“… Mmh. … Maïne. Hey, are you listening?”
The Head Priest shakes me by my shoulder, startling me back to attention. He rubs his temples and taps on my slate while looking down.
“It looks like we aren’t making any progress at all, doesn’t it?”
“Ah, I’m very sorry.”
I apologize and resume calculating. Once I reach a point in the calculations where I can pause, I cease the scraping of my slate pencil and heave a sigh.
… What to do about Lutz?
Lutz is managing somehow since running away from home, but it would be best if, after an earnest discussion with his family, they could reconcile. If they don’t have an open discussion, they’ll end up hiding the things they want to say and only speaking at cross purposes when they do talk.
As I’ve been blessed with a good family, it is difficult for me to accept this situation, but if staying with his family is too painful for Lutz, it may be better for them to separate. It’s a difficult situation.
“Maïne, your hands have stopped.”
“Eh? Ah, this is done.”
If it’s only about resolving the current situation, the simplest solution would be for Benno to adopt him. Lutz would be able to devote himself to his work, and he would also gain a strong backer in matters concerning his career. Even the practical side of his life would have no worries. However, without permission from his parents, adoption is impossible, and Benno says he won’t interfere this time.
I thought about preparing a place for discussion, calling Lutz, his family, and Benno together and have them talk it out properly, but I don’t believe that I will be able to gather everyone even if I said: “Let’s have an honest talk.”
I also think it would be difficult to reign in Benno and Lutz’ father if the discussion became heated and they began to quarrel. No matter how I thought about it, I couldn’t see a future where it would change for the better.
“… I’m really totally useless…”
“It’s as you say. You’re completely correct there.”
Surprised at the Head Priests sudden comment, I look up to see him jerking his chin towards the bed.
“Maïne, come over here.”
“Umm, Head Priest, will the work be alright?”
“Your work as calculator can wait. Come.”
While grumbling “Isn’t it too mean to call me a calculator?”, I follow the Head Priest and enter the room.
I take a seat at the edge of a couch and take a quick glance at the various objects that are usually inside the room.
The Head Priest brings his own chair, sits down on it with an irritated whomp and glares at me. Given that the Head Priest more opening shows his emotions here, the glint in his eyes is about two times sharper than before.
“Just what are you brooding about? It seems like you have only breathed out depressed sighs for most of the session.”
“… It’s something completely unrelated to you, Head Priest. I’m sorry. I will try to do a bit better.”
Worrying about Lutz, I don’t focus on the work. What should I say, it looks like the sermon will be a long one. Once I try to keep the preaching short by showing that I’m reflecting, the Head Priest places his elbow on the armrest of the chair, rests his chin in his hand and gives me an annoyed stare.
“Seeing that it delays the performance of your official duties, it’s not totally unrelated.”
I have to fully agree with you. I slowly avert my look from his golden eyes which were slightly narrowed. Having been been accused of talking without thinking, it’s better for me to talk as little as possible.
When I hold my tongue, the Head Priest gets up and stands before me with a sigh, and then pinches my cheek with a twist.
“Tell me properly. If you act ambiguous and long-winded like a child, the official duties I care about will likely make no progress.”
I had imagined he only saw me as a convenient calculator, but it seems he’s concerned about me. I intently look up at the roundabout, incomprehensible Head Priest.
Which reminds me, the Head Priest is someone who received education as noble. I heard that many of the temple’s nobles moved away due to adoption and marriage after the number of nobles fell because of the political purge, but I wonder whether the Head Priest is well informed about adoption.
“Head Priest, do you know of a method to adopt someone without getting the permission of the parents?”
The Head Priest raised one of his eyebrows lightly, as if surprised, due to my question.
“What? Do you even have the determination to be apart from that family?”
“It’s not about me!”
Because of the Head Priest’s startling remark, I unintentionally forgot to speak with proper respect, but the Head Priest just quietly mutters “As expected.” Fixing his posture on his chair, he places his elbows on the armrests and links his fingers in front of his stomach.
“… Who are you talking about then? Depending on the situation, it may be possible.”
“There is a way?”
I spontaneously get up, but the Head Priest waves his hand as if telling me to reseat myself and nods to my question.
“As I hold a bit of authority, there are some methods. Though you will have to let me investigate the other party before I will exercise my authority.”
