110. The Shadows of Conspiracy
「Hey! Ya recognize this?」
「It’s the stupid god damned recipe you gave me!」
We’d approached the orphanage in order to scout out one of our competitors, but we were immediately greeted by a series of furious shouts upon arrival.
The yells that came from within were excessively loud. We could easily hear them from outside the stone wall that enclosed the building. Our curiosity got the better of us, and we peeped in from the entrance so we could figure out exactly what was going on.
「I’m not about to let you get away with sayn that you ain’t got no recollection of this god damn recipe.」
「Y-Yeah, I get it. I do remember, it’s the recipe you forced me to give you. You said you’d leave us alone if I handed it over.」
「Are you fucken retarded? I told you to hand over the soup recipe you use for the goddamn contest every goddamn year.」
「I-I did already.」
It looked like the orphanage was being harassed by a typical, a loan shark-esque grunt. They mentioned a recipe a few times, so it seemed like they were talking about something related to the contest.
The grunt that’d been shouting at the top of his lungs looked like like your usual everyday hoodlum.
A single woman stood between him and children, as if protecting the latter. She looked middle aged, and was wearing a robe over her overly thin figure.
「Did ya think you could get by just handing me off this incomplete piece of shit? There aint even any precise amounts, all you got is fucken guesswork written down here.」
「But that’s just how I normally prepare it…」
「Hah? Shut the hell up. You and I both know that there ain’t no way in hell you can get past the prelims like that. This shit basically just says that you throw a bunch of random cheap ass vegetables into a stupid fucking pot. The fuck you think you’re trying to fool, bitch?」
「That really is how I prepare it! I don’t normally use any sort of measuring device at all. I just approximate!」
It looked like the the piece of paper the hoodlum was waving around contained the recipe for the orphanage’s signature soup. I’m pretty sure he used some sort of underhanded method to get his hands on it, but either way, he was complaining that it lacked completeness. And honestly, he technically was right. The recipe really didn’t have much written on it.
However, the woman wasn’t lying. She’d been telling him the truth from the very start.
She simply never figured out exactly how much of each ingredient she used, but she managed to get fourth place overall last year in spite of that. I had to say that the sense of dissonance going on there really got me curious, and so, I appraised her, only to find that she, Io, was just about as amazing as one could possibly get as far as cooking went. She had cooking level nine, a skill that enhanced her sense of taste, and most importantly, divine protection from the God of Cuisine. In other words, she had been chosen by none other than the God that governed the realm of food himself.
To her, the act of approximating was probably akin to other people meticulously calculating exactly what was needed at any given point in time, except that it was done on the fly. In other words, she probably just went with her gut feeling while occasionally sampling her dish from time to time. Through the aforementioned method, she’d extract from her ingredients the best possible taste she could, regardless of their quality. It was a brilliant concept, but not one that the hoodlum before us could come to understand.
「I told you to cut the shit already!」
Annnnd yup. Figured as much.
（Master. Going to help.）
『Don’t hit him too hard, alright?』
（Nn. Got it.）
Fran used magic to silence the area, leapt over the fence, and snuck behind the hoodlum without alerting him.
「Listen here, bit-charhgh!」
She drilled her foot into the back of his head and caused his eyes to roll backwards. The hoodlum had been instantly deprived of his consciousness.
Wait, didn’t she say that she knew she was supposed like, not be too violent? I swear I told her that and that she agreed. I swear…
『Hey um, Fran? Whatever happened to not hitting him too hard?』
（Nn? Didn’t kill. Didn’t cut either.）
Er, I guess it’d be better for me to define “too hard” next time. Oh well, whatever. What’s done is done.
「I-I-I’m not sure as to who you are, but thank you very much for your assistance!」
Io thanked us repeatedly before finally calming down, at which point in time we asked her exactly what had happened.
「We’re not really all that sure either…」
Io seemed to not understand much about the precise events that transpired, but, she still tried her best to tell us everything she did know. Fortunately, her words were enough to give a rough idea as to the general circumstances.
It all started a few years ago. Barbra’s lord had suddenly stopped funding the orphanage for reasons unknown, and since then, they’d been suffering financially due to their lack of sustainable income. They were in such dire straits that they found it difficult to even scrape up enough money to allow the children to eat everyday.
