Also, I'm not going to make PDFs until I've finished the entire series. Which shouldn't be too far off, considering my current pace.
My name is Seron.
My full name is Seron Maxwell. I am 15 years old, and a third-year student in secondary school. I was born on the 3rd day of the third month of the year 3290 of the World Calendar.
I was born in the Roxcheanuk Confederation, which takes up the eastern half of the only continent in the world. By that point, the war between Roxche and the Allied Kingdoms of Bezel-Iltoa in the western half of the continent had already ended. The world was finally at peace.
I don’t remember much of my childhood, but for a while I was the pampered son of a rich family. That is, until my father cheated on my mother. She divorced him then and took me and my baby sister Leena back to her hometown.
After that, my family name became ‘Maxwell’. Mother used the alimony from the divorce to start a frozen food business and rose to success in the blink of an eye.
Our surroundings changed rapidly too. At first we lived in a small apartment building in town. Then an average one. Then, an expensive one. Then a rented house. And finally, we moved into a luxury mansion in a posh neighborhood.
Leena and I were babysat by neighbors at first, followed by a nanny, followed by maids and a butler. The fast-changing environment was both fascinating and fun.
But I was a bit of a loner in primary school. Most of my classmates were from ordinary middle-class families; Leena and I were the only ones who had a bodyguard to drive us to and from the school. I was not an outcast, but most people kept me at arm’s length.
Thanks to that, I had a lot of time on my hands to focus on my studies. I chose to attend secondary school because decided I wanted to go to university someday. In Roxche, you cannot attend university without having finished secondary school. Most of my classmates elected to attend vocational school instead.
That was when Mother made a suggestion.
“Honey, would you like to attend secondary school in the Capital District?”
She said that there would be more upper-class kids in the Capital District, which would make life easier for me. I would receive a better education and more easily make friends from similar backgrounds, she said.
I agreed. So when I was 12, I began to attend school in the Capital District—the most famous secondary school in the area, the 4th Capital Secondary School.
The Capital District was hundreds of kilometers away from home. It was the kind of distance you had to cover on a sleeper train. As commuting was impossible, I automatically signed up to live in the dormitories.
I was dreaming.
Before I knew it, 12-year-old me was standing at the entrance to the dorms.
I was alone, wearing my uniform and holding my bag.
The senior-classmen were welcoming the new arrivals. The matrons were greeting us. It was welcoming day at the dorms.
When I turned, I saw my friend Larry.
Twelve-year-old Larry. A boy with blond hair and blue eyes in a slightly baggy uniform.
If memory serves, I hadn’t met Larry yet.
Larry Hepburn was a nice and outgoing boy from a long line of soldiers and knights. We first met when he sat down next to me in the first class of the term.
I was wearing a jacket—not from my uniform—and standing next to Mother, who was in an impeccable blue suit.
That’s right. This is a dream.
Fifteen-year-old me is having a dream.
That’s why my memories are all jumbled together.
Then it makes sense.
I greeted my friend, three years younger than he really was and wearing school sweats embroidered with the name ‘Hepburn’. The friend who was not actually there.
“We meet again. Let’s chat more later.”
“Sure thing! Let’s meet later!”
Larry disappeared with a wave—
Before I knew it, I was in a classroom.
Larry was sitting next to me in summer uniform. Mr. Murdoch was teaching Roxchean at the front of the room.
Secondary school was a perfect place to study.
It was filled with people who dreamed of going to university to join Roxche’s elite. It had study rooms and an excellent library. The campus was isolated just enough from the city. I had no complaints. And above all, the students were passionate about their studies.
Because many of the students here were children of wealthy families or celebrities, no one was really surprised to hear that Mother was the president of Maxwell Frozen Foods. People were generally more shocked about how far I had come to study here.
But I had a problem.
“Hey Seron. We’re having a party at my place. Wanna come?”
“Seron… would you like to have lunch with me?”
“Do you like anyone, Seron?”
It started on the very first day of class. The girls wouldn’t stop trying to talk to me.
I wasn’t particularly interested in anyone, but I didn’t understand why they would ask me something like that.
When I confided in Larry, he looked incredulous.
“You mean you didn’t know, buddy?”
“No way! Man, that’s totally like you. So you didn’t realize after all!”
Wh-what are you talking about?
“That you’re a really handsome guy!”
