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The girl with the wicked crest
The carriage pulled up in front of the mansion where a woman stood, maids supporting her from both sides. She appeared to be in poor health. With features similar to Roxy-sama’s, she was very beautiful. Was she perhaps ―
“Mother, didn’t I tell you not to come out and meet us?!” (TN: Roxy calls her mother 母上, a formal term that literally means mother above/superior, used to show sophistication in families. Since this doesn’t fit the western culture, it has been kept as simply “mother”.)
Ahh, it was indeed Roxy-sama’s mother. During our usual tea parties, I had heard that her mother was severely ill. Who could expect someone in that condition to welcome us?
Even now, her complexion was so sickly that she looked ready to cough up blood, so it would not be strange for her to collapse at any given moment. I could see this even from my perspective, so of course Roxy-sama was even more upset as her immediate relative. This was natural since she was the only member of her family left… Either way, such a severe illness that even the Heart Family, one of the five noble lineages, could not cure with their status and financial power…
“I’m begging you, please don’t push yourself.”
“It’s alright, Roxy. My condition is better today than usual… Oh?!”
Calming down the panicking Roxy-sama in front of her, the mother looked at me. Her expression was… like that of a child who had found a very interesting toy.
“Well well, who might this be?”
“He’s… Fate Graphite. A new employee that I hired. I wanted to introduce him to mother so I brought him along.”
Following Roxy-sama’s introduction, I bowed my head.
“I am Aisha Heart. Thank you for coming this time. I welcome you.”
“Thank you very much. It’s nice to meet you!”
“Yes, it’s nice to meet you too. Now then, come in.”
Under Aisha-sama’s directions, the maids who had been hanging back half forcibly pulled me into the mansion. Ohh, it was this kind of welcome… At this, Roxy-sama was left alone outside.
“Wait, mother! He’s my servant, you know!”
I was coerced into a luxurious guest room where they sat me down at a small table next to the window. Finally, the maids released me from their restraints. Roxy-sama’s mother sat in front of me. I thought that Aisha-sama was a pretty overbearing person.
Roxy-sama came a few moments later. With her cheeks puffed, she seemed somewhat upset at her mother for acting selfishly.
“Well, Roxy came too? Then, sit here.”
Even though she said that, Roxy-sama sat obediently as she was told to. It seemed like having a tea party first thing when coming home was a Heart Family custom. Roxy-sama’s love for tea parties may have been influenced by her mother. As I smiled when thinking this, Aisha-sama spoke.
“Fate, do you like Roxy?”
Ehhh?! I almost spat out the tea that I had been drinking. Or rather, I spluttered a little. While I was flustered that such a question like this was the first thing she said, Roxy-sama’s face reddened and she became angry.
“What are you saying all of a sudden?”
“Oh, was that improper? I was simply asking if he liked you as an employer. If he was working for you begrudgingly, I can’t say that I would be happy for him, right?”
Ahh, she was talking about that… I was surprised. I had thought she meant something else. A commoner and a Holy Knight. We were too different. No matter how I hoped that it would be possible, it was not something that could happen.
Smiling mischievously, Aisha-sama repeated her question. I had already decided on my answer.
“I am very grateful to Roxy-sama. I would like to serve her for the rest of my life if allowed.”
When I showed my loyalty to Roxy-sama, Aisha-sama was so pleased that she elegantly clasped her hands together. I truly felt this way.
Hearing this while she drank her tea, Roxy-sama started choking violently. Looking at me, her face flushed red and she said, “I will be resting in my room for a while. See you later,” then escaped from the room.
Had I said something wrong? As I worried, Aisha-sama spoke to me cheerfully.
“It seems like the exhaustion from the journey has caught up to her. She must have been busy with her duties at the capital. After a long rest, Roxy will return to her usual self so you need not be concerned.”
Roxy-sama’s sudden departure had left me behind. However, Aisha-sama was a good conversationalist and she told me many things about how they were focusing on improving new grape varieties in the territory, as well as stories from Roxy-sama’s childhood.
“Something like that happened?”
“Indeed. As a child, Roxy was such a crybaby that she would cry even from just seeing a small insect. For her to have become a Holy Knight, it’s quite unbelievable.”
At that moment, a fleeting moment of sadness crossed Aisha-sama’s face. Having lost her dear husband, she must have been worried about the heavy responsibility that now rested on her daughter. And so I spoke with my hand across my heart.
“Roxy-sama is a splendid Holy Knight. She is trusted by many people at the capital. I think Roxy-sama is doing a wonderful job as the head of the Heart Family.”
“Is that so… I’m relieved. …Thank you.”
Aisha-sama was brought slightly to tears. After all, the loss of the former master must have left a deep scar on the Heart Family that has yet to heal. At least, I felt that way.
The tea party that had become solemn drew to an end. There was also the matter of Aisha-sama’s physical condition, so the maids who had been waiting in the corner came to mention that it was about time for her to rest.
After I had thanked Aisha-sama for the tea party, I had nothing to do so I decided to wander around the Heart Family’s territory. For the time being, I had asked a maid for permission to walk around alone to which she had told me to make sure not to get lost. I had replied with, “I won’t go too far,” and decided to leave Greed with the maid at the mansion for safekeeping.
