My attack stat is negligible, so I can't help but rely on critical hits to succeed!
Although the boar subjugation job had been completed on paper, there was still plenty of work to be done in order to clean up the aftermath. Eryn had immediately sent a messenger to her uncle in the capital to arrange for transport of the boar carcasses, along with sending word to potential buyers. While most of the other knights had returned to the capital already, Eryn was stuck with coordinating the cleanup using her family's connections and dealing with a mountain of paperwork for the next few days. Cornelius had also stayed behind to negotiate compensation for the damages and look into mitigating the impact of a reduced pizarka harvest on the market. Since we had food and lodging provided by the town, I ended up with nothing to do since my duties had been taken care of.
"Man, this is so boring." I sighed as I was sitting in the guest room flipping through a notebook that I had started using to jot down notes of various monsters' weak points I had encountered so far.
While I would offer to help Eryn with her work, I'd probably just get in the way or think it was too hard and give up halfway. In the past, I'd always procrastinate and come up with excuses not to do my schoolwork as there was always something more interesting going on. It would usually end up being a mad rush to finish it last minute, so I would only learn just enough to keep me afloat in class. It was difficult for me to stay motivated unless I could get immediate feedback from the process.
"I guess I could try out my new box."
Tossing the notebook in the box, I then grabbed a handful of knives and placed them all in. I walked out of the room and out of the inn. After stepping outside, I activated the wristband and a portal appeared above my left arm. Good, I can still grab a knife from this distance. I kept walking farther and farther away from the inn, occasionally testing the device and finding no issues. Soon, the edge of the forest was in my sights.
"Maybe I should practice a bit on my own."
My confidence had been steadily growing after I started gaining more experience in defeating monsters. However, that had all been with Eryn watching over me. I couldn't rely on Eryn all the time. Who knows when another situation like that time with the giant mushroom would occur next? Mentally preparing myself, I started exploring the forest on my own.
Trekking near the boundaries of the forest, I mainly encountered monsters that I had slain before. Despite my familiarity with their weak points, it was still a struggle to pinpoint one of those locations on a moving target. As my knife snapped in half on the body of a giant ware rabbit, I jumped back and activated the band. Pulling out another knife just in time, I swung my knife right into the jugular of the pouncing rabbit. Feeling a lack of resistance, the knife dove in, and the rabbit's head separated neatly as both parts of the body landed with 2 sequential thumps. While my successful attacks appeared to be getting more frequent, quite of bit of energy was still spent leading up to that point. Staying constantly focused in order to pinpoint weaknesses was also mentally draining. Due to this handicap, farming for experience would remain a challenge regardless of how high level I got.
"Seems like there is no hope for me to level up effectively besides risking death to one-shot a strong monster. Haha…."
A forced laugh out of exasperation.
Ironically, it seemed like the forest heard me as the sound of brushwood cracking and heavy footsteps became audible just then.
Cautiously, I turned towards that direction and waited nervously. A large bear-like ogre had stomped out from behind a tall bush. The monster towered above me. It stiffed the air once and looked in my direction. Raising a large branch in its hand like a club, the monster brought it down with a loud thump as it slammed the ground as if to intimidate me.
It looked strong. Possibly too strong for me to handle. Quickly opening a status window to check, the text 'Lvl. 30' hovered above it. It was more than 10 levels higher!
Backing away slowly, I readied my knife for any sudden movements. It came slowly at me, swinging the club. With my current agility, dodging a safe distance away was rather easy. I should look for an opening to escape. Two more steps and two more swings later, it sniffed the air again and looked at the fresh corpse of the ware rabbit on the ground. Picking it up, it smelled it again before taking a big bite out of the torso.
Wait, should I go for it while it's distracted? This may be my chance to take down something strong.
Seeing this chance, I dashed behind it and started poking away with my knife trying to find a weak spot around its torso. Having interrupted its snack time, the monster swung the club horizontally behind him, causing me to jump back a safe distance again. It was still focused on eating, so I tried poking at it again, picking locations that had worked before on other monsters. Yet again, the monster swung at me before I could find any success. Finally, it had finished eating and turned towards me again, this time looking angrier than before.
Oh crap! Maybe I should've just escaped when I had the chance. This isn't looking good.
Someone had chanted a spell behind me as I saw ice envelop the monster's limbs, restraining its movements. Turning around, I saw Cornelius behind me giving me a salute.
"What are you waiting for? Now's your chance." Cornelius said with a wink.
Thankful for the help, I dashed in and resumed poking at the monster. As my knife landed somewhere around the diaphragm, it sunk in completely, inciting a loud roar from the monster. Covering my ear with one hand while trying to ignore the vibration going through my ears, I pulled the knife downwards, creating a large, deep gash on the belly downwards. At this point, the monster starting flailing violently enough to break the icy restraints from its arms, but after doing so, it bent down in agony.
Cornelius cast another Icy Prison, restraining it once again.
"The neck! Go for the neck, Mr. Chef!"
Not wasting any time, I aimed straight for the monster's neck. This time, the knife got lucky and went right through, cleanly severing its head. Finally able to relax, I sat down and cleaned my knife before returning it to the scabbard. A notification popped up indicating that I had leveled up.
"Thank you for the assist, Lord Reich..err…" Crap, I forgot his name.
"It's Cornelius. No need for formalities." Cornelius extended a hand to me, in which I returned the handshake.
