In Another World With Just Monika Chapter 74
Time passed. Every time I visited the Duke Ortlinde's mansion, something tended to break. Cups. Vases. Carpets. The entirety of his corner garden after we opened a [Boom Tube] there on our first return (eventually we decided to just appear in a forest nearby and walk the rest of the way in). Finally the Duke had enough and decided to make me pay compensation for anything that happened during my stay.
But tutoring Sue was just a short-term income solution. Some of my investments were now bearing fruit.
I was still getting ice cream residuals from Parent Caf, but I was now also getting a percentage from Silver Moon Inn's own Chickenjoy Fried Chicken. The secret was the celery-and-garlic sauce that was surprisingly difficult to imitate.
I supplied the recipe, negotiated for bulk discounts on a further away farm helped by [Boom Tube] transportation, while the Silver Moon Inn provided the perpar and eating spaces. I put up a signboard with a distinctive red chicken logo and "Juicy-licious, Crispy-licious! The original, the authentic, CHICKENJOY!"
Micah and her father were surprisingly annoyed at seeing more customers. Micah please. I don't understand if you're actually lazy or industrious.
She was even opposed to hiring more cooks, because that would risk the secret, but really most of the secret was in the marinade and the sauce. The juiciness comes from being soaked in brine overnight. All the rest is just the proper amount of coating and a deep fryer, which any half-trained yahoo could do.
And then you fry sliced potatoes in the oil for tastier fries. Chicken and fries and ice cream or mead. Fast, salty, cheap tasty fare. With an annoyed sigh Micah asked why wouldn't I just go make my own shop already, and so I explained to her the whole concept of a franchise.
"That is the most shameless dishonest method I've ever heard," was her response. "I want in on this thing."
And then later, Aer burst in with "My breeeaaasts! Ah, wait. I meant my BREEEEEAAAAD! Sell my bread with your chicken instead!"
I crossed my arms and stuck my tongue out at her. "We can bake our own bread, thank you very much. What can you contribute to this franchise?!"
Employee costs were my main expense. Aer had us there, her wide web of contacts with the town's marriageable young ladies looking for financial independence was indeed the foundation for the franchise.
I set up a stall near the Adventurer's Guild to take orders. It wasn't a kitchen stall, it was a small kiosk that took payments in exchange for delivery vouchers. The Adventurer's Guild had its own food court in the first floor, which normally you'd think would compete us out of the location. But we had the [Bucket Meal]! With actually reusable small wooden buckets with the red Chickenjoy brand at the side.
Also dirty tricks like hidden prizes at the bottom of the bucket under the wax paper, and stamp cards for Every Ten Chicken Buckets, Get One Free! We actually had to figure out a good way of preventing fraud for that.
I was somewhat annoyed that people were starting to call it Red Chicken instead of Chickenjoy, so I added normal and spicy variants to the menu. For walk-in customers to the Silver Moon Inn, they could get regular or more peppery spicy.
For adventurers buying from the stall, the buxom delivery girls would bring them 'tastebud-destroyer' spicy. Which just made them want it more for some reason. Fine! Give me all your money to fulfill your masochistic tastes, ahahahaha.
But just tasty fried chicken was not enough to create the total franchise dominance I wanted.
I apologized and made a peace offering to Dolan. It was a chessboard. Belfast had board games too of course, but they were more related to the Royal Game of Ur or checkers and weiqi/go.
And even if they had something like Chaturanga or Xiangqi, I was confident in my chessboard. The hand-carved pieces, the alternating colored squares, the 8 x 8 grid, all of these made for a significantly more improved tactile and visual experience compared to the usual games with flat tokens. It also made for a faster conclusion than 9x9 or 11x11 grids. It was quite intuitive for Dolan and even Micah to understand the rules.
"This is the Pawn. It can only move forward on space, except for its first move when it may rush ahead two spaces. It represents the soldier, as you can see why there are eight of them all here on the first rank. It can only capture to the sides, and can block other pawns in front, like how infantry generally block each other and defeat enemy formations through the flanks.
"There is a special rule for Pawns in that if they manage to reach the enemy line all the way across the board, they can be promoted to any other piece."
And then I explained En Passant, in which a pawn that moves two spaces may, if another pawn could capture it normally moving one space, could go ahead and capture it instead. It only worked for pawn against pawn, going ahead two spaces would protect its movement from other pieces.
