“At last,” said father with a glance at me as I dragged myself into his room late that evening. He didn’t bother to hide the disdain in his expression or his voice.
My expression twitched. What did he mean, finally? I swallowed the words at the tip of my tongue and sat down where he indicated on the other side of the sofa.
Even if you snap at him here, he’ll only look down on you, I told myself, but he had to open his mouth and ruin it.
“Please take all the time in the world while you talk yourself into action,” he said with great sarcasm.
My brows knitted fiercely. It was because I was self-conscious that I had a hard time taking it easy. The one who knew best how far she was behind schedule was me!
“Various things have happened…”
“So it seems.”
In the quiet room, there was only sound of the pages as he turned them.
“While you were taking a stroll through the port town, there was an intriguing turn of events,” he said without a glance my way.
“Is that so?” I chirped to show I was paying attention, my smile unnatural.
I kept wondering if my terrible acting might be busted, but it seemed like the truth might leak out on its own more than anything else.
“I’m curious, have you read about the uproar over the dead spirits of the sea? The ones that originated from Grund, which spread to each kingdom and was making its way through across the entire land? It seems like a solution was promptly discovered.”
I couldn’t answer falsely. All I could do was freeze. Meanwhile, father kept turning the pages of his document.
It wasn’t the dead, but a disease, etc. The cause was malnutrition, etc. The solution on a long sea trip was to serve food with preserved vegetables, etc.
I felt like I couldn’t do a decent job of explaining a single one of those points.
“Something like the long term preservation of vegetables? Highly fascinating.”
My lips were zipped and I hadn’t said anything in a while, but he did seem to notice as he continued.
“On a long trip by ship, food problems cannot be overlooked. The masses would have been suspicious if it had been marketed as a magical product, but a long lasting food product is a different story. Even if the tout that it was capable of curing illnesses was a lie, it would be no loss. More so if it was cheap. I wonder, who in the world came up with this idea?”
“I haven’t the slightest clue,” I smiled sweetly but my strained voice sounded harder than I expected.
“The distributor is Julius zu Eigel. He’s the uncle of your former fiancé candidate. An acquaintance of yours, no?”
“Yes. A wonderful man.”
“In what way?”
“He is honest, benevolent, and talented.”
“Ahh, indeed. Paper instructions detailing how to make it was stuck on each and every product. Truly benevolent,” he said lightly, and I didn’t know what to say.
It’s my fault Master Julius is being made a fool of, I thought. Guilt won over anger. My hands curled into fists, my nails biting into the skin.
“Are they not selling?”
“I hear it’s delicious in its simplicity. They say the included instructions make the basic version, so it’s possible to change the taste.”
What he just mentioned was one of the “requests,” or perhaps I should say “conditions,” that Master Julius gave me.
The basic recipe was written on the paper and the final product sold would be the same version.
But depending on the herbs or seasonings, the flavor profile can change. In order to market the different possibilities, it seemed like they were selling condiments and unconventional spices together with the sauerkraut.
And, there was one more thing…
“Furthermore, if it really came with the blessings of a goddess, those devout seamen will follow each other’s example and buy it.”
“A goddess, you say?”
“This knowledge was apparently granted to Julius zu Eigel by the same goddess who saved his sister-in-law from the grips of death. The trade name is ‘Dew of the Sea.’ Takings its name from a plant that represents unchanging love and fidelity—its other name is ‘Rosemary.’”
Fwoosh. Father threw down his documents and they spread over the table.
I chewed on my lip, no reply coming to mind as I watched.
“Why didn’t you claim the credit for yourself?”
“Father, it seems like you already know, so… Is that truly necessary?”
“What backward logic. If you think modesty is a virtue, you are sorely mistaken.”
Do you think you have that sort of leeway in light of your position? he added.
I was put to silence by his words.
If I didn’t prove myself within the set amount of time, I would be forced to marry to the next kingdom. In order to avoid a political marriage, I couldn’t be saying something so complacent.
I was fully aware of that.
Then why did I not claim the credit this time?
I wasn’t trying to be modest, insisting it wasn’t through my efforts alone.
Neither was I being arrogant, expecting it to be obvious even without it being stated.
The truth is, I was scared.
Because the knowledge I have came from a previous life.
It was exactly because scurvy was so unfamiliar that it created such a commotion. It was highly unlikely that a method would be found to deal with it. I told Master Julius I had gained the knowledge from a book, but a book like that didn’t exist. There was no point of looking through the palace, even if you searched the whole world you wouldn’t find it.
It was unlikely father had missed such a contradiction.
I looked down.
“Keep your head high,” he suddenly startled me by commanding, as if he had read my thoughts.
“Eh?” I couldn’t hide my surprise.
“If you intend to overcome this with a smile, see it through to the end. Averting your gaze is the same as confessing you have something to be guilty of.”
I felt like I’d just been hit by those words.
I was afraid I’d be exposed, like a cheater who only writing the solution to a math problem without knowing the formula.
“It’s written on your face again. You’re truly terrible at negotiations.”
With a glance at my frozen form, he gave a short sigh. In a relaxed manner he crossed his long legs.
I wasn’t even provoked into responding when he said, Compared to you, your little brother still shows promise.
“Doing what your negotiating partner wants by showing your hand from start to finish is not negotiating. If there’s something you don’t want to answer, smile without saying anything. In order to make your partner comfortable, lead them to feel that way.”
Your daughter doesn’t even have decent poker face, what outrageous things are you saying!
It was true that I was no good at this, and if I could put his advice into practice then it could only help.
Actually, judging from the flow of conversation, could I get out of this without having to reveal the source of my knowledge on scurvy?
I relaxed, letting my guard down.
As if he had been waiting for this very moment, he said, “So?”
“Where did you come by information that neither the physicians, the chefs, nor the scholars of the palace had?”
Somehow, I could tell he was enjoying himself behind his expressionless mask. Like he instructed, I smiled and said nothing as I looked at him.