If it had been a building from before this era, it would have needed to be rebuilt.
However the apartment was a tenacious structure that had been designed with users of Dialect running wild in mind, and it was constructed in such a way that it was possible for every floor to be repaired separately.
The 30th floor would be completely replaced. Since the manager appeared to be used to strange things, it seemed like these kinds of things happened frequently.
So in the end, Masaki and the others moved to another room on the 27th floor.
“Clockheart-san… I wanted to ask you something…”
“…What might it be?”
Alice answered Masaki’s question without meeting his eyes.
“Are you renting rooms on different floors? Or are you selling them?”
“…From the 1st to the 30th floor.”
“All of it!? This apartment house is all your residence!?”
Shirley added an explanation.
“At first it was a single house. But Alice doesn’t like being surrounded by noise, and the rooms get smashed up like this often.”
“…Somebody wrecked it.”
“It’s my fault!? The person who always loses their temper and Globalizes is Alice!”
“…The walls of the apartment are fortified with Anti-Dialect. Shirley is the one who always breaks the walls.”
Masaki was shocked.
“Could you at least hold back so that you don’t end up destroying your home?”
“…I’m not good at going easy on people.”
“Since Dialect is an image, making it strong is not much different from making it weak, so it’s difficult to control. That’s what the teacher said.”
“I see. If that’s the case, then all the more reason you should stop having arguments.”
“…I didn’t mean to smash up all those rooms.”
Still there wasn’t any damage in the living room on the 27th floor that he had been led to.
Because of Alice’s hand, a stuffed toy on top of the bookshelf fell down.
It was a rabbit dressed in a tuxedo holding a clock in its hand. When he looked closer, he saw that it was an analog clock, which was rare these days.
Peaceful classical music flowed through the room. It wasn’t an orchestra, it was a solo violin.
Three teacups and a single teapot had been prepared on the triangular tables.
Alice sat down on a small chair that was shaped like an open shell. Shirley sat down on the carpet without even using a zabuton(1).
Masaki was given a soft cushion.
“Displeasure” seemed to be written all over the face of the silent Alice.
As would normally be the case, she was now completely dressed. Instead of the blue dress from the morning, she now wore a short-sleeved blouse along with a black and white checked jumper dress. A red ribbon was tied up on her chest.
Alice drank her tea with a disappointed expression.
“What is it?”
“Just now you didn’t see anything… is that fine? That you didn’t see anything.”
“A-ah… you’re right. Of course.”
With a nod, Alice looked down to hide her expression as she lifted the teacup to her lips.
And then, the topic changed.
“…As for Shirley, can’t she do anything about shouting out the name of her Dialect. I think that it looks childish. It’s embarrassing.”
“But I always say it. I’m just shouting out the name of my special move!”
“That’s illogical. I don’t understand.”
“And Alice should think about the order of the fairies that she brings out, you know–– ah, is that a cake? She should send out her defensive fairies first, and then the fast ones from the left and right to surround the others. ”
“I brought Chiffon Cake… Like I’m always saying, the fairies come out of their own accord.”
Shirley opened the fridge and took out the cake.
“Oh, it’s cut into three pieces! Nice! Since it’s your special move, you should learn to control it, you know.”
“Please bring a fork too… Shirley should stop firing light unnecessarily.”
“Nihaha, when I hit something it ends up flying! Right, here’s a fork. Here’s yours Masaki.”
He thanked her and accepted it.
Shirley sat down then the three of them started to eat the chiffon cake.
“Mm… the taste is quite good… it’s Shirley’s fault that the room is useless once again. Please give me the proper compensation.”
“Eh!? If we’re talking about how it started, it’s the fault of Alice who used Wonder Carnival, isn’t it? Fuwa, this is so delicious.”
For a moment, the conversation between the two of them was suspended as they ate the cake.
Masaki also decided to eat his.
It was surely delicious. It wasn’t a bad thing to have such a shop close by. Although Masaki had boasted about the taste of his crème brûlée to Alice––he thought that he should devote more time to perfecting it.
Alice had eaten about half of her slice, and she once again drank from her teacup.
“If you’re talking about ‘how it started’… Shirley, who opened the door without knocking, is at fault.”
“But I never knock on the door, right?”
Shirley’s plate had been emptied in the blink of an eye, and she drained her cup of now lukewarm tea in an instant.
Is that alright––Masaki thought to himself, choosing not to say it out loud.
“…You never do… but Masaki wasn’t there before. ”
“Ah, that’s right! He wanted to talk to you! Why did you form a partner contract with Masaki!?”
“…It’s a mystery to me that Masaki-kun is a close friend of Shirley. Since he just transferred today.”
“We’re childhood friends.”
Masaki nodded then took charge of the conversation.
“We went to the same elementary school. Shirley transferred to Canaan seven years ago. And I transferred today.”
Shirley puffed out her cheeks.
“It’s cruel to change partners without saying anything Alice!”
