11. The Witch and the Poisonous Apple (5)
The gentle noise of sand falling inside the hourglass—
Inside the pot, spices are swimming in the bubbling tea.
“Add a spoonful of orange and lemon peels, then a cup of lime~ Masala, about half as tall as the second rock in the southern part of the garden~ Cinnamon, is half of it~ is this enough~? How about this~? After all, whales sleep a lot~ A lot of sweet, sweet sugar~”
Black pepper, cardamom, masala, cinnamon, clove, orange peel, lemon peel, ginger—
—for the secret blend recipe, grandmother taught her this song.
She smells the black tea—both the scent and the song are very nostalgic.
These days, all she does is pharmacy. Roze remembers that back in the day, the things her grandmother used to make wasn’t limited to just potions.
She filters the spices and pours the tea into the cup.
Currently sitting behind the table, he is waiting for her. Roze turns around, her fluffy light red hair sways behind her, as she brings the tea to the table.
Since she’s alone with Harij, she doesn’t forget to remove her hood.
Roze is anxious due to the fact that her facial expressions can clearly be seen.
At the same time, there is this shy atmosphere between them. As if two good friends have met and smiled at each other—shaking hands to affirm their friendship. Like the people in the capital would do—only literally.
Honestly, she’s still embarrassed as hell. She wants to just pull up her hood again—here and now.
But, every time she takes said hood off, Harij looks greatly pleased. His gaze turns puppy-like—like a dog eagerly bringing back the ball his master has just tossed.
Hence, there’s no way for Roze to stop.
Harij closes the book he was reading.
There are two celadon dishes on the table. Thanks to the fact that there were several things of the same design in the wooden box, she doesn’t have to feel embarrassed.
Today, he brought her fluffy bread and apple jam. The jam that glitters in the jar has a sweet and tart aroma that’ll increase appetite, even in hot summer.
As he brings the teacup towards his mouth, he slowly put his lip on the cup’s brim.
“What a peculiar scent. It’s the first time I’ve had something like this—not bad.”
The flavor also goes well with apple jam. Roze is surprised when Harij praises her—this kind of flavor is already a norm to her.
“Umm, how do you usually have your tea?”
“I just add some tea leaves.”
“You mean, no spices?”
“Nope. It’s the first time I’ve seen tea being prepared in a pot, too. I think milk will go well with this. Next time, I’ll bring some.”
Tea without spices; tea with milk—Roze never had it that way before.
Harij has showed her a lot of new things. Through him, it’s as if Roze has opened her eyes towards a whole new world. Yet, even though so, he never denies nor devalues that which Roze upholds. It’s probably because of his good upbringing. The privileges he’s born with only make his tolerance abundant.
She immediately spreads the jam over the bread—after all, the bread is fluffy, and the smell tickling her nose is delicious. The refreshing sweetness of apples is packed tightly into the pulpy texture.
“If you enjoy food so much, shouldn’t you’ve eaten properly since the start?”
Harij asked incredulously. Roze can’t answer because her cheeks are stuffed with bread.
“Do you only grow medicinal herbs in your field?”
Roze nodded like a squirrel.
“What do you usually make? Are you always making secret potions?”
This time, however, he gives her a little time. Hence, Roze can chew and swallows the food.
It seems like Harij wants to properly get rid of things that are nagging the back of his mind.
“Some of the day-to-day medicines that you’re all very familiar with are also made of those field herbs. What I often make is ‘Potion For Bruises’, ‘Potion For When A Foreign Object Enters The Eye’, ‘Potion For Dry Skin’, ‘Potion For After Powder Removal’, ‘Potion For The Hair’, ‘Potion For Rejuvenation’, ‘Potion For Keeping Insects Away’—…”
There are also some potions that she can’t tell Harij of no matter what—because it’s a girl’s only thing. She’ll probably cry if he asks about them.
“Those were surprisingly ordinary things… Some of them are also used by the knights.”
Roze barely knows about that. Market distribution is out of her jurisdiction, after all.
Maybe, just maybe, potions made by Roze helped cure his wounds in the past. Thinking that, she’s a little happy.
“—then… why is there also lettuce in your field? Is lettuce considered a medicinal herb?”
“I use it for refreshment, and not for potion-making. Grandma instructed me to plant lettuce. Besides, there are also rare herbs planted in that field that I probably couldn’t get anywhere else. Hence, I prefer to keep the field that way.”
Before, Roze has told Harij that her grandmother was a witch, and also her teacher.
