Chapter 6: The Audience
The 13th day of the seventh month. The final day of the practice camp.
The sky was a blinding blue. It was as windy as ever, and the air was cool.
The last full rehearsal of the camp began that morning in the gymnasium of the 4th Capital Secondary School.
“That was incredible. And we got an early audience preview, too.”
“Yeah. It was moving. It’s definitely something else when you listen to the live music and watch the performances right in front of your eyes.”
The rehearsal ended as Seron and Larry watched.
As Ms. Krantz praised the students, and the rest of the club members—including the orchestra and the chorus club—applauded, Seron narrowed his eyes.
“We still have one more play to go.”
Larry also narrowed his eyes.
“‘Script by Seron Maxwell’. I can’t wait to watch it.”
“Good work, everyone! We’ll have to go through this again when the new term starts, but I know you’ll manage. Let’s have a toast! Everyone ready? To a good summer and a successful fall performance! Cheers!”
The drama club, the orchestra club, the chorus club, and Seron and Larry raised their glasses of juice or tea.
The dormitory cafeteria had never been so crowded. Normally students picked a menu and received their orders at the counter, but this time they were sitting at the long tables with large trays of food before them, which they could take buffet-style.
On the table were meat dishes, vegetable dishes, fish, and even massive dormitory cafeteria-made cakes, crepes, and puddings. The girls were already taking pieces of cake.
“Natalia. I realize that someone of your height must need more food, but isn’t that a bit much?” Portman demanded.
“You think so? I’ll try to ease up on the main course then. No guarantees, though. …What?”
“The pudding is really good!”
“Really? I’m going to get some!”
“Oh I want to eat it too. Please let us go together.”
Meg and the chorus club were also enjoying the party.
In the midst of the celebrations, Larry piled a massive piece of lasagna onto his plate.
“I can practically hear Jenny seething from here.” He chuckled. Seron nodded.
“It would be difficult even for us to bring this food to her.” Nick said, walking up to them with a plate in hand. Then he lowered his voice. “Things are progressing smoothly. The king has accepted the queen’s offer.”
Seron nodded discreetly and placed the lasagna he was about to take onto Nick’s plate.
“Excellent work, Black Knight. Here is your reward.”
“It is an honor, my lord.”
* * *
The party went on from lunchtime to snack time. Eventually, the food on the tables disappeared.
The orchestra club and the chorus club said goodbye to the drama club as they left the cafeteria.
The drama club members remained for one last briefing from Ms. Krantz and Arthur before the practice camp finally ended. They also thanked Seron and Larry for their help.
Then the drama club members headed up to the dormitories to pack up their things. Seron, Larry, and Nick, however, hurried to the newspaper club office.
Natalia and Meg were already waiting for them there. And—
“Hmph. So now the partygoers are all here. How was the food? Stuffed yourselves?”
Jenny was pouting.
“Jenny. Aren’t you rich enough to literally eat anything you could ever want?” Larry pointed out.
“There’s food out there you just can’t buy with money.” Jenny snapped.
“Then just move into the dorms like Seron.”
“I’m considering it.”
“But don’t even think about renovating your dorm room.”
Seron cut the exchange short. “It’s almost time.”
“Ah, right.” Jenny stood and produced a large leather bag. “I brought them.”
Inside the bag were six mid-sized binoculars.
“Whoa, these are some nice models.” Larry remarked, handing them out.
“They’re club assets. Don’t use them to peep into girls’ change rooms, Larry.”
“As if. Has anyone never used binoculars before?”
Natalia and Meg raised their hands. Larry gave them a brief lesson on binocular use. That they should keep the binoculars around their neck in case they dropped it, how they should adjust their line of sight, and how they could focus the binoculars.
The newspaper club members rushed over to the window and stood in a row. The boys half-knelt right in front of the window, and the girls stood behind them.
Huddled before the window, the six students raised their binoculars. Twelve lenses looked in one direction.
It was a humorous sight to behold, but thankfully no one was around to point that out.
“You’re not gonna get your camera, Jenny?” Larry asked the girl behind him.
“I can’t exactly write an article about this. And it’d be in bad taste to take a celebratory picture.”
“You’re actually pretty sensible, huh.”
Jenny’s binoculars rammed into a head of blond hair.
“Admit it, Jenny. You don’t know how to use binoculars.”
“Yes I do. I also happen to know how to use them as a weapon.”
