Tsuki – Extra 64: The endless path of Mio ③

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*Gulp*

The sound of someone gulping echoed strangely loudly. 

“Thi…” 

“Thi?” 

“This is a taste that I would be able to eat without issues if this were to be brought out in my 3rd option restaurant-ssu.” (Lime)

Lime Latte returned the spoon to the bowl while still seated. 

‘Ooh’.

Voices of admiration were raised. 

It is already the 5th taste test in Asora.

The various vegetables and smoked meat that were sliced in shapely fashion and floating in the soup finally managed to achieve the feat of having everyone finish eating it all.

The evaluation of the taste from the demi-humans was mostly good. As for the former adventurer Lime whose base was in Tsige, it wasn’t good or bad; a product that wouldn’t remain in his mind. 

Lime couldn’t bring himself to say that outright, so he changed the way he worded it, but the meaning stayed the same. 

Even if you are told it is okay to say your opinion exactly as you think, there are times when it is okay to do so and times when it is not okay. 

It is unreasonable, but that’s how society works.

Lime has accumulated enough experiences to shudder at the mention of skin peeling, so he has learned this thing called tact which he didn’t have before.

“…Meaning that it is exactly as the recipe states and has nothing interesting to it, right?” (Mio)

The pursuit of the very person that made the food, Mio. 

Knowing from experience that resistance is futile, Lime nodded. 

Not long after…a sigh leaked out from Mio.

That’s not from fatigue or disappointment, but from relief. 

In the first place, the mamonos and demi-humans that live in Asora have a wide range of acceptance when it comes to taste. 

From the eyes of these people that were fighting hunger on a regular basis, they would even be able to drink the soup that Lime barely managed to not vomit, and they would do so while saying it is tasty. 

It can’t be helped that Mio would see the palate of Lime as the standard.

“So I have somehow managed to reach the starting point. That’s a relief…” (Mio)

What leaked out from her at the latter half came from the bottom of her heart. 

Tomoe somehow managed to hang in there and stayed for the 3rd taste test, but she is not present in this one. 

She told them to call her when a product she is confident in comes out, and then she returned to her work (hobbies).

There were residents who were touched by the passion of Mio and took interest in cooking, so there was no need to gather members for the taste tests which served as a big reason for Tomoe as well. 

“Then, I will first concentrate on the soup! I will bring it to a level where it is tasty!” (Mio)

Mio could bring out soup on a temperature that one could drink since the time she turned the bread into charcoal. 

Meaning that soup had become the starting point for her to make something that somewhat resembles food. 

That’s why the first establishment that Mio chose to learn from in Tsige was a place that’s famous for its soup and one that even Mio’s tongue could feel was tasty. 

It is obviously a restaurant that Makoto also liked, but this basically goes in hand with her motives. This is the very first prerequisite from all the many choices, so there was no point to even think about it. 

“I am rooting for you! Please do your best!” (Lime)

With Lime being the first one, the other demi-humans also began to cheer on Mio.

If things can improve with just eating, who could ask for anything better?

The more effort Mio puts, the higher the chances that tasty food will be produced.

This is what you would call a win-win.

After the dwarf gave Mio her own personalized kitchen knife that had been adjusted over and over to fit comfortably in her hand, she left Asora and went to Tsige in a good mood.

Marching straight forward when she decides on something is a strength of Mio and also a weak point. 

Even with that, she still doesn’t forget to give the minimum required instructions for the work in Asora to mainly the Arkes.

This is most likely proof that, even when the priorities in her actions are simple, she still sees her surroundings. 

Even if she is called a cook apprentice, it is not like she plans on making a livelihood as a cook or wants to open an establishment of her own. 

For her, cooking is at a place unrelated to money. 

In the case of Mio, if she were to show up in the Adventurer Guild and work for half a day, she would be able to easily get enough earnings to surpass the yearly income of a cook. 

The good side-effect of this is that she can concentrate on cooking without worrying about money, but the bad side-effect is that it gets in the way of gauging the market price of things, and she would mistake the ingredients that should be used. 

When the instincts of Mio herself say ‘this is tasty’, she would be able to eat it tastily just like that. 

But for many other living beings, you have to properly follow the steps, or things could be deadly poisonous or not even edible. 

Mio was troubled by her lack of issues with money and how accepting her palate was, but even with that, Mio finally managed to reach the point where she can make food that a hyuman can eat.

“Oh, isn’t that Mio-sama?!! We have gotten nice stuff today as well!!” 

“Then, I will get the usual. Please pack it up.” (Mio)

“There’s first-rate Cockatrice and Red Bee, too! We luckily got something rare like Gain Crab as well!” 

“…Sell those to people with the fitting skills. Give me the usual smoked meat and sausages, and also mountain bird…” (Mio)

Mio walks through the usual market before heading to the restaurant and buys the cooking ingredients. 

