92. The Isekai NPC Dreams of Being Isekai-ed
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I pulled out three mugs and set them on the counter. Uncle wanted the apple beer, and the auntie from across the street with her husband wanted regular beers. I filled up the two regular beers first, slammed my spoon into the cups, then swished them just so before I placed them in front of the auntie and her husband.

"Here you go!" I said cheerfully, then returned to making the apple beer for Uncle.

"Girl."

"Yes, Uncle, I'm almost done with your drink too," I called back, not bothering to look. My hands moved automatically, pouring in a tiny amount of squeezed apple juice and spooning a few cubes of the actual fruit into the cup. I then handed the cup to Uncle with a bright smile. "Mind holding that for me?"

Once he took it in his hand, his cup tilted at a familiar angle, I swept the two pitchers of juice and beer up and poured them in expertly.

"There we go. And..." Spinning the spoon into proper position, I slammed it down on the leveled up. "Perfect!" I beamed at him. "Enjoy the beer."

He grunted in response as he took a swig, and I kept the smile on my face as I went back to my spot at the counter. 

Rosa was slouched over at the corner of the bar, watching me. When I gave her a friendly, inquisitive look, she raised an eyebrow. "Someone's dead in the inside today."

"That I am," I agreed, then went about with a pleasant expression as I rearranged my pitchers.

"Because of your mom?"

I only hummed in response-- not really a yes, but not really a no-- but Rosa understood me perfectly. She sighed. "Don't worry about it. It'll be fine."

This time, I raised an eyebrow at her. "Easy for you to say. Should I tell you not to worry about your problem?"

She grimaced, and we came to a silent agreement not to tell each other to stop worrying about our problems. It wasn't helping anybody.

Rosa watched me as I bustled back and forth, greeting the new customers (there weren't many, it was a pretty slow and quiet night), and I paid no attention to her. The entire conversation I had with Mother Lily just this afternoon was still swirling around in my head, and everything hadn't quite settled down yet in my head. But that didn't mean work was going to wait around for me, so here I was, flitting around as nonchalantly as I could, looking completely fine... except to Rosa, but that didn't count. She knew me too well for this.

In an attempt to change the subject (and her suspiciously narrowed eyes, which clued me into a possible Attempt of Interference from Rosa's part, which I did not want at all), I placed a cup of orange juice in front of her and asked, "How's your pl--"

"Say not the cursed word, Filian!"

Ah, I misspoke. I meant to say that I attempted to ask, and failed completely. I sighed, nudging the orange juice towards her. "Fine. Then, have you figured out what to do yet?"

Rosa took a huge swig of the juice and slammed it down. "Grr," she growled (no, like literally, she said grr, and who growls like that in the middle of a regular conversation?! I took a quick look around to make sure nobody else heard her). "Can't believe you still asked me that without using the p-word."

"The pee...?" I shook my head. "Anyways! So how are things going?"

"Horribly," she moaned, and she took another long gulp of her juice before she dropped her head, wiping her mouth roughly. I gave the cup a slightly concerned look-- did some alcohol somehow make it in there or something? "My spies-- sorry, my maids still haven't found anything worth reporting, and I don't remember any other name than that one Duke and that one Baron. Besides, I don't have enough maids to follow more than just one of them!!!"

And thus began her rant about how, even if she somehow convinced her Fake Dad1the High Duke for more maids, none of them had the time to train the maids into 'intelligence-collecting pathways' (whatever that meant), and I tuned in and out of her rambles while I took care of the other customers.

"I'm too busy chasing after the Prince, and he doesn't even seem to look my way. Why? I've been doing everything right!"2And here we see Rosa, sounding like a typical evil heroine. But then again, there is truly nothing to warrant that she is not your typical evil heroine..... Proceed with caution.

"Uncle, you're going to spill your beer if you keep sloshing it around like that!"

"I can't even get close to Duke Norden, you know! His mansion is way too well-kept!"

"Welcome! Here for a meal? Paul will be with you soon." 

"And can we talk about Baron 'funny-name' Brenton? Why's his name so lame anyways?"

