Chapter 9: Even now, I feel the same
“Th-then…” Meg stammered, the realization dawning on her, “these…things you two did… Seron was all correct?”
“That’s right, pigtails.”
Bridget did not waste a second in giving her an answer. Seron and the others could hear Meg gasp.
“Not one nasty detail out of place. And digging up all these secrets we’ve been so desperately trying to hide—you’re all disgusting. Seron, and all of you in this club.”
“Aww, thanks,” Natalia replied.
“That’s not a compliment, Lia!”
“Larry, don’t butt in. We’re having a moment here.”
Larry could not respond.
“That’s a good boy,” Natalia cooed.
Seron also was silent. He did not seem happy at all about the fact that his hypothesis was proven correct.
“If, as president, I may be frank,” Jenny said, “we’re not exactly happy that you lied to us and used us for your suicidal plot. So please don’t blame us for just doing our job.”
One of the two sixth-years replied.
“Looks like all of you need to learn some tact. Especially you, Seron.”
“Th-that is not true! For you, Seron did all these things!” Meg retorted.
However, all she got in exchange was an icy glare.
“If he wanted to do anything for us, he should have let us carry out our plans in peace.”
“But it will be messy for your future!” Meg tried to argue. But Bridget showed no mercy.
“I told you, I don’t care. Stop sticking your nose in where it doesn’t belong, pigtails.”
“You don’t know anything.”
“I said you don’t know anything. I’m not surprised. How could you know anything? How would you know how sad and painful it is to have been engaged to someone since before you were born? Tell me, pigtails. What’s your favorite food?”
“Your favorite food. Don’t tell me you don’t have one.”
“I-I do have my favorite foods. In Roxche and Sou Be-Il, I love cheese dishes.”
“You’re not allowed to have any cheese. For the rest of your life.”
“What else do you like?”
“You can’t have that anymore, either.”
“I bet you also like chicken noodle soup. But that’s off-limits forever too.”
Slowly, Meg’s expression changed from one of confusion to one of utter horror as the implications of Bridget’s restrictions dawned on her.
“You finally get it. That’s how I grew up. My parents always said I was only allowed to have one food for the rest of my life. The food that they had decided for me.”
“They told me every single day of my life. That I didn’t have a choice. That I couldn’t choose the person I would love and spend the rest of my life with. They said all that with a smile. They said it was all for my sake.”
“That is…painful, I think…” Meg whispered, finally understanding.
“Of course. Although ‘painful’ doesn’t even begin to describe it,” Bridget said with a snort. “Seron called our plan suicidal. And he’s right. We’re putting our lives on the line. But don’t worry, we’re not really killing ourselves. Better to be shamed in public than to die. I considered just offing myself to make a point to my parents, but I decided that I wanted to live.” Bridget pushed back her long hair with an elegant motion. “So now you all know. Both Kenneth and I have been struggling for years. You said you were worried about us? Don’t make me laugh. I don’t need your pity. All I need is that evidence you’ve collected for us. Give me the tape and forget all this ever happened. That will solve everything.”
No one from the newspaper club responded. Bridget’s voice alone filled the quiet room.
“What’s wrong? You found the truth. Your job’s done. Or were you planning to tell our parents about all this to ‘rescue’ us? Sure, that might make them happy. No one would lose face. But remember, that’s no different from killing us.”
Bridget picked up her teacup, pausing briefly. That was when Seron finally spoke.
“We want neither of those outcomes. I want to help you.”
“Pfft!” Bridget almost spilled her tea. She put down her cup. “Please, Seron, I almost stained my uniform.”
“Uniforms can be washed, but you can’t cleanse a stained reputation.”
“This is none of your business. You already know what we want—the plan you called suicidal.”
“Are you sure about that?”
“Are you sure? Are you absolutely certain that both of you want things to come to such a tragic end?”
“Oh, now you’re going to resort to tears? This is ridiculous,” Bridget said, turning. “Let’s grab the tape and go, Kenneth. We can’t waste time and energy here—he have work to do.”
Kenneth met Bridget’s gaze. He took a deep breath.
