Intermission 01: The Ghost Story of Pameradia House
That day, Vernoux was unusually calm when he visited the Pameradia mansion.
He hid his right arm behind his back when he appeared in the laboratory and spoke to Cordelia with a gentle look on his face.
“Dilly, I have a present for you.”
“…… Vernoux-sama has a present for me?”
Listening to the words themselves was sweet, but Cordelia looked at him questioningly.
This boy had never brought her a present before. Though, he had brought a letter that he’d been entrusted with, to her before.
On that premise, if she looked at his indescribable expression and extremely restless appearance, then she would be suspicious of him; ‘Is he scheming something bad?’ Although she wouldn’t go as far as to say that…… him acting『shy』was cute, but at the very least, it would’ve been better if he didn’t turn his gaze away.
(…… Just what kind of troublesome thing are you hiding behind your back!?)
As expected, Cordelia couldn’t help but be suspicious of him when he acted like that.
However, in the hand that Vernoux had vigorously thrust out when he had prepared himself, was an item utterly opposite from what Cordelia thought it would be.
It was white and fluffy.
It had slightly long, droopy ears.
The thing that had charming eyes, which made her want to hug it, was……
“A stuffed animal?”
It wasn’t a troublesome thing at all. That was without a doubt a stuffed rabbit. The stuffed rabbit that was made out of wool was fluffy and looked like a real rabbit; it was adorable. It was also the same size as a real rabbit and seemed easy to hug.
Cordelia received the stuffed animal with both hands from Vernoux’s hand and hugged it as if she was hugged a real rabbit. It felt terrific.
She liked animals, but it was difficult for her to have pets because she handled strong scented chemicals and she had few opportunities to pet them. It might be different if there was a 『zoo』in this world, but she had only seen wild animals from afar.
The destructive power of the stuffed rabbit was amazing.
It didn’t move, but it hit just the right spots and healed her with only its appearance.
“Vernoux-sama, do you really not mind if I have this?”
“Do you think it’s good for me to have something like that?”
Vernoux sighed loudly.
He wasn’t touched even if such a cute stuffed rabbit was in front of him.
He doesn’t know what he’s missing, Cordelia thought and shrugged her shoulders.
“It certainly doesn’t match your personality. So, why did you bring it here?”
With the way he acted, there was no way he bought this for me as a present. Moreover, he made it seem like he was doing this as punishment, so there was no way someone asked him to give it to me.
She thought as she peeked at his face, but his mouth was zipped. However, after a while of silence, he slightly raised both his hands in the air as if he’d resigned. It seemed that he couldn’t stand her staring at him.
“…… Recently, my mother has suddenly started collecting them as a hobby, and she also filled my room with them.”
“Are there a lot?”
“Yeah. I tried to return them to her in secret, but they’re returned to my room before I even notice it.”
“I’m really jealous of you.”
I see, so it was something his mother liked, not him. Everything made sense.
She hadn’t met her yet, but she thought that the Marquis’ beloved wife was someone who surely suited stuffed animals.
Therefore, even if Vernoux grudgingly said, “Is this being forced on me something to be jealous of?” it had nothing to do with Cordelia.
Cute is justice. Of course, I would be jealous.
“You have a wonderful mother.”
“Like I said, what’s the point of me having something like that……?”
“Isn’t it nice to have it, since you’re a child? It suits you, you know?”
“Say, who do you think I am?”
“But you know, it’s cute, isn’t it?”
Instead, I will keep answering him in this way.
If only by appearance, then by no means did he and the stuffed animal have a bad affinity. It would be nice if he held the stuffed animal and smiled as service for his mother. She hated to say it, but he did have a cute appearance.
However, Vernoux wouldn’t agree with that; he might even get irritated if Cordelia said 『it suited』 him.
But isn’t it fine every once in a while, she thought; since he was the one who always said she 『acted like a boy』 and 『was weird』.
“But if Vernoux-sama is willing to give it to me, then I’ll accept it without hesitation. I’ll also have to give it a name.”
It would be a shame if I gave this stuffed animal a stupid name. What should I name it? In the first place, what’s the gender of this stuffed animal? Is it a boy or a girl? She had a hunch that the day would end just by thinking about it.
