10 ~ Every Gourmet Needs a Bard
Night has fallen as Leif, Alicia, and Wendy make their way into a new town. The wooden buildings in this place have a quaint feel to them. Golden light spills out from the checkered windows of buildings onto the paved road running through town.
The collective stomachs of the three travelers growl as they stumble down the main road. Alicia sighs as they pass under a lamppost. "Humanity at last… I don't know when's the last time I've had a nice bed to sleep in. Let's just find an inn and retire for the night."
"And get some real food while we're at it!" Wendy adds.
Leif blinks at her. "Hm? You mean Leif's Mysterious Potpourri of Mysteriously Edible Goodies was not good enough for you?"
The girls continue walking on. "I'll take that as a no… hmph."
As he quickens his pace to catch up, Leif examines the buildings in town. "Hmm… this place looks familiar. It can't be—ah! Gastroville? But then…"
Owing to the relative earliness of the night, the only inn in Gastroville proves to be quite busy. As Leif swings open the door into the building, they discover a nearly packed house filled with guests intent on merrymaking. Warm light falls onto the travelers' faces as a redheaded waitress in a bunny suit approaches them.
"Ah, more guests? I'll be with you in just a minute. Make yourselves comfortable in the meantime!"
Alicia stares after the girl as she walks away. "The fauna in this area sure are strange. Who would've thought that anthropomorphic bunny rabbits existed?"
"No, she's just wearing a bunny suit…. You really weren't lying when you said you don't do a lot of traveling, were you?"
The mustached bartender turns as Leif, Alicia, and Wendy walk up to him. "What'll it be, folks?"
"We'll be needing a place to stay," answers Leif.
"Sure. How many rooms?"
"O—" Leif begins, but after seeing the look on Alicia's face, changes his mind. "Make that two."
"Right-o. Second and third rooms on your right."
Leif accepts the keys held out to him. He passes one to Alicia and quickly says, "All right, let's get in our rooms and retire for the night."
"It's so early, though," says Alicia. "I want to chat with the locals to see if we can find some information that might be helpful."
"And I want to eat!" Wendy chips in, her cheeks puffing up with dangerous cuteness.
Rubbing the back of his head, Leif exhales. "Welllll… I'm not sure if that's such a good… idea…"
Before he has a chance to finish his thought, Leif spots someone walking towards them. A distinct lull has fallen over the room. Suddenly, someone lets out a shout. "A song, a song!"
While Leif groans, Alicia and Wendy turn in the direction of the commotion. A bard with buckteeth and a scar running along the side of his chin gives a whoop and hops onto a wooden table. His black hair, cropped short and smoothed to maximum capacity with pomade, sparkles obnoxiously in the light of the lamps in the room.
"Who is that violently hideous man?" asks Alicia. Leif groans again.
In the meantime, the bard holds a hand over his eyes as if surveying the room. Eventually, his eyes land on Alicia. "Aha! Fair maiden spotted!"
The bard takes a flying leap off the table, causing many around him to either shout with alarm or duck as the table wobbles and crashes to the ground. He lands in front of Alicia, and bows low to her before producing a banjo from out of nowhere.
"A song for milady?"
"U-um…" mutters Alicia.
Before Alicia can reply, though, the bard begins singing anyway.
"OHHH YOU ARE QUITE A HUNNY, ALMOST AS LOVELY AS THESE WAITRESS BUNNIES. I THINK GASTROVILLE HASN'T HAD ENOUGH OF YOUR FILL. YOUR EYES ARE ROUND LIKE THE BALLS IN TENNIS, AND I THINK YOUR FIGURE COULD REALLY PLEASE MY—"
"I think that's just about enough!" shouts Leif, stepping in between the bard and Alicia.
The bard squints at Leif for a moment. Then, his eyes burst open with recognition. "Hey! It's you! I haven't seen you since we dressed up like women to steal the hams from that aristocrat!"
Alicia and Wendy glare at Leif. He scowls. "Don't let them get the wrong idea, dumbass! We were stealing those hams to feed a starving kid!"
"I'm sure you were, Leif." Alicia folds her arms.
With a sigh, Leif buries his face in his palm. "Well, I guess there's no use hiding him from you guys now. Alicia, Wendy, meet Elliot Bordeaux. He's a traveling bard… and an old acquaintance."
"Nice to meetcha," Elliot winks.
"What's with that scar?" Wendy asks, pointing at the strangely-shaped scar on Elliot's face. Three parallel lines run down the side of his chin, as if formed by a claw of some sort.
Elliot flinches and backs away from Wendy. "Every scar has a heroic backstory! Are you asking me to break the suspense and tell it to you now?! Very well. I received this baby when I was confronted by a ferocious kitty monster. Deciding that the lives of the town were too precious for me not to do anything, I jum—"
"He got it when someone didn't like his performance and threw a fork at him," Leif interrupts.
Alicia's eye twitches. "Th-that's such a…"
"Lame backstory? Yep."
"My manly reputation…" whimpers Elliot. "It has been… sullied!"
Another hush now silences the crowd, but for another reason. A backdoor inside the room bursts open as a young man comes running into the building. The panic in his voice is evident. "Again! It's happened again!"
Whispers break out among the crowd. Alicia raises her eyebrows, looking from Leif to Elliot. "Huh? What's happened again?"
Elliot's face grows dark. "So it's happened again, huh…? The Mystery of the Ratatouille."
-PARADOX HUNTER 10