Chapter 28 – I fell into a pinch
“How’s ‘Fortune Lover’ going? Did you beat it?”
During a break, my otaku friend A-chan asked me that with a smirk on her face.
“I was able to capture the self-important prince, but I still haven’t captured the evil sadistic prince…… The villainess rival’s quite amazing at getting in the way……”
As I sighed and said so, A-chan’s smirk became even larger.
“Hehe, I’ve already cleared all of it.”
“Ehh, you’ve already cleared it all!?”
“Mmm, not only the four capture targets, I’ve also cleared all the hidden ones too.”
As she said so, I looked at my otaku friend who was dauntlessly smiling with admiring eyes.
“As expected of A-chan~, so fast~. I guess there are hidden capture targets after all.”
“Yep, after you clear all four capture targets you’ll be able to go on their routes. By the way, do you want to know which characters they are?”
“Wait a minute, stop~~ spoilers are prohibited~~”
I said so and covered my ears, as A-chan’s smile was looking rather sinister.
“The hidden characters are~”
“No~ I don’t want to listen~~”
“Katarina-sama, it’s morning. Please wake up.”
“Mmm~, nooo, I don’t want to listen~”
“Katarina-sama, stop being half-asleep, and if you don’t get up soon, you’ll be late for classes.”
When I finally opened my eyes, I saw my maid Anne standing there next to me.
“Yes, good morning. Since you’re awake now, please prepare quickly.”
Anne was already briskly moving about, while my head still wasn’t working quite yet and I just stared blankly…… I tried to remember the dream I was having just up until now……
“Somehow…… I feel like that was a rather important dream……”
Anne replied to my muttering.
“Yeah, the dream I was having just up until now…… For some reason, I feel like it was a really important dream, but…… After waking up, I’ve forgotten it all~.”
“……Is that so…… You did seem to be saying something in your sleep…… But it didn’t sound like anything important……”
“Eh? Was that the case?”
Is that it, was it just my imagination? What kind of dream it was, I can’t remember at all…… Since Anne is saying so, that must be it.
Thinking that it was an important dream was probably just my imagination. And so I reached a conclusion, and began preparing to go to school.
It’s already been more than half a year since I’ve enrolled in school, and it’s just about to turn from fall to winter.
I’m already getting along really well with the game’s heroine Maria. Also, I’ve been able to become friends with students outside the student council as well. The field is going well, and I’m getting really good at throwing the toy snake.
I’m completely prepared for all oncoming destruction flags.
However, the only part I’m troubled about is, that I’m completely clueless about how love between the all-important Maria and the capture targets is progressing.
No matter how many times I asked Maria if she has anyone that she really likes, she would always reply with “I look up to and admire Katarina-sama” and dodge the issue. What’s more, Maria seems to have no self-awareness at all about how popular she is.
“I’m sure that all the boys in the student council are head over heels in love with you after being charmed by you, Maria” is what I enlightened her with.
“That’s definitely impossible. Everyone already has someone else that they’re head over heels in love with.”
Maria had a very surprised look on her face as she said that.
As for these capture targets, other than the heroine Maria who’s simply so charming, they shouldn’t have anyone else that they’d be head over heels in love with……
I think Maria really needs to pull herself together, it seems that her traits as an otome game heroine “denseness” and “misinterpretation” are activating……
Just recently, Maria and Keith also explored this topic together, and Keith had said “the person I’m always thinking about is incredibly dense” and he sighed as I accidentally overheard the conversation, I think that Maria’s denseness must really be quite something.
The capture targets probably have quite a lot of hard work ahead of them, eh……
And so, even though I didn’t know how everyone’s love was progressing, everything else was going really well, and I was having a calm and peaceful school life. It suddenly ended.
The game’s finally started its movements, eh……
During lunch break on a day that was quite cold, I was heading to the cafeteria with several of my classmates.
Usually, I would be together with my friends and stepbrother in the student council, but on that day, everyone else said that they had something else to do and would be there later.
