Translator(s): DC, ShimizuA Editor(s): XSSpeed, Nara TLC: ShimizuA
An Unexpected Proposal
“Mmm, delicious. Cheshire is a really good cook.”
Said Shizuru as he swallowed a large mouthful of kidney pie. Cheshire giggled and smiled due to the praise.
“I’m glad that you said that, thanks. It’s just simple home cooking, but please eat as much as you’d like.”
During this exchange Mary was in Shizuru’s arms in goods spirits as she rubbed her head while sitting next to him; suddenly her eyes darted towards Cheshire. Mary, who was eating mashed potatoes, reciprocated a suspicious look.
“How does it taste, Mary-chan?”
“…The cooked rice that mother makes is much better.”
Mary was blunt. Cheshire didn’t appear hurt, rather, she put her finger to her lips and seemed to be smiling.
“You love your mother very much Mary-chan, don’t you?”
Mary lightly nodded while slightly averting her gaze and blushing, she reached out for the sandwich to hide her embarrassment.
“Even Alice is overjoyed after being held in Shizuru’s arms. Isn’t that right, Alice-chan?”
She addressed the bisque doll in an affectionate voice as she caressed it. But of course, there was no response at all. Unbeknownst to her, she was carrying a doll.
Generally speaking, usually one could surmise the fragmented insanity of a person just by looking at their expressions. Cheshire herself did not suspect it to be a mere tattered doll, she just loved it.
Ludmilla faintly reached for her spoon, wearing a weak expression. Cheshire tilted her head to the side, looking at her with a suspecting gaze.
“I somewhat wonder, Ludmilla-chan. Is there something that you dislike?”
“N-no…nothing in particular. Everything is delicious.”
“That’s wonderful. You have purple demon eyes right, Ludmilla-chan? I heard that bodies like yours have a tendency to stay cold, so I tried to arrange warm food, but it’s above all important that they suit your tastes.”
Kidney pie, corn pottage, warm vegetable sandwiches, and mulled wine. ‘Now that you mention it, I did find the meals lined up on the dining table both warm and tasty,’ she thought.
Her very detailed care wouldn’t have led one to believe she had an illness in her heart. That was probably as to why Ludmilla found Cheshire excessive.
Whilst holding the doll, Cheshire skillfully used one hand, occasionally rubbing the tattered thing’s head. Ludmilla, who didn’t know how to cope with this, let out a small sigh.
She was thinking about it (the doll). However, Ludmilla was not as foolish as to disregard Shizuru’s advice as quick as that.
Eventually, she finished eating while just barely avoiding making eye contact with Cheshire.
“Cheshire, might we stay over today?”
The dinner finished uneventfully with a peaceful atmosphere; they then tidied up after they finished. Proceeding the meal Cheshire brought out some herbal tea, then he unexpectedly asked Cheshire.
“Let’s see. Since you are going to Richelieu’s place tomorrow, I’m obliged to let you stay this evening.”
Every week the Zeroth Squad relocated its position. For this week, it was a shop that built in the center of the western district. Thinking that it would be faster if they stay overnight there, Shizuru began to reply with affirmation.
“… Are you actually sane? Isn’t that woman with the sickle in here?”
Then Ludmilla had cast out that question.
As soon as the Fourth Squad base’s front door opened, a scythe was swung by the deviant Carmilla. To spend the night under the same roof with such a woman, it wasn’t on the level of ‘how dangerous’ anymore.
Nonetheless, Shizuru had already taken the matter into consideration. He softly shrugged his shoulders, then lightly snapped his fingers.
Immediately following it were soft reverberating tremors coming from the ceiling. Everyone looked up. At the same time, a shadow figure leaped out.
Without making so much as a sound, Oboro landed on the carpet without any sound.
Ludmilla, who couldn’t instantly digest the current situation, stared in amazement. She looked again at the ceiling to find that a hole has opened on it.
“You, do you’ve been on the ceiling this whole time…?”
In response to Ludmilla’s query, Oboro gave a small nod. As she made her way to Shizuru’s side, she put her mouth, which was covered by her scarf, to his ear and whispered something indiscernible.
“Is that so?… Thanks, Oboro, you’ve really helped me out.”
