Epilogue: The Clown, the Accomplice, and the Substitute
[Clind: Thank you so much, Master. I have never been so proud of working for you. I, Clind, will risk my life to accomplish my duties. My whole soul.]
[Frederica: Your unexpected level of motivation makes me feel nothing but anxious!]
It was another day where the routine quarrel unfolded in the entranceway at the Mathers residence.
The two quarrelling were Frederica and Clind. Frederica was the only one lashing out, while Clind just brushed her off in a calm manner. However, this was the only day Clind knitted his brows and talked back to Frederica.
[Clind: I’m not sure what you mean by anxious. I have always said that I’d never slack off with my duties, but I swear that I’ll do more than my best for this order. So I don’t get why you’re so anxious. Does not compute.]
[Frederica: Your fetishes! Your motivation! Combining them is what makes me explode with anxiety!]
Frederica, stamping her feet, turns around with anxiety showing on her scary face. Frederica sees people watching their exchange and decides to target the tall one among them.
[Frederica: Master, why are you laughing in this situation? I have told you over and over that there are problems with who you choose!]
[Roswaal: Well, your reaction was just so expected that it made me happy. Buuuut, it’s an obvious choice once you consider his ability and results, right? The scar left on the Miload residence is deep, and now at least one capable servant is needed to support the family. As a guardian, I have an obligation to do everything I can.]
[Roswaal: Or can you recommend someone suitable for the job besides you aaaand Clind?]
Frederica mumbles and couldn’t argue with Roswaal, who asked questions unkindly. And then Roswaal said “Besides” to her in a whisper as he continued,
[Roswaal: Clind will work beyond his ability since he knows that his master is going to be a baby. However, you are the only one who can stop him from getting out of control. You’ll be getting the short end of the stick, but I’d like you to deal with it.]
[Frederica: For Master, right?]
[Roswaal: Nooooope. For Dudley, Grace, and little Annerose.]
[Frederica: ……That sure is an unfair way to put it.]
Frederica gives in to Roswaal’s explanation, and she sighed after a short moment of silence. After that, she looks at the sisters waiting next to Roswaal──Rem and Ram, and says,
[Frederica: You’ll probably have to deal with a lot of work. Are you two fine with that?]
[Ram: Yes, we’ll be fine. We know that and we’ll be staying here.]
[Rem: What Nee-sama said. Besides, Frederica-sama and Clind-sama are the ones who are going to have a lot of work.]
[Frederica: The work and the workplace are just going to be different. ──Though, I don’t get why I have to be with this guy.]
Like always, Frederica had an unfairly low evaluation of Clind. Although, to Rem, they both were reliable seniors who had many respectable aspects about themselves.
[Rem: Of course, Nee-sama will always be number one. She’ll never move from that spot.]
[Ram: Yeah, obviously. I’m such a precious person to Rem, after all.]
[Frederica: Understanding each other despite the conversation being so disjointed…is this possible because of this synesthesia thing I’ve heard about……?]
The sisters see Frederica tilt her head, and so they looked at each other and smiled slightly.
──A few days after the Miload residence incident, signs of a resolution for the situation were showing, more or less.
The Miload family, which lost the married couple who were the head of it, stayed alive thanks to Roswaal becoming a guardian. However, because of the incident that happened, many servants died and many resigned, and as a result, Clind and Frederica have to be sent to the Miload residence so that it could be maintained.
On top of that, the job training for demi-humans that was carried out at the Mathers residence would have to take place at the Miload residence from now on.
Thus, the Mathers residence would be left with the bare minimum amount of workers──in other words, Rem and Ram would stay with Roswaal as his attendants.
[Frederica: As you know, taking care of Master is no simple task, but please be strong and hold on.]
[Ram: You have to deal with a weirdo, too. Do your best to hang in there, Frederica.]
Ram may have been offensive, but there was playfulness in her abuse. Frederica could also tell. It’s what they both felt in the words that they said to each other.
And so, Frederica faced Rem and kneeled down to match her eyesight level.
[Frederica: Rem, don’t push yourself too hard and stay healthy. You can call me any time if something ever comes up.]
[Rem: You worry too much, Frederica-sama. Besides, I will be fine anywhere as long as Nee-sama is with me.]
[Frederica: I see. Then that’s a relief.]
Then, Frederica smiles affectionately at Rem’s answer. The way Frederica smiled without hiding her mouth was like the sort of openness she’d show to someone she was close with.
Seeing that full set of large, sharp fangs, Rem suddenly feels the regret inside of her.
[Rem: Frederica-sama, I have…one thing I want to apologize for.]
