Feelings of Love Swinging on the Scales

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“The Love Scales…? As in, the scales mentioned in Amour’s poem?”
An item they claim to be those very scales will be used at the upcoming festival.”

We were gathered at the usual gazebo.
Onee-sama was with me, and both Yuu-sama and Sein-sama had joined us as well.
As usual, the commoner was serving us and as much as it frustrated me to admit, while she didn’t have Lene’s tact, she may actually have surpassed Lene when it came to the tea and sweets.
She had already managed to replicate the tiramisu that Onee-sama introduced just the other day, shocking the both of us.
That was likely also a large part of why Yuu-sama and Sein-sama had chosen to join us today, so as frustrating as it was, I couldn’t not feel at least a little grateful.

At present, Onee-sama was receiving an explanation of the upcoming Amour Festival from Yuu-sama.
As he held deep ties to the Church, Yuu-sama was especially knowledgeable about religious ceremonies and rites so Onee-sama paid close attention.

“Wasn’t Amour’s Poem just a folk tale?”

Perhaps because the two were in a similar position in their own races to inherit the thrones of their respective kingdoms, Onee-sama spoke to Yuu-sama in a much more friendly tone than she used with Rodd-sama.

“It is said that the poem itself is likely a bunch of different tales woven together.”
“And yet, the scales themselves are real?”
“… Well, I’m sure the scales are just some magic artifact.”

Yuu-sama quickly chimed in to agree with Sein-sama before continuing.

“It was a recent innovation after discovering magic stones that allowed us to develop our own magic artifacts, but there are also artifacts with mysterious powers that predate that discovery.’

Without knowledge of magic stones or how they worked, for the majority of our history, such mysterious phenomena were attributed to the divine.

“So… you’re saying that these scales have a magic stone as well?”
“… It would seem so.”

Sein-sama offered a nod, but it was clear that his interests lay elsewhere.
I noticed that his gaze consistently settled back in the direction of the tiramisu.
He had already had a slice, but could it be that he was actually quite the sweet tooth? In that case… Perhaps I should ask the commoner to teach me how to bake…?

“I see.
So? How exactly will that artifact be used in the festival?”
“It’ll be like a duel, or perhaps a way to facilitate a blind date… Simply put, people will fight over their desired bride.”

Yuu-sama spoke merrily.

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“Just as is described in Amour’s Poem, struggles over love have always been a source of conflict.
The traditions of the Amour Festival derive themselves from the folk tale itself as a way for people to compete and resolve such struggles.”
“What, will the people make offerings?”

Onee-sama spoke in jest.
Such a comment could only be made by someone who knew the details of Amour’s Poem.
As a foreigner, Onee-sama would need a deep understanding in our culture to make that jab.

“Yup, exactly right.
People make their offerings to the scales, and the weight of their offerings will decide the outcome.”

Onee-sama seemed surprised that Yuu-sama so easily affirmed what she had intended as a joke.

“I’m shocked.
I was taught about the Bauer Kingdom’s culture and history, so I knew of the tale described in Amour’s Poem, but had no idea that the scales actually existed.”
“Well, these details do pertain more to Bauer’s traditional customs after all.
I assume your teacher just couldn’t cover it all.”

When Yuu-sama finished his cup of tea, the commoner silently offered him a refill.
He thanked her before continuing.

“But well, though we say that they compete with the weight of their offerings, it’s not actually the physical mass that’s compared.
The scales are set to compare the two items based on how difficult each was to obtain, so the weight of one’s feelings really does hold bearing on the outcome.”
“Oh? So I suppose one should aim to offer a floss flower, then?”
“Based on the history of the festival, the floss flower does seem to weigh the most.”
“I see, so even that part of the legend is accurate.”

There were very few who had ever set their eyes on a real floss flower.
While I myself had only seen representations of the flower in books or paintings, I heard that it was a mystical flower that released a faint light.

“You seem very keen to learn more about the festival, Manaria.
Might you have a vested interest?”

Yuu-sama teased her, effectively asking if there was someone that she was interested in.
Wait, Onee-sama… in love? The notion left me with some less than peaceful thoughts, but I was enough of a noble to not let it show.

“No, that’s not it, but don’t you find it interesting? It’s just so romantic… Given the chance I’d love to entrust my feelings to the scales myself.”
“But Onee-sama, we’re both women.
We’re not the ones entrusting our feelings, we’re the ones to be fought over.”

Despite what I said, I knew that I’d feel lonely if Onee-sama found a lover.

“Must be nice Claire, you already have Rei.”

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“Wha!? Yuu-sama!”

I snapped back when Yuu-sama teased me.

“Oh, what’s that? Claire and Rei are in that sort of relationship?”

And then, even Onee-sama piled on.

