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Interlude II: Grandmother and Granddaughter 

Even though I’d gotten land — or, rather, a country — from both Regulus and Belfast, I was still living in Belfast’s capital. 
The effects of the coup d’etat in Regulus were still being processed, so we had to postpone both the declaration of the creation of the new country and the announcement of my, Yumina’s, and Lu’s marriage. 
That was when a certain person visited my abode in Belfast. 
“It has been a while, Sir Touya.” 
“Welcome to Belfast, Carol.” The visitor was Carol. She was a knight from the Rillettes family and one of the “Twelve Blades of the Empire,” a group that had served Regulus since the first emperor took the throne. 
Due to a lack of notable achievements for many years, the Rillettes family was on the verge of collapse, but she was recognized for her “valuable contributions” during the coup and thus restored her family’s honor. 
I’d even heard that she was going to get an important position among the knights. And honestly, that made me feel uneasy. 
“So, what is your business he— Oh, it’s obviously Renne, isn’t it?” 
“Yes. May I see her?” A short while ago, it came to light that Renne, the ex-thief girl that works for us now, was actually the daughter of Carol’s elder sister, which meant that they were aunt and niece. 
It wasn’t completely confirmed, though, so it was necessary for me to get it all clear. 
I called over our head maid, Lapis, and had her bring Renne to the parlor. 
“Is there anything you are in need of, sir?” Either due to her being tense because of the guest’s presence or simply because she wasn’t used to saying those words, they came out somewhat weird. As that made me form a wry smile, I beckoned her over to me. 
“Renne. Can I ask you something?” 
“Wh-Whatever do you wish to know, s-sir?” 
“Oh, there’s no need to talk like that. Do you know your mother’s name?” 
“...Mum’s?” Visibly puzzled, she began to think. 
“Umm... I think it was ‘Steph.’ I heard daddy say it a lot when he was drunk. I didn’t ask him about it, though.” I glanced at Carol, who gave me a slight nod. No mistaking it, huh? 
“Renne, can you show me your pendant again?” 
“Eh? Okay, but why?” 
“It’s extremely important, so please.” The fact that that was said by Carol — the guest — made Renne somewhat confused, but she didn’t take long to remove the pendant from her neck and place it on the table. 
Just like it was when I saw it last time, it had the shape of a downward triangle and had a large wind spellstone inside it. 
Carol fearfully took it in her hands, turned it around, and examined the crest on the back. 
“There’s no mistaking it. This was in my sister’s possession. It’s a Rillettes family heirloom.” 
“You wot?!” Perplexed by her words, Renne began making excuses to Carol. 
“P-Pops told me it was a memento from mum! I-I didn’t steal, I—!” 
“I know. This belonged to my sister. So now, it belongs to you.” 
“My sister’s name was Stephanie. Stephanie Rillettes. It’s more than likely that she was your mother.” As Renne turned stiff and her mouth opened due to surprise, I gently told her to sit down. 
“Listen, Renne. Your mother was the daughter of the Regulus Empire’s nobility. But she ran away from home after having a fight with her father. Then, she went on to meet your father and give birth to you.” 
“Th-Then this lady is...” 
“I am your mother’s little sister... That makes me your aunt. My name is Caroline Rillettes. I am a knight of the Regulus Empire.” 
“Aunt...” When Renne said that word, Carol grabbed hold of her chest as her face distorted. 
What the hell are you doing? 
“What’s wrong...?” 
“Well, it’s just that... It’s hard to put it into words, but being called that slightly stings...” 
“Why? You are an aunt, aren’t you, auntie Carol?” 
“Stop repeating it! I know I am! You’re not wrong, but it’s just...!” With tears in her eyes, Carol began writhing. 
Man, she’s such a pain. Though, it’s true that her age is kind of in the danger zone... 
“Renne. Instead of ‘aunt,’ please use ‘Carol,’ ‘Lady Carol,’ or something else along those lines... I know it’s a pain, but still.” 
“Eh? Then how about... Sis?” 
“Ah, that’s perfect!” Carol excitedly approved of Renne’s choice. 
‘Sis,’ eh...? Well, she calls me ‘bruv,’ so I guess it’s appropriate. 
