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Really? He took a sip questioningly. Well, the flavor was there, the slight bitter undertone, almost absent; hint of clove, jasmine, and cinnamon profile, intermixing; and as the finisher, a subtle menthol aftertaste, blossoming on his throat.
 
All in all, it was a nice tea.
 
Although, the astringency could do some toning down. Then again it looked like the leaves were only dried, not roasted.
 
Which left the erwee, he took another sip. Hmm, it indeed ..rich? Creamy with sweet quality. But only very slightly. It wasn't that overpowering. He didn’t have sugar after all.
 
So how it sweet?
 
“Crombe?”
 
“It’s delicious, Lady.”
 
The gnome arced her eyes. Her lips pursing. As if were saying she didn’t buy her silly lies.
 
“I—it’s has taste of a good meil, yes? But this milk. Erwee isn’t it, sir?” she looked at him, to which he responded by nodding. “It’s —It’s so sweet! Sweeter than even what the Ol’ Ghalk sell, Lady”
 
“—also, pardon sir. But there’s a bit of different sweet, yes? Not just the milk-sweet. There is also the sweet when me roasted red pip.”
 
“And it’s richer, Lady. And smooth. Very smooth.”
 
Nodding, the young gnome turned toward him. Sipping the remaining of her half-filled cup. “Almost made for us waiting in that cold,” she jabbed again. This woman! “So where did you get the milk?”
 
“The same place you told me,” he replied, his hand held out offering her to refill the cup. Unsurprisingly, she thrusted her saucer in a second.
 
“Really?” breaking a bit of the offered Koshi. She munched it questioningly. “I don’t know Porweis started to sell such a good Erwee. When did that happen, Crombe?”
 
“I—I don’t know, Lady.”
 
“Hmm…” receiving another cup from him. She took another sip, dipping the Koshi bit “When did you last buy from him then?”
 
“Yes —yesterday, Lady.”
 
“Perhaps because it’s evaporated milk?” he offered. As a rule, evaporated milk was indeed sweeter than the fresh once since their water content had been reduced by half. But it wasn't like sweetened condensed milk. That thing basically a half-sugar slurry.
 
“Evaporated milk? What’s that?”
 
“Hmm? You boiled three cups of milk in a pan until it reduced to half—”
 
“Ehm, Lady!”
 
“Right, sorry. Edward. Old habit die hard.” The gnome replied. Oddly though, she sounded ...sheepish? What was that? It just reducing. Surely they knew that. It was so basic.
 
“Let’s talk contract, shall we?”
 
“Oh, okay...” he nodded, shelving that train of thought for later date. “But before that, do you mind if we have a bit of interview?”
 
“Interview?” her voice rose, as if she was offended. “Euca! This is the best staff I know!” she glared at him.
 
“I believe you,” he said, looking at Mr.Edward and Mrs.Crombe. Nodding, trying to reassure them. “But at the very least we need to know each other before working together right?”
 
At least that what he said.
 
His heart though, was screaming. Really, woman? Did you think he'd just hire them without making sure that they're capable. There was no way. Not after what happened last time.
 
"Fine." the gnome harrumphed.
 
“So, Mr. Edward right?” he prompted before that damn merchant could interrupt further. ”Could you tell me what did you do before?”
 
“Yes sir.” he said. “I served at the Master Oliveck estate before.”
 
“And why did you leave your last job, if I might ask?”
 
“The late master was ...called to Lady’s embrace.” he paused. “And since young master Peter ventured to Silphan, lady Doris decided to dissolve the estate altogether. Moving to her husband’s hometown.”
 
“Oh. I—I’m sorry for your loss, Sir” Euca said. “It might be a bit disrespectful but — could you tell me what your typical day like?”
 
“Of course, Sir. We began early, just before the first bell. First we did a round on the lamps.” he glanced at the magical fixtures. “And if the weather were clear, snuff it out as to preserve the remaining mana.”
 
