༺ Naru Likes Strawberries ༻
“Oh, holy shh…! Strawberry cake! Naru loves strawberry cake!”
Following the hectic Saturday in the sewers, a slow summer afternoon followed.
Naru was extremely pleased by the strawberry cake I had purchased for her at the market.
Holding a fork, Naru dug into the cake with enthusiasm.
Just watching her eat made me feel full.
Something began to confuse me as I continued watching her eat the strawberry cake.
“Naru, why aren’t you eating the strawberries?”
“Strawberries…taste the best! I want to save them for last…!”
So that was the case.
However, just by looking at the plump strawberry at the apex of the cake, I felt an inexplicable urge to steal and eat it.
The only strawberry present on the entire cake.
To a thief, it would be the ultimate treasure due to its scarcity.
In preparation for raiding the safes of the wealthy, I honed an ability that could be used to identify and distinguish the value of various treasures.
Because I had so much practice with the ability, it had become a skill known as 「Treasure Evaluation」.
According to my evaluation, the strawberry on top of that cake was of at least a C-grade treasure.
It meant that I would also feel that much better if I stole it.
For reference, the black lace underwear that Brigitte had in her drawer was a B grade, and the picture that Cariote keeps in her bag is an A grade.
Barboi Secret Style-!
「Secretly Eating a Strawberry」.
“Ah…! Naru’s strawberry vanished…! Since when…!?”
Naru began to swerve her head in bewilderment.
Upon locking eyes with me, she seemed to have understood the situation and began to pout.
“Dad ate the strawberry on my cake again…! Ugh…! Naru angy…! But it’s okay since Dad was the one who bought it with his own money…!”
This was the first time I had stolen a strawberry from her.
But it clearly wasn’t the first time for Naru.
Was it possible that I had stolen strawberries from her in the past as well?
It was something that was definitely plausible.
Naru truly was my daughter.
I suppose this was another confirmation of that.
I then solemnly said to her.
“If you try saving something delicious, you might end up losing it. Deal with important and enjoyable matters right away instead of putting them off.”
Wouldn’t this be a good life lesson?
As I nodded with that thought in mind, Brigitte pushed open the door to the laboratory, entered the room, and dropped a large bag on the table with a thud.
“Why are you acting so wise when all you did was steal some poor kid’s strawberries? I bought lots of strawberries, so don’t worry Naru.”
“Oh, holy shh…! There are so many strawberries…! I’m certain none of the other daughters have more strawberries than Naru…!”
There was an incredible amount of strawberries in the sack.
It seemed Brigitte had purchased them for Naru.
There was something that Naru had said that was bothering me.
Namely, when she spoke of the other ‘daughters’.
“Naru, I was going to ask you earlier, but the timing wasn’t right. Do you have any siblings?”
That question had been on my mind for a while.
And so ever since I noticed the clover-shaped birthmark on Cecily’s collarbone.
Naru was completely engrossed in eating strawberries and was unable to register my voice.
“Naru secret style, Strawberry Munching…!”
What did she just do?
Naru used a strange technique.
Naru then crammed strawberries into her mouth until her cheeks were puffed, almost like a squirrel stuffing acorns into its cheek pouch.
She was massacring the strawberries.
Whilst observing Naru, Brigitte signaled me by raising her thumb in my direction.
When we had infiltrated Pandemonium in order to break through to the Demon King’s Castle, we had created various signals in case we weren’t able to speak freely.
It was our version of a secret language.
What did that signal mean again?
Was it the signal to watch her back because she needed to go to the bathroom?
As my face twisted in confusion, Brigitte sighed deeply before speaking.
“I have something to say, so come outside.”
“You should’ve said that earlier.”
* * *
Leaving Naru in the lab, we walked out to the balcony.
The bright Sunday warmth embraced our skin, creating a positive atmosphere, as Brigitte cautiously began to speak.
“Naru seems alright. Even though she went through something that should’ve been traumatic, she wasn’t surprised. She’s not just thick-skinned.”
I felt the same way.
For a child, it must have been quite shocking.
Truth was, many of the children that Cariote had saved from the sewers were undergoing psychological therapy at nearby churches or clinics.
They had been kidnapped by undead thieves and nearly became sacrifices for some necromancy ritual.
It wouldn’t be strange for those memories to leave them traumatized for life.
If I had experienced something like that when I was young, I would have peed my pants and cried like nobody had done before.
In fact, it wouldn’t have even taken me a second to piss my pants.
However, Naru was perfectly fine.
Not only was she sleeping well, but she was eating well too.
It was a massive relief.
“Seeing her reaction, it looked like Naru was used to situations like that. I don’t think it’s the first time that she’s been kidnapped.”
“Truthfully, Judas, there’s probably many villains that are after your daughter. Just off the top of my head, there are at least ten. Tragic as it is, it’s probably likely that Naru hasn’t been able to live a normal life…”
Brigitte gazed at Naru through the glass of the balcony door with an expression of pity.
Indeed. If Brigitte’s words were true, Naru was pitiful.
“That’s why I’m thinking of giving Naru a familiar. Since you’re her father, I wanted to get your approval.”
“Yeah. Something like this could happen to Naru again, so we’re giving her a bodyguard.”
I was well aware of the potential of a magician’s familiar.
I myself have had my fair share of troubles while fighting against magicians because of their familiars.
Therefore, Brigitte’s suggestion was both reasonable and wise.
Naru having a familiar would be reassuring.
Aside from Naru though…
“How is Cecily doing?”
I discreetly asked a question.
Brigitte cocked her head in response.
“The little brat from the Ragdoll family? Now that I think about it, she was kidnapped along with Naru. Since she’s such a pampered little child, she’s probably in shock. What about her?”
