Ch 129 -- His Dragon Steak Was So Delicious That He Wept
Elland-san took me, or rather dragged me to a residential area not far from the Adventurers Guild where there was a row of two-story town houses looking like a high-end street in London, England -- (If you are talking Japanese style it would be a tenement). We stopped in front of one particular house which seemed even larger and finer than the others in the street. I presumed it was higher-class than the others because he was the city's Guild Master. He escorted me into the house, or rather pushed me in and took me to the house's kitchen. It was large and well-equipped but showed little or no evidence of actual use.
"The kitchen is here, but I, I do not cook..." Elland-san said uncomfortably. I looked around at the worktops and sinks and stoves, having given up on trying to avoid Elland-san's intention to eat Dragon meat. Nope, all this was too unfamiliar, I couldn't cook in this kitchen without spending a lot of time, too much time, making mistakes and learning how everything worked. I had been cooking outdoors, in the wilderness and inn courtyards all the time I had spent in this world and it was the only way I knew how to cook here. As Elland-san led me into a reception room I saw a small garden just outside the window. Ah, that would work.
"I have my own cooking tools. Can I cook out in that garden?" I enquired.
"Yes, of course you can." Elland-san replied immediately and led the way out into the garden where I set up my Black Magic Cooking Stove.
"Oh, you have a much larger Item Box than I first thought, Mukouda-san." Elland-san said as I took the stove out of storage. "It was obviously large enough for the Earth Dragon but you can store even more than that in it as I can see. I have Item Box as a skill myself but I could only get half of the Earth Dragon into it if I tried."
"You also have Item Box, Elland-san?"
"Yes, since Elves have high magical power Item Box is not uncommon among us." That's right, the image of Elves as magical beings of great ability is a common one. Elland-san went on to explain that he could use plant magic -- he gestured around the small but well-kept garden as he spoke -- which was unique to Elves as well as the more common wind magic. He had used these magic skills along with his abilities as a swordsman to rise high among the ranks of Adventurers. He was not a bowman himself, he admitted when I asked. I had the idea, from a certain series of movies perhaps that Elves were all natural bowmen but no, Elland-san's expertise was with the sword. Maybe that was why he was really looking forward to getting his hands on a Dragon sword, because of his experience with swords but I suspected much of his enthusiasm for the project was because of that "Dragon" word again.
I knew that Elland-san was a former S-rank Adventurer but my personal impression of him had been formed by watching him obsess over Dragons to a deplorable degree so I found it difficult to see him as a strong figure. Nevertheless he had become the Guild Master of Doran by merit and achievement and, putting aside his dangerous fixation with Dragons I had to assume what I had witnessed of his behaviour was not necessarily what others saw in him. I would have to keep that in mind in the future, I told myself.
Anyway, enough about Elland-san, I thought to myself. It's meat, Dragon meat we're here to cook. But how to cook it? Hmmm, I decided steak was the way to go, quick and simple. A steak was the meat of a creature cooked in its most basic form, after all so Dragon steak it would be. The only additions, at least to start with would be salt and pepper... hmmm, I had bought some high-quality salt and pepper from the Net Super when I had cooked Wyvern steaks for the first time, hadn't I? I dug into my Item Box and located them again. Ah yes, fresh black peppercorns in their own grinder and premium sun-dried salt. Yosh.
l took out some Dragon meat and cut it into thick steaks. I admired the meat as I sliced it, lean and firm and beautiful-looking. I decided to prepare it like Bloody Horn Bull steaks so I turned on a burner on the cooking stove to high and heated up oil in a big frying pan. I sprinkled salt and pepper on the steaks just before I put them in the frying pan.
Sizzle---. The smell of cooking meat rose from the pan and my mouth instantly flooded with saliva. I swallowed, concentrating on the timing. Something this good, I couldn't ruin it by overcooking simply by being hypnotised by the smell, no matter how exquisite. Concentrate... after a minute at high heat I turned the burner down and cooked at a lower setting for another minute before flipping the steaks over and cooking the other sides in the same way. I then took the pan off the burner and put some aluminium foil over the top for five minutes to let the steaks cook through with the residual heat.
