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Edited by RedPandaChick
Almost half an hour passed before the owner finally arrived. We sat at the table the entire time, chatting a little while Fujisaki-san drank her coffee. The owner stepped into the cabin to see so many people sitting at the tables. He asked the guy behind the counter what was going on, then loudly sighed. It wasn't the guy's fault; the owner had forgotten to tell him where the ticket book was. He rushed into a room at the back and returned with the book in his hands. He asked everyone to form a line to get access to the camping grounds.
I felt bad for the guy, he must've been stressed about something he couldn't solve. At least everyone understood and didn't blame the guy. The owner apologized to all the customers one by one. We were the last ones. As we walked out of the cabin, the owner apologized to the guy.
Carrying our stuff, we headed into the woods next to the cabin. Only a few groups of people were already settled, so there were still many spots to choose from. We walked between the enormous trees, unable to pick the best place since they all looked nice. Finally, we got tired and put our stuff down on an even area big enough to fit our three tents.
We started unpacking the necessary things first, but Fujisaki-san seemed somewhat lost. Right, it's her first time camping.
About to offer my help, Sakakibara-san asked first.
"Do you need help?"
"Yes. I only need to know what to start with, then I can follow the instructions," she giggled.
Sakakibara-san approached her and explained what was inside the backpack. Fortunately, I had been camping practically since I had memory, so I knew what to do and how to do it without much help. It was maybe one of the few things I could do without relying on someone else.
"Thanks!" Fujisaki-san said after she listened to the explanation.
Needless to say, following instructions seemed simpler than it actually was. That, or Fujisaki-san wasn't very good with practical stuff. She kept hurting herself or the tent would fall down with the weakest of breezes. Sakakibara-san already had enough work to do with his tent and I was almost done with mine, so I decided to give her a hand.
"Let me help you."
"Don't worry, I almost got the hang of it."
"It's fine, I'm almost done with mine."
Reluctant for a moment, she agreed.
Though we had small, individual tents, I took my time to build Fujisaki-san's, explaining the instructions and showing how every step was done. After seeing how I did it, Fujisaki-san would ask me to let her do it herself so she could remember.
"Thanks," she said, sweeping the sweat from her forehead. "I feel somewhat useless being a maid while letting my boss work for me."
"You always do things for me, so I wanted to pay you back."
"But you already pay us. Quite a lot, if I might say."
"I don't; Father does. That makes him your boss, not me. And it was nice being useful for once."
After almost an hour, we were completely set up; it was time for lunch. Sakakibara-san placed a tiny, foldable table on the dirt and began chopping some vegetables. In the meantime, he asked us to gather some logs to start a fire. Fortunately, I knew the camping grounds had a common area with many resources to grab, so we headed there instead of having to find them on our own.
We walked back the same way we had come in silence.
"How do you know if a log is good for a fire?" Fujisaki-san asked me.
"I don't know, I have never done that myself. That's why we are grabbing them from the stockpile which only has nice logs for a fire."
Everyone around us seemed to have fun camping. The breeze was cool in the shadows while the sun was warm. It was a nice time in the year to go camping.
"Are you enjoying the day?" I asked her.
"I am. But it's hard trying new things. It's not my fit."
She nodded. Anxious for a second, she continued, "I'll tell you a little secret. Mori-senpai has been covering my mistakes since I arrived."
"Most of them are chores or other things I have forgotten to do. But I've broken glasses, plates, cups…"
"I never noticed that. Didn't Mom and Father find out?"
"Mori-senpai would tell them that it was her fault and nothing else happened."
"Mom and Father probably knew it wasn't her fault. They have known her for a very long time."
"I figured as much."
"Didn't you study to be a maid? Or get any training?"
"Are you insinuating that I'm a bad maid?"
"I'm kidding. Yes, I studied and trained, just as my family wanted. But I'm not made for this. I never was."
"Then why did you become one?"
"Not to disappoint my family. My ancestors were all servants and my parents wanted to keep that tradition."
"Do you want to?"
"I don't want to be the one that breaks it."
Not knowing what to say anymore, we kept walking in silence. Out of nowhere, Fujisaki-san let out a deep breath.
