Sorry it took so long. Here is the third chapter. Please comment on any mistakes I may have made in the chapter and comment any suggestions on how to improve the story.

Chapter 3: Fast Food Fiend

After 'making the deal' with Ziggy, the group had split up. Velvet and Eleanor prepared the vegetables and staple ingredients, Rokuro and Ziggy went to the nearby forest to hunt down some animals, and Eizen and Laphicet went to gather firewood.

Err… Scratch that. Eizen dragged Magilou (against her will) to help him and Laphicet gather firewood.

"So, what do you think of the guy?" Velvet asked as she is almost done peeling the potatoes.

"Well… He is definitely… something, that's for sure," Eleanor admitted.

"I don't really trust the guy."

"Why? Is it because he seemed too nice to you?"

"Yeah, there's that… And his personality kind of reminded me of Magilou."

"…Fair point."

"HEY! What is that suppose to me!?" Magilou shouted, as she came back with Eizen and Laphicet. The three of them were carrying bundles of sticks and small branches.

"And why did I have to be forced to gather piles of wood!?" Magilou continued to complain, "I'm a delicate and fragile maiden. I shouldn't be doing such intense labor!"

Eizen shrugged as he said, "If we didn't, you would just try to escape doing work of any kind."

"Guilty as charged," Magilou said.

Just then, Ziggy and Rokuro arrived. Ziggy was carrying a basket filled with greens and what seemed to be tomatoes. Rokuro, on the other hand, had a pair of large boar in his arms.

"Looks like things are almost ready," Ziggy said, "Can one of you start the fire while I butcher the Bauruns?"

"Sure thing," said Eizen.

"Wait… Are these boars seriously called Bauruns?" Magilou asked, dumbfounded.

Ziggy then chucked a bit, "Yeah, the person who originally named these monsters seemed to love his pun names."

"I'll give you a hand with that," Velvet said to Ziggy, "I can butcher one boar, and you can handle the other."

"Thanks, that would really help," said Ziggy with a smile.

Eizen quickly started preparing the fire at the Practice Kitchen's stove, while Velvet and Ziggy started butchering the boars. The rest of the group took a break while waiting for the food.

While working on her boar, she glanced at Ziggy sometimes. She kept an eye on him to make sure he wasn't doing something suspicious, like adding poison or sleeping powder on their food. While Ziggy hadn't done anything suspicious yet, Velvet did admit that Ziggy was pretty good at his knife skills.

"So Velvet, are you a chef too?" Ziggy suddenly asked.

Velvet was briefly caught off guard by the question, but she quickly recovered before Ziggy noticed she was watching him.

"Yeah, I've been cooking for a long time."

"Are you interested in joining the competition?"

"Not really."

"Why not? You seem pretty good so far."

Velvet gave Ziggy a slight scowl before saying, "It's not like I'll be able to win without my sense of taste."

Surprisingly, Ziggy didn't seem surprised at all from hearing Velvet say that. In fact, he actually smiled.

"I see. You lost your sense of taste," Ziggy said. However, he then added, "But you shouldn't dismiss it so quickly."

Velvet gave Ziggy an odd look, but the both of them continued butchering their boars.

Once it's done, Ziggy started mincing the meat and mixing it with different seasonings and greens. He also used the tomato-like fruits to make a sauce that's being reduced in a pan. Throughout the whole cooking process, Velvet made sure to keep a good eye on him.

Once Ziggy was done, his finally dish ended up being plates of grounded pork patties in buns. The patties were coated in the sauce and topped with some greens. He even made some salad for a side dish.

"Here you go! Baurun Pork Burgers with Sun Hat Tomato BBQ Sauce, with a salad to help cleanse the palate!" Ziggy exclaimed with flare on his tone.

"Sun Hat Tomato?" asked Magilou with a face, "Man, these names are really pun-y."

"Why are you upset with puns? Don't you make a bunch of them?" Rokuro asked, confused.

"They are only funny when I'm the one making them," Magilou said with a shrug.

"Do you want me to take the first bite?" asked Ziggy before breaking into a smile, "That way, you know I didn't add anything to the food. You can even choose which one I'll eat."

"So, you noticed I was watching you?" Velvet asked suspiciously.

Ziggy then shrugged before saying, "It's kinda hard to ignore your dagger-throwing glare on my back."

"Fine then."

Velvet grabbed one of the burgers at random and tossed it to Ziggy. Ziggy smiled as he took a bit without any hesitation. After a moment, nothing seemed to have happened.

"Seems fine to me," Magilou said before grabbing another of the burgers, "I call dibs on the big one!"

One by one, everyone proceeded to grab their own burgers from the plate and started eating. A mix of amazed and blissful expressions soon appeared on the group's expression.

Velvet was the last person to grab a burger. She shrugged before taking a bite, expecting to taste nothing.

However, her eyes widened as she slowly ate her bite before finally swallowing it.

"I-I can actually taste it…" Velvet said, almost in a whisper.

"What!? Really!?" Eleanor expressed in shock.

"Remember when I said that the people around here relied on monsters as a source of food?" Ziggy started, "Well, those monsters, as well as a couple of special plants, have a strange phenomenon called Taste Gems."

"Taste Gems?" Laphicet asked.

"That's right," Ziggy replied, "They are basically elements within monsters and plants that correspond to taste, as well as your typical magic element."

Ziggy pulled out a notebook and drew something on one of its pages. He showed the drawing, which was a sketch of three symbols. There was a flame, a droplet of water, and a piece of stone.

"There are three main elements for the Taste Gems. Fire Elements correspond to spicy flavors and savory-meaty flavors. Water Elements usually refer to either to fishy tastes and sweet flavors. And Earth Elements means bitter and… well… earthy flavors."

"So… You're saying I could taste the food because, not so much the food's natural flavors, but because of the Taste Gems," Velvet said thoughtfully, "And you don't seem all that surprised about this development."

"Well, I had a feeling this would happen," said Ziggy with a shrug.

Ziggy then broke into a smile.

"So, looks like you no longer have an excuse anymore."

Velvet, confused, raised an eyebrow to Ziggy's response.

"An excuse for what?"

"To not join in the cooking competition," Ziggy answered, his grin becoming bigger, "Unless you have another reason not to join."

Author's Note:

Thank you for reading. Don't forget to comment or review your suggestions, so I can know how to improve my story.