Of Spies and Salads (Part 2)
「Are those mashed potatoes? If they are, then I have already eaten it many times, before I came to the capital.」
No matter how you looked at it, the mashed potatoes served to Jean looked ordinary. When he saw them, he couldn’t hide his disappointment, since the previous two dishes had been things that he had never seen before.
If he had known that it would turn out like this, he would have preferred getting fresh vegetables sprinkled with salt instead.
In Jean’s eyes, the people of the Empire seemed to love their potatoes.
Ever since he began his assignment and traveled from the Kingdom to the Empire, he had been served nothing but mashed potatoes. He was getting tired of it.
「Even if you change the name, the contents will still be the same. I do not appreciate being deceived like this.」
They had showed off and claimed to be able to serve many kinds of salads in the beginning, so maybe they actually resorted to copying other salads.
His evaluation of the Old Capital, which he had been reviewing with great pains, crumbled to the ground.
「That’s not true. If you think you are being cheated, and please take a bite and see for yourself.」
「What a stubborn girl…if you say so, I will only take a single bite. But, I will only say this…」
As soon as he put it into his mouth, an unexpected taste silenced him.
It had an indescribable creamy taste, combined with a hint of sourness. He had been expecting the potatoes to taste bland, but it tasted like something else entirely.
「What? What is this?」
Jean cleared his throat after he saw the waitress tilt her head, not knowing how to respond.
This was clearly different from mashed potatoes. Something was probably mixed into it, but he did not know what it was.
Using the carrots and cucumbers to add a visual impact was certainly well done, and it was a dish befitting of the name ‘salad’.
「It’s as miss said, this is indeed not mashed potatoes. I’m sorry for doubting you. I apologize.」
「It’s alright. When you use a lot of mayonnaise, it will taste different from mashed potatoes, after all.」
「Yes. It’s a condiment made from egg yolk, oil, and vinegar. It’s delicious, you know.」
When Jean asked about that unfamiliar word, the waitress explained it to him with a smile. Did she not have any caution?
「I see. I have not heard of such a condiment. I’ve learned something new.」
「Is that so? That’s good, then. That reminds me, the potato salad will taste even better if you do this.」
She took out a small, wooden salt grinder.
Ground rock salt was a seasoning that was also widely used in the Eastern Kingdom. Although it was a surprise to see such a thing within the Old Capital, what on earth would she do with it?
Even if rock salt was added to this partially-eaten potato salad right now, it was difficult to imagine that the taste would improve dramatically.
Jean, who was watching the waitress’s hands while idly thinking about such things, noticed something strange.
The rock salt that was being sprinkled, was black.
No, this wasn’t rock salt at all.
There were stories of coloured rock salts within the “Collectors of Mysterious Tales” group that he belonged to. However, they were only extremely pale pink or even lighter.
Then, what on earth was this black thing?
「Now then, please enjoy.」
Jean prepared himself and faced the potato salad in front of him for a second time.
The previous taste was still fresh in his mind. The only difference now was to find out what those black grains were. With that, Jean brought the spoon to his mouth.
A sharp flavor spread through his mouth. It was entirely different from the sting he felt from salt.
It was even more stimulating, and truly enhanced the flavor of the potato salad.
Jean recognized this taste.
「It couldn’t be. Pepper?」
「Yes. Don’t you think it tasted better, even with just a little bit of that?」
Improved the taste? Enhanced?
It was only natural. Even though the value of pepper had dropped slightly, it was once said to be worth its weight in gold and silver.
This wasn’t even meat. For it to be used in a salad so readily, what luxury.
Delicious. Even though it was frustrating, he had to admit it.
Since mixing pepper into potato salad cost a lot, he couldn’t enjoy it regularly. He understood this, and his fear only rose.
With this, it could be implied that the Old Capital had the financial capability to use pepper on a daily basis.
Perhaps there was a wealthy merchant among the city councilmen who imported huge amounts of pepper and sold the leftovers to the city.
A city that could do such a thing didn’t exist within the Eastern Kingdom.
「I’m amazed. This potato salad is truly delicious!」
「Yes! I think that if it’s cooked this way, potatoes can also be eaten deliciously.」
Wasn’t that obvious? Jean desperately withheld his bitter thoughts.
As soon as he left the pub, he would have to leave the inn and return to the Eastern Kingdom. Even though there were more things to investigate, bringing this prompt report was even more important. He feared that he wouldn’t be able to recover if he made a mistake.
