PREVIOUSLY: The 1st challenge of the game show was presented: to cook! Let’s find out what the last three teams’ final scores are now.
[The 2nd team, the ones from the kingdom of Nantu, present their meals before their chosen judges: Wind, Ambrosia, and Night.
Wind sinks into his seat with a sigh. He takes one look at the steaming bowl of congee in front of him, his eyebrow twitching. He ignores the utensils in favor of seizing the side of the bowl and raising the rim to his lips.]
Ambrosia: Sir Wind, please be careful that you don’t burn yourself.
[The bowl returns to the table with a resounding clack that shakes the table.]
Wind: Just focus on your food. Unless you’re scared it’ll eat you.
[Night chuckles before lifting one of his radish cakes and taking a bite. As Wind proceeds to scarf down the youtiao, Ambrosia takes her time sampling the steamed garoupa and dabbing her mouth with a napkin, a fastidious counterpoint to his barbarism.
She notices a cheek is missing from her fish. Perhaps, one of the cooks had been hungry for a taste? She decides not to call attention to it. Mindful of the three contestants’ observation, she addresses them with a smile.]
Ambrosia: The ability to cook is not born overnight. Your skill is a testament to your hard-earned experience and dedication. For that, you have my admiration.
[As Ambrosia utters that last word, Wind finishes the youtiao and uplifts the saucer of soy sauce, proceeding to down it in one go. He then narrows his eyes at it.]
Wind: What is this?
Night: Your breakfast, clearly.
Wind: It tastes weird.
[When he lowers the saucer, it clatters against the table but not half as prominently as before.]
Wind: Two stars. It’s like baby food, except for the crunchy ones. Those weren’t so bad. That’s why I gave it two stars instead of one.
Night: Well, I’ll give mines three stars.
Wind: Ambrosia, are you almost done yet?
Ambrosia: Ah, just about…
[She eats a spoonful of the dessert, black jelly drizzled with honey, and then touches a hand to the side of her face.]
Ambrosia: Mm…oh my.
Wind: What? Is it that bad?
Ambrosia: Five stars.
Arsenik: Well, that certainly isn’t a rating she awards lightly.
Wind: You sure?
Ambrosia: Everything was already done quite masterfully but this…how did you know that honey was my favorite? And it pairs so well with the taste of the jelly. I think I can recognize some of the herbs used, too.
Arsenik: Now, you’re making me curious for a taste.
Ambrosia: And the tea! One of my favorite beverages to keep me warm at night. Ah, and I do believe there is a very consistent theme present. I find the representation of your culture beautiful and worth five stars as well.
Night: That’s 15 stars in all. Congratulations.
Arsenik: Miss Ambrosia, be it far from me to interfere with your pleasure, but you may want to save the rest of the dessert for later. I can foresee you being in high demand.
Wind: For being a doormat.
Ambrosia: You’re right, Sir Arsenik, I know you are. It’s just terribly hard to stop eating! And Sir Wind, I do believe you’ve mistaken my honesty for submissiveness. These contestants truly are skilled. I would not hurt them by deceiving them so.
Wind: If you say so.
Arsenik: Miss Ambrosia, if you’re finding your treat difficult to resist, then allow me to ease your pains by take it off your hands.
Ambrosia: And have you fall under its spell? No, no, Sir Arsenik, I cannot allow that.
[She casts a smile at the three contestants and chuckles softly behind her fingertips.]
Ambrosia: Do you see what your bewitching confection’s done to us? It’s turned us against each other!
[Arsenik laughs softly alongside her.]
Arsenik: But, of course, I have no doubt you will lay me at your feet. However, a gentleman must accept defeat gracefully.
[Once each dish is finished, the hockey team brings out the finished product to the judges. The cream cheese crepe with strawberries is placed in front of Ambrosia, Chase receives the grilled cheese and fries, and Arsenik is given the Chicken Caprese.
As soon as they approached, Wind’s gaze went to Colt. He could smell the blood from the moment the human had cut his finger, and it was stronger now that the source of it was here. Most men would have found his stare intimidating. He had the golden eyes of a snake and such pale white skin, almost like that of a corpse.
He stands some ways behind Ambrosia, who’s all but a smiling ray of sunshine. Colt slowly slips behind Paige seeking protection and Paige looks back at him confused.]
