Chapter 12 The Third Knight Commander's third daughter who floods her tears

 The third daughter of the Third Knight Commander floods the cheeks with tears.

 That day, the entire Cantor family was present for dinner.

 The two sisters-in-law, the eldest son who worked at the Royal Court, the second and fourth sons who worked for the Knights, and the third son who worked at the Temple were all seated quietly.

 Claudia couldn't wait to hear the words of blessing, but for some reason everyone had a difficult look on their face, and she couldn't bring herself to say anything.

 Normally, the dinner would begin peacefully and happily after the father said the prayer for the meal, but in the heavy atmosphere, no words of prayer came out of his mouth at all.


 The third son, who seemed to have made up his mind, called her name.

"Yes! Yes, brother-sama!"

 She thought that she had met Wolfgang on his way to the temple, and that he must have heard something wonderful, so she replied in a joyful voice.

"Mr. Wolfgang told me that you have been blessed with a child, is that true?"

"Yes! It is a son with Wolfgang-sama!"

 Claudia replied proudly, expecting a blessing.


 The family's response was far from what Claudia expected.

"...How dare you!"

 Her mother held her forehead and shook her head.

"I warned you many times not to spoil Claudia!"

 The eldest daughter exclaimed, rising from her seat.

"...I'm going to the royal palace."

 The eldest son turned pale and sat up.

"...It may be too late, but I have to report to the Order."

 The second son slammed the napkin on his lapel on the table and kicked the chair away.

"I will return to the temple. Let us sincerely apologize for Claudia's unforgivable disrespect and wish Wolfgang-sama and Alexandra-sama well."

 The third son shot Claudia an angry look, then bowed deeply to his mother.

"From this moment on, I am separating myself from the Kantor family. Please understand that I will do everything in my power to resist any flames that may fly."

 The second daughter turned her back on him with disturbing words that were disproportionate to the graceful courtesy of a lady.

"You were forcibly raped by Dietfried's idiot! That's right! Claudia!"

 My father grabbed Claudia by the shoulders and shook her, shaking her.

 His hunger was aroused, and he felt dizzy.

"Huh, huh?"

 I don't understand why Dietfried is coming out here.

 Claudia tilted her head.

"! I knew it! I knew it! That fool! You're going to show me something!"

 My father grabbed the sword at his waist and ran out of the room, his footsteps rough.

"...And? Claudia. What's the truth? He didn't force you to do anything, did he? You two were so close!"

 The fourth son gives instructions to the servants with just his eyes, and has them clean up the dinner.

 How dare he do this to a pregnant woman who needs all the nutrition she can get.

"That's terrible, brother-sama! I'm a pregnant woman! You can't lower my food!"

"What! You're worried about food at a time like this! Mother, why is Claudia such a fool?"

"...Wolfgang-sama was a kind man, and being the youngest and most obedient daughter, father-sama must have spoiled her too much. No matter how much I and the eldest and second daughters blamed her, she refused to listen to our advice. Nevertheless, I thought it would not be a problem if he truly loved Wolfgang-sama. I'm sure that wise man would have disciplined Claudia so that she would not be ashamed to be a noblewoman."

"I have many things to say, but I'm also suspicious about that. You know, Claudia. Why did you betray Herr Wolfgang?"

"What? Huh? I didn't betray Wolfgang-sama!"

 I loved Wolfgang so much I couldn't wait to marry him.

 I did it again and again and finally we had a child.

 There should be no betrayal in body or soul.

 Why are my mother and fourth son so rude and outspoken?

 Not only my relatives but also my few friends.

 Even Wolfgang.

 I couldn't stand it even though I was repeatedly told that a nobleman's marriage requires a lot of procedures and formalities.

 The gods would not disapprove of a pure heart that wants to be with the one it loves.

 When I could not hide my displeasure, my eldest daughter said to me, "If you want to have a child, you have to do it as soon as possible.

 If we could have a child, we might have to hasten the process, but that would be nothing but an abomination to the nobility, with special exceptions, so it would be impossible.

 Suppose two lovers who have pledged their future to each other end up doing so and conceive an incarnation of love.

