An End with Porridge (Epilogue 3)
「I’m sorry, even though it’s this busy.」
Shinobu, wearing a dress, apologetically clasped her hands together at the back door.
In actuality, they were so busy that they could use another helping hand, but Nobuyuki wanted Shinobu to go.
「Taisho, that table ordered porridge.」
「The counter’s order is also porridge!」
Eva’s and Leontaine’s orders were received and he started to prepare the rice for the porridge.
Hans was also very busy preparing the pot.
Porridge was seeing a boom in popularity at Izakaya Nobu.
This was due to Emperor Conrad and Empress Celestine who had announced their engagement in a big way the other day.
Furthermore, Lorentz had made things worse after being flooded with questions about where those two had stopped by.
「His Majesty, the previous Emperor, His Majesty, the Emperor, and Her Highness, the Empress had eaten mizutaki in Izakaya Nobu. They did not end the meal with udon, but with porridge. It was really delicious.」
This rumor had spread throughout Aitheria, particularly in the Sachnussenburg territory, and quickly became known throughout the northern regions of the Empire.
Some nobles of these regions even came on horseback to try this novel porridge dish.
Naturally, Crowvinkel and Branton also came to eat, which helped spread the rumors even further.
While there was an unexpected uproar during the eel incident, it did not compare to this. Although it was just an izakaya, if you did not have a reservation, you would not be able to even enter it.
Taisho was originally going to open shop in the evening, but because he wanted to serve as many customers as possible, the shop opened in the afternoon.
Because of how busy the izakaya was, they had to make the difficult and uncharacteristic request that customers share tables. However, since it was commonplace in Aitheria, there were no complaints about it yet.
“Should I help after all?”
“It’s fine. We’ll manage somehow.”
There was a reason Shinobu needed to leave, even if she had to be forced.
Shinobu was going to meet her family today. A year and a half had passed since she last saw them after having essentially fled from home.
The reunion was arranged at a hotel lounge, since meeting at ryotei Yukitsuna might be depressing.
Shinobu was the one who proposed this reunion, and Nobuyuki wondered whether watching the marriage interview the other day had something to do with it.
“It’s fine, it’s fine. Go and have a safe trip.”
After ushering her out the back door, Nobuyuki let out a sigh.
Depending on the outcome of Shinobu’s meeting, the shop might end up being managed by Nobuyuki alone.
If he managed it poorly, the shop would disappear.
What would he do if that happened?
But his worries about closing down the restaurant immediately disappeared after seeing the dining area teeming with patrons, so tightly packed that they needed to share tables but still enjoying their mizutaki and porridge with smiling faces.
This shop will go on. Nobuyuki wanted Shinobu to come back, but if she didn’t, he could still continue managing on his own. Regardless, he wished for Shinobu’s return.
“Taisho, one more order of porridge here too!”
While answering Eva, he prepared the porridge.
Since the shop opened today, aside from dried squid tempura, patrons were only ordering mizutaki and porridge. Even though it was good to profit, Nobuyuki was worried his skills would become dull from preparing just mizutaki and porridge.
The fad would probably settle down soon, though.
“Hey, Taisho, business is really thriving.”
It was Ignaz and Camil from the Eisen Schmidt Company who just entered the shop.
They were the suppliers of the sassarica rice used to make the porridge..
“How’s the sassarica rice situation?”
“The sales are amazing. His Excellency, Marquis Arnoux, was astonished.”
“This is also thanks to Taisho and the others.”
Mizutaki and porridge could be easily made in Aitherian homes.
Even though Nobuyuki had not shared his recipes, Hans had figured it out.
The trick was to add balganga fish sauce. There was nothing that could be done to make ponzu, but you could eat mizutaki without ponzu. The recipes seemed to be spreading fairly quickly, since one could enjoy porridge at home without needing to make reservations at a restaurant.
It was pretty popular, so naturally, sassarica rice was selling well.
Although the populace had never eaten sassarica rice before, they seemed to have accepted it without much opposition, because Arnoux released it to the market at a low price.
At first, Ignaz and Camil were worried they would suffer losses from the rice, but now, they were considering how to stock up for next year.
“I wish I could say we are both here to eat, but, it seems it’ll be a little difficult.”
