Chapter 113 -- Sukiyaki
When I got back to the inn all the food I had put out for my three contracted monsters had been vacuumed up, the plates left clean and sparkling. Everyone was sleeping soundly in the stables. Notably, Dora-chan was lying on his back because his belly was bulging. It seemed like the snacks I had left for them had been to his taste.
I decided to get on with preparing dinner without waking them up as it would be easier working without an audience staring over my shoulder all the time. Right then, I had promised Dora-chan we'd be eating delicious food tonight. It didn't take me long to decide on what to cook. I had thinly sliced a lot of Wyvern meat before I left Carerina in preparation for making sukiyaki at a later date. Now seemed like a good time, it would be tasty and luxurious so Dora-chan wouldn't complain (probably).
First of all I had to shop at the Net Super. I bought three sukiyaki cooking pots along with three small stoves since I'd need them later. Veggies? Well, Chinese cabbage of course, leeks and enoki mushrooms and maybe some edible chrysanthemums? Yep, I decided. After that first order I added shirataki noodles, baked tofu and eggs. The sukiyaki sauce I bought ready-made, it tastes good and it saves me a lot of time.
First I prepared the raw ingredients. The leeks were cut diagonally 1 cm wide and the cabbage chopped roughly into easy-to-eat pieces. The chrysanthemums were cut about 5 cm long, the tofu similarly cut into chunks easily picked up with chopsticks. I broke up the enoki mushrooms after trimming the roots so they would fit into the sukiyaki pots. Once everything was ready I started the cooking process.
I heated up the big frying pan and added the Wyvern meat, letting its thick fat ooze out and provide the cooking oil I would have otherwise added to fry leaner meat. The green onions were next, sizzling away as I kept a careful eye on the Wyvern meat. I wanted it to cook through but not brown, just enough for it to change colour as I added a little sukiyaki sauce to the pan from the bottle. When the meat changed colour I took it out and put it to one side before adding more meat. Lots more meat. My two, no three gluttons were going to demand lots of meat, I was sure.
Once the spring onions were thoroughly cooked I turned down the heat a bit and added the other ingredients I had ready, shirataki noodles, grilled tofu, enoki mushrooms, Chinese cabbage and spring chrysanthemum and let them cook until they were ready to eat. Doing a real sukiyaki hotpot wasn't an option when my contracted monsters couldn't dip items in and out of boiling water using chopsticks. Instead I'd use the small stoves I'd just bought from the Net Super to keep the dishes hot for them and finish the cooking.
To make up for the lack of extra liquid I added raw eggs to each dish along with a generous dash of sukiyaki sauce. It was something I sometimes did for myself at home. For Fer and Sui I put two eggs each into their dishes. Dora-chan is a lot smaller than those two but I remembered the way he had gobbled up gyoza the night before so I put two eggs in his serving as well. I mixed the eggs into the mixture of Wyvern meat and lots of veggies, letting them cook slowly on a low heat and leaving them runny.
Time to wake the Three Gluttons, I decided as I turned but they already were lined up behind me in anticipation. Of course. Both Fer and Dora-chan were drooling. Of course. And was that sweat gleaming on Sui's skin or was it drool too? I decided not to think about it too much. Fer was a Bad Example to cute little Sui sometimes.
"Right, here you are." I took the dishes off the stoves and put them in front on the three hungry monsters. They dived in, unable to wait.
"This meat is tasty," Dora-chan said around a big mouthful.
"Umu, this sauce goes well with the meat. And there's egg too?" Fer tilted his head, considering the taste in the manner of an intrigued gastronome. "Hommm, the way it's blended in, quite delicious."
"Yeah yeah," Sui chimed in, "It's very delicious when meat and egg, sweet and salty come together-" It seemed sukiyaki was considered best if eaten it with raw eggs. As I watched them eat, especially Dora-chan I had a sudden horrible thought. Ah... Aren't Wyverns a subspecies of Dragon? I hadn't really considered that before, after all they looked more like a Pteranodon. Was it OK for Dora-chan to be eating a relative?
"Ummm Dora-chan," I interrupted the Pixie Dragon who raised its head, "That meat, it's Wyvern meat. Is it, is it okay for you to be eating it? I thought, you know, Wyverns were related to Dragons? Isn't it a bit, uh, like cannibalism?"
