Regarding Onee-sama

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“Claire-sama, uhm… It’s difficult for me to say this but…”
“? What is it Loretta, I won’t get angry so go ahead.”

I again found myself at the gazebo, sharing tea with Pipi, Loretta… and the commoner (as well as Relaire).
It was at that time that Loretta spoke up.
Onee-sama wasn’t with us today as she had been invited to a tea party at the royal palace.
I would’ve liked to accompany her, but Loretta and Pipi said that they had something they wanted to discuss in private, so I joined them here.

Loretta’s face was quite stiff, so much so that even I was beginning to feel nervous.

“Uhm… Well, it’s about Manaria-sama.”
“Onee-sama? What about her?”

I had been on guard, wondering what she would bring up, but hearing Onee-sama’s name relaxed some of my nerves.
But then,

“Is Manaria-sama… Are you sure that she can be trusted?”
“… Just what do you mean by that?”

Without realizing it, the tone of my voice dropped.
Of all people, she held doubts about my Onee-sama?

“Loretta, even if it’s coming from you, there are boundaries that mustn’t be crossed.
Depending on the circumstances―”
“What is it, commoner, don’t you know not to interrupt.”
“Please calm down, both Loretta-sama and Pipi-sama are scared.”

The commoner’s words snapped me back to myself.
When I looked at Pipi and Loretta I saw that they had both shrunk back in fear.
I’ve really gone and done it.
Loretta had openly stated that she found it difficult for her to say, and I was the one who had urged her to do so.
I was being downright tyrannical.

“I’m sorry Pipi, Loretta.
I let my emotions get the better of me.
I’ll listen, so please go ahead.”
“… I expected that you’d be angry, Claire-sama.”
“Yes, Claire-sama, you make it clear that you hold Manaria-sama in very high esteem.”

Just as the two said, I do hold Onee-sama in high esteem.
When I lost my mother, when my heart lay in the depths of despair, she was the one to save me… But, even without that bias, I simply felt that she was a lovely lady.
Unfortunately, it seemed that Pipi and Loretta saw things differently.

“What do the two of you think?”
“I… Think she’s a little scary.”

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“I do as well.”
“Scary…? In spite of what the two of you are saying, when you’re in front of her, you don’t seem scared.
In fact, I’d say that the two of you were practically fawning over her.”

Honestly, while the two were in Onee-sama’s presence, it really felt as though they were doing everything they could to get her attention.

“That’s what scares me! It’s not as though she’s doing anything in particular… But―”
“Just her very presence seems to draw in those around her, she just seems to have that sort of power.”

The two found that frightening.

“What, that’s what this was about? You two are simply overthinking things.”

I gave a bright smile to blow away their anxieties.

“The reason the two of you feel that attraction to Onee-sama is simply because she’s a charming lady, that’s all there is to it.”
“D-Do you really think so?”
“Of course I do.
Loretta, you may say that she isn’t doing anything in particular, but a true lady is able to charm those around her by simply being.”
“That’s true, Claire-sama certainly has that quality to herself as well, but…”

It appeared that both Pipi and Loretta were still anxious.
Relaire had been nibbling on a biscuit at the corner of the table, but perhaps sensing the tension in the air, she looked up at us.
To reassure her that everything would be okay, I patted her on the head.

“Hey, commoner, so what do you think about Manaria-sama?”
“Do you think that Claire-sama might be right?”

So much so, in fact, that they asked the commoner for her opinion.

“Hm… Well, I don’t think that Manaria-sama is doing anything outlandish… Like hypnosis or something like that.”
“I mean, I suppose not…”
“What Claire-sama said is probably almost entirely correct.
Manaria-sama’s each and every motion is refined to near perfection, and before you can realize it, she’s already captivated you.”
“See? Even the commoner agrees with me.”

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Just as I thought that she had agreed with me, it turned out that she had more to say.

“I do not believe that Manaria-sama is doing any of this unintentionally.
I have no doubts that she is proactively trying to charm those around her.”
“Commoner! On what basis do you…!”
“Manaria-sama needs to build new connections here in Bauer.”

As I was taken aback, the commoner continued.

“Just as Manaria-sama herself said, she has effectively been exiled from her homeland.
Given her situation, she doesn’t really have many options.”
“What do you mean?”
“Quit beating around the bush and get to the point!”

Loretta and Pipi urged her to continue.

“She could abandon her homeland and begin a new life here in Bauer, or―”
“She could bide her time and prepare herself to claim Sousa’s crown―is that what you mean to say?”
“Exactly, how perceptive.
Just as I’d expect from you, Claire-sama.”

Simply put, this was what the commoner meant to say.
When Onee-sama said that she was, “Relieved to get away from her family’s squabbles.”, that was an excuse.
Her true intention was to forge relationships, building her strength to return to Sousa and claim the throne when the time was ripe.

