The Oni Sisters of the Hidden Village
~Before and After Pleiades~
—At a time before Natsuki Subaru arrived at Roswaal Manor.
“Sister, Rem regrets to say that another letter from Garf has arrived,” Rem said caustically as she placed the letter on top of the desk.
The white stationery had both the name of the addressee and the sender, the former being Ram, the latter being the name of a young man they knew. Both names were written with an unsteady hand and barely legible.
Although the young man would never be considered a prolific writer, he frequently sent letters such as this. The content was written in an arrogant manner that showed little consideration for the reader. And to make matters worse, his letters never became any more legible with the passage of time.
As a result of which, however, their deciphering abilities had simply improved.
“What a fool,” she muttered, releasing an involuntary sigh—something that seemed to become a habit when it came to him.
However, Rem seemed to take issue with the utterance. “It seems that Garf is bothering you again, Sister. Rem is sorry for not being attentive enough. Rem should have just thrown it away before showing it to you.”
“Garf really is pitiful. But, just in case, Ram will give it a quick look.”
“…Understood. But Rem thinks you are too gracious for your own good, Sister.”
Ram gave a faint smile at her beloved younger sister’s biting remark.
Rem and the author of this letter—Garfiel Tinzel—had a terrible relationship. The two sisters, Rem and Ram, had met Garfiel a year or two after they were taken in to work at Roswaal Manor, which meant they had known one another for nearly ten years. However, Rem’s attitude towards Garfiel had only become more hostile as time went on, while Garfiel seemed equally displeased with Rem. The reason behind their discord was obvious.
“…Ram really is despicable,” Ram muttered to herself.
“You’re not despicable, Sister! Garf is the only one at fault here.”
Much like a dog with its bone, Rem stubbornly refused to give up her opinion once she had it—which was utterly irrational, yet adorable—as Ram begrudgingly acknowledged with a sigh.
Normally, Rem was considered an outstanding maid who worked hard at everything and never embarrassed herself, no matter what she was asked to do. However, from her older sister’s perspective, that appraisal might not be quite so glowing.
Namely, Rem’s biggest weakness was her sister, Ram. When problems involving Ram arose, Rem immediately lost her composure. Even at times when Ram wasn’t directly involved, around their long-time acquaintances like senior servants Frederica and Clind—with the notable exception of their Master, Roswaal—Rem would practically puff out her cheeks in childish anger.
For Ram, it was especially precious to view her expressions around Garfiel. Only then was the reality truly inescapable that she was indeed a child of the Oni, even though it most likely only emerged from a childish desire to keep her sister all to herself.
“Ram supposes that’s Rem’s love language, in a way.”
Characteristics such as this, which she exposed only in front of her closest friends, could be considered a real sign of trust.
Ideally speaking, gaining Rem’s trust was something to which her older sister, Ram, would like to devote herself wholeheartedly, but the reality was that it wasn’t that easy. Unfortunate, but Ram was smart enough to understand that it was probably for the best.
“…It’s nothing. But just to clarify, if you want to blame everything on Garf and his tenacity, does that mean you doubt your sister’s ability to charm and captivate him?”
“N-Not in the least! Of course, it’s all thanks to how amazing you are that Garf keeps sending letters to you without getting discouraged.”
“If that’s true, then Ram really is despicable, isn’t she?”
“Yes, you’re very delightful, Sister… Huh?” Having been caught in a mean leading question, Rem tilted her head and blinked owlishly. When Ram smiled unconsciously at her sister’s expression, Rem jutted out her bottom lip in a sulk. This face was also a rare expression that she only showed when she was acting childishly towards Ram.
“Sister, please don’t tease Rem like that. Rem is not that smart, so she might easily become confused.”
“Confused Rem is very cute too, so please stop putting yourself down like that. If you say you’re not smart, then everyone else who’s more foolish than you will simply lose the will to live.”
“R-Rem thinks that’s going a bit too far…” As she let out a sigh, Rem’s countenance took on a hint of uncertainty. “Rem doesn’t believe that everyone is as smart as you or Master Roswaal, but it would be troublesome if everyone were like Garf. It would be a complete nightmare.”
“Everyone being like Garf… Yes, that’s certainly a nightmare. It would be so noisy that no one would be able to sleep, even in the middle of a nightmare.”
Briefly lost in the absurd prospect that Rem had conjured up, Ram raised her well-shaped eyebrows.
In response to Ram’s reaction, Rem smiled and said, “Yes, That’s right. Rather than a world full of Garfs, it would be much more wonderful to have a whole group of Rams instead. In fact, Rem actually thinks that’s how it should be. Then, wherever Rem looked, Sister would be…”
“Rem, Rem. Calm down.”
“Ah! S-Sorry, Sister… Rem had a wonderful dream just now.”