I guess that’s how it was.
I had never considered it, but apparently I was handsome and popular with the girls.
“You might as well try a more elegant style now that you’re going to the Capital District.” Mother had said. I had worn my hair very short in primary school, but at her suggestion I began to grow it out. Maybe that was why I became ‘the very handsome Seron Maxwell’.
Sometimes, it was a classmate.
Sometimes, it was a girl I met on the grounds.
Sometimes, a girl I met in the cafeteria.
Sometimes, someone my own age. Sometimes, a senior-classman. And sometimes (starting in second year), a junior-classman.
“Will you go out with me?”
I don’t remember how many times I’ve heard those words now.
And each time, I had to offer my deepest apologies.
“Another apology, Seron? Must be tough.”
“Yeah… Larry, what does it mean to go out with someone, anyway?”
“Well… er… When two people with feelings for each other spend time alone together.”
“What kind of feelings?”
“…Erm… It’s like… when you feel happier about being with someone more than anyone else in the world? I bet that’s what it feels like.”
“I see. I’ve never had those feelings yet.”
“…Anyway, just make sure you don’t break anyone’s heart when you turn them down.”
“You sure know a lot, Larry.”
“I saw this stuff in a magazine.”
“…All right. I’ll make sure to properly apologize when I turn them down.”
I don’t know how many more I had to turn down afterwards.
After talking to Larry some more, I found out that dating someone generally began with ‘love at first sight’.
“I met you for the first time right now, and I did not fall in love with you.”
I avoided saying that, though.
“Good to hear, Seron. If you’d said that, someone might have stabbed you. I’m sure you’ll find a nice girl one of these days.”
Even in my dreams Larry is a dependable friend. Right now he is in a sweat-drenched T-shirt.
My life in secondary school went on—
I was in my third year.
And I met her.
‘So this is love at first sight. I finally understand.’
But I didn’t have the time to slowly digest this thought.
It was the year 3305 of the World Calendar, the first day of the new term. I chose to take a visual arts class for my fine arts option, and the class began a little ways into the year.
The moment I spotted her—taking a seat in the left-hand corner of the art room—my world was turned upside-down.
She had her long black hair tied up in pigtails. She had fair skin and dark eyes. She seemed to shine like a ray of light in the dull classroom.
She was cute. Cool. Beautiful.
Could there be anyone in the world more wonderful than her?
I felt like I was dreaming.
Which is true, in a sense.
“That’s right, Seron! That’s what ‘love at first sight’ means!”
Larry was wearing a red turtleneck sweater with the word ‘ARMY’ on it. He had taken music class instead of visual art, so he was not actually there.
“Wh-what do I do?” I asked.
“C’mon, use your head. Go talk to her.”
“You wanna know more about her, yeah?”
“Then go talk to her, Seron Maxwell. Just like all those girls talked to you over the past two years. That’s how it all starts. Get up and make small talk.”
The teacher came in. So I ignored Larry, who was not actually there, and began to listen.
I could not speak to her while class was going on.
“Who cares? Just forget the teacher!”
I can’t do that.
“Even in your dreams, you’re an honor student.”
The teacher gave us a quick outline of the term, then told us to partner up with a classmate and draw their face.
“Sweet! This is your chance, buddy. She’s sitting right next to you; just talk to her. It looks like she’s not the type to start up a conversation herself, so you should help her out. And come to think of it, you were pretty good at drawing too.”
I swallowed. My heart was pounding furiously in my chest. I took a deep breath to calm myself down—
“Megmica here moved to Roxche from Sou Be-Il. Would anyone like to volunteer to be her partner?” The teacher said out of the blue.
The pigtailed girl trembled slightly.
I was half a second late to speak up.
I heard moontongue.
I knew it was not really an extraterrestrial language, but the words sounded like gibberish to me. They were spoken by a girl.
The pigtailed girl’s eyes widened as she looked up at the girl who had stood ahead to her right. She had long brown hair and looked fiercely confident and lively. In a word, ‘strong’.
“What’re you doing, Seron? It’s not too late!”
Larry—dressed in his uniform—spurred me forward as I drew the face of the male classmate I’d ended up partnering with.
The pigtailed girl and the confident girl chattered endlessly as they sat face-to-face.
I could hear their voices, but didn’t understand a word.
