9 – 8
The Doragaku-brand products were essentially a rather well-received strain of official goods, many of which had been marketed with great success.
Clear folder pockets and card holders that used in-game images, copied illustrations that were later used for posters and calendars; the list went on. They even carried non-illustrated goods, such as phone straps built with the motif of the characters in mind, and even earrings of the same nature. They had an even further range of these goods, some of which crafted with such fine-tuned attention to detail and design that they were barely distinguishable as gaming goods.
Even among those examples, the design behind this particular bracelet had made it rather accessible, and therefore all the more popular. More notably were the coloured beads, from which anyone had the freedom to choose their favourite colour scheme. Each colour corresponded to the protagonist or one of the other characters, and they’d sold like hotcakes.
One just had to pick just one colour, whichever lined up with the character they picked. The golden colour, representative of the protagonist, Alicia, could be fixed together with the colour of whatever character one preferred, one could even pick a golden colour surrounded by all the others, hinting at the reverse harem in play.
For those that enjoyed the otome game for what it was but preferred a different perspective, it was perfectly possibly to combine the colours of other characters to their favour, and anyone not too frugal and willing to spend had the option of buying each individual bracelet, then slide them all onto their wrists in a show of rather weighted pride.
With the attention to design which allowed them to be worn during everyday situations, as well as the capability of choosing the combination of colours had made these goods almost ridiculously popular.
Mary was sure she’d bought these things in her old world. Despite being sure, she couldn’t quite recall the combination of hues that had been to her liking, and she doubted there was much meaning in straining to recollect the memories now.
“Still, I’m pretty sure these goods didn’t have Mary’s colours…”
Mary manoeuvred the bracelet Alicia had slipped onto her wrist to her palm, then tilted her head quizzically.
This bracelet had been the biggest official seller, out of all the goods there, even to the point where new ones had been made for the new characters that appeared in Doragaku fandiscs and sequel novels, all so that the original story may continue. This had culminated in limited edition event designs and collaborations, and it was doubtful that there was even someone out there who’d managed to collect them all.
But the colour reserved specifically for Mary, silver, had never really gone on sale. It was obvious enough why, really. Character in a game or not, she was generally disliked by the players – she had been written to be unlikeable, in fact – and there was just about no one willing to buy her goods.
That wasn’t even the worst of it. At some point later on, one of the official fanbooks had mentioned that using the colour silver to represent her character was a bit of a miss. They had a point: the way the silver bead shone and glimmered so resonantly with the other hues made it clear that associating the colour to Mary had, in fact, been one of the biggest mistakes the company had ever made.
While the musings occupied her mind, she turned her gaze… right towards the other colour besides Mary’s silver harmony. It neither overshadowed the adjacent silver nor paled in comparison, meshing with it rather nicely with its reddish-brow… no, rust-like colour scheme.
Oh? Mary leaned her head to the side and looked to Addy, who stood right next to her. She took a closer look at the colour of his hair, then looked back to the bracelet. She compared between them one more time, as if to be sure, then tried again, this time hiding his eyebrows. One she’d let her eyes drift between the two for the third time, she raised the bracelet, let out an ‘Aaah’, and nodded in satisfaction.
“These are your colours and mine, Addy.”
“…Do your really need to go that far to notice?”
“You know how it is, the longer someone’s close to you, the more you don’t notice these things. I wonder why they’re you and me, though.”
Addy coughed rather intentionally, clearing his throat as a response to Mary’s deeply mysterious choice of words.
Mary couldn’t shake the feeling that Alicia’s remark that it ‘suited’ her had been all too intentional. If that was the case, she had wilfully chosen the colours gold and silver, the first representing Alicia and the second Mary.
When the bracelets had first been put out to be sold, certain combinations had taken trend that imitated the character’s personal traits, such as the ‘Childhood Friend Colour’ and the ‘Classmate Colour’.
Now, Mary had a desire for ruin and was unlikely to break down any time soon, but there was the chance, the potential, the most infinitesimal possibility that this was in some way a hint towards some sort of friendship between Alicia and Mary, then the other people in question should have had a rather normal colour line-up.
If that was supposed to be the case, however, then why wasn’t the colour next to hers even Alicia’s, but Addy’s himself….?
Rightfully befuddled, Mary furrowed her brow and turned up to Addy with a, ‘Hey, about this…’. Unfortunately for her, she was still to focused on the bracelet, and so while Addy merely shrugged his shoulders to her, she remained unaware of the slight hopefulness in his expression.
“This means… She’s just a regular, seedy commoner, right?!”
“I mean, it adds up! If she just picked a combination of the two of us, she probably didn’t have deep enough pockets to get you your own. That’s why she only bought one of these bracelets, and it was one that made a pair!”
