Chapter 205:

Your Dish is Raw Without Mana!

Atk 0 Crit All ~My attack stat is negligible, so I can't help but rely on critical hits to succeed!~

By the next day, the best chefs in Sistina had been gathered around. This included the castle cooks, servants of various nobility, and restaurant staff of notable prestige. Bookmark here

Aside from the nobility who offered their best kitchen aides, I had Dengel scrounge up a list of noteworthy candidates, since he was heavily involved in the food trade. There was little that avoided his detection when it came to promising new dishes popping up as competition, so he had a giant notebook filled with the latest trends and their unique selling points. That made sure he was on top of any opportunities when it came to pitching alternative ingredients to them or roping them into a collaborative environment to better serve them both.Bookmark here

One would merely see the pages flipping through the air to know that Dengel had stumbled upon something interesting. And now, he was among the crowd to help guide the creation of stat-enhancing foods. Of course, he was curious about marketing them himself, but the Queen had put a strict hold on its distribution to only the army for the time being.Bookmark here

‘There’s always an opportunity for a later time!’Bookmark here

That was the thought of a true merchant, one who never let the scent of money stray too far.Bookmark here

For now, he would use his analysis skills to help the training along. Chrys and I were standing in the royal kitchen before everyone, demonstrating how to make the first of many dishes.Bookmark here

For the moment, we had settled on flavorful buns as the food option. The key point was to make something that was portable and didn’t spoil easily. Furthermore, it allowed for each chef to place their specialty inside. Having them work on a dish that they were most familiar with took advantage of any mana know-how already imbedded in their routine.Bookmark here

Soon, the noise of chopping and shuffling feet happened all around as everyone got to work prepping their dish.Bookmark here

Just before each chef started to cook, Chrys and I went up to each one and examined their technique. Everyone had unique moments in which their mana flowed into their dish. The chefs each had their quirks, and that was when traces of mana filtered into their food.Bookmark here

As a result, a variety of different minor enhancements were observed.Bookmark here

The vigorous sprinkling of salt and chili onto a noodle dish gave it a slight bite and lifted the spirits.Bookmark here

A methodical, slow swirling of a ladle in a pot of curry made the ingredients fuller and heartier, contributing to an extra increase in health when consumed.Bookmark here

One chef was all about the roasting of meat, injecting the slab of protein with various juices to keep the meat tender and flavorful. The result of that somehow imbued an increase in Dexterity when consumed. Dengel surmised that it came from the chef’s intent to ‘delicately balance out the flavors’.Bookmark here

Certainly, the ‘intent’ to draw out and enhance certain properties of ingredients played a huge part in the result. And as such, the best way to go about training the chefs was to have them focus on injecting more mana into these moments of intent.Bookmark here

Pinpointing the feeling of that moment and having them unleash their mana became the day’s first training exercise. However, it didn’t take long before the first of them felt the aftereffects.Bookmark here

“So tired!” One chef bent over with his hands on his knees. After two hours of continual mana release, he felt like he had cooked through a mealtime rush that lasted the entire day.Bookmark here

The actions of the others were starting to slow as well, unused to continuously injecting large amounts of mana into their cooking. They were all starting to suffer the effects of mana exhaustion.Bookmark here

“Okay, everyone! Time for a break!”Bookmark here

I opened an oven door and pulled out a few trays of cinnamon buns with a mitted hand.Bookmark here

“You are to eat these, and then go stand in that nifty contraption in the corner. Don’t worry, the Queen herself has been a frequent user of this invention, so it has been thoroughly tested.”Bookmark here

I handed a slightly cooled bun to the nearest chef, signaling him to take a bite. After he nibbled on it once, his eyes widened, and he scarfed the whole thing down. Bookmark here

“That tasty, huh? Now, go stand over there.”Bookmark here

I guided him to the strange contraption, which looked like a changing stall with thick walls. The chef glanced around with an upturned brow as he was shoved inside, noting that various glowing rocks were staring at him from all around. After I flipped a switch, he could feel a warm pulse from them.Bookmark here

