With a single blow. Death on sight. The fate of every monster Shirley came across who she thought might become a hindrance to the sports meet…….even though most of them were just living their ordinary lives with no malicious intent…….was total eradication. And by immediately returning to that old inn after depositing her pay into the guild’s vault, Shirley was able to get back just in time to welcome Sophie and Tio home from school.
But, it was obvious at a glance that Sophie was in a bad mood with her cheeks puffed out like the way they were.
Shirley wondered what could possibly be wrong as she stopped herself from unconsciously poking her daughter’s soft little swelled cheeks.
“……d-did something happen to Sophie? She seemed okay when you left for school this morning…….”
Tio explained everything that happened at school……how Marco had once again gotten her riled up before challenging her to a match.
“I see……something like that happened? And let me guess, Sophie argued back with the boy after he insulted her, and now things have progressed into a fight.”
“Usually she is able to let things slide more easily even when Marco says something.”
Shirley focused on calming Sophie down for the time being, so she moved the conversation over to their special table in the corner of the dining room that was reserved especially for them. Frustrated over everything that had been said to her, Sophie sat down in her mother’s lap, tightly clinging to her mother’s clothes while rubbing her head into her mother’s breasts in some vain effort to vent her pent-up frustration.
“Oh my…….such a handful.”
Shirley mixed in a sigh while patting her daughter’s head and holding her close. Look at her from the side and you would find a broad-minded and composed mother. Fortunately, or not depending on where you stand, nobody there knew her well enough to recognize the big, sloppy smile she was hiding inside her heart.
“I think I understand so far. In short, there is an event Sophie wants to do, and this Marco boy is getting in the way. Does that sum things up?”
“Mm! Marco is always like that! He’s always complaining about what I do! I told him to stop, but every time we talk to each other he says I have old lady hair even though he knows I hate it!”
“………so that kind of thing has been going on.”
Tio nodded her head to let Shirley know that everything Sophie had said was true.
It was a fact that Marco didn’t like Sophie. He has a domineering personality because of his age, and there is a non-zero chance that he’s teasing them just because.
However from her objective viewpoint, Tio didn’t think that was the case. Not that her sulking sister or overly doting mother who was focused on consoling her daughter noticed her doubts.
“…….I thought this before during parents’ day, but that Marco boy really does require special attention.”
Mom seems strange for some reason. Tio got out of her chair and left the table as soon as she noticed that when Shirley slowly opened her eyes after carefully considering something to herself.
“I see……so it’s death then.”
Some things can be overlooked since the other party is a child, but if you’re going to make fun of her daughters by mocking their white hair or calling them old hags, then execution by Shirley will be all you have to look forward to.
And that’s not including the fact that this boy has been harassing Sophie seemingly ever day now which can in no way be overlooked. Anyone who bullies one of her daughters deserves 10,000 deaths.
“It’s okay Sophie. You don’t have to concern yourself about this anymore.”
Shirley gave her daughter an angelic smile to let her know it would all be okay. It did well to hide the blood boiling underneath.
“I’ll take care of this Marco boy. Even the most obstinate man can be dealt with by dangling them off a pterosaur and slowly flying through a group of monster birds.”
“You’re going too far for a fight between children.”
Brought over by Tio, Martha slapped the back of Shirley’s head after the young mother began muttering something dangerous.
“Come on, you shouldn’t say things like that even as a joke.”
“? But I wasn’t joking?”
“Please don’t say that with an innocent look in your eyes…….. Anyway, don’t get involved in a children’s quarrel. At most you should speak with the other child’s guardian.”
Martha let out an already weary sigh as she scolded Shirley, who was entirely not understanding what she had done wrong, before turning her attention towards Tio.
“Good job Tio. I’m glad you’ve noticed that your mother has been saying a lot of idiotic things lately. If we left her alone, she might actually do it.”
“Mm. Mom does say some weird things sometimes, and I know Martha is the best way to stop it.”
“T-Tio!? Do you perhaps think of me as an oddball……..?”
“Oh…….I get that. Sometimes Mama starts doing something out of the ordinary out of nowhere.”
“S-Sophie, you too……..!?”
“Ahahahahahaha! This is what you get for saying whatever you want whenever you want! Maybe you’ll learn from this and actually try to contain yourself a bit!”
Shirley slumped down onto the table, grumbling something along the lines of, “I never thought my daughters would think of me that way…….I don’t have anything to live for anymore.” Meanwhile Martha was laughing away while roughly patting Tio’s attentive, ten-year-old head.
“Martha, you’re jiggling my head.”
