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Croquette Once Again
Training at the courtyard of a small mansion located at the outskirts of official capital city of Princ.i.p.ality was a daily routine of Alphonse, a former general of Princ.i.p.ality, yesterday, he had specially invited a “guest” that had heated up the capital city.
The spear was thrust repeatedly like a rain of arrows, waiting for a gap in the defense to finish the fight in one blow.
Even though he was old now, Alphonse was one of the best martial artists in the Princ.i.p.ality and he was a master that could even beat the strongest knight of the Princ.i.p.ality that currently served as the captain of the imperial guard, currently he was looking at the deceptively-young man in front of him.
Occasionally, the pole that imitated a spear would graze his opponent’s arms and legs, but that man was still youthful and had first-cla.s.s skill after training to the point of foolishness. If this wasn’t a mock battle and was a real one instead, he would have to give up an arm to gamble for a win.
And even then, the chance was only a 50-50.
(Indeed, this is troublesome. I’m not familiar with this old martial art…)
Seeing the figure of the man who was as youthful as knight apprentice and wielded his spear terrifyingly, he was reminded of the words circulated among the mercenaries and adventurers.
Watch out for the warriors with long ears. Do not be fooled by their appearances.
Having a longer life-span than humans, the elves and half-elves that became adventurers and mercenaries wielded rare sword and bow skills.
They acc.u.mulated their training in their long life-span and honed their skills. Humans were already old when they polished their skills enough, and they had lost their youthful power and agility.
In the case of elves and half-elves however, they were formidable warriors having both experienced techniques and youthful strength after tempering it at the battlefields of war.
Nearly 100 years old, the half-elf “former general” in front of him, was someone of that kind.
(However, it goes against my pride to just be laid upside down on the ground here!)
Alphonse’s fighting spirit continued to burn though his body was gradually becoming tired and dull fighting against the man who did not even feel a bit fatigued from this mock battle. He had survived for 20 years in that island, so he would fight to the bitter end. He had no intention to admit his lost just like that.
The other party probably saw that Alphonse won’t give up and realized his intention.
From the position of counterattacking against Alphonse’s strikes, he then moved to an offensive position. And then…
[…It’s a draw.]
[Ee. This is a draw.]
They laughed when their weapons were poised at each other’s throat.
After changing their sweat-soaked clothes, they chatted.
[As expected of the Empire’s prided “s.h.i.+eld”, such a splendid skill.]
Alphonse said while laughing to a man who wore durable, though not glamorous, clothes.
The man in front of him… Elmer was a former general of long military service, and was once praised as the Empire’s “sword” and feared by the demon king Altina.
Elmer who was originally the gatekeeper that protected the mansion of the former empress Adelheid was very trusted by the former emperor Wilheim due to his history, he was a soldier with solid spear techniques without any flas.h.i.+ness after training for a long time, he was the man
that was regarded as the symbol of the Empire’s martial arts for a long time.
[Nay, after I resigned from my position, I had nothing to do but to train.]
[Ee. I was quite surprised by it… if I was you my lord, I would still be a general.]
Elmer’s smile was a bit pained, seeing so, Alphonse enquired again.
From what he saw, Elmer did not experience any weakening of skills. He could still serve as a general with his bright intelligence and technique.
That’s the reason for his question.
[…It is the law of the Empire. When His Majesty appointed me as the head of the imperial army, I enacted it. The generals and ministers cannot be in their positions for more than 50 years. After 50 years had pa.s.sed, I gave up my position.]
Elmer answered Alphonse’s question with a bitter smile.
It was a law that did not make sense for their human colleagues. Any human being, after 50 years had pa.s.sed, would grow old and usually retire before that.
But there were exceptions. Half-elves like Elmer were one of them. If they got into that position, it’s unlikely they would retire as their peak age lasted more than a hundred years. Therefore their complete ability was preserved.
[…Aa, I see. It’s to prevent the rebirth of the Old Kingdom, isn’t it.]
Alphonse was convinced and nodded to Elmer’s words. Alphonse did not know that such a law existed in the Empire, but he understood the intent at once.
In any case, the Kingdom was a country that was born out of the Old Kingdom which was destroyed because a half-elf became the king. He understood immediately the reason why the law was enacted.
…When he was summoned for his report after his return, in the immediate vicinity of the current public king who was a child not yet an adult before he was washed up at that island, he especially remembered his surprise upon seeing the face of a regular of the “otherworld dining hall”.
[Ee. That’s why, I’m no longer a general of the Empire, just a mere root of a gra.s.s.
My son also said that he thought I was dead already.]
Elmer said so somewhat proudly when he a.s.serted his resignation. He was not attached to that position and seemed to be enjoying his circ.u.mstances.
[Is that so… then, as congratulation to Elmer-sama’s departure, tomorrow, how about I treat you to a feast?]
