DISCLAIMER: Refer to Chapter 1.
Elendia, the village of sprites located in Riviera, the home of the heroes that had foiled Seth-Rah's plans. After a competition of cookery, the heroes finally have some time to relax and reflect on what has happened. The winner, Ein, prepares to go out on his date with Ledah, his best friend.
"It's not a date!" Ein screamed.
"Then why did you pick him in the first place?" Malice questioned.
"I just wanted some alone time with him so we could talk about things!" Ein retorted.
"Denial is the first step..." Her voice trailed off into a soft, sinister tone.
The following afternoon, Ein was upstairs preparing for his date whilst everyone else was downstairs congregating. Fia, Cierra, Serene, Lina, Rose and Malice were discussing a few issues whilst Ledah had his back against a wall, taking no notice of his surroundings.
"Okay, so here's the plan." Fia said with a low whisper. "Us four will go take a bath first in the springs, you two make sure he doesn't get anywhere near there."
"Right, and when you're finished, you four can distract him whilst us two take a bath." Rose said, nodding her head.
"Yeah yeah, whatever." Malice said.
"Okay okay! He's coming down stairs, let's do this." Serene said quickly before everyone dispersed around the room, giving the illusion that nothing happened. Looking around the room, Ein sensed something strange going on, but shrugged it off.
"Okay Ein, we'll see you later." Fia said.
"Eh? Where are you going?" Ein asked.
"We have some errands to run for grandfather." Fia replied.
"Oh, okay then." He nodded as Fia, Cierra, Lina and Serene went out the door.
Ein had taken a seat on a chair and Rose followed suit. Malice had opted to stand up and Ledah had not moved from his spot on the wall. A few minutes passed and the room was as silent as ever. Unable to take the silence any longer, Rose finally decided to start a conversation.
"Ledah, how does it feel to be back here?" Rose asked. A few seconds passed and no response came from him. "Ledah? So much for starting a conversation..."
"Rose...I have a question." Ein said. "Why don't you want Cierra to know that you're...you know..."
"It's because I do not know the consequences if she does find out." Rose replied.
"What do you mean?" Ein questioned.
"It means that she is a lunatic and no one can predict what would happen." Malice said.
"That's about right." Rose said to Ein.
"I see...I think I'll go get some fresh air." Ein said, getting up and heading out the door.
"Shouldn't we follow him?" Rose whispered to Malice.
"You can if you wish, I honestly don't care." Malice replied.
"Don't waste your time." Ledah said. "It is his fate for what is about to come. There is nothing you can do."
"If that's the case..." Malice said, in a devious tone. "Twenty dollars says that the Arc will see him first...and beat him into the ground."
"...You're on!" Rose exclaimed, heading out of the door with Malice following behind.
Meanwhile, Ein was aimlessly wandering around Elendia, wondering how tonight will turn out. He was daydreaming and didn't notice the hazard that approached. In the blink of an eye, Ein found himself flat on his back in some mud.
"Oh that's just great, now I have to take a bath to get this mud out." Ein thought. Back to Rose and Malice who were running around looking for Ein, his thoughts had echoed into Rose's head.
"Oh dear god, he's going to take a bath. Ledah was right." Rose said to Malice.
"How did...never mind I don't want to know." Malice said as they both headed towards the Undine Springs. "Damn that Ledah, his ego really needs to be shot down a few levels."
"Speak for yourself, hypocrite." Rose thought to herself.
With the Undine Springs within sight, Ein had set aside his diviner against a large rock before heading towards the water. Ein was about to take off his clothes when he heard some voices. Cautiously, he picked up his diviner and decided to investigate. Taking the scenic route behind the various bushes, Ein was behind a wall of ferns near the water's edge. Peering through between the fern leaves, he had witnessed a sight which he would never forget.
"Ack! My wings are wet! I'll get you Lina! Come here!" Serene yelled as she waded through the water trying to get a nimble Lina.
"Can't you two just get a long for at least a little while?" Fia asked.
"Some things never change." Cierra said as she bobbed under water to wash her hair.
Ein stared in awe at the sight for a few minutes before his senses returned to him. Quickly realising the danger, he quickly turned around and his eyes met with a familiar face.
"What are you doing?" Rose asked in a low tone.
"Aaah!" Ein exclaimed from the surprise and he fell backwards, his body crashing through the wall of ferns.
