Duty and Responsibility

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“Claire-chan, candy~”
“Sure sure.”

I found myself back in my room at the academy dorms.
Just as she always did, Catherine lay herself on my bed and demanded her favorite treat.
I was a little restless with a lot on my mind, but hiding that, I gave her a piece of licorice from the now almost empty jar.
Catherine thanked me and once again immersed herself in the book she was reading.
I returned to my desk and was about to sink back into deep thought when,

“Claire-chan, could you pass me the third volume of Twin Escape~?”
“Goodness, you’re helpless aren’t you.”
“… Claire-chan, give me a shoulder massage~”
“I’m only doing it this once, okay?”
“…”

As I joined Catherine on the bed to massage her delicate shoulders, my mind was fixated on the events that had happened in the town of Euclid.

“Claire-chan, sit upright and face me.”
“Eh?”
“Just what happened? Out with it.”
“W-What are you saying so suddenly?”

Before I had even realized it, Catherine was sitting upright on the bed, staring me down with a stern expression.
It was then that I realized just what I had been doing.

“There’s no way that Claire-chan would just listen to each and every one of my whims like this.
Absolutely no way.
Something must have happened~”
“That’s not…”
“Not~?”
“…”

It seems I really couldn’t hide it from her.
I decided that I’d tell her.

“… For the first time, I’ve learned about poverty.”

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“… Go on?”

At first, Catherine appeared surprised, but she quickly urged me to continue.

“Up until now, I of course knew of the word itself, and thought that I understood it.”
“Yeah.”
“But I was forced to realize that… I didn’t actually understand what it really meant.”

I opened up and talked about what had happened during my trip to Euclid.
My return to the François Villa, the shock I felt visiting Rei’s home, the incident surrounding the undead, the decisive battle on the ghost ship, and how we had covered up the truth.
I of course told her to keep all this to herself.

“After everything, Rei and I walked around Euclid and I was able to see so many things that I hadn’t ever seen before.”

An orphanage where kids without parents gathered together.
Elderly farmers, desperately working their worn bodies out on the land.
Retired adventurers who had lost both their hands, sitting idly, without the will to do anything.

Without anyone there to extend a helping hand, they each did all that they could to survive.

“During the Commoner’s Movement, I saw some children begging out on the streets.
At that time… I only saw those children as filthy.”
“Do you regret that?”
“Yes.
I can’t believe how arrogant, not to mention how ignorant I’ve been.
That’s what I think now.”

I had thought that they themselves were entirely responsible for ending up that way.
I had thought it was only natural that they end up like that, that they were poor because they were lazy.

But no, that wasn’t it.
That wasn’t how it was.

“Rei explained a lot of things to me.
No one is poor because they want to be, poverty is something that people ‘fall’ into.”

Why should an orphan be held responsible for having lost their parents? It’s not as though the farmers could avoid aging either.
Could the adventurer really be blamed for losing their hands and being unable to work after that?

All that I had done until now was… leave those vulnerable people to fend for themselves.

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“I… Feel so ashamed of myself.”
“Claire-chan…”

Catherine held my hand.
The warmth I felt from her hand helped me to calm down a little.

“I can’t just sit here and do nothing.
I was wrong.
That’s why… I need to make things right.”
“What do you plan to do~?”
“I want to eliminate poverty from this kingdom.”
“That sounds… quite difficult.”
“Even so, it’s something that I must do.
As House François’… As Dor François’ and Miria François’ daughter.”

Lene once reminded me of the words my mother had said.

『Claire? Listen closely.
Especially as a noble, one must not forsake their ideals and find contentment in reality.
As a member of House François, you must hold your ideals high and put them to practice.』

Now that I understood the severity of poverty, I knew that it would not be a simple problem to solve.
Even then, that was not enough reason to avert my eyes.
Doing so would sully my reputation as House François’ heiress.
I was a noble.
As a noble, it was my responsibility to ensure the livelihood of the commoners.
In that sense, it was my calling to allow them to live better lives.

If I were to forget that sense of duty, I would be no different from that Clément-sama.
An existence that only tyrannized commoners―the vulnerable.
That was a thought that I could not stand for.

“Claire-chan… you’ve really changed~”
“… Eh?”

Catherine looked at me with a very gentle gaze.
It was almost like the gaze of a mother watching her daughter succeed at something for the very first time.

“Wait, Catherine, what’s with that look you’re giving me?”
“Well, I mean, to think that Claire-chan would~”

Just what did she mean by that.

“I’m sure this is partly thanks to Rei-chan as well, but there really aren’t that many nobles in this day and age that can think that way you know~?”

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“I-Is that so…”
“It is~! But, Claire-chan, that also means that you don’t have a lot of allies~”

I was finally able to understand what the protestors meant when they claimed that nobles were corrupt during the Commoner’s Movement.

“I see… This really will be quite the challenge.”
“Are you going to call it quits~?”
“No, in fact, it fires me up.”
“That’s the Claire-chan I know~”

With that, Catherine suddenly hugged me.

“Hey, Catherine, stop it, you’re too close.”
“Ehehe, I can’t help it I’m just so happy~ Claire-chan’s become so wise~”
“I have always been wise!”
“I know~ But now you’re even wiser than you were~!”
“You know you won’t get anything for such flattery!”
“Nope, I mean it!”

Catherine released me from her hug.

“You can do it Claire-chan, I know it.
I’m cheering for you.”

She spoke those words with a wide smile.

“Hmph, of course.
Just who do you think I am?”
“Oh, but I’d really like it if that part of you never changed~”
“Just which part are you talking about!?”

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“That part~”
“Mgrー!”

As we shared that playful exchange, I thought about Catherine.

(I’m sure… It must have been frustrating for her to deal with me all this time.)

Catherine was once a commoner.
From her perspective, this must have been something obvious that I’ve only just come around to.
There was no way that she didn’t see my immaturity and ignorance for what they were.

(Even so, Catherine didn’t once give up on me.)

I felt that I had to respond to that.

“Catherine.”
“Mm?”
“Watch me.”
“Of course~”

There were a lot of things that I needed to do.
First, I’d need a better understanding of the current situation.
As I considered my plans for tomorrow on, I gave Catherine a smile.

Translator Note: I find it really interesting that Claire says that the gaze Catherine gives her is akin to the gaze of a mother.
Of course that could just be referring to a sense of kindness, love and warmth, but I also kind of wonder if there’s something more there?

And so, we’re at the end of the chapter once again.
I’ll be working on chapter 6, work and life have been pretty busy so it’ll take some time but I’ll do my best!

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Thank you for reading, and I hope we meet here again for Chapter 6!

sephallia.

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