After entering the village, the NPCs there beamed at Feng Yu Chen & co with the most courteous of smiles.
"Yo, Feng-san you guys are back..."
"Onii-chan, can you please tell us about some of your adventures?..."
"Yeah, what monsters did you fight this time?"
The NPCs swarmed them like they are the village heroes. A bunch of children begged for Feng Yu Chen & co to tell tales of their adventures.
Asuna almost gasped at the overly friendly reactions of the NPC here.
The players treated NPCs like, well, NPCs, even if they die, they are just gonna respawn anyway. Like monsters, players need not waste time chatting with them other than to get quests. Meanwhile, Feng Yu Chen & co are...
Feng Yu Chen told Asuna.
"I know what you're thinking, these NPCs might not look like it but they are sentient enough that it's hard to distinguish them from real humans. They can express emotions just like us. More importantly, treat them like decent humans and you are going to get important information regarding monster difficulty, where to find rare herbs, where do monsters normally live, where you shouldn't go to, etc. Of course, you have to spend enough time with them to increase your familiarity before they are going to reveal all of these, plus..."
Asuna urged him to continue.
"I mean, come on, we need to keep practicing our conversational skills. You would be surprised how quickly that rots in this world. Sure, it's despairing to be stuck in this world. Keep sulking and it's going to get to you. The higher you ascend, the more crippling the fear and unease.
However, treat this world like the real world and radiate your positivity in the face of adversity, I think that would be beautiful, wouldn't you say so? SAO, like it or not, is going to be an important part of our memories, might as well make the best of it. Who knows? Maybe tomorrow will be a better day, at least, that's what it means to be alive for me. We can forge better days with our own hands, isn't that so?"
Feng Yu Chen patted Asuna's shoulder and he walked towards the villagers. He started greeting them.
Asuna watched Feng Yu Chen hang out with the villagers, his confident and hope-bringing smile touched her heart. Her fervent grinding was her way of dealing with this world. She wanted to get as strong as possible to quickly clear this game. But, now...
Watching Feng Yu Chen's smile, his confident smile told her that if there's anyone who can clear this game, they are probably humans like him. True, why did she have to avoid the beautiful things in this world? She's living in this world, it's not the real world, for sure. Since they are all stuck here, why not take the good and the bad together? Even if she trained real hard, this game still won't be cleared in such a short span of time.
Asuna changed her mindset. In other words, Feng Yu Chen convinced her. The guy had a point, you can choose to sulk or you can embrace the joke.
"Come eat with us. He's the cook tonight and Spicy Curry is on the menu, we gathered all the materials already."
Saeko pulled Asuna along. Given her understand of Feng Yu Chen, he's probably going to choose this girl as the character to take back to the real world. Saeko and Inori were important female leads of their worlds, after all.
"He can cook? Spicy Curry?"
Asuna felt a bit puzzled.
"Did I hear somebody say curry? Heck to the yes..."
Suzumiya Haruna hurrayed the moment she heard about tonight's menu.
"Come, don't assume he's just good at fighting. He's a guy who likes cooking too. The guy did extensive research on all the plants and food materials in this village. The result of his research culminated in a dish similar in taste to spicy curry. I can vouch for its taste, come have some if you don't believe me."
Saeko continued pulling Asuna along.
Actually, Feng Yu Chen is only doing this as a test subject before Inori starts dabbling in the culinary arts. He reckons he's doing a pretty good job at it.
They stayed the night in one of the houses of the villagers here. Feng Yu Chen borrowed their kitchen and he got to work.
"Let me help..."
Haruna volunteered while bouncing up and down.
Feng Yu Chen knocked her head with his fist.
"Where do you find the energy, how are you still so energetic after a long day of training? Pipe down. Also, I am sure you just want to help eat instead of helping with the dishes, right?"
"Uuu, you meanie. I am going to hog Inori-chan to myself, you can forget about sleeping with her..."
Feng Yu Chen felt speechless. He was being blackmailed by Haruna.
Asuna wanted to hang out with Feng Yu Chen & co too, their camaraderie was rather infectious. She felt alive around them.
Wings of Freedom? Yeah, this is a great guild.
"What do you think? Do you want to join our guild? I think the guild master has a crush on you. I am pretty sure he's a lolicon too..."
Zi Yue Ling started pitching the guild to her as she poured her a cup of tea.
Asuna felt tempted. She ignored the lolicon part, she's probably kidding, and, the guild master is quite young himself..."
"Join us, playing alone is rather lonely. You're going to be in this world for a long time. I bet it's going to feel pretty bad to stay lonely for such a long time. And, with you in our line-up, I am sure we can clear this game world as fast as possible."
Zi Yue Ling said. She's trying to do Feng Yu Chen a favor by roping in the girl he liked.
"Eh, are going to get a new member? Yes! I am not the youngest anymore..."
Haruna chirped in glee. Haruna is technically the youngest although she's the same age as Zi Yue Ling (sic, should be Saeko), they are both 16 but Saeko is older by a few months. Inori is 17, Feng Yu Chen is 18, and Zi Yue Ling is 24 years old. Asuna started SAO around the age of 15 in the original work so that would make her the youngest member in this guild.
"D-do I need to go through tests?"
Asuna voiced her thoughts.
Zi Yue Ling shook her head with a smile.
"Guild policy, all lolis are exempted from any tests..."
Asuna bitterly laughed. Is osmething wrong with the guild master? Rather, is this guild going to be okay with someone like Feng Yu Chen as the head? Who would set that kind of guild policy, seriously...
Feng Yu Chen stomped towards her with a ladle. He pointed it at her.
"Don't ruin my image, you made the policy yourself. I didn't make that one up. Also, go prepare the rice bowls if you're so free."
Zi Yue Ling winked at him and she entered the kitchen with a shrug. She accomplished her mission of setting up the seed of doubt inside Asuna, now she's going to have her guard raised around Feng Yu Chen so he can't pull his moves on her as easily as before.
Feng Yu Chen started the dinner after presenting the dishes. He poured everyone a bowl of curry.
"Let's dig in..."
Asuna tried testing it by putting a spoonful of colorful curry into her mouth. It tasted like a bit of spicy mixed with tingling sourness. Then, a sweet scent tingled her olfactory senses. It's not too spicy or sweet, it was the right balance between the two. Combined with the rice, it tasted pretty dang good.
" I am dwane, another wan..."
Haruna, the hamster with her cheeks full of curry soup and rice asked for a refill, she forgot about keeping up the image of a classy lady.
Feng Yu Chen knitted her brows and he gave her another bowl of rice. Seriously, is she not afraid of choking?
"I am done..."
Inori, not wanting to lose, started a chowdown competition between herself and Haruna.
"This is sho gwood..."
Asuna sped up as her stomach welcomed the good food. The stale bread was enough to fill the stomach but left more to be desired in terms of taste. Feng Yu Chen's curry rice is the tastiest thing she had ever tasted after entering this world.
The way to conquer a girl's heart is to first conquer her tastebuds, wise words where author disappeared between the pages of history. Meanwhile, Feng Yu Chen is well on his way to becoming the top chef of this world...
"I am done..."
Asuna started competing with the other girls. This time, she merged seamlessly into this group...