But even I could tell that they were having fun.
I hated myself.
I hated myself for being unable to understand her, even though she was right next to me.
For being unable to speak to her, even though she was right next to me.
I still hated myself when class ended.
My partner looked at the picture I’d drawn.
“You’re pretty good at this. Are you gonna be a professional illustrator?” He asked, but I had no intention of becoming one.
Then he added,
“I’m not as good as you, but I did my best.”
He showed me my face.
The picture showed a boy who looked like he was about to cry.
I didn’t learn much about her by the time visual arts class ended in the summer. Her name was Strauski Megmica, and she was from Sou Be-Il. That was it.
She spent most of the class talking with the confident brunette. It looked like they were having fun together. And no one tried to get in their way.
I started chatting with the guy I was paired up with in the first class, and a few girls joined us afterwards.
The rest of the term went by quickly, and I turned down yet more admirers.
“Man, I wish I could help.” Larry grumbled all the while, before finally vanishing like mist.
Larry was gone, and the classroom was gone. Third-year me was standing all alone in the dark.
No one was there to get in my way.
If Megmica were to appear before me, I could talk to her. Ask her out.
“No, you couldn’t.”
I turned. There stood a boy whom all the girls fawned over.
Remained completely expressionless.
“You’re hopeless. Just give up on her. It’s not going to happen.”
This is a nightmare.
I don’t like this at all.
I want to open my eyes.
“You’re hopeless. Hopeless—”
* * *
When I opened my eyes, I was in a room.
I sat on a sofa, staring at the sofa across the coffee table and at the shelf behind it. The light from the window illuminated the room.
I was still drowsy. Where was I? What time was it?
“Are you all right, Seron? It seemed like you were dreaming a nightmare.”
I heard a voice from my left.
I slowly turned my head.
Megmica was giving me a worried look. Was she trying to look into my face? Our faces were so close.
Her large, dark eyes stared into mine.
“I’m okay.” I replied quickly. It looks like I’m still dreaming. “Yeah. I’m fine.”
“Are you sure that you are fine? Please do not work too hard.”
At the sound of Megmica’s lovely voice, I remembered where I was and what I was doing.
My name is Seron.
My full name is Seron Maxwell. I am 15 years old, and a third-year secondary school student.
Larry and Seron
Once upon a time—specifically, the first month of the year 3303 of the World Calendar—
In a certain land—specifically, the Special Capital District in the Roxcheanuk Confederation—lived a certain boy.
The boy’s name was Larry Hepburn.
Larry was 12 years old. He had graduated from primary school at the end of the previous year, and was now in secondary school.
He was a little smaller than other kids his age—in other words, he was puny—but he was solid as a rock thanks to his daily workout regimen. He had blond hair cropped short and eyes the color of the sky. Dressed in his new uniform, Larry walked down the street by the campus with his new leather bag in hand to attend the 4th Capital Secondary School.
“All right! From today on, I’m a secondary school student!” He said energetically.
Today was the second day of school. And it was technically the first day of class, as the previous day was an entrance ceremony and orientation day where parents accompanied the new first-years. Today was the first day of school for the senior-classmen.
Larry stepped onto the roundabout in front of the gates.
“I can do this!”
He headed for the gates with a spring in his step.
And there he was mercilessly trampled by countless taller students. Larry did not know that the narrow school gates were about as crowded as the metro during rush hour. And now he knew.
Larry was swept into campus in the torrent of people.
The Hepburns were a famous military family in the Capital District.
Before the founding of Roxche, they had served a kingdom for generations as knights. And after the age of kings, they served as renowned soldiers in the military.
Larry’s father was in the Confederation Army, and Larry hoped to follow in his footsteps.
To do that, he had to attend the Confederation Army Officers’ Academy. And to do that, he had to graduate from secondary school.
Students between the ages of 12 and 18 attended secondary school in order to receive higher education. In Roxche, only secondary school graduates could attend university.
In one sense, a child’s life was decided when he or she was 12 years old. Those who did not pass the secondary school entrance exam usually attended a four-year vocational school instead before joining the workforce.
Larry Hepburn had always been physically fit and sound of spirit, but he had no talent for academics.
His brother, six years his senior, had entered secondary school without a hitch. He graduated just as Larry started and was now starting at the Confederation Army Officer’s Academy, but Larry had only just made it into school.
