Chapter 5: A Role
“Hey there, Seron. We finished early today. How’re you feeling?” Larry asked, stepping into the office.
Seron was deep in thought on the sofa. “A lot better, thanks. I got plenty of rest. Sorry for worrying you.” He said, getting to his feet. Larry put on a smile and waved it off.
“Seron is all fine now!” Meg said, turning her head as she washed the teacups and teapot.
“…I see. Thanks, Megmica.” Larry said, falling into silence as he thought to himself, ‘It almost looks like I’m visiting a couple of newlyweds!’ and thanked her.
“This is good timing, Larry. I will brew tea for everyone. Seven will be enough, yes?” Meg smiled, filling the teapot with water.
“Awake now, Seron?”
“Ah, back to the Seron we all know and love.”
Natalia and Nick remarked as they entered the office. They were soon followed by Sophia.
Sophia and Nick sat down and sighed loudly, almost in unison. They exchanged looks and smiled.
“That was exhausting. Don’t you agree, SC Sophia?”
“Yeah… but we did such good work today.”
“I foresee no difficulty for the fall performance. Now we must focus on the other main issue that towers over us.”
Sophia hung her head weakly, nodding. Eventually, all six of them quietly started on their cups of tea.
The newspaper club’s president announced her return.
Jenny took out some film from her bag and placed it in a paper bag labeled ‘UNDEVELOPED’. Then she put her camera bag on the desk and pulled out the camera, which she put in the dresser.
“Thank you for your hard work, Jenny. Here is your cup of tea.” Meg said, pouring a cup for Jenny and placing it in front of her on the desk. Then she returned to her seat on the sofa.
“Thanks, Megmica.” Jenny said, testing the temperature before gulping down her tea. “Huh. This is lukewarm. Did you prepare a cool cup of tea just for me? Because you knew I’d be thirsty?”
“Yes. That way seemed like the best way. For the second cup I will give you a little warmer tea.”
“Then a boiling-hot one for cup #3, right? That’s so considerate of you. You’ll make a great housewife someday, Megmica.”
“Hee hee. Thank you, Jenny. To get married young is one of my dreams for my future.”
Seron was completely still.
Jenny finally seemed to notice his presence.
“Ah, welcome back to the land of the living.”
“Yeah. Sorry for making you worry. I won’t push myself so hard anymore.” Seron replied, knowing exactly what answer he owed the others. Then he let Larry begin their meeting in earnest.
“Did you find out anything, Jenny? What’d SC Joshua say?”
All eyes were on Jenny; a downcast look rose to her face.
“It was definitely an informative interview from a general perspective, but to be honest I didn’t find out anything we needed. …So I met Joshua Dennis and chatted with him about school. He knew who I was too, so it wasn’t too awkward.”
“Oh? How’d he know you?” Asked Natalia.
“As the ‘tiny newspaper girl who published some really funny school newspapers’. It kinda stung, but that doesn’t matter right now. Anyway, we talked a lot and he gave me a tour. I got to watch them rehearse, then I got to see backstage, and even the space under the stage. I took so many pictures I could probably publish a small photo book with them. But—”
“Nothing about our case, huh.” Seron said feebly.
“I asked him about the 50th bee outright. I told him I heard from a certain drama club member that SC Arthur wanted it, and that this might be a good chance to ask. But he didn’t know. He definitely remembers SC Arthur, but he has no idea what the 50th bee is.”
Gloom filled the air of the newspaper club office.
“…Everyone. Thanks so much for everything. But you’ve done enough now.” Sophia said sadly. “Now that I think about it, this might have been impossible from the very beginning. There’s no time left now, so I want to thank you properly and officially withdraw my request. Thank you so much, everyone. I mean it.”
The newspaper club was silent.
Seron tried to say something, but he remembered his conversation with Meg and stopped himself.
Then, the silence was broken—
“Why did you start to love him?”
—by none other than Meg.
Sophia looked up, surprised.
“Why did you start to love him?” Meg asked again, calmly.
“At first, I didn’t really think of him badly or well.” Sophia replied. “Isn’t it funny? We were in the drama club together for a long time, but he always came off as unreliable and a little dense. Until the end of last year, he was just a fellow club member in my year.”
“Please keep going.” Meg said, gently spurring on Sophia. Seron and the others listened without cutting in.
“But after SC Joshua left last year, and a girl took over as president after him— do you guys know about the drama club’s tradition?”
“The tradition with switching boys and girls?”