 What is there to be ashamed of?

 Claudia couldn't understand her eldest daughter's thinking at all.

"My sister told me that if I had a son, I could marry him!"

"...You blame others. You've always been such a trash!"

"Whichever sister said it, that's not the only reason, is it? I would have said it was a disgraceful and shameful affair. Especially for a woman, it's so deadly that no one would want to choose it."

"That's absurd! Do you want to get married first or have a baby first? Isn't that all you're talking about!"

 I stood up angrily, but my stomach was heavy and I quickly sat down.

 This is Wolfgang's precious child.

 You'd better take it easy.

 Anger is bad for the prenatal care in the first place, so I wish you hadn't said anything to upset Claudia.

"If the child in your womb is Wolfgang's, then surely. If the child had been Wolfgang's, he might have laughed at the untimely death of his beloved. That man is very much in favor with His Majesty."

"I don't think so, Claudia. You didn't know about this, did you? The curse of the House of Bausnern?"

 I can't believe the word "curse" came out of my mother's mouth.

 It would never reach Wolfgang, no matter who put it there.

 Claudia has never known anyone as pure and innocent as Wolfgang.

 She never doubted that her mother felt the same way.

"A curse," if you will. A blessing," I'm not so sure. The Bausnern family is beloved by the god of music. It is said that a woman cannot conceive a child until she is officially recognized by the church as blessed by blood."

"...Which means you've conceived, Claudia. The child you carry in your belly is not the son of Wolfgang-sama. It is a sign of your betrayal to some other man."


 That's impossible.

 The child in your womb is definitely Wolfgang's seed.

 He poured it into me over and over again.

 The son of the proud Wolfgang who loves you more than anyone or anything.

 No doubt.

"Did you not teach him, Mother?"

"I thought Wolfgang-sama would explain. And normally it would be strange not to know the secret of one's beloved betrothed. It's a relatively well known story among the nobility."

"It's true, it's not something one would normally talk about. I understand how you feel. But, Mother. You're dealing with Claudia! You should have explained it to her in detail!"

"Yes. I suppose I could have. But you know what? If I had explained it properly, what would Claudia have said? "I love Wolfgang-sama! It is impossible that I am not the son of Wolfgang-sama! shamelessly. As a child of nobility, I've given her everything she needs to know. But she couldn't hear..."

"Is she that stupid? Claudia!"

 The fourth son's face was red to the ears with anger.

 Everyone who belongs to the Order has a temper.

 Father, second son, fourth son, Dietfried...

"Yes. They're that stupid. But he seems to listen to Wolfgang-sama's words, so I left him in charge for a long time. I never thought it would lead to this... Who's the father of your child? Are you sure it's Diethfried?"

"Huh! There's no way I could have conceived that boy! Listen, mother..."

"Didn't you have an act of conception with Mr. Dietfried? You don't know it, but there's been a terrible rumor about it for a long time."

 What does it matter if I did?

 When Claudia was worried about not being able to bear Wolfgang's child, it was Dietfried who taught her how to conceive a child properly.

 Thanks to her, I was able to have a child with -chan.

 For that, I am grateful.

 As for the act itself, the usual roughness of the act disappeared and I was led to climax with surprising gentleness.

 Over and over again.

It is still fresh in my mind that I enjoyed to the fullest the pleasures of a man no less than Wolfgang.

 Diethfried said that our bodies must have been very compatible.

 But that's all.

 What does it matter if rumors spread?

 Rumors among the nobility are meaningless, they are as meaningless as greetings about the weather.

 Rumors among the knights would rather be reprimanded for not being knightly enough to listen to them.

 In the first place, my father is a captain of the Third Order.

 Not many people hold high positions other than knighthood.

 Whether you are a noble or a member of the Order, there's no point in starting a rumor that will anger my father.

"...What's wrong with that, face?"

"Face" is not a word you should use to describe a woman...

"Dietfried's fiancée is Alexandra-sama! The only child of the late Princess Eleonora, the crown jewel of the empire. She's also a saint and a member of the royal family with the right to the throne!

