Chapter 67: Gluttonous Feast

The flavor! It was the first thing that filled Zhou Qianlin’s mind as she popped the roll in to her mouth. She couldn’t imagine how she’d never had something so delicious before. She took a quick sip of that sweet and spicy wine, which elevated the flavor to even greater heights.

For a long moment Zhou Qianlin tried to contain herself, but soon couldn’t help but lean towards Lan Jue. “Amazing,” she said in quiet tones.

“The best is yet to come,” he whispered in her ear.

His breath in her ear caused her pretty face to redden ever so slightly. She moved away.

Not long after the wraps had been finished, the second course arrived. Everyone was provided a small copper pot with an alcohol burner in it’s base to heat the plate. Within the ‘hot pot’ simmered a simple kelp soup.

Next were provided several plates, upon which were long strips of fish. They were of a slightly darker hue than those used in the wraps.

“Mid-abdominal meat. Place the strips in the water. After it’s boiled and the meat turns white, then it’s ready to be eaten. But don’t let it sit too long.” The Gourmet sat to join his guests. Lan Jue poured him a glass of wine.

He then turned to Zhou Qianlin. “Also part of the fish belly, but not as rich. You can eat it raw or boiled. For balance we don’t want the oily sensation from eating it raw, so we’ll have it b oiled.”

After providing each of the diners with a helping of sauce, the Gourmet took a sip of the sherry. He shot the Wine Master a quick glance.

The Wine mastered responded with cool indifference. “Don’t give me that look. There are too many people.” More people meant more wine would be consumed. And for each bottle enjoyed that was one less bottle in store. This was especially poignant for his rarer stock.

The soups began to boil, and the fish was placed inside. In only a few short moments pink became white and the fish was extricated from the hot water to be eaten. It was smeared with a vinegar-based sauce, enhanced with secret ingredients before bites were taken. The outside was boiled white while the depths remained red, like frosted hawthorn cakes.

The meat didn’t have the flavor of the upper abdominal slices from before, but when paired with the sauce it’s taste was almost beyond compare.

Side dishes of pickled vegetables were then scattered across the table to be paired with the meal.

The hot pots were cleared away and slices of fish sashimi were prepared, from all parts of the fish. Light pink, light red, deep red – they were brought out in waves, in pieces large and small. It was presented with horse radish and wasabi, and everyone lapsed in to silence as they enjoyed the food.

The fifty-two pound fish was truly too much to finish despite there being eight of them. However, the Gourmet had already accounted for this, and planned to bring the remainders down to the Underground for when he entertained other distinguished guests.

“The final course. Fried fish head and neck.” The Gourmet returned with a massive platter, atop of which was the head and neck of the tuna roasted to a golden hue. He set it before the watchful eyes of the guests.

The face itself was ferocious, and compared to what had come before looked a sight less appetizing.

“It certainly doesn’t look very good. Does it really taste alright?” The Accountant eyes the platter, unconvinced.

But no sooner had he asked than two of the other guests had already tucked in. Two pairs of old Chinese-style chopsticks had plucked clear the eyes, and returned only a moment later to begin plucking away at what meat remained.

“Wow, the face even.” The Accountant still eyed the fish head with uncertainty. On the other hand he knew the others to be accomplished foodies, especially the first two to partake – Jewelry Master Lan Jue and the usually restrained Wine Master. With the evidence presented to him, the head had to be delicious.

The others were also quick to move, and it took only s short time for the head to be reduced to nearly nothing.

Zhou Qianlin watched Lan Jue as his fingers shot out like lightning to snap up the fish, and even though her taste buds were still full of the taste of the dish from earlier she trusted Lan Jue’s judgement.

“Fish eyes, they clear vision and nourish the eyes. Make it like crystal. Have some.” Lan Jue placed the eye he plucked free upon Zhou Qianlin’s plate.

Her face scrunched in to a look of distaste, and she pushed the small morsel back unto his plate. “You go ahead.”

Lan Jue gave her a flat look. “You aren’t scared are you?” The eye was passed back like a ping-pong ball.

Zhou Qianlin’s face grew red, but she said nothing.

“Alright, try this then.” He exchanged the eye for a bit of face meat.

The Gourmet chuckled to the side. “Gluttons know what good food is. The average person wouldn’t be interested in trying fish head or neck. It’s usually greedy chefs who safe that part for themselves. Bluefish Tuna, as a deep sea fish, doesn’t have a lot of meat in it’s face. Instead it’s composed of colloid, the tastiest part. Best of the best.

Sure enough, as the morsel slipped past her lips Zhou Qianlin was overcome with the mingling pungent flavors of the meat and the distinct texture of the colloid. The explosion of taste would forever be branded in to her memory.

The Accountant had begun to participate, but was unable to procure much for himself. His strength and dexterity were a far sight less capable than the others around the table. It was a failing of his genetics that, though he was not considered slow, his natural abilities were less in comparison. Compared with the fact that the Mechanist kept shoving him out of the way, this left the Accountant with only the crispy brown skin of the fish left to enjoy. The skin was delicious in it’s own right, but did not have any of the colloid the others were reveling in.

The wondrous feast came to it’s conclusion, and though there was bitterness evident in the Accountant’s eyes, no one paid him any mind.

“Thank you, Gourmet. I’m going to head out.” The Tailor stood, nodded politely towards the Gourmet and turned to leave. She paused, however, to face Zhou Qianlin. “Qianlin, please remind Lan Jue to bring you by my shop sometime. You have an excellent figure, you need a set of fine garments to match. I’ll be thinking on it, and when you come by we’ll take your measurements.”

“I’ll send you off.” The Coffee Master stood and joined the Tailor at her side. She shot him a disparaging glance but said nothing. She said her farewells and left.

Lan Jue also stood. “It’s our time to leave as well.” There was no need for him to offer thanks, his relationship with the Gourmet didn’t require it.

“If you come across any particularly tasty morsels in your travels, you keep me in mind,” their host said.

“Hm?” Lan Jue blinked, giving the Gourmet a suspicious glance. “How’d you know I was going on a trip?”

The Gourmet rounded on the Accountant. “With this one’s big mouth hanging around, how could I not know?”

Lan Jue’s features darkened as he looked at the Accountant, making the man shiver.

“You dared to spy on my business?”

“Eh… J-jewely Master, listen. It wasn’t on purpose. I just sort of chanced upon the information. I just know that you and those pretty workers of your are up to something unconventional, hehe, n-no idea what you want to do exactly!”

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