“…Shirley is the one who declared ‘cancellation’.”
“We always do that! Then we always make up at dinner!”
“…You’re the only one who thinks that… since you always look like you’ve completely forgotten about it, I have no choice but to go along with it.”
“Eh!? So it’s still bothering you after all this stuff happened? All these 30 or so times?”
Shirley’s eyes wandered around in an attempt to remember something.
“…This morning was the 36th time. After we formed a partner contract last year… we’ve cancelled it 36 times.”
“Hold on a minute! Alice suggested it as well, right!? Are you trying to make only me look bad!?”
“Since Shirley destroys things too much, I always get angry at her.”
“This morning, your stupid cat and stupid bird ruined the classroom, right!”
“How cruel… Shirley is the only one that doesn’t want to be called stupid…”
“I don’t really understand but right now you just insulted me! That’s the impression I got! That’s so rude–!!”
They continued arguing.
Masaki left them for the time being since it wasn’t a quarrel that involved the use of Dialect to attack each other.
He slowly savored the taste of the cake and tea.
The just-right taste of the chiffon cake spread in his mouth and the fragrance of bergamot drifted into his nostrils.
“Ah, this is really delicious.”
“Masaki listen to me too!!”
Shirley’s eyes looked like upside-down triangles.
Alice also gave him a sharp look.
“…The look on your face is saying that you’re not involved. That’s a problem.”
“Hmm? Can I talk now?”
“If you want to say something, there’s no need to hold back.”
“…If you would like to live long enough to go back home, you should choose your words carefully.”
Both of them stared at him.
He winced involuntarily.
He didn’t find being stared at scary, rather, it was the reverse…
He didn’t know what it was like to be put in the spotlight by people, and until then he hadn’t met people that stood out to him as much as Alice and Shirley. When Alice’s sapphire-like eyes and Shirley’s amber eyes lined up together and met his, the feeling was intensified.
Masaki felt totally shy and turned his eyes away from them.
“Err… to-to start with, I don’t know anything about the quarrels that happened in the past… so I can’t tell you to forgive and forget. But despite that you still live together. So it doesn’t mean that you’re on bad terms with each other, right? There’s no such thing as a perfect human being, so shouldn’t you forgive each other? ”
Alice was lost in thought.
Shirley looked nonchalant.
“In the first place, I can’t remember all the reasons behind all of our fights.”
“That’s the kind of personality you have.”
“Gu… so I was the only one that was troubled.”
Alice spoke in a tired voice. The feeling of wasted effort hung in the air.
“So, let’s leave all of that in the past. Next is the confirmation of the present condition––I made a contract as Alice’s partner and am in ‘Pre-Registration’ with Breaker. Since I asked Midorikawa-sensei, I might not have been registered officially yet…”
“…I’m Masaki-kun’s partner and naturally I’m an official member of Breaker.”
Alice laughed lightly and gave a delightful smile.
It was a smile like a flower blooming.
Masaki remembered this expression. It was like the time when Masaki said that he didn’t have a lot of things. That blooming flower was surely a black rose.
Shirley looked like she was chewing something bitter.
“Uu… I don’t have a partner so maybe I’ll be Pre-Registration or one of the Supporters. Because it’s a rule that it has to be a pair.”
“Fufu… Masaki-kun, what do you think? The fragrance of this tea is quite good, right… I ordered it from an English specialty store.”
“Oh, is that so. Which shop is it?”
“Fortnum and Mason. ”
“Isn’t that a high class shop that supplies goods to the British royal family? That’s amazing.”
“Hey? Weren’t you listening to me!? I’m in a really lonely situation, right? I don’t understand what you two are talking about.”
Shirley’s eyes teared up.
Alice was in an unusually good mood.
“…It’s isn’t bad to have someone who can understand things about tea. For Shirley, everything that she drinks is the same to her.”
“Eeh!? I can tell whether it’s delicious or not you know!”
“You always say that the tea is ‘delicious’ no matter what shop we go to.”
That’s mean, Masaki thought.
“Although she might not be able to say whether the tea leaves or tea cup are good or not, she can still tell whether the taste is good or not.”
“I-I know! However, delicious is delicious, right!?”
“…Then what tea did we have today?”
On that subject, the liveliness with which she was eating her cake with died down. With that, the cake wouldn’t taste like anything as well.
Masaki gave a bitter smile.
“Well, it doesn’t matter. To me, it’s more important to say that it’s delicious than to taste it.”
“…I guess that’s true.”
“Well, I was able to confirm the current situation––now let’s talk about what will happen after this. I’ll say it plainly; my Dialect is fundamentally different in terms of its practical use from your Dialects. I was honestly surprised when I came to Canaan and saw other people’s Dialect for the first time.”
In his childhood, Masaki might have seen Shirley’s Dialect but not have been able to understand it. Although when her right fist started to shine, sparks of light didn’t fly from it back then.
