Jot had a serious look on his face. Not that he didn’t normally look serious, but he definitely was at this point. Richard couldn’t help but mention it, “What’s wrong Jot?”
“Hmm, well, opinion is divided on whether you can be an official member of the Association. There is some precedent for non-Xevaronians, but not that many cases.”
“Well, what difference does it make, practically?”
“It affects your status, but I suppose most relevant is if you ever want to apply to be a master, you have to be an official member.”
Richard shrugged. “I wasn’t exactly planning to make it a career.”
Jot nodded. “I suppose not. I just feel that you are worthy of recognition.”
“I don’t know if I’d like to be recognized as the weakest member in the association.”
“Well, I’m the weakest one here.”
“That… may be true, but you are at least in the second class, which is not bad. You are still improving as well.”
“I don’t know if my special genetics really makes this a fair comparison.”
“In that case, Xevaronians should not count at all, since we are much ahead in physical attributes to begin with. Truly though, you are becoming quite skilled.”
“Well, thanks. I kind of wish I didn’t think it was necessary though.”
Richard and his friends were now a small crowd as they walked around. Perhaps some might not have considered six people a crowd, but from the point of view of an introvert, six people was already quite a few. Not that Richard would ever disdain having more friends… but he could only meaningfully interact with so many people at one time. Today, they were going out for lunch… and perhaps they would get dessert afterwards.
Although most restaurants didn’t serve just one variety of food, there were still some limitations on available choices. Though Jot could eat the same food that everyone else ate, he wouldn’t enjoy it. Thus, they had to go to a restaurant that served the more flavorful food that the humans and Elena were used to, as well as the blander food that Xevaronians and some other species enjoyed. There were some palatable non-Xevaronian options available for Jot, he would just usually need to order extra portions. Though, the way that some restaurants served food, he didn’t always need to order extra, since there was sometimes that much to begin with.
Convincing Elena to take the time to actually go to a restaurant wasn’t too hard, since the school year had just started. There wasn’t that much work yet, and thus it took less time even if she wanted to perfectly understand the information. She was also aware that she needed to take breaks from studying for it to be most effective anyway, but she would probably do so less at more critical times.
While Richard found the cafeteria adequate, they always had the same things. Since they had to cater to so many different nutritional needs and tastes, there was only so much they could offer. Even though humans fell into one of the bigger categories, it was nice to go out for a change of scene. Plus, there was that whole thing about dessert.
Jot had to put up with the smells of the various foods coming from their table and the ones around, but he was used to that. At least he didn’t have to taste anything so overpowering, so he could handle it. However, Richard found that the ones who were enjoying their meal least were Hiroshi and Jessica. “What’s wrong Hiroshi? Is it bad?”
“It’s b- it’s fine.” He shook his head. “I’m just thinking about something else.”
Jessica’s meal was only half-eaten. Though some girls would eat carefully to watch their proportions, Jessica wasn’t one of them. Richard couldn’t help but wonder. “I thought you liked fish? Is there something wrong with it?” She shook her head, and ate a bit more, but definitely seemed to be thinking about something else.
The only person who seemed to be truly enthusiastic about their food was Susan. She gulped down the food almost as if it would run away. Richard finished his, but not with such alacrity. Meanwhile, Elena ate at a slow and measured pace. That meant she at least didn’t dislike the food, because Richard knew she wouldn’t eat it otherwise- there was no reason for her to force herself. However, her eating motions were always methodical, so it wasn’t like she was unhappy this time. Jot’s eating, meanwhile, was similarly methodical, but much more food was consumed during the same period of time. In his case, there wasn’t any particular enthusiasm either.
The conversation was somewhat dull. Jessica never talked much, so her lack of participation didn’t really change anything. It was Hiroshi who would usually fill up many of the quiet spots, and his lack of participation had a noticeable effect on the conversation as a whole.
After the meal, nobody was interested enough to get dessert. On the whole, it had been a disappointing lunch, but Richard still found that it was better to have his friends there than to have eaten without them. Hiroshi and Jessica continued to act somewhat strangely as they were walking back toward Maropa University’s campus. If Richard hadn’t been looking for that specifically, he wouldn’t have noticed as easily, but they were definitely strange.
It made Richard wonder what was bothering them. Could it be some form of danger? Upon thinking about it, Richard could find himself in danger at any time, though he hadn’t noticed anything concerning. Except, just as he thought that, he felt something. Before he could decide what kind of feeling it was, there was the sound of an explosion and a bright light. Richard also thought he heard some other loud noises, but his ears hadn’t yet recovered from the boom of the explosion. Richard’s energy body was also thrown off, and he could only vaguely tell that his friends around him seemed to still be there, though that was the limit.