>Galla just continued to embrace Krische.
Krische hummed as she made soup and kneaded dough for a pie.
Being a self-centered person, she always thought of things in a manner convenient for her.
Grace and Gorka are gone.
Which means there are two extra portions and she can thoroughly enjoy the pumpkin.
She had been denied twice and forced to wait two weeks.
Tonight’s dinner will finally be the pumpkin she had yearned for.
Krische had skipped lunch for this, fully intending to eat three portions herself.
She carefully folded the dough and spread the pumpkin paste, imagining how it would turn out.
Krische hummed as she finished up the pie.
Satisfied at her work, she smiled a little.
After ‘taste testing’ the soup for a while, she lowered the flames.
Just a little more, then ‘taste tested’ two, three more times..
After satisfying herself with the soup, she headed to Galla’s home with a spring in her steps.
The perfect pumpkin pie she had made with great care was held in her hands.
The one she had made before was nowhere close to this one.
She smiled as she imagined how it would turn out――and heard two people arguing in Galla’s house.
“Just because of that――you’re going to throw that girl out on her own!?”“No! I’ll leave her in the care of a trustworthy friend.
Do you want make her live out her life in this village as an outcast!? Is that any better for Krische!?”
It seems like they are talking about Krische.
She tilted her head to the side, but still knocked on the door.
“Who’s there?” Galla asked, suppressing the anger in her voice.
Krische replied as normal, “It’s Krische.”
The door opened immeadiately.
Inside were Gallen and Galla.
The atmosphere between them was tense.
Krische froze upon seeing them.
“Krische, what’s wrong――ah”“E, er…… Krische, came to bake, the pumpkin pie……”
――She might miss out on her pumpkin pie again.
Her ever-growing pumpkin fever was already at its limits.
This would be the third time.
“If, if you are busy, then……”
The timing was just too bad, tears that had not flowed during her mother’s death welled up now.
Galla urged Krische in hastily, glaring at Gallen.Gallen sighed, letting out his remaining anger, then nodded.
“Sorry to surprise you.
We were just discussing things a little.
We weren’t arguing.
“Ye, yeah…… sorry.
We must’ve surprised you.”
“Krische is fine……”
“Come this way.”
Galla patted Krische’s head and led her to the oven.Sighing in relief that she could use the oven, Krische set the pie in the middle and borrowed some charcoal, arranging them inside the oven.
“……it’s quite big.”“Er……because, we missed out on the previous one.”
Hearing Krische’s response, Galla pressed on the corner of her eye.
We promised……to eat Krische-chan’s pie, together, once everything was over.”“Yes.
It has gotten quite late.”
Krische said with a smile, but recalled something and lowered her eyes.
“…… Krische wanted to make it immediately after though.”
The pumpkin had been smashed.
When Krische had returned home, the pumpkin was completely smashed.
What grudge did that bandit have against her pumpkin?
While she had probably gotten revenge for the pumpkin, Krische was not satisfied.
Remembering it was unpleasant――it made her feel like smashing his limbs like that pumpkin if he was still alive.
Not knowing Krische’s inner thoughts, Galla was holding back tears, watching Krische with her pie large enough for five.
She had stained her young hands with blood to save everyone, her mother was killed before her eyes and she had also lost her father.
Galla saw herself in Krische, similar to when she had lost her son in an ‘unfortunate accident’.
Krische did not cry, acting as she always did, going through her days indifferently, but that made her feel precarious.
Reality might not have set in yet.
Either way, it would be a wound too deep for this young girl.
Krische had reproduced the same pie as that day, she looked as if she was broken somewhere inside.
The more Galla thought about it, the greater her hatred for those that carelessly spread those worthless rumours.
Krische was smart, there was no way she did not know of the rumours about her.
Galla had seen Krische hugging and snuggling with Grace many times, behaving like any other girl her age.
But now there were even rumours that Krische had killed Grace with her own hands.
Galla could not forgive them.
Krische should have been hailed as the village’s hero, but look at this unfair treatment.
Galla heart was torn by the anger and sadness that filled it.
“Will you invite Oba-san too?”
If Oba-san does not have some too, Krische cannot finish this much.”
It’s such a big pie…… Oba-san will have to eat a lot to make up for those two.”
Krische was stunned for a moment.
The extra two portions were for Krische.
She had skipped lunch for this,.
Realising her slip, Krische’s gaze wandered as she looked for the words to deal with this sudden unfairness.
“E, er, Oba-san, this……is Krische’s, share……”“Ah……”
Seeing Krische’s reaction, Galla covered her mouth, thinking she had made Krische remember the two she had lost.
Krische had not mentioned Grace and Gorka recently, it was unnatural.