“Oops, sorry. Did you hate it?”
Tio tried patting down her slightly disheveled, always frizzly hair before looking up towards Martha.
“…….no. I didn’t hate it.”
Tio liked it when her mother patted her head. Shirley’s hands were thin and supple and were always gentle. That didn’t mean she hated the rougher touch of Martha’s hands which had grown broken and uneven from years of work.
She wouldn’t like other people touching her, but Martha and her husband were different. It was proof of how much Tio had grown to love them.
“Now, head on in back and wash your hands. I tried baking a new type of pastry called a madeleine that Canary told me about, and you can have some once you’ve washed your hands and put your bookbags away.”
“Really!? Let’s go fast Tio!”
They might like to act like grown-ups and are obedient almost to a fault however whenever it comes to sweets, the act these two girls put on crumbles, and they really start acting their age. Watching her daughters’ backs as they ran off, Shirley turned towards Martha visibly displeased.
“You keep talking and acting like a mother……. Don’t tell me Martha, are you looking to steal away my position as mother…….!?”
“What absolute drivel are you spilling now? Who could possibly fill the role of Sophie and Tio’s mother other than you?”
It’s been a while since Shirley’s been this mentally unstable. Martha once again confirmed that this ageless, semi-immortal woman was in truth just a psychotic mother.
She had heard before from Canary that Shirley was a special case even among semi-immortals.
Shirley’s lust for revenge was completely overwritten by a motherly spirit despite the fact that it was that very lust for revenge that had triggered her semi-immortal status.
“From the start, it is a mother’s privilege to serve snacks to their daughters when they return home from school or from playing with friends. ……..so those new pastries you mentioned…….if those two like them, could you teach me how to make them?”
And the end result was this deplorable yet adorable mother. If Martha were to be asked if this was a good thing or a bad thing……..she would lean towards it being the earlier choice.
“……it’s already been more than ten years since you started living at this inn eh”
“What? That came out of nowhere.”
“No, I was just suddenly feeling nostalgic. You and those children have changed so much since then.”
Martha thought back to when she first met this mother and her two daughters.
Putting aside Sophie and Tio who were just a couple of small babies at the time, Shirley had a constant crease in her brow and was hostile to everyone around her.
You wouldn’t guess it from how she is now, but the Shirley of back then had her beautiful face constantly distorted with distrust and an acute vigilance. She always carried her daughters around in her arms while baring her fangs at anybody who would get too close.
She was entirely like a wounded wolf protecting her newborn cubs. That was the impression Martha had of her the first time she met Shirley.
Canary told Martha when she first brought the girls to this dusty old inn that Shirley had already been betrayed by a man once, and she was afraid that someone would come to steal her happiness once again. Upon hearing that, Martha instantly understood why Shirley was the way she was.
In those early days, Martha did her best time and time again to help the young mother who was struggling with taking care of a couple of young children, but each time she got too close, Shirley went for her sword and threatened to cut her down if she so much as touched Sophie or Tio. She was practically a beast in both words and manners.
“Well of course, who would’ve guessed that young mother who didn’t even know how to spell child-rearing would eventually end up peaking her face out from around that wall and fearfully ask me for help.”
“P-Please don’t bring that up……”
But Martha continued to extend a helpful hand no matter how harshly it was brushed away, and eventually her feelings broke through. Shirley’s face burned a bright red as she remembered those early days.
“Thanks to that, it’s like I received a daughter and two cute granddaughters without even needing a blood relation. I shouldn’t even have a grandchild yet.”
Shirley squeezed out her words.
“Hm? Did you say something?”
“Ah…… No, it’s nothing.”
“What the, are you getting inarticulate?”
Shirley fell into thought, muttering inside her heart as a confused Martha turned away.
(That’s definitely because…….my daughters see you as a grandma, and I think of you like a mother.)
Obviously none of them are related to Martha by blood. Not to say that the mother and her daughters treated her differently because of that.
Shirley was cut off from her relatives and had been virtually alone most of her life, so when it came to Martha’s warm personality, she, Sophie, and Tio had come to regard her as a mother and grandmother respectively.
(Thinking about it, this old couple has been helping like a pair of grandparents would despite me coming here as a single mother.)
If nothing had ever happened, would Albert have loved Tio and Sophie as their father? Philia would be a loving aunt and the former emperor and empress would have been a pair of doting grandparents for sure.
But Shirley shook her head, burying such pointless thoughts.
(That’s why to us you are so……..)
It was difficult for Shirley to finish that thought, but she still always thought of Martha as the ideal mother she had always wanted since she was young.