As I stumbled along trying to ask my question, Dora-chan burst out laughing.
"No member of the different species of Dragons will accept Wyverns are anything like them." Dora-chan explained, a smirk on his gravy-stained muzzle. "All Dragons as a whole are really smart, like me." He took a quick look into his mostly-empty bowl. "Stupid creatures like Wyverns can't be called Dragons no matter how tasty they are." He shrugged. "Anyway as far as we're concerned it would only be cannibalism if I ate another Pixie Dragon. This is a harsh world where only the fittest survive. If I had to I would eat anything except members of my own family." Dora-chan dived back into the bowl, eager to finish off his helping of Wyvern sukiyaki.
Dora-chan turned out to be unexpectedly savage despite his diminutively cute appearance, boldly stating he'd eat anything except his family, I mused as Fer chimed in.
"It is as Dora just said. In this world the weak are food for the strong. That's just how it is." Fer said, nodding in agreement with Dora-chan's cold-blooded assessment of how this world worked. It sounded quite brutal but I accepted it. Thanks to Fer who reigned at the top of this world's food pyramid we got to eat the finest and tastiest monster meat, after all.
"Don't think about it too hard, eat some of this yourself. It's really good." Dora-chan added. Well, of course it's good, Dora-chan, I made it after all, I thought to myself smugly. I started to dish out my own portion and-
"Seconds" came from Fer and Sui.
I didn't get to eat right away. Instead I made another portion of sukiyaki for the two (other) gluttons.
"I am so full up. That was delicious~." Dora-chan announced, settling back. "It turns out signing up to be your contracted monster was the right thing to do."
"Well, I'd have to agree with that." Fer said.
"Aruji's cooking is always tasty. Sui's happy to eat Aruji's delicious meals every day-" Sui added.
Dora-chan and Fer's attitude is that my cooking is the main reason they hang around with me but for me Sui's [Sui-sweetness] is the main reward for my efforts. Without Sui, well... Really, Sui-chan is too cute. Fer, he definitely isn't cute in any way whatsoever. Still, I'd miss him if we got separated. A bit. Some. Okay, more than a bit. Not cute though.
I finally got to eat some sukiyaki myself alongside a helping of white rice. I wanted to drink sake for the first time in a while so I went to the Net Super and bought some to go with the sukiyaki. As an aside the edible chrysanthemums were unpopular with Fer, Sui and Dora-chan so I ate the remainder by myself. The bitter sharpness of its taste wasn't to their liking somehow.
"Fuu, that was delicious."
"Sui's tummy is totally full-"
Finally both Fer and Sui seemed satisfied.
"So then Fer, once we get the purchase price for the Venom Tarantula subjugation at the Guild tomorrow, do you want to head for Doran right after?" I asked.
"Umu. I want to get to that dungeon as soon as possible." Dungeons, dungeons, dungeons, was that all he could think about?
"W- what? Are we going into a dungeon?" Dora-chan reacted to Fer's statement, leaping into the air (a little sluggishly, I noticed, his well-rounded belly an obvious hindrance) and buzzing around madly.
"Well, after we leave here we're heading for the Dungeon City of Doran. I'm really looking forward to entering the dungeon there since I've never been in a human Dungeon City's dungeon before." Fer explained.
"That sound like a lot of fun! It'll be my first time going into a human city's dungeon too!"
"Sui thinks dungeons are fun too~" Oh, darling Sui-chan too? Why are all these hangers-on saying they're looking forward to entering a dark dangerous dungeon? I'm not looking forward to it at all.
"Okay then, tomorrow we will go to the Guild early and then set off for Doran." I said, surrendering to the inevitable.
"Umu, that's good." Fer agreed.
I managed to persuade a sleepy Dora-chan to settle down in the beast stables with Fer again. Sui-chan got into her bag and I returned to my room with her safely concealed from the landlady's penetrating vision. It was settled, after finishing our business at the Guild tomorrow and getting paid we'd be leaving for Doran. Fer, Sui and even Dora-chan were looking forward to conquering the dungeon there so I was a bit worried that my stay in Doran was going to be a long one.