Chapter 71: Let’s start together
The bucket is overflowing with trout.
The trout thrash around, causing the bucket to shake and move. It’s quite a bountiful catch.
Sophia wiped the sweat off her forehead with the back of her hand.
“Now, let’s smoke them right away!”
They placed the bundle of trout on the carriage and Sophia and Diana climbed aboard.
“Hey, who do you think caught those trout?”
George frowned and complained, so Diana retorted.
“Thomas is planning to take them all once they’re smoked, so talk to Thomas about it.”
“Huh? Why would Thomas be involved?”
“I borrowed this fishing rod from Thomas.”
George looked up at the empty sky.
“Well, never mind. Smoking them will preserve them.”
“Give my regards to Thomas!”
The carriage carrying the two of them rattled and ran away along the riverside.
George muttered to himself.
“That noble girl… she has talent for fishing.”
The smokehouse was located downstream by the river.
The small hut emitted a fragrant smoke, filling the surroundings with a unique scent.
“So, this is the smokehouse…”
“Oh, Diana, look over there.”
Villagers had gathered and were putting various things into barrels.
“Let’s go and see.”
Sofia confidently walked forward, and Diana followed.
The barrels were filled with fragrant amber-colored liquid, and the villagers were throwing in chunks of meat.
“What’s up, Diana?”
“What are you all doing?”
“We’re marinating the meat in saumur liquid.”
“Don’t you know? It’s a preserving and flavoring liquid. Today’s saumur liquid has a cardamom flavor. Do you want to marinate fish too?”
Although Diana and Sofia didn’t fully understand, it seemed to be a necessary step in smoking, so they nodded without hesitation.
“The cost for the saumur liquid is one silver coin.”
Sofia took out a silver coin from her purse and immediately paid.
“…And, before marinating, you need to remove the innards.”
One of the villagers said that, causing Sofia to turn pale.
“I-I can’t… I can’t clean the fish!”
Diana whispered to her.
“Just cut and remove them. If you don’t, that bug will stay in its belly.”
Trembling, Sofia took the knife handed to her by the villager out of goodwill.
“…Do I have to do it?”
“If you want us to clean the innards, give us another silver coin.”
With trembling hands, Sofia stabbed the fish’s belly with the knife.
She further scraped out the slimy dark red innards with the knife.
“Haah, I did it.”
“After removing them, let’s wash it. I’ll get some water.”
Diana washed the inside of the trout thoroughly with well water she brought.
She wiped it with a cloth, opened the belly wide, and finally finished the preparation.
They repeated this process for ten fish and had the villagers put the trout into the saumur liquid barrel.
“Thank you, Ojii-san. When will it be ready?”
“Well, let’s see. Soak it for a day, then remove the salt and let it dry for another day… Maybe it’ll be ready in three days. It’s just the right time for smoking.”
“Understood, we’ll come back in three days.”
“By the way, I have a suggestion. How about exchanging the smoked products we all made? It must be difficult for you two to finish eating all these trout.”
Diana and Sofia looked at each other.
“I-Is that okay?!”
“We also can’t keep eating lamb bacon all by ourselves.”
“Thank you so much!”
Overwhelmed by the unexpected kindness, the two couldn’t stop smiling.
After returning Diana to the mountain hut, Sofia called out from the carriage.
“Thank you for today, Diana. You indulged my selfishness.”
“It wasn’t selfish… I was actually grateful. Sophia-sama, you’re skilled at everything.”
“Fufufu. But compliments won’t bring anything out, you know?”
“Oh no, it’s not like that. Well then, let’s meet again at the smokehouse in three days.”
They waved their hands and parted ways.
