4, Boiled Tofu of Lovesickness.(2nd Half)
I have someone I like.
The person who has always been leading us since we’ve been in the slums.
Someone who used to fight together with Cougar, jumping into the front lines, fighting enemies.
The five of us childhood friends are orphans. Losing our parents at an early age because of the war, we brought our shoulders together in order to survive.
Constantly thinking up ways to survive, to protect ourselves. We even stole. And hurt people as well.
But that person carried all of the pain, all the crime, on his tiny shoulders.
Someday I want to grow nearer to that shoulder. I want to carry his burden together.
I realised it was love shortly after we started the mercenary corp together. Whenever that person encounters danger, whenever we survive, it somehow ties our lives together.
I was constantly on the verge of losing the person I love.
I am Ahrius.
The commander in charge of the magicians unit in the mercenary corp that Ganglabe started.
On the battlefield, magicians are a threat.
Manipulating mana to drop fireballs down into the enemy camp, to defend against an endless downpour of arrows with a wall of ice, to intercept approaching enemies with blades of wind.
The strength and the types of usable magic are restricted by a person’s training. You can’t become a magician just by having talent.
Even if you have talent, most can only influence objects. Those are the craftsmen called magic engineers and magic craftsmasters.
Only one in ten thousand can train to manipulate mana, and only a tiny percentage of those can become magicians who manipulate magic.
Due to there being only so few magicians, my unit in all has only four people.
From an outsider’s point of view it’s more than enough though. Normally it’s good to even have a single magician, and if you have two then I believe there’s no way you’ll ever be in retreat.
And with four. There’s a reason why this mercenary corp rarely ever loses.
But there’s also a reason why our unit can’t grow.
Basically… they’re expensive. After defeating large amounts of enemies, and taking into account the weapon costs, as well as having providing payment in the form of wages.
If the payment for a magician is low then they would go to a different corp. Even now, magicians are very popular and they tend to go to places which treat them well.
Naturally, the troops I lead and I came to an agreement for a cheaper pay. But compared to the other troops we’re much more expensive.
Up till now my troops have been full of dissatisfaction, and keeping them together was tough, but there hasn’t been any complaints lately.
The reason is because of Shuri.
The pay is cheap, but the food is good.
Truthfully speaking, while other troops can’t have such delicacies, you can eat that here every time. It can improve your body condition and there’s a kid who’s happy that it improved their magic accuracy.
The pay is cheap but if you can eat Shuri’s cooking everyday then it’s still quite a lot cheaper than going to taverns here and there. Rather, that was the consensus of my subordinates.
If Shuri wasn’t here then we may have disbanded.
That day too, while we were eating lunch we happened to talk with the commanders.
Looking ahead I looked to my subordinates, it seems they were eating Shuri’s cooking and drinking alcohol.
“Drinking alcohol, what would happen if a battle were to happen right now!”
“No, Commander Ahrius. This, according to Shuri it’s too weak to be considered alcohol.”
Asking about it a bit more, the alcohol seems to be called Amazake.
“Shuri-kun said that if it’s alcohol it’ll warm us up. But it’ll be troublesome if we get drunk so, he made a drink which warms your body and hard to get drunk off”
“It seems like it would make your skin smooth as well”
“It’s sweet and easy to drink, hard to get drunk off, warms you up, and it’s good for your beauty and health. Shuri-kun is like a magician”
‘I’m glad I’m in this unit’, my three female subordinates seem happy.
It’s Shuri again huh.
Since he’s arrived the atmosphere of the corp has been constantly changing.
Ganglabe was starting to see the necessity of logistic management as well as the food situation in the corp.
Riru got an idea from Shuri, making new inventions and techniques.
Cougar raised his skill as if he expanded his understanding.
It’s just like Teg from the archery unit. Getting better and better while eating without a thought.
Similarly I’m also having troubles.
Forever making no progress with Ganglabe’s relationship.
While Riru, Cougar and the other units are making great contributions.
And recently I’m having problems with my magic’s accuracy.
I left telling my subordinates that I was going to a meeting.
Meeting up with Ganglabe, I see him drinking amazake again.
“Ganglabe, what would happen if you, as the commander, got drunk?”