“What are you supposed to be, a spy?”
Beside Larry was Nick, and beside Nick was Seron.
Seron’s grey eyes were glued to his binoculars.
In his line of sight was a certain tree in the back of the school grounds.
The handsome oak tree—which was probably even older than Seron—stood with its leaves rustling in the wind.
“She’s here!” Meg cried from behind Seron. Everyone looked into their binoculars.
“Enter heroine, stage left.” Natalia said. Her glasses were pushed up to her forehead.
On the round stage through the binoculars stood Sophia Ulericks, wearing her school uniform.
Naturally, they were too far to hear anything.
Like a silent movie, Sophia moved quietly but smoothly.
Her hair shook in the wind. On her freckled face was the serious, determined look she wore for performances.
There Sophia waited.
“I hope your old fake article about the tree actually turns out to be true, Jenny.” Larry remarked. Jenny prodded the back of his head with her binoculars again.
“SC Sophia will be just fine. I have faith in Seron’s deduction.” Nick said.
“Me too! It was moving yesterday! It was cool!” Meg said. Then—
“Here he comes.” Natalia said. Everyone went quiet.
And they turned their binoculars to the direction Sophia was looking at.
Arthur Sears appeared, also clad in school uniform.
When he spotted Sophia, he gave her a light—if awkward—wave and walked over to her.
In the silent distance, they stood under the branches of the massive tree.
The newspaper club members looked on, scrutinizing each and every move.
Sophia smiled nervously and met Arthur’s gaze.
Arthur opened his mouth to speak, looking particularly stiff.
For a time, Sophia said nothing.
Perhaps Arthur could not bear the tension; he made a joke and Sophia chuckled, but that ended quickly.
They froze under the big tree, looking off in different directions.
“C’mon! Just say it already!” Jenny fumed from inside the office, knowing they could not hear her.
“Do your best! Do your best!” Meg cheered.
At that moment—
Sophia looked at them.
She probably could not see them lined up with their binoculars in hand, but she clearly looked at the office window.
Then she smiled with all the beauty and elegance of a queen.
As the newspaper club watched, captivated by her poise, she turned her gaze to the one closest to her—
To Arthur Sears.
She said something. Arthur seemed to speak at the same time.
They looked at each other, both smiling—
And slowly embraced.
“Oh! It is great! It is very great!” Meg cried, almost loud enough to reach the tree.
“Whoa!” Seron cried, startled. Meg had grabbed his shoulder with her free hand.
“It is successfully done, Seron! We did this!” She cheered and shook him relentlessly.
Seron saw the world through the binoculars rock up and down. The figures in his line of sight seemed to rise and fall.
The previous evening—
“It’s the name of a role.”
Seron had declared, the eyes of the newspaper club and Sophia on him.
“It’s the name of a role.” He repeated himself.
“Er… what do you mean?” Asked Sophia.
“What’d I say right again?” Asked Larry, who had suddenly been proven correct.
Seron first turned to Larry.
“Yesterday, when we were brainstorming about the 50th bee, you said that it might have been the name of a role.”
“Ah, I remember. But didn’t you shoot that idea down? SC Sophia would’ve recognized it if it were a role.”
“Yeah, but this ‘role’ has nothing to do with any plays. It’s a code word of sorts, but it’s not a very cleverly-hidden one. You just have to think of it like a riddle.”
“Hm?” Larry frowned.
“Then what conclusion have you reached, Seron?” Nick asked.
“You must! You must please tell us!” Meg agreed, still standing.
“Yeah. President’s orders.” “Vice-president’s orders, too.” Jenny and Natalia chimed in.
“All right.” Seron nodded, and turned to Sophia. “All we had to do was think of things associated with the word ‘bee’, like you would with a riddle. And just now, Megmica connected the words ‘bee’ and ‘ant’ with the word ‘queen’.”
“Yes! I did my best!”
“Whoa there, Megmica. Sit down and take a deep breath.” Natalia said, getting Meg to finally take a seat.
“I am sorry. It is Seron’s turn to speak to us.”
“So the word you’re thinking of is ‘queen’? The 50th queen?” Asked Sophia. Seron nodded.
“Yes. And the ’50’ isn’t that difficult to figure out, in hindsight.” He paused, then started again. “I’d completely forgotten what Larry told me a few days ago. ‘Everyone’s really psyched, huh. Probably ‘cause it’s for their annual performance. And apparently this year’s is the 50th annual performance to boot’. That was the key.”