"I see. Well thank you, Cornelius. What are you doing here?"
"Why, I was looking for you."
"Me? Why? Or better yet, how did you find me out here?"
"This little one helped me find you from the sky." A blue bird floated down and perched on Cornelius's shoulder. "Though I've actually been here for some time watching you fight that bugabear."
"Watching? I would have appreciated the help a little sooner, but I guess I should be thankful that you lent me a hand in the first place."
"After chatting with Eri, I wanted to see Mr. Chef in action for myself." Cornelius said with a grin. "It's not everyday that you see someone fight off a strong monster with a set of cookware."
Yeah, yeah. I get your point. I'm the type of guy that would choose the joke weapon given the option. At least if I lost a match, then I could laugh it off as part of goofing around. But getting made fun of when it's part of reality still stings.
"Actually, there was another reason that I was looking for you. It's to make a request."
"Request?" I looked at him confused. "What could I even help with?"
"Just follow me." Cornelius turned around and beckoned me to follow him.
Back at the inn, I found myself now in the kitchen with Cornelius, Eryn and a number of the inn staff.
"If you could, please recreate that smell that you used to lure the boars." Cornelius requested.
That was a simple enough task. As I quickly sautéed some pizarka, the aroma flooded the kitchen. The staff were surprised, seemingly overwhelmed by the strong smell.
"What a rich aroma! From just that small amount!"
Huh? They were surprised at this? I was just tossing food in a pan on high heat, the most elementary form of cooking. I was rather confused as to why anything like this was impressive.
"But why doesn't the pizarka burn from cooking on such a high flame?" Another cook chimed in.
"The pan is coated with animal fat, so of course it doesn't burn from this much."
"That's odd. A layer of animal fat on your pan? That's sounds a bit unappetizing."
Huh? It was almost second nature for me to create a non-stick coating, but now that I think of it, Carina never did it either. Magical tools had been designed to simplify much of the cooking process such that you just needed to throw the ingredients in, so I hadn't noticed before. By using these tools, the cooking techniques were usually limited to roasting on an open flame, boiling in a pot, pan searing or baking in an oven. Not much maintenance or attention needed overall.
"Other than the fat that seeps out of meat while cooking, I don't think it's really in any of our other dishes." The inn staff were in agreement.
The pieces were starting to come together. The bland meat. The dipping sauce. The flavorful pizarka being treated as a delicacy. The level of cuisine was rather low compared to my own experiences. I had made my own lard due to the simplicity of the process and the availability of raw materials while traveling, but now I understood why I never saw it sold in the market.
"Let me ask you this. How is pizarka currently used in dishes?" I asked the staff.
"Well…we roast the bulbs and serve it as is…chopped fine and sprinkled on top of dishes or sauce as a garnish…generally, it's just an accessory to enhance our dishes."
I see. Their ways of using pizarka had not taken advantage of the ability to transfer the taste to another medium. Enhancing the flavor of pizarka through the magic of cooking had also not been unlocked.
"Would you mind if I tried making a dish now?"
"Oh sure, go right ahead." They beckoned me to demonstrate.
I rolled up my sleeves and got right to work. Cornelius and Eryn look on with amusement as if they were anticipating something great. Paying them no mind, I gathered some boar meat, which was plentiful thanks to recent events, and a bulb of pizarka. Chopping up the ingredients, I stir fried both ingredients in the pan coated with fat. The flavor of pizarka seeped into the fat and turned it into a pizarka oil that coated the strips of boar meat. Testing a piece, the meat had been enriched with the deep flavor of pizarka. Afterwards, everyone in the room had a sample of the finished dish.
The very next day, Pizarka Boar became the new 'Belmont Special'. I spent the next several days fine-tuning the dish and teaching the inn staff how to make it. I also had to show them how to make the lard used for the pan frying, but they were happy to find more ways to use the plentiful amount of boar remains. In fact, the creation of a lard that retained the flavor of pizarka caught on like wildfire.
Of course, I found out later that I had somehow solved some difficult issues that Cornelius and Eryn were having trouble with. Cornelius had been working on managing the pizarka shortage that would occur due to the reduced harvest. Eryn was trying to convince merchants to purchase all of the boar remains without much luck. The sheer amount present would cause a saturation in the market as sold. However, the popularity of pizarka lard became a good incentive for merchants to buy up the extra boar remains for the distribution of a new product. Furthermore, the flavor of pizarka in the lard had been multiplied through my cooking technique. Therefore, far less pizarka was needed to obtain the same flavor as used before. Merchants could advertise a product that would last much longer, resulting in less strain in the pizarka supply. Both problems had been swiftly solved, and we were able to head back home soon after.
Little did I know that weeks later, I would be seeing pizarka lard used everywhere in the capital. Restaurants devoted a large portion of their menus to food that had been cooked in the stuff. Furthermore, the use of even plain lard had caught on as new methods to use it, such as deep frying, had also gotten popular. People were consuming it so much that it had practically revolutionized cooking. Even Eryn seemed to have gain a little bit of weight, much to her chagrin.
I really hoped that I hadn't unleashed a bane into this world. I didn't want to be known as the guy who single-handedly sparked a worldwide obesity problem. I'll have to be more careful transferring the practices from my home world to this one from now on. For now, I'll just swallow my guilt along with this helping of fried potatoes sticks that I had been missing since my previous life.