Chapter 199 - Eating (1)
“Why can none of you throw a decent punch?” The slurred words leaving the fat human’s bloody face casts a seemingly magical silence across the entire plaza. Bord is well and truly bored. This is quite the accomplishment, as the heartcore cultivator finds paint drying and grass growing slightly amusing to watch, but the crowd of beastkin have managed to bore him to tears.
Not a single one is capable of helping him advance in his cultivation. He even has gone so far as to retract all his structural qi from his face, just so the weak punches of the beastkin capital’s strongest fighters can do some damage. But nothing is helping him anymore. Only the brawny dude that smells of lizard with the large mane of golden hair has helped him over the last few weeks, but he hasn’t shown up at all the past few days.
So the boy stands up and slowly yet inexorably makes his way across the plaza towards one of the few remaining joys in this stupid town. Entering the restaurant, he is greeted by the nervous yet professional cadre of servers and cooks he has grown familiar with. Rooting through his storage ring, he tosses a tasty looking mutant into the kitchen. The eight-meter-long horse with flippers spasms a few times before lying still, a slow trickle of blood covering the stone floor. The expensive storage ring kept the beast as fresh as when he killed it two days ago, on one of his many raids into the countryside.
Ignoring the bowing and frantically moving employees, Bord waddles over to his favourite table, the one closest to the kitchen, and sits on the creaking chair. Looking at the weak piece of furniture, Bord thinks about complaining for a bit. Instead of making a big issue out of the weak chair, he simply wills himself to be a little lighter. The maroon glow surrounding his body is barely visible to the naked eye, but his seat lets out a relieved groan.
Bord taps the table impatiently, keeping an eye on the chaotically bustling kitchen. One of the strongest normal citizens in the entire city, a grizzled bear of a fighter, slowly slices into the mutant’s skin. His muzzled face goes red as the metal knife in his grip slowly bends into a pretzel, but progress is being made. Bord is relieved that he doesn't need to skin the thing himself again.
The doorbell tinkles, and looking up at the newcomer, Bord sees the maned beastkin entering the otherwise empty eatery. Smiling at the single person capable of even scratching him, the fat kid is distracted by a server bringing him a drink. Sipping on the juice, Bord nods appreciatively at the visibly relieved waiter.
“I’ll joi-” Bord ignores the muscled beastkin, too fascinated by the fact that the cooks have managed to carve a fat steak free and have thrown it on a glowing metal plate. “Mind if I join you?”
Waving distractedly at the large man, Bord continues looking at the wondrous sight of masters at work. The tough meat is ground up into patties and meatloaves while bone and sinew are tossed into pots to simmer. Entrails are washed and prepared with spices, the skin is scraped clean, and joints are cracked with brute force and large metal tools. Not a single bit of edible matter is wasted.
“Where did you go?” asks Bord, managing to tear his eyes away from the sweating cooks.
“Out,” is the terse reply. Bord keeps looking at the lusciously locked beastkin until he continues talking, not satisfied with that answer. The only reason he even bothers with sitting in that square each morning is just so the beastkin in front of him can beat him up a bit. Bord tried punching himself in the face once, but that just hurt. He didn’t learn anything and didn’t advance a single bit.
“I was investigating some leads. Have you heard of the mysterious disappearances?”
“What?” Looking at one of the waiters hurrying over with a large seared steak, Bord has difficulties keeping his attention on the conversation.
“The large mutants and beasts that just end up disappearing?”
“Hnng,” is his reply. Instead of answering like any civilised person or beastkin would, Bord just keeps stuffing his face with delicious food. He has long since stopped bothering with taking in qi through breath, so the only way for him to intake large amounts of the power is through eating qi rich meat. Come to think of it, he hasn’t been consciously breathing the stuff in, but somehow his core keeps filling during the day? Not bothering with spending more mental effort on the mystery, he keeps eating.
“I know for a fact that there was a very successful mana mutant roosting in the mountains to the south. I haven’t heard or seen a single lightning strike since then. Do you know why?”
