It had been almost a week since we had picked up the young girl named Chrysanthemum, who was very likely the only elf in this world. After she spent an evening getting used to her new family, we all pondered just what kind of ability she had that defined the nature of the Luck stat.
In my experience with video games, Luck was typically tied to some random number generator, which tipped in one direction or the other, based on the amount of points allocated. However, the types of things this affected were so broad that we hardly knew where to start.
“Maybe it’s tied to one’s personality or skills from the previous world?” Lau suggested.
Lau had told us at some point that he juggled competitively in his previous world, which he guessed was the reason he specialized in Dex as an Electi. When I asked Ludmila about her past, she mentioned that she had come from a family of hunters who tracked their prey before rushing in for a speedy kill. These seemed hardly like things that defined them as a person, so I thought it was a bit peculiar that whatever divine being would choose their specialization based solely from that.
However, when I looked at myself, I saw no sensible reason that I would be good at Crit. After all, I had been a normal college student right up to my arrival into this world. Knowing how to work a knife as a chef and using pressure point techniques as an Eastern healer seemed like nonsense reasons for being good at hitting weak points. Yet, no matter how much of my past I dug up in front of the others, there was no obvious flag to be found. Katsys and Ludmila, in particular, found my past life to be amusing though, despite it being dull to me.
Chrys could not come up with anything useful on her end either as to why she was a ‘lucky girl.’ Her life had been as normal and peaceful as any child could hope for. Though her fellow elves learned and made use of magic spells, they were not a combative group by nature. Magic in their culture was used to connect with nature, as Chrys could not think of a single time in which it was used to hurt another. How nice. It seemed like she had come from one of those magical fantasy worlds that took place in a children’s story. Wouldn’t that make her ‘unlucky’ then to be thrust into another world?
Sitting around and telling our stories was not getting us anywhere, so I proposed that we run some tests instead.
“Say, do you know how to gamble?” I asked Chrys, which she promptly shook her head ‘no’.
‘Of course, she was 10. Who in the right mind would teach a kid how to lose money?’ I smacked myself. However, the first thought that crossed my mind was whether her Luck influenced her daily life, which could be tested by games of chance.
Several pairs of eyes glinted in the room at the mention of gambling though, as I felt Lau and Neiya’s gazes prick at me from afar. Uh oh, did I just activate a ‘Trap card’?
“Ron!” Someone’s hand was completed as I placed a tile in the middle.
“Again! What the hell….” I looked down in despair at my empty bowl of money.
We had spent the past hour playing mahjong. Aside from me, who was an amateur at it, Neiya, Kanade and Lau had joined in. Having played a bit with relatives during the holidays, I thought it was an appropriate way to test If Chrys influenced the luck of chance.
However, I didn’t expect to get so thoroughly trashed by Neiya and Lau such that nothing I did seemed to matter. For old-timers, Neiya and Lau were ruthless, conniving, and fiercely competitive when it came to this game. Kanade wasn’t so bad herself, but she was content with the fact that her losses were only minor.
On the other hand, I had been playing with Chrys sitting on my lap. Quickly picking up how to play, I allowed her to draw the tiles, hoping that her ‘Luck’ would kick in at any moment. However, rather than winning, it seemed like we kept getting crushed by the torrent of ‘Pon’ and ‘Tsumo’ shouts that echoed from across the table. I could swear that they were hiding twisted faces like those from that one gambling anime… After several rounds, it became quite clear to me that her Luck didn’t affect games of chance. My poor wallet had become a casualty as a result.
“Maybe, she can get a lucky hit during a fight?” Katsys chimed in next.
In some games, Luck was certainly a stat that replaced ‘Accuracy’ or ‘Hit Chance,’ which was something missing when we looked at our stats. Yet, Chrys was no fighter. She could barely swing the stick that Lau handed to her. Since I had lost so badly in mahjong, Lau agreed to return a small portion of my money if I volunteered as the test dummy.
I casually moved out of the way as Chrys clumsily stumbled past me with a wide swing of the stick. It didn’t take much for me to dodge such obvious attacks. It seems like her Luck didn’t override her opponent’s ability to evade.
“Now, hold still!” Lau shouted at me.
I stood in place as the stick in Chrys’s hand whacked me on the forehead. I gritted my teeth, just in case the Luck parameter happened to cause critical damage or a one-hit-KO. Well, her aim was decent when I stopped moving, but it didn’t hurt at all. My Defense stat was simply too high. A few light bops on the head later, we had dismissed the guess that her Luck was tied to combat skills. Since she couldn’t use magic, testing her ability with magical spells was pointless as well.
“Let’s give up for now. I’m sure that the answer will come to us eventually. After all, it’s time to prepare dinner.” Neiya winked at me in that moment.
With a sigh, I walked towards the kitchen. It had actually been Neiya’s turn today, but she had offered to return some money if I volunteered to take her duty for tonight. After learning the dishes from Kanade, it felt like the cooking duties were delegated to me more and more often.
