After we had our meal, Koujiro appeared to be a completely new man. Since he was thrilled about eating the cooking from his home once again, I considered offering him the recipe as a gift of goodwill. However, Eryn had a different idea.
“Look how satisfied he seems to be. I think we can use this to our advantage.”
Due to Eryn’s nudging, we had treated the meal itself as the gift instead. We then proceeded to negotiate some terms with the King of Macali and his representatives. Katalina agreed that we had unexpectedly gained a bit of leverage over the situation.
“Being a chef by trade and seemingly from your world, Knight Evers has a breadth of knowledge in otherworldly cooking. We can’t simply give you that information without some compensation.”
The tables had suddenly turned in this talk, as Eryn pressed the country to form some connection with these new offerings. Hopefully, this would make it easier to continue further talks in the future. However, it didn’t seem like Koujiro minded. If he could acquire the method to eat such food every day, he would allow for the doors to his country to be open.
Despite that, the girls next to him were a bit more practical. They scrutinized our intentions as they hadn’t fully trusted us yet. In the end, we settled on sharing the secret of the recipes if the country of Macali could become a production site with exclusive trading rights through the Faulkner company.
Given that the islands were rich in the fish and kelp ingredients to make it happen, they would manufacture the products for us to distribute. If Sistina wanted anything else, then they’d have to negotiate by sending other people for separate trade agreements.
Though simple and concise, this no doubt shattered the barrier that Macali had set up to isolate themselves from the world. It was a small but crucial step.
Afterward, I gave the representatives instructions on how to harvest and prepare the kelp and fish to create ingredients filled with umami. They were surprised by how simple it had been, but it wasn’t our fault that they didn’t realize that the solution was right in front of them all along.
With these arrangements done, we planned to head back since our duties were complete, but the king held up his hand to stop us.
“Please, stay for a few days. I would be pleased to have you as my guests. After all, you still haven’t had a true look at this country.”
“Does this mean I can take a look at the other magical tools around the country?” Katalina’s eyes begged, a slight dribble of drool on one corner of her mouth.
“I suppose. Many of the devices here require quite a bit of mana to operate, which is only plentiful in this region, so it doesn’t seem like you’d be able to easily imitate our secrets. I’d imagine that we’d be spreading the technology in the future anyway, so a little preview for my new friends isn’t too much of a request.”
Somehow, I felt like those words would come back to haunt him. He didn’t know Katsys like I did. The other representatives weren’t so keen on it, but seeing as it was something the king decided, they held their tongue.
With that, Katalina went off with Relia and Lyucel accompanying her. I questioned if it would be okay for her to go off without us, but she apparently had insurance.
“I have a bomb in my Item Box that has a blast radius of about 1 kilometer if they happen to try something on me. I don’t think one foreign princess is worth wiping a town off the map, don’t you think?”
My jaw dropped at that revelation. I wish she had told us earlier… actually, scratch that. I didn’t know what to think anymore, seeing that she had the determination to suicide bomb if all else failed.
Merona and Harlett stepped forward to give Eryn and I a tour of the island.
The next two days went by in a flash, as the four of us island-hopped to see the sights. Due to the dome-like barrier that surrounded the country, the weather was regulated to a comfortable temperature. It was certainly nice to walk around in our normal clothes, or even strip them off and wear the more revealing clothes that the natives wore.
However, Eryn rejected the latter idea because it was too similar to the bikini armor I had given her. I purposefully pouted at her in response.
Still, this trip finally started feeling like the vacation that we wanted. The feel of the sun and the gentle crashing of the waves were calming as we took a stroll around the islands, getting a glimpse at the everyday life of Macali’s inhabitants. The conveniences of electricity and running water were things that I had greatly missed. It felt like how a trip to Hawaii would be back in my world. How strange it was to have access to this all again after so long.
Regardless, I knew it wouldn’t be good to spoil myself too much, as I’d be returning back to Sistina soon. But if it was possible here, then these things would spread before long. I couldn’t wait for that to happen.
On the last evening of our stay, the king planned a small banquet to celebrate. As he gave his speech acknowledging us as his new friends, the room gave a collective toast before various people started mingling with us. Like always in these circumstances, the people that came to talk to us all blended together such that I soon forgot who they were.
At a certain point, music started to play in the background and people formed pairs to dance, moving along with the slow-paced melody. Eryn and I stared at each other feeling a bit awkward. Neither one of us knew how to dance, it seemed. Well, unless you counted that game that guided you with arrows. Just then, another voice interrupted us.
“Claude, you don’t know how to dance, right? Would you like me to show you?” Katalina offered her hand.
“Uh, sure…your Highness?” I hesitantly responded. It wasn’t like I could refuse the princess.
Katalina grabbed my hand and pulled me away. Drawing me close and placing my hands in the correct position, she whispered to me.
“Katsys is fine. I would rather you call me that when we aren’t being formal.”
Guiding my movements, she directed my body to move in a certain pattern, which I seemed to quickly pick up on. Feeling that I had gotten the hang of it, she placed her head against my collarbone. A sweet scent drifted to my nose, making me turn away before my face started feeling hot.