――She must’ve been trying to avoid thinking about them.
Regretting her own foolishness, Galla embraced Krische’s small body.
“……I’m sorry, Krische-chan.
But it’s okay.”
It is not okay.
Krische wanted to retort.But before she could do so, Galla tightened her embraced, squashing Krische’s face into her breasts and covering her mouth.
“Do you think it’s unfair?”
Krische hesitated, then gave a small nod.
This was really unfair.
“But you have to accept it.
One day, you have to accept that life is unfair……and it’s okay to cry out loud if you have to.”
“When I lost my son and could not deal with it…… Krische-chan came over many times and cheered me up.
I was really happy about that.
That’s why I swore to do the same for Krische-chan if something sad happened to you too.”
Krische could not understand Galla’s thought process.
She stole Krische’s pumpkin pie, making Krische sad then tries to cheer Krische up.
Krische stayed silent a while longer, but Gallen only nodded gravely, not saying a word.
Seeing her grandfather agree, Krische grew even more confused.
Krische could not understand the logic behind it, but this is apparently normal.
Then Krische remembered that she had killed Galla’s son, then comforted Galla as she borrrowed the oven.
Basically Galla just really wants to eat the pie, Krische came to that simple conclusion with her strange understanding.
Compared to Krische who had properly hidden the fact that she had killed Galla’s son, Galla’s method was forceful and crude, but the act itself made sense to Krische.
And she also owed a lot to Galla.
Krische decided that she no choice and gave up, relaxing into Galla’s embrace.Galla teared up as she gently stroked Krische’s head.
“……there’s no need to endure the sadness.
At the very least, when with Oba-san, you can show your emotions.
Oba-san will always be with Krische-chan until the sadness is gone.”
Krische could only swallow her complaints.
Instead she focused on how she could cut the freshly-baked pie such that she would get to eat the most pumpkin.
That was all she thought about.
――With the pie baked, they were back in Krische’s house.But Krische’s hardships have not ended.
After much thought and hesitation, Krische chose to cut the pie into five equal slices, reluctantly serving two of them to Galla.Of course two slices were for her.
Then one for Gallen..
Krische could feel how crisp it was as she cut the pie.
This is the best pie she had ever made, the pumpkin had melted into the batter, releasing a sweet fragrance.
The crispiness and sweet smell of the pumpkin was already bliss for Krische before she had even taken a bite.
It was as if the pie called to her tongue.
The pumpkin soup had also turned out well.
The pumpkin had stewed over the weak flame for a long time, becoming nice and soft.
To this, she added some of the pumpkin she had set aside.It became a sumptuous soup where you could taste the sweetness of the pumpkin in the soup as well as the pumpkin itself.
This is the best pumpkin dish Krische had ever made.
If she focused on the pumpkin then the soup would be lacking, and vice versa.Krische had spent a week thinking only about pumpkins and had decided to use plenty of pumpkin to perfect this amazing pumpkin lover’s set meal.
After setting the table, Krische stared at the pumpkin soup and pie, feeling slightly emotional.
She then looked towards Gallen.
They did not pray before their meals, but Gallen or Gorka usually declared the start of the meal.
Krische could barely suppress her excitement at finally getting to eat pumpkin but kept still, waiting.
Gallen stared absentmindedly at the pumpkin lover’s set meal, pinching the bridge of his nose.Then lowering his eyes, he spoke quietly.
“……Krische, we need to talk.”“Talk?”
Krische felt like a dog with a treat held just out of reach.
Her morals were abnormal and she was extremely self-centered, but otherwise, Krische was polite and obedient.
She would not break community rules when there are people around and when she has to break a rule, she would do it where there was no one to observe it.
Respect elders, greetings and thanks, proper manners.
These are life skills Grace had taught Krische.
And because Krische was such a girl.
she had to wait if Gallen said ‘wait’.
If she had dog ears, they would be folded down.
Krische fidgeted, looking from Gallen to the pie and back again.
“You understand, don’t you, Galla?”
Krische was perplexed, things were not looking good.Time passed relentlessly as she thought of the worst case scenarios.
But Krische was still calmBecause――Krische’s tongue was extremely sensitive.
Either way, she couldn’t eat until the food had cooled a little, so waiting a little was fine.
Krische came to that conclusion.
Krische really enjoyed blowing on hot food to cool it and then eating, but that was not a must.
As long as Krische can eat it at a nice temperature, it’s fine, Krische convinced herself.
“You heard us talking at Galla’s house, right?”
I heard……a little.”
“We were talking about your future.”
Gallen spoke gravely.
Feeling the hunger from skipping lunch――Krische was bewildered, she could not understand why they would want to talk about that at this particular timing.
