Something sweet as sugar & slightly nonsensical
Short o9: The one with games


"…I guess this is a bad ending, huh?" said Battler, slightly nonplussed, as he stared at the screen flickering before him. "Damn. And I didn't get a single girl…"

"Pu ku ku~ If Milady were here to witness your rather spectacular failure, I'm positive she would torment you endlessly."

"Hn? Oh, it's you."

"Indeed. It is me. Congratulations for spotting it."

Turning his head, Battler spared the sudden newcomer a sharp glance. Of course, given that subtly teasing manner of speech, hidden under a light gloss of elegance that somehow made those veiled insults even more cutting, it could only be one person.

That damn demon butler.

Ihihi… Well, that was a pretty easy mystery to solve. It was hardly on par with Beato's insane closed room murders. Ronove was the only other man who regularly inhabited Purgatorio alongside Battler- so unless Beato or one of those noisy seven sisters had suddenly taken to speaking in an unmistakably deep, masculine tone, it could only have been one other person. The earlier string of reasoning was, in the long run, pretty useless.

Oh well. That demon butler might have been unpleasant and unwelcome, but his tea and cookies certainly weren't- and, happily enough, he just so happened to be carrying a plate laden with delicious baked goods sprinkled liberally with sugar at that moment.

"Heh. Well, you don't need to be sarcastic." Battler rolled his eyes. "Sarcasm is, like, scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to being witty. Perhaps even lower. I'd expect better from a person like you."

A small smile spread across Ronove's face. Apparently, he enjoyed this slightly vitriolic conversation, and seemed to take some kind of amusement in being verbally attacked by Battler.

What a masochist.

Well, he must've been, to work under Beato's employ for so long.

"Do forgive me," said Ronove, with a small bow of his head. "I apologize if my unflattering comments were too unimaginative. I will try to improve my conversation so I can be properly aggravating in the future."

"Weeell, I don't know about that… it wasn't an invitation to piss me off even more, ihihi~" said Battler, laughing. "Aaah. Whatever." And, with a small crack from his joints, he stretched his hands upwards, yawning, as though he had just completed a difficult math test- not some weird dating sim game of Beato's. "I'm hungry. This was pretty good timing."

"Indeed. I must have heard your silent desire for subsistence as it drifted through the air, captured it inside my heart, and promptly answered your summons with this plate of cookies. I hope you enjoy them," said Ronove lightly, smiling his signature smile, as he proffered the plate towards Battler.

"Heh. Well, you're as creepy and insincere as ever, I see…"

At least Ronove's cookies, after Battler sampled a couple of them, were delicious as always.

"Man. How can a guy like you make such tasty food?" asked Battler through a mouthful of cookie; crumbs stuck his cheeks, a teasing smirk, honed from him numerous spats with the demon butler in the past, on his lips. "This is the kind of baking you'd expect a traditional cute girl to make for her crush on Valentine's Day."

"Mm, you flatter me~ It's a shame Milady's cooking level has not yet reached the level where it would be acceptable to share with other humans, even though she has been training with Miss Virgilia…"

"Yeah. Most people only have one lifespan, ihihi~"

"Milady could always revive you after you had suffered from the prolonged torture of sampling some of her dishes…?"

"Ehh… I think I'll pass. I do like Beato, but I'm not insane. I'm her husband, and she treats me awfully. I'm afraid to think of how she'll butcher all the ingredients when trying to cook, ihihi~ Besides… I feel mean saying this, given she's so nice, but Virgilia's cooking isn't my cup of tea either. I'm not obsessed with mackerel."

"Not even her mackerel candy? Pu ku ku…"

"W-well, it did have a very unique flavor- b-but I think something like that is too unique, even for an adventurous guy like me! I want my sweets to be sweet, and not… ah… not…"

"Induce illness?"

"Heh, there is that. Ha." Battler laughed. "And you tell me not to act callously towards women. You're even worse than me."

"Perhaps I have been spending too much time in your company, pu ku ku… Or maybe I have always been so heartless, but I am able to express it more fully around you," said Ronove, smiling. "Never mind. I believe your decision to forego Milady's food is very wise- and, if I must admit… I am a little bit happy about it."

"Oh? And why's that?"

"Because I selfishly want you to sample only my cooking, of course," Ronove answered; not missing a beat. He spoke so shamelessly, too… "It appears to be the only aspect of my character you like, after all- and I do not wish for Milady to take this positive factor away from me."

"Ihihi…~ So even you can be petty, huh? Well, don't worry. I don't just like your cookies. I like your tea, too."