Apparently, the pendant Renne had was actually an Artifact. It was imbued with Wind magic that could only be activated by members of the Rillettes bloodline. 
We went to the garden, where Carol held the pendant in hand and spoke a keyword that caused a defensive wall of wind to appear around her. 
Is this a [Cyclone Wall] or what? Artifacts were tools that made it possible for those with no aptitude for magic to use spells, but one that could only be activated by a certain bloodline seemed like a rarity. 
I wonder if it’s programmed to do that or something. Should I assume that it’s like the fantasy RPG-favorite ‘sacred sword that can only be wielded by the descendants of the legendary hero?’ 
As a final confirmation, I had Renne activate it, too, and it worked without a problem. It was clear that the blood flowing through her veins was that of the Rillettes family. 
Also, it didn’t do anything when I was the one to try it. 
“Renne. With this, it’s obvious that you’re a member of the Rillettes family. Meaning that you’re one of the Regulus Empire’s nobles.” 
“I-I see...” Renne looked completely befuddled. It was only natural. She didn’t know how to react to that. After all, she was a maid who’d just been told that she was actually the daughter of nobles. 
“So... what do you say? Do you want to go to the Regulus Empire?” 
“... I... I want to stay here.” Though low in volume, her voice was clear. 
“You’ll just be a maid here, you know? In the empire, though, you’d be a lady of a noble family. Wouldn’t that make you happier—?” 
“I’ll decide what makes me happy! I like living here. I love everyone in this place! That’s why I want to stay here forever! Everyone here is my f-family...!” 
“I see...” As Renne became teary-eyed and clung to me, I gently held her back. If that was what she decided, I would simply do my best to protect her way of life. That was all. 
“I had a feeling this would happen...” Carol spoke with a wry smile on her face. She then walked up to Renne and crouched to put their eyes on the same level. 
“If that’s what you want, then I will say nothing against it. However, please don’t forget that this isn’t your only family.” 
“S-Sis... Thank you.” I was exposed to a scene where a niece was being considerate of an aunt that was holding her chest, trying to bear some mysterious pain. What the hell? 
Soon enough, Carol stood up and faced me once again. 
“Well, I don’t mind her living here, but I would like to let her meet my mother at least once. The girl is her sole granddaughter, after all.” 
“Eh? You’re not married, Sis?” 
Whoa! She got figuratively backstabbed by her newly-discovered niece! 
With a seriously pained expression, Carol turned to Renne with a grinding sound and forced a smile. 
“Y-Yes... I’m not married... yet...” 
“R-Renne, just so you know, female knights can become so busy that they don’t get any chances to meet the right person!” I didn’t enjoy the feel of the negative aura that was beginning to spread, so I took it upon myself to help Carol out. There were probably many reasons why she couldn’t get married, but it was no lie that that was one of them. 
“I see. Sis is pretty and cool, so it seemed strange to me. You’re beautiful, so if you weren’t a knight, men would never leave you alone.” 
“Oh, what a good girl!” Carol quickly hugged her niece. 
If you ask me, this side of her is what makes her such a... regrettable character... However, I will say nothing. 
“The Rillettes mansion... Carol’s house is in the Regulus Empire’s capital, right?” 
“Yes. Though on the small side, our residence is in the noble district. Though, I live in the knight’s lodging house on weekdays and only come back on weekends, so most of the time, there’s only my mother and servants there.” 
I could easily get to the capital by using a [Gate]. 
“Did you tell your mother... Did you already tell Renne’s grandmother about her?” 
“Yes. In fact, she wanted to join me in coming here to Belfast, but I stopped her, obviously.” 
Well, isn’t that something... The distance between here and the Regulus Empire’s capital was pretty great. Though it was perfectly viable for Carol, who was a knight, the journey would certainly be taxing on a senior. Seriously, they’d even have to camp outside. 
Hmm... It certainly doesn’t seem like she’s shunning Renne. I guess it’s a good idea to let them meet. Better hurry up, then. 
“All right, let’s go see Renne’s grandmother.” 
“Eehh?! Right now?!” Ignoring her surprise, I went to Lapis, told her that I was borrowing Renne for a moment, then went to Lu’s room and had her come with us. 
If we were going to Regulus, having Lu with us should’ve made plenty of things a lot faster. In Belfast, I could get stuff done just because I knew people, but the same couldn’t be said for Regulus. 
