Spring was starting to show its head…
When I first came here, it was freezing cold even inside the castle, and the snow also piled up white and deep. But now, although there was still some snow on the roadside, young blooms were peeking their head out and the wind was losing its winter chill.
The warm weather lulled me to sleep while I looked out of the carriage window. But nevertheless, the unfamiliar scenery raised my expectations.
Today I was riding inside a carriage, accompanied by a few knights as my escort and were headed towards the market to buy new ingredients.
To prepare food for my sister, it was initially agreed that the ingredients would be provided by the royal kitchen with the full support of Prince Cain.
They laid out all the ingredients they had prepared for me and said,
“Here you go!”
At that moment, I had a thought.
‘This is too boring.’
The fun part of cooking was staring at the ingredients at the grocery store and trying to come up with a menu that was both interesting and exciting. Sometimes you came across an unexpected seasonal ingredient and the menu suddenly changes. It’s not uncommon for me to make something completely different from the menu I had announced to my sister in the morning and have her complain about it.
How could one make food only with some ingredients prepared by someone else? As someone who had always enjoyed the thrill of looking after discounts at busy supermarkets in the evening, I would always prefer to make my own shopping.
I wanted to interact with the various men and ladies selling their wares in the market and see if I could haggle the price down. For someone like me, being offered on a silver platter the finest ingredients the Royal kitchen could provide, with no input from my side — that didn’t hold any appeal to me.
After that, with the help of my sister, I managed to convince them to allow me to make my own grocery shopping. It was probably very hard to coordinate security and all that. I was very indebted towards Prince Cain for helping out with that.
The scenery outside the carriage gradually became more and more lively. We seemed to have entered a commercial district from a residential area. Here and there, I could see shopkeepers laying out their wares in front of their stores and calling out to customers.
I couldn’t help but lean forward a little and look outside.
Maybe it was a reaction to being withdrawn since I came here, but my cheeks had become more gaunt, and I must have had a very dishevelled look on my face.
“Are you looking forward to seeing the market?”
Jade, who was sitting in front of me, suddenly asked me.
He seems to be my personal escort knight and had been taking care of me ever since I came here.
He had short black hair and beautiful honeyed eyes, and always wore silver armour and had a big sword on his waist. He was a good person who followed me everywhere I went and helped me make pudding for the first time since I came here the other day.
He was also a nobleman, but he wasn’t pompous, and I think he was doing a good job protecting an unknown Japanese girl like me who came from another world.
“Was I that obvious?” I answered a bit embarrassed and then continued.
“But yes. I am indeed looking forward to the market. I wonder what kind of things will be there.”
I was aware that I was getting a bit carried away, but I felt somewhat embarrassed when I realized that it was visible to those around me as well.
Jade, while keeping eye contact with me, told me more about it with a bit of amusement present in his eyes.
“There is a large port town not far from the royal capital, and thanks to that, there is an abundance of seafood here. The Kingdom of Gilberta has good relations with other countries, and trade is flourishing, so goods from various countries are gathered here. I hope we can find something that Miss Akane will find to her liking.”
Jade’s voice was gentle as he squinted his honey-coloured eyes and continued to explain.
Seafood! For a second I got really excited, but I felt a little embarrassed because of his smiling gaze, and after a small “I guess so,” I looked away from Jade.
Jade was always like this. As I have little experience in dating men, I sometimes felt apprehensive. It was only natural for Jade, who had no choice but to stay with me due to his job as my escort, to show kindness towards me. If I were in his shoes, I would do the same in the interest of job efficiency.
–‘So, his kindness is not special. That’s what I told myself.’
Gentle, handsome men like him were dangerous. Unknowingly flinging their charms around, that was why a reserved girl like me is overwhelmed.
‘What would happen if I accidentally made a big mistake and assumed that he liked me?’
Surely if such a misunderstanding were to be discovered, everyone would laugh at me.
I don’t want that. Absolutely not.
