Compared to that cramped bedroom, the kitchen was large and well looked after.
There was a big oven to bake bread in, as well as two small furnaces over which a pot could be boiled. There was a large clay urn that stored water, along with a simple scullery area. In the center of the kitchen was a single main bench for preparing food. Along the wall, there was a shelf that held all manner of cooking and dining utensils, as well as a large chest where ingredients were kept.
The lid on top of it was huge yet oddly cold to the touch. As she opened the lid, she saw a handful of tiny glimmering bottles, as well as milk and eggs.
Those small bottles were magical tools that use manastones to maintain a cold temperature. It has become widely available across the kingdom, so much so that even common people can get their hands on them. That said, since manastones are used as fuel, they are limited by money to only using them for daily necessities. For the most part, these bottles are used to keep food cool inside of a chest or a cabinet, where it was difficult for the cold air to escape.
After checking all the ingredients inside the chest, Camilla looked at the shelf.
She saw the black bread placed in the middle of the shelf straight away, it looked firm and dry. Then there was a tied up hemp bag packed haphazardly with flour. There was some salt and a small quantity of unrefined sugar. Just below that, there were some jams made from various fruits. There was a slightly bruised tomato next to a good amount of onions, carrots and garlic. There were spicy mustard seeds packed into a small glass bottle as well.
On the lowest shelf, there was a big sack of potatoes as well as a perfectly round cabbage. On the highest, there was a basketful of fruit, beans and herbs.
It was only when she moved some things aside that Camilla finally found any meat. A dried sausage, that had been left out for the year. Still, it’s better than nothing.
It must have been saved over the colder seasons. As Camilla took out the potatoes from the bag, she handed them all off to Alois without asking his opinion.
After receiving them, Alois placed them all on the cooking bench.
“What are you thinking of making?”
“There are onions, potatoes and carrots. If I boil all those together, I can make a soup. The bread is hard, so the only thing to do with it is using it for soaking up soup and eating it that way. I can also fry the beans and cabbage together with a helping of salt, not to mention the eggs.”
If she mixes the ingredients that way, she could easily make several meals large enough for adults. After handing Alois the onion, garlic and carrots, Camilla retrieved two knives from the cupboard. She gave Alois one of them.
“You can at least do the peeling, right?”
Alois said that after taking the knife she offered.
“Let’s finish this quickly and go back to the estate. There’s more that I need to talk with you about.”
“Are you planning on lecturing me some more? Or rather, are you going to say something along the lines of ‘let’s not get married’?”
That might be a dream come true.
“Hmph,” Camilla took to the potatoes with her knife.
“No matter how much you told me that you were serious about losing weight, you never had any real interest in doing it. Lord Alois, you never had any intention of marrying me, so that’s why you could lie so easily.”
“…It was you who said that unless I lost weight we couldn’t be married. Of course, I had to say that, otherwise you would be angry.”
Alois began peeling as well. He seemed surprisingly used to it after all, with the first potato he held being peeled without him lifting the blade at all.
After taking the skin off, the peeled potato was placed in a basket. As for the skin, it was put into a separate container. Later on, they would get rid of them by burying them in the ground.
“So, you were just trying to placate me, is that it?”
“I only did it so that you might not hate living here as much. Whenever you don’t get what you want, you throw a tantrum right away after all.”
“What do you mean, tantrum!?”
As Camilla raised her voice, Alois spoke coldly. Hitting the mark, Camilla fell silent with a groan.
“I thought that, if you were in a foul mood, you might do something reckless like running out into the night like you did today. I am the one who said to Prince Julian that I would look after you. What would I do if the worst came to pass?”
“…Well, thank you for that, my most kind and loving lord.”
Camilla spoke those words in an unnaturally low voice, as calmly as possible. But, her body showed her true feelings. Her potato peeling became faster and faster.
“But in the end, I ran away after all. Because of that insincere personality of yours.”
“I am the one who is insincere?”
Alois stopped peeling, raising his head.
“I gave you shelter, let you live freely, even tried to compromise with you. Until today, I didn’t try to curb your selfishness at all…!”
“Compromised, you say…!?”
After Alois raised his voice, Camilla couldn’t stop herself from yelling as well.
“Oh please do tell me when you ever did such a thing? You never even listened to a single word I had to say!”
“The only thing you ever wanted to tell me was ‘get thin’, so of course I heard it!”
Wasn’t that true?
Wasn’t that only natural?
Camilla didn’t quite understand what he meant by that. But, as she was lost for words, a child’s high pitched voice suddenly pierced through the silence.
“I gotta goooooo…”
Alois and Camilla looked to see who had said it.