As the cook I had the privilege of the first taste... could Dragon meat really be as good as Fer had insisted? Munch munch... My brain froze in mid-bite. What was this...? "The flavour, this meat is more than just delicious..." I mumbled around the mouthful of Dragon meat. My first ever taste of Dragon meat was so much better than all the other meats, even Bloody Horn Bull and Wyvern that there was no comparison. It was... I took another bite, I couldn't speak, it was as wonderful as the first bite, I... I stopped after swallowing, my eyes fixed on the plate, trying to make sense of it. Even though cattle and pigs are different from birds the taste of each species has individual good points, mouth feel and umami, the juices and gravy flowing from their meats as they are consumed. Dragon meat, though, had all of their good points in one meat and... my philosophical reverie was rudely interrupted.
"What, are you going to eat all of that and not give us any? Hurry up and dish it out, you." Fer's muzzle was almost, but not quite, in the frying pan, his eyes focused on the perfectly-cooked Dragon steaks.
"Like the big guy says, don't hog all of it for yourself. Let us have some." Dora-chan was hovering almost motionlessly on the other side of the pan, as if ready to fight Fer to the death for his chance to eat the Dragon meat.
"Aji, Sui is hungry-" Sui-chan's tentacle was probing up over the lip of the frying pan, as if to smell or taste the meat within.
I'm sorry... The Dragon steaks are almost TOO good, guys. I got lost. Sorry sorry. I hurried and dished out steaks to Fer, Sui and Dora-chan who dug in immediately then I cooked another Dragon steak for Elland-san whose own eyes had been fixed on the frying pan, his hand clenching and unclenching as if he was grasping a sword hilt. Please don't fight my contracted monsters for your chance to eat Dragon meat please, Elland-san, I said to myself as I let his steak cook through after taking it off the heat. Your serving will be ready in another minute.
"Here you are, Elland-san." I finally said, putting down a dish of Dragon steak for him where he sat at the terrace table facing his garden.
Elland-san said "Well, here I go" and I watched as he sliced off a piece of Dragon steak with exquisite care before putting it into his mouth. A moment later his eyes widened. Yes, I know Elland-san. It's delicious. I didn't think it could be so delicious until I took my own first mouthful.
"Delicious... Dragon meat is so delicious..." Elland-san mumbled around his first mouthful of Dragon steak. Yeah, yeah, I know. It's delicious. Just wait until you take your second bite though. Speaking of "Seconds" I wanted some of it too, a complete steak and not just a sample so I started cooking more Dragon steak, for myself and for, inevitably, Fer and Sui-chan when they finished their own first servings. I wanted to eat Dragon steak.
Dragon meat sliced thick, just salt and pepper to taste, cook it hot both sides and let it rest in foil to cook through and... the third taste was shockingly good just like the first and second tastes I had had. I cut another slice and...
"This Dragon meat is more delicious than I remembered." Fer said in a wondering voice, his dish empty. I was a little surprised, normally when he ate he gulped his food down like a ravenous beast, this time he had been almost dainty in his eating habits, taking his time and savouring every morsel. He soon reverted to the old Fer once he noticed there was no more Dragon steak left in the dish in front of him.
"Seconds. Now. And keep them coming." he ordered. Yeah yeah. The next steaks I cooked for everyone I used a soy-based steak sauce rather than the simple salt and pepper dressing of the first round. Sui-chan would want another steak of course but Dora-chan would be satisfied with a single serving as usual-
"So this is the meat from that Dragon, yeah?" Dora-chan said, his own dish empty. "That Earth Dragon was really tasty. Another steak for me too." Dora-chan wanted seconds? Wow. As I cooked more steaks I thought about what Dora-chan the Pixie Dragon had said before about his willingness to eat the meat of other Dragons and how it wasn't really cannibalism if he was hungry enough. It seemed that any qualms he might have harboured about that had been washed away in the juices from the first Dragon steak he had eaten.
"Aruji, Dragon's meat is delicious. Sui wants seconds, too-" Of course you do Sui-chan. Dragon meat is truly delicious and you want to eat a lot of it. Eat up, eat up. As I dished out the next round of Dragon steaks to my contracted monsters (and myself too, I should add) a tearful voice interjected.