"It's disrespectful just to start a rumor, you know? If the rumor is true, you have to go to the temple to get a sacred book to prove your innocence."

 It is a sacred document that can only be written by the head of the temple, and can only be given to those who do not lie.

 It is said to be used to prove one's innocence in the event of a crime, but I have also heard that since the temple is now unclean, falsehoods will be accepted as long as one can pay for them.

"Then, let's submit it now!"

 I had no intention of stealing Alexandra's fiancé.

 In fact, I had apologized and appeased Dietfried for his rude behavior on his behalf on many occasions.

 I shouldn't be offended by his praise.

 I wonder if Alexandra, who was misguidedly jealous, was planning something.

 Dietfried, who was pestering Claudia, may have undermined Alexandra by saying or doing something worse than usual.

 Even if Claudia is not at fault, if the misunderstanding can be cleared up by submitting the divine book, I will make arrangements immediately.

 Claudia had that level of loyalty.


"You can't submit it. It's never going to be issued in the first place! Because the child in my belly is Dietfried's child!"

"That's why! How many times do I have to tell you! This child belongs to Wolfgang-sama!"

"You're the only one who believes it. He's going to be a boy just like Dietfried. He'll have unusual hair and eye color. Neither House Kantor nor House Bausnern will have a child with that combination."

 I shake my head again and again.

 It's impossible.

 The father of my child is Wolfgang.

 You would never conceive a child other than the one you love.

 That would be against divine reason.

"My brother found out at the temple. Dietfried and Wolfgang know about it."

"Wulf, sir, too?"

 You love her so much, but you suspect Wolfgang is not your son?

 It wasn't like Wolfgang to believe the temple's words instead of Claudia's.

 He must have been deceived by someone from the temple.

"Her beautiful white porcelain skin looked so translucent that it seemed as if it would disappear at any moment... How painful it must have been for you to be betrayed by the woman you loved so dearly. We're not even allowed the mercy to measure it. Do you understand that? Do you understand that, Claudia?

 I have to go see him.

 If Wolfgang is hurt, Claudia must comfort him.

 Who else but Claudia could heal Wolfgang?

"I'm coming to see you!"

"...alone, go. We have other things to do."

"You can't be alone at this hour! Even in your fiance's house, it's immodest!

"What kind of trifling is that? What's trifling is the existence of you-sama! Even the fact that you're related to me is a travesty! Can I be cut off too, Mother? !"

"...Yes, that's fine. But you should talk to your brother. Your father's to blame too. He ran away... but he was very fond of Dietfried. If we isolate him immediately, he'll say, "You shameless people before you've atoned for your sins! And the situation may well worsen."

"...I'm sorry. I was... shallow. I took it out on them... sorry, sir..."

 Biting her lip so hard that it bled and bursting into tears, my mother gently hugged and quieted her.

 While secretly snickering at the foolishness of her crying and quieting them while telling them that she had things to do, Claudia had the carriage prepared.

 She hurried to Wolfgang's house, but could not see her beloved.

 He said that he had not returned home since he went to the palace.

 He had no choice but to drive the carriage to the palace.

 He was worried that the vibration of the carriage would affect his stomach, but he thought that seeing Wolfgang's face would reassure him, and he arrived at the palace while gently caressing his stomach.

 Wolfgang told me that even in the middle of the night, if it was an emergency, I could enter the palace.

"My name is Claudia Kantor. My name is Claudia Kantor and I'm here to see Wolfgang Bausnern-Sama at midnight!"

"...I didn't think you'd actually come..."

 The large gatekeeper, clutching a spear longer than he was tall, looked down at Claudia and shook his head in disgust.

"I'm in a hurry! Please!"

"...I'm sorry, but no matter what your business is, you cannot enter the palace at this time. You cannot enter the palace at this time. You can only do so if you are instructed by the palace."

 His head was bowed condescendingly.

 As she took a deep breath, a sealed letter was thrust in front of her.

"I have been instructed by Wolfgang Bausnern-sama to give this to Claudia Cantor when she arrives."


