If It’s for My Daughter, I’d Even Defeat a Demon Lord: Volume 4, page 1part #4 of For My Daughter Series
1: A Growing Distance from the Platinum-haired Maiden
This was the day after the great disaster of the Ahmar night festival, which had ended in Latina’s failed confession.
A gloomy, desperate atmosphere hung over a corner of the Dancing Ocelot. Breakfast was laid out the same as it was every day, but... that girl who always had a smile on her face wasn’t there.
Not yet able to read the mood, Theo walked up to Dale and hit him right where it hurt.
Paying no heed to how Dale jolted up, Theo looked at his mother with a dissatisfied pout. He obviously questioned the matter because from his point of view, the absence of his beloved big sister was abnormal.
“Latina’s taking a break for a bit.”
“She just is.”
Rita looked around the room. “Now that you mention it, I haven’t seen him since yesterday. Did he wander off somewhere to play?”
Vint roamed around aimlessly fairly often, so it was nothing to be concerned about. He’d probably just gone to burn off his frustration at having been treated harshly by Latina. Though he was still growing, he was a mythical beast, so he was unusually astute for an animal. They were confident that he wouldn’t go causing trouble without a good reason.
Dale and Latina ate breakfast together. That was the way it had been up until now. They couldn’t when Dale was away from Kreuz for work, but aside from that, they always did things that way. Yet, when Dale woke up this morning and came downstairs, Latina had already left the Ocelot.
Last night, as he cried himself to sleep, Dale had accepted that it was only natural for a girl Latina’s age to distance herself from him. But he hadn’t imagined that she wouldn’t even be there for their usual breakfast.
Each time Theo repeated that question, Dale’s expression grew more and more dour, but Rita’s smile didn’t falter in the slightest. Even though he was swamped with extra work thanks to the absence of his assistant, Kenneth realized once more that he shouldn’t anger his wife.
At the moment, Latina was in the shop of her childhood friend’s family, “the Backstreet Bakery.”
“You’re seriously helping us out, but is it really alright to be away from the Ocelot?”
“Yeah. Kenneth said since I have the chance, I should learn how to make bread from professionals. You said you were shorthanded, Marcel, so I figured I’d come ask... but sorry for coming so early in the morning.”
In order to be able to supply fresh bread for every household’s varying breakfast hours, this bakery opened quite early. With the smell of freshly baked bread filling the area, Latina sat amongst the other employees eating breakfast and smiled at her friend’s family.
It was still too soon, so Latina didn’t have the courage to look Dale in the face. She understood that Dale hadn’t even recognized her words as a confession. Even so, having mustered up her courage only to fall flat on her face was too embarrassing, and she hadn’t yet put her feelings in order.
Figuring she needed some time, Rita and Kenneth gave her permission to take a break from her work at the Ocelot. With that said, though, if she just holed up in the attic, her thoughts may go in a bad direction, and what’s more, if she was in that shop, she’d end up face-to-face with Dale, whether she wanted to or not.
When she’d been wondering just what she should do, Latina recalled her friend’s comment. When they met during the night festival, Marcel had said that one of the women who worked at their shop was out on maternity leave, leaving them shorthanded. As a result, Latina visited her friend’s house this morning, having nothing to lose. Kenneth made sure to talk to her before she left the Ocelot, and he would also smooth things over with Dale, too.
Childbirth was a serious ordeal for women, but even so, ordinary citizens weren’t able to take a long time off from work. There was no welfare program or monetary aid, so you needed to earn your living expenses by working. And so, the Backstreet Bakery couldn’t easily hire a new employee to fill the position left by the woman who was on break for her pregnancy. Latina’s proposal was truly a welcome one for Marcel’s family.
“Well then, it’ll just be for a week, but I look forward to working with you.” Above all else, Latina’s smile, which had been tempered by her long years in the service industry, was brimming with good will and charm.
In the nation of Laband, bread was a staple food.
The Backstreet Bakery handled all sorts of goods, but they were almost all varieties of bread. The shape, type of flour used, and sorts of flavorful seeds sprinkled on top all led to different kinds of breads. The bakery had breads that involved kneading dried fruit or spices into the dough, but they didn’t deal with things like pastries.
The sandwiches they’d sold during the night festival the day before were generally only sold during lunchtime. Here in the eastern district, there were a lot of women who worked at shops or as craftsmen. It was a district with a high demand for light meals.
“And then there’s the cookies. I think it’ll take some time to remember all the prices, so—” Marcel said, explaining the goods sold in the shop.
“Hmm? It’s alright. I’ve come here lots of times, so I already remember them,” Latina responded, causing her friend to fall silent for a moment. However, he soon remembered how extraordinary his friend was and went along with it. Being friends with this girl for so long made one come to accept things like that, whether they wanted to or not.
“You’ll be fine with the calculations then, too, right Latina?”
“Of course. I handle money at the Ocelot, after all.”
