PREVIOUSLY: Colt had a really smoking hot date with Wildfire. The cast of Between the Lines has been keeping their dating plans a secret. It’s time to find out what they are and which host they’ll choose…!
[Though unsure of himself, Ettore does his best to keep the advice of his friends in mind and calmly strides towards Ambrosia.]
Ettore: Good evening, miss Ambrosia. How are you feeling so far?
[At his approach, she inclines her body forward ever so slightly, a formal bow in greeting.]
Ambrosia: Ah, a very good evening to you as well, Sir Ettore! To tell you the truth, I’ve been finding these proceedings rather exciting. And you?
Ettore: They are indeed very exciting. I must say, though, the current event is not, by any means, my forte.
Ambrosia: Mm. If I were in your place, I would feel the same. But I do not think you will find it quite so difficult. I do believe any woman would be pleased to have a gentleman like you as their date.
[Ettore can feel himself getting a little nervous, but he tries his best to steel himself.]
Ettore: By any chance, then, er… would you like to go on a date with me?
[She clasps her hands to her heart in unfeigned surprise. Wildfire snorts and rolls her eyes at her.]
Ambrosia: With me? Yes, certainly…
[As she gives her answer, her fingers toy with a lock of hair that has fallen over her shoulder. Then, she catches herself, interlacing her hands to occupy them. She makes another traditional bow.]
Ambrosia: It would be my pleasure, Sir Ettore.
[As he was told it “would be nice” to do, he pulls a carnation, its stem wrapped in pink paper, out of his waistcoat. As he holds it out to her, he bows as well, partly because it feels appropriate, and partly to hide the undoubtedly silly-looking grin on his face.
One hand briefly hovers over her mouth in an unvoiced gasp.]
Ambrosia: Oh, that’s so sweet of you.
[She reaches out to accept it, a smile warming her lips.]
Ambrosia: You shouldn’t have.
Ettore: I believe it is only right that I should present a beautiful flower to a beautiful lady; especially one I’m going to take out on a date.
[His smile is warm when he gestures to the entrance to the room of illusions.]
Ettore: Shall we?
[She inclines her head in a nod, prepared to follow his lead.
He offers up his arm for her to hold, if she wishes. She takes his arm, giving a soft laugh behind her fingertips.
Upon entering the illusionary room, it’s taken the form of a bright-looking bakery. Sunlight shines in through the open windows. A slight breeze is blowing in, cooling the various pastries and snacks sitting on the racks along the walls. Ettore, in a gesture similar to that of his friend’s, smiles, and fiddles with his tie.]
Ettore: Based on what I’ve heard, and on occasion, read, a first date is typically grounds for getting to know the person you’re on a date with. I, ehem, don’t know much, but I thought it’d be nice to stop by someplace familiar first.
[He gestures to the bakery’s wares.]
Ettore: Is there anything you might like to order before we leave for our destination, miss Ambrosia?
[Ambrosia surveys the room, taking in her surroundings and the goods for sale, before settling her gaze on Ettore.]
Ambrosia: Hmm…let’s see. Why don’t you surprise me? Please choose something you like as well.
[Ettore thinks for a little bit, his hand on his chin, before he takes a tray and a set of tongs. He walks off into one of the aisles, and comes back to show Ambrosia his pick — a simple pair of buttered croissants, crisp and fresh off the oven.]
Ettore: I just picked what I usually get from here, for both you and myself. They’re really good here.
[A soft smile passes onto his face.]
Ettore: Considering that the food challenge just finished, though, we could order some drinks or the like instead, miss Ambrosia.
Ambrosia: Yes, I would certainly appreciate that. If it isn’t too much trouble? I shouldn’t like to put your effort of gathering these to waste.
Ettore: Of course not; don’t worry. I’ll get some drinks for us instead, then.
[After sheepishly putting the pastries back on the shelf and the tray and tongs to a nearby worker, he makes his way to the counter.]
[Ettore glances back at Ambrosia before remembering he was supposed to pick a drink for her, and, blushing lightly, he mutters his order. He comes back holding two takeout coffee cups, sits at a table for two next to the window, and motions for Ambrosia to take the seat across from him. She sits where he indicates with a smile softening her face.]
Ambrosia: You mentioned this was a familiar area to you. To be honest, I’ve never been in a place like this before. I’m looking forward to learning more about it – and the drink you’ve chosen.