 I grabbed the sealed envelope and cut the seal on the spot.

 Inside was a neatly folded piece of paper.

 Dear Claudia Cantor.

 Due to Claudia Cantor's infidelity, I am breaking off my engagement to Wolfgang Bausnern.

                              Wolfgang Bausnern.

 That was all that was written in the familiar Wolfgang script.

 The family seal was also stamped on the document, which was a simple but official document to be accepted by the government.

 I know this because Wolfgang briefly explained it to me some time ago.

"Uh, yeah? I'm not being unfaithful! I'm not!"

 I was so shocked that I sat down on the ground.

 The gatekeeper looked up without saying a word, and continued his work.

"...Claudia-sama, it's not good for you to be sitting here and it's not good for your health. Please return to the carriage."

 The master took Claudia's arm and tried to make her stand up.

 It is rude, but perhaps she is too worried about her body to stand up.

 But Claudia shook off the guard's hand and appealed to the gatekeeper.

"Um, sir! Didn't Wolfgang-sama say something when he gave you the sealed letter?"

"No, he didn't say anything, sir. He just wanted me to hand it to him in person."

"Tomorrow! Can I see him tomorrow?

"If you come at the appointed time, we'll let you through the gate."


 If I can see you tomorrow, I'll hold out for now.

 I don't want to ruin Wolfgang's reputation by forcing him.

 If I explain to him that there is no such thing as infidelity, he will surely understand.

 If it is only a written annulment, it can be annulled immediately.

 Even if you can't annul it, there should be no problem once you are married.

 Claudia breathed a sigh of relief as she entered the carriage. Of course, she didn't hear the gatekeeper muttering in a low voice that there was no way she could see Bausnern-sama even if she was allowed into the palace.

 The carriage shook violently. The carriage shakes violently, and you open your eyes.

 He seems to have fallen asleep.

 His stomach was growling with hunger.

 He must have slept for a long time.


 When he emerged from the carriage, he found that it was not Cantor's main residence.

"I think it was one of his villas..."

 I think I came here a few times when I was a child, but my memory of it is distant.

 The villa my father had built to train my brothers was rugged and unrefined.

 There was little aristocratic decoration for its purpose.

 What's the point of building a villa if all you do is get up and go to sleep? I somehow managed to dig up from a corner of my mind what my young fourth son had said.

 Claudia got off the carriage and walked into the villa.

 The door was not locked.

"Is anyone there?"

 Claudia enters the house with the minimum of light.

 There was no sign of anyone.

"I'm hungry, I'm hungry..."

 It's strange that there's not even a carriage attendant, but I'm too hungry to think.

 I walked heavily to the kitchen and found what looked like dinner laid out on the table.

 A salad made of only one kind of aged vegetable, without even a dressing.

 It was in an ugly wooden salad bowl, probably homemade.

 The bread was dried out and hard.

 It is not moldy, but it is hard to chew.

 Three pieces of bread are also crammed into an ugly wooden basket.

 The stew had gone cold.

 The one piece of meat in the stew was not large, but I could not bite into it for a long time.

 The large vegetable made a grumbling sound, as if it had not been cooked properly.

 The bowl was not leaking, but there were many cracks in it.

"I haven't eaten enough yet, but..."

 I couldn't find any food except for what was placed on the table.

 I managed to fill my stomach with water that smelled of chemicals, and staggered to find my bedroom.

 On the wooden bed, there were dirty sheets and blankets folded up.

 No pillow.

"Go to sleep, and when you wake up. We'll have a lot to think about..."

 He unfolds the sheet, wraps himself in the thin blanket and closes his eyes.

 Even with his jacket on, his whole body doesn't feel the least bit warm.

"Mr. Vulfgang..."

 Why can't I see you?

 Why am I so helpless?

 This is the first time I've ever been so cold I couldn't sleep.

 Tears well up in my eyes.

 I'm sure Wolfgang will be here tomorrow.

 Her eyelids were swollen and wet from crying, and a well-steamed towel would gently caress them, she told herself, and before she knew it she was sobbing herself to sleep.

