A sigh of great relief swept through class 2-4 as the last exam papers are collected. With it, their weeks of torturous revision and nerve-racking anxiety had finally come to a close, for better or worse. The noise volume steadily increased in the room and flooded through the halls as answers were traded and frustrated cries broke out. Soon the moans turned to shouted appointments promising some form of stress relief or another. Soon he boys began preaching about football matches in the afternoon while the class' female population moved on to talks about manicures and beauty sessions.
"It feels great, doesn't it, Rin-san? To have it over?" One of them tentatively approached and talked to the poised, regal girl seated beside the bright-lit window. Out of everyone in the room, she was probably the most stunning person, in the best sense of the word.
Her black hair rolled off her shoulders like gleaming silk. Her face was clean and elegant, with cheeks naturally tinted. Her eyes were the colour of emerald-blue. Thad a dreamy look, though they would be more used to being sharp and piercingly proud.
"Eh? Oh yes." Rin was tucking away her stationary and looked up absent-mindedly. She smiled in order to be polite, as she had not been paying attention.
"Is that all you have to say?" The girl, Amy-chan exclaimed, pouting. "Only people who do really well can say that. It must have been a breeze for you."
The green-eyed girl laughed uncomfortably. "Ah, well. I have been studying."
"But you're the smartest person in the entire school! What do you need studying for? Even if you hadn't done any revision, you would have gotten the perfect score anyway." Barged in Hana, the girl sitting in the desk to Rin's right.
"That's not true!" Rin began to protest, but she was good-naturedly waved off.
"Whatever, this calls for a celebration! Why don't we go karaoke this afternoon until our voices go hoarse? The boys are doing their own little football celebration too." Hana took out a comb and started brushing her long brown hair.
Instantly passionate, Amy agreed, jumping out of her seat. "I think that's a great idea. You'll come with us, won't you Rin?"
Rin looked slightly taken aback by the offer and briefly wondered if it'd be rude to refuse right away. It wasn't as if she wanted to, only she had made other plans that day. But it soon changed into a look of apology.
"I'm sorry, guys. My father is leaving this afternoon, and I must see him off." A look of apology melted across her face.
"It's okay Rin. We understand." Hana said, looking slightly disappointed.
"How long will he be gone this time?" Amy glanced at her with concern.
Not for another year at least, Rin secretly thought. But instead of saying so, Rin replied with the best smile she could muster, and the words that came were that she didn't know. It was probably more of the truth than she had.
Rin had learnt not to be upset when her father leaves. This time would be no exception.
Except this is time, some things were different, Rin sadly thought as she strode purposefully towards the black car specifically waiting for her.
"My lady, good afternoon." an old man, smartly dressed in a black suit and tie, vailed and bowed to her. He was her butler and chauffeur. Or, in her absolute opinion, the only person who truly mattered in her life.
"Hello, Ojii-san." Rin immediately disregarded her own glum thoughts as she beamed happily at the man.
As light as a gliding swallow, she climbed onto the elegant car and waited patienly as her butler closed the door and spun the engine to life. Carefully he steered it onto the lane.
"How was your day, my lady?" He asked, his voice as husky as old leaves passing on a windy day. This was a question he often asked whenever she'd return from school. Naturally, Rin was prepared to answer it.
"The exams were much harder than I'd expected," Came her confident response. "However, it was nothing I couldn't have done."
"That is to be expected from my lady." The old man declared boastfully. "She is never one to scare before a test."
"Of course not!" She exclaimed indignantly. "I have to make you proud, do I?"
"This old man? What about your father?" He laughed, like an old grandfather would his granddaughter.
Rin snorted. "You know he doesn't place value on academics."
Tadao, aware of the sensitive topic and her charge's sour tone, quickly decided on another one.
"Oh! That's right. The Young Lady will be a senior at high school next year..."
"I am." Rin said and sat a little straighter.
"Girls at that age have lots of boys to fawn over." He suggested innocently but sharply eyeing her without being distracted from his task.
"Jii-san!" Rin cried out, aghast and with embarrassment all over her face. "I've told you many times. I don't have anyone like that!"
"Or so you've told me." He whistled.
Rin straightened her back, although her posture was already exemplary elegance and spoke with a proud, dignified tone. "I'm not interested in boys. Most of them act so immature at school anyways."
Her butler wasn't persuaded, per se. "I was young once, too, my lady. Quite the lady's man I was back then, may I say. Immaturity can be a charm."
"No. It isn't." Rin said sourly. "Trust me, Jii-san. There's no one at school who could possibly convince me to change my mind."
"Oh? Then perhaps one outside it will do." Tadao chuckled. "It's a small world, my lady and by the day it is increasingly so. Though I trust your judgment, school is not the last place one needs to fall in love."
"Ugh, enough, Jii-san." Rin muttered in disdain. "We'll talk about something else."
"Very well, my lady. Whatever suits you best." The old butler let out a cheerful laugh. "I dare say I'll miss your fiery spirit." He continued casually, as if he was speaking about nothing at all. But the words stung. The car expertly glided through the street, its soft hum so familiar to Rin's heart.
"Ojii-san..." Rin's heart lurched in her chest. She had been trying to avoid any mention of this, the matter that weighed so heavily on her mind these days past. Rin was rarely unsure of herself, rarely disturbed by change, be it worse. But now, that horrible empty feeling in her was undeniably real. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't erase it from her mind. That was because two days after her father, Lord of the Tohsaka Manor'd left, Mori Tadao will be officially retiring, after his 15 years of loyal service in the noble's family.
"My lady, I…" Tadao began to say, without turning around.
"That's enough already. I know what you are going to say." Rin swiftly interrupted. Her tone was firm and slightly admonishing, but also was very soft and kind.
Her dear old butler, stubborn as a mule, wouldn't be deterred by anyone questionable, let alone this good young girl he'd known nearly all her life. "My lady, I only wish to express how deeply sorry I am." His voice trembled, though the weathered hand on the wheel held firm.
Rin's heart leapt out of her chest, and she clutched it to make sure it was still. "No, jii-san." Rin burst out. "Why are you sorry? You've been so kind to me all my life. You could have retired many years ago, but you stayed for me. I wouldn't be as I am without you helping me all this time." She said in earnest, taking in a deep breath and sending him a confident smile. She knew he could see it.
"I'm all grown up now, Jii-san, so you don't have to worry about me anymore."
"Yes, that is true." The old man chuckled. Rin smiled.
"That's why you should not be sad. Come on, let our final drive home together be happy, as always." After a moment of hesitation, she added. "We can talk about my non-existent love life too, if you want."
This got Tadao laughing heartily, while Rin was glad the mood had brighten. "As my lady wishes."
But despite her brave words and cheerful facade, Rin knew she was crumbling inside. Already, she felt so lonely, even as she sat behind her beloved Jii-san. That he was here could not change the fact that he was leaving. He was leaving! And after that, she'd be all alone in her vast, empty space of a mansion. Not home. It could not be home, if Tadao's gone.
Rin could feel the very cornerstone of her life rocking, and could only trust her own strength to ride out the storm.
Don't worry too much, Rin. You'll have your new butler next chapter. I think you'll like him *wink wink.
Please please review. They fuel my writing XD