The Eastern Kingdom’s plans to tear apart the Empire’s territories would have to be reconsidered. These people could do as they wished if they wanted to be independent from the Empire, but any trace of the Eastern Kingdom had to be completely erased.
He tried to leave quickly by leaving money on the table, but he accidentally overheard the conversation between the waitress and the store owner.
「Taisho, since he ate it so deliciously, let’s put out another plate.」
「Another one, huh. Even though those three salads were already a perfect combination.」
「It doesn’t have to be a salad, I think. As long as it looks like a salad.」
「Looks like a salad, huh…Ah! No way. No way. I’m going to eat that with my evening drink. It’s expensive, you know. It came all the way from Norway.」
「Why not? Come on, don’t be stingy.」
Oh, what was that?
The insatiable curiosity he had picked up from being part of the “Collectors of Mysterious Tales” made Jean freeze in place. This was a store that used a generous amount of pepper without hesitation.
If he wasn’t interested in this, he was not qualified to call himself one of the Otogishu.
「I’m sorry to have kept you waiting!」
Some thinly sliced meat was placed in front of Jean’s.
It might have been fish meat, but he couldn’t tell just by looking at it.
The sauce that came with it looked similar to a sauce that came with dishes in the Holy Kingdom of the South.
「This is carpaccio.」(TL: thinly sliced meat served as appetizer)
Even though the waitress announced the name while brimming with confidence, she did not mention what kind of meat it was.
That being said, he decided to try it. Since he was hesitant to use a fork to stab it, he picked it up with his fingers and brought it to his mouth.
He couldn’t have imagined that this tenderness came from an animal’s meat. Even though there was a slight smell of blood, it wasn’t to the extent that it stank. He unconsciously threw two slices into his mouth.
Jean didn’t know whether he was chewing it or whether it was just melting away. Was there such a meat?
When he looked at the waitress, she was staring at him with amusement.
Considering her mischievous eyes, she was definitely challenging him to figure out what meat it was.
「This meat…is soft.」
That was all Jean could utter. He felt ashamed for not knowing the answer.
Even though he had eaten various kinds of meat so far in his life, he did not remember any that were similar to this.
Beef, pork, lamb, chicken, and even horse.
This meat didn’t resemble any of those.
「Do you give up?」
「Ah, I surrender. What is this meat?」
He decided to return to the Eastern Kingdom after hearing the answer.
He also decided to request to be unassigned from the Empire. This country had too many incomprehensible things.
A whale. Jean could not possibly understand immediately.
He had unconsciously been expecting something like ‘a cow that had been raised in a special way’, but the answer was too unexpected. His head wanted to reject the waitress’s answer.
「That’s right. Erm, it’s a huge fellow that lives in the sea.」
Jean was a member of the ‘Collectors of Mysterious Tales’, so he knew about whales.
There were fishing methods to catch whales as well.
However, that was a story from the past, a story from a far, far-away land. The Otogishu archives didn’t even have records of the consumption of whales anywhere within the reach of the Eastern Kingdom.
Jean had become the first man from the Eastern Kingdom to ever eat a whale.
Jean felt a chill run down his back.
He shouldn’t get involved with the Old Capital. This was only a pub on the outskirts of the city.
‘Curiosity killed the cat.’ Jean François de la Vinnie prioritised his duty as a Holy Knight of the Kingdom over his role in Otogishu.
「This is definitely an excellent meal. I am very satisfied.」
「Really?! I am happy to be able to receive such words.」
He took a horseshoe-shaped silver coin from the coin pouch on his waist and pressed it into the smiling waitress’s hand.
「Since I remembered some urgent business I must attend to, I will leave now. The food was excellent. Thank you very much.」
When Jean vigorously stood up from his counter stool, the old priest by the corner smiled and bowed slightly.
「Do be careful on your way back, okay.」
When he heard the priest’s words of caution, Jean rushed out of the store without looking back. Had that old priest actually been a spy from the Empire?
The Kingdom had carefully assigned Jean to infiltrate the Empire, but perhaps the intelligence and activities of ‘Otogishu’ had already been leaked out to their enemies.
Before he had realized it, it had became completely dark outside.
He decided to escape as soon as possible.
Right now, the only thing determining Jean’s actions was his strong desire to escape from this place.
However, he was also thinking that he wanted to try that Caesar salad one more time.