"Ohhh...Uggh... I am blessed. I can finally eat the meat of the Dragons that I saw in my dreams." Tears ran down Elland-san's cheeks as he stared at the plate before him, his knife and fork motionless. "Guuh... and the taste, it far surpasses anything I ever imagined. It's sooo delicious..." Elland-san cried as he ate the Dragon steak. "Mukouda-san, truly, thank you very much." He shook his head in wonderment. "Thank you. I finally got the chance to dismantle an Earth Dragon and we could purchase valuable Dragon materials and now you've allowed me to eat Dragon meat, I can't thank you enough. Today is the reason I have lived so long, and I rejoice. Uhhh..." He blinked and then took another bite of the Dragon steak, more tears streaming from his eyes.
Yes yes, I understand, but please don't eat and cry at the same time, please? Anyway it's not me you should be thanking but Fer who caught the Earth Dragon in the first place.
"It is Fer who captured the Dragon. If you wish to thank anyone it's him." I said, indicating the glutton beside me who was now well into his third serving of Dragon steak.
Elland-san turned to Fer and said "Fenrir-sama, I really appreciate it."
"Umu. Dragon is delicious after all." Fer interrupted his eating to be polite to the Guild Master, a first for him in my recollections. No Fer, he's thanking you not just because the Dragon tastes so good but... I gave up. Fer was Fer after all. I cooked more Dragon steaks, continuing with the soy-sauce dressing. Even Elland-san wanted a second steak, especially with the soy sauce which, he said tearfully as he ate it, tasted even better than the first. I wasn't sure if I would totally agree with him but, I had to admit, my own second steak was truly delicious too. My first steak had been wholly satisfying but somehow there was space for the second one too and I felt that meant the world was a place of true justice.
Finally Fer, Sui and Dora-chan finished eating just as Elland-san and myself finished too. We looked at each other, Elland-san's handsome tear-streaked features curiously relaxed. He seemed to be at peace now he had finally achieved the ambitions of a long long lifetime. He finally looked down at his plate and nodded, as if to say "Done."
As we left Elland-san's house he gave me 100 gold coins which, he said, was the price of a Dragon steak. He had told me before that Dragon meat was expensive but I hadn't realised just how much it was worth. Of course that was the price, he explained, when there was any Dragon meat to be had and the owner was willing to sell it which was, basically, never. Now I had eaten Dragon meat myself I had to agree -- who would sell such a thing for mere money? Elland-san offered to pay a similar amount for the second steak he had eaten but I refused. Despite his somewhat questionable behaviour earlier he had been both fair and generous in his dealings with us and indeed he had disassembled the Earth Dragon at no cost to us so I told him the other steak was a gift from Fer and me. In the end I only received 100 gold coins.
I headed back to the inn with Fer, Sui and Dora-chan. Did Sui feel sleepy after eating a lot? As soon as she could she got into her leather bag and settled down. Dora-chan had eaten so much he couldn't even fly, instead he rode on Fer's back.
"It was too tasty, I was forced to eat too much..." Dora-chan grumbled. Yeah yeah, it was you that demanded a second helping, remember?
Fer being Fer just said "Dragon was delicious again". I nodded in agreement. It was really delicious. I wished, for a moment, that Japanese had more words to describe something that was delicious, like English was supposed to have but I decided "delicious" was good enough. Dragon meat was truly delicious. I'd reserve it for special occasions, I decided, when we really deserved a treat I'd take out more Dragon meat and cook it. The Earth Dragon was big, sure but we'd run out of its meat quite quickly if we ate it every day and then going back to Bloody Horn Bull or even Wyvern meat after that happened would be a disappointment. 'Variety is the spice of life' was an English saying, I remembered from somewhere or other.
When I got back to the inn I just wanted to fall into bed and sleep off my feast of Dragon steaks but I had more work waiting for me. We were going to dive into the dungeon the next day and there were things I had to do beforehand that I couldn't do where other Adventurers might see and I didn't know when we'd be safely out of the dungeon afterwards. The sooner I got it done and out of the way the better, I decided.