Oyako Nabe (Part 2)
「Is it alright, if I join you?」
Celestine asked apologetically as she received a warm towel from Shinobu.
「You’re alone with no one around. I don’t think there would be any problems if Celes-san joined us.」
Conrad looked at the previous Emperor, who had replied with a smile, as he pondered what to order for today. He had only eaten kushikatsu before, but it was probably a little too heavy for his grandfather.
He heard from Celes that every dish that was served here was delicious, but regrettably, they were all foreign to him.
When he looked at the menu description, he had no idea how the dishes would turn out.
He could order at random, but it would look bad on him if, for example, he ordered two soup or two pork dishes at the same time.
He had never thought he would have to be so careful ordering food when he was with a woman.
Normally, a woman or an attendant would do something about it, but among the three of them present today, Conrad was the one who had to attend to the others.
Who among the 300 feudal lords would have ever imagined that the Empire’s Emperor was struggling with ordering in a simple izakaya?
While he was splitting his head to come up with something, a bright idea came to his mind.
「Excuse me, I’ll have what the next table is having.」
The dishes that the parents and children were pecking at on the neighboring table seemed to be enough for three people.
Although several people eating hot pot together would seem extremely vulgar according to the common sense of the Imperial Court, this wasn’t the Imperial Court.
「One mizutaki, is it? Coming right up!」
(TL note: mizutaki = vegetables and meat boiled in hot pot filled with water and served with dipping sauce)
Shinobu received the order with a pleasant smile and started preparations as quickly as possible.
Once she placed the portable stove on the table, she brought in a ceramic pot.
「You know, I really didn’t know you two liked one another.」
「Rather than liking one another, I guess you could call it love at first sight?」
Celes lowered her head shyly toward the flustered Conrad.
After the announcement of the secession of Princess Regent Celestine de Oiria from the royal family of the Eastern Kingdom, Celes had gradually begun to behave like other girls her age.
It was a fresh experience, and Conrad had been spending his days happily.
「So, what will the Imperial Parliament do?」
「There are no mistakes on that side. We did it, dear Grandfather!」
Conrad smiled as he watched the hot pot being prepared.
When Conrad announced his engagement with Celestine to the lords, their reaction had been unexpectedly big.
It was an engagement with the Princess Regent of the Eastern Kingdom.
While that alone was a serious matter, the Princess Regent had lost her status and was marrying into the Empire merely as a girl named Celestine. It was natural for opposing opinions to sprout.
Conrad was handling the opposing opinions skillfully. Of course, Celes had cooperated too.
At the centre of the opposition were the great lords, who were thinking of setting up their children to be Conrad’s second wives, as he was still without a child.
As they took the opinions of the lower ranking nobles, who believed that peace would continue in the Imperial Family, into consideration, Celes and Conrad’s policies never faltered.
They had opened up the market circulation of luxury goods that were forbidden for a long time by the Imperial Family, including vanilla.
This was added as a special arrangement through this marriage.
Among the great nobles, there were only a few who could benefit from repealing the ban of prohibited goods. It was a measure to cut these people off and to obstruct the unity of the marriage opposition faction.
In terms of scheming ability, Celes was definitely first class.
She hadn’t been set up by a forgery, but was set free instead.
It was the young King Hugh who had turned the tables around.
The Princess Regent was dismissed with the use of evidence which indicated that Celes had misused the Collectors of Mysterious Tales. As expected of the son of the “Hero King”, it was a very clever scheme.
It was a failure on her side, as it had never occurred to her that her biological younger brother would outsmart her, but Celes did not seem too bothered by it.
More than that, she was now enjoying the change in the Empire.
From the start, she was deeply knowledgeable about the situation in the Empire. Officially, it was a tactic to outsmart the great nobles who were collaborating with one another, but it was also to dangle their profits in order to hook in allies.
Conrad could only hold his tongue and marvel at the wiles of a mere 19-year-old girl.
