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Eleanora-san led me to the kitchen at the back of the restaurant. Inside, Zelef-san and a few other chefs were busying themselves with cooking.
「Zelef, we’re here.」
When Eleanora-san called out to him, everyone turned to look at us.
「Eleanora-dono, we’ve been waiting for you. Oh, Yuna-dono is with you as well?」
「Yes, I just happened to run into her outside the restaurant. I would like Yuna-chan to help with the taste-testing; would that be okay?」
While it had indeed been by chance that we ran into each other at the front of the restaurant, it wasn’t really a coincidence that I was here. Well, I couldn’t really tell them that I rushed here because I heard about a Bear-themed shop in the capital from Sanya-san.
「Of course. If Yuna-dono, who invented the recipes, taste-tested our dishes, it would be of great help to us.」
「Well, I’m not really a taste-testing expert, but I will do my best.」
I wasn’t like the expert taste-testers on the TV or manga who could judge food professionally. I was just an ordinary fifteen-year-old girl with a basic taste and food knowledge.
「Simply saying it’s good or bad will be more than enough. If something doesn’t taste right to you, please let us know, so we can fix it.」
If that was all I had to do, it should be fine.
「Well then, let me introduce to you our chefs first. The three of them will be working at our restaurant and delivering your recipes to the people of the capital.」
Zelef-san gestured his apprentices forward, and the three of them immediately lined up beside him. Taking a good first look at them, I noticed that there were two guys and a girl, which surprised me.
The guys looked like they were in their early twenties, but she appeared to be younger, most likely about eighteen years old.
Also, was it just me, or was the girl looking at me rather respectfully? Nah, it must be just my imagination. It would be arrogant of me to think that someone older than me would look up to me.
「These three have both high social status and good culinary skills, so I assure you they won’t leak your recipes to anyone and guarantee that they will not disgrace your store’s reputation in any way with bad behaviour or cooking.」
Was it okay to have such an excellent staff run a restaurant like this?
It was just a Bear shop with cute Bears standing outside of the entrance. Were the three of them really fine working at such a place? I wanted to ask them that but held it in.
「Everyone, please introduce yourselves to Yuna-dono.」
The two guys, as they introduced themselves, kept glancing at my outfit. Still, knowing that they had been chosen by Zelef-san to work here, their stares didn’t feel uncomfortable like they did with others; they were most likely just using it as a reference for the restaurant, especially since from what Zelef-san had told me just earlier, they would take up the roles of the Head Chef and Assistant Head chefs in this restaurant.
Once the solemn introductions of the two were complete, the girl rushed to me with sparkling eyes.
「My name is Shaila. I have the least skill of the three, but I am the most energetic. I really didn’t think I would get to meet with Bear-san today. I am deeply moved to be able to meet you!」
She happily introduced herself while grabbing onto my Bear Hand.
「Umm, my name is Yuna. Nice to meet you, too.」
I emphasized my name to her.
「Bear-san, please take care of us!」
Was the ‘Bear-san’ on purpose? She was doing it on purpose, wasn’t she?
I even made sure to articulate my name, but she completely ignored it. Looking at her innocent smile, it didn’t seem like she was doing it to spite me, but… She wasn’t trying to secretly ridicule me, was she?
「Come on, Shaila. Don’t be rude towards Yuna-dono.」
Zelef-san said and lightly bonked Shaila in the head.
「I’m sorry, my dear uncle.」
Did I hear that right? She called him my dear uncle, didn’t she? Was there some kind of forbidden relationship between them? Or, was I being simply too influenced by manga and novels?
「Shaila is my niece. She’s good at cooking, but her personality can be a bit… troublesome.」
Zelef-san sighed as he explained.
Oh, it turned out that was just her personality and he was her actual uncle.
「My dear uncle, you’re being mean to me.」
「I told you not to call me uncle here. How many times do I need to remind you of that?」
「I’m sorry, Head Chef.」
Couldn’t he tell her not to call me 「Bear-san」too…
「Bear-san, I did my best to make this. Please try it.」
「Umm, can you please call me by my name instead of Bear-san?」
At this rate, she was bound to keep calling me Bear-san.
I could excuse young children and elderly folk for calling me Bear-san and Young Bear Lady, but being called that by someone close to my age really felt like I was being ridiculed.
「I’m sorry. We’re used to calling you the「Cooking Bear」between us.」
Shaila seemed to realize only now and immediately bowed to apologize to me.
Did that mean all the chefs here were calling me the 「Cooking Bear」?