Brigitte’s eyes narrowed as she spoke.
“Don’t tell me you’re thinking about kidnapping her and demanding a ransom, are you? You always give those sinister looks to those noble princesses. You were going to do what you did to the princess of Ordor, weren’t you?”
“Why would you bring up Ordor? Even though it might be true that I might have given those noble girls sinister looks…”
I was only looking because they were pretty.
The nobles of this world seemed generally beautiful.
Was it because they ate well and wore nice clothes?
The fact that they could ‘bathe every day’ in a world where perfumes and soaps were a luxury was likely a big factor.
It was difficult to tell Brigitte that Cecily could potentially be my daughter.
A momentary silence fell on the balcony.
“Sorry for getting angry at you.”
To think she was apologizing just for getting angry at me.
“Are you talking about the time when you punched me in the face after you caught me trying to pickpocket you?”
“No, not that.”
“Or are you talking about the time when you caught me raiding your underwear drawer?”
“No, not that either. By the way, you raided my underwear drawer??”
…She didn’t catch me.
As I pretended to be clueless, Brigitte let out a sigh.
Then she broke out into a giggle.
“I guess I was foolish for worrying about it, to begin with. I was apologizing for getting angry at you when I heard you were investigating my background.”
“Did something like that happen?”
I shrugged casually.
As I did so, Brigitte casually brushed her hair back by utilizing her fingers like a comb.
“The Walpurgis family has been famous for producing magicians with ‘color’ over many generations and originated from an ancient past. Still, we’ve declined over the last few years.”
“Is that so? As I thought, Brigitte, you were the daughter of a noble house.”
“That’s right. While places like Central Freesia or the Ordor Kingdom of the West might not recognize my bloodline, we’re quite famous towards the eastern part of the continent. Almost everyone knows the 「Colorless Walpurgis」.”
“The Colorless Walpurgis…”
I couldn’t recall if I had ever heard the title.
Just as I began to suspect something was off, Brigitte spoke.
“The descendants of our bloodline have been gifted with an affinity for light-colored magic. That’s why they tend to have lighter features in their hair and eyebrows. I’m different though. I’m even suspected to have been born out of wedlock.”
After having a child, they found that the child shared no resemblance to the father.
Therefore, they suspected that the child had been born out of wedlock.
“You know what’s funny? Even my mother who gave birth to me disliked me. It seemed that she felt it was unjust that she was demoted to a concubine because of me.”
I had never heard of this story before.
Although we had invaded the Demon King’s Castle together.
We weren’t the type to spill our life stories to each other.
Brigitte was actually a lot closer to the soldiers.
Well, since they bathed together and even slept together, it was only natural.
On the other hand, I was closer to the cleric.
Come to think of it, she mentioned that a cleric was coming to this city.
Just when that thought came to mind, Brigitte spoke.
“How’s your body doing?”
“My body? It’s fine for now. The medicine you gave me seems to be quite effective.”
“I created it by following the recipe our party’s cleric used to use. Still, it’s probably better if you get proper treatment from a cleric. That guy, even though he had a shitty personality, he was definitely skilled…”
“That’s true. His skills were always top class.”
“Maybe he’ll even be able to give us a solution to Naru’s problem.”
Just as I was processing Brigitte’s optimism, I heard a knock.
Someone began to pound on the door to the laboratory.
When I opened the balcony door, I found that Naru had sprinted to the entrance and had begun opening it to let the guest in.
“A guest is here! Naru likes this guest! Naru knows these footsteps…!”
Naru opened the door without even asking who it was.
Wouldn’t she get kidnapped at this rate?
What if some bad person was waiting behind the door?
The person who was standing at the entrance was far from a ‘kidnapper’.
‘Sage’ would be a better word to describe him.
…No, perhaps he might be better described as a monster.
“Greetings. I heard this was the laboratory of Brigitte von Walpurgis and have come to see her.”
He was bald.
His ears were long and pointy.
He had a beard.
And his eyes were golden.
It was a bald elf monk.
He is 25 years old.
Or so he claims, but it was clearly a lie.
It wasn’t my place to say something like this, but how on earth could he claim to be twenty-five with a face like that…?
“Oh holy shh, it’s Uncle Baldy…!”
Naru stretched her arms in excitement.
In response, the man placed his palms together in prayer towards Naru.
“Little lady, my name is not ‘baldy’. This little monk is from the Sect of the Ascending Sunlight named Enkidus. My bald head is meant to symbolize the radiant sun. If you have any interest in my craft–.”
“Naru likes Uncle Baldy…! Dad always said that even if he wasn’t able to trust anyone else in the entire world, he could definitely trust Uncle Baldy…!”
“Is that so? Who is your father, little lady?”
“Naru is Judas’ daughter! My name is Naru Barjudas!”
“Ho… to think you’re the daughter of Judas. I’ve never heard of such a cute little lady ever being associated with Judas. The timing…doesn’t make sense. Did you steal this child from somewhere?”
“Yeah! Dad said he stole Naru from underneath Mom’s legs!”
“May the blessings of God be with this girl who was stolen from her parents—. I’m afraid our fate will continue to be intertwined, Judas.”
The monk was someone who was calm and always spoke in riddles.
There was no point in saying anything now, but this man was the priest who had accompanied us in our expedition to the Demon King’s Castle.
Wasn’t it a common rule that the priest of a party on the way to defeat the Demon King was a beautiful and big-hearted Saint? Wouldn’t traveling with a Saint also cleanse one’s heart?
However, this wasn’t the case within the continent of Pangea.
I only found out later that the Saint of the continent had been relegated to rank two in the party candidate list because of him.
His skills were far too good.
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