“Well then, I’ll take my leave. Please help me with the arrangements.” I bowed to the trading company staff as I got up from my chair.
Since the newly created branch of the Faulkner trading company was built in this town, where Eryn now sat as Lord, I was busy coordinating with the various regions to expand our line of products and supply chains. Through Dengel’s connections, there were many nobles who became potential business partners that would provide the capital for the company to expand.
Though I wanted to run my restaurant, the prospect of acquiring more ingredient variety would help expand the menu that I could offer. The discount on goods bought at wholesale prices was also a boon.
Luckily, trusted workers, like Biggs and Wedge, now worked for us, leaving me a sense of security that they could take care of things in my absence. Other than that, it seemed like Dengel had a talent for seeking capable people to staff many of the new positions created in this town. Pretty soon, this branch wouldn’t lose out to the one in the capital.
As I walked the short distance from the trading company to my restaurant, the image of one girl floated in my mind. Though we had our misunderstandings from time to time, it felt like we were more in sync than ever before. At the very least, it seemed like Eryn felt less reserved to whack me when I gave an obviously dumb answer. Though I knew it was coming, I wished the system of this world didn’t make it so difficult to enjoy these playful love taps due to her high Atk stat. If only there was a paper fan that only did 1 damage like a certain brawling game.
Opening the front door of my restaurant, I yelled out to those present.
“I have returned!”
The workers gave a slight cry of acknowledgment without being distracted from their duties.
I looked around and saw that there were only a few tables occupied, mainly due to it being an off-meal period. However, there was one particularly annoying guy present.
“Oh! Sir Evers! Glad that I was able to catch you! Have you sent my regards to Sir Tromaine? Were you able to convince him?”
Roderick had been a frequent visitor of this restaurant, not only to eat my spicy dishes, but also to bug me from time to time about training under Pietro. Having discovered his role model had been alive, he was apparently driven to refine his technique under his tutelage. He even dropped by our mansion to seek him out once. However, Pietro had adamantly rejected him.
“There is nothing I can teach you. You must discover the last step on your own, as I did years ago.” Pietro left him with only those words.
Not understanding what to do, Roderick proceeded to bug me next after he found out that Pietro had trained me. Though I wonder if that was really training as it felt like he had just beat me up until I figured something out.
“You know, I’m getting tired of this. Nothing I say really holds any weight to that strange old man. You’re better off figuring it out for yourself,” I told him with a tone of annoyance.
Crestfallen, Roderick sat down and nibbled on his spicy noodles.
“Sir Claude! My brother has something for you! He told me to hand it over when I saw you,” a voice said behind me.
I turned around to see a raven-haired girl in a maid outfit, which highlighted the cute features of her quickly maturing self. This girl was Alice, Dengel’s younger sister, who was 13.
Having quickly become understaffed due to the restaurant’s popularity, Dengel had sent her over to help out. At the mention of her name, I had expected a blond girl typical of that in fantasy literature, but apparently, I still haven’t learned to stop with my preconceptions. I had to admit though, I was just a bit disappointed.
However, Alice was a good, efficient waitress, and she quickly befriended Ludmila, who she worked often together with. Seeing the two of them together having fun at work gave me a sense of joy, like watching my adoptive sibling grow up and stand on her own. At least, that’s how I assumed it would feel based on other siblings I saw in anime. Not the cringy ones, mind you.
Ludmila had certainly changed in the four months since I first met her. Being placed under Carina’s care, she had quickly developed the skills needed to acclimate to this world. Her speech was getting better every day, no longer a string of vocabulary with pauses in between to choose the right one. The only question I had was why her level had increased so much during that time. She had been under level 10 at the beginning, but now, it was in the 30s. Just what other kinds of training had she been put through?! Was Pietro teaching her how to fight behind my back?!
In any case, I opened the letter that Alice handed to me. Scanning through the contents, it looked like another list of requests from various nobles who were looking to cash in on the boom of culinary creativity that I had sparked. Moments passed as I softly mumbled my thoughts between each line of request.
“Baron Sonderland and his spice trade, huh? Looks like spices suitable for Thai or Malay curry…”
“Viscount Lingonberle, again? I already gave him my Sangria, and now, he wants to expand into honey-based wines? I don’t exactly recall how to make Mead…”
“Baron Frixell requests for cola at his next party? Since when is soda pop a drink for high society?”
The seeds of the products that Roland once started were starting to catch fire across the kingdom, as more and more people requested for the new goods. As the main supplier of such products, the trading company was starting to expand so much that they were having trouble managing it all.
The next time I run into Dengel, I should suggest that the company get split up into divisions to deal with each group of specialties.
With my thoughts completely absorbed into the work before me, I failed to notice the footsteps of a female knight that had entered and walked right up to me.
