In Love With the Strongest Man

Translator: Shizukuku

Editor: Helen

Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!

Arc 3 True Identity

Extra: Happy Meal Part 2

“We sure caught a lot of fish.”

“It’s all thanks to you, Ideal. The cleaning process was surprisingly quick as well.”

After gutting and cleaning them, we tied the fish up with vines and headed home. In five hours, we had caught six small fish, three medium-sized fish, and one large fish. That one large fish was more than enough to feed the two of us.

“Mew-ka! Akena wants to eat them raw and sautéed!”

“Sure, sure, raw and sautéed.”

“Make the bones crispy, meow.”

“And bone crackers. They’ll be oily, so just have a few pieces.”

Akane walked a few steps ahead of me with four small fish tied and placed on his back. He said he wanted to carry them himself, so I entrusted them to him.

However, he seemed to be really looking forward to the fish. Walking briskly, he frequently glanced back to check if we were keeping up, causing the fish to almost fall off.

I caught up with a quick jog forward and readjusted the fish on his back, before he suddenly begged to be carried. When I lifted him up, Ideal naturally took the fish that Akane and I were carrying.

“Ideal, how would you like to eat the fish?”

“Hmm… actually, I haven’t had much fish before.”

Come to think of it, fish were rarely seen in this area, probably because it was warmer and livestock farming was more common. In the human country, people didn’t eat a lot of fish because the sea was not clean and river fish had a strong mud smell if they weren’t properly cleaned.

“I see. Okay, so in addition to raw and grilled, I’ll try frying the bigger one using a method from my hometown.”

“Is it different from here?”

“Yes. It’s called tempura. It’s light and crispy, and you eat it with salt.”

“Light and crispy…”

Ideal seemed puzzled at the idea of light fried food at first, but soon he smiled softly.

“Sounds delicious.”

“…”

Instinctively, I tried to hide my face with one hand. Akane, feeling suddenly insecure, took refuge on my shoulder.

“What’s wrong?”

“Well, it’s just… you’re too beautiful…”

“Too beautiful?!”

Eventually, we emerged from the forest to walk along a neatly trimmed lawn. As we walked back to the house illuminated by the setting sun, I wondered if this was what happiness looked like.

* * *

“Meooow!! I’m hungry, meow!”

“You’re shedding everywhere, so just calm down. Look, Ideal went through the trouble of making a bed for you, so stay here.”

“Mew… can’t help it, meow.”

The kitchen was being disrupted by a large cat running amok at my feet, so Ideal kindly made a bed by lining a shallow basket with cushions. The bed was placed near the working table. Akane obediently lay down inside it.

“Thank you, Ideal. But I’m a little surprised.”

“Surprised?”

“Usually, the servants would have prepared it for me before I realized it. But this time I was surprised that Ideal had prepared it himself.”

“Oh. They are, how should I put it… they tend to be a bit too perceptive…”

Ideal smiled shyly, as if a little embarrassed. Bending down slightly to my height, he whispered softly in my ear so that only I could hear him.

“I’m not much use in the kitchen, but I wanted to help out so they gave me the ingredients… Wha-? Again?!”

“Too beautiful. Your face.”

Every time something like this happened, my heart would feel tight in my chest. I was about to start cooking, so I didn’t need this kind of tightness in my heart.

“Is that a good thing? Or a bad thing…?”

“Of course it’s good, but it’s a little… stimulating.”

“A little?”

“Don’t show me your face.”

“A complete refusal…!”

I jerked my arm and turned my face away, but Ideal did not give up so easily. Despite there being about three steps between us, he took one giant step forward and brought his face close enough to brush the tips of our noses together.

“Please get used to it. You don’t hate it, do you?”

“Don’t shove your face at me like that…!”

I found myself gazing into his jewel-like eyes, so close that I could almost count his eyelashes, and suddenly my feet grew restless. Hastily stepping back, I grabbed a knife. 

“Ideal…” 

I turned the knife around and pointed the handle at Ideal.

“If you’re not busy, help me cook. I’ll teach you how to do it.”

“Yes!”

The man eagerly grasped the wooden handle. Even though it was obvious I was just trying to change the subject, he seemed extremely pleased to have been asked to do something by me.

