like a villain started his schemes.
The only thing certain was that this would later become a story that would make someone’s stomach hurt.