NaNoWriMo 2019 Chapter 10
Disclaimer: This is a NaNoWriMo attempt where quantity trumps quality. This will also be a long piece, so if you’re looking for a quick read, I recommend checking out a different category like Short Stories.
~Chapter 10 Cooking with Derek~
Today, it is Derek’s turn to stay back in the guild hall while everyone else leaves to go hunting.
Well, not quite everyone.
Julia and Corvus have some administrative tasks to do, so they will also be staying back to spend the day in their office.
In a change of pace from the day before, Derek has an activity in mind for the two of them.
“How did you feel about cooking dinner yesterday?” Derek asks.
“It was alright. You already told me what to do, so I just followed what you said. But I think I would be a lot more stressed out if I didn’t know what to do,” she says.
“Cooking is very easy. I can teach you,” Derek offers.
“That would be nice. What are you thinking of making today?” she asks.
“I always cook a three course dinner to celebrate the end of the week. You can help me and learn some skills along the way,” Derek says.
She looks suspiciously at Derek.
“You’re looking for an assistant to help you,” she says. She means for it to be a teasing question, but it comes out as an accusatory statement instead.
“Yes,” Derek admits immediately with no shame.
“Alright. I’ll help as much as I can. When do we start? she asks.
She looks for the kitchen clock. “Right now? It’s still morning.”
“And the day will disappear before we know it. Trust me. The earlier we start, the more time we have to fix anything that goes wrong. And there’s always something that can go wrong.”
Well, if that’s what the expert thinks then she’ll follow his lead.
“Alright. I’m ready,” she says.
They begin with a variety of flavour combinations to taste test.
“I thought about some ideas, but I want to test them out first before I commit to large batches,” Derek explains at her inquisitive look. “Here. Taste this and tell me what you think.”
She tastes more different flavours in one hour than she has the whole week she has been awake. Even just tasting increasingly tiny bites of each combination, it’s enough to fill her up so that she doesn’t need to eat lunch anymore.
But the other three people in the guild hall still do. While Derek sets the table for lunch, she heads up to the third floor to call Corvus and Julia down to eat.
As always, all the doors are closed, but she can still hear muffled voices. She follows the voices to Corvus’ office.
“… not a single trace behind?” Corvus says.
“It could be someone’s emphatic weapon ability. They were a small guild who kept to themselves, so it’s been hard to find a lot of information on them,” Julia says.
She catches herself listening in and quickly raps her knuckles against the door. The conversation inside stops.
“Come in,” Julia says.
She opens the door and looks in. “Lunch is ready.”
“Thank you,” Julia says.
They head downstairs together, making small conversation along the way. She is very curious about the conversation she accidentally overheard, but should she ask? Would they be unhappy that she overheard what they were talking about?”
By the time they reach the dining room, Derek has already set the food for them on the table. Three normal portions, and one small one for her. Enough for her to nibble on while the others eat so she doesn’t feel left out.
“Is that all you’re going to eat?” Julia asks with a look of concern at Anastasia’s small portion.
“We’ve been taste testing in the kitchen the whole morning so I’m not hungry,” she says with a smile.
“Ah, yes. Derek is cooking dinner for us today. What are you going to cook for us?” Julia asks.
“I’m still deciding. You’ll just have to find out when everyone else does,” Derek says with a grin.
“I look forward to it,” Julia says.
It hits her right then that she doesn’t know what Julia’s emph is, or Corvus’. Derek’s emph is a scythe that can slice through space, Lucy’s gives her many extra hands, Jessica can create wards, Fletcher… Lex… Nolan can fly. Huh. Actually, she doesn’t know what half the people in Shatterstrike can do. But what she knows so far is interesting. She won’t be surprised if there really is an emph that can swallow a building whole and make it disappear.
“Anastasia?” A hand waves in front of her. She focuses back to the present to see that the hand belongs to Derek.
“Everything alright?” Derek asks. “You hardly ate anything.”
She looks around the table. Everyone else is already done.
“Ah. Sorry. I was a little distracted,” she says.
“You look like you were miles away. Where did you go?” Derek asks, half amused, half concerned.
“I was thinking about emphs. Can an emph really swallow a whole building?” she blurts out.
Uncomprehending faces reply her question.
“I’m sure an emphatic weapon like that exists somewhere. Why do you ask?” Julia asks.
“I accidentally overheard you talking earlier in Corvus’ office. There’s a guild hall that disappeared because of an emphatic weapon?”
“Oh. You mean the bounty mystery,” Julia says, “The guild building is still there, but all the members disappeared last month. There’s a bounty for whoever manages to find them. We were trying to see if we could do it. We can always use some extra money.”
“Does anyone know what happened?” she asks.
“The bounty is still up, so I believe the case is still open. The missing guild is a small one like ours and not very well known, so there aren’t a lot of people who even know they exist, let alone notice that they have gone missing,” Julia explains.
“So a whole guild disappears, and no one knows?’ she asks. The thought disturbs her more than she expects it to.
“It happens a lot more often than people realise,” Corvus says. “It’s easier to start a guild than to keep it running.”
“I agree. I’ve been in three guilds before this, and two of them disbanded while I was with them,” Derek says.
“Oh. That’s sad,” she says. Her mind imagines Shatterstrike’s guild hall, empty of even the small handful of members it has now. Then something Derek said catches her attention. She turns to look at him.
“You said two of the guilds you were in disbanded, but what about the third one?”
