LEVEL 3: Even the Best Laid Plans go Awry, but Such is This World
After a day of work in the Siren Mines, selling their loot at the marketplace, and eating dinner, everybody was now gathered at Sherry’s Tavern .
“I’m gonna have beer, the manly drink for men!” declared Ranta .
“T-then, uh, me too…” Mogzo followed suit .
“Mead for me,” said Haruhiro .
“Same,” said Mary .
“Yume’ll have a lemonade! It’s bubbly n’ fun n’ great!” Yume giggled .
“I’ll have that as well,” Shihoru said .
Their order arrived in no time at all and Ranta raised his cup, even though no one had asked him to do the toast . “Everyone’s here? You guys ready? Alright! Cheers!!!”
Everyone responded with variations of “cheers,” clanked their beverage vessels together, and drank . Ranta and Mogzo gulped their beers; Mogzo simply because he was thirsty, Ranta because he didn’t want to be outdone by Mogzo . Haruhiro, sipping his sweet and slightly sour mead, didn’t understand why Ranta had to be so contrary . Why did that kid always have to make everything into a competition?
“Ha! I win!” Ranta shouted, slamming the empty ceramic cup onto the table . He’d better have been prepared to pay for that if it broke . “Take that Mogzo! I win, you lose! Wahahahahaha!”
“Oh… okay,” Mogzo agreed . Unable to finish the entire contents of his own cup, he placed it back down on the table . “That’s pretty amazing, Ranta, downing it all in one go . ”
“Damn straight! I’m the MAN! You said it all, Mogzo! That’s why you’re my future business, venture, entrepreneur partner!”
Yume blinked, uncomprehending . “Entree pre-noir partner, hm?”
“It’s en-tre-pre-neur, Yume,” Haruhiro piped in . “What would an entree pre-noir partner be anyways?”
Shihoru made a strange half giggle, half coughing sound and when Haruhiro looked, her face was bright red, and she had both hands over her mouth and was staring down at the ground .
“Something the matter, Shihoru?” Haruhiro asked .
“No… nothing… nothing in particular…” Shihoru replied .
“Shihoru,” Ranta smirked at her in an exceedingly irritating manner . “You were imagining something weird just now, weren’t you?”
“W-weird?” Shihoru repeated . “What do you mean?”
“You’re asking me?” Ranta scoffed . “You’re the fully-loaded, wild delusions wagon . ”
“W-wagon…? That’s not…”
“Yeah, an entire wagon . So don’t ask me ‘cause I’m not nearly as flooded with wild delusions as you are…”
“I’m not flooded!” Shihoru protested .
“Quit spoutin’ lies, Ranta!” Yume hugged Shihoru protectively . “Shihoru ain’t a wild wagon and she ain’t fully delusional!”
“Um… I don’t think that’s quite what he said…” Mary pointed out in a whisper .
“Huh? You mean Yume’s uncorrect again!?” Yume asked .
Ranta sneered at her . “You’re getting everything wrong! Listening to you is starting to mess with my head so just quit talking, okay? Just shut up!”
“Nuh-uh! Yume doesn’t wanna!” Yume cried .
“You don’t have the right to say no!” Ranta shot back .
“Yume has the right to state Yume’s opinions!”
“Who said anything about opinions!?”
“You did, stupid Ranta!”
“I was talking about the right to say no! Right . To . Say . No . Got it!? THE right to say no!”
“Yume knows that!”
“No you didn’t! You didn’t hear what I said at all! You deaf as a doorbell or something!?”
“Ranta…” Haruhiro interjected . “It’s not doorbell . Are you dumb as a doornail or something?”
“Oh…” Though it appeared that Ranta noticed his mistake, he wasn’t going to back off just because of something minor like that . He shrugged his shoulders petulantly and said instead, “Annnnnnd here we go again . There HE goes again, Lord Party Leader jumping down people’s throats because of some teensy-weensy mistake! And doing it in some I’m-Mister-Clever-Smartass way! You’ve got a shit personality, Haruhiro!”
“Like you’re one to talk,” Haruhiro said mildly .
“If you don’t want to hear it from me, then quit making me say it . So watch your mouth, idiot!”
