Final Hikari: Okay, the title either made you O.O and click out of sheer curiosity or back away slowly. If it's the first option, then you're reading this. :D I got a certain old friend back in my party at the Seraphic Gate, was reading my guide book, and learned Sigmund hates tomatoes. XD I really laughed my ass off since Capell's note was really silly. XD Then I thought to myself, ":O Then he doesn't like tomato sauce, the sauce of the gods, either?!"
Aya: -stare- The what?
Final Hikari: XD I really like tomato sauce. My parents grow tomatoes and peppers in the summer so we can make homemade sauce. But I always end up doing it or helping, became my mom doesn't cook it long enough so hers' is always nasty. XD Anyway, I found it very amusing "the hero's one weakness is a fruit" (though Capell said vegetable…-sweat drop-) and it invaded my dreams.
Edward: -shudder- Why peppers?
Final Hikari: -innocent smile- We grew jalapeños last summer. I think there are still some in the freezer. Hungry?
Edward: -edges away slowly-
Dr. Meh: Ahem! This story is the novelization of a completely insane dream Final Hikari had.
Final Hikari: Right! It also relates to a trick my father pulled on his mentor. XD See, This mentor, Mr. Kalm, said many years ago, "Carrots don't belong in a cake!" So my dad and his brother served Mr. Kalm a carrot cake saying it was spice cake and he loved it, but was horrified when he was told it was a carrot cake. XD I've never eaten carrot cake myself…
Dr. Meh: Kalm?
Final Hikari: Yep, and he was born long before Tetsuya Nomura. XD Back on topic! I really don't know why Eugene would want to play a trick on Sigmund, because it doesn't really seem like something he'd do, but my imagination and sub-conscious are to blame. Because Dr. Meh wanted me to write it as close to the dream as possible, and I don't really know who else would figure out he hates tomatoes, Eugene was the only likely candidate. Enjoy!
The First Attempt
The Liberation Force had been invited to spend the night at the castle in the town they'd been passing through. They were on the outskirts of the Luce Plains, almost in the Oradian Dunes. They figured they'd have to stay for more than a day, for had to regroup after another difficult battle against one of the Order's knights.
They were gathered at the table in the dining room for the feast the town's Lord has arranged for them. Rico and Rucha weren't given permission to sit at the main table and were seated in another room. They didn't want the Force to get a reputation of requiting children, especially because it was just coincidental they were tagging along. Edward had tried to get Capell to sit at the "kid's table" but Aya had yelled at him, telling him to sit at the "kid's table," but Eugene ended the argument before it became more of a spectacle.
But as usual, unbeknownst to the rest of the Force, their leader, Sigmund The Liberator, avoided everything that contained tomatoes. He'd hated them long before growing up in Halgita, a tropical area rich in crops of them. Only Empress Svala, Eugene, and perhaps a few stalkers were aware of his distain for the dreaded red fruit.
And that was how he wanted it to remain.
After the meal when they were leaving the room, Eugene pulled Aya aside and asked if he could speak to her in private. She was surprised by the odd request but agreed, figuring it had something to do with the Force. Perhaps they were returning to Fayel sooner than planned?
Nevertheless, she went up to Eugene's room after the others cleared out of the dining room. Capell has been distinctly difficult to distract since he was trying to avoid Edward, but she had finally managed to get him to leave her alone.
The rooms they'd all been given were on the fifth floor, making the walk up the stairs take several minutes. She knocked on the second door on the right of the hall and Eugene opened it within moments.
"Good evening, Aya," he greeted politely, "I'm glad you came so promptly."
She nodded and smiled. "No problem, Sir Eugene. Is what you had to discuss with me about the Force?"
"Sort of," the mage replied, "could you close the door behind you?"
"Sure…," she said a little hesitantly and obliged. The lock clicked into place with a metallic clink. "Eugene, is something wrong? You're acting strangely…"
Eugene nodded sternly. "It's imperative the others don't get wind of this. This matter is top-secret. It cannot be mentioned to Sigmund."
"You're keeping something from Lord Sigmund?" Aya asked suspiciously.
"Allow me to explain," Eugene began, offering her a chair at the table in the corner of the room. "You see, Sigmund's birthday is the day after tomorrow, and I'd appreciate it if you could make him a cake."
"Lord Sigmund's birthday?" Aya echoed in surprise as her doubt dissipated. She couldn't remember ever wondering about his birthday.
"Yes. You're the best baker in our group, and though Michelle could probably do it as well, I don't feel it's a good idea to have her preparing his food… Anyway, make sure you don't let him hear about it, He probably doesn't remember and if he knew we wanted to do something nice for him he'd just say not to because it was a waste of time and funds."
"Sounds like something he'd do," Aya agreed. "So, what kind of cake does he like? I've baked lots of cakes, so I could do just about any kind!"
"That's wonderful! I'd like you to make him a tomato cake."
Aya's smile dropped. What? "Uh…what was that?"
"A tomato cake," Eugene said, sliding his glasses up his nose so they glinted. "Can you make one?"