"And now, the feast begins." Malice grinned, who was behind Rose.
The area suddenly went silent as all of the girls in the water stared at the body before them. Slowly but steadily, the body managed to get up. Looking in front of him, Ein's eyes widened at the sight and his lips were moving, trying to speak but failed miserably.
"Let me guess, 'This is not what it looks like,' right?" Serene asked in an annoyed tone, covering herself with her wings. "You know all too well that excuse won't work anymore!"
"Now now, Serene. I'm sure Ein didn't mean it." Cierra said.
"I'm sure that it was an accident, Serene. You're just overreacting again." Fia agreed, attempting to cover herself. "Although just to make sure..."
"I doubt it!" Serene exclaimed, heading towards her weapon at the water's edge.
"Hey Ein! What's the matter?" Lina yelled out who was now out of the water, waving her hand in front of his eyes. She got no response and everyone else jumped out of the water to inspect what was going on.
"Hey wait a minute, wasn't Rose and Malice supposed to..." Serene started, but was cut off.
"Ein! Are you okay? Say something!" Fia cried out loud. A few minutes passed as the four girls tried to get a response from Ein. Malice and Rose hid behind the wall of ferns and watched intently.
"Oh my, this can't be good. He's not responding to physical pain." Cierra said as Serene was slapping Ein's face repeatedly.
"Well, I never expected to see this happen." Rose said, finally coming out from hiding. "It seems he fainted on the spot."
"Really? Wow. " Serene said in astonishment.
"Highly likely. Anyway, you four should take care of him whilst we take our turn." Rose said. As the four girls carried Ein's body towards Fia's house, Rose looked at Malice. "Better for Ein to crash in on them than us. Also, you owe me twenty."
"Hmph. Here." Malice said, reaching into her pocket.
The sun was slowly making its descent over the horizon as the four girls had rested Ein onto a chair in Fia's house. Fia had just placed a wet towel on his forehead when Lina cried out.
"Is Ein going to be okay?" Lina asked, almost in tears.
"Of course he will." Cierra answered.
"No, what I meant was..." Lina started when she was cut off.
"Aaaaaah! The pain!" Ein screamed, holding his cheeks.
"Hehe, I guess I overdid it, didn't I?" Serene said in embarrassment.
"Well, at least he's awake now, and that's all it matters right?" Cierra said.
"But he's in terrible pain." Fia replied as she attempted to nurse Ein's bruises, who only screamed even louder.
The night sky was littered with stars and the moon was approaching its zenith. Inside Fia's house, Ein had recovered and was ready to meet with Ledah, who was waiting outside. The four girls were at the table drinking tea when Ein had walked past them, heading for the door. Upon opening the door, his eyes met Ledah's.
"Where are we headed?" Ledah promptly asked.
"No where in particular. I thought that we could just wander around Elendia and show you around." Ein replied.
"Fair enough." Ledah said as they both disappeared from view.
"Now's our chance, let's follow them." Serene said, getting up.
"Let's go!" Lina exclaimed, thrusting one arm up into the air.
"Wait, wait! I'm not sure if we should. I really think that we should let them have their privacy." Fia said with an uneasy look.
"Aren't you interested in the least what could happen?" Cierra asked, looking at Fia. She didn't say anything but shuffled her shoes against the wooden floor. "That's what I thought, let's go!"
The sounds of Elendia had quietened down aside from the few crickets chirping and the hooting of a flying owl. The footsteps of Ein and Ledah had only added to the tranquility of the village as they toured the area.
"And this is the Grove of Repose." Ein said. "Isn't this a great place, Ledah?"
"Yes it is, Ein." Ledah replied.
"I think we should take breather, I brought something to eat if you want."
"Very well." Ledah said, following Ein.
The two of them sat on a large tree stump, their backs facing each other. Ein had revealed two boxes wrapped tightly with a handkerchief. Handing a box to Ledah, he unwrapped the material and opened the lid.
"Golden rice...Ein, you shouldn't push yourself too hard, especially after the event." Ledah commented.
"It's okay, it's quite easy to make actually. Maybe I could teach you sometime." Ein said, handing Ledah a pair of chopsticks.
"No, Ein. Only you can create such a dish. It would be like you trying to master my diviner, Lorelei." Ledah said, grabbing the chopsticks from Ein and started eating. "And it's just as delicious as ever."
