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Completed ― The Old Warrior Is Busy Taking Care of His Possessed Sister, Who Has Been Inhabited by the Duke’s Daughter. But Make No Mistake, He Is Only Doing This as Part of His Job Search and Is in No Way a Siscon!

Prologue

The main street leading to the town square is bustling with activity today, despite the small size of the town.

This area is particularly popular among the youth, especially young women, so the majority of people you see here are either young women or young men accompanying them.

I, Richard, am among them, standing in line at a food stall selling a new, trendy sweet food called “Fluffy Fluffy Castella.”

It’s worth noting that I’m not exactly blending in with the young crowd. The lines are clearly divided and, despite the vendors’ efforts to maintain close distance, I find myself surrounded by an empty bubble of space.

This is not surprising, as “Fluffy Fluffy Castella” is not really the sort of queue that someone like me, over thirty, would fit into. While there may be some older men who can pull off this sweet drink, I am not one of them.

Despite being born in this town, I have spent half my life in the frontier wilderness, so it’s painful to admit that I don’t belong in this crowd.

For many years, the only sweets I could find were the fruits from the cactus in the desert.

So, I’m more of a meat-lover than a sweet-tooth. The meat I consume, however, isn’t from well-raised cattle or lamb, but rather from iguanas that come to feed on the fruit of the cactus.

This begs the question – why am I enduring the disdainful looks of young ladies and standing in line?

If you’re inclined to laugh, go ahead.

Others may not understand, but this is my job search.

Finally, my turn arrives, and I recite the rehearsed lines when the vendor asks, “What would you like to order?”

“Fluffy castella, half-and-half with chocolate, topped with vanilla ice cream and butterscotch sauce, and also with tapioca, peanuts, taro, and extra whipped cream…”

Whew, I wipe the sweat from my brow. Spells have never been my strong suit.

Did I manage to get it right?

“Here you go, thank you for your patience…”

Even as I receive the order from the vendor, I’m not confident that I recited it correctly.

Regardless, I leave the food stall and head towards the plaza’s seating area.

As I make my way to a table, I spot a young woman with hair the same shade of reddish-brown as mine.

Or at least, it would be the same color as mine if I still had any hair left. My locks were singed off by a dragon, so I’m now bald.

The girl sits up straight, aligns the toes of her shoes, and takes her seat with her hands on her knees, her posture impeccable despite her modest attire and footwear.

However, when she spots me walking towards her from the line of food stalls, she jumps up and waves her arms.

“Big brother, over here, over here!”

Yes, this girl is my younger sister, Stella.

While it might be an overstatement to say we look like parent and child, there’s a significant age gap between us, with my sister having just graduated from the Magic Academy’s high school division at 18 years old.

As her older brother, I can’t help but note that my sister has lovely features, is incredibly cute, and bears little resemblance to me, to the point where I sometimes doubt we’re related.

My sister’s eyes light up as she sees the “Fluffy Stella” desert I brought her, and she exclaims:

“Wow, it’s the famous ‘Drinkable! Fizzy and Fluffy Stella’! It looks delicious. Let’s try it right away…”

With that, my sister closed her eyes and opened her mouth wide, making an “ah” sound.

“…”

“…”

There was a moment of silence between us.

But then, my sister looked at me with a slightly reproachful expression and said, “Big brother, if you don’t hurry up, the ice cream will melt.”

I was disappointed, but not surprised.

I scooped up a spoonful of castella and fed it to my sister, who eagerly accepted it with a crunch.

“It’s delicious!” she exclaimed. “The advertising slogan ‘Not fluffy? No, this is castella’ is no lie! It’s like drinking a fizzy, melting treat…”

She put her hand on her cheek, entranced by the flavor.

Then, like a baby bird waiting to be fed, she repeatedly opened her mouth wide and said, “Ah.”

After a few repetitions, she suddenly took the spoon from my hand.

“Big brother, would you like a bite too?” she offered, scooping up another spoonful of the treat.

“Here, open your mouth, aah…”

I tilted my head slightly and opened my mouth a little, facing her.

I couldn’t believe it — was my sister actually trying to feed me?!

“You idiot! You can’t do something like that!” I shouted in a moment of panic.

My sister’s eyes widened for a moment, but once she understood the meaning of my words, tears began to flow from her large eyes, and she started sobbing.

People at nearby tables looked over with concern, but they were intimidated by my imposing figure and didn’t dare to intervene.

I was getting flustered as well. “Come on, don’t cry,” I said, trying to comfort her.

“But, but big brother…,” she sniffled between sobs.

“Don’t cry over something like this,” I said, trying to calm her down.

“I’m sorry, I just can’t stop crying… What should I do? Big brother will hate me, sniff, sniff…” she continued to sob.

Just then, a buzzing sound filled the air and a large insect-like creature appeared, flying around me.

“Wha…”

“Hey old man! Don’t you know what will happen if you make Lady Raldine cry?!”

I was scolded by the little creature, which had wings on its back and looked like a fairy girl at first glance. But its menacing wings made it clear that it was far from being a friendly fairy.

“I got it, I got it. I’ll eat, okay! So don’t nag me like that! It makes me feel like some kind of dirty person!”

I responded to my sister’s urging, and she stopped crying, her smile returning to her face.

She offered me the spoon once more. “Here you go, big brother, ahh…”

“…”

I reluctantly put the spoonful of food from Stella into my mouth.

“Is it delicious, big brother?” she asked.

“Yes,” I replied, trying to ignore the stares and whispers around us.

(What? That old guy. He’s letting a young lady feed him… Are they father and daughter?)

(But it’s too cold. I feel sorry for the girl.)

I’ll say it again, this job hunting process is crucial for me.

And let me say it one more time, the girl feeding me with the spoon is my sister, Stella.

But it’s only her appearance—her soul has been switched with Lady Geraldine, the daughter of the Duke’s family.

And the insect-like creature flying around us is Stella’s familiar, Belle.

⁂⁂⁂⁂⁂

My name is Richard.

Just plain old Richard.

For many years, I served as a border security guard, relying solely on my own strength to defend against any demons or monsters that threatened the area.

But with the protection of Saint-sama in the Holy City, the threat from demons and external enemies has diminished, and I was relieved of my duties. I returned to my hometown after several years and have been living here for a few months.

Although it’s great to live in a peaceful world, I’ve struggled to find steady employment as I have no other skills besides swordsmanship.

Just as I was feeling lost, my younger sister Stella returned from studying at the Holy City’s Magic Academy for three years.

Unlike me, who lacks any magical ability, Stella possesses a natural talent for magic and was awarded a scholarship to attend the advanced program at the academy.

It’s rare for someone from a commoner background like my sister to be accepted into the Magic Academy, where the royal family and noble-born students receive exceptional education from a young age. And to receive a scholarship on top of that is even more extraordinary.

I had been concerned that my sister would face bullying and harassment from the wealthy and high-class students at the academy, as well as from the snobbish and malicious ladies who held high positions in the social hierarchy. To my surprise, she showed remarkable adaptability and was able to thrive in school, even forming a close friendship with Lady Geraldine, the Duke’s daughter.

Growing up in the downtown area and rolling around like a dog among the boys, my sister had a rough upbringing which was a stark contrast to her appearance and intelligence. On the other hand, Lady Geraldine was raised delicately and with great care, but had a completely opposite personality. Despite this, there was something that attracted them to each other.

Lady Geraldine, who was a bit too carefree and slow-witted, had become the target of bullying from the newly wealthy aristocrats at the academy, but my sister came to her rescue and they had been inseparable ever since. My sister aided her with her studies and looked after her in various ways.

My sister was a kind-hearted person, even with her background.

Lady Geraldine was set to be married off to a foreign land after she completed her higher education at the Magic Academy and underwent several months of bridal training.

It was a scheme that Lady Geraldine couldn’t resist – a chance to live a carefree life before her arranged marriage.

With the help of her best friend and top Magic Academy student, Stella, Lady Geraldine used possession magic to switch bodies.

So, Stella is now living as Lady Geraldine in the Duke’s mansion in the Holy City, while Lady Geraldine is pretending to be Stella and spending her days eating sweets with me.

The familiar Belle has been sent by the real Stella to keep an eye on things and report back. Interestingly, Lady Geraldine, who is impersonating my sister, cannot see Belle.

All the information I have about Stella’s life at the academy and her relationship with Lady Geraldine comes from Belle’s reports. Apparently, due to our large age difference and the length of time we’ve spent apart, Stella doesn’t have much affection for me.

“I heard from my master that you’re an unemployed NEET, aren’t you?” says Belle with a cheeky grin.

The “Master” Belle is referring to is my younger sister, Stella.

What a way to talk about someone. Is she talking about me like that to others? But it’s true, so I can’t refute it.

“If you serve Raldine-sama exceptionally well, it’s not just a pipe dream to become an official in the Holy City. Raldine-sama is shy, so if you assert yourself a bit more, she’ll do as you say…”

It’s disheartening to hear a small-minded familiar like Belle talk down to someone. I can only imagine that Lady Geraldine was probably being taken advantage of by cruel, lower-ranking nobles at the academy or made to perform menial tasks. I silently sympathize with her.

However, the prospect of becoming an official in the Holy City is tantalizing. While it’s unfortunate to have to take advantage of a timid young lady, it’s worth putting in the effort to work hard and rise in the ranks.

“By the way, what is Raldine-sama?”

“It’s Lady Geraldine. My Master referred to her as Raldine-sama, so I do too…”

“I see. I’ll call her that as well. Noble names are too lengthy and it’s a hassle to keep track of and remember them…”

“Listen carefully, Raldine-sama is pretending to be my magnificent master, so the old man must make sure he doesn’t reveal her true identity. My existence is also unknown to Raldine-sama. Raldine-sama is an important person who is soon to be married, so if her disguise is revealed to the public, it will cause a significant issue. If that happens, the old man will be without work forever, just a burden on society…”

“I understand…”

And thus, I am currently sharing a home with Raldine, the Duke’s daughter, who is pretending to be my sister.

It’s important to note that this arrangement is solely for job hunting purposes. It’s the first step towards realizing my dream of leaving unemployment behind and joining the coveted Holy City.

As Raldine is unfamiliar with the outside world, it’s necessary to be overprotective in order to protect her before her upcoming nuptials.

Please note, I am not a “siscon”. Absolutely not.

Chapter 1

“Great to see you again, big brother,” Stella deeply bowed as she returned home after three long years.

“W-What’s the matter, Stella?” I asked, sensing something was off.

Gone were the days when she called me “Nii-chan.” Lately, she would simply say “Just a sec” or “Hey” whenever she needed my attention.