They didn’t have anything like a register, so math was primarily done mentally. There were tools to help, but they were hardly ever used. From Latina’s reply, it was clear that she could be used as an immediate asset on the sales front. Because Latina was their son’s childhood friend, Marcel’s parents also had a good deal of confidence in the girl. That could be seen in the way that they immediately trusted her to handle money.
With each jingle of the bell attached to the door, Latina promptly responded with a bright voice, saying, “Welcome!”
“Oh, my, I’ve never seen you before. Are you a new employee?” An old woman had come into the shop and was surprised to see someone working there that she didn’t recognize.
“I’m just helping out. I look forward to serving you. What can I get for you today?” Latina responded with a bright smile, and the woman smiled back.
“I always just go with this.”
“I see. Thank you for your business.”
Latina placed the bread the woman pointed out into a bag, offered it to her, and took her money.
“Are you about the same age as little Marcel?”
“We went to school together.”
Completely unperturbed by the woman’s prying, Latina kept on smiling back. Marcel broke out in a sweat as he overheard the conversation while he was carrying out freshly baked bread to the storefront. If even a shred of such groundless rumors reached Dale or Rudy, he’d be in real danger.
When it came to staple foods, most people had a usual shop that they stuck to. Occasionally they may try eating at a different shop, but everyone ultimately decided on a favored taste for their everyday meals. Because of that, the majority of the customers who visited this shop were regulars.
Unsurprisingly, after the morning rush passed, the next busy period was around lunchtime. Latina wasn’t able to just sit idly in the meantime, so she hunted around for any l
Latina and Marcel often played in the eastern district when they were young, and occasionally some old friends would stop in. However, there were many people who were unacquainted with Latina. Marcel had expected some, but when Latina was sweeping, there was an unnaturally large increase in male customers coming to the shop for the first time.
During the pauses in her work, Latina looked at the baking bread with great interest. It was still her first day, so she wasn’t allowed in the kitchen; but because she’d spent many years assisting Kenneth, she didn’t miss even the slightest detail, such as the distance and workflow between Marcel, who was the assistant in this shop, and his father, who took the lead. Latina said that she just wanted to learn the basics of baking and didn’t need to be paid. It was a very fitting request for the girl.
Normally, bread-making techniques would be considered a trade secret. It wasn’t the sort of thing that you taught to just anyone. Marcel managed to convince his parents to accept her request despite that because they had heard her story back when the two were still in school. In Vassilios, where she came from, they didn’t eat bread. Latina had it for the first time when she came to Laband.
Marcel had never even imagined there could be a country without bread, and his friend had grown up in such an entirely foreign nation. Latina had expressed a desire to see how bread was made, and as a boy who’d had bread as a big part of his life ever since he was born, he wanted to show her.
Latina somehow managed to make it through the lunch rush, too. Unsurprisingly, she was no match for a veteran, but she was doing exceptionally well for her first day. After business passed its peak, Latina took a break and filled her cheeks with some bread she received for lunch. Seeing her look so overjoyed, Marcel’s parents couldn’t help but smile themselves.
The Backstreet Bakery’s business day ended before sunset. Even if they stayed open past when most households bought their bread for dinner, there would be no customers, and they’d just be putting themselves at risk of being robbed. And of course, they also had to open early tomorrow.
Once they’d finished closing up shop, Latina watched as Marcel and his family prepared for the next day. Unable to hold herself back, Latina asked a number of questions while this was going on. She had a particular interest in the yeast that was so essential to baking bread and wanted to know how it was used. It must have felt nice to knead that soft-looking dough, and it was great fun to watch the bread get shaped and lined up in rows. However, Latina knew that wasn’t all that it took to make bread. After all, her long years of learning under Kenneth had taught her just how important pre-cooking preparations were.
By nature, Latina liked learning new things, so her mood was on a bit of an upswing on her way back from the Backstreet Bakery. She may not have been able to get hands-on experience, but just being able to watch bread getting made from nearby was enough to greatly satisfy her curiosity. On top of that, she’d been able to interact with different sorts of customers and do a different kind of work than she did in the Ocelot, making for a very fresh experience. She was also promised that she could watch the bread being baked early tomorrow morning. Normally, she’d handle the Ocelot’s nighttime business hours alongside Kenneth, but today she figured it would be better to turn in early.
While thinking on such things, Latina made it back to the familiar front of the Dancing Ocelot. Not realizing that the regulars were making strangely unpleasant expressions and awkward smiles upon seeing her, she circled around to the back.
“Kenneth, I’m home!”
“You seem busy. Do you need me to help out after all?”
“No, you’re off, so take it easy. You’ve got to properly take advantage of times like this.”
Latina felt terribly guilty seeing Kenneth struggle to handle the kitchen by himself as the shop headed into its peak busy period, but he just smiled back. She had been so very depressed, and Kenneth was relieved to see her come back looking so clear-headed. He got the feeling that it was a little ridiculous that that was her method for refreshing herself, no matter how much she may have loved to work. But cooking was every bit as much a hobby as it was a job for him, so there may not have been much difference between the two of them.