“That’s right. For four years I worked so hard, thinking I would be president someday. But because of that little twist of fate, I ended up becoming the vice-president. I’m all right now, but I was really upset at the time. I couldn’t even blame SC Joshua. It was just bad luck on my part. So I took over as vice-president, and things changed.”
“Then you noticed that SC Arthur works very hard. Yes?”
“Yeah. After he became president, we ended up working together a lot, and I began to see a lot about him I’d never noticed before. He’s passionate about acting, he’s nice to everyone, and maybe because of his personality, he’s really good at managing little details.”
“Mhm. Mhm. So there are many good points!”
“And one day, I was alone with Ms. Krantz when I kind of blurted out, ‘Arthur’s really a good fit for president’. I still remember how Ms. Krantz smiled and replied, ‘Isn’t he?’”
“Hmm… you are all very good people, SC Sophia.”
“Thank you, Megmica. But at the time, I was so ashamed of myself. I’d been performing alongside him for four years, and I hadn’t understood him at all. I wanted to crawl into a hole somewhere and never come out. And that’s when I thought to myself that I’d do my very best as vice-president. I think that’s when it all started. When we were together, I started thinking about him even outside of drama club stuff. I think…”
Sophia finally finished, her freckled cheeks turning red.
The newspaper club members were free to speak. They had smiles on their faces, all five of them ready to say something to the effect of, ‘Don’t worry, SC Sophia! We’ll do our best to help’.
“Then confess to him!”
But the sixth member, Strauski Megmica, beat them to the punch. She leapt from her seat and raised her voice.
As Sophia stared, wide-eyed, Meg firmly repeated herself.
“Tomorrow, confess your love to SC Arthur!”
“But—we haven’t found—”
“Something like that is not needed!” Meg cut her off. “If you love him like that, it is no use to gift him a nice gift and wait for him to see you with love! Confess to him, just the way you confessed to us just now! I thought now, oh, if only SC Arthur was here to hear your words! If you honestly confess your feelings to SC Arthur, he will reply to your feelings!”
“I see your point, Megmica. And I’ve wanted to tell him outright so many times. Even now I just want to spill everything. But—”
“But what is it?”
“But if he turns me down… then what do I do? What if he doesn’t like me? What if he thinks I’m annoying? I wouldn’t be able to keep going with the drama club. I wouldn’t even be able to stay beside him as vice-president.”
Sophia’s expression darkened as she descended further into negativity. Seron listened carefully, nodding to himself all the while. Larry noticed Seron and gave him a sympathetic look, knowing that Seron was of the same mind when it came to Meg.
Natalia and Nick listened quietly.
Jenny had, at some point, begun taking notes.
“Maybe he doesn’t even like outgoing girls like me. Maybe he’s into cute, cheerful girls that everyone likes.”
“You won’t know it until you ask him!”
“But what is it? If you take the object SC Arthur wants and gift it to him, does his girls he is into change? It is no different to confess to him with or without the gift!”
Sophia could not respond. Seron spoke up in her defense.
“May I say something, Megmica?”
“Yes! Please say it, Seron.” Meg said. She pointed at Seron, looking almost like a teacher because she was the only one standing.
“Thanks. I see what you’re trying to say, Megmica. But as it stands, the newspaper club hasn’t completed SC Sophia’s request. So I think it might be best for us to think of a different way, a safer way. Something that will satisfy SC Sophia. She still has an entire year and a half left at this school, you know.” Seron said, internally breathing a sigh of relief as he defended his own way of thinking alongside Sophia’s.
“No!” Meg said mercilessly.
“If you are so scared, you cannot achieve your love! You will clearly fail!”
“Hm? Wait, I—”
“Calm down, buddy. We gotta think of SC Sophia.” Larry said, putting a hand on his shoulder.
“R-right. Yeah.” Seron nodded, getting a hold of himself.
Meg switched targets from Seron to SC Sophia, who was sitting on the sofa with her mouth agape.
“You must not be scared! If you are scared when you have someone to love, it will not do! If you are scared to say ‘I love you’, that is not real love!”
Meg did not pull any punches.
Sophia took every blow.
Seron also took every blow, and then some salt on his wounds for good measure. He agonized blankly.
‘Hang in there, Seron! You can’t start crying now!’ Larry thought, but he kept the sentiment to himself.
Meg’s onslaught continued.
“I do not have someone I love yet. But! If I do get someone I love, I will probably first confess to him that I love him! It is unsightly when you trip and can’t even confess! That is tricking your heart! That is not real love!”
Larry could hear Seron’s silent screams.