Being so close to his smiling face which was directed towards her, Oboro’s ears turned red and she hid more than half of her face with her scarf; after again whispering a few more words, she disappeared as if she were a heat haze. She excelled in secrecy in the work of Shinobi. After being left to lightly admire her method, he turned around to face Ludmilla.
“If you mean Carmilla, then it’s perfectly fine since she’s in the dungeon. I’ll have to bring her meal later on.”
“… There are a variety of things in which I’d like to mention, but, if it’s safe for the time being, then I won’t say anything for now…”
If she were to pick on the gap in awareness between hers and Shizuru and the others, as a matter of fact, it will be endless. Realized that she should just give up at a certain point, Ludmilla let out a deep sigh.
“At any rate… it was a bit surprising.”
“I just snapped my finger jokingly, but to think that Oboro really coming out.”
Ahaha, laughed Shizuru. Ludmilla no longer understood how to respond.
At any rate, the three of them decided to spend a night at the fourth squad’s base. While Ludmilla was relaxing in a more extravagant guest room in comparison to their hideout, she heard a knock.
“… Go ahead.”
Thinking that it was Shizuru, she answered it briefly and the door opened up. However, it was not Shizuru who showed up, rather, it was Cheshire.
“Good evening, Ludmilla-chan. I have prepared the bath, feel free to use it.”
Ludmilla replied shortly while slightly lowering her head to Cheshire who smiled gently. When having a short conversation like this, she really looked like an ordinary woman.
Although, as usual, Cheshire held the tattered bisque doll within her arms— if one took a closer look, there were traces of repetitive repair which could be faintly seen, and yet, the partially broken Alice was still in her loving embrace. Once again, even though the doll itself was falling apart, there were no tears in the clothes, not even a fray nor stain to be seen. It was proof that she was treating it as a human being as she changed its clothes frequently.
It’s right eye missing, its face having numerous cracks running across it; Alice was ominous, her gaze drawn to it in morbid fascination whenever she let her mind wander. Ludmilla forcibly changed her gaze to Chesire’s face, closed the book which she had been reading, and put it down as she rose from the sofa.
“… Ah, that’s right. I have a story to share with you, Ludmilla-chan.”
Just before she passed Cheshire at the door to head towards the bathroom, she stopped. I hope that she makes it quick, thought Ludmilla. Ludmila slightly inclined her head in a concerned manner, but nodded for Cheshire to continue.
“Thank you. Well, maybe it’s not a story? I heard from Shizuru that you have repeatedly asked Riri to be ‘reassigned’ to the Fourth Squad. Is that true?”
Why is she asking about this? Cheshire casually spoke of a proposition which made Ludmilla suspicious of her.
“If so—for the job this time, would you like to spend your time here? If you don’t have any problems associating with Carmilla-chan and Oboro-chan then I would be willing to consider taking up your request for reassignment to Riri-chan.”
A night after Shizuru and the others visited the Fourth Squad. After having breakfast, Shizuru and Mary went to Zeroth’s Squad base.
It was, of course, about the assassination request of the kingdom’s aristocrat Count Garland.
“I understand. I will temporarily grant Ludmilla access to the western district.”
That was the first thing out of Richelieu’s mouth after hearing Shizuru’s explanation of the current circumstances from the report that he created last night.
If Ludmilla had been there then she would have been disappointed about how anticlimactic it had been to obtain approval that easily. Nevertheless, the operations and actions of Black Maria were largely left to the discretion of the captains of each squad as long it wasn’t something big like the organization management. As such, if Cheshire, who was the captain of the Fourth Squad, was in agreement with it, then Richelieu saw no reason as to why she should oppose it.
And thus, Ludmilla’s request for the participation in Count Garland’s assassination was officially decided.
“Since we got Richelieu-san’s written signature, we have to deal with the job successfully.”
Shizuru told Ludmilla this in their meeting at the open cafe while he tilted his stylish teacup. Ludmilla silently sighed as she watched him wipe some cream from Mary’s cheek who had been pecking happily at a parfait at his side.
“… Is that so. Sorry for making you go through all of this .”
“Ahaha, I don’t particularly mind. Since to me, miscellaneous jobs are important after all.”
Rather than a miscellaneous job, aren’t you practically handling all Third Squad’s backstage affairs? That’s what Ludmilla was thinking, but didn’t dare to say it.
“And Ludmilla, what’s your share of the story?”