I stared at her with unease as she looked confused for a moment, then,

“Oh, I see…I should say ‘I’m home’ now that I’m back. I’m home, big brother,” she smiled.

Stella, my younger sister with a pretty face and magical abilities, had a notorious reputation as a tomboy in the region she grew up in. She was the type of girl who could make even the biggest boys cry and turn them into her subordinates.

The way my sister treats me is simply unbearable. It’s as if the mere thought of me being her older brother fills her with disgust. Even when she comes home for her bi-annual vacation, she doesn’t bother to greet me and just locks herself up in her room. If we happen to cross paths in the house, she shoots me a hateful glare, but the moment I turn away, she scurries back to her room.

However, this sister is a different story. She beams at me with such affection, making me feel valued. Her rosy complexion only adds to her allure, and I find myself getting more and more flustered in her presence.

“That’s what I’ve been telling you since yesterday. Inside is Raldine-sama, the Duke’s daughter…”

Belle interrupts, suddenly appearing and leaning against my shoulder.

“My sister, Stella, and Lady Geraldine have switched bodies?”

Last night, Belle appeared out of nowhere and narrated a story that was hard to believe, so I chuckled skeptically.

After all, the use of possession magic has been outlawed and locked away for many years, so it’s challenging to accept that someone could have utilized it.

The seal created by the Holy City’s most esteemed sorcerer is believed to be nearly impenetrable, and possession magic, if accidentally released, is considered to be as powerful as the gods themselves.

Even the most accomplished students in the Magic Academy’s prestigious program would struggle to unravel such advanced magic.

Yet, as I witness Stella’s transformation, I can’t help but question the myths.

No, no, no, I shake my head.

For a moment, I’m almost convinced that the seal has been breached, and the impossible has become possible.

But I quickly shake my head and remind myself that it’s probably just one of Stella’s pranks. She’ll likely tease me later for taking it seriously and getting worked up. I won’t fall for it.

“Ah, welcome back…”

I say only that as I attempt to open the front door and leave.

“Ah, um, where are you going?”

Stella asks, flustered.

“Anywhere is fine. No need to specify…”

I carelessly utter those words and turn my back, shutting the door without a second glance.

“Oh, come on, old man. You’re the worst. You’ve made such a terrible first impression. Have you given up on your dream of becoming an official? Or is it just bullying from the upper class? It’s just a kid, old man, a kid…”

As I stride outside and down the street, Belle buzzes around me, babbling incessantly.

“Shut your trap. I don’t have time for your nonsense…”

I approach the slaughterhouse outside the fortified town and knock on the door to the office.

The door remains firmly shut, so I glance up at the window where an elderly woman peeks out. I bow my head respectfully to her.

“Pardon me, I was sent by the Adventurer’s Guild…”

“Ah, a day laborer. As usual, please head over to the reception desk…”

The elderly woman points towards the factory and adds,

“Young folks these days detest this type of work, so it’s a relief when someone comes…”

“Well, it’s a relief for me too…”

I bow to the elderly woman once more and make my way towards the factory. Belle follows, buzzing her wings.

“Same old, same old, old man. Instead of working as a day laborer in a place like this, I’d prefer to be Raldine-sama’s brother… whoa!! What is this, heaven?! A paradise pure land?!”

Finally, Belle, who had been teasing and mocking my job, became excited, and her eyes lit up when we entered the slaughterhouse and saw the animal carcasses.

“My Lord of the Flies’s blood is pumping! I’ll be back in a jiffy…”

“What?! Lord of the Flies, what are you talking about?”

“Oh, my full name is Belzebub. You can call me Belle for short…”

“What?! Why does a Belzebub serving as my sister’s familiar?”

“It’s embarrassing. I want you to keep this between us, but your sister is not an ordinary girl…”

Belle scratched her head, stuck out her tongue.

“Cheer up, old man…”

And with that, she flapped her wings and flew away somewhere.

“Don’t get caught in a fly trap…”

Although I might have previously said something similar, I now realize that it doesn’t matter if Belle is caught in a fly trap or swatted with a flyswatter. At the end of the day, Belle or Bellezebub is just my sister’s magical creature. And the idea of my sister swapping bodies with the Duke’s daughter is nothing but pure delusion.

Perhaps she’s struggling at the academy and using fantasy to escape from reality.

In this town, my sister was regarded as a prodigy that only surfaces once every ten years, but there might have been numerous individuals like her at the Magic Academy in the Holy City. Such anecdotes are prevalent to hear.

Even if she’s possessed by the Duke’s daughter and the magical creature she commands is called Bellezebub, my sister is already an extraordinary girl just the way she is.

However, my sister couldn’t care less about my opinion of her since she despises me.

With these thoughts running through my mind, I followed the factory manager’s directions and commenced disassembling the meat.

After a grueling day at work, I headed to the old lady’s place to collect my earnings. She handed me the due amount, but not before deducting the discounted cost of the beef I bought earlier as an employee.

“Here’s your payment.”

“Thank you very much.”

Although I received the money and bowed my head deeply, I couldn’t hide my disappointment and returned home with a heavy heart.

The elderly lady expressed her gratitude for my assistance whenever she needs it, as she is currently short-staffed. Nonetheless, obtaining a steady job still seems to be a challenge.

Well, there’s no point in brooding. I’ll just be grateful that I could purchase fresh beef inexpensively today. Sure, it’s just scraps that couldn’t be sold, but they’ll taste the same once I stew them.

To my astonishment, when I got home, my sister Stella was sitting in the same spot where she had been in the morning, weeping quietly. Moreover, as soon as I stepped inside the house,

“Big brother!”

She hugged me.

“Whoa…”

I was caught off guard since I couldn’t remember the last time I had physical contact with my sister.

“I was lonely all by myself…”

My sister dabs at her tears and speaks in a cooing tone, which makes me even more concerned. To begin with, I haven’t seen this young lady cry since she was a baby.

“Well, you can do whatever you want as usual. Go and see your old friends…”

I halt my words midway. The Magic Academy that she excelled in, carrying the envy and hopes of everyone. If my little sister’s transformation isn’t a prank, but the consequence of losing all her confidence due to failing, she may find it challenging to reconnect with her old friends. As her elder brother, it’s my responsibility to accept her as she is.

“I’m sorry I left you alone. I had some urgent matters to attend to…”

I explain as I pick up the meat I recently purchased and proceed to the kitchen. However, my sister seems to require my attention and calls out to me from behind.

“Um, big brother…”

She fidgets and blushes deeply.

“U-u-um, where’s the, uh, the powder room? I totally forgot since it’s been ages.”

“Powder room…? You mean the bathroom? It’s just around the corner. Is this house that complicated? Stop joking around. I’m busy cooking dinner.”

“I-I’m sorry!”

She fidgets and dashes off towards the end of the hallway, disappearing into the room.

“What’s with her? Did excessive studying drive her insane?”

“I’ve been trying to tell you, that’s not the real master, it’s Raldine-sama. Please believe me now…”

Belle pops out of nowhere, appearing even more radiant and satisfied than before.

“Old man, maybe you should consider working at the slaughterhouse until you get a recommendation from Raldine-sama. When are we going next?”

“I have no idea. I’m the one who wants to know…”

With a sigh, I started preparing dinner.

My sister, who returned with a refreshed face from the bathroom, curiously observed my work while wandering around me.

It’s a strange feeling. My sister doesn’t typically come close to me voluntarily. It’s understandable, of course. For a younger sister attending an elite academy with both talent and beauty that everyone envies, being seen with a muscle-headed old man who is no different from the average person would be an unbearable humiliation.

What’s going on? Has the long period of rebellion finally come to an end?

Or has she lost her confidence after being reminded of the saying “a frog in a well” among the elites at the academy?

“Oh, this is beef stew…”

After placing the dish on the table in the living room, my sister’s face lit up.

“Stella used to say that it was delicious, with a unique flavor from a remote region…”

“What?” I couldn’t help but ask.

“Ah, no, um. Well, it’s just that it brings back memories. Stella, I mean, I love it. Every time I take a break and come home, Big Brother goes out of his way to order fresh meat and prepare it for me. I’ve been eagerly anticipating big brother’s stew for days now…”

“…”

As I listen to my sister gush about how delicious and satisfying the stew is, I can’t help but feel puzzled.

I knew beef stew was one of her favorites from what she had previously told me, so I made it for her. However, she always gobbles it down silently and then leaves the table without a word, retreating to her room.

Despite that, I don’t understand why Stella has started playing this game, but I don’t mind receiving compliments.

“Let’s eat right away…”

My sister says with a cheerful expression and opens her mouth wide, momentarily freezing her movements.

What is she doing? I tilt my head in confusion.

Impatiently, the sister interjects in a syrupy voice.

“Big brother, if you don’t hurry up, the stew will become cold…”

“Lady Geraldine is a noblewoman of unparalleled status, so you see, she has her meals served by the servants at her estate.”

Belle, who was perched on my shoulder, and I exclaimed, “What?!”

That’s preposterous. Even if it’s the Duke’s household, it’s definitely not like that. Despite my thoughts, I scoop up some stew with a spoon and offer it to my sister, hoping that this small gesture would ease her pained heart.

With every mouthful, she murmurs “delicious, delicious,” in a melodic tone, which sends shivers down my spine.

However, after consuming a quarter of the stew, my younger sister starts to gasp for air and eventually falls silent.

And then…

“My stomach is already full, and I feel like I’m going to burst. What should I do? Big Brother made this stew for me…”

She bursts into tears.

“What’s the matter?!”

I am at a loss for words.

Despite living with rugged men who are accustomed to life on the frontier, I have never encountered a glutton who surpasses my sister. She apparently labels me as a jobless NEET behind my back, but the one who is truly wasting the family’s grain is none other than my sister.

Not only does she possess an insatiable appetite, but she also has an unmatched love for food. I suspect the moment she started resenting me was when she was just a kid, I took the breadcrumbs from her cheek, which she had intended to save for later.

My spine chilled.

Unpleasant sweat dripped from my forehead.

(T-This isn’t my sister…?! W-Who is this person?!)

“That’s why I’ve been telling you all along…”

Belle looks at me with disappointment.

So, is this person the real, unrivaled daughter of the Duke’s family?!

“Ha haaa!!”

I collapsed to the floor.

“I-I-I’m sorry for all the impoliteness, I apologize!”

“Old man, it’s natural, it’s natural right? Your real sister wouldn’t speak like that…”

Belle whispers in my ear.

“Y-Yes, that’s right. I’m sorry, my dear sister…”

The Duke’s daughter, who was wearing my sister’s guise. I forced a smile, attempting to conceal my discomfort.