“There’s no need to apologize. It’s actually Ram who should apologize for waking you up from your dream, but…” Pausing as she spoke, Ram placed a hand on her chest. Then, with a warmly bemused expression, she smiled at Rem’s patiently waiting face. “Even if there are many Rams out there, there’s only one unique Ram right here in front of you, Rem,” Ram assured her.
“S-Sister…” Rem murmured meekly.
“You get to have the only Ram in the whole world all to yourself. What do you think? Is that still not enough for you?” Ram asked, brimming with confidence.
“Of course not! You’re worth 10,000 other sisters!” Rem cried indignantly.
Of course, all sisters have their own special bond, but all Rem and Ram had was each other, and their bond was strong. So Ram decided it was worth indulging Rem in a bit of hyperbole. But either way, Ram’s heart was satisfied and tickled by her sister’s affection.
“To evoke such a pleasant feeling before Ram has even read the letter…perhaps she owes Garf a thank you.”
“Even Garf’s letters have their uses,” Rem said with a smile, but it seemed as though she might go on to say that the only other use for Garfiel’s letters would be as kindling. That really would be too cruel, however, so Ram finally opened the envelope and unfolded the letter inside. Unsurprisingly, just as the name and address on the envelope had been, the handwriting inside was equally sloppy.
“It would be nice if Ryuzu could somehow teach him to write neatly.”
“Or rather, maybe Garf should write a letter to Frederica instead of you, Sister… He always ignores her, and Rem feels sorry for her.”
“…That’s true too.”
As she blithely allowed her sister’s intractable attitude to wash over her, Ram began to see the situation differently. Rem had been referring to the complicated sibling relationship between Garfiel and Frederica. Garfiel resented his older sister for leaving the village they had grown up in to become Roswaal’s maid. As a result, no matter how many letters Frederica sent to their village, Garfiel never responded.
So it seemed only natural that Rem did not think highly of him. For Rem, who loved and respected her older sister Ram, it was an act of someone violating the bonds of filial piety.
“Both Garf and Frederica most likely have their own side of the story, I suppose.”
But as far as the reason for their fraught relationship, Ram suspected that it concerned the fact that they had never talked deeply about the issue of their homeland, the Sanctuary—why Frederica had left it, and why Garfiel continued to fixate on it. Still…
“Even for the most determined busy-body, it’s never right to intrude upon other people’s relationships,” Ram remarked.
Even Ram had not disclosed all of her feelings in her heart to others, not even to Rem. In fact, there were many things she couldn’t say exactly because it was Rem.
Just as long as there is a separation between one human being and another, there are inevitable boundaries that can’t be crossed.
“That’s why Rem doesn’t approve of Garf, who has been so unfilial towards his own sister. He has no right to show his face before Rem’s honorable sister.”
“How harsh. Ram feels quite loved.”
“Of course. Besides, this isn’t something Rem understands.”
Lowering her voice, Rem dropped her gaze ever so slightly as she let her feelings show. Seeing this expression in her, Ram softened her pale red eyes.
Rem offered her a lonely smile in return and said, “The way Sister cares for Master Roswaal. The way Garf cares for Sister. The preciousness of experiencing that emotion, of caring for another person. That is what Rem does not understand.”
“The way you look when pining after Master Roswaal, Sister, to Rem, you seem to be almost shining. And yet Rem can offer no such praise for Garf as he pines for Sister. Thus, Rem does not understand.”
Rem’s words, so full of resignation and self-awareness, brought a painful tightness to Ram’s chest. If the thing Rem didn’t understand was the emotion of “longing,” then she didn’t understand something that, at times, could make one wise, and at times, into a simpering fool.
The letter she held from Garfiel described the fact that daily life in the Sanctuary rarely changed, as well as the current circumstances that he was curious about. The handwriting was a mess, but the letter was surprisingly readable, and if Rem were to read it, her impression of him might have changed.
This letter was written for Ram, so she doesn’t think she can show it to Rem.
Each word was painstakingly spelled out line by line, and filled with affection, so she thought it would be incredibly inconsiderate to allow such a letter to be read by someone it wasn’t addressed to.
And so, Ram couldn’t provide the magic answer to Rem’s concerns just yet. As the older sister, she thought that she couldn’t recall a time she’d felt this powerless. But surely…
“The day will come when you, too, will understand.”
“…Since Sister is the only one Rem cares for, she wonders about that,” Rem answered without a hint of a smile, tilting her head to express her dubiousness towards Ram’s sentiments. “You will be writing him a response, right, Sister? Rem will only get in the way of that, so Rem will excuse herself.”
“It won’t disturb Ram to have you here.”
“No, Rem can’t look at the letter. Rem also knows that much. Whether or not Garf is qualified to receive your kindness is another matter, Sister.”
