Zen felt horrible. Vera wasn't joking about the hangover as he felt worse today despite sleeping like a log. His newly made friends were also looking at him with concern.
Sasha slurped her third pudding custard, and Liu Feng was helping to wash the plate after finishing his char siu buns. He decided to leave the rest as a snack later, and Zen was grateful that someone else was helping him with the party preparation.
The Death princess was sitting beside Sasha and drinking some herbal tea when she commented on what everyone else didn't want to bring up.
"What happened? You look terrible. Couldn't sleep?"
Although Sasha was still eating her pudding, and Liu Feng was washing the steamer basket, they pricked their ears to listen to Zen's reply.
The young chef yawned and groaned. "Not really, I don't think sleep was the issue. I just have a horrible hangover. Thanks to your credit transfer, I was able to get all the game highlight clips. It just took a while to watch through everything, so I have a killer headache now."
Akiko nodded, and Sasha frowned. Hangover? Killer headache? Watch all the clips? What exactly had Zen been doing last night after they left?
Liu Feng was also wondering the same thing. While most candidates chose to spend the night training, gathering research or sleeping, he didn't think there would be anyone who chose to drink and watch game highlight clips the whole night. Zen was really raised in a different world from them with how carefree he was.
Even with a killer hangover, Zen moved around the kitchen without difficulties. The girls watched as Zen lumbered away like a zombie. Liu Feng listened to Zen as he chopped up vegetables, peeled carrots and tossed the pan without thinking. Whatever Zen was doing smelled great and he couldn't help but ask who this was for.
"Is it a little too much?" the Seer asked and slowly made his way back to his seat.
Zen shook his head. "Remember how I mass sent friend invitations? Those who accepted gave their food requests, so I'm preparing it now in batches before they come to collect it. Also, I thought that it might be nice to cook something for everyone in the guild before we start the meeting later."
Akiko was touched. Typically, everyone came armed to the teeth in a mafia meeting. They'd never had such a casual setting before. The meeting was full of mind games, and sometimes, people died. Even if they were discussing business over a meal, Akiko didn't think it would be possible to enjoy the taste of food while negotiating terms. After the first battle royal event, everyone was too guarded. It was hard to establish trust even among the guild. Making good meals might be a good way to develop a stronger guild bond.
"As expected of the advisor!" Sasha clapped. Her praise made Zen blush, and the cook looked away, not wanting to meet her stare.
Liu Feng chuckled when Zen defended himself hotly about sneakily drinking without them last night.
"I also find it amazing that you can party away while most candidates are thinking how to survive the next event," the Seer commented, and Zen stiffened.
"I really wasn't slacking off," he sighed. "I don't think I've ever drunk this much. Besides, don't you find it odd? We're all underaged, but the store setting was a bar that served alcohol. What kind of bar sells alcohol to minors?"
Sasha blinked. "You mean you've never drunk alcohol before?"
Zen didn't answer, and Liu Feng was once again very surprised. What kind of life had Zen been living? Even the youngest of mafia heirs started learning how to drink by ten years old!
"No wonder you have a hangover," Liu Feng commented, and Akiko gave Zen a look of pity.
"Next time you should refuse," the Death princess advised. "It's not good to drink so much if you're not used to it. You'll harm your liver and health."
Zen laughed it off. "Don't worry, it's only a drink in the virtual world. I didn't actually drink any alcohol, but the hangover effect was horrible. I wish there was an easier way to review the game highlight clips."
Curious, Sasha asked how the experience was. Zen shared with her how he drank a hundred unique drinks over two hours. He told them how 'watching' a clip involved getting transported back to a playback of the event, resulting in his headache.
"A bar?" Akiko asked. "I visited the shop as well, but it wasn't a bar for me. My store setting was a traditional Shinto temple with a small talking fox as the shrine keeper."
Liu Feng also mentioned that he had a different store setting when he checked it out last night.
