How to Improve on Maple Wine

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Text to Speech:

“It's made from the sap of a shrub called Xitu.”

Awkward silence. Did I say something unusual again?

“What's the matter?” I ask.

“I… I've never heard of it,” Silas answers.

“Neither have I”, Alexander adds.

Again silence.

“But I have,” Pat finally breaks the silence. Everyone turns their head towards Pat, “it's an ingredient you commonly find in Ganesqua.”

“Ganesqua… isn't your mother from there?” Kat asks.

“Yes, she is. I'm surprised you remember. Anyway, there are two different kinds of shrubs whose sap is used as a condiment. They are both salty but taste somewhat different. My mother tells me she prefers Numa. It has a taste reminiscent of fish. Though she refrains from eating it when she has to meet people the day after. It gives you quite a smelly breath for a while.”

“Is it the smell of rotten fish? How long does the smell last?” I ask.

“No, it's more like rotten eggs. And you tend to have that smelly breath for about a day.”

The sap of that shrub sounds like quite like fish sauce. But it sounds like it has the same smelly after effect as garlic. Fish sauce with the smell of garlic. I wonder if it has the taste of garlic, too?

“I see. So… can I buy these in the capital?”

“You want some? I don't know where to get it in the capital,” Alexander answers, “but I'd look for Snak.”

“A Snack?”

“No, Snak, the wandering Dwarven merchant. They say he specializes in more exotic groceries. He might carry it from time to time. Though I don't know when he's in town next time. I'm not exactly a regular…”

“Do you mean Snakkonlir by any chance?”

“Yes, that's him. I just can't pronounce those Dwarven names… Do you already know him?”

“Yes, I do. Glorindamli introduced him to me. He wants to buy Maple Wine from me.”

“Oh, I see. I take it that means that Maple Wine of yours is Dwarf-approved?”

“I don't know about approved. I feel it's more like they're waiting for me to perfect it. Come to think of it, I should make the next batch soon. Anyway, let's eat! The one dish consisting of fish only is called Sashimi. The one with fish on top of rice is Sake Sushi. And the ones wrapped in Futo leaves are Maki Rolls.”

We eat. Considering I've been eyeballing and replacing ingredients left and right, the dishes actually taste as they should. There's just a hint of maple sweetness from the vinegar but it's not overwhelming, so it adds a nice touch instead.

“This is delicious!” Alexander, Pat and Kat have barely taken a bite as they exclaim at the same time.

It's just Sashimi, Sushi and Maki Rolls! Nothing much to foodgasm about…

“This dish brings out the light tastes of the ingredients. This is a pleasant sensation”, Luna calmly says. She's as emotionless as ever. Even though her reaction is more in line with the one I was expecting, it still feels to me like she's exaggerating.

“Hmm,” Silas and Matt nod with a smile of satisfaction. They are awfully calm. Too calm…

“It seems I was right to brace myself for something as delicious as this,” Matt adds, “even so, I'm surprised how good this is!”

“Yes, this is even better than the dish we got last time,” Silas responds.

“You're exaggerating…” I mumble.

I notice one of the Slimes crawling on the table. I think this is the one that likes to drink wine.

“What's the matter? You want some wine?” I ask even though I know it will definitely not answer. None of my Slimes have been answering in Telepathy until now. Usually, they just act for an answer or convey some feeling. The slime stretches out part of its body like a tentacle and grabs some Sashimi to eat. I can feel it radiating happiness towards me.

“This is a first! That one only joins me when I drink wine. I've never seen it eat anything else. It seems to like the Sashimi. That being said: I guess this does go well with some wine.”

I get several bottles of Maple Wine as well as several cups from my Infinite Storage.

“Why don't we have a drink?” I ask.

Everybody present nods. I pour a cup of wine for everyone, including the Slime.

“So this is the Maple Wine I was told about,” Alexander says. He takes a sip, “it's good. I hear you still find it lacking.”

“Yes, I do. But I can't put my finger on what exactly the problem is.”

“Hmm, how about… No, that's impossible to pull off!”

It seems Alexander has an idea. But he's dismissing it right from the get-go. I don't think it's worth pursuing.

“Please do elaborate!” Matt wants to know it, anyway, “wasn't it you who thought me dismissing ideas outright without sharing it with others it is not a good practice? After all, there might be a way to do it after all!”

“You're right. Here's a thought: how about making ale instead of wine?”

“Ale?” I answer, “I see that might be an improvement. Where's the problem with that?”

“For Ale, you'd need Huffin. But that doesn't grow here. Krale Kingdom grows them. But they're have prohibited the export of Huffin. I wouldn't dare to try to smuggle it here. Relations are already strained.”

Politics… Meh… Good thing I'm sworn to neutrality. But I'd be quite bothersome if a war was to break out.

“Don't worry about it,” Matt tries to calm me down. He explains: “Neither Krale nor Sitnalta would be able to properly wage war. Raising a sea fleet in an inland sea would be a waste of resources. Instead, both sides have their observers posted. There's only a ferry between the two countries. That ferry is run by the Merchants' Guilds of both countries. And climbing the mountains for an attack is way too dangerous! The worst case is a trade war, and that's would just be an inconvenience to both sides at worst. Not even that. It's not like we have a lot of trade at all with them at all. As a matter of fact, the ferry service is unable to earn its own keep. It's being subsidized by both countries.” 

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