PREVIOUSLY: You voted for the winner of the Love Challenge! Now, here comes the exciting moment where we find out who that is.
Onyx: The votes have been tallied.
Night: Yes, but don’t just tell them who it is, Onyx. We have to build up the suspense.
Wind: No, we don’t.
Wildfire: Sure we do. And I bet you’re the most excited of us all. So, in last place we have…nah, this can’t be right. You must have counted it wrong, Onyx.
Arsenik: I was there when he was gathering the votes, so unfortunately for you, he didn’t.
Ambrosia: In 5th place, we have Sir Banality Man, giving him 6 stars for a total of 23.
Night: And in 4th place,we have the hockey players. 7 stars for a grand total of 28.
Wildfire: Tch. If you ask me, that should’ve won first place.
Arsenik: I wonder why. 3rd place is Ettore’s date with Miss Ambrosia. 8 stars for 30 and a 1/2.
Chase: My date with Princess Yanyu is 2nd place. So, 9 stars for 32 stars. Whoo!
Wildfire: Don’t get so excited. If it isn’t 1st place, it ain’t worth it.
Ambrosia: Ah, well…if you ask me, everyone’s a winner!
Night: And now, in first place…Onyx? Do you want to to do the honors?
Onyx: It doesn’t matter to me.
Ambrosia: Please do, Sir Onyx. It’s been a while since I last heard your voice.
Wildfire: He spoke just before you did.
Ambrosia: It was hardly anything! Let him speak a little more.
Onyx: 1st place is Princess Charming’s team. They will receive 10 stars, which brings their score to 32.
Ambrosia: Excellent! Here are the new rankings.
1st Place: Reflections on the River – 32 stars
1st Place: Lads in Distress – 32 stars
2nd Place: Between the Lines – 30 1/2 stars
3rd Place: 2 Minutes for Roughing – 28 stars
4th Place: Banality Man – 23 stars
Wildfire: Ohh, we have a tie, boys and girls.
Night: Things are heating up. Let’s see what the next challenge will bring.
Ambrosia: Congratulations on receiving first place, Your Highnesses. The rest of you did wonderfully as well!
Chase: But first, a lunch break. I’m starving.
Wildfire: You ate a whole bunch in the Cooking Challenge, you little piggy.
Chase: You know there’s always room for dessert.
Wildfire: Fine. Whatever.
Arsenik: Now that we have a break, Miss Ambrosia, I was hoping to hear about how your date went.
Ambrosia: Oh, I was just about to ask how things fared between you and Lady Paige! Judging by the bounce of your voice, I would say it went quite well?
Arsenik: I suppose so, but I honestly wouldn’t suggest using my tone as your basis for judging. When I’m with you, I’m sure my voice can’t help but shake.
Ambrosia: Can’t help but shake? Sir Arsenik, when I said that your voice bounces, I meant that it has the smooth, clear rhythm of a song. And your melody is telling me that you’re rather pleased.
Arsenik: Can you blame me for feeling pleased to see you?
Ambrosia: All jesting aside, please tell me that all is well with Lady Paige and her friends.
Arsenik: Hmm…well, whatever rough patch they’re struggling through, it’s nothing that can’t be solved with time and true companionship.
[When Arsenik had gone into the room that he had last seen Paige enter, he came with a glass of water in his gloved hand.]
Arsenik: Miss Paige? I was wondering whether you might like some refreshments.
[Paige is startled out of her thoughts, but thankful it’s not any of her own teammates that followed her.]
Paige: Oh, thanks.
[She accepts the glass of water but then turns apologetic.]
Paige: Sorry, you probably don’t like me wandering around without permission. I just needed a minute to cool off before I did anything really stupid.
Arsenik: You’re welcome to stay here for as long as you like until the next challenge begins. The prince may not care much for you to set out in exploration, but I don’t see him anywhere here, do you? I can keep a secret if you can.
[He briefly raises a finger to his lips, one eye fluttering shut in a wink. There’s a gently teasing smile on his face before it gives way to a slightly more serious expression.]
Arsenik: I know this isn’t any of my business, but I don’t suppose you would care to talk about what’s troubling you? I’ve been told I’m a good listener.
Paige: Is that so?
[Paige lets out a long sigh as she leans back against a nearby wall.]