“Aha!” Larry exclaimed. “I remember saying that!”
“Yeah. This will be the 50th annual performance, since it’s been exactly 50 years since the drama club was founded. But what does that have to do with a 50th queen?”
“Everything.” Seron said. Meg piped up, still whipped up in a frenzy.
“Then! Then is SC Arthur wishing to be a queen instead of a king in this 50th performance? Is it too late to change? Will he wear a dress costume?”
“Deep breaths, Megmica.” Natalia said, putting a hand on Meg’s shoulder.
“No. The 50th bee is a role, but it’s not a role he wants to play. What SC Arthur meant was is that he wanted the person in that role.”
“Hm?” Sophia furrowed her brow.
“I get it now.” Jenny nodded perceptively.
“I began to think about what 50th queen there might be at this school whom SC Arthur might want. And I realized there was only one possible conclusion. Who do you think it is?”
Sophia fell into thought. But she soon gave up.
“Who is it?”
Seron’s reply was simple.
“It’s you, SC Sophia.”
“What?” Sophia gasped.
“Hm? Aha.” “Huh?”
Nick understood and Larry frowned.
“It’s you, SC Sophia. If not for last year’s unusual circumstances, you would have been the 50th president of the club—in other words, the queen. SC Arthur is very aware of that fact. Sometimes, he even wonders if he was right to accept his role at all. Even as he carried out the duties of a president, a part of him seems to consider you the true president. That’s the reasoning behind this moniker. To sum up, SC Arthur is in love with you and wants you to be his girlfriend.”
“Wh-what are you saying, Seron?”
“I’m simply giving you the answer to the question you brought us, SC Sophia. We haven’t checked with SC Arthur in person, but I’m convinced this is the right answer. Last night, when Nick asked him what he wanted for his birthday, SC Arthur was supposedly very taken aback. That’s probably part of the reason as well. SC Arthur is desperate to have the 50th bee, in a figurative sense.”
Sophia was lost for words.
“There’s only one thing left for you to do, SC Sophia. You can do this. We can help with the production of this play.”
“SC Sophia? Are you listening?”
* * *
“It is successfully done, Seron! We did this!” Meg cried, shaking Seron by the shoulder.
Natalia lowered her binoculars. “Mhm. I think we can let ‘em be.” She said, putting on her glasses. “Now calm down, Megmica.”
“I suppose it is not good to peep even more anymore.”
“Yeah. Long as we know the plan worked out. Looks like we won’t need Mr. Hartnett on this one.”
Nick and Larry also lowered their binoculars and hung them around their necks. The round frames around their lines of sight disappeared.
“It is great! I am moved!” Meg raved, lowering her binoculars with a smile.
Once the boys were on their feet, Seron closed the window.
In that instant, he spotted two figures standing closely side-by-side.
“Looks like this mission was a success.”
Once the others were seated on the sofas, Jenny personally poured them cups of tea and sat down on the sofa herself.
“What do you say to a toast?” Larry suggested.
“Yes!” Meg chirped. The six students raised their differently-shaped cups.
“Well, president?” Nick urged.
“Me? Fine. …We had a rough week, everyone. But good job! Cheers!”
Everyone but Jenny toasted for the second time that day, and Jenny for the first time.
“Wonder who said it first?” Natalia wondered.
“I think both people at the same time! Their hearts are synchronized!”
“I’m surprised you know such a hard word, Megmica. Let’s just leave it at that, then. It’s bad manners to actually ask in person.”
“It is a very beautiful situation!”
Seron silently sipped his tea as he watched the girl with the radiant smile. And he also put on a small smile of his own.
“It seems the tale of the tree with a perfect confession success rate has one more story to serve as evidence.” Nick pointed out.
“Line 1 of article 1 on page 1. Not like I believe it, though.” Jenny said.
“Seriously, Jenny?” Larry sighed. “You know what? Who cares now? It was a success and that’s what matters most. Are you gonna write about this, chief?”
“Hm… nah. It’s not something to report to the public. I’d be hot on their heels with a camera in hand if they got married straight out of school, though.”
“Heh heh. You do that, Jenny.” Larry chuckled, bringing his cup to his mouth.
“It was very great… the two people in love. It was great.” Meg repeated herself, placing her cup on the table and looking up at the ceiling with a euphoric look. “Someday, I want to meet someone good as well!”
