Claude didn't have much on hand, so he could only prepare something simple. However, the baroness tolerated it thanks to her newfound curiosity for the wonders he'd cooked up. Her appetite flourished and she downed each mouthful feverishly.
"The deep-fried potatoes will irritate your throat and stomach if you have too many, but they're tasty snacks. It wouldn't do to make them the main course," he advised.
Meat, fish, and fruits were indispensable for a dinner treat with a noble. But Claude only sourced meat. The village chief did have salted fish, but he treated them like family heirlooms. Claude took a glance at the blackening fish and did away with the notion of using them. They didn't have much fresh fruit either. He only had a small pack of candied fruit, which he could use as a replacement.
Meat, on the other hand, was high in supply. There were many people passing through the checkpoint that morning and Mazik bought a goat from the village and had it slaughtered to make mutton biscuits to sell at the checkpoint. There was a small part of the ribs remaining, which Claude had Myjack bring him. That was the main dish. Then, he got the village chief to bring him a hen. Plopping it in with some mushrooms made for some good soup. Then, he grilled some bacon and cut them into fish shapes to use them as ersatz fish.
He then had some of the soldiers on cooking duty skin some potatoes, cut them into thin pieces and deep fry them, making a large platter of fries and made a small bowl of fruit sauce to go with it. Seeing that there were still some eggs in the kitchen, he made some steamed egg custard. It took him a total of an hour to finish everything before he got Myjack and Gum to have the food served.
The baroness had a good hold on her liquor. She managed to empty the whole bottle of wine while waiting for the meal without batting an eyelid. Claude had no choice but to have Myjack fetch another bottle for the meal itself. He got the wine as part of the spoils when he first reached the three southern prefectures. There was a vineyard belonging to a noble near the edges of Pikleit Mountains. As the first soldiers to arrive there, the officers of 1st Ranger Tribe appropriated the vineyard without hesitation and split up the collection of alcohol within among themselves. Claude got two cartons of 24 bottles in total and a set of silverware utensils, which he used during the dinner.
"Why would you store your wine in your bedroom?" asked the beauty.
Where else could he hide it? He was down ten bottles in barely any time at all. The damned alcoholic Mazik pilfered three bottles without Claude even noticing. If he hadn't hidden them in his bedroom, he would have none left.
The desk in his office was covered with a clean, white linen cloth. The wine and food were served there and they were all illuminated by the candles on the candelabra. It looked somewhat like a proper candlelight dinner. Claude politely invited the lady to sit down and have a meal as he apologised for the lack of good ingredients.
The baroness wasn't the least bit interested in the main dish: the grilled mutton ribs. She merely poked it with her fork and said that it was too lean and overcooked without even bothering to have a taste. She had some three mushrooms from the chicken-mushroom dish and drank two mouthfuls of soup without touching the chicken at all. As for the bacon (read: fake fish) and the candied fruits, she only gave them a passing glance. The steamed egg custard, however, was to her liking and she finished it in one helping. She later tried the fries with fruit sauce and wolfed through it without a pause, finishing the whole platter herself.
She was in a chatty mood and began talking to Claude from the sofa. She did most of the talking. Claude only gave curt replies that probed her for further stories.
It was commonly thought that women were more emotional, and men more logical. Though men were still subject to their carnal impulses, they almost always regretted giving in after the fact. And women easily found themselves in the grasp of men the moment they surrendered themselves to establish a physical connection. Granted, there were always exceptions.
In his old life, Claude knew from his vast experience that the best way to give women a good impression was to listen patiently. Using money to get a woman into bed was the least classy way of going about things. That was nothing but flesh trade. Lonely women at the bar, usually, were white-collar workers who were there to relieve emotional stress rather than look for a proper partner. Even with the rapid pace of modern life in the concrete forest, the urge to connect with others to fend off loneliness was still ever present.
When men and women got together, most of them didn't want to brag, but rather, to talk about their troubles. In those times, good listeners who could empathise with their troubles, especially those of the opposite sex, was extremely welcome. Listening to a woman's troubles in full made one subconsciously considered a kindred soul. With the help of a few bottles of wine, spending a sweet night together was usually an inevitability.
They were already down to the fourth bottle of wine. Claude couldn't help but click his tongue. The beauty before him had drunk three and a half bottles by herself and was talking nonstop. After she just finished telling him about how she and her father, Master Boyd, had to rely on each other to survive as well as the time she spent as a nun in the moon goddess' shrine, she was now talking about how she met Baron Vaskiri and fell in love, got married, and how she ended up widowed and inheriting the title of baroness.
Indeed, this beautiful noble lady was a widow. Her husband was pitifully short-lived, having perished on the battlefield less than half a year after their marriage. It was a local conflict that took place between the Askilin and Canas nobles which were quite common from time to time. The nations themselves weren't dragged into it and most people at the top just let the nobles fight it out and wrap things up.
