After they hung up the wolf’s carcass in the storage at Anna’s place. The young men returned one by one with a wave. The village chief, too, hugged the wine Anna had given to him and danced his way home.
Having seen everyone off, the people remaining in the nightly road become three.
Anna, Dieter, Bertram.
“Dieter. Why aren’t you going home? Going to chase us ‘til the very end?”
“I don’t want to leave you to go home alone with a man you don’t know.”
“Mr. Bertram saved me the other day. You know this!”
“That’s a given since he fed you something weird and made you sick. Besides, he himself was fine. Who knows if he gave it to you as an experiment?”
Anna was about to grab Dieter by his collar, but Bertram gracefully blocked Anna’s hand and spoke to Dieter.
“Mr. Dieter. If you are afraid of going home alone, I will accompany you to your house door.”
“That’s not it!”
“Then that is a relief.”
Anna laughed so hard, she clutched at her stomach.
But even as he faced embarrassment, Dieter stuck with them to the very end. He might as well stay until he saw Bertram fall asleep.
When Anna really was going to say a word or two to him, Bertram spoke up.
“You say that there are sleeping quarters at the public farm? I will go and sleep there tonight. Could you please lead the way?”
“What, what are you scheming now? Why, feeling guilty?”
“No. I have only been influenced by you, Mr. Dieter, as you have taken the lead and given your opinion.”
“As an uninvited visitor, there were probably many others who were on guard against me. But only after your words did I realize this very natural truth. It is all thanks to your courage, Mr. Dieter.”
“C-courage? Eh, but it wasn’t anything.”
“Saying what is necessary in a given moment needs great courage. I will accept your suggestion. Could you please wait just long enough for me to collect my things?”
“Of course! Wahaha!”
Grinning from ear to ear, Dieter took up a spot in front of the restaurant’s entrance.
Bertram went into the restaurant, and Anna followed right behind him.
“Mr. Bertram, you don’t have to listen to his stubborn words. You can sleep here! My mom also allowed it.”
“But Mr. Dieter seems to be very anxious. It seems Mr. Dieter likes you, Miss Anna.”
Anna froze at those words, but it only lasted for a moment. Soon, Anna burst out laughing.
“Ahahaha! What are you saying! That guy, he always teases me that I need to grow 10 years older to get married!”
“He probably means that it will take him 10 more years to find the courage to confess.”
“How can you know stuff like that when you say you don’t have emotions?”
“Humans fear those who cannot feel emotions and try to exclude them. Therefore, I have learned the way to examine others’ emotions in order to live. The more typical an emotional expression is, the easier it is to read them. That person is currently jealous of me.”
“If Dieter heard that right now, he would’ve exploded.”
“So I will take my things and leave before Mr. Dieter explodes….. although…”
Bertram slightly hesitated before he spoke.
“Could I borrow the cloth you used to cover my feet last night?”
“There’s a lot of common blankets they use at the quarters, so I don’t think you’ll really need an apron of all things, though.”
“It is necessary.”
Dumbfounded as she was at his resolute answer, Anna still handed the apron over.
An old apron with a red flowery design.
Bertram put it into his bag as if it was a very valuable gift.
By the time Bertram returned to the sleeping quarter and fell asleep, brooding over the word ‘adorable,’ Carla checked on the wolf’s feet as she tried to calm her restless heart.
Blue light lingered on the wolf’s front feet from where it was stashed in the storage. If Bertram was right, then these wolves had not been attacking humans, but digging into graves instead.
But even the relief she felt at the sight was only momentary.
‘Looks like the village chief will see Bertram in an even better light now.’
The anxiety of ‘what if the villagers like Bertram and try to make him stay’ tormented Carla.
And at the break of dawn, just when Carla was about to finally fall asleep, she began hearing sweeps of a broom from the yard. Chills ran down her back as she woke up.
They’d definitely sent Bertram to the sleeping quarters by the farm, and Anna wasn’t good enough of a person to do that this early, so who?
Carla carefully inspected the outside using her hand mirror.
The mirror was soon filled with the frame of a very large man.
There was no need to look any further. It was Bertram.
To think he had come down at dawn just to sweep—incredulous, Carla mumbled to herself.
“Why’s he so diligent?”
After sweeping out the dry leaves that had tumbled into the yard without so much as a yawn, he rearranged all his cleaning tools and went back up towards the direction of the public sleeping quarters.
It did not seem like a simple act to look good in front of Anna and herself. If that had been the case, he would have made a show of how he’d come to clean.
Bertram had not shown off anything, even from when he had worked in the kitchen. He only asked if he was working efficiently and followed Carla’s procedures step-by-step. Clearly, he was truly a man who’d been in the war for a very long time.
But it had already been three years since the war had ended, so acting like that in everyday life was a problem.
“Is it an aftereffect of war…..? Might be that his home was ruined during the war and so he can’t return, and his body’s so adapted to the war that he can’t find any other work.”
That was a pity, but he wasn’t a man she wanted to keep next to her daughter for any longer than this.