Now that I think back on it, something around me seemed to be different that day. While the student council members are quite busy, and would sometimes have to work during lunch break, but…… Even so, for all of them to be missing, it’s never happened before.
However, at that time I didn’t suspect a thing at all, and my head was filled with thinking about the lunch menu for the day.
And so, without having noticed anything was off, I carefreely arrived at the cafeteria – that’s when it happened.
“Katarina Claes. I have something important to say to you.”
Standing in front of me when I entered the cafeteria was a noble girl of quite high ranking.
Before I got engaged to Prince Jared, she had been the strongest candidate…… She was always someone who was glaring at me or verbally attacking me…… Honestly, she never says anything decent at all.
However, she also had upturned eyes and thin lips, and had a villainous face similar to me, I had always felt that she was a comrade in looks, but……
The girl’s upturned eyes were turned even further up while she was glaring at me, and she was blocking my way. My eyes became round as I had no idea what was going on.
However, behind this girl, were ten or so other students, and they were all glaring at me just like she was. As expected, it seems like just like her, they’re all people that one-sidedly hate me and want to verbally attack me.
However…… I feel like I’ve seen this scene somewhere before.
“Katarina Claes, today, we shall publicize a number of your wrongdoings right here!”
The girl’s voice resounded loudly throughout the cafeteria as she confronted me.
There should be more than half the school gathered here at the cafeteria during lunchtime…… If you use such a loud voice…… The usually noisy cafeteria suddenly became quiet, as everyone seemed to be looking this way.
Perhaps she’s noticed this as well, the girl raised her thin lips.
During all this, as for me…… Honestly, I had no idea what was going on, and just stood there frozen still in confusion.
Something such as…… my wrongdoings…… That I’m practicing throwing my toy snake? No, but I haven’t even thrown that at a person yet…… I don’t think it would even be that annoying…… Or maybe the fact that I’ve been making a field at the school has been exposed? It’s something like…… having made a field at such a venerable school?
And then, without caring about the way my head was spinning from trying to think about the cause, the girl continued.
“You’re a duke’s daughter, and Prince Jared’s fiancee, you’re abusing your authority, and oppressing those of lower status than you! And, you’ve been jealous that Prince Jared and the student council have been on friendly terms with the holder of light magic, Maria Campbell, and you’re guilty of the crime of repeatedly harassing people!!”
At this girl’s lines, I remembered…… I should have seen this somewhere before.
This is the event in the game which I’ve seen several times over where Katarina Claes is convicted of her crimes…… In front of all these students, all her crimes were publicized, and Katarina fell straight to her ruin……
And I had always been so vigilant, unbelievable, to suddenly get into such a predicament……
I just dazedly looked at the girls in front of me. Everyone was staring at me with such grim faces.
However…… I really don’t understand at all…… Indeed, no matter how I look at it, this is the event where Katarina gets condemned for her crimes, but……
Originally, when condemning Katarina, the capture targets on the student council should have been here as well.
If it was the Jared route, Jared should have been here standing next to Maria and protecting her…… If it was the Keith route, Keith should have been here standing next to Maria and protecting her……
Right now, none of them are here……
I was completely confused, why this girl was taking the place of the game’s student council members and accusing me loudly.
“It’s no use to just play dumb! I’ve properly brought along evidence, and there’s witnesses as well!”
And so, she opened up a bundle of papers, and gave a sign to the girls that were glaring at me while waiting near her.
On the paper, it listed a number of times that I have absolutely no knowledge of, how I’ve been bullying Maria…… After displaying written evidence of my wrongdoings, another girl witness testified to how she saw me bullying Maria several times over.
And so, various things like these followed one after the other, of course I was completely lost, and the classmates with me were as well, and there was an indescribable disquieting atmosphere in the cafeteria.
Everyone in the cafeteria was watching what was happening while holding their breaths with interest.
At that time…… Maria and my childhood friends on the student council appeared in the cafeteria. They came in from the opposite entrance on the other side that I had, and when they saw us, they inevitably saw the way how the girls were standing in opposition to me.
