Ch 1

The city of Triet was unaffected by the sandstorm that had taken Caleb and Pepper by surprise when they investigated the Seal of Fire. Soon joined by the Wonder Chef, Adam Voraci, (best known to Caleb as Wren), the automatic doll with a soul and Peppermint FireBlossom, the mana beast he rescued and raised from an egg, set out to follow up on rumors that the Dark Chef Alliance had a new scheme to claim mastery over the cooking world. With increasing knowledge over the past of Symphonia, Caleb finds himself searching for ways to store all the information in the world and keep it safe. As one of the newly reborn race of mana beasts, Pepper is quickly become more powerful than the rest of her brethren, having to face dangers and fight battles none of the other clans have ever had to face. And with the lingering doubts of his failures to perform satisfactorily weighing heavily on his mind, Wren continues to question his ability to fully resume his role as Wonder Chef.

All of this affects the three friends as they make their way to the heart of the city in search of the Dark Chef called Ginger Spicewood, a young woman who infiltrated the Wonder Organization and stole many of their recipes and secrets for the Dark Chefs' use. The rumor that the Alliance was planning another insidiously insipid plot to steal the greatest secret in the culinary world, the Ultimate Recipe, was told to Caleb by Ginger, who in return alerted Wren. They turned their quest from searching out Summon Spirit Seals to seeking a way to stop the Dark Chefs.

"You'd think they'd have fixed that floor in the Mirage by now." Wren grumbled irritably, still rubbing the seat of his pants as he and his friends walked the streets of Triet.

"It's not easy to import wood into Triet." Caleb told him with a smirk, "And it really doesn't help that you keep teleporting us there when you could just make a new teleportation link elsewhere in Triet. Are you sure you don't need a quick hit of First Aid?"

"I'll be fine." Wren muttered and looked around. "So, how should we go about looking for Ginger? Should we split up and look for her?" He sounded almost hopeful.

"Great idea, Wren. How about I tie you up first and make it that much easier for her to drag you off to the Dark Chefs again?" Caleb added sarcastically, "I'm not letting you wander off alone. Not with Dark Chefs like her trolling all over Symphonia." Pepper clacked and circled around them, trying hard to be noticed. "Pepper has been getting better with her mental probes. We can just have her do a city scan of Triet." the doll remarked brightly and the mana beast cheered by whistling and flapping her wings, unaware of the amount of sand that was kicked up.

"There's a ton of people in Triet. How is one mana beast gonna pick out a Dark Chef spy in all this?" Wren asked sourly. Caleb grinned at him.

"Simple! She should look for the one who wants to get cookin' with you!" he joked. Wren looked blankly back at him.

"Why would a Dark Chef want to cook anything with me? We're mortal enemies." he asked in confusion. Caleb gave him a droll expression.

"You are such a virgin." he muttered and sighed, waving his hand along, "Come on, Pepper. Do a mental probe of every woman in Triet. Try to keep them from knowing they're being searched." Wren blinked and hurried after the two as they began walking off down one street.

"Hey! Wait up! What did you mean, Caleb?!" he cried.


A mana beast of mainly Ascension power, Pepper had a great deal of psychic and telekinetic abilities, one of which was a mental probe that allowed her to pull thoughts and images from a human's mind as well as implant a few of her own making. She practiced her abilities on Caleb and Wren, though the Wonder Chef often made the error of resisting her mental probing, which resulted in headaches, nosebleeds and a great deal of panicking from both men. It was with this ability that the three friends began to search Triet for Ginger Spicewood, the candy-maker spy.

"I still think it would be easier to split up." Wren murmured as Pepper kept her eyes closed, allowing herself to be led along by the doll as she walked with them.

"And I still think it would have been better if you just stayed home." Caleb muttered, "Now keep your eyes open for that spy. You remember what she looks like, right?"

"Yeah, yeah." Wren grumbled, "Black hair, shoulder-length, brown eyes like lightly toasted almonds, looks like she's been permanently covered in flour, and that same lousy Dark Chef uniform modified pretty heavily..."

"That's more detail than I'd like to know, Wren."

"You asked me if I remembered what she looked like!" the chef declared incredulously, "And if you call me 'virgin' one more time, I'm hitting you with this fork!"

"Okay, okay! Sheesh!" Caleb remarked with a shrug and smile, "Touchy!" He remained silent for a while, leading Pepper along as the three friends continued their sweep of the city. Every now and then he'd glance over at the blonde, still grinning. Wren stayed quiet, staring down at his feet and trying very hard to look normal. "So..."

"I mean it! I'm gonna hit you if you say it!" Wren yelled, face turning deep pink.

"Do you realize how many people are staring at us right now? Yelling about your lack of a love life isn't helping." Caleb pointed out matter-of-factly.

"I do not have a lack of love life!" Wren hissed, "And I bet I can find Ginger first!"

"All right. Loser cooks dinner." Caleb sighed, shaking his head as Wren shouted his agreement and dashed off, "How do I get myself into these messes?"

Wren walked the streets on his own, mentally ordering his heart to calm down and hoping his face wasn't as red as he thought it might be. He really liked his friend, Caleb, but sometimes the doll just got on his nerves. How Caleb could manage to find and touch off on the most sensitive of subjects he probably would never know, but he did and oddly enough it would drive the Wonder Chef up the wall.

"I don't think I acted this way before I lost my memories." he sighed, "So what's wrong with me? I can't cook right, I let my emotions get the better of me..." Wren shook his head. "It's stress. I need a vacation." A bent and cloaked figure sitting on a battered, dirty mat up ahead held out a hand, pleading for money.