“Ah, my amazake is a different type”
A different type?
“According to Shuri, it seems like the other amazake he distributed apart from mine have a tiny bit of alcohol in them. I heard that the raw materials he uses originates from alcohol.
I refused because I can’t get drunk but, then he went and made an amazake which used grain as the raw material. This has absolutely no alcohol in it.
This one has no alcohol in it, takes a bit more effort to make and is delicious and sweet. Furthermore it keeps your body warm.”
I felt slightly regretful seeing Ganglabe laughing happily.
Right now Ganglabe was happy with Shuri.
The one softening his burdens, standing next to him, was without a doubt his existence. Because of his existence both Riru and Cougar have changed. Ganglabe’s hardships have lessened and the corp has increased in size.
I wasn’t there.
Truth be told, the one who should be standing there is me.
I look to Shuri and he was handing amazake to Riru while sweetly talking to her.
I’m jealous of him.
Being able to stand next to Ganglabe, doing his job from behind the scenes.
Even once it became night time I was feeling depressed.
The amazake, as well as his cooking were delicious to the point where I couldn’t complain.
If I could make this kind of cooking, I think the distance between me and Ganglabe would probably shorten.
Suddenly I received a divine revelation.
That’s right. It’s fine if I can just make it too.
And if Ganglabe ate my handmade cooking, he might notice me.
Strike while the iron is hot. I rush out of my tent, and even though it was late at night, Shuri was doing the dishes.
Even though it was so cold, he’s earnestly washing a pile of dishes.
Looking at that, I felt embarrassed of myself.
His hands, I think, are without a doubt full of scratches. Not minding if it’s cold, or hot, he’s responsible for everything from washing the dishes to the cooking.
From our point of view, we who risk our lives, there may be those who say that that’s exactly what he should be doing.
But is that how it really is?
With the expansion and recruitment of troops, the members in our teams are increasing. My team might be getting a newcomer soon as well.
But the team which should be increasing the most, the cooks, isn’t increasing at all.
Even though his hardships should be lessening, it’s actually increasing.
Having done nothing but eating and drinking alcohol, seeing him hard at work made me a little jealous.
That’s not improper is it?
Holding up my courage, I talk with him.
He, who works hard behind the scenes, shouldn’t it be fine if I believe in him a little?
“Ah, so it’s Ahrius-san”
“I have something to talk with you about”
Shuri replied curiously.
“What is it?”
Thinking that I was being jealous until just now is a little embarrassing.
“Would you teach me how to cook?”
“Cooking, is it? I don’t mind but do you have any cooking experience?”
I have no talent whatsoever for the culinary arts, and honesty have never cooked before.
I can’t say doing that from back then counts as experience.
“How about holding a knife?”
I can’t say that it’s annoying so I use magic to cut things up.
“Even though you have no experience cooking?”
“Sorry, I was being pretentious…”
I was found out right away.
“Hn, suddenly asking me to teach you how to cook…
There’s no problem with me teaching you but, it won’t be easy you know?”
Isn’t cooking just cutting, putting it in a pot, adding salt and you’re done?
“But why so sudden?”
Kuh, of course Shuri would ask the question I feared.
Coming this far, I can only tell him…
“That is… you won’t tell anyone?”
“Don’t worry about it I’m tight-lipped”
“I… like Ganglabe”
Carrying courage I said it. I also brace myself to be laughed at.
But compared with my meek self Shuri isn’t very surprised.
Rather his reaction is weak…
“Haa, is that so”
“And then, recently I often see Ganglabe eating your cooking delightfully.
I’m, a little jealous.”
This too, Shuri didn’t have much of a reaction.
I wonder, did he know already…?
“If I could also cook for Ganglabe, I think he would turn to look at me.
Recently Riru and Cougar’s troops have made great efforts so he’s looking over there.
I want to do something for Ganglabe’s sake.
I’ll even… learn more magic.”
Shuri places his hand on his chin as if he was thinking and said.
“Ahrius-san, you’re not having trouble with magic are you?”
“… Just a little”
I was found out.
“Magic isn’t really my field so I can’t say anything about that.
But I can help you with your love”
I end up leaning up towards him without thinking.