Maybe from how commoners were usually ignored by others and had a self-sabotaging nature from envious crab mentality? I dunno.
I moved on. "This is the Rook, or the Tower. It can only move in straight lines, and can capture anything within those lines. It is the blunt and straightforward nature of the army.
"This is the Bishop. Like the Rook, it can move all the way across the board, but unlike the Rook can only move in diagonals and only with the color it starts with. Thus, which the Rook can move through white and black square, your White and Black Bishops can only defend or attack according to their nature. They represent the rallying power of the nation's religion and business.
"These are the Knights. They have a unique way of moving in that they can only move two squares, then one to the left or right. This shows how cavalry can move past obstacles quickly and attack from unexpected angles.
"This is the Queen. The Queen is the most powerful piece in the board able to move in all directions diagonal and straight, and represents the power of the nation's nobility. However, because it is so powerful, losing it for non-equivalent exchanges can be a threat.
"And this is the King, the very soul of the nation. Like the Queen, it can move and capture in all directions, but only one space at a time. The game ends when the King can no longer evade capture. If the King is in imminent threat of capture, that is a 'check', and the next move must ALWAYS be a way to prevent capture. If it cannot do so, then that's 'checkmate' and the game ends."
While chess had very little to do with learning military strategy, the fact that it looked like a battlefield in miniature was sure to be a hit.
I did have to challenge Dolan's ego a bit to get him to play for the first time, and that was a mistake. It didn't take him long to figure out fundamental chess concepts like openings, threats, and control.
He was still slaughtered every time.
"Yeah, you can't exactly say 'Only if you can beat me in chess, I'll give my daughter to you', can you?" I sighed.
"The hell you say!"
Micah looked peeved at me. Afternoons in the Silver Moon Inn were busier now.
I ordered a large solid gold cup embossed with a rooster over a sunburst to be made. The Rooster Royal Chess Championship Cup. Whoever could beat me in an official tournament would be the new Chess Champion, but for now there were lesser prizes and tourneys to figure out ranks between Beginner, Intermediate, Candidate, Master, and Grandmaster.
That chess pieces were so instantly recognizable made chess easier as a spectator sport. The Inn had half its first floor now devoted to the chess club and people who visited in the afternoons. Then as the evening comes to a close, there would be an informal eight-player tourney and whoever wins gets a free Chickenjoy to take home.
On the weekends were trial tourneys, with an entry fee of one copper. First place gets five silver. Second place two silver. Third place five copper. Win at least third place for five tourneys and you rank into Candidate. Don't participate in any tourneys for at most six months and your rating gets bumped down to Intermediate.
Candidate games get one gold for first place, five silver for second, and one silver for third. Candidate players get to participate in monthly Master's Tournaments.
Whoever could beat me at least one in an official setting would be a Chess Master. If I'm not participating, then by winning three Master-level tournaments. I was the world's sole Grandmaster by virtue of:
a) Introducing the game,
b) Cheating shamelessly with a chess engine on my face.
Only a ranked Master may challenge a Champion for the title. It would be a separate highly publicized match that was best out of seven games. A Champion can only be challenged every five months or so. (There were sixteen months in this world's year, and thus three chances to lose their title in a year.)
That was for the future. In the meantime, there was a lot of informal betting and challenges between new players. Micah got a small cut from them, even much to her bemoaning of her inn turning into a den of sin.
Dolan was getting lots of practice during the day. I had to teach Sue on the weekends, so I could only play a match during the evenings of their Sundays. Dolan took it upon himself to be the one really defending the title and the honor of the Silver Moon Inn.
To break even during the weekends, entry takes would have to be 50 + 20 + 5 copper or seventy-five people entering the Inn. We weren't getting that many people just yet, and we had a rule that there had to be at least 16 people to earn the full prize bracket. If there were only eight sign-ups, the rewards would be halved.
But at least if Dolan managed to win, he keeps that five silver. Since I was franchise owner of the Belfast Chess Federation, I was paying for the prize purse out of my own pocket and Dolan was always happy to take my money. He would spit on charity or rent, but hustling me out of my dosh? That was fair game apparently.
So he introduced chess to all his friends and drummed up players for the sport, all to challenge him.