“Let’s stop this.”
“We should stop this.”
Seron breathed a long sigh of relief. But only Meg noticed.
She turned. Seron noticed her gaze and locked eyes with her. For a split second his grey eyes looked gently into hers.
“We should stop this plan, Bridget. I can’t take it anymore…”
Though Bridget understood the meaning of the words, she did not understand Kenneth’s intent.
“What are you talking about? We can’t back out now. Are you too scared to face your parents?”
“Then are you scared of your reputation being destroyed? Is that it?”
“No, I’ve never minded losing face. Even now, I feel the same. I’m willing to go up against my parents and fight as dirty as I can.”
“Then explain to me why you want to stop.”
“I…I can’t let your reputation be destroyed, Bridget…”
“…Are you joking?”
“Did you hit your head, Kenneth? Newspaper club, did you poison his tea?” Bridget accused, but no one replied.
However, Seron addressed Kenneth directly.
“Why didn’t you take the photos yourself?”
Bridget raised an eyebrow.
“The photos to use as evidence against SC Bridget,” Seron explained, “there is nothing suspicious about coming to the newspaper club for help with photography, as the club—I mean, Jenny—has experience taking photos in secret. But setting the recording aside, photographing SC Bridget kissing other boys should have been easy as you were both in cahoots. That’s not all. I’ve been told that you are a hobbyist photographer yourself, SC Kenneth.”
“To get evidence on their own selves…now that I think, that sounds to be right,” Meg said with a nod.
“It would have been simpler if SC Kenneth had taken the photos and SC Bridget came to the club with her request alone. And yet both of you came to us. That created the risk that the club might only fulfill one request, deeming one person more useful than the other. It’s a minor risk, but a risk nonetheless.”
“What does that matter? Either way, we ended up at the same place,” Bridget spat, uninterested.
“That’s right, you probably haven’t thought too much about it, SC Bridget,” said Seron. “I’m guessing that SC Kenneth was the one who came up with this plan. Am I wrong?”
“So what?” Bridget did not understand Seron’s line of questioning.
“SC Bridget,” Seron said, “SC Kenneth just couldn’t bring himself to take those photos. He didn’t want to see you kissing someone else. That’s why his plan involved the both of you coming to us.”
“You can’t take a photograph without being there in person. In other words, SC Kenneth couldn’t take a photo of you cheating on him unless he watched you kiss someone else. He couldn’t bear it.”
“Ah! Aaaaah!” Meg exclaimed.
“Yes! I understand! Oh my goodness!” Meg cried, eyes turning to dinner plates. “Oh, I cannot believe it!”
Everyone but Seron and Kenneth reacted with looks of confusion.
“I understand Seron’s words now! Yes! SC Kenneth never wanted to see SC Bridget kiss someone! He did not want to see with his eyes! Because—”
Seron did not stop Meg.
“Because! SC Kenneth is in love with SC Bridget! He loves SC Bridget with the whole of his heart!”
“Whoa!” “My, my!” Natalia and Nick exclaimed.
And Jenny and Larry—whom Seron had spoken to earlier—nodded, impressed that Meg managed to reach the answer.
“What’s this now?” Bridget uttered, incredulous. “Kenneth, what are they talking about?”
Kenneth slowly turned.
“I said they’re right, Bridget. I love you. More than anyone else.”
“I’ve loved you for a long time. I’ve never hated you at all, although I never told you.”
“This is ridiculous.”
“I’m telling you the truth.”
“Then why were you helping me?”
Though the question was directed at Kenneth, Meg responded for him.
“It is an obvious answer! SC Kenneth wants your happiness, SC Bridget! He wants the happiness of the person he loves! Even if he is not the person to be beside her for always!”
“You said something earlier, SC Bridget,” Seron said cooly, “that if we wanted to do something for you, we should have let you carry out your plans in peace. That’s exactly what SC Kenneth has been doing. He wasn’t acting for both of you—he was doing all this for you alone. He did everything he could to help because you wanted to break off your engagement at all costs. Without any regard for himself.”