She looked back down. Her eyes met those of Seron, who had been looking at her.
“You were very great too, Seron!” Meg said suddenly.
Seron twitched, like he had been jolted.
“Seron! If I am in the same shoes as SC Sophia, please help me find my answer! Please do!”
Seron broke again.
‘I feel for you, buddy… you can cry later. Whether it’s tears of happiness or pain’s up to you, though.’ Larry thought, but he naturally kept it to himself.
* * *
Once all the cups were empty and Seron had powered back up, Jenny addressed everyone with a note and pen in hand.
“Do you have any plans for the summer? This month, in particular? Nick first.”
“I plan to go back home and finish off my homework, first of all. I prefer to get it done ahead of time. Otherwise, I have no plans.”
“Hm. No family vacations?”
“We just returned from one this week.”
“I’ll chill at home. Sick of violin, and I’m gonna pass on the homework for now. And my folks’re always off touring, so we almost never go on vacation together.”
“I see. Larry?”
“Once my brother Cato gets back, we might go to our villa for five days or so. We don’t have a date yet, but I’ll tell you once it’s set in stone.”
“Sure. Give me a call. Megmica?”
“Erm. Tomorrow, I will meet with Lillia who has come back from the vacation. Then I do not have plans. I rarely go back to my hometown.”
“Mhm. Last up is Seron. You’re leaving today?”
“Yeah. I’m taking the sleeper train tonight. I should start getting ready to leave soon. I don’t have any plans for summer—I’ll probably do homework and read. It’s just my sister and our mother at home, but our mother’s so busy we probably won’t get to go anywhere.”
“I see. All right. I want everyone to give me an address and phone number I can contact them with over the summer, in case I decide to make a club announcement. I just might give you a call about our next club activity.”
Jenny turned over the page and handed her notepad to Meg, who was next to her.
Meg wrote down her contact information and handed the notepad to Natalia.
“Hope you can read chicken scratch.”
Natalia wrote down her contact information and handed the notepad to Nick. Nick wrote down his contact information and handed the notepad to Seron.
Seron wrote down his contact information and stared at Meg’s at the top of the page.
And once he was done, he very calmly handed the notepad to Larry.
“All right. It’s my turn—” Larry paused. “Seron, you wrote down the dormitory address.”
As Seron corrected his contact information, Nick made a suggestion.
“Jenny, do you perchance have any extra pieces of paper? I’d like to get the contact information of everyone in the club.”
“Sure. One sec.”
Jenny opened the desk drawer and produced a bundle of small scraps of paper. Then she placed them and several pens on the coffee table.
“Write one for everyone and pass them out, or ask everyone to write on your sheet of paper. It’s up to you.”
Natalia spoke up. “Hands up if you don’t know my contact info.”
Larry, Nick, and Seron raised their hands.
“Then that’s three from me.” Natalia said, grabbing three scraps of paper.
“Three for me as well.”
Meg, Seron, Larry, and Nick also began to write. Jenny realized that she should give out her information as well and picked up some scraps.
For some time the office was filled with the sound of writing. Natalia, who finished first, passed out her information to the boys.
“Here. Here. And here.”
Meg carefully folded her notes in half and placed them where they wouldn’t get in anyone’s way.
“Here you are. Here you are. Here you are.”
Seron, Larry, and Nick eventually finished and handed out their information.
“Thanks, everyone. I’ll copy these down on my address book later.”
Very stoically and with exceptional calm, Seron placed the papers from Nick, Natalia, Jenny, and Meg into his jacket pocket. He also made certain that the others—especially Meg—did not forget to take his contact information.
“I’d better get going now. So much happened in the past week but it was a lot of fun. I might not see you guys until the new term because I live so far, but I hope we’ll get along as a club together.”
“Spoken like a true honor student.” Nick chuckled. “Feel free to visit the Capital District any time. My house is always open to guests.”
“Same.” Larry nodded. “I’m heading out too, guys. Congratulate SC Sophia for me if you see her.”
Jenny nodded. “Sure.”
Seron and Larry stood.
“I think I’ll stay back for some more tea.” Nick said, electing to remain a little longer.
“See you guys.” Larry grinned.
“Have a good summer, everyone. I’ll see you later.” Seron said.
“Take care.” Said Nick.
“See you. I’ll give you guys a call.” Said Jenny.