“My apologies, Princess. I am sorry to have you involved in our family matters...” 
“No need for that, Carol. If it weren’t for you, there’s a chance that I would’ve never even met Touya. This is the least I can do.” In response to Carol bowing her head, Lu simply smiled. Standing next to them, Renne also hastily bowed. Before I’d realized it, Renne was holding a handbag. Souvenirs for grandmother, I assume? 
“All right, let’s go. Lapis, take care of everything.” 
“Take care.” Once I opened a [Gate], Carol, Renne, Lu and I went through it. 
We came out in a back-alley in Gallaria, Heart of the Regulus Empire. 
Once out on the street, we were surrounded by such hustle and bustle that it was hard to believe that there was a coup d’etat just a few weeks ago. Compared to Belfast, Regulus seemed to have an air of “composure” about it. Regulus was akin to a straight line, while Belfast was more like a curve. The tidy townscape had an air of historical significance around it, making it gleam with confidence about its state as the capital. Though not too gaudy, it still had a certain personality. That was an apt description of this city. 
Here and there, I could still see some wounds the coup left on this city. Some houses were still being rebuilt and some street lights were still being re-installed. 
Well, some houses were completely blown away by the Demon Lord. It’s gonna take a little while for everything to get back to normal. 
“Touya. Over here.” As I was looking around, Lu took my hand and began leading me somewhere. When the coup happened, the fires started only in the commoner areas and the slums, while the noble residential district remained completely untouched. 
I guess that general didn’t want to make any enemies among the more important people. 
After a while of walking, we reached an area with estates of many varying sizes. In a corner, a short distance away from the rest, was our destination. It was medium in size — not too large, nor too small. The estate had a red roof that had obviously shielded against many winters, giving it an “antique” sort of feel. Its gates were quite impressive. There were two shield-bearing gryphons at its sides and a crest displaying crossed swords and a laurel above it. 
“Lady Carol!” The moment we stood before the gates, a man who looked as tall as two meters called out to us from the inside. He had white hair, a handlebar moustache, and a face of someone in their sixties. However, his muscular build made him look considerably younger. 
Just what is this old man...? 
“My name is Robinson. I’ve been a butler serving this family for years now.” 
“I... see?” It wasn’t just me. Renne and Lu were taken aback, as well. Indeed, he was wearing butler’s clothing. However, he looked more like someone whose calling in life was martial arts. 
“I am glad to see you back so soon! Oh... Ohh! Is that Lady Renne?!” 
“Indeed she is. This is Stephanie’s daughter.” 
“I knew it! She looks just like Lady Steph when she was young! Oh, this takes me back... Truly, it does... Dear me, I have to inform the Madam! Madam! Madam!” 
“Ah, hey, Robinson!” A moment later, the muscular butler turned around and ran off into the garden. 
...What am I supposed to think of this? 
“That silly butler...! It’s fine to be excited about Renne, but not greeting the princess is just inexcusable!” 
“I don’t mind. This time, I am but an extra.” As Lu giggled, Carol turned around and opened the gates. Once we entered the estate grounds, Carol led us to the front door. 
Despite the Rillettes family being on the verge of collapse, the building was both elegant and grand. 
“Th-This is mum’s home?” 
“Yes. Steph lived here until she was seventeen.” Carol answered Renne as the girl looked up at the estate. 
So Renne’s mom ran away when she was seventeen, huh? Must’ve been a pretty strong rebellious stage... 
As if responding to my nonchalant thoughts, Carol began elaborating. 
“Despite being a woman, my sister had a talent for swordsmanship. Because of that, our father made her go through some severe training. However, it was quite clear that my sister disliked being part of a family of knights and having to be subjected to all its strictness. She was quite the free spirit.” 
“Indeed. She loathed being bound and always tried resisting her father. However, she was a gentle child nonetheless.” I looked to where the unfamiliar voice came from and saw a lady with hair as blonde as Carol’s. She seemed to be in her late fifties. Her clothing was casual and rather plain. However, over her apparel, she had a cape that, although not gaudy, looked truly well-made. 
Is it safe to assume that she’s... 

“So you are Renne, I assume? Truly, you look just like Steph.” 