 The sunlight hurt her swollen eyelids, and she slowly opened her eyes.

 When she woke up, there wasn't a part of her body that didn't hurt.

"...It smells good!"

 The smell of bacon cooking drifted into the air and tickled her nose, so Claudia hurried to the kitchen.

 There, she found a girl.

"I'm hungry! Hurry up!"

 She takes a seat and pulls a bowl of salad filled with fresh vegetables in front of her.

 The fork was hand forged, but unlike yesterday, she didn't mind.

"I'd like a cup of tea, if you don't mind!"

 Claudia shouted again, and the girl turned around.


 She jumps up from her chair and falls back.

 Half of the girl's face was covered in ugly bruises.


"Who? It's Claudia Cantor! The owner of this villa! You're too insane to even know the name of the master you're supposed to serve!"

"...I'm the one in charge of this villa, do you have any proof of your identity?"

"Proof of identity", you know it when you see it.

"I don't know, that's why I'm asking."

 The rudeness of the servant was getting on my nerves.

 She tries to yell at him again, but he reminds her that she should eat a proper meal for her child first, and tries to sit back in his chair.

"You can't just sit there! That's my seat!"

 She tried to hit Claudia with the utensil-like object she was holding.

"Don't be rude! I'm pregnant with a baby! How will you take responsibility if the baby passes away!"

"...Didn't you do something stupid to get thrown into a remote villa like this? It might be better for your child if you drift away."

"What! Just because you're ugly, please don't say something stupid!"

 She was not only a woman but also a human being, and I cursed her as much as I could think of.

 Don't behave like a nobleman! My mother would have said, "Don't behave like a nobleman!" but it is a nobleman's duty to discipline his servants who are rude to him.

 But it is the duty of a nobleman to discipline a servant who has been disrespectful. The priority should be given to Claudia as a nobleman rather than a servant.

"Hey! You're making a lot of noise."

 Without even knocking, a large man came into the kitchen carrying a package.

 A rough and rude opponent worthy of a girl.

"...Oh, it's you. Hey. Did you hear about this woman, by any chance? She's been in here on her own, but she's too dumb to be a thief, and she doesn't seem crazy."

"In a manner of speaking. Oh. I got a letter for you. For you, too."

 The big man piles up his stuff in a corner and hands the girl a sealed letter.

"Here you go! It's for you!"

 To Claudia, he throws it on the table.

"Excuse me!"

 The envelope is sealed with the wax of the Cantor family.

 宛名は, クラウディアへ.

 差出人は書かれていないが, 文字は母のものだった.



 この手紙受取時を以って, 貴女はカントール家より籍が外れました.


 別荘管理人の手を借りて, 自活なさい.


 別荘に引き籠り, アレクサンドラ-samaとヴォルフガング-samaへの心からの謝罪を続けるのが, 貴女が生き延びる唯一の術(すべ)です.

 貴女はお二人に対して, 一生許されぬ愚かな真似をしでかしたのだと, 自覚なさい.

 子は, ディートフリートと貴女の子です.

 ヴォルフガング-samaの御子と言い張るのなら, 生まれてから異議を申し立てなさい.

 貴女のせいで, お父-samaは騎士団長の地位を剥奪され, 男爵に落とされ, 床(とこ)に伏しています.

 長男も四男も罵声に耐えながら, 生涯一騎士として終えざるを得ないでしょう.

 長女と次女は離縁こそされませんでしたが, 子は跡目を外されました.

 次男も要職からは外され一文官となり, 永遠に日の目を見ることはありません.

 三男は自ら要職を降り, 神殿から一歩も出ることなく祈りの日々を過ごすと聞きました.



 それと認めようともせず, 謝罪すらできなかったから.


 私も死を以って詫びようかと思いましたが, おこがましくも生き延びて, 貴女を生み落してしまった罪を贖うことにしました.

 母として, 最期に.

 罪を認め, 罰を受け入れなさい.


“うっわー! 最悪”

“んだよ, 大声出して”

“この女, 皇女-samaの婚約者を寝取った挙句に子を孕んだんだって!”