I also called other people by nicknames sometimes, like blondie for blonde haired girls and muscle uncle for muscular guys, so I couldn’t really judge them. Not that I was particularly fine with being called Bear-san myself, though.
「Well, that makes sense. His Majesty ordered the guards to let ‘the Bear’ into the castle as it wasn’t dangerous.」
「Yes, and when Head Chef also said not to be surprised if we meet a girl dressed as a bear, we just grew to call you that.」
Eleanora-san and Shaila helped explain as to how the nickname came to be so commonly used.
So, not only was my nickname widely spread throughout at the castle, but Eleanora-san also finally explained why I was never stopped when I came to meet with Princess Flora. Normally, if a commoner (not to mention one wearing a Bear Suit) were to try and enter the castle, the guards would surely try to stop them and be suspicious of their motives. Instead, people simply bowed and stared at me when I came, letting me enter Princess Flora’s room without even asking me my reason of visit.
「His Majesty didn’t want to cause you trouble when you came, and this was the simplest way to explain it to people.」
Eleanora-san further explained. So that was why…
Well, since that meant I could visit Princess Flora whenever I wanted, I couldn’t complain too much. It would have been a pain if I were stopped every time. Giving a rational response to things like「Stop, you suspicious person!」or 「Why are you wearing such a suspicious outfit?」 would be almost impossible.
「Well then, Yuna-san, where did you learn all these recipes? Did you create them yourself? How could you possibly come up with all of these dishes? Also, why do you wear a bear costume?」
With the Bear-san issue out of the way, Shaila immediately began to bombard me with questions. With each one, she also excitedly took a step towards me, so I had to keep backing away or I feared she would trample me.
Zelef-san warned and gave her head another bonk.
「Head Chef, that hurts.」
「Then calm yourself and I won’t need to do it.」
Only then did Shaila realize what she was doing and backed off.
「Yuna-dono, I apologize. She just can’t stay still, this one.」
「You’re being mean, Head Chef. I’ve just been looking very forward to meeting Yuna-san.」
「Looking very forward?」
「You’re always bringing food to the Head Chef, right? I’m jealous that only he gets to eat those dishes…」
She seemed to be implying that Zelef-san was being unfair.
Every time I visited Princess Flora, I would pass a dish to Anju-san to give to him as an apology for ruining his meal preparations. I also sometimes asked him to try my new dishes, such as pudding, cake, and pizza. Not to mention all the different types of bread that Morin-san (and I) thought of.
「You’ve been making those same dishes, though.」
「Yes, but Head Chef, you always say that the ones I make should taste better.」
「Well, obviously. You had me eat those while you were still practicing.」
「Well, I’ve really wanted to talk to Yuna-san, anyway. We’re both girls, and since she can make such delicious food…」
Shaila again shuffled closer to me with sparkling eyes.
This girl was so enthusiastic that it was almost scary.
「Yes, but you must calm yourself or you will scare her away.」
Zelef-san said and bonked her head for the third time.
「Uuu, my head hurts…」
「Yuna-dono, when you have time, please take some time off for Shaila. It shouldn’t be too hard for you to chat as you’re both girls.」
For a shut-in like myself to deal with someone so energetic… it might be hard even though we were both girls.
I would much rather talk to someone a little bit more reserved, but I couldn’t really say something so selfish out loud, so I decided to just jump straight into the taste-testing, and ignore the request for now.
On the table, there were several freshly baked cakes and breads lined up neatly. They must have timed it with Eleanora-san’s arrival so that was why they had just been baked. Wasn’t this a bit too much? On the other side of the room, I saw another table also neatly lined with cakes and bread. Did I have to try all of these? I was just a young girl, so I couldn’t possibly eat all of it.
「Yuna-san, please taste this!」
Oblivious of my conflicted feelings, Shaila immediately served me a slice of cake.
It was a simple strawberry shortcake. Even though I didn’t know if I could finish them all, I humbly accepted it.
Eleanora-san and I taste-tested cake after cake, and slowly, my belly began to bulge. I usually liked eating cake, but I could only eat so much of it… Eating food was only enjoyable when done with moderation; cramming it all at once would bring all sorts of unpleasantries.
「So, Yuna-san, what do you think of this cake? I thought of it myself…」
I tried a slice of the cake she offered me.
「Mm, this mixture of sweet and sour is quite good.」
「T-thank you very much.」
「Yuna-dono, please try this as well.」
「This too, please.」
They all presented their dishes to me.
