I sat back in my chair as the sound of food sizzled on the portable grill next to me. This world didn’t have anything like a portable grill, but allegedly magic was a thing and there were still enough magical artifacts in this world that pulling out such a device didn’t raise too many eyebrows.
Smoke rose into the sky, and with it the pleasing smell of cooked food. It naturally drew many eyes of interest. Luna salivated as she stared at the cooking food. We had already given her a plate, but she wanted more. I wasn’t going to have her eat me out of house and home though.
Initially, this plan had backfired. As Elizabeth started cooking a meal, demons had approached with the intent of buying. Not every demon was particularly bright, and they weren’t happy to learn that this food wasn’t intended for them.
Things nearly broke into a fight for a bit, but we managed to settle things when a couple of soldiers under Lieutenant Dire appeared and maintained the peace. Whether it had been a coincidence that they arrived or if he had sent them deliberately to help me, I didn’t know.
After that, I decided to use Charak to stare down any demon who thought of approaching. It was enough to keep most of them at bay. As for the human women, we saw one or two poke their heads out occasionally, but they still had yet to bite the bait.
These women had survived to this point by staying in the shadows and out of demons’ ways. There were no laws that explicitly forced humans to hide. Most demons would ignore a human unless they got in their way, and only a few were at the level where they would kick them out of the way if they became a hindrance.
Either way, coming out into the middle of the town square and approaching demons was a step very few of them were willing to take. Perhaps, I had been far luckier than I cared to admit by finding the girls I had found.
At that moment, I found a girl bounding across the town square. She came up to the group of us and looked around for a moment. When her eyes landed on the grill, her mouth opened and she stuck out her tongue, panting slightly. Her tail wagged a bit.
“Hah… Hah…” She looked at the food excitedly.
“Do-do you want some?” Elizabeth asked awkwardly.
The girl closed her mouth and swallowed, and then nodded aggressively, her ears flopping as she did so.
Elizabeth glanced at me, and I gave a nod. She then made a plate of food and handed it to the girl. The girl glanced at me, bit her lip, and then ran to a step where she could sit down. She began to eat the food excitedly.
I let out a long breath. She might have acted a bit too excited, but Luna had done her part well enough. This was the last trick we had come up with. If we used one of the other girls, they might have been recognized, since their involvement with my shop was well known.
However, Luna had only just joined a little over a week ago, and her existence was only known to a few higher-up demons. Furthermore, the last time she would have been seen was when Sal picked her up, so this would add to those who have already been unfortunate enough to take handouts from Sal.
Human beings were followers. Once they saw one person do something, others would be more likely to follow. Men were more likely to act courageously when they saw other men willing to fight for their death. Women were more likely to act promiscuously if surrounded by other women acting in such a manner. Even dumb decisions gained traction because of groupthink, such as when a group started rioting.
I had hoped that a single person, even if they weren’t a human, would start the ball rolling. Luna seemed to be quite attached to food. I had withheld her breakfast and lunch this morning to make her presence realistic, and she now ate the meal we gave her with extreme gusto. I watched her out of the corner of my eye, the seconds ticking away as my anxiousness grew.
That’s when a young woman finally stepped out. There was a second woman who tried to grab her, but she dodged her grip and then ran out across the town square. She moved a bit like Luna. However, where Luna was moving with the eagerness of a hungry person anticipating a meal, this girl moved with a hastiness like she was afraid of getting caught sneaking out past curfew.
She slowed down as she got closer to us, and her last few steps were extremely cautious. She gave me a suspicious look, but after a moment, the smell of the food got to her and she glanced in Elizabeth’s direction.
“They say you’re giving food away… for free?” She asked in a nervous voice.
Elizabeth smiled. “That’s right.”
“Th—then… I’ll take ten plates.” She declared.
Elizabeth’s smile faltered slightly. She had expected such an action.
“You have more than one bowl,” I spoke up, causing her to jump and take a step away from me, her eyes narrowing. “However, you must eat the food in this courtyard before leaving. I wouldn’t have you run away with my plates now.”
Realization crossed her face and her cheeks reddened. She turned back to Elizabeth and gave a short nod.
I had come up with that restriction on the spot. I could have limited it to one plate, but some would take the single plate and split it up. When you were starving, even that much was better than nothing.
I wanted to force the hand of even the most skittish of the women hiding in those alleys and those root cellars. The girls who came would leave with a full belly, and those who refused could only watch in envy.
As for my excuse about the plates, it would have made a lot more sense had I used something other than disposable plates. Thankfully, such a thing didn’t exist in this world. These plates seemed flimsy, but that only made the girl hold onto it tighter, afraid she might lose her precious food. For all they knew, these were special plates, so it was a decent enough excuse.
The new girl didn’t sit by Luna. Instead, she found the spot the farthest she could find that was still concerned within the town square. I had worried for a moment that she might take off running, but I advised Charak not to watch over her, as it would only make her nervous.
I had also noticed she had chosen a spot away from the area she had come from too. Someone had tried to prevent her from getting food, and she had gone against their wishes. It looked like she felt a bit of shame around that as she ate while her friends starved. However, that guilt wasn’t enough to stop her from eating the food on the plate.
Even if she wasn’t starving, this was food cooked by Elizabeth using recipes from my world and ingredients from both. It was a higher quality food than any but the richest demons could afford.
Elizabeth hadn’t started as the cook, but as a princess, Alleya didn’t have a knack for it and Daphne couldn’t be trusted with a knife. There was a brief time with her husband when she had been a homemaker. She had grown up in a normal home and learned the normal things a girl learned. She was a bit rusty, but she picked up on it pretty quickly and now made the meals on top of all of her other responsibilities.
It was another few minutes, but another girl finally came out from an alleyway. She barely reached us by the time a third girl peaked out her head. Slowly, the women of this city started to come out from their hiding places and walked into the light. The town square usually had only a handful of demons walking to and fro as demons weren’t known for their appreciation for décor and the outdoors. However, for the first time, the place was pretty busy. That’s when a couple of announcements appeared in front of me.
[Your minion’s faith in you has increased!]
[You are now a level 5 Minion Master.]
[Your status has increased! Your minion’s status has increased. You can now have 5 minions.]
[Your place in the city has grown.]
[You are now a level 2 Builder.]
[You can now buy additional properties within the city limits.]