Alphonse honestly wanted to congratulate Elmer. Satur’s Day would be the most suitable for that.
‘Chirinchirin’, while the sound of bell reverberated, Elmer looked around the place where Alphonse brought them to.
[Here… such a mysterious place.]
Though Elmer had been to various places as the Empire’s general, he had never been to such a place before.
In the morning after breakfast, he and Alphonse travelled together on horseback and arrived at a ghost town with nothing around just before noon.
However, there was a beautiful black door with a cat picture on it, and when they came through the door, they arrived at a mysterious room… Alphonse called it the “otherworld dining hall”.
[Welcome. This way please.]
As he looked around, a female demon that was perhaps this restaurant’s waitress guided them.
[Umu, much obliged. Aa, bring us the menu. I want to order my usual, but bring us a copy.]
Alphonse, on the other hand, was used to this and sat down while asking for a menu.
curry rice was a special dish, he thought it was not good to order it for a first-time customer like Elmer.
[I have already decided what to order, so take your time choosing.]
That’s why Alphonse sat back relaxedly and waited quietly to not hinder Elmer.
(Well, what should I order… oo, there’s substantial amount of Empire cuisine.)
Elmer turned the book with the names and brief descriptions of cuisines and decided what to order.
His eyes naturally gravitated towards the name of a familiar Empire dish… the dish made using the Cobbler’s fruit that His Majesty, someone he had known from when he was still a baby until the day he saw him off to the netherworld, had brought back.
[I have decided. This, I’ll have the croquette combination platter.]
Seeing the emperor’s favourite food served as daily special, he decided to order it from all the selection.
[Is that so. Waitress, we would like to order.]
[Ye~s, please wait a moment.]
When Alphonse called, the waitress whose appearance resembled the people of Western Continent answered.
[I would like a huge serving of curry rice… how about you Elmer?]
[Aa, right. For me, croquette.]
[Yes. Your orders are a huge serving of curry rice and croquette. Would you like bread and soup with the croquette?]
[Yes, I leave it to you.]
While listening to their orders, she wrote the down on the board familiarly and then said with a smile.
[Very well, please wait a moment.]
The waitress then retreated to the kitchen.
[But, croquette huh.]
As he said so, Alphonse softened his expression.
His eyes had a nostalgic gleam.
[Ee. I’ve been eating it until I left the Empire. I never thought that there is a same dish in another world.]
Elmer replied despite not knowing the meaning of Alphonse’s nostalgic look.
The Cobbler’s fruit was a memorable food of Elmer’s deceased lord.
[Indeed, that emperor who came back from a ride brought it back, he said that he was fortunate enough to obtain it and said he wanted to cultivate it.]
That was an unforgettable memory from back Elmer was still a general.
One day, the emperor brought back a mysterious crop. That was the Cobbler’s fruit.
With the soil still attached, inside a mysterious sack that was as transparent as water, he showed it first to the court gardener to cultivate it in order to find out what kind of plant it would grow into, after that the Cobbler’s fruits were then planted in various different environments such as sunny or shaded places, moist soil or dry soil, fertile lands or non-fertile lands, the emperor was also surprised that the plant was a remarkably resilient crop.
Then the emperor ordered for the Cobbler’s fruit to be cultivated as it was an important crop that could feed the increasing number of the Empire’s citizens and dyed the Empire’s wastelands into green.
For Elmer who had watched over the process, the Cobbler’s fruit and the dishes made using it were as memorable as the battlefields he had pa.s.sed through with the emperor who had not wrinkled yet and was still the handsome young man beside his mother.
[…Certainly, even the Princ.i.p.ality had heard that it was amazing.]
Alphonse had also heard that the Cobbler’s fruit was the trump card of the Empire, not to mention it was also indispensable for curry rice.
In a plot of land that had become thin after a lot of its vitality was consumed, the Cobbler’s fruit that deliciously filled
deliciously filled one’s belly was able to be planted in wastelands where wheat cultivation was not possible, it was the greatest strength of the Empire that was cut out from battles of battlefields, truly suitable for a country that had a lot of wastelands not suitable for planting wheat.
[Thank you for waiting. Here are your large serving of curry rice and daily special of croquette. For today’s set meal, the triangle shape is curry croquette, the square shape is meat croquette while the ellipse shape is ordinary potato croquette. For the potato croquette’s sauce, I recommend to pair it with the black sauce in the blue bottle.]
While the waitress said such, she placed down the plates.
In front of Alphonse was some brown sauce on top of something white, and in front of Elmer was the croquette he ordered.
(Hou, this is… is it truly croquette?)
Elmer tilted his head a bit, looking at the fresh piping hot croquettes.
Pale yellow soup, soft bread, light green vegetables with bright red little fruits on top of the plate, and three lumps also on the plate.
