Translator: Solaris Editor: Queenie
Steaming hot, white vapor rose from the pot. I mixed in one egg, scooped some of it up, and tasted it. The delicious taste of vegetables mixed with chicken soup stock and herbs went perfectly with béchamel sauce.
Because I had mixed in a lot of vegetables, the soup had a lovely color to it. My white stew was a great success, if I do say so myself. I let it simmer for a while longer, preparing onion garnish and marinated ham.The marinade was a mixture of lemon juice, herbs, and various condiments. Once I had marinated the garish and thinly sliced ham, I placed it into a bowl within my view.
Now, there was just one dish left to make: mushrooms sautéed in butter. Thanks to the royal kitchen, I had access to multiple species of mushrooms all at once.
As I thought about how that would have been impossible in my normal life, I stirred the frying pan and added white wine. I let it briefly cook a little while longer, and then it was finally ready.
The stew had simmered thoroughly and the marinade had in mixed well. I tested it once again to make sure there weren’t any problems. I then served the stew on silver dishes and placed them alongside some cutlery on a serving cart. The serving cart was also made of silver, of course.
「Is it ready?」
「Yes, will you prepare some bread for me?」
I nodded at the voice that had spoken to me. The owner of that voice began to gather some rye bread from a large dish.
「You know… I’ve been thinking, whenever there’s an occasion you’re always working in this kitchen.」
A few days before I became in charge of his Highness Klanven’s meals, I had met this cook. Before I knew it, he’d begun acting overly familiar. I unconsciously made a wry smile at his voice. It sounded like he was either very impressed or very exasperated.
「I’m not as skilled as you think, but I’m counting on you if I ever get divorced. 」
「Don’t say that. Look, I’m sorry. If it were known that I instigated Sir Agedilus’ wife to ask for a divorce my head would be chopped off!」
「Fufu, so what brings you here? Did you come to ask about dinner?」
I bowed once at his pale shaking face, pushed the serving cart, and exited the kitchen.
At the moment, I have no intention of getting divorced, but it’s just as he says, when the occasion arrives it might be a good option. If that man heard about this, he would probably say 「Don’t be stupid」and pinch my cheek. I thought about that as I hurried through the Purple Peony Court to Prince Klanven’s office, where he must’ve been making preparations for the grand festival.
I had been excused to go and prepare the midday meal, but since the noon bell had rung some time ago, I did not have the luxury of taking my time. Prince Klanven was eating my, well… it would be difficult to call it grand cooking. He was eating my homemade cooking without a single complaint. I don’t know what the food at the temple was like, but I would like to think that my cooking was somewhat to his liking. Because I had boldly declared 「I would like the honor of preparing your meals」, it would be a shame if I couldn’t prepare a decent meal. Well, enough of that.
「I have to hurry.」
As the serving cart clattered along I increased my speed. I wonder why Sir Klanven’s schedule is so busy. He doesn’t have much time for meals. I have to deliver the stew to him before it gets cold.
「Hey, the woman over there.」
I stopped in my tracks as a deep male voice called from behind. Other than the two of us, there wasn’t a single person in the vast hallway. A figure cloaked from head to toe stood solitarily gazing at my direction… I couldn’t make out his face nor his physique. He looked like the “shadows” I’ve seen before. Honestly speaking, he looked suspicious right off the bat.
I watched that figure with caution as he walked in my direction. His imposing stride didn’t seem to belong to someone who was trying to conceal themselves. Scratch that. It would be more appropriate to say that he walked arrogantly.
「What seems to be the matter?」
He didn’t uncover his face but simply retrieved a small bottle from his chest and raised it so that it was at my eye-level.
「Mix this medicine in with the food.」
「What did you say?」
「I said mix this medicine in with the food. Nothing will happen to you. It’s easy, isn’t it?」
His tone sounded like someone who was accustomed to giving orders. Maybe that was the reason why he expected me to meekly obey him. A pair of lips forming a crescent-shaped arch could be seen from beneath his hood. An inexpressible discomfort began to well up inside me after seeing that smile.