With that, and a single curtsey, Rem gracefully took her leave from Ram’s room. For a moment, Ram almost called out to her retreating form, but, unable to find the right words, she simply let her go.
Despite a moment of regret over causing Rem to feel so alone, her eyes returned to the letter once again. “Fool.”
No one could be sure whether that abuse was directed towards herself for being such a poor older sister, or to the letter’s sender, who had spelled out their feelings.
—Subsequently, on an occasion after Natsuki Subaru arrived at Roswaal Manor.
“Sister, another letter from Garf has arrived,” Rem said in a merciless tone, placing a letter atop the desk.
With both the name of the sender and addressee written in such a messy hand on a white envelope, it was clearly the usual letter from Garfiel. If anything at all was different, it was only Rem’s attitude as she brought it over.
“Your attitude seems different, Rem.”
“Oh…is that so?”
“You didn’t realize? Normally, you’d have added something inventive to his name, like stubborn-Garf, or ungraceful-Garf, or ill-mannered-Garf, or that brat-Garf.”
“Now that you mention it…”
As if Rem had genuinely been unaware, she placed a hand over her mouth in surprise when Ram pointed it out. But after a moment of reflection, she seemed to be able to apply some logic to her own behavior, and therefore dismissed it.
Letting her hand drop from her mouth, she addressed Ram. “Sister. Would it be okay if Rem shared a somewhat embarrassing story…?”
“Something embarrassing? From you, Rem?”
“Yes, if that’s not okay—”
“Ram doesn’t mind it at all. In fact, please tell her about this embarrassing thing.”
“O-Okay. It’s a little bit awkward, but…”
After hearing such an opening, Ram was naturally immensely curious and eagerly leaned forward to listen, which caused Rem to blush slightly.
Notwithstanding the fact she was her own little sister, it was incredibly cute, and Ram admired her appearance like a doting parent. But at the same time, a tinge of unease flashed across her chest.
This was because Rem’s current expression had become all too frequent at Roswaal Manor lately. The one responsible for that was—
“Could this be about Barusu?”
“…Wow! Amazing, Sister! Rem is surprised that you figured it out before she could say anything.”
“…It was a fairly simple deduction.”
It was also rare for a correct deduction of hers to make her unhappy, but, nevertheless, Ram couldn’t hold back a sigh. Moments like this, of Rem praising her elder sister’s perception with such wide, innocent eyes, were more and more becoming the prerogative of someone else to appreciate.
The one Rem had become infatuated with was the new apprentice servant who had recently joined the mansion, Natsuki Subaru. He had been making every effort to solve various incidents around the mansion, and Rem had come to view him as someone special to her.
The problem was already quite dire.
“Sister, you told me this before, that someday Rem would also understand such feelings…and it’s just as you predicted!”
“…And exactly how is that related to the way you handled Garf’s letters?”
“Well, Rem’s chest feels a warm sensation when she thinks of Subaru…and Rem realized this is most likely what Garf feels towards you, Sister. Rem began to sympathize with him, and then she decided that at least it wouldn’t be so bad to allow him to send Sister letters,” Rem explained.
Rem clenched her fists to express her resolve, and she was clearly hopeful about the future, but it was unlikely that Garfiel would be so charitable toward her. Free from his concern of the letter being callously disposed of on its way to Ram, his new concern would surely be enduring the pity his attempts seemed to have evoked.
In any case…
“Rem has also learned from Garf’s example, and is wondering whether she should send a letter to Subaru… Subaru is still learning how to read and write though, would it trouble him?”
“There’s no way Ram would let Barusu be so foolish as to act bothered by a letter filled with your feelings… But if you’re going to do it…”
“Then Ram wants a letter from you, too. If you’re writing one anyway, kindly send one to Ram too.”
“Understood! Rem will write you a letter filled with her feelings, Sister!” Rem’s face lit up as she gladly accepted Ram’s request.
As she got to enjoy her sister’s loving response, Ram quietly gave the black-haired young man a mental slap across the face. Of course, it was merely a fantasy born of jealous anger. She would like him to feel grateful that she didn’t feel inclined to act on her impulses.
“Being unable to act on one’s irrepressible feelings… Rem wonders if Garf might also have felt this way. Rem has been cruel to him. Next time Rem sees Garf, she’ll apologize.”
“Ram imagines he’ll be quite disturbed to receive such a sudden apology from you. How amusing.”
To someone like Garfiel, Rem’s apology would certainly be a big event. Ram absolutely had to be there to see it with her own eyes.
“It was Ram herself who had hoped that Rem would have this kind of change of heart.”
As long as she was offering a prayer for her own sake, she might as well do so in a way that her wishes regarding those she loved would come true as well.
With a faint pang of bittersweet feelings, Ram smiled at her innocent younger sister, who was hesitating on whether she should take the initiative to write on her own or seek advice on conveying her feelings.
“Fool,” she muttered.