“U-Umm... A-Are you my g-grandmother?” 
“Grandmother... Well, that’s how it is, yes. Oh dear, this is quite overwhelming. It seems that suddenly having such a big grandchild has left me a bit perplexed.” 
The lady turned awkward, bashful, and embarrassed at the same time. 
Be at ease. You’re not nearly as bad as your daughter. 
“I-It’s nice to meet you. I am Renne.” 
“Oh my, so polite. My name is Mary. Mary Rillettes. I happen to be the head of the Rillettes household. And yes, I am your grandmother.” Mary replied with a smile as Renne slightly bowed her head. 
A bit of a stiff greeting, considering they’re related, but I guess that’s to be expected. They’ve just met, after all. 
A moment later, Mary looked toward me and gave me a deep bow. 
“So you are Mochizuki Touya. I would like to thank you for your deeds during the turmoil... and for saving the capital. You even went on to help my daughter and granddaughter... I don’t even know what to say...” 
“Ah, no need for that. It’s nothing, really.” 
“And this lady here is... Oh? No, it can’t be...” The moment Mary shifted her gaze toward Lu, her face turned stiff. Suddenly, she got on her knees and bowed her head once again. 
“Y-Your Highness?! Wh-Why are you wearing tha...! No, why have you graced this residence?” 
“That’s because Mochizuki Touya here is my dearest. There is nothing strange about me being here, Mary.” 
“I... I see?” Completely taken aback, Mary switched between looking at me and Lu, who was wearing a casual set of clothing that was easy to move around in. 
I wasn’t aware that Lu and Mary had met before. 
Later down the line, I found out that, every new year, there was an event where the Regulus Empire’s nobles had an audience with the emperor. Naturally, Mary, the head of the Rillettes family, participated in it, as well. And, being the third princess, Lu took part in it too. 
“Stand. This time, I came here as nothing but an extra. I do not mind if you don’t give me any special treatment.” 
“I-I see... I will do as you say, then.” Lu smiled as Mary, still visibly tense and perplexed, stood up. She then invited us inside. 
As I was impressed by the non-gaudy, yet calming architecture of the guest room, the muscular butler brought us some tea. In his hands, the tea cups looked like toys. We then went on to tell Mary about all that had happened with Renne and her decision. Carol had already told her about Stephanie’s death, so she was listening to us without saying a word. 
The butler, however, bawled his eyes out. Apparently, he’d been looking after her since she was young, so it kinda made sense for him to react like that. Also, I was told that Renne’s mother was laid to rest in a graveyard next to a small church in a village in Belfast. 
“I wonder if she was happy...” 
“I don’t know... But pops said that she smiled a lot whenever she looked at me. I don’t remember that, though...” She’d just been born, after all. 
I hope her parents are now happily living together in heaven. It would be even better if they also met up with her grandpa and began to get along. 
“I was happy to see you visit the Rillettes household... But I can see why you would be reluctant to start living with us as a family. Not to mention that your mother actually ran away because she loathed things like that. If I forced you to become a noble, I feel that Stephanie would get very angry at me when it’s my time to go and I meet her in the afterlife.” 
“I’m sorry... However, I want to stay with Touya and the others. Everyone there is very kind and they teach me lots of things.” 
“Also, though she would be a maid, she would be working in a new country’s palace-like place. She would be treated as good as the maids of the Imperial Household. There’s no need for worry there.” Lu added to Renne’s words. 
Some nobles already knew about the creation of the new country. There was quite a commotion at first, but it cooled down the moment they realized that it was just a country in name. 
After all, the country was small in size. Plus, they probably thought that a single adventurer couldn’t do much. It was actually smaller than the smallest territories in both Belfast and Regulus. That was enough reason for them to believe that it was harmless. 
It was safe to assume that information of my engagement to Yumina and Lu still hadn’t leaked. The reaction could change when that was announced. 
After hearing Lu’s words, Mary bowed her head to me. 
“Please take good care of her.” 
“Certainly. There’s no need for you to worry. Renne is a smart girl with lots of tact. She’s a fast learner, too. I’m sure she’ll grow up to be a fine woman.” 
My praise made Renne turn bashful and look down. However, she soon had an idea and looked toward Mary. 
“Um, can I borrow your kitchen?” 
