“But yes, that’s about how that song came to be.” Subaru’s voice echoed through the closed door of her room. “Like I said, first I wrote the blue eyed oni to be my dad, and the red eyed on to be me, but then when singing it to the kids, it would have been pretty pathetic to explain the whole deal. Not to mention, if one’s a guy, and the other’s a girl, it might create the wrong kind of image, which would have been especially weird for me, and that’s how it ended up being two girls.”
A bit of silence came, broken only by the quiet breaths of the pink haired maid who pressed herself ever so gently against the door in front of the mistress of the mansion.
“Rem… Understands.” Rem’s voice came through quietly.
“Again, I’m so terribly sorry Rem. I never really thought about how it might sound to you and your sister.” Subaru answered her. “And I get that however it fits with you is probably pretty painful, so I won’t ask. Just didn’t want you to be confused about it anymore.”
“It’s a very sad story.” Rem said morosely, with a sound of the bed creaking under the two sitting servants. “However, strangely, having heard the story behind Subaru writing it into a song, Rem feels that it’s a little happier now.”
“Well, it’s not that happy.” Subaru answered in an awkward tone.
A disagreeing hum came through the door.
“Just knowing that Subaru could take such a sad thing and make it into something like that, makes Rem feel glad.”
Ram lifted her head from the door, looked up at her mistress, then with the most silent of steps began walking down the corridor, Roswaal not far behind her.
Once the two of them were a considerable distance from the door, the mistress of the mansion spoke up.
“Sooo, what do you think of our newest seeervant now?” Roswaal asked quietly with smiling voice, though somewhat tenser than usual. Even if no one else in the mansion could sense it, they were on a precipice.
“If Roswaal-sama ordered it, I would still end her life, if that is the meaning of the question.” Ram answered, her voice not wavering, however her legs paused a moment in their walk as she said this, before hanging her head and adding: “Although, for my sister’s sake, I hope such an order won’t become necessary.”
Roswaal didn’t answer right away. The loyal maid’s words gave her pause, though she wasn’t certain why. She had, after all, hoped for this result. It would undoubtedly be difficult for Natsuki Subaru to fulfill her purpose, if she had remained an outsider to the staff. Had she hoped that the maid before her would be yet more supportive of the newest addition to the staff? Or perhaps, was it just the slightest tinge of disloyalty in her act that concerned Roswaal? The lingering possibility that she may come to question her? What a silly concern to have. Had her heart forgotten that the pink haired servant must question her at every step, driven by necessity, rather than her facade of loyalty?
Reaching out, as the mistress of the mansion put a hand on her head, Ram stopped in her tracks and quivered.
“Roswaal-sama, I didn’t mean—”
“It was a fiiiiiine answer, Ram.” Roswaal sang. “I would have to be diiiiissapointed in your performance as an older sister if youuuu had answered otherwise.” she added.
“If—” Ram began weakly, as Roswaal continued to caress her head, the maid standing stiff and still. “If I may ask, what punishment had Roswaal-sama intend for my sister? Whatever it is, I would—”
“While I haaaaad intended on punishment,” Roswaal interrupted. “After having listened to them talk, and seeeeeing as in the end no lasting damage was done, barring an old family instrument and a fence post, IIIIIII feel it would serve little purpose.”
“Roswaal-sama?” Ram spoke up in surprise, though not daring to move her head to look at her mistress, whose hand still caressed her head.
“It seeeeems your sister is more than aware of her mistaaaaaaake.” Roswaal noted melodically. “No doubt, she’ll fiiiiind a way to atone in her own way. And I sense young Subaruuuuu-chan would only be upset, if after all her efforts to coooomfort Rem, she was punished regardless.” Roswaal paused for a moment, before continuing. “And besides that, as I have told you before, both you and your sister are amongst the fewest truly precious to me. Even in the name of just punishment, I couldn’t allow real harm to come to either of you.”
Ram’s body trembled under Roswaal’s hand, and the mistress of the mansion felt something she couldn’t place.
“Thank you, Roswaal-sama.” Ram said weakly.
The maid had of course understood what vital, irreplaceable, treasured—
Pieces they were. Yes, how could they be anything else?
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
Continuing her observance through the day, Roswaal watched from afar as her latest servant returned to their tasks, only to be accosted by the other fresh addition to the staff. The young orphan had quite the way to dress their saviour down for risking their life ‘pointlessly’. It was somewhat of an annoyance having to put up with her presence, and now Roswaal was stuck accommodating their guardian as well, some doorways barely big enough even here to fit their generous form.
These guests were necessary however, as was the half-elf.
