“What is the meaning of this, Claire-sama?!”
After finishing our conversation with Matt and seeing him off, I approached Claire-sama.
As I leaned against Claire-sama’s chest, I ended up yelling louder than I thought.
“You are being too loud, Rei. You’ll scare Mei and Alea.”
In contrast to how agitated I was, Claire-sama seemed to be quite calm.
Seeing that made me even more frustrated.
However, it would’ve been bad if I scared Mei and Alea.
I tried my best to restrain myself as much as I reasonably could.
“I apologize. But you should turn that offer down. Nothing about it will benefit you in any way, Claire-sama.”
“Benefit me, hmm… You are correct, there is nothing that I will gain out of this as a citizen.”
Upon hearing Claire-sama’s answer, I felt a little relieved.
It seemed like Claire-sama understood that part as well.
“In that case, there’s no need to wait a week. Let’s go and turn it down tomorrow――”
“However, if I turn it down, what do you think will happen?”
Claire-sama stopped me in the middle of my sentence.
I was rendered speechless for a moment. I desperately tried to collect my thoughts to find a way to respond.
“Couldn’t they just find someone else to go instead?”
“You’re right. As long as the Empire agrees to take them in.”
“Is there something wrong with that?”
For the past little while, I haven’t been able to understand Claire-sama’s thought process.
I couldn’t understand it, but it felt like there were alarm bells going off in the depths of my heart.
I didn’t like where this was going.
“I understand that going to the Empire is dangerous.”
“In other words, if I turn this down, that means I will be putting somebody else in danger, right?”
Claire-sama looked me straight in the eye.
She’s still the same as before, I thought to myself.
It’s been over a year since the revolution, so I thought Claire-sama had completely gotten used to being just an ordinary citizen.
I truly believed that we’d be living out our peaceful and humble days together in happiness, along with Mei and Alea.
But I was wrong.
Claire-sama’s true nature hasn’t changed at all from even before the revolution began.
She was a prideful, upright and old-fashioned noblewoman who despised the idea of other people sacrificing things for her.
Claire-sama was prepared to sacrifice herself for somebody else’s sake again.
“Claire-sama….. Claire-sama, you’re not a noble anymore, you know? It’s alright to think of your own happiness for once.”
“You are mistaken, Rei. This is the result of me thinking about my own happiness.”
Claire-sama invited me to take a seat.
I was still a bit agitated, but for the sake of trying to calm myself down, I did as I was told.
Claire-sama also sat down.
“For me, the things that make me happiest in my life are Rei, Mei and Alea, and being able to see you three happy.”
“It’s the same for me. We need you in our lives in order to be happy, Claire-sama.”
“Thank you. However, Rei. In order to protect that happiness, the country needs to be at peace.”
Claire-sama’s tone made it sound like she was trying to quell a child throwing a temper tantrum.
“Bauer is still unstable. It’s only natural, since it has only been a year since the revolution. It’s just as Matt said, we are limited in our options.”
“But that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice yourself, Claire-sama!”
I raised my voice again.
“It’s not a sacrifice. I believe this is an opportunity for me to go and win back the peace for Bauer.”
Claire-sama spoke with a resolute tone in her voice. I couldn’t help but love this side of Claire-sama too.
“If I were to turn Matt’s request down, I would be entrusting the fate of Rei and everyone else’s priceless futures to a stranger. I would not be able to forgive myself for that.”
Claire-sama was just that kind of person.
If there was something she could obtain on her own, she wouldn’t just sit around and wait for it to come around.
She was a villainess who could always get whatever she wanted with her own two hands.
“I will not recklessly let myself die in vain. Since it is me we’re talking about, I will show you that I can make the Empire dance in the palms of my hands.”
Right? Claire-sama said as she smiled at me.
“That’s why, I will go. For the sake of securing our futures, I will go to the Empire.”
Claire-sama’s eyes lit up with determination.
Ahh, this is impossible.
I couldn’t stop her this time either.
Am I about to lose her again?
I was completely overwhelmed by despair.