“It’s the adoption of Lutz by Benno.”
I could see a faint hope to improve Lutz’ current situation. I stare at the Head Priest with eyes full of expectation while reseating myself.
“I suppose both are important people to you? … Tell me the details.”
I told the Head Priest a simple outline and as I answered his questions, one by one, it resulted in a detailed recount of the circumstances.
The Head Priest, who apparently questioned me until satisfied, closed his eyes and quietly sorted the information before slowly opening his eyes.
“Hmm. So Lutz ran away from home harboring unhappiness with how his family treats him after running into their resistance to becoming a merchant’s apprentice and also to go outside the city for his work from now on. Benno wants to adopt Lutz who shows a promising future, but that’s also being opposed by his parents. Wanting to do something about Lutz’ living environment is your biggest wish, and the best case would be for Lutz to reconcile with his family. You believe that the fastest method would be for Benno to adopt him. Anything wrong with what I’ve said up to here?”
For him to accurately summarize the information he memorized without even having taken any notes; I wonder, doesn’t that mean that the Head Priest possesses an excellent memory in fact? As I’m admiring him for something weird, the Head Priest continues even further,
“His father has said to leave Lutz, who ran away from home, alone if he’s doing his work, didn’t he? He hasn’t said anything along the lines of ‘Go away’ or ‘Don’t come back’, has he?”
“… Probably, since I’ve only heard it from Tuuli, I don’t know for sure either.”
Indeed, what I realized based on the Head Priest’s explanation just now is that I don’t know anything besides hearsay about Lutz’ parents’ opinion. I talked with Lutz and also listened to Benno’s opinion. But, I never heard anything about Lutz’ parents except for the things that Lutz, Ralph, and Tuuli told me.
“… Situationally it’s a slightly weak argumentation, but it’s possible for Lutz to be adopted if he’s treated as child, who was put into the care of the orphanage after being abandoned by his parents, allowing the orphanage director to sign as foster parent if Benno were to request that he wants to take custody of the orphan.”
“Eeh!? The orphanage director; that’s me, no!? Then I have to immediately take in Lutz at the orphanage…”
Amazing me! It’s great that I took up the job of the orphanage director!
Once I get up with a clamoring while being exhilarated, the Head Priest once again waves his hand telling me to sit back down.
“Wait. Maïne, make sure to listen to things until the end. Isn’t jumping to conclusions or not listening properly the reason for many of your blunders?”
Having that pointed out very calmly I reseat myself without even uttering a single complaint. Umm… I feel like the Head Priest is steadily getting a better grasp on my personality.
“Even though you have assumed the official position of orphanage director, you are still a minor. Just your signing is insufficient for carrying out an adoption.”
“… So what should I do if someone, who really wants to adopt an orphan, turned up?”
For my autograph to be useless even though I’m the director of the orphanage…
I slump my shoulders dejectedly, but I calmly concluded in a corner of my mind that there’s no way for me as a child, who’s at an age where I can’t do anything without my guardians being present, to bear such a responsibility.
“Seeing as it can’t be done by you, it becomes necessary for me, who is your superior, to do the signing.”
“Head Priest, I beg you. Please sign Lutz’ adoption.”
When I requested that of the Head Priest, he breathed out slowly.
“It doesn’t mean that I won’t sign it. But, the points you’ve raised just now are all things you were told by Lutz, who is a child himself. I can’t decide that he was abandoned by his parents just because I was told so by a child. Before taking him into the care of the orphanage as a child who was abandoned by his parents, I’d like to listen to his parents’ side.”
“Huh? Umm, how?”
Even if I’m simply told that he wants to speak with them, I don’t know what would be the best method to arrange that. The head Priest stares at the confused me with a look as if seeing something strange.
“How, you ask? If I want to speak to someone, I just have to summon them, don’t I? Just what are you talking about?”
“… What a splendid display of authoritarian power in front of my eyes.”
If they want to have a talk, they only have to summon the other party. That’s the common sense of the temple. Remembering the time when my parents received a written invitation and were summoned, I drop my shoulders. Just what the heck have I been doing to worry whether I won’t be able to set up a place for a discussion.
“Everything will be cleared in front of me as witness, and if I can agree with it, I will support Lutz’ adoption by Benno.”
“Thank you very much.”
I lift my face in a bright mood.
