The Forbidden Library was filled at all times with solemn serenity.
Beatrice, who saw herself as the librarian of the Forbidden Library, felt that’s how it was, and that was how a library was meant to be. A treasure trove of tales and knowledge only attained it’s proper state when filled with blessed silence.
Hence, the Forbidden Library was one of the most prominent sanctuaries for ‘Books’ in the world – and it now faced an unprecedented crisis.
“Mornin’. Is Beako here?”
“……No, she isn’t, you know.”
“Ah, she’s not, I see…… Hey, don’t pull that old trick on me. She’s right here.”
“At the very least, I don’t recall having opened the door for you, I suppose.”
Roughly closing the book she had been reading, Beatrice jumped down from the top of the stepladder and glared at her visitor. The one who had walked into the library, looking as though he owned the place, was a black-haired black-eyed boy with a cheerful smirk on his face.
Subaru Natsuki – an impertinent fellow who had recently been entering and leaving Beatrice’s Forbidden Library as he pleased.
Carried into the mansion only a few weeks earlier, the boy had, since then, worked as a servant, but he’d acted exceptionally familiar with Beatrice. Perhaps his peculiar nature, that allowed him to more or less come and go as he pleased to the Forbidden Library (where outsiders shouldn’t be able to arrive easily), was a factor in the development of his attitude.
“What on earth have you come here for, you know? Despite what you may think, Betty is busy, I suppose.”
“When you say busy, it’s just reading, right? Children should be outdoors! If you’re going to play, go play outside.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, you know. As if Betty would frolic like a child, I suppose.”
“Don’t go pouting just because you don’t know anyone. Should I go talk to Petra and the others for you?”
“Why do I even bother speaking with you, you know?! No one is speaking of such simplistic things, I suppose!”
When it came to dealing with Beatrice, Subaru’s attitude was always like this. While having her tranquility disturbed by this exchange, Beatrice played with the curls in her hair irritably.
“Regardless! Get to the point, state your business and get out! Come now, quickly!”
“Um, that was my business. I just came to say that since the weather is nice, maybe you’d like to go play outside.”
“……! Mind your own business, I suppose!”
Towards the one who rubbed her the wrong way more than she would have thought possible, she unleashed a wave of magical force from the palm of her extended hand. Struck by an invisible shockwave, Subaru shrieked as he was thrown out of the room – the door closed, and space itself wavered.
‘Door Crossing’ activated, and the library connected to another door in the mansion. With this, the room’s quiet would return.
Sighing at what had occurred, Beatrice turned to resume reading the book she was holding on to…
“……I’ve entirely forgotten how far I’d read, you know.”
With her desire to read entirely crushed, Beatrice’s ‘tsk‘ conveyed annoyance from the bottom of her heart.
She couldn’t help but think that lately, this, that, and everything just wasn’t working out properly.
In truth, ever since Subaru had come to stay at the mansion, the environment that Beatrice lived in had been in a state of ongoing change.
It had begun with Subaru, and his over-friendly way of interacting with her, but there had been changes in the others that lived in the mansion as well. For instance, the maid sisters that she had known for a relatively long time were a good example of this.
“Beatrice-sama, pardon me. May I have a moment of your time?”
“……You called me, so I came, but what sort of cargo is that, I suppose?”
Hearing a voice calling, she had connected the door to the mansion’s front entryway. Upon doing so, she found there the peach-haired maid, Ram. Carrying many baskets filled with vegetables, Ram boldly straddled the threshold of the library and bowed her head.
“Oh, it’s just that all these baskets are so much trouble, so Ram was wondering if you would kindly convey her to the kitchen via the library.”
“Since when has Betty become your handywoman, you know!?”
“Well then, that means that you won’t allow it?”
“Mggh…… J, just this once, I suppose……!”
After using ‘Door Crossing’ to connect the Forbidden Library to the kitchen, it did indeed reduce the trouble with the packages a little. When Ram passed through the door and gave a quick curtsey in thanks, Beatrice sniffed her nose at her to display her displeasure.
“Ah, Beatrice-sama, please wait a moment.”
“……And now it’s the younger of the sisters. If it’s some foolish errand, I won’t allow it, you know.”
Having been in the kitchen, Rem noticed Beatrice and quickly walked over to her. She shook her head to Beatrice with a ‘I wouldn’t dream of it’, and then, lowering her voice, asked,
“Rem would like to add pepples to this evening’s supper; how many of them can she add before you wouldn’t want to eat it?”
“……If it’s no more than three, I’ll put up with it, I suppose.”
“Understood. With that, we’ll add four, so please try your best.”
“It isn’t good to be picky, no matter the situation. You still have room to grow, Beatrice-sama.”
“What do you mean about the future…… no, never mind, you know. I’m starting to get a headache, I suppose.”
In response to Rem speaking to her in a fashion that could only be called motherly, Beatrice bent her lips into a truly impressive frown.