"Ah… Then I am deeply honored. You can continue to savor my cooking to its fullest, alright? Nothing gives me greater pleasure than serving you, Lord Battler. Pu ku ku…"

"Eheh… heh… y-yeah…" With a slightly shaky laugh, Battler put his sixth cookie back down on the tray; wiping his mouth for stray crumbs. "Something like that would sound great coming from a hot girl, but when it's from your mouth… aaah. The two don't really go well together. Sorry. I'm not into that kind of thing."

"Oh. That is a pity," said Ronove, with a look of mock disappointment on his face. "And yet, in this rather… 'interesting' game you have borrowed from Milady… your character appears to have taken a rather peculiar route? Pu ku ku…"

Battler turned to look at the computer screen once more; proudly displaying the route Battler, with his inability to play these kinds of games, had managed to trigger. In his incompetence, he hadn't managed to win over any of the girls- but his character had managed to gain the affections of his male friend instead…

It was definitely… a bad ending…

Geez. How could Beato rave about these silly dating sim games so enthusiastically when Battler was so bad at them? He could never figure out how to start any of the routes at all- so, ahaha… i-it probably wasn't all that different from real life, given how Battler had floundered when it came to the softer side of romance with Beato after they were married. If Beato could see Battler's miserable string of failures at her favorite games, she surely would've cackled, hit him over the head with her pipe and called him an idiot.

…Well, it wasn't like Beato needed a reason to do any of those things. She did them often enough already.

"I think you would call something like this life imitating art, wouldn't yoooou, Battler? Gyahahahaha!"

Aaaah, Battler's head hurt just thinking about it…!

Kuuu… that damn witch.

It didn't help that, behind his shoulder, Ronove- who had dispelled the plate of cookies in a burst of butterflies- was starting to laugh; one hand held 'politely' before his mouth.

"Don't worry. I assume this ending was not the one you truly desired?" Ronove asked, in that mocking tone that made Battler grind his teeth together. "Milady was very skilled at these games, and so always avoided joke endings like this, but… pu ku ku. I suppose everybody has to start somewhere. Being competent at this kind of mindless game is not truly a skill, either…"

Battler glared sourly at Ronove, eyes narrowed. "Urgh… When you say it like that, I feel like it's still some sort of insult…"

"Oh, surely not," Ronove replied, with a laugh. "However… aah, if only for a few moments… I admit, I was beginning to get just a little bit hopeful."

"Hn? And why's that?"

"Well… If you wish me to elaborate, then… ah…"

Ronove leant forwards slightly- and though Battler instinctively backed away in his chair, he soon found he was caged in; unable to escape. The other man was getting unsettlingly close, as he was so fond of doing; and now his gloved hands had reached forwards, lacing the fingers of one hand between Battler's.

Battler's eyes widened. A very light blush rose to his cheeks. His mouth fell open slightly.

"H-hey, R-ronove, I…"

But Battler was unable to finish.

In a manner that was surely very, very impudent for a butler (not that Ronove seemed to care about such things, given how often he poked fun at Beato), Ronove pressed one gloved finger against Battler's lips, and said, "Shh."

Battler had half a mind to bite that annoying finger right off- but something about the intensity of that demon butler's expression, and the blueness of his eyes, froze him in place. He got the feeling, if he made any sudden movements, this scenario could get a lot more awkward…

Aah… t-this… w-was a little like the unfortunate ending to that dating sim game he'd tripped earlier…

Ah… d-damn it…

Speaking softly, almost sensually, Ronove continued, "I was hoping, achieving an ending like this, in a game where the male lead is surrounded by attractive girls… hn… pu ku ku~ Perhaps I was hoping, just a small amount… that maybe you would have some inclinations such as this after all…"

Ronove leant forwards just a little more, until his nose almost bumped against Battler's. They were mere inches apart. If Ronove wanted, it would have been easy to get just a little bit closer and…

"No friggin' way!"

Of course… Battler would not allow such a thing. His face was beet red, his whole body trembling- and he had just successfully pushed that annoying presence back a few inches, hands still held before his face, chest rising and falling.

Stabbing a finger at Ronove dramatically, he declared, with all the tenacity of one hurling a blue truth at a cackling witch, "No way! I'm not interested in that kind of thing! I got that kind of ending in that game because I suck at it, okay? Games don't carry over into real life! This is a bad ending! This is a definite BAD ENDING! Useless, it's all useless! Aaaargh!"

Ronove could only sigh, a look of slight amusement, mingled with… something vaguely akin to… disappointment… …? on his face, as Battler stalked off, with the air of a cat whose tail had just been stepped on.

Well… it was always worth a try.

Even if the result would, inevitably… be something like that… wouldn't it… …?

Indeed.

If this scenario could be compared to one of Beatrice's beloved harem games, then trying to activate a route with Battler… would only ever end in something like this.

A definite bad ending.