Idle Talk: Radish Pickles
Eve sighed after she finished taste testing a dish from another world that the Demon King of the castle, Ashtaroth, had been talking about.
Outside the kitchen window, there was a clear blue sky and a sun that shone warmly down…and then there was the anger.
“You! You’re swinging late!!”
It was the voice of Toshizou Hijikata as he trained his soldiers. This shouting was hardly rare. At least not since Toshizou became the commander in this country. After carefully washing the plate that she used, Eve snuck over towards the place that the shouting was coming from.
“Eighty, eighty-one… You’re too stiff around the shoulders!!”
He was making all of the soldiers swing with wooden swords. They were the same weight as swords used in actual combat, and they were raised above their heads, and then swung down at Toshizou’s command. It was very entry-level training.
And the soldiers were made up of demons, demi-humans, and humans and other races without separation.
Toshizou was currently focusing on a human youth. He was swinging his sword desperately.
“Ninety-eight, ninety-nine, one hundred!”
The last sound of wood cutting through the air, and they all stopped. immediately after, the soldiers could be seen breathing heavily or even sitting down on the ground. Toshizou glared at them and opened his mouth.
“Stop being so slow! Drink some water and it’s back to training.”
The exhausted soldiers stood up immediately and went to drink water with the speed of fleeing rabbits. Then they split up into pairs and practiced crossing their wooden swords.
Clank. Clank. Clank.
The sounds echoed rhythmically.
“You came again.”
As he watched the soldiers, he noticed that Eve was standing in the hallway next to the training grounds, and he addressed her with an exasperated voice.
“I’ve told you many times already. You have no need to learn the art of the sword. Or any combat art for that matter. You have an intelligence that the rest of us lack. That is how you can serve our Demon King.”
“…I wish to be by our master’s side at all times. Even when on the battlefield.”
“Young lady, it is difficult to fight when you have to protect a woman at the same time. Besides, what if he fails to protect you? What would he think?”
“That is why I must learn. Our master is perfect. But something unexpected could still happen. And when it does…I want to be prepared.”
Without turning his head, Toshizou looked towards Eve. His eyes were assessing her, and her eyes were completely serious.
Perhaps he will agree this time. Thinking this, Eve did not take her eyes off of him. This stare down seemed to last for a long time. And then finally, Toshizou ended it with a sigh.
“My, my. You are a stubborn one.”
“Then you will!”
“But I wonder what the master will think…”
“I would ask you to not tell him.”
“That is not something I can agree to.”
Thinking that this might happen, Eve used her secret weapon. Toshizou, who had been still as a statue, suddenly twitched.
Pickled radish… It was a dish from the world that Demon King Ashtaroth used to study. And it was from the country that Toshizou had lived in. Radish roots were dried out and then pickled in a barrel for over a month. Ashtaroth had once said that he would like to try it, and Eve did not miss it. And so on that very day, she started to make her own pickled radish.
“Did you say something about pickled radish?”
“It is finished today.”
Toshizou bit his lip and looked at Eve with sharp eyes. But Eve did not back down.
“…Would you like to try some?”
While he may have been called the demon vice-captain of the Shinsengumi, he was no match for the nostalgic taste of home.
“Don’t slack off just because I turned away!!”
As Toshizou shouted at the soldiers in training, Eve smiled triumphantly.
“Show me that knife. Sorry, but I’ve never used a knife. So what I say is merely conjecture.”
Eve took out her knife and showed it to Toshizou.
“Regardless of the blade being sharp or not, stab. With this length… Yes, if they are shaped like a human, they target the stomach. And the throat if it’s a man.”
Toshizou pointed at the parts to make it easier to understand. Eve touched her own stomach and throat.
“The stomach and throat?”
“Both will prevent them from breathing. You could also target the heart, but you will hit the bone and not be able to go deep most of the time.”
“…You really are a samurai.”
“Do you know what that means?”
“Master has told me.”
“Oh. Well, nevermind. As for demons, I don’t really know. I’m sure that you know more about their weaknesses. But you want to target places with no bones and not much muscle. Stab them there.”
“And you should get used to the weight of that knife. Move your hand while holding it. That’s all.”
“Used to the weight…”
“Then you’ll be able to swing it around. You won’t have much skill with it without training, but you’ll at least be able to stop yourself from shaking if you can handle the weight.”
Eve gripped the handle tightly.
“Get used to it…”
The sound of something cutting through the air could be heard, and then Toshizou’s fist was right in front of Eve’s eyes. Only a few would understand. That the trajectory of his fist had not curved, but was a straight line. It seemed simple, but this act of thrusting out your fist straight was actually very difficult. And stopping your fist perfectly was also something that an amateur could not do. As there was no excess movement, to the average person, it would just look like his fist moved in an instant. Eve was no exception, and she was so surprised that she took a step back.
“Thrust your fist out straight…like that.”
“…I couldn’t see it.”
“Of course. It will take a while before you are this fast. It won’t happen right now. Well, I’m sure our master would be able to do it quickly. He surpasses even me.”
“Well, he is a genius.”
They both thought of Ashtaroth and laughed together. To both Eve and Toshizou, he was a wonderful Demon King who they could respect. Eve put away the knife.
“Now then, please come to the dining hall when you are finished training the soldiers.”
“Understood. …Hey, you and you. You were barely hitting each other. Even if you can’t keep up with the speed of the others, you have to hit the same number of times!! I’m saying this for your own good!!”
Even as he was talking to Eve, Toshizou kept an eye on his men. He was now shouting angrily.
And so he returned to their training, and Eve returned to her own work.
When the day’s training was finished, Toshizou appeared in the dining hall in a good mood. It was just as preparations for Ashtaroth’s dinner had ended, and there was some time before she next had to work. Toshizou took a seat, and then Eve placed chopsticks and a plate of radish pickles on the table. Toshizou thanked her and then picked up a piece with the chopsticks and carried it to his mouth. There was an audible crunch.
Words of praise were shouted, and the rest of the plate’s contents were hurled into Toshizou’s gaping mouth. Eve replenished his plate with more pickles every time. She had already decided how much she would save for Ashtaroth, and so she would keep giving until there was only that amount left. And she had pickled a whole barrel’s worth, so there would be more than enough. That was what Eve thought.
But then one of her subordinates came and so Eve had to leave the dining hall for a few minutes in order to listen to a report about the town. It really was just a few minutes.
When she returned, Toshizou muttered a ‘thank you’ and left the dining hall. Eve bowed politely to show her gratitude. And then she noticed it as she tried to move the barrel. The weight had been removed, and the lid was opened. She approached it and then looked inside.
“N-no. It cannot be…”
A pained scream echoed through the dining hall. The barrel was completely empty. Eve was in such a state of shock that she could not move for some time. She only stared vacantly at the barrel.
It was only a few minutes. A few minutes. And yet in that short amount of time, the entirety of the barrel’s contents had been relocated to Toshizou’s stomach.