The commoner cast Stone Cannon, silently defeating the monsters around us.
The downed monsters burst into dust and scattered, only leaving behind their magic gem.
As the commoner went to collect those gems, her expression remained devoid of any emotion.
She was normally so expressive, but now I could barely read anything from her.
A few days had passed since Onee-sama and the commoner had their match and the academy was steadily making preparations for the upcoming Amour’s Festival.
More specifically, we were clearing out any monsters in the vicinity of festival grounds.
The Love Scales were powered by a magic gem, which would inevitably draw monsters to it.
This work was normally left to the army, but with so many monsters in the area us students had been dispatched to help.
Fortunately most of the monsters in the surrounding area weren’t very strong, so even students would have no trouble with them.
That said, many of the first years still lacked practical combat experience, so we had been instructed to work in groups.
I was in a group with Onee-sama and the commoner.
“Hey… Aren’t you pushing yourself just a tad too hard?”
I spoke in concern for the commoner who indifferently defeated one monster after the next.
“No, I’m fine.”
Retaining her expressionless guise, the commoner gave a curt response before rushing past the forest’s shrubbery in search for her next foe.
In her path stood a monster with no discernable shape―a green slime.
Green slimes were gentle creatures that liked to graze among grass.
It likely wouldn’t cause any harm to leave it be…
The commoner again used Stone Cannon to ruthlessly dispose of it.
With its core pierced, the slime dissolved into mud and returned to dust.
I shuddered as I watched the sight before me.
Come to think of it, Relaire had recently spent most of her time with Misha rather than the commoner.
“Oh my, she’s gone absolutely feral.”
Onee-sama spoke teasingly as she wrapped one arm around my shoulder, grinning at the commoner.
“Hey, Onee-sama…! We’re in a combat zone you know?”
“Don’t worry about it.
With the three of us together, there’s no way we’d fall to anything in these parts.”
That hadn’t come from conceit, it was from her absolute confidence in herself.
Even if Onee-sama were here all by herself, I doubt that she’d have trouble with the monsters in this area.
“You say that, but this girl here is still recovering from her injuries…”
I was worried for the commoner.
She had been out cold on the ground, crimson blood gushing out of her… I simply couldn’t get that image out of my head.
Beyond that, the commoner’s behavior had been strange for the past couple of days.
She seemed to have her head in the clouds, and strangely evasive.
The commoner’s every action felt so cold.
Before, all I’d need to do was call her name and she’d rush toward me wagging her tail like a dog overjoyed to receive attention from its master, but now she wouldn’t even smile.
Even if she herself said she was okay, I wasn’t so naive as to simply nod and look the other way.
“Hey now Claire, you mustn’t slack off.”
“Y-, yes, you’re right.”
“Look, there’s a large wasp over there.
That should pose no threat to you, right Claire?”
Onee-sama urged me on, as though she was escorting me.
For some reason it seemed that she too was doing whatever she could to pull me further away from the commoner.
That said, our current mission was certainly to eliminate monsters in the area.
I temporarily suppressed my hesitations and focused on the task at hand.
It wasn’t until later on that I realized that the commoner had disappeared from my side.
That same day, after returning from our hunt I called for the commoner to stop.
For a brief moment, the commoner showed an expression of clear displeasure before reluctantly walking toward me.
“What is it, Claire-sama?”
“You’re my retainer, aren’t you? Just what are you thinking, leaving your master’s side?”
For the entire day, the commoner practically ignored the set teams and went around defeating monsters on her own.
Such behavior from one of my own retainers was nothing more than troubling.
“I just don’t see the problem.
As Manaria-sama was with us, she should have been more than capable of protecting you.”
“That is not what I’m saying! My point is that your job is to serve by my side.”
This wasn’t about whether or not we had the required combat potential for our mission.
Before any of that, it was about her responsibilities in serving as my retainer.
“My deepest apologies.”
The commoner did, to the very least, apologize, but I could tell from her attitude that her heart wasn’t behind her words.
Moreover, even as we talked, it seemed that her attention lay elsewhere.
As per my usual habit, I immediately resorted to criticizing her.
“Do you really understand what you did wrong? And before all that, you’re still recovering! It’s extremely dangerous for you to go off on your own!“
Deep down, I was just worried for her.
She had only just recently received a grave injury, and on top of that she had been acting strange.
I was worried that she still wasn’t at her best, or that I had been forcing her to work too hard.
Those anxieties were practically consuming me.
Unfortunately, it just wasn’t in my personal capacity to be able to communicate that openly.
“It’s not as though I was worried for you or anything! It’s just that having my retainer die would―”
“Again, my deepest apologies.
I’ll make sure to be careful from here on.”