He scratched his head, wondering why he was put there. I closed the door at that point, leaving only his feet visible from the outside.Bookmark here

“Let’s see… the effect should happen in three, two, one…”Bookmark here

Knowing exactly when the cinnamon would kick in, I flinched as the chef inside suddenly howled in surprise.Bookmark here

“What the hell?! Hot, hot, hot! I’m burning! Or wait, I’m not burning, but what the hell is this feeling?!”Bookmark here

The chef continued to dance around like he was on fire, unsure if he should escape despite the guarantee from me that the device was perfectly safe. Unfortunately for him, I was leaning against the door so that his exit was blocked.Bookmark here

There was no easy way to convince other people to try it other than shoving the first guy in as an example.Bookmark here

The strange burning sensation was the rapid flooding of mana invading every pore of his body. He had simply been put in a rejuvenation chamber that Katalina invented. After she kept exhausting herself while testing her experimental contraptions, she recalled the hot springs that she bathed in to quickly recover.Bookmark here

Nixing the inconvenience of having to bathe each time, she stuck a ton of energy-emitting magic stones into some walls and connected them to the cables running directly to the city’s mana source.Bookmark here

‘Presto! Instant rejuvenation chamber!’Bookmark here

However, it generally took around half an hour for someone to recharge in this manner, so I decided to speed it up by boosting the body’s mana recovery to the max – through the consumption of a specially-made cinnamon bun.Bookmark here

“You’ll be okay. The burning feeling is all in your head,” I called out to him as he started banging on the door. Not even thirty seconds had passed yet. It had taken me about two minutes to recharge in this manner, but I was more than double his level. The uncomfortable sensation was merely the unfamiliarity of mana forcefully diffusing into one’s body, which had been opened up like a sponge by the bun’s effect.Bookmark here

“Ahhh! Ahhhhh! Ah- eh? It stopped…” The man’s voice trailed off in surprise as the burning sensation finally died down. That was my cue to open the door. He stepped out, lightly fuming like he had been popped out of the oven. A healthy glow of mana exuded from him like a freshly-tanned body on the beach.Bookmark here

“So, how do you feel?” I asked him with a hint of amusement.Bookmark here

“L-Like full of spit and vinegar! Can’t say that I enjoyed the feeling of flames licking against my skin and bolts of energy coursing through my bones at the same time, but it feels great now!”Bookmark here

“Good. Continue your training then.”Bookmark here

I beckoned with my palm for the next person to line up for a refresh. They looked at each other for a moment until one girl grabbed a cinnamon bun and chomped on it. She demurely ate, but her face gave away how it danced on her tongue. Hiding the half-drooling expression with her hand, she marched up to the rejuvenation chamber.Bookmark here

Just like before, this girl howled and banged on the walls as mana was forcefully injected into her.Bookmark here

And like this, everyone took turns getting refreshed before going right back to training. After a few cycles of that, the swinging states of mana exhaustion and super charging no longer bothered them anymore.Bookmark here

Chrys, Dengel, and I spent the entire time pinpointing the proper mana enhancement points. Surprisingly, Dengel went one step farther, giving sharp critiques that even I wasn’t paying much attention to.Bookmark here

“You! The balance of sugar and cinnamon is falling apart! You call yourself a chef?! Slamming all of your mana into a single ingredient, there’s enough fire from the cinnamon to take out the ‘nice from every spice’ here!”Bookmark here

“Paying too much attention to mana and not to roasting, I see! The boar’s so undercooked that I can still hear the wolf huffing and puffing!”Bookmark here

“I don’t know whether to judge you on mana enhancement or the food’s taste… because they are both crap!”Bookmark here

“The mana in this is so bloody RAW that I might as well use it to cast a freaking miracle!”Bookmark here

Chrys and I stared blankly as Dengel went around torching the egos of the other chefs.Bookmark here