Paige: Well, I wish I could tell you that I’m annoyed because Blake is a –
[She coughs, reconsidering her next words when she remembers whose presence she’s in.]
Paige: He can be obnoxious at times, but I don’t think he’s what’s bothering me. You see…
[She mulls over how to explain her problem to someone who has no clue what hockey even entails.]
Paige: You have something you think you’re an expert at, right? Like sword-fighting or… I don’t know, hair care?
Arsenik: Hair care? You really think so?
Paige: Seriously? You put Colt to shame, and I didn’t think that was possible.
[His shoulders shake with the beginnings of a chuckle.]
Arsenik: I’m flattered you think so highly of my style, but it isn’t anywhere near my realm of expertise. But you’re close.
[He taps a finger against his right temple once.]
Arsenik: As of yet, my skill in chess is second to none.
Paige: Ok, so, imagine that you meet someone who is ten times the chess player you are. And no matter how hard you try and how much you practice, you can never seem to get this other person’s level.
[She starts remembering how many times Colt would make a fool out of her with a few moves ,and her head lowers.]
Paige: And you think maybe you’re overreacting, maybe it’s not so mismatched, but then your friend…
[She chews on her lip at the label.]
Paige: Your friend says that you were never that great of a chess player anyway, and there are a lot of players who could run circles around you… or however that analogy would work in chess.
[She sighs again, harder this time.]
Paige: It just sucks when you put your time, effort, and passion into something, you have so much pride in it, and someone comes along that makes you feel like it’s all been a complete waste.
[He gives a nod, thinking over her words.]
Arsenik: Allow me to ask you a question. You said this person made you feel like it’s been a complete waste, but do you really believe that? That it’s truly been for nothing.
Paige: I want to say no, but there’s always that tiny voice that agrees with him. I don’t plan on giving up, but that doesn’t mean I don’t question myself.
[She swirls the water around in the glass of water she’s holding. He watches her, filing away every small gesture and adding it to his storehouse of knowledge on her.]
Paige: I just don’t want to be a bother or a hindrance to my teammates. I already feel like my anger problem causes them to walk on eggshells around me, like they don’t want to do anything to set me off.
[She finally looks up again and gives her best smile.]
Paige: I finally feel like I belong somewhere. I don’t want to ruin that.
[She straightens up again and shakes her head.]
Paige: Speaking of bothering people, I think I’ve ranted enough. But thanks for listening. I’ll head back to rejoin my team now.
Arsenik: Yes. Ah…Miss Paige?
[Paige stops in her tracks and turns back in confusion.]
Arsenik: Before you leave, I have a request. I may not be familiar with your companions, but if anyone professes to be your friend, then no matter how hastily words are spoken, it should never come from a place of malice. All the same…
[He leans down towards her from his great height, meeting her gaze.]
Arsenik: Prove him wrong.
[His smile is as cool as water, but there’s an unmistakable sense of fire in his words. Paige is startled by the force behind his words.]
Arsenik: If I were to meet such an extraordinary player, someone ten times my equal, I would never accept it. Chess is not only about strategy but mind games. If the front door doesn’t work, I will try the back or let him think that is where I intend to strike. There is always an alternative method. It just hasn’t occurred to you yet.
[His gaze upon her softens.]
Arsenik: Never question yourself, Miss Paige. As long as you don’t give up, I believe a woman with passion like yours can become the best hockey player in all of history – notwithstanding overpowered warrioresses.
[She chuckles lightly at the absurdity, but at the same time, the conviction with which he speaks resonates with her.]
Paige: You’re right. I kind’ve forgot where my true strength lies. Thank you.
[She smiles again, more genuine this time.]
Paige: By the way, good luck with the princess. She’d be lucky to have a sensitive guy like you.
[She jogs back to her friends to prepare for the next challenge.]
Arsenik: Hm? Princess?
[Did she, by chance, assume Ambrosia was one? He could certainly understand the mistake. However, that last remark she had made was the greater one. He could only wish that Ambrosia would be lucky to have him. Instead, he felt that it was her great misfortune to have met him.]
That’s it for the Love Challenge! If you still haven’t gotten your fill of romance, you can try dating some of your hosts here. If you’re having a bad day, it should pick you up ASAP. (Caution: It was made in a month for Valentine’s Day, so expect craziness and a barrel of laughs. It also features CGs by the awesome oktolio and Katta!)