Saturday, July 31, 2021

Have a Cup of Coffee after School in the Fantasy World Café V1 (3 of 5)

 Intermission: A Cup of Coffee After School

Translator: Skythewood

Editor: Hiiro

After school, Linaria came to return the lunch box, then went back to the academy a short while later. She seemed to have something on in the school.

There weren't any customers in the shop, so I was bored out of my mind.

The door chime rang, and a girl wearing the same Arialu School of Wizardry uniform like Linaria came in. If Linaria’s hair was like the setting sun, then this girl had hair like the ocean in summer.

The girl walked into the shop with large strides, then looked around the shop curiously. She acted as if this was only natural, and I couldn’t sound out a greeting.

First time visitors to the shop had two main ways of reacting—— acting as if they were already familiar with the shop, or arching their bodies unconsciously. She was obviously the former and looked very confident, or maybe she was used to being the center of attention.

The girl finally turned to me and locked eyes with me. This was the first time someone stared at me so intensely. She approached slowly, and I couldn’t tear my eyes away.

The girl came before me, dropped her gaze to my waist, then back up to my face. The term 「evaluate」 came to my mind.

I felt uncomfortable being stared at from so closed up, and was about to say something when the girl spoke:

「You made a lunch box for Linaria-san?」

「…… Huh?」

She had a clear and pleasant voice, as if she was whispering right beside my ear. Her voice surprised me, but the content shocked me even more, and I couldn’t answer her properly.

「I’m asking if you made a lunch box for Linaria-san?」

She looked right at me and asked the same thing.

「That’s me.」

「Can you make the same thing again?」

I tilted my head in confusion. This was the first time anyone asked me that.

「Erm, I’m out of ingredients, so that would be difficult right now.」

「I see, I will ask you again in a few days.」

「A few days?」

She nodded at my question:

「Yes, make the same lunch box.」

My brain hurts thinking about what was going on. Was she Linaria’s friend? Did she want to eat the same thing after seeing Linaria’s lunch box?

I thought about that as the girl said to me with her clear voice:

「Where does Linaria-san usually sit?」


That wasn’t how I should attend to a customer. I carelessly slipped back to my usual tone.

The girl sighed and put her hands on her hips:

「I said, where does Linaria-san usually sit? She would always sit at the same place in the classroom and the library, that’s how she is. So she should have a regular seat when she visits this shop, right?」

The corners of my mouth twitched a little, and I felt cold sweat on my back.

「Erm, over there.」

「Thank you.」

I timidly gestured to Linaria’s regular seat, and the girl walked boldly over, observed the seat, but didn’t sit down.

「Erm, is something the matter?」


She said as she pulled out the seat beside Linaria’s regular seat.

「You aren’t going to sit there, huh……」

I couldn’t help muttering, since I thought she wanted to take Linaria’s regular seat. She glared at me and said:

「I won’t do something so rude. And sitting beside that is better.」

She tucked in her skirt near her butt and sat down gracefully, mesmerizing me with her elegant movements. If not for her brazen actions, I would have thought she was a high born lady.

I prepared iced water and wet towels as I wondered how to deal with that girl. I couldn’t chase her away since that might cause trouble for Linaria.

「What does Linaria-san usually order?」

She asked when I served her iced water. I thought she might ask, and was ready to answer.

「Let’s see, she always drinks Coffee.」


Coffee with a large amount of sugar and milk to be precise, so I wasn’t lying. That’s right, I just skip some of the details to promote Coffee.

「It’s a type of beverage preferred by adults.」

「I see, as expected of Linaria-san…… Please give me the same.」

I made a victory gesture under the bar counter. Step by step, I was promoting the charm of Coffee. While I prepared to brew the Coffee, the girl casually surveyed the shop.

I remembered Linaria’s conversation with Gramps Goru when she first visited the shop. She was targeted by nobles and found it hard to stay in the academy, so she was looking for a place to study in peace.

I peeked at the blue-haired girl.

Was this girl one of those nobles?

I thought Linaria meant being harassed or picked on, I never thought she was being stalked.

I gulped.

After serving the brewed Coffee to her, the girl observed the Coffee quietly, then stole a glance at me that said 「this is a beverage?」

Even so, she still reached for the cup since I said this was what Linaria usually drinks.