(Even so, I can put it by my pillow-side if it’s this big. If so, then it might become a good item if I stuff the inside with aromas. No, it’s adorable even if I just put it on the sofa…… Yes, it’s adorable…… I have to name it! Let’s put off turning it into merchandise for now.)
She looked at Vernoux, whose presence she’d completely forgotten about because she was so infatuated with the stuffed animal, and his raised eyebrows had returned to their original positions.
“…… I’m surprised.”
“I thought you would at least say something like 『It looks like it’ll get dirty easily』.”
“…… Vernoux-sama, who do you think I am?”
The words she had tried hard to keep in, came out as amazement.
I’m happy right now so it would have been fine if I’d just ignored what he said.
However, because of his words, she did end up thinking, if I want to commercialise this, then I’ll have to think of washing methods and dirt prevention methods.
“Because you’re you, Dilly.”
“I think it would be better if you changed how you view me, Vernoux-sama.”
If she’d said, [that’s rude], then he would say, [you too], and laugh.
But his next words were different than usual.
“Well, but that’s also not bad. It suits you.”
For a moment she thought, is it going to rain cats and dogs tomorrow? She turned pale, and her complexion was probably bad right now.
“…… What’s with your expression?”
“It’s nothing…… I was just wondering if you have a fever, Vernoux-sama.”
He was probably complimenting her. No, the component of him speaking ill of her couldn’t be found in his words.
However, this is probably the first time he’s ever complimented me.
That was why after her face had turned pale, she suddenly felt it getting hot.
So what, is it wrong for stuffed animals to suit me? Her strange embarrassed figure changed to a slightly frustrated one. It was very uncomfortable to be complimented by a friend who always hurled insults at her.
However, it seemed that Vernoux also didn’t think that Cordelia would consider his words that much.
“I’d behave myself if I had a fever.”
Vernoux said that with a shrug of his shoulders and Cordelia brushed it off.
However, she couldn’t find any other suitable way to continue the conversation. So Cordelia continued to stroke the back of the stuffed animal to cover that up.
(…… I don’t know what to do with this strange atmosphere.)
No, it might have only been Cordelia who thought it was weird.
If he was complimenting her then she should say, “Thank you,” but she was reluctant to say that to his face. She felt like he would make fun of her if she were to do so.
However, the silence didn’t last for long. A completely cheerful voice resounded throughout the room.
“Excuse me, Ojou-sama. There’s a book I’d like you to read.”
It was Ronnie who had said that while entering the room without knocking.
He was surprised to see Cordelia and Vernoux in the room while holding a book in his hands. He probably didn’t know that Vernoux had visited, but it was too late for him to realise it now.
Cordelia resisted the urge to put her hands on her forehead and stared at Ronnie.
Ronnie looked extremely uncomfortable.
“…… If you’d excuse me.”
Ronnie, who still had his hand on the door, looked a little stiff as he smiled pleasantly. He would typically leave immediately when Vernoux came over to visit. He probably wanted to close the door and leave straight away. If it were Vernoux, then it wouldn’t be a problem if he were to do so. Cordelia nodded at Ronnie as if saying, “Okay, I know.” The incident would end there. However, contrary to her expectation, Vernoux approached Ronnie as if he’d come up with something.
Ronnie started shaking violently as Vernoux approached him.
“What is that book?”
“Huh, yes. I’ve collected this book since a long time ago.”
“A History of Magic…… That’s a rare book.”
Vernoux spoke and took the book from Ronnie’s arm, then he turned the pages of the book. Cordelia watched as that happened and decided to help Ronnie who was in a state of chaos.
“Ronnie, why do you want me to read that book?”
“Ah, yes. That…… This is a book I Informal…… I Formal bought when I was a student. I thought that it would be necessary for writing my thesis on the history of magic…… But I didn’t need it after all. I…… I didn’t read it at all, but I thought Ojou-sama would be interested since it’s an interesting read……”
Ronnie spoke as if he was fumbling over his words. I see, she thought.
