Chapter 17

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What would you do if you had met me?

 

With a bright smile, Archiralph lifted a large basket.

 

When he lifted the basket, the sweet and savoury scent became stronger. 

 

“What’s that?”

 

It’s been a long time since she smelled the scent of proper food.

 

While she was running away from the Emperor’s pursuit, Atalante had only eaten black bread or watery soup that were sold at roadside stalls.

 

That’s because even if she had enough travel expenses, she had to take care in hiding her identity when stopping at restaurants. 

 

…She started drooling involuntarily.

 

‘I thought that I wasn’t a glutton.’

 

Worried that her thoughts would be caught on, Atalante pulled her already low hood even lower.

 

“It’s nothing special. I prepared a simple brunch menu.”

 

Archiralph brushed against the back of his neck embarrassedly, before opening the basket slowly.

 

After checking the contents, Atalante couldn’t help but let out an exclamation. 

 

“It’s calzone with meat, cheese, and fresh vegetables, as well as spinach frittata.”

 

The dish that he took out looked quite appetising. 

 

“I looked forward to learning from my teacher, so I woke up a little earlier today. I showed off a little of my skills.”

 

‘Who’s your teacher?’

 

The words that she wanted to refute him with rose up her throat, but she didn’t want to waste her strength speaking meaningless words. 

 

Instead, she pointed out the puzzling point from Archiralph’s words.

 

“Showing off your skills. Did you make all of this yourself?”

 

This was a matter of course for noblemen, but even amongst ordinary commoners, it was quite rare for men to cook. 

 

Unless they’re in a family that runs a restaurant. 

 

However, Archiralph’s father Orlando was said to be the commander of the Garrison’s Beli branch. The type of blades that the Lancers family mainly engaged in was different from a chef’s blade in texture. 

 

Archiralph felt the questioning expression that she had on from underneath her hood.

 

“To be honest, cooking is my hobby.”

 

Archiralph shyly added, “Please keep it a secret.”

 

Atalante nodded immediately, as it was a secret that she neither wanted to know about, nor did she want to make it known to others. 

 

“Can I eat this?”

 

“O–Of course! Please have it all, Teacher!”

 

“Thank you.”

 

Since he had offered for her to finish it all, there was no reason for her to decline.

 

Atalante faced the food in a reverent manner, before taking a bite out of the still steaming frittata. 

 

As soon as she took a bite, she stared at Archiralph with her eyes widened.

 

“Oh, does it taste bad…?”

 

Ignoring his lost expression, Atalante moved her fork again. 

 

Not long afterwards, the plate was cleanly emptied, and the calzone also disappeared without a trace. 

 

Archiralph only stared blankly at the teacher that finished her meal in a blink of an eye.

 

“Archiralph.”

 

It was a clear voice, but it was also somewhat overwhelming.

 

As it was the first time Atalante had called his name properly, he had even forgotten to answer and just stared at her purple eyes dazedly.

 

“These dishes, was it really made by you?”

 

“Yes…”

 

Even though she didn’t use an interrogating tone, Archiralph bowed his head like he had committed a crime.

 

He was grateful that she enjoyed his food, but he couldn’t help but shrink reflexively.

 

That’s because up till now, the people that have found out about his cooking laughed at Archiralph. 

 

“It’s very delicious. You’re very skilled. The frittata in particular, it’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten.”

 

“Huh?”

 

Perhaps he didn’t expect to be praised by her, Archiralph stuttered while stiffening in his place for a long time. 

 

It was an impulsive thing he had done, to wake up early this morning and cook.

 

He thought that he had to somehow show Atalante his sincerity.

 

He could have hidden the fact that he made this dish, but for some reason… he thought that he could be honest with Atalante.

 

Even though he had only met her for the first time last night, and he didn’t even know her name. 

 

Observing how he still couldn’t raise his head, Atalante spoke plainly. 

 

“You’re better suited to cutting something else with a knife.”

 

“What? S–something else?”

 

It was a slightly unnerving sentence. Staring at him sinking into contemplation, Atalante slowly continued. 

 

“Instead of swordsmanship, why don’t you learn how to cook seriously?”

 

“What does that mean…”

 

“What does that mean, it means to be a chef.”

 

After her clearer answer, she added, “I’m not saying this because I don’t want to teach you swordsmanship.”

 

However, her following words didn’t reach Archiralph’s ear.

 

What do you mean ‘chef’? He felt nauseous at the sound of that unfamiliar word.

 

‘Don’t ridicule me… On the contrary, it’s the first time someone told me to learn how to cook.’

 

“Archiralph! The eldest son of the Lancers family wriggling with ingredients in the kitchen, aren’t you ashamed?”

 

Even his father, who was respected by everyone,

 

“Ugh, you made this? You should get a maid to do things like this! Act like a man!”