“Oh Onee-sama, not you too.
Please don’t say something so foolish.
All this one does is tease me.”

Once I made my anger clear, I took a sip from my cup.

“I’ve repeatedly told her that my feelings are earnest, but I just can’t get through to her.”
“Oh? So does that mean that Rei’s love is unrequited?”
“I’ll make sure that the feelings are mutual, one day.”
“You… I won’t tolerate any more of this nonsense, you understand?”

I gave her a harsh glare to shut her up, and yet, for some reason the commoner appeared happy.
Really, just what was with this girl…?

When I saw Relaire wobbling atop of the table, I fed her a crumb from my tiramisu, which she deliciously devoured.

“Besides, if I were to enter a same-sex relationship, then I would certainly choose Manaria-sama over someone like you.”
“Ahaha! Hearing that from you makes me happy.
I too would be much happier to spend my days with you, Claire, rather than some average gentleman.”
“Oh, Onee-sama!”

Onee-sama happily played along with my little joke.
She really did have such a great sense of humor.
Yes, humor must be elegant, the commoner would do well to learn a thing or two!

“Ah, come to think of it, Manaria was Claire’s first love, wasn’t she?”
“Yuu-sama! There’s no need to go and dig up that episode from my childhood!”
“Ah, right! You mistook me for a boy, didn’t you.”

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I felt myself shrink as those embarrassing memories were brought to light.
It was a story of the part of my life where I was entrusted into the care of the House of the Count of Larnach.

After I lost my mother, a huge scar formed in my heart.
I had parted ways with her in the middle of an argument, and I would never have the chance to make things right.
That fact had marred my childhood―no, even now as an adult, the scar ran deep.

For some time after my mother had passed, I closed myself off.
As my mother was also my father’s formidable partner in the political realm, my father found himself too busy dealing with the aftermath to give me the attention I needed.
Instead, he entrusted me to our relatives at House Larnach.
It was there that I first met Onee-sama.

“I was… saved by your words, Onee-sama.”

As I wallowed in my regret and blamed myself for everything that had happened, Onee-sama said this.

―No one’s blaming you Claire.

Onee-sama was able to pick up on how I felt, something that my own father hadn’t been able to do.
Then, she continued.

―Here and now, from this moment on, I swear to protect you.

She quoted a line from the oath of love that was sworn in Amour’s Poem.
I do not believe that Onee-sama held romantic feelings for me at the time and I know that she simply wanted to cheer me up… But, hearing that line, a line straight out of a fairytale, caused me to fall madly in love with her.

I mean, in her youth, Onee-sama looked just like a super pretty boy!

“I love that part about you too, Claire-sama.”
“Really, just what are you saying so suddenly!?”
“My apologies, I just couldn’t contain my emotions.”

There the commoner went again with her nonsense.
You couldn’t contain your emotions? Do you really intend to claim that you normally try to contain anything?

“I see… So Rei really does love Claire-sama, I see…”

Onee-sama whispered that and smiled as though she had found something new and interesting.
It seemed that Onee-sama still had that bad habit of hers.

Onee-sama had a bad habit of bullying anyone that may catch her interest.
Just like what mischievous young boys might do.
Fortunately, in Onee-sama’s case, she knew where the boundaries were so things never went too far.
That said, her actions would still come off as rather extreme to the uninitiated.

“But well, isn’t that just too bad, Claire said that she’d prefer me.”

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Onee-sama pulled me close and wrapped me in her arms.

“Oh my, Onee-sama, why so suddenly?’

Though I asked that, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic.
When we were younger, she often hugged me just like this.

… Commoner? Why is your face twitching? Even Relaire appeared agitated.

“Claire, if I were to say that I love you, would you believe me?”
“Of course.
I mean, I believe that even now.”
“Fufu, is that so? I see.”

Onee-sama put on a happy smile.
It was different from romantic love, but even now I still admire Onee-sama.

“… Rei, you’re spilling the tea.”
“Pardon me.”

The commoner made an uncharacteristically large fumble.
Just what is she doing? Relaire panicked to dodge away from the hot tea spreading over the table.

“… Is something the matter? You’re pale…”
“No, I appreciate your concern, but it’s nothing.”

To think that Sein-sama would worry over her, she’s so cheeky for a commoner! But… was she really okay? Now that he mentioned it, the commoner’s face did look rather pale…

“… Claire and Manaria really do get along well.”
“… Yes, they really do.
Would you like a refill?”
“… Rei, that’s not the teapot, that’s the milk pitcher.”

There was definitely something wrong with her.
Perhaps I had been pushing her too hard ever since Lene had left.

Perhaps it would be best to give her some time off.
The thought crossed my mind as I uncharacteristically found myself worried over her.

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