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When he entered, he was greeted the same way as always.
There were no particularly unusual changes in the store, and even the familiar faces of customers eating delicious dishes and exchanging drinks could be seen. It was hard to believe that there had been a burglary incident just a while ago considering this peaceful atmosphere.
Since it was already late and there were few customers, the tables and counters were cleared up neatly.
Sometimes the store was so full of customers that there wouldn’t be any time to wash the dishes, but it looked like today was not such a day.
Nicholas and Edwin looked at each other.
Did nothing happen? They had the feeling that they might have just gotten pranked by a drunk person.
「There are vacant seats by the counter.」
They sat down by the counter as suggested, and s.h.i.+n.o.bu served appetizers.
A bowl containing sas.h.i.+mi of a red fish was set down in front of Nicholas. However, it was slightly different from the ones he had eaten in the store previously.
「Nicholas-san, your appetizer today is “Katsuo no Tataki”.」
(TL: seared bonito/skipjack tuna)
「After lightly grilling the body, it is sliced like sas.h.i.+mi. It’s delicious, you know.」
Since there was no soy sauce served in the saucer, it seemed that there was some sort of a sauce applied on it beforehand.
He ate it in one bite and knew that it was indeed different from sas.h.i.+mi.
「This dish is delicious!」
The soft texture of the meat was maintained and a fragrant flavour spread inside his mouth.
It might have been even easier to eat than sas.h.i.+mi.
Even though he was already accustomed to eating sas.h.i.+mi and it had even become his favourite dish, Nicholas was initially weak to sas.h.i.+mi, just like any other person.
Normally, when eating raw fish, there was a fishy sensation. However, tataki wasn’t accompanied by that feel at all.
s.h.i.+n.o.bu served the “Toriaezu Nama” that he ordered beforehand, which was a smart move, since it went together with the dish very well.
Nicholas took a glance at Edwin, who wasn’t served tataki, but something else. It was a small bowl containing something that was sticky and had a smelly odour. He had no idea when Edwin had ordered that. His drink also differed, and it was not “Toriaezu Nama”, but sake.
He had the expression of a good-natured old man, so it was hard to believe that he was the same person from before.
After eating half of the tataki, Nicholas suddenly realized something. What did he come here for? He came to investigate the insolent thief who had broken into Izakaya n.o.bu.
He turned around to face Edwin, who had thrown his priestly dignity into the air, and spoke in a low voice.
Guessing Nicholas’s intention from the tone of his voice, Edwin cleanly drained the contents of the sake cup.
「Sorry, it is against G.o.d’s will to reject His blessings.」
He timidly straightened up his priest garb.
Nicholas waited until the waitress, s.h.i.+n.o.bu, seemed free before beckoning her over.
Even though it was less crowded now, there were still customers present. He took into consideration that they didn’t want the customers to know that a thief had broken in.
「s.h.i.+n.o.bu-chan, I’d like to ask something.」
「Yes, is there anything you would like?」
「Today…did a thief break into the store?」
Nicholas didn’t miss s.h.i.+n.o.bu’s eyes swimming the moment she heard his words.
Although she was pretending to be calm, something was wrong after all. Still, looking at the inside of the store, there wasn’t anything suspicious.
「So, there is something wrong?」
「Ehh, the thief, how should I put it…ne, Taisho?」
Since the subject was brought up unexpectedly, Taisho choked and coughed by the counter.
Nicholas saw someone move beside Taisho.
The shadow that was trying to escape froze at his voice and trembled slightly before stopping. When Nicholas looked over the counter, he saw a red-haired girl, about 12 years old, cowering like a small, frightened animal.
「Oops…it was found out…」
Ignoring s.h.i.+n.o.bu’s mutters, Nicholas called out to the girl.
「Are you the thief who broke into the store today?」
The girl nodded repeatedly while still crouching down.
「What’s your name?」
Looking at the trembling girl, Nicholas tilted his head. She didn’t seem like the type to be a thief. There were also the special circ.u.mstances, where Taisho and s.h.i.+n.o.bu were covering up for her.
For the time being, let’s do my job.
When he looked at Taisho, he was scratching his head while giving off a “give me a break” feeling.
「Taisho, who is this girl?」
「She is a thief, as Nicholas-san said. In a sense, stealing means taking things out of this shop without permission, right?」
「If that is true, then according to the law, she has to be arrested, taken to the guard barracks, and then judged by the City Council.」
Taisho was fl.u.s.tered when he saw Nicholas’s angry expression.
「It isn’t that big of a case. After all, nothing was stolen.」
「Attempted burglary is also a crime, Taisho. What was she trying to steal?」
Taisho shrugged his shoulders a little and pointed to the washbasin area behind the counter.
「The faucet in the store, that’s probably what Eva tried to steal.」
Taisho demonstrated to Nicholas by opening and closing the faucet. Each time it was turned, water flowed out and then stopped.
A small voice leaked out from Edwin as he watched.