As to why those three gathered in a cafe, Ludmilla had something to tell to Shizuru. He said those words with a somewhat serious tone, re-emphasize that this wasn’t some carefree story, therefore, as much as possible they made an atmosphere that will make it easier to talk. Rather than being considerate, this was a skill that he unconsciously used.
“Ah… perhaps, is it ‘I want to get married’ or something along those lines? If that’s so, I’m sorry, Richelieu has strictly ordered that when you get proposed by anyone–”
“IT’S NOT THAT…!”
Ludmilla bent over with a force that almost knocked the table and forcibly silenced Shizuru who kept going on while dramatically holding his chest as if in pain. Looking at her react like that, Shizuru laughed.
It seems, he was just teasing her. While he was indeed a man, Shizuru’s mischievous smile really fit the definition of beautiful. Some of the passersby showed some attracted looks at him.
“Sorry sorry, I’m joking. You’re so cute Ludmilla.”
“Tch…I’m really gonna shoot you…”
Not used to being teased, Ludmilla clicked her tongue annoyedly; but thanks to that, the tension around them lessened. Her stiff shoulders also somewhat relaxed as she let out a big sigh. As her voice calmed down, she pressed her finger to her forehead and told Shizuru about what happened last night.
“Cheshire invited me to spend my time at the fourth squad during this job.”
“…Also, if I have no problem socializing with their members, she will speak to the Boss about my reassignment.”
Even if Ludmilla was a bit hesitant to say the latter half, in the end, she stated it.
“Is that so,” Shizuru responded lightly.
“… Wait… just that?”
Contrary to her expectation, his reaction was so light that felt rather disappointed. After all, it was her reassignment that has been rejected many times before. However, with a recommendation from no other than the Fourth Squad captain, Cheshire, she should be able to confront Richelieu about it.
In other words, this was an unexpected chance for Ludmilla. Because of that, even if it was Shizuru, she thought that he would show some displeasure on his face. Nevertheless, when she revealed it, he just reacted like that. His reaction not meeting her expectations, a question mark began hovering above her head.
“Eh, Yeah. I have nothing to say in particular. But isn’t that great; with Cheshire’s recommendation, even Richelieu wouldn’t be able to dismiss it unsparing.”
“Gulp… someone like you, just go somewhere already.”
Finished with the parfait, this time Mary ate the pudding that Shizuru ordered additionally while she shot those stabbing words.
It may be unrelated, but ever since he picked up Mary, Shizuru has been giving her sweets excessively. His reason being, that she was six times more lovely when she was eating sweets.
“It seems there’s some misunderstanding; I never objected to you transferring to the fourth squad, you know. Cassy rejected it for her own amusement, while Richelieu rejected it based on her decision.”
Shizuru said it with a bitter smile while patting Mary who had her hands full with deserts on his lap and was stroking her head.
“If you wish for it and Richelieu permitted it, you can move to the fourth squad. But, please forget what I said before.”
What he said before. There was no need to think about what he meant.
It was after the annihilation of a veteran crime syndicate in the east district. He approached Ludmilla, who spent her time alone since she couldn’t bear the feast merry-making atmosphere despite them just killing people, and exchanged some words with her.
“If it’s the Fourth Squad, the revenge on the aristocrat you wish can be realized. But, in most cases, the request comes from fellow aristocrats.”
Furthermore, Black Maria only accepts assassination for profit. Namely, for Ludmilla to be able to exact her revenge, she must become the pawn of her detestable enemies.
“…I know. This time it’s a special case. Honestly, when thinking that we were used as tools by those aristocrats, it irritates me to the point that it makes my blood boils.”
But, even if it was the case.
“I want to let those aristocrats know by all means…! The kind of suffering that led to Papa and Mama’s death…!!”
The girl of royal descent kept questioning herself once she heard the truth from Shizuru. To sum it up, as the result of the traumatic conflict, she wouldn’t care about their background as long as she could kill those aristocrats.
Staring at the swaying deep flames in her purple eyes, Shizuru quietly murmured her name. And then, after a pause, he― blinked his eyes in surprise.
“You, so you call your parents Papa and Mama huh.”
“DAMMIT, I’m really gonna shoot you…!!”
Of course, he said that on purpose, but now he spoiled the mood.
―Anyhow, The curtain for Ludmilla’s separated days from the third squad for the first time ever since she joined Black Maria, has begun.