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.
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.”