“Don’t worry, son. Secondary school isn’t everything; nor is the military. You can walk your own path.”
“Your father’s right, sweetheart. If you push yourself too hard, you’ll ruin yourself while you’re still young.”
His parents were kind and understanding. But being so competitive, Larry could not let himself fail after hearing their encouragement.
Without realizing that he had fallen right into his parents’ skillful trap, Larry had applied himself to his studies.
“If you give up now, you give up all hope for your future!” The tutor had drilled him, and Larry very narrowly managed the grades to continue to secondary school.
Secondary schools were famous—or infamous, according to some—for the freedom they offered. Students were not assigned to one classroom. They had to leave their things in lockers and move between classrooms each period.
Students had a choice of subjects they could take, save for some required courses. Each subject was assigned a level, and students started at the lowest.
For example, Roxchean was a required subject, and incoming students had to take the class called ‘Roxchean 101’. There were several Roxchean 101 classes in the term, so students could pick one that did not overlap with any other classes they wanted to take.
Generally, students would move on to Roxchean 201 in second year. The content of the class also changed depending on the third digit of the course code, so for Roxchean there could be more specialized classes like ‘Roxchean grammar’ and ‘Essay-writing’.
Each course had a basic class, like Mathematics 101 or Social Studies 101, and the numbers went all the way up to 601 for the sixth-years. Particularly bright students could take courses early—for example, a third-year could theoretically take a 401 or a 501 class.
Most students took three classes in the morning and one or two in the afternoon. They also had the option to take two in the morning or three in the afternoon. Students had the freedom to control their schedules according to their own abilities.
At the orientation the previous day, Larry had made himself an ordinary timetable like the other first-years. It was one of the default choices the school offered to newcomers, who did not yet fully understand the system.
“So first up is history…”
The first secondary school course Larry would ever take was Social Studies 105, also known as Roxchean history. It provided a simple and generalized overview of the history of Roxche, from prehistory to yesterday.
There were many buildings on the school campus, which made it difficult for most first-years to remember the school layout and find their way in the short travel time they were allotted.
But Larry had been exploring forests with naught but a map and a compass since he was a child. He had an excellent sense of direction and had a good head for maps.
Larry remembered the campus map he had seen the other day and made it to the classroom before anyone else.
There were many different kinds of classrooms in the school. This one had no raised podiums or steps, and had rows and rows of individual desks and chairs. He might as well sit at the very front, Larry thought, and chose the first seat in the center of the room.
He waited as he fixed his uniform and his crooked tie, and eventually the other students filtered in. One of the boys even asked Larry if he was in the right classroom. Some students really had come to the wrong one. They were all only carrying pens and notebooks because they didn’t know what textbooks to buy yet.
Some of the students were chatting, but most were lost in a sea of strangers. The room was swirling with tense uncertainty and excitement for the secondary school life that was bout to begin.
The bell rang, and wandering students leapt into their classrooms. There were about 30 in Larry’s class, although the number fluctuated between classes.
The teacher entered the classrooms with several students who had lost their way. She was a woman in her 40s with a good-natured expression.
But her voice was surprisingly loud. Everyone tensed.
The teacher congratulated the students on their acceptance and began to rattle off a list of things they needed to know about student life at the 4th Capital Secondary School.
She informed them that secondary school was not part of their mandatory education, so they should drop out if they did not wish to study.
That students with poor attendance and grades would be suspended or expelled without exception.
That students should consult a school counselor to take make-up classes or to drop classes and try again the next term if they were having difficulty. That it was not shameful to do so and many senior-classmen were doing the same.
That students had to choose their courses carefully, lest they flounder in later years trying to take certain courses they needed to graduate.
Larry was at a loss, unable to keep up with all the advice. That was when he heard someone taking notes.
The boy to his left was taking down everything the teacher was saying, word-for-word.
Larry didn’t remember the boy sitting down beside him, but there he was. A boy in the same uniform and clearly in the same year.
He had black hair that was a little long, parted down the middle. His eyes were grey.
The boy had handsome features, but to Larry he just looked withdrawn, or even frail.
He was taller than Larry—no surprise there, as that was the case with most boys and even a few girls.
Talk about diligent, Larry thought, and looked ahead again without a second thought.