Seron shot Bridget a glare.
“But remember what SC Kenneth said before. He wanted to stop this plan. He didn’t want you to be dragged through the mud. Even now he’s only thinking of you, SC Bridget. He wants you to be happy. So please stop this plan. Think of another way.”
“Yes! You do not really have to use these ways!”
Bridget looked at Kenneth.
And with a gentle smile she asked him a question.
“Kenneth. I tried to run away from you. But you cooperated with me because you loved me?”
“You could have married me if you’d just sat back and waited.”
“But then you wouldn’t be happy, Bridget. There’s no point in marriage if the person you love isn’t happy.”
“You’ve never told me that you loved me. Didn’t it ever occur to you to tell me?”
“I thought that would be like betraying you.”
“Heh. One last question. What are you going to do now? What do you want, now that everything’s out in the open?”
“I’m going to do everything I can to break off this engagement. I’ll find a different way, one that won’t hurt you. I already know you’re never going to return my feelings.”
“I see… Sweet and considerate to the end, Kenneth.”
Bridget’s right hand quietly moved.
Away from Kenneth, to the bag on her right.
“Kenneth. Seron. Pigtails. And everyone from our esteemed newspaper club. Do you know what I hate the most?”
No one could answer her sudden question.
“Let me tell you. I resolved to do absolutely anything and everything to escape this position. I did all of this because—”
Her hand went into her bag. And took hold of something that was always inside.
“—I hate it when people make my decisions for me!”
Bridget’s scream seemed to have risen from the depths of hell.
She pulled her right hand out of the bag, pushing the sewing scissors in her grip into the side of the boy beside her.
Though he heard Meg’s scream, Kenneth could not react in time.
His fiancée, out of the blue, stabbed him.
The glinting scissors tore through his jacket, shirt, and skin.
When Bridget pulled them out again, several centimeters of the blades were covered in blood.
“I should have done this from the start,” she remarked dryly.
There was no joy or madness in her face. No emotions. Nothing but simple calm.
Kenneth slowly fell over the left side of the sofa. A red stain slowly spread over the right side of his jacket.
Bridget turned her sights on Meg.
“I hate you too, pigtails.”
Meg’s line of sight was filled with Bridget, slowly climbing over the table with the bloody scissors in her hand.
Followed by Seron’s back.
Bridget put all her weight into her scissors as they pierced Seron right in the stomach.
But the moment the tips of the blades sunk into him, Seron grabbed Bridget’s arm.
With his arms and his own body, Seron stopped her attack.
“Dammit!” Larry cried, clambering forward. But he was beaten to the punch.
Nick swung the end of his broomstick, striking Bridget in the temple.
Concussed, Bridget slowly began to fall. Nick held out the broomstick to change the direction of her fall to the sofa.
Only Seron was left standing. A pair of scissors stuck out of his stomach.
“This really hurts, but I’m sure the adrenaline is making it feel less painful than it actually is…” He analyzed mechanically.