Paige: Sorry about the wait, everyone. Hope you enjoy!
Ambrosia: I very much look forward to trying the result of all your hard work!
Wind: You sure you can put away that much in that tiny body of yours? This has to be the third time you’ve been chosen.
Arsenik: Someone’s been keeping count, I see.
Wind: You don’t have to. It’s happening right in front of you. But I can understand if numbers are hard for you.
Arsenik: Well, you’re one to speak.
Chase: Wow! This is really good. I’ve never had anything like this before. What is this?
Arsenik: I believe it’s what they call a grilled cheese sandwich in their world. With a helping of fries.
Ambrosia: You’re quite knowledgeable about their land.
Arsenik: I’ve done some research. It wouldn’t do to invite a guest before conducting one properly.
Chase: Well, I give this grilled cheese sandwich – with its helping of fries – 5 stars.
Wildfire: Of course. What about you slowpokes?
Arsenik: I know you would prefer it if we scarfed down our meal, but we wouldn’t be able to give a proper assessment that way. Not to mention, it would be poor etiquette.
Chase: I don’t know. Eating it fast is showing that you like it so much that you can’t help but stuff your face.
[Ambrosia chuckles behind a hand. Noticing that, Chase smiles at her and then begins cramming a mass of fries into his mouth, gobbling them down with exaggerated noises that would rival the Cookie Monster.]
Ambrosia: Hehe…Sir Chase, you might need to slow down. I would hate to see you choke.
Chase: Thacht’s all rimbght. Simnche youl’rbe a heanleur, you camnb julscht schlave me, rigmhlt?
Ambrosia: Sir Chase, I haven’t the slightest idea what you’re saying! Pace yourself.
Arsenik: Hmm…the combination of ingredients is good, and I would go so far as to say the presentation’s excellent. However – and this might just be a matter of personal taste – but I feel like it could benefit with the addition of starch or some other element. I’ll award it 3 stars. But don’t see it as a discouragement! I can see you have great talent, which can only improve with time and more experience.
Wildfire: Come on, Ambrosia. What’s taking you so long?
Wind: Told you she couldn’t pack in that much.
Ambrosia: I’ll manage, Sir Wind, but it’s ever so sweet of you to worry about me.
Wind: Don’t get a big head. I’m just bored waiting for you to finish eating like a bird.
Ambrosia: Oh, well, it’s hard not to savor every bite! Besides, it looks so pretty that I almost feel bad about ruining it.
Wind: Sure. That’s your reason.
Ambrosia: Mm…4 stars. I am very fond of sweet things. I was a little concerned about how healthy it was for breakfast, but I still found this meal an absolute delight. The strawberries were especially nice!
[Paige gives a triumphant smile towards Blake and he rolls his eyes]
Paige: Someone is cooking a four course meal for me when they get home.
Blake: You’ve got to be kidding me. I can’t believe I lost to a grilled cheese and fries.
Arsenik: As to the theme, I’ve spent some thought on this and I can’t completely wrap my head around it. My first thought was that they all share the same culture, but the lunch platter feels different from the ones made for breakfast and dinner – like it’s from a different class. I can’t comment on the taste –
Chase: It was good, trust me.
Arsenik: But it has a simplicity that the others don’t quite have. Now, I noticed they all share the use of cheese, and the thought crossed my mind that you were using that as your theme. But aside from some notable exceptions, who would use a single ingredient for that purpose?
[Having made a rhetorical question, he chuckles.]
Blake: Told you so.
Paige: Sorry, guys.
Colt: Well, I thought it was a great theme.
Blake: Stop sucking up and try actually contributing next time.
[Colt narrows his eyes Blake’s way.]
Arsenik: Miss Ambrosia’s concerns about health made me consider the theme of guilty pleasures, but my dinner didn’t strike me as particularly harmful.
[He smiles, his gaze softening as if preparing to tell a child that the dog’s been sent to a nice farm.]
Arsenik: 2 stars. At best, the only theme I can see is color. They all have have a similar golden brown hue. Oh, and they do all incorporate cheese quite well, I’ll give you that. Also, whoever plated these has my commendation.
[Jordan stares down at his phone to hide his smile from the compliment of his work.]
Ambrosia: Your final score is 14 stars. You’ve all done very well. Now…Sir Colt? I noticed you have a small bandage on your finger. You are feeling all right? I do hope you’ll allow me to take care of it for you. Since you’re using our facilities, I feel very much responsible for it.