Perhaps I made a mistake in taking part in this taste-testing… It was too late now to do anything about it, though, so I could only take my time putting each piece in my mouth, hoping I wouldn’t burst.
For each dish I stated 「This is my inexperienced opinion, but I think that…」and, without beating around the bush, presented them with my opinions, such as: this is delicious, the tastes don’t match well, this is pretty good, it’s too sweet, you skimped too much on the salt.
The three of them busily jotted down everything I said, as if I really was some sort of food expert.
「My, Yuna-chan, you’re so popular.」
「Stop teasing me Eleanora-san, and help me eat.」
Eleanora-san’s plate was empty, so she wasn’t lying. It was very strange: both of us were always served at the same time, yet whether it was a cake or a piece of bread, she finished each one before me without any trouble. She must be the same as Mylene-san…. When they were eating something they liked, they could eat as much as they wanted, their stomachs were like bottomless wells.
On the other hand, I was doing my best just trying to persevere.
In conclusion, most of the dishes were delicious.
While they had indeed prepared each dish based on my recipes, they also carefully and expertly added their personal take to it. The whipped cream decoration on the cakes was very skillfully applied as well.
「We tried our best but couldn’t draw the Bear-san on it as well as we hoped we could.」
「Yes, we apologize for that. If only we could see how your people in Crimonia do it…」
「It sounded like it was such a cute cake, so we had to try it, but the result…」
I didn’t understand what the three of them were talking about.
Since when did the cakes from my shop have Bear-san decorations on top?
「Yuna-san, could you please show us how it’s done?!」
「Umm, what exactly are you talking about?」
「Eleanora-sama and Head Chef both told us how your store uses whipped cream to draw Bear-san on cakes. They also said those were very popular amongst the customers.」
「Yes, I saw some children ordering it, and they looked really happy when they ate it.」
I really didn’t know anything about such a cake.
Was this Elena-san’s doing? Where had she learned of it, though? It was very much like those ketchup drawings on omurice that could be found at maid cafes in my world, but I didn’t recall ever telling her about it.
Actually, I did remember drawing one before.
While we had been making Misa’s birthday cake, I was fooling around and drew a Bear-san on the cake, which Fina then took home to give to Shuri. Shuri couldn’t have gone to Misa’s birthday party, so I drew it for her, hoping that it would make her happy.
Somehow, Elena-san must have heard about it and taught herself how to draw Bear-san on cakes? Well, it wasn’t like I had intended to keep it a secret, so I didn’t really have too much of a problem with it.
「We also thought we could make children happy if we could serve something like that to them, so we tried our best, but the result is nowhere near what we wanted…」
「I have no artistic talent myself, so I can’t really teach them that.」
Zelef-san answered, slightly embarrassed.
I looked over at Eleanora-san.
「If I could draw, I wouldn’t have had to show the craftsman your picture book to have him make the sculptures.」
This restaurant had already unexpectedly committed to the Bear-san theme, and now they even asked to draw the bears on cakes for them… It almost made me want to strangle myself.
On the other hand, Shaila was looking at me with such innocent, pleading eyes that it hurt my heart.
If I showed them how to do it, it would feel like I was digging my grave, but if I didn’t, I would be disappointing everyone who worked so hard for this shop…
「Does it really have to be a bear?」
「Yuna-chan, are you planning to keep it as a special service for the children of Crimonia?」
「Not because of that, but…」
Just what had I gotten myself into… Well, it was all my fault, but still…
「Yuna-san, please teach us.」
Shaila said while bowing deeply.
She kept her head down, while I was trying to find a way out, but the other chefs didn’t offer me the chance and also bowed. Staying silent at this point was making me look like a huge bad guy.
「Please do it for the children.」
I sighed and began drawing a cute bear with whipped cream.
「Yuna-san, you’re really good at this.」
「I see, that’s how you do it. I must note this down!」
Shaila quickly took notes while I was drawing while the other chefs just watched me intently.
It was just a drawing of a Bear, they didn’t have to be so focused on the lines I drew.
「Thank you very much. I will go practice right away.」
Shaila said and started copying the bear I drew, prompting the other two to do the same.
Did I end up making the wrong choice in the end?
Volume 3 pre-orders have already been opened at many different places.
For some reason, on Amazon’s site, the web version has the front cover, but the hard copy doesn’t. I’m not sure why…
Anyway, for this volume, I added four bonus short stories for the hard copy.
I’m still deciding which stories to give the bonus to, so this is more of a notice how it’s been going rather than a full release notice. Please do wait patiently for that one.
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