First Gather the IngredientsEdit
A young woman with long dark blue hair approached the building. It was an incredibly tall building with a square base and large glass doors she knew would open when she got close enough. From the large, square blue base rose a large column fifty feet into the air that led to the real part of the building: a massive, round space with windows on all sides and six spikes jutting out of the roof just below where a helipad was located. Quietly rotating around the upper floor was a yellow ring. She never knew what the purpose of that spinning ring was, it didn't hold the sign for the building, that was a simple sign a few yards behind her, simply reading Rotary Kitchen.
Just inside the automatic doors she was met with the sight of a giant axe and hammer, linked end-to-end by a flat thin leather-like rope. The utensils were hung above the elevator in a simple display. While there were signs of wear on the utensils, she could tell that the blade of the axe was still razor sharp and there was no sign of dust on any part of the items.
The elevator ride was surprisingly quick and lacked that usual feeling of the stomach being left behind by the movement. When the doors opened, she found herself stepping directly into the dining area. The windows let plenty of light into the space and gave the impression that the dining area was floating in the air. Glancing around, she saw that every table had a view of the kitchen, where several people could be seen preparing an eclectic variety of dishes.
Whispers began to catch her attention as she realized that the customers had stopped watching the Chefs and had all taken notice that she had arrived. Amongst them, she noticed a few who were clearly Gourmet Yakuza.
"It's her! The Black Beast of The East!" she heard one say.
"What's she doing here?" another whispered. "Surely she's too busy with her own restaurant or adventuring with the Scarlet Reaper?"
"Is this place even worth being on the radar of someone that renowned?"
She began walking as everyone quickly returned to their meals and avoided her gaze.
Soon enough, a waiter came in front of her as he shook with fear.
"Go-good evening, welcome to the Rotary Kitchen, table for one?"
"Yes please" she replied, earning a smile from the guy as he directed her to a nearby table. Soon enough, he sat her down and gave her the menu while he went to take care of the other customers.
She was looking over the menu and saw that most of it seemed to be handwritten. It also had the day's date on it above the word Menu. She had to guess that, based on the eclectic assortment of dishes available, the menu changed daily, which fit with what she remembered. A somewhat pungent odor soon began spreading throughout the dining area and she was on the verge of wondering what went wrong when she heard a familiar voice call out.
"Smell that? Means you've done it right, now leave the Kingrano meat to stew with the rest of it." the voice said.
"Ugh... who ordered Wul Swamp Stew?" one of the other customers groaned. "I know it tastes alright, but who can stand the smell of it when it's cooking?"
"Do you know what you would like to order or do you need some more time?" the waiter asked, having come back over to her.
"Hmm, I'll have Arckuma Ramen to start things off, along with the Chomb Glazed Aero Serpent and some Aqua Berry Juice." Michelle ordered, handing the menu back to the waiter.
"Excellent choices." the waiter said, quickly jotting down her order and then hurrying over to the kitchen. He handed the scrap of paper over to the most unprofessional looking man in the kitchen. Sure, he was wearing nice enough looking clothes, but it was all disheveled, improperly buttoned and overall sloppy looking.
"Right, listen up." he called, not turning to see if anyone else in the kitchen was listening. "We got an order for Arckuma Ramen, Chomb Glazed Aero Serpent and Aqua Berry Juice."
"Heard, Chef!" the entire kitchen replied, continuing their work and incorporating the new order into what they were already doing.
The new smells of Arckuma broth heating up, the unique odor of ramen being made fresh, the sharp scent of a Chomb glaze immediately mixed into the air, quietly replacing the pungent aroma of the stew.
"Order up, Arckuma Naan Sliders." the sloppy looking man hollered, a member of the wait staff rushed up, took the plate and delivered it to the table. He then slide a glass down a counter to a customer sitting practically in the kitchen. As it slide, she saw it looked like a glass of rainbow.
"Wow..." She muttered, never seeing anything quite like it. Eventually, her own order of food came along with the drink she ordered.
Michelle placed the napkin on her lap and thanked for the food before digging into the ramen first. She slurped the noodles and smiled with enjoyment, it had been a while since she had eaten such delicious food made by another chef.
After taking another slurp, she chewed and swallowed before drinking some of her juice, finding it complementing the ramen quite nicely.
She found that being able to actually see the various dishes being made, seeing every step taken to prepare the variety of meals added to her appreciation of the food before her. The rest of her meal was delicious, watching the Chefs work was entertaining and informative. She saw that everyone was more or less in charge of one specific thing, as expected, and that sloppily dressed man seemed to buzz around the kitchen like a hummingbird. He'd say something here, test a dish there, moving about smoothly and easily. Then, he suddenly dashed across the kitchen to an order that was about to be taken away by one of the waiters and he'd add something to it.