"It's nice telling someone younger about it. Every time I tell someone older than me, they just say that I'm young and naive."
"It keeps happening even at your age?"
"Annoying, right? I guess it will never stop. But you're younger, so you can't say it."
It was nice knowing that she felt better. However, I also realized the implications of what she said.
"Fujisaki-san, does that mean that you want to quit?"
"Yep. Not now, of course, I have a contract. And I wouldn't leave your family this suddenly. I know you have quite a few problems, but you let me in when other people didn't, knowing I was a complete novice."
"Mom and Father knew that?"
She nodded. "Why so surprised?"
I expected it from Mom. But from Father?
We finally arrived after a long walk. There were a few people in line to grab logs from the stockpile, which was almost full. The owner probably went out to gather them and left the other guy to take care of the desk.
After taking half and half, Fujisaki-san and I walked back while carrying the heavy wood. It surprised me how in shape she was; she even seemed to struggle less than I did.
"Do you exercise, Fujisaki-san?"
"I do, it's part of our routine. And you?"
I nodded. "Every morning."
"Really? But you look so thin. You don't build muscle?"
"I try to, but my physique doesn't show it."
"I was about to ask you to show me your abs, but that would be weird."
"Yes, it would."
The walk felt longer than I anticipated and we arrived at our tents with sore arms. Sakakibara-san had already finished cutting the vegetables and the stove was ready to be used. We only needed a campfire. I knew how to make one and Sakakibara-san was practically an expert at it, but we both wanted Fujisaki-san to learn and experience it.
After some nervousness and a couple of scary moments, Fujisaki-san made her first-ever campfire. She didn't want to admit it, but she was happier than she showed. We were also happy to see someone enjoying our family hobby.
They cooked soup together. As much as I would've liked to help them, my chef skills were lacking—funny, since my parents had made their wealth from cooking. The soup was ready after twenty minutes. We ate as we chatted about how the day was going and what we should do later. The speed at which Fujisaki-san ate impressed me; she was very slow.
We finished and continued talking for a little until Fujisaki-san had to go to her tent because she became extremely sleepy, practically falling asleep while sitting. I was feeling tired and the calm of nature didn't help, but not enough for my eyes to close on their own.
It was a rare occurrence for Sakakibara-san and me to be alone, but it was always nice. Though he had been a butler all his life, he always gave me tips when I had problems. Moriyama-san and he were the reason I didn't lose my mind after Otsune was kicked out.
"How is your relationship going, if I may ask?" Sakakibara-san said.
"I think it's going good."
He stared at me with a slight smirk. "It has been a while since I've seen you lacking in confidence."
"I wouldn't if it was about me. Since this depends on another person, I can't be too sure. She might think that it's not going as smoothly."
Out of nowhere, he knocked me on the head and smiled. Somehow, his hits were harder than they seemed.
"That means you're lacking confidence in yourself as well."
"What do you mean?" I asked, caressing my head.
"It's true that she might think differently, but you have doubts. Don't you think you're doing a good job? Even if you do, why don't you just ask how she's feeling? Your relationship might progress, but communication will always be key."
I stayed silent, struggling to say what I wanted to say.
"After our date yesterday, we chatted but didn't mention anything about it. I knew she was struggling to start the conversation, but I don't know why I didn't ask instead."
"Because you're scared."
"Am I? I didn't feel anything at that moment. I simply didn't ask. What am I scared of?"
"Of failing to be a good partner."
I hadn't thought about it in that way, but it made complete sense. My worry wasn't mainly about what Suzuka thought of how everything was going, that was only part of it. I worried if I was being a good partner.
"Enough divulging of your life. You're old enough to take responsibility on your own. Why don't we take a walk?"
He stood up and began walking towards the path. I didn't even reply, but that wasn't necessary. I followed him as we slowly headed uphill into the woods, where more people were camping in groups or alone. The path became harder to walk on as we progressed, which made Sakakibara-san walk slower.
"Can you tell me about your past?" I asked him.
"My past? There isn't much."
"But I've known you since I have memory and I don't know much about you."
