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After getting the name and directions to the best restaurant in the city from Hyde, Thomas made his way to The Swans Nest to clean himself up and get a change of clothing. One could not go to a high-class restaurant reeking like a week old rotting corpse! After arriving at The Swans Nest, Thomas carefully scrubbed his body until his skin was so agitated it turned red. Even then he didn't feel clean enough! However, any more scrubbing and he might scrub his entire epidermis off. After the brutal scrubbing, he changed into one of the outfits he'd made himself at Zella's place, adding his new belt and boots to the mix.

Thomas checked himself out in the mirror and nodded in approval. He didn't look the most dashing or like he was wearing items made of the highest quality materials, but he looked much better than he had in his newbie clothing. Feeling somewhat refreshed, Thomas left The Swans Nest and made his way to the noble's quarter toward the center of the city. The place Hyde had told him about was only a few streets away from the bank Rock had taken him to not too long ago so it wasn't too hard to find.

Thomas looked at a nondescript building that had a simple sign reading 'Zan's Eatery'. The building simply matched the others in the area. Nothing about it stood out to let the people know it was the best place to eat in the city. Thomas couldn't help but grin, isn't that the way it always was? The best places to eat always seemed to be the little hole-in-the-wall restaurants that didn't stand out very much.

Thomas stepped into the building and looked around. The first thing he noticed was a wave of absolutely delicious scents that made him salivate while his stomach released a pleading sound. The interior was warm and welcoming and made completely out of wood. There were a couple of dozen tables with simple chairs around them, four chairs per round table, with a few booths along two of the walls. The interior did not even try to emulate the supposed status of the restaurant. However, even though it was still a couple of hours before the dinner rush would begin, the place was still half filled with customers.

One of the waitresses approached Thomas with a warm smile. She was a beautiful woman with long blonde hair, bright green eyes, and most surprisingly, long pointy ears sticking out from her hair. She was an elf! At least, Thomas assumed she was! Almost everything about her was well proportioned and curved just the right amount to fit almost any man's tastes. If there was a single thing lacking, it would have to be her chest. It would be shocking if she even qualified as an A cup.

Seeing Thomas look her over, the waitresses eyes turned cold for just a brief moment before she put on a polite business-like smile, "Welcome to Zan's Eatery. Follow me to your table."

As Thomas was paying close attention to the woman he did not miss the cold look that flashed by in an instant. Not wanting to have a reputation for ogling women in what was supposed to be the best place to eat in town, Thomas immediately apologized, "I'm sorry if I offended you a moment ago. It's just my first time seeing someone of your race and I couldn't help myself." Thomas bowed his head a little along with the apology to make it more sincere, "Pardon me if this is rude to ask, but are you perhaps an elf?"

The waitress studied Thomas for a moment and feeling that his apology was sincere, she relaxed a little and gave him a somewhat warmer smile, "No, I'm a half-elf."

Finished with what she wanted to say, she gestured for Thomas to follow her to his table. After he sat she presented him with a menu. None of the meals listed on the menu sold for less than 100 gold! Thomas seriously looked over the menu to find something interesting to eat. After all, this was a world where orcs and minotaurs were edible! Perhaps a weird food fetish had been born after Thomas had his first delicious orc chop, but he wanted to try more monster dishes just for the hell of it.

Looking through the list, Thomas spotted a few orc and minotaur dishes but ignored them and looked for something new to taste. As he searched he finally found something new! Fried Lizardman bites and Lizardman steak. If the lizardmen in AoG where anything like in other games then they should be creatures similar to bipedal alligators or crocodiles, depending on the subrace. Thomas happily ordered both the fried and grilled Lizardman dishes. The fried Lizardman was only an appetizer so it wasn't nearly as expensive as the steak.

After receiving his order the waitress left the table. Thomas watched her leave and smiled to himself. He hadn't really looked at her again after their initial meeting. She was very beautiful and while Thomas didn't care overly much about breast size, he still preferred women with at least a B cup so he had plenty to fill his hands. As beautiful as she was, the waitress just wasn't his type, so it was rather easy to not offend her by staring too much. He had to admit though, he was still excited to meet a half-elf. In every fantasy game he had played Elves were among the most beautiful of the humanoid creatures and the ideal woman that many men, or women, would try to get close to. Even Thomas himself had tried, and failed, to get close to an elven NPC once before.

Since the meals at Zan's Eatery were all cooked to order and not made en-masse like at The Swans Nest, it took a while before the fried Lizardman bites were brought to his table by the waitress. She also brought along a large mug of mead to go with the bites. Though Thomas hadn't ordered it, he still accepted it. After placing the items down the waitress left without a word. It was pretty clear to Thomas that he had made a rather bad first impression, but that was okay with him. He didn't plan to eat here very often anyways. It was just too expensive!

