"Can I have some clams too? Pretty please?"
The sudden request made the Grand Elder startled, but after a short while adjusting his mindset with this spontaneous request, he nodded slightly with a forced smile. He called for Chomper and sent him away to fetch the best clams they had for the Mistress.
While the Grand Elder was entertaining the Mistress, a new directive has been hastily disseminated clan-wide!
All high-leveled potentials with a three and above spirit crystals allocation per month must reach mastery-level on the new Dam Haji mind sharpening technique! No buts! Only the top one-hundred will be given a chance to follow the new advancement program in collaboration with the Breakthrough Specialist landbeast Lord!
However, it was said that the real number who will be eligible for the program was much lower than the stated one-hundred creatures mentioned. Hence, everyone needed to climb the highest they could to get a chance to enroll.
Again, the recently popular Dam Haji Mind-sharpening Technique soared to greater heights as it has been endorsed by the Circle of Elders! Everybody was busy with either a black pebble or a white one, practicing their moves. After a while, some guides and tips suddenly appeared where one had to purchase them with their spirit crystals. It became a lucrative business headed none other than the shrewd Alpy, the tortoise. Saras, Mata, and Kolo were always by his side, forming a clique of their own, and they do team battles now! Their winning streaks keep on going, while their blueberry-tortoise-shell chests were getting fuller with glimmering Spirit Crystals! It was the best time of their lives, but also the most dangerous one; even the ones with the lowest intelligence amongst them noticed this. They knew now that their lives were in jeopardy. If they didn't get the grace of the Landbeast Lord, they would've been dead with all the resources they hoard at the moment!
"We really need to hug the Mistress' thigh tightly! (1) Never let go! If we got a chance to defect, it will be for the best!" Gramps Alpy whispered with his other three team members seriously inside his own upgraded underwater chamber. Although they're not that close before, this event had made their lives tightly knit together. Either they lived together or died together as a team. The culprit who started the whole chained events, Chomper, was innocently serving the Mistress in the air pocket, while having the thickest immunity of all! Hence, they automatically excluded him from their agendas.
The rest nodded vigorously. "But, will the Mistress receive us? Won't it cause a strive between the Mistress and the clan?" Saras looked around worriedly while she whispered her womanly voice even softer than Gramps Alpy.
"This is your task, Saras. Find a way. We must be part of the Mistress' faction regardless if we stay or migrate. The princess' power isn't up to par yet. She couldn't protect us for long when the Mistress is away. Even worse, if the Mistress brings the princess along and her attendant, we are all dead meat."
"Isn't the Grand Elder on our side?"
"No. He's neutral with the internal affairs of the clan. His only intention is for the clan to grow in strength. To him, little sacrifices don't matter as long as the clan prosper."
It turned out, the lowest level of servants had been able to read Grand Elder Watershade like an open book! It was truly unexpected!
"I will do my very best, Gramps Alpy. Our lives are in everyone's care. Let's work together to survive this." Saras nodded. In her mind, she resolutely needed to flirt with the Mistress and permanently let the team received her grace. Hence, as Gramps Alpy said, little sacrifices don't matter for the benefit of the team. Saras was actually a very kind-hearted dolphin, although experiences she had gone through in her long life had made her more cautious with her speech and actions.
"From our side, we will collect as much Spirit Crystals as possible to make us eligible for the advancement program. I'm sure there will be some kind of payment needed. The resources of the program wouldn't be free. The higherups are not that stupid." The silent Kolo sounded his opinion with a low tone, startling everyone. Even the introverted crocodile knew that he needed to step up in this life-and-death game.
"At the same time, we need to train our own people to get better at Dam Haji. We need to rise to the top. This is a heaven-sent opportunity. We just need to maneuver cautiously." Mata added softly.
"We don't have much time. Chomper has sent words that most probably the Mistress will return to land by today. We must grab this chance and grind as much spirit crystals before we leave!"
The four disappeared from Gramps Alpy's little cave with new objectives to achieve.
"Awww.. thank you so much, Grand Elder! These look so succulent!"
Around ten clams the size of a baseball each were presented to Hana by Saras, the pink dolphin. All of them were still alive, with their tongues sticking out merrily. Hana had never seen such large clams before. So full of sincerity!
"Haha, anything for our Aranyella's Mistress." The Grand Elder chuckled dryly. "These are superior-grade Azure Meaty Clams, a standard meal for us around here. It has a hint of spirituality as one consumed it daily will have a slightly faster progress in their cultivation."
"Let's eat this together!"
Grand Elder blinked and wondered how the Mistress was going to prepare everything. He remembered that her dwelling was full of random pieces of equipment for food preparation; totally different from them who used to take everything raw.