Eryn waved but got absolutely no response from me.
“Allow me,” Dengel said, who had been only a few steps behind and saw my obliviousness. He bent his head close to me and whispered into my ear.
“WHO? WHAT? WHERE?-“ I jumped and dropped the letter as I quickly looked around the room, only to find that Eryn and Dengel had appeared, realizing that the latter was teasing me.
I didn’t know how he found out about it, but Dengel seemed to know just about everything that I did or tried to keep secret. That was the only reservation I held about him. Though I really shouldn’t be complaining as we would’ve had a much harder time managing the Faulkner territory without him.
However, it was rare for both of them to show up in person at the restaurant, Eryn in particular who had been swamped with both guild and nobility work. Regretfully, it seemed like ages since I had any alone time with her, but knowing how much there was to do, I couldn’t help but shrug and hope that it would die down eventually.
Of course, my eyes lit up with glee when Dengel and Eryn explained the reason for their visit.
“A request? Adventuring? NIPAAAA!!!” I cried out in joy, ignoring the looks of bemusement around me as I mimicked a certain girl who was stuck in a time loop of endless summer.
However, my celebration stopped abruptly as I heard the details of the request.
Katsys? Marriage meeting? Suddenly, I wasn’t so thrilled about the trip. What did she think about all of this? She had told me once that this was something inevitable for someone of her position, but that still didn’t sit right with me.
“Princess Katalina requested for you two specifically,” Dengel added to the explanation.
Now, my thoughts were in a bit of disarray, wondering if she had done that for a specific reason. I thought back to all of the similar plotlines that I had experienced as this felt like a flag had been raised. Were we heading towards the Katsys route?
One last adventure with friends? Guarding her from untrustworthy people? Sabotaging the marriage meeting?
Ack. There were too many possibilities spinning through my head. At that point, it was just best to ask her directly about her intention. In any case, I had no real reason to object if she wanted us.
“I’ll take the request. You coming, Claude?” Eryn looked at me like she couldn’t wait to go.
“Then, that’s settled. We head out in two days. It will probably take us a week or two to settle this, so let’s prepare.” Eryn smiled.
“A week or two?” I looked around at the restaurant staff that had come out during the commotion.
“Don’t worry, Boss. We got this!” Biggs and Wedge both said at the same time. The others nodded in confirmation.
“Ludmila wants to go with Master!” Ludmila chimed in.
I placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.
“You still have your training lessons with Carina, right? And work here? We’re just providing an escort service, so I don’t think it will be all too interesting.”
“I promise you that we’ll go adventuring when you get a bit older. You’re only 11, almost 12, right? You have to enjoy your childhood a little.”
Ludmila still looked a bit pensive, but her desire to follow along had lessened. Honestly, I wondered what would happen if we somehow had to fight a sea creature. Would she dash right off the boat and into the water? I couldn’t help but imagine her doing so. I tried especially hard not to think of certain tropes involving sea appendages either.
With that settled, I just hoped that everything would turn out smoothly…
I raised a flag, didn’t I? Of course, I did. I can see you scheming up there, God.
Morning, two days later.
Eryn and I had arrived at the castle gates after taking an hour-long coach ride. We had spent the time chatting about various things that had happened over the past week. With our busy work schedules, there was so much to catch up on that we barely felt the time pass. Even though our lives had changed, things seemed to go back to normal once our minds switched gears.
I hadn’t used my skill since the wedding fiasco, so I checked it once on the guards at the gate to make sure that I wasn’t getting rusty.
As the gates opened right at the expected time, we saw an expensive carriage roll out in front of us. Katsys, I mean Princess Katalina, had the door opened for her by a footman. She was wearing a traveling outfit that still demonstrated the majesty of royalty.
“Please take care of me during this journey.” She gave a curtsy as expected of her position.
Expecting to see other carriages with her attendants, Katalina dismissed our thoughts.
“Only the two of you will accompany me on this trip.”
Eryn and I boarded the carriage in which Katalina rode and quickly sat down. As we felt the carriage start to move again, an awkward silence grew between us. Katalina continued to give us a cordial smile as it pulled away from the castle.
A few moments later, she drew the curtains closed and dropped her expression.
“Formalities really aren’t necessary between us, are they?” she said with a sigh.
“I guess not?” I also released a breath that I had unknowingly held as the tension diffused.
At the least, I was thankful that she would be her normal self when we were in private. I had grown used to talking with her at the workshop and when she came to my restaurant incognito.
We spent the rest of the day talking about various things, mostly of items that existed in my home world and objects that only existed in fantasy. Since I highly doubted that she could create a time machine or a portal gun, it should be okay… right?