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BA Chapter 55: The Winner

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‘I swear to God I didn’t mean to go to the finals.’

The purpose was not to win but to look at other contestants, so she thought she would drop out while still cooking properly. But heaven did not help Luana.

“It was like the first time, but the taste is really impressive.”

“You pass.”

Following the preliminary round, she passed the finals and reached round 16. She served an ordinary steak, which was also well received, and she also passed. She thought, ‘Why?’ but she remained calm that time because Luana thought she still had more chance of being eliminated. However, the more she cooked, the more she felt like falling into a hole.

“It tastes fantastic.”

“I also think this person must pass.”

She got praises from the duke, Way, and all the other judges, again and again, and it’s escalating. As she climbed and climbed again, it was finally the last day.

It was the final round.

‘Ahhh, this isn’t right!’

Fortunately, her identity had not been revealed until now, but she did not know what would happen after winning. It was sure the duke tried to keep her by his side, but it was obvious that she would be caught. Luana and Miria couldn’t be active at the same time. Although the magic was effective, it couldn’t work that far.

Luana stood nervously.

‘I have to screw up the dish!’

Let’s pretend to make a mistake and add the wrong seasoning. Then no matter how well-received her dish is, she won’t be able to win the final. She was a bit sorry that she couldn’t play a fair game, but now she had no choice but to do it.

“I’m going to win!”

There was a cook who shouted full of motivation. She was a cook that got evaluated by the duke as ‘not bad.’ It was a great evaluation for the young cook. Even Way, the cooking genius, had not heard such a review, so she didn’t know that this person was even greater.

‘Besides, doesn’t she look pretty? Maybe the duke will change his mind while eating her dish.’

That thought made her chest tight as usual, but Luana tried to ignore it.

“Let’s start cooking!”

The butler came with a small pocket watch to tell the time, and people cheered. The cheers were loud because the final was held in an open kitchen to prevent cheating, which means other people could also watch the whole cooking process!

When Luana heard the cheers, her body trembled a little. Her tense body conveyed a good feeling of excitement. But this time, she has to mess up the dish naturally.

‘I can do it!’

Luana clenched her fists. She was going to make beef stew! It’s a soup dish, so that any wrong seasoning will ruin the taste. She immediately grabbed the knife and began to cook.

All of her movements flowed naturally like water. There was no disturbance in slicing, boiling, and seasoning the ingredients. People looked at her, admiring.

“After all, it’s the finals! The standard is high.”

“Right, by the way, she is making a beef stew! My mouth is watering already!”

“The other cook grills the meat with herbs. I guess she is thinking of making something different from grilled meat.”

“Oh, it smells so good. The meat will melt in the duke’s mouth, right?”

“Of course it is!”

People drooled and carefully examined the dishes. Some expected that there would be any leftover dishes after the dish was served to the judges.

Meanwhile, the other side finished cooking first!

“It’s a beef dish flavored with herbs!”

She approached the judge first in a prideful manner. Each judge had a plate in front of them, and the taste was evaluated.

“It doesn’t taste good, but it’s great.”

The duke evaluated the dish first. It was an answer that felt quite contradictory, but everyone said it was because he had already given such evaluations frequently. The Duke’s assessment was so poor that people relied on the assessment of other judges than his.

The emperor was there to evaluate the dish as today was the final round, and there was Way, the infamous cooking genius. 

“It tastes good. You can come to the Imperial Palace and become a cook.”

“If you use the wrong herbs, the taste of the meat can be ruined, but you used it well. The aroma of herbs and the taste of meat combine to create an outstanding taste. Besides, you have adjusted the grilling process properly. It is juicy.”

They wrote down their evaluation on the paper in front of them. Then it’s turned for Luana’s cooking. She confidently placed her stew on the panel. Although she didn’t spend enough time, it was her dish!

‘But I think something’s off?’

Luana tilted her head. What’s wrong? She was staring blankly at the stew and finally realized why!

‘I made the dish normally!’

She hurriedly took out the salt shaker that she had put in the apron pocket, but it was already late. The judges were tasting the stew. If she stormed in and sprinkled salt, she would be treated like a madwoman.