“The kitchen? I don’t mind, but why?” 
“Crea... the mansion’s chef is teaching me how to cook. I-I would like you to try some of my food, Grandmother...” 
“Oh my! Oh dear me, that’s wonderful! Steph and Carol... my daughters were never good at cooking. In fact, I don’t remember them ever giving me anything that wasn’t overcooked or undercooked. Their swordsmanship may have improved day by day, but neither of them seemed to have even an ounce of femininity.” Mary’s words made Carol look away. 
Is that the reason why she can’t get married...? With a smile on her face, Mary looked on as the butler led Renne, who was still holding her bag, to the kitchen. 
“What a good girl. I wouldn’t expect less from Stephanie’s daughter. You could learn a thing or two from her, Carol.” 
“Mother... you make it sound like I’m incapable of anything.” 
“I’m simply worried about a daughter that’s still unmarried at such an age. You should, at the very least, learn how to cook. Do you properly get up in the mornings when at the lodging house? Or do you actually say ‘just five more minutes’ like you do when you’re at home? Men are extremely perceptive to such slovenliness, you know? Please, do anything you can to bring a good son-in-law into the Rillettes family. I truly believe that you don’t want to go where Steph is before seeing your children’s faces.” 
In but a moment, Mary changed her class from “grandmother” to “mother” and began gunning down Carol with her words. 
Carol listened to Mary, looking seriously fed up all the while. Looks like a mother’s scolding stings no matter how old you get. 
“Did you try arranging any marriage meetings?” Seemingly interested, Lu joined their exchange. 
With how things were going, Carol would become the head of the Rillettes household. That would make it impossible for her to become a bride on her own accord. Someone willing to be the groom would have to come to her instead. 
Assuming that he was a noble, it could never be the first son due to them always inheriting the household. That would mean that only second, third, or other sons could be potential grooms. 
“There have been quite a few requests... However, according to what Robinson found out, most of them were of extremely dubious character. In fact, some of them went on to be arrested in the rebellion.” 
“There! See, mother? Hurrying might lead to me ending up with the wrong man. I want to be completely certain about my choice.” 
“Oh, how many times have I heard that... At this rate, Renne will get married before you do.” 
Come on, there’s no way that... Wait, if Renne were to marry at sixteen, then she has about eight years to go. Maybe it’s not completely impossible. 
There were tons of unmarried women in their thirties in my previous world, but they were quite a rarity here. 
Even if she didn’t think it was a problem, those surrounding her would begin to consider it weird. That would lead many of them to believe that there was a reason why she couldn’t get married. As a result, Carol’s difficulty in getting married would only increase. 
Is it just me, or is she actually hopeless at this point? 
As such a rude thought went through my mind, Renne and Robinson opened the door to the room and came back in. Both of them were pushing a table with food on it. 
As we sat around the table, all of us got a wooden plate on which there was an iron one. Oh boy, here we go. 
The hot iron plate released a sizzling sound and the aroma of food. 
“I-I’ve never seen this dish... I-Is this wriggling thing a-an animal?” 
“I-It’s not a... worm, is it?” Mary and Carol made some complicated expressions. 
Well, I guess it’s natural for most seeing it for the first time to be surprised. Though, that doesn’t apply to those from Eashen. 
“This is made by taking a katsuobushi, which is a fish dried by heating, and reducing it into thin pieces. They’re so thin, in fact, that the heat of the food forces them to move and makes it seem like they’re dancing.” 
“Katsuobushi... So this is fish?” 
“It’s among the basic cooking ingredients in Eashen. Though, it’s not well known here in the western countries.” 
Once they found out what the moving objects were, the two sighed in relief. 
That aside, I was slightly surprised to see that this was the food Renne had chosen to make. 
Though, not like it’s a difficult dish. Just get some flour, vegetables, eggs, and meat and you’re done. 
It was safe to assume that the contents of Renne’s bag were katsuobushi, sauce, and mayo. 
“What do you call this dish?” 
“That’s ‘okonomiyaki.’ It’s a popular dish in the mansion.” Mary’s question was answered by Renne. I was the one who started it by giving Crea the recipe. 
It was both tasty and easy to make. You could also use the ingredients of your choosing. Seafood, noodles... everything worked. Due to its flexibility, it was a popular choice whenever the servants were busy. 