[Frederica: Rem wants to apologize to me? Not Ram?]
Ram frowns at Frederica, who looked really curious. However, Rem puts their reactions aside, and she remembered the regret she had for her first meeting with Frederica that happened long ago.
It was when she got scared of the caring girl’s smile and didn’t get to apologize for it.
[Rem: The first time we met, I got scared of you, even though you worried about me. And to this day I still haven’t apologized……I’m sincerely sorry.]
Rem apologizes with her head down, and it makes Frederica’s eyes widen. Immediately after that, Frederica looked like she understood something, and with a happy expression, she pats Rem’s head.
[Frederica: It’s okay, Rem. ──You’re a very good girl.]
[Ram: I mean, she’s my little sister. That’s obvious.]
[Frederica: Forgetting about whether or not that actually means anything, yes, it is obvious.]
Getting her head pat gently, Rem made a surprised look. However, Frederica approvingly nodded at Rem, who lifted her head, and then she pinched her skirt as she did a curtsy.
The movement was so perfect that Rem and Ram wanted to copy her──
[Frederica: Please take good care of Roswaal-sama. I know I can leave it up to you guys.]
Then, she said that and smiled brightly without hiding her mouth.
──In an office under the shades of night, two shadows combined into one.
Breathing intensely was a young girl with her cheeks red. The girl’s thin, small body trembles, and she weakly clings onto the man right by her. However, she did not do this to keep her balance, but rather to fight off waves of feelings. She wasn’t worried about shaking off.
Since she was on top of the man’s lap, being held in his arms, after all.
[Roswaal: There, aaaaall done.]
Then, their contact ends with the man’s slow voice. What faintly lighted the gloomy room was a four color light in the man’s hand──it was the radiance of mana.
By using several magic attributes simultaneously, he could heal the girl with a special constitution. That was the purpose of this night’s meeting, and it was the secret truth that happened every night.
[Roswaal: You must be beat. Are there any problems with your boooody?]
[Ram: ……It’s fine for now. I don’t think there are any after-effects from overdoing it, either.]
While breathing somewhat unstably, Ram, who stepped onto the floor, put her hand on her forehead and shook her head. Every night she’d touch that place where her horn once was, but she could never get used to it.
Perhaps it was because her heart still wasn’t accepting the fact that she’d lost her horn.
[Roswaal: Are you worried about something? You’re making that look.]
[Ram: Worried about something, huh. There certainly is something I’m worried about. My reliable seniors are leaving the mansion, and starting tomorrow, it’s going to be just me and Rem. And yet, Master still won’t reveal his true thoughts……right?]
[Roswaal: I seeeee. That’s what you’re anxious about……you’re haaaarsh.]
The one who shook his head with a bittersweet smile in response to Ram’s cynicism was Roswaal, who was leaning back on a chair. He acted like he always would, poured alcohol into the wine glass on the business desk, and sips it.
It wasn’t rare for Roswaal to drink alcohol. Ram was used to seeing it as someone who came to him every night for her treatment. However──
[Rem: You’re having quite a lot today, and you’re drinking fast. You’re going to pass out.]
[Roswaal: Sorry, this body has never passed out from alcohol. ──Not getting drunk is a problem, though.]
It was a strange, discomforting statement, but Ram didn’t pay attention to that. What’s important is the fact that Roswaal was trying to get drunk off of the taste of alcohol, and it was easy to imagine why he’d want to.
[Ram: Do you blame yourself for what happened to Dudley-sama and Grace-sama?]
Roswaal’s expression didn’t change when he was questioned. The ice inside the glass he was holding just cracked noisily. Feeling like it was the reflection of the wavering in his mind, Ram squints.
Being stared at by her light red eyes, he also stared back at them with his own heterochromic eyes.
[Ram: That’s surprising. I thought you couldn’t care less about other people.]
[Roswaal: That’s basically correct. I don’t mean to try and look tough, but I’ve mostly lived my life cold-heartedly. By choice, that is. ……It’s just that there are some rare exceptions.]
[Roswaal: Yes, rare. ──In rare cases, I want the few people I like to be happy, and it has nothing to do with my own happiness. There are times when I wish for that.]
He was probably implying that he felt that way for Dudley and Grace. Roswaal truly liked the two of them. However, they lost their lives.
On top of that, even though they had nothing to do with it, they were dragged into a fight with the witch cultists that started with the Onis──.
[Ram: Then do you blame us? Do you hate us?]
[Roswaal: I know a method to separate my feelings and results. So it would be truly unreasonable to blame you and such. Besides, the witch cultist attack was……]
[Ram: ──Caused by you, right?]
