Watch My Back For Me

Translator: Whistle

Editor: Jennicide

Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!

Chapter 11: A Special Name

The educational institution where Ionia would be enrolled was run by the government and specifically meant for commoners. It taught basic education and had established many branches in major cities all over the country. Children above the age of twelve would be able to enroll for free, regardless of their background. Though, those who were considered either royalty or nobility would attend the Royal School of Higher Education afterwards, which was compulsory for them unless there were other extenuating circumstances.

The commoner’s institution for basic education would teach fundamentals, such as history, mathematics, and elective vocational training courses that were referred to as “majors.” As the children grew to reach adulthood, the institution would consult with their parents in order to decide on the major they would take to determine their future vocation.

As for Ionia, he was physically fit and athletically gifted as a child. He often helped his father, David, who was a blacksmith, with work. In this way, Ionia became acquainted with the soldiers who frequented his father’s workshop to get their swords repaired. While waiting for their weapons to be reforged, the soldiers taught Ionia the art of sword fighting and various other skills.

They had often praised the young Ionia for having physical strength comparable to that of an adult and agile movements no other could match. In him, they saw the qualities of a great soldier in the making. Ionia himself changed his goal to joining the royal army when he grew up, and he decided to focus on a major catered to that vocation at the institution.

One day, a soldier who was one of David’s regulars came to the workshop while Ionia was helping his father.

His name was Stoloff. He was a stern-looking man who had a large scar running from the corner of one eye to the edge of his lips. Often, he came to the workshop to have his treasured sword repaired. Though the man was presumably a person of high rank, judging from the air he exuded, the innocent and naive Ionia was on friendly terms with him.

One day, Stoloff came to the workshop accompanied by a boy with wavy black hair and a steely pair of dark eyes.

David could tell right away that there was something peculiar about the boy, but he feigned ignorance instead. It was a given since Stoloff hadn’t bothered to introduce the child. After all, aristocrats had rules of their own to govern interactions with commonfolk—thankfully, David was very good at playing along.

Ultimately, the boy was left to his own devices in the workshop once the adults settled down to discuss business as usual. With a bored look on his face, he languidly observed his new surroundings.

Upon seeing the boy, Ionia couldn’t help but want to talk to him.

It should’ve been seen as insolent for a commoner to approach such an aristocrat; however, Ionia was much too naive to know better. On top of having an overly friendly nature, he was also inclined to offer the best service to all of his father’s customers.

Without even an ounce of fear in his heart, Ionia casually turned to face the boy and spoke to him directly. “Umm… Welcome to the workshop. My name’s Ionia, and my father is the blacksmith here.”

The boy certainly didn’t look like he’d expected to be approached by a commoner out of the blue. In response, he stared back at Ionia in complete silence. Judging by that look alone, it was as if he were casting an invisible barrier between the two of them.

Upon closer inspection, Ionia noticed the other boy’s eyes were a deep indigo speckled with flecks of gold. It was a color not normally seen in Fanoren.

Wow, Ionia caught himself thinking, they look just like a starry night sky!

From further back in the workshop, Ionia could almost feel Stoloff’s silent gaze on him as well as the concern radiating from his father’s watchful eye as they spoke. There were butterflies in his stomach, but still, Ionia gathered up his courage to ask the other boy’s name.

“W-well, if you don’t mind… Would you tell me your name?”

The boy finally opened his mouth to ask, “Why do you want to know?”

Ionia was at a loss for words. He didn’t have any particular reason as to why; he’d just wanted to get along with someone his own age for once.

“Hmm, it’s just that I feel like I can’t talk to you properly if I don’t know what to call you first… I think. Despite his poor attempt at formal speech, Ionia pressed the palms of his hands together in front of his face in a pleading manner.

Somehow, the dark haired boy’s expression relaxed slightly. “What a strange person you are,” he remarked in near wonder.

Ionia did his best to bite back a grin. Oh, I think he smiled a bit…!

“Don’t call me that! You could at least tell me—” Ionia paused, reminding himself to choose his words more carefully before speaking again, “I mean, please tell me your name.”

This time, the boy smiled for real. It made him appear even more youthful and handsome than before. Seeing his real smile made Ionia feel inexplicably happy for some reason.

As though he’d found something funny, the boy said, “It hurt my ears to hear you mess up your formal speech. If you can’t get it right, you should just stop using it.”