“Well, big brother, there’s no need to apologize. It’s my fault for having a weak stomach. I’m sorry, but I’m a bit exhausted and would like to retire to my room. Do you know where my room is? I haven’t been home in a while, and I’m not familiar with the place…”

“It’s this way, no, this way, my dear sister…”

I stood up hastily and opened the door to my sister’s room. Since our home is small, it’s located right next to the living room.

Until now, I’ve been taking Belle’s tale with a grain of salt, but the notion of joining the Holy City is becoming increasingly realistic. As the Duke’s daughter spends her vacation here, I can’t help but hope that she’ll remember my name when it’s time for her to depart.

The young lady glanced around the room with curiosity and asked me, who was standing outside the door,

“Big Brother, where can I change?”

“It’s in the closet over there, no, hold on…”

“Could you bring it to me, please?”

“Uh…”

I hesitated for a moment. It had been years since I had set foot in this room. Of course, that was only natural. There was no reason for a man my age to have any business in a young girl’s room.

But the person I was dealing with was the Duke’s daughter. She probably led a life where everything was kept in order.

Reluctantly, I entered my sister’s room and opened the closet. I couldn’t even imagine what kind of punishment I would receive if my sister found out. I quickly retrieved the nightgown and placed it on the bed.

“Well then, goodnight…”

“Wait, big brother…”

As I was about to leave the room, the young lady stopped me.

“What is it? Is there something else, dear sister…”

“Please help me change…”

“What?!”

“Raldine-sama is a person of noble status, so in the mansion, the servants are supposed to assist with changing…”

Belle explained, giving me a knowing look.

“No way! I can’t do that!”

I exclaimed involuntarily.

The Duke’s daughter flinched and began crying again.

“Hey, don’t cry!”

“Hey, old man! The numerous impolite remarks towards Lady Raldine since earlier, and only distancing yourself from the path to becoming an official. If my master finds out, you’ll be punished…”

Belle scolds me sternly while hovering around my face.

What am I supposed to do?

I’m the one who feels like crying!

To become an official, I need to make the Duke’s daughter notice me.

But even if I succeed in becoming an official in the Holy City, if my sister ever finds out that I removed her clothes and saw her bare skin, she’ll tear me apart on the spot, and it will all be for nothing.

But, no, I have to do it.

Damn it, there’s no other way.

Forgive me, sister.

I clear my throat and speak up.

“Dear sister, please listen carefully…”

“Yes, big brother…”

“You may have forgotten from your long life at the academy, you’ve always been independent and used to change your clothes on your own…”

I feel guilty for lying to my sister’s best friend, but I can’t change my mind now.

“Y-Yes, that’s right. I completely forgot. Well, I’ll change my clothes on my own…”

The Duke’s daughter hurriedly began unbuttoning her shirt with an unsteady hand.

“Wait, close the door!”

I promptly shut the door to my younger sister’s room and breathed a deep sigh of relief.

“How long will the Duke’s daughter’s ‘vacation’ last?” I asked Belle.

“She’ll be here for about a month until the new semester of my master, who enrolled in Madou University, begins,” Belle replied, while savoring the meat in the stew.

A month…

“It’s surprisingly long,” I groaned.

“But that means more job opportunities, right? Cheer up, old man. This stew is delicious. Can I have more?”

Belle rushed to the pot, flapping her wings and grabbing more meat.

“Hey, don’t dive into the pot!” I shouted, chasing after Belle as she flew into the kitchen.

“Here,” I scooped some stew onto a teaspoon for Belle.

“Thank you, old man. My master always talked about your stew, so I wanted to try it at least once…”

Belle spoke as she put her mouth on the spoon.

“Stella? I, I see…”

The words of Lady Geraldine, not my younger sister, reverberated in my mind. Was my younger sister yearning for my stew?

Perhaps it was simply because she was hungry, but it didn’t seem like she despised me completely. When I contemplate it in that light, I feel a sense of shame and embarrassment for some reason.

“If you enjoy it, please have some more. I cooked a large pot because I thought my younger sister would eat it…”

I informed Belle.

Chapter 2

I completed my usual early morning task of scavenging the gutters and purchased some bread from the newly opened bakery.

As someone who has even faced dragons in the frontier, it’s pathetic that I’m moved to tears by the task of gutter scavenging, but it’s delightful to be able to buy freshly baked bread that’s as hot as dragon scales before anyone else.

Today, I splurged on more expensive bread than usual and headed back home.

Our family of four – my younger sister, our parents, and I – lives in this house with only two rooms in addition to the kitchen and living room, making it somewhat cramped.

When my younger sister, Stella, was still young, I landed a job as a frontier guard and left home, so she took over my room immediately. Even when I returned home for my bi-annual holidays, I had nowhere to sleep and ended up crashing in the living room.

However, when Stella, an outstanding student, earned a scholarship to the Magic Academy in the Holy City, our parents moved to our mother’s hometown, and we began renting the house to others in recent years.

I returned from my frontier guard duties a few months ago, and yesterday, Stella, who had just graduated from Magic Academy, arrived back home.

For now, my sister and I manage to respect each other’s privacy in our tiny living quarters.

“Good morning, big brother,” my sister, or rather Lady Geraldine, appeared in the living room while I was preparing breakfast in the kitchen.

As I was preparing breakfast in the kitchen, my sister Stella appeared in the living room.

Or, to be more precise, Lady Geraldine, the daughter of the Duke’s family who had taken over my sister’s body.

Since it’s inconvenient, I’ll follow Belle’s lead and secretly refer to her as Raldine from now on.

Belle is an adorable little familiar who claims to be a fairy-like creature dispatched by my sister, who is currently with the Duke’s family in Holy City under the guise of Raldine, to keep an eye on things.

If Raldine can enjoy her vacation here, I might be able to convince her to put in a good word for me to join the military in Holy City and leave my life as a street scavenger behind. With this in mind, I prepare breakfast for Raldine.

According to Belle, Raldine intends to flawlessly impersonate Stella, so I decide to act as if I don’t notice anything. However, when I see Raldine in the living room, I am completely astonished.

Her hair is a mess, her blouse buttons are mismatched, her skirt is on backwards, and she’s wearing socks that don’t match, with one slipping down. Could it be that she hasn’t even washed her face?

My sister doesn’t resemble me at all, but she’s quite adorable in her own way. However, I regret to say that she doesn’t seem like the brilliant person who graduated from Holy City’s Magic Academy not long ago, and instead looks like someone who lacks intelligence.

“Oh, come on, what are you wearing? Dress appropriately. Come on, lift your chin up…”

I halt preparing breakfast and straighten Raldine’s clothing.

It might be impolite to the daughter of the Duke’s family, but her appearance is that of my sister, even though she is a stranger. I can’t bear to see my sister, who was recognized as the town’s most exceptional student, in such a shoddy state.

“Thank you, big brother. It’s a beautiful morning, isn’t it?”

Perhaps accustomed to being pampered, Raldine doesn’t seem to mind my touch and converses with elegance.

Is Raldine a bit of a disappointment?

I can’t help but entertain impolite thoughts like that.

Belle, who appeared out of thin air, landed on my shoulder and remarked, “Well, you see, she’s a lady from a noble family in the depths. She’s a bit more nonchalant than the others…”

“But there’s a limit to it. How can you believe that this is a flawless impersonation…”

As I combed Raldine’s hair while she sat in front of the mirror, I muttered unconsciously.

“Big brother, is everything alright…?”

Raldine turned around, but she didn’t seem to notice Belle’s presence or voice, and if I’m not careful, I might seem like a suspicious man talking to myself.

“It’s nothing. Let’s just face forward…”

“Yes, big brother…”

I combed her glossy reddish-brown hair.

I haven’t done this for my sister since she was a little girl. There was a time when she was attached to me, and she loved that her hair color was the same as mine.

However, ever since a dragon burned off my hair, leaving me with a noticeably bald head, the local kids made fun of my sister, taunting her that she too would end up bald. It was a humiliating experience. However, those bullies received their just desserts when my sister cast a spell on them, and they ended up with the same bald hairstyle as me for six whole months. She even used magic to turn her hair a golden shade. Despite facing repeated scolding at the local school, she proudly sported her magical locks.

“Come to think of it, did you stop using magic to change your hair color?” I asked Raldine suddenly.

“Huh? What do you mean? Stella, I mean, I’ve had this hair color since my first year…” Raldine looked at herself in the mirror, clearly puzzled.

“Everyone in the academy uses magic to switch their hair color as they please, but I, uh, have had this hair color all along…just like big brother…right? Right, isn’t that right?” Raldine looked at my bald head with a worried expression.

“Yeah, that’s right…” I replied, still feeling befuddled.

“Exactly as Raldine-sama says. Old man, did you forget your sister’s hair color after all these years?”

Belle, who was sitting cross-legged and surreptitiously stealing bread, spoke up too.

“…I see…”

I set down my brush.

I felt a pleasant warmth in my stomach, akin to the sensation of eating freshly baked bread that was too hot to handle.

Raldine, no, my younger sister Stella – whom I had just combed her hair and tidied her clothes, looked adorable, and her stunning reddish-brown hair suited her perfectly.

“Well, I’ll go back to preparing breakfast while the bread is still warm. Just be patient a little longer…”

“Yes, big brother…”

Raldine beamed at me.

“By the way, why can’t Raldine see you? Is it some kind of magic that you’re using?”

As I continued cooking in the kitchen, I nonchalantly inquired of Belle.

“Well, she’s from a distinguished lineage. She’s too pure to perceive demons like us…”

Belle responded while munching on a piece of bread soaked in yesterday’s stew.

“But she’s a mage, isn’t she?! She graduated from the Magic Academy right?!”

I was so startled that I nearly dropped the plate. How could someone with magical abilities fail to sense the existence of a subjugated familiar like Belle? Even I can perceive familiars, not just Belle.

“Well, despite its name as the Magic Academy, there are noble privileges. Furthermore, to the credit of Lady Geraldine, those with more distinguished lineage tend to have better compatibility with benevolent spirits and the like. Unlike me, who is the Lord of the Flies, Beelzebub, so perhaps I’m instinctively denied existence…”

Belle, with bits of stew clinging to her lips, gave a wistful smile.

“Haah…”

I heaved a deep sigh.

Can a magic user who is too lackadaisical to even perceive familiars genuinely help me in qualifying to serve in the Holy City? Am I truly wasting my time with this endeavor? Maybe I should focus on improving my scavenging skills in the gutters rather than indulging in peculiar dreams.

“I’m exhausted for some reason…”

Of course, it’s not because I woke up early and scavenged the gutters.

Chapter 3

“It smells heavenly~”

The aroma of coffee permeated the living room, and Raldine closed her eyes and inhaled deeply with her shapely nose.

