The majority of the participants had returned to town once noon had passed.
Accepting voting slips from the people who had returned, the branch’s staff passed around food. After this, they would tally them all up while everyone eats, moving into the announcement of the results followed by the award ceremony… At least, that was the plan.
“Ilya, we’re done with this batch!”
“Understood. How many are there left to do?”
“Another ten batches!”
“About this much!”
Out of the three people, the ones to respond were Cynthia and Clarice, who were standing in front of the gathered voting slips.
From their half-smiling expressions, Ilya could see how hurried the two were. Their tones were close to ones of crying.
“Understood. I’ll be heading to the branch to get more, so please do your best to endure.”
“” Eh? “”
Simply giving a vague smile to the two who had now lost some of their momentum, Ilya started faced towards the branch.
Even while she was entrusting the tearful Haku to Ria as it tried to come along with her, the surging waves of people were incessant.
“Another! There’re more right!?”
“How many servings have you had!?”
“… They’re amazingly popular, aren’t they?”
When Cynthia looked up towards the voice, there was a youth with short red hair standing in front of her.
Thinking she’d seen the person somewhere because, she just barely recalled meeting the person from the Construction Completion Festival.
“I’m glad. Can I have one?”
“Ye~s, please wait a moment, okay?”
The first thing piled onto the plates that were being held out was pure-white husked rice.
Then poured on top of that was a brown sauce. Its bitterness that didn’t differ from its stimulating fragrance at all with its fruits and other seasonings were a delicious combination…
This was completed after long years of study, a reproduction of homemade Japanese curry.
While although it wasn’t as though they hadn’t brought some out to test its reception at all beforehand and even though it had received a favorable impression, the current consumption speed that attacked it was more than Ilya expected.
When she returned to the branch, Bard and Darren, who were playing the role of house sitters, welcomed her with surprised expressions.
“Ilya, did something happen?”
“Oh, it’s alright. I just came replenish the curry.”
Having entered the kitchen, Ilya changed into an apron and washed her hands before blending spices together while looking at the recipe.
The most difficult part about making curry was the spice blend. Although she was able to immediately replicate the texture with wheat flower, curries from places like India that easily had ten different spices, with Japanese food companies using close to thirty spices in their blends for their curry roux. Thanks to the ridiculous amount of different spices, it was just the other day that Ilya had become able to reproduce the taste.
(I’ve been told I’m particular about these things, but I really did go this far for it, didn’t I?)
All she could say was that she was satisfied with the end result, so she was glad to see people’s smiles as they ate so much.
Setting up a barrier to prevent unexpected intruders, she arranged the necessary materials and machinery on the table.
In order to not lack time to refrigerate and marinate the ingredients, she used a single ancient magic.
“—Mine wish, beyond paradise. Surround the stars and unshackle the serpent’s fetters, bring thine world of supremacy here.”
It was a space-time magic that severed an arbitrary volume of space, accelerating its flow of time.
Concluding the incantation, she successfully invoked the magic.
It was a technique that interfered with space, advancing time at one thousand times the usual rate.
It consumed magical power continuously during the acceleration, as well as coming with the disadvantage of consuming the same amount of lifespan from those spending time inside it when they returned to the normal flow of time.
But in her case, as she was a long-lived elf, as well as being the possessor of god elements that held the effect of granting eternal youth, she didn’t have to worry about those points.
And now that she’d removed her time limitations, Ilya resumed cooking.
(Cut the meat and vegetables into bite-sized portions, then—(omitted)—and now it just needs to ferment!)
Releasing the technique, she reapplied Rydefall only on the pots. Counting down the one thousand-times increased speed, she would release it after forty seconds.
During that small amount of time that passed outside of the kitchen, three pots of curry were completed.
Realizing that she’d forgotten to also cook the extra rice, she froze for a moment in misery due to her total blunder.
After that, Ilya recovered from her languidness and took a moment to cook the rice before immediately returning to the venue.
“Sorry to keep you all waiting.”
When she had brought a single one of the pots on a trolley, she saw a long line waiting.
The incredible magic power of curry. Something that probably played a part was that even though the snow had diminished a bit, the cold temperature hadn’t changed.
“We were waiting, Ilya!”
“It needed to be warmed back up so I took a little longer in bringing it back. Sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it!”
While the staff continued with their tasks, Ilya looked for a certain person inside the crowd of people.