“Hey, Mogzo,” Haruhiro turned to Mogzo instead . “Just a bit of advice . You’re definitely better off not making that little lump of fecal matter your future business partner . Your sorruz shop will never make it . ”
“Haha…” Mogzo laughed it off dryly, expression uneasy .
“Sorruz shop?” Mary asked, tilting her head slightly .
Haruhiro started giving everyone a brief explanation about the conversation between Ranta and Mogzo at the sorruz stand . “And Ranta suggested to Mogzo that when they save up enough money, they could quit Crimson Moon and open up a sorruz shop,” he finished .
“Hm…” Yume pondered softly . “Sorruz is that ramen-like noodle soup, right?”
“Ramen…” Haruhiro echoed and for the briefest of moments, a salty, almost-remembered taste sprang to mind .
Ranta crossed his arms over his chest . “Ramen…”
“Ramen…” Shihoru touched a finger to her lips .
Mogzo leaned further over the table . “Ramen…”
“What is…” Mary started, expression troubled . “What is it? This ‘ramen’?”
“Oh, it’s…” Yume’s eyes darted this way then that way . “Ramen’s that… umm… it’s good . It’s a, uhh… that . The thing . Huh? What was Yume talking about again?”
Haruhiro scratched his head . “I forgot…”
“Ramen . We were talking about ramen,” Mogzo said firmly, unusually forceful . “We… we probably all know it . Yes, sorruz is very much like ramen . When I first tried it, I had a feeling it tasted like something I knew . It tastes like ramen . I couldn’t remember then, but I do now . I loved ramen . Ranta…”
“Huh?” Ranta said, startled . “What?”
“Let’s… let’s do it,” Mogzo replied . “Start a shop . ”
“But I don’t want it to be sorruz,” Mogzo continued . “I want to make it a ramen shop . While we save up money, we can keep experimenting with the flavor . And once we’ve got it right, let’s do it . Let’s open a shop . ”
“A ramen shop…” A smile spread on Ranta’s face and for once, it wasn’t one of his aggravating, snarky smirks . He put a hand on Mogzo’s shoulder, squeezing tight . “Yeah! You can be the chef and I’ll manage the finances and everything else! I’ll make it a huge success for sure!”
“Right!” Mogzo agreed .
Haruhiro wanted to say that although it was all good and well that Mogzo was the chef, Ranta only put himself in charge of the finances because he didn’t want to contribute any money to the venture himself . But Mogzo seemed so excited by the idea that Haruhiro didn’t want to put a damper on his feelings by saying anything negative . No need for him to be a wet blanket, after all . Besides, plans like that were still in the distant future, so far away that it probably wasn’t worth seriously thinking about at the moment .
Nobody even knows what things are going to be like a year from now, Haruhiro thought to say, but kept that to himself, too . He wasn’t about tell them to quit dreaming or say anything cold and insensitive like that . Besides, he didn’t think it was a bad thing for them to dream of the future .
In fact, Haruhiro was just a bit jealous of their ability to dream, because he couldn’t think any further into the future than tomorrow, or perhaps three days at best . Even if he wanted to, he couldn’t… because there was a very big decision that had to be made within the next three days .
“Guys…” Haruhiro said . “There’s something we’ve got to talk about, and since everyone’s here…”
He gave them the details of the Crimson Moon directive and when he was finished, Ranta leapt up from his seat and shot a fist into the air .
“OF COURSE we’re gonna do it!” Ranta exclaimed . “No need to even think about it! We get a gold for participating! A HUNDRED silvers! We gotta do it! No choice but to do it! We’re gonna do it!”
“Hmm…” Shihoru’s eyes were on the floor . It was apparent she was not excited at all about the prospect . Yep, that was Shihoru for you .
What about Mary though? What did she think? Her gaze was downwards too and she had a finger on her chin as if deep in thought, but she gave no indication of which way her vote would swing . Maybe it meant that she would just go with the majority vote . Perhaps she was just trying to be considerate of everyone else’s opinions . Haruhiro had pretty much predicted she would react like that .
“For Yume,” Yume said, puffing her cheeks out slightly and letting her gaze drift diagonally towards the ceiling . “Either way is fine . ”
“Really?” Haruhiro asked, incredulous .
“Hm? What do you mean?” Yume replied, confused .
“Nah, nevermind…” Haruhiro said .