“He’s never done that to me. What about you?” I stiffly asked Chrys. She shook her head ‘no’ while going ‘awawawa~’.Bookmark here

At one point, I approached him about it, but he simply adjusted his glasses with his middle finger as he turned around.Bookmark here

“Chancellor, we will never meet the proposed deadline if you baby them through this training. As the best of the best in Sistina, there is no reason to hold back our critique. Their egos are not so fragile. Everyone here knows that they are putting their best to protect this kingdom. Do you not think so?”Bookmark here

The cunning smile of Dengel sent a shiver down my back. Chrys hid behind a counter.Bookmark here

But looking around, it didn’t seem like the other chefs were discouraged at all. If anything, they continued to focus diligently on their training. The antics of a similar television chef who was known to blow his top all the time did not faze them in the slightest. These were chefs that were used to a ‘sink or swim’ mentality.Bookmark here

Before I knew it, evening had come. The chefs were sent to their rooms for the night. Thanks to Dengel, it seemed like everyone was catching on already. At this rate, the training might end a few days earlier. My heart fluttered a bit, thinking that I would join Eryn that much sooner.Bookmark here

A team of maids marched in to clean up the mess that was made, signaling for us to leave. The three of us headed over to one of the bedrooms next to the Queen’s, where Ludmila was holed up for the day to rest.Bookmark here

After she showed signs of miasma leakage, I gave her my charm, which sucked it all up. Since Katalina was simply going to be in the lab, there was no reason for Ludmila to actively guard her. We wanted to make sure that Ludmila had fully recovered from her condition before returning to duty.Bookmark here

As we opened the door to her room, another raven-haired girl sat by her bed, happily chatting with the blond ninja girl.Bookmark here

“Did you have fun catching up, Alice?” Dengel gave her a wide smile, fitting the image of a doting big brother.Bookmark here

“Brother! I was just reading a book together with Ludmila. She never has the time to read, so it seemed like a good opportunity.”Bookmark here

“Oh? What might you be sharing- erk!”Bookmark here

Dengel and I only took two steps forward before the cover flashed before our eyes. A slight blush crept upon our cheeks as we turned away from each other. Needless to say, I had failed to hide that form of ‘literature’ from his attention.Bookmark here

“Brother, why are you and Sir Evers acting so strangely? I would prefer if you would be like Cliff and Dugel from this story. You are so much like them, it’s a bit amusing.”Bookmark here

“Master is naturally popular, even with men,” Ludmila added in a tone devoid of any emotion.Bookmark here

“A, NY, WAYS! How is your condition, Ludmila?” I forcefully tried to steer the topic away from the danger zone.Bookmark here

“Ludmila feels normal. No problems.”Bookmark here

“Okay, good. Until I get another charm from Koujiro, I’m stuck here anyways. We’ll have you stay here and guard the Queen while I head to the battlefield.”Bookmark here

Ludmila looked away, a bit downcast. I could see it in her eyes that she wanted to be there to fight with me. But there was no telling what would happen if she dug up her trauma once again.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry about me. There’s a ton of people there to protect me. I’m the Chancellor, right? Can’t go having the head honcho get offed. Even if I won’t be anywhere near as useful as Cornelius.”Bookmark here

After finishing the stat-boosting rations, the only thing left that I could help with was to contribute to the attack squad. Though I didn’t want to kill, I could still knock out plenty of them with my abilities.Bookmark here

‘I can’t think of what will happen to them afterward. Focus on the goal. Just like when we saved Lady Kaguya.’Bookmark here

For Ludmila’s sake, I hoped everything would go smoothly. Enough so that she would never hear the gunfire in the distance. At least, not until Chrys returned from oracle training to see what was hidden in her mind.Bookmark here

The scene of Ludmila, Alice, and Chrys chatting happily was carved into my heart, something that I vowed to protect. That was what big brothers did for their little sisters.Bookmark here

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