It felt rather odd, walking through the rapidly crafted streets with Irena. Not in a bad way, but… even with Terra and Ryone, I couldn’t really say that I had ever actually been on a date with them. The closest that I could think of would be when I was with Aurivy and Terra for the D’ka festival in the beastkin continent.
As we walked, more and more people appeared alongside of us, walking out of their own glowing doorways. Some were alone, some with only one or two others, and some had an entire host of others accompanying them. Just from this alone, the numbers had already greatly surpassed what I had seen from the monthly meetings hosted by the Gilded Branch.
As I was wondering where we should go next, I felt a light tug on the hand that Irena was holding. When I glanced over, she nodded silently towards one of the smaller buildings. As with the others, this one too had a sign created outside of it. This sign seemed to be spun from golden lights, and spelled the word ‘Cuisine’ on it.
I gave a small smile when I saw that, nodding my head. “You want to get something to eat?” It wasn’t often that the gods were able to enjoy a meal in the Admin Room, but I suppose that Irena enjoyed it in her own way.
She gave a brief nod of confirmation. “Mhm…” As such, the two of us began making our way there. Several other people similarly were entering the restaurant in front of us, though it was impossible to determine which ones were the Keepers, and which were just beings brought by them.
Once inside, we saw tables spread out on three different levels, the two above reachable through two different spiralling staircases. Red wood decorated the balconies of the two floors, while golden cloths were draped over the various circular and square tables. A host of waiters and waitresses of varying different races were lined up, showing the guests towards their seats.
As I was admiring the view, one such waiter approached myself and Irena, a knowing smile on his face. “EarthForceOne, plus one.” He spoke, as if mentally reading off a reservation. “Please follow me.”
Our waiter appeared to be human for all intents and purposes, though I saw that the tips of his ears were actually forked. He led us towards one of the circular tables on the first floor, where two chairs had been prepared. Irena and I each sat down at one of the chairs, while the waiter stood to the side and began explaining.
“Welcome to the Keeper’s Feast. Here, we can prepare any dish that you could imagine, and allow you to enjoy the taste of real food. You may either place an order, or we can prepare something to suit your tastes.”
I glanced over towards Irena, seeing the growing smile on her face, before I had to sully the mood with a question that I was rather concerned with. “Is there a cost for the food here?” Given the amount of points that Keepers that would appear here normally had, it wouldn’t be surprising for a single meal to cost a thousand points or more.
Thankfully… “Of course not.” The waiter shook his head. “All of our meals offer no substantial benefit to a Keeper, aside from uplifting your mood. Naturally, there won’t be any charges.”
Irena let out a relieved sigh at that, as did I. I was sure that our balance was more than I expected, since I hadn’t checked the points we earned for a while. Still, it was nice to know that we wouldn’t need to spend anything here.
Irena glanced down towards the table, and then up at me, as if silently asking me to order for us. “Can you just… ‘surprise us’?” I asked, recalling how they said that they could craft meals designed for each individual’s unique tastes.
“Of course, sir.” He nodded politely. “Your meals will be ready in six hundred and eighteen seconds. If you require anything, just tap your table twice, and I will return.” After saying that, the waiter turned and walked towards the entrance, where he again stood in line to greet the customers.
“This is nice…” Irena said, turning back to look at the chair she was sitting in. It almost seemed as if it had been crafted specifically for her. The ornate, wooden back of the chair grew thin halfway up her back, nestling gently between her wings. For most people, this would be uncomfortable, but the situation was different when you considered someone with Irena’s body type.
As for my own chair, it was a rather normal chair made of red wood, a soft padding along its seat and back. “Yeah…” I couldn’t help but agree. “Though, I have to say this all caught me by surprise.”
Irena closed her eyes, shaking her head. Her cheeks were slightly red as she adjusted the hem of her skirt. “Aurivy wanted me to spend some time alone with you… I… did not object.”
A small chuckle escaped me when I heard that. It was hard to see sometimes, but it seemed that Irena did still have genuine feelings for me. Though, they shouldn’t be because of her initial setting. After all, Bihena had shrugged off those feelings after just a few days. I had expected the same to be true for Irena, but it seemed that wasn’t the case.
“I don’t mind.” Honestly, I wasn’t against Irena’s feelings. My main concern was that I didn’t even have the time lately for Terra and Ryone. I had spent all of my time trying to better myself and my worlds. I hadn’t forgotten my initial dream to create a harem of beautiful goddesses from when I first began as a Keeper, rather… it just seemed less important now. Especially once I realized that they were real people.