‘Ugh.’

With trembling hands, Luana put her salt shaker back into her apron pocket.

‘I’m so stupid!’

In the meantime, the duke finished tasting first, and his plate was empty.

“It’s delicious.”

The emperor’s evaluation followed.

“The meat melted. I’ve never tasted such a delicious stew before. Don’t you want to be a cook at the Imperial Palace?”

“Don’t snatch her.”

“I was just asking.”

The emperor shrugged at the sharp duke’s response. And last but not least, Way had a strange look. Then, he gave a late evaluation with a surprised look.

“It’s really great. I don’t think I have anything more to say.”

The evaluation was too good. Luana clasped her hands with a worried expression. The other cook, Rio, misunderstood her expression and talked to Luana.

“It’s okay. Don’t be too nervous. Whoever won first place, we did well!”

And then she hit her on the back.

‘No, that’s not what I’m worried about.’

Luana couldn’t even tell the truth, so she just smiled awkwardly. After some jury discussion, a conclusion seemed to be reached.

“Miria, I vote for you.”

The emperor made his vote first.

“Me too. I vote Miria.”

The duke also chose Luana.

“I vote Miss Miria, too.”

With this unanimous decision, the winner is Miria! It was Luana’s pseudonym.

Paper petals prepared in advance fluttered, and music played from somewhere. People clapped and cheered like crazy, and Rio gave a thumbs up to her fair rival.

“Hurray! The best chef has been born!”

Is it because of the atmosphere? Now even the emperor and the duke began to applaud.

“Congratulations!”

“T-Thank you.”

This isn’t it, it really isn’t. It has already reached the point of no return. She doesn’t know what she should do.

Luana went up to the podium to receive the award, enduring her desire to cry. In front of her, the duke stood waiting for her with a trophy.

“Miria, I will appoint you as the duke’s cook from now on.”

“U-until when??”

“For the rest of my life.”

“What?”

“For the rest of your life if you want to.”

‘No, wait. Aren’t you just looking for a cook? What do you mean, a lifetime? I’ve never heard of such a story. I knew it was a competition to find someone he could love in the future, but still!’

No wonder his stomach was boiling. However, Rio, who was standing next to her as a second winner, even shed tears and clapped her hands.

“Oh, my God, for life if you want to! Congratulations!”

It was the dream of chefs around the world to gain recognition from a high-ranking family and to cook using any ingredients they wanted. Having won it all at once, Rio’s celebration was not strange. The only problem is that Luana is not actually a chef named Miria.

“Is there any way I can’t become the duke’s cook but just receive the reward?”

“You’re not saying you’re only going to get the prize and run away, are you?”

The duke asked with a ferocious look. Luana felt like he was going to stab her any moment, so Luana sweated profusely and shook her head.

“No, no, it’s not. I was just asking what if.”

“It’s strange to ask you something that can’t happen.”

Eventually, Luana had to declare that she became a duke’s cook after receiving the first prize from the duke. She has to get over this crisis for now and then reveal the truth to the duke. Luana wept alone in the pouring celebration.

“She is so happy that she cried so much!”

“I would do the same if I were in her position!”

Some looked at Luana as cute, and some gave her flower bouquets. She didn’t even know who they were, but they seemed to have gotten quite excited. After the competition, the duke said he would provide food and hold a simple garden party, which was understandable. How many times do commoners have a chance to enjoy this kind of thing?

After the awards ceremony, everyone was excited and rushed into the garden. Luana sighed, with hands full of bouquets. And as soon as she tried to follow him, a man approached.

“Huh?”

It was the man she had seen in the garden before. A man who somehow looked like Ingrid. He smiled and gave Luana a small bouquet of flowers. He smiled and bowed his head when she accepted it.

That was all.

The man was excitedly headed to the garden in the middle of many people. Luana stared at his back for a moment; then, she turned her gaze to Ingrid. She was still sitting on the jury, talking to the emperor.

She said she hated the emperor not long ago, but it was natural to smile and talk.

‘But why? Why does this make me feel so anxious?’

 Luana tried to calm herself down by pressing down on her thumping chest.

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