13: A Useful Thing
Summer was here. Summer wasn’t humid in Fernand Empire but it was really hot. I was glad that my sweat dried immediately.
Everyone in my family would be going to the holiday villa in our fief this summer as well or they would be helping out at the Royal Palace because they were shorthanded from all the people returning home. The servants at the estate will also be going back with my family. Having hardly anyone here was good.
But as usual, I would spend my time in my room, the gardener’s work cabin or my father’s office. Ah, I went to the city whenever I had time.
I had to get my meals from the kitchen like I usually did when my family wasn’t at the estate. I aimed to take my meal when my father was out and there were only a little number of servants at the estate. I tried asking the estate chef if I could help him.
The chef remembered my face, but I’ve only ever greeted him and he returned my greetings. His attitude wasn’t cold like the maids or chamberlains. He probably hated getting nobles to cook but I thought he would let me help out a little. I was only a half blood and I could tell him that I can cook a little.
It was annoying but I got changed into a maid dress and headed to the kitchen. I couldn’t let my dress get dirty. It would be nice if he lent me an apron.
I finished copying documents for my father and washed my sheets early in the morning. I can help with cooking right now.
“Excuse me. Is the head chef here?”
The head chef is… a man in his 40s with a red scarf around his neck and a bit of a belly. His small eyes was impressive. This person has always been managing and cooking the Thousand House meals. It would be good for me to use polite language to pay respect to his delicious cooking.
“Do you need something, Ojou-sama?”
My eyes widen in surprise. Ojou-sama… He was talking about me, wasn’t he? This is the first time someone’s called me that. The maids did call me ‘Ayesha-marie-sama’ (rarely). But usually they didn’t use a subject word to call me.
He looked at me from top to bottom. No, he was confirming who I was.
I also looked back at him.
“Would be alright for me to help you with cooking?” I said and lowered my head. You lower your head when asking for something. I, who didn’t think it had anything to do with being a commoner or noble, was probably a minority amongst the nobles.
The head chef was the one who was surprised this time. He was surprised at both my attitude and my words.
I explained to the head chef that I wanted to learn how to cook, that I cooked together with my mother before, that I didn’t want to get bad at cooking, that I didn’t have much work to do for my father so I wanted to help out in the kitchen and that I didn’t hate doing the work that servants did.
At first the head chef said things like, “I need to ask the master first” and “This isn’t something you should do, Ojou-sama.” But he lost to my persistence and said, “You can help out when you really don’t have anything to do.” Ah, I’m so glad.
… I’m peeling potatoes under a big tree in the backyard. I’ve never peeled so much potatoes before. I could see a servant staring at me doubtfully. I worked in silence. If I may say so myself, I was extremely bad with kitchen knives. I wonder if I’ll improve if I keep using it. The head chef got angry before because I had peeled so much that there was only a little bit of potato left.
What kind of dish will it become?
Furore-sama, my brother and sisters were at the fief. My father would be staying at the Royal Palace because of work.
The potatoes were used to make cold soup.
I didn’t eat in my room today. I ate on a table at the corner of the kitchen. The head chef was going to teach me how to cook.
“Eat more. Don’t hold back, it’s something you helped make.”
I always ate the food on the tray that I carried to my room. So I was full with just a bowl of soup.
“… I harassed you by making you peel a lot of potatoes. You did your job properly even though you were bad at it. I’m sorry for testing you.”
The head chef looked at my hands.
There was soil in my nails and some of the wounds had bleed.
He had a sharp tongue but it had been so long since someone had worried about me and my chest felt warm and fluffy.
I hide my hands and the head chef smiled at me.
“It was a good lesson. Please teach me how to cook again.”
“I hoped that your hands won’t get messed up next time, Ojou-sama.”
The head chef told me his name was Tom.
He praised my chicken and tomato stew and the head chef taught me a trick to preserve taste. He’s a friendly person.
It’s really been such a long time since I’ve eaten while talking to someone. I was thankful to the head chef because he didn’t change his attitude no matter who he was talking to. My chest felt warm… To be able to feel like this inside of the estate, I’ve already forgotten how long it’s been.
It was reassuring to know that there was someone amongst the servants that recognised me as a person.
Autumn has come. The harvesting season autumn.
This was when the Thousand House fief was the busiest.
The harvest grains, vegetables and fruits were sent to the Royal Capital or turned into food that could last through winter. Naturally, more people and things were coming in and out of estates in the Royal Capital and fief. The number of notes also increased so I also had a lot of work to do.
Having a lot of notes meant that there was a lot of harvest coming from the territory which equals a higher yield. This was a good thing for the Thousand House.
My older brother stayed at the fief and my father and I had to deal with the documents. Even the grand chamberlain was called to sort through the notes and documents.
Furore-sama and my older sisters were attending tea parties and night balls every day in order to advertise the fief’s special products.
I brought the documents in my room to my father’s office and there was a guest. It was Marquis Oslo, the tax officer. He had smooth grey hair and thin, jittery eyes. He looked like a defenseless person.
I would seclude myself in my room whenever guests came over and tried my best not to meet them. I wasn’t informed that a guest had come probably because the documents were needed urgently.
I tried to leave quickly in order not to get in their way but Marquis Oslo stopped me.
He praised the documents I drew up.
And he recommended that I work at the administration’s office in the Royal Palace…
I looked at my father and then at my feet. I didn’t have anything to give my opinion on.
My father frowned and politely declined Marquis Oslo’s offer. It seems that I’m a girl who can’t go out.
Did my father plan on keeping me in this estate forever?
I thought that I could bring up the topic of me wanting to become a commoner as a reward for doing my best during the harvest season.
I continued to look at the ground, bowed deeply and left the room.