"——So, how are your studies?"
Under a light stand made out of parchment, lit by it was an elderly woman with glasses, she was writing a document.
On the opposite side of her, on a sofa made out of natural leather was Saionji Usagi.
Usagi had blonde hair extending to her shoulders, she looked pretty tense. Her appearance resembled that of a young rabbit that had strayed from its parent in winter.
In front of her was Saionji Kikyou. Wife of the current family head, in other words she was Usagi's mother.
"Umm.. um... that's."
"Please don't waste my time."
She said that strongly, causing Usagi to tremble.
Her eyes watered up, and her heart started to beat soundly.
Kikyou glared at Usagi, causing the wrinkles around her eyes to deepen.
Usagi desperately calmed herself down, and grabbed the hem of her skirt.
"M-my life in the academy... umm... is very... rich. Every day is... fun."
"Also comrades! I have comrades now! I'm no longer a poor dropout, they're all oddballs, but also interesting people. Of course I'm the best among them. If I'm not there they can't pull it off and can't do anything. Just before I——"
Cutting in, Kikyou stopped Usagi from talking. Usagi's shoulders, and her entire body trembled as if she was splashed with cold water.
"Did you not understand my question?"
"I asked whether you are going to get promoted, or not, that's the only thing I want to know. Don't waste my time with trivialities."
"I-I.... I apologize."
Usagi looked down while at a loss for words. Kikyou ignited the tobacco pipe placed in the ashtray and breathed the tobacco smoke deeply.
"Well, you tried to divert the story, but it's impossible. With such results, there is no way you will get a promotion."
She took the paper from the desk, and threw it towards Usagi as if discarding it.
Usagi couldn't catch them, and they scattered all over the carpet.
These were the report cards. The results she had in AntiMagic Academy, their overall ranking was marked.
"Did you think you can trick me? I've heard about your results in the academy before."
I didn't intend to do that. She tried to say so, but her voice was stuck in her throat.
Usagi didn't really want to divert the story, and she didn't want to hide her performance. She just wanted to talk as family with the person who was in front of her; her mother.
"At this rate, graduation aside, promotion to the second grade is impossible."
"That's not decided ye——"
"The deadline is in a few months. No matter how you look at it, it's impossible. There is no way that'll happen. We didn't have much expectations in the first place, there was no need for you to go to school... it's all because grandfather left us a troublesome will."
Hearing Kikyou's words, Usagi raised her face frightened.
"The matter from before, let's hurry the schedule up. We've been already reminded of it by their son. That person seems to really like you, there should be no problems."
"P-please wait a moment! That matter was to be done after I graduate from school——"
"You are going to attend the school until this month ends. The Saionji house cannot afford to waste money for tuition fees as it is now."
"Please...! I won't disappoint you any more! I'll do my best so it's not wasted! Just don't make me quit the school!"
"Silence. You are going to sacrifice yourself so that the Saionji house can survive. Discard your personal feelings and think about your position."
While saying that, Kikyou fixed her glasses with her hand, and stood up from the chair.
Usagi stood up in a hurry and tried to grab Kikyou's hand.
And Kikyou violently shook that hand off.
"Don't touch me. I'm not your mother."
Shocked and scared, Usagi was unable to move.
"If not for you, everything would have been well. You reap what you sow."
Kikyou left these words behind, as she was leaving the room, Usagi who was the only one left behind, sunk in despair.
Without fixing her untidy hair, Usagi picked up the documents scattered on the carpet and held them to her chest.
"It's all right... it's... all..."
In this house, there is no place for her. She confirmed that.
At a time like this, she wanted to head back to that place.
The only place there was for Usagi.
Cramped, smelling with gunpowder, there wasn't much in there, but in that place were very important people to her.
As she thought that she wanted to stay in that place for a little bit longer, a tremendous loneliness struck her chest. But there was no way Usagi could resist.
There was no way for her to change her destiny of being tied to this house. She could only accept it. That was all.
The fact that it would be like this, was decided from the very beginning.