Hunger greatly reduced Krische’s intelligence.
“……is it tough?”
How do you feel right now?”
After Galla, now Gallen?
Was there some new unknown rule about preventing Krische from enjoying her pumpkin pie?
Finding it all unfair, Krische nodded.
“……it is tough.”
The ultimate bait is laid out right before her hungry stomach.Of course it was tough.
Gallen looked toward Galla and she nodded with a resigned look.
“I have a friend from the army living in town.
I got a letter from him recently, checking up on me.
He offered to do anything he could to help…… I mulled over it and wrote about you.”
“Yeah…… Krische, do you want to try living in the town?”
How did talk about Krische’s pumpkin pie suddenly jump to that?Krische was slightly surprised by the sudden topic change.
“…… I got his reply today, if Krische is agreeable, he’d like to meet you.”
Krische grew even more confused.
Krische simply wants to eat.
Krische could not keep up with the sudden――to Krische――important conversation.
“……if Ojii-sama says to go, then Krische will go.”
“That’s not what I mean…… don’t think recklessly.
It’s definitely not because I don’t like Krische.
It is because I love Krische that I want to give you this choice.”
“That acquaintance of mine is a trustworthy man.
We were comrades that ate and slept together, saved each other’s lives…… Krische, I want you to meet him with me, and decide what you want to do.
Of course if you still want to stay in this village, Galla and I will take care of you.”
Having declared what he had to say, Gallen fell silent.
He was waiting for Krische’s response.
Krische on the other hand was looking down sadly, fidgeting and staring at the pie.
She stayed that way with a hand clutched at her chest for a while.Then Krische spoke timdly.
“……e, er, the…… p, pie, is getting…… cold, so”
For Krische, begging for permission to eat was a tough and painful decision.
Asking to begin the meal, exposing her own desires in the middle of Gallen’s serious conversation was an absolutely shameful act in Krische’s peculiar opinion.
But she wanted to eat.
She had waited two weeks.
But she could not just start eating.
Krische’s rational and intelligent mind had grappled with the problem of how to fulfill her desires without being shameful according to her sense of aesthetics.
But watching the pie cool minute by minute, she reached her limit and Krische spoke out, her voice barely above a whisper.
Krische has always endeavored to be well-mannered and on perfect behaviour, so this was unprecedented, the first and hopefully last time.Krische’s face burnt with shame and her eyes teared up.
Seeing her like this, Gallen groaned softly and Galla clapped her hands together.
Krische-chan has made a delicious meal for us.
Let’s eat before it grows cold…… right, Gallen?”“Yeah…… sorry.
Let’s eat first.”
Galla changed the topic, praising Krische’s soup and pie.Gallen did not speak much but praised her too.
Krische was going through another bout of depression and could not fully enjoy the delicious food.
But thanks to Galla’s efforts, she eventually recovered enough to enjoy the meal.
With her small mouth full of pie, she enjoyed its texture and sweetness, fulfilling the desires that had just betrayed her.
By the time the meal was over, she was in a very good mood.
Gallen made eye contact with Galla and then declared the he would be going home for the night.
He did not bring up the conversation from before the meal and just left after saying good night.
Krische and Galla washed the dishes together with some light chatter, then laid out futons and prepared for bed.
Krische was clearly happy that Galla was staying over.
In this area, nights were cold through the year and Krische was sensitive to it, she wanted a warm body pillow.
After extinguishing the fire and they lay in the futon, Galla talked about Krische’s past.
Krische had been about three years old.
Gorka had found a small girl collapsed in the forest near the main road and brought her back to the village, creating a small commotion.
Krische was bed-ridden for three days with Grace and Gorka nursing her, but Krische’s appearance was already eye-catching then.
Not only was her beautiful silver hair rare around here, her features were refined and the silk clothing she wore was of fine make.
It was natural to think she was the daughter of some noble.
Even in this remote village, stories of internal strife among nobles reached them through minstrels and such occurrences were common knowledge.
Krische was thought to have been abandoned in the forest as the result of such a strife.
Sheltering her might lead to trouble, but it was not like the villagers could just kill her.
They decided to take care of her temporarily and hand her over if someone came looking.
Gorka and Grace had not been blessed with children and decided to take her in.
Krische spoke little and politely.
(T/N: Literally says she always speaks with desu/masu, the polite form, which she still does, mostly)
They could tell that she was smart for her age, but she hardly left the house and seemed tense in this unfamiliar environment.
Krische was passive, hardly behaving like a child would, simply staring at the people around her.
Grace brought her outside, leading her by the hand, letting her get used to the village.