“I’ll call if I ever need any brainpower. Just Seron, though.” Said Natalia.
“I will see you two later.” Meg said.
Seron and Larry waved one last time before leaving the office and closing the door behind them.
As they walked through the empty building, Seron suddenly stopped. Larry, who had been walking a little ahead, turned.
“What’s up? …Aha.”
Seron was staring at the gymnasium.
The quiet gymnasium towered in the cool breeze.
Seron resumed walking, and this time caught up to Larry with a smile.
“That was great. Thanks so much for getting me to come, Larry Hepburn.”
“It sure was loads of fun, Seron Maxwell.” Larry said, offering a handshake. Seron took it.
They began to walk again.
“I’m a changed man now. I’m different from the Seron Maxwell who walked in here eight days ago.”
“Hah hah. Sure thing. You couldn’t even talk to her before, but now you have her address and her number.”
“I’m going to make this an heirloom.”
“Whoa, wait a sec! You have to call her! Call her as soon as you get home! If I remember, you have a telephone at home!”
“Wouldn’t it be rude to call out of the blue?” Seron wondered gravely. Larry stared—
‘Ah, so he’s not a completely changed man.’ He thought, but did not voice the comment.
“Sure. Anyway, Jenny might be cooking up something for the break. Come visit sometime.” He said instead. Seron smiled.
* * *
Just like eight days ago, Seron Maxwell was wearing his jacket. Larry was in his uniform. They walked away from the dormitories where they had spent the past week.
“See you later, Seron!”
“Have a good summer, Larry.”
They parted ways at the gates, where Seron boarded a taxi.
At Capital West Station, Seron boarded his usual long-distance sleeper train.
As usual, he had the entire first class cabin to himself. For a time he watched the Capital District pass by outside the window.
After the conductor had checked his ticket and the city outside had given way to a sunset countryside—
Seron opened his suitcase and fished out a leather-bound notepad.
Inside were the scraps of paper from earlier. Seron took out a pen and copied down the information onto his address book.
He left the folded one for the very end. Once he was done with the rest, Seron froze for several seconds before opening up the final one.
On the scrap of paper were more words than the others had left for him.
First came Meg’s name.
Her phone number.
‘Dear Mr. Seron Maxwell,
‘With the problem of the Sou Be-Il man in the basement, and the request from SC Sophia, I was moved very much by your cool actions.
‘I am very happy to know you, Seron.
‘Please take good care of me from now on. Please talk to me if you meet me at the school.
‘From Strauski Megmica.
‘PS: I am sorry if my Roxchean writing is difficult to understand.’
“Heirloom.” Seron nodded.
* * *
“Oh. Welcome back, Seron. Where’s my souvenir?”
“I’m back, Leena. I got you the same thing this time, if you don’t mind.”
“You’re the best, Seron. Thanks. …You look happy today.”
“Yeah. You always look blank, but your expressions change by something like a fraction of a millimeter. Mom and I can tell.”
“Did something good happen while you were helping out?”
“Did you get a girlfriend?”
“Huh? N-no. It’s nothing like that.”
“Oh. You look really gloomy, so I guess not.”
“C’mon, you can’t just leave me hanging like that.”
“But… well, what can I say?”
“What can I say?”
“…So something good happened after all.”
“I guess you could say that.”
“Introduce me next time.”
“The girl you like.”
“Oh. You don’t have one?”
“Huh? Couldn’t you read my expressions, Leena?”
“Nope. You’re like a mask, Seron. I was just making random guesses. Thanks for the souvenir! Mom’s coming back later tonight.”
* * *
Several days later.
Seron was in the central gardens, where the summer flowers were in spectacular bloom.
Sitting in a white wooden chair under a lacy parasol, he enjoyed the summer breeze and read.
The book was titled—
‘Bezelese for Beginners’
At times he exclaimed,
“What is this language…? This is inhuman…”
“Jenny… you are a monster.”
“Roxchean is so simple it’s making us Easterners into idiots…”
And agonized on occasion.
He was so engrossed in the book that, each time the maid came to refill his tea, she found the cup still full.
Eventually, the sun sank so low that the parasol could no longer shield him.
“Young Master. You have a phone call from your school friend, Ms. Jenny Jones. Will you take the call?” One of the maids said, instead of bringing more tea.
“From Jenny? I’ll take it.”
Seron put a bookmark on his page, put the book on the table, and hurried to the telephone in the mansion’s living room.