For several minutes, the two friends sat quietly, eating their dinner. The noises of the creatures were almost like music as they ate together. There was a soft rustle in the nearby bushes but Ein and Ledah did not take notice of it at all.
"Do you see anything?" A voice whispered.
"Not really, they're just sitting there eating." Another voice answered back.
"Are you sure? Let me see." A third voice murmured.
"Lina can't see anything!" Another whined, raising her voice slightly higher than the others.
"Ssh!" the rest of them hissed.
Ledah and Ein and finished their food and Ein had gazed up at the stars, marveling in their beauty. He let out a sigh as he turned to Ledah, still looking skywards.
"Aren't they beautiful? Sometimes, I wish I could fly again, but..." Ein said, pausing for a moment.
"You still can, Ein." Ledah said, getting up and holding out his hand.
The four onlookers were shocked as Ledah and Ein joined hands. Unable to contain her emotions any longer, Serene stood up, revealing herself from the bushes.
"I knew you'd swing that way, Ein! I just knew it!" Serene yelled, pointing her index finger at them.
"Serene! What are you doing?" Fia quickly questioned, tugging at Serene's clothing.
"What the? No! It's not like that! Ledah was going to fly around Elendia and I was going to go with him! What are you two doing here anyway?"
"Wait, two?" Serene said confusingly as she turned around. "Hey! Get back here you two! You're not sneaking off and avoiding your fate!"
Cierra and Lina instantly froze and turned around with big silly grins on their faces. Serene and Fia glared at them as they slowly shuffled their way towards them. Ein could only stare in disbelief as he saw the four girls grouped together, behind a bush invading his privacy.
"I think it would be best if I go now." Ledah announced, starting to take a few steps down the forest path. "It's been a long day and I think everyone would benefit if you all go to sleep as well."
"Ledah, wait!" Ein exclaimed as he chased after him, but Ein had tripped on a rock and fell. Quickly reacting, Ledah caught him within his arms, Ein's eyes looking up at Ledah's. For one short, still moment, everyone was silent, waiting for what was to come. Finally, Ein had stood up straight and brushed himself off. "On second thought, I think that would be a good idea, Ledah. Let's go everyone."
Breathing a sigh of relief, all of the girls jumped up and enforced a group hug before heading towards Fia's house. Ledah remained behind, staring at the ground. He bent down and inspected the rock that Ein had tripped on and looked around the area before finally walking away from the scene. Minutes passed as the noises of the creatures filled the air once more. Suddenly, there was a rustle in the bushes.
"Do you think he knows?" Malice asked, standing up from behind another bush.
"He definitely knows something. I think the rock was a dead give-away though." Rose replied.
"What do you mean by that?" Malice asked again, walking onto the forest path, inspecting the rock.
"Under a small rock or stone, when it is embedded into the ground, the dirt under it would usually leave a smooth imprint. However, as you can see, the dirt has many bumps and indents in it, most likely a foot print." Rose answered, as she lifted up the small rock.
"Your meticulous calculations and planning are quite remarkable...How did you manage to correctly guess the location these two would meet and how they would react?" Malice said questioned.
"Well, after being with Ein for so long, one would suspect their likes, dislikes, habits..." Rose started.
"And the distance between their footsteps? Don't make me laugh." Malice sneered, looking at the little green book Rose was holding. "That thing has all the information you've gathered on everyone right?"
"Yes, including you. However, it is incomplete, and will most probably stay that way. After writing a book on the adventures I had, I decided to write about something else. It was rather frustrating though and nothing peaked my interest, until I realised that these five are really quite something else. Especially the girls. The ruthlessness, although rarely shows itself, is quite remarkable and mind-boggling at the same time..."
"Spare me the details, familiar. I didn't want to hear your life story." Malice snapped as she turned walk away.
"Ahem, aren't you forgetting something?" Rose asked, with a wicked smile.
"Hmph, I was hoping you'd forget. Here's the fifty." Malice said walking back whilst reaching into her pocket.
And that wraps it up for Iron Chef Riviera. I hope that everyone who has read it enjoyed it as much as I have writing it. I admit that there were a few plot holes which I tried to cover up, but ended up poking fun at it. With that said, I might continue the "series" if you can call it that. By that I mean, use the events and character "development" I've done here and bringing it into other fics that I plan to write. That is all.