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Ann and Laura went on talking for a bit more before they went to eat together with the rest of the Ainsworth family.
The young heir of the Ainsworth family, Fremont was also present and looking at Fremont, Ann couldn’t help but have the gears in her head moving.
Fremont is Laura’s step brother.
He is also one of the capturable targets in the game…
A close relation, they meet often, and hmm…
How far has Laura raised his flag?!
Ann was alarmed as she looked at her best friend who was busy eating next to her.
“What? Eat,” Laura was oblivious to what was going on in Ann’s mind and urged her best friend to continue eating.
“Is there something not to your liking?” The countess asked in concern.
“Uhm, no, not at all! The food here is so delicious, I was…,” Ann stopped before glancing at Laura who replied her gaze with a questioning look before Ann continued, “I was just thinking how lucky she is to be able to eat food like this every day!”
To which the whole family laughed heartily.
Ann silently heaved a sigh of relief.
Phew, crisis averted.
After eating, the two girls strolled around, just the two of them.
And it was when Ann finally couldn’t hold herself back from talking.
“By the way…”
Unexpectedly, Ann spoke at the same time as Laura did.
The two girls stopped talking and walking, they only stared at each other before bursting into laughter.
“What is it?” Laura asked.
“You first,” Ann said.
“No, you first,” Laura replied.
“Nah, you!” Ann insisted.
“Okay then…,” Laura relented, thinking that the sane one should be the one to relent.
“You’ve only been here for less than a year? Your etiquette’s quite good considering that,” Laura was impressed.
“Oh… Didn’t you nitpick mine before?” Ann raised her eyebrows.
“Well, that was then, now is now. Things are different,” Laura said.
“I had a hellish training…,” Ann felt as if the days of intense tutoring were just something of the distant past.
“But still, I am better than you, so you should learn more from me!” Laura cockily said.
“I guess you know a lot more than me, that I can’t deny,” Ann wryly smiled, admitting her defeat.
“Of course. I have been here way longer than you,” Laura said with a hint of bitterness. Her gaze at Ann felt as if she was asking, ‘Where have you been all this time? What’s taking you so long?!’
“So, in other words…,” Ann slowly said before she slowly broke into a mischievous smile. Laura had a bad premonition about the words that would come out of Ann’s mouth next… And sure enough, her premonition came true when Ann continued her words.
“You are now older than me!!” Ann said happily as she clapped her hands and giggled.
“How rude! We are of the same age! We have always been!” Laura protested.
“But think about it. I’ve been here only for less than a year, but you’ve had a full eighteen years… Pfft… You’re not eighteen years older than me!” Ann laughed.
“That doesn’t count, that doesn’t count!!” Laura protested again.
“Alright, alright, we’re of the same age, we always have been… Suuuree…,” Ann dragged out the last word.
“You’re annoying,” Laura didn’t have anything she could use to refute Ann’s words, so she left it at that.
“Pfft, hahaha!” Ann laughed.
At first, Laura found Ann’s laughter annoying.
But as time passed, Laura felt that it was funny, so she laughed together with Ann.
As the two’s laughter subsided, Ann wiped the corner of her eyes since she was almost laughing to tears.
Since they were being stared at laughing like that in the hallway, the two of them decided to go to Laura’s room to continue talking first.
There, Ann then said, “Nevertheless, I am glad that it’s you. I still think I’m dreaming right now… But more importantly!! Tell me about whose flags have you raised?”
“Flags? What? Why would I be raising flags?” Laura looked at Ann as if Ann was a different species.
“Uhm, it’s a terminology. Since this is the world of otome game, you’re the heroine… There are lots of romantic interest you can ‘capture’…”
“Hold on, why would I catch my romantic interest? They are not monsters I can collect?” Laura was puzzled.
“It’s another terminology. I mean, you can get their hearts,” Ann clarified.
“Their hearts… Plural?” Laura asked in horror.
“Oh well, there’s the reverse harem route… But Allen is out of your reach, okay?!” Ann quickly said.
“I know, I won’t go for a bestie’s man. But wait, what do you mean by reverse harem route?” Laura asked.
“If you manage to raise the capturable targets’ interest to you simultaneously until certain threshold, you’ll be able to get them all,” Ann said.
“……You mean… What, why, no!” Laura quickly elbowed her best friend.
“Yes, you can! That’s why I am asking whose flags have you raised?!” Ann asked.
“Who are the capturable targets, again?” Laura was puzzled.
“Other than Allen, there’s this childhood friend of yours…”
“Who?” Laura didn’t even bat an eye when she asked this.
“…,” Ann felt sympathy for Silas. Silas would be crying if he could hear this…
“Oooh, that boy from the orphanage,” Laura said without any fluctuation in her emotions.
To Silas, Laura is the love of his life.
To Laura, Silas is just ‘the boy from the orphanage’.
How cruel is this world to Silas?
“Okay, let’s talk about him later.”
Ann contributed to the world’s cruelty against Silas. She thought that she could let them meet if Laura wanted to, but that should be another matter to talk about.
“Then, there’s the prince, your magic tutor, and… I’m not sure if you’ve met this person yet, but…”
“Have you met with a cute halfling boy?”
“Oh! Yes, I like that kid! He’s like my little brother. How do you know him?” Laura asked.
“…Yes, he is exactly one of your possible partners…,” Ann was sure that Laura had raised his flag too, if this was her response…
“Uhm… Can I be with someone other than them?” Laura asked.