* * *
<Hold on a minute, SC Jenny. I’m really sorry, but…>
<About what you just said. You make it sound as if SC Kenneth and SC Seron were stabbed inside the office.>
<Oh, that’s some kind of a metaphor, right?>
<Nope. I mean it in the literal sense. Two people were stabbed. Blood spilling out. The whole works.>
<What happened?! Is SC Seron all right? Was he badly hurt?>
<I’m not reporting to make you worry, newbie. So lemme calm you down first.>
<Seron wasn’t lightly injured, but the wound wasn’t serious either. The scissors pierced through skin and muscle but not any organs, thankfully. He might have a scar from the surgery for a while, but otherwise he just got stuck in the hospital for a bit.>
<He did good out there. If Seron hadn’t stepped in, Megmica might not be with us anymore.>
<R-right! What a relief…>
<Moving on to SC Kenneth. He was a little worse off than Seron, but there was no organ damage and it wasn’t even close to being a mortal wound.>
<Thank goodness… I thought my heart was about to stop.>
<That’s good. It’d be hard to explain two injuries in the office and one heart attack halfway across the continent.>
<Yeah. But wasn’t the stabbing a big problem? They didn’t shut down the club, did they?>
<Thanks for your concern, but we’re all right.>
<Yep. The stabbing never happened.>
<Lemme just go over what happened right after SC Bridget’s outburst. The first thing to do was first aid.>
<Larry’s military training came in really handy, since he knew a lot of first aid techniques. He checked the depths of the wounds before laying them both down on the sofas and stopping the bleeding with handkerchiefs. Both SC Kenneth and Seron were in pain, but conscious. Nick tied up SC Bridget while she was still dazed. Looked like he was having a lot of fun.>
<We had a car take the patients to a hospital I have contacts at. My bodyguards were nearby so it didn’t take long—it was faster than calling an ambulance. We went out the back door to avoid being spotted. Larry and Natalia went along to the hospital, but Megmica was still out of it so I promised to contact her later and forced her to go home.>
<I see. But more importantly…>
<The problem was explaining the situation to the staff.>
<Yeah. How did you do it?>
<We called in our supervisor around sunset.>
<The club has a supervisor?>
<What club doesn’t? Our supervisor’s a teacher named Mark Murdoch. Do you know him?>
<Y-yes! I really owe him a lot!>
<Really? Anyway, we forced him to come to the office and—>
<Did you lie to him? Maybe tell him that the senior-classmen tripped and fell?>
<No. I mean, ultimately that’s what the records will say, but I didn’t lie to Mr. Murdoch. I let him hear the recording.>
<I was recording the whole conversation in the office. It was Seron’s idea.>
<I brought in another recorder—my dad’s—and set it up in the darkroom. I put the microphone behind the sofa the sixth-years were sitting on.>
<I-I remember now! You said earlier that you were using your uncle’s recorder to record the conversation under the tree!>
<That’s right. You’ve got a great memory, newbie.>
<In other words, you had a record of the entire situation?>
<Yep. And I let Mr. Murdoch listen to it. Afterwards he said, ‘hmph. It’s a good thing things ended as well as they did! Clumsy oafs, Einsworth and Maxwell both. Reaching for the same pair of scissors on a shelf and tripping over at the same time? Tell them to be more careful’.>
<So Mr. Murdoch got really angry and went to the faculty office to report the accident. Supervisors are obligated to report any student injuries.>
<Do you by any chance have blackmail material on Mr. Murdoch?>
<I guess you could say that.>
<Anyway, we managed to cover up the incident. It does bug me that the club had to hide something like this from the public, but what can you do.>
<If you hadn’t concealed the truth, SC Kenneth’s feelings…his determination…it would all have been for nothing.>
<Right. We didn’t need to raise a fuss over it, especially since our victims didn’t want to.>
<Both of them, I see. SC Seron must have felt a connection with SC Kenneth, since he was hiding his feelings for SC Megmica too.>
<Putting their lives on the line for girls they can’t even confess to…what a couple of idiots.>
<Er…what happened to SC Bridget?>
<We took away the scissors and dumped her in the car that came to pick her up. Apparently SC Kenneth talked to her on the phone later on. Dunno what about, but he told me not to worry. That he’d manage somehow.>
<Do you really think he’ll manage?>
<Is that all you have to say, SC Jenny?>
<Now that he’s drawn the line, the newspaper club’s not going to get involved anymore. We might step in if he asks for help, though.>
<Did SC Bridget come back to school afterwards?>
<No. But I haven’t heard anything about her dropping out, either.>
<Even I don’t know if they’ll manage to break up in the end or if SC Bridget will come around to return SC Kenneth’s feelings. Their battle’s only just begun.>
<Wow…it all sounds like a radio drama that was canceled halfway through the story.>
<So that’s about all I have to report.>
<That really was something big.>
<Huh? Oh, wait. Right, I still haven’t told you about the big thing that happened.>
<You mean that wasn’t it, SC Jenny?>
<P-please tell me!>
<Oh, I think someone’s coming.>
<Please, SC Jenny! You have to tell me!>
<All right, all right. It was a couple of days later…>