Pained Realization

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“Well then, in celebration of Claire-sama’s visit… Cheers!”
“… Cheers.”
“Thank you, everyone.”

Mel-san led us off in a toast and supper began.
A large number of dishes, all of which she said that she put extra effort into lined the table.
Freshly baked bread, herb roasted chicken, a vegetable soup with meatballs, and an assortment of fruits cooled in the river.
By my standards I found the menu rather lacking, but to commoners, this was surely an extravagant feast.

“Claire-sama, help yourself and eat as much as you’d like!”
“Y-Yes, of course…”

Mel-san seemed overjoyed as she offered me food, but I needed some time to build courage before trying the food.

“… Hey now, don’t force her.
Claire-sama, if anything is not to your tastes, there is no need to force yourself.”

As though he had read my mind, Rei’s father―Van-san―tried to smooth over the situation.
Van-san was large bodied, didn’t smile much and wasn’t very sociable, but was a direct communicator and gave the impression of a sincere man.
Concerned that my anxieties had been read, I panicked.

“No, no, thank you for the meal.”

Believing that the meat couldn’t be too far off the mark, my fork reached toward herb roast chicken.
Carving a portion of the chicken from the large plate it rested on, I placed some of it on my own plate.
At a glance, the chicken appeared to be very aromatic.
I tried my first bite.

(… Urk…)

It wasn’t bad enough that I should complain, but I definitely couldn’t claim it was good either.
Beneath the potent fragrance of the herbs, the use of salts and seasonings was sparse leaving the meat almost entirely untreated.
I was, of course, aware that sugar was an expensive commodity, but perhaps salt was precious to commoners as well.

But of course, there was no way I could let myself say any of that.

“… It’s wonderful.”

I flashed a smile and Mel-san very happily returned a smile of her own.

“Please go ahead and try the soup as well! I pulled out all the stops and prepared a consommé.”
“Thank you so much.”

While I did feel bad thinking this, the soup recommended to me didn’t cater to my tastes either.
She had mentioned that it was consommé, but the ingredients must not have been high quality.
It also appeared the part of the process to clear the broth had not been done thoroughly enough.
If Blume served this dish claiming that it was consommé, the chef would likely receive notice that very same day.

Regardless, I maintained my smile, commenting as I tasted each of the dishes.
Honestly, it felt like penance.
I had no idea that the contrast in our cuisines was so stark.

Perhaps sensing my troubles, Relaire slid herself next to my hand pleading for food.

“Oh, Relaire, would you care for some?”
“My, my, my! Relaire-chan, would you like some of mine instead?”

Relaire turned away from the cut of meat that Mel-san offered her.

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“Ah… Relaire has a tendency to want the same food that Claire-sama eats, mom.
Claire-sama, I’m very sorry to impose but.”
“Pay no need.
She is a precious friend to me after all.”

As I said that, I let Relaire eat all of the things I couldn’t stomach.
Nicely done Relaire!

“Hm? Oh hm…? You haven’t really eaten very much, have you?”

Though I said that the food tasted good, I just wasn’t able to get myself to eat very much of it.
Even so, I didn’t want to disappoint Mel-san.
I was certain that she had poured her heart into her cooking.

“Did the food… perhaps not suit your tastes after all…?”
“No, that’s not it mom.
Claire-sama just normally doesn’t eat very much.
Claire-sama, how about you move on to the desert? The fruit is freshly picked and very delicious.”

Rei recommended I move on to the fruit.
She had a point, the fruits commoners had available to them shouldn’t be all that different from the fruits I normally ate.

“Yes, I think I’ll do just that.
Thank you, Rei.”

Saved by Rei’s suggestion, I reached toward an orange and tried a slice.
It wasn’t as sweet as I may have liked, but I would have no problems eating this.
Filling my stomach with fruits, I managed to get past supper.

While sipping our post-meal tea (which frankly tasted dilute as though it had been made from reused leaves) we talked to Mel-san and Van-san about our lives at the academy.
Rei had somehow recalled even the most trivial details, and recounted them to her parents in a comical manner.

“And then! You wouldn’t believe how scared Claire-sama―!”
“I… wasn’t s-scared!”
“Oh? My, my! Claire-sama is afraid of ghosts?”

When Rei told the story of the time she and I had entered the haunted house during the academy festival, Mel-san offered me a warm gaze as Van-san silently listened.

“Oh, but, in that case, you may want to stay away from the beach.”
“? Why?”

I heard we’d be close to the ocean, so thinking I might have a chance to swim, I had even bought myself a new swimsuit.

“… Recently there have been sightings of the undead lurking the coast.”
“The fishermen have all been quite troubled by it.”

Van-san and Mel-san explained that about a week ago, undead began appearing around the beach.
Though there weren’t many, the monsters still posed a great threat to the powerless civilians.
It appeared that until now, the town’s volunteer peacekeepers had used their numbers to repel the undead, but things were beginning to get out of hand.

“In that case, why don’t we take care of them for you?”

Having heard the situation, I offered my assistance out of my responsibility as a noble.

“My, my, my! But it’s dangerous, and Claire-sama, aren’t you afraid of ghosts?”
“Undead are monsters, not ghosts.”

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Ghosts and apparitions are an inexplicable phenomena while undead are but monsters.
They are two very different things.

“Since I’m here, rest assured.
You can trust me just as much as you can trust that mud floats!”
“My, oh my! Dear, did you hear that? We’ve been saved!”