Thomas plucked one of the crispy golden brown Lizardman bites off of the plate and popped it into his mouth. After the first chomp of his teeth, the piece of meat burst with juicy flavor. The taste of the meat was light while the texture was somewhat firm. It reminded him a lot of alligator meat but was subtly different. The spices in the fired batter enhanced the subtle flavor and brought it to new heights. All Thomas could do was chew and let out a soft moan from the amazing flavor filling his mouth.

After swallowing the Lizardman bite, he picked up the mug of mead and took a sip. The honeyed mead perfectly complimented the seasoning and taste of the bite and just made the whole experience even better. Maybe... maybe he would come back here more often... Thomas rotated between eating a fried Lizardman bite and taking a sip of mead until both were completely gone. Though the portion of fried meat had been a decent size, all it managed to do was make Thomas even hungrier. He couldn't wait to taste the coming steak.

About ten minutes later the waitress returned to his table and set down a new plate and mug of mead, then took the empty plate and mug away. Thomas looked at the new plate of food and instantly began to salivate as the steam hit his nostrils and the scent dug into his brain. The Lizardman steak was a pale white color lined with black grill marks. The side dishes looked similar to the ones he'd had at The Swans Nest, but Thomas could see specs of spices mixed into the white mound that looked like mashed potatoes and the green vegetables that looked like green beans.

Swallowing a mouthful of saliva, Thomas picked up the provided knife and fork and carefully cut off a piece of the steak. Placing it in his mouth he began to chew and couldn't help but sigh in pleasure as the flavor exploded in his mouth. The steak had the same subtle and juicy flavor as the bites, but with different seasonings and the added flavor of the smoke from the grill. The flavor was so phenomenal that Thomas even briefly contemplated quitting everything he was doing and investing all of his time into cooking just so he could eat food like this on a daily basis.

Even the side dishes had been flavored so exquisitely that Thomas would have been exceedingly happy if they alone were the meal. Everything had been spiced just right and adding the mead on top just brought the whole meal to a new realm. If someone told Thomas that the chef had a cooking skill rank of 500 or more, he would not be the least bit surprised. Of course, Thomas had no idea what rank the chefs' skill was really at.

It didn't take Thomas very long to finish his meal and drain the mug of mead. The Lizardman meal had been the absolute best thing he had eaten since he started to play AoG and his only regret was that he couldn't eat the same thing in the real world. Thomas rubbed his stomach contentedly as he basked in the after-meal glow. Shortly after he finished the waitress came to his table and gave him a moderately warm smile, she had noticed that he hadn't ogled her since he first arrived, "Would you like to order a desert?"

Thomas looked at the waitress and gave her a friendly smile while shaking his head, "No, if I ate any more I would explode."

It was true, the meal had been deceptively filling and Thomas had overeaten a little already. If he ate any more he might actually get sick. As much as he really desired to taste the dessert in this place, he just couldn't do it. He briefly contemplated ordering one and taking it with him for later, but thought it might be rude to Martha to bring cooking from another place into her establishment. He liked Martha a lot, she reminded him of his own mother before she passed away, so he just couldn't bring himself to do anything that might insult her even remotely.

With his meal finished, Thomas paid the exorbitant sum of 175 gold for the meal and tipped the waitress another 25 gold on top of that. He tipped so much as a sort of apology for offending her earlier. Originally he hadn't planned to return very often, if ever, but after tasting the food... he would be back for sure! Thomas now completely understood why Hyde said this place had the best food in the city.

Now that he was 200 gold poorer and stuffed to the brim, Thomas started to make his way to Hekrin's place. He just had one more thing to do and his day would be over. Tomorrow he would begin working on a new profession, he just hoped it was a slightly more interesting one this time! Also, he was damned sick of needles!

Thomas stepped into Hekrin's shop and came to a stop. Something was very different about his visit this time. The store, and Hekrin himself, hadn't changed in the least. No, the change was that there was actually someone inside the store! A customer! Thomas had never actually seen anyone inside of the shop on his previous visits or seen anyone enter or leave the shop while he had been out on the streets before and after work. Granted that was nowhere near enough time to actually observe the shop, but still, it actually felt weird to see someone besides Hekrin inside of it.