They requested the lord to change his mind time and time again, but, he never once agreed to reinstate their funding. The orphanage was later approached by a merchant apparently introduced by said lord. He’d been willing to lend them money at a low interest rate, but that didn’t end up working out either.
「The merchant refused to budge on the repayment date, and said that it was set in stone, but it was way too unrealistic. There was no way we could possibly make three hundred thousand Golde in just half a year… We wanted to ask him to extend deadline, but we were never able to find his whereabouts.」
「Nn? Unable to find whereabouts?」
「The director did his very best to try and locate the merchant, but we never were able to figure out where he went. It turned out that he wasn’t actually registered with Barbra’s Merchant’s Guild.」
Okay yeah, if that isn’t suspicious, then I don’t know what is. In fact, it was pretty obvious that they were just being used and exploited from the very start. I mean, they were offered a decently sized loan with low interest rate loan right when they needed it. Moreover, they were asked to repay it within an impossibly quick time frame. The merchant had obviously wanted something other than money, and they probably would’ve ended up saying that they didn’t get the money even if they had been paid.
Honestly, it was a pretty cliche situation. The only difference was that they were demanding the soup’s recipe as opposed to more normal things like the orphanage’s land or children.
「That hoodlum. Merchant’s underling?」
「I think so. He told us to hand him the recipe instead of paying them back in half a year.」
Okay, yeah, looks like this probably does have something to do with the whole cooking contest. But wouldn’t setting this whole thing up need a lot of prep work? They basically just threw down three hundred thousand Golde for no reason too. Though, I guess most chefs wouldn’t find three hundred thousand to be all that much considering that they were probably investing more than just that into this whole contest thing.
I mean, fine, that can be justified, but why only the recipe? Couldn’t they have just forced the orphanage not to participate instead?
Yeahhhh, I don’t get it. I kind of want to interrogate the hoodlum we have over here, but, that probably wasn’t exactly the best idea. Using violence would ultimately end up bringing trouble to the orphanage as well, sooooo yeah, let’s not.
Doing it after dragging him elsewhere wouldn’t work either. I’d really like to avoid getting targeted by some sort of weird underground organisation.
（Master. What to do with hoodlum?）
『Hmmm.. Well, we can’t really just ditch and not say anything, so let’s mess with his head a bit, I guess.』
The fact that he didn’t see Fran sneak up on him gave us more than just a few options. We had everything we needed to deal with this situation however we pleased.
『Alright, make sure you stick to the plan.』
「Ugh… What happened?」
「Passed out while conversing.」
「Nn. Adventurer. Happened to be passing by, witnessed your collapse. Used recovery magic to help.」
The plan we had ended up going with was pretending that we had nothing to do with the man collapsing at all. In fact, we wanted him to feel as if we’d lent him a hand.
「Sorry, seems like I caused you a bitta trouble.」
「Suddenly collapsing. Sign of serious illness. If collapsing while talking, might be late stages.」
「R-Really? You serious?」
「Nn. Need to leave now. Might be better to get some rest.」
「Y-Yeah, you’re right.」
「H-Hey, you shits! I’mma be leaving for now, but don’t think I won’t be back! You owe me a recipe goddamit!」
I managed to project the effects of the Principle of Falsehood onto Fran’s words because she had me equipped. Honestly, I was quite surprised that it actually worked.
Fran was really bad at acting, but the skill’s effects, combined with the fact that he was still groggy, made it so he ended up believing her wholeheartedly. He gave the orphanage one last angry shout before finally turning around and limping his way out the entrance.
『Urushi, follow him.』
At the very least, having Urushi follow the man around would allow him to memorize his scent. If we were lucky, he’d be able to figure who the man’s companions were, and if we were really lucky, we might even be able to figure out the so called mysterious loan shark’s identity. In any case, it was still win-win situation, as knowing the man’s scent would allow us to track his actions and prevent him from pulling a fast one during the contest itself.
Five or so minutes passed.
「Thank you so much for everything you’ve done for us. Are you sure you don’t want anything else?」
Fran was currently inside the orphanage. Io had asked her whether or not she wanted anything in return for helping them out, and so, the adventurer had asked to try some of the orphanage’s ever so famous soup, to which the caretaker responded with an okay.
The person in question herself didn’t think that the soup really sufficed as thanks, as it was basically only made with the cheapest of vegetables. But in spite of that fact, it was delicious, so delicious that it’d even caused Fran’s expression to change.
