Translator: Kurehashi Aiko
Seeing someone else wearing an apron all of a sudden like that, for some reason it was causing Belfast to become all restless and for her maid’s blood to start boiling. Which was now making the Head Maid feel all guilty, since she promised herself that she would enjoy this vacation to the fullest without thinking too much about work.
[W-Well. I don’t even know myself how to say it, but –––––– For a moment out there I thought that it might be a good idea for me to ask those girls if I could join them for a while, and just like that I could serve you all while we are still being here……]
Hearing that, Nelson put her finger on her chin, as if she was having a hard time understanding what Belfast just said.
However, for Belfast herself this was going to be a very huge and serious problem. But for Belfast it was a very serious problem. To tell the truth, ever since she had put on her one-piece dress, she has been feeling completely restless, and being in an establishment quite like this one, not as someone working there, but rather a customer, was making her feel even more embarrassed. And it was an even stronger feeling since she had company with her.
[N-No, really. I knew it, I can’t stand it! I’m going to go to the kitchen and ask them to let me help in preparing the soba, too!]
[No, no, no! Oh, no you won’t!]
Nelson firmly grabbed Belfast’s hand as she tried to stand up and restrained her.
[You are supposed to be on your day off, right? This is supposed to be your summer vacation, right? Then why the hell are you thinking and trying to work!? Just do as the Commander ordered you to and obediently have a nice and relaxing time!]
[B-But…… But I……]
[Belfast-san, it’s just like Nelson-san said just now.]
Renown straightened her posture in her seat as she looked straight into Belfast’s eyes.
[Today is supposed to be a day where we don’t have to worry about work, we can just kick back, relax and take care of ourselves. I understand that you must feel really uncomfortable as a simple person as you are not working as a maid, but why don’t you at least try to be on the side of the recipient for once? You know, instead of being the one who is serving? Who knows? You might learn something completely new from this experience.]
Even though Belfast knew all that inside of her head, her heart wanted to serve someone in earnest. She tried to sit back and relax just as she was told, but Belfast just could not control the feelings that were raging inside of her heart.
[Everyone, could you give it a rest for the time being and just be quiet? More importantly, about that soba……]
The soba noodles at this particular restaurant, which Nelson could see the pictures of inside of the menu, were a little bit darker than the ones you would see anywhere else…… But aside from that, the soba itself was also served on a round three-tiered lacquerware plate, which was making it look just like…… Well, just like a typical meal that you would get for a New Year.
[How about you? Is everyone else okay with that?]
In addition to the soba noodles, there was also a variety of different dishes on the menu, but since the whole company came here solely for the soba noodles, no one was really interested in trying anything else. And so the other four shipgirls simply nodded their heads in silence.
When Nelson raised her hand, she then told the Dragon Empery sisters what order they had all decided on, and from then on out they just had to wait for a few minutes until the order was brought to them from the kitchen.
[Yes, thank you for waiting so patiently!]
What Ping Hai and Ning Hai brought from the kitchen was indeed a three-tiered stack of soba noodles accompanied by a dashi broth, as shown in the photo from the menu. The accompanying condiments included some seaweed, green onions, and large slices of grated daikon radish, while the soba itself was sprinkled with sesame seeds and accompanied by a hard-boiled egg.
[It is said that the first layer of soba needs to be poured with all the dashi broth. When you have finished eating the second layer, pour the remaining dashi over the second layer of soba and eat the third layer in the same way, eating the condiments alongside the way at your own leisure.]
[It’s certainly a very peculiar way of eating soba noodles.]
Rodney stares at her portion of the soba from above.
[Don’t ask us about it. It seems to be some sort of a local custom or something like that. Now then, take it easy and enjoy your time!]
After the Dragon Empery sisters waved their hands at the Royal Navy shipgirls and went away, the five of them each picked up their chopsticks and got ready to dig into their soba noodles.
However, Renown, who was sadly unable to make due with the chopsticks like everyone else and was just struggling with them while making funny and awkward gestures, finally looked at her companions as she said:
[C-Can someone pass me the fork here, please?]
[No! You absolutely cannot do that!]
Nelson immediately raised her voice in objection, even though she was also having a whole lot of trouble with using her own chopsticks.
[Since we have already come to a local soba restaurant like this one, it would simply not use forks instead of chopsticks! …… Besides, we are guests in this town, so we should do our best to accommodate the local custom! When in Rome, do as the…… AH!]
At that moment Nelson lost control over the chopsticks in her hands which resulted in her dropping her soba back onto her plate. She then groaned quite miserably while casting a curious glance at Belfast.
[Hm? What’s wrong?]
Belfast just continued to deftly use her chopsticks as if nothing had happened.
[Belfast-san, where on God’s green Earth did you learn to use chopsticks like that?]
After she was asked that question by Rodney, Belfast curtly answered her without a moment’s delay.
[Just to be on the safe side in case of emergency, I have studied the bare minimum of each major faction’s cuisine and eating etiquette. After all, as a maid, you never know just what kind of customers you are going to be serving.]
[If that’s the case, could you show me how to do it properly?]
Saying that, Renown put her hand forward, the one in which she was holding her chopsticks in a clumsy way. Belfast smiled and carefully explained to everyone how to hold chopsticks from scratch, making sure that everyone would understand.
The soba, which had a unique aroma to it, seemed to be boiled harder than Belfast had imagined. The more she chewed, the more the flavor would spread in her mouth, and the dashi broth made from bonito and kombu seaweed had a really strong aroma as well.
[Delicious! This is really good! At this rate, just three layers might not be enough to satisfy me!
Repulse, who had finally gotten used to using chopsticks enough to eat comfortably, slurped down on her soba in a clumsy but cute way, but she never stopped holding the chopsticks and before long she moved to the second layer, this time trying to change the flavor little by little by adding different side dishes. She also started to add different seasonings.
As for Nelson herself, the girl who was looking forward to coming in here the most even before the group arrived in the hot spring town, she had a big smile on her face that you could never actually imagine that her usual moody expression and sharp demeanor would be able to make. But now she was slurping down on her soba with a particularly satisfied expression. The gap between her usual self and her current self was just too great.
Belfast, just like everyone else, started to make her way through her noodles, observing her fellow shipgirls at the same time. She could not help herself but to think that she was witnessing a truly rare moment here right about now.
Just being able to sit at the table like that and behave like a normal customer would, no matter what, it was still making Belfast feel awkward and uncomfortable.
* * *
After being done with eating their soba, the five shipgirls soon arrived at their inn.
After being handed the key to their room, they headed to the room where the right number was written according to the map of the hall, and as it turned out, it was a fairly spacious room. It was for five people, but presumably even eight futons or more would easily fit in here, and there would still be plenty of space left out.