At the door to the kitchen, there was a young child, close to tears as he clutched his stuffed animal. Camilla recognized the face of that little boy who couldn’t be over four years old.
“You still haven’t gone yet!?”
Dropping the knife and the potato she was holding straight away, Camilla rushed over to the boy.
Looking at him closely, it was definitely the same boy who had badgered Camilla to go to the bathroom with him before.
“What is your older brother doing, leaving you in a state like this!?”
As Camilla spoke like that, the boy hid his face behind the stuffed toy like he was being scolded.
“It is alright. You held on well… Lord Alois.”
As Camilla called out his name, Alois looked at her bitterly, but still obediently responded.
“What is it?”
“I need to take care of this child for a moment. Can I leave this to you?”
After seeing Alois nod, Camilla took the boy’s hand and quickly headed towards the toilet.
When she came back to the kitchen, the peeling was already finished.
As Alois was beginning to slice up the vegetables, Camilla lit the furnace. After placing the dried sausage in the pan and moving it slightly, she soon had it cooking in the fat that oozed out of it.
As Camilla began to fry the chopped up onions with her back to him, Alois began to murmur.
“I made time to spend with you every single day. Even when things were really busy, I did my best to talk with you.”
That wasn’t wrong. They were always taking those tea parties together. Even during the busiest times, they would have lunch and dinner together, a day didn’t go by where they didn’t meet face to face.
“I really did try to understand and become closer with you. Even if all you did was complain about my weight, I never thought about not talking to you each and every day.”
It seems like the word ‘insincere’ had stung at him severely. Listening to Alois say those words, Camilla laughed when she realized just what was making him so uncomfortable.
“I have come to understand that Lord Alois is kind.”
He is calm and generous, a good lord if there ever was one.
“But, have you truly treated anyone as your equal? You said you protected me? Gave me whatever I needed? Never scolded me for anything I said? That is because you only ever looked down on me!”
“I… I never had any such intenti….!”
“Have you ever taken me seriously even once!? Did you truly intend to ever get to know who I really am!?”
This time, it was Alois who was lost for words as Camilla berated him.
“But… Aren’t you the same!?”
“Lord Alois, weren’t you the one who had actually given up on our conversations first!?”
Before Alois could say anything, Camilla suddenly cried out loudly. She was looking directly at the bench, more specifically the pile of vegetables that Alois had been cutting up.
“Why would you cut them up so large!? They should not even be half this size!”
“That’s not important right now…! …Half? They won’t even be able to taste them if they’re that small.”
“We’re not trying to feed you, Lord Alois, this is for the children. More importantly, the smaller the portions the quicker they will cook, so the food can be ready faster.”
As if cold water had been dumped over his sparks of anger, Alois meekly began to chop up the vegetables again.
Taking the vegetables he chopped, she began to stir fry them in the pan and also filled up the soup pot with water.
Standing next to Camilla and using the other pan, Alois began to mix and fry the remaining ingredients together.
As Camilla watched Alois work beside her from the corner of her eye, she stopped him suddenly when he was about to use seasoning.
“Ah, wait a moment, Lord Alois.”
“What is it?”
“Please do not use the mustard seeds. They are hard for small children to deal with. As for herbs, it would be best not to use the more exotic ones.”
Truth be told, she was watching him anxiously to make sure that he didn’t use an unholy amount of seasoning. But, defying her expectations, Alois was actually only going to use quite a delicate amount. That said, it was still too a mature a taste. Since they’re cooking for children, they should try and keep things simple.
Equally unexpectedly, Alois quietly obeyed Camilla’s suggestion. Alois put the mustard seeds away and instead seasoned with salt and simple herbs instead, before getting the eggs ready.
Frying them in the pan, Alois carefully maintained the shape of the egg as the edges of it began to brown. As he did, he looked at Camilla who began to add the tomato to the pot.
“……You seem quite used to this.”
“Are you surprised?”
Camilla laughed as she glanced at Alois.
Even if it’s well looked after, it was still quite a poor kitchen. She had perfectly peeled the potatoes with a knife that barely had any keen to it and made a delicious seasoning with barely any ingredients. Even though there was very little meat and she hadn’t used any sugar, Camilla had still managed to skilfully make her dishes.
“You did not think that such an arrogant and bad-tempered girl could cook in a place like this, is that it?”
As Camilla said that, Alois couldn’t meet her eyes. He looked down at the ground, frowning as he did.
It was then that he perhaps realized just why Camilla had run away from the house in the first place.
“Back then… Were you listening?”
As Alois looked down at the pan, the whites of the eggs began to wither.