『”𝘈𝘸𝘦𝘣𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘴.𝘤𝘰𝘮” – 𝘋𝘪𝘴𝘤𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘢 𝘤𝘢𝘱𝘵i𝘷𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘸𝘰𝘳𝘭𝘥 𝘰𝘧 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦, 𝘱𝘢𝘴𝘴𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘢𝘥𝘷𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘶𝘳𝘦, 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘤𝘢𝘯 𝘪𝘯𝘥𝘶𝘭𝘨𝘦 𝘪𝘯 𝘢 𝘤𝘰𝘭𝘭𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘴𝘭𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘯𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘭𝘴 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 “𝘥𝘢𝘪𝘭𝘺 𝘶𝘱𝘥𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘴” 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘦𝘹𝘤𝘭𝘶𝘴𝘪𝘷𝘦 𝘢𝘤𝘤𝘦𝘴𝘴 𝘵𝘰 “𝘢𝘥𝘷𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦𝘥 𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘱𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘴”.』
Sofia looked at the darkening country road and tried to calm her racing heart.
(I thought I couldn’t do anything myself.)
Her body was permeated with the scent of the river, fish, and smoke.
(But when I tried, I realized I could do anything. Yesterday it was embroidery, today it was fishing, and I even managed to clean the innards.)
Everything had been done for her in life.
But on the other hand, it might have been a life where she wasn’t allowed to do anything.
Surely, Sophia was trying to fill that “inability” hole in her heart with the tiny bit of love that the creator(?) seemed to have put into the object.
When she realized that, she suddenly remembered her husband’s face.
Returning to the inn in Pabst village, Sophia went straight to Klaus’ room.
Since there was no response to her knock, she opened the door and found Klaus lying on the bed, half asleep.
Sophia approached and was taken aback when she saw Klaus’ chest.
There, a linen handkerchief with an embroidered 〝k〟 that Sophia had made was placed.
As she tried to lift it gently, Klaus opened his eyes and sat up.
“Ojii-sama, are you free in three days?”
Klaus seemed puzzled by the sudden invitation, but he quickly put the handkerchief in his pocket and smiled.
“Oh, I am free. But why are you asking all of a sudden?”
Sophia smiled and sat next to Klaus, triumphantly announcing, “Have you noticed anything?”
“Hmm?… Oh, I see. You smell a bit like smoke.”
“I went fishing.”
“And I smoked the fish I caught. About ten of them.”
“They will be ready in three days. So, I’m inviting you to come and get them.”
Klaus couldn’t keep up with his wife’s consecutive confessions.
“Sophia… It seems like you’ve been enjoying the rural life quite a lot.”
“Yes. Diana-san has taught me various ways of living. So, I can live on my own anytime.”
With a hint of defiance in her eyes, Sophia said those words.
Klaus widened his eyes.
“Sophia… What are you…”
“I can live without Ojii-sama.”
“I can do anything. So, even if Ojii-sama can’t do something, it doesn’t bother me anymore.”
Klaus seemed to immediately understand what she was implying.
“… Will you forgive me for that night?”
Sophia looked into Klaus’s eyes and nodded gently.
In the next moment, she was embraced by her husband.
“… I have done wrong to you. I shouldn’t have married someone so young like you. I have caused you suffering for a long time…”
“… No, that’s not true!”
Sophia raised her voice and pulled away from him.
“If one thing can’t be done, it doesn’t mean everything has to be destroyed. It shouldn’t be like that.”
“That’s why we should search for what we can do for ourselves from now on. I tried my best to dislike you, Ojii-sama. But I… I…”
“. . . I could never truly hate Ojii-sama.”
Klaus embraced Sofia once again. Sofia closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around his back.
Just like she used to when she was a child.
“I insisted that I didn’t need love, and tried to fill that void with what I received from you. I must have been suffering because I couldn’t love myself. But as I met Diana-san and found more things I could do, that anguish disappeared… and suddenly, I was able to forgive Ojii-sama. So this is my issue, it has nothing to do with Ojii-sama. Please don’t pity me like that. I have become stronger. I won’t let myself be swayed by emotions for no reason.”
Klaus gently touched Sofia’s cheek after a long time.
“I don’t care if you love me or hate me. Just stay by my side.”
“. . . Ojii-sama.”
“I’ll decide to love you on my own terms. I’ve made up my mind. This has nothing to do with you… alright?”
Sofia couldn’t help but smile.
“. . . Yes.”
“Will you stay by my side?”
“I will always be here. Because I don’t dislike you, you know.”
Klaus softly kissed Sofia.
“. . . How strange. It smells like river fish.”
Sofia chuckled softly against Klaus’s chest.