Altessa stood outside his door, gazing out at the forest for what felt like the thousandth time. Weeks had passed since Caleb and Wren had left for Sybak and neither one of them had returned. Worried, he managed to use what few communication devices he hadn't pulled apart to contact friends and request help to locate him. Sheena and the Mizuho people hadn't been able to find either man; the half-elves had no idea where they may have gone; Colette offered her prayers for them; Regal and Presea made mentions of increased Dark Chef activity in Altamira, but were busy escorting them out of the resort and unable to devote any resources to searching for the two friends. Yuan commented on the difficulty in making contact with Lloyd, Kratos and Zelos, as Derris-Kharlan wasn't due to pass close enough to Symphonia for them to return for another month. So, Altessa waited, eyes never moving from the clump of trees that served as the path through which it was possible for Caleb to drive an Elemental Carriage to the cave. The burst of smoke that filled his vision startled him and he stepped back warily. Wren knelt on the ground beside the motionless Caleb, tear-stained face gazing helplessly up at the dwarf.
"Altessa! Please help him!" he cried. Altessa stared in a momentary loss of words.
"What is this?! What has happened to him?! Wren, what's the meaning of this?!" he fired off, trying to make sense of this new madness that decided to come to his doorstep. Wren shook his head.
"I don't have much time to explain! Caleb might be dead or something, I don't know! He won't move and he won't answer me!" he blurted in a panic. Altessa moved forward and knelt by the doll, examining the tears in the clothes and the punctured skin and metal underneath it.
"The mana crystal has been destroyed somehow. He's lost power and is in a state of suspended animation." the dwarf diagnosed and stood, "Bring him inside the house. I must replace his crystal quickly!" He turned and hurried into the house as Wren struggled to half-carry, half-drag the doll into the cave without dropping his fork. Inside the cavern home, Altessa was gathering his tools and a large container, then hurried to meet Wren.
"Place him on that table there." he commanded, nodding at the large carved stone table that rested in the main room of the cave.
"The dinner table?" Wren muttered inanely as he obeyed. He watched and waited anxiously as Altessa opened the torn jacket and shirt, then went to work opening the ruined chest cavity. Within the doll was a myriad of gears and boards covered in tiny pieces of only-Martel-knew-what that Wren had never seen before. Trying to make sense of what it was that Altessa was removing, replacing and pushing on made his head whirl, and he nearly cried out when the dwarf's hand emerged from the gaping hole with a broken gem that looked an awful lot like the Famine Gem used to seal away the Famine Lord.
"It was struck almost dead on. This crystal had another half-year of energy for Caleb. What a waste." Altessa muttered under his breath and set it aside, then reached into the container and removed a large green gem that he set into the empty cavity. Wren blinked.
"That... looks like a crystal I once had." he remarked and looked down at Caleb's face, the redhead's eyes now shut after Wren couldn't stand looking into dead eyes for much longer. "Caleb gets his energy from the same crystals the Wonder Chef Family used to seal the Famine Lord?"
"The mana crystals are mined and refined through dwarven arts to bring out their full potential as energy sources. As I recall, it was my ancestor that gave the first Wonder Chef the two needed to seal the ancient evil and the fork that was used to symbolize his new title." Altessa affirmed as he closed up the doll and smoothed out his beard, "Good morning, Caleb." The doll's eyes opened with a snap, light filling the blue-green hues once more.
"Welcome. Please state your business." he answered automatically and blinked, sitting up in confusion, "Wha-? How... did I get back home?" Wren smiled happily and tapped himself on the chest.
"You've got me to thank for that! I teleported us here with my Wonder Fork. I told you it was a really important item for me!" he exclaimed cheerfully, "How are you feeling? Will you be all right?" Caleb put a hand to the repaired skin and blinked again.
"I guess so. I don't feel like I've lost anything." he murmured as Altessa gathered his tools.
"It's good to have you both home again, but do warn me when you decide to go running off on some grand adventure. My cooking isn't as up to par as yours." the dwarf told him gruffly, "And I can't just fix you up every time someone involves you in a plot to save the world or some other nonsense." He pat the doll's hand briefly, then returned to his workshop. Caleb hopped off the table and fixed up his clothing embarrassedly as Wren sighed and rubbed his head.