“でもって, この別荘で自活させるんだってさ. 皇女-samaへ不敬を働いたクズと同じ家とか息が詰まって死ねるわー”

 母の手紙の衝撃を受け止めきれずに, 茫然としているクラウディアには少女と大男の会話など耳に届かない.

“何でもやらせろって言うけどさぁ. 最低限教えなきゃできないじゃん!”

“お花畑なお馬鹿で有名だったもんな, ソイツ. きっと何もできないぜ”


“俺, 騎士団にコネあっからさ. 色々聞いたんだよ. 人もはばからずに皇女-samaの元婚約者といちゃついてたって”


 怒りが湧くも, 声高く反論はしなかった.

 とにかく, 食事が優先だ.





 せめて食事を! と思うのは, 人として何も間違ってはいない.

“ご飯, 食べないと. 御子が, -chanと育たないから. ヴぉるふ-sama似の御子が生まれれば, 誤解もとけて, 一緒に暮らせる, から…大丈夫. うん. 大丈夫”

 椅子に深く座り直して, ドレッシングのたっぷりとかかったサラダボウルにフォークを入れた.

 が, サラダボウルは大男に奪われてしまう.

 クラウディアはフォークを握り締めたまま, 大男を見上げる.

“これは, てめぇの飯じゃねぇよ! 騎士団に差し入れしてたんだろ? 自分で作れっ!”

“…? 差し入れは, コックが作った物よ? 私が持って行ったら, 私が作ったって皆が喜ぶから言わなかったけど”


 見栄えも大事ですから…と, コックにも存分に褒められたものだ.


“そんな事だろうと思ったわ! …ねぇ, あんた. しばらく私と一緒に暮らしてくれない? 私, クズと二人きりとか耐え切れそうにないからさぁ”

“いいのかよ? 俺はお前と一緒になれて嬉しいけどよ”

“…クズに最低限の家事を叩き込むまででいいのよ! 勘違いしないで!”

“ちぇ. でもまぁ, いいぜ. お前と一緒に過ごせるなら, おまけでクズがついてきても歓迎できる”

 心が広いわね…と, 大男に向かって苦笑した少女は, クラウディアを凝視する.

“一度しか言わない. 私は貴方の召使いではない. だから貴女の命令は一切聞かない. 一通りの家事は一度だけ教える. それ以降は一切私を頼るな!”

“酷いわ! お母-samaだって, 貴女の手を借りなさいって!”

“だから! 最初だけ貸すって言ってる. 自活させろって話だしね. 頼ってばかりじゃ, 覚えないでしょ. 甘ったれないで!”

 余りの物言いに思わず手を振り上げたら, 大男にぎちりと手首を掴まれた.

“主は, こいつだ. てめぇじゃねぇ. てめぇは管理人の慈悲でこの別荘に住まわせて頂いている恥知らずの罪人なんだよ. 言う事聞けねぇなら, どこへなりとも消えろ!”

 思い切り手首を高く持ち上げられて, 勢いよくキッチンの外へ抛りだされる.

 下腹を思い切り打ってしまい呻き声を上げたが, 冷ややかな眼差しで見下ろされるだけだ.

“ガキを満足に産みてぇんなら. こいつの言う事を良く聞くんだな”


“ガキに罪はねぇよ. 違うか”


 少女は大きく息を吐き出して, 首をしゃくる.

“子に, 罪はない. でも貴-samaには罪しかない. それを常に自覚し続けて…まずは, この焦げたベーコンを片付けて. 貴-samaのせいで焦げたんだから”




“捨てるよ. 私は料理上手だからね. こんな駄目料理は食べない. でもって, 貴-samaの我儘で料理が捨てられるんだから, 当然それ以外の食事はないよ…どうする?”

“食べ, るわ…”


 喉の奥から込み上げるものがあったが, 食べてしまえばベーコンには変わりない.


 そういえば, 昨日の料理は誰が作ったのだろう?

 少女は料理上手らしいので, 姿が消えていた御者かもしれない.

“…食べ, たわ…”


 ピッチャーに入った水は, 飲んでも注意されなかった.