Vernoux was standing while carefully reading the book, so it probably held interesting information like Ronnie had stated it would.
“These are legends of the various fiefs, but they are all fairy tales based on the assumption that『people originally had no magic』. There are legends about people originally being spirits, or gaining power by consuming the flesh of demons, and also dreadful things that people can’t see…… That is to say, people developed skills to listen to the voice of the world to overcome ghosts……. There are many stories.”
“Hmm. Well, magic itself is something that beasts can also use. There are also records of people using magic a long time ago, and their magic power varied greatly, so there weren’t many who couldn’t use magic. I think it would be hard to imagine that there are people without magic.”
“But, it’s interesting that there are so many legends. These legends probably also reflect the history and climate of the fiefs.”
“Yes. There are notably a lot of legends involving ghosts. There are many different versions.”
Cordelia’s ears twitched while Vernoux and Ronnie were conversing.
There is a lot of different ghosts……?
“Do you mind if I borrow it?”
“By all means.”
Please take that book away immediately, Cordelia wanted to shout while the two were talking.
She firmly grasped both her hands and prayed desperately for her twitching to stop.
However, such a convenient prayer wasn’t answered so easily.
“What’s wrong, Dilly?”
Vernoux tilted his head in confusion when Cordelia replied perfunctorily in a flat voice. The gesture was sweet, but she didn’t want to answer such a thing any longer.
Vernoux looks at the book and then back at Cordelia because of how she was acting.
“…… Don’t tell me you’re weak against ghost stories?”
“D-don’t say it like you’re amused. I’m not weak against them.”
Cordelia once again spoke in a flat tone, but she still tried to lie.
However, a very amused expression showed itself on Vernoux’s face. Of course, Cordelia received a bad feeling from it, and her feeling had been right.
“How about we make things lively with some scary stories? The weather is also good today, so let’s cool off a little.”
“It’s not that hot. It’s rather cool.”
“What? Are you scared?”
Cordelia wanted to scream, “Of course,” at the grinning Vernoux.
However, she felt like she couldn’t scream when she saw his face.
This was a challenge; if she ran away now, then she was afraid that Vernoux would use this as an opportunity to include her in the telling of ghost stories whenever he could. Then it would be impossible for her to escape.
It wasn’t a challenge that staked her life, but she couldn’t back away from it if she wanted to keep her peace.
I have to win.
And I have to make sure that Vernoux would never invite me to tell a ghost story again.
She decided and smiled at him.
“I’ll take you up on the offer. Vernoux-sama, please don’t get scared. Ronnie, you sit down as well.”
“Huh, me too?”
Ronnie probably didn’t expect that she would involve him. Ronnie had an expression on his face that said, ‘I want to leave immediately.’
However, Cordelia wanted him to bear with it. I’ll give him any day he wants off later, so he just has to bear with it, for now, she thought and pretended that she didn’t notice his expression.
I’m sorry, Ronnie.
Then, Vernoux sat down with the book still in his hand and Ronnie also sat down in resignation.
He really hates it, after all, Cordelia thought, but contrary to her expectations, Vernoux looked really excited. However, she understood that it wasn’t because he liked ghost stories themselves.
“I don’t know many ghost stories……”
He groaned and said.
However, her happy opinion of, “Then, let’s stop here,” was immediately rejected, “Nope.” Then, Vernoux eyed the stuffed animal that Cordelia was hugging and said what was on his mind.
“Then let’s talk about stories related to dolls. I did give you a stuffed animal after all.”
He said something so unpleasant with such a cheerful smile on his face, she thought, but still, she didn’t let go of the stuffed animal. She feared that her body would start shaking if she’d let it go. The rabbit stuffed animal was already like a fancy shield for Cordelia.
“Even if I said that it’s not really a scary story. I’ve heard a story about the wandering dancing doll at the Royal Castle. In a certain village, there was a girl who could dance, but she was a little too overconfident. She tried to enter the Royal Castle, thinking herself to be 『The World’s Best Dancer』. But, of course, she couldn’t go through the gates because she had no identification papers. She lived in resentment, thinking that the world didn’t have good taste and gave birth to a wraith. That wraith possessed a doll within the Royal Castle and walked about doing nothing but say, 『Prepare an appropriate stage for me』. And that doll still continues to haunt the Castle walls, even after the girl has passed away……”
Ghost stories were indeed told like this, Vernoux thought as he tilted his head and said. Cordelia screamed inside her mind.