"Alms...!" the wretched old woman begged in a scratchy voice, "Alms for the poor...! Please...! Help an old woman live one more day...!" Wren stopped and watched her move her hand from one passerby to another, a sorrowful expression on his face. This was one of the many reasons why the Wonder Organization existed. He hurried up and knelt before the woman, a cheerful smile on his face.

"Hello, ma'am! Don't worry! I'll help you out!" he assured the cloaked beggar as her head bobbed and trembled with age.

"Oh, thank ye, young'un... I've been so very hungry..." she wheezed as Wren pulled out ingredients and began putting together a few quick rice balls. "Such a kind boy..."

"Here you are! This should do for now. I'll get you into a safe-house courtesy of the Wonder Organization." Wren remarked cheerfully, holding out the plate of rice balls. The woman coughed and reached out.

"Thankee, young'un... Such a kind boy... such a kind..." she breathed and suddenly grabbed Wren's arm with a youthful hand, "...stupid boy!" Wren cried in surprise, dropping the plate as he tried to jerk away. The cloaked head lifted, revealing Ginger's grinning face. "It's been too long, little Wonder Chef. You know, you really ought to watch who you're feeding these days." she purred.

"Let me go." Wren whispered, staring at her with wide eyes. The young woman smiled almost cattily, eyes glittering with barely controlled glee.

"Now why would I do a silly thing like that? Considering the reward I could get by taking you in, I'd have to be insane to let you go." Ginger murmured. Wren sighed and closed his eyes.

"All right. What do you want? For me to just surrender and let you haul me off to your master? I can tell you right now, it's not gonna happen." he muttered.

"Too bad. But, I never had any intention of taking you to DuGorge." Ginger answered and winked, "Come on. I didn't go to all the trouble of staking this place out just to let that idiot wannabe get all the glory and credit for nabbing you." Wren glared at her. "Look, if you don't decide to go running off on me, or chuck some stupid old-timer's recipe at me, then I'll let you go. Chef's honor!" the woman sighed.

"Dark Chefs don't have honor."

"Pbbt! Such a snob, you Wonder Chefs! That's all you ever are! A bunch of snobby cooks who think you're above everyone else just 'cause you can cook a better dinner than most!" Ginger growled. Wren began struggling again.

"That's a lie! It's you Dark Chefs that are ruining the health of this world by sabotaging the food supply and teaching good cooks to ignore the needs of the people!" he shot back, "Now, let me go!"

"Gah! Wren, there you are! Geez, I leave you alone for just a few minutes and you get yourself into trouble again!" Caleb's voice griped loudly. Wren turned his head in surprise as Ginger's free hand dove for her hip pouch under the robe.

"Caleb! Help!" he yelled, "I found her!" The doll and mana beast were running towards him.

"I know! Pepper spotted her just a moment ago! Hey, lady! Lay off!" the redhead yelled out. In a flash, the robe and old lady guise went flying and Ginger stood, still gripping Wren by the arm as he stood beside her. In her free hand was a handful of what looked like chewy purple gels.

"Don't move! My Berry-licious Blasters will blow this entire section of the city into fine powdered sugar if you come near us!" she threatened and the people who heard cleared out instantly. Caleb came to an abrupt halt, skidding to a stop as Pepper leaped up to stop herself, wings immediately spreading to send her aloft. "Why did the Wonder Chef call you Caleb? Aren't you the former Chosen, Zelos Wilder?" Ginger asked suspiciously. Caleb swept his hand over his eyes in annoyance.

"I look like Zelos, but I'm not Zelos. Sometimes I wish I could do something about the hair and face..." he growled, "Wren, are you okay?"

"Relax. He's perfectly fine." Ginger answered for him. Wren only frowned.

"I'm a perfectly fine hostage. That's supposed to make me feel better?" he grumbled. Ginger seemed on the verge of snapping.

"Agh! Shut up! Both of you! I'm trying to explain stuff and you just keep blathering away!" she yelled and sighed. "Look, I just need to talk to Blondie here."

"Not without me." Caleb shot in.

"Fine, fine!" the woman griped, "I can't get any information on what their big plan is, but I do know that the Dark Chefs are going to be after a shipment of sugar and satay being sent from Meltokio to Iselia via a series of Elemental Cargos and ships."

"Why would they be after all that?" Caleb asked suspiciously.

"Probably to interfere with the peace talks the two countries are still hashing out or something. For some stupid reason, the Dark Chef Alliance loves wars. If they can cause one between Iselia and Meltokio, Sylvarant and Tethe'alla will be all over each other like icing on a freshly baked cookie." Ginger returned.

"War consumes mana. Soldiers consume or destroy food. Both cause food shortages and famine. The Dark Chefs then swoop in and use their own food supplies and cooking to control what's left after the war." Wren growled in a low voice, "The one thing that can control any country is food. 'He who holds the bounty of the land, wields all power in his hand.'"

"C'est la guerre. Something like that." Ginger agreed sarcastically and finally released the Wonder Chef, watching him jump away from her, "You'd better get going to Meltokio if you want to stop the Dark Chef Alliance." Wren rubbed at his arm and looked at her strangely.

"I don't understand. Why are you helping us? The Wonder Organization and the Dark Chef Alliance are feuding families with a hatred that spans generations." he asked the spy in confusion. Ginger's cheeks turned pinkish and she looked away, an expression of false contempt on her face.

"Because I know you idiots won't catch onto that plot until some stupid soldier's got their sword through your gut! Now, get going and do your goody-two-shoe thing, and don't you dare tell anyone I told you what was going on!" she declared hotly, "And don't think I'm growing soft on you or anything! Next time, I will challenge you to a cooking battle and my sweets just can't be beat!" Wren grinned at her.

"Yeah, right." he scoffed as she pulled out a handful of her special candies, hurling them down so she could disappear in the explosion of powdered sugar.