In the evening, after retiring to her office, Roswaal’s thoughts and measures would be interrupted by the blue haired twin, who amidst continued verbal prostration requested her leave to visit the forest. Her stated reason was to retrieve her weapon and find the remains of the instrument used to snap her out of her rage so she may ask the village’s carpenter to perhaps restore it. All this so she may replace Roswaal’s family heirloom, of course, though it didn’t take any deep thought on the lady’s part to discern the maid’s true intent. With a few quick words of approval, she waved her off.
It wasn’t long until Ram arrived, ready to give her reports. Roswaal’s attention however, was mostly fixated outside her window, down in the garden. The young Subaru stood performing her strange little warm up exercises, set upon by the half-elf. The lady of the manor of course knew what they had to talk of without having to listen. The candidate was naturally upset that the girl would once more brush against death. That much was clear when Roswaal encountered her in the village, tied to a chair by Beatrice, while given her expression, Subaru was trying to laugh the situation off as no great matter. Soon enough, the half-elf would fold as was her nature, and the young servant would use this opportunity to force upon her their own designs in hopes of enhancing the happy days she believed to lay in her future. A worn out, familiar song. Roswaal had overheard her talk in the kitchens of how she wanted to make the girl visit the village and make friends.
“Roswaal-sama?” Ram spoke up, causing her to realize she had neglected to respond to the report.
Roswaal gave a long, melody hum of approval, before responding: “Then the maaaaaaster of the mabeasts hasn’t be captured?”
“No, Roswaal-sama. However, one of the children rescued from the forest had gone missing around suspicious circumstances.”
“What bizaaaaaare circumstances we’ve found ourselves in. Don’t you agreeee~?” Roswaal smiled. “Yoouuuuu have done well, Ram. Sit.” she added, moving to extend her knees as a suitable seat.
Ram smiled as she stepped to her mistress and sat down. She must have been in considerable discomfort. Roswaal took her head in one hand gently.
“I’m sorry that I had to neglect yooouuuu for a time.” Roswaal said melodiously. “Should I begin?”
“I’m terribly sorry… Please, Roswaal-sama.” Ram answered, looking up at her with the adoring eyes of a child. Roswaal knew this could only be a sign of her exhaustion and pain, anticipation for the relief that is sure to come, and yet— No, she shouldn’t think such foolish thoughts.
“Very well.” Roswaal nodded, raising her hand, brushing the girl’s hair away from the scar on her temple. “You have used quite a lot of mana recently. May the stars grant you their blessing.” she said softly, touching her fingers against the wound left by the lost horn, exciting the invisible pools of mana lingering in the air around them, and causing the maid to softly gasp in relief as Roswaal’s mana channeled into her.
This daily ritual was a necessity to maintain the girl’s health. Given the unique biology of her people, losing her horn was almost as if she had lost her very gate, limiting her ability to draw and expel mana. A terrible fate, that without such a ‘treatment’, would have caused her body to wither away to nothing over time.
“Our troubles will only increase with the coming selection.” Roswaal spoke, carefully focusing the energy flowing into her servant. “I’m afraid a greeaaat deal will be required of you and Reeem.”
“Ever since that night, since she had taken us in, I belong to Roswaal-sama.” the girl said gently. “And I’m certain, even with her new found feelings, Rem would follow Roswaal-sama anywhere as well.”
Roswaal caressed the maid’s head. While she appreciated the words, she had no illusion of any loyalty from Rem towards herself. Unlike Ram, the little sister held no high regard for the mistress of the mansion. She maintained a sense of duty, however it was entirely vested in the protection of her older sister. If she served the manor, if she performed above duty, it was only to protect the life her sister was given. Had it ever come to it, between protecting Ram and betraying Roswaal, the younger sister would save her sister without batting an eye or the slightest lingering sense of guilt. That’s just who she was.
“You neeeeed not worry.” Roswaal cooed. “No matter where I go, yoouuuu’ll be by my side, and sooooo your sister will follow.”
The maid reached up uncertainly and grasped her mistress’s clothes. She must truly have been driven to the edge in this past conflict. Roswaal took care not to overexert the girl in her arms, as she neared finishing of the ritual.
It wasn’t as though anyone could give her this treatment. To pour mana in or even just out of someone’s body at a touch was a dangerous thing. The slightest mistake, the lightest imbalance in the elements used would cause harm to the one whose gate is tampered with. Roswaal was in fact the only mortal at the mansion who could do anything of the sort at all, and the only one she’d trust to execute it with the care needed to not harm her— pawn.
The ability to perform this, indeed the talent to even develop such a thing was and would be a thing of envy across the world. A result of countless years of practice, and of course the guidance of her beloved mentor.
“We must achieve victory in the royal selection, no matter the cost.” Roswaal spoke clearly, once she was finished, gazing out through the window at the moon, shining its light on the manor and its residents.
Moving her hand from the maid’s head to her shoulders, she unconsciously drew her servant close, feeling her snuggle close to her in response calmly.
“For the sake of everything.” Roswaal added. “For the day the dragon dies.”