Staring at the annoyance, Bord pushes a single plate of food towards the bulky beastkin. The uninvited guest squints at the plate of dressed meat skewers before taking a single bite. The next half hour is filled with an escalating scala of eating, slurping, and chewing noises as both men devour all that they are served.
“Teach probably stole them.”
Looking up from his empty plate, the maned man wipes the disappointed and complex expression from his face before staring at Bord. “Teach?”
“Yeah,” Bord nods.
“Who teaches what?”
“Yeah he does,” Bord smiles while licking his lips. “These guys are pretty good, but they’ve got nothing on Teach.”
“Can’t you teach them then?”
Both men stare at each other, both of them wondering why the other talks nonsense.
“Nevermind that. What do I call you?”
“No, I’m not.”
The staring contest continues, and Bord truly wonders if the man opposite him has mental problems. He also wonders why the beastkin seems to be getting wet. “What’re you called?”
“Keeneff Ha-” Teeth snapping shut suddenly, the man opposite Bord is now visibly distressed.
“Cool,” hazards Bord. “Want to eat some more?”
The beastkin visibly gathers himself before looking around. “I… I could eat?”
Smiling beatifically, Bord pulls another large beast out of his spatial ring. The still wriggling scaled octopus tries to escape weakly, not yet fully realising that it is missing its head. The awkward conversation between the two is paused until the cooks get cooking again. Bord has to help out quite a bit this time, as the scales are too hard to cut by any normal kitchen utensils. He also helps in hauling a large amount of rubbery meat into the kitchen.
Bord fails to notice that his guest is frozen in place, not able to move a single millimetre. Bord has been ignoring the bloke, as he has been acting all kinds of strange in his opinion. Even for one of the hairy ones.
So far, all the beastkin in the city he is stationed in have either attacked him on sight without much effect, or done what he asked of them without comment. Not a single one has actually tried to have a conversation with him, so Bord doesn’t have much reference material to compare with. He doesn’t consider Angeta to be a standard for anything, which is probably rather wise of him. Neither has he interacted much with the other beastkin that trickled into Tree in the later weeks.
Bord also misses the struggle displayed on his fellow diner’s face. “Do you know of the Fang?”
Bord swallows. “I know I should integrate, but I don’t follow that nonsense, okay?” He actually feels guilty for this one, to be honest. But Bord isn’t about to follow someone's orders just because their teeth are larger, no matter what Angeta and Ferah have tried to teach him about the beastkin culture. Bord knows underhanded power plays when he sees them, and has done very well in ignoring them all, if he might say so himself.
“What happened on the Hour of the Dragon?”
Getting slightly fed up because of all these annoying questions, Bord glares at Keeneff. “A couple of dumbasses tried to seize power. This stupid dramatic play happened, and here I am.”
Nodding grimly, Keeneff continues eating. Bord does the same, but instead of sporting an expression like a thinking thunderstorm, he chows down happily. To be honest, the fat kid has completely lost the plot. This dude came into his private restaurant, sat at his table uninvited and started spouting nonsense. Bord just wants to eat in peace, and internally groans as he sees the hairy guy start talking again.
“Do you know where all the orange stripes are?”
Here Bord smiles widely. “Kitties! They are the best. So soft and cute, I love the way they rumble and yowl, their ears flat. I love them.” And he continues eating.
“You… think that's…”
“So soft. And they always want to cuddle.” A darker expression flickers across his face. “Although they are terrible at cooking. Too spicy. Very soft though.” Lost in thought, Bord keeps stuffing his face with grilled, sautéed, fried, chopped, and boiled octopus. He masterfully avoids all the green stuff, leaving the qi-less veggies on his plate. He does eat the pickles though, those he likes enough despite their low energy contents.
His guest tries to start a few more conversations, but Bord has had enough of socialising with strangers for now. The rest of the octopus is cleaned up with speed as Bord stuffs his face with an impossible amount of meat. Only when a deeply bowing waiter notifies him that the animal is gone does he stop. “Thanks again guys! Very good. Are you sure that you don’t want money or something?”