“The ‘third one’ is still around. The guild leader actually referred me to this guild,” Derek says.
“Why would your guild leader do that?” she asks, definitely curious.
“Because I’m not good at listening to people who aren’t stronger than me,” Derek says.
“What does that mean?” she asks, confused.
“You’ll see what I mean for yourself tomorrow. Unless, of course, this is the week I finally beat you.” Derek ends with a challenging look at Corvus.
“We will see tomorrow,” Corvus replies, unperturbed.
“Come on, Anastasia, eat up. We’re going to cook dinner and we’ll have an exciting morning tomorrow,” Derek says with bright eyes.
She quickly finishes her lunch (it wasn’t much to begin with) and while Corvus and Julia return upstairs to their office, she and Derek throw themselves into the work needed to tonight’s dinner.
“We will be fast, but safe. Actually, don’t worry too much about the fast part. Just be safe. I don’t want you hurting yourself on my watch,” Derek says even as his hands pulls out ingredients from the cupboard onto the island table.
Leaving nothing to chance, Derek explains everything he can possibly think of, even things that are obvious or common sense.
“You’ll be surprised at how much ‘common sense’ isn’t actually common,” is Derek’s explanation.
He teaches her how to wash the ingredients, what to look out for and cut out if necessary, to always keep all surfaces clear because a clear space begets clear cooking, and to always be careful around sharp things. All the while, his hands rapidly chop, marinate, clean, devein, crush, and more. What she does is only a tiny fraction of what Derek is doing.
So she takes her time and focuses on practising the simple tasks Derek gives her. But not too long, or Derek will take over with lightning speed when he needs the ingredients she is working on.
It is both more and less stressful compared to when she cooked dinner by herself yesterday (Jessica didn’t wake up until she was almost done, but came just in time to save the vegetables roasting in the oven from burning). Less stressful because Derek knows what he’s doing and she just needs to follow his lead. More stressful because they’re following Derek’s pace, which is a much faster pace than she would take alone. She realises, as Derek monitors the stoves and the ovens at the same time, that she likes taking things slow.
Achievement unlocked: discover a personal preference.
As they approach the end of their cooking session, they begin to experiment with presentation. They try out different dishes, different garnishes, different cutlery, in different combinations as a whole banquet of delicious smells fill the room. It isn’t dinner yet, but she’s already hungry.
They finish their cooking before the others return to the guild hall, but it really has taken them the whole day, just as Derek warned earlier in the morning. Now they get to wash up, sit back, and enjoy the chef’s cuts as they wait.
Compared to the previous days, today, everyone returns early and rushes for the bathrooms to shower. It is a far cry from the usual pattern, which is to eat first and fill their ravenous bellies before washing up.
“They know that after they eat today’s dinner, they won’t want to do anything else,” Derek explains proudly.
Eventually, everyone arrives at the dining room refreshed and eagerly takes their seat at the table. She helps Derek bring the entree out of the kitchen as he explains what he has made. Some pay attention, others just let Derek’s words go in one ear and out the other, everyone keeps their hands off the table.
Sitting at the foot of the table for this meal, Derek shows everyone the different ways to eat the entree, then he finally says the words everyone has been waiting to hear.
They dig in. No one talks as their mouth is too busy with Derek’s food. Even though she has already tried the food before in the kitchen and knows what to expect, the final product is even more amazing. It must be mind blowing for everyone else.
Entree softens the edge of hunger, but it isn’t enough to fully satisfy. This is where the main course comes in. She helps Derek bring the components out, and he portions them prettily onto individual plates in the dining room, explaining the dish as he works. Once again, the guild members show remarkable restraint by leaving the food untouched until they have Derek’s permission to eat.
This time, everyone is free to take seconds or more if they want to. Under Derek’s watchful eyes, they help themselves from the main serving trays, but once they return to their seat with their food, they tear into it with obvious ravenous hunger.
“You have amazing self control,” she comments when the frenzied eating slows down.
“We have to, or Derek will kick us off the table. And no one wants to miss out on this,” Lex says.
Heads nod in agreement all around the table.
“Life tip: You don’t mess with the chef if you want your food,” Lucy adds.
Earlier in the day, while she and Derek were in the kitchen measuring the ingredients, she thought the amount of food Derek prepared was much more than they could possibly eat. Yet, before her eyes, she watches the guild demolish the two whole pigs worth of meat they cooked.
And they’re not done yet.
Dessert is rich custard pudding with ice cream, all made by Derek from scratch. This is the part she has been looking forward to the most.
She scoops a spoonful of the sweet pudding and takes a bite. She can’t help but make a happy sound.
This is a spoonful of happiness.
Derek offered to teach her how to cook. She’ll start with this.
They sit around the table in a sated stupor. Some make the journey to the living room so that they can flop more comfortably onto the sofa. She re-imagines the scene with everyone still dirty from a day of hunting and sees the wisdom in washing up first.
Finally, Nolan peels himself off his chair.
“Well then, it’s time to wash up. Come on, Lucy. It’s our turn this week.”
Lucy groans, but rises to her feet without complaint. It’s only then that Anastasia remembers the dishes left behind in the kitchen. She and Derek had cleaned things up as they cooked, but there were still a lot of dirty dishes to clean, the product of a day of cooking. She is very happy that she isn’t the one who has to clean up. All she wants to do now is curl in bed and sleep.
So she heads upstairs to do exactly that.
~End Chapter 10~
Continued in Chapter 11.
Chapter word count: 2220
Total word count: 15293