"There it is, Mix Master Lee's Last Minute Fix." one of the nearby customers laughed. "Took longer than average today."
Michelle laughed when she heard that, thinking about how she and the chef used to work together in the same kitchen. It was nice, seeing him running his own and following his preferred method of cooking. Her next order came and she continued eating her food, enjoying every single bite as she could tell that a lot of effort went into it.
Eventually the dining area emptied out and the kitchen and wait staff all began to relax.
"So, how was your meal, Shelly?" the sloppily dressed man asked, sitting down at the table opposite her.
"You know how I feel about that nickname," She replied while drinking more of her juice. "How about you? Enjoying the life?"
"I know, that's why I use it." he joked. "I'm having fun, enjoying myself. And since we use whatever's fresh in the market each day, we gotta keep on our feet, since the menu changes daily."
"Sounds like just your sort of place." she smirked.
"Aye, and what about your exploits?" he continued. "Combo partner with one of the Five Gourmet Overlords? From what I hear, you've gone and left me in the dust."
"Haha, considering he's always away and busy, I'd say I'm pretty much where I'm at now. Though from what I hear, you're doing amazing stuff yourself." Michelle replied as she finished the drink.
"Just working here." he laughed.
"I seem to recall hearing that you took on the Trial of Pilgrimage last year."
"Ah..." Lee's expression fell a bit. "Yeah... um, I guess I passed it..."
"You're ready to enter the Gourmet World, I'm still not there yet," She replied with a sigh as she ate some of the scraps that she still had.
"I don't know if I'm really ready to go there." Lee said, absently rubbing at his left forearm.
"That's a new habit." Michelle said.
"Huh? Oh! Yeah, guess it is a new habit." he laughed. "Talking about the Trial kinda makes them ache a bit."
Before Michelle could ask what he meant, Lee pulled his sleeve back and revealed some scars on his forearm that looked like something had tried to take a bite out of him.
"Got that from the Hydra Blossom." he explained. "Left matching scars on my right arm and both legs. And those aren't even the worst of them."
He chuckled again.
"Wow, you really went through hell and back didn't you? Makes whatever I did look like a day at the spa," Michelle replied.
"Sure, I certainly experienced hell," he agreed. "But from what I've heard of what you've been up to, you've done a lot more technique training. Bet that makes far more difference than you might expect."
"Isn't the saying that experience is the best teacher?" Michelle asked.
"For some," Lee said. "But I always got the feeling you're more the type to learn best through study, rather than putting yourself through the wringer."
"Oh, I'm a bookworm, is that what you're saying?" she asked, raising an eyebrow and getting another laugh out of the other Chef.
"Take it how you will, Shelly, you always do." he replied, still chuckling. "I seem to recall you taking every suggestion I ever made as a challenge back when we worked the same kitchen."
"Haha, indeed. Though it does help that the head is one of the most respected Chef's in the world and mother. She did teach me enough to help me so far," Michelle replied.
"Yeah, and she saved my life, letting me work in that kitchen." he said. "Anyways! What brought you over to the Rotary Kitchen? Scoping out the competition?"
"What? I can't visit a former colleague and enjoy a good meal?" Michelle asked as the two laughed. "In all honesty, it was a good meal, by the way."
"Glad to hear it!" Lee smiled. "Typically the food does get plenty of compliments, though there was one guy that came in not that long ago, spouted off ratings left and right for everything. I think he was a critic of some kind, but he said so many different numbers that we all lost track of how he seemed to feel about the place, but I think it was... positive?"
"If he was a critic, then there should be a review out there." Michelle pointed out.
"You'd think, but I haven't seen anything." Lee sighed. "I almost got the impression that it was more of a habit of his to just review anything and everything."
"It takes all kinds."
"Now," Lee said as he stood up. "I'm curious about something."
"How vast is the gap in our skills now?" Lee asked. "How about a little sparring match?"
"Sparring?" Michelle repeated. "Why not cooking?"
"Because the kitchen doesn't have any Ingredients to spare." Lee answered. "Everything's gotta last the day."
"Well you caught me at a disadvantage, I didn't exactly dress to fight or even brought anything to use." Michelle remarked as she stood up from her seat.
"We could probably scrounge together something for you to wear." Lee replied. "As for things to use, that would make it far too dangerous, don't you think?"