Strawberry Daifuku

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With our vacation just a few days away, I found myself at one of my favorite bakeries.
Just outside of the store, Rei and I just happened to cross paths.
To think we would meet here after we each decided to act independently today.

“How odd, I didn’t expect that Claire-sama would visit a shop that commoners frequent.”
“There are some sweets that can only be bought here.
Moreover, if you say that, Blume could also be considered a shop that commoners visit.”
“I see, so as long as the shop serves delicious sweets, there’s no problem then.”
“That is exactly right.”
“So basically, Claire-sama is a glutton.”
“Just how did you arrive at that conclusion!?”

She wasn’t necessarily wrong, but hearing Rei say that really upset me.

“So? What is it that you’ve come here for?”
“Me? Just some market research… Er, I mean, I wanted to know what sweets were popular.”
“So you’re window shopping.”
“I suppose you could say that.”

Well, considering the commoner’s finances, it stands to reason she wouldn’t be able to afford luxuries such as sweets on a regular basis.
In contrast to Rei, who maintained nonchalance, Relaire, who sat on her shoulder, was restless as her eyes darted around the shop.

“I suppose there’s no helping it.
I’ll treat you, so go ahead and pick something you like.”
“Eh? Are you sure?”
“Think nothing of it, such a gesture is only natural as a noblewoman.”

With that, I brought Rei with me into the shop.
While it couldn’t be compared to a high class café such as Blume, for a shop that primarily dealt with commoners it was rather well kept.
Rather than a shop that served the masses, it felt more like a hole in the wall popular among those who had the privilege of knowing.
I myself was quite fond of that atmosphere.

“… Is it just me, or are there a lot of disciples of the Spirit Church here?”
“Did you only realize that now? This is the spot that the nuns come to for rest and relaxation.”

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This establishment was relatively close to Bauer’s Great Cathedral, which served as the Spirit Church’s headquarters.
The shop’s owner felt pity toward the nuns, even going so far as to provide special offers.
It was said that if one presented their rosary, proof that they served the church, they would receive a discount.
As a result, there were a lot of nuns in their usual habits enjoying tea and sweets in the open café space neighboring the shop.

“Oh, so that’s why.”
“So? Have you decided what you’ll be having?”
“Ah, give me just a little longer.
They have a surprisingly nice lineup, so I’d like to indulge in my thoughts a little longer.”
“Alright, I’ll go on ahead to the register, so let me know once you’ve decided.”

A small giggle escaped me as I watched the commoner with her eyes glued on the desserts display case before I proceeded with my own purchase.
I decided that I’d pick out Relaire’s snack as well.

“Good day.”
“Well, if it isn’t Claire-sama.
Thank you for your continued patronage.”

The owner of the shop, a lady with a gentle smile, greeted me.
Perhaps fitting for the owner of a bakery, she had a good physique and looked great in an apron.

“I’d like this and this today as well.”
“What about the usual licorice?”
“Not today.”

That’s right, this was the shop where I purchased the licorice which had become Catherine’s favorite candy.
The shop dealt in some unusual sweets that couldn’t be found elsewhere.
I had invited Catherine to come with me multiple times before, but she stubbornly refused to get on a horse carriage, so I hadn’t been able to take her.

“A strawberry daifuku and herbal biscuits then.
Your total comes to seven-hundred gold.”
“I’ll pay with this.
Keep the change―”

Rei, who had fixated herself to the display case, suddenly screamed and turned to face me.
Surprised by the sudden movement, Relaire fell off of her shoulder.

“W-What’s the matter?”
“Just now, I thought I heard a particular word, but it couldn’t be…”

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“A particular word?”
“Something like Ichigo Daifuku.”
“Just what is so strange about that?”

Rei sure had a tendency to say some peculiar things.
I went to scoop Relaire up as I asked.

“Eh, you mean this shop has them? Ichigo Daifuku.”
“Yes, of course they do.
It’s quite popular among the nuns, you know?”
“Ehh…? Just what is going on with sweets in this world…?”