“What, you have a love interest already?” Ann asked in surprise.
“No, just wondering…,” Laura thought to herself.
“Hmm, I think it’s possible but I am not sure. Tell me, are you interested in any of the capturable targets or someone other than them? Whoever he is, I will support you,” Ann said seriously.
At this moment, she had forgotten that she hadn’t told Laura another possible love interest that was the trigger to Ann bringing Laura this topic in the first place…
Ann’s attention span and her memory was so poor…
“I haven’t thought of that at all… Wait, you said something about the affection meter or level… How do we check that?” Laura asked.
“The game’s window boxes? It will tell us some information, including that,” Ann said.
“What?” Laura tilted her head.
“Ah, you might have never known it. But you can open the game box to see the character’s information by several methods, such as pressing their chest…”
“Pervert!” Laura quickly said.
“Wait, is that why you grabbed my chest?!” Laura was reminded of something as she quickly covered her chest.
“Uhh, that. I actually slipped at that time. I swear I wanted to use another method!” Ann quickly defended herself, not wanting Laura to use this as another leverage against her during moments of banter.
“What other method?”
“Just be in physical contact with your target and say the command: window box, open!” Ann said cheerfully.
“…Lame, you’d be labeled as crazy,” Laura had the expression that said ‘are you serious?’
“I mean, we can say that internally.”
“Say that earlier!”
“I can’t finish what I’m saying if you continue to interrupt me! Anyway, try it out!”
In a speed faster than the light, Laura grabbed Ann’s chest and shouted, “Open!”
“Perv, you can try the other method!” Ann quickly slapped Laura’s hand away and stepped back.
“I’m paying you back!” Laura giggled.
“So, how is it? Did you see something?” Ann asked.
“Hmm… Nothing pops out. Are you sure about it?”
“Wha? Yes, uhm… Hold on to my hand and say it again,” Ann said as she grabbed Laura’s hand.
“Okay… Still nothing,” Laura said.
“Huh?” Ann was confused when she said, “I’ll try opening mine and you try to see it.”
Ann pressed on her own chest and saw that a semi-transparent window box containing her information was opened in front of her.
“You see that?” Ann asked.
“…No,” Laura shook her head again.
“That’s odd…,” Ann scratched her head, wondering what caused this.
“Maybe only you can do that? I mean, I was literally reborn here, maybe that made me a person of this world. Meanwhile, your soul was suddenly transported here, so…,” Laura said.
“So, maybe you can help me check whose flags I’ve raised?” Laura asked.
“Okay, I can do that. Want to start soon?”
“How can we start soon?” Laura wondered.
“I mean, we can try checking Fremont’s—”
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN FREMONT?!” Laura almost shouted when she heard that information.
“W-well… Didn’t I mention it earlier? Ah… right, I think I forgot to mention him, hehe…,” Ann nervously smiled.
“Y-you mean Fremont… My step brother is one of the capturable targets?!” Laura looked at Ann in disbelief.
“That’s sick… Blood or not, family is still family…,” Laura’s eyes widened in disbelief.
“Uhm, it’s one of the famous romantic trope, actually… It’s not that surprising…,” Ann said before she thought to herself.
Oh, maybe because Laura’s an orphan, she thought of her adoptive family as her genuine family and didn’t even consider that…
Let’s hope she isn’t raising Fremont’s flag up so high without her even noticing…
“Alright, I’ll help you check quickly so we can try avoiding raising someone’s flags when you don’t even have that intention in mind…,” Ann said.
“Yeah that’d help me a lot, please,” Laura said.
But then she quickly added, “But… Right. Ann, this is more important than that. Let’s talk about the pressing matter first,” Laura suddenly remembered that she wanted to do this stayover exactly because of this pressing matter. She had wanted to bring this up earlier, but for some reason their conversation detoured before she could touch this matter.
Perhaps it was also because she herself wasn’t ready to touch this issue, but she had to do it anyway.
“Ah yes… About my purification ritual, right?” Ann asked.
Laura had mentioned something about it and that’s why she wanted us to have this stayover in the first place.
“The purification ritual’s date’s been decided,” Laura said.
“It’s in 10 days’ time. Let’s do our best to prepare for it,” Laura said in all seriousness.
“Wait, wait, I didn’t know anything about it though?! What about the training?” Ann first thought that the date wasn’t decided yet but Laura wanted to do a more intense training and that was why Laura invited her for a stayover, but…
So it was a stayover purely to catch up and have fun before the real ritual…?
But Ann wasn’t confident that the training she had undergone was enough…
“I think you’re fine now. You’ve withstood the minimal amount of holy magic I pour out for purification rites. Besides, we also don’t know if it will work out with just this ritual so let’s find out by doing it for real,” Laura said.
“I’m nervous…,” Ann hung her head down.
“I know, me too. I put this in very high importance to succeed because I don’t want to lose my best friend after getting you back. But not doing this might also put you at risk, who knows there’s an expiry date to your time here? So, let’s do this soon so we will still have time to tweak things up if this doesn’t work out,” Laura said.
“Yeah… You’re right…,” Ann said softly as she pondered in her mind nervously.
Will the purification ritual go smoothly and will I be able to live happily ever after here, with my loved ones?
What if… it fails?
Ann shuddered even at the thought of that.
Let’s hope not.