Although it was labeled as breakfast, it was a very modest meal consisting only of bread with cream and jam, and scrambled eggs and sautéed tomatoes on the side. Additionally, there was fresh milk that the milkman had just delivered this morning, and lemonade to accompany the freshly brewed coffee.

If it was just me, I could have made do with bread and water, but I made it a little more lavish so that Raldine wouldn’t be disappointed. However, even this would be substandard compared to the servants’ meals in the Duke’s household. Well, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. It’s a valuable lesson to learn about the common people’s way of life.

Nevertheless, Raldine was delighted and clapped her hands, exclaiming, “It looks scrumptious…”

So I didn’t feel guilty either. It was worth splurging on more expensive bread than usual.

“Well then, let’s dig in…”

Saying that, Raldine opened her mouth like a fledgling bird, anticipating me to feed her.

I knew it would come to this.

“Sister…”

I recited the lines I had prepared.

“I’m living here with you now, but I will eventually leave when I find a job. So, to ensure you won’t have any difficulties even if that happens, you should start preparing your own meals…”

I believed this statement would suffice to persuade her to begin eating independently, but then Raldine made a preposterous comment.

“But isn’t it customary for commoners to feed each other when they dine together like this?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Look, it’s right here…”

Raldine confidently displayed a book for young girls, containing illustrations of young men and women sharing drinks and feeding each other. It appeared that she had acquired mistaken social customs from such nonsense.

“No, that’s not what it means… It’s when two people who are in love…”

“Does big brother not love me?”

Raldine’s expression was as if the world was about to end.

“N-No, that’s not it. It’s when couples exhibit their happiness to others… No, wait.”

What am I saying! I sound like a very lonely person.

“Oh, I see. It’s about dining etiquette in public! O-Of course, I knew that. I was just teasing you, Big Brother. You know I can be a bit of a tomboy…”

However, Raldine seemed to have grasped it in her own way.

And she started to make unnecessary excuses without being prompted.

“Anyway, forget about that. Just eat.”

“Yes, I’ll enjoy it once again…”

Raldine started eating obediently this time, but soon she appeared to have something on her mind.

“Big Brother, Big Brother, look at this!”

She called out proudly.

“I’m not a child anymore, so I can drink black coffee now.”

However, after saying that and taking a sip of the coffee, she made a face as if she had just swallowed sour milk.

“Ughh…”

If this strange act of pretending to be my sister, Stella? I don’t want to brag, but my sister may not even be capable of drinking coffee, but she’s certainly not foolish.

“Don’t force it. Why not add some sugar and milk and enjoy it?” I suggested.

Raldine looked crestfallen.

“Stella always admired how her big brother looked so mature while drinking coffee that he carefully ground and brewed.Um…I mean, I still do, actually. So I thought that if I showed Big Brother that I could drink black coffee too, I could join the grown-up club and make him happy.”

“…”

That feeling is back again. It’s like a warm, fuzzy sensation spreading from my belly. It’s like sipping warm coffee on a frigid winter day.

“Well, since I already frothed up the milk, why don’t you have some too?”

I added a sprinkle of sugar and frothed milk to Raldine’s cup, creating a drink that was more akin to milk with a tinge of coffee than coffee with milk. Then, I dripped a drop of coffee on top and etched a picture of a feline-like creature.

“Wow!!” Raldine’s eyes widened so much it seemed like they might overflow.

“Magic?! Big brother, are you also a mage? I thought you were just an unemployed loser…!!”

“No, it’s fine. You’re right, I’m just an unemployed loser…”

My own words pained me deeply.

“How lovely. I’m happy. Stella is one lucky girl…”

Of course, this wasn’t the real Stella. But it felt like my sister really thought that way, and it amused me.

“I’ll make as many as you’d like…”

“Really?! Then, next time, please draw the phoenix rising from the ashes…”

“…Another time…”

After finishing the meal, Raldine began flitting around me as I cleaned up. While I don’t mind her being so affectionate, it’s a bit disconcerting, and just as I was thinking that…

“I feel bad that you’re doing all the work, Big Brother. Please let me help you with something…”

She said something so admirable.

“No, there’s no need for that…”

I was about to say that, but this is Stella’s home as well. It might be odd if we didn’t share household chores.

“Well, then maybe I can ask you for a favor…”

“Anything you need…”

I gestured towards a pot in the corner of the kitchen.

“There’s a lot of stew leftover from yesterday, but it’ll spoil before we can finish it in this weather. Could you preserve it with some ice magic or something?”

“Of course! Leave it to me!”

Raldine stepped forward and held out her right hand towards the sizable pot of stew, moving her lips slightly and murmuring something.

“Hah!”

With a sharp cry, numerous icicles flew out of her palm and struck the stew pot.

“That should do the trick!”

I stood in utter amazement at the sight of the kitchen corner, now transformed into a frozen tundra alongside the stew pot.

“Thank you, that really helped…” I managed to say, still in awe.

Raldine, glowing with pride, sauntered off to the living room.

“Don’t worry. Raldine-sama’s magic is just temporary. By evening, the spell will have completely vanished, and the ice will have melted away too…”

Belle, seated on my shoulder, assured me as she watched Raldine flip through a magazine meant for young girls. Her hands and mouth were smeared with jam.

“Aristocrats are all about appearances. They adore all things flashy, don’t they…”

“You always speak as though you know everything. Yesterday, you had the nerve to proclaim, ‘A noble daughter like her must be fed by the servants.’…”

Belle flashed me a grin, revealing her jam-coated teeth.

“Hahaha, my bad. But geez, you never believe me, old man. Hey, old man, could I get some coffee milk too?”

“Hmph…”

As I poured coffee into a small milk pitcher, Raldine’s words kept reverberating in my mind: “He’s so mature. I’ve always admired him.”

“What does your master, Stella, really think of me? Apart from being an unemployed loser who eats and sleeps all day.”

Belle pondered for a moment before responding.

“Well, she did mention that you smell like an old man. And then there’s your sweat and… your feet.”

“F-Forget it. Just drink it before it gets cold.”

“Thanks, old man,” Belle quipped, making a mischievous fluttering sound with her wings as she approached the pitcher and took a sip.

Chapter 4

Despite coming all the way here for a vacation, it wasn’t ideal to confine her indoors. Yesterday, I unwittingly left her alone, so I suggested we go out together as a way to make up for it.

However, even though she was a different person inside, it’s probably the first time I’ve walked side by side with my grown-up younger sister like this. I feel a bit jittery. I realized I had never walked beside a woman, let alone my sister, besides our mother. Hmm. I’ve moved past being nervous and now just feel pathetic. It was a lonely youth.

Raldine clutched a guidebook that she had apparently purchased beforehand.

“I really want to visit this place…”

She said and opened the page to reveal the words, “[Teens Love It! [Like a Drink! Fizzy and Fluffy Castella Central Square Store].”

…I’d be grateful if we could overlook what occurred there and move on as soon as possible.

However, despite going out, as an unemployed person, I had no extra money to spend on entertainment. The money I earned from scavenging in the gutters vanished in no time, and was barely enough to cover these expenses. I had to be mindful of my spending.

Reluctantly, we headed to the Princess Victoria Memorial Botanical Garden near the central square. Although it was named a botanical garden, it was a vast forest park that housed a greenhouse, pond, and outdoor concert area. It was the pride of our town, and there was also a library and an art museum on the grounds, which were accessible to the public free of charge. As expected, the high taxes paid off.

An orchestra was performing on the outdoor stage, so Raldine and I sat next to each other and watched. Raldine listened intently, sitting with her knees together. It was the kind of music that would usually put me to sleep, but the fact that a girl who had taken over my sister’s body was sitting next to me made it sound different, and I felt as though I understood art.

I can’t help but wonder if Raldine’s house has nightly soirées (evening parties) with music like this. Stella is probably relishing the luxurious lifestyle with the Duke’s family in Holy City at the moment, while Raldine is stuck in her own body.

Speaking of Stella, Belle divulged last night that she’s been accepted to Madou University in Holy City. She’s truly exceptional, almost unbelievable for my sister. However, attending university will pose another challenge. Even during her time in the higher grades of Magic Academy, it was a struggle to gather enough funds for textbooks and other expenses, despite receiving a scholarship for tuition and housing fees. I need to secure a job soon. It would be a huge help if Raldine could vouch for me and assist me in securing a position, but…

The sound of applause brings me back to reality.

“Big brother, you seem to have a genuine passion for music. You were completely engrossed in listening…”

“Not really, I don’t quite understand music, but it made me feel happy…”

Without intending to reveal my financial troubles, I blurted out something nonsensical.

“I feel the same way…”

Raldine, who had taken on my sister’s appearance, smiled at me. It was a gentle and lovely smile that exuded calmness and softness.

Although she looked identical, I couldn’t help but feel that this girl was not Stella.

Her face didn’t seem to carry any concerns about money.

If it’s Raldine, then it should be much easier for her to hire an extra warrior as a bodyguard than standing in line for more than 30 minutes to buy some “fluffy castella cakes.” I’ll try my best to get her to hire me.

“There’s a pond over there…”

Raldine pointed towards the pond.

“Shall we go have a look? There might be migrating birds…”

I tried to get into the spirit of things, with the job-hunting process engraved in my heart.

“Migrating birds? I would love to see…”

“Does Stella have a fondness for birds?”

“Yes. And how about you, big brother?”

“I used to hunt ducks a lot during camping trips. They’re delicious…”

“Well…”

Oops, I made a mistake.

I recall hearing that discussing such topics is not suitable for women and children. They say it’s savage or something. Maybe my sister despises me because I always talk about these barbarous things.

However, Raldine spoke with enthusiasm, “By the way, big brother eats iguanas and cactus fruit too…”

“Ugh, how do you know that?”

“Of course, I know. Didn’t Big Brother mention it in his letter?”

“Huh?”

“I read it too…no, I mean, I showed it to my friends. Cactus fruit contains both water and nutrients, so it’s a valuable commodity in the desert. However, in the southeastern region, it’s a common fruit that you can purchase at any grocery store, right? I tied Big Brother’s letter with a ribbon and kept it safely. I read it over and over again, so I remember it…”

Once again, Raldine’s unexpected words leave me puzzled. Yesterday was just like this.

With nothing else to do, I’ve written letters to my family from the frontier before. However, the replies I received from Stella were only dry, formal letters that she must have reluctantly written on behalf of our illiterate parents. While she may have read my letters aloud to our parents at least once, I presumed they were later used to ignite the kitchen fire and discarded.

“I’m sorry if it was hard to read, I’m not very proficient in reading and writing…”

That was all I could manage to say.

