“Shin! Here, Happy Valentine’s!”
The childhood neighbor girl said as she happily gave him a small packet. Shin, who was five years old, stared at it while shivering all over. It was wrapped in pink transparent paper, and looked cute, appearance-wise.
To him, the childhood friend Rita—namely Henrietta, didn’t seem to notice the fear within him as she beamed away. He whispered,
“D-Did you make this, Rita?”
“Hm…ah, it’s fine! I chose something papa didn’t faint from after eating it!”
Rita’s dad really is pitiful…so Shin thought, but he didn’t voice it out.
Usually, whenever Rita made a few desserts, her father Josef von Penrose would become a valuable sacrifice in the name of tasting. In any case, almost without fail, he would falter at a certain experimental number.
Shin wanted to retort many points about why a taste sample required experimental codes, but at this point, he did not know what to say.
“Hey, open it and have a look!”
He opened the wrapping that gave a rustling sound, and there was something akin to a biscuit.
Shin was silent for a while.
What is it?
“Ufufu. Have a guess. Who does it resemble?”
And thought hard.
And finally, he said what he thought.
“Hey! This is the trend this year! A portrait cookie!”
Speaking of which, this thing was black like charcoal, and if the portrait actually resembled someone, it should be round, or at least triangular, or rectangular, but for some reason, it was made in the form of a twisted star, and furthermore, he did not have three eyes.
Does Rita hate me? Shin barely managed to swallow these words. She was not malicious. Instead, she was a little, just a little…clumsy.
In any case……would Fido eat it? Would it be pitiful to actually feed it to Fido? Either option wouldn’t be nice to Rita. Shin. Looked at the little packet containing the cookie (?), and experienced the most turbulent time of his life.
“Hey Shin, Captain Nouzen. Hey.”
For unknown reasons, the young girl who was his childhood friend and today’s colleague approached him with a grin, and Shin, who turned eighteen two months ago, responded to her while being highly wary inside. The experience and intuition honed through surviving seven years on the battlefield of desperation caused the alarm bells to ring in his mind.
He didn’t understand what happened, but he just had a premonition. It was really bad
“…Is there anything, Major Penrose?”
“You’re still giving me the cold shoulder. How many times have I told you to call me Rita? It’s fine to do this even in the base. Understood, Captain?”
Shin wondered how he should address her with the rank if this was the case. As a little reminder, a Major outranks a Captain. Obey whatever I say, was this the power of silent pressure?
Rita…Henrietta—Annette smiled as she took something out from the pocket of her white coat.
It was a pink transparent packet…a cute little packet on appearance alone.
It was no different from the nightmare buried deep in his memories.
“It’s the portrait cookie I worked so hard to make in the past, but you thought it’s a monster. I wish you…well, you may think this is a monster again, but I’m trying this out again for old times’ sake. I did replicate it perfectly…but I never tasted it.”
Rather than a perfect replica.
One might say it was a riskier substitute, devoid of the bare minimum of a safety harness that was Mr Penrose’s sacrifice.
While Shin shivered as he stared at the little packet, Annette smirked like a mischievous cat teasing its prey.
“You’ll accept it, won’t you?—It’s your fault for stealing my best friend.”