For a change, the Head Priest was smiling. But, that smile had nothing refreshing to it and felt like the grins when he came up with something slightly evil.
“For that sake, you have to make an effort to perform your official duties in the afternoon as well. The library room will have to wait.”
When I’m feeling overcome with surprise, the Head Priest squinted his eyes while looking even happier.
“I heard from Fran. That it is more effective against you than the reflection room.”
… Fran you stupid idiot!
I tearfully strived in my duties throughout the afternoon and got the Head Priest to write up the written invitations as promised, one for Lutz, Benno and Lutz’ parents each.
“Give these to me.”
I received the wooden tags, necessary for improving Lutz’ situation even if it’s only a bit, with a smile plastered all over my face.
Given that Lutz stopped picking me up, I go back home together with Fran. That’s because it won’t be seen as anything but a child’s errand if I went with Gil, despite having been given the written invitation by the Head Priest. If it’s the adult Fran, even Lutz’ parents will likely accept the invitation seriously.
“Let’s go and give them to Lutz and Mister Benno then.”
Being urged on by Fran, I made a short visit to the Gilberta Company. I have Mark lead us to the inner room and also have him call Lutz.
“Mister Benno~, praise me, praise me. Look at this!”
Running up to Benno with a bouncy stride, I hold out the wooden card with a triumphal look. Just after Benno briefly scans the wooden card with a puzzled look, his expression transforms and he has a fit of anger.
“… A written invitation by the Head Priest!? You, just what did you do this time!?”
“Umm, that is, it turned out like this after I consulted with the Head Priest regarding Lutz’ running away from home and a bypass for the adoption?”
Since I had a feeling that I accomplished something beneficial this time, I tilt my head to the side and blink my eyes in confusion due to being suddenly confronted with his anger.
“Just what have you done!?”
“Eh? Huh? What’s wrong about it?”
“Don’t get a noble involved in such issues! You don’t know to what conclusion it might lead!”
Benno is enraged, but I don’t get the reason at all. The Head Priest is undoubtedly a noble, but he will understand if you talk with him. And, although it’s difficult to understand as he’s roundabout about it, he was only worried about me.
“I mean, the Head Priest said that it can’t be helped since it’s for the sake of taking care of his calculator… besides, I wanted to do something for Lutz.”
“Maïne, you know, I appreciate your feelings. But, usually, I’m afraid if I receive such written invitation.”
Lutz looks at the written invitation he was given and hangs his head crestfallen. Benno also hangs his head in the same way while being at his wits’ end.
“A written invitation from the Head Priest once you made a move for the sake of Lutz, huh…?” Benno sighs.
“I mean, Mister Benno, you told me that you can’t make a move yourself this time. So I just consulted with an adult close to me.”
Pursing his lips with a groan, Benno glares at me with his reddish-brown eyes that have a ferocious light dwelling within.
“I see. Meaning, it wouldn’t have turned out like this, if I had advanced the adoption, even if it had to be forcefully, by threatening Lutz’ parents and using my full power…?”
“W-What scary stuff are you talking about!?”
“… Maïne, if master really wants to do so, he’s capable of at least this much. My family caused trouble for the store. You understand even without pondering who is stronger between my parents and master, right?”
I was taken aback by Lutz’ words. I have been carefreely coming and going to the Gilberta Company, but Tuuli did say that she feels nervous by just going to the northern side of the city. She ought to have clearly felt the difference to our usual sphere of daily life at first.
Even when Aunt Karla came to directly demand Lutz to be returned, it was probably an act that took quite the courage. Lutz’ family, who bothered the store, not receiving any punishment is owed to them being forgiven leniently by Benno.
“Just when I was planning to let it end peacefully for the sake of Lutz, you are…”
“Even the Head Priest is peaceful! He also gave proper thought about a method to adopt Lutz.”
Benno and Lutz looked my way. I nod and explain the method I was told by the Head Priest to both of them.
“With the fact of having been discarded by his parents, Lutz will go to the orphanage and ask for shelter. If it’s a situation where you, Mister Benno, decided to take care of Lutz, who is an orphan at that time, the adoption will be valid with the orphanage’s and your autograph, Mister Benno…”
“The orphanage director is you, huh?”
Benno looked at me while grinning broadly. Although I feel bad about having given him expectations, my signing has no value.