Whew… Anyway, what a large vineyard. I could not even begin to describe the sweetness of the scent tickling my nose. Against the blue sky, the green covered earth was a stunning contrast. While I sauntered along comfortably, I saw people harvesting grapes. They seemed very busy.
Speaking of which, Roxy-sama and I had planned to harvest grapes with the residents tomorrow. Since I had no experience in doing this, I was unsure of the procedure. If I made a mistake or if I was bad at it, I would embarrass Roxy-sama as her servant. I should take this opportunity to practice it here. Having decided this, I called out to the residents.
“Hello, my name is Fate Graphite and I’m the new Heart Family servant. If it’s alright, could you teach me how to harvest grapes?”
The silence stretched for a while. Maybe it was no good… I guess I messed up. Just as I was thinking this,
“Ohhh, you’re going to lend me a hand?! That’ll be helpful. As expected of a Heart Family servant.”
The aunts and uncles stopped what they were doing and gathered around. Then, they taught me where to pick the grapes from and how to carefully harvest them. They were residents of the Heart Family territory after all, so they were all nice people.
…This was what I thought at first, however, I worked like a horse until dusk before I realised it. Everyone was working so hard that I simply could not leave halfway. When I took a break in the corner of the field, a few uncles came and treated me to some freshly squeezed grape juice.
“You’ve been really helpful. Here, drink this to rejuvenate.”
The slightly sweet acidity spread throughout my mouth, taking away the fatigue from picking grapes. I had never drank so much juice before.
“It’s very delicious.”
“Hahaha, isn’t it? Especially since the juice was squeezed from grapes that we’re proud of. Well, we didn’t have this many grapes in the old days.”
“Is that so?”
“Ahh, my deceased master was dedicated to improving the soil. He called many people from other regions who were knowledgeable about this, learning together with the residents. It’s a fond memory now. Thanks to that, we were able to make this vineyard.”
The uncles drank the grape juice solemnly as though it was alcohol.
“How is Roxy-sama faring? We heard that our former master passed away in Gallia, so we’re worried. She’s a kind person. She must be hurting inside.”
“I think she felt shocked. But Roxy-sama is very strong. She was doing many public duties at the capital. Seeing her like that, I believe she will be okay.”
I had simply told them what I truly felt in my heart. At this, everyone who was listening looked surprised and grinned broadly. Then, they began pouring grape juice into my cup again and again.
“Wait, I can’t drink any more!”
“It’s fine. Drink up, drink up.”
In the warm weather, we spoke for quite a while before I decided to return to the Heart Family’s mansion. On the way back in the evening, I noticed an unfamiliar girl walking in the opposite direction. She had long, white hair and brown skin. Her appearance did not resemble that of any race in this country. Moreover, she had an axe so large that a child should not be able to carry it.
The most intriguing of all were the white tattoos all over her body. Was it a ritual of some sort? Then she noticed my gaze and halted right beside me, remaining expressionless.
She spoke in a cute, child-like voice. Directed at me, her eyes were red enough to stop anyone in their tracks. I had seen eyes like these before. This… no way. I activated the <Appraisal> skill to confirm my suspicions.
Hm? Strange, I could not see anything. This had never happened up until now. Why?
“Hey, are you listening?”
She continued to intercept my thoughts. Contrary to her docile appearance, she seemed quite egoistical. She glared at me with her red eyes.
“Can I help you?”
“…No, it’s nothing. Seems like it’s still too early.”
No matter what I asked, she ignored it all. The conversation was completely one-sided.
“I came to hunt Kobolt, but I’ll give it to you. A loan.”
“Like I said, what?”
“Until then, see you.”
With that, the conversation was over and the girl left. Just… who was she? Besides, those red eyes… They were exactly the same as mine when my Gluttony skill was starved until it was out of control.
At that moment, my heartbeat quickened. Could it be… that girl was just like me? If so, should I chase after her and call out to her right now?
I was watching her disappear into the sunset, when I heard a voice behind me. Turning around, I saw Roxy-sama.
“I was looking for you. What happened? Your expression is scary.”
“Eh, is that so? Hahahaha.”
Laughing, I tried to change my mood. I should talk to Greed when I go back. This was my personal problem, unrelated to Roxy-sama. …I did not want her to know.
Tilting her head to look at the direction I had been gazing towards, Roxy-sama seemed surprised to see the girl.
“Why is there a Gallian in a place like this?”
“Gallian? She’s a…”
Monsters were constantly running rampant in Gallia. However, they were once a great continent that possessed incredible military power. The Gallians who lived in such a prosperous country were an ethnic group with hair as white as snow and healthy brown skin. Their race had almost died out due to the sudden proliferation of monsters triggered by an unknown factor. Since the few surviving Gallians had mixed with other ethnicities, it was said that there were no more pureblooded Gallians.
“I’ve never seen a person with such distinct Gallian features. Is she Fay’s acquaintance?”
“No, we just spoke a little.”
“Is that so…”
We watched the Gallian girl for a while. When she had disappeared from sight, Roxy-sama laughed and said, “It’s strange, right?”
“Fay, what have you been doing?”
“I was taught how to pick grapes. Then, I ended up helping harvest them… until the end.”
“Fufufu, is that so. There’s still tomorrow, so please don’t overdo it, okay? Come, let’s go home.”