༺ Burglar Cat or House Cat? (4) ༻
“Dad! Naru is back home now! Oh, holy shh…! The house is so spacious that Naru’s voice echoes like a cave…! Did Naru turn from the Princess of the Back Alleys to the Princess of the Junk Mansion?”
After school time.
Before I knew it, Naru had come home.
It looks like babysitter Sifnoi did her job well today.
Naru raised her hand abruptly upon seeing Cecily, who had been staying at the mansion.
The children hugged each other whenever they met.
I’ve always felt that Naru and Cecily got along quite well.
…Was it because they were sisters?
No, the sisters I know tend to be on worse terms.
Not to the extent of killing and living like Brigitte’s sisters, but still.
Is it because they don’t know they are sisters yet?
Or is it that sisterly relationships are different from brotherly ones, with a kind of softness like a unicorn’s dreamland?
While I was following that train of thought, Naru spoke up.
“Cecily, why didn’t you come to school today?”
“I had to look for Dad and Mom.”
“I see! Thanks to that, Naru got to drink your share of chocolate milk! Are you not coming to school tomorrow? They’re serving banana milk for lunch tomorrow. Oh, holy shh…! Then I’ll have two banana milks!”
Naru, this kid.
Encouraging her friend to skip school so naturally just to get two banana milks.
Who did she inherit this slyness from?
I really don’t know, but it didn’t seem like me.
I am kind and good-natured after all.
She must have taken after Brigitte, her probable mother.
Makes a lot of sense to me.
“So, Cecily, did you find dad and mom?”
“No! Not at all! Maybe I’ll have to skip school tomorrow too! There’s something I absolutely must tell Mom and Dad before spring ends, what should I do? I only thought of this yesterday!”
It seems like Cecily remembered something from the commotion yesterday.
Naru too, often seemed to suddenly recall memories as if triggered by some events.
It seems Cecily was going through the same.
“Cecily needs to find Mom and Dad quickly. Otherwise…”
Cecily tightly clenched her fists.
Soon, her blue eyes began to fill with tears and she burst into tears.
“Ah, Cecily, why are you crying!”
“I don’t know! Tears just keep coming! I need to find Mom and Dad quickly!”
Naru was soothingly stroking Cecily’s back, perhaps trying to console her as she cried.
Watching this, Sifnoi spoke up.
“Judas, you shouldn’t make a child cry like that…!”
“Is it my fault they’re crying?”
“Seeing Judas’ face, filled with a snake-like aura, it’s natural for children to cry…! This Sifnoi knows a nymph who gets scared when looking at Judas’ face as well…!”
Why is she talking about herself as if it was someone else?
That’s when it happened.
Naru, who had been comforting Cecily, suddenly burst into tears as well.
“Now that I think about it, I need to find Mom too…! Naru has been playing too much…! The world will be in danger if Naru doesn’t find Mom…!”
What a mess.
The children are crying their eyes out, what am I supposed to do?
Would the future me have handled this situation with ease?
I don’t know!
The children are crying nonstop, the nymph is being noisy, and I feel like I’m going to lose my mind!
I screamed in unbearable shock and horror, clinging to the ceiling!
At some point, whenever I felt agitated, I developed this habit of hanging upside down!
Cecily was startled to see this.
“Climbing the ceiling is a skill that can only be done when one has mastered the noble walk to perfection. Thief Judas, how can you do it?”
Somehow, she stopped crying.
I don’t see what nobility has to do with hanging from the ceiling, though.
By then, I had calmed down and came down to the floor to say,
“Actually, I’m someone who knows manners better than anyone. I even went to college.”
I dropped out because I fell into a manhole or wormhole while eating ice cream.
But I was indeed college-educated.
Honestly, wouldn’t I at least rank in the top 5 percent of intellectuals on this Pangaea continent?
“…Judas went to college? This Sifnoi can’t believe it…! It must be a lie…! Judas surely didn’t even finish elementary education…!”
“Sifnoi, you little… you really have a way with words.”
“Then prove it…! What’s the answer to 235252 times 23125…! If Judas went to college, you should be able to answer this quickly…!”
What does that have to do with college?
I was in the arts.
But I could answer quickly anyway.
No clue if that’s correct.
It was just a guess.
But it was quick, worthy of the only human with an agility of 20 in the Pangaea continent.
Sifnoi seemed to be shocked by it.
“Such rapid calculation…!”
It seemed even Sifnoi didn’t know the right answer.
Anyhow, this was how I proved I could be a college graduate.
Then Cecily’s eyes, teary and bright, sparkled.
“College… Now that you mention it, I remember my father had mentioned that he had gone to college…!”
“Is that so?”
* * *
I entered the Dollhouse Mansion that housed the Ragdoll family.
Ragdoll, sweeping the garden, was startled to see me.
But he soon patted his chest down and said.
“I thought a robber had come in with you appearing so suddenly.”
“If you think about it, I’m worse than a robber. Perhaps you should bolster the security of your estate for your golden years.”
“Worse than a robber, don’t say such things. Lord Judas, you are our benefactor, returning news of our daughter and our granddaughter. So what brings you today?”
The old man looked around.
He was about to call a maid to prepare tea and snacks, but I shook my head and decided to just get straight to the point.
“I came to talk about Cecily. You know that Cecily did not go to school today, right?”