I bit my bottom lip lightly and tightened the belt around my heart.
＊ ＊ ＊ ＊ ＊
The market in the other world was outrageous.
As Jade had said, the most common stores dealt in seafood.
It was lined with ridiculously large fish and glaringly coloured shellfish. I almost squealed when I saw a jade-green, Ocean sunfish-like fish lying in a large basket, its eyes glazed over and were staring at me.
When the clerk saw me looking at it curiously, she politely explained about the fish. The fishmonger proudly told me that the secret of keeping a fish shop in the capital where many people who live in places without oceans visit, was in how well you were able to explain your products and make people who don’t know about the sea buy it.
At the grocery store, the vegetables were much more colourful than the ones you see in Japanese supermarkets, and there were heaps of fresh fruits. The fruits and vegetables were displayed on wooden shelves, just like the European markets I saw on TV.
Every now and then, the shopkeeper would use magic to blow mist from his hands to moisten the vegetables. The tomato-like vegetables, moistened by the magic, looked delicious.
However, I was troubled by the fact that every time I peeked into a store, the owners kept pushing food into my hands, asking me to taste it. It reminded me of the sweet chestnut sellers I used to see in Chinatown, and it made me feel strange. I couldn’t eat lunch anymore because I was so full from all the food I was offered.
I was especially disappointed since I had high hopes eating some of the food sold by the street vendors here. I wanted to curse my character for not being able to say no.
At the butcher shop, I was shocked by many things.
A freshly squeezed chicken hanging from the eaves of the store, a pig-like creature with a mysterious horn growing out of it. Something hairy was peering at us from inside a basket. And there was also some purple mystery meat.
I was not sure if I would have had the necessary courage to visit this place without Jade. I think the butcher shop was the most chaotic. You could hear the squeals of different creatures, probably futures products, from the back of the store. Soon after, I heard the sound of a blade being swung down, and my cheek tensed up.
At that moment I thought to myself that it would be better to take the Prince up on his offer of providing me with ingredients, at least when it comes to meat products.
Outside there were various stalls lining the roadside.
Many of them were apothecaries displaying bottles of herbs and potions. One of the stalls smelled strangely like herbal medicine.
There was a line of colourful bottles with unknown properties, a green smoke rising from an incense burner placed right next to them, and an apothecary with a bored expression who was puffing steam out of a water pipe.
Amongst them, I saw an old man in a suspicious-looking robe selling spices and herbs with a pungent aroma. I saw that there were people who looked like apothecaries buying from him. He seemed to be selling the raw materials for the apothecary’s potions. In addition to the spices and herbs, I was also able to find some charred lizards and some sort of eyeballs. –‘I wonder if they boiled them…?’
After witnessing their medicine, I was determined to avoid injury and disease as much as possible.
The ingredients in this other world ranged from the unfamiliar to the familiar when compared to those from my world. And even though some looked like ingredients I knew, they were actually different, which was always a surprise.
For example, when you broke open a yellow melon-like textured fruit, you would find that the inside was actually red like a watermelon. There were so many surprises hidden in every single fruit, and it was so exciting that I wanted to look at it forever.
However, while it had been fun to look at the strange variety, it didn’t make it any easier for a cook from another world to choose its ingredients.
Even if you have something you want to make, if you didn’t know what to use as ingredients, it was not going to be easy.
Especially since my sister only wanted to eat “food from the original world.”
How do you recreate a dish with ingredients from another world that were unfamiliar to you? There was only one thing I could do.
I got in front of the grocery store and began scrutinising the wares.
“Miss Akane, please give me your hand.”
Jade’s voice was as gentle as ever as he held out his hand to me. Looking alternately between his large hand and Jade’s face, I let out a small sigh.
I gently placed my hand in his and tried my best to avoid looking in Jade’s direction and focused instead on the fruit in front of me.