(Wraiths being born from resentment…… Furthermore, her resentments were unjustified. How troublesome was this village girl!)
Yes, if that burst of anger had been directed at me…… She got the shivers from just thinking about it. Her body felt as if it would start shivering. Therefore, it couldn’t be helped if her face was turning pale.
But Ronnie was amazed at how Cordelia was acting.
“Ojou-sama, what about that story was scary?”
“It’s not scary, the scary thing is……”
It was impossible for her to express what she was feeling with simple words.
She couldn’t say that she was frightened even before they’d started…… There was no way she could declare such words of defeat.
“Then, it’s the next person’s turn. Will you go after Vernoux-sama, Ojou-sama?”
If they were doing things in order, then it would definitely be her turn.
She didn’t want it to be her turn yet, but it would be suspicious if she gave her turn to Ronnie. Moreover, if he were to tell a horrible story, then she didn’t have the confidence to speak after him.
“…… Then, let me tell you a story.”
She wanted to escape, but she was the one who had accepted the challenge, so she couldn’t run away.
I don’t know many ghost stories in the first place, and it’s not like I searched for the ghost stories of this world either. However, I was born in a country where many ghost stories were made in my previous life, she thought as she desperately tried to dig up memories from that life.
The story about a staircase having an extra step; the story about the split-mouth woman chasing people at incredibly fast speed and the story about the eyes moving in a portrait in the music class…… They were all scary stories, but I don’t feel like talking for too long. Aren’t there any other?
However, she recalled a particular ghost story which had a lot of similarities to the other stories.
(I’m reluctant to say it…… But I’m also unwilling to withdraw!)
Then I had no choice but to tell the tale! Girls are brave! I won’t give up! I’ll let you feel 『Japanese Horror』to the core!
Cordelia thought and breathed in; then she spoke in a lower tone than her usual.
“A long time ago, there was a beautiful girl in a certain place.”
“A beautiful girl? How old was she?”
“…… Vernoux-sama, please don’t interrupt the story.”
5 seconds into her tale, a voice called out, as if it was blowing away her determination, and half of Cordelia’s motivation flew out the window. In the first place, if her story was interrupted like that, then she couldn’t create a scary mood.
Vernoux said, “My bad,” to the extremely drained Cordelia and lightly waved his hands, but he probably didn’t mean it.
“Vernoux-sama, if you interrupt me with something that sounds like a joke again, then I’ll stop telling my story.”
“Yeah, ok. So continue talking.”
He urged, and Cordelia sighed.
She had initially wanted to avoid telling the ghost story, even if she’d recalled it. There was a good chance that it would be mixed with a variety of other stories and she felt that if she didn’t tell it all in one go, then she wouldn’t be able to continue. She didn’t want to think about being interrupted without finishing her story when she was so enthusiastic about winning.
“Don’t disturb me again this time, Vernoux-sama.”
Cordelia motivated herself once again and began speaking quietly.
“That girl was a maid and served a certain feudal lord. The lord’s subordinate plotted his death. However, the lord was aware of that and after some thinking, sent the maid as a spy. Soon after, the feudal lord was able to avoid a rebellion thanks to the maid’s actions. However, amid another battle, the subordinate stabbed the feudal lord and seized the castle.”
“That’s a fairly cowardly subordinate. Well, if he were going to betray his lord, then he’d at least have that characteristic.”
“…… I’m going to continue. The feudal lord somehow managed to escape, and the maid continued to wait for an opportunity to recapture the castle. However, an underling of the subordinate had already seen through her guise when the rebellion had failed. However, that underling had feelings for the maid and proposed that he would remain silent if she were to marry him. But, the maid feigned ignorance and refused him. As a result, the man felt he had been made fun off and decided to trick the maid.”
“Did he expose her?”
