Chapter 3:

Talk of the Town

Beyond Light

"Har! Har! You really thought the Spirit Tournament was free? Nothing in life is free, remember that!" exclaimed Jasper Abdar, the merchant.  

"Wh-wh-what are we gonna doooo Glare," bawled out Zero. 

"Eh... What are we gonna do... There's only 3 days left until the tournament." muttered Glare. 

"Life's all about opportunities kid, my mentor once told me that it's nice to dream, but it's even better to hustle. Are you gonna just admit defeat here? Or are you gonna hustle?" 

Jasper's words echoed through Glare's mind and all the hellish he's endured for this adventure. He cursed the fact his parents refused to give him any money. The words of his mother echoed in his mind, "Working in the service industry will show you a new side to humanity. It'll do you some good."

"Yeah... I mean, we just have to find a job Zero. A job that will pay us in less than three days... Ha... We can do that... right?"

"Papa has some friends in Tenmori, if Glare can cook like that for them, they could probably pay them right, Papa?" suggested the plump young Amira. 

"Hmmm, Kenny might be able to give you some work... I mean... You do cook amazingly."

Glare and Zero tackle Jasper while screaming, "Mr. Jaspeer! You're an angel!"

"Hey, whoa! Calm down there, you're getting my nice clothes filled with tears and snot, come on! Tsk."

The croaking and the songs of the forest intensify as the sun sets and night finally overtakes the scene. Everyone takes a soothing rest next to the dancing flames of the campfire, eagerly awaiting the events of tomorrow. 

Night turns to day and their prior trek of walking towards Tenmori turns to a carriage ride led by two strong stallions.

"Ahhh Ha ha! Glare, now THIS is what I'm talking about!" said Zero in his childlike wonder of finally being able to kick back in the merchant's cart and enjoy the view of the Juria Rainforest.

"I've never seen the forest from so high up before, it's even bigger than I thought..."

"Har! Har! You think that's big? Do you know why Tenmori is the capital of Juria Glare?" exclaimed Jasper. 

"It's because it's the biggest city, no?"

"Well that's part of it, but the main reason it's the capital is because it's in the highest point at the very center of the Rainforest. They built an observatory that overlooks the entirety of Juria. People world-wide come just to see the majestic forest from the best point of view."

Excitement fills the air as the group make their way up the cobblestone road into the mountains above. The entrance to Tenmori is a gigantic stone gate that stands over 15 feet tall and over 50 feet wide. This gate connects to equally tall stone walls that cover this circular capital in the mountaintop. 

"You're in for a treat Glare, Kenny's a very nice person and his food is out of this world! I'm sure he'll be happy to have you." said Amira as she looks to her father for confirmation. 

" Well... I'm sure he could use a hand with all the youngsters coming for the tournament." replied Jasper. 

As the horses gallop and take the cart deeper into Tenmori, they reach a central plaza which divides the city into 6 wide paths and on the center lies the Tenmori Observatory, a tower that stretches over the low hanging clouds among this mountaintop. Trees, shrubs and all sorts of vines decorate the stone walls, the cobblestone paths and every fiber that is Tenmori. It's a beautiful harmony between human architecture and the vitality of the forest. 

"Kenny's Mystery Shack should be another 5 minutes through this path over here," says Jasper as he navigates the busy streets. 

"Actually Glare, can I meet you there tonight? I think I want to get off here and get a view of the forest, maybe do some sketching while I'm at it." said Zero with both hands in the cart's rail. 

"A fine idea! You'll love the observatory kid." said Jasper as he pat him in the back. 

"Fine by me, but just remember we need the $200 entrance fee. You better find a way to make money quick cause I'm not paying for both of us."

"Yeah, yeah, I'll figure something out, see ya later Glare, Amira, old man Jasper!" 

Zero vaults off the cart and into the filled streets of Tenmori, occasionally losing sight of his focus as waves of beautiful women walk along the streets. A sigh washes over Glare as he knows he'll probably end up having to pay the whole thing himself. 

"You sure you don't want to see it too, Glare?" asked Amira. 

"I mean... I want to see it but I'll have time for that later on. Right now I want to make sure I get to participate in the tournament."

"Har! Har! You have a merchant's mindset boy, work early, work fast, relax after."

Moments later, the cart finally makes its stop in front of Kenny's Mystery Shack, a gray colored stone restaurant with a question mark as a symbol.

"Mr. Kennyyyy! You're favorite merchants are here!" yelled out Amira with Glee. "3 Mystery Burgers please!"

"Uh, what exactly are these mystery burgers?" questioned Glare as he couldn't identify the components of an intricate spice mix in the enticing aroma. 

"Har! Har! No one knows Glare, that's why they call it a mystery!"

"Ah ze Abdars! My angels! 3 Mystery Burgers ja? Okay, coming right up!" yelled out a very tall man with long blonde hair, blue eyes in a curious foreign accent. He wears green overalls over a white shirt and a chef's apron. 