Her attitude was clearly different from the way that she had interacted with Beatrice until only recently. Faltering before that change in the sense of distance between them, Beatrice dejectedly withdrew into the Forbidden Library.
But, as she left, just before she closed the door…
“What did Beatrice-sama say?”
“It seems she’ll do her best with up to four pepples. Let’s put five in!”
Hearing that sort of unsettling conversation, Beatrice at last looked up to the ceiling as though lamenting.
“All of this is from that man’s bad influence……”
……As that sort of day piled one on top of the other, the very limits of Beatrice’s tolerance were plumbed.
And the limits of that patience were suddenly, abruptly torn through.
“…..Beako! Beako! You gotta get me to my room!”
While narrowing her eyes at the disrespectful tone of voice, Beatrice glared at the room’s entrance. Unable to conceal her irritation at the commotion, she completely forgot her anger at the scene that came next.
“Y…you! What are you doing looking like that, I suppose!?”
As Beatrice spoke in a voice that was all but a shriek, before her eyes was Subaru, dripping wet. Soaked in water from head to toe, he was half-naked, clad only in his underwear.
“Puck got me good! I’m soaked thanks to that jerk! I wanna get changed, so please connect the library to my room. I can’t go around the mansion getting everything wet.”
“It won’t do to get the library wet, either! Quit joking around, I suppose!”
Obviously, simply hanging around the entrance wouldn’t get the books wet. However, this was holy ground where tranquility was prized. Absolutely not a place where a half-naked, half-drowned rat would be admitted.
“You really do the most selfish things…… this isn’t funny, you know!”
“I’m sorry, this is an emergency measure. I’ll never use it this way again.”
“You said that last time, too, when you used it as a shortcut to the bathroom! If you think I’ll allow it because you call it an emergency measure, you’re entirely wrong, you know!”
“Yeah, but that was an emergency measure, too, c’mon! I’m sorry about this time, too!”
With her head boiling over at Subaru’s complete lack of any sign of regret, Beatrice snapped her fingers. Just as he’d asked, “Door Crossing” connected the entrance and his private room. However, she had no intention of allowing him to leave peacefully.
“Just like always, get out…… I suppose!”
Struck head-on by the shockwave, Subaru was blown away, tumbling head-over-heels into his room.
Without even watching him go, Beatrice used “Door Crossing” to seal off the Forbidden Library. Hurriedly grabbing a cleaning cloth, she cleaned up the floor that Subaru had gotten wet. And when the cleaning was done…
“That man…… he absolutely will not get away with this, you know. He must learn what Betty’s anger means, I suppose.”
With anger smoldering in her chest, and a cloth clutched in her hand, Beatrice’s voice trembled.
Closing the door that connected to the Forbidden Library, Beatrice began walking ponderously on the mansion’s carpets.
For Beatrice to go outside of the Forbidden Library, without a specific task in mind, was rare. It was her belief that, as long as she had the role of constantly caring for the library as it’s librarian, she should remain there as much as possible.
Bending that belief, she was now taking action outside the Forbidden Library. The truth behind that was…
“If Betty isn’t inside the library, he shouldn’t be able to come and go so easily, you know.”
She resented it, but the reason that Subaru was able to reach the Forbidden Library was that he had good compatibility with her wavelength.
Put simply, Subaru was finding the Forbidden Library by using Beatrice as a landmark. It was likely that he wasn’t aware of it, but it was irritating nonetheless. Regardless, to prevent his invasion of the library, she was separating herself from it. In a certain sense, she was getting her priorities confused, but Beatrice hadn’t noticed that.
“What’s more, this time I just can’t let it go, I suppose. I’m going to give him a piece of my mind, you know.”
Treating her as a handywoman was one thing, but the vandalism of the Forbidden Library had finally crossed a line inside of Beatrice. With a soaked cleaning cloth in one hand, Beatrice was thinking of providing Subaru with some disciplinary action.
As she was getting goosebumps over her idea, imagining that it would go on to become a revenge drama famed throughout the world, just at that moment Subaru came into view on the far end of the hallway.
“I’ve found you, I suppose. I’ll get right on with……hmm?”
At the instant she’d thought of running over and landing a flying kick, her feet stopped moving as she became aware of a presence at Subaru’s side.
Before Subaru’s eyes, floating in front of his face, was Beatrice’s dear older brother, Puck.
Without thinking, Beatrice held her breath at the sight of the two of them, apparently deep in conversation about something. The air about them suggested she mustn’t disturb them, and yet the one she needed vengeance on was right in front of her; Beatrice was caught between a rock and hard place. On top of that…
“…! They’re coming this way, you know!”
Having finished their conversation, Beatrice saw them heading towards this part of the hallway. Fearing that they’d find out she’d been eavesdropping, she frantically tumbled into a nearby guest room. But, through some twist of fate, she heard them stop in front of the room. To further avoid them, Beatrice hid in the closet.