The girl closed her eyes tightly and furrowed her brows as she moved her lips to the cup as if she was drinking lethal poison. The moment her lips touched the Coffee, she opened her eyes wide like an innocent girl who thought candies were star shards

「It’s tasty.」

I was shocked, it had been so long since a customer told me that.

She took another sip, then another.

「It’s a little bitter, but I don’t dislike it. Some food becomes more fragrant when roasted, but I never thought this applies for a beverage too. The aftertaste is refreshingly sour……」

She mumbled and took a few more sips as if to confirm something. I was almost moved to tears. That was right! This was how the Coffee blend was supposed to be! To think someone understood it.

「As expected of Linaria-san, she could understand the depths of this flavour.」

She nodded in awe, approving of everything that Linaria did. And of course, I couldn’t tell her that Linaria couldn’t appreciate the taste of Coffee.

However, was she really Linaria’s stalker?

It was my belief those who understand the charm of Coffee couldn’t be bad people.

「What is your relationship with Linaria……?」

I couldn’t help asking.

「We are classmates, and Linaria-san is someone I admire.」

She told me matter of factly.


「That’s right, Linaria-san had outstanding results last year, and even surpassed me. I couldn’t catch up with Linaria-san despite my efforts, this was the first time I encountered something like this.」

I nodded in understanding.

「You feel vexed by this and detest her?」

Normally, people would hold a grudge, unhappy about her getting first place and whatnots. But she looked confused when I asked her that.

「I did my best and fell short, that means Linaria-san worked harder than me, right? I should be praising her instead, why would I hold a grudge?」

I nodded in agreement. It was as she said, but it was difficult for people to cut off their emotions from the facts.

「I know Linaria-san studied until late in the night, and would study from morning till night during our days off. I admire her because I saw how hard she worked. She also shouldered the troubles of being first place in my stead, which was a relief.」

She showed her true feelings at the end there. And she knew about Linaria studying all the time because she was peeping at Linaria. I couldn’t tell whether she was a stalker or a good person, was she easy to approach or preferred to avoid hassles—— anyway, she wasn’t someone I could offend.

「Speaking of which, why do you address Linaria-san without honorifics?」

She put down her cup and turned to me with a smile.

Her eyes weren’t smiling, and I shuddered.


I scrambled for an excuse but couldn’t think of anything. I could only curse my mouth for being so mindless. I thought about how I could fudge through this, but realized it was too late.

She was smiling brightly at me with her back straight and her hands on her knees, staring at me with perfect posture. Things that were perfect had a natural imposing aura.

「Recently, Linaria-san would leave the academy after school, which bothers me. She was sneakingly eating her lunch for some reason too.」

She continued:

「I couldn’t fathom why, so I followed her in secret and came to this place. I’m shocked that Linaria-san visit here almost everyday, and what’s your relationship with Linaria-san for you to address her by name like that?」

She was all smiles. What should I do? Suddenly, a thought flashed across my mind.

Why did I need an excuse?

There wasn’t any scandalous thing between Linaria and me, so I didn’t need to act like a guy caught cheating on his wife. Or rather, it was unreasonable for her to interrogate me like this.

「I know, you must be an employee here, right? There is no way you can even talk with Linaria-san.」

She nodded with a face that said: 「Yes, that must be it」and I retaliated with a smile:

「Linaria and I spend time together in the shop everyday. We are very close.」


I said with an exaggerated tone. The girl bit her lips and glared at me.

「T-That’s a lie. Linaria-san would never chat happily with a man.」

I cut her off and said: 「Linaria’s lunchbox isn’t sold in this shop, I made it specially for her.」

「What did you say!?」

The girl stood up and raised her voice.

「Well, Linaria wanted to eat my lunchbox no matter what, so I had to make one for her. She likes my cooking the most after all.」

「What…… did…… you……」

「I chat with Linaria after school every day.」

「S-So envious……」

The girl’s face would change with every word I say. She started trembling with both hands on the bar counter, and lowered her head.

「I’m not jealous at all!」

She suddenly looked up and yelled, which made me reel back.

「How sly! I muster my courage to talk to her every day, but to no avail! You are too much!」

「Didn’t you say you aren’t vexed or feel detested?」

「I don’t care about something that happened in the past. I just want to beat you up right now.」

Her eyes were serious and her noble lady image was gone. Only a cat growling at its enemy was left. I seemed to have teased her too much. I also realized that teasing her was fun.