Three burger-like meals come heading their way to the trio. Instead of bread, a crispy flat starchy substance shapes the outside of the burger whilst within lies some sort of breaded element coated by a rich sauce. 

"Yummy! Your burgers are the best Mr. Kenny!" exclaims Amira with her mouth full. 

"Wow! This is so good, is this chicken and crackers?"

"Ha ha! Wrong! It's a mystery but you like my food ja? Chef's secret" says Kenny as he gives a wink.

"What if I work for you? Will you tell me then?"

"Ah? You vant to vork here? Abdars, vhat is ze meaning of zis?" said Kenny in his noticeably distinct accent. 

"I bring more than just ingredients today Kenny, this is Glare Haoru, Ashe's son. He's lo--" Jasper can't finish his sentence before being abruptly interrupted by Kenny. 

"YOU VHAT? Ah.... Haoru's son ate my cooking. MY cooking, and he liked ze food. HE LIKED ZE FOOD.

Kenny loudly thought out loud.  he quickly turns to look at Glare.

"AH! But how could I have not seen? You have her smile, her nose, definitely not her eyes zhough, very beautiful nonezheless. Zhis is good, you vant vork? I have vork to do."

Glare was grateful for the opportunity but silently cursed the fact he needed his mother's name to get it. A sigh washed over him as he thought to himself, 'I have a long way to go before people will know the name Glare and not just Haoru.'

"So... what kind of work are we talking about? 

"How good are you vith crowds?" 

"Wha?" were Glare's last words before the intrinsic preparing of what was to come. Kenny's restaurant did well for itself, but he had been looking for something to push him over the edge, something to make him stand out. After a couple of hours of teaching Glare some basic recipes, whilst withholding secret ingredients to himself, Glare was ready for his new job. Well, physically ready at least. 

"So you'll really pay me before the tournament right?"

"Ja ja of course! As long as you do vell ah? Here comes your first customer, do vell!"

"Welcome to Kenny's Mystery Shack! Would you care for the Mystery Teppanyaki?"

An elderly man with long black hair and sunglasses comes elbow-locked with an elderly woman. She has short black hair, glasses and a nice sunhat.

"Ah... How exciting, did you hear that dear?" "That sounds lovely honey. Young man you have such beautiful snowy white hair, is that natural?" 

"Ah thank you, I suppose it is. Although it won't stay that way."

"What do you mean?" replied the confused old lady. 

"Just watch and don't blink or you might miss it." said Glare excited for the show about to come. 

And with that onions, garlic, eggs, rice, elk meat, fish, shrimp, and all manner of ingredients are thrown into a large heated rock and eloquently cut and cooked with Glare's chef's knives and skills. As he continues cooking puffs of smoke in different colors start emerging from the food while glare's eyes and hair begin changing to shades of reds, yellows, blues, greens, the whole spectrum. 

"Enjoy your food!" said Glare wiping sweat from his brow and finally looking away from the food and into the direction of the elderly couple. Except, where he thought he would see an elderly couple, he instead saw a clapping and raving crowd that had gathered across his performance. 

"Eh?" 'When did this happen?' Glare thought to himself as he was now surrounded by hungry customers awaiting the same food.  

"I knew you'd be a rock star, now just do zhat for zhe next zhree days and I'll let you even keep customer tips, Ja?"

Tears rolled down Glare's face as he gives a forceful smile, "Sure thing boss."

Over at the Tenmori Observatory, Zero is currently taking in one of Elyria's most breathtaking views, the 360 degree terrace that overlooks the majority of the Juria Rainforest. Even at this height, the massive rainforest expanded beyond the horizon, not showing any trace of the other 6 kingdoms of Elyria. Zero takes out his sketching notebook and begins drawing a view that no man should die without seeing. As he keeps looking out for reference, his sight suddenly wanders to a woman sitting to his right. The color contrast of her dark skin mixing with her swirly blue hair that's shaved on one side was what immediately caught Zero's attention, not to mention her blue crop top and denim shorts. 

"Hey miss, would you mind if I drew you for a bit?" politely asked Zero. 

"What? Sure, do whatever you want kid." replied the beautiful woman as she rests her arm on her forehead and tilts her head back on the bench. 

Zero thought to himself, 'Kid? Kid? Surely I heard her wrong... me? No, not me.'

"Would you mind posing towards the forest? I think it'll be very pretty to get the forest greens with your vibrant blues."

"Maaaaaaaaan, shuuuut up! I have the world's largest hangover right now, just please... be quiet."

"Oooookay, sheesh. Some people really waste beauty with a god awful personality." muttered Zero as he continued the drawing, but this time highlighting her snarky attitude with a vicious raging mouth. 

"Oh, that's pretty good, could you do me?" said a mysterious bubbly voice behind Zero. As he turned, Zero questioned whether his eyes were strained too much from drawing. Before him was a 4 foot tall orange frog who could apparently speak. 

"Yo, name's Murph."