“Of course, I was informed by the school…”
The children attending Graham Academy were mostly nobles, tycoons, or children of conglomerates.
It’s natural for the school to contact their guardians if a child misses even a day.
The elders must have already noticed Cecily skipping school.
At that time, two long-haired cats rubbed their cheeks against the viscount’s legs.
Were they his pets?
As I pondered this, the viscount spoke.
“Even animals like cats can sense whether they are loved or not. Children even more so. Maybe Cecily felt the same.”
“Since my granddaughter Cariote has returned, it’s true that I have not paid much attention to Cecily. I had no choice but to care for my deceased daughter and her child…. Perhaps Cecily felt uneasy. That might be why she is trying to find her mother and father.”
The old viscount seemed to have his own depth of life experience.
He seemed to grasp most of what was going on.
“But Cecily is now an inseparable part of our family. I’m not sure how the child feels about it…. Everyone has been cherishing her. But still, maybe it’s not the same as being with her birth parents….”
The viscount smiled bitterly.
However, I thought differently.
“She probably thinks of you as family.”
The chances that they are her actual family are high.
And Cecily must have surely liked this elderly couple.
Despite losing many memories in the space-time magic incident, she still came to this mansion.
She must have made many good memories here.
Of course, I didn’t elaborate on my words, as it would require a complex explanation.
“Anyway, I came to tell you that Cecily will be staying at our Junk Mansion tonight. We’ll make sure she returns home safely, so don’t worry too much.”
“I see. Then I won’t worry. Is Cariote also staying there? She’s been a bit reluctant to stay in this mansion lately. It’s been a few days since she last came.”
“Is that so?”
I thought Cariote was living here in luxury.
But it seems that wasn’t the only case.
“She probably finds the mansion suffocating due to her experience living in the wilderness of Barbaria. If it were up to me, she would quit being a hunter and live here comfortably.”
It sounded good.
Viscount Von Ragdoll is rumored to be wealthy even by Fressia’s standards.
It would take several generations to spend all his wealth.
But Cariote seemed to have rejected such fortune.
“She says she must pursue a demon… The same demon that killed her mother and sister… She feels that she must avenge them.”
“I’ve heard of her story before.”
“But demons are terrifying beings, aren’t they? Judas, as the hero who defeated the Demon King, you should know this well. Honestly, I wish Cariote, the daughter of Leone, would no longer associate with such matters. I hear she will leave this city to chase after one….”
The prospect of his newly discovered granddaughter chasing after a fearsome demon and leaving the city must be frightening.
I would be worried too if Naru or Cecily were chasing demons.
* * *
「Judas, I think I’ll have to pull an all-nighter at school because of the midterms. I’ve thrown together some leftovers from the party for dinner, so just eat on your own.」
When I returned to the mansion, I found a note stuck on the table.
It seems Brigitte stopped by the mansion and then went back to school.
Such a busy member of society.
Come to think of it, I’ve never seen Naru preparing for midterms?
As I was pondering this, I heard a thud.
Stepping out to the entrance, I saw Cariote scanning the area, having laid down her heavy-looking bags on the red carpet in the lobby.
“Mage… Where is Brigitte? I’ve gathered information about the imp. I’ve finished investigating where they are and how they’re living.”
“Oh, really? That’s impressive.”
“I just need to hand over the information, and my contract with Brigitte will finally be over.”
“I see. What’s with all the luggage?”
There were piles of heavy bags.
Cariote glanced over her bags nonchalantly and said,
“I’m leaving this city today. Once I finish helping with the imp hunt, my role is done. Someone in the city of hunters, Danehol, claims to have seen traces of the demon I’m after.”
Leaving the city?
How far was Danehol from here again?
More importantly, she’s leaving today?
“Isn’t that too hasty?”
“I’ve no choice. Danehol is at the far west end of Freesia. Even by airship, it’s at least a month away. If I miss today’s airship to Danehol, I’ll waste at least two months. The demon might move on by then.”
Her reasoning was sound.
But if Cariote leaves the Duchy of Freesia, she won’t be able to meet me or Cecily.
What would happen to Cecily then?
My head was full of question marks.
The important thing now was to keep Cariote here.
“Alright. Even if you go, how about getting some wine before you leave? The Duke’s grandson was among the guests yesterday and he gave me a rather precious vintage as a thank-you for my protection.”
Cariote looked at me with her slender eyes.
It was as if she was scrutinizing, ‘What is this guy plotting?’
Cariote is a sharp woman, she’d see through my roundabout speech quickly.
“Wine, huh? Judas, it’s unlike you to make such a noble suggestion. I never thought you’d have such a delicate touch.”
“…I’m a college-educated man, you know.”
“Good one. Fine. The airship from the Duchy of Freesia to Danehol departs at 9 PM. It’s 7 PM now. Two hours to spare. A glass of wine should be fine.”
I was a college-educated man.
Quite smart, that is.
And not to brag, but when it comes to sly and dirty work, my mind tends to be particularly sharp.
My grandfather, seeing me bow twice as a kid to get more New Year’s money, once said, “That boy, sly as his little uncle, has the makings of a politician.”.
It was because of my experiences at such a young age that I knew.
I have to do whatever it takes to keep Cariote from catching the 9 o’clock airship─.
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