It would be terrifying if she were the enemy, but there was no one as reassuring as her now that she was an ally.
「It’s boiling already.」
When he looked at the pot after hearing Shinobu’s voice, he saw steam rising appetizingly.
Ever since he came to AItheria, he had had many opportunities to eat hot food. It may be one of the reasons as to why he had sent his dispatch back to the Imperial Capital, as he did not want to return to his usual cold meals.
It was reasonable for an Emperor to be careful about being poisoned, but he was astonished by the difference in the energy that gushed forth from him after a warm meal.
When he returned to the Imperial Capital, he planned on ordering the palace chef to change the system so that he could eat warm meals.
He could endure it if he was alone, but he would feel guilty forcing Celes to eat cold meals as well.
「Let’s eat, shall we?」
The previous Emperor spoke and showed off his skillful handling of the chopsticks.
Neither Celes nor Conrad could use chopsticks. When Conrad felt slightly frustrated and stole a glance at his grandfather, who had turned away, he could see a wide and prideful grin on his grandfather’s face. Conrad wondered whether his grandfather had been practicing secretly just so he could show off.
He scooped some of the soup from the pot and placed it into the ponzu-filled bowl. He then tried to hand it to Celes, but he was very slow at it.
「Please let me, Conrad-sama.」
Celes’ skill with the ladle was superb.
「Amazing. As expected of the Princess Regent.」
「Please don’t tease me, dear Grandfather.」
Before long, Celes had begun to call the previous Emperor “dear Grandfather” too.
The dispute between the previous Emperor and the current one, which started from the marriage interview, had ended, and now they got along better than ever. In the meantime, Celes had also joined the family.
Although the nobles from the opposing faction said nothing, she was royalty from the enemy country. This was an unthinkable situation just a few days ago.
All the messengers Conrad had sent to improve relations with the Eastern Kingdom had been ignored.
Nevertheless, this was the only outcome that could prevent a war from starting soon.
The young King Hugh had immediately taken control of the political situation, but he still could not prevent all the confusion from happening. In the state where he was struggling to fill the hole left by the Princess Regent, Celestine, who had single-handedly undertaken national affairs previously, it was unlikely that he would be able to plan a war with the Empire.
Based on the information from the spies planted in the Eastern Kingdom, Conrad felt like he had stolen Hugh’s elder sister and that Hugh was probably feeling lonely.
He brought the cabbage from the mizutaki into his mouth with the chopsticks after he learned by watching.
It was delicious indeed. It tasted different from ordinary boiled soup.
Cabbage was one of the main harvests in the Empire, and there were various ways to eat it.
While they chatted, they poked into the pot. It was very enjoyable.
The chicken was cooked too.
The previous Emperor immediately quenched his thirst with ‘Toriaezu Nama’ as Celes distributed the cooked chicken after happily taking over the Commander’s position. Amusingly, when looking at the figure whose smile had crumbled while downing the lager, one could only see an aged old man, instead of the previous Emperor who had shouldered the rise of the Empire.
After he ordered two or three suitable dishes for his grandfather, Conrad ate the mizutaki.
It was delicious.
He had never thought of eating from the same pot with other people before, but he wondered whether this deliciousness was born from eating with other people.
He had Celes and his grandfather.
Conrad thought about how blessed he was now.
It seemed his grandfather had found a chicken dango at the bottom of the pot, and he happily threw it into his mouth. It was the first time Conrad had seen his stern grandfather behaving like this.
「…I wonder whether I can grow old like that.」
Celes momentarily looked surprised when she heard Conrad’s unintentional musing, but she immediately began to smile.
「You can. Both of us can.」
Was it because of the steam that Conrad’s face grew so hot?
The lighthearted chatter that could be heard from the next seat was also pleasant to the ears.
He wondered if happiness meant saying such things. As he thought about that, Conrad raised his hand to ask for ‘Toriaezu Nama.’