The Mackerel Pike of the Old Capital (Part 2)
The person who had looked at the plate of mackerel pike and said that was one of the sentry guard pair, the one with the moustache. If she remembered correctly, his name was Nikolaus.
「There are still a lot of parts that you can eat.」
His face drew near.
He was probably drunk. His breath reeked of alcohol, and the smell drifted through the air. His face was flushed red, and was now beside Eleonora’s.
How long had it been since a younger man had gotten this close?
While looking at the moustache growing on his chin, Eleonora suddenly recalled her past.
Father also had a similar moustache.
It wasn’t the ‘father’ nominated by the church. It was her biological father, who was related to her by blood. Even if she said so, she didn’t hear it from her mother directly. It was probably a woman’s intuition. She had only seen him once, but she understood that he was where half of her body originated from.
Among the men who were interested in her mother, he could not be considered attractive.
He was not particularly special or notable. To be honest, she couldn’t even picture his face clearly. She only remembered that he had an ordinary looking face.
That man’s hobby was to annoy her mother, but for some reason, he was not treated harshly. That might have been how a twisted couple would act.
「Bu~t, I cannot pluck out anymore. That’s the reason it became like this.」
「It’s alright, it can still be eaten.」
The shabby leftovers of what used to be a mackerel pike lay on the plate.
Nikolaus took a pair of disposable wooden chopsticks from the chopstick stand, while ignoring the protests made by the sulking Eleonora.
He broke the mackerel pike’s body into smaller pieces in one smooth movement, without hesitation.
“It’s beautiful,” Eleonora thought, even though it was just Nikolaus handling the chopsticks.
He pinched the mackerel pike’s head and completely removed the spine with his deft hands. Meat magically appeared, even though Eleonora had thought that there wasn’t any more flesh to pluck off.
After a while, a portion of meat lay separated from the mackerel pike’s spine, which was still attached to its head and tail.
「Taisho, can you make that from the other day?」
「Ah, the mackerel pike rice, huh.」
Taisho received the plate of mackerel pike meat from Nikolaus and tossed some cooked rice into a pan.
He added some seasonings into the soup, which Shinobu and the rest called dashi, and added that into the pan as well. Then, he added the mackerel pike’s meat and cooked it together.
Eleonora, who didn’t cook much, thought that the end product would taste similar to barley porridge. Contrary to what she expected, although the rice soaked up the dashi, it was still plump and fluffy.
It looked somewhat like the eel bento.
Even though there was a difference between dashi and tare, they were still similar in the sense that they combined both rice and fish.
She knew quite a bit about the eel bento because she had sent messengers to buy them secretly, as she had heard from Shinobu that it was good for the skin.
However, the mackerel pike rice looked different.
To be honest, it didn’t look good.
Even though there were green spring onions scattered on top, it looked like leftover food and did not appeal to Eleonora’s aesthetic sense.
However, what was that appetizing fragrance?
The pieces of flesh that Nikolaus had plucky out were properly mixed with the rice, and an unknown fragrance drifted over the counter.
When it was served to her, the fragrance became even more prominent.
「I don’t eat many beautiful dishes, but it’s delicious, you know.」
Nikolaus recommended it while laughing heartily, and Eleonora brought her chopsticks to the mackerel pike rice.
The rice, packed with the mackerel pike’s flavours, crumbled in her mouth.
It was easy to eat.
The mackerel pike’s strong taste was delicious enough to be taken with sake, but Eleonora, who was not used to eating it, felt that the flavour was a little too rich.
Then, how about this mackerel pike rice?
The ginger (inguva) used had been effective, because the simmered blue-backed fish did not have any stench.
The spring onion not only gave some colour to it, but also changed the texture. Pickled eggplants were also added as garnish, which served as a good palate cleanser.
Even though it looked so unattractive, why was it so delicious?
Furthermore, this delicious taste was not luxurious. Instead, it was a somewhat nostalgic, calming flavour.
She wanted to savour it forever. While she was thinking such thoughts, the bowl had already been emptied.
The amount was also just right. If it was too much, her stomach would feel heavy; if it was too little, she would have needed to order another item.
For some reason, Eleonora thought about her real father while looking at the empty bowl.
「Hey, it’s surprisingly delicious even with such an appearance, right?」
「Yeah, it really is.」
It was really delicious.
Eleonora, who had summoned chefs from the Capital and had indulged in all kinds of gourmet food, couldn’t believe that her heart was moved by a dish with such an appearance.
This was why she wouldn’t stop frequenting Izakaya Nobu, no matter what her subordinates said.
「Young lady, because you are a beautiful lady, I will tell you another delicious dish.」
Eleonora finally realised from Nikolaus’s words.
This man was drunk. He probably did not even notice that the person whom he was speaking to right now was Eleonora, the Master of the Water Transportation Guild.
Otherwise, it would have been impossible for her to be addressed in such a familiar manner.
She understood, but for some reason, she still felt a little lonely.
She wondered if she would meet this man, who sported an unattractive moustache, again next time.
「Thank you, Casanova-san. Let’s meet again if there’s a chance next time.」
Eleonora thanked the lady-killer sentry guard politely, whom she had superimposed her father’s image over for an instant, and took out her purse.
Even including the tip, the amount of silver coins she paid Shinobu was ten times the required amount.
Eleonora nodded quietly at the perplexed Shinobu, who was counting the coins.
Izakaya Nobu’s poster girl seemed to understand and stored the silver coins in the cashbox.
Would the moustached guard come to this pub again tomorrow?
While wishing for it, Eleonora began to slowly walk back home under the moonlight.