Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 41

Claude understood they only got such a huge haul thanks to good luck. Welikro had done all the hunting, while Claude only got the snake by accident, and the blacktiger was a gift from the heavens. He highly doubted they would have the same luck the next time they went.

Borkal also played a huge part in selling their spoils for a good price. He exploited the heated exchanges between the onlookers expertly and all but extorted their money.

He understood that a live, open air auction was a show for shops to bet with their reputations, and it would milk the best prices out of them. Chirp Leather, for example, lost their bets and their reputation took a severe hit. It was almost certain that, at least for a while, Mila's Tailor would be the hunters' top pick instead of Chirp Leather. Their second choice would also not be Chirp Leather, but Wakri instead.

Claude knew they'd made a good haul when he saw everything side by side, but he'd never expected it to go for over 17 thales, maybe eight or nine. He still had 3 thales even after he paid back his debt. A two-day trip just earned him his father's entire salary!

No wonder his father was acting so weird. He didn't even scold him for lying to him. He probably found out about the money the four boys had made. He should go buy some books before his father decided to indeed scold him.

That brought him to why he'd decided to treat his friends to lunch. It was actually just an excuse to come to town so he could buy the books.

"I brought a money pouch for each of you with your share. I'll give them to you when we get to school," Borkal continued, "Do you want me to hand out your debt today, Claude?"

"I leave it to you. We'll use that for lunch."

"Claude's right. We made quite a bit, so we should pay our own bills," Eriksson agreed.

"No complaints here," Welikro added, "You can just give me four riyas and five sunars and keep the rest with you for now. I'll get it from you when I need it."

"Why?" the three asked in unison.

"My sister will take it if she catches me with it and I'll never see it again. She's done it a couple of times already so I know she will. She always takes my allowance."

The three winced at the boy's ineptitude.

"Okay, I'll keep it safe for you."

The three walked into the classroom to a rousing applause. Eriksson beamed like he'd never done before.

"What are they doing?" Claude asked, blank-faced.

"Most of them were at the docks yesterday." Borkal explained in a whisper, "I heard a few've taken to calling us second year's warriors. Even a few of the hunters said they wouldn't go up against that snake if they had a choice. So this is all thanks to you."

So now we're the four warriors of year two? How bad can this get? Claude asked himself, his face turning red.

He didn't go looking for the damned snake, and he only just barely survived. He didn't deserve to be called a warrior. But he'd have to reveal that he was the one to clear up that little misunderstanding, and besides the fact that his father would never let him go on a trip like that again if he found out, he didn't think it would make things better; it might actually make things worse instead.

He barely made it through the three morning classes. Every instructor gave them a few minutes of praise before they started class. They were swarmed at lunch time, and Claude was certain a couple of girls were even making googly eyes at him.

Welikro didn't seem to mind it though. He was an airhead, so it went in one ear and out the other. Claude had never liked being in the spotlight, even before he got the added trouble of coming to a different world. But trying to avoid it was liable to only make things worse, or at least draw the wrong kinds of attention to him, so he endured.

Borkal and Eriksson's egos suffered the most, they blew up like balloons and their lips smacked non-stop as they told their epic to anyone willing to listen… and unfortunately there were way too many willing to do just that. They got dangerous close to revealing that Claude was the one to kill the snake on several occasions and he had to literally shove his hand over their mouths twice before they said it was him.

He also had to fight to keep them from mentioning the ruins, but he couldn't stop them from blabbing about Egret. He only heard about half of the stories they told, but he suspected the island would gain several dozen new legends in the next couple of months. He was quite ambivalent about the two's wild stories, a few of them wouldn't have held up to the slightest scrutiny, and he didn't know if he wanted someone to catch them on their lies so their egos could come back down to earth, or not.

It took him all the spare patience he'd saved up in the last six months to make it to lunch time. He dragged his friends through the crowds after a couple of minutes of entertaining the swarm and they slipped out of school.

"Where should we eat?" Welikro asked.

"Why don't we go to a tavern? Didn't Eyke sell the blacktiger to one? Maybe we should have a taste?" Claude suggested.

