With the Person I Once Admired.

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I somehow managed to settle my unsteady hands to knock on the door before me.

“Door’s open, feel free.”
“Pardon my intrusion.”

Upon entering the room I found a platinum blonde beauty sitting on a chair.

“Good day, Onee-sama.”
“Good day, Claire.
Are you feeling better?”
“Yes, much thanks to you.”

I was informed of this afterward, but it seemed that on the day I dismissed the commoner, I had cried myself out in Onee-sama’s room.
When I finally cried myself to sleep, the one who had carried me back to my room was, of course, Onee-sama.
I had come to her room now to apologize and thank her.

Onee-sama stood from her seat to offer me a chair before sitting back down.

“My sincerest apologies for the other day.
To think that I, of all people, would show myself in such a disgraceful state.”
“Don’t worry about it, Claire.
I know full well that you’re a crybaby, that’s how you’ve always been.”
“… How mean of you, Onee-sama.”
“Ahaha, sorry.”

After her lighthearted laugh, Onee-sama shifted to a slightly more serious expression.

“I can’t believe she’d make you cry like that, Claire.
Rei’s such a cruel girl.”
“It’s not as though the commoner was the only one in the wrong.
That was a result of both of our failings, that’s how I feel now.”

In response to my words, Onee-sama showed a little surprise and said,

“… Mm? You really have calmed down quite a lot in just under a day, haven’t you.
Is it perhaps thanks to that roommate of yours?”
“! You met Catherine!?”

Even though she normally never showed herself to anyone?

“Quite the interesting girl, isn’t she? She spontaneously tried to conceal herself, so I used force to smoke her out… Don’t make such a scary face, Claire.
It’s not as though I used Dominator or anything like that.”

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I hadn’t realized it, but my expression must have been quite tense.
Listening to Onee-sama’s words I actively tried to relax myself.

“But yes, I do believe that it’s thanks to her.
Catherine is one of my closest friends, she’s irreplaceable.”
“Hearing that makes me jealous.
I wish I had a friend like that.”
“I mean, Onee-sama, I’m sure you could find as many such friends as you’d like.”
“It’s not that simple.
Love is often said to be something that one falls into, but I believe that there’s some aspects to friendship that one must be blessed with as well.”

Onee-sama stated that it wasn’t guaranteed that bonds would form simply because one wanted them to.

“So, Claire? What do you intend to do? What about Rei?”
“… I still don’t know yet.
I’m at a bit of a loss.”
“It would appear so.
But Rei, on the other hand, is already raring to go.”
“… Eh?”

When I responded in confusion, Onee-sama flashed a mean smile.

“She came and challenged me again.
If she wins, I’ll have to give up on you, Claire.”
“… What a selfish thing to do, not just once but twice.
She hasn’t even stopped to consider how I feel about all this.”
“You say that, but from her perspective, isn’t that the only option she has?”
“What makes you say that?”
“That’s because you, Claire, the crux of it all, won’t speak your heart.”

There was nothing that I could say.
She was exactly right.

“We’ll compete with The Love Scales.
Each of us will prepare an offering for the ceremony and put the weight of our feelings to the test.”
“And you agreed to that?”
“Yup, I mean it seemed interesting.”
“… Would you consider withdrawing?”
“That’s not something that I can do.
I have my own reasons.”
“?”

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“Ah, just talking to myself.
It’s not something that you should bother yourself with, Claire.”

I didn’t quite understand, but it seemed Onee-sama herself was eager about their competition.

“Onee-sama, I hope you’re aware that I have no intention to comply with the results of this little competition?”
“There’s nothing to be done about that.
However, I want you to know that both Rei and I are just that serious in our pursuit of you.”
“… Do whatever you’d like.”

Despite my flippant response, I no longer held doubts that their feelings for me might have been superficial.