 

The friend that he hung out with since he was young…They laughed at the food he brought out. 

 

To be exact, Archiralph himself, who was ‘unmanly’ and ‘not noble-like’, was considered ridiculous.

 

However, that did not stop Archiralph from secretly hiding in the kitchen.

 

The process of matching a variety of flavours with differently scented food ingredients into a dish was enjoyable for Archiralph. 

 

There was also one other reason for him to visit the kitchen every day with a body sporting injuries all over from learning swordsmanship that wasn’t suitable for him.

 

“Young master, why are you here again? If the Viscount knew about this, you’d be in big trouble.”

 

It was to see Jane, the maid that kept watch over the kitchen until late at night.

 

Unlike her pointed tone, Jane didn’t kick him out.

 

All she did was crouch in a corner and watch Archiralph cook quietly. 

 

Although he had hoped that they would converse like they did when they were younger, Jane, who has clearly become a young lady, drew a clear line with Archiralph. 

 

Employers and employees, aristocrats and commoners, men and women. The walls in between them were too large and stubborn.

 

“Jane, you… Don’t I look like an idiot when I cook?”

 

The question that he had blurted out towards Jane had no answer for a long while. 

 

Actually, the reason why he started cooking was because he wanted to get closer to her, a kitchen maid.

 

Now, Jane had even acknowledged that his skills were much better than hers. 

 

“No, you look cool.”

 

I think that the girl that would marry the young master will never starve.

 

At the sound of her added words, Archiralph squeezed out all of his courage for the next several years that day and confessed to her.

 

Although he had gotten a positive answer with much difficulty after constant courtship, there was another hurdle that was as high as Jane’s consent.

 

At the news that he wanted to marry Jane, Orlando remained silent for a while. 

 

Orlando lost his wife early, and painstakingly raised their son, but their son grew up strangely.

 

Acting unlike the successor of a family of knights, he would either secretly cook, or say that he would marry a commoner woman. 

 

He strongly opposed it till not too long ago, where he had put up attractive conditions instead of unconditionally opposing it. 

 

“If you can accumulate recognition in the Garrison through accomplishments, I will think positively about your marriage.”

 

“Getting recognition… P–please be more specific!”

 

“Catching Atalante, the criminal wanted by His Majesty the Emperor.”

 

Wasn’t that equivalent to saying that he didn’t intend to approve their marriage?

 

It wasn’t until Archiralph raised objections multiple times that Orlando came up with an alternative.

 

Well. It was ridiculous that Archiralph would be able to catch the notorious Atalante.

 

More importantly, he didn’t want to lose his only son. 

 

“Pass the upcoming evaluation to become a trainee knight and be knighted officially.”

 

“F–father! Even though you’re aware that I’m not good at swordsmanship!”

 

“Then you can just give up on Jane.”

 

Orlando’s provocation caused Archiralph to hone his swordsmanship every day without fail. 

 

He also endured his cooking practice and meeting Jane.

 

It would have been nice if his skills had shown as much improvement, but even after he swung his sword daily, his swordsmanship didn’t improve in the slightest. 

 

“So, you hid in Beli Forest, thinking about just catching Atalante?”

 

After hearing Archiralph’s long narration, Atalante slowly yawned and asked.

 

“Yes, yes! As I’ve mentioned previously, Atalante will definitely head towards the Black Land!”

 

Seriously, she couldn’t believe that such a fool had managed to see through the route she was going to take.

 

Although her pride was oddly hurt, she didn’t deliberately express it. 

 

‘What would you do if you had met me? You can’t even use your sword.’

 

Although she was curious as to how he planned to catch her, he would definitely reply that he didn’t have a countermeasure. 

 

The sun was already high in the sky when she looked upwards. She had to leave this forest today before sunset. 

 

“Anyways, you have to be proficient with a sword, right?”

 

“Yes, yes!”

 

“It’d have been nice if you made cooking your occupation, but it’s a shame.”

 

Her following words were sincere.

 

The food brought by Archiralph was really delicious.

 

Although she moved in the underground world, Atalante was someone that had a sensitive tongue.

 

Irrelevant from not being picky, she knew how to distinguish between food that’s proper and food that isn’t.

 

At the sound of her words, Archiralph looked strangely moved.

 

But that was only momentarily, as his face turned blue the moment Atalante brandished her knife. 

 

“What are you doing? Unsheath your sword.”

 

She’ll have to make this quick. 

 

Unlike he, who was wielding a longsword, she suddenly asked about something she was curious about while holding a short dagger.

 

“But if your father is the commander of the Garrison, why aren’t you learning from him?”

 

In the face of Atalante’s question, Archiralph smiled awkwardly before replying in an embarrassed tone.

 

“F–father had also given up on me.”

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