「Erm, what’s your name?」

I couldn’t keep calling her ‘girl’ in my mind, so I tried to be cool and ask for her name.

「Why do I need to tell you?」

She said haughtily.

「I will call you noble girl then.」

「Then I will call you plebeian.」

She retaliated right back at me. Her reaction was really interesting, but I don’t want her to call me plebeian. The noble girl slumped weakly into her chair, leaning onto the backrest while hanging her head.

「How sly…… I haven’t talked to her properly yet, and you had chats with her without me knowing, and grew close enough to call her by name… How sly, I’m envious, you are cocky for a plebeian.」

She kept grumbling, but I didn’t want to respond because she was so depressed.

I understood the feeling of someone you want to know better getting friendlier with someone else before you realize it. I thought about how to console her, but it all seemed too shallow. I reflected on being too mean to her.

She kept mumbling 「just a plebeian」 for a while, then raised her head and sat properly.

「I won’t lose, I will be better friends with Linaria-san than you. I will become friends with her first, so just watch.」

She declared with gusto.

「Do your best.」

「I will crush your casual attitude!」

I was just sincerely cheering for you.

She finished the Coffee in one gulp, then tossed a bag of copper coins onto the bar counter as she stood up.

「Thank you for your hospitality. This is my first time having Coffee, and it doesn’t taste bad.」

「Oh, yes, thank you.」

She nodded politely, and I bowed in response. My movements must be stiff since she covered her smile and giggled. She pushed her chair back and walked to the entrance.

「Oh, wait.」

I called out to her.

「Keep the change.」

She said without stopping. No, that wasn’t it.

「It’s not enough.」

The girl stopped. She turned around stiffly and looked at me, her snow white face turning red.

「I see, that’s embarrassing.」

She returned to the bar counter with downcast eyes and paid the balance. I knew how awkward she felt and didn’t say anything. If I tease her now, she might commit sudoku.

The girl paid the bill then walked to the door quicker than before.


When the door was half open, I called out to the girl. Thinking I was going to tease her, her shoulders shuddered warily.

「Please come again.」

She was silent.

「…… I will come again when I’m friends with Linaria-san. This is a place she cherish, and I will disturb her if I visit.」

My chest tightened at her show of consideration. I would be spoiling the mood if I said anything now.

「I see, then I will wait for that day.」

「Yes, farewell, plebeian.」

She then said:

「I’m Aina, Ainaleila.」

When I realized that was her name, she had already left. The door was closed before I could call out to her and tell her my name.

It would be great if we could meet again one day—— I thought in my heart.

I would introduce myself properly when that time comes. The day when she became friends with Linaria, and the three of us could chat in the shop happily would be so much fun. She was clumsy, but not a bad person.

The back of the girl that was in my shop until moments ago was still fresh on my mind.

The next morning.

I was making preparations to open the shop when I saw a girl standing outside.

「Too slow, plebeian. I waited really long. Oh right, I want the same lunch box as Linaria-san, can you make one? Right now.」

「…… Hey…… You……」

「Wait, why are you sighing? How rude.」

「…… It has just been one day… You’re……」

「It can’t be helped, I want to eat the same lunch box as Linaria-san.」

「…… How do I put this…… You……」

Aren’t you visiting again too soon?

Chapter 4: Hamburg steak grilled with Tomatoes and Mushrooms

There was something I couldn’t understand. It was a simple question, so I didn’t actually ask anyone. When I close my eyes in bed or when I stare at the ceiling in the shower, I would think about it at times.

Why would time pass without me realizing?

When I was still a child, I would think a day was unbearably long, and the clock hand would move so slowly. But now, the clock hand moved swiftly and a day flew by in a blink of an eye. When I realized it, the seasons had changed, and it had been five years since I met that friend, and so forth.

Time would sprint without you realizing it, leaving us behind. To keep up, we needed to do everything we could. We would forget and miss things at times, and when we realized it, it would have been too late.

It was impossible to slow time down now, but we still needed time to stop and look at the things important to us.

To sit down, put down your load, relax your shoulders, take a breather and order a strong cup of Coffee. A shop separate from the world, and spend time that belongs to you—— That’s a Café.