“Claire, I’m sorry, but since I’m competing, I’ll be playing to win.”
“Why would you have to apologize to me for that?”
“Well… That’s of course because I know how you truly feel.”
“… I’d ask that you don’t go and decide what my feelings are for me”

Even if she was my Onee-sama, it didn’t sit right with me to hear her speak as though she knew my heart.

“Is that what you think? It may sound surprising, but I believe it’s often much more difficult to get an accurate grasp of one’s own emotions.”
“In that case, Onee-sama, why don’t you go ahead and tell me what my true feelings are?”

In my irritation, I dug my heels and asked that.

“―It’s vexing, but I just can’t help but concern myself over her.”
“… What?”
“―I don’t want to admit it, but that girl, I think I lo―”
“Wait just a second!? Just who would feel that way about that commoner!”

Her choice of words was just so far out of line that I interrupted her without a second thought.

“Hm? I only ever said ‘her’, and ‘that girl’, though?”
“Please stop teasing me.
Given the context, there isn’t anyone else who you could have been referring to!”
“Fufu, I suppose so.”

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Onee-sama raised up both arms as though in surrender.
Good grief, what a troublesome person.

“I’ll say it outright, but I absolutely do not hold such thoughts, have I made that clear?”
“I’m not so sure… You may say that, but your expression betrays you.”
“You’re lying!”
“Ahahaha, you’re right, that was just a joke.
But I still don’t think that my intuition is that far off the mark.”

While she gave a spirited laugh, Onee-sama also offered me a quick wink.

“Onee-sama, aren’t you gradually beginning to resemble that commoner?”
“If I were more like that commoner, would you love me?”
“There you go again with your teasing―”
“So you wouldn’t have a problem with it if I were serious?”
“… Onee-sama?”

When Onee-sama’s voice suddenly dropped in tone, my heart skipped a beat.
She stood from her chair and steadily approached me.
The pressure she exerted left me unable to move.

“I love you Claire.
I’m not lying, nor am I joking.
If I earnestly sought your hand in marriage, would you oblige?”
“Onee-sama… Just why are you saying these things? You really sound just like that commoner.”
“Claire, you’re already aware, aren’t you? The reason I was chased away from the palace.”
“…”

I was in fact aware.

Onee-sama had been skirting the flames in a relationship with someone of the same sex.
The flames between them burned too brightly, and she was chased out from the royal palace.
Just like the commoner, Onee-sama too was a homosexual.

“In that case, Onee-sama… Did you agree to the competition for the same reason as her? In order to curry my affections?”
“That’s about half of my reason.”
“And the other half?”
“That’s a secret.
That aside, how about it? Claire, would you consider answering my feelings?”

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Even though Onee-sama appeared to maintain her usual composure, to me, she looked like she was crying.
I hesitated, but my answer was―

“No, it’s fine.
I already know your answer.
I’m sorry to ask you something so strange.”
“Onee-sama…”
“Didn’t Rei already tell you? This is just how it is for us and those like us.
It’s much more rare that our feelings come to fruition.”

Onee-sama said that and laughed it all off, saying that it wasn’t anyone’s fault in particular, saying that she had just gotten unlucky.

“But well, a competition is a competition.
I still don’t intend to pull my punches.”
“Even though you know there’s nothing to gain from winning?”
“There is.
At the very least I’ll be able to see Rei cry.”
“You really are twisted, aren’t you, Onee-sama?”
“Have you come to hate me?”
“No, I just thought it was quite adorable.”
“Hahaha… You sure can talk.”
“And just who do you think I have to thank for that?”

I stood from my seat and bowed to Onee-sama.

“Well then, I’ll be excusing myself.”
“Sure… Ah, wait, Claire.”
“?”

As I was leaving, she called out to me.
When I turned back, I saw her wearing a gentle smile..

“I’ll ask again, but… Claire, do you love Rei?”
“…”

I was left unable to confirm or deny, but perhaps having read something from my expression,

“I see.
In that case, I suppose that the rest is up to Rei.”

Onee-sama spoke those words as though to herself and saw me off as I left.

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