“Where I was from, there’s a type of food for people who were intimate.
Luckily the season and place we’re at is just right as well. I’ll invite both you and Ganglabe.”
“Eh? You’ll be there too?”
“At that time, please just treat me as one of the background”
This person… he’s being considerate for me.
Specifically saying that he will be the background…
Let’s accept his good intentions.
“What? Did you invite me over for some kind of cooking meeting?”
As the moon rose to its peak, Shuri comes back leading Ganglabe.
As well as a table and chair set. How considerate is he?
“Welcome dear customers. Please sit over here”
He gently invites us to sit so I follow.
A plate and spoon was prepared on the table, and in the plate was some kind of sauce.
“Now, if you would allow me to start cooking”
“Oh, cooking in front of us?”
You’re gonna cook now?
Ganglabe seemed to be having fun, and I have no idea what you’re going to do…
Is that alright?
“Even if I say that, the stock is already done. It’ll be done shortly”
Oh, so it’s just the finishing touches.
“This is where you place the tofu”
There he tosses in a white square shaped thing.
Inside, something which looks like kelp sinks down. No matter how you look at it, this soup, which only had hot water inside, was just starting to boil.
“Bring it to a slow simmer to finish. It’s boiled tofu.”
After a little bit, Shuri stopped cooking.
Ganglabe and I were both dumbfounded, unable to understand.
“This is best eaten during the winter”
“I see, then, can you serve me a dish?”
“No, I won’t be participating.”
Shuri handed to me a strangely shaped spoon.
The spoon for some reason on the bottom had holes here and there.
You can’t scoop up the soup with this. No, it’s pretty much only hot water.
“Serving it to each other, poking at the same pot.
That’s the real thrill of hot pot cooking.”
At this point, I finally understood Shuri’s plan.
This dish. This dish which uses the same iron pot, serving for the sake of your beloved other, can create a space for conversation.
If it’s like this then you can naturally say out your worries, and above all you’re eating from the same pot so it’s easier to become more intimate.
“Ganglabe, let me serve you a dish”
“Hn? Ah, thanks”
Bringing forth my courage I placed some tofu onto Ganglabe’s plate.
I wonder if my worries will reach him.
“In that case let me serve you yours”
“Eh?! Eh, then, ok…”
I never would’ve thought that Ganglabe would do this for me.
I already can’t hold back my happiness.
After receiving the same number of tofu we began to eat together.
This tofu, using a spoon to lightly scoop it up would break, mixing into the sauce.
In front of me was both black and white. But, a refreshing fragrance tickles up my nostrils.
I chew it in my mouth.
Not just the outside of the tofu, the inside too was storing more than enough heat.
A savoury taste that I couldn’t quite describe, entwines with it the sourness of the sauce, making it delicious.
This sourness. It has a citrus smell.
Most likely, in the process of preparation he added the juice of the skin, leaving behind this flavour.
Unable to hide the happiness, I swallow the tofu, warming my throat, esophagus, and stomach.
It goes down with a slight burn.
What remains is warmth and freshness.
“Really… even though it’s so simple.”
Even though it’s just boiling kelp and tofu.
How is it this delicious I wonder?
“Ganglabe-san. If this hot pot had no kelp added to it what to you think?”
“It’d have the same taste right?”
“No, the taste would be drastically different.”
At most you’re just changing one of the kelp right?
“I won’t go into too much detail but, the minor role of the kelp melting into the hot pot is an extremely small factor which makes it savoury as it permeates the main lead, the tofu, which is what creates this taste.
How is it? To the lead called Ganglabe-san, I wonder who it is that complements you?”
Not even knowing they’re there, and even if they did, not being acknowledged.
That’s what Shuri implied.
And he’s probably talking about me.
Ganglabe also noticed something and looked at me.
“No way, Ahrius…”
My face is hot. This probably isn’t just because of the tofu.
Finally, Ganglabe realised it. This love of mine.
What should I do? How should I reply to this?
I lower my face, not continuing to talk.
“Ahrius, listen to me. Look up, I want you to hear this.”
It was a serious manner of talking.
I too resolve myself and looked up.
