“― That is all, sister. I have finished changing your clothes.”
Saying this, the blue-haired girl― Rem tapped her sister’s shoulders from behind as she sat before the dresser and then inclined her body to bring her face next to her sister’s.
The pink-haired elder sister― Ram, bore an extreme resemblance to her save for their hair and eye colors. However, Ram was much more wonderful, her beautiful countenance was dignified and unshakeable..
Rem was always telling herself that she too had to follow Ram’s example as she admired her elder sister’s elegance.
However, even Ram’s dignified elegance was shaken this morning―
“… Thank you, Rem. But even this amount of clothes will not suffice, not nearly.”
Ram’s voice trembled as she muttered this, the reason being the temperature which was so cold the room’s windows were turning white as they froze.
The Roswaal Manor was suffering an out of season cold wave at the moment, and there was even a little snow falling outside the frozen windows. The exterior of the mansion was turning white as snow enveloped it, one look at this would be enough to understand the extent of the cold this abnormal weather produced.
On especially cold mornings such as this one, merely getting Ram out of bed was quite the struggle in itself. With Rem’s desperate persuasion and cooperation from Ram who loved her little sister, they were at long last able to finish changing her clothes.
Perhaps one might think of it as exaggerated, but Ram’s condition as she shivered from the cold was truly pitiful to look at.
Even Rem who wasn’t particularly bad at dealing with the cold was unable to stay in her usual maid outfit which exposed her back and shoulders, instead opting for a thicker maid outfit which was intended for colder seasons ― The ice season. And Ram, who was even weaker against the cold than Rem, had gone beyond that as she donned earmuffs and covered herself with a blanket in order to endure the cold.
“Are you alright, sister? It wounds Rem’s heart to watch you suffer like this.”
“Yes, I suppose it would. With only this much warmth, it would be impossible for Ram to work like she usually does. Rem, please embrace me from behind. I would like to receive some warmth.”
“Yes! If you’re okay with Rem!”
Obeying Ram’s request, Rem firmly embraced her elder sister from behind. Stretching her arms to the limit, it was as if she was trying to completely wrap up Ram’s body.
Ram rested her head against Rem’s chest as she heaved a long, deep sigh in her younger sister’s embrace.
“Haa, I can feel your love, Rem… Perhaps we should just stay like this until the sunshine starts pouring in.”
“Umm, Rem is glad to be of use to you, sister, but judging by these weather conditions I am unsure if there will be any sunshine at all today.”
“Well then, I suppose we have an excuse to cling to each other all day long.”
“Fufu, we cannot do that, sister. No matter how cold it gets, we are still the maids of this mansion.”
Smiling at Ram’s somewhat spoiled words, Rem nuzzled her cheek against her sister’s head which was in her chest. Ram sighed again as the sensation ruffled her pink hair.
“I have heard that sighing means you’re letting your happiness escape. Subaru-kun taught me this.”
“Is that right? But unlike Barusu who is freezing to death alone, Ram is currently wrapped up in your kindness and warmth. Thinking of the difference in our level of happiness brings about a sense of superiority, doesn’t it.”
There was no problem at all even if she lost a bit of happiness by sighing, Rem couldn’t help but admire her sister as she boldly declared this.
Regardless, considering the situation, the idea of Subaru freezing to death wasn’t one she could laugh off even as a joke.
“It seems Subaru-kun has been feeling quite cold as well these past few days…”
“Calling him weak would not even begin to describe him, after all. His ability as a servant is completely lacking, and he is utterly unable to adapt to his surroundings. I do wonder what exactly his strong point is supposed to be.”
“You and Subaru-kun, the two of you are the source of Rem’s strength.”
“I would have been happy about that if I weren’t placed on the same level as Barusu.”
With her lips relaxing, Ram donned a faint, wry smile as she cast her eyes in the window’s direction. The freezing window was covered in white fog, and the mansion’s front yard on the other side was barely even visible, but―
“― Does Emilia-sama intend to feign ignorance even with this much snowfall?”