It was as if Hulk Hogan had decided to be a chess player instead of a wrestler, glowering over Bobby Fischer in their championship title bout.
But he was still more than happy to challenge me for no stakes too. One could only get strong by going up against stronger players after all! On occasion I had little enough to do, so early in the mornings we'd warm up by playing a game.
And it was in one of those mornings that found me face-down onto the chessboard. If I didn't wear the VR box on my face, these pieces would have stabbed me in the eye, what the hell!
Elze had suddenly and violently kicked the back off my chair, and sneered down at me.
"ARE YOU EVEN AN ADVENTURER?!" she yelled. "How long do you plan on just sitting around, you're going to become fat and useless! Playing games all day like some shiftless layabout!"
"Oy...!" Dolan tried to weakly protest. Then he stared down at the messed up board and beamed. "AHA! Wait, that means I WIN!"
"Matches disturbed by external factors don't count or automatically become a draw," I hissed at him.
"You can't just keep on making up new rules whenever you feel like it. Draw! It has to be a draw!"
What is this hypocrisy, dude. "Fiine. That's 28 wins 1 draw 0 losses, for me. You have 171 wins, 1 draw, 34 losses."
I took out a piece of paper and marked down the ranking change with an enchanted quill. The number automatically changed on an enchanted board placed on the Inn wall, just under the display shelf showing the golden cup. Another pricey little trinket, but worth it. It has anti-forgery magic built in and there was no way to rub out the letters on the board.
"Mister Zah it has been a while" Linze said softly.
With Yae accompanying us in town, monster extermination quests have become even more ridiculously easy. So Yae and Elze went off on adventures on their own, earning some spending pocket change. They didn't dare touch their platinums lest they get into a loathsome spending habit.
Yes, they were looking at me as they said that.
Linze's loss against Charlotte didn't seem to affect her much. She helped out with the business sometimes, but ironically it was actually Elze who had a head for numbers among the twins. It was cute how Linze's head looked like it would start smoking as she dealt with double entry bookkeeping. Now that I had the [Boom Tube] for long-distance teleportation she accompanied me with tutoring Sue. Other times she went off with the Yae and Elze for an all-girl adventuring party. She had quite busy days. Frankly Monika had more time with her than I did.
Huh. Has it really been almost a month since we all last fought together as a team?
"ENOUGH PLAYING AROUND! GO DO SOME REAL WORK, YOU SCUM!" Elze yelled some more. She shoved a Guild mission paper at my face. "Here's a high-value mission! Get up before you become too pathetic and lazy like some fat sweaty petty landlord! This behavior is disgusting!" Despite the violence of her words, her tone actually conveyed a lot of concern.
Yae nodded. "Playa-dono. Let us know each other's strength again." She and Elze had been out adventuring with the fullest of enthusiasm and been fighting strong monsters to quickly increase their strength. I supposed she also wanted to test the new limits of her capacity.
Elze began poking me in the abdomen. I put my hand protectively over my belly before she decided to turn her finger pokes into full force punches.
"A mission to subjugate the Old Capital of Belfast, huh?" I knew about the place from Charlotte's lectures. A thousand years ago, they had to abandon the place and built a new capital that would become Alephis. More significantly, the language they used back them was much closer to the Ancient Partheno language that it was mostly incomprehensible to modern speakers.
Even more mysteriously, there were no records whatsoever WHY they had to abandon it so suddenly.
It was a dangerous enough place that it still remained mostly unexplored. Not even the regular army dared to make expeditions there.
The enemy listed in the mission request was something called a "Night Baron". I looked past the page at Elze and frowned. "Are you sure it's fine to try this with only four people? You know, I could probably talk Charlotte into giving us more men to help with the expedition AND give up more money just for the privilege of accompanying us into the Old Capital."
"We are doing this now! No more excuses! No more delays! Fight for the sake of fighting! Win for the sake of winning!"
Yae, standing behind Elze, nodded. "It is best in life, that it is."
Even Linze looked eager for action. "Please, Mister Zah."
Ugh. Monika, why didn't you warn me about this?
/"I happen to agree with Elze. You've become predictable, Player. Do more than just hang around with quarrelsome old men and thirsty young women.
/"Struggle and fight! Go forth and amuse me, Player!"/