“…You’re saying that it is fundamentally different… do you mean that it isn’t suited for battle? Is it a movement type or searching type?”
“If that’s the case, shouldn’t it have some kind of use?”
Masaki shook his head at their words.
“It’s also not like that. Anyway, it’s unreasonable for me to catch rule breakers that are using Dialect. So wouldn’t it be more efficient for Clockheart-san and Shirley to be a team in the same manner as before in order to work for Breaker?”
The two girls exchanged glances with each other.
Alice cut her eyes aloofly and Shirley pouted.
“…Does that mean that you’re insisting that I cancel the partnership with you and form a contract with Shirley? There’s no need to talk in a roundabout way if you don’t want to be a pair with me.”
“I’m honored that you chose me to be your partner.”
“What is it?”
Alice stared at him intensely.
“…You called Shirley by her first name. You should also call me by my first name. But you’re still calling me that. Why is it ‘Clockheart-san’? Are you trying to imply that you want to keep some distance between us?”
“No-no-no, that is… I only just met you today…”
“That’s fine… it means that the king is alone.”
She turned her eyes to look out the window.
Shirley burst into laughter.
“Ahaha, Alice you-you’re still saying that you’re a king?!!”
“…It’s a fact. Since my partner doesn’t call me by my first name, I’m isolated…”
Masaki admitted defeat.
He didn’t want to make her feel estranged by calling her by her surname.
“Oh, I get it! Since you contracted with me, I’ll call you by your first name!”
“…It’s natural. Since you call Shirley by her first name, you should address me by my first name too.”
She was being rebellious at a strange time.
Maybe she was a very competitive person.
He had grown used to calling Shirley by her first name from when they were children, but he wasn’t comfortable calling another girl by her first name.
However, with the current mood, he couldn’t say that it was embarrassing now.
“Then… let’s see… A-A-Alice… san.”
“Ah, no––A-Alice… is that okay? Is it alright?”
Alice’s face heated up. Her cheeks colored slightly after letting him say it.
“…Hafuu… that’s more than I thought…”
“Are you okay?”
“…Never mind. It’s not a problem at all. There can’t be any problem. Absolutely.”
She looked composed while her face reddened, but her lips twitched slightly.
Shirley tapped Masaki’s shoulders.
“Hm? What is it?”
“Just like you said her name, say my name!”
“Your name? What do you mean?”
“Just do it!”
“Hmm? Shirley… is that fine?”
“That’s different! It’s completely different!”
He didn’t understand what she meant.
Since it seemed like their conversation was going to be derailed endlessly, Masaki put it back on its course.
“Anyway, about the partner contract. I checked the regulations of Breaker while I was moving, and it seemed like being by myself in the Supporters is fine. I have a feeling that role is suitable for me.”
“Ah, then let’s do our best while you’re there, right?”
Alice snarled at Shirley’s proposal.
“That is inferior work. It isn’t the kind of work that’s fit for a Level 7.”
“It isn’t inferior. I keep on saying that we’re all comrades in the same committee. Just the roles differ.”
“…Do you want to steal away my partner, Shirley?”
“Steal? I didn’t want to say it, but it looks like I have to say it after all! You tricked Masaki into forming a contract with you, didn’t you!?”
“………What you just said is illogical.”
Alice brought her teacup to her lips to cover her facial expression.
Shirley pointed at Alice forcefully.
“You deceived him!”
“Masaki-kun, would you like another helping of tea?”
“Hey, Alice! Since Masaki is my childhood friend, I promised earlier that I would show him around the academy!”
“…Just because he is your childhood friend, it doesn’t mean that you own him… or could it be that you’re engaged?”
Shirley was struck speechless and her cheeks turned red.
“No, I haven’t made that kind of promise in particular with Masaki, or perhaps I should say it’s not like that…”
After that exchange, Alice had an embarrassed look on her face as well.
Masaki put the tea cup and saucer back on the table, making a refreshing clink sound.
The classical music changed right at that moment.
“You two have derailed the topic quite a few times now.”
“…It’s Shirley’s fault.”
“That’s normal for a girl!”
“What do you think of my suggestion? I think that having Alice and Shirley as a pair would be best.”
“…I have a problem with that assumption. Masaki-kun is lacking in knowledge concerning Dialect. I can’t be persuaded that an ability judged to be Level 7 has no practical use.”
“Ah, that’s right! You don’t understand because you haven’t seen it.”
The opinions of both of them were plausible.
Masaki straightened his back.
“I got it. I’ll show you now since it isn’t dangerous.”
“This is as exciting as watching a magic show, isn’t it!?”
“…Will we appear on the roof?”
“It’s safe. And it isn’t a conjuring trick. Well, you should be satisfied…”
He took a deep breath.
He closed his eyes; it was necessary for him to concentrate for a little while.
Masaki raised both of his hands like an orchestra conductor.
(1) A Japanese cushion for sitting