A background check on Rei Taylor
※Told from the perspective of Pipi Barlier.
“So this is Euclid… It’s a small town, but it seems like a nice place.”
When we arrived in Euclid, we looked around the area stretching our legs and decompressing after the long ride.
House François keeps a vacation home here.
It only makes sense that it would be pleasant to live in.
The fish they serve here is delicious as well.”
Loretta, you mentioned having visited a couple of times before, right?”
I had the chance to join Claire-sama on one of her vacations.”
“… Oh, that’s nice.”
While suppressing the strange pain I felt in my chest, I forced a smile.
“Well, it’s good that we’ve arrived, but what do we plan to do from here?”
“Eh? You’re asking me?”
“… Loretta, you really didn’t plan anything out did you.”
“I mean… Pipi, you said you’d come with me, so I thought I could just leave it to you…”
Loretta looked so cute as she shrunk back, I couldn’t help but laugh.
I didn’t dislike being relied on.
Rather, I liked being relied upon and it motivated me.
“So, we’ve taken this trip to investigate Rei Taylor, right?”
We must protect Claire-sama from that girl’s malicious ploys.”
“Well, in that case, I suppose we should start by asking the locals.”
“Asking the locals?”
Euclid was not only where House François kept their vacation home, it was also Rei Taylor’s hometown.
In that case, talking to the locals and asking them about her should give us a clearer image of her person.
“I see… That does sound interesting.”
“There’s no use making light of it, we’ve got to do this properly.”
That was just a figure of speech.
I’ll make sure to investigate properly.”
“You mean it? I suppose that’s fine then.
Alright, the first thing we need to do is find our lodgings and change.”
“Eh? We have to change first?”
It seemed that Loretta intended to dive straight into the investigation.
“Just look at us, we look like nobles on some sort of tour.
If we were to go around looking like this, do you really think the people would answer us properly?
It appeared Loretta understood what I was getting at.
“Alright, follow me.
It’s not quite an extravagant hotel exclusive to nobility, but I’ve made reservations at a reasonable inn.
“Just as I’d expect from Pipi, I knew I could count on you!”
After we had returned to the inn and disguised ourselves as commonters, we began our investigation.
“Rei-chan? Ah… The Taylors’ daughter? Of course, I know her very well.”
The first middle aged man we ran into happily answered our questions.
“What’s she like?”
“Let’s see… She’s a strange one and rather elusive.”
She’s always had her head up in the clouds, spacing out at strange times.
It only makes sense that her parents were so worried about her.”
“Her head in the clouds?”
This man had quite a different impression of Rei than we did.
Thinking that it was just a difference in perceptions, we thanked the man and moved on.
The next person we talked to was a lady selling vegetables at the grocer.
“Rei-chan? Ah yes, she often stopped by to buy vegetables here.
She was an incredibly clever child.”
Once again, the information we received did not seem to match the Rei that we knew.
“She was never particularly good at studying, but quite intelligent.
Perhaps it would be better to say she was quick-witted.
Oh yes, she was even called a child prodigy.
Cut from a different cloth than my stupid son.”
“She was referred to as a child prodigy?”
“Yes, she always seemed distant and detached.
The teacher even used her as a human abacus.”
“… A human abacus…”
We questioned numerous people after that, but they all talked about a Rei completely different from the one that I and Loretta thought we knew.
“I knew it, there’s something strange about that girl.”
It seems that she’s somehow tricked the people of her hometown.”
I had no idea why Rei had been hiding her true self, but there must be some explanation.
There had to be a reason for her sudden transformation from a detached and silent child prodigy to a freak that had her heart set solely on Claire-sama.
“!? Pipi, hide!”
“Eh!? W-Wait, Loretta!”
Suddenly pulled off of my feet, I lost my balance and practically dived straight into Loretta’s bosom.
I realized my heart was throbbing.
What? Wait, what?
“Look, it’s Claire-sama and them.”
“Eh? Ah, yeah, there they are.”
Though perplexed at the sudden palpitations, I forcefully returned my attention to our surroundings.
Following Loretta’s gaze, I saw Rei taking Claire-sama into a nearby building.
“That girl! Just what does she intend to do taking Claire-sama there!?”