The commoner quietly listened to me at first, but as the conversation went on it seemed her patience dwindled.
It was then that she made her irritation apparent, attempting to bring the conversation to an abrupt end and leave.Before I realized it, I had already grabbed her hand.
“You’ve been acting strange ever since your match with Onee-sama, you know? Just what in the world happened between the two of you?”
“… Nothing in particular.”
Up until now you’ve been right up in my face at every opportunity, yet for the past few days you’ve done nothing but kept your head down!”
I was convinced that her match with Onee-sama was the reason for her peculiar behavior.
She had always been so desperate to garner my attention, and yet now, she wouldn’t even look me in the eye.
The commoner had been so slippery and evasive that I had no choice but to press the issue.
When I did, she finally confessed.
“Claire-sama, that match was fought with you hanging in the balance.”
“What was that?”
Reluctantly, she explained the proceedings that led to their match.
How Onee-sama and the commoner had been competing over me, how she had fallen for Onee-sama’s provocations, and how that ultimately led to their duel.
As I listened, I could feel my insides boiling over.
“And so, I no longer have the right to remain by your side, Claire-sama.”
“Just what are you saying, do you realize how selfish that is!?”
When the commoner’s lackadaisical explanation ended, I exploded at her.
“You left ME hanging in the balance of that match!? What were you thinking! I’m not a thing that you can just bet! And yet you…”
Certainly, one could find mention of men fighting over women in fables and stage plays.
Perhaps such accounts were meant to appeal to a lady’s sense of worth.
However, I personally had never found myself doubting my self worth.
What was truly important was how the lady herself felt.
To simply ignore that, and decide the future based on who won or lost the competition was downright absurd.
Now, being put into that situation personally, I was indignant.
In all honesty, I lost myself.
And of all times, it was then that the commoner chose violence.
“That so? Doesn’t it feel good? Being sought after by someone as wonderful as Manaria-sama.”
Starkly different from her usual self, the commoner spoke sarcastically.
In response to the clear disdain in those words, I lost any remaining patience I had.
“Correct yourself! Just what kind of tone is that for a retainer to direct at her master? This is why keeping a commoner as a retainer is…”
I spit out one word after another making my contempt for the commoner clear.
Up until now, in spite of the rest of her actions, she had always treated me with respect.
To think that she’d now treat me like any other person was infuriating.
No matter how much she may have teased me, she had never once said something to infringe on my dignity… But her statement now had trampled all over that.
But… If only I had been just a little calmer that day, I could have realized.
I should have been able to see her pained expression.
I should have been able to realize that she too was suffering.
Instead, the situation only devolved from there.
“… What was that?”
Like you said, a commoner such as I am not fit to be your maid, right?”
I doubt my ears.
She’s quitting? Her position as my maid?
――Ah, I see.
So that’s how it was.
At the end of the day, she was no different from the rest of them.
It even surprised me how quickly my heart sank.
Everything that happened from that point on just felt distant, it felt as though I was no longer there.
“… Do you really mean that?”
“So you no longer wish to serve me?”
I wonder… Just what expression did the commoner have as she said those words? I was so caught up in myself at that time that I could no longer remember.
“Is that so… I understand.”
I just barely managed to collect my thoughts as I performed my final duty as her master.
“The balance owed to you will be calculated and paid out, so be sure to come collect it.”
Even though she may be quitting, the contract was a contract.
One must be paid the appropriate amount for their labor.
I steeled myself in order to act in a way befitting that of a daughter of House François.
“There were a variety of issues, but you’ve served me well up until now.
As the daughter of the House of François, I extend my gratitude.”
As a proper lady should, I expressed my appreciation for her service until now.
I forced the best smile that I could, but considering the circumstances, I couldn’t tell whether or not I succeeded.
“Thank you for all you’ve done, Taylor-san.”
I was at my limits.
I never had the chance to give a proper farewell to my mother, even Lene had left Bauer, and now once again, even this commoner was leaving my side.
I couldn’t bear it anymore.
My vision blurred.
But I was alright.
I had to be alright.
I mean, I was used to it.
I would never allow myself to show my tears to a mere commoner.
“Shouldn’t you be going? I hope you’ll excuse my countless selfish whims until now.
Taylor-san, I wish you all the best.”
At this point, I no longer knew what I myself was saying.
The mannerisms that had been drilled into me, as a lady, as the daughter of House François had taken over.
“… Now if you’ll excuse me.”
I perhaps heard the commoner say something.
But to me, none of that mattered anymore.
“So in the end, you too will leave me all alone… You liar.”
Those words leaked out from the weakest, most vulnerable parts of me.
But on that day, it hadn’t even registered that I had uttered those words.
Translator Comment: Rei… Claire… ;~; (internal screaming)
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