The inside of the mobile restaurant was much larger than it seemed from the outside. Woodman sat at right side of the bar, keeping an eye on the front entrance and Nightshade and Poysenberry took the empty seats beside him.
‘You have any Oyakodon?’ said Woodman.
The small Dawn’s eyes widened as it shook its head.
‘Well then, what meals do you have?’
She pulled out three wooden menus from under the counter and set one each in front of the three Axies.
‘Can I get a warm bottle of fermented love potion?’ said Nightshade. ‘And some curry rice?’
With a tiny notepad in her paws, the Dawn jotted down the order then looked at Poysenberry.
‘Oh, umm, let me see,’ he said, his paws getting sweaty as he held the menu. The symbols looked foreign to him. Even though he could read a few characters, he realised that he was not literate in Lunacian. He bunched up his face trying to decipher the words. The Dawn kept her narrowed gaze upon him.
‘He and I will have Omurice,’ said Woodman. ‘And some buckwheat tea.’
‘Can’t handle the strong stuff?’ said Nightshade.
Woodman snorted at her.
‘Guess looks can be deceiving.’
‘Is that a challenge?’ said Woodman. ‘I don’t think it’s smart to drink that stuff when we’ve got a pesky Bird hot on our tails.’
Nightshade shrugged while the Dawn collected their menus and put them underneath the bar.
‘I used to drink malted love potion by the litre,’ said Woodman. ‘And wash those down with a double distilled love potion for the night.’
‘Whatever you say.’
The small Dawn went to the opposite bar where she took out a long thin clay bottle and filled it up with warm fermented love potion.
‘You think I’m some lightweight?’ said Woodman. ‘Is that what you’re saying?’
Nightshade pursed her lips and shook her head, not looking at him but keeping her eyes fixed on the Dawn preparing her drink.
‘I’m keeping a clear head for the three of us.’
With a swift turn, the Dawn brought over the tall bottle for Nightshade and a square wooden cup for her to drink from. She then returned to the opposite side where a large clay jug sat, full of Buckwheat tea. As she opened the lid, Woodman cleared his throat loudly to get her attention.
‘Give me a double fermented and one malted for the newbie.’
She closed the lid and scurried to get their drinks.
‘We did just escape,’ said Woodman, stretching out his arms. ‘One drink to celebrate won’t do us any harm.’
Nightshade winked at him. ‘That’s the spirit.’
The drinks were placed before them and both Nightshade and Woodman lifted theirs in the air, waiting for Poysenberry. Poysenberry followed suit hesitantly. They all clinked their cups together then tipped them into their mouths for a long first gulp.
‘Ahh,’ said Woodman.
Poysenberry thought he had drank a sip of poison. He lowered his drink and quivered at its taste, looking at it, wondering what the hell they had ordered for him.
Woodman slapped his empty drink onto the counter then laughed. ‘Is this what Axies are drinking nowadays? Give me another.’ He slid the drink toward the Dawn.
She quickly filled it up once more and set it on the counter before him. Woodman kicked it back, slapped the cup onto the bar, then wiped his mouth with the back of his paw. He squinted an eye at Poysenberry’s glass.
‘You gonna drink that thing or not boy?’
Feeling shy, Poysenberry picked it back up and took another sip. The bubbles made the drink less bitter this time around, but that did not stop the drink from leaving a metallic taste on his tongue.
‘Bring me the bottle,’ said Woodman. ‘And put a sour plum at the bottom.’
The Dawn bowed politely at his order, then went back to the drinks at the opposite side of the bar. She pulled out a step ladder from the back where the kitchen was connected to the square bar, and set the ladder before a tall shelf. She carefully climbed the ladder, taking down a jar from the topmost shelf, then came back to the floor. There, she used a pair of chopsticks to dig out a sour plum and put it in the bottle of distilled love potion.
‘A-ha,’ said Woodman. ‘Now that’s what I call service.’
The Dawn brought him the bottle then waited to see if he had any more orders.
Woodman tipped the bottle over the top of Poysenberry’s drink, giving him a taste, then reached over further as an offer to Nightshade. She allowed him to fill her wooden cup, then as if on cue, drank it the same time he did. After a few moments, the Dawn disappeared into the kitchen, starting up the cookers.