“Yeah. It’s fine, though. Both of us are already on good terms.”
The reason why Camil and Ignaz laughed was because there was another rumor about mizutaki.
Apparently, if you ate mizutaki with someone, you could make peace with one another.
This wasn’t a superstition from Japan but was instead one that originated in Aitheria and circulated almost as fact. Izakaya Nobu had given birth to various rumors that grew into urban legend-like existences, and, at this point, Nobuyuki was half-resigned to ignoring them.
However, this rumor seemed to be true. When Nobuyuki looked at the customers carefully, it felt strange to see a couple that appeared to be on bad terms when entering end up sharing chicken with each other harmoniously. There was also a stubborn-looking parent serving chicken meatballs to his son.
“In reality, isn’t it because it is hard to find opportunities to make up with each other?”
Eva made her usual sharp observation as she came over to put away plates.
No matter how trivial, an opportunity to reconcile was necessary.
When he thought about it, he couldn’t help but wonder if the dinner between Shinobu and her family would also go well today.
All that was left was to serve the staff mizutaki.
Nobuyuki thought of providing something else for his employees to eat, but customer turnover was so fast that he couldn’t make anything else.
Nobuyuki, Hans, Leontaine, and Eva worked frantically. It wasn’t until after midnight that customers started dwindling.
Berthold, who came to peek into the shop, sent Eva home while the rest cleaned up.
“Come to think of it… Will Shinobu-chan come back home today?”
Nobuyuki staggered a bit when he heard Leontaine’s mutter as she wiped the table.
He had already taken into consideration that Shinobu might not come back today, but would she come tomorrow?
He had believed she would definitely come.
But, now, he couldn’t ward off his doubts. He was originally planning to sharpen his knife, but decided to put it off until tomorrow.
There was nothing good that could come of handling sharp objects while in this mindset. If he injured himself badly, the shop would be unable to function.
After seeing Nobuyuki’s state, neither Hans nor Leontaine said anything else.
Nobuyuki did not know whether they were just tired or being considerate, but he appreciated the silence more than ever today.
After cleaning up, the two prepared to head home.
Nobuyuki was about to send them off when the back door opened.
No one could mistake this cheerful and energetic voice.
“Sorry I couldn’t come back during business hours today.”
Nobuyuki noticed she was slightly flushed. She probably had been drinking.
“Don’t worry about such things. Are you alright?”
Leontaine had never seen Shinobu drunk. Come to think of it, in the time since this shop opened, Shinobu never drank enough to get drunk. It made Leontaine wonder whether Shinobu was always under pressure.
Nobuyuki scratched his nose, wondering whether he could lighten Shinobu’s burden a little more.
“So, how did it go with your family, Shinobu-san?”
In response to Hans’s timid question, Shinobu made a big victory sign.
“We had a big fight.”
“Oh. You got into a big fight and the restaurant managers at the top floor of the hotel didn’t do anything about it?”
“Yes. So I quickly drank the soup we were served, left, had yakitori at the stall in front of the station, and went all out!”
Although she smiled bitterly, it might have been a good thing.
Shinobu had never fought with her family until now.
They raised her like a princess and, when she thought she had finally become an adult, they arranged a marriage interview for her. After considering her options, today seemed like a good chance to bring this up.
It was for Shinobu’s sake but also for the sake of ryotei Yukitsuna.
“Taisho, I’m hungry. Make me something~.”
Nobuyuki shrugged as Shinobu slumped lazily in the chair.
Seeing how lax she was, he felt a bit stupid for having worried about her earlier.
“Alright, alright. Even if you ask me that, I can only prepare porridge.”
“I love Taisho’s porridge! Make me porridge!”
When she said she loved his porridge, Nobuyuki didn’t dislike it.
The person who said it was Shinobu with the “God’s Tongue” after all.
As Nobuyuki declared he would make the best porridge he has ever made, Hans and Leontaine stood up.
“I’m feeling tired today, so I’ll excuse myself first.”
“Taisho and Shinobu-san, thanks for your hard work.”
Nobuyuki gazed up at the Aitherian night sky as the backs of the two people who seemed to have gotten closer disappeared down the lamplit street.
Among brightly shining unknown constellations, a shooting star streaked across the winter sky.