Translator(s): flowingcloud Editor(s): Matty Proofreader(s): N/A TLC(s): N/A
“The thing that follows Sputnik around.”
Sputnik printed his own name in the application form, back from when he applied for permanent residency.
At the time, Natsu was leading an investigation on a certain incident. She went to the city hall to pick up a few copies of the suspects’ written applications. By mere chance, Sputnik had a chance encounter with her at the locale. The application form Sputnik was signing just so happened to enter her line of sight. A peek was all it took to see the name he wrote. “That’s a strange name,” she thought.
Following that event, she had met him during a patrol. She told him, “It’s a strange name.”, to which Sputnik replied with a smile ――” Ahh, it’s an alias.”
Since then, Natsu couldn’t believe Sputnik.
The shady man was the same as ever.
An ample amount of time had passed since the two decided to settle there, yet Clue hadn’t known about Sputnik’s true colors until this very day. Expressing a smile became habitual for him, and none of his words appeared to contain a hidden meaning.
In no shape or form should the written application have been biased. Although the good-natured people of this city welcomed him with open arms, Natsu herself would not cease her vigilance.
In Clue’s case, she truly was afraid of strangers at first. She’d often hide behind Sputnik whenever a stranger would approach; but eventually, she had become accustomed to the city, naturally being able to let a smile befall her lips, and act aptly for her age. But, he, in any case――
“Fu, fuu, fuuuu.”
At that moment, a strange voice sounded, not yet understood by those who heard it. Natsu then turned back around to see what it was.
“Eh.. ? C-clue-chan?”
Thereupon, Clue gave an unusual groan. Her cheeks were fully puffed, her face beet red, and her eyes open wide. The held back tears would overflow at any time. Both hands were tightly clutching the hems of the apron, and eyes turned to the ceiling; it seemed to be her way of preservering.
This was not a trivial situation. Natsu placed her hand upon Clue’s shoulder, and gazed directly into her eyes.
“What’s wrong? Do you feel sick? Are you okay?
“I-I’m okay, heuk, u, uwaa, u――waaaa.” [Crying SFX]
She attempted to give a firm reply. But since her blurted words were drowned in sobs, it became pretty clear she wasn’t fine. Very quickly, the tears started to well up, but none of them slipped from her lids. Clue was trembling, with her fists still clenched. Before long, she couldn’t endure any longer and her eyes fell shut.
The store interior exploded with the vociferous sounds of crying.
“U, uee, ueeeeeeeee!!”
“There, there. What’s wrong? Did that idiot do something to upset you?”
Whilst holding her shoulders, she gently caressed Clue’s head.
She broken down immediately after Natsu’s embrace reached her. Broken phrases then came spilling out.
“S-sputnik, san, returned, at first, during entire night, somewhere, went, went out, it seems, and.”
“Smell of alcochol.. And–.and.. alcohol. .. drank too much.. And where he went.. Even when asked, responded.. responded with only… hiieeeee [Crying SFX].. asked.. with who.. ‘Whomever I want, C-clu–… It doesn’t.. matter’ “
While getting emotionally worked up, Clue went from using first person pronouns, to her own name, “Clue”. It seemed to be an unconscious mistake for her.
She was roughly rubbing her eyes across her sleeves much like an infant would. Her white cheeks became red and slightly scratched. Natsu was unable to just stand back and do nothing. She gently wiped at the tears with a handkerchief, and then she took a deep breath before her throat sounded again.
“And.. but.. At an inn… w-with a woman――”
The more she heard, the more concerned Natsu became. She, now displeased, knitted her brows.
Natsu knew that Sputink and Clue weren’t romantically involved; but even so, to callously disregard a young girl’s feelings, whether it be love or affection, was an inexcusable disgrace to all men.
“B-because of that, until noon, won’t work today.. he said.. Clu was.. was not good.. he said.. but.. he– he.. did not.. l-listen…”
“Is that so, is that so.. The bastard is as cruel as ever..”
“Y-yes, he’s c-cruel.”
“For bastards like those, you shouldn’t hold back on calling them idiots. It’ll make you feel better. Spuink is an iidiiot! Your turn now.”
“Sputink is an.. idiot..”
Well, was she angry about his work ethic or something else?
After crying for as long as she liked, it seems she calmed down a bit. While wiping her tears with the handkerchief Natsu let her borrow, she took in a deep breath.