The variegated cooks - in terms of furriness - and waiters all shake their head furiously, waving him goodbye with enthusiasm. Bord saunters out the door, making sure to stand still for a bit in order to admire the intricate gold decorations and pillared arches everywhere. Deciding that he doesn’t want to be disturbed, the fat boy makes his way through the streets, walking across the widely varied paving materials to ease his digestive system. Smiling vacantly at the feeling of qi being pumped through his system, Bord makes his way to the outskirts of the city.
He passes through the tall building district, craning his neck to look at the many thin spires that pierce the sky. He makes sure to avoid the trash district. He doesn’t like the smell. Once outside the city, he pats his bulging stomach and looks inside his ring. In a rare stroke of genius, he had decided to gather enough points to buy one of the fancy time freezing rings. It had taken him a rather short amount of time before he managed to acquire the piece of jewellery, and it has been his most treasured possession since.
Only a few hundred beasts are left in the stasis storage device, and if there is one thing that makes Bord anxious, it’s the possibility that he will run out of food. Also, the fact that eating the beasties is the best way for him to cultivate at the moment isn't lost on the boy, but he considers that a lesser factor in the grand scheme of things.
Bord wants to run very fast, so he does. Not a second later, he is speeding across the grasslands, bounding across rivers and meadows. The occasional incautious animal is quickly grabbed and bagged, their necks broken or hearts crushed before they realise that they are under attack.
The city is excellent, and all, and Bord really appreciates the wide variety of cuisine that all the different types of beastkin have got going, but being out and about is also great now and then.
Jumping over a rocky ridge, he is suddenly blasted in the face by boiling gout of liquid. His nose is immediately overwhelmed by the pungent stink of rotting eggs. Gagging, yet somehow managing to keep his food inside his stomach, Bord continues to wail on his attacker. The animal in question - a bushy-tailed and striped quadruped with large plates of thick turtle-like shell on its back - is thoroughly tenderised.
Leaving the corpse to the scavengers, the ultimate insult in Bord’s book, the boy proceeds to wash in a river for a few hours. It takes him an amazing amount of scrubbing, but he manages to clean himself from the pungent smell after getting thoroughly sick and tired of it. He then spends the rest of the day hunting down any and all animals and mutants similar to that one.
He returns to the beastkin capital when the sun is setting, satisfied and tired. His ring is a few per cent fuller, all the most powerful wildlife for leagues around safely tucked away. He makes his way through the streets and across the bridges, sauntering towards the central island. Once there, he sees that Keeneff guy hanging around again. The annoying fellow has been stalking the main palace for the last few weeks, and Bord now knows that nothing good can come of meeting him again.
So Bord walks by, refusing to be seen by him. Once inside the tall walls of the most central and highest building in the entire city, he is hugged by soft bodies. Appearing in dark flashes, the lean orange and white beastkin covered in black stripes start rubbing him as usual. The fact that they use knives is lost on Bord. Instead, he smiles, rubs a few under the chin, and makes his way to the softest bed in the entire building.
The massive four-poster bed is a welcoming sight, and he moves through the furiously massaging cadre of soft bodies towards the luxurious spread of food. All kinds of eye-watering vapours waft from the dishes, and Bord tastes them all. Some make his tongue burn pleasantly while others numb his face. Once causes his spine to tingle pleasantly, and the group of darkly clad assassins sighs with disappointment as Bord licks his fingers clean.
Bord then looks at the far wall and frowns slightly. That was the spot where that foul smelling toad of a beastkin decided to get himself killed. Bord still feels guilty about that, to be honest. Shaking away his regrets, he cleans the rest of his plate and changes into his nightwear, as his current clothing failed to survive the massages he keeps receiving.
Bord lays down on the bed, happily falling asleep as the assassin caste tries their very best to murder the killer of the Tooth, the Fang, their Flight appointed ruler. They spend yet another night fruitlessly trying to pierce Bord’s thick layers of blubber.
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