“Then we do a check on the pebble. Sometimes they need to be changed if they had grown too small or a crack or two had started showing. Otherwise, we would just give it a light polish.”
 
“We also would open all the shutters to let the morning light in. If it were particularly chilly, we would instruct— clean up the soot. And light the fireplace until around tenth bell when the weather was a bit warmer.”
 
“Then we would clean sir boots and prepare your garment for the day.”
 
“At the same time, we would ask the coo— housekeeper whether she had finished preparing for your meal and bring it to the dining ha— room side chamber and wake you up,”
 
“Then if sir desired, we would check on the bath and help you dress. Which then we would serve the breakfast.”
 
“For the noon — “
 
“Thank you, sir Edward. That’s enough. It’s very thorough. “ he said nodding
 
“And what about you ma’am”
 
“Sir. Yes, I usually wake up early morn’ like the butler ‘ere. However this I’d tell you first, yes? This house a wee bit big. And I’d need two maids for the cleaning alone.”
 
He turned his head toward the gnome, to which she replied by nodding.
 
“The maid would start to cleanin’ the kitchen, yes. Scrubbin’ the floors, throwin’ yesterday soot, and tendin’ stove fire. They’d need to draw the water too from the back well too for the kitchen and sir’s bath.”
 
“Then they’d prepare a light breakfast for us staff, yes. Just a Koshi, some yesterday’s vegetables, and milk. Then I’d prepare your meal.”
 
“After that, I’d have to check with the merchant, yes. To make sure they did a round to sir ‘ouse, makin’ sure they send us good vegetables and meat. Then I’d do checkin’ on the grain while the maid would start to clean the rest of the house. Scrubbin’ the tables, the chairs, sweepin’ the floor, and dustin’ the tables, the vases, sir had. ”
 
“Thank you ma’am.” he nodded. “I’d make sure to hire the maids. Thank you for the reminder.”
 
The woman blossomed to a smile. She was nodding, looking satisfied.
 
“Crombe, Edward, if you please.”
 
“Yes, Lady.”
 
“Lady.”
 
Both of Mr. Edward and Mrs. Crombe stood, bowing at him and Restia before they went out of the room, closing the door behind them.
 
“They’re good right?”
 
“Yes.” They seemed like decent workers. But how much was their pay? Could he afford it?
 
“300 golds.”
 
“Wha—”
 
“Per season. Just for the butler.”
 
“The housekeeper also 300 golds. But the maid only 70 golds.”
 
Doing some mental calculation, he frowned. Per season, that were six months? So 670 golds per half-year. Well more like 700, he needed to count their bonuses too. That was a lot. With expense he’d need around ...let just double it. 2,800 golds per year? His stash of money let see 25,000 divided by 2,800. Err… 24,000 divided by 3,000, 8 years give or take if he kept his current lifestyle, 4 if he accounted for the research expense.
 
Well, it wasn't like he wouldn’t start a business in this place for a whole four years. That much was given… Well, he’d brainstorm later. Perhaps visiting this town tavern or something. Getting the feel what people need.
 
“Fine, but I want a trial period.” he finally muttered.
 
“How long?”
 
“Three months”
 
“No, can’t do. Minimum employment of household staffs were two season.”
 
“Wha—”
 
“Not my rule, Euca. It’s the guild. You could check it yourself if you don’t believe me.”
 
“Fine,” he muttered. “At least you didn’t charge any fee.”
 
“Don’t remind me.” she sighed. Giving him eight sheets of sheaves, detailing the contract of each employee.
 
Duty to protect, Duty to provide living expense; meal three times a day, clothes, and basic grooming. One day holiday each month. Independent post-interview by the overseer branch…
 
Acceptable, acceptable, of course, that’s interesting.
 
Same, only different in gold. Huh, she already had the trial period down. Was that a skill?
 
Seeing that everything seemed to be in order, he stood. Walking to the right-side drawer, pulling a sharpened quill and a bottle of ink.
 
With a dip, he signed the contract.
 
“Tell them that they could start tomorrow.”
 
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