“で? って?”

“…ご馳走-samaでした. 作って頂いてありがとうございました. って言葉がでねぇのかって言ってんだよ!”

 美味しい料理を食べたら自然に出ていた感謝の言葉も, 喉の奥に絡まってしまった.

 言えと言われても, 出てこない.

 無理やりマズイ物を食べさせられれば, 普通は礼など言えないだろう.

“まぁ, いいよ. 感謝されても気持ち悪いだけだしね. あんたと私の食事の支度に取り掛かるとしよう. サラダは食べて構わない”




“…言われなきゃわかんねぇんか? 俺が飯食ってるのを呑気に見てる場合じゃねぇだろ!料理作ってるとこ横で見せて貰えよ”


“…はぁ. お馬鹿な元貴族御令嬢にはわっかんねぇか? 教えて差し上げるからおいでなさいとか, いちいち指示されないと駄目なのかよ!”





 例え貴族としての地位はなくとも矜持を持ち続けている者には, それ相応の敬意も払って然るべきのはず.


 少女の罵声飛んだので, どうやら大男の言っている事が正しいようだ.

 クラウディアは渋々, 少女の隣へ足を運ぶ.

“そんなトコ突っ立ってられると邪魔! どうしても見たいってんなら, 邪魔にならない場所で控えて!”

“控えるのは貴女でしょう! いい加減に態度を改めっ!”



“次に, こいつに失礼な物言いしてみろ? 問答無用で叩き出すぞっ!”


 悔し涙が滲むも, 必死に堪える.



 クラウディアは無言で, 少し離れた場所から料理の手順を凝視する.


 クラウディアなら, 一度見れば簡単に再現できるだろう.


 少女は大男に肩を竦めて見せてから, 手早く栄養価の高そうな料理を作り終えた.

 無言で首をしゃくられるので, クラウディアが作る番だろうと, キッチンへ立つ.


 上手にできると信じて疑わなかった初めての料理は, 炭化した目玉焼き.




 少女と大男がクラウディアに手本を見せてくれたのは, ほんの数日だけ.

 それ以降は, 一日一度しか呼びつける事を許されなかった.

 最初の頃は何度も呼ぼうとしたが, その都度, 暴言と暴力を揮われて諦めた.

 痣のせいで虐げられてきた少女は, アレクサンドラの助けがあってどうにか生き永らえる事ができたという過去があったらしく, クラウディアへの対応は終始最悪だった.

 大男は少女に惚れ抜いており, 少女の恩人に不敬を働いたクラウディアを少女同-samaに疎んでいたので, クラウディアも身を守るためにもできるだけ距離をおくしかなかった.

 一向に美味しくならない食事を作り, 生乾きで悪臭のする服を着て汚れた場所を掃除し, 使う事を許されたぼろぼろの器具を修理する.

 今まで何一つやった事がなかったので, 何をするにも異-samaな時間を要した.

 解からないことばかりだったが直接教えては貰えず, 最低限与えられた古ぼけた教本でどうにか学んだ.

 やろうと思っていた最低限の家事が一日の内に終わるようになった頃, クラウディアは出産を迎えた.

 過酷な環境にもめげず, お腹の子供は元気に育っていた.

 幾度となくお腹を蹴られて, 元気すぎる-sama子がヴォルフガングに似てないとも思ったが, クラウディアに似たのだと思い至れば面映ゆく, 荒んだ日々を一瞬だけ忘れられもした.


 ヴォルフガングに似た御子さえ元気に生まれれば, 全ての誤解は解けて, ヴォルフガングと御子とクラウディアの三人で仲睦まじく暮らしてゆけると信じていた.

 信じていたからこそ, 劣悪な環境で無事に出産に至れたのだ.

 大男には監視され, 少女には介助も満足にされず, 壊れそうなベッドの上で散々のた打ち回った挙句に生まれた赤子の頭には, うっすらと銀髪が生えていた.

 震える腕で抱えながら辛抱強く待っているうちに僅か開かれた瞳の色は, ディートフリートに瓜二つの, 紅色だった.