“No, I found it quite engrossing as it gave me a vivid picture of the lives of people in the frontier…”

Raldine responded with her usual gentle smile, but I couldn’t help but feel that she appeared somewhat forlorn (lonely).

Belle suddenly appeared and mentioned, “Oh, by the way, I heard that Raldine-sama’s second elder brother became the frontier earl in a territory swap a few years ago… Her caring elder brother, who always looked out for the slow Raldine-sama, has gone far away, so she must be feeling lonely…”

I see. It must be a great challenge for her older brother to govern an unfamiliar land even if it was a directive from higher authorities. Perhaps they could enlist the assistance of a knowledgeable warrior who is well-versed with the frontier. Let’s make an appeal from this area.

However, the Duke’s family siblings seem to have a good relationship, don’t they? Maybe that’s why she was so fond of me, an old man, as an older brother. It’s almost enviable.

Belle grumbled with her wings buzzing.

“If only Master and Lady Geraldine could keep switching places like this forever. If it were Master, she could easily take control not only of the Duke’s family but also of the marriage proposal destinations in other countries. Then even an old man like you…wa!”

“Hey, you annoying toilet fly!”

Belle paled at the sound of my growling voice and halted her words.

“Watch your language. My sister may be mischievous, but she’s not a vile person. She’s a girl who climbed up the ranks through her own efforts. If you talk like that again, I’ll rip out your tongue, pluck your wings, skewer you, and feed you to the sparrows…”

“Uwaa, uwa, s-sorry, big brother…”

Belle turned pale and trembled. It’s not entertaining to bully the weak, so I’ll let it slide for now. Goodness, what part of her is a Bellezebub?

Just then, “Kyaaa!”

Following the source of the scream, I spotted Raldine, who was reaching out to touch the waterfowl and leaning over the fence, tumble into the pond with a loud splash.

❂❂❂

“Eww, big brother, I’m all soaked and gross…”

If someone were to grumble and say, “I can’t take it anymore. I’m going back home…”, it would close the door to my ambition of becoming an official. I swiftly brought Raldine, who was soaked from head to toe with seaweed stuck to her hair and wiping her tears, back home. I lit some “soap incense” that would purify her body and gave her some “mild pepper drops” that would warm her up before tucking her into bed. Due to the stress of being in an unfamiliar house since yesterday, Raldine dozed off without eating dinner.

This evening, I warmed up the stew that Raldine had frozen earlier, and it had thawed nicely by then, so I sat down to have dinner by myself. While eating, I heard an irritating “waaan” noise, but I couldn’t locate its source.

“I’m not angry anymore, so come out already…”

Reluctantly, Belle emerged with a guilty expression, but her eyes widened when she saw a dinner that was prepared for her.

“W-What’s this?”

“It’s a tea set for dolls. I remembered it was sitting in the storage room since I gave it to Stella a long time ago. She doesn’t play with dolls…”

Belle quietly arranged her dinner on the miniature dishes and sat down at the table where the food was already laid out.

“Thank you, big brother…”

“That’s creepy. Just call me old man…”

“Thank you, old man…”

Belle smiled a little shyly and began to eat her dinner while sitting at the edge of the table, but she frowned at me for a moment.

“Old man, there’s something strange about the smell today…”

“Yeah, the soap incense, right? Mint and spiced orange?”

“Hmm… I prefer the typical old man scent…” Belle replied as she chewed on her bread.

“That’s the kind of fragrance that toilet flies are attracted to anyway…” I sighed.

“I’m not a toilet fly, I’m a Bellezebub,” Belle retorted.

“Sure, sure,” I said, not convinced that it made a difference if it was a toilet fly or the king of flies in this situation. After a brief pause, I added, “Well, thanks anyways…”

Chapter 5

So, my sister Stella who goes by the name Lady Geraldine or Raldine while using Stella’s body and I, have been living together for about a week now.

We don’t have any specific plans. During the day, we visit popular shops listed in guidebooks and spend our time wandering around the famous botanical garden.

One day, I took her to the market to purchase some essentials and she was so thrilled that she couldn’t contain her excitement.

“Big brother, it’s more economical to buy two pumpkins instead of just one,” she said, stopping in front of each store and pointing out the best deals.

“Big brother, today cheese is twice the points,” she continued.

“And if you buy a lot of this bread, you’ll get a free plate.”

I had to keep a close eye on her, or she would end up receiving samples of fruit and side dishes from shopkeepers, and I would eventually be forced to buy something.

However, Raldine finds the diverse shops in the working-class district more intriguing than the trendy establishments along the main street leading to the central square. For me too, buying a glass of lemonade at the market in the working-class district is a more refreshing experience and costs only a fifth of the price, so I greatly appreciate it.

To attend to Raldine’s needs, I must take on multiple low-paying jobs while she sleeps. These include early morning gutter scavenging, late-night bat extermination at the mines, and other tasks arranged by the Adventurer’s Guild.

If I could take on jobs further from the city, I could earn the equivalent of a month’s worth of gutter scavenging in just three days, but I can’t leave Raldine alone at home, making my situation quite challenging.

Still, I’m doing all of this for the sake of finding a good job. I dream of being listed as one of the warriors accompanying Raldine when she gets married and enters the palanquin.

It was around this time that we received letters addressed to both me and Stella. I received one from my parents in the countryside and Stella received one from the Duke’s family in the Holy City.

“Stella—no, this is from my best friend Geraldine!” cried Raldine as she snatched the letter from the table.

With eager eyes, she read the report about Stella, who was posing as Raldine in the Holy City.

“What did your best friend say?” I asked, trying to act nonchalant. I was curious to learn more about my estranged sister’s life in the Duke’s household.

Suddenly, Raldine stopped reading and exclaimed, “Oh, Mrs. Ease was fired!”

“Mrs. Ease? Who’s that?”

“She was the head housekeeper who managed the maids at my best friend’s house,” explained Raldine. “Apparently, she was accepting bribes from merchants to give them an advantage when the Duke’s family made purchases. She used the Duke’s family money to purchase overpriced furnishings during a recent renovation. I had no clue… um, I’m curious as to how she was discovered?”

Raldine gazed at the letter in disbelief, while Belle, munching on jam bread and I sat at the table, exchanging knowing looks.

“Of course, it was the master who uncovered the truth,” boasted Belle, lifting her chin smeared with jelly.

Raldine continued her tale.

“It turns out that even Mr. Ease, the Duke’s family accountant and husband of Mrs. Ease, was caught in the act. He was working with an acquaintance magician to manipulate the account books with complex magic. I was shocked, especially considering Mr. Ease’s reputation. But the magician has gone into hiding——Ah Ursula-sama! one of the executives of the Magician’s Guild, was involved in shady dealings in various places. Imagine that!”

It’s amusing to think about the confusion “Raldine’s” transformation must have caused among the Duke’s household. Stella, known as a tomboy in our town, is proving to be unstoppable even under the guise of Raldine.

Raldine said she was going to her room to write a response to a letter. She likely has a mountain of information to report about what’s been happening here.

As for me, I read my parents’ letter, but it couldn’t bring me the same joy as Stella’s letter had.

To be more specific, the letter was actually a set of documents sent to my parents from Madou University, where Stella will be enrolling this semester. Since my parents are unable to read, they had forwarded the documents to me to handle.

The letter contained information such as entrance fees, annual tuition fees, and facility fees (waived for scholarship students), student dormitories (available only to those who request it and exempt for scholarship students), the cost of purchasing teaching materials, a request for donations from the support association, and information about separate savings plans.

This was a real dilemma. The waiver of tuition and dormitory fees was a relief, but it wouldn’t be enough. Even if I got everything second-hand, I wouldn’t be able to make do with cheap, low-quality staff and robes.

I wondered if the savings I had left at the Adventurer’s Guild would be enough. I was at a loss, but then I suddenly noticed the decorative shelf in the living room.

“Oh right, let’s cash in the reward money that came with the medal I received,” I said to myself.

“Reward money?” inquired Belle, who was perched on my shoulder, as she looked over the papers with me.

“Each medal comes with a set amount of reward money added to my pension. After taxes are taken out for early payment, there should still be a significant sum left. And we can sell the medals too – their purity might be low, but it’s still gold,” I explained.

I had hoped that receiving a medal would earn me my sister’s respect and admiration, so I had displayed it prominently. But it seemed that she hadn’t even noticed it.

I had let the medal inflate my ego and made me reluctant to do menial jobs like scavenging gutters or working in a slaughterhouse. Rather than clinging to my past achievements, it would be better to let it go and accept reality, and work towards a better future.

I realized that I had been talking to myself and quickly closed the papers.

“You idiot! Who reads someone else’s letter? And I’m warning you, don’t say anything to Stella..”

“Yes, yes,” replied Belle in a disinterested tone, flapping her wings and flying off elsewhere.

After confirming that Raldine had retired for the night, I set off to carry out my usual task of eliminating the blood-sucking bats in the crystal mine.

Despite feeling down in the dumps lately due to financial stress, I found myself reinvigorated and moving with greater ease. I beat my own personal best for bat extermination and made my way back home.

Even though it was late at night, the pleasure district beyond the town walls was alive with activity.

“Hey big brother, could you buy one?” a young woman, around 20 years old, called out to me as I navigated the crowded streets. She was a street vendor selling trinkets.

“I don’t need anything,” I replied.

She showed me a selection of accessories made from shells arranged in the shape of flowers.

“Take a look, you won’t find anything like this around here. Normally, only nobles or wealthy women can afford such intricate craftsmanship.”

“Really? Even nobles? What about the Duke’s family?” I asked, leaning forward out of interest.

“Yes,yes, that’s right. This one in particular is a favorite among noble daughters. Please help me out, I’ve had a rough day and can’t go back empty-handed to my boss. You must have someone to give it to, right?”

“I’ll take one, no, two,” I said without hesitation.

I was confident I could afford it and, besides, it wouldn’t be a significant expense. One was for Raldine and the other for Stella, who was still residing with the Duke’s family. If it was a gift from Raldine, Stella would likely accept it.

“Thank you,” the young vendor said, flashing a grin.

When I returned home, I was greeted by a bright living room. To my surprise, Raldine, who was supposed to be sleeping in her room, was sitting at the table, looking downcast as she gazed at a stack of university documents despite the late hour.

Even stranger, Belle was perched atop Raldine’s head, which was a first for me since her arrival.

As I entered the room, Raldine glanced up, but then quickly returned her attention to the papers.

“Are you still awake? Can’t sleep?” I asked.