“Uh…”

My chest tightened again. I grabbed at it through my clothes and Ideal looked at me with concern.

“What’s wrong, Shuka-san?”

“It’s your fault…”

“Eh?!”

Ignoring what he had said to me, I focused on the fish. Before I knew it, even the tips of my fingers had turned hot, and I worried that I might damage the fish.

“—Good. Now, while pressing down, cut from the tail towards the head, peeling the flesh away from the bones.”

“I did it!”

“Yes, very good. Shall I get another fish?”

“Leave it to me!”

Just like when we were making the fish traps, Ideal was a quick learner. I showed him how to cut a medium-sized fish, and he immediately became proficient at it.

We stood side by side at the workbench, and I swiftly filleted the small fish. With five filleted and only one remaining, I noticed a cheeky, fluffy tail reaching out towards the neatly lined up fillets.

“Hey, Akane, what are you grabbing at?”

“Just one piece, please, meow. It looks so delicious, meow.”

“Don’t! It might have parasites, so if we don’t clean it properly, it’s dangerous.”

“Just a little…”

“Nope. I’ll take care of it right away.”

The fish needed to be pounded with the knife until it was completely smashed into smithereens. While washing this fish with salt would easily remove its odor, it was necessary to thoroughly pound it with a knife because there might be parasites that could cause stomach aches.

After being repeatedly denied by me, Akane’s eyes and mouth widened in surprise.

“Even though your adorable Akane is asking…!?”

“It’s cute how you’re being so insistent. But no.”

“Meooow.”

The sulking cat spun around and turned its butt at me. I didn’t have a problem with it because his butt was cute, too.

Suddenly, I noticed that the sound of fish being cut next to me had stopped. When I looked, Ideal was now looking at me with a surprised expression.

“Do people actually eat raw fish? Even with the parasites?”

“Yeah. Eating fish raw isn’t very common. It’s okay if you don’t want to eat it, there are other options.”

“…Shuka-san likes it, right?”

“Yeah. Whenever I can get fresh fish, I always make this.”

“Okay, then… I’ll give it a try.”

Ideal’s face held a mix of curiosity and concern, an expression I really liked. Ideal never denied me. And he wouldn’t just dismiss a culture he didn’t know. 

I couldn’t help but want to stroke his face, but unfortunately, we were touching fish, so I just smiled warmly at him.

“I’ll make something really delicious for you too.”

“…! Please, do…”

“Leave it to me.”

I was in a good mood, so I hummed a tune and continued cooking.

I wish this moment could last forever.

Such thoughts crossed my mind as I prevented Akane from snacking and taught Ideal how to make tempura.

* * *

“Thank you for the food!”

“Meow!”

We made raw fish that has been pounded and mixed with seasonings, sautéed fish, and tempura. And the bone crackers. I gave a small, unseasoned portion to Akane and placed the rest on the table, which was still a good amount of crackers.

“It’s delicious!”

“Are you sure you’re okay with raw fish?”

“Yeah! I think I’m going to like this too. The sautéed one here is so fluffy… Oh, and the tempura is delicious when it’s cooled down a bit.”

“It’s a good thing you didn’t try to taste everything hot.”

“Yeah. Hehe, sorry. They were just so delicious…”

While I was concentrating on the sautéing, I was surprised to see Ideal steadily eating the tempura as he was frying it. It seemed like he couldn’t stop eating after trying just a bit of the fish’s crispy texture. Akane protested vigorously, claiming that it was unfair that Ideal was the only one, but I didn’t overlook the bits of pounded fish in the corner of his mouth.

In the end, I found myself laughing as both man and cat repeatedly requested taste tests. Of course, I declined each time.

“Mew, mew. It’s delicious, meow!”

“Yeah. It’s been a while, but it turned out well.”

I’m usually a light eater, but strangely, watching Ideal and Akane made me eat more than usual.

“…It’s nice, this kind of thing.”

“Ah.”

“Is something wrong?”

I couldn’t help but react to the murmured words from Ideal.

“No.”

Feeling a warmth filling my chest, my lips naturally curled into a smile.

“I was thinking of the same thing.”

[End of Happy Meal Extra]

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