Colt: Oh, um…
[Colt quickly glances at Wind and then back at Paige nervously. Paige still doesn’t seem to notice the source of his anxiety.]
Paige: Go on. You might as well. You might need to use that hand for the next challenge.
[Wildfire snickers under her breath, and Night raises a brow at her.]
Wildfire: Sure he will.
Colt: Y-You’re right.
[Colt steps up to Ambrosia with a natural smile that could melt most people’s hearts.]
Colt: Thank you, Miss Ambrosia.
[Wildfire crosses her arms, looking at him up and down as if reassessing a piece of meat. Ambrosia drops his gaze, but as she reaches down for the drawer built into the table, she steals a glance at him up through half-lowered lashes that flutter once in a blink. She smiles before turning her attention back to her task at hand.
There’s a subtle shift in Arsenik’s regard of him. It’s one that’s barely noticeable, but if you were sharp, you might detect a little less warmth in his expression, almost as though he’s studying Colt.
As Ambrosia quietly hums to herself, the swish of her gauzy sleeve conceals her movements within the drawer. Wind turns his gaze away from Colt to scowl at her.]
[She reaches for Colt’s injured hand, slipping it into a light grasp, and begins to ease off the tape on his finger.
Colt begins to notice her subtle flirtations and starts to become flustered, a small blush lighting up his cheeks.]
Colt: Haha… ok, I’ll trust you.
Ambrosia: Don’t you worry. This won’t hurt a bit. But if it ever does, you can just squeeze my hand.
[She raises up a scarlet handkerchief out of the drawer and touches it to his cut. The cloth is moist with a lukewarm kind of liquid that makes his cut vanish without a trace.]
Colt: Wow, thanks, you did a really good job.
[He backs away but stumbles over his own feet as he does and barely avoids taking a very embarrassing tumble. He steadies himself with a nervous laugh as he rejoins the rest of his team.
When he first falters, Ambrosia’s eyes widen in alarm, but once he catches himself, she smiles in seeming relief.]
Ambrosia: Please do be careful from now on.
Wildfire: Right. You wouldn’t want him to go too wild in the next challenge, right?
[Wildfire gives another snicker. Wind sighs.]
Wind: Who’s next?
[When the 5th team is done, they serve the judges three trays of food: breakfast, lunch and dinner. Not quite knowing how to address him, Bianca approaches Chase, slightly tense. She sets the breakfast tray down before him, complete with a chilled glass of orange juice.]
Bianca: (I didn’t know who else might’ve liked a breakfast like this… agh, I hope I picked the right judge.)
[Bianca takes a step back, and sighs. She nods at Cecil, and he steps forward, presenting the next dish to Ambrosia. The dish set out before her, lunch, consists of a glass of lemon water, and a plate of two ham and cheese pressed paninis. The toasted bread gives off a pleasant, tasty aroma, and the cheese oozes out of the press and onto the plate, making for somewhat light fare.]
Cecil: …Um, I hope you like it!
[When Cecil and Bianca have finished presenting their dishes, Ettore goes towards Arsenik and serves dinner: a hearty serving of a creamy, rich-looking mushroom soup, and a small serving of a variety of cooked mushrooms at the bottom of the bowl, peeking out through the surface. Beside the bowl of soup there is a small basket holding sticks of freshly baked and buttered bread.]
Ettore: (Oof. Nothing left now but to hope for the best, I suppose.)
Ambrosia: Ah! It smells positively delicious. It makes me excited to try it.
[Arsenik glances at her with a small smile that almost seems sympathetic.]
Chase: All right! Another great meal.
[He picks up a pancake in both hands and munches into it. The syrup begins to trickle down the flapjack, while the butter starts sliding.]
[He shoots the pancake up and tilts his head back to catch the gooey square in his mouth. He begins gnawing around the border of the flapjack with the ferocity of a bulldog, trying to slurp up all the syrup before he loses it. Wildfire rolls her eyes.]
Wildfire: You’re so disgusting, Chase.
[Ambrosia chuckles against her fingertips.]
Ambrosia: Well, it must taste delightful for you to eat so greedily.
[Chase jams the rest of the pancake into his mouth.]
Chase: Itsch rmbeally goombd.