“Thank you very much, Natsu-san. I feel refreshed now.”
“You’re welcome. After that low-life of a shopkeeper wakes up, be sure to give him a roundhouse kick.”
Natsu said this jokingly―but 80 percent serious. Her mood seemed to lighten up, and her lips curved into a joyous smile.
With her head tilted downwards, she giggled for a while.
Clue suddenly raised her head.
“Ah, that’s right. I need to go shopping……”
“Shopping? Aah, what the low-life said earlier, about needing to go buy a few things. Isn’t it fine if he goes alone?
“Eeh, it’s just.. If it was for Sputink personally, I would let him.. But it’s related to work.. Ah, but I did leave all the windows unlocked to air out the shop… And I turned off all the crime prevention devices. I can’t leave this shop unguarded, so I’ll just give up and stay..”
She smiled wryly and shrugged her shoulders defeatedly. Certainly, it’s not like she could just leave the store unattended.
However, her expression evidently filled with regret, and Natsu simply couldn’t let that be.
Natsu raised her index finger.
“Well, if it’s fine with you, I’ll look after the store. Will you be back before the store opening?”
After Natsu suggested this, Clue’s still moistened eyes blinked in surprise.
“Will you really?”
“You can count on it.”
Tilting her head, she suddenly laughed.
There were no pressing matters for Natsu to deal with today. At any rate, if she returned to the office, all that had to be done was some monotonous filing. She could stay here under the pretext of assisting an ordinary citizen, and avoid a severe punishement. ――And it wasn’t as if she heard Sputink call her, “A huge tax parasite” in an exaggerated tone ―― probably.
“Now, with that out of the way, do you remember what you needed to buy?”
“Let’s see.. If I remember correctly, Sputnik-san needed a polishing agent, wire, detergent… Ah, since I’ll have the chance, I’ll pass by Eren-san’s store.”
Eren’s store is a bakery. There couldn’t possibly be a business relationship between jewelry manufacturing and baked goods, but――looking at Natsu, who seemed to have her curiosity piqued, Clue smiled awkwardly. She whispered, “It’s a secret.”
“Sputniks-san loves melon bread. His love for it grew even more after moving to this town. Eren-san’s place is his favorite. When he gets up, having a morning coffee with Eren-san’s melon bread makes him very delighted.”
A dazzlingly delighted Sputnik, with both hands eagerly raising the melon bread before his eyes ―― The limits of the imagination were challenged with that image in mind.
While Natsu planted her hand against her forehead, she grumbled.
“Again, liking something that doesn’t suit his image..”
“He also likes to eat melon bread with seishu.”
Natsu couldn’t think of how seishu and melon bread melded. They couldn’t possibly fit together. But it’s already an eccentric taste, so it was nothing out of place.
“So, I wonder if I can come back within around ten to fifteen minutes.. Let’s see, right now..”
Clue took out a small watch from her apron pocket and flipped open its cover. Natsu also looked at her own watch. The needle pointed to 9:30. This store’s opening time should be 10:00 o’clock sharp.
She timidly peeped at Natsu. Natsu cracked open a smile and waved with her right hand.
“Have a safe trip. It’s okay if you don’t hurry. Stay safe. Take care so you don’t get into an accident.”
“Thank you very much. Excuse me, then. I’ll leave the store in your care.”
After saying that, she withdrew back inside for a moment to retrieve her favorite bag and sling it on her shoulder. Coming back with it, she took off her apron and hung it on the stool by the register counter. She bowed twice before leaving the store.
What was left was many jewels and Natsu alone to watch over the store.
Natsu sat on the guest sofa, allowing her body to to sink in comfortably.
With her back buried into the sofa, Natsu muttered,. “……An inn, huh.”
Last night――no, this early morning. From a bar to an inn, was it a date or a tryst. Clue could not say, but Natsu caught onto one thing brought into question.
That idiot was at an inn all night with “some woman”. Perhaps it was…
Natsu dismissively shook her head and stopped dwelling on it. An answer like that wouldn’t just come from thinking on it. The only method was to press Sputnik himself for one
With her vision veered close to the ground, Natsu looked at the apron carelessly hung atop the stool, thinking of the girl whom it belonged to. Finally, thoughts on the hopeless shopkeeper on the second floor surfaced.
Natsu heavily sighed.
――If that low-life male had 1/100th of her amiability, it would be good enough.