“Exactly what is going on here?”
Cutting through the disquieting atmosphere, looking at the girls who were surrounding me dubiously, it was Jared who spoke up.
And in response, as if she was just waiting for this moment, the girl in opposition to me who had originally been Jared’s fiancee candidate repeated what she said earlier about all of my wrongdoings.
Standing before me, Maria and my childhood friends on the student council’s faces were turning grim and dark.
Ahh, this is exactly how it was in the game’s Katarina crime conviction event……
It would be either Jared or Keith that would reveal all of Katarina’s wrongdoings, but…… The appearance of Maria behind them as if she were being protected by both of them at the same time, I’ve never seen that in the game before.
In the game’s scenario, after a capture target revealed Katarina’s wrongdoings, Maria who had been hiding behind his back would come forth while harboring a strong will in her eyes. And then –
“This is the truth! I’ve always been harassed by Katarina Claes-sama like this!”
She would have a dignified attitude as she announced this. The people gathered here in the cafeteria would admire the strength and dignity that came from within her.
Right after these girls exposed Katarina’s wrongdoings – it’s exactly like in the game, Maria came out in front.
Since I’ve recovered my previous life’s memories, I’m not like the game’s Katarina anymore, and I’ve never done anything bad…… Yet…… It’s still become just like the game……
……At this rate, without a doubt I’m going to be fully on the path to destruction……
……I’ll be exiled out of the country by myself…… Or killed by one of the capture targets……
Will I even be able to use the toy snake that’s in my pocket…… Or if I’m exiled, will I be able to take my favorite hoe with me……
Maria who had stepped forward was harboring a strong will in her eyes just like in the game. And then, she opened her mouth and said –
“This story is absolute nonsense! I’ve never been harassed like this by Katarina Claes-sama even once!”
Her dignified voice resounded throughout the cafeteria. Then, Maria changed the direction she was facing, and stood in front of me as if she was protecting me from the girls.
“Please don’t insult the most important person to me with such nonsense!”
She rose her voice harshly in a manner that I’ve never heard before.
To Maria’s reaction, at first the girls were shocked and froze up, but they regained their composure immediately.
“What are you saying! Maria Campbell! We’re revealing Katarina Claes’s wrongdoings all for you!”
“That’s what I’m saying! It’s all just nonsense! Including your so-called evidence and witnesses! As for you all, you’re all just being deceived by this villainess!”
At hearing what she said, there was quite a commotion among the girls, but……
“With only such little circumstantial evidence, proper evidence would be laughing at you right now.”
Jared had the bundle of papers in his hand as he said so. And even though he’s talking about how laughable it is, he isn’t laughing at all…… He’s expressionless. What is this, being expressionless is the default for Nico, but Jared is supposed to always be smiling…… At seeing his expressionless face, there was such an intimidating atmosphere overflowing from him that the girls who had all been making such a hubbub earlier all looked quite scared and became quiet.
“In the first place, with such a detailed level of harassment that’s written here, it’s impossible for my dense nee-san to have done it. And for the most part, I’m always with my nee-san, but I’ve never seen these girls calling themselves witnesses before…… Did you all really see something like my nee-san bullying people?”
While looking at the papers, Keith had a cold smile that I’ve never seen before, and the girls that were witnesses were going “eek!” and backing up as far away as they could.
“Really! Katarina-sama would never do such a thing! As Keith-sama just said, Katarina-sama is a very simple person! She would never be able to have such carefully thought-out plans!”
After Mary said so with such a grim expression, Alan was the one who spoke up next.
“Honestly, it’s just like that! This idiot is too dense to plan out bullying like this! Because she’s an idiot, all she knows how to do is challenge people head on!”
Sophia and Nico also seemed to agree with this.
“That’s right! Katarina-sama has no hidden side to her, there’s no way she could be so ingenious! That’s because Katarina-sama isn’t ingenious at all!”