Hearing my response, Irena’s face briefly lit up with a happy smile, before she quickly controlled her expression. “Thank you…”
It didn’t take long for our food to arrive, though the manner in which it did so was also quite unique. For mine, golden rays of light flashed before my eyes, materializing int a large burger, stacked with what looked to be lettuce, tomatoes, and barbeque sauce on top a beef patty. On the side was a circle of what I could only guess were onion rings dipped in cheese.
For Irena, the food presented itself a bit differently. Where I received rays of golden light, Irena instead had a light fog rise up from the table, forming itself into a plate. Atop the plate, a meal almost identical to my own appeared, though the sandwich had considerably less sauce. I could tell that Irena was happy we were eating the same thing, if only from its outer appearances.
When I lifted up the burger, and took a bite of it, my eyes went wide with shock. To describe it… I didn’t even know where to begin. Everything just seemed… good. The meat was soft and juicy, as if perfectly cooked. The sauce, which I had originally identified as barbeque, held a strange seasoning to it that I couldn’t place, but only amplified the other tastes of the burger as a whole.
After the first bite, I pulled the burger away from my mouth to look at it in surprise, while Irena simply stared at me with a trace of concern. “Is it not good?” She asked timidly, looking down to her own burger.
It took me a moment to remember to chew, before I nodded my head towards her. “It’s… great. Really, really great.” I don’t think I had ever had a burger this good in my life.
Hearing that, the nervousness in Irena’s expression seemed to fade, and she lifted up one of her onion rings to take a bit. I had expected crumbs to fall from her food but instead, thin trails of mist seemed out after the ring had been bit open. Irena’s eyes went wide as my own a moment later as the taste hit her.
Is hers made of spiritual energy? I couldn’t help but wonder that as I watched her hastily consume the rest of the onion ring, as if it was the first time she had ever eaten a real meal.
As soon as she was done, she tapped on the table twice in succession, her eyes sharply focused on the waiter who had shown us to our table. He was still standing in the line, but immediately turned to walk back towards us. “Is there something that I can help you with?” He asked, a knowing smile playing on his face.
“This… is this real?” Irena asked, pointing towards her own food. “Could we really make this back home?” There was excitement in her tone as she asked that, and the waiter let out a light laugh.
“Of course. Everything produced here is made with real ingredients. However, there is a small cost associated with learning the recipes. You need not worry much, as the cost is a simple ten points per recipe you wish to learn.”
When she heard that, Irena turned her head abruptly to stare at me. “Please, Dale…” She pleaded, practically begging for something for the first time since she had been born. “It’s not much, right?”
For the second time during the meal, I blinked in surprise. “That… alright.” I wasn’t opposed to spending a mere ten points for something like this anyways, it was just that the way she asked caught me completely off guard.
Once I had agreed, a message window appeared in front of me, notifying me that I had spent ten points to learn a recipe for ‘Spiritually Seasoned Food’. “Very well, then.” The waiter said, and a small blue sphere, like a miniaturized form of the normal information globes, appeared on the table.
Before I could even say anything, Irena snatched it up off the table, staring hard at it to gain the information inside while the waiter turned to leave. “Is it… really that good?” I asked, still surprised by Irena’s actions.
As if finally realizing how out of character she had been behaving, Irena’s cheeks lit up red and she stuffed the orb into her pocket. “Sorry… It’s just… The underworld doesn’t really have food. They gain sustenance by simply breathing in spiritual energy, so there has never been the question of taste. This food… it’s… so perfect.” Irena’s eyes actually seemed to water as she looked down at her meal.
“Hey, hey, there’s no need to cry now.” I spoke up quickly, afraid that I had said something wrong to worry her. However, she simply shook her head.
“No, I’m not sad. This is better than I could have hoped. The food, and…” She let her words trail off as she looked up at me, wiping the wetness from her eyes.
I let out a brief sigh, shaking my head before glancing back at her. “It’s great. Just don’t scare me like that again. When we get home, you can practice that recipe so that you can teach it to your people.”
She gave a firm nod when she heard that, bringing one hand up to her breast pocket where she had stored the orb. My guess was that creating food out of spiritual energy was one of the pieces of information that her people had been lacking from the first tier knowledge, and why the system never acknowledged her as completing it.
The rest of the meal was fairly silent. Not because of a bad mood, but rather because the food was simply too good for either of us to think of a conversation topic. Especially when the dessert came, a large bowl of icecream for both of us, and another recipe that Irena wished to learn.
By the time we left the restaurant, our moods were definitely higher than before, just as the waiter had promised.