The House of the Marquis of Achard.

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Before me was an imposing door that appeared antique.
Beyond that door, that man―Clément Achard―awaited me.

After an arduous exchange with my father where I forced him to allow me to seek Clément-sama’s audience, I found myself here in the Achard Manor.
Fortunately, they didn’t instantly chase me away at their gates and granted me a proper audience with Clément-sama.

The only one with me was Lene.
The commoner wanted to come as well, but Marquis Achard was especially fastidious about formalities.
Seeing that she would only get in the way if she were to accompany us, I ordered her to stay home.

If we put aside the other factors and focused specifically on the Achard family’s heritage, they held deep roots in our kingdom’s history, rivalling even that of the royal family’s.
So, on our way to this room, just as one might expect, we passed through lavishly furnished hallways.
The furnishings, decorations, everything about the manor seemed to be of the highest quality and maintained to perfection.
I had to admit that I was impressed.

That said, if I wanted to conduct these negotiations properly, I couldn’t lose nerve now.
I took a moment to relax my fist which I had unknowingly clenched before knocking.
As I did, it almost felt as though my hand would be sucked straight into the ominous door.

“Come in.”

A solemn, dignified voice beckoned us.
My father too at times took a similar tone.
A voice that could force others into submission.
It was one particular to high ranking nobles.

“Pardon me.”

As I fought to prevent my knees from buckling under the pressure, I made sure to observe the proper formalities as I entered the room.
The man who now stood before me was perhaps ten or twenty years older than my own father.
He had a thick beard, and deep, jet black eyes.
Though he had some white hair, his hair was combed to flow back and nearly set with product.
He was still a very active participant in our kingdom’s politics, and yet he looked like a hermit that could appear in a stage play.
That very man stared me down.

“… Dor’s daughter, hm.
Was it Claire? What business might you have with an old fool such as myself?”
“Good day, Clément-sama.
There’s no need to speak ill of yourself, it’s clear that you are still in very good health.”
“Kahaha.
There aren’t many who are willing to say as such directly in my presence.
Perhaps to be expected from Dor’s own daughter, you’re quite adept at flattery.”
“I believe that it’s a trait I’ve inherited from my mother.
I’ve heard that she was quite the sociable person.”
“Milia, eh.
That’s quite right.
She was quite the rose, a rose with large petals and even sharper thorns.”

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Amidst the exchange of seemingly benign pleasantries, I could sense that he was cautiously probing me, testing me.

“How old are you now, Claire?”
“I am fifteen, Clément-sama.”
“My, is that so.
How time flies.
To think that ten years have already passed since Milia’s departure.
Then it must only be a matter of course that I too have grown old and feeble.”
“Yes, truly.
My mother remains my aspiration to this very day.
However, Clément-sama, old and feeble? Please stop with your jokes.”

That was a light jab.
He was testing how I would respond if he intentionally touched on a sensitive topic.
If I were to discard etiquette and formalities in rage, then the conversation would end there.
Should I want him to listen to what I had to say, I needed to be able to maintain my smile through at least this much.

“Hm… Very well, you pass.
State your business.”
“I appreciate the opportunity, Clément-sama.”

I managed to clear the first hurdle.
This was where our conversation really began.

“Could you please reconsider Deed Marey’s sentence?”

Done beating around the bush, I boldly stated my request.
I wasn’t incapable of operating in a more roundabout manner, but taking that approach with someone like Clément-sama would be the pinnacle of foolishness.
Though it was blunt, if I didn’t challenge this man with my strengths, I’d likely never get anywhere.

“What a peculiar thing to say.
That decision falls under the jurisdiction of the Spirit Church, don’t you think your claims are misdirected?”

I had expected this response, so I promptly continued.

“Please drop the pretense, Clément-sama.
It is a well known fact that your faction was involved in deciding the verdict.”
“Hmph… Very well, I’ll admit it.
Then? What is it that you’d like me to do?”

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“I ask that you mediate with the Spirit Church to come to a verdict that the commoners can accept.”
“…”

This time, Clément-sama appeared to be deep in thought.
As I doubted the sincerity of that gesture,

“Claire, what is it that you seek to accomplish with such a request?”
“Eh?”

