“You want me to prepare the food for the ball……?”
Hilda continued while fixing the position of her monocle.
“As you are probably already aware, the official cuisine of our nation is incredibly unpopular. In order to improve it, I would like to ask you for your help.”
Both the look on her face and the tone of her voice were sharp and wise, but I could tell from her attitude that she was being sincere.
No, I was well-aware that even that part of her was all just an act, but her acting ability was enough to make me think this was a big deal.
“Why me? There are countless other people in the Empire that are qualified for the job.”
Even the cafeteria lady from the dining hall was aware of the problem.
Perhaps something like this would’ve been better left to people that were already involved with cooking.
“There are a number of reasons behind it, but…… it’ll make for a long conversation. Let’s move to the reception office.”
I followed Hilda as we relocated elsewhere.
The reception room that I was brought to was a place where academic faculty members could entertain guests from outside of the school.
The furniture was not arranged in any spectacular way, giving the interior a very relaxing feeling.
“So, as for why I’m asking you for this favor, there are three main reasons for it. First of all, you are deeply knowledgeable when it comes to cooking.”
“I’m really not that big of a deal, though?”
I liked cooking, but I had never once thought that I was particularly any good at it.
Even though this world was similar to medieval Europe, I’m sure I was still far behind from the professional cooks here.
“I believe you’re being too modest for somebody who acts as Blume’s advisor, don’t you think?”
Hilda’s cheeks loosened a bit.
It appeared that she had looked into me.
“While it’s true that I’m the one supplying Blume with their recipes, they’re just recipes. My cooking skills are nowhere near as skilled as a professional’s.”
“You can leave the cooking to the professionals, then. What I want from you is your creativity.”
It seemed like she was overrating me too much.
Besides, it wasn’t like I was particularly creative or anything, I just had some knowledge of it from my previous life.
“The second reason is your sociability. Even though you’re a foreigner to the Empire, in the few months you’ve been here, you’ve managed to befriend Philine-sama and various other people with ease. I value that a lot.”
“If you’re going to praise anybody about that, I think the achievement belongs to Claire-sama.”
I didn’t think of myself as a particularly social person either.
I wasn’t a shy person, but I also wasn’t the type that would go out of my way to expand my social circle.
On the other hand, Claire-sama was what you could call social, and I believed that most of the people we befriended in the Empire was all thanks to Claire-sama.
“You and Claire are like a single person anyway. By getting your cooperation, wouldn’t Claire naturally follow and help out as well?”
“That’s wrong. I am me, and Claire-sama is Claire-sama.”
It might not sound convincing when I’m the one saying this since I’m so clingy with Claire-sama, but we were still different individuals.
Claire-sama was an irreplaceable person to me, and I hoped that she felt the same, but I didn’t want to be treated like the same person by a third party.
“I apologize. In that case, I’ll be sure to ask Claire for her help separately later. The final and most important reason is that Her Majesty Dorothea seems to have taken an interest in you.”
“Ahh, so that was it?”
I could see where this conversation was coming from now.
“We were saved by your knowledge last time. Right, and the biggest issue right now happens to be Her Majesty Dorothea as well. Her Majesty Dorothea is currently unaware of the problem.”
Hilda put her hand on her forehead and shook her head.
The whole reason why the Imperial official cuisine hadn’t seen an improvement yet was due to the fact that Dorothea never saw a need for it.
Speaking of which, considering the kind of personality she had, it was probably going to be difficult trying to convince her of the issue.
Because of that, I was basically being asked to do it instead since she had a strange liking for me.
Hilda really was quite scheming.
It was this quality of hers that earned her the name of an incredibly competent bureaucrat.
“Will you accept it?”
Hilda asked me with a gentle-looking smile on her face.
Even though I was well-aware it was just an act, her beauty was truly enamoring.
I thought about it for a bit.
I could easily turn it down.
To begin with, this was the Empire’s problem to deal with anyway.
There was no reason for me to accept it at all.
“I’ll do it.”
I answered with a “yes”.
“……. That’s surprising. Unlike Claire, I didn’t think you were such a good-natured person. You’re certainly a big help to us, but if I may ask, what is your reason behind accepting it?”
She said something rather cruel about me, but I couldn’t say anything since she was right.
Or maybe it was that.
Perhaps Hilda and I had really similar personalities.
“I’d like to ask for some assurance from the Empire in return.”
“Some assurance, you say.”
So far, the Empire has not done anything to endanger Claire-sama’s life.
However, that might not always be the case.
And there was one more thing I wanted to prepare for.
“Is it about the demons, by any chance?”
“Don’t you think it’s a bit discomforting to have someone read your thoughts like that?”
I cursed Hilda a little bit, but she was right.
The Empire was close to the demons’ territory, so the threat of them could not be ignored.
Moreover, the demons all seemed to have their eyes set on targeting Claire-sama.
The three major demons that we encountered were all incredibly powerful.
Plus, although Lily-sama mentioned that it was rare to run into them in the first place, we’d already been attacked by three of them in quick succession since arriving in the Empire.
It would be silly of me to not have some sort of countermeasure prepared.
“Fufu, you’re exactly as I expected.”
“I don’t think there’s anything to be expected here at all.”
“No, no. Everybody’s been singing Claire’s praises for her part as the heroine of the revolution, but the person that I value the most is you instead, Rei Taylor.”
“Haah……. Thank you very much.”
This was probably all just an act as well.
Even if she truly believed it, she was likely praising me for her own benefit (in order to advance in her own career).
“Can I ask you something?”
“What is it?”
“Don’t you think you’re trying a bit too hard in your ambitions?”
When I said that, the expression on Hilda’s face instantly disappeared.
However, she recovered immediately, and,
“What might you be talking about?”
She played it off as a joke.
As expected of her.
“Well, I just wanted to rein you in a little.”
“I see. I have no idea what you’re talking about, but I’m becoming more and more interested in you, Rei Taylor.”
“Is that so. I’m honored. Hahaha.”
What were we doing, acting like two sly foxes trying to outwit each other?
You could say that we were searching for each other’s true intentions, but it was quite exhausting.
Perhaps this was what it felt like to dislike somebody just like yourself.
“Anyway, as long as you’re willing, if you need any help from me, feel free to ask for anything.”
“I see. In that case, I’d like to ask for something right away.”
“What would that be?”
Hilda asked me and waited for my response, seemingly more cautious of me than she was before.
“Could I borrow some of the staff from the academy’s dining hall? And I’d like to request an audience with Her Majesty Dorothea.”