“Normally, we would be talking in my warm and comfortable office, but we don’t have that luxury here, so let’s just talk here for now.”
We went into the only hotel in the town and sat down at a table. This hotel is the one that previously loaned food from us. The hotel has reopened now, but there are few customers. I sat down at the table. The girl came up to us with a smile and asked, “May I ask what you two would like?”
“Ah, I know this hotel. I came to this town a few years ago when I was about your age. I ate here before. I remember that you had that dish with ears as an ingredient. That was tasty, so let’s go with that.”
The man answered before I could ask for a menu. He looked at the girl and took out a gold coin. With a smile, he said, “Bring a bottle of wine as well. Keep the change.”
“Ah… All right, all right. The dish with ears as an ingredient has always been our main dish. However, we have not made it in the last two years. Do not worry, though, as my father is still around, and he will, therefore, be able to make it exactly as back then.”
The girl revealed a nostalgic smile as she put the coin away in her front breast pocket very carefully. She then went to the back of the kitchen.
The man watched the young girl leave then nostalgically looked around. He then turned back to face me with a smile. He said, “I really miss those days. I was just a starting merchant, who just entered the business world back then. I didn’t know anything. That’s why I came here to collect fur. Back in the day, this place wasn’t a town. It was actually a place for people from nearby villages and wandering people to gather to sell fur. Back then, there was only a small canopy set up, which acted as a store. It was freezing here. At night, I’d eat their ear dish here and drink wine. This place has now become a town after so long, and the small canopy has become a hotel now.”
I just nodded gently.
‘I’m not interested in this town’s past. I’m only interested in its present and future.’
The girl returned. She placed two cups and a bottle of wine down in front of us. The wine was very transparent. The smell of it rushed to my nose as soon as the lid was opened. The girl poured us each a cup and then went back. She then brought to the table two strange piping-hot dishes and a small dish with piping-hot rye bread on it.
I looked at the strange meat stew. The meat inside took on the shape of ears. I’ve only ever had large pork ears similar to this. These clearly weren’t pork ears, though. The man in front of me cheerfully picked up the spoon from the side to scoop up a spoon of stew. He shut his eyes and pursed his lips as though he was carefully savouring the taste. Time can never be turned back, but taste and smell can make one recall their deep memories. Once your taste buds taste the flavour again, the smell of the fair and the cold of the snowy night will appear in front of your eyes again. They say that one’s five senses are connected. In this moment, the taste did indeed help the man pass through time.
I curiously picked up the spoon and had a taste. The taste made me feel as though the previous half of my life was lived for nothing. The strong smell and texture swished in my mouth. Not even the most premium beef could have this taste if grilled. It was light and easy to eat, yet you could still taste the beauty of the fat. The ears were stewed until they were tender, so once I put it in my mouth, the meat would spread all around, and it tasted magnificent.
“These ears are from a rodent in the forest that can jump. The rodent uses these large ears to jump from tree to tree.”
The man then placed his spoon down. He looked at me with a smile while I was happily enjoying the delicacy. With a smile, he continued, “You haven’t tasted it when you live in this town? You’re slow with information, then. I always missed this delicious taste after having it, but unfortunately, never had the chance to taste it again.”
I somewhat embarrassingly placed the spoon down. I assumed we came here to talk about something important, yet I ended up almost forgetting about it.
‘It’d seem that I’m not quite yet mature. I have to avoid eating when discussing business in the future.’
The man picked up his cup of wine. I shook my head to indicate I don’t drink alcohol. He dawdled for a moment before smiling awkwardly and drinking it himself.
I then looked at him and said, “I am certain that you did not come to see me this time solely to try out these ears, correct? Did you not say you had something to discuss with me? I coincidentally have something I want to discuss, too.”
“You go first.”
He then placed his spoon down while maintaining his smile. He then went on, “But make it quick. Otherwise, my ears dish will go cold.”
“You are the person in charge of the company, so I hope that you can have a few merchants come here to organise a small market as done in the past, so that we can circulate our goods here. I will do my utmost to try and make it possible for everyone to sell fur next winter. Isn’t the fur here really good?”
“Can do. Once spring comes, we will choose a location to build a trading station.”
He gave an immediate response without any signs of hesitation. He then looked at me and added, “You can set the import and export taxes, as well as the volume of goods circulated. I’ll sign as long as it isn’t ridiculous.”
“Are you certain that you want to be that decisive?”
I looked at him with surprise. I do want for things to progress smoothly and quickly, but this speed is baffling.
‘Normally, this would make me feel that I’ve been tricked, but… now that I think about it, there doesn’t seem to be a problem…’
The man looked at me and nodded. He said, “The fact that you were able to procure food from there is a testament to your intelligence, and a smart man would not dig his own grave; hence, I trust that the tax rates you designate will be acceptable.”
He nodded before having another sip of his soup. He went on, “In addition, the newly appointed military chief for the North is a very serious man. I suspect that the chief you swapped him out for will be investigated. If I were you, I would prepare to deal with the food.”
“Don’t worry, food that’s been eaten can’t be investigated.”
I’ll distribute the extra food. The remaining twenty bags is the food that originally belonged to the town, so the army has no right to take it from us. As for the twenty bags sold to the elves, we just have to rip up the invoice and nobody will know what happened.
“Great then. My trip here this time was to discuss business. Since you’ve brought it up, let’s deal with it.”
After we finished the meal, the man stood up and with a smile. He said, “Let’s get along well in the future then. I’m very happy to do business with a smart man. Select a location and we’ll come to work on setting up once spring comes in.”
I nodded and subconsciously extended my hand out. The man looked at me with surprise. A moment after, he took my hands with both of his hands with a gleeful look. The touch of his hand truly disgusted me…
‘Please tell me you’re not gay…’
“Ah, one more thing.”
I suddenly thought of something just as we were about to leave. I turned to face the kid and said, “Make me two more serves… No, make that four serves of that ears dish. Here’s the payment.”
“That’s a big appetite.”
“No… I’m honestly full… but there are still two more people at home… Oh, speaking of Veirya reminds me of something. Your bodyguard, Angelina and Veirya are related, right? Are they sisters? They’re so alike that I’m not convinced that they’re not sisters. It’s also evident that the two of them have some disagreement. What’s their relationship?”
I pulled him gently. Angelina was outside. I don’t know if she heard me or not, but I was hoping she didn’t. I want to know more about Veirya.
The man looked at me with smile that indicated he was pleased with himself. It appeared as if he was waiting for me to ask that question. He softly chuckled and replied, “Their relationship… is that of mother and daughter!”