"My store was a Dim Sum restaurant. I was tempted to buy something there, but they don't sell actual food. It was honestly disappointing. I thought they would sell me virtual food with real taste, but I guess not. Instead, I was told to try my luck gathering ingredients from the dungeon levels and cook them myself."
Sasha laughed. "Sorry, Seer. You must be very disappointed to know that the monsters in the first dungeon aren't edible. The slime monsters don't taste good and are very disgusting to deal with when they split open. Some of them give off a foul smell too."
Liu Feng smirked. "I know. That's why I skipped it and cleared the dungeon all the way to the fifteenth floor last night. They had hog-rabbits. Very odd creatures but they were acceptable. They had a funny aftertaste after I roasted them, so I saved the ingredients instead for Zen to cook them."
Sasha's jaw dropped. "You were the one who opened the fifteenth floor? What about your gear and weapons? What is your fame level? I was stuck at the fifth level because I needed to get a fame level of 300 before I can proceed. I couldn't find a party to help me with the quest to clear that dungeon."
When Zen heard all that, he became confused. "What are you talking about? Dungeon?"
Akiko finished her herbal tea and explained how there were two ways to clear the Godfather's trials. "My guild and I spent the whole of last night information gathering the different dungeon floors. We want to clear the game to graduate from this academy. Liu Feng went ahead of us because he's strong. The weaker ones were still struggling at the third level while the more skilled party advanced to the tenth floor. I can't believe you haven't checked it out yet."
Zen looked slightly guilty. After spending almost two hours at the bar with a throbbing head and puking all over the counter, he went right to sleep afterwards. He really should have checked out the dungeons and the other games that the Godfather sponsored.
Seeing the guilty look on Zen's face, Sasha comforted him quickly.
"With your gaming skills, you'd be able to catch up to everyone in no time! I can also boost you tonight if you want to."
Hearing how Sasha wanted to boost Zen tonight, Liu Feng frowned.
"For someone still struggling to clear the fifth floor, I think you should concentrate on that instead of boosting someone else. Zen, you should come to my room tonight. I can boost you all the way to the fifteenth floor. There are many ingredients, so let me know if there are any I should gather for a good in-game meal."
Akiko stood up. She was done with breakfast and had matters to attend to before the lunch meeting with the guild hosted in her room.
"I'll see you later, Zen," she told him then turned to Liu Feng. "If you discover any hidden rooms or quests with Zen tonight please record them down for me. The guild needs as much information as possible. The more resources we have, the higher our chances of breaking through to the next level."
Liu Feng didn't like being told what to do and refused to answer. Akiko didn't mind the silence and lack of acknowledgement. She simply thanked Zen for the food and left.
Sasha looked back and forth between the two within the three terrors and kept quiet. She didn't want to get into trouble with someone so dangerous beside her. Zen started packing the bento boxes for the guild and asked if Sasha and Liu Feng could help him deliver them to Akiko's room when the guild meeting started.
Needless to say, Sasha was glad for the distraction. Liu Feng wasn't in the best of moods and agreed to help them carry it later. He excused himself and left, allowing Sasha room to breathe. That suffocating tension coming from the Seer wasn't something she could get used to. Thankfully, Zen was dense and wasn't as sensitive to bloodlust as she was. Back then, Liu Feng restrained his desire to kill Akiko when she told him what to do. Sasha looked at Zen, who busied himself with the next food request. There was only an hour left before lunch, so he was hurrying. The Russian sniper had a feeling that if Zen wasn't around, Liu Feng would have gone all out on Akiko.
Seeing how carefree and untainted by the darkness of the underworld Zen was, Sasha decided that ignorance was bliss. For Akiko and Liu Feng, Zen was their only exception. Even if everyone else had to die, they would make sure Zen survived till the very end.
"Here, you should focus on cooking. I'll help with the washing and packing," Sasha told Zen when she saw how he almost burned his hand trying to multitask.
Grateful for the assistance, they busied away as the lunch crowd slowly trickled in.