Interrupting Roswaal, Ram gets to the main point herself.
Her assertive way of speaking makes Roswaal close one eye. Being stared at by his yellow eye, Ram continued while leaning against the desk.
[Ram: Rem, as someone who is pure, lovely, and innocent, doesn’t seem to find enemies appearing successively suspicious……but I, as someone who is wise, invincible, and gallant, beg to differ. Finding heretics one after another at the village can’t just be a coincidence. You’d be foolish to think of it as one.]
[Roswaal: So, wise one, you said that I made them do it. How’d I go about doing that?]
[Ram: It’s not about how you did it; it’s about consequences and motives. Well, it seemed like they had a thing for Oni survivors, so as long as we gave off the scent somewhere, they’d go for us. However, that only explains how they were lured over. There’s also the question of why you let them make the first move.]
Putting the one who was tied to the mansion aside, the remaining three were allowed to take the first move without exception. And so, as a result, Dudley and Grace died.
Roswaal had to pay a very big price for Ram and Rem to obtain their retribution.
That’s exactly why she had doubts. ──Why was he doing this?
[Ram: Obviously, you knew about the dangers of luring the witch cult. So, why did you do so much to help us with our retribution? You even lost two close friends. Why did you figure that it’d be worth it to do everything you can for Rem and me? Why……]
[Roswaal: ──It’s all…for my goal. It’s for the goal that I have been and always will be living for.]
He opens his closed eye, and shoots right through Ram, who pressed him for an answer, with his heterochromic eyes. The power of the emotion in his voice overwhelms Ram.
The power, deepness, and the amount of his passion overwhelms her──and at the same time, she felt jealous.
Her heart burns with the desire to find out what the man before her eyes saw, what he was thinking, and what was his wish.
[Roswaal: If it’s for that, I’ll sacrifice close friends. If it’s for that, I will use any likeable person. If it’s for that, I’d be glad to involve myself in any kind of cruelty and heresy.]
Sacrifice, use, cruelty, heresy──Ram understood his intentions without turning away as he made his declaration.
Roswaal was saying that Ram and Rem were necessary for his goal. And so, if necessary, he’d cruelly use them as sacrifices and for convenience in the process.
Silence falls heavily in between the two of them.
It was perhaps the first time Roswaal said his true thoughts out loud. However, revealing them in this situation could also be part of his scheme to use Ram.
Roswaal is a man who continued to lie. He hides his true thoughts and true character under clown makeup and tries to hide everything by being silly and behaving eccentrically.
So, Ram could only do one thing about him.
Ram’s breathing and the bold sound of water afterwards were what broke the silence. The sound of water was actually the glass of alcohol; when Ram grabbed it from the top of the desk, she poured it on Roswaal’s face.
Roswaal takes the reckless action without hesitation, showing no intentions of avoiding it, and he shakes his head.
[Roswaal: ──Is this your way of bidding farewell?]
She poured alcohol on him while they were having a conversation. It was natural for him to not come up with any other explanation.
Still, Ram shook her head when he said that.
[Ram: No. ──I just wanted to hear your true thoughts without your make-up on.]
Ram steps on Roswaal’s lap for a moment, and she wipes his face wet with alcohol by using a handkerchief. Then, the white clown make-up comes off, and his true face appeared.
Ram was face to face with him, and as she squinted, she said,
[Ram: With your face like that, without any make-up, say what you said before.]
[Ram: Don’t hide anything. Nothing. And say it. Say it. ──Say it now.]
Ram holds onto Roswaal’s face with her hands, and she didn’t look away. Although, Roswaal wasn’t even fighting back. He closes his eyes, opens them, and says,
[Roswaal: I…I will use you guys for my goal. I need you guys for it. I won’t stop, no matter what type of sacrifices I have to make along the way. Even if I feel sad about Dudley and Grace, I won’t regret. ──Even if I have to sacrifice you guys in the future.]
He looks at her in the eye, and says it all. His true thoughts collide with his true face and true feelings, and Ram’s heart leaped.
Right now, she was being reflected in this person’s eyes. She saw herself that was delighted, so delighted by this.
[Ram: ──Fine. I will do anything to help you with your goal.]
[Roswaal: ……I did feel like there was a 9/10 chance of breakdown, though.]
[Ram: I’m not someone who can be easily predicted. Besides, we have a contract.]
Being close enough to feel Roswaal’s breath, Ram continues while their faces touched.