“Not really…”

Raldine’s responses were uncharacteristically short and sullen, causing me to wonder if something was wrong. Could it be related to the university paperwork Stella had received? Although it had nothing to do with Raldine, she couldn’t ignore it since she was pretending to be Stella. This situation was becoming increasingly complicated.

“Would you like me to heat up some milk for you?” I asked.

Raldine replied without looking up from the paperwork.

I couldn’t help but wonder if something was amiss. I turned to Belle, who was sitting on Raldine’s head with a worried expression, but she just shrugged and remained silent.

“Oh, that reminds me. I picked up a few souvenirs earlier,” I said, trying to lighten the mood as I took out the hair ornaments I had purchased.

“Here, there are two of them. Why don’t you send one to your best friend who wrote you that letter? I heard they’re popular among noble girls.”

I placed the hair ornament in Raldine’s hair, but she quickly brushed my hand after and stood up abruptly.

“What?! Are you an idiot? Nobles wouldn’t want something like this!” she exclaimed before storming out of the living room.

“I-Is that so…” I said, feeling embarrassed and defeated.

It suddenly dawned on me that a street vendor like that wouldn’t have the luxury of offering the kind of decorative items that noble families would use. I realized my mistake and felt foolish for being tricked into buying something so impractical. I had no right to judge Raldine.

Raldine stopped and turned her back to me.

“If you want to give it to me, I-I don’t mind,” she stammered. “I-I don’t really like it, it’s just going to be a waste if it gets thrown away. I’m not happy about it, okay? Don’t get the wrong idea!” she exclaimed, before rushing into the room.

I was left standing there, bewildered by Raldine’s sudden outburst.

❂❂❂

“Good morning, big brother…”

I had just finished my usual morning routine of scouring the gutters after a brief nap, and was now in the kitchen preparing breakfast when Raldine emerged from the room, as per usual.

As always, her buttons were mismatched, and her skirt was askew. Her hair was still a tangled mess, complete with a tangled hair ornament.

“Thank you for the lovely gift, big brother. It matches perfectly with my best friend’s. I’ll send one to Stel…I mean, Raldine right away…”

The way Raldine spoke with a gentle voice and innocent expression made it seem like she was truly sincere. Could it be that her personality changes from day to night? Her demeanor and sharp tongue were just like the real…

“Ah!” I exclaimed without thinking.

“What’s wrong, big brother?”

Raldine asked, tilting her head in confusion.

“It’s nothing,” I quickly replied, trying to hide my thoughts.

It dawned on me that the Stella from yesterday, or rather Raldine who had taken Stella’s place, was actually the real Stella.

This was all so confusing!

But, the bottom line was that Stella was back home.

“Old man, you’re so slow,” Belle chided me from her perch on my shoulder.

“Shut up,” I retorted as I placed the French toast and lemonade in the doll dishes in the kitchen.

…Your master isn’t cute at all.

“What? Old man…”

“It’s nothing, just eat quickly.”

Chapter 6

“Hey, have you heard about Ursula, the former executive of the Magician Guild? Word on the street is that she’s hiding near Mt. Orlando around here…”

Belle munched on her brioche as I busied myself with breakfast preparations.

“Ursula? Wasn’t she the one who colluded with the Duke’s accountant to embezzle money?” I asked.

“That’s the one. My master punished her severely, and she’s apparently weakened. Can’t the old man catch her somehow? There’s a hefty bounty on her head, so you might not even have to sell those lousy medals…”

Belle remarked, a bit harshly but intriguing nonetheless. My heart skipped a beat at the possibility, but I quickly regained my composure.

“Mt. Orlando? It’ll take me three days to travel there and back. I can’t neglect my scavenging job.”

“Just skip them.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. I can’t just abandon my responsibilities. Are you really a Bellezebub? You sound like an irresponsible youngster. Geez…”

“Ugh, so troublesome. Then why not use teleportation magic?”.

“Using magic is easy for you to say. Do you think I have magical powers?”

“It’s not the old man who will be using it.”

Belle said with a look of exasperation.

“Then who will?”

“Good morning, big brother,” Raldine appeared in the living room, looking as unkempt as ever. “It’s a lovely morning, isn’t it?”

❂❂❂

“Teleportation magic? Of course, I can do it. It’s a required subject… although I’m not very proficient at it,” Raldine replied.

“I see,” I murmured, a little surprised to learn that Raldine was capable of teleportation magic, despite being unaware of Belle’s existence.

Raldine had also used magic to freeze the stew a few days earlier. I had initially thought of her as a noble who had entered through the back door, but it turned out that she had taken all the necessary courses.

Despite this, I couldn’t let the Duke’s daughter, who was soon to be married, put herself in danger. I would teleport to a location a little distance away from Mt. Orlando and quickly clean up everything, while Raldine could enjoy her lunch in a safe place.

“La la la♪ Big brother, let’s go on a picnic to the mountains♪ We can enjoy the leftover brioche from this morning, along with some refreshing lemonade and delicious egg rolls♪”

I suggested to Raldine that we venture out to the outskirts for a change of scenery. With high spirits, she eagerly prepared for our excursion, humming a tune and donning an apron and triangular scarf reminiscent of a fairy tale heroine. Despite looking like my sister, her appearance was so charming that I couldn’t help but grin.

“Well, big brother, you look quite heroic!”

Her kind words and endearing demeanor only added to her already delightful appearance. Despite appearing as my younger sister on the outside, Raldine’s personality was quite distinct.

In a corner of the backyard, Raldine drew a magic circle, standing at its center with the lunch basket in hand while I stood behind her with Belle perched upon my shoulder.

“Alright, let’s go. We’ll be safe in the vicinity of Mt. Orlando…”

With a wave of her wand and a mystical chant, a bluish-white light radiated from the magic circle, and we disappeared into its enchanting aura.

⁂⁂⁂⁂⁂

The mage organization, headquartered in the Holy City and pledging loyalty to Saint-sama, is an elite group of proud and honorable individuals. However, it’s not fair to assume that all top members share these qualities. While leaders such as the captain and vice-captain may exhibit some decency, high-ranking executives with no clear purpose are merely granted honorary positions for their useless nobility.

People like Ursula, who seemed cunning, may be good at scheming, but they may not be great mages in reality. Otherwise, even though Stella is a prodigy at the mage academy, she is still a fledgling mage who hasn’t even enrolled in university, so there’s no way she could easily corner her.

When facing fellow warriors, we hold great respect for each other’s swords and aspirations. Despite any disparities in strength, it is never acceptable to strip away not only the victory but also the pride of an opponent through cruel actions. Of course, if our adversary is a monster, a different approach may be necessary.

On the contrary, the conflicts between mages are far more savage compared to those of warriors. They seize each other’s magic power and push their opponents to the brink of no return. Typically, before this point is reached, the weaker combatant concedes, and the fight is called off. However, Ursula must have misjudged Stella and challenged her recklessly, resulting in a significant loss of her magic power.

After narrowly escaping, Ursula must have erected a barrier on Mt. Orlando using the little magic power she had left, with the aim of regaining her strength and re-emerging. She must have been attempting to garner support from numerous influential figures who would be in jeopardy if her wicked deeds were exposed.

Whilst devising her plans, Ursula was suddenly startled by a pale blue light that emerged from the ground, revealing a girl, an old man, and a toilet fly.

“What on earth are you lot?!” Ursula exclaimed.

“Oh, our apologies. I made a mistake with the coordinates…” replied Raldine calmly.

It appears that we have been transported inside Ursula’s barrier. The fact that such an occurrence is possible, even if it was accidental, is astounding.

“She made a really flashy mistake…” I exclaimed.

“That’s because noble magic is flashy!”

Belle quipped from her usual spot, perched cross-legged on my shoulder.

“Is that what this is about?”

I asked, feeling a growing apprehension towards Raldine’s seemingly boundless power.

“You!”

Ursula yelled, creating a wall with the erected barrier.

“Let’s end this swiftly,” I said, pulling Raldine, who was bewildered by the situation, towards me and placing my hand on my sword’s hilt before stepping forward.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t lend you my power. A familiar can’t obey orders from anyone but their master…”

“Is that so? I am going through great lengths for your master’s sake. Oh well…”

I unsheathed my rusty longsword, which I thankfully did not sell when I was in dire financial straits.

“W-what?! You cannot be serious…!”

Belle gasped upon seeing the drawn sword. If she recognizes this sword, then it appears she is not just an ordinary toilet fly after all.

The blade glowed with a brilliant gold light, which transformed into flickering flames that coalesced into the form of a majestic golden dragon.

The dragon smashed through the magical barrier and lunged towards Ursula, attacking her with fiery breath.

“Aahhh!!”

Ursula let out a piercing scream as she fell to the ground. I had no intention of killing her, but the dragon had robbed her of her magic power, causing her to lose consciousness. I needed to bring her back to the Holy City and investigate her crimes.

“Don’t take it personally,” I said as I secured Ursula’s restraints.

After my assault, Ursula was reduced to a feeble old woman with only a trace of her former magical abilities. It was regrettable, but I had no choice. If Raldine were injured in the attack, it could jeopardize my chances of finding employment.

“Well, is this the bad mage friend of Mr. Ease? What a coincidence…”

⁂⁂⁂⁂⁂

In a small farming village at the foot of Mt. Orlando, there existed a branch office of the Adventurer’s Guild, where I handed Ursula over to receive the bounty. When I saw the amount of the reward, it exceeded my expectations, and I felt a wave of relief knowing it would cover Stella’s university preparation fees.

“Congratulations, oldman…”

Belle congratulated me on my success, but I gave credit to Stella for her invaluable contribution.

“Even if that girl disguised as Raldine had taken down Ursula, the money wouldn’t have come to me anyway,” I explained.

“I see, I knew that…”

“Anyway, it’s a relief. I wanted to save the reward money from the medal for my parents’ retirement…”

“By the way, Oldman, there was a rumor that you made a dragon kneel on the border, I guess it was true,” she said, admiring the long sword on my waist.

I smiled wryly. “Some of the guys were getting too excited, so I just politely asked them to quiet down. Looking back, I regret going a bit too far, but I was young then.”

In the past, I once faced a dragon in the borderlands, but lacking any magical powers, I was unable to withstand its fiery attack and lost all my hair. I pondered over the value of magical power versus hair, which was the better option?

I lightly tapped the hilt of my long sword.

“I was told to call for his aid in times of trouble, but I wonder if it was just a polite gesture. Do you think he’ll come if I call him? I don’t want to bother him by pretending to be friends.”

“Well, of course he would come. After all, he entrusted you with the dragon sword as a sign of submission…”

Belle’s expression twitched slightly.

That was reassuring to hear. While scavengers had no use for dragons, having their favor may come in handy for future job opportunities.

