Rei’s scheme went well.
By publicly relinquishing her rights to the throne and declaring her gender all at the stage of the Offering Dance, it became public knowledge that Yuu-sama was in fact female.
To try and bring the situation under control, some of the members of the royal family claimed that Yuu-sama’s statement was as a result of just now falling under the opposite gender disease, leading to a momentary confusion.
I doubt that anything would come of it.
No matter how one looked at the situation, Yuu-sama appeared to be mentally stable and her words and conduct came off as firm and resolute.
There were also too many witnesses for them to be able to pretend the statement had never happened.
Perhaps Rei had actually planned this far ahead.
That said, the problem was with the darker operations of the palace.
No matter how Yuu-sama and others involved worked to align their testimonies, there was no way of knowing whether Rei would receive a proper acquittal.
This time, Rei’s actions had clearly undermined the palace’s―especially Lishe-sama’s wishes.
There was no knowing what they might try to do to her while she was imprisoned.
“And that’s why, father, I’d like to ask that you make arrangements for Rei’s acquittal.”
I was currently in my father’s study at the François’ manor.
My father silently smoked his pipe as he listened to what I had to say.
“Lishe-sama is a frightening individual.
Numerous nobles have faced their downfall after getting involved with Yuu-sama in unfavorable ways.
There is absolutely no way that she wouldn’t try something! Rei is in danger.”
Yuu-sama was third in line to inherit the throne.
This meant that among the three heirs, she stood last.
Even so, it was well known that Lishe-sama was very attached to the possibility that Yuu-sama could one day inherit the throne.
While Rodd-sama held the strongest influence among the three, it could also have been said that Lishe-sama, the crown queen, was his greatest political rival.
Lishe-sama never directly sullied her own hands, but she had constantly worked to chip away at Rodd-sama’s influence.
There was absolutely no way that she would silently concede.
In any case, I was so worried about Rei that I didn’t know what to do with myself.
My father on the other hand,
“I will just say that your concerns are unfounded.
That girl is a clever one, even there, where I am unable to intervene, she’ll surely find a way to defend herself.”
Said that all the while exhaling a puff of smoke.
“You’re taking the situation far too lightly! What if something were to happen!?”
“What, something, are you concerned about?”
“That’s… For example they could try to erase her and cover it up!”
Lishe-sama was this kingdom’s queen, something of that nature was absolutely within her power.
“That girl is officially one of House François’ maids.
Even Lisha-sama should be aware that she can’t afford to openly oppose our household in that way.”
“Do you think so? She may think that our household wouldn’t make such a fuss over just a simple maid or two.”
As sad as it may be, to royalty and nobility, the life of a commoner servant wasn’t worth all that much.
“Claire, you are worrying a little too much.”
“It’s no matter, Rei will be fine.
You may leave now.”
It appeared that my father had no interest in listening to what I had to say.
“Sorry for taking your time.”
Unable to hide my disappointment, I left my father’s study.
“I’m worried about Rei.”
Uninterested in finding an interim replacement for Rei, I found myself joining Loretta and Pipi for tea.
As I let my apprehensions spill, the two cast a gaze of concern.
With her owner absent, Relaire too seemed anxious.
“You’re very kind, Claire-sama.
To think that you’d trouble yourself so much over your maid.”
“… After all is said and done, Rei really does perform her duties well.
It isn’t so easy to simply find a replacement.”
That’s what I said, but in truth I no longer saw Rei as just a servant.
She had already become something irreplaceable to me.
Of course, there was no way I could honestly say that in front of these two… So I stubbornly insisted that I was just worried about losing my capable maid.
“Please hold your heart high, Claire-sama.
It’s that commoner we’re talking about.
She won’t give in to something as trivial as this!”
“I would like to believe that.”
It was then that I realized.
Loretta and I were the only ones who had said anything for the past little bit.
Pipi was here physically but her mind was elsewhere.
On top of that, she didn’t appear very well.
“Pipi, is something the matter?”
“Ah… No, it’s nothing.
I’m very sorry for spacing out.”
“Don’t concern yourself over that.
If something’s bothering you, don’t hesitate to rely on me.
We’re friends after all.”
While I myself was very concerned over Rei’s well being, that didn’t mean that I intended to ignore my friends.
Pipi seemed to be on the verge of speaking, but instead clammed up.
“… No, nevermind, it’s nothing.
Claire-sama, you already have more than enough to deal with… So not right now, but when it comes time I ask that you lend your ear.”
When the time comes, please don’t hesitate.”
When I said that, Pipi forced a weak smile.
When I remember this now, I realized that this was during the period where Pipi held serious apprehensions toward her own family.
Despite what I said, it was true that I had my hands full with my own circumstance, so I was unable to properly be there for her.
“That is rather worrying~”
“Right? Don’t you think so too?”
Later that night, I returned to the dorms.
Unusually, it was rather early in the night and with the lights still on, Catherine and I shared tea.
Catherine was, of course, enjoying her usual candy.
Not that it mattered to me, but I don’t believe candy and tea really go well together.
“But you know, Claire-chan… I get that you’re worried, but don’t go and do anything rash, ‘kay~? I think that would only make Rei-chan’s situation even worse~”
“… But… I’m worried.
When I think that something might happen to Rei-chan, I just can’t seem to keep still.”
The last time we talked about Rei I couldn’t quite bring myself to be honest, but right now I didn’t even have the composure needed to put up that front.
I opened up and honestly admitted that I was worried.
Being understanding of my situation, Catherine chose not to interrupt with any of her usual teasing rhetoric.