「By applying pressure on water that has been drawn and stored, it is easy to make it flow and stop. Fascinating invention, Taisho!」
「This girl, Eva, tried to take this faucet back home. She thought that as long as she had this, water would come out continuously.」
Nicholas interrupted Taisho’s words.
「If it’s water, there is an unlimited amount of water you can draw from the river or a ca.n.a.l, isn’t that so?」
「Nicholas, even if it’s possible to draw it, it isn’t possible to drink it. Not without boiling it once first.」
What Edwin said was correct. The water in the Old Capital was undrinkable. Since there was a strong smell, the commoners, like any other decent human beings, boiled the water before drinking it. Only rich people could afford to dig up wells.
「If so, then you just have to boil it. Are there any stores that sell this faucet? Even if it’s stolen…」
「It’s not like that. This year especially, the price of firewood is high, isn’t it?」
At Edwin’s words, s.h.i.+n.o.bu nodded in agreement.
「Our customers too, they said this year’s spring is late and the price of firewood increased because of that.」
The price of firewood had certainly risen. That was what Nicholas felt too. It might settle down when spring arrived and the cold lessened. It was still cold tonight though. It appeared that the spring season was going to take some time to arrive this year.
Additionally, due to Baron Branton forbidding logging activities in the forest in his territory near the Old Capital, the price had risen exceptionally high this year.
The girl, Eva, looked upwards at Nicholas with big teary eyes.
Like an abandoned cat or something of the sort.
「So, Taisho, what do you want to do? Even if this store is overlooked, the next time she needs to buy firewood, she might steal from other stores too.」
「It’s fine, you know!」
s.h.i.+n.o.bu replied instead of Taisho, while taking a plate out of the dishwas.h.i.+ng area.
「Eva-chan is going to wash the dishes at this store!」
「Was.h.i.+ng the dishes, you say? Is ‘n.o.bu’ going to hire this child?」
「That is right, Nicholas-san. Recently, the number of customers has also increased, so it has become difficult for me, as a waitress, to serve food and wash dishes alone, don’t you think?」
Now that she mentioned it, the interior of the store was cleaner today.
By leaving the dish was.h.i.+ng to Eva, it was possible for s.h.i.+n.o.bu to move around more freely.
It might be a good idea. Since the store didn’t want to aggravate the matter, the girl could also earn the money to buy firewood. Incidentally, since he was able to drink liquor in a clean store, nothing else needed to be said.
Nicholas scratched his head and let out a big sigh.
「If Taisho and s.h.i.+n.o.bu-chan say it’s fine, then I guess it’s fine. Anyway, the City Council probably wouldn’t spare time to judge this little girl either.」
「We did it!」
s.h.i.+n.o.bu jumped a little, and Eva began to smile back.
Taisho loosened his expression and began preparing the next dish.
「Well then, Deacon-sama.」
「What’s the matter, Nicholas?」
「This has been on my mind for a while now, but why did you come to the crime scene today?」
Edwin’s hand, which was holding the sake cup, stopped.
「Why, you ask? I just wanted to see how a guard works, so I decided to follow.」
「Speaking of spring, didn’t the Church only allow plain food to be eaten until spring arrives?」
「Now, now, let’s not sweat the small stuff.」
After coming here, Nicholas’s impression of Edwin had been completely dispelled.
「Have you ever come to this store before?」
「Now, now, what are you talking about.」
「If you didn’t, you wouldn’t know about this store’s sake and other things like that, don’t you think so?」
Whether it was ale, wine, or Izakaya n.o.bu’s sake, it was well known among regular drinkers that once you had taken a liking to a certain drink, you wouldn’t stop having it. Still, Nicholas had not yet seen such a person step out of the store before.
Nicholas heard a giggling sound, and when he turned around, he saw s.h.i.+n.o.bu-chan closing her mouth, trying to suppress her laughter.
「What happened, s.h.i.+n.o.bu-chan?」
「That’s because, Nicholas-san, Deacon Edwin is a regular here. He visits relatively early, so I don’t think any of the guards have seen him here before. Even with appetizers, the Deacon always decides on “Shuto” and sake.」
「It’s the pickles of the entrails of the bonito that you, Nicholas-san, were eating just now. In a sense, sake was developed to be drunk together with it.」
「Heh, isn’t it serious if a clergyman sneaks out to drink sake?」
This clergyman had an unexpected side to him too.
So, he made up the reason of wanting to watch a guard’s work, and it was all for the purpose of coming to drink sake?
「Deacon, please explain this properly on the way back.」
「Understood, understood. By the way, what do you intend to write in your report? Certainly, there was a report of a thief and the response was dispatched for the time being…」
「It’s not like there’s a thief here, right?」
Saying so, Nicholas picked up the bowl of pickled shuto.
「It’s a felony to sneak away to drink sake. This guard shall take responsibility and arrest this small bowl.」
「Ah, but there’s still some left…」
At the dejected appearance of the Deacon, Taisho and s.h.i.+n.o.bu burst out with laughter, while Eva just stared at them blankly.