“Do you want to eat dinner out in the front?”
“Where’s Theo? I’m burdening Rita, too... so I should at least help take care of Theo at night.”
“Then I’ll leave that to you. Theo’s at his grandmother’s place. He should be back before much longer.”
Kenneth’s in-laws, Rita’s parents, had entrusted the shop to the young married couple and moved into the residential area of the southern district. They weren’t normally seen around the shop, but when Kenneth and Rita were shorthanded, they’d occasionally show up to watch Theo or help man the Akhdar’s message board. Vint wasn’t around today, so they were taking care of the mischievous little rascal instead. Rita’s mother wouldn’t be able to handle doing this every day, so they only asked her to when it was crucial.
When Theo returned a little while later, he shouted out “Sis!” and ran straight for Latina. His grandmother found the way that her grandson went straight for Latina without even turning around just a little dejecting.
“Theo, have you had a bath?”
“Then let’s do that before eating.”
After seeing off Theo’s grandmother, Latina held the boy’s hand and went into the kitchen.
“I don’t wanna wash my hair!”
“That won’t do. I’ll wash it for you, so you just need to behave yourself.”
Even as he said that, Theo clung tightly to Latina. He hadn’t gotten any attention from his precious big sister since morning, so he was seemingly trying to get in a full day’s worth now.
Looking over at the two of them in his spare moments during his work, Kenneth unwittingly broke out in an awkward smile. He honestly felt like his son may have been a bit too attached to his “big sister.” But even so, he figured it was a good thing for the boy to have someone like Latina to pamper him when Kenneth and Rita needed to be strict with him.
Still, the very air itself felt like it had grown more relaxed from Latina’s return alone. That effect she had on others seemed to be a sort of rare, difficult to achieve virtue.
Latina grabbed a change of clothes for Theo and then headed to the bath in the rear of the shop. Unsurprisingly, Theo followed close behind her all the while like a puppy.
Theo hated getting soap in his eyes, so he never wanted to wash his hair, and when Kenneth told him to do so he’d throw a massive fit. When it came to Rita, Theo would often be found getting harshly scolded with tears in his eyes. Latina, however, was able to get him to behave himself and let her wash him, and she handled the boy quite skillfully and made things quite a bit easier on his parents.
“Theo, you took your clothes off all by yourself. Good job!”
Their conversation, which Kenneth could hear from the rear of the shop, made Latina and Theo sound even more affectionate than real siblings, and Kenneth broke out in a smile.
After the bath, Latina took Theo to the storefront of the Ocelot, where she spotted Rita hurriedly working away past the faces of the familiar customers.
“Rita, I’m home. Sorry for taking time off.”
“Welcome back, Latina. Don’t worry about it. I need to keep myself moving anyway.”
Rita wasn’t quite as graceful as Latina when it came to serving customers. That could be seen clearly from the way that she’d slap down mugs with a loud clunk. When it came to waiting on customers, that was the norm for bars like this, and nobody minded.
“Theo, can you be a good boy and have a seat?”
“I’m a good boy!”
After Theo sat down with a self-satisfied look in his chair, Latina headed into the kitchen. After serving
Seeing Latina take care of Theo, Sylvester broke out in a somewhat awkward smile, like he was concerned about something.
“You’re really good at taking care of the kid, little lady.”
Not aware of the awkward look on Sylvester’s face, Latina simply smiled back. All the while, she nonchalantly lent Theo a hand as he ate.
“Yeah... Little lady, y’see...” Sylvester had trouble finding what to say.
“Um, Mr. Syl...” Latina interrupted, now looking troubled.
“Please hold on. I need a bit longer... I still can’t just yet.”
Despite the uncomfortable atmosphere, Latina gave a giggle and a smile.
Sylvester had heard the details of the catastrophe that had unfolded in this shop the night prior. He hadn’t been there in person, but the main topic of discussion in the shop today was Dale’s dismay and unease, and the absence of a certain adorable waitress.
Having watched over the girl since she was little, Sylvester had long since realized that she had feelings for her guardian. When it came to Dale, Sylvester had no problem teasing him to his heart’s content, but he took great care when dealing with this young girl. He was afraid of stepping on a landmine and ending up being hated.
“I’ll probably be able to get things back to normal... so I just want a bit of time to get my thoughts back in order.”
“Little lady...” Sylvester gave a sigh and then changed gears. He purposefully switched over to a brighter expression and voice. “If you need help, then I’ll lend you a hand. Even an old guy like me has a few tricks up his sleeve.”
“Right. Thanks, Mr. Syl!” Latina’s smile as she responded seemed to display her earnest feelings, which relieved Sylvester.
Not long after finishing dinner, Latina brought Theo to his parents’ room and lulled him to sleep. Once she confirmed that he was peacefully slumbering, she quietly exited the room. She shut the door without making a sound so she wouldn’t wake him up.
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