Ettore: It’s actually a bakery in the town I live in! The owner isn’t around – probably because this is a virtual simulation – but I’m rather stunned; this is a near-perfect replica of the real thing.
Ambrosia: Ah, yes! The clan of the Vi have the most incredible abilities. I never know what to expect from them.
Ettore: I would very much like to learn about what went into the making of this room. Of course, given that this is an entirely different world, illusions such as this may or may not be a possible result of the magic from my world, but…!
[Ettore is starting to babble a little bit. His eyes are sparkling. However, he realizes that he’s begun to ramble and coughs.]
Ettore: I-I apologize. I tend to get caught up in things like that, from time to time, haha…
[She gives a soft chuckle.]
Ambrosia: By all means, don’t stop yourself on my account, Sir Ettore. It would please me to hear about what interests you so.
Ettore: Well… er, alright. I apologize. I’m not in situations like these very often, but I’ll do my best, I suppose.
[Ettore glances down at the table and realizes neither he nor his guest have started on their drinks.]
Ettore: Oh! By the way, these are simple caramel hot chocolates. I’m rather fond of how the flavor of the caramel mixes in with the drink; it’s a rather sweet taste overall, but… I like it. I hope you don’t mind that.
Ambrosia: Not at all. To tell you the truth…
[She lowers her voice, inviting him to lean in closer to hear her.]
Ambrosia: I have a quite an unreasoning weakness for sweet things. I believe I shall greatly enjoy it.
[Reaching for her cup, she raises it to her lips, pausing to test its warmth before taking a sip. After listening to her speak at closer proximity, Ettore pulls away slowly, looking away to hide his slight blush, and nods.]
Ettore: I-I’m happy I was able to pick something you liked, then.
Ambrosia: Mm…oh! Oh, I can see why you like it. I’ve never had anything quite like this. Your world is positively full of the most delicious things. I’m still curious about what it is I was served for lunch in the last challenge.
Ettore: Ah, that was actually something from Bianca’s world. It was called a panini, I believe; she used this special grill-press type thing to make it. Did it taste alright?
Ambrosia: Indeed! I was in earnest when I said I found it quite appetizing. So then…you’ve never tried it before yourself?
[Ettore takes another sip of his drink and shakes his head.]
Ettore: No, sadly. While I admit I was curious as to how it tasted, we were in the middle of a competition, so I put my all into following Bianca’s instructions. The thing – I believe it was called a panini press, or something similar – we used to make it is not native to my world.
Ambrosia: Neither would it be in mines. But…it would be possible for this room to bring it here.
[She claps her palms together and leans towards him, her eyes alight.]
Ambrosia: What do you say we try making it for ourselves?
[He mulls it over for a bit and slowly grins.]
Ettore: That sounds like a pleasant idea. I suppose we’ll be stepping out, then?
[He nods towards the door they came into the bakery from. She answers with a nod.]
Ambrosia: Let’s. Unless you had other plans…?
Ettore: Haha, er, not really. I was thinking we might sit here and talk; and maybe ideas on things to do after that would come in the midst of it… so this is very much appreciated.
[He leads her over to the entrance of the bakery, holding the door open for her. As she makes her way through, she smiles at him.]
Ambrosia: Ah! Thank you.
[She turns her gaze towards the outdoors.]
Ambrosia: I’m rather eager to learn more about the world outside your bakery.
Ettore: The world outside this bakery… hm.
Ambrosia: At least, I assumed there was one? Or shall we simply be whisked away to a grand kitchen? For some reason, I can’t help but imagine our culinary expedition taking place in your home. I must confess, I’m a bit curious to see the house of an intellect such as yourself.
Ettore: To be honest, I was imagining the same thing myself, haha…! Though I’m not sure my home will be a very interesting destination, I wouldn’t mind showing you around before we begin to cook.
Ambrosia: Oh, that would be just lovely! Please do.
[They step outside the bakery and onto a cobblestone path. The sun is setting. Quaint houses, a few benches, trees, and glowing lamps line the streets. Ettore takes in a deep breath, surveying his surroundings.]
Ettore: …Oh, my. We’ve somehow landed… no, no, this is a near-perfect replica of the town I live in, Norbury.
[He seems a little starstruck at the unexpected sight of his home.]
Ambrosia: This looks almost just like your home? Amazing. You live in such a beautiful place – and fascinating, too.