“Big brother! Please help me, big brother!”

As I exited the guild office, I saw Raldine, who had been waiting outside, being surrounded by sheep, leaving her unable to move. She had a basket on her head to keep her lunch safe.

“No, no, shoo! Please go away. This is my big brother’s and my lunch, so we won’t give it to you. Ahh, it tickles. Stop it, please, no, ahh, kyaaah…”

“Oh, she fell…”

Raldine vanished into the flock of fluffy sheep.

Chapter 7

Raldine was crying with half-sobs after having her lunch stolen and being trampled by sheep. But finally, she regained her smile when I bought her a freshly squeezed milk and newly laid egg custard pudding that was sold on the ranch.

Meanwhile, Belle disappeared into the cowshed, thrilled.

I sat on the grass in the shade and fed Raldine the custard pudding. I couldn’t help but notice her delicate collarbone peeking through the gap in her blouse.

No, stop it! I shook my head vigorously. She still looks like my sister, no matter how different she is on the inside!

What am I thinking?!

“Big brother, are you cold?”

“N-No, I’m fine.”

“Now, here,” she said, taking off the scarf on her head and putting it over my shoulder.

After finishing the pudding, I lay down next to Raldine. I had spent the day with her and worked as a day laborer at night, so it was nice to be able to relax like this.

“What kind of girl is Lady Geraldine, the friend who gave you a letter the other day?”

Suddenly, those words escaped my lips, and I berated myself for letting them slip out.

“I’ve got nothing interesting to say. I’m just a dull and useless person…”

Raldine spoke after a brief pause.

“I always manage to mess up at the academy, dragging everyone down with me. Once, instead of brewing a healing potion for our herbology class, I accidentally made an elixir. Another time, I summoned a toad but ended up calling forth a two-headed giant snake…”

I gasped in shock, “Y-You can accidentally conjure an elixir and summon a giant snake?”

“It just happens for some reason. But even if I attempt to brew something intentionally, it never goes as planned. If I try making an elixir, it turns out toxic. And instead of summoning a snake, a bunch of yamabiru (Japanese mountain leeches) might come raining down from the sky… it’s caused a lot of frustration among my classmates.”

That’s why I can’t get anyone to partner up with me during practical lessons. Of course, it’s understandable.

Except for Stella. She always finds me hilarious and willingly partners up with me

…Ever since elementary school at the magic academy, I had been friendless. However, the three years I spent with Stella in high school were the most blissful days of my life.

Suddenly, Raldine clutched her mouth in panic, and I feigned sleep to avoid suspicion.

“Big brother, are you asleep?” she questioned, pinching my nose hard enough to rouse me from slumber.

“Big brother…” Raldine nestled her head on my chest.

My body tensed, and my heart raced. To mask my unease from Raldine, I pictured myself fleeing from a swarm of Yamabiru.

Once, during a visit to the library with Raldine, I covertly browsed through a book called “Royal Journal.” In its latest issue, I came across an article titled “[Geraldine, the Duke’s daughter, who graduated with top marks from the magic academy’s home economics department and is also a fellow student, is preparing to wed the neighboring country’s second prince, Henry].”

The illustration of Lady Geraldine, with her serene expression and gentle smile, surrounded by her luscious golden locks and long, dark lashes, captured my attention. Her piercing blue eyes stole my gaze, and I couldn’t look away.

The warriors tasked with protecting the border hold the Saint-sama of the Holy City in high esteem, revering her as their beloved leader as they carry out their grueling duties. Although no one has ever seen the Saint-sama in person, everyone holds their own image of her in their hearts.

To me, Lady Geraldine embodied the very image of the Saint-sama I had envisioned.

It’s hard to fathom that someone so beautiful and noble is lying by my side, sharing my bed and meals.

It’s a surreal tale.

I never would have guessed that the same unfortunate girl who was being lectured by the librarian while flipping through books over there was actually Lady Geraldine.

That was my initial thought.

“Stella, Stella…”

I gently shook Raldine, who had dozed off and drooled on my shirt.

“Yes, big brother…”

Raldine rubbed her eyes and wiped the drool from my shirt.

“It’s time to head back. If we miss sunset, we won’t be able to use teleportation magic to enter the town…”

“I understand…”

As Raldine hesitated outside the souvenir shop of the ranch, I urged us to check it out. Suddenly, her eyes lit up as she eagerly piled eggs, milk, cheese, and more into our shopping cart.

“Are you sure you can eat all of that?”

“Yes, big brother…”

Though crestfallen, Raldine reluctantly put back the yogurt, sausages, ham, and salami. However, she stealthily added the sausages back to the cart when I wasn’t looking.

“I heard you caught a notorious magician in no time,” the shopkeeper chimed in.

“Well, yes,” I replied modestly.

“Urban warriors are truly remarkable. Our village could use someone like you as a bodyguard. We’ve been having problems with thieves who steal livestock and crops to sell on the black market. They seem to be organized,” the shopkeeper confided.

“Sounds like a tough situation…”

I replied noncommittally.

“Monsters, on the other hand, are adorable. They only take what they need to survive. Unfortunately, we can’t offer much in terms of salary here in the countryside, but our food is exquisite…”

The shop owner let out a sigh when he said that without asking anyone.

“You’re mistaken if you thought this was foreshadowing. What I desire is a steady and stable job. If I wanted to be a bodyguard, I would have knocked on the door of a bar in town long ago. Besides, I haven’t given up on my hope of joining the Holy City yet.”

“The bouncers and crooks are tearing each other apart, leaving the villagers to have the last laugh…” Belle, who had slipped back unnoticed, taunted with a wicked flutter of her wings. She had a glossy appearance that repelled me, making me want to keep my distance.

Raldine gazed at the sheep and cows grazing on the ranch lovingly as we departed from the village.

“It’s fun to live in such a tranquil place, surrounded by animals.”

“But you were trampled by a sheep, weren’t you?”

I teased.

“Big brother is mean…”

Raldine puffed out her cheek.

C-Cute!

She looked adorable, and I couldn’t help but think so, despite knowing it was inappropriate to have such feelings for my sister or for the Duke’s daughter.

With a skilled hand, Raldine drew the magic circle, and we vanished into the blue light once again.

“Kyaaaaa!!”

“Huh?!”

In an instant, we were transported to the middle of the town’s sewage river.

I should have been more cautious of the familiar sensation. Whether it’s wielding a sword or harnessing magic, those who are inexperienced tend to slip up once they start to feel comfortable and behave like seasoned experts.

“Ahaha, ufufu…” Only Belle twirls around like a playful fairy amongst the morning dew.

“…Don’t you ever climb on my shoulder again…”

As expected, I’m more of a scavenger than a bouncer. Maintaining infrastructure is a crucial job, I realized.

“Waaaah, big brother, it’s all dirty and gross!”

Coated in mud and slime, reeking of a putrid scent, and whimpering, I felt somewhat relieved upon seeing Raldine.

She doesn’t need to be as stunning as Saint-sama, but it would be problematic if she was too adorable like an ordinary girl.

If I’m going to coexist with her as her brother, it’s better to have a disappointing little sister like this.

Furthermore, she managed to safeguard the souvenir food even while drenched in muck. Demonstrating resilience in an unremarkable manner is also preferable as her brother.

“Don’t cry anymore. When we get home, I’ll make the spaghetti with sausages that you worked so hard to bring back, so cheer up…”

“Yay♪ Dinner is♪ Big~ big♪ Sausages♪ Pork~ meat~♪”

As we trudged homeward through the dusky hours, sticky and disheveled, Raldine’s off-tune and underwhelming crooning filled the air.

“Big brother’s dinner~♪, Big brother’s sausages ~♪, Meaty, porky goodness is what you’ll find~♪”

“Don’t sing such a song!!”

“Eek…”

Upon being scolded, Raldine’s tears flowed once more, her nose running in despair.

Chapter 8

Miss Raldine’s “vacation,” which seemed long, will come to an end today. By tomorrow morning, Stella of the Duke family will go to Madou University, and Raldine who remains here will return to Lady Geraldine of the Duke family and regain her original life.

Raldine and I eat breakfast in the living room as usual, and while we clean up, Belle eats breakfast in the kitchen with her doll dishes.

After breakfast, we grab our lunch boxes and head over to the Princess Victoria Memorial Botanical Garden. There, we peruse the bustling marketplace, stocking up on ingredients for dinner and other daily necessities before heading back home.

For dinner, we savor Raldine’s all-time favorite spaghetti loaded with chunks of savory sausage. Predictably, both Raldine and Belle end up with tomato sauce all over their faces, and I quickly clean them up with a napkin.

After filling the room with the sweet aroma of soap, I put Raldine to bed as usual. Then, I venture out to take care of my duties, eradicating vampire bats at the late-night mining site.

As I made my way out of the house, Belle swooped in with a malevolent flapping of wings and landed on my shoulder.

“Oldman, so in the end, do you think you’ll be able to get the job?”

“Who knows? I guess we’ll find out.”

“I see. Keep your spirits up, oldman…”

With a hefty yawn, Belle flew off with a whooshing sound.

Upon my return, I switched on the lights in the living room and caught a glimpse of Raldine peeking out of her room.

“What’s the matter? Can’t sleep?”

“Yes, just a little…”

Though Raldine appeared to have something on her mind, she kept her head down.

“Even if you can’t fall asleep, it’s better to rest. You have to wake up early tomorrow.”

“Big brother, can you sleep with me tonight?”

“Huh?!”

Raldine’s sudden request caught me off guard. But it wasn’t just surprise that washed over me – my body grew hot, I started sweating, and my old-man scent intensified.

“We’re siblings, so it’s not weird, right? My best friend Raldine used to sleep with her big brother all the time…”

Taking my hand, Raldine ushered me into her room.

“T-That was when you were very, very young, right?”

“Yes, but my big brother left home many years ago. If he were around, I bet he’d still be sleeping next to me. At least that’s what my best friend Raldine says…”

“Well, no, I just finished a job and I’m sweaty. My feet stink, and I probably have that old-man smell,” I admitted, feeling a wave of embarrassment wash over me.

But as usual, Raldine approached me with a gentle smile and took a whiff of my face. I recoiled instinctively.

“Big brother smells nice. Like the sun and rain, and the fresh scent of the ranch where we took a nap the other day…”

Was she really just trying to say that I smell like a barn animal? Despite my reservations, I decided to lie down next to her. Even though she could have spent her last vacation with her real big brother, she chose to stay with an old man like me due to some cruel twist of fate.

As I pondered, I resolved to be a substitute for Raldine’s brother, not as a job seeker, but purely as a loving brother. If this sounds amusing to you, feel free to chuckle. I welcome anyone who desires to express their thoughts freely.