Not a moment too soon, just as someone entered the room, Beatrice finished hiding. Quietly peeking outside as she heard the door close, she saw Puck floating in the center of the room.
She wouldn’t mind being found if it was only Puck, she thought, but she had no way to explain why she was hiding. Thinking that she had no choice but to stay hidden and avoid being found, Beatrice held her breath…
“…Meow! Meoweow, me~w”
In the room that Beatrice was peeking into, Puck abruptly began rolling on the floor and crying out sweetly. On top of that, as he curled up his tail and looked around with big, round eyes, his charm was off the charts, and Beatrice, not grasping what Puck was doing, could only watch the kitten’s antics in fascination.
…Bubby, what are you doing!? Ah, but how adorable you are, I suppose!
Not noticing Beatrice in the closet, Puck was earnestly adding to his cuteness. Overwhelmed by his appearance, Beatrice let out a heated breath in the narrow space she occupied.
“Meo~w…… gah, no, no! That’s not good enough at all! After Subaru believed in me and went to the trouble of giving me advice, this is still worse than a cat……!”
“Ah, Bubby, such an earnest look on your face…… so cute, you know……”
Standing atop the floor and cradling his head, Puck swung his tail as though he were troubled. This gesture was enchanting, too, but Beatrice desperately resisted the urge to run to his side.
She didn’t understand what it was, but Puck was now earnestly battling against something. Beatrice couldn’t bring herself to do something so inelegant as interrupting him. …Nay, it could not be allowed.
“I’ll charm Lia more, get a better hold on her heart, and bring back that kind of closeness……!”
As Beatrice watched over Puck with an enthralled expression, his words of determination did not reach her.
It goes without saying that for someone like her, who had blind faith in Puck, she would never imagine that Emilia had been treating him coldly of late, and he was now making a misplaced effort to repair their relationship.
Beatrice simply burned the image of Puck’s earnestness into her eyelids, and carved it into her soul.
“A~h. Bubbby, I can’t get enough of you, I suppose……!”
If there happened to be some god overlooking the situation, what a peculiar, dubious scene it would be, indeed.
“Beako~, you the~re?”
“……I’m not, you know.”
“Are you planning to make a habit of that? You’re right here, aintcha? ……Seriously.”
On the afternoon of the same day, Subaru came to visit Beatrice after she’d returned to the Forbidden Library. Glancing at him, she saw he was carrying cleaning tools and smiling weakly.
“What brings you……Please tell me you’re not going to say you want to do some cleaning, and need me to connect to another room, I suppose.”
“Nah, that ain’t the plan. C’mon, this morning I dripped water in the entrance and caused trouble, right? So, I thought maybe I could do some cleaning in the Forbidden Library to show I was sorry……”
“An admirable thought, you know. However, there’s no need, I suppose.”
As Subaru showed a rarely-seen subdued attitude, Beatrice shook her head while smiling faintly. Seeing her reaction, Subaru widened his eyes as though surprised.
“……Your expression is strange, you know.”
“Uh, I’d say you’re being stranger here. Usually you’d be angrier…… though I’m glad you’re not angry. You look kinda happy, did something nice happen?”
“Not really…… Oh, yes, yes. There was something I wanted to say to you, I suppose.”
“Oh, I know, right? That’s more like my Beako. Alright, bring it on! I can take it!”
As if he were strengthening his resolve, Subaru crouched down where he was, and positioned himself as though preparing to be struck by something. Indeed, this was a posture that might allow him to endure a shockwave.
It’s just that the words Beatrice tossed towards him were, just this once, something else entirely…
“Now and then, even you can do a half-decent job of something, you know. My compliments, I suppose.”
“You showed me something nice, you know.”
The reason wasn’t really clear to her, but it seemed that Puck looking cute like that had been an idea hatched by Subaru.
Well then, she felt like she ought to express her unabashed thanks for being able to see it. In regards to having gotten the Forbidden Library wet, she wouldn’t mind allowing this accomplishment to offset it.
Subaru’s mouth opened in shock at Beatrice’s carefree sentiment.
“B, Beako…… have you got a fever or something!? This is terrible! It must be because you’re stuck in a place like this with no sunlight……! I, I’ll call a doctor! You’ll be well soon……”
“You should accept someone’s gratitude a little more graciously, I suppose!”
After she reappraised him in only a moment, Beatrice’s shockwave washed over Subaru and he was flung from the Forbidden Library.
The noisy boy disappeared, and the serenity it deserved once more descended on the Forbidden Library. Accepting that with a blissful feeling, Beatrice thought to herself.
…For the sake of this feeling of gratitude for the peace and quiet, perhaps she might be willing to allow a bit of noise now and then.
“No, that would be spoiling him too much, you know……”
Raising a hand to her forehead as though exhausted, Beatrice returned to the top of her stepladder and immersed herself in a book.
The faint hint of a smile etched onto her face was something that not even she herself would recall having seen before.