[Her gaze runs across the houses and cobblestones that pave the road.]
Ambrosia: I’ve never seen buildings that look like these.
Ettore: I’m not sure the architecture is anything special; brick walls and tiled roofs and all that. The buildings in the next town over are similar as well, but I believe you’ll begin to see differently the deeper you go into Syhl…
Ambrosia: Eh? Really? Tell me about them.
[Ettore nods, but gestures forward, and begins to walk towards his house.
Ambrosia follows close beside him, her face turned towards him in rapt attention and her eyes bright with curiosity.]
Ettore: The city of Syhl’s heart is in the center of a great forest. On its outskirts, I suppose you could say there is not much difference from most other towns. However, the people of the capital, Caelora, have a great respect for the trees they live around, and take great care not to disturb any. Caelora’s citizens live in – for lack of a better term on my part – things like giant birdnests with canopy roofs.
[He rubs the back of his neck.]
Ettore: I’ve only ever been there once, when I was younger. It’s a little hard to explain without drawing it out, or showing you a picture, but it’s an interesting way of life.
Ambrosia: Oh! They’re a little bit like the Hulder in my world. Their clan likes to set up camp in the forests, and they would actually live inside the trees.
Ettore: Hulder…? If you don’t mind, could you tell me a little bit more about them?
Ambrosia: Certainly. The Hulder…let’s see. Out of all the clans on my island, they’re known for their prized intellect and wit. Gentlemen warriors, they call themselves. You actually met one earlier. Do you remember him? Sir Arsenik.
Ettore: Sir Arsenik, a gentleman warrior…
[He thinks it over for a little.]
Ettore: He certainly fits the bill, from what I’ve seen at least. The title sounds quite nice… though I don’t get in many fights, so I will aspire to be a regular gentleman instead.
[On that note, he holds his arm out to Ambrosia, a little embarrassed that he didn’t do so earlier. Smiling, she moves to accept it.]
Ambrosia: To tell you the truth, I consider that a much more admirable ambition. I don’t believe in violence.
[Ettore smiles back as they approach the door to his house. Out of habit, he reaches for his key in his front pocket, and is surprised to find it there like he would in real life. He unlocks the door, steps inside, and turns the lights on. He holds the door open for Ambrosia.
As she makes her way inside, she inclines her head ever so slightly in a quiet gesture of appreciation.
Inside is Ettore’s living room. A pale blue couch and a wide table lie on top of a deep blue rug. A storage cabinet sits against the wall. A vase holding purple flowers sits on top of one of its shelves. There’s a doorway leading into another room, and a staircase leading to the second floor.]
Ettore: Sorry. The decor might be a bit sparse; I don’t have guests over very often. I suppose you could call this my living room. I spend most of my time upstairs in my bedroom and in the observatory, but I like to stay here sometimes.
[Ettore smiles. Ambrosia takes a moment to survey her new surroundings before turning her attention back towards Ettore with both her hands clasped together.]
Ambrosia: You must have quite a bit of fond memories here.
Ettore: I suppose you could say I do.
[Ettore gestures upstairs.]
Ettore: Would you like to see the rest of the place before we move onto the kitchen?
Ambrosia: Certainly. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing this…this observatory you mentioned.
[Ettore nods back and leads the way upstairs. He comes to the door to the observatory and unlocks it, just like he’s used to outside this room. The two step into a room with a glass dome for a ceiling. Several shelves and work-desks line the walls. Pinned up are some worn star charts and maps. A bronze telescope stands in the center of the room.]
Ettore: …Accurate. This room is quite accurate, indeed.
[He walks to the center of the room and gingerly picks up the telescope.]
Ettore: Though I suppose, as a given, there’s a distinct lack of familiarity here – it doesn’t feel the same… At any rate, welcome. I would say this is where I spend most of my time; stargazing and alchemy are some of the things I love most, and this is the best place for me to do both.
Ambrosia: Pardon me but…alchemy?
Ettore: Oh! Sorry, sorry. I don’t dabble in any dark business, mind you; maybe a better way to say it would be… er, I mix potions.
Ambrosia: Potions! Then, you could say that you’re a sort of healer?
Ettore: Mhm! Something along those lines.
[She lowers her gaze to the telescope in his hands.]
Ambrosia: And this…is a far-seeing glass?
Ettore: Indeed. Is the term “far-seeing glass” more common where you come from?
