Hometown (Part 1)
「I can afford to splurge a little tonight, can’t I?」
It was already dusk on this spring day, as Marco touched his wallet in his pocket while weaving through the passers-by.
His wallet felt heavy since today’s sales went beyond his expectations.
The horse carriage, full of woolen goods that he had brought to Aitheria, had sold like hot cakes.
His cheeks loosened up at the size of his profits.
The small Marco might appear to be young, but he was in fact an itinerant merchant.
Even for Marco, this was a rare blessing.
In Aitheria, the Spring Grand Bazaar was being held.
It seemed that the Grand Bazaar this year was special, as it celebrated the matrimony of the Imperial Emperor Konrad V and Empress Celene.
Marco, who was on his way to Oiria in the Eastern Kingdom, happened to hear about the Grand Bazaar and was able to drop by. He did not know whether it was a blessing from the gods or a coincidence, but it seemed that he could make even bigger deals with this opportunity.
It was a celebration at the Grand Bazaar, so the streets were lined with various travelling merchants from various countries.
There were some from the Empire itself, as well as from Oiria of the Eastern Kingdom, the Holy Kingdom Rupsia, and even some from the United Kingdom of Kertia.
The other party whom Marco sold his woolen fabrics to had told him, whilst using the basic Empire language, that he had come from the United Kingdom far across the sea.
「Now then, which shop should I visit today…」
There was one thing Marco enjoyed while being a merchant.
And that was liquor and food.
The thrifty merchant usually spent his money on meals at his lodgings.
However, what was often served were poor substitutions of bread (brot) and soup (suppe), with the occasional cheese (käse).
Therefore, Marco searched for a bar.
In a big city like Aitheria, there should be at least one eccentric shop.
If the shop that he chose was good, then everything was well. If it was bad, then he would simply laugh it off.
For Marco, choosing a shop was a kind of game that doubled as a test of luck and his own connoisseur skills.
He walked around Aitheria at dusk looking at the signs and atmosphere of the bars. The light from the window and cheerful voices raised Marco’s expectations.
「…What a weird shop.」
A very exotic bar stood in front of Marco.
Its presence was as if the shop came from a fairytale, and yet it fit itself with the streets of Aitheria.
He couldn’t decipher the name of the shop, as it was written in characters that he had never seen before.
Marco smiled bitterly, lamenting about the uselessness of the signboard since no one could even read it.
Where was its business spirit, having no name for its visiting customers to boast about?
However, the shop was built with plaster, so it wouldn’t be easily mistaken for some other place.
He wondered if there was delicious food in there.
The sun had not yet set, but Marco’s stomach was nearing its limit.
He could look for other shops along the street, but as far as he could see, there were no other shops that were as interesting as this one.
「Alright, let’s go.」
Marco muttered, and gently pulled open the glass door.
As he stepped into the crowded shop, he was welcomed in by a cheery voice.
Marco, who found a vacant seat at the corner of the not-so-large shop, pushed his way in and took a seat there.
This was a good shop. It passed his first impressions.
There was no way it was a miss, judging by the liveliness of the shop. There was no reason why such a thriving shop would serve something nasty.
As Marco looked around, he broke into a smile.
There was a menu on the wall. He had never heard of those dishes before, but it was fine.
This was reasonable if he wanted to enjoy delicious liquor and food. However, he was still glad it was unusual.
He could expect something from this place. They would definitely serve up something he had never tasted before.
「What would you like to order, esteemed customer?」
「Oh, yes. I’d like some ale, but… if possible, I would like something that I’d only get here. And after that, if there are any other unusual food and drinks, please serve that too.」
「Okay, I’ve received your order.」
The waitress responded with a typical smile and told the chef something. Based on what people called them, the chef was Taisho and the waitress was Shinobu. They were names he had never heard around this part.
The shop was small, but there was a large number of employees. There were two men and three women in total, though one of the women could still be called a child.
Still, seeing the staff busy showed that the business was thriving successfully.
He started on the appetizer while he waited for his liquor and food.
It was a dish where whitefish was deep fried and served with a thick bean paste on top.
He took a bite and his voice leaked out.
The food texture was good.
The crunchy parts intertwined with the bean paste as the flesh of the whitefish crumbled away in his mouth. Because the bean paste had a strong flavour, the flavours of the whitefish was intensified.
It was a taste that would make one smile unknowingly.
The dish was quite elaborate for an appetizer. He admired that the fish could be eaten in just one or two bites. He had almost wanted to order more of the same.
It seemed that there were many ale partisans surrounding him.
‘Toriaezu Nama’ seemed to be the brand of the ale of this shop. It was an unfamiliar brand, but it was likely there was a brewery near Aitheria.
Ale from small breweries that are not barrelled are not suitable for transportation and is usually consumed locally. Thus, it would not be so strange for merchants to view it as an illusionary ale.
As for Marco, he would like to drink the infamous lager once too.
The mugs made out of glass clanged each other merrily as they cheered.
The transparent mug, with its golden ale, was beautiful. From what he could see from the sidelines, it was well-shaped, so it might fetch a good price.
He had just realised he should have just ordered ale as well. Why did other people’s food and drink look so much more attractive?
One glass after work would certainly be wonderful. It was hard to replace the feeling of the bitter golden liquid, washing away your fatigue, flowing into the stomach.
When he looked at a craftsman, who seemed to be a regular, empty his mug deliciously, Marco unconsciously gulped his saliva.
However, since he had traveled so far, it was important to accomplish his original plans.
Today, he would eat something unusual.
Wasn’t that what he decided when he first stepped into the shop?
Every dish looked delicious so far when he looked at the people around him eating.
Now, as he rubbed his hands together waiting for what was to come out, the waitress from before brought out something unusual in a small basket.
It was chestnuts.
The chestnuts were still wrapped up in their burrs, but they were darker than what Marco usually saw.
Besides, it was a different season now.
Chestnuts were to be eaten during summer, not spring.
「Thank you for waiting. This is a sea urchin.」