"I guess I should have realized sooner what you were. You never eat, you never feel cold or hot, you don't seem to sleep at all, and you don't ever get tired. If I was anyone else, I would have sworn you were an angel or something." Wren remarked and laughed, "Guess I was wrong!" He looked over at his friend, confusion still on his face. "But if you're an automatic doll, how is it that I couldn't tell the difference? I knew Tabatha wasn't human the moment I met her, but I thought you were a real person since day one!"
"I have a soul of my own." Caleb replied simply, "When I was first created, I was just like Tabatha, but after I was damaged in a battle, I was healed using mana-based magic from Zelos. Because of that, I gained more life and personality than I should have and Martel said that anything with the amount of life I had must have a soul. So, she gave me one."
"Martel can just hand you a soul?" Wren asked in shock and disbelief. Caleb nodded. "How?"
"That's easy. Martel took Tabatha's body to be reborn as Goddess of Mana, so she basically became my sister. Since she already had hundreds of souls within her, those of the people that died for the Mana Tree like the Chosens, she just pulled one out to give to me." Caleb explained brightly, "I don't know whose soul I have, because it became new when I got it. So I'm as real a person as you are, only with some differences because I wasn't born, just built."
"Ow, I'm almost sorry I asked." Wren groaned, rubbing his head as he tried to make sense of it all. Caleb chuckled and shook his head.
"I have a hard time understanding it myself, so I don't bother anymore. I'm just happy to be able to feel and think like humans." he told the blonde and took in the sight of his friend with the Wonder Fork in hand, "So, you were the Wonder Chef the whole time. And here I was thinking that you might have been the spy that sold out the Wonder Organization. Man, was I way off!" Wren laughed half-heartedly, bringing the fork around to gaze at it.
"Ah... yeah. It explains a lot. I'm still a little dazed by that. It almost doesn't feel real, y'know?" he remarked. The redhead nodded. "I mean, I know now that I'm the Wonder Chef, and maybe, before I lost my memory, it felt like the most natural thing in the world for me to go zipping around with this fork, teaching people how to cook from the heart and protecting innocent new cooks from the Dark Chefs' cold influence, even trying to reform what Dark Chefs I can so that they can be good cooks again." Here, he looked up at Caleb with a slightly haunted expression. "But now, it doesn't feel real to me. Like the Wonder Chef is some entirely different person I've heard about. Knowing that it's who I am, I feel like I don't really know who I'm supposed to be." he added.
"I can help with that. To the world, you are the Wonder Chef, the leader of the Wonder Organization and bearer of the Ultimate Recipe..." Caleb remarked matter-of-factly. Wren looked glumly at the fork, momentarily hoping the thing would suddenly gain life and say it made a mistake and denounce him on the spot. "But to me, you'll always be Wren, my best friend." Caleb finished brightly, "And the best cook I've ever met! Next to me, of course." Wren blinked at him in surprise, then lit up and smiled gratefully.
"That means a lot. Thanks. I think I can get used to being Wonder Chef again if I can just be Wren when I'm with you." the blonde chef answered in relief, "I would really like for you to reconsider my offer and join the Wonder Organization."
"Wren, I said I can't." Caleb sighed, "I'm needed here. Without me, it's only a matter of time before Master Altessa burns himself out of house and home."
"I heard that!" Altessa yelled from in back. Both men laughed and called out apologies before returning to their conversation.
"I know, but I can't help but hope you'll change your mind one day." Wren murmured, "I'll have to go back soon. Duties as a Wonder Chef and all. I guess this is goodbye, then." Caleb shook his head.
"Not really. Whenever you're sick and tired of traveling around being the Wonder Chef, come on back here. Be Wren for a while. It'll do you some good." the redhead replied. Wren smiled cheerfully.
"Thanks. Then I won't say goodbye." he remarked and lifted the fork, "Till we meet again, my friend! Farewell and bon appétit!"
"Bon appétit, Wren!" Caleb called back as smoke engulfed the blonde and the Wonder Chef, Wren, vanished into thin air. Caleb sighed and looked back at the table wistfully, "At least he could have stuck around to help me clean up."
"That reminds me. Where's the Elemental Carriage I repaired for you?!" Altessa yelled out. Caleb blinked and the memory of it sitting alone in the fields came to mind. His eyes went wide.
"Oh no!" the doll exclaimed and raced out to get it back, "I'll be back soon! Don't wait up!"