Thomas couldn't see everything about the customer as she had her back to the door and was facing Hekrin at the counter. What he could see though was that she had long raven black hair down to her waist and a wonderfully curvy body clad in a tight black dress made of unknown fabric. Thinking back, Thomas hadn't actually met any unattractive women since he logged into AoG. Obviously, most female players would make themselves look pretty, but even the NPC women he had met were all beautiful. He hadn't even seen a single fat person of either sex. Perhaps it was the influence of the system? After all, though he had been slightly overweight when he logged in, he now had a well defined muscular body.

Hekrin glanced past the woman and frowned at Thomas, "What the hell are ya doin' here kid? It ain't even been a week since I sent ya away last! Go away!"

Thomas smirked as he called back to the dwarf, "I'm already done with Leatherworking so I've come for the next task."

Hekrin frown viciously, "Bullshit!"

The woman at the counter finally turned around to look at Thomas and Thomas finally got his first look at the woman from the front. She was perfect. If the half-elf waitress could be called stunning, then the woman in front of him was simply a goddess. A young goddess in her late teens or early twenties, but a goddess none the less. Her body was perfectly proportioned, her face was delicate with peach colored lips pursed into a small frown. He icy blue eyes seemed to look right through to his soul. Her entire face seemed like a delicate carving made of flawless white jade. She appeared delicate, beautiful, and graceful, but most importantly Thomas could see the intelligence behind her eyes. In short, she was exactly his type.

Thomas gave her a polite nod before he focused back on Hekrin and jeered at him, "If you don't believe me you can check for yourself you old goat!"

Hekrin scoffed at the reply from Thomas. For his part, Thomas couldn't help but fight back a little with Hekrin. His pride as a man wouldn't let him act meek and subservient to the old dwarf in front of the woman. It might be stupid, impulsive, or just a plain bad idea, but his instincts as a man just fired off without paying attention to his plans or will. Hekrin glared and waved Thomas over, "If ya be lyin' kid then I ain't teachin' ya nothin'. Get yur ass over here!"

Thomas walked over and stood next to the still silent woman. She watched Thomas out of curiosity as he stepped up to the counter and held out his hands without having to be asked. Thomas had no idea how Hekrin did it, but somehow he could tell if Thomas had gotten to the appropriate rank in a skill just by looking at his hands. Hekrin grabbed Thomas's wrists and examined his hands closely. Despite scrubbing so much there were still a few stains on his fingertips from the dye he used earlier when making his personal items at Hyde's place.

Grumbling to himself, Hekrin released Thomas's wrists like he was trying to throw Thomas's hands away, "I dunno how ya did it kid, but it seems like ya ain't lyin'. Good fer you."

System Notice: Quest Complete!
Hekrin Graveljaw has tasked you with becoming a rank 25 Leatherworker. You may train at Hyde's Hides.
Rewards: 1,500 Experience, Increase in Reputation with Hekrin Graveljaw... slightly... maybe.
Failure: Hekrin Graveljaw will refuse to teach you Magitech Engineering.
Time Limit: 1 Week
System Notice: You have gained 1,500 experience.

Thomas smiled at the large influx of experience while Hekrin grumbled to himself. Hekrin gave Thomas the stink eye as he exclaimed, "Ya might have done well with the stuff so far kid. But ya ain't gunna do well with tha next I'm sure!" Hekrin grinned maliciously, "Next ya need ta git yurself to rank twenty-five in Alchemy!"

System Notice: New Quest, Linked Quest!
Hekrin Graveljaw has tasked you with becoming a rank 25 Alchemist. You may train at Ricktor's Potions.
Rewards: ???
Failure: Hekrin Graveljaw will refuse to teach you Magitech Engineering.
Time Limit: 1 Week

Hekrin continued, "Go an' talk ta Ricktor. An' don't ya come back if'n ya can't do it!"

Thomas was excited by this quest. While Alchemy wasn't magic strictly speaking, at least in most games, it usually incorporated elements of magic. So it was quite possible he would be learning how to use his mana finally! Thomas turned and gave a polite nod to the woman as he prepared to leave. For her part, she had remained completely silent and only observed what was going on between Hekrin and Thomas. Thomas wanted to try and strike up a conversation with the woman but with Hekrin glaring at him, Thomas felt too awkward to try and speak with her. With a sigh, Thomas left Hekrin's and headed for The Swans Nest. Tomorrow he would finally get to do something new and exciting!

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A note from thomasdarkrose

Hope you all enjoyed the chapter. A bit of slice of life and world building. Look forward to tomorrow when we embark on out Alchemical escapades!

Spoiler: Character Sheet

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About the author

thomasdarkrose

  • Georgia, USA

Bio: Just your average self-employed American with some spare time that enjoys reading, and now writing.

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