Don't Worry, We Have the Best Supporter in Our Team
With Nora as their guide, the mist was getting thinner. Alice analysed the trees she could find, mentally recording them and the directions they were heading. It was difficult to tell whether they were, but at least she could remember the paths they had taken.
Nora wasn’t concern about anything at all. Her spirits wandered around, watching out for enemies that dare to attempt a preemptive strike.
Nora turned to face the girls, spreading her arms to the side.
Alice looked around. There was no sign of a café.
“Oh. Take another step forward.”
After moving forward by a step, the mist was gone. It was as if she entered a whole new area through some portal.
There was a small garden, an outdoor bar, tables, tall chairs and… a large sleeping bird(?) leashed to a stake.
“An illusion magic with the mist as the medium?” asked Alice.
“Correct. The concept is similar to the academy. But let’s meet the owner, shall we?” Nora walked toward the café.
A girl was placing tables and chairs around the area. When she realized the group approaching her, she went back to the bar, grabbing a few menus, three sets of utensils and napkins from the shelves.
“W-w-welcome to my ca-café. H-how can I help you?” The owner gave her greetings with a slight bow. Her body trembled along with the items in her hands.
“Shina, you don’t have to be formal to my friends and me,” said Nora cheerfully. “Alice, Irene, meet Shina. She is the owner of this café.”
“Nice to meet you, Shina.” Alice extended her hand for a handshake.
“N-nice to meet you, A-Alice.” Shina took Alice’s hand and shook it nervously.
Is she nervous?
“Hey, Shina. My name is Irene.”
Shina returned her greeting in the same gesture she had done just now.
“Sorry for the interruption. You must be setting up your store. Let me help.”
“O-oh thank you v-very much!” Shina bowed a few times vigorously.
Alice was impressed with how none of the items fell from her arms. She immediately went back to her bar to set down the menu and utensils and resume her task to open her shop.
When she went to grab one of the floral covered chairs, their armrests were surprisingly smooth and soft to touch even though there were sharp edges and rough surfaces from the leaves. Each chair was adjustable and had a high back cushion for relaxation, conversation, reading, or enjoying their cuisines.
“I wonder what kind of plants did she used for these chairs?” muttered Alice to herself.
“Mind if I join in?” Irene’s voice came from behind, and she, too, grabbed a chair next to her.
It didn’t take long for them to help set up the store for Shina.
“T-thank you for your assistance.”
“Your welcome,” Alice responded Shina with a smile.
“No problem,” said Irene cheerfully, keeping her volume lower than usual.
“Shina, they are Jayce’s friends,” Nora chimed into their conversation.
Shina slowly raised her head and looked at them. From her perspective, from left to right, the seats were occupied by Alice, Irene and Nora. With fluid movements, she gathered and placed the utensils, napkins, and a menu for everyone.
“It would be rude of me not to introduce myself during service. My name is Shina, and I will be your chef and waitress for today. How may I take your order?”
To Alice and Irene’s surprise, the awkward atmosphere Shina had replaced with a more relaxed, mature air. Her personality had turned one-eighty.
Despite that they were Jayce’s friends, Alice thought maybe they should take her professionalism seriously.
The menu had a list of drinks, and that led to a question in their minds.
Does this café serve drinks only?
“I do serve cakes as well.”
Do people read my mind easily?!
“How do we order them?” asked Alice, keeping her thoughts to herself.
Perhaps Shina caught on her train of thought. She decided to take another route to maintain a friendly relationship with her.
“You can order based on flavours. As for the menu, you can either add them as a side or would like me to concoct something off the menu that would complement your choice.”
After Alice, Irene, and Nora gave Shina their preference, Shina gathered everything she needed, placing them on the counter. There were fruits, herbs, fruit syrups, and knives on the side.
“So what brings you, ladies, here?” Shina broke the silence as she was whisking egg whites in a bowl.
“I brought them here to try your dishes,” Nora answered her question on their behalf.
“Nora. You have to give them a chance to answer.”
“Well, this is the first time someone lectured Nora.” Alice chimed in.
“Now that I think about it. You’re right,” laughed Irene.
“Shina, since you’re in a good mood, there are a few assignments I would like you to complete by the end of next week.”
Alice could have sworn she saw a dark veil hanging over Nora, sending a chill down in her spines.
“So, how did the two of you meet Nora?” Shina gave a wryly smile, changing the topic.
Alice explained how she met everyone to her.
“Complimentary drinks for everyone.” She placed a drink for each of them on the counter.
Shina nodded in return.
She went over to one of the counters and resumed her preparations. Her movements were quick and smooth. It was just like…
Alice took a sip at her drink, thinking whether she should pry into this. But she decided it would be rude, so she took this time to relax and enjoy it.
“By any chance, you’re Nora’s apprentice?”
“Yes, I am her apprentice,” replied Shina as she pours the cake mix into three separate moulds. Each mould was five centimetres in diameter and five centimetres in height. That was enough for one person for a dessert. “How are the drinks?”
