Pajama Talk

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“Yawn… Claire-chan, are you and Rei-chan fighting or something~?”

After learning about Yuu-sama’s secret, I had spent the last couple of days in a worried agony.
There was, of course, no way that Catherine wouldn’t notice this.
She casually checked in on me while again enjoying her favorite licorice.

It was late at night.
As usual, we were enjoying our nighttime chat.

“That’s not it.”
“Really? Are you sure~? If there’s something you want to talk about, I’ll listen~?”
“It really isn’t about Rei.”
“Then who is it about~?”
“It’s just a little something about Yuu-sama’s health.
Please don’t concern yourself.”
“… Ah, could it be you heard about the secret?”

Could it be?

“Catherine, you knew?”

Catherine appeared indifferent as she confirmed my suspicions.

“Just like House Yule, House Achard has been cooperating to hide Yuu-sama’s secret too~”
“Oh, I had no idea.”

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Simply put, Catherine and Misha had been put in the same position.

“But well, House Achard didn’t agree to help from the goodness of their hearts or anything like that~ We dug the secret up to increase our influence over those in Yuu-sama’s political faction~”
“I see, that really does sound right up Clément-sama’s playbook, doesn’t it.”

Really though, just how far had Clément-sama managed to stretch his web of schemes? Trickery and schemes were commonplace among nobles, but stretching oneself too thin often resulted in having the rug pulled from under one’s own two feet.
That said, perhaps Clément-sama only was how he was because that had never happened to him.

“In that case, I suppose I can speak openly.
To start, I’ll just say that a lot has happened in the past couple of days.”
“Yes, like the appearance of a love rival~”
“Hehe, I’m sorry~”

As Catherine teased me, her voice contained not even a shred of malice.
She was plainly poking fun at me and nothing more.
I lay in my bed on the lower bunk so I couldn’t see it, but I was sure there was a huge smile stretched across her face.

I had talked to her about Cardinal Lily as well… Including the fact that the Cardinal was interested in Rei.
In retrospect, perhaps that was extraneous information, but on that day I could hardly claim to have been calm.
Since then, Catherine has teased me about it at every opportunity.

“But Claire-chan, if you don’t step it up, Rei-chan might really get stolen away~”
“That’s nothing I’m concerned about.
Besides, Rei is my servant.
There really isn’t anything that can be stolen away.”
“Really, you just can’t be honest, can you~”

Catherine made her displeasure clear as she continued.

“As far as I’ve heard this Lily-chan is a really honest girl right~? That kind of honesty can be a really powerful weapon, you know~?”
“Is that really how this works…”
“It is! In the first place, Claire-chan, have you even once told Rei that you like her~?”

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“Foo…! Don’t say something so foolish! Who in their right mind would like that comm―”

I felt my cheeks flaring up, but Catherine paid no heed and pressed further.

“Claire-chan, Rei-chan has continued to display her affection for you at every opportunity, right~? And yet if you keep your current attitude toward her, don’t you think she might eventually run out of patience?”

Now that she mentioned it, perhaps she was right.
If I were in Rei’s position, I would have long given up on someone who constantly gave me the cold shoulder.

“… But I… Don’t know what I should do…”
“Isn’t that simple? You should say it, I like you, it’s simple~”
“There’s no way I could just say it, that’s too embarrassing!”
“Ah… Come to think of it, Claire-chan, you were raised as a proper lady, through and through, weren’t you~”

That’s right.
For romance between nobles, it was the norm that the man be the one to display affection.
As a lady, I had always been warned that doing so myself would be improper.
As that was ingrained in my upbringing, I felt a severe shame even thinking about expressing affection toward another.

“But just think about it, Rei-chan and you are both ladies~ Don’t you think it’s only natural to tell your friends that you like them~?”
“I mean I don’t see Rei in that way.
To me she’s much more precious, she’s my―”

I caught myself mid sentence.
I hadn’t realized until now, but Catherine now hung upside down from the top bunk to peek down at me.

Of course, she had a huge grin plastered on her face.