“I understand that you’re worried, but right now, I don’t think there’s anything to do but wait and see~ According to rumors, the rest of the palace aside, King Rousseau apparently does not intend to make a big deal out of what happened, so I doubt it’ll be that bad~”
“… I hope you’re right.”
With my concerns still heavy on my heart, I took a sip of black tea.
It was prepared using some of the finest tea leaves that House Achard could procure, but I could barely taste anything.
“… So that’s how it is~ You’re remembering Miria-sama, aren’t you~”
“… I can’t say that I’m particularly fond of how sharp you are at times like this.”
Catherine’s words were right on the mark.
She was right, the current events had resurfaced my past trauma.
Similar to how I was unable to properly reconcile with my mother before she departed, I was worried that Rei too would depart before I had the chance to tell her how I really felt.
“In that case, it’s true that it’s rather difficult to just sit back and wait~”
“I do understand that I’m probably just overthinking things, but, being aware of that doesn’t mean that I have control of it.”
“Mmm, I see~”
When I spoke my mind, Catherine crossed her arms in thought.
For some time, there was silence.
“Mm, but well, if Rei-chan really is important to you, I think it becomes even more important not to take any open action.”
“Why is that?”
“Well, Claire-chan, you are a part of Rodd-sama’s political faction so~”
When it was clear that I didn’t grasp what she was getting at, Catherine continued.
“If Lishe-sama were to realize just how important Rei-chan really is to you, she would definitely try to harm Rei-chan in some way… That would almost surely go beyond just harassment.”
“… Ah, that’s what you mean.”
To put it simply, Lishe-sama was part of Yuu-sama’s political faction, and House François was part of Rodd-sama’s political faction.
While it seemed all but impossible, Lishe-sama had likely still not given up on Yuu-sama’s chances at the throne.
If there was something that Lishe-sama could do to harm me, thus harming House François which, as stated, supported Rodd-sama, she would gladly do so.
From that perspective, it was unwise for me to do anything reckless.
That was what Catherine was trying to say.
“But in that same vein, wouldn’t Lishe-sama rather avoid direct conflict with my father as well?”
That’s why at least for now she’s going through proper procedures, that way she doesn’t agitate Yuu-sama or Dor-sama too much, at least that’s what I think~ But if she found out that Rei-chan was a very important person to you and Dor-sama, she might take more extreme methods―for example assassination~”
“So, at least for now, I think it’d be safest if Lishe-sama just thought of Rei as a meddlesome commoner who’s just gotten carried away~ I think the reason Dor-sama isn’t taking open action is also so that she won’t realize~”
It couldn’t be… My father had already thought that far ahead…?
“If that was my father’s plan all along, then why wouldn’t he tell me…”
“Well, Claire-chan, you’re pretty close to Rei-chan, so if you were too calm in the middle of all this it’d come off as suspicious.
It’s more natural if you’re slightly panicked~”
“I see… Hey, wait! We’re not particularly close or anything like that!!”
“You don’t have to hide it anymore~”
It seemed I really couldn’t hide it from Catherine anymore.
“… How vexing.”
“That’s true, Claire-chan, you always have hated keeping still~”
“Please don’t say it like that, it makes me sound bad.”
“No, I mean it as a compliment~ Because Claire-chan has always been one to take action~”
As our conversation settled, we heard a knock on the door.
“Pardon my intrusion.
Ladies, you were both still awake?”
“Ahaha, sorry about that, Ema~”
It was Catherine’s maid, Ema.
“Hurry along to bed.
Staying up late is poison to the body.”
“Eh~ Just a little more~”
Ema put out the candles lighting the room.
“Hey, Ema, you should really do more to preserve your lady’s dignity.
Aren’t you a maid?”
“It is precisely because I am her maid that I consider managing my lady’s health as part of my job.”
“… Why you―”
The air between Ema and I soured, but Catherine quickly intervened.
“She says stuff like this~ But there’s a lot of good things about Ema too~ Claire-chan.”
Catherine laughed innocently as Ema spoke in protest.
Paying no heed to that, Catherine continued.
“Look over there, Claire-chan, that wheelchair you gave me is still there, right~?”
“Yes it is.”
“Ema did some work to pass that off as a gift from Lambert-san while he was still here.”
“… Hey, Ema.”
Even as I made my anger clear, Ema maintained her cool.
“Ah, no, not like that! Think about it, if that was perceived as a gift from you, Claire-chan, my father would’ve definitely confiscated it~ So Ema made a formal request for Lambert-san to announce it as one of his development prototypes~””
“Ah… I see.
So something like that happened.”
It certainly was true that Clément-sama would not be fond of the idea of receiving a gift from a political opponent.
From that perspective, Ema’s response to the situation was correct.
“Ema, why didn’t you say anything to defend yourself.
I almost misunderstood.”
“I felt no need to defend myself.”
“See? She isn’t very honest, but she’s got plenty of good in her~”
With that, Catherine gave a broad smile.
I had always seen Catherine and Ema’s relationship as one that made me scowl, but unexpectedly, perhaps different ladies and maids simply had differing dynamics.
That was what I thought now.
Our tea party that night came to an end there.
At this point, my father and many others had all said to, “not do anything rash”, so I acquiesced.
If those words had been the end to it, I might have decided to go against their advice, but Catherine had offered me a logical explanation for all of that, so I was able to calm myself a little.
“Rei… Please be safe…”
That wish was one that had truly come from the bottom of my heart.
Translator Note: Claire really is too cute… Pipi’s having a rough time too… It might’ve been nice if she could have opened up to Claire and Loretta here, but at the same time it’s also true that Claire’s head is kinda filled with Rei right now…
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