Woodman kept pouring more for himself from his bottle while Poysenberry did his best to get his drink down his own gullet.
‘How I’ve missed this,’ said Woodman. ‘I tell you what boy, you’ve got no clue what you’ve been missing.’
‘I can’t wait to see it all,’ Poysenberry said. ‘The other workers used to talk about the outside world. So much so that I’m not even sure what’s real and what’s not.’
Before he could finish his thoughts, Woodman poured more from his bottle into Poysenberry’s cup, then another for himself.
‘You’ll see it soon enough,’ said Woodman. ‘But we gotta make you into a real traveller first.’
‘I can’t wait,’ said Poysenberry. ‘I’ve always been so jealous of the other – ‘
‘We’re gonna throw you into the Arena and let you get your ass kicked a few times,’ interrupted Woodman. ‘Then we’re gonna train you more and let you get your ass kicked again.’
Woodman took another chug, this time straight from the bottle.
‘That sounds great,’ said Poysenberry. ‘But you know, since I was young I wanted to travel to the Mystical lands and see – ‘
‘Then when you think you can’t go no more rounds,’ said Woodman. ‘We’re gonna toss you right back into the tournament and let those wild Beasts eat you alive. It’s the only way to learn.’
Poysenberry rubbed his hands around his drink, feeling unable to talk and voice his dreams.
‘And listen here,’ said Woodman, his words slurring. ‘You don’t want anything to do with those stuck up Mystic lands. Ha! You think they’ll even let you inside them?’
‘Well, I was once told by a fellow grinder that we are all born from Lunacia,’ said Poysenberry. ‘And that no human or Axie truly owns this world.’
Woodman put the bottle to his mouth and tipped it upside down. The liquid drained slowly lower and lower, until he set it back onto the bar and hopped down from his stool.
‘Get over here boy,’ he said. ‘I’m gonna teach you how to fight.’
‘This may not be the best place,’ said Nightshade.
‘Don’t try to protect him,’ said Woodman. ‘He needs to have a proper licking before he can survive out there.’
‘Honestly, inside the restaurant?’
‘Get down here Poy! We’re gonna have us a nice little fight.’
Suddenly the Dawn appeared from the kitchen and crossed her arms. She marched over to Woodman, grabbed him by his shoulder, and then pointed to a cloth sign on the wall that read: NO FIGHTING.
Woodman’s head wobbled. Then she let go of him and disappeared in the kitchen. Poysenberry turned around on his stool to speak to Woodman, only to find him passed out, sleeping on the floor.
‘I think finding the Mystic lands is a noble goal,’ said Nightshade. ‘Don’t listen to him about that either. Most trainers will never travel any further than the Savannah.’
‘Why is that?’
‘Because much of it is unknown territory out there,’ she said. ‘Humans are afraid of the old Legends surrounding those places and Axies aren’t any less suspicious.’
Poysenberry moved his stool closer to hers while sliding his drink with him. ‘What Legends exactly?’ He took another sip.
‘There are several,’ she said. ‘Some will tell you there’s a place called Genesis that is the gateway between our physical realm and ethereal. There are others who talk about the ancient giants that once walked these lands, carrying weapons to fight off massive Chimeras, trying to take claim of this world.’
Posyenberry’s head started to feel as fuzzy as his drank.
‘I don’t get it though,’ he said. ‘Why is everyone so afraid of these Chimeras? I’ve never even seen one.’
‘Because many are saying that Lunacia is on the fringe right now,’ she said. ‘That our world is out of balance and that we’re heading back to those dark times.’
He drank more of his potion, thinking it wasn’t nearly as bad as he first thought.
‘It’s been prophesied that another great purge would come to our lands,’ she said. ‘If things continue the way they are and the scales keep tipping in the wrong direction then – ‘
The front bamboo curtains pulled back and three Birds walked into the restaurant — Miss Puffy at the front with two others at her side. She smirked at them, the look of glee twinkling in her eyes.
‘What do you know,’ said Miss Puffy. ‘We’ve got three plants here taking a vacation.’
To be continued…