“Roswaal-sama is overlooking it, so Ram, noble as she is, has elected to remain silent as well, however this situation is definitely one brought about by Emilia-sama… Or rather, the Great Spirit-sama, is it not?”
“… Emilia-sama isn’t particularly suited to deception, after all.”
When she heard Ram’s deduction, Rem forced a smile as she murmured this.
The extreme chill that had been assailing the Roswaal Manor for the past few days ― The reality of the situation was that almost everyone in the mansion had seen through it, and knew what exactly was causing it.
The Great Spirit who accompanied Emilia, bearing the form of a cat, had entered his magical release period.
“I suppose his degree of freedom within this mansion is not quite what it was back in the forest. To think that he would cause this cold because of that… Ram feels she has gotten caught up in quite the troublesome situation.”
“That’s true, isn’t it. But it is definitely possible to learn from one’s mistakes. Even Rem was completely hopeless when she first came to the mansion, and would always trouble sister and Frederica-sama.”
As she thought back to how incompetent she was in the past, Rem looked like she was going to turn red to her ears.
She definitely didn’t think she was flawless even now, but she was even worse back then. Considering this, she thought it was only natural that a spirit arts user and her Great Spirit would mess up like this because of the sudden change in their surroundings.
“Furthermore, thanks to this cold, I can see Subaru-kun all wrapped up in fluffy clothes, it is very cute.”
“Mm, I can’t overlook what you just said. If it’s about being wrapped up in fluffy clothes, surely Ram is more than a match for him. And if it’s about cuteness, it is definitely an overwhelming victory for me.”
“My sister is wonderful. But Subaru-kun is important to me as well.”
Ram’s response was short, but her expression was gentle and her voice was warm. This caused Rem to display a faint smile as well, after which she curtsied where she stood.
“At this rate, Emilia-sama and the Great Spirit-sama should be done with their little secret in a few more days. I am happy to be able to see you in your ice season clothing in the meantime, sister.”
“It seems you’ve developed a talent for sweet talking. Very well, I’ll play along.”
“Thank you very much, sister. Well then, it is about time we started working. Rem has to go see Subaru-kun too.”
“There’s no helping it. Thanks to you, I feel like I can move my body a bit. But I must request that you embrace me once every hour.”
“Yes, understood. Alright then, I shall see you later.”
With a last look at Ram who was bundling herself in her blanket from the cold, Rem headed towards Subaru’s room.
“… I ended up saying that to sister, but.”
She felt apologetic toward her shivering sister, in truth not even Rem knew how long Emilia and Puck would take to deal with this. She certainly pitied Subaru and her sister for having to deal with this cold, but she was also happy that she was able to see them wear things that they wouldn’t normally choose. Rem’s feelings were complicated.
“The sole point of anxiety was that the snow might end up crushing the plants and flower beds, but Beatrice-sama somehow managed to do something about that.”
As she said this, she took a look out of the corridor’s window, at the white snow that was falling in silence. The only thing Rem was worried about was the effect this would have on the plans and flower beds she dutifully trimmed every day, but thankfully they were secretly protected from harm by Beatrice’s valiant efforts,
It seemed as though Beatrice was helping Emilia and Puck from the shadows, it looked like she had erected a barrier that would prevent the cold from overflowing into the outside of the mansion.
In summary, the responses of each of the mansion’s inhabitants to this cold were as follows: Roswaal was simply waiting and watching, and Ram complied with her master’s intentions. Beatrice was supporting them in secret, and Subaru was just being toyed with.
“Subaru-kun, how cute…”
Now that it was this cold, Subaru would suddenly have his snot frozen before he even realized it so Rem definitely had to do something for him. Thanks to this cold, she had a justification to never take her eyes off him.
“But it might be troublesome to my sister if I said this, so I won’t.”
But even Ram had gone as far to say that she wanted to be embraced once every hour which was awfully cute of her. Rem was already satisfied with that much.
Even if this cold were to persist for a few more days, she wouldn’t mind in the slightest, that was how she felt.
―With a spring in her step, Rem was the one enjoying the mansion’s chilly weather the most.
