"And the first preliminary week comes to an end! We now have 216 guilds left that qualify for the next round. Who will come out victorious in this race for the top? We'll see you all next week for the second preliminary round, the team battles!"
The television screen featured a special news report about the conclusion of the first preliminary week, the single battles. Each guild sent representatives to fight five battles and score at least three wins to stay in the competition. Noctis Noir, Knights Alliance, and Black Rose all made it to the next round. Hot Spicy Crabs, headed by the flamboyant Gaylord, unfortunately did not make it.
Astrid sat at the dining table gazing at the pile of gold and items they won for completing the first preliminary week. She was trying to make a decision.
"I think we should go with your idea and spend it on equipment for the next preliminary week," said Lyria, who was carrying a tray of tea and cookies.
"Can we go on a vacation please?" Amelie slouched on the couch.
Luna leaned her back against the wall and spoke, "I say we upgrade the house, so we can accommodate more members. Even if we get through the next round, we have no chance of winning with our current number of members."
Astrid sighed. "Luna has a point." She paused. "But before that, I want to clear something up."
"Clear what up?"
Astrid turned her head and focused her gaze directly at the Black Rose member sitting on the couch and eating a pizza. "What's Sed doing here?"
Sed looked back. "Hm? Oh, Chris invited me here for pizza." He took a bite. "This pizza is amazing!"
"What if we make ends meet and allocate the gold?" Lyria suggested.
Astrid gave it some thought. "House upgrades are pricey, so we can barely do any upgrades if we split the gold. Equipments aren't cheap either, especially if we want to invest on the best ones."
"Forego the vacation?"
Amelie was devastated. "But vacation!"
Astrid leaned on the table. "We can also start a fundraiser."
"What kind of fundraiser?" Luna asked.
"I've never eaten such a delicious pizza!" Sed exclaimed with tears of joy.
"If we were to sell something, it would have to be an item that is high in demand so it will sell fast." Astrid leaned back against her chair.
"What item fits that category?" Luna asked.
"I love pizza!" Sed continued his compliments.
"Food?" Amelie guessed.
"What kind of food though?" Lyria asked.
"I swear if you sell this stuff, it'd get popular pretty fast," Sed said after eating the last of his slice of pizza.
The girls looked at each other. They've found their answer. It was pizza.
"Pizza Noir. We serve fresh always," Lyria came up with a caption. "I like it." She placed the tray she was carrying on the coffee table in front of Sed.
"Pizza increases magic attack for a period of time, so it's not a bad item to sell. It also has a good market value." Astrid nodded. "This could work."
"I'll help spread the word," Sed offered as he reached out to grab another slice. "I can't get enough of this stuff. Chris is a cooking genius!" As he continued to eat Amelie's pizza, he gradually forgot that Amelie was his rival for Jasmine's affections. Until now, he still hadn't figured out that Amelie was actually female.
"Don't mention it. It's the least I could do for getting all this free food from Chris."
Astrid folded her arms and closed her eyes for a moment to think. "If we're going to mass produce pizza, we'll need to farm for its ingredients: flour, cheese, meat, and bell pepper. It would be faster if we split into two farming groups."
Luna threw a fist up in the air. "Alright! I'm ready to do some farming!"
Amelie threw both her hands up in the air. "For the vacation!"
Sed threw up on the floor.
"Sed!?" Lyria jumped back. "Did you overeat?"
He had his hands over his stomach. "I'm so sorry. I don't know why, but I suddenly feel unwell."
Amelie paused to think and removed a purple bottle from her inventory. "I wonder if it's cause of the new seasoning I tried out. It dropped from the Rose Flower monsters."
Astrid snatched the bottle from the mage's hand to examine it. "This isn't seasoning. It's powdered poison."
Amelie laughed nervously. "Oh woops."
Lyria ran to the cupboard and removed a bottle. "If I remember correctly, this should neutralize the poison."
"Don't you have Cure?" Sed struggled to ask.
"Sorry. I didn't learn Cure."
He sighed. "I hope you remembered right." Sed was looking pale as he received leaves from Lyria. He swallowed them all. Almost immediately, he felt better. "Thank goodness."
"I'm so sorry, Sed!" Amelie apologized.
Astrid stared at the plate of pizza. "I don't think we can sell the pizza at its current state."
Sed sighed in relief and slouched on the couch. "No wonder the pizza tasted different from the usual. That seasoning you added really boosted its flavor."
"I wonder if the poison will be neutralized if we add in those leaves Lyria had."
"You can try it out, but I'm not willing to be your guinea pig!" Sed moved back like a traumatized child.
Astrid stood up and walked over to the plate of pizza. "If I die, I leave all my possessions to the guild." She took a leaf from Lyria's bottle and crushed it. Then, she sprinkled it on top of a slice.
"No Astrid! Don't say things like that!" Luna extended her hand dramatically.
Astrid's cat ears twitched. "Innovation always has its risks, but you'll never make progress unless you take those risks."
"Now you're saying cool lines just to have decent final last words!"
"Nevermind. That part didn't sound cool!"
Astrid ate the slice. Her eyes widened. For a moment, she just stood still. Everyone else waited in anticipation.
"So, do you feel like you're dying?" Sed broke the silence.
"This tastes incredible!" She finished the last of the slice.
They waited for a bit longer to see if she would start throwing up. Luckily, it didn't happen.
Astrid shrugged. "Should be safe I guess."
Sed shook his head in disbelief. "You should really do some more testing before you accidentally poison all your customers and become infamous all over Aries for that."
Amelie opened a cabinet revealing more bottles of poison. "Not to worry! I have just enough of that stuff to do tests. I can set up a free sample stand in town!"
"The moderators are definitely going to ban you."
Astrid folded her arms. "Anyway, we need to stock up on ingredients first. Anyone up for some farming?"
The rest cheered except Sed. "Yeah!"
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