That’s why Claire-sama’s next sentence ―― caught me by complete surprise.
“Rei, you are coming with me, aren’t you?”
“What’s with that look on your face. Isn’t it obvious? I’m leaving, you know? Did you really think you could choose whether or not to come with me?”
Claire-sama spoke in a tone that sounded like she was intentionally provoking me.
However, I understood.
The insurmountable level of faith and love that she had.
“Did you really think I was about to go by myself?”
“…… I’m sorry.”
“No, that was my fault. I have a bad track record, after all.”
Claire-sama gave me a bittersweet smile.
She was probably referring to the farewell we had before the revolution ended.
“I thought the decision I made was for the best back then. However, I was wrong. When you cried to me and opened up about your selfish desires for the first time while we were at the execution ground, that was when I finally made a realization.”
As she spoke, Claire-sama rose from her seat, came over to my side and gently wrapped her arms around my shoulders.
“I will never leave you alone ever again. No matter what dangerous places you may find yourself in, you will not be alone, I will go anywhere with you.”
As soon as she said that, Claire-sama pressed her forehead against mine, and,
“Will you come with me?”
She asked as she gazed into my eyes.
“It’s that obvious? I’ll follow you wherever you ask me to go.”
“Fufu, I am glad to hear it.”
We smiled at each other and exchanged a soft kiss.
“But what will we do with Mei and Alea? There’s no way we can bring them along with us, right?”
“It is a pity, but I think we will have to leave them with somebody that we can trust. Let me think….. Perhaps the head priest at the cathedral, or Rod-sama, or――”
“We don’t want that!”
Claire-sama was cut off by the entrance of two voices.
It was from our two beloved daughters.
I had noticed that the kids’ room was unusually silent, but it seemed like they were eavesdropping.
“If mothers are going somewhere, then Mei will go too!”
“I will go as well!”
The two of them looked like they were on the verge of tears, but they still stood their ground.
“I apologize, but it’s impossible. The place we are going to is very dangerous, so――”
The two of them cut Claire-sama off again, and reacted so strongly in a way we’ve never seen before.
“Don’t throw us awaaaay!!”
“Please don’t let us be alone agaaaain!!”
Claire-sama made a face like she had forgotten something.
To be honest, I probably had the same expression on my face as well.
After losing their parents, Mei and Alea were tossed around between their relatives, until the Sassal Volcano erupted and forced them to survive by themselves as orphans.
When we first met them, unlike how they are now, they were unimaginably expressionless and apathetic, as if they were just puppets posing as humans.
Claire-sama and I ――if I may brag about it―― showered them with love, and their current selves are a result of that. Although they’ve recovered now, their memories of back then must be nothing but a nightmare to them.
They were vehemently lashing out because of that.
“Mothers, are you also going to abandon us……? Are you going to let us be alone again……?”
“I think it is better to be together…… If all of us are not together, then I do not want that……”
Mei and Alea looked like they were about to cry as their bodies quivered while they were pleading to us.
Claire-sama was stunned, and looked like she had no idea what to do.
….. Alright, I’ve made up my mind.
“Claire-sama, let’s bring Mei and Alea with us.”
“Rei, do you understand what you are saying!?”
Claire-sama spoke like I had said something completely outrageous.
“It’ll be fine. I’ve steeled my resolve as well. Since it’s become like this, we’ll just have to destroy the Empire.”
Claire-sama was perplexed, but for now, she left her bewilderment behind her, and turned to face Mei and Alea.
“I am sorry for worrying you, Mei, Alea. We are not throwing you away. Let’s go together.”
“Are you sure…….?”
“Yeah. In exchange, will you behave like good girls for us?”
Mei and Alea leapt into my chest.
It was rare for me to receive their affection like this.
They must’ve been really worried.
“It wouldn’t be like me to just stay passive either. Claire-sama, Mei, Alea, I will protect all of you.”
After finding my determination, all that was left was to make preparations and take action.
As for planning out my next steps, it was time to put my head to good use again for the first time in a while.