[Ram: The Onis’ retribution and revenge on the four enemies──I put my pride and soul on the line and swore to do everything I can for you so that all that could be accomplished.]
[Roswaal: It was a verbal promise.]
[Ram: Didn’t you just make it a verbal promise because you knew I wouldn’t break it?]
Roswaal was silent when Ram asked, and that was his answer.
And, these were her thoughts now, “Even if there wasn’t a verbal promise, I will”──
[Ram: ──After tonight, from now on, I will still swear my loyalty to Roswaal-sama. You followed the contract, and proved that there’s Oni pride flowing throughout our kinds souls and my body.]
[Ram: I will give everything I have for you. I will devote myself to you. I’m yours.]
Ram takes an oath, made an agreement that said she’d even offer her soul, and gently brings her lips near Roswaal’s. Like that, their lips overlap sweetly──
[Roswaal: ──Why are you taking advantage ooooof all the confusion? You’re 10 years too early for this.]
However, the hand he put in between their faces interrupted it.
Having her kiss denied, Ram frowns unhappily. That makes Roswaal smile wryly as he said,
[Roswaal: I will accept your loyalty gratefully. But your affection is a different matter. As for that……let’s just say you’re 400 years too eeeaaarly.]
[Ram: ……That’s a pretty long wait. Okay. I’ll back off for now.]
It sounded like a joke. However, Ram felt like there was a very large wall that he’d never take down. It was probably something meaningful to Roswaal, and it wouldn’t budge.
That’s why she’d back off. Forcing it would be pointless. Plus, she still had time.
[Ram: Just please don’t forget, Roswaal-sama.]
[Roswaal: About what?]
[Ram: Those who rely on swords fall to swords. Those who rely on witches fall to witches. Those who devote themselves to fire fall to fire.]
They were words woven together almost like a song, and it was the curse casted at the end of retribution.
However, this time, in a completely different situation, Ram put the curse on a man.
[Ram: And so, those who ask of Onis will fall to Onis, and shall be destroyed by what they relied on.]
[Roswaal: ……So, you’re going to destroy me?]
[Ram: Yes, that’s right.]
Hearing Roswaal say those words with one eye closed, Ram got off his lap and nodded. And then, she steps back lightly, pinches her skirt, and while showing a perfect curtsy she said,
[Ram: Your desires, your wishes, your feelings──I will destroy all of it. While helping you out with that which means everything to you, I will take you away.]
[Ram: Please look forward to it.]
Ram says that, and she winks in a charming, inappropriate way for her age.
After Roswaal made a dumbfounded look for a moment at that behavior, he laughed, unable to hold it in any longer.
He laughed, laughed, and laughed. Then, after that, he nodded.
[Roswaal: Very well. ──Then let’s see whether or not your loyalty and affection will be related to my destruction.]
Then, Roswaal smiled with delight from the bottom of his heart with his face clean of clown makeup.
It was about one whole year after that fiery night when they came to their home.
[Rem: There’s nothing left anymore.]
[Ram: That’s just how it is. Everything burned, and nobody lives here anymore. ……Everyone’s remains being buried by Roswaal is its saving grace.]
Rem and Ram look around the place that once was a plaza, and they share their thoughts.
Not even the ruins of the houses that were burned and destroyed were left. The soil became a burnt field, and there were weeds starting to slightly grow. The fields were completely desolate, and the mountain road was impossible to recognize now. One could no longer tell that there was a village here before, ruled by verdant mountains. Perhaps it was too late and cruel to feel sad about it.
[Rem: Where was the cenotaph?]
[Ram: According to Roswaal-sama, it’s where you can get a view of the whole village. So it’s probably where the chief’s residence was.]
Rem and Ram were the only ones here. Roswaal declined coming with them this far, and he was waiting for them to return inside the dragon carriage stopped on the verdant mountains. He was spoiling them with kindness, but they couldn’t make him wait for too long. They had to be quick and walk fast, even if they had to push themselves.
Ram quickly goes up the hill, appearing to be in agreement with Rem. However, it looked like Ram, a good walker, was getting tired from the journey. So,
[Rem: Nee-sama, let’s hold hands.]
[Ram: Well, since you want to, I guess it can’t be helped.]
[Rem: Yes, I want to. It’s been such a long time since I’ve walked through the village with Nee-sama.]
They go towards the cenotaph that should be on the hill while holding hands as they walked side by side.
A year ago when they were at the village, Rem would always walk behind Ram. “Things have changed quite a bit in just one year considering how it had been rare to even walk side by side”, is what she thinks.
Her 7 year old consciousness that couldn’t change at the village and the way she lived changed so much in this past year, and here she was.