“Such a nice smell. It certainly stimulates my appetite.” 
Lu, who was sitting at my side, was quite interested in the okonomiyaki, as well. 
Oh yeah, she didn’t get to try it yet. 
“This is best when eaten warm. Renne, I’ll start eating now.” I took the nearby knife and fork into my hands. I’d have preferred to eat using chopsticks, but I wasn’t in my own home, so I had to adjust. 
A moment after I did, Mary and the others picked up their own utensils. 
Once I put the knife in, cheese poured out of it in great amounts. 
Well, I didn’t expect that. This looks really good. 
When I took a piece of this okonomiyaki into my mouth, a familiar and nostalgic taste overwhelmed my taste buds. The compatibility between the soft texture and the sweet-salty sauce was simply perfect. The cheese, too, was thick and rich in taste. 
“Oh, oh dear me! This is delicious!” 
“It really is... It’s so good! I’ve never eaten anything like this before!” 
“I couldn’t agree more! So this is okonomiyaki...!” The three looked surprised, but in a good way. The hands taking their food to their mouths showed no signs of stopping. Renne looked at us, clearly happy with her work. 
By the time everyone had emptied their plates, Renne and Robinson brought us some tea. 
Oh? This is green tea, isn’t it? Guess she brought this from the mansion, too. 
It was made from the high-class tea leaves I’d gotten from Ieyahsu. I handed them over to the maids and gave them permission to use them as they saw fit. 
“This tea is quite delicious, as well. Thank you, Renne.” 
“No, thank you. I don’t know what I would’ve done if you didn’t like it, grandmother...” Renne smiled in a bashful manner. Seeing Mary smile back made me realize that the distance between them had shortened, which put me at ease. 
I took out a pair of gate mirrors from my [Storage] and handed them over to them. 
“What is this?” Upon taking hers, Mary tilted her head in confusion. 
“It’s an Artifact I made. When you put a letter into this small mirror piece, it comes out through the other. Use it to exchange letters with Renne.” 
“Touya... are you sure we can have this?” 
“Yeah. The capitals are pretty far apart, so it would take a while for your letters to reach. Faster horses would be expensive, too. Also, I’ll send you over here when you have consecutive days off, so you’ll be able to see your grandmother pretty often.” 
“Thank you so much, bruv!” With a bright smile on her face, Renne clung to me. 
Whoa, now. 
Once I hugged her back, Lu looked at me with her mouth open wide. 
“Th-Th-That’s so unfair! I-I want to cling to Touya, too!” 
“Uh, Lu...” 
“Huh?!” Once she noticed the strange looks, Lu cleared her throat and elegantly brought her tea cup to her lips. That won’t be enough to play it off, you know? 
“W-Well, she’s a child, after all. There’s no need to get worked up about it.” 
Okay, no. You got seriously worked up just now. That both confuses me and makes me kinda happy, though. 
Lu seemed to have a competitive side to her. Though, there really was no point to competing with Renne. 
Everyone was trying to contain their laughter at how charming Lu appeared just now. Renne, who merely seemed confused, was the only exception.

“I see. I am glad to know that it went well.” 
“Yeah. With Renne, this house becomes a much more cheerful place, after all. Not having her around would be sad, so I’m glad it turned out this way. Do continue taking good care of her, okay?” 
“Certainly.” I told Laim about what happened in the Regulus Empire’s capital and once again asked him to look out for our little maid. Since Renne chose to stay, I didn’t want to do anything that would’ve made her regret that decision. 
As I was sitting in the balcony and sipping the tea that Laim had prepared for me, I looked up at the moon up in the night sky. 
“Where’s Renne, anyway?” 
“I already had her return to her room. She asked Cecile to give her some paper and envelopes, so I believe it’s safe to assume that she’s already writing a letter to the empire’s capital.” 
I see. A part of me felt envious. After all, no letters that I wrote would ever reach my family. 
However, the family I had here in this world was just as dear to me. And that might’ve been a beautiful thing. 
“Would you like some more?” 
“Yes, please.” Laim took the empty teacup and left the room. 
As I looked up at the moon in the night sky, I prayed to God for the happiness of the family I’d left behind. 

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