Mary puffed out her chest in a fit of pride, and Addy let out the king of all sighs. The rather lacking twist made him slump his shoulders and the boxes he’d been holding teetered down.
“…Remind me to never have hope in you again.”
“Why’re you getting disappointed?! Woah, hold it, what part of our conversation could even get you disappointed?!
“Everything about it, every last bit!”
“Seriously, the whole thing?! I’m not getting it here, explain!”
“How am I supposed to do that?!”
Addy, about halfway through his road to total despair, forcefully ended the conversation with a rebounding, ‘We’re done talking here!’ and began walking in manner that suggested he wanted to high-tail it. Mary, on the other hand, was the very picture of confusion as question marks bulleted from her head, but she nevertheless followed after her attendant with more than a bit of haste.
She slid the bracelet to her wrist… then rethought this, slid it off, and put it into her pocket.
“…Aren’t you going to put that on?”
“Please, why would Mary Albert ever wear something so low in quality? I might as well smear the whole Albert family with mud while I’m at it.”
“So… I’m guessing that means you don’t need it? Should I throw it away?”
“There’s no way Mary Albert could ever neglect something gifted to her by someone of common blood. I might as well claw away at the Albert family legacy.”
Noticing the contradiction in Mary’s speech despite her tone, the corners of Addy’s mouth curled up in a smile. It was at odds with the almost reproachful glare she sent his way. The way she both blamed and sulked with an expression so out of place for the daughter to the Albert household made Addy say, ‘Same as always, Madam’ before he lost his hold on the chuckles that burst out.
“What now? If there’s something you’ve got to say, say it.”
“Oh, it’s nothing. I just thought it might be all good and well if you just kept it in your pocket, after all. For now, at least.”
Mary wrinkled her eyebrows in confusion, unsure of what he meant by ‘for now’, or anything he’d said for that matter, but still brought a hand to her pocket.
At the small sound of two beads clattering against each there, Mary, seemingly in low spirits, pouted and twisted her lips.
A new feeling welled up in her chest, an odd mixture of shame and unease that she had never felt before, something that was keeping the thoughts in her head from flowing right. It felt as if some part of her was happy, but another just gnawed at her with dissatisfaction.
She could find no words that might have expressed the strange, restless feeling, and the only thing that remained clear in her vision was Addy as he laughed, the one person to whom her wild gesticulations might have made any sense. Then again, it wasn’t as if she had many people she could talk to.
No, if the daughter of the Albert household was involved… then there was surely no one who wouldn’t be happy to share their wisdom. Even those ladies among her peers who burned with envy would heed her parents and lend an ear, for the sake of their own houses.
Mary was a daughter of the Albert family. There were heaps upon heaps of people who would beg for a chance to speak to her, to get into her good graces. Once they would give their advice, the Albert household was indebted to them, and they would willing speak to and offer whatever advice Mary would deem necessary.
The point was, if the daughter of the Albert house claimed to be suffering under the thrall of some unknown sensation, then you could toss those lady peers right out the window, because even the most renowned of scholars would likely come to her aid.
But for whatever reason, that line of logic seemed far from applicable this time around.
It wasn’t the consultation of the Albert girl that was needed… but then, what was?
The uneasiness built up even further in Mary’s chest as she realised she had no clue what she should be doing, then simply filled out out her cheeks and let the empty boxes in Addy’s hand sway.
“Whoa, please, stop that! That’s dangerous!”
“I’m not shaking this thing because it’s dangerous! Wow, even your calming expressions are getting me riled up!”
“That’s like the next level of venting anger… Although I’d say I’m pretty composed, M’lady! At least compared to you!”
“Just shut up and let me vent!”
With an exasperated call, Mary shook the boxes with all her might. The top began to waver, more than was needed. Good old empty boxes. Mary just had to shake one to make them all ripple. Realising how dire the situation was, Addy called for her to stop.
Amusing as he was in his panic, he provided Mary with a halfway decent distraction. But she still noted the heaviness in her chest, and breathed out a prolonged sigh.
“This is probably because I didn’t follow up on that delicious croquette store. Yes, that has to be it.”
And so she came to her contrived, incredibly forced conclusion.
It was a bit of a crude postulation, at least for a lady of the noble Albert house, but that same girl had… rather, Mary Albert had… gained a friend, a legitimate friend for the first time… and that’s what had her on the ropes. Her conclusion being a bit rough around the edges was something she couldn’t help at this point.
Addy, being the only one to grasp her circumstances as well as whatever it was that left her so restless on the inside, simply continued chuckling. He then turned to his Lady, who was holding on to her sulky expression, and told her with some mixture of ridicule in his tone that she’d certainly feel better after some good croquettes.