But unfortunately for her, that modest, wicked wish of hers would not last long.
Because when Subaru realized that his windows were frozen, his snot was turning into icicles, and his neck was producing creaking sounds when he turned it, he set about searching for the culprit with vigor and soon exposed Emilia and Puck’s involvement.
And then the fact that this was happening because of Puck’s magical release period, the fact that Beatrice was supporting them in secret, and the fact that Emilia really did seem to be trying to keep this a secret.
Having discovered each person’s involvement, everyone gathered together to think of a solution to this problem. But as expected, the one who spoke up was Subaru.
“This is the grand opening of the first Chikichiki ― The Roswaal Manor sponsored snow festival!”
As Subaru loudly declared this, Rem secretly burned his profile into her heart.
“Sister, all of the villagers from Arlam have gathered in the front yard. The Chikichiki snow festival shall soon begin.”
“… ‘Chikichiki’, please stop using that nonsensical term.”
Ram, who was wrapped up in her blanket, warned Rem who had come to wake her up.
The time seemed to fly right by, and it was now the morning of the snow festival Subaru had proposed.
The cold weather Puck had brought about caused snow to cover the mansion grounds, the snowfall was especially heavy in the courtyard, and produced a genuine snowscape the likes of which one wouldn’t often see even in the Ice season.
Within this snowscape, there were a number of faces one wouldn’t usually see around the mansion. They were villagers who inhabited Arlam, having been invited to the snow festival, they were showing their readiness to participate in the snow sculpture making.
Since almost everyone from the village had shown up, the mansion was extremely lively.
“This is yet another one of Subaru-kun’s personal virtues, after all.”
“They’re probably just aiming for the prize… But there’s likely no small number of villagers who are just like Barusu in that they just want to have fun with this festival.”
In response to Rem’s strangely prideful words, Ram who was stirring in her bed spoke with dissatisfaction. As she listened to her sister talk, Rem threw open the room’s curtains.
She definitely couldn’t say the skies were clear, but there was a world of difference from the gloomy weather they had these past few days. Rem had heard Subaru and Puck discuss this, that Puck would create all the snow they needed in the night, and keep the temperature at a level where it wouldn’t melt for one day.
“But to freely manipulate the weather to this extent… The Great Spirit-sama really was a Great Spirit after all.”
“I understand what you’re trying to say, but that irreverent way of putting it is quite cute, Rem.”
“I apologize. It’s just, he is always frolicking with Emilia-sama, frolicking in Emilia-sama, playing with Subaru-kun, basking in the sun… That was how he appeared to be.”
To be honest, Rem’s impression of Puck wasn’t much more than that of a talking cat.
Now that she had actually seen his power, she could finally understand his true nature.
“―That Great Spirit-sama, could not possibly be such an easygoing being.”
“I was just saying that it would be ideal if he really was satisfied just sunbathing and eating small fish like a real cat. Anyway, what do you wish to do, Rem?”
Rem tilted her head, unable to hear her sister’s low voice, and Ram asked her this in response. Having been asked what she wanted to do, Rem pondered for a bit.
As one of the mansion’s maids, Rem figured she probably had to help out with the snow festival. However, Subaru who was full of vigor told them to leave the festival in his hands, his breath wild.
Thanks to him, Rem did not have much to do today beyond her usual chores. Even Ram could probably go back to sleep like she always wanted to.
“―Rem, please tell me what you’re thinking. Who exactly do you think I am?”
“Has Ram ever bluntly rejected her cute little sister’s wishes I wonder?”
Dressed in her night clothes and with a blanket draped over her head, Ram looked all the more dignified and her smile pierced Rem’s heart. Rem then looked downard and clenched her fist tightly,
“Sister, Rem would like to participate in the snow festival with you. Because it would be our first time together in such a snowscape.”
“I see, there’s no helping it then. Now matter how terrible the cold may be, I shall do it for your sake.”
When Rem built up her resolve and said these somewhat spoiled words, Ram immediately took her blanket off and stepped off her bed onto the floor. Rem’s eyes widened when she saw this, “Is it really okay?”