Gabriel, who was quietly eating curry in silence, noticed and went towards her, still chewing.
Partia was on his shoulder as usual, but it looked like she had eaten some curry as well as there were some traces of it on her mouth. She didn’t like hot or bitter things, so she probably ate the sweet one from another pot with things like yogurt mixed in.
While Ilya wiped Partia’s mouth with the handkerchief kept in her pocket, she spoke to Gabriel again.
“Gabriel. I’m sorry, but could you please help me with the curry?”
Ilya bowed in appreciation of his immediate response.
Although the person himself didn’t think about the pros and cons of things, even so, he was reliable.
When she shifted her attention to the unexpected pitter-patter sound she heard behind her, it was Haku jumping towards her. Even though Haku was able to move around alone, it probably still wanted to be pampered. Rushing to be embraced, Haku seemed to be happy rubbing up against Ilya’s cheeks.
“What are you two be doing after this?”
Although she’d heard about their objectives concerning the slates from Gnomido, she wanted to ask the two directly.
From their reunion to this day, she had talked with them many times.
What they talked about were things like settling a dispute between various non-member nations near the Archipelago Countries Alliance, getting wrapped up in a dreadful duel against a beastkin companion during their estrus, or how they had taken a ride on a giant snake in the Ford Sea.
However, Ilya felt a sense of incongruity from it all. They hadn’t attempted to speak of anything related to the slabs at all.
Even though there was a decent chance that they wanted to ask for hints about the slabs from Ilya.
Towards Ilya’s question that held such expectations, Gabriel smiled.
“What? As you can see, what we love, right?”
Ilya held back that response, choosing her next words carefully.
“I can see. You two, are you going to the fairy kingdom?”
Partia hesitated to speak.
If she paraphrased her question, it was as though Ilya asked, “Did you give up becoming a fairiel?”
In Ilya’s eyes, the two had… rather, Gabriel had reflected that he wasn’t dissatisfied with their current situation, it appeared as though he’d reached the idea she didn’t need to become a different species like what’s often found in fairy tales for them to be in love.
Many fairies desired to become fairiel for reasons that had to do with love and passion, graphic things included, it sweeping away most of their uneasiness in the end.
However, these two were a special case that fell under a few exceptions.
The two had met during the time Gabriel trained while going along with Ilya on the demon god commission. It began when they saved Partia from the ship of a pirate captain that was being manipulated by a demon.
Partia, who had decided to tag along with Ilya and Gabriel after being rescued, was taken over by the demon. Gabriel then presented his own body to save her. Although both of them had become possessed by it in the end, the two of them started to be aware of each other thanks to them both sharing the experience.
Even though Gabriel and Partia disagreed with each other a lot at the start, when they once again reunited with Ilya after she’d separated from them temporarily, the fairy monarch’s trial bound the two even closer together.
To the extent that the trial started by the fairy monarch, the thing that should have produced suspicion and insecurity, didn’t agitate them at all.
Because the two were like that, they might not persist to the slab’s completion.
Although Ilya felt something was off since they hadn’t asked for a hint, her expectations were off the mark.
“A bit more… just a bit more. A bit more and the slate will be done…”
Partia whispered in a small voice.
However, this wasn’t something coming from a weak will or broken determination, it was a voice that felt as though it was holding back its emotions.
“That’s… that’s why, Ilya-ane.”
After a moment’s silence, Partia—
“We’ll… do our best!”
“We really did want to help with the ice dragon’s subjugation, we thought we could get a hint as a reward… though…”
Combining that with the story she’d heard from the great spirit, Ilya amended her conjecture.
“… So you would work hard, then ask for a hint?”
“I-I mean, if you just told us, the fairy monarch… might not acknowledge it…”
Her expression looked somewhat downcast.
(So that’s what it was.)
Ilya understood. Anyone would try go for the shortcut if one existed.
There was a reason why they hadn’t chosen to take it.
In her case, it would be like having a strategy website right in front of her eyes but since her browsing history might get leaked, she would be unable to open it. It was that kind of internal conflict.
Looking at it another way, it was also proof that they were in a situation where they were at their wit’s end and needed Ilya’s help.
“Understood. Then please, do your best.”
“—! Thank you, Onee-chan!!”
Genuine smiles spread across the two’s faces.
Their dazzling smiles seemed to pierce Ilya’s heart that had chosen to not give into the temptations that came with being a cheat.