“That girl, Raldine…”

“Yes…”

“I heard she’s going to marry a prince who is her classmate. According to the royal journal, Prince Henry is very handsome and smart…”

“Big brother, you know so much…”

Raldine replied with a hint of sadness in her voice. I wondered why a bride-to-be would appear so dejected when discussing her upcoming nuptials.

“Without any remarkable qualities, Raldine’s sole purpose is to make a meaningful contribution to the country through her royal alliance…”

Admittedly, Prince Henry is an attractive and brilliant man. However, the royal journal isn’t all roses and sunshine. [Prince Henry’s wild side unleashed during his stay in the Holy City?!] [Prince Henry’s next conquest is none other than Miss Josie, Geraldine, the Duke’s daughter’s schoolmate?!]…

Belle pointed out that Miss Josie was the mastermind behind the bullying of Raldine. I can’t fathom why Prince Henry would allow his future wife to be tormented like this, causing such a scandal.

But as the saying goes, don’t believe everything you hear. These stories are often fabricated to boost sales.

Even if the rumor was true, perhaps the situation could improve after the wedding. There are plenty of men who behave like this, unfortunately. I can’t relate to it myself.

I tried to lift Raldine’s spirits.

“I’m sure she’ll find happiness, not just for herself but also for the prince. And even after the wedding, Stella can still see her and not feel lonely. She’s fearless and can use teleportation to visit you every day, even in the neighboring country’s palace.”

“Stella, visit…”

Raldine seemed to have regained a bit of energy from that idea. She lifted her head and peered into my face, sounding a bit needy.

“Will big brother also come?”

For a moment, I thought it could be a chance.

As the brother of a friend, it might have been an effortless task to escort Raldine to her wedding, but I couldn’t bear the thought of taking advantage of her already existing anxiety. This poor girl’s life had been manipulated for political gain, and exploiting her vulnerability would have been cruel.

“I have some scavenging to do, but if it’s just for a day trip…”

That’s all I could offer.

“I’m sure…”

Raldine nestled her head against my chest, seeking comfort, and drifted off to sleep.

At daybreak, I gently freed myself from Raldine’s grasp and slipped out of bed. My shirt was damp with a mixture of tears, snot, and drool.

Oddly enough, I couldn’t help but grin at the bittersweet disappointment.

Once my scavenging work was completed, I visited the familiar bakery and purchased Raldine’s favorite croissant and Belle’s preferred brioche. Despite Raldine’s inability to finish even a single croissant, I purchased an entire bag to try and alleviate her unfulfilled appetite.

As the town began to stir with the bustle of people who had started their workday earlier than usual, I couldn’t help but notice the palpable tension in the air.

It seemed like everyone was discussing the same topic.

As rumors swirled around the town, words like “The Holy City,” “Engagement broken off,” “Duke’s daughter,” “Prince of a neighboring country,” and “Former executive of the Magic Guild” were on everyone’s lips.

My curiosity piqued when I stumbled upon the latest edition of the Royal Journal, abandoned on the roadside. Eager to learn more, I raced to the nearest newsstand and eagerly scoured every eye-catching headline.

The articles revealed a shocking truth:

Prince Henry of the neighboring country had accrued an enormous gambling debt, jeopardizing his marriage to Lady Geraldine and threatening to bring shame to the royal family. Desperate for a solution, he agreed to let a man named Lloyd shoulder his debt in exchange for marrying his daughter, Miss Josie, as a second wife.

But Lloyd was no ordinary nobleman. He had bought his title with his wealth as a merchant and was rumored to be involved in various criminal activities, including embezzlement, bribery, and smuggling. By sending his daughter as a mistress to the second prince, he hoped to secure a powerful connection with the neighboring country and further his own interests.

As soon as Lady Geraldine graduated from the Magic Academy high school, her personality took a sharp turn, and Lloyd’s shady dealings with Prince Henry came to light.

Despite the damning evidence against him, Prince Henry, who was blinded by his love for money and Miss Josie’s enchanting allure, vehemently denied the allegations and baselessly accused Lady Geraldine of lying. The neighboring countries were outraged and even staged severe protests.

Lady Geraldine’s conduct was unbecoming of a Duke’s daughter, as she tarnished the reputation of a prince from a neighboring country and bullied lower-ranking nobles. Consequently, her engagement was promptly broken off, and all of her private possessions were seized as compensation for the damage done to the prince’s honor. The Duke family suffered not only expulsion from their own country but also from the Holy City.

Just when it appeared that Lady Geraldine’s fate was sealed, Ursula, a former mage who had been abandoned in a rural village at the base of Mt. Orlando, made a sudden appearance in the Holy City. Ursula’s testimony unequivocally implicated Lloyd and exposed his involvement with Prince Henry in a chain reaction that stunned the public.

The Order of the Fly, led by the enigmatic Bellezebub, wasted no time in capturing Prince Henry and Lloyd as they attempted to flee. Demons are known to be unpredictable beings, so it’s anyone’s guess as to why Bellezebub intervened in human affairs.

Lloyd’s noble title was stripped from him, and Miss Josie was entrusted to the care of her maternal family. To ensure that she doesn’t make any more escape attempts, a swarm of flies was deployed to keep a close eye on her.

Meanwhile, Prince Henry was sent back to his homeland and forced to become a monk. He was kept under permanent house arrest in a monastery, with flies serving as his unrelenting guards.

Lady Geraldine was eventually exonerated of any wrongdoing, but she willingly accepted the consequences of her actions. As a result, she was expelled from the Duke family and Holy City. In an unexpected twist, she decided to embrace the role of the “villainess” and make things right. Her new moniker, simply Geraldine, earned her the admiration of the people.

I couldn’t help but mutter to myself, “The nerve of that Stella. What does she mean by villainess…”

For Geraldine, living in the frontier with her beloved brother might just be the happiest thing that could happen to her.

There were two of us, or Belle. Today will be the last time we have breakfast together as two people and a pet.

Come to think of it, Belle is nowhere to be seen. I wanted to take her to the slaughterhouse again as a reward for the big catch, but unfortunately, she didn’t want to come. Oh well.

Suddenly, the sound of the door opening interrupted my thoughts, and in walked Raldine, as silent as a ghost. Her hair was immaculately combed and she had even adorned it with the hair accessory I had bought her. Her outfit had also greatly improved, except for the unbuttoned top button of her blouse.

Without hesitation, I approached her and fixed her blouse, quipping, “Looks like you can handle it on your own now.”

Usually, Raldine would greet me with a gentle smile and a “good morning,” but today she remained silent. Her face turned away from me, her ears flushed with color. It was then that I spotted Belle, hiding amidst Raldine’s luscious, reddish-brown hair.

It all made sense now.

Regrettably, I wasn’t able to say goodbye to Raldine, but it was alright. I knew she was probably ecstatic to reunite with her brother in the borderlands by now.

I playfully tapped her forehead.

“Good morning, young villainess…”

“W-What! T-That’s not it!”

Stella protested, her face flushing even more.

“Do you want breakfast?”

“N-No, thanks!”

“Well, that’s a pity. I even prepared coffee milk with a beautiful latte art titled ‘The Resurrection of the Phoenix’…”

Stella took a sneak peek at the coffee cup.

“Wow~…H-Hold on, I didn’t request it!”

“I got it. Belle, you’ll eat it, right?”

“Thank you, oldman…”

Fluttering her wings with a wicked sound, Belle perched on my shoulder.

“Hey! I never said I wouldn’t have it! I don’t crave it, but I can manage it! Don’t get the wrong idea! I just don’t want to waste the milk! Mmmph!”

As Stella spoke hurriedly, I shoved a croissant into her mouth.

After all, I had purchased a plethora of them.

Epilogue

After indulging in copious amounts of bread and coffee milk, Stella grumbled, “This isn’t enough!” before vanishing into thin air.

By now, she’s likely settled into her new life at Madou University, where she’s likely flaunting her invincibility.

Belle has also vanished without a trace.

But every morning, the doll’s tea set remains on the kitchen counter, and when I place brioche and coffee milk inside, it disappears mysteriously.

The villainess Geraldine sought refuge with her brother, the border count, but her castle is constantly besieged by fans, making it nearly impossible for her to venture outdoors.

Recent sightings of her include chasing iguanas or fearlessly facing off against prickly cacti, but many believe she’s not cut out for the role of villainess and is merely a shadowy double.

It’s been a month since Stella, Belle, and Geraldine departed from the house, and I now find myself at the Adventurer’s Guild office.

“Well, I’ll be looking forward to working with you…”

“Yes! Thank you so much!”

I exclaimed as the receptionist handed me my employment notice.

Bowing deeply, I gratefully accepted it. After months of toiling as a day laborer, I had finally landed a job as a swordsmanship instructor at both the military and magic academies.

It seemed my heroic capture of the notorious magician Ursula had earned me some recognition.

Initially, I had believed that swordsmanship was a skill only useful during wartime, but I had come to realize that it was equally essential in times of peace.

Demons and monsters weren’t the only threats to good people—criminals like Ursula and other cattle thieves posed a significant danger as well.

With that in mind, I planned to send my students on practical training missions to rural areas. Even a group of inexperienced amateurs would be more effective against sneaky thieves than a single skilled swordsman.

As I left the guild office and walked through the bustling market, the familiar scent of Raldine’s favorite incense soap, “Mint & Spiced Orange,” wafted towards me from the general store.

Feeling a wave of nostalgia, I couldn’t resist buying it. After all, with the rising number of women in military schools, I didn’t want to be the cause of any olfactory harassment, subjecting others to the stench of my old-man musk.

While walking, I stumbled upon a young woman standing in front of my house. Her scarf was neatly folded and tied under her chin.

At first glance, I thought it was Stella, but upon closer inspection, I noticed that her hair was a thick blonde, and her skin was paler than Stella’s.

Moreover, although the dress she’s wearing seems to be well-tailored, the skirt is uneven at the hem in front and back, and one of the socks is slipping down. To top it off, one of her shoes and socks was caked in mud, as if she had gotten stuck in a puddle.

“Excuse me, who are you?”

I asked, though a sense of disappointment feels familiar somehow.

As the girl turned around, I was struck by her big blue eyes and thick lashes. Her messy hair was adorned with a hairpin made of seashells.

The girl bowed deeply.

“Big brother, I’m home…”

Sensing my confusion, the girl looked puzzled for a moment before breaking into a soft smile. “Oh, I see…”

Suddenly, it hit me.

“Nice to meet you, Stella’s big brother. Thank you for having me,” she said, her smile radiating warmth.

“Thank you for having me?!” I blurted out, surprised.

~The end~

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