I handed the auntie a napkin. "Would you like a refill?"

"Besides, I don't even know if Baron 'funny-name' Brenton did anything wrong yet!" she wailed, her shoulders hunched up all the way up to her ears. She sloppily slurped up some more orange juice and sniffed, though I was pretty sure she didn't have a single tear in her eye.

I rolled my eyes and opened my mouth, about to tell her to knock it off before someone who knew Baron Brenton might accuse her of blasphemy or something, when a new voice popped in from behind me.

"Baron Brenton? I know him!"

I whirled around with my heart racing in my ears, fear running down my spine. No way. I hadn't actually expected anyone to know the baron! What if Rosa really was going to be prosecuted?! 

"Oh! Thank goodness!" I gasped, once I saw the person in question. "It's just you! Don't scare me like that!"

Danny blinked at me as he stood there, dumbfounded by my sudden reaction. "Sorry, did I sneak up on you?"

"..yeah!" I decided. That sounded better than no, you made me think Rosa was going to go to jail for badmouthing the baron! "That's what you did. You snuck up on me!"

He shrugged, jerking his thumb over his shoulder to gesture behind him. "Sorry, I came in from the back door. Claire sent me to bring the baguettes here; our oven wasn't heating up right earlier, and--"

"Wait right there, Mr. Dan," Rosa cut in from behind me. When I turned to look at her, she had stood up from her stool, her shoulders squared and her chin tucked in. Sharp golden eyes peered past me to observe Dan, who still seemed pretty clueless to anything. "Did you just say you know Baron 'funny-name' Brenton?"

"Can you stop adding 'funny-name' between Baron Brenton's name?"

Ignoring me, Rosa stalked closer to Dan. "Well?" she demanded. "Do you?"

"Uh, not sure about the funny name part, but I did know him. Not super personally, though. I used to live in a village near Plantar before I moved back here, you know. I had a friend who worked for the baron, and she told me everything."

"Everything, you say?" she asked in a low whisper.

"Yeah! I heard a lot of juicy gossip!" He chuckled. "She couldn't tell anyone who was actually in town, so she told all of that to me when we met from time to time. Hey, want me to tell you about them? It probably won't-- whoa?" Dan squinted, taking a step back. He peered around the area, his hand held up to shield his eyes. "Whoa! What? Who turned on the lights or something?"

Sorry, Danny boy, that's not a light. That's just Rosa's evil grin at max power.

I sighed. "You have some time, Dan?" I gave him a fake smile. "If you don't, you might need to make some."


"...and that's it," Dan finished, taking a sip of his own pint of beer.

Rosa folded her two hands together on top of the counter. "So what you're saying is, Baron 'funny-name' Brenton is notorious for liking the handles of his staircases well-polished, hates to see a single fingerprint on his vases, and has a giant hoard of illustrated high society romance novels in his library?"

"Yep."

"And Baron 'funny-name' Brenton has been looking for a wife for the past decade, but all the ladies ever visit once for tea and then never come again, and your friend thinks it's because he has horrible table manners and brings out stinky finger food like snail jelly for snacks?"

"That's right."

"And Baron 'funny-name' Brenton spends an hour every morning polishing and trimming his mustache to perfection, tried to woo the town beauty but got rejected so badly he cried during his meals the entire week after, and seems to write his own book featuring himself as the main character in another world?"

"Wow, you have really good memory. Um, can I ask why you keep adding 'funny-name' to Baron Brenton's name? I don't think his name's that funny, and--"

"So... nothing illegal?"

Dan tilted his head. "What?"

"Nothing illegal?" Rosa repeated, her eyes unblinking. "You don't know if Baron Brenton did anything illegal? Like, oh, I don't know, treasonous acts against the crown?"

Dan leaned away from Rosa immediately. "Illegal? Treason?! How would I know that?"

"You said you'd tell me everything about him!"

"No, I said I'd tell you everything I heard about him!"

"You're right!" Rosa cried back, then let out a long wail as her head sank to the table. "You did say that!"