‘Medic! We need a medic here, stat!’ He thought desperately to himself.
“The newspaper club members worked very hard after you gave your request! Jenny went very far today!”
“It wasn’t that far away—”
“Shush!” Natalia cut Jenny off. Nick backed up Meg.
“Yes. It was a difficult week for all of us.”
“It was very difficult. Everyone worked so hard. And look at Seron, please! Seron researched all night very much for you, SC Sophia!”
‘Actually for you, Megmica.’ Larry thought, but kept the correction to himself.
Seron sat blankly, frozen. He did not know what to do. His brain was overloading.
That was when Meg suddenly pointed a finger at him.
“Look! Seron has no energy! He is very tired!”
‘Because of what you’re saying now, Megmica.’ Larry thought, but he kept that addition to himself.
“All this many people worked together to find the answer. All this many people worked very hard. But SC Sophia! You know the most easy way to know the answer!”
“What? You mean…”
“Yes! When you confess, SC Arthur will tell you. Then you can find it! Then you can gift it to him! That is the wise and only way!”
“B-but that’s only if he says yes—”
“Do not think of the failed option! You can think of it after you have failed!” Meg said, giving Sophia no time to argue.
Sophia fell silent again. As if on cue—and unnecessarily—Seron finally showed signs of thought. He supposed that he could somehow resolve the situation.
“Er… I don’t think we should rush things, Megmica—”
“No! It seems like you do not have someone you love, Seron! You never had someone you loved! But you will know, when you have someone like that!”
Larry could hear Seron break.
‘Don’t hold back those tears, buddy. Just let it out.’ Larry thought, but he kept the thought to himself. He knew that Seron couldn’t hear a thing at this point anyway.
Seron sat gaping on the sofa, leaning all the way back. His grey eyes were locked on some point on the ceiling above Sophia’s head.
‘Man… once an engine dies, it takes time to get it back up and running again…’ Larry sighed.
Natalia scratched her head.
Jenny fell into thought and took more notes.
Nick steepled his hands before his mouth, watching in silence.
Meg’s barrage returned to Sophia again.
“Go to the dormitories right now, SC Sophia. And confess to him! You will find out definitely what the 50th ant is!”
“…Er… it’s the 50th bee.” Sophia managed to whimper a correction.
“Yes! The bee! But ants and bees are the same! They are insects that work very hard for their queens! I want to be like them someday and work hard! No, I will! That is my dream! I know it will be hard, but I will never give up!” Meg declared, clasping her hands as though in prayer and looking off into the west. If reality were a play, this would have been where the lights went off.
“Huh?” Sophia furrowed her brow.
“What’s that now?” Natalia wondered, also lost.
“You know how Princess Matilda’s the heir to the throne over in Bezel?” Jenny explained.
“Aha.” Natalia nodded. “So they’re going to have a queen next, just like the ants and bees. Makes sense.”
“So the queen’s subjects would be the worker bees. It almost sounds like a riddle.” Nick finally spoke up.
“But it is not wrong!” Meg grinned confidently, placing a hand on her hip.
That was when a spark of life returned to Seron’s eyes.
The spark kickstarted his thoughts.
“Everyone’s really psyched, huh. Probably ‘cause it’s for their annual performance. And apparently—”
On the morning of the first day of practice, just before he saw Meg—
—he had been discussing something with Larry.
Sophia and the others assumed that Seron had sighed, and did not react. Meg went wild as she began to throw out one crazy confession idea after another at Sophia, who had gone quiet as a mouse.
But the suggestions were too impractical. They could not change the play’s dialogue into a love confession, tell the drama club members to shout out the confession in unison, or use Sophia’s vice-president privileges for a confession.
But Meg’s ideas were finally stopped—
—by Seron, who stood from his seat with a gasp.
“Ah! Please do not scare me, Seron!” Meg scolded him, puffing up her cheeks, but he did not react.
Instead, Seron looked down at Sophia—who was just as surprised.
“I see now. I’ve got it!”
Sophia tilted her head. Seron’s gaze moved again, this time to the equally bewildered Larry.
“Larry! Larry Hepburn!”
“Huh? Me? Wh-what is it? Did you figure something out?”
“You were right.”
Larry’s eyes turned to dinner plates. Meg and the others listened on curiously.
“You were right, Larry.”
“The 50th bee. You had the answer.”
“Seriously? Great! See? Even I can help out sometimes! …So what was it that I got, Seron? What’s the 50th bee?” Larry said, grinning in spite of his confusion.
Seron simply replied,
“It’s the name of a role.”