"Because, as I just said, there isn't much. I got my first job as a butler at twenty-five after studying to be one."
"You didn't work before that?"
"I worked at convenience stores, bookshops, liquor stores, and a couple more. Those were part-time jobs while I studied."
"Mom and Father weren't the first people you worked for, were they?"
"That would make me only fifty, so no, sadly. I was a butler for many families before coming to work for your parents. I was fifty-seven when they hired me. Half of my career has been with them."
"So other people just fired you?"
"The majority of rich families change servants every few years."
"Are they that awful?"
"You can look at it that way. However, not everyone is like that. I'm still working for your parents even after thirty years, am I not?"
"I guess. You were the first butler they had, right?"
"Indeed. They have changed so much, yet, they are still the same. Your mother has always been a ruthless businesswoman, but it was hard for her to be direct in the past. And your father has always been fearful, but now he can hide it very well."
"Fearful? Of what?"
"Of many things. Losing their wealth is one of them, but there's something more important. It'll become obvious when you ask him."
"Right… Do you know when he's coming back?"
"I don't, but I'll update you as soon as I do."
We advanced a little more, but it was clear that Sakakibara-san struggled more as we did. A few minutes later, he finally decided to head back.
Fujisaki-san sat inside her tent with the door open, reading something on her phone. We had just arrived when she scolded us for leaving without saying anything. Both Sakakibara-san and I apologized.
There wasn't much to do for the rest of the afternoon. As much as the outing was meant for family time, it was also meant to relax and clear our minds, so I decided to do just that. I grabbed one of the mangas from my backpack and headed back into the woods, but not before telling Fujisaki-san and Sakakibara-san.
I searched for a nice place to sit and read, but there weren't many options. Lighting was not a problem, but commodity and wind were. The idea of reading in the woods sounded better in my mind than it actually was.
Even with all the problems, time flew by. The sun was about to set behind the hills when I decided to head back to our tents. Fujisaki-san and Sakakibara-san were chatting when I arrived and they had already begun cooking dinner.
After eating, the sun was almost completely hidden. Fujisaki-san wanted to take a photo of the three of us, so she asked someone that was walking by to take it for us. Then she suggested finding a place clear of trees to take another photo of the sunset. I instantly remembered the perfect place for that while I had wandered around with my manga, so I told her and we sprinted there. Sakakibara-san, who was still full and somewhat tired from walking earlier, decided to stay because he would just slow us down.
We arrived just in time, almost falling twice in the process. Fujisaki-san began taking photos like crazy with her phone while I just took a couple. And that was it. We needed to walk all the way back, but I told her that I would stay a little longer. Surprised, she returned alone.
I wasn't sure why I wanted to stay there. Yes, the sunset was pretty, but was that it? Maybe it was the refreshing breeze or the loneliness that I hadn't felt in a while after meeting Suzuka. After that, many other people had appeared in my life. Good intentions or not, everything was more alive than ever.
Before being able to think, I took my phone from my pocket and sent the sunset photo to Suzuka. I didn't expect a reply soon, but she responded almost instantly as if she was waiting for my message.
And so we chatted for an hour. I didn't need to ask how she felt about the date because she asked first. As I had suspected, she didn't know how to start that conversation and I told her what I had just learned about myself although not in detail; I preferred to do that in person.
The stars appeared in the sky, beautiful as always. I took a photo of them and sent it to Suzuka, accompanied by a message.
"I don't know if you have seen something like this, but it's gorgeous, so I wanted to share it with you. Let's camp together one day."
I received a message from Fujisaki-san—obviously worried—because I hadn't returned. I headed back as quickly as possible, being more careful because it was darker. They seemed relieved when I arrived, but I got a well-deserved scolding. After that, I climbed into my tent and continued to chat with Suzuka for a while longer before rolling over to sleep.
The next morning arrived and we woke up quite early. Fujisaki-san wanted to make breakfast on her own, so Sakakibara-san let her do it. Then we ate and it was time to pack everything up. In a blink, we were waiting at the parking lot earlier than anticipated. Fortunately, Yoshimura-san had also arrived early. We drove back home.
After an uneventful day, Golden Week ended and classes resumed.
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