Dan blinked. "Uh... yeah, I did..?" He scratched the back of his head a bit hesitantly, then made to stand up. "Um, I, uh, huh?" When his eyes darted towards me, I gave him a good-natured exasperated look.

"Yeah, you should go now. Thanks for humoring Rosa," I said, then shooed him off. "I'll treat you to a drink later!"

"No problem!" he called back, giving Rosa one last baffled glance before he jogged out the front door.

When Rosa didn't move for the next minute, I bonked her lightly on her head. "C'mon, Rosa, isn't it about time your footman came to pick you up?"

"...shoujo manga."

"Hm? What was that?"

She jerked her head up so quickly that I instinctively took a step back. "Shoujo manga!" she yelled again. "I just found out Baron 'funny-name' Brenton likes shoujo manga and wants to be isekai-ed!"

"What? Show'd yo what?

"I really just spent the past twenty-six minutes finding out that that huge mustached dude was a shoujo manga fanatic! He wants to be isekai-ed himself! And what am I going to do with this information, advise him to get hit by a truck-kun? We don't even have truck-kuns here! It's too late for him!! He's already in an isekai!"

"Chuckoon? What in the world?!" I exclaimed in bewilderment, then shook myself to clear my head. "I don't get it, but don't be so rude to Dan! He spent the last twenty-six minutes telling you all of that, so be grateful!"

Rosa inhaled sharply, like she was about to retort to me hotly, but then she deflated like a giant balloon. "You're right," she said sadly, then stood up, her shoulders sagging and her head hanging. "I'm just gonna go back to the dorm and flip something, maybe."

At those words, I very casually moved myself in the direction of the silverware rack in case she got it in her mind to flip that before she left. Nope, I did not have the time for that.

"I'm just going to go back," she said, still as sadly as ever, and I gave her an encouraging nod.

"That's a good idea, Ro. When things don't work out, sometimes the best thing is to just let yourself rest. Stop thinking--"

"Stop thinking?! What am I, dead?!"

"--and go to sleep, or clear your mind with some good ol' embroidery--"

"You clear your mind with embroidery?!?!"

"--and a walk in the garden."

"Garden!!! That's right, I have to prepare for the garden event tomorrow. When's he even going to come anyways?!"

Obviously, nothing I was saying was getting across to her. I gave her a pleasant smile and gave the apple in my hand a good squeeze, tamping down the urge to throw this at her head. Relax, Filian, relax-- Rosa was just being Rosa. There was no helping it.

After I'd inhaled and exhaled a couple times and cut up the apple quickly (before I could give in and throw it at her), I regained my sanity and handed her a slice of the apple. As gently as I could, I patted her tense shoulder. "All I'm saying is, just give yourself a good and long rest, alright? It's good that you're doing your best, but sometimes, you need to take things slowly."

Rosa stared intently at the apple slice in her hand, and she seemed like she was soaking in what I'd just said. I patted her one last time and returned to my station.

 "...that's right," she murmured.

I turned to her a bit surprised-- did that actually work? Was she, had she listened to what I'd said?! For once?!?

"Baron Brenton isn't my problem," she continued, and my hopes skyrocketed. And then she opened her mouth and said, "No, I need to find Snow White."

"Rosa!"

She flashed me a knowing grin, and I groaned. Well, at least she'd been joking.

"Thanks for the encouragement, Fi. I'll try not to think for a few days." Rosa grimaced. "Not sure how anyone can just not think, like, ever, but I'll try not to think too much."

"Good," I grumbled, and she laughed as she headed towards the kitchen.

But as she passed by, I heard her murmur, "Now, how am I supposed to find the canonically most elusive spy in this nation?" and so I whirled around to give her a glare.

...She better be joking this time, too.

I heard the doors swing open at that moment, so I turned back around to greet the new customer with a smile.

"Oh, Lindent! You just missed Rosa, she left like two seconds ago through the back door..."


A/N: I'm sorry it's taking me so long to update these days! I'm trying to re-find my writing style and it's kinda working? I hope? :') I think I'm getting there, and I'm hoping I'll be able to write more in the coming days, so thank you again for waiting!! :DD 

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