I wanted to be an owner that operated such a shop. I wiped the glasses as I thought about all that.

Why? Because I’m bored.

As usual, there weren’t many patrons here, but it wasn’t completely deserted either. It was a big improvement compared to when I first opened.

In this world, the only way to advertise was by word of mouth. I could distribute flyers or erect a signboard, but the cost would be absurdly high. So I could only improve my sales one at a time.


I shouldn’t rush things, but I naturally felt anxious after several days without many customers.

I was grateful to the regulars who visit from time to time, so I could make ends meet. But there would be times that I would be too worried to sleep, and I would take afternoon naps at times like that.

I was wiping the glasses as usual today when the door chimed, notifying of a guest.

A tall and slender woman walked in with her silver hair swaying behind her. Her footsteps were so soft that I wondered if she was walking on air, and her walking posture drew my gaze. The corners of her eyes were high and dignified, while her face had a gentle expression.

Given her height, her impression was more cool than cute—— the woman, Arbel-san, walked to the bar counter like a model and sat down.

「Good Afternoon, Café Master.」

「Welcome, Arbel-san. It’s rare seeing you at noon.」

「Yes, I returned late from the Labyrinth last night, so today is a rest day.」

「That’s why you are in casual wear.」

When Arbel-san dropped by the shop after work, she would wear light armour befitting an adventurer, armed with a sword. However, Arbel-san was different today. She didn’t wear her armour nor sword, wearing a light coloured knight uniform, paired with pants and boots that accentuate the curves of her legs.

This might be a plain and simple attire, but Arbel-san’s elegant beauty was still outstanding.

I wanted to take a picture, make a poster and put it up in my room.

By the time I realized it, Arbel-san was looking at me worriedly.

「It’s troubling if you stare at me like that… Is any part of me weird?」

She seemed to have misunderstood because I was staring.

「It’s nothing, I was thinking about my room decor.」


「Nothing, this attire suits you very well, there’s nothing strange.」

I blurted out my thoughts accidentally, and corrected myself. Arbel-san sighed in relief and said with a smile:

「I’m glad to hear you say that. I know you will never lie to me, Café Master.」

「Because there’s no need to. I will find a more suitable phrase to compliment you before our next meeting.」

「I look forward to it. Can you give me the usual, a cup of blended Coffee?」

Arbel-san flicked her hair as she said that.

She was always doing that, which reminded me of a scene from a movie. She was like a top model or a goddess level actor, but her real identity was an adventurer making a living in the Labyrinths, which surprised me the most.

And best of all, Arbel-san was a rare Coffee connoisseur. I added hot water into the Vacuum Coffee maker and turned on the mana light, Arbel-san closed her long lashed eyes to feel the slow mood in the shop. Shortly after, the bubbling sound from the Vacuum Coffee maker broke the silence in the shop.

「Please enjoy.」

I poured the extracted Coffee into a cup and served it to Arbel-san. She opened her eyes and looked my way.

「Thank you.」

She looked at me and thanked me at the same time, making my heart race. This must be the charm of an adult. Arbel-san picked up the cup, took in the fragrance, and had a sip.

「Hmm, delicious.」

「I’m glad to hear that.」

「The Coffee made by the Café Master is still the best.」

「I’m grateful for your compliment.」

Arbel-san smiled, and I smiled back. She would always say that when drinking my Coffee, and I would answer the same way. This was like our fixed way of greeting.

「It would be great if I could drink Coffee in the Labyrinth. Chewing Coffee beans to drive away the drowsiness is too boring.」

I smiled awkwardly. In this world, Coffee beans were treated like a drug that kept you awake, and were chewed while raw. It didn’t go through the tedious process of roasting and grinding, so Coffee wasn’t a common beverage.

Which meant the beverage I call Coffee was an unknown drink to the people in this world. More people learned to appreciate Coffee because of my efforts, but it didn’t sell at all when I first started. That was only natural. Only a weirdo would drink an unknown dark beverage made with the beans used to keep one awake.

And that weirdo was Arbel-san.

She only tried it because of my recommendation, but after drinking the Coffee I brewed, Arbel-san became a die hard fan. Before going to the Labyrinth, after her adventures or during her days off, she would walk in whenever she was free, then go back after a few cups of Coffee.