Then, gradually, I could feel the warmth of magic flowing from Jade’s hand into mine. It spread from the palm of my hand to the rest of my body, dispersing slowly through my veins.
It felt so good, I couldn’t help but swoon. After a while, when I felt that it had travelled through all parts of my body, I squinted my eyes a little and said, in the quietest voice I could manage:
A strange black window appeared in front of my vision and told me a lot of new information about the fruit.
…..For example, it allowed me to know things like this.
This fruit is harvested in the winter and spring when the snow melts.
The small red fruit is often used to make juice because of its high sugar content.
In the snowy northern regions, when the liquorice fruit sprouts out of the snow it marks the advent of spring.
The processed, candied products are popular as wedding gifts.
The taste is similar to Earth’s blueberries.]
This was magic.
Moreover, it seemed to be a rare form of magic, only available to people summoned from outside this world.
According to my sister, this was a frequently seen type of magic among those who travelled to a different world, and it allowed you to examine everything in that world just by putting magic power into it and saying [Appraisal].
Moreover, she also slowly explained to me its counterpart often found in the fantasy novels from our previous world.
To be honest, when I found out about this, I was a bit dismayed at how convenient this magic was, but you can’t deny its usefulness. In a different world where watermelons looked like melons, there was nothing more useful if you wanted to prepare a decent meal.
Yes, there was no way not to use it. It would be a crime not to, I understand that very well. But it still felt like a cheat either way.
After I finished with the evaluation of the liquorice fruit, I suddenly felt a gaze on me and looked around to find him standing right there next to me.
My eyes met with Jade’s, who looked at me happily with his dazzling smile.
I was not sure why, but we continued to remain silent while staring in each other’s eyes.
Jade was all smiles. While I had a flustered expression and an unnatural smile on my face.
Despite there being such differences…
“I have finished appraising the item, so you can let go of my hand now.”
“You still have other things to appraise, don’t you? I’m fine with us holding hands until you finish. “
“No, just doing it when there’s an express need for it is fine with me.”
“So, you’re still going to appraise other things too, right?”
“Huh, well. You’re right, although. We don’t really need to keep our hands connected all the time. I’m sure you’ll be annoyed by it.”
“I don’t mind, do you?“
“You don’t listen… “
“As I said it’s no bother. “
In order to use magic, you needed magic power, and unlike my sister, I didn’t have a lot of magical power at my disposal, my attributed specs being too ordinary.
Also, appraisal magic required a certain amount of magic power, and my magical ability wasn’t high enough to use it continuously. That was why Jade, my escort knight who can also use magic, offered to lend me his magic power.
“I am grateful to him for that. I am grateful but… “
According to Jade, for some reason, you needed to hold hands in order to transfer magic power. He said he could do it by standing behind me and putting his hand on my back, but for some reason he wanted to hold my hand. With his usual smile, he squeezed my hand while saying this was the most efficient way.
In the end I decided to just roll with it and gave up on the subject. But for some reason after each time I finished appraising a product and turned to look at Jade, he always stares at me with this happy look on his face like he was having a great time. I wish he would stop that. I also wish he would stop caressing my hand from time to time with his thumb. I couldn’t help but feel a little uncomfortable. The thought of those beautiful honey-coloured eyes looking at me often made me go weak in the knees.
‘What’s with this person. Really what’s with him… Here I was trying really hard to convince my heart not to get any wrong ideas and he then proceeds to look at me with his happy and gentle smile.’
In the back of my mind, I have this weird fantasy that Jade might have a thing for me.
… Really, please give me a break.
While fretting inside my mind, I repeated the appraisal in a desperate attempt to get done with it already and to quickly finish buying all the necessary ingredients.
Thanks to this, I think I’ve got most of what I needed in record time.
Now, it was time to have my sister’s favourite food ready for tonight’s dinner.
With that in mind, I casually and gently let go of his hand, thanking Jade for lending me his magical power, while feigning a neutral expression on my face as if the fact that we held hands was nothing to be flustered about.