“No. He controlled her. He took a set of ten decorative plates that could be considered as heirlooms and hid one of them away. Furthermore, those plates were important and were stolen from the feudal lord she served.”
“Yes, plates. There were no meanings to those plates unless all 10 were together. The maid who was in charge of the plates was accused of the crime and scolded by the subordinate who had taken the castle. She couldn’t bear with it anymore and threw herself into the water well…… Or so it was made to look as if she did.”
“Was she killed?”
“He’s the worst kind of guy.”
Vernoux said in disgust and continued, “But that doesn’t make this a ghost story.” Cordelia motivated herself again.
“Vernoux-sama, the story doesn’t end there.”
Cordelia lowered her tone again and continued while erasing any emotion on her face.
“From that night on, the subordinate heard the woman’s voice by his bedside every night. One plate. Two plates. Three plates…… No matter how many times she’d counted, she always stopped at the ninth plate and sobbed. When she counted, the plates in the mansion also broke in order.”
“Dilly, hold on…… Your face looks scary.”
“They didn’t see the maid, but the voice certainly belonged to her.”
“Hey, Dilly…… Why is your voice so cold?”
“Before long, a monument was built, honouring her as the guardian of plates. But the man who had tricked her, the subordinate who had taken the castle from the feudal lord and their relatives…… They all began to die, one after the other. But the plates were beautiful, so they were entrusted to a person who didn’t know that there were originally 10. But the person who received the plates…… was also someone who had no connections to the plates. Therefore he was harassed and tormented by the voice.”
Cordelia felt as if her face had become really pale and creepy.
Therefore, she didn’t stop talking, even though Vernoux had interrupted her. Or rather, she couldn’t.
“Listen, you can also hear her voice if you listen carefully……”
When Cordelia finished talking, the whole place was silent.
After a little while, Vernoux opened his mouth.
“Dilly…… You’re really good at telling stories.”
“Did you enjoy it?”
“Next is, oh…… It’s my turn, but what should I do? I can only tell stories about drunk men about to be killed by monsters disguised as women.”
Ronnie looked uncomfortably at the two silent youths…… Or rather, he was perplexed by the mood in the room and asked.
However, he had already talked about the contents. They no longer had the thrill of finding out 『what would happen』in Ronnie’s ghost story.
“…… Shall we finish here?”
Cordelia immediately nodded at Vernoux’s conclusion.
Cordelia thought that she was satisfied with what had happened, but regretted that she had taken the ghost story challenge too seriously. However, she wanted to do it even if it meant that they would all be scared together…… The only thing she could assert was that she hadn’t lost.
(I definitely don’t want to tell any more ghost stories ―――.)
Cordelia thought and gave a small sigh.
Next, to her, Vernoux seemed to have broken out of his silence and asked Ronnie.
“Aren’t you scared?”
“I’m not really scared of things I haven’t seen myself…… Because it’s in their nature not to be noticed.”
Cordelia was scared of it because it was something visible, but Ronnie was the opposite. Was he scared of seeing them? What was he scared of? By any chance, was he scared of the Onee-samas’ at work……?
She thought. She also considered preparing goods that would help in getting a quiet night’s sleep when she got back to her room. Her fear had already faded, and it would be best if she could get to sleep quickly. She might forget about the stories if she slept.
Ronnie stood up while she was pondering.
“Well, I’ll go prepare some sweets in exchange for not telling a story.”
“You’re right. Let’s have tea.”
It was a sensible proposal. Hot tea with sweet snacks. That should change my mood considerably.
Cordelia thought. Ronnie was still being Ronnie.
“Come to think of it, we acquired a rare teacup, did we not? The cups come together to make a picture. It is said that it would become meaningless if one of the teacups are chipped.”
“Or something like that,” Ronnie continued, and Cordelia and Vernoux turned their faces towards him.
“Let’s use the usual cups.” “I don’t mind using the usual cups.”
Ronnie widened his eyes in surprise at their simultaneous voices and smiled wryly, “Understood.”
The cups and dishes that he had brought were both pure white and had no pictures on them.
Then after a while, whenever Vernoux visited the Pameradia mansion, he would always use those plain, white tableware.