Vignette:Small Steps

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Small Steps
Hayamoto Castle, Hayamoto, New Styria Territory
May 1st, 1873

I am trying my darndest to use these things, and I am not making any damn progress!”

“Karl did just fine after a week of practice, ambassador. I’m sure you can master them faster than he can.”

“God willing, I will master this by the end of this week or I will serve my own head on a platter to the Kaiser.”

“You won’t have to, ambassador.”

Mastering the art of handling chopsticks has been out of his reach for the past three excruciatingly long days and nights. He’s been consistently baffled: how do they manage to eat anything with two sticks no larger than his forearm and as thin as a twig? The bowl of noodles sitting in front of him seems to taunt him with the smell of mushrooms, cabbage, and beef as it wafts into his nose. As if by a miracle, he manages to pick up a few strands of noodles. He cranes his neck down and opens his mouth; he will not risk losing the progress he’s made tonight.

The sliding door opens to reveal another member of his entourage. The noodles in his grasp slip away, sinking into the simmering depths of the bowl. His moustache begins to twitch as he turns to berate him.

“Sir, the Akitei-” He holds his sheaf of papers up like a shield as if it'll block or deflect the beam of insults he's expecting to come his way.

His chopsticks meet the table with much force as he slams it into the other. “I will see them very shortly.” The gritted teeth he flashes at him are more than enough to signal him to bugger off.

“Understood, sir.” The paper door slides back into place. He watches the blurry silhouette of the fool as he miserably jingles away into the darkness of the castle with sore eyes before returning to the quest of eating his dinner.

Grasping the chopsticks one more time and adjusting them with his other hand, he delves once more into the bowl of ramen that has been haunting him for the past fifteen minutes. He manages to pull out a more sizable amount of noodles this time. He doesn’t hesitate to lose them anymore, shoving them into his open mouth as if his life depended on it. It’s warm and just the right amount of soggy; when he bites down, it seems to go through like a heated knife through butter. He can taste the broth in the noodles, mixed with vegetables and meat in a damn good way.

It’s been a long time since he felt this proud of himself.

“Congratulations, sir.” His adjutant forces a smile. “You’ve just eaten with chopsticks.”

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