Ganglabe looks straight at me.
So manly, so attractive.
Ah, I fell in love with a man who’s able to make a face like this.
“I too, like you”
I feel like tears would fall.
My love of several years. Even though I thought first loves wouldn’t bear fruit.
“But, we can’t be lovers right now”
“I might even die tomorrow”
What is he saying…?
“Not just tomorrow. The day after, the week after, and the week after that. I don’t know when I’ll die.”
“Listen to me!”
Ganglabe grabs my shoulders blocking my escape as my tears flow down in denial.
“However, I have a dream”
“The country… right?”
“That’s right. The country.
A country where no one is hungry, no one is poor. I’m not allowed to die before that comes true. I can’t die. That’s why. When the country is in my hands, won’t you let me be the one to propose?”
That’s not fair. Ganglabe, that’s not fair.
This is the weakness of falling in love. Just now, wasn’t I happy being able to hear those words?
There’s no way I can refuse if you were to confess willingly.
“Is it alright to believe in that?”
“Yeah. I will definitely… become a suitable king for you”
Suddenly, Ganglabe’s face came close to mine.
Suddenly, my lips were stolen away before I had noticed.
“This is, my oath. Whatever I do, it’ll be with all my might”
“Yes… yes… “
My tears won’t stop.
My feelings have finally reached him.
I have a feeling I can finally stand by the side of this person.
The next day, I was delighted to thank Shuri.
It seems that he disappeared midway.
He ended up being considerate of us once again.
Towards Shuri, I have a debt of gratitude which can never be repaid.
But I don’t feel bad about it.
Because if this person wasn’t here, most likely my love would not have come to fruition.
But, there was that strange conversation.
I wonder what that tiny savoury taste is?
In the midst of talking about tofu, the thing that Shuri was talking about.
Something so small that you can’t even see it with the naked eye, I wonder if something like that exists?
“Ahrius-san. The world is made up of atoms and molecules. Well, tiny beads and the things those beads are attached to.”
When I heard this I couldn’t hide my shock.
We are an assembly of beads. And there are an uncountable varieties and amounts of beads, and the world is a composition gathered from all of this?
It’s not wrong even if you say it like that. Shuri carelessly asserted that the world is composed like this.
But, if you say it like this you can explain it.
Magic craftsmasters can only interfere with material which have been formed from these beads, magicians can interfere with the beads in the air.
And then, mana is the fuel which can interfere with whatever type of bead it is.
That’s why, manipulating mana and interfering with beads through mana, I can create the phenomenon of realising my imagination.
I attained the truth.
And then, in the battle after this I used that truth as the origins of my magic, exercising my authority over magic with accuracy to a level which couldn’t be compared to the past.
What truth is, is tofu.
This phrase is on the verge of coming to an end.
Ahrius Denju Aprahda.
As the wife of the first united emperor Ganglabe Denju Aprahda, she was also the first headmaster of the national academy of magic, and is praised as a matchless magician.
A peerless beauty, a witch of hellfire who scorches down the battlefields.
With the magic she uses, the battle at the country of snow became as hot as the middle of summer, melting all the snow, leaving behind a record so bad that crops thought it was spring and starting sprouting.
Even in the present, a magician who can surpass her, or even be on the same level as her does not exist.
This is considered to be because of her heavy discipline as a magician as well as being able to attain what is called ‘truth’ from the abyss of magical knowledge.
In the later years, it is said that although she accepted her three subordinates as disciples, none of the three were able to completely understand the ‘truth’ she spoke of. Those three later went on to be called the ‘three sages’ but, even in the literary works they reported or the oral teaching they left behind, there were still unfinished topics to be discussed about the study of magic, and there was no consideration about how much time they would need to spend before reaching an answer.
Furthermore, as the foothold for how Ahrius reached the ‘truth’, she points to one dish.
That dish was spread by the great chef ‘Shuri Azuma’, a dish which can be eaten in taverns during the empire’s winter.
A dish made just by simmering kelp and tofu.
She is fond of eating that dish, and says this each time she eats it.
“As expected, only this tofu is packed with the truth”
(TL googled recipe: http://food-in-japan.com/2013/02/boiled-tofu/)