“Calm down Loretta! First we need to confirm what that shop deals in, okay?”
“R-Right… If it’s something shady… That girl better be prepared!”
Soothing Loretta who seemed as though she would launch a full on assault at any moment, we observed the shop from the outside.
“It seems to be the town’s tailor.”
“… So that means, this is that girl’s home?”
“It seems so.”
A lot of tailors had Taylor as their family name.
“Should we step inside?”
“If we go in now, we’re sure to run into them.
Just how do you intend to explain the situation?”
“Let’s just wait and see what happens.”
Loretta and I continued to observe the Taylor residence from the outside.
No matter how long we waited, it didn’t seem like either of them were going to leave.
“Don’t you think it’s strange?”
“No, unless… You don’t think that the two intend to spend the night…”
“No, there’s no way.
Claire-sama would never stay in a place as filthy as this.”
“I suppose you’re right…”
Even though the residence seemed to be on the higher end of commoner housing, it just made no sense for Claire-sama, a noble standing near the top of the kingdom, to stay in such a place.
“I can’t wait any longer.
We’re going in.”
“Ah, wait! Loretta!”
Brushing me aside when I tried to stop her, Loretta entered the Taylor residence.
“Welcome! Oh, hm? My, my… What cute little ladies we have here.”
A young woman in an apron came to greet us.
She had voluminous hair, similar to that of Rei’s, but otherwise was not that similar.
But still, considering that this was Rei’s home as well as her likely age, I surmised that she was Rei’s sister, perhaps a half sibling.
“Are you looking for something in particular? How may I help you?”
“Ah, no, we’re actually looking for someone…”
“My, is that so? Who are you looking for?”
Loretta’s words seemed to fail her.
Looks like she really did just charge in without a plan.
“Excuse us, we were actually hoping to find your little sister.”
“My little sister…? Ah, could it be that you mean Rei?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Oh, might you two be her friends? Nice to meet you, I’m Rei’s mother.”
That came as a surprise.
To have a daughter of Rei’s age, she must be at least in her mid thirties, but no matter how I looked, the lady before me looked to be in her teens.
“Y-You’re quite young aren’t you…”
“Fufu, people say that a lot.
Ah, I’ll go and call Rei.”
“Ah, no! We’re not here to see her.
We’re actually staff from Bauer’s Royal Academy.”
When Loretta voiced her confusion, I pinched the back of her hand and continued.
“There are a couple of things that we’d like to ask about your daughter, could we have a little of your time?”
“Oh, is that so? My, my.
I understand, please, come this way.”
With that, Rei’s mother, Mel Taylor, brought us deeper into the shop to a guest room.
There, we sat on a table and chairs that were perhaps a little too run down for guest use.
“So? What is it that you’d like to know?”
“What was your little lady like in her childhood?”
Mel-san appeared to traverse her memories before eventually answering.
“She was quite the clever girl.
She somehow learned how to read, write, and do math, without us ever teaching her.
She never seemed all that enthusiastic in her studies at school though…”
“Is that so…”
“A lot of people relied on her as a ghost writer as well.
Oh, and if she heard that someone in town bought a new book, she would visit them and ask to read it.”
“So she liked reading.
Is this also how she learned to cook?”
If we were talking about Rei, the fact that she could bake sweets that captivated the tastes of even the nobles had left a lasting impression.
“I think she just picked up cooking normally.
All commoners know how to cook for themselves.”
“I-, Is that so.”
I couldn’t help but feel that there was a clear distinction between what Rei was capable of and what most commoners ate on a regular basis.
“She was rather elusive, but a very good girl at heart.
She’s bought and sent a lot of expensive medicines from the capital and sent them back home.”
“To think Rei was…”
When Loretta and I exchanged glances deep in thought, Mel-san smiled at us and continued.
“… You know, Rei… It was as though half of her heart lived in another world.”
Sometimes it would just seem like she got bored of this one, and her heart wandered elsewhere.
My husband and I were always worried about her.”
Even her very own mother’s impression of Rei greatly differed from the one that we knew.
Just who was this Rei, really.
“But it seems that her heart’s finally all here.
It looks like she met someone that connected her to this world, that made her truly choose to live here.”
The smile Mel-san broke into as she spoke those words was none other than that of a mother concerned for the well being of her child.