“Huh, I did?” Ionia felt a little embarrassed. “But, still, thank you for telling me! You know, you can call me ‘Io’ for short.”

“Io, huh? My name is Vis,” the boy finally introduced himself.

Obviously, Ionia knew the boy wasn’t giving his full name, but it couldn’t be helped since the boy was an aristocrat. Nevertheless, his real name was something that Ionia didn’t need to know, and he was happy enough to have something with which to address the boy.

“Viz… Vis…” Ionia repeated the name again and again, trying to get the pronunciation just right. “Hey, has anyone called you ‘Vee’ before?”

The boy shook his head. “Nope, nobody’s ever done that.”

“Then, it can be my special name just for you! Is it okay if I call you ‘Vee’ from now on?” Ionia happily asked.

The other boy was confused. “A special name?”

“Yes! After all, we’re friends now, Vee!”

On that fateful day, Ionia came up with a unique name for someone he considered his new friend, one only he knew and used to refer to this person.

After that, Vee began coming to the workshop with Stoloff more often. It now appeared that Stoloff was the one serving Vee, based on their interactions alone. As with all things involving the aristocracy, nobody knew which noble family Vee was actually from or what connection Stoloff had with him or the family, but Ionia wasn’t interested in learning anything about that.

Thanks in part to Ionia’s open and kindhearted nature, Vee no longer carried that aloof aura of a high-ranking aristocrat and gradually warmed up to the other boy. 

They would spend hours in the workshop either talking, playing, or studying the tools Ionia’s father used. Sometimes, they would even jokingly spar with practice swords behind the smithy. It was a safe place in the commoner’s district where they could be themselves. Only once did they venture out into the district proper without supervision from either of their guardians, but it had been fun.

Having already transcended the difference in their status and the three year age gap between them, Ionia and Vee became the very best of friends. 1 Since they weren’t able to see each other that often, Ionia did his best to cherish the time they did spend together. On days where they weren’t able to meet, he would be waiting, looking forward even more to the next time they could.

However, that suddenly changed one day. Vee had come to visit the workshop with Stoloff as usual, but he didn’t attempt to enter, only stopping and standing by the door. It was then, Vee informed Ionia that he wouldn’t be able to come to the workshop for a while. There was a painful expression on his face when spoke, as if he were hiding something.

As a result, Ionia was left feeling deeply saddened at the sudden loss of his friend.

Ionia didn’t bother to ask Vee if he would no longer come to visit since he’d said it would only be for a little while. But what really bothered Ionia most was that Vee was wearing the exact same expression he’d had on his face back when they’d first met, eyes dark as though something was troubling him. While Ionia had no idea what was going on, he did tell Vee that he believed they would meet again.

The boy with a night sky reflected in his eyes merely nodded in acknowledgment. He didn’t say much else other than promising that they would definitely see one another again in the future. And, just like that, Vee left Ionia’s world to return to the one in which he had always lived, the aristocracy.

At the end of that same year, Fanoren was struck by tragedy. The king’s concubine, Lady Brigitte, died unexpectedly at the age of thirty-seven. She had collapsed during the wedding ceremony of her son Joachim, the first prince, who was marrying Emilia, the princess of the kingdom of Frankel. 2 For over a year, she’d been battling a serious illness that eventually led to her death.

Soon after, the traditional mourning period lasting a full month was held. During that time, the whole country mourned her passing. By then, the days when Vee would come to visit Ionia were long gone, and it was now the end of the following year.

Once the mourning period for Lady Brigitte ended, it was the beginning of a new season. Ionia had begun the process of applying for admission to the commoner’s institution for basic education.

One day when he went to visit the school, the bishop handed Ionia a letter sealed in an official looking envelope. Even though Ionia tried to open it straight away, the bishop stopped him from doing so. He was instructed to bring the letter home and open it in front of his parents. Nodding, Ionia did as he was told. As soon as he got home, Ionia showed the letter to his father, who was still working in the smithy.

Together on the second floor of the workshop, which also served as the residence for Ionia’s family, he opened the envelope under his eager parent’s fervent gaze.

The letter within was addressed directly to Ionia.

Ionia Bergunde,

We are pleased to inform you that you have been chosen to enroll in the Royal School of Higher Education.

Hasr: The meme duo is back!

Whistle couldn’t bear to be apart from her beloved editor kek

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