"No way! Do you want to get scolded? How much do you want to bet at least a dozen of the people there will recognise us? I'm almost certain our dads must be there to try the fish out as well right now," Borkal objected.

"Mine will definitely be there. I heard him arrange a reservation with Pjard yesterday," Eriksson agreed.

He didn't look very happy. He wanted to taste the fish too. His father, however, was just like him. He loved to bathe in the limelight, and his skin was thick enough to bathe in his son's limelight as well.

Claude slapped his forehead. How could he not think of that?! Pjard's was a well-known tavern in town, and with that fish, it would be even busier, not to mention that the four boys' dads would obviously be in the front of the line to have a taste today. It was even likely his father had been invited to have a taste! Going there now would be suicide.

The town actually had quite a lot of eateries. Taverns and inns were the most popular kind of businesses for townsfolk to own, besides fishing boats. Despite that, only Pjards was revered to as 'the tavern' by the locals, Whitestag Tavern. It was the oldest tavern in town, and a few even believed it was as old, if not older than the town itself and they often argued whether the tavern was named after the town, or the town after the tavern. It now belonged to the only local to be on the council, Sir Fux. He was not involved in its management, however, and it had come to be known as 'Pjards' as well, after the head chef which managed and ran it.

Pjard was quite the character. Originally from the capital, where his family owned a luxury restaurant, he came to run Sir Fux's tavern several years ago. The two became close friends during Sir Fux's studies in the capital.

He was originally earmarked to take over the family restaurant, but a love affair between him and a local noble's daughter soured when her parents found out about it and he had to leave the city or risk their retaliation against his family. To his surprise, however, his lover decided to elope with him, and the nobles went after his family anyway. Luckily, the worst they could do with their reduced power thanks to Stellin IX was to harass his family's business until it closed.

He got into contact with his old friend, Sir Fux, who offered him the management of his tavern in Whitestag.

The chef fired everyone who was involved in less savoury activities, chief among them prostitution, and convinced his old friend to renovate the place. He personally hired and trained his new staff in his family tradition. When the place opened again in three months, it could compete with all but the best restaurants in the capital, and nobles often came all the way from the prefectural capital to stay and eat at Whitestag Tavern, not to mention anyone who was anyone from town.

"You saved us, Boa. But where will we go, then?"

"Let's go to Big Fork. You said you wanted to buy books right? It's right next to the bookstore. And I heard it has the best mutton ribs and marinated noodles this side of the main road," Eriksson suggested.

Most people named their shops for their family, since such establishments were usually family owned and run businesses. Big Fork was originally known as Lunbard's Lunches, but they put a gigantic wooden fork on the front of the building to catch people's eyes, and everyone now called it Big Fork.

Note to self: never put massive stuff on your buildings, Claude told himself.

The noodles in this world were the Japanese soba style noodles, though they weren't made from soba. The flour was kneaded into pancake like expanses of dough, folded several times, and sliced into noodles. Most people also ate them in what would have been called the traditional Japanese style. The noodles were boiled for several seconds, usually no more than a minute at most, and eaten as is with a light dipping sauce. Claude didn't like this world's sauce though.

The mutton was another matter entirely. He couldn't think of a time he'd had mutton from either of his lives that could compare to Big Fork's. The place usually served black-wheat ale, or honeyed red tea. They had to go to class again after lunch, though, and it wouldn't do to smell of alcohol, so they all stuck to tea.

Claude had a big bowl of mutton ribs and a huge bowl of noodles, which he ate without the sauce. Borkal had the same, but a smaller bowl of ribs. Eriksson and Welikro, on the other hand, went all in on the noodles, and even split Claude's sauce between them as well. They even ordered a second bowl each.

They all ate quickly, Claude because he had to fit his shopping into the lunch hour as well, and the others mainly because they were hungry. Claude paid the bill, twelve sunars for the ribs, three sunars a bowl of noodles, and four sunars for the tea, three riyas, four sunars in all. That was three days' worth of his father's normal salary. Big Fork was one of the more expensive places in town, but it had food to match. It was still nothing compared to Whitestag Tavern though.

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