Mel-san was surely referring to when Rei had met Claire-sama.
“And, of course, it makes me really happy to know that she has friends like you by her side too.”
“… So you knew all along?”
“Well, for staff from the royal academy you two seem a little too young… Not to mention that I just met someone who carries herself very similarly to the two of you.”
She must have been referring to Claire-sama.
“So, how has Rei been doing at the Academy? She tends to be a bit reserved, so I’ve been rather worried she might have been bullied…”
“Ah… Uhm, well, she’s rather famous in a variety of ways, but she’s keeping strong and doing her best.”
There was no way that I could tell her that we were the bullies ourselves.
But really… Reserved? Rei?
“I’m sure she can be a bit of a handful, but I’d be happy if you could continue to get along with her.
Please take care of her on my behalf.”
With that, Mel-san gave a deep bow.
“… Let’s go, Pipi.”
Thank you for your hospitality, Mel-san.”
“It really wasn’t anything much.”
Mel-san saw the two of us off as we left the Taylor residence.
“Let’s return to the inn.”
“Sure… Wait? Loretta, what happened to your scarf?”
“Well, what happened to yours?”
“Did we drop them somewhere along the way?”
“… Well, whatever.
That night, at the inn Loretta and I discussed our findings.
“At the end of the day, we still don’t understand anything about her, do we?”
“Yeah, seems not.”
Not just the people of the town, but to think Rei had pulled the wool over the eyes of her own mother, this was big.
“But, how do I say this… From what we heard from Mel-san and the townsfolk, she doesn’t seem to have bad intentions.”
Would a girl who buys medicine to send back to her hometown really approach Claire-sama with malice? Though the townsfolk said that she was a strange girl and a tad elusive, we found no account that painted her in a bad light.
“But it’s definitely strange that she keeps a monster with her wherever she goes.”
“Ah, now that you mention it, Relaire was a monster, wasn’t she?”
I had entirely forgotten until Loretta brought that up, but that girl was a monster.
“I suppose she has become something like a cute mascot.”
“The other day, when I had cookies with me, she suddenly jumped up onto my shoulder.”
How nice… Loretta always held an affinity with animals.
“When I gave her one of them, she hopped up and down so happily.”
“Maybe I should carry some cookies with me too… Wait, that’s not it.”
Well, Even Claire-sama guaranteed that Relaire did not pose any harm.
I was sure there was no need to worry about her.
“Pipi, I just don’t get it anymore.
I just can’t see Rei as the wicked person I thought she was… Now that I know that she’s a nice girl, I… Just can’t bring myself to hate her.”
For Loretta, who considered Rei a rival in love, it would’ve been much more convenient if Rei was evil.
However, with all that we had learned, labeling her as such had become much more difficult.
I was sure that it was difficult for Loretta, not having a place to direct her grievances.
“There’s no reason that you have to hate her.
Just challenge her as your rival, fair and square.”
“But… I… don’t think there’s anything that I can beat her in…”
It seems that Loretta was beginning to feel sleepy.
She was speaking slower and she had become timid.
“What are you saying, Loretta, you’re a great person.
You have nothing to be ashamed of, you’re my pride―Loretta?”
“… Off to dreamland.”
I momentarily got out of bed to properly tuck Loretta in before joining her again.
“Come to think of it, this is the first time that we’ve had a sleepover like this, just to ourselves.”
None of our servants were with us, just the two of us sleeping together in this tiny bed.
When I turned to my side, I saw Loretta’s sleeping face.
She was a bit of a meathead with a reckless streak, but her face as she slept was so innocent and adorable.
It seemed that she was self-conscious about her freckles, but I saw them as her charm point.
When that thought crossed my mind, I once again felt my heart throb.
“… Wait…? Huh…?“
Why? Why was my heart beating so fast? I mean, we’re just in the same bed…
“… Eh? Could it… Could it be, I actually…?”
Really, could it really be that I… Loretta…?
“Nonono! It couldn’t be, there’s just no way!”
Loretta was my best friend, nothing more, nothing less.
But perhaps just the fact that I had to go out of my way to insist that was proof that she was special.
“Erm… What should I do…”
The difficult problem that I was suddenly faced with plagued me for the rest of the night.
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