Looking at the ingredients on hand, I decided to make dumplings and consommé soup. After finely cutting vegetables and mushrooms to serve as the soup base, I dunked them in a pot of water and added some spices. Letting the magic stove do its work to shimmer the soup, I worked on the dough next, mixing the flour and water, and then, rolling it out into thin sheets. The large sheet was then cut into a multitude of smaller sheets. By the time that was complete, a foggy, reddish soup was giving off a refreshing scent.
I scooped out the bits of vegetable that rested on the bottom of the pot and strained them before throwing it into a pan with some ground meat. Pan-frying the mixture allowed a rich, meaty flavor to seep into the mound of diced veggies, making the overall mixture a perfect filling for dumplings.
Afterward, I nimbly spooned some of the filling onto the dough sheets and bundled them all up. Now, they just needed to be cooked once more, but that could wait until right before they were served.
As a chef, it wasn’t enough to simply make food palatable. I had been taught by my father to pay attention to aesthetics on occasion. I looked over at the soup. In the case of a consommé, the broth was more valued the clearer it became. Fetching some cheesecloth from the cabinet, I filtered the broth into another pot, which removed the cloudiness in the previous batch. What resulted was a clear liquid that mirrored the surroundings reflected off it. Looking at the clock, there was plenty of time for the liquid to reduce and become more flavorful.
At that moment, I noticed a pointy ear hiding behind the doorway.
“Chrys? That you? What are you hiding for?”
Slowly, the elven girl shifted her body from behind the entrance. She sniffed the air once before a loud rumble emitted from her stomach.
She nodded sheepishly in response.
I looked over at the dumplings and had a thought. Maybe, this would cheer her up.
“Welcome to Chef Evers’ cooking show. Watch closely because food will be ready for you in just a jiffy!” I gave her a courteous bow before moving over to grab a few dumplings.
As I sauntered back in front of her, I tossed a dumpling into the air before catching it. Next, I tossed two before catching them both. And then, three cycled into the air before finding its way back into my palms. Lau had taught me some basics of juggling, but three was my limit for now.
Chrys gave me a look of wonder, confused at what I was doing.
“And here comes the trick.”
This time, I focused fire magic around my hands, once again tossing the dumplings into the air. As they moved in a circle above my hands, I kept tossing them in sequence, letting the flames lick across their surface. Gradually, the dumplings turned a darker brown, the surface of them being roasted as they were juggled. Chrys’s eyes were glued to this display of motion, a smile creeping onto her face. After a few minutes, I gave them a final high toss in the air and extinguished the flames. Quickly grabbing a plate, it was thrust under the landing spot where the dumplings landed perfectly on top.
Chrys accepted the plate with glee as she greedily munched on one of the dumplings. I walked over to the stove and scooped a cup of soup for her as well. Handing it to her, I eagerly waited for her evaluation.
Her eyes opened wide as she took several sips of the soup.
“It…It tastes like the earth…”
“Excuse me?” I cocked my head at the strange description.
“Like nature back home.” Chrys gently held the cup of soup to her body and closed her eyes, the memories of her home flooding back into her.
On the other hand, I stood there confused, not understanding whether she had complimented me or that it tasted like actual dirt. I hoped for the former, but I realized at that point that I had no idea what elves ate normally.
“Mother told me. That the earth takes care of us. That we feel its love by eating its food. To remain close to nature by cherishing what it gives us…” Chrys opened her eyes and stared at me. “I was scared…When I woke up, I couldn’t feel it. I couldn’t feel the earth. I didn’t know what to do. It was like a bad dream.”
Chrys walked forward and plopped her head into my stomach. My hand naturally went up to stroke her hair. After a moment, she continued.
“I think I feel it now. The feeling is different, but the warmth is the same.” She took another sip of the soup. “It’s right here, in this food.”
Suddenly, a few things clicked in my head. Kanade had told me that ‘mana was the lifeblood of nature.’ Since mana helped things flourish in this world, maybe Chrys was attuned with the flow of mana that was used in objects. Since I had been improving my mana-infused cooking, that was likely what she had felt in my food.
“Say, Chrys. Would you- would you like to learn how to cook?”
The elf girl looked up at me in surprise.
“You know, when I first arrived in this world, I had no idea what I was going to do. I felt worthless. I felt lost.” I backed up and crouched down to her eye level. “Just like how you are feeling now. But you know what? I decided to cook. It gave me direction. It gave me purpose. I don’t know if you would be interested, but that’s what I can offer you at this point. That’s all I can think of to connect you to the earth once again.”
More than anything, what Chrys needed right now was a pillar to support herself on. If she could find some comfort sensing the earth through cooking, then I would try my best to help her along. Just like how Eryn and her family supported me, I could do the same with my own abilities.
Wordlessly, Chrys clutched the cup to her chest for a moment. Despite her lack of verbal response, she then gave me the brightest smile that I had ever seen from her.