The lady lived quite a miserable life, though. Before her father got famous, her mother passed away, leaving only the two of them in this world. His father had to work at the armoury and she would wait the whole day until the night for him to return. But when her father became famous, their family gradually became richer. She was sent to study as a nun in the moon goddess's shrine and only returned home at the age of sixteen. Having nothing better to do, she often helped her father out in his research as his assistant.
Later, Baron Vaskiri came to her father to order a custom-made firearm. The moment he met her, he began fervently courting her. She also allowed herself to fall into the relationship and married the baron at the age of nineteen after two years of courtship.
The Vaskiri barony was located near the border of Canas. It comprised a town and two villages and the people there were sworn enemies of Canas. A few centuries ago, they had been weathering the raids of the Canasian nomads and great enmity soon developed between the two peoples. Even after the two duchies entered the Alliance against Aueras, the border conflicts still continued on.
Raiding at the Askilin border was a tradition that dated back a few centuries to the nomads of Canas. They were the aggressors and they saw the Askilin farmfolk as livestock, waiting for them to grow fat and rich before going in for the slaughter. It wasn't a surprise that the folks at the border soon began to regard the nomads as sworn enemies. They had paid countless lives and spilt senseless amounts of blood to fend off the raids.
House Vaskiri had been fighting the nomads for some ten generations. It so happened that the newlywed baron was attacked by a Canasian noble living near the border during one of his patrols through his fief and he suffered three shots before dying, leaving behind his grieving, newlywed wife.
The lady inherited her husband's title and handed the fief to her cousin-brother-in-law, also another landed noble, to manage. She left the place that held so many tragic memories and returned to her father's side. She had hoped that she could develop a musket that could help curb the nomad riders, but her work didn't yield many results after seven long years.
Wasn't there the Maxim gun that rendered cavalry useless? It was only a passing thought, so Claude didn't tell her about it, much as he sympathised with her. Even if he did, it wouldn't be possible to make the Maxim gun due to the recoil firing system. The technology of this world was still restricted to matchlocks, so who knew how much research had to be poured in to reach that kind of level of technology?
"C-claude... do you have.. more wine..." the lady asked as she swung the empty bottle around.
"Don't you think you've had enough already? You should rest now," Claude advised.
"No.. I... chatting with you... was me happy... I feel so much more... relaxed a-and... I'm not... sober... I mean... not drunk... I usually drink five bottles a night... I've only had little... it isn't much I-I know you're just being stingy... You don't want to let me drink more from your stash... right? I-I'll look for it myself... I know it's in your room..."
The noblewoman stumbled out of the office and Claude had no choice but to help her around.
With half her body plastered over his shoulder, Claude felt his urges boiling.
"I know your bedroom.. is... is over there... the one farthest in, right?" the lady said.
The door beside opened and Myjack looked out. At the sight, he hurriedly apologised.
"I didn't see or hear anything."
Claude didn't know whether to laugh or cry. But since the opportunity presented itself, he didn't feel like holding back.
He opened the door to his room and took her inside. After closing the door, they hugged and planted their lips on one another.
When they first kissed, the lady was still a little dazed and tried to push away, but couldn't muster the strength. Soon, she softened and hooked her arms around Claude's neck, taking the lead. She violated the inside of Claude's mouth with her tongue and the two started wrestling.
Claude's hands weren't idle. He raced them over her body as he felt her heat up. Their game soon became an outright wrestling match. Biting was involved at one point and his pants nearly ripped.
Not long after, the two went 'au naturel' like freshly sheared sheep and tumbled in the bed...
(Author's note: My prayers and offerings to the River-Crab God... I'll be skipping four-thousand characters worth of detailed description of the two hours that ensued to save my beloved readers the cost of reading one premium chapter...)
The baroness was the first woman Claude bedded since coming to Freia. He had two realisations that night. Both left deep impressions on him. He was personally quite confident in the size and heft of himself, but he was still sensitive, which was to be expected given his body's inexperience, and his gates opened embarrassingly quickly. The light in the baroness' eyes dimmed considerably when that happened. He still had his youth, however, and all the benefits that went with it.
The other thing was that most of what she had said was true. She wouldn't lie to him. During their intimacy, she told him he was the second man she'd ever bedded, which he had suspected. It was the first time in seven long years that she had laid with another and her initial yearning flared strongly, hence her displeasure at Claude's first untimely discharge.
As a result of expending too much energy, Claude woke up rather late. He woke up to see the beauty half-laying on the pillow while looking intently at him. The blanket covered her up to her shoulders, but her beautiful collarbone and the alluring elevations in front of her were plainly visible.
"Madam..." Claude was quite embarrassed about last night. After all, it could be argued that he had taken advantage of her in a moment of weakness.
"Enough with the 'madam'. Call me Sonia." It seemed like she didn't regret what happened last night at all. The experience was enjoyable and cathartic for her.
Claude stretched his hand over and hugged her and allowed it to roam freely over her curves as while he sought after those alluring lips and went in for another kiss...