For some reason Rei seemed shocked.
She seemed to mumble to herself as she looked at the Strawberry Daifuku.
The owner who had watched over our exchange offered an explanation,

“Claire-sama, Strawberry Daifuku were actually only recently introduced to the kingdom.”
“My, is that so?”
I’ve heard that the sweet originates from an island in the east.
The same place as that foreign mustard.”

Come to think of it, I once heard that in the countries to the east people with black eyes and black hair were much more common.
Perhaps Rei had eastern blood flowing through her.

“They’ve been around as far back as I could remember, so I had convinced myself that they always had been.”
“Miria-sama truly treasures you, so when she caught word of a peculiar dessert made with strawberries, she rushed to purchase some.”
“… I see… My mother did…”

I hadn’t expected my mother’s name to come up in a place like this.
I felt so many different emotions rushing through my chest.

“By the way, Claire-sama… What is…”

The owner was pointing at―Relaire.

“Ah… No need to worry about her, she’s Rei’s familiar.”

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“A familiar… A monster that’s been tamed… So they really do exist.”

Perhaps out of plain curiosity, or perhaps because Relaire was far too cute, she found herself surrounded by a crowd of girls.
One after another, each of the girls offered Relaire a portion of their sweets.

It was all so heartwarming that I almost let my expression relax, but I quickly changed the topic.

“Ah, owner, has anything of note happened lately?”

I normally wouldn’t waste the time to have this conversation with a mere commoner, but I had known the owner of this shop for quite some time now.
It was normal that we engaged in small talk every now and then.

“Hmm… Not really.
Though a couple of my regulars have stopped coming so I’ve been feeling a little lonely.”
“Did something happen to them?”
“I heard they were transferred to another branch.
They weren’t the kind that would just up and disappear without saying anything though.”
“… Well, I suppose they have their reasons.”
“I suppose so.
They were all really cute too… And just this month, I’ve already lost three.”
“That does sound rather lonely.”

This was a sign of something yet to come, but it would be a while yet before I realized that.

“Claire-sama, I’d like Strawberry Daifuku as well.”
“Okay, sure.
Owner, please put that on the same bill.”
“Of course.
I’ll wrap it up for you.”
“Please do.”

While we waited, both Rei and I looked around the room.
The nuns in the café space were not their usual graceful selves, but seemed to be relaxed as they chatted among friends.
Among them, there were some girls who appeared to be our age.
They must have scraped together their earnings in order to share this time with one another.

“Thank you for your patience, Claire-sama, here you are.”
“Thank you.
Relaire, we’re going!”

Having received countless treats from the nuns she had charmed, Relaire appeared to be in bliss.
Though reluctant, she hopped from the palm of their hand back onto mine.

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“Owner, I’ll come again.”
“We look forward to your next visit.”

I left the shop.

“I can’t believe that they’ve put out Strawberry Daifuku before me…”
“Ah, so does your family hail from the east after all?”
“Eh? Ah, no, uhm… Perhaps we are, or maybe we aren’t…”
“Again with your vague answers.”

Well, it wasn’t unusual for Rei to be nonsensical.
I let out an internal, “Goodness.”, before returning Relaire to Rei’s shoulder.

“What are your plans after this?”
“I don’t have anything planned, Claire-sama, so I’ll hold your bags.”
Or so I’d say, but Strawberry Daifuku are rather fragile.
We should hurry home.”
“How unfortunate.
I thought that I’d finally found the chance to go on a date with Claire-sama.”
“D… D-D-Date!?”

Just the word alone was so appealing that I hesitated.
Perhaps… This was my chance to take revenge for our date that ended in failure just the other day…?

“I-In that case, I suppose I wouldn’t be above the idea of―”
“But well, this is for the sake of the Strawberry Daifuku after all, let’s hurry home.”
“REALLY! It’s that exact part of you, you know!?”
“Eh? Why are you mad at me? I can’t help but feel this is unfair!

And so, in conclusion we just returned to the dorms.
It seemed that I’d have to wait for my next opportunity to get revenge.

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