A Strange Woman (Part 2)
「Yes, I’m coming!」
After changing her expression so that it would not be suspicious, Shinobu went and took the blonde woman’s order. She really was a beautiful lady on closer inspection. If someone were to say that she was an actress from an old Hollywood movie, people might have believed it.
The woman pointed to the menu on the wall and asked,
「This, kyuri tsukemono…is it different from cucumber sauerkraut?」
(TL: kyuri tsukemono: pickled Japanese cucumbers)
「No, it isn’t pickled the way sauerkraut is pickled. Our store’s pickles were pickled using a different method, a method that our store is proud of.」
Fuun~. The lady settled her long index finger on her well shaped jaw, showing a seemingly hesitant gesture.
She had a slightly husky voice, and a seductive presence emanated from her gestures. Even Shinobu, who was of the same sex, felt captivated by her.
「Then, I’ll have that.」
「Certainly. Would you like something to drink?」
「I’ll pass, thank you.」
Shinobu gave a slight bow to the blonde woman, who was smiling sweetly, and left to pass the orders to Nobuyuki, who was by the counter. Even though it was just orders for tsukemono, she still had to stop by the counter.
When Shinobu returned from the counter, Nicholas, who had been observing the situation, made a sullen face.
「It really is suspicious. With her order, the possibility that she is a liquor vendor has further increased.」
Nicholas subtly cleared his throat and put on a proud expression, clearly enjoying his opportunity to continue the explanation.
「Sauerkraut lasts a long time, so it will come in handy as a food source for the army during long distance marches.」
「Is that so? I just thought the army would choose it because it is delicious.」
「If soldiers are only served dry bread and diluted soup, it will result in dissatisfaction. However, it is impossible to provide vegetables for all of them. Purchasing thousands of vegetables from the market is also impossible.」
「So, sauerkraut is used instead?」
Nicholas moistened his throat with ale.
「Technically, the shelf life of preserved sauerkraut isn’t that long. Even though it’s normally sour, it tastes worse the longer it is kept.」
「So that’s why it isn’t strange if they are interested in this new method of pickling.」
If there was only sauerkraut, anyone would get tired of it. That was why, if they were able to prepare tsukemono, it was possible that something new could be made in the future. Even though Shinobu didn’t understand military issues well, she knew that the soldiers would prefer eating delicious meals.
It was no wonder that a liquor vendor would be interested in it.
「That is right, Shinobu-chan. It is indeed different for people with a brain, unlike Hans.」
「Hey, hey, what do you mean by that?」
While the two people were fighting for the beef doteyaki that Nicholas had ordered, Shinobu was in deep thought.
The suspicion that the woman was a liquor vendor was getting stronger.
However, what could she, an ordinary waitress, do by herself?
(TL: beef doteyaki: simmered beef in miso sauce)
「Ne, what do you think Taisho?」
Taisho had been frying tempura, so he was surprised at being called out so suddenly.
Since there were many orders for deep-fried and grilled food today, Taisho had been cooking with exceptional concentration.
「It might be different from what you are thinking.」
「That woman doesn’t have the face of a liquor vendor. That is purely my guess though.」
As he said so, Taisho glared at Nicholas.
「Shinobu-chan is rather gullible, so please don’t put strange thoughts into her head, Nicholas-san.」
「No, but, Taisho. I don’t think that there are any holes in my reasoning.」
「If you think that you are right, wouldn’t it be better to stop drinking and go back to the barracks? Commander Berthold might not be here, but you should plan early countermeasures.」
「Ahh, no, that’s…true.」
When Nobuyuki said that, Nicholas flinched.
「Kyaa, Taisho is a little scary today.」
Hans tried to seek Eva’s help, but she responded coldly as she busied herself with washing the dishes.
「I am this busy because Shinobu-san got involved in a strange conversation. Of course, Hans is also involved in this crime.」
Shinobu tried to sneak away from the counter while the two were withering beneath the glares, but-
「Shinobu-san, there seem to be empty plates on the second table. Please clear it and give them to me. It will be tough if they accumulate later.」
Eva said with a piercing smile. When Shinobu looked at Nobuyuki, he shrugged his shoulders, as if agreeing with Eva.
Shinobu started working diligently, scared of what would happen if she didn’t work seriously.
However, she didn’t forget to keep one eye on the woman.
「So, how would Taisho explain the suspicious actions of that woman?」
By the counter, Nicholas repeated his conjecture that the woman was a liquor vendor to Taisho. Hans seemed to have tired of hearing about it, and he busied himself by drinking his ale together with his mountain herb tempura.
「I think it is merely an appointment.」
「Yes, probably. An appointment with a man, at this store.」
Taisho answered as he transferred mountain herbs from the tempura batter to the oil.
Even though ‘Nobu’ changed the oil everyday, the oil was a deeper colour today, since there had been many orders that used it.
「First of all, she didn’t drink alcohol. This can be explained if she is meeting someone. After putting in the effort to dress up for a date, it would not be wise to drink immediately after getting here, before even meeting the other person.」
「The part about eating snacks as well. Isn’t that because the stomach will swell and feel unpleasant if you eat a heavy dish? If she plans to eat with him somewhere else later, it wouldn’t be good to eat too much now.」
「I see. You have a point.」
Although Nicholas was pretending to be calm on the outside, he was a little overwhelmed by Taisho’s reasoning.
Unbeknownst to him, Taisho was a fan of detective and mystery dramas, and he had watched all of the rebroadcasts and recordings many times.
「Why did she order tsukemono then?」
「That is insignificant. She probably thought something like, ‘Since my mouth is dry after eating dry snacks, let’s have a change of flavour’. It is a mistake beginners always fall for. Everything will be suspicious if you watch with suspicion.」
Shinobu, didn’t dare to retort to Nobuyuki’s words, even though he was also a beginner, while Nicholas slowly raised his hands in surrender.
Hans, who was sitting beside him, splendidly grabbed the opportunity to steal a fried quail egg from Nicholas’ dish.
「By the way, what is Eva-chan’s opinion?」
Nicholas involved Eva in the discussion, as if he wanted to continue the topic.
However, he did not expect the girl’s answer.
「That guest-san…is a man.」
While Nobuyuki, Nicholas, Hans, and Shinobu were all completely dumbfounded, the restaurant’s sliding door opened.
It was a merchant-like man who looked approximately 22 or 23 years old.
The man ignored Shinobu’s greetings and stepped up to the blonde woman.
「How is it? As expected, was your disguise as a woman exposed?」
「Don’t be stupid. No one suspected a thing. That five silver coins is mine.」
When the blonde woman answered, they could hear a rough, deep voice. Obviously, it was a man’s voice. Had the voice from before been an act?
When looked at closely, one could see that their height was certainly a little on the taller side for a woman.
「Since it would be unpleasant go to the bathroom, I had to abstain from drinking this whole time.」
「I get it. I get it. I will pay the bill. Two silver coins should be sufficient. I’ll place them here as payment.」
The man placed two silver coins on the table. However, that was too much payment for just the tsukemono and dry snacks.
「Customer-san, this is too much!」
「The remaining amount is the compensation fee. Please keep it.」
While looking at the backs of the two generous people who left the store into the night, Eva muttered,
「Liquor vendor, eh…」
Nicholas, who heard it, held his beer mug out and silently hung his head.