Ambrosia: Among my clan, perhaps. Others call it differently. We don’t have much familiarity with devices like these. They’re a rarity on the island.
Ettore: Ah, I see… actually — I’ll admit, I’m quite curious about where you come from as well. Would you mind talking about it?
Ambrosia: Not at all. The world I come from and have always known…is Virgo Island. I suppose it’s best described as a place where you can be one with nature. But it isn’t anything like what you’ve shown me here so far.
[She steps closer to a desk, reaching out to run a hand across its wooden surface.]
Ambrosia: Our trees are made of gold and silver and other metals. The leaves are precious stones – rubies, sapphires, and every other kind. The grass has different colors across the island. Purple on one end, red in another area.
[She tilts her head back and smiles up at view through the glass dome.]
Ambrosia: But I can see we have the same sky. There’s nothing quite like the pleasure of gazing at the glittering stars at night…or seeing the sun rise over hills, wet with dew.
[She turns her attention back towards Ettore. For an instance, the light of the setting sun casts a melancholic shadow over her smile, but it disappears just as quickly as it came. It’s easy to think that it was just a trick of the eye.]
Ambrosia: The island isn’t that large, so you could say almost everyone knows each other. There are only a few clans left on the island now. I can tell you more about them, if you’re still curious about it?
[Ettore listens intently, nearly holding his breath, absorbing the information as Ambrosia gives it to him. When asked if he’s still curious, he nods, a little more vigorously than he intends to. He scrambles a little with his words, but there’s a light in his eyes.]
Ettore: I’d definitely love to hear more. Only if you’re comfortable with telling me all this, I mean–!
Ambrosia: I see no reason why I wouldn’t be! You’re a good man, Sir Ettore, and, as far as I can tell, a wonderful listener. Mm…
[She takes a moment to consider where she should begin.]
Ambrosia: I suppose it would be easiest to start with my own. I hail from the clan of the Phoenix.
[Ettore nods and begins to listen.]
Ambrosia: We follow the way of peace and harmony. We value virtue and morality above all else. We often tend to the other clans as healers. Though, our help is not always desired.
[She lets out a soft chuckle.]
Ambrosia: The Valkyrie are a proud clan! They’re formed entirely of warrioresses, each gifted with the strength of a dozen men. They scorn the idea of needing help, least of all from an outsider, but they are not entirely without reason. As of yet, it is mostly Lady Wildfire, whom I have trouble tending.
[She smiles humorlessly at the memory.]
Ambrosia: It is the clan of the Imugi who put up the greatest resistance. They carry the blood of animals within their veins and –
[A sudden knocking sound turns Ambrosia’s gaze to the threshold. Wind had rapped his knuckles against the side of the doorframe. At her attention, he crosses his arms, the inhuman gold of his eyes made even more striking in the reddish sunlight.]
Wind: Are you a snail? Hurry up and end the date already. You’re taking too long.
[She leans forward in a hasty bow.]
Ambrosia: Ah, forgive me, Sir Wind! I didn’t realize it would bother you to speak about your clan.
Wind: When did I say anything about that? But since you brought it up, there’s no need to run your mouth off to strangers. It’s not like he’ll ever see you again.
[Without waiting for a response, he turns to leave the room of illusions.]
[She faces back towards Ettore with a small smile.]
Ambrosia: Please take no offense at his words. And, for the record, I do not believe this has to be the last time we see each other, assuming you are also interested in meeting again. I did so enjoy our conversations.
[Ettore smiles back, still blushing slightly at Wind’s earlier interruption.]
Ettore: I would love to meet again! I enjoyed our conversations as well, and it was an absolute delight to hear about the people of your world. I will admit, though, it was a bit embarrassing to hear that I’d taken too long on this… I apologize, miss Ambrosia.
Ambrosia: Oh, no, no, the fault is mine. I’m certain he is only upset since I mentioned his clan. I should have given more thought to how it would have affected him. We shall simply speak of the Imugi whenever he is more comfortable with you.
[She claps her hands together.]
Ambrosia: Now then, how shall you like to end this date? I was so hoping we could make paninis together…ah, I suppose that will simply have to be for another time.
[Ettore steps toward Ambrosia and slowly raises her hand up to his face. Her shoulders rise up in surprise. He looks at her, silently asking if this is alright.