Krische toddling behind Grace around the village became a famous sight for a while.
Galla laughed as she spoke, a nostalgic tone in her voice.
Over time, Grace changed from temporary caretaker to foster parent, then to mother.
Grace taught Krische many things, doting on Krische as if Krische was her own daughter.
Krische was intelligent and grew to meet all her expectations.
Having wished so much for children, meeting Krische felt like destiny to Grace and Gorka.
She was unexpectedly gluttonous and always clung to and snuggled with Grace in the futon at night.
Grace had spread these stories of Krische through the village.
Galla recalled those nostalgic stories and went through each of them with Krische.
Krische blushed as she listened.
So when she got sweets as rewards for helping, they had already known Krische was a glutton.
Which meant they had given her sweets knowing that was her motive for helping them.
Naturally that made Krische feel embrassed.
Not minding Krische’s reactions, Galla continued.After talking about Krische, she moved on to Grace and Gorka.
Grace had always been a nice, cheerful girl.
Galla had a crush on Gorka when they were younger and when the younger grace stole him away, was one-sidedly hostile towards her for a time.
But Grace’s kindness was sincere and eventually Galla gave them her blessings.
Then there was a man that fell in love with Galla and she wed that man.
Galla spoke of how she had lost her husband early, then her child soon after.
How when her heart was broken, Krische and Grace had helped her.
Galla had not agreed to taking in Krische at first, but now she believed from the bottom of her heart that was the right choice.
“If Krische wants to stay in this village, Oba-san will protect Krische-chan in place of Grace.
I’ll take you in as my daughter.
That’s what Oba-san wants and honestly, I’m against you going to the town.”
Galla’s voice was full of love.
Galla did not know that Krische had killed her child, and she never would.
Galla’s love for Krische was unshakable, even if Krische honestly confessed her crime now, Galla would interpret it conveniently, probably treating it as more misfortune, just an accident.
――Krische’s little revenge led to an accident and she regrets killing him.
Galla trusted and loved Krische that much.
It is completely absurd, yet at the same time, in a way you could say she was happy.
Cosily bundled up in Galla’s warmth, Krische listened to her stories absentmindedly.
Although they had slept together the night of the funeral, Krische has slept alone since.
Satisfied that she would have a nice night of sleep for the first time in a while, Krische smiled a little.
But this love from Galla created a tiny doubt in Krische’s mind.
It was a doubt that would greatly affect Krische’s human nature in the future.
But at this time, it was trivial.
“……but I also don’t believe staying would be the best for Krische.
Krische-chan is smart, if you have the chance to learn, that’ll open up various futures for you.”
All happy futures.
Krische-chan, do you know why Grace named you Krische?”
She told me recently.”
Galla nodded in satisfaction, smiling wryly.
“The moon on the night she was proposed to, her happiest moment.
It might sound like a stupid reason, but Krische-chan’s name has all of Grace’s happiness in it.
Such that the same happiness will come to Krische-chan.”“……will it?”
Grace always laughed or cried, making a big fuss over small things, she was the opposite of rational.
But recalling how happy Grace was――Krische could not imagine herself like that.
Krische tilted her head in confusion.
“Of course it will.
Krische-chan can definitely find happiness, I’ll say that for sure.”
Galla looked Krische in the eye and declared it firmly.
“Rather then living in this village, seeing and experiencing many things will be better for Krische.
Out there, you’ll be much happier than you can be here…… the town is dazzling, there are many things Krische-chan has never seen before.”
“Never seen before……?”
“Yes, fancy clothes, houses, even food.”
If there were dog ears on Krische’s head, they would have perked up.
Krische still did not have a good understanding of what a town was, she thought of it as a large village.
But the problem was――
“……but, Krische will not be able to borrow Oba-san’s oven.”
It’s nearby and convenient right now.Galla looked stunned, then her expression crumpled as she embraced Krische tightly.
“O, Oba-san……?”“……it’s okay, it sounds like it’ll be a large house, so there should be a much better oven than Oba-san’s.”
I see, Krische thought as she told Galla, who was still squeezing Krische.
“Can’t, breathe……”“Ah, aah……sorry.”
Galla apologised in a trembling voice, relaxing her hug and patted Krische’s head.
Krische-chan will be fine anywhere.
You’re Grace and Gorka’s……and my pride, our daughter.
Just act as usual and Krische will fit in…… I believe in you.”
Galla’s voice was tearful and shaky, but her tone was firm.
Galla did not say anymore.
Krische also fell silent, pressing herself closer to Galla.
Krische had felt that the conversation had come to an end and prepared to sleep.
Soon Krische was asleep, breathing softly.
Galla just continued to embrace Krische.
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