The teacher continued to rattle off advice and the boy next to Larry continued to scribble down notes.
Class was halfway done by the time the teacher was finished.
“Now let’s start the introductions. It might be hard to make new friends in secondary school, since you’ll have different classmates each period. But try to make at least one new friend in each class and introduce yourselves. I want you to stand up one at a time and tell the class your name and where you’re from, and about your family and your hobbies if you’d like. Let’s start with you, by the window.”
The introductions began. Larry remembered what his brother had said.
“There are a lot of kids at the 4th Capital Secondary School with famous parents. Listen for all the last names when they introduce themselves—you’ll get a kick out of it.”
Sure enough, among the 30 students were the son of the most famous radio newscaster in the Capital District, the daughter of a gorgeous actress, and the son of the president of a large pharmaceutical company.
Larry knew what they’d think about him.
‘Oh. Second son of the Hepburn family, huh.’
‘Pretty short for a Hepburn.’
But either way, he finished his introduction. The others did seem confused about his love of outdoor activities, camping, and bodybuilding, but he did not care.
It was time for the boy on Larry’s left to introduce himself. He stood from his seat.
“My name is Seron Maxwell. I live in the dormitories. My mother is the president of Maxwell Frozen Foods.”
Larry remembered the distinctive red frozen food packages, but did not think too much on it.
“My hobby is reading.”
Larry wondered if anyone could possibly read as a hobby.
The boy finished his plain introduction and took a seat, and Larry forgot about him for the next three days.
Over the course of the day, Larry heard the names of over 100 celebrities and other high-profile individuals.
“How was class, honey? Make any new friends?” His mother asked that evening.
“I met too many people.” Larry was forced to say.
* * *
It was the fourth day of his life as a secondary school student.
Larry now knew how to pass safely through the crowded gates in the morning. He was also largely adjusted to student life.
Some of his classmates now remembered him by name, and thanks to his outgoing personality he now had some friends to chat with.
Naturally, other students were trying to make new friends as well. By that point, Larry knew people he could have lunch together with.
Other than the fast-paced and difficult classes, school was a blast. Which was the most important thing as far as Larry was concerned.
After school, Larry crossed the vast grounds to the gate on his way home. The sun was setting to the west.
Normally, he took the bus back home. But it was such a nice day that he decided to make the hour-long journey on foot to get some exercise instead.
Because there were so many students at the school, the way to the gate was teeming. So Larry went off the path and strode down a narrow dirt road between the trees and the building. Not many people used this route because the trees concealed the path completely.
That was when he spotted something ahead in his way. Several boys were gathered in the middle of the path. Larry frowned.
He clicked his tongue and decided to turn back, when he noticed two things.
One was that the students ahead were surrounding one boy.
The other was that the lone, indifferent boy had sat next to him in history class—
“Who was that again…? Aha. The frozen food guy.”
That the student was the son of the president of a famous frozen food company.
The others around him all seemed to be first-years. And it definitely did not look like they were gathered for a friendly chat.
Larry frowned and resumed his walk down the dirt path.
As he drew closer, he heard the contents of their conversation.
“Don’t you get it, you imbecile? We’re doing you a favor here, asking you to join us.” Said one of the boys.
Another boy chimed in.
“Secondary school’s all about making connections for the future. Connections are everything in business!”
That wasn’t entirely untrue.
“You should be grateful we’re giving you a chance to join us.”
But even someone as dense as Larry understood. The gang was trying to pull in the handsome frozen food heir into their group at any cost.
Frozen Food finally broke his silence.
“I’m not interested in friends who offer to let me ‘join’ them. And I’m here to study, not make connections. Look for someone else.”
He was cold as ice, Larry thought. The boys who heard him from up close must have thought the same—or worse.
One of the group of six was particularly quick to anger. He was the big one of the group. He went up to Frozen Food and shoved him hard.
Frozen Food staggered. His back hit the wall.
Larry was now right behind the group of delinquent boys. But none of them had noticed Larry, who was not involved in any way. And because Larry was so small, Frozen Food could not see him either.
“Are we done here? Excuse me.” Frozen Food said, turning away.
Understandably, the delinquent boys fumed.
“I’ll make sure no one invites you to any parties, Seron Maxwell!”
“You’re gonna regret treating us like idiots!”
Larry was finally reminded of Frozen Food’s name. Seron.