I couldn’t immediately understand what Clément-sama was getting at.

“You too are a noble.
If you intend to say that you’re doing this for the commoners, drop the act.
What is your goal? Is it to weaken my faction’s relations with the Spirit Church?”
“N-No! I simply don’t think that the current situation is beneficial to anyone, not the commoners nor the nobles―”
“My word… Then, what you just said now wasn’t in jest? I’m surprised.
I’m so surprised that all I can do is laugh.”

Clément-sama let out a low chuckle.

“Clément-sama, if the commoners’ anger continues to fester, even us nobles will begin to see consequences.”
“How pitiful… House François has such a rich history, and yet this is the state of its eldest daughter.
To think that you’d trouble yourself so much over the likes of the commoners.
If the late Miria saw you now, I’m sure she’d feel so sad.”

My words didn’t seem to get through.
It would appear that Clément-sama truly couldn’t care less about the commoners.

“Clément-sama, the times are changing! It’s not as though the commoners will always be content to be ruled over.
If we nobles don’t change with the times, the commoners will usurp our position!”

Even as I spoke them, my own words surprised me.
Up until this moment, I actually hadn’t considered that possibility.

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Perhaps having seen through that, Clément-sama cast a sharp glare toward me as he spoke.

“Claire, remember this well.
No matter how the times may change, nobles will continue to rule over commoners.
That is but an immutable truth.”

With that, Clément-sama picked up and rang the bell that sat on his table.
WIthin moments, a servant entered the room.

“Our guest here is leaving.
Prepare a carriage.”
“Understood.”
“Just a moment! Our conversation isn’t over!”

I panicked.
I mean, I had yet to accomplish anything.
I didn’t even have the chance to properly explain my point of view, much less force my demands.
If I didn’t, at the very least, convince this man that my point of view was valid and worth considering, then my visit today would have been for naught.

“There is nothing more to discuss.
What a waste of time… Hah, come to think of it, it’s only natural.
After all, she’s a curious individual that would even befriend that thing.”
“―!”

I knew that he was referring to Catherine.
I could feel my blood boiling.

“Take that back! Catherine is a splendid lady! How dare you refer to your own daughter in that―!”
“Daughter? Surely you jest.
She may have my blood flowing through her, but half of it was inherited from a commoner.
She’s a failure, I would never think to treat her as my daughter.”
“Why you―!”
“You mustn’t, Claire-sama!”

As I rushed to close the distance between myself and Clément-sama, Lene, who up until now had kept still, desperately held me back.
At this time, I had lost sight of myself.

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“Hmph… It appears that Dor and Miria weren’t blessed with a good daughter.
Did Miria’s daughter only manage to inherit her mother’s thorns? How sad.”
“Take that back! How dare you say that to someone of my―!”
“Really now.
You’re the one who needs to consider who you’re speaking to.”
“―!”

It was then that Clément-sama entirely changed his disposition.
While the air in the room had felt neutral up to that point, everything suddenly felt heavy.

This pressure came from Clément-sama himself.

“I am the twenty-eighth head of House Achard, Clément Achard.
Out of respect for House François’ status and history, I’ve turned a blind eye until now, but will no longer.”
“…!!”

It was frustrating, but I couldn’t get through to him with my words.
Though I had met with many nobles and even held connections with foreign royalty, I found myself overpowered by Clément-sama’s intensity.
There was something different about his presence.

―He was born with the presence of a ruler.

I could only cry while Lene apologized as she escorted me out of the Achard manor.

Nothing… I had truly just lost and come home without accomplishing even one single thing.

“Claire-chan, it’s not your fault~ This is all my father’s fault.”

That night, even Catherine’s consolations failed to reach me as I drowned myself in my frustrations.

Translator Comment: Ugh, I hate everything about Clement’s attitude that says, “This is just how things is, and this is how things will always be.” Also I hate how he treats Catherine.
But that moment where Claire is kind of like, “Oh wait I said that in the spur of the moment, but what if…” I think was a really important moment for her.
Claire, you did your best.

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