I enjoyed the feeling of Katalina against my body as we circled around and around. Before we knew it, the song had ended, and I felt a tap on my shoulder. Eryn apparently wanted a turn.
“Here. You teach her, Katsys.” I pushed Eryn towards the other girl. Before she could complain, Katsys happily pulled her away and led her into their own dance.
I laughed as I saw Eryn puff up her cheeks. It was obvious that she wanted to have a turn with me, so I purposefully teased her a bit. I was amused that Katsys played along so readily, but it was probably for the better. We’d likely end up stepping on each other’s feet if she didn’t have a bit of practice first.
When that song ended, Eryn made her way back to me for a turn, but the music suddenly died down. Koujiro stepped onto the dance floor and brought his arms up.
“Well, how about we change it up a bit for our guests? Let’s show them the specialty of Lightning Koujiro!”
Immediately, a large screen materialized behind him and a fast-paced pop song started playing. On the screen, a silhouette of a person performing different dance poses cycled through, seemingly in tune with the music. As if using the screen as a guide, Koujiro started dancing along with it, imitating the poses in near-perfect synchronization.
“What the hell? Is this… a dance game?” I realized what this was after only a few seconds.
Around us, other people had joined along beside him, creating an impromptu dance group that all followed the choreography on the screen. With the king leading the group, he was having the time of his life. No doubt this was some idea that he had brought from his home world.
When the song ended, a collective sound of cheering and clapping was heard around us. Though Eryn and Katsys had blank expressions at this, I had a strong urge to step up and give it a try. There was just one problem – the movements were so fast that I could barely keep up with the poses that cycled on the screen. I would only embarrass myself.
Koujiro walked over and placed a hand on my shoulder.
“Want to give it a try but too unfamiliar with it?” Koujiro said with a smile. “Then, I have just the thing for you.”
He pulled out a bracer and placed it in my palm.
“Equip this and focus on the images. That’s all you need to know.”
Koujiro pulled me onto the dance floor. I hastily did what he said as a new song started up. Though I missed the first few poses due to its speed, the images started to slow down suddenly as I stared at them hard.
As if the pace was cut down a bit, I suddenly felt like I had the time to move into the pose before it changed to the next one. With awkward movements, I tried my best to follow along. Soon enough, the motions started becoming more familiar, and my body had begun to move in sync with the rhythm.
I could do this! I was moving as one with everyone!
Finally, the song ended. I was still amazed by how well I had followed along.
“Looks like that did the trick. You are certainly a man of similar tastes.” Koujiro slapped my back heartily.
“What did you give me?” I wondered how the bracer would have such an effect. I took it off and scanned it. A window popped up when I focused on it.
[Bracer of the Fleetfooted – Spd +50]
“With your level, I figured a little extra speed boost would be enough to catch up. Though, I’d like to have it back now. It’s an extremely pricey treasure.”
While it was true that Spd seemed to determine how quickly one reacted and moved in a fight, I had never expected for such a highly-prized treasure to be so casually used for a game.
With Koujiro’s normal speed, the movements probably happened at a crawl.
“Oh, I’m not cheating. I remember all the dance routines, so I’ve set my stats to the same level as that of a normal person,” Koujiro said in response.
The two of us laughed at the silly situation. It seemed like once we looked past our respective positions, we were both just normal guys from another world. I wouldn’t mind at all if we continued to treat each other as such.
With the king’s form of amusement ending, I walked back over to where Eryn was standing.
“Hmm? Where’s the princess?” I scanned around and didn’t see her anywhere.
“Oh? I don’t know. I got distracted by the two of you having fun. She couldn’t have gone far though.”
A bit worried, I moved through the room looking around for her. My eyes spotted an open door that led outside. Seeing as she was nowhere in sight here, I decided to check it out.
The evening air brushed against my face as I stepped out of the noisy ballroom into a more serene environment. A single blue-haired girl in a fancy dress rested against the balcony.
“Looks like I found you, Katsys. What are you doing out here alone?”
“Just looking… at the lovely scenery. This country really is like a paradise.”
Katsys had spent nearly the entire time browsing through as many magic devices as she could. It seemed like she could spend a limitless amount of time on this.
“Sure you aren’t disappointed that we didn’t offer you to this country?” I joked, knowing how much more this place suited her than being a princess of Sistina.
Katsys shook her head. “This is not where I belong. I am quite certain of that. Still… I panicked when things became uncertain after the king became belligerent. At that moment, I thought we would all be trapped.”
“Well, things turned out alright, didn’t they?”
“Thanks to you. Who else could say that he defeated a man that was near invincible, and then, befriended him through the gift of cuisine? You don’t give yourself the credit that you deserve.”
“I’m just doing whatever I can with what I have. Luck was on our side this time.”
“Luck, huh? Luck is the reason I’m feeling this way…” Katsys’s voice trailed off as she turned away.
“What was that?” I looked over. An awkward silence developed between us. That only lasted a moment before Katsys turned back towards me, a determined look in her eyes.
“Claude! I have something to say to you! I-I…”