After the group gave their feedback on their drinks, Shina excused herself to the garden and returned with a few herbs. After making a few adjustments to the ingredients, she went back to the oven and took out the cakes with a pair of magic gloves (?)
Alice could see a faint glimpse of mana flowing around Shina’s magic gloves. Based on the application, it was a heat-resistant spell.
Alice started to see Shina's way of cooking: her thoughts and plans continually changing based on every little detail of their answers.
This somewhat feels like a battlefield.
“What led you to build a café here?” asked Irene.
She knew that the mist was there to ward against monsters, but she didn’t know much about adventurers or humans if they ever set foot into her territory.
“Serving in a café, growing herbs and fruits, and seeing smiles from people who enjoys my dishes calm me down. I couldn’t have done this without Nora and Jayce. Nora invested in the café while Jayce crafted runes on the utensils. Other than those, the rest was done by myself,” answered Shina when she returned to the counter with the cakes.
Alice and Irene brought their attention to the assembling of their orders.
Shina sliced three separate layers for each cake by cutting them horizontally. Once that was done, she took out three unique plate designs and assembled them from there. Some cakes had fruits, herbs, whipped creams and a few drops of concentrated fruits syrups, but each dish was different.
“All done,” said Shina as she placed a dish for everyone.
A slice of dark chocolate orange basil cake for Alice.
A slice of peppermint white chocolate cake for Irene.
A slice of apricot and strawberry shortcake with a hint of rosemary for Nora.
Taking a bite of her cake, the sponge cake melted immediately along with the thin dark chocolate with orange slice and zest. The basil enhanced the bitterness further with a hint of sweet aftertaste. Bite after bite, the aroma released from the cake gradually became stronger, beckoning Alice to consume it until no trace was left on her plate.
“This will go well with your cakes.”
While the ladies enjoyed their cakes, Shina grabbed a glass flask filled with red herbal tea and poured them into a new set of glass for them.
The moment she received a cup of tea from Shina, she felt a familiar sensation from the cup itself, so she tried to imbue a bit of mana into the runes that could be seen as a design, maintaining the tea’s specific temperature.
“Jayce created these cups?” asked Alice, turning her gaze toward Shina.
“Yes. He did the designs and craft runes onto the cups. The runes functioned to maintain the optimal temperature for the contents within the cup.”
That reminded Alice of when Jayce cast compound magic to her meal when she was late for dinner.
“Alice can recognize magic circles and runes way quicker than I initially thought,” said Nora before she took a bite of her cake, savouring the natural sweetness coming from the apricot that went well with the herbs and strawberries. Shina had implemented.
“I couldn’t agree more than that,” added Irene with a fork in her mouth and a blissful moment as she placed a hand to her cheek. She took a sip of her tea to clean her palette once more and resume eating her cake.
The red herbal tea made sure the after-taste of their cakes wouldn’t affect their experience with the cake as a whole, and it was refreshing and cooling.
“Really…? I’m not that fast when it comes to reading them.” Alice raised both of her hands as if to brush off the compliments given by her friends. She wasn’t feigning ignorance of her abilities; she thought her reaction time to analyze them was average.
“Alice, in all of my years of experience, I only met a handful of adventurers who are faster than me when it comes to identifying magic and runes,” said Nora, looking at the teacup’s runes that glowed before Alice.
“You’re using your proficiency as a standard?!”
“Yes,” said Nora proudly. “Anyway, what about you, Irene? You’re currently living with Aiden in your apartment.” She turned toward Irene.
“Hmm… We used to live together at his place when my parents were out for their quests or another way around when we were kids, so this is normal to us,” said Irene, placing a finger to her chin.
“Are you two are in a relationship together?” interjected Shina, who seemed to have taken an interest in this topic. She was about their age, so there wasn’t anything wrong with asking such a question.
“No. We’re just childhood friends,” said Irene casually.
Alice had a feeling that wasn’t the case, but she wasn’t the type of person to press this further to respect their privacies. It was true that Irene teased Alice on some occasions, but she knew she meant it as a joke.
Their conversation went on with Shina cooked main course meals that went well with the desserts she had served. Alice couldn’t help but feel that the theme of the dish aligns with her palette. How did she determine them?
“I’m sorry for interrupting, but here is our order.”
Alice turned toward the voice. She soon realized that adventurers had been filling into the outdoor café. Most of them were women, and some couples were in the middle of a date.
The customer, who requested an order, placed a paper written with their orders on the bar's empty counter. Shina explained orders made outside of the bar section would be written by the patronage themselves and bring them to her at the order counter beside the bar. That way, she could operate efficiently, and it was a system that requires trust from them.
The girls continued their conversation, and they helped Shina as temporary waitresses until the café close for the day.
It was a fun experience. The customers were nice and friendly, and they understood Alice was new to this.