I appreciate her regular patronage, but she drank so much that I was afraid of her getting Coffee poisoning.

Arbel-san stook a sip before putting her Coffee down and said:

「It’s nice that the shop is quiet whenever I visit.」

Arbel-san said and squinted because of the sunlight from the window.

「Because this is a normal place.」

Arbel-san smiled when she heard that.

「Normal? I often forget that term, especially when I have spent a few days in the Labyrinth.」

I didn’t affirm what she said.

The Labyrinth situated at the heart of the city was an unknown monster hellscape. The Labyrinth led deep underground, and it wasn’t clear if it had an end. The adventurers were still delving deeper, battling voracious and incredible creatures, and was a far cry from normal.

「I had been busy because the academy is holding live exercises in the Labyrinths.」

「Oh, that class they hold every year.」

「Yes, that one.」

We looked at each other and smiled wryly.

The School of Wizardry was situated in the Central District, and mock labyrinth battle was a lesson for the upperclassmen. As the name implied, they would battle against monsters in the relatively safe starting levels. Students who wanted to be adventurers or join the Wizardry guild would take this class. Hence, only the more confident students would participate.

「And you are busy because this year……」

「That’s right, my party has been selected to take charge.」

「That sound tedious.」

The most difficult people to babysit were overconfident novices. Tens of students enter the Labyrinth together, but they couldn’t even analyze their own strength objectively. And the first few floors weren’t completely safe either.

「Upperclassmen who had entered the Labyrinths several times would take part in mock battles, but accidents might still happen, so the support of adventurers are needed.」

Arbel-san said as she fidgeted with her hair.

「Was it tough?」

「What do you think?」

Arbel-san looked at me as if she was asking me to guess.

「How tough was it?」

I asked curiously, and Arbel-san shook her head with a rare tired expression.

「I’m not good at teaching others or leading people. If I have a choice, I will rather fight an ogre alone with just a sword.」

「That’s really bad.」

Ogre were a higher tier of goblins, they were the size of humans and had amazing strength. Arbel-san would rather challenge it by herself with just a sword, which showed how tough it was to take care of the students.

「No matter how much they were taught in class, they couldn’t understand how dangerous the Labyrinths are. They believe everything written in books and think they understand the Labyrinths very well. I know they are good at studying, but they don’t understand that reality is different from the books. I’m worried that someone might die on that day.」

They might be upperclassmen, but they were like high schoolers like me. To inexperienced youngsters like us, objectively analyzing the situation, grasping our limits and acting based on these two factors were very difficult.

「They are still young, and people my age tend to be hasty.」

When she heard that, Arbel-san opened her eyes wide in surprise.

「What’s with that gaze?」

I said with narrowed eyes, and Arbel-san chuckled:

「Nothing, I was just surprised by how you’re underestimating yourself.」

「Underestimating myself…… I’m just a mere Café Master though? A commoner that you can find anywhere.」

<TL: >

「That’s not true. At least I have high expectations of you, you are not like the kids in the academy.」

「No no, I’m not that great or knowledgeable. And look, I’m not strong at all.」

I spread my arms to let Arbel-san see my frail body. Arbel-san stroked her chin and appraised me with her eyes. Oh, what was this feeling? A pretty big sister was looking at my body, and the emotions that were welling up… Could it be love?

「You don’t have much muscles.」


「And your hand don’t seem used to a sword.」


「You have nice skin.」

「That’s a weird thing to note.」

「Your fingers are long and slender, and your eyelashes are long.」

「Oh, is that so?」

「Hmm…… What's with you, are you really a boy? Rather than being frail, you are like a girl. It will be hard to tell with some make up.」

「No no no, we aren’t talking about that right now.」

Arbel-san muttered softly, then got back on track after hearing my retorts.

「I see. You are too weak to be an adventurer, but strength in a human isn’t decided purely by power, right?」

I nodded in agreement.

「And you give the impression of a tree ring.」

「Tree ring?」

The rings that were seen around the cut surface of a tree, the type used for tree ring dating?

「You have the maturity of someone in his thirties.」


I wasn’t sure even if she told me that. Arbel-san nodded firmly.

「I had many chances to interact with children your age, but I have never met someone like you. Why are you so polite?」

I couldn’t help smiling when I heard that.