『How is it?』
I asked Fran the question despite already knowing the answer she’d give. Her face was twisted in what could only be described as frustration.
『Better than the soup I make?』
（Nn… Soup stock extracted perfectly. Tastes miralculous.）
I had to agree that the soup’s taste seemed to have been the work of some sort of miracle. It wasn’t like any of the stuff we saw at the other restaurants. Its was comprised of cheap vegetables, well water, and salt. That was it. Nothing more, nothing less. I had Fran double check by asking her, and it turned out that she really hadn’t even used any pepper. Yet, it still tasted even better than the stuff I made. Like, holy crap. It was just that amazing. She was probably honestly Barbra’s most talented chef.
「Entering King of Cooking?」
「That’s the plan.」
「Going to use this soup?」
「Yes, I am. Barbra’s people are really nice. They know about how much trouble we’re having with our finances, so they’re even willing to pay as much as 10 Golde for just a single bowl. I’m really grateful for their actions, the earnings we make from the contest have been helping us by. We probably wouldn’t have lasted as long as we did without everyone’s generosity…」
She didn’t have much self confidence and seemed to believe that people only bought her soup as a form of donation. Well, I mean, I can’t say that sympathy didn’t play a part in the soup’s sales figures, but honestly, the soup would’ve sold well even without it. I mean, just look at how Fran reacted. It was so good that it’d caused her emotions to well up in frustration.
Her price point was the same as ours, but each bowl would earn her much more profit than each serving of curry bread would for us given the discrepancy in the cost of our ingredients. She’s going to be making something far outside the realm of just one gold per sale. Her fourth place spot was rightfully deserved.
A thin, freckled girl approached us as Fran finished her soup. She presented to her a small plate with a single cookie lying on top of it.
「It’s supposed to be my snack, but I’m giving it to you because you helped Ms. Io. Thank you, onee-chan.」
She pushed the cookie towards Fran whilst smiling shyly. She probably really wanted it for herself, but she was willing to give it up regardless.
What a good girl she is! I mean, she can’t hold a candle to Fran, but she’s still a really good girl!
Fran split the cookie with the girl and ate it while giving her head a gentle rub. Fran was always used to being treated as a child, so she seemed really happy that someone had looking up to her as something along the lines of an elder sister.
Alright, you know what? I’ve come to a conclusion. Barbra’s lord is a piece of shit. He ended abandoning some city’s most adorable children. How dare he discontinue his funding!
『I think it’s time for us to get in touch with her.』
The guild has the ability to quickly send messages to other branches, meaning we should be able to get in touch with the Alessa branch fairly easily.
「Won’t stay silent. Amanda, that type of person.」
『Yup, let’s do what we can for them.』
And so, we left the orphanage, but not before leaving with them some of the stuff we bought back in Alessa and Dharz. We gave them grains, potatoes, dried meat, and dried fish, stuff meant to last a while even if you just kept it on the shelf. The quantity we had on hand was rather limited, but hopefully, it was at least enough to brighten their days and let them eat healthier, more delicious meals.
 I’ve normally been avoiding leaving in Japanese words and stuff, but it’s difficult to really convey the meaning without it in this case. I’m too lazy to localize such a large chunk, and stuff. I’ve basically given myself a 5 minute upper limit for localization per chapter, with the exception of names because they’re hard. Anyway, onee-chan in Japanese means “elder sister” in English if you take it from a literal standpoint. However the connotations differ vastly between the two languages. Onee-chan is also often used to refer to females who are older than you, or females in their mid-late twenties. The second of the three cases I mentioned is the one used here, and it tends to imply that the individual saying the word is feeling some attachment to the individual they addressing. In this case, you could say that the line is supposed to imply that the little girl is warming up to Fran. This is meant to contrast the shy smile she later gave in order to make her seem more cute.
Speaking of honorifics, you guys are the audience, so I’m going to ask you whether or not you actually want them in general. My current style involves use honorifics only when
I get really lazy it would be too much work/too difficult/too time consuming to rewrite the section and express the thought differently. Do you guys like this, or would you prefer that I just leave them in as they were in the raw?
I’m not going to be making a strawpoll or anything for the time being, but I might if the feedback is split like 50/50-ish.