“Even though you struggle with the cold.”
“If it’s for your sake, Ram can easily overcome a struggle or two. In exchange, please help Ram change out of these clothes. Because of the cold, merely standing up pushed me to my limit.”
“Y-Yes! Right away, sister!”
Ram’s face was noticeably paler than usual as she extended her arms, and Rem rushed to the closet in a hurry. Ram’s lips relaxed as she watched her flustered little sister from behind.
“The snow isn’t bad either, huh… I can’t accept this cold, though.”
She whispered as she saw her little sister in high spirits befitting her age.
“Just where exactly did we go wrong? Why was our score so low…”
“As you can see, it was clearly due to the Barusu parts. As expected, we should have devoted our efforts to reproducing Roswaal-sama’s likeness.”
Standing next to each other, the sisters gazed upon their collaborative project, ‘The Magnificent Subawaal-sama Sculpture’.
The snow festival ended on a high note, and the snow sculptures the villagers had left behind were scattered all around the mansion’s courtyard. In the end, a girl from the village had been chosen as the winner, and she went home delighted after Subaru personally handed her her prize.
Even the other villagers were already satisfied with having participated in the snow festival, so they did not raise a fuss over this decision and it could be said that the event came to a close peacefully.
Surely, the fact that Rem and Ram could leisurely take their time evaluating their work like this was also thanks to this.
“Unbelievable, twelve points in total…”
“Hardly any difference from Emilia-sama and Beatrice-sama…”
Heaving white sighs, the sisters dropped their shoulders in unison.
An outside observer might consider their words and crestfallen attitudes disrespectful, but fortunately, these two were the only people around and there was no worry of anyone overhearing their remarks.
Incidentally, Emilia and Beatrice had received nine and seven points respectively.
Regardless, their sculpture created through great effort, ‘The Magnificent Subawaal-sama Sculpture’ ― Which Ram and Rem, upon entering the snow festival, combined their wisdom and strength to create ultimately ended up receiving mixed reviews.
The craftsmanship itself certainly wasn’t inferior to any of the other favorite candidates. But for some reason, all three judges had unfavorable impressions of it and they ended up with a subpar score. But among the three, since they knew what scores Subaru and Roswaal had given them, it could only mean that the anonymous judge had given them the lowest score of all which was rather annoying.
“This anonymous judge, just who exactly… It’d probably be wise not to investigate.”
“I suppose so. More importantly, let us look for points we can improve so we can prepare for the next snow festival. How about making it more like Roswaal-sama like you suggested, sister?”
“I do not wish to force concessions out of you, but I am certainly interested. Give it a try.”
“Yes. Here, like this, and this…”
They were particular about the height as well, so she used a raised platform in order to make some subtle adjustments, starting from the facial region. Since the base of the statue was already complete, Rem’s dexterous hands reshaped it in the blink of an eye.
Her heart was pained as she scraped off the Subaru parts she had recommended so highly, and made the Roswal parts Ram had wanted more prominent. And thus, ‘The Magnificent Roswaal-sama Sculpture’ was formed.
“It is complete, sister! What do you think? I believe it looks rather good.”
“… Yes, I suppose so. Just as I’d expect, Rem. You’ve done well.”
Hopping off her raised platform, she stood next to Ram and admired the snow sculpture.
She was tooting her own horn, but Rem felt that she had successfully reproduced Roswaal’s image which she had been familiar with since childhood. She thought for sure Ram would be delighted as well, but―
“Sister, does it not suit your taste?”
“That is no fault of yours, Rem. It is little more than a sentimental problem.”
“I was just thinking. Even with such a well-made sculpture, what Ram wants is the real thing after all.”
Ram crossed her arms and spoke, and Rem fell silent as she felt the intense emotions those words contained. She then once again looked at the snow sculpture, and understood Ram’s feelings towards what was ultimately a fake Roswaal.
Rem agreed completely with her sister’s words. A fake was a fake after all. It was no match for the real thing.
“Well, this is unfortunate, but shall we go ahead and destroy it?”
