“It smells heavenly~”
The aroma of coffee permeated the living room, and Raldine closed her eyes and inhaled deeply with her shapely nose.
Although it was labeled as breakfast, it was a very modest meal consisting only of bread with cream and jam, and scrambled eggs and sautéed tomatoes on the side. Additionally, there was fresh milk that the milkman had just delivered this morning, and lemonade to accompany the freshly brewed coffee.
If it was just me, I could have made do with bread and water, but I made it a little more lavish so that Raldine wouldn’t be disappointed. However, even this would be substandard compared to the servants’ meals in the Duke’s household. Well, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. It’s a valuable lesson to learn about the common people’s way of life.
Nevertheless, Raldine was delighted and clapped her hands, exclaiming, “It looks scrumptious…”
So I didn’t feel guilty either. It was worth splurging on more expensive bread than usual.
“Well then, let’s dig in…”
Saying that, Raldine opened her mouth like a fledgling bird, anticipating me to feed her.
I knew it would come to this.
I recited the lines I had prepared.
“I’m living here with you now, but I will eventually leave when I find a job. So, to ensure you won’t have any difficulties even if that happens, you should start preparing your own meals…”
I believed this statement would suffice to persuade her to begin eating independently, but then Raldine made a preposterous comment.
“But isn’t it customary for commoners to feed each other when they dine together like this?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Look, it’s right here…”
Raldine confidently displayed a book for young girls, containing illustrations of young men and women sharing drinks and feeding each other. It appeared that she had acquired mistaken social customs from such nonsense.
“No, that’s not what it means… It’s when two people who are in love…”
“Does big brother not love me?”
Raldine’s expression was as if the world was about to end.
“N-No, that’s not it. It’s when couples exhibit their happiness to others… No, wait.”
What am I saying! I sound like a very lonely person.
“Oh, I see. It’s about dining etiquette in public! O-Of course, I knew that. I was just teasing you, Big Brother. You know I can be a bit of a tomboy…”
However, Raldine seemed to have grasped it in her own way.
And she started to make unnecessary excuses without being prompted.
“Anyway, forget about that. Just eat.”
“Yes, I’ll enjoy it once again…”
Raldine started eating obediently this time, but soon she appeared to have something on her mind.
“Big Brother, Big Brother, look at this!”
She called out proudly.
“I’m not a child anymore, so I can drink black coffee now.”
However, after saying that and taking a sip of the coffee, she made a face as if she had just swallowed sour milk.
If this strange act of pretending to be my sister, Stella? I don’t want to brag, but my sister may not even be capable of drinking coffee, but she’s certainly not foolish.
“Don’t force it. Why not add some sugar and milk and enjoy it?” I suggested.
Raldine looked crestfallen.
“Stella always admired how her big brother looked so mature while drinking coffee that he carefully ground and brewed.Um…I mean, I still do, actually. So I thought that if I showed Big Brother that I could drink black coffee too, I could join the grown-up club and make him happy.”
That feeling is back again. It’s like a warm, fuzzy sensation spreading from my belly. It’s like sipping warm coffee on a frigid winter day.
“Well, since I already frothed up the milk, why don’t you have some too?”
I added a sprinkle of sugar and frothed milk to Raldine’s cup, creating a drink that was more akin to milk with a tinge of coffee than coffee with milk. Then, I dripped a drop of coffee on top and etched a picture of a feline-like creature.
“Wow!!” Raldine’s eyes widened so much it seemed like they might overflow.
“Magic?! Big brother, are you also a mage? I thought you were just an unemployed loser…!!”
“No, it’s fine. You’re right, I’m just an unemployed loser…”
My own words pained me deeply.
“How lovely. I’m happy. Stella is one lucky girl…”
Of course, this wasn’t the real Stella. But it felt like my sister really thought that way, and it amused me.
“I’ll make as many as you’d like…”
“Really?! Then, next time, please draw the phoenix rising from the ashes…”
After finishing the meal, Raldine began flitting around me as I cleaned up. While I don’t mind her being so affectionate, it’s a bit disconcerting, and just as I was thinking that…
“I feel bad that you’re doing all the work, Big Brother. Please let me help you with something…”
She said something so admirable.
“No, there’s no need for that…”
I was about to say that, but this is Stella’s home as well. It might be odd if we didn’t share household chores.
“Well, then maybe I can ask you for a favor…”
“Anything you need…”
I gestured towards a pot in the corner of the kitchen.
“There’s a lot of stew leftover from yesterday, but it’ll spoil before we can finish it in this weather. Could you preserve it with some ice magic or something?”
“Of course! Leave it to me!”
Raldine stepped forward and held out her right hand towards the sizable pot of stew, moving her lips slightly and murmuring something.
With a sharp cry, numerous icicles flew out of her palm and struck the stew pot.
“That should do the trick!”
I stood in utter amazement at the sight of the kitchen corner, now transformed into a frozen tundra alongside the stew pot.
“Thank you, that really helped…” I managed to say, still in awe.
Raldine, glowing with pride, sauntered off to the living room.
“Don’t worry. Raldine-sama’s magic is just temporary. By evening, the spell will have completely vanished, and the ice will have melted away too…”
Belle, seated on my shoulder, assured me as she watched Raldine flip through a magazine meant for young girls. Her hands and mouth were smeared with jam.
“Aristocrats are all about appearances. They adore all things flashy, don’t they…”
“You always speak as though you know everything. Yesterday, you had the nerve to proclaim, ‘A noble daughter like her must be fed by the servants.’…”
Belle flashed me a grin, revealing her jam-coated teeth.
“Hahaha, my bad. But geez, you never believe me, old man. Hey, old man, could I get some coffee milk too?”
As I poured coffee into a small milk pitcher, Raldine’s words kept reverberating in my mind: “He’s so mature. I’ve always admired him.”
“What does your master, Stella, really think of me? Apart from being an unemployed loser who eats and sleeps all day.”
Belle pondered for a moment before responding.
“Well, she did mention that you smell like an old man. And then there’s your sweat and… your feet.”
“F-Forget it. Just drink it before it gets cold.”
“Thanks, old man,” Belle quipped, making a mischievous fluttering sound with her wings as she approached the pitcher and took a sip.