“You’re overthinking it.”
“Well, I don’t think that Manaria-sama has any real interest in the throne either.”
“That said, connections are really important when beginning a new life in a new land.
So I’m sure Manaria-sama’s efforts to foster her network are unrelated to an attempt on the throne.”

I had to admit that what the commoner said made sense.
Regardless of where Onee-sama’s intentions may lie, it was true that in her current situation, she couldn’t rely on her homeland to support her.
In that case, it was only natural that she would try to expand her network.

“I understand what you’re saying, however, there’s something I find strange.”
“What is it, my beloved Claire-sama?”

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“I’m being serious.
Why do you all seem… How do I put this… So antagonistic toward Onee-sama?”

Whether it be Loretta, Pipi, or even the commoner, they all seemed to have their walls up when it came to her.
If they didn’t there should be no reason that they would feel fear from an attraction toward her.

“Why, you ask…? I mean…”
“Yes, that’s right…”
“Well, Claire-sama, looks like you’re the only one out of the loop.”

Despite the fact that Loretta and Pipi normally did not get along with the commoner, the three of them were clearly on the same page here.
Wait just a moment, just what could they mean?

“Ahahaha, Rei and the others are just worried that I might steal you away from them, Claire.”
“Good day, Claire.
Rei, Loretta, and Pipi, good day to you all as well.
I didn’t intend to eavesdrop, but with what you were talking about I couldn’t just barge in either, I’m sorry.”

Just how long had she been here? She had somehow found herself in a blindspot that none of us could see.
As I responded in surprise, Pipi and Loretta’s faces paled as they moved to stand.
Onee-sama gestured that there was no need with her hands before courteously asking if she could join us at the table.

It was only natural for Loretta and Pipi to have gone so pale.
Though they didn’t hold any ill will, they had effectively slandered another country’s royalty.
To make matters worse the individual in question heard their slander directly, of course they’d feel awkward… Though the commoner didn’t seem to care.

“Loretta, Pipi, please allow me to apologize.
I was definitely in a bit of a panic to expand my social network, and it appears my actions directly led to your apprehensions.
I’m really sorry.”

Onee-sama bowed as Loretta and Pipi both rushed to respond.

“No! You shouldn’t be the one apologizing!”
“We’re the ones who acted out of line―!

The two stood, correcting their stance and showing Onee-sama the respect that she deserved as royalty.
Surprise appeared to be their dominant emotion, it was clear that they were both shaken by the situation.
Onee-sama accepted their words with a smile before continuing.

“I never intended to cause a rift in the friendship you all share.
But well, for better or worse, I’ve known Claire for a long time and we have a deep connection.
Just as you all wish to treasure your time with Claire, I want to do the same.
I hope you can understand.”
“Of course!”

In response to Loretta and Pipi’s desperate response, Onee-sama put on a wry smile.
Then, while patting Relaire,

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“Please, there’s no need to be so formal.
As I’ve said, I’m no longer in a position where I should be considered royalty.
So please, just be yourselves.”

It appeared that Loretta and Pipi couldn’t immediately accept Onee-sama’s sudden friendliness.

“Ah, I really do want to spend quality time with Claire, but I’m also quite interested in the two of you, who she also treasures deeply, as well.
So long as the two of you are okay with it, I’d be happy if we could get along.”

Onee-sama’s smile was so radiant, so charming that it caused my heart to flutter regardless of the fact that we were the same gender.

“… Manaria-sama, what about me?”

When Loretta, Pipi and I all had our gazes fixated on that smile, the commoner again failed to read the room.
Onee-sama offered an amused smile and said,

“That’s because you and I compete in a different arena than the two of them, Rei.”
“What do you mean?”
“There you go again, I know that you know.
Or, are you still planning to play the fool?”
“I do not understand.”
“I see, that’s right.
You’ve yet to settle your resolve.
Well, it should only be a matter of time.”

Onee-sama laughed from the bottom of her heart.

“Well, putting that all aside, why don’t we enjoy our tea? I feel a tad stiff from my tea party at the palace, so I’d like the chance to unwind.”
“… Oh Onee-sama.
Alright then, Le… Er, pardon me, commoner, serve us tea.”
“Right away.”

After that, we enjoyed our usual tea time.
It seemed that both Loretta and Pipi finally came to understand Onee-sama’s character, so they were able to enjoy themselves too.
The commoner maintained her poker face, but knowing her, I just assumed that she was consumed in her usual outlandish thoughts and paid no heed.

And so, still oblivious to the fact that things between Onee-sama and the commoner were rapidly deteriorating, I had absolutely no idea that things would go so far.

Translator Comment: To think Rei had other allies who felt that Manaria was sus… Manaria Sousa, more like Marinara Sus… I’m really not sure what I’m going for here.
Looks like she lost those allies just as easily though.
I honestly could totally see Pipi, Loretta, and Rei getting along with one another under like a Claire fanclub or something like that.

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