“She’s your precious what~?”

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“Whoops~ That was a close call.
Ahahah, my bad, my bad.”

When I tossed my pillow at her, Catherine retreated back onto her bed.

“Either way though I’m really glad~ You’ve finally become more aware of your own feelings.”
“Don’t know, don’t care! Enough of this.
Let’s talk about Yuu-sama’s situation.”
“Yuu-sama, huh~ I really do feel bad about it all~”

I took a moment to recall Cardinal Lily’s explanation.
Yuu-sama was female at birth, but in order to chase her ambitions, Lishe-sama intentionally afflicted them with the opposite sex disease.
I was sympathetic to Lishe-sama’s desire for her child to hold rights to the throne, but to sacrifice her own child’s wellbeing for those ambitions was something I could not condone.

“You said that there’s a way to treat it~?”
“It appears that the disease can be cured if we use a Holy Artifact that the church possesses.”
“Oh I see~ But things never are quite that simple are they~”
“That’s right…”

Even though we knew a treatment was possible, things had escalated far beyond just being Yuu-sama’s personal problem.
There was no way that the upper echelon of the kingdom would allow the fact that a prince, in line to inherit the throne, was actually a girl to see the light of day.
Yuu-sama was fifteen years old.
They were even already betrothed to Lily-sama, and their engagement was long public.
After all that, there was no way the kingdom could simply say that Yuu-sama was a girl all along.
It would be a huge scandal.

“But if things keep going on like this, then no one will be happy~ Well, except for Lishe-sama.”

Yuu-sama would never be able to live their life as the sex they were born as.
Though their future spouse may one day learn of and share in the secret, they would have unknowingly married someone of the same sex.
Depending on the sensibilities of that future spouse, that alone could be more than enough to break open their relationship.
If anyone was benefitting from this, it was Lishe-sama, who had been able to preserve her son’s (daughter’s?) rights to the throne.

“What did Rei-chan say about this~?”
“She said that regardless of what we’re to do, we first need to confirm Yuu-sama’s intentions.”

While Rei appeared to have her own thoughts on the matter, it seemed that she wanted to prioritize Yuu-sama’s own feelings first and foremost.
In considering how to best support Yuu-sama, she said that it was most important we confirm how they personally felt.
Regardless, this issue was deeply connected to the darkness of the kingdom’s royalty, so I didn’t want Rei to get involved.
If something were to go awry, there’s no telling what dangers she could face.
That was honestly how I felt.

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“So that’s why you requested a direct audience with Yuu-sama~?”
“Information travels fast, doesn’t it? That’s right, though I am a tad reluctant.”

Something just felt a little strange about how proactive Rei was being about this matter.
At least normally, Rei never seemed to obsess over others this much, so why specifically this time?

“Oh? So you are worried about Rei-chan?”
“Is that really so strange? Rei is my maid after all.”
“There you go again with that same excuse ~”
“Say whatever you’d like.”

I certainly did find myself concerned for Rei, but it remained difficult for me to accept that those feelings stemmed from what Catherine was thinking.

“It’s getting late, we should sleep.
I’ll be going to the palace tomorrow.”
Do your best out there, Claire-chan.”

Exchanging our goodnights, we both settled into our beds.
Then, just before my consciousness dropped,

“If Rei-chan is by her side… Maybe it’ll be fine now…”

I thought I perhaps heard those words, tinged in pain, but they wouldn’t remain in my memory.

Translator Note: Quick note on the pronouns used in this one.
In this episode, Claire at times refers to Yuu as they/them.
This is because, as Rei advised, it is best to ask and confirm what Yuu’s intentions are before jumping to conclusions.
Of course, we as readers who have already read ILTV already know, but at this point in the story Claire still doesn’t know so I thought it might be best to keep it vague.

Seeing Catherine tease Claire is always fun as well.
But what does she mean when she says maybe it’ll be fine now!! What will be fine!! I think a lot of readers have been interested in Catherine and what might happen with her… And it looks like we might be finding out soon

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