This is not for an errand or to stock up. They are all ingredients Mio is going to use to practice at the restaurant. 

Mio was buying an amount which you would think is for a whole day of work in a food stall as if used to this. 

This sight is also one that people have grown used to seeing in the market, but Mio’s way of acting was steadily changing. 

She still can’t properly assess the cooking ingredients themselves, but she can now properly choose and buy the ingredients that she herself can handle.

The vegetables that circulate often in the market and the herbs. 

She doesn’t put a hand on the rare things from the wasteland and the products that coincidentally entered the market.

She also only looks at and buys the meat that the average person can obtain.

She doesn’t put a hand on the demonic beast meat of the wasteland that she thinks would definitely be tasty. 

She could now delineate what she still can’t handle. 

Whether it is good or bad, even if she doesn’t eat all or throw away all the food that she has made from her practices, Mio would still feel bad about having the ingredients face such tragic ends. 

(It is the sad reality where I would say it would have been tastier to eat them in their raw state.) (Mio)

And then, once Mio arrived at the popular restaurant where the owner and two assistants work at, she entered the place from the backdoor connected to the kitchen as if that were the norm.

Regarding the delicious soup that she thought she would be able to make her own after 3 days of training along with all of the cooking techniques, even after a good amount of time had passed, the current state is that replicating it is still a dream within a dream.

As she commuted to this place, Mio slowly learned about how intricate and difficult this skill called cooking is. However, the more she learned, the deeper that world became, and she was taken in by its allure. 

But it is true that she learned how to do preliminary preparations for the ingredients and obtained the minimum capacity to cook. She certainly felt that she was growing. 

“Listen here, Mio. Don’t try showing appeal by doing stuff like bringing yourself out or treasuring individuality. Normally, actions that break the norm like making an originally salty dish into a sweet one to excite the surroundings with surprise and tastiness would simply be seen as the act of a madman unless the person does it properly. 8 out of 10 times, it would end in a failure-ja. There’s no need to gamble with dishes that only work once every ten times when it is the food that everyone eats on a daily basis. The form is shaped by the basics-ja. Apply what you are told exactly as it is. Even Waka says that, so endure it-ja zo.” (Tomoe)

It is vexing, but Tomoe’s words had become something that Mio could agree with. 

It is only after being able to do the normal things that you can finally go for the next step. They become footing that will allow you to flourish in your next endeavor. 

Mio rolled up her sleeves, washed her hands, and after finishing up what she had to do, she swiftly proceeded with the preliminary preparations for the ingredients in stock at the restaurant. 

She has gotten a lot better. 

She surpassed Martha, who worked in this restaurant before her, in speed. 

The precision is still one step behind, but it is easily above the acceptable standards of the restaurant. 

It is in part because the tools are outstandingly good, but the hard work and passion of Mio herself and her potential is what makes it possible. 

She chopped the vegetables according to the dish, and minced the meat and seasoned it. 

She placed the herbs that are going to be used in the soup into a small cloth bag and closed it. 

The vegetable waste and bones that turned up after finishing the pre-cooking were put in a cylindrical container, had a lot of water added to it, and she lit the fire. 

When she finished all that, the kitchen door opened. 

This has pretty much gone exactly as Mio planned. 

Her first senior in cooking training, Martha, had arrived. 

By finishing her work in this fashion, she can use her free time to learn her techniques and ask questions about cooking. 

“Uh…Mio-san, you are getting faster and faster.” (Martha)

“Good morning, Martha. I have finished almost everything.” (Mio)

Martha actually began working earlier than Mio. 

She would open the place in order to do things like receiving cargo and stocking, as well as paying for the respective things, but it has become the usual sight that Mio would appear within that time frame. 

You can pretty much pay the suppliers at the end of the month, but deals that the owner would do on a whim, and new suppliers that will be used for stocking will be paid in cash depending on the circumstances. 

Maybe because Martha has been working there for a long time and is trusted, or because the owner is a loose person, she was in a standing where she could touch the coin of the establishment. 

“Good morning. But Mio-san, you shouldn’t do that.” (Martha)

“…? Oh my, did I mess up somewhere?” (Mio)

“Yesterday, you said you also wanted to know how to assess an ingredient.” (Martha)

“…Ah.” (Mio)

“Well then, let’s leave the preliminary preparations for later and let’s take a close look at the procured vegetables and meat.” (Martha)

“I did say that. I just…unconsciously moved as I usually did.” (Mio)

Mio got honestly dejected from this. 

She is a person that adventurers would avoid or stand on attention and see her off the moment they catch sight of her, and yet, she is showing such a look. 

Martha chuckled in a troubled yet amused manner. 