She drops his gaze for a moment, a dusting of pink on her cheeks, before she lifts her eyes back up to his face, looking up at him through partly lowered lashes. He can no doubt feel her heart hammering in her palm from where they touch, but the small smile on her face tells him that it is all right.]
[Ettore presses a quick, light kiss to Ambrosia’s hand, and pulls away, with a substantial increase to the blush on his face. He clears his throat.]
Ettore: E-ehem. It was a lovely outing with you, miss Ambrosia.
[He leads the way out of the virtual reality room and back to the venue from which they came.]
[Ettore returns to the commons area where his friends are waiting for him. Bianca gives him a once-over, Cecil smiles when he sees him.]
Cecil: Oh! Welcome back.
Bianca: Welcome back, you. How was it?
Ettore: …It was a good time, indeed. Ambrosia’s great company.
Cecil: I-I’m glad to hear so.
Bianca: Did any of that advice we gave you work out?
Ettore: Um! Well!
[He flushes with embarrassment, going over the sequence of events in his head.]
Ettore: …She, uh, seemed to be happy when I gave her the flower like you suggested.
Ettore: Though I didn’t have much else in mind at the time; I ended up taking her to my house.
Bianca: W-what?! Ettore! Whoa!!
Cecil: Bianca? Um, wait, is something wrong with that…?
[Bianca whips around to face Cecil, who looks puzzled.]
Bianca: …No, I mean, well, nothing’s wrong with that… besides, I’m sure Ettore wouldn’t take someone anyplace they wouldn’t wanna go.
[Now she’s looking at Ettore, who is suddenly very interested in the patterns on the marble floor.]
Ettore: …She was the one who suggested it.
Cecil: What happened after, though?
Ettore: Nothing much. We chatted, and I showed her around the first floor and the planetarium.
Ettore: Oh! We also spoke a great deal about the differences between our world and hers! It was an enlightening conversation to be sure. I simply must fill you two in on what I learned…
[Ettore’s eyes begin to sparkle as he re-reads over the notes he took earlier in his pocketbook. Bianca and Cecil smile warmly at their friend as they prepare to settle down, and wait for the next challenge.]
[When Ambrosia returns to the other hosts, Wildfire is all laughter.]
Wildfire: Say, how was your threesome with Wind and Ettore?
Chase: Sorry, Ambrosia. I tried to stop him but you know how fast he is.
Wind: Will you all stop making a big deal out of it?
Chase: Like the wind.
Wildfire: Like you aren’t faster than.
Chase: I thought one third wheel was enough.
Wind: You can thank me for wrapping things up fast. What’s your rating, Ambrosia?
Wildfire: Someone’s sure eager to know.
Ambrosia: Then, I shall be happy to oblige you, Sir Wind. It’s 3 and a 1/2 stars for my interest and 4 for my satisfaction.
Wildfire: Aren’t you easy to please?
Chase: You like him that much?
Night: Don’t worry. We all know why she gives halves.
Wildfire: Because she can’t make up her silly mind?
Night: To be polite. She’s an ice queen – and not just when she’s dressed as one.
Ambrosia: It takes time for a woman to warm up to a man she only just met.
Night: So, you do have passion in you. Good to know.
Onyx: It’s time for the voting to begin.
Wildfire: Uh-huh. Wait, where’d Arsenik go?
Arsenik: Here I am. Really, Valkyrie. I leave for a little while, and you can’t help but wonder about me.
Wildfire: It’s just weird not to hear your lips flapping like always.
Ambrosia: Everything is all right with the others, I hope…?
Arsenik: More or less. I would delve into further detail, but I think the war chief wants to proceed to the next segment. I’ll tell you later, Miss Ambrosia. That is, if you’ll let me know how your date went?
Wildfire: Ugh. There you go again. Flappin’ that mouth.
Arsenik: Ah, but I know you missed it.
Wildfire: Shut up, boy.
Date’s Interest: 3 1/2
Date’s Satisfaction: 4
For this challenge, Ettore’s overall score is 7 1/2 stars.
That was the last date! Feel free to look the rest over again and relive all those heartwarming moments. Next week, you’ll get to cast your vote and decide the true victor of this Love Challenge.
Oh, and if you’re waiting for the eye-popping meeting between Paige and Arsenik, I haven’t forgotten about it. You’ll find out after the Love Challenge. (Otherwise, who knows? It might skew your vote and we don’t want that.)