Putting the cup on the table, Harij muttered, “Yes, yes…”
“That the Great Witch—your grandmother—has passed away, I’m worried about you.”
Unable to comprehend his meaning, Roze can only listen.
They were talking about the herbs growing in the field—when did it switch to being about my well-being?
“You have no other relatives?”
“No. My mother seems to have died when I was young, that’s all I know about her, really. I don’t even know if I have a father, much else relatives…”
“At least you should’ve known something about your father…”
Of course, Roze knows how a child is actually conceived—only that she hasn’t really talked much about it.
Roze doesn’t know a thing about her father. It could be that he doesn’t even know Roze exists.
“Your late grandmother must’ve been greatly worried about you, Witch-sama. Not only are you alone, it’s as if you’ve never had a proper meal.”
“…I do eat my lettuce properly, you know.”
“I’m not sure if it’s fine to eat lettuce and lettuce alone…—even so, I’m sure it must have been your grandmother’s idea.”
“Your grandmother took good care of the field. You promised her to take care of the field, didn’t you? She trusted you. That’s why she also included the lettuce, in case you had nothing else to eat.”
She never thought of it that way before.
That time, when Roze stood in front of the furnace, about to cook alone for the first time after her grandmother passed—
—she didn’t think the rice she cooked was delicious, or basically any other food, really. She just wasn’t in the mood to eat. Then, she started to pass on her meals. That was probably when her poor eating habit developed. To the point she started making ‘Potion For Removing Appetite’ and had that as a ‘meal’, instead. Back then, she truly had eating trouble.
In addition, she had to take care of the field. The field had to be watered early in the morning, and after she was done, it would be high noon. She was exposed to sunlight.
It was unthinkable to wake up after the sun rose, and laze around after the sun fell, because the herbs would wither. Some were more delicate than others and had to be given extra care.
Roze is always troubled when someone tells her to ‘get up properly’ or ‘eat properly’—because she isn’t sure what ‘proper’ truly means.
She isn’t only embarrassed but also happy because Harij, who has never met her grandmother, knows how dedicated her grandmother was in tending the field.
—and how much her grandmother really loves her.
—I was truly loved by her.
—To know the extent of my grandmother’s love, I’m very glad.
Harij, too, is aware of how much her grandmother treasured her.
“…Yes. You’re right, I do enjoy it.”
“Right? Then eat more.”
Thinking she’s referring to the bread, Harij happily spreads the jam and gives it to Roze—
—Roze receives bread with lots of apple jam.
“Delicious, isn’t it?” Asking so, Harij’s eyes seems so gentle.
He’s probably worried about Roze after hearing about the story of her late grandmother.
“Should I eat more?”
Harij is already spreading the jam before she can say ‘okay’. Roze chews on the bread.
“How much more should I eat?
Suddenly, Harij starts singing Roze’s previous song. “Is this enough~? How about this~? —I didn’t quite catch the following lyrics. I remember it’s about something that sleeps a lot…”
“It’s ‘whales’. Not like I know how long do they actually sleep, though. The taste of my grandmother’s blend is more important to me.”
The song is filled with tea brewing methods; such as what to put in, how much to grind, how much to boil…
While listening to her grandmother’s song, Roze also enjoyed hearing the boiling sounds.
“So, your grandmother also invented this song?”
“No. Singing isn’t her hobby, actually…—“
—that’s when Roze realizes it. So, who taught me the song, then?
Who sang it to me over and over again until I memorized it so perfectly?
It’s clearly was not her father, or any other relatives she might have.
If it wasn’t her grandmother—there’s only one person left—
“What, so you do remember something about your mother!”
—this is, no good…
Roze tries her best to hide her emerging tears. Harij laughs at her.
“Your current expression answers my question.”
All this time, Roze always concealed everything—her expressions, the truth, and so on. It’s a way to protect herself. As a witch, that’s the way she has been living. She thinks something terrible might happen if a normal person were to discover her actual emotions.
Now, she can’t do so anymore.
She remembers she is no longer able to completely deceive this person.
This person knows what her current emotion is, and also what’s causing it.
—yet, it’s also because he knows that she doesn’t have to keep it all to herself.
She doesn’t have to bottle it up, anymore. She may come forward and talk to him about it.
I can’t stand it anymore…
Her lips quiver and her nose stings.
Silently, he hands her another piece of bread—
—mogumogu, Roze chews it.
Roze thinks that at this very moment, the joy she’s feeling is unmeasurable.
**T/N: Sure, sure, good for you Roze *wipes saliva …–RiajuuBakuhatsuShiro!!!