The Prince Doesn't Cry From Mere Onions - Chapter 20.1
When the subject of the conversation moved so suddenly to Bertram, Anna’s eyes widened.
“You’re going to make Mr. Bertram earn his keep? Then does that mean I feed him out in the open now?”
“As if you haven’t been feeding him out in the open all along. As soon as the pig loses the tiniest bit of weight, I’m going to chase you out, you understand?”
“Mr. Bertram might be hard to talk to, but he’s good at everything else! He’ll be good at keeping pigs, too! Right?”
Anna acted silly in front of Bertram as he nodded his head solemnly. Where had the cautious Anna disappeared from before, walking on eggshells around Carla, it had to be wondered.
‘Seriously…. Why is she so happy about this?’
Forcefully swallowing down her anxious concern, Carla added a provisory clause to their contract.
“Mr. Bertram. I’m not saying I’m allowing you to stay in the village indefinitely. It’ll be at most until we can slaughter that pig. And we’ll chase you out immediately if you cause any trouble.”
“And more than anything! You will sleep at the public farm quarters at night. Can you live there cleanly?”
“That is a given.”
They were understandable clauses. Anna too nodded her head.
Perhaps unsatisfied by how Bertram answered her so obediently, Carla began trying to come up with a clause that would be more tiresome for him.
But the people standing in front of the restaurant cut off Carla’s rumination.
“You not opening for dinner?”
“Ah, just a moment! I’ll be right there! Anna, go open the restaurant. And Mr. Bertram, you come with me to prep ingredients.”
“I understand. I will follow after I wash my hands.”
Bertram ran to the well. His sleeves fold up above tightly woven muscles on his forearms. As he was now, it would not have been weird if someone said he was a blacksmith from the myths, forging the sword of his lord.
Though it was not a hammer that he held in his hand, but a bar of soap half the size of his hand.
“What are you all in a daze for. Didn’t you hear what I said?”
“I’m going, I’m going!”
Her bunny-like daughter runs off.
Carla stared at Bertram with quite the complicated feelings.
He did seem fundamentally diligent.
And she was grateful for how he’d thrown himself in to save Anna.
Taking a deep breath, and for a very short moment, Carla imagined taking in Bertram as a son-in-law.
….Within three seconds of her imagination, Anna was flattened.
“No, never, over my dead body!”
Bertram, who had been in the process of crossing through the door into the kitchen, came to a stop.
“Excuse me? What is the problem, should I not go in yet?”
“Wait there please, I’ll be there soon!”
Running off to the restaurant kitchen, Carla vowed to herself.
That even if the village chief acknowledged him as a good person, and even if Anna came to have a silly grin whenever she saw this man…
She herself, at least, would never be won over so easily.
When the villagers saw that Bertram had returned to the restaurant, they each reacted differently. Some people burst out laughing, asking if they’d picked him up again, and others were on guard.
In response to the question of how long they were going to keep him, Carla pointed to the inside of the restaurant, the pig pen that was now attached to the house.
In other words, no matter how long, she’d send him off the day they slaughtered that baby pig.
After their hours ended—
Carla immediately drove Bertram out into the yard and gave him his bag and a lantern.
“Do you remember where the public quarters are? Should we send a guide with you?”
“I don’t need one.”
Contrary to Carla’s concerns, Bertram took up the lantern without any complaints and set out onto the road.
This was only possible because he was used to walking the night’s roads.
The village was different from day to night.
The lights that glimmered in the far distance could not act as guides. In fact, they messed with the person’s perspective and bewitched people, like will-o’-the-wisps.
Around the time Bertram and his careful steps had only just left the surroundings of the restaurant….
Anna suddenly burst out to block his path.
“Ahaha, I don’t even need to ask: you weren’t surprised, were you!”
“Yes. What brings you here?”
“I followed you out to talk a little. I mean, we have something we didn’t get to finish talking about, that night.”
“You must be referring to my curse.”
Anna nodded, then fell in step next to Bertram as they walked. Fuzzy golden strands of hair scattered themselves up and down at the height of his solar plexus.
It looked as if Anna’s voice was coming from a bird’s nest.
“What kind of jerk put the curse on you?”
“The execution was done by a contractually assigned magician, and the decision to do so was my own. The war needed to end as soon as possible, you see.”
“Even so! Placing a curse on someone to win the war? Think of how you’d have to suffer later like this!”
“At the time, this was the best that I could come up with. If we had lost without having tried, my life after the war may have been one riddled with regret. Thinking that ‘if I had truly done my best, we might have won.’”
“….And you don’t regret that choice you made?”
“I do not. Besides, I have met a potential key for change.”
It was obvious who he was talking about.
With a flinch, Anna’s shoulders began trembling.
Since the strands of hair that covered those shoulders also trembled, Bertram noticed Anna’s reaction, but he did not note it out loud unnecessarily.
“I am in your care while I am here. It would be great if I could repay my debts as well.”
“Those debts again. What if you end up unable to leave our village trying to pay off some debt nobody knows about?”
“That would be fine as well.”
His lightly spoken words shook Anna’s shoulders once more.
And, with a rather furious face, she looked up at Bertram to shout.
“Don’t you dare make empty promises. Or else I’m really going to fatten you up so much you can’t take a single step outside the village.”
“In order to cause me to gain weight enough to be unable to walk, at my height, you would really need a lot of food. Please do not strain yourself needlessly. I will stay if you so much as tell me not to go.”
Bertram was telling the truth.
He was of the mind to be where he was needed.
Though he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to hear the very words he’d never heard in his entire life in this particular village, of course.
Anna was now silent, without any trembles. Bertram quietly glanced down beside him. In the lower space, all he could see was the strands of golden hair swaying with Anna’s every step.