「I can’t answer even if you ask me that. Probably because of the environment I grew up in.」

「I had always been curious about the mysteries around you. Your eye and hair colour, your foreign facial features. Your way with numbers, choice of numbers and attention to detail made you well mannered, but you are surprisingly lacking in common sense. I thought you were a foreign noble or a child from a wealthy family……」

Arbel-san’s eyes were sharp, and I could feel a chill on my nape. She was intimidating just by looking serious, just how terrifying would she be in a fight in the Labyrinths?

While I was reeling from Arbel-san’s eyes and deductions, the pressure suddenly vanished.

「Sorry, my bad habits are showing. Everyone has their own secrets, I don’t mean to pry.」

「No, it’s fine, I’m used to it.」

「But you are really intriguing.」

Arbel-san said as she sipped on her Coffee.

「Since it’s a surprise that you can make such a tasty beverage.」

She smiled seductively at me, and no one could stay calm after seeing that, right? T-That’s right. I didn’t propose to her on the spot because the door chime was ringing. I snapped out of my stupor and looked at the door to find a petite figure entering with wobbly steps.

It was Nortri.

It was bright outside the shop, but there was a gloom only around her. Her blue hair that looked like condensed rainwater was tied into two braids, and her cat ears were drooping lazily as usual. Her dazed eyes looked sleepy, and her hunched demeanour made her look like an old woman tired of living.

Nortri sat at the second seat from the window, which was her regular seat, and put her cheeks onto the bar counter.

「Yu…… the usual……」

「Good Morning, Nortri, you are lethargic today too.」

I couldn’t help smiling. Nortri was a regular here, although I was worried about her pessimistic worldview, I knew she was a strong and lively child.

It was rude to leave Arbel-san alone, but I still started brewing Coffee. Making the warm Café au lait that Nortri liked was hard work.

I already did this numerous times after the shop opened, so I was quick with my movements and extracted Coffee in no time. After mixing in warm milk, I added sugar to taste.

I served the Café au lait to the lazing Nortri. She stared at the bowl, then raised her heavy head and blew on the Coffee. I thought she would drink it now, but she put her head down again. She just did whatever she wanted.

Her skin was as white as snow and her face was petite. If her eyes looked lively, she would be really charming. However, if Nortri really wasn’t motivated to do anything, she wouldn’t have visited here either. This was just like Nortri, and was one of her charm points.

「Nortri, what about school? There are classes right now, right?」

Nortri raised her head when she heard that.

「…… School……?」

「Don’t act like this is the first time you heard that term.」

「No…… class…… today.」

「That can’t be true, I saw students in uniform walked past the shop today.」

「They’re…… from another academy……」

「There’s only one academy in this city.」

Cold sweat broke out on Nortri’s forehead as she chewed on her lips. I pressed her with questions without giving her time to find excuses. I picked up the bowl of Café au lait and fanned the steam her way with my hand. Nortri groaned in protest and finally gave in.

「I skipped school……」

「Yes, good.」

「That’s not good.」

I turned towards the source of the retort and saw Arbel-san watching us with an awkward smile. I waved to acknowledge her.

「So, would you like to have lunch?」

I asked Nortri, but she shook her head slowly, it seemed like she wasn’t hungry. I saw something move from the corner of my eye and turned that way.

Arbel-san was waving a little. I thought she wanted to call me over, but Arbel-san said with a blush:

「I want to have lunch.」

She curled her body, cast her gaze down and said that with a squeaking voice. I was at a loss. I trembled at the discovery of such a cute creature in this world. After exhaling to calm myself, I nodded with a smile:

「What would you like to have?」

「Anything fresh will be fine, since I have been eating bland travel rations since yesterday.」

Arbel-san smiled, cocking her head as if she was probing me, her eyes filled with mischief.

I crossed my arms in contemplation.

It would be too simple if I go with salad just because she mentioned fresh ingredients. She said she had been eating rations for the past few days, so it must have been a while since she last ate properly cooked meals. In the Labyrinth, nutrition took priority, so the food has a heavy taste for easy preservation, with the dry ration being hard and tough like biscuits or jerky.

So the most suitable thing would be that—— I showed a taunting smile at Arbel-san.

「I will let you taste my ace in the hole.」

I walked into the kitchen, and took out my ace in the hole from the refrigerator. There were just two on the tray, so it was really my last trump card. I was still experimenting with this, so the numbers were limited.