“As I’m a child, it’s the Head Priest who has to sign it. That’s why he wants to speak with Lutz’ parents and decide based on the circumstances he’s told. The written invitation is for that.”
Benno looks at the wooden card he still held in his hand and slowly strokes his chin while frowning.
“Aren’t you favored quite a bit by the Head Priest? Normally a noble won’t concern themselves with our matters.”
“It looks like I’m an important calculator for him. It seems that the work efficiency changes depending on whether I function or not.”
“Now that you mention it, Otto said something along those lines as well, didn’t he? This time I should probably thank you Maïne, but I don’t really want to. I wonder, what is this feeling of a wasted effort…”
Benno sighs as if worn-out and roughly scratches his head.
“You will pass the invitation to Lutz’ parents.”
“I’m sorry, Maïne.”
“No, it’s okay. I was supposed to go to report to Aunt Karla anyway. But, you know, since the setting is that you went to the orphanage with the claim that you were abandoned by your parents, go to the orphanage tomorrow, okay?”
“Make sure to do so,” I wave my hand to Lutz and leave the store, going back home together with Fran.
When I planned to head to Lutz’ home, I caught sight of Aunt Karla loitering around at the water well’s plaza.
Being called by me, Aunt Karla raises her head as if being snapped up, and came running over. Her round face has become haggard and thin, and the area around her eyes seems to have sunken in slightly.
“Maïne, you are late. Did you meet Lutz? In what kind of situation is he?”
“He’s seriously doing his job. He looks happy.”
The feeling of her being worried about Lutz was painfully clear from Aunt Karla breathing out in relief. It might be obvious that she won’t accept the adoption readily.
“Aunty, look, this here is a written invitation from the temple’s Head Priest.”
I take out the wooden card and hold it out to Aunt Karla. Karla opens her eyes widely in disbelief and looks at the wooden card with a ghastly pale face.
“… Come again? From the temple?”
“Lutz requested shelter at the orphanage, saying that he was discarded by his parents.”
“Isn’t the one who left on his own accord that child!?”
Obviously startled, Aunt Karla yelled, but even if she shouts here, the written invitation won’t disappear. The invitation from the Head Priest, a noble, is absolute.
“Accordingly the Head Priest says that he wants to talk with his parents to decide whether he should really be sheltered at the orphanage… Uncle and Aunty, both of you have to come. Because you probably have to arrange your absence from work, it’s been set to three days later. He said that he’d like you to come to the temple on the third bell in three days.”
I explain the details of the invitation to Aunt Karla who can’t read. Aunt Karla looked back at me while tightly grasping the wooden card I’m still holding out to her.
“… The third bell in three days, correct?”
“Yes. If you show this wooden card the gatekeeper will guide you in.”
Three days later I greeted the day of the meeting while fidgeting.
I head to the temple earlier than usual, change into my blue robe and go to the Head Priest’s room. Lutz, who stayed with my attendants, is with me while wearing his apprentice clothes. For Lutz to have stayed in my attendant’s quarters is because I was told by the Head Priest that it might result in the other orphans harboring futile expectations, if they can see Lutz leaving into adoption.
“I’m incredibly nervous, you know?
“… It’s far too grandiose for a family council, isn’t it?”
Me and Lutz entering the Head Priest’s room was apparently after he received the information that Benno and Mark had arrived. Both of them immediately turned up after being guided by a grey-robed priest to the Head Priest’s room.
After Benno finished the endless-feeling, long-winded greetings for a noble, Lutz’ parents arrived.
Having heard that he has a work related to construction, the body of Lutz’ father isn’t that large, but it looks muscular. He had the appearance of a worker who toils outside while often getting sunburnt. What’s really well showing his stubborn character are the wrinkles, which were carved into his forehead, and his jade eyes that felt glaring. Thanks to his blonde hair that seems to be close to white, he slightly looks like someone who has lived through many years.
Lutz’ father looks at Lutz for an instant, and after snorting with a “Humph,” he gave a simple greeting to the Head Priest. At the time when Lutz’ parents sit down on the offered chairs, Aunt Karla become startled after seeing Benno and Mark, who are sitting in the seats in front of her.
Mister Mark, seriously, what did you do? What did you tell her? Those are the marks of him already having threatened her, aren’t they?
At the moment everyone assembled in the Head Priest’s room, the third bell resounded loudly.