“… I don’t think it’s necessary to go that far, though.”
“Y-You think so?” Since it’s not the real thing, I thought we might as well…”
“You have these moments now and then, huh. It’s very cute.”
Rem was embarrassed, having jumped to an erroneous conclusion, and Ram gently patted her head. As she felt Ram’s kindness, Rem abandoned the idea of making a Subaru snow sculpture in secret.
“By the way, you said something rather interesting. Something about the next snow festival.”
“Do you believe there will be another snow festival, Rem?”
At point blank range, so close they could feel each other’s breaths, Ram asked her this.
To Ram who was weak against the cold, the circumstances surrounding a snow festival were probably terribly unpleasant. But at least she enjoyed the snow festival itself, Rem allowed herself to think this.
Her proof was the fact that Ram was smiling more than usual.
“Even the people of Arlam liked the snow festival itself, and we were unprepared this time, but with advance notice, it would be easier to put on an exciting event. Furthermore…”
“Should these peaceful times continue, the Great Spirit-sama’s magical release period shall arrive again sooner or later. When that happens, I think this sort of snow festival would be the best way to deal with it.”
With a sour expression, Ram fell silent at Rem’s words.
The anguish in Ram’s heart was clearly visible. However, reality was rather harsh on Ram.
Regardless, Puck would need an opportunity to release his pent up mana and a snow festival would prove useful for this, surely even Ram had to admit that much.
Furthermore, supposing their next opportunity were to appear like this―
“It would be proof that the times are so peaceful that the Great Spirit-sama does not even have an opportunity to use his mana, isn’t that right.”
“That was what Rem was thinking. Um, sister…”
Rem timidly looked up at her sister to ascertain her reaction. On the receiving end of her gaze, Ram closed her eyes for a moment, and then let out a small sigh.
“At the very least, Emilia-sama will be staying with us for the next three years due to the royal selection. It would be difficult to say nothing of the sort will happen again in that time.”
“So I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be prepared for when that time comes.”
Rem’s eyes sparkled as she heard Ram’s kind summation, she then leaped into her sister’s chest and embraced her. Rem’s joy caused Ram’s lips to relax as she nuzzled her cheek against her sister’s blue hair.
“Seriously, stop it with that childlike joy.”
“I apologize. But I’m so happy. Getting to play with my sister like this… Even back in the village, it didn’t happen very often.”
When they were children, the sisters spent almost all of their time together. However, spending their time together did not mean they played around particularly frequently.
This was in part because Ram received special treatment as the hope of the demon clan, but simply put, it was also because Rem’s lack of talent rendered her incapable of keeping up with Ram.
Freedom from such roles and the collapse of the invisible wall between them ― Both of these were due to the burning of their village and the loss of Ram’s horn, so she definitely couldn’t just be happy about them.
Perceiving the slight sense of guilt that had manifested within Rem, Ram pulled her little sister into her chest. Rem yelped in surprise as Ram caressed her back and then looked up at her elder sister.
With her face right in front of her, Ram formed a smile full of affection that she would only show to Rem.
“Ram is your elder sister. So whatever you want to say and whatever you want to do, tell me. After all, weren’t you able to do that just this morning?”
“… Umm, uh.”
Rem was unable to get her words out, so Ram gently called to her to help her relax.
This sound brought Rem an immense sense of relief,
“I would like to do this again, I want to enjoy another snow festival with you, sister.”
“―. What a hopeless kid. Since this is a request from my little sister, I’ll do it just for you.”
Ram said this in an exhausted tone, as if sighing, as she ever so gently stroked Rem’s head.
Rem quietly closed her eyes as she felt this ticklish sensation against her head and Ram’s heartbeat against her cheek.
These troublesome cold days were borne of an unexpected, sudden magical release period, but even so―
“―Rem feels so nice and warm thanks to you and Subaru-kun.”
“I would have been happy about that if I weren’t placed on the same level as Barusu.”
― And so, in that white courtyard filled with snow sculptures, the demon sisters shared this memory of a snowy day.