I hadn’t been able to show off any of my good qualities during the meal, so I had to take my stand and impress Rei’s parents now.
No, it’s not as though I had any ulterior motives or anything…

“Alright then, we’ll head to the beach first thing tomorrow.
What do you say, Rei?”
“I don’t mind.
Let’s wear our swimsuits, you might be able to get some swimming pr―”
“Shh…! Shh!”

I panicked to interrupt Rei.

“Oh? Claire-sama, do you not know how to swim?”
“N-No? Not at all? I can swim, but I simply want to get even better at it.”
“That’s wonderful! Rei was born and raised in this town, so I’m sure she’ll be able to help you.
Rei, teach her properly, alright?”
“I will!”

When I panicked to explain, Mel-san did not seem to hold a shred of doubt.
Was she… Really Rei’s mother? She honestly seemed a little too naive.

“… It’s gotten rather late.
Claire-sama, please make yourself at home and rest up.”
“Oh my, time flies when you’re having fun.”

Van-san checked the grandfather clock and ushered in the end of the party.

“Yes, it really does.
Well then, I suppose I’ll look to bathe and rest for the night.”
“… Mm.”
“I’m sorry, Claire-sama, but our house doesn’t have a bath.”

I was at a complete loss.
To think that I wouldn’t be able to take a bath! There was a stark contrast between the lifestyle of a noble and a commoner, I thought I knew, but every revelation that I’ve had since coming here was a painful realization.

“Ah… T-That’s right.
I understand.”
“I brought along some soap, so once we’ve settled in our room I’ll wipe you down.”
“Is that so… Please do, Rei.”

With an awkwardness still lingering, our supper came to an end.


“… I… really am blessed, aren’t I.”

While Rei wiped my body down, I muttered those words as though in lament.

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“So you didn’t take well to the food after all?”
“… I was very thankful for your mother’s courtesy, but I had no idea things would be so different.”

To commoners, that was normal―no, not just normal, it was luxury.
That meal, which nobles would find painful to consume, was their luxury.

“It wasn’t just the meal either, I can’t believe that you can’t bathe…”

Even though Euclid’s climate was rather mild, it was still summer so one would inevitably work up a sweat.
Being unable to properly clean myself was mentally taxing.

“Well, nobles and commoners are different.”

Rei’s wry words pained my ears.

“… That’s true.
I knew that.
But… it appears I didn’t truly understand.”

Having experienced a commoner’s lifestyle for the first time, something that was once just knowledge had changed into an understanding.

“There was a fuss about the Commoner’s Movement before, wasn’t there?”
“At that time I only brushed off what they were advocating as idiocy, but―”
“Seeing such a huge rift in our lifestyles, I suppose it’s only natural that there are some who hold nobility in a bad light.”

Those who had experienced a lifestyle at the academy and interacted with nobles would be especially aware of the difference.
I felt that I now had a better understanding of what had inspired them to start the movement.

For a while, Rei silently wiped my body down before placing the wet towel back in the bucket.
As she helped me into my pajamas, she said,

“Claire-sama, you’re a powerful noble, aren’t you?”
“That’s right.”
“In that case, Claire-sama, shouldn’t you be able to change the world?”
“Change… the world…?”

At first, I couldn’t quite understand what Rei had said.

“You could change the world to improve the lifestyles of the commoners, even if just by a little… If it’s you Claire-sama, I’m sure that you could.”
“That’s… but…”

Changing the world―those were easy words to say, but certainty wasn’t something easily accomplished.
It was true that I was the daughter of a powerful political figure.
I was sure that I had a lot more options open to me than a commoner or an average noble did.
But even then, closing the fissure of wealth that I had witnessed today was not the average political endeavor.

As I shivered in the wake of the tall wall that stood in my way, Rei buttoned up my pajamas and continued.

“Of course I realize that such a thing won’t be easy, and it’s not as though it is something that Claire-sama must do.
However, if it is something that Claire-sama wants to do…”

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“… Wants… To do…?”
Claire-sama, if it is something that you desire, I will support you with all that I have.”

Rei’s smile as she spoke shone so brightly.
It was as though she believed, from the bottom of her heart, that I really could do it.
For some reason, when she said that I really did feel as though I could.
It was strange.
I could feel the fog that had clouded my heart lifting.

But, in my embarrassment,

“You say some rather cheeky things despite being just a commoner.”
“I am your maid after all.”

I ended up lashing out at her instead.

“Alright, let’s sleep.
We’re headed to the ocean tomorrow.”
“… Yes, that’s true.”

Rei quickly moved to turn off the lights and lay herself down on the floor.
I didn’t take well to that.

“What’s the matter?”
“This bed is rather large, isn’t it.”

That was a lie.
Compared to the bed I normally used at the dorms, this one was much smaller.

“Is it?”
“It is! So…”
“So… Geez!”

Why doesn’t she get it!?

“Come and sleep over here!”
“It’ll be cramped you know?”
“It’s fine!”

Pulling Rei’s arm, I dragged her onto the bed and lay down next to her.

“Good night to you!”
“… Good night, Claire-sama.”

Goodness gracious.
She’s so dense, good grief.

Translator Note: When these events happened in ILTV it was clear that Claire was slowly changing, but wow… Seeing her perspective really cements just how much! Also… Her tsundere tactics are really not working very well on Rei.

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