「I understand. Will you hand me that bottle?」
「Ah. You’re you’re quick to catch on」
「Oh my. I am so sorry.」
The bottle had slipped through my fingers and crashed against the marble floor. The bottle let out an abrupt clang before cracking and spilling its contents. A puddle of transparent liquid began to rapidly spread.
Oh dear, how careless of me. I had done something unforgivable indeed.
「D-do you realize what you’ve done!? Do you know what I’ve gone through just to hand you this bottle!? 」
「I’m truly sorry… is what I’d like to say, but before that, won’t you tell me who you are?」
The man was at a loss for words. So that’s how it is. For someone so authoritarian, it seemed like he was a person with a social standing who couldn’t afford to reveal himself. Maybe he’s, no, he must be one of Heathrow’s henchmen trying to assassinate Klanven.
I glared at the man who was no doubt glowering at me from under his hood. What the heck was he thinking by saying 「Nothing will happen to you.」 It was obvious that he planned to use me.
「His highness Klanven might be a capricious and troubling gentleman, but he is serving as a priest in his own way.」
As a priest, his role was to be a leader of our faith in the goddess. Sometimes he would aid in salvation. Sometimes he would give guidance. His existence brought solace to many people.
Although Klanven has a beautiful appearance, his inner character was another matter. He had the nerve to take my bookmark hostage!
But, on the day he went to visit the orphanage, his peaceful smile and the warmth of his hands seemed genuine. If it had not, there was no way the guests at the tavern would admire him so much. Aisha said that it doesn’t matter if his highness Klanven is a Prince or a Priest, but I think that his true character is that of a priest.
「I don’t know what you’re up to or if you were trying to assassinate his highness Klanven, but your actions are absolutely against the goddess’ will.」
A ferocious voice reverberated in the corridor. The man was so angry that his entire body was shaking. He raised one hand.
「You, a mere woman with a dark history, dares to use the goddess’ name to make a fool of me!」
That raised hand must’ve been a signal. A group of cloaked figures suddenly appeared without a sound. It wasn’t necessary to question why they were wearing masks. There was no doubt about it, these people were “Shadows”. They were the kind that were affiliated with the temple. Their masks had the engraving of a dove as proof.
「Enough! It doesn’t matter if a woman like her is dead or alive. Let’s get this over with!」
At the man man’s words, the figures produced their weapons and began to close in on me. Oh no, I was overconfident and provoked them carelessly.
It was worse if a priest were to commit murder than if a commoner were to do it. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that it was an absolute taboo. That’s why I thought that no matter how much I provoked them, I wouldn’t be killed, but I had been too optimistic. It was unfair that if you were killed by shadows, it wouldn’t be against the rules. Even as I thought that I couldn’t believe it. I was far too calm. Or maybe, I had been driven into a wall and I was now trying to escape the reality of the situation.
I instinctively touched the bracelet on my left wrist. I felt a certain kind of warmth on contact and recalled that man’s piercing voice. 「I will protect you.」
Just as I called out, the sound of something splitting the air could be heard.
There was no time to question what had happened. In front of me was one of the shadows shaking violently.
My surprised voice and the man’s frightened voice mixed together. If one were to look around, they would see a figure that hadn’t been there before. A tall figure cloaked like the rest of the shadows and held a weapon that looked like a multi-sectioned staff held together by chains. He pulled at the chains and the sections tightened forming a singular unit. The head of the staff had a crimson jewel that shone brightly.
A man who was trembling more than I was, faced the mysterious figure and questioned them.
「Who are you!?」
There was no answer, instead the staff was swung through the air towards the shadows.
No one moved. Despite being outnumbered, the new figure showed no signs of stepping back. On the contrary, the shadow men who obviously had the upper-hand were beginning to retreat.