He had predicted that Yume would be totally against participating because Ranta was all for it . That was the way Yume’s vote usually worked, but not this time, it seemed . But why? Haruhiro wanted to ask her, but he had a feeling that, as the leader, it would be childish to do something that would most likely exacerbate Ranta and Yume’s animosity towards each other .
There was nothing he could do to fix Ranta’s personality . Ranta was their companion, after all, and there was no such thing as going through life always getting along with everyone else .
But wait, then that would mean that Haruhiro was a no, Ranta was a yes, Shihoru was a kinda-sorta no, and Mary and Yume were on the fence . That left only…
Mogzo spoke up, expression unusually solemn . “I think…”
Suddenly Haruhiro had a bad feeling about what Mogzo was going to say next… and he was right .
“I want to give it a shot,” Mogzo finished .
“Mogzoooooooo!!!” Ranta stuck out his hand towards Mogzo . “Gimme a high five!”
“W-what?” Mogzo blinked .
“C’mon! Just get over here and high five!”
“Ah… okay . ” Mogzo hesitantly reached out with his own hand and touched his palm to Ranta’s .
“That’s right! YESSSSSS!” Ranta said, then smacked his forearm then elbow against Mogzo’s forearm and elbow until finally Ranta was practically hugging him . “Hell yeah! You’re the man, Mogzo! THE MAN! My future business partner rocks! We’re also frontline tanks and brothers in arms! Damn right! We’re like twins! You think so too, right Mogzo!?”
“Er… um… sure? Haha… okay?” Mogzo replied .
“Hahaha! Awesome! Hey, Haruhiro!”
“What now?” Haruhiro sighed .
“Majority wins!” Ranta wrapped an arm around Mogzo’s shoulders . He eyed Haruhiro like a carnivore stalking its prey and licked his lips . “It’s decided!”
“Uh…” Haruhiro started .
Whoa… whoa whoa whoa! Slow down there… Just hold on one fricking second . Damn it, this wasn’t good . At this rate, everything was going to go to hell in a…
If Mogzo was a yes, then he and Ranta would make two yeses . Haruhiro and Shihoru (most likely) would be two noes . Mary’s and Yume’s votes were currently unknown . Haruhiro was fairly sure that if it came down to a tiebreaker, he could get Yume on his side . However, he wasn’t a hundred percent certain . Not anymore . Mogzo’s surprise siding with Ranta had shaken Haruhiro’s confidence in his own predictions .
“Hmm…” Haruhiro pondered, then glanced at Mary’s and Yume’s expressions .
He couldn’t discern what they were thinking at all . Which way would they vote? Both of them yes? Both of them no? He had no idea anymore .
“Let’s decide tomorrow,” Haruhiro suddenly declared .
“WHAAAAAAAAAAAT!?” Ranta glared at him wide-eyed . “Are you fucking retarded or something!? What the hell!? Why tomorrow, moron!? We can decide today so why put it off!?”
“What’s the rush?” Haruhiro said . “It’s fine . We’ve still got plenty of time before the signup deadline . Let’s take a day and think about it . Then we can vote again . ”
“I think that would be wise,” Mary raised her hand in Haruhiro’s support .
Gods, Mary is a goddess, Haruhiro thought . At times like this, Mary seemed like a radiant, brilliant, shining light from the heavens . Actually, that’s the way she always looked…
“Good idea,” Yume said, flopping down on the table . She was drinking lemonade, but was giving a decent impression of being drunk . “I agree with Mary . Tomorrow is good . ”
“A-agreed,” Shihoru gave a single vigorous nod . “I also think that’s a good idea . ”
Mogzo didn’t object . “Yes, no need to rush . ”
“You guys…” Ranta couldn’t find the words to finish his sentence but that was perfectly fine with Haruhiro .
It looked like he was going to be able to stall this one for now . He let out a small sigh of relief and looked around the tavern . All the regulars were around so that meant a good number of Crimson Moon members mixed in with the townsfolk . And among them might be a good number of parties who had already responded to the directive and decided to participate in Operation Twin-Headed Snake . Maybe he could get more information by asking them .
“I hate information collecting…” Haruhiro sighed .
He just wasn’t good at approaching people he didn’t know and talking to them . But he also knew that now wasn’t the time to let his timidity get the better of him .