Seron did not even blink.
“Great. Now I won’t have to bother turning them down.”
Larry smacked his own forehead. Though Seron might not have meant to sound hostile, he had most definitely provoked the boys.
As expected, they were livid. They finally exploded.
“You’re not getting away with that one, punk! You’re dead!”
“You asked for it!”
“Rich boys tend to stick together. They never get into fights.” His brother had said. But that proved untrue in only five days.
What should he do, Larry wondered. It would take too long to call a teacher over, and it would be a hassle to go all the way into the building. But Larry could not stand back and watch as a lone boy was beaten up by six—even if he had a frigid attitude.
At the same time, something occurred to him.
If Seron did not even try to put up resistance, Larry had no reason to help him.
There was no need to help someone who simply asked for help without even trying to help themselves.
A long time ago, Larry had heard a story from his grandfather.
Once upon a time, Larry’s ancestor was the head of a band of knights. He was on a campaign to bring peace to the land when, in enemy territory, he came across two villages threatened by bandits.
One village had decided to do obey the bandits the next time they raided. The other village had decided to fight to the last man.
Both villages pleaded with Larry’s ancestor to help them. The ancestor only helped the second village before defeating the bandits.
“There’s no reason to help someone who simply asks for help without making any effort.” Larry had learned from his grandfather.
“Now… which one are you?” Larry wondered, standing on tippytoes to get a good look at Seron.
Seron’s response was clear.
“I know I can’t win against all six of you.”
“Then beg for—”
The boy was offering mercy, but Seron cut him off and hefted his bag off the ground.
“So I promise I’ll hit the first one to lunge at me with my bag. It’s full of library books, and I guarantee it’s going to hurt. Sorry in advance.”
Larry could practically hear the six freeze. He also noticed himself smiling.
Then, he loudly made himself known.
“That’s enough, Seron!”
The six boys turned, flinching.
Seron stared in bemusement with his bag still in his hands.
“Sorry to keep you waiting, buddy.” Larry said. “Who’re these guys?”
* * *
“I didn’t ask for you help, but thank you. I appreciate it.”
Though Larry was small in stature, he looked like he could put up quite the fight. The six boys left the scene in surprise. Dozens of seconds passed before Seron finally spoke.
“You sat next to me in history class, didn’t you. You were… Larry Hepburn?”
“Hey, you’ve got a pretty good memory. I was just passing by, and I thought you could use some help. And you’re welcome.”
“I see. I’ll repay the favor one day.”
“Don’t worry about it. I only walked in partway through so I don’t have the story, but people are gonna get angry if you’re always so blunt with them.”
“I guess so. But it was true.” Seron said firmly.
“And there’s your problem.” Larry chuckled. “You might want to fix that habit.”
“That might be a bit tough. But I’ll try. I can’t always hope someone will come to help me out.”
“That’s the spirit! Even someone as dumb as me knows that much.”
Seron gave him a quizzical stare.
“What are you talking about, Larry?”
“Oh. I mean I only just made it into the school. My grades were awful.”
Seron trailed off and fell into thought. Several seconds passed and Larry wondered what he should do, when—
“Then let me help you.”
“Huh? What do you mean?”
“I can help you study. Ask me anything anytime. I live in the dorms, so after class I’m almost always in the library studying or reading.”
“I-I see. But you don’t really need to help me. I have a really bad memory—”
“Which is all the more reason for me to help. I told you, I’ll repay the favor.”
“You’re a stubborn one, huh. All right. I accept your token of gratitude, Seron.”
“But in exchange—” Larry grinned.
“I’m gonna help round out your personality. It’s not fair if you’re always paying me back, right?”
“C’mon, Seron! We’re friends now!” Larry laughed.
“Heh.” Seron chuckled as well.
Four days later, after class.
“Sorry, man. I’m gonna need some help with history. And I missed the notes for these sections here, so can I copy off you? Also, I need some help with Roxchean—”
Larry was half in tears as he clung desperately to Seron in the library.
* * *
Time passed. It was two years later, in the year 3305.
“What are these heinous grades, Larry? You shooting for a world record?”
“Shaddap, Lia. I’m happy as long as I don’t get kicked out of school.”
“I can’t believe you lasted this long.”
“I know, right? I definitely made the right choice back then.”
“What’re you going on about?”