“Well, I figured something like that would happen, so I bought the things we would need on the way here.” (Martha)

She said this and showed the basket she was hiding. 

There were vegetables of varying types even if not many in numbers. 

“Martha! Good job!” (Mio)

“Today, it will only be vegetables. As for the meat, it will be the ones that arrived at the restaurant and…also, we have to go check out the market together someday.” (Martha)

Mio played herself by quickly finishing the preparations which she thought would allow for more time to be taught, but they somehow managed to get learning done today.

Mio and Martha are normally in standings as different as heaven and earth. 

But in this place alone, they simply looked like a good senior and junior…no, they looked like friends. 

◇◆◇◆◇◆◇◆

Mio is being taught at the restaurant, but she doesn’t step in the hall. 

She is not an employee, and for Mio, serving the customers holds no meaning. 

And so, only Martha herself does that job. 

What Mio does at most is watch the customers from the kitchen or at a corner of the restaurant.

She would obviously quickly check the finish of the dishes, the smell, and the technique of the owner as she did work like washing the dishes. 

Even if she checks the state of the customers from a corner, she doesn’t do anything that would make her enter their vision. 

Not a single person coming to this establishment knows that Mio is washing the dishes.

And they obviously don’t know that Mio was the one who made the preparations for the vegetables and meat that they are eating. 

Night. 

There’s not that many customers ordering alcohol in the morning, but the story differs once the sun goes down. 

Tasty food goes in hand with tasty alcohol. 

This restaurant has good quality of customers, so there’s rarely any customers that go wild. 

Martha can manage to serve the customers charismatically, so there’s rarely any trouble happening.

“Uhm, miss, we are already closed…” (Martha)

But that trouble that rarely happens happened tonight. 

A young woman that had been drinking at a high pace stayed in the establishment for quite a long time. She wasn’t a bad drunk that would hassle the other customers, but the result was that there wasn’t anyone left in the establishment aside from her as she sipped little by little. She was half-asleep at this time when the closing hour had already passed. It was a situation where she wouldn’t hear what others would tell her. 

Martha and the owner had troubled faces.

It may be a weekend, but this establishment is the kind that’s open both in the morning and night. 

They can’t keep the restaurant open just for the sake of a single customer. 

“AH, Mio-san, the last customer is in that state, you see. How troubling. Well, I will deal with this myself, so you can leave now, Mio-san.” 

The owner noticed Mio, who showed up at the hall, and spoke to her. 

They rarely get a troublesome customer like this, but it is not the first time either. 

When you do customer service, you don’t always get normal customers. 

The owner is also fully aware of that. 

“…This isn’t the kind of establishment to be consumed by alcohol. Oh?” (Mio)

“?”

“Isn’t that a familiar face? How pathetic.” (Mio)

“Mio-san?” 

Mio walked towards the round table where the young woman was slouched on.

“Wait, Mio-san. She is still a customer, so being violent would be…” (Martha)

Martha’s gaze and words made Mio open her eyes wide.

“I won’t put a hand on her. I won’t do something that would trouble you. Hmph!” (Mio)

““?!””

And then, after Mio pouted a bit as if saying ‘I know’, she dispelled their worries and…directed slight anger at the young woman. 

Only a little bit. 

But even if that’s the case, it is still the anger of Mio. 

Martha and the owner felt their backs tremble from the faint shockwave. 

As for the woman that was hit with the full brunt of this…she shot up from her seat and looked around with a face full of sweat. 

“Awake now?” (Mio)

“Don’t go directing killing intent to your custome—?” 

Reacting to the voice directed at her, she spoke with anger in her tone and…she shut her mouth instinctively when she saw the smiling Mio, unable to understand what was going on. 

“If I remember correctly…you are a receptionist at the Adventurer Guild-desu wa ne?” (Mio)

“G-G-G-G-G-G…”

“Huh?” (Mio)

“Gyaaaaaaaahhh!!!” 

The Adventurer Guild receptionist, Ates, dashed out full speed from the establishment while screaming. 

It was so fast you might think the sound of the seat falling and the sound of the door closing happened at the same time. 

“…Uhm, was that a dine and dash?” (Mio)

“No, Mio-san. That person left her wallet when she ran off.” (Martha)

Martha pointed at the floor. 

It is not that she left it there, but more like she dropped it. 

“Then it is not dine and dash?” (Mio)

“Hmm?” 

Ates disappeared into the darkness of the night with no means to know about the confounded conversation that was exchanged in the establishment.

Why is it that she chose that place for her occasional solo drinking? 

Without being able to understand half of what happened there, Ates came to the restaurant with a gift in hand to apologize, and then her face warped at the fact that Mio was actually in the restaurant and it wasn’t a nightmare or anything. 

Tears came out from her eyes as she lamented: ‘I won’t be able to go to this place anymore’.

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