The Clash Of Masters (Part 1)
At the counter of Izakaya Nobu, an elderly man had been continuously staring at the sashimi for a while now.
Simply said, it was an unusual scene. He brought his face close to the sashimi, which was served on a plate, and stared at it as if he was observing it.
「It’s a really beautiful cut…」
The man was gazing at the slice of tuna sashimi so enthusiastically, that he didn’t even notice Eva looking at him curiously from the opposite side of the counter.
This muscular figure, whose bulky muscles forcibly stretched his clothes, was the blacksmith, Holger. He was the master blacksmith of the Blacksmith’s Guild in the Old Capital. Ever since he had entered this store, he had been singing praises for the various things he saw.
「Dishwasher, do you understand the beauty of this cut?」
Eva shook her head in response to suddenly being questioned.
Eva had never seen how raw fish was sliced before coming to this store, so she didn’t have anything to compare it to, and couldn’t say whether the cut was beautiful or not.
「Is that so? You don’t understand it…even though it’s wonderful.」
「Is it really that beautiful?」
「It’s beauty can not be expressed through words. Of course, Taisho’s skills are good, but in the end, it’s still a kitchen knife. That knife is splendid! I have been a blacksmith for a long time now, but I have never seen a kitchen knife that can create such a beautiful cut.」
When Eva looked up at Taisho, who was preparing a broiled fish, she saw that his expression was different from his usual tight one. His cheeks had slightly loosened. Being praised for his tools seemed to make him happy. His hands, which did the cooking, seemed happy as well.
「Ah, Taisho. I ask once again, won’t you show me the kitchen knife? Please.」
Taisho chuckled slightly while wearing an expression that said “This is troubling”, at the sight of Holger lowering his head.
「I understand, but just for a little bit.」
Taisho handed over the kitchen knife, handle first, that he had used to cut the sashimi slices to Holger, who took it and brought it closer to his face, like he had when he was eating the sashimi previously.
From a distance, the surrounding customers smiled in amusement at his excessive enthusiasm.
「I already understand the forging process, but this is not an ordinary method of hammering. This is the first time I’ve seen such steel…」
After seeing Holger muttering while scrutinizing the knife, Eva gradually started to look at him in a strange light. Based on the way it looked now, she had a premonition that he would not return the knife.
Eva panicked and rushed out of the counter. She pulled on Holger’s sleeve and whispered quietly into his ear.
「If that is gone, Taisho cannot make any more sashimi, so please don’t take it home.」
Holger felt bad after seeing Eva cling to him with that expression and returned the kitchen knife to Taisho. He seemed to have gotten slightly embarrassed when he became aware that he was taking it a bit too far.
「Thank you young lady, but even if you didn’t worry, I wouldn’t take it home. It’s a kitchen knife. It is like the soul of a chef.」
After saying so, he stroked Eva’s red hair, dishevelling it. Even though it was a large, strong hand, it strangely didn’t feel all that unpleasant.
「Well, Taisho. You have shown me something good. Thank you.」
「I am honoured to have been able to help.」
「It’s not about being helpful. There are a lot of things I want to test out starting tomorrow, so I appreciate it.」
Holger nodded contentedly, picked up the tuna sashimi with his fingers, dipped it into the soy sauce and wasabi, and tossed it into his mouth.
When a customer couldn’t use chopsticks to eat sashimi, they normally used a fork instead, but there were some customers who ate with their hands as well.
After chewing two or three times, he swallowed it without batting an eyelid, and then washed it down with beer.
「Delicious! This sashimi is really delicious, na.」
「Thank you very much.」
While enjoying the “akami” part of the fine tuna as an appetizer, Holger drank from a “kiriko”, a specially cut glass. Even Eva was not allowed to wash this beautiful glass, in case it broke.
(TL: Akami is the common red meat cut of tuna you normally eat in sushi restaurants. There’s also otoro and chutoro, the best parts of the tuna of which you might have heard of in high end sushi restaurants.)
(TL: Kiriko is a traditionally cut glass art with jewel like patterns.)
Recently, restaurants that tried to mimic the style of Izakaya Nobu had begun to appear in the Old Capital. Even though Eva thought that it couldn’t be reproduced that easily, there were still many people who didn’t learn from experiences of others and kept trying.
While she was washing the plates, there were times when she saw someone who seemed to be an assistant from a different store come in to do some reconnaissance of the store. Even when Eva whispered quietly into Taisho’s and Shinobu’s ears, the two of them didn’t respond, instead just showing faint smiles.
Even after doing that, the other stores had no chances of ever imitating the sashimi.
Although there were a lot of rivers and canals in the Old Capital, the fish living in them had an earthy smell. You couldn’t boil or roast such pungent fish, and if they were eaten raw, the customers, who were captivated by the deliciousness of the sashimi, couldn’t help but return to Nobu.
「There’s a tax collector named Gernot. That guy loves his work, even though it’s an unpleasant job. Only his tongue was skillful, hmph.」
Holger had a seat in the city council, as a representative of the Blacksmith’s Guild.
Since Gernot was also a member of the City Council, there was often an opportunity to talk to him, and Holger got interested in the store that came up in his stories.
「Because Gernot’s fat tongue was raving all about it, I thought I should come once, to see how it turned out. Do you remember him, Taisho?」
「No, I don’t remember cooking for such a person.」
Eva, who was quietly washing the dishes, looked over at Shinobu, who was hiding in the corner of the shop while covering her face with the tray. Was something wrong?
「Anyway, I like the food here quite a bit. Taisho and Shinobu-chan, even dishwasher-chan, I really liked the food you guys made. I also liked the kitchen knife a lot. I’ll gladly be a regular customer from now on.」
A customer came into the store just as Taisho was thanking Holger.
The customer waved his hands in response to their usual greetings. It was a man of a larger build than Holger and, once again, he was wearing craftsman’s clothes that seemed to be stretched too tightly.
「Excuse me, is it okay if there is only one person?」
「In that case, the seat by the counter is empty.」
Shinobu guided the craftsman, who came as a customer and was in a very good mood.
「So, you’re Shinobu-chan from the rumours. Ehm, I mean, I heard it from my son. My son, who’s a guard, seems to be a regular of this shop, na…」
The moment the customer sat next to Holger, Eva felt a disturbance in the atmosphere hanging over the counter.
「If it isn’t the Lorentz…」
「What is the Holger doing drinking alcohol here?」
Where had the peaceful atmosphere from earlier gone to? The counter was suddenly enveloped in an atmosphere that felt like a fight was going to break out at any time.
It wasn’t like the proper etiquette that existed during jousting tournaments between knights, but rather more like the feeling between monsters from stories, such as two opposing trolls, clashing in a fistfight.
While Shinobu was saying 「This is expensive!」and hiding the plates, Eva was praying to the heavens for today to end safely.