They were probably croquettes… they were different from the Empire’s croquette which were coated with flour dissolved in water and then fried in oil that Elmer knew, but they seemed to be delicious.
(Anyway, I shall partake.)
But, the fragrance drifting from the croquettes indicated they were fried in fresh oil. A scent without old oily smell. And its sizzling sound sounded appetizing. Elmer picked up a fork and knife and started to eat.
For the time being, the knife was pushed into what was called meat croquette, the coating was torn apart with crisp feeling.
The inside was dark brown, and he could see plenty of orange fragments, pieces of fine meat, thick mushrooms and other things.
He cut a bite size and carried it into his mouth.
(Oya, this is really delicious.)
The croquette in his mouth was crunchy and the texture was pleasant when he chewed.
From inside the coating, the Cobbler’s fruit crumbled and spilled.
The Cobbler’s fruit had distinctive flavor that even the long-lived Elmer had never tasted. It was salty and a bit sweet. The meat juice overflowing from the minced meat, the sweetness of cooked Oranie and Caryute that was not found in fruits, furthermore, the black mushrooms that absorbed the meat juice.
While chewing on the fairly sweet croquette, he reached for the leafy vegetable.
The fresh leafy vegetables were crunchy. The refres.h.i.+ng taste disappeared, carrying the flavor of croquette with it, and then the process repeated again.
(Un. I guess I can expect something similar from the others.)
He was convinced by the light and crunchy coating along with the tastefully seasoned inside, he then decided to eat the triangle shaped curry croquette next.
He cut it the same way and carried it to his mouth.
(Oya, this is… a bit spicy.)
Subsequently, the next croquette he ate was a bit spicy. It seemed that a lot of spices were mixed in, creating a complex spicy flavor.
The ingredients included were green beans, minced meat and minced Oranie. They could be seen among the brownish yellow Cobbler’s fruit.
(To utilize valuable spices this way…)
In the Empire that only had one harbor in the country, spices were more valuable than other commodities. This croquette where spices were abundantly used was something that had not been seen in the Empire where extravagant Empire where extravagant luxury was restrained.
(However, it’s delicious.)
However, it was not a dish where spices where randomly added. It was fragrant and spicy enough to make him want to drink water, but it was not painfully spicy.
It increased his appet.i.te and made him want to eat more.
While he enjoyed the spiciness, he reached for the bread. He took the fluffy and soft bread with light brown crust and ate it. This bread with soft and sweet flavor pleasantly intersected with the spicy croquette flavor.
He finished eating the two and reached for the last croquette.
Oval shaped potato croquette… it’s the closest to the croquette which Elmer knew.
(Un. As I thought.)
He ate it without adding anything first, and then his face loosened.
The two previous odd croquettes were good, but when it came to croquettes, Elmer preferred the simple Cobbler’s fruit croquette.
A rustic croquette containing mashed Cobbler’s fruit, Oranie and minced meat, seasoned with salt and pepper.
But it was a fine treat as it was still freshly fried and made with good quality ingredients.
(Then, vinegar… is it this blue bottle?)
After his first bite, he picked up the blue bottle that the waitress recommended earlier. It was common in the Empire to pour a bit of vinegar onto croquettes.
If it’s too much, the flavor would mess up, but if just a little bit, the taste would tightened.
(…Oya, this is considerably black…)
When he gently tilted the bottle, Elmer was confused by the flowing black vinegar. It was different from what he expected.
He dipped his fork to the black vinegar and licked it.
(…Hou! This is…)
Elmer was surprised by the deep flavor and raised his eyebrows. Flavours of various ingredients and spices were added to the acidity of the vinegar giving it a complex taste.
It fit well with the croquette with simple seasoning and made a different taste.
(I see… I understand why the emperor likes this.)
While tasting it, Elmer remembered something the emperor had said.
It was a memory from when the emperor decided to abdicate after Her Highness Adelheid was born, and he built a mansion as his last residence.
He laughed and said that the reason why he built the mansion in the countryside was not just to depart from the capital city so as to not be involved in politics after he yielded the throne to his son.
—There are some things that are not available even if I have the power of our country… someday, I’ll take you there after you resign and become just Elmer.
At that time he did not know what it was and the emperor departed to the netherworld before fulfilling his promise, but now he knew.
A restaurant with foreign world cuisine, similar to the Empire’s cuisine.
It was certainly not a coincidence.
He was quickly convinced that his thoughts were not a mistake… ‘Chirinchirin’, with the sound of bell, he saw a beautiful face similar to the appearance of his first love from long ago.
As they left the restaurant, Elmer chatted with Alphonse. About the present, and about the future.
[Hou, so you’re going to cross the continent.]
Among them, Elmer talked about his decision.
[As the general of the Empire, I had seen almost all of the Eastern Continent, so now I’ll go to the Western Continent.]
—I want to keep watching over the princess who would be married to that country’s crown prince.
While hiding such a thought.