Arbel-san wanted to see what I brought and leaned over the counter, how cute. I took out the pan and turned on the heat without a word, then took out the ingredients and seasonings from the cabinet and refrigerator, and laid them on the table.

Thanks to the tomatoes Corleone-san brought over, my diet was filled with tomatoes, and I research tomato dishes every day. Hence, this ace in the hole would use tomatoes too.

First, I would fry the mushrooms excavated from the Labyrinth. These mushrooms would release a large amount of water when heated, creating stock with condensed natural freshness.

Lots of Mushrooms could be found in the Labyrinths with as many varieties as they were stars. There were so many that an entire sector in the marketplace was filled with mushroom stalls. There were some that were obviously inedible, and types that looked more like fruits. However, there were so many varieties that I hadn’t researched the most delicious way to cook them yet.

For example, I was using a type that looked like oyster mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms, but the colour was black or red purple, so you would need to be brave enough to eat them. But if you heat them, the moisture inside would flow out to form stock, and could be drunk like soup.

These mushrooms were delicious and commonly treated as high class ingredients, but because of the abundant supply, it was cheap.

I started praising those mushrooms in my heart.

The mushrooms released the stock perfectly, and I moved them to the side. I gently placed the ace in the hole into the mushroom stock in the pan, then added in tomatoes that had been boiled and crushed into a mush, and lots of red wine. I then added seasoning and herbs to remove any gamey taste, and let it simmer.

「I’m surprised by the effort this dish requires. Does this shop sell high class cuisines?」

The wide-eyed Arbel-san said to me, and I laughed:

「No way, this is just my hobby.」

The ace in the hole was supposed to be my lunch. Thanks to the large amount of spices and ingredients found in the Labyrinths, the food culture in this city was amazingly high, even someone like me from modern society wouldn’t be dissatisfied here. However, that was also the reason why cooking techniques were undeveloped here.

The natural ingredients were tasty enough, so the people here didn’t want to research more to elevate the taste further, or to try different combinations.

They would sprinkle seasonings on meat and roast them, then change the seasoning if they got tired of it. There were many adventurers in this city, so most restaurants would sell strong tasting dishes that went well with beer. Even if you took the effort to cook it well, people might not even order that dish by itself. I heard the cooking techniques in the capital were more advanced, probably because the royals and aristocrats reside there.

I flipped my ace in the hole over from time to time, then sampled the sauce I was cooking. Hmm, not bad. Finally, I shaved off a slice of my brick-like cheese on top of the trump card, then covered it with a lid.

Arbel-san had finished her Coffee, and was waiting excitedly for the dish to be completed. I already served her sliced bread and a simple salad, but she ignored them, focusing only on the steam coming out of the pan.

I grabbed the lid like a magician and slowly took it off with a deliberate move. The steam and compressed fragrance gushed out like a mini explosion. The sweet and sourness of the tomatoes, the aroma of meat, and the sauce with the fresh essence of the mushrooms, all mixed together into an appetizing fragrance, and spread in the shop.

The Elf nee-san sitting in her regular seat kept stealing glances this way, and the old dwarf was twitching his nose, while Nortri was still sleeping.

I plated the ace in the hole covered in molten cheese, then poured generous portions of the sauce over it.

I straightened my back when I picked up the plate. As the person serving the dish, it would be a let down if I appeared listless. I made a show of walking elegantly and then presented the plate before Arbel-san.

「This is Hamburg steak grilled with Tomatoes and Mushrooms, a special dish made with delicious ingredients. Please enjoy.」

Arbel-san didn’t say a word as she looked at the Hamburg steak before her. She steeled herself and picked up her knife and fork to cut the Hamburg steak

When the fork stabbed into the Hamburg steak, the tender texture against her knife surprised her. She stopped, then sent a small piece of Hamburg steak into her mouth——

「…… Ohh, it’s delicious.」

That was all she could say.

She then ate the Hamburg steak in silence, cutting it into small portions and cherishing each bite, closing her eyes when she tasted it.

I was very happy to see her like that.

There was an indescribable joy seeing other people enjoying the food I cooked. I appreciated Arbel-san’s smile and the way she ate.