……Somehow, it seems that everyone is protecting me, but……
……What is it…… I also feel like they’re saying bad things about me……
And so, after my friends had finished raising their voices – the classmates that had come to the cafeteria with me also said “that’s right! Katarina-sama would never do such things!” “It’s impossible that Katarina-sama would harass anyone!” with voices such as these following one after another. The voices started getting louder and louder, and was beginning to cover the entire cafeteria. Then –
“Just as everyone has been saying, it’s impossible for Katarina-sama to have been harassing anyone like that! Indeed, I’ve been harassed before, just like what’s written on this paper. But, it definitely wasn’t Katarina-sama that did such things to me! What’s more, Katarina-sama protected me many times! And, I remember perfectly well who was actually harassing me! If you like, I can even say who they were right now!”
Almost as if she was a totally different person from her usual calm and gentle self, Maria was so dignified and brave as she gave her speech……
Many expressions changed amongst the people gathered in the cafeteria. Included among them were several of the girls that were confronting me, they had deeply downcast expressions.
They were clearly at a disadvantage…… The girls were no longer saying anything, the momentum they started out with was almost unbelievably gone now, and they hurriedly left the cafeteria.
Then, I was too lost for words at everything that had happened and just snuggled up to Maria who was next to me.
“Katarina-sama, are you alright?”
She was looking at me with a very worried face, and I nodded vigorously.
“Mmm, I’m fine. ……Uh, thank you, everyone.”
I thanked my friends, and also all the other people that raised their voices to defend me as well.
“It’s nothing. Rather, I apologize that we weren’t able to help you sooner.”
“Sorry for being late, nee-san.”
Jared and Keith both gently put a hand on my shoulders.
Before I realized it, they finally withdrew their outstretched hands. And then, a spectacular “growl~” came from my stomach. Since lunch had gotten delayed, it seems that my stomach has reached its limit.
“Anyways, it’s unbelievable that those girls tried to do such a thing to Katarina.”
“That’s right. Indeed, they viewed nee-san as their enemy, but…… I really don’t think that they have such an ability to take action against her……”
“Yeah. Even though she’s like this, she’s still the daughter of a duke. If they insult her like this…… Their own positions may face various dangers. I didn’t see someone that was the type to take such an action.”
“Besides, this evidence as well…… I really don’t think it’s something that they prepared. It’s made a little too well.”
“Indeed, it’s just as Mary-sama said, I don’t think those girls could have prepared all the proper documents and evidence.”
“……It’s also strange how all of us got called out as well for some reason or other……”
Even though we were finally able to have lunch, my friends were talking about something with hard looks on their faces……
I survived the condemnation event, I’m so overjoyed that I was able to avoid a destruction end.
Honestly though, the otome game doesn’t end until graduation next year, so I still can’t relax and let down my guard, but…… I was able to overcome the greatest pinch I’ve ever been in due to everyone’s help. I’m really glad.
And so, while I was busy being on cloud nine, I didn’t realize that Maria had been pondering something by herself all this time.
Then, when lunch was over and it was time to return to classes, Maria finally spoke up.
“I have somewhere else to go first, everyone, please go back first.”
“Do you want to go together?”
Although the harassment seems to have subsided quite a bit, I’m still a bit worried about her and asked, but –
“No, it’s nothing important, I’ll be fine by myself. Everyone, please go ahead without me.”
She refused flatly. I wonder if her stomach’s feeling bad and she has to go to the restroom? In that case, I’d better not be too persistent about it.
“Mmm. I got it. There’s not much time until classes start, so hurry up and return as well.”
Maria replied with a smile, and went off in the opposite direction from the classrooms.
A bit later, I would deeply regret not having accompanied Maria at this time.
Even after telling Maria to come back soon, she never showed up to classes at all in the end. I thought that she might have been feeling worse and went to the infirmary to check up on her, but she wasn’t there either.
Then, after that, we weren’t able to find Maria anywhere.
After parting from her during lunch break, Maria Campbell’s completely disappeared……