She felt a little sad about not being able to show how she was now to her mother, father, and her kind at the village.
That being said, if the tragedy at the village never happened, Rem would surely still just be hiding behind Ram and cowering. That’s why it was complicated.
She couldn’t show anyone at the village how she’d changed. How she was now living the desired life she could be proud of.
[Ram: ──Rem, that must be it. It stands out, like Roswaal-sama.]
Rem’s thoughts were suddenly interrupted, and she looks at the strange stone monument in the direction Ram pointed at. Built at a place so high where the chief’s residence once stood was a white cenotaph.
──It was a very large mass of crystal stone, and it was bigger than both Rem and Ram combined.
[Ram: Mana exists in the crystal stone. There might be souls that attract mana so that spirits and lesser spirits can materialize by using it. …..It’s an idea you’d expect of Roswaal-sama.]
Standing in front of the cenotaph, Ram admires Roswaal’s arrangement. Rem also quietly admired Roswaal at this place ignored by the world.
She couldn’t thank Roswaal enough for achieving retribution and giving her a way to live. Could she even return the favor by doing her very best as a maid?
[Ram: Rem, let’s let them know. ──Hand me the alcohol.]
[Rem: Yes, Nee-sama.]
While still feeling deep emotions lingering inside, Rem took out a sake bottle from the hand luggage as instructed by Ram. They combined their pay and chose the most valuable alcohol to Roswaal.
Ram takes it, removes the cork without hesitation, and pours alcohol on the cenotaph as an offering.
──Oni funerals were kind of inappropriate, but no adults were there to criticize them.
That’s why they brought what was the most important gift for a funeral, used to put souls to rest.
[Ram: Retribution has been achieved. The regret of that night, the anger of that night, and the grief of that night──our kind’s sorrow has been taken care of by Rem and me.]
One in a basement, one at the capital, one with flames, and the last one with the help of their master.
Not a single one remained, and retribution was achieved. Now, their kind’s souls wouldn’t wander.
[Ram: Unfortunately, the reincarnation of an Oni God and the return of the Onis were reduced to ashes. But, the pride and blood will stay alive. ──Farewell, everyone.]
Ram pours just half of the alcohol onto the cenotaph as she bid her farewell and put them to rest.
And then, Ram gave the remaining alcohol to Rem, and she leaned against the stone monument. Her sister moving away in silence was her being thoughtful. It was her being considerate of the fact that Rem alone would be the next to repose their souls and take an oath.
So, Rem quietly tilted the sake bottle she accepted, and she poured it on the stone monument.
Ram spoke the words to put their souls to rest. Thus, Rem had to tell them about her determination and bid them farewell.
The unbroken promise Rem she’d make to the sleeping souls of her kind, her father, and her mother.
[Rem: Mother, father, everyone, please don’t worry. Nee-sama…is fine.]
With her best smile, Rem mentions the thing her kind were probably worried about the most.
They were people who always pinned their hopes on Ram, believed in Ram, and worried about Ram. So, there was only one thing for Rem to give and promise them.
[Rem: ──Nee-sama…I will do everything Nee-sama should have done.]
Rem proudly promised her kind’s souls that this truly was the meaning of her life.
It was a smile like a blooming flower. It was the sweet, lovely smile that only Ram had seen at the village, and she never showed it to her kind when they were alive.
[Ram: Are you finished?]
[Rem: Yes. Nee-sama, thank you very much.]
Rem, who packed up and left the cenotaph, meets with Ram. Once Rem nodded at that question without any hesitation, she took her sister’s free hand and started walking.
They were headed down the hill, out of their town, out of the mountain road, to the imperial carriage where their master was waiting.
[Rem: I want to see Frederica-sama and Clind-sama as soon as possible since they’ll be at the Miload residence today.]
[Ram: ……I get depressed when I think about seeing those two. Frederica would probably ask me a lot of questions because of Garf.]
[Rem: Nee-sama and Garf are good friends, after all. But please don’t leave me all alone.]
[Ram: I won’t. Because Rem is the cutest, most precious little sister in the whole world.]
As they held hands, she feels her sister’s deep affection coming across her palm, and not one of those words was a lie.
While feeling that unexpected love, Rem applauded her sincerely.
──The substitute of such an adored sister. The substitute of such a wonderful sister.
──For that, to be that, so that she was allowed to be that, she’d live diligently from now on.
Without even her inseparable sister being aware of that oath, Rem just smiled sweetly and said,
[Rem: Yes. Nee-sama is the best sister in the whole world to me, too.]