I then made lunch for Elf nee-san and the old Dwarf. They were regulars here and always ordered the same thing. Special salad, meatless hot pressed sandwich and fruit palette for Elf nee-san, roasted meat dishes with lots of spice for the old Dwarf. Nortri was still sleeping soundly.

When I served the hot pressed sandwich to Elf nee-san, she gestured at Arbel-san with her eyes, asking for that dish. When I told her 「that is meat」, she drooped her shoulders and looked crestfallen. She couldn’t eat meat after all.

When I served the spicy roast meat to the old Dwarf, he gestured towards Arbel-san with his nose, asking if I had more of that dish. When I told him 「that texture is very tender」, he groaned in agony, since he said he would only eat tough and chewy meat.

By the time I returned to the bar counter, Arbel-san had finished her Hamburg steak, bread and salad.

「This is the first time I ate a meat that’s so tender and delicious.」

After Arbel-san was done with her meal, she said while looking longingly at the plate that only had sauce on it.

「I’m happy to hear that.」

I took Arbel-san’s plate, and she cried out in a panic. I wouldn’t wash it right now, since I could do something more with it.

I poured the sauce back into the pan and heated it up, then added a small clump of butter when it was boiling. The butter had a strong taste, so if it was added into the Hamburg steak sauce, it would disrupt the natural flavour of the meat and delicate balance of the mushroom. However, it could change the leftover sauce into the main dish. I added Labyrinth salt to season, plated it, then served it to Arbel-san with a portion of bread.

「I recommend dabbing the bread into the sauce before eating.」


Arbel-san showed an innocent, brilliant smile that mesmerized me so much that I regretted not preparing a wedding ring ahead of time. When I saw the smiling Arbel-san eating happily, I felt it wasn’t a big deal that my dinner was gone.

It was getting late and my shop became less busy since the bars were opening now, and the adventurers and people who got off work all gathered there. I cleaned up the deserted shop by myself.

After washing the last batch of dishes, the timing was just right.

I took out the last Hamburg steak from the refrigerator, and started cooking the special grilled Hamburg steak. Keeping the person eating it in mind, I made it extra large.

With the noise from the distance in my ears, I nimbly made my dish.

After covering it with a lid to simmer, I heard the door chime. I looked at the door and saw the expected visitor.

「Hi, Linaria, Welcome.」

「Yes, may I come in?」

「Of course.」

Linaria tied her bright red hair into a ponytail, and was in her school uniform. She sat in her seat and sighed deeply, her imposing eyes seemed very tired.

「You look exhausted.」

「Yes, it’s almost exam day. I need to go back to the library to study after my meal.」

「…… You are so studious.」

「Yes, I’m very studious, isn’t that a good thing?」

She smiled at me, but I shook my head. Her charming smile was just her being tense because her exams were coming up.

I listened to the sizzling of the Hamburg steak as I prepared a sweeter Café au lait.

「Here, thank you for your hard work. Drink this while it’s warm to relax.」

「Thank you.」

The sound of Linaria blowing her Café au lait mixed with the sizzling Hamburg steak and the faraway noise outside. I listened to all these sounds with a smile.

「Why are you suddenly smiling.」

Linaria asked in surprise.

「This feels nostalgic.」

「Nostalgic? What’s nostalgic?」

「No, it’s nothing.」

I smiled at Linaria who was raising her eyebrow, then plated the Hamburg steak.

I served it to Linaria, and she smiled. Delicious food could open the hearts of people and make them smile. People were the accumulation of food after all, so if one’s diet was off, their body would become unhealthy. If they keep eating nasty food, their soul would become impoverished.

Linaria’s mood did a 180 compared to when she just visited, and was digging in cheerfully. Seeing that, I started preparing a sandwich.

By the time I put the sandwich into the lunchbox, Linaria had finished her meal.

「Thank you, that was delicious.」

「Linaria, here.」

I wrapped the lunch box with a cloth and handed it to her.

「For your supper.」

「…… Are you a housewife?」

「You can call me Mama.」


Linaria looked at me with narrowed eyes. Her pride as a woman was probably stopping her from calling me that.

「I’m going now.」

「Yes, do your best.」

Linaria left the shop with her ponytail swaying behind her.

She had finished the salad and bread before I realized it, and there wasn’t any sauce left on the plate. I picked up the plate and washed it swiftly. I thought about Linaria’s back in the empty shop.

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