Hana's call startled Chomper. But, visiting the Mistress so often had made him an unspoken partial member of the Lightning Serpent's faction, so he knew what needed to be done. Practically everyone there will give him orders. Nonetheless, they viewed him in a favorable manner compared to the Young Miss herself. Hence, he didn't have the heart to defy their requests. Additionally, their orders weren't harsh ones. Either help out with food preparation, water the plants, or assist in random miscellaneous light work.
Chomper automatically went forward and conjured a large water bubble the size of an extra-large watermelon in front of Hana.
A brawny purple-colored Elemental Fiend crawled over respectfully. Upon its antenna, a blazing reddish yellow fire was burning vigorously. It stopped just beside Hana as the aunty gave it a light doting pat on the head. It was a short pat only due to the Elemental Fiend's high temperature, but 'F1' droned with delight. After that, the fire turned blue, and it inserted one of its antennae into the hovering watermelon-sized water bubble conjured up by Chomper.
In the Grand Elder's heart, he was quite awed with the aunty's brain-washing abilities; making all the creatures around her love doing her bidding. At the same time, he was anticipating the Mistress secret method of preparing advancement concoction. It will be his first time seeing it live.
It took less than a minute to let the water boil. After a while, Hana called again. "Dear, over here."
Her own mount, an orange color worker-classed Elemental Fiend, also with a brawny physique, went over. It turned out there was something like a hidden sachet-like cloth tied to the Elemental Fiend's body. It nestled cleverly in between the section of its thorax and its abdomen. It was made from the same material of Hana's 'swimsuit', Kuro's shriveled skin.
Hana untied the sachet and took out some miscellaneous items. She started throwing something like sand in the boiling water bubble, two black ear-shaped strips, and three light greenish sticks. Once she did that, she immediately called for her beloved fox over.
"Shi-chan, take over."
As the random miscellaneous items nearly sank to the bottom of the boiling water bubble, they froze at the same spot within, as if their movement had been taken control by an invisible hand. The succulent clams with their tongues moving around were mercilessly thrown into the air towards the hovering boiling water bubble by Hana.
As if being plucked mid-air, the clams landed inside the boiling water bubble while a miniature cyclone appeared from within! The splashes were covered in time by the sudden appearance of another layer of water-air bubble around the main boiling bubble!
Five minutes was all it took(3). The clams safely landed on the table, as they emitted a lovely aroma, befitting their level of freshness.
The aunty suavely cooked clams like a boss! If Hana's new cooking method was recorded and posted online, it definitely deserved more than a hundred thousand likes and shot to fame within mere minutes!
Even the Grand Elder was shocked this time. He was quite impressed with the preparation method performed by Hana and co., though feeling slightly conflicted seeing how obedient Chomper was with Hana's instructions. He served the Mistress better than he served the Grand Elder. They have seamless teamwork, as if they had done it a million times.
Hana picked one of the steaming clams with her bare hand and pried its already partially opened shell wide.
"Shi-chan! Aaaaaa.." The aunty opened her mouth, asking Shiro to open up. The bashful white fox opened up his mouth to receive the clam meat. His eyes brightened immediately.
"It's really good, Mom. I think you can handle this. Have a go yourself."
"Wait, wait. Chomper, Pi-chan, Saras, come over and line up." She proceeded to feed them one by one happily. Chomper and Saras blushed furiously, though the energetic little P-chan was happy with whatever being given to it. After seeing everyone eating their share, Hana nodded with satisfaction and eat one for herself.
"!!!" It was super fresh, succulent, and slightly sweet! She had fallen in love with the clams.
Grand Elder Watershade could finally gain some insight as he observed Hana's antics. He now understood why these creatures were loyal to her so much.
"Yes!" Again, the aunty disrupted the Grand Elder's thoughts. It made him very displeased.
Grand Elder Watershade took a deep breath to calm himself and wait for the Mistress' request.
"Aaaa.. open your mouth. This is for you. Sorry, I forgot about you just now."
Everyone blinked their eyes, feeling astonished and awkward at the same time.
- "We really need to hug the Mistress' thigh tightly! = this is a common phrase with the meaning “let stuck ourselves to A in order to gain benefits”.
- F1 = fire 1. A random code name given by Hana to her loyal termite pet bcoz there are too many of them (a little trivia haha)
- Five minutes was all it took = this is not the real cooking time for clams ya. Remember that the clams here are the size of a tennis ball haha. There are many ways to cook clams, some styles don't even need cooking. However, this way of cooking is real (of course you have to use a pot), and we usually cook the clams in just 2-3 minutes under big fire. Cook too long, the flesh will shrink and the taste will be gone. It is called ‘masak bening’. A simple cooking comprise of steeping seafood in boiling water infused with lemongrass (the greenish sticks), salt and dried brindleberry (the black strip). We don’t drink the ‘soup’. Usually we discard it. We only eat the food steep within.