[He gulps down his bite.]
Chase: Sorry. You don’t understand what I’m saying when I speak with my mouth full, right? I said “It’s really good.”
Ambrosia: Oh? For a moment, I thought it sounded like you said, “It’s really gloomy” and I wondered how your meal could be sad, especially when it looks so sunny.
Chase: It does, doesn’t it?
[He scoops out a mass of eggs with his fingers and brings the mouthful to his lips.]
Chase: Mm…you really have to try this, Ambrosia.
Ambrosia: Gladly, but sadly – or, perhaps, gloomily – it isn’t mine to taste.
Wildfire: Besides, would you really want to eat what he just stuck his dirty fingers in?
Chase: They aren’t dirty! I washed them earlier.
Wildfire: Like that helps.
Arsenik: You do realize it isn’t finger food, don’t you?
[Chase swerves his head towards him, half a sausage and the wiggly ends of a few hash-browns sticking out of his mouth.]
Chase: It insn’tch?
Arsenik: However…if you would like to continue pigging out, then by all means. There’s no stopping you.
[In stark contrast, Arsenik eats a spoonful of soup in one fluid motion, all without spilling a single drop. Chase finishes off his meal by taking a drink of the orange juice and then wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.]
Chase: Well, I’m giving it –
Wildfire: 5 stars?
Chase: You know it. Am I really that predictable?
Wildfire: It’s pretty obvious when you’re nuts about something.
Arsenik: Hmm…I have no complaints. The preparation of the meal is masterful, and the soup pairs well with the bread, which can be used to add flavor and variety to the main dish. More than that, it reminds me of home. My only suggestion would have been to include a glass to go with it – of wine, perhaps? 4 stars.
Wildfire: Whoa, that’s your highest score yet. And here, I thought you were always looking for something to criticize.
Arsenik: That’s never my intention. Only to enjoy a satisfying meal.
Wildfire: And in last place, there’s Ambrosia. Lunch is supposed to go before dinner, you know.
[Ambrosia dabs at her lips with a folded white napkin before returning it to her lap.]
Ambrosia: I only wanted to make certain of the taste before committing myself to a rating. Ah…4 stars. I found it to be very satisfying.
Wildfire: And are you ever planning on finishing it?
Ambrosia: Of course. During one of the other challenges. I have no doubt my appetite will return in full force later, and it will be nice to have this scrumptious meal waiting for me.
Wind: So, you really couldn’t handle another bite. Weak.
Arsenik: Now you’re shaming a woman for her eating habits? I know you make no claims of being a gentleman but even you must have some decency. I personally find Miss Ambrosia’s appetites perfectly suited to her. That said, let’s observe the theme. There honestly doesn’t seem to be one.
Chase: Sure there is. A yummy one.
Ambrosia: Perhaps…the serving size?
Arsenik: I do believe we’re grasping at straws, Miss Ambrosia. To tell you the truth, I feel like the lunch platter and the dinner one are similar, but breakfast is an entirely separate affair. However…I do like how each of them comes with something complementary.
[Chase nods in wholehearted agreement.]
Chase: So, let’s give it –
Arsenik: 2 stars.
Arsenik: It’s a fair assessment.
Ambrosia: That brings their score to 15 stars. This ties them with Team 2 and Team 3 – the ones from the Kingdom of Nantu and Lady Princess Charming’s company.
Wildfire: Is this turning into a royal showdown or what? Well, if it weren’t for these three.
Night: Don’t forget that Zheng doesn’t have a fancy title either. But you know, I wouldn’t count the underdogs out just yet. We still have…oh, three more challenges left to go.
Arsenik: Ah, that reminds me…
[He turns his attention towards Ettore.]
Arsenik: We never answered your questions, did we?
Ambrosia: We’ll remedy that now. A game show is what you’re experiencing right now – a fun, little competition where you can win a prize. How long it takes depends on how quickly you and everyone else completes their challenges. As for where we are…
Onyx: We’re in a forest. Anything more is classified. It’s time to begin the second challenge.
Ambrosia: A-Ah, yes. Good luck, everyone! Please enjoy it.
Were the results what you expected? Let Dreamgazer know on tumblr or in the comments below! And, of course, words of support for all these lovely teams is always welcome.
Next week will bring the 2nd Challenge! I hope y’all are excited for it. Until next time!