"Well…I'm sure I can, but…it's just…an odd flavor."
"Oh, it's very common in Halgita," Eugene assured, "I haven't seen any for sale anywhere else, but they're for sale in every bakery there."
"I see…," Aya trailed off, clearly disturbed. What does a tomato cake taste like? What does it look like? What color is it?
"So you'll do it?"
"Um, sure! If it's Lord Sigmund's favorite, I suppose I don't have much of a choice. I might need to make a few experiment cakes, so I'll need extra supplies."
"Of course," Eugene replied, reaching in one of the many pockets of his backpack and pulling a wallet out. "How much Fol do you think you'll need?"
"Let me make a shopping list…"
A loud bang woke Capell up. He opened his eyes blearily when it persisted and realized someone was knocking on his door. He looked over to the window, but the room was still dark and the horizon only seemed to be brightening slightly. It was far too early to wake up when they weren't going anywhere. Thus, he groaned and pulled the blanket over his head.
"Capell!" the voice said quietly but urgently. "Open the door or I'm coming in right now!"
"Aya?" he asked, sitting up, slightly more awake.
She opened the door and pushed it almost closed behind her. She walked quietly, apparently seeking not to be heard by the others. "Get out of bed and ready to go!"
"We're leaving already? It's too early… Sigmund couldn't possibly want to leave already," he retorted, then remembering something. "And I thought we were waiting for Edward's and Balbagan's wounds to heal…"
"Not the Force, us!" Aya said, crossing her arms impatiently.
Capell blinked, clearly surprised. "What? We're leaving? Just the two of us?"
Aya stared a moment before her expression dropped into a glare. She marched over, grabbing one of his pillows and whacked him over the head with it. A loud thwack filled the room and echoed down the hall.
"We're going to the store and you're carrying what I buy, pack mule!"
"Ow!" Capell exclaimed, holding the back of his heat. "That's a feather pillow, you didn't have to hit so hard!"
She raised it to whack him again, but the bedroom door was suddenly pushed open. They look up at the same time to see Edward, holding it open so it didn't slam with his left hand, for his right was in a sling. He looked tired and, if possible, even more irritable than usual.
"Quiet down, people are trying to sleep!" he said, glowering at them darkly. "…What are you doing?"
"Sorry," Aya said, lowering the pillow. "I didn't realize you were in the next room over."
"You can hit him again if you want," Edward replied airily after observing the situation. He seemed a lot less angry about being woken up when he saw what was going on. "Just do it more quietly."
"Ed, go back to sleep," Aya sighed. "The doctors said you needed rest so that arm heals naturally for a while before they complete the process."
Edward looked a bit dissatisfied. "Then you aren't going to hit him again?"
"No!" Aya and Capell chorused irritably, in almost perfect unison.
Edward winced and left, though he let the door to his room slam behind him.
Aya dropped the pillow, looking disgruntled. "This will never remain a secret at this rate."
"What secret? That you're violent with pillows and a hazard to wake up to?"
She glared at him for his terminology, expression filled with smoldering rage. "No! I'll tell you about it when we leave. Meet me at the entrance in five minutes. And don't wake Lord Sigmund up!"
"But it takes nearly ten to get down the stai-"
"Five minutes!" Aya said louder, walking out of the room in a huff.
Capell heaved a sigh and began to pull his boots on. The sun wasn't even up yet, but he was already getting the feeling it was going to be a very long day.
Aya stood outside the palace's gates with her arms crossed, tapping her foot impatiently. What was taking Capell? She felt slightly bad for waking Edward up, who had broken his right arm in battle the previous day. Eugene had been able to set it and the town's mage healed it, but they still wanted him not to use it for a day or two.
Balbagan's list of injuries was more extensive, though he didn't have any broken bones. Injuries were treated casually since they were so common, but this time they resigned to staying in a town for more than just a night. Lord Sigmund might have been injured as well, but if so, it wasn't severe enough to inform the Force of.
The gate was pushed open with a loud squeak as Capell walked through, yawning.
"Took you long enough," Aya said, holding her shopping list out to him.
"Are any stories even open at this hour?" Capell asked, stifling another yawn.
"Of course they are," Aya retorted crossly.
He scanned the list and followed her as they started down the empty main road. There were only well-kept gardens lining the road until the passed through another gate and were officially off castle grounds. Once they were in town, people opening their stores were moving about as the last of the stars disappeared in the brightening sky.
"I take it you're baking…?"
"Yep. I'm making a cake," Aya replied confidently.
"What's the occasion?" Capell asked, though he wasn't entirely interested. Twenty five pound bag of flour? And another one of sugar?! No wonder she needed a pack mule…
"It's a birthday cake for Lord Sigmund! Eugene told me it's tomorrow and he wanted me to bake it. He didn't want Michelle doing it because he doesn't trust her."
So why isn't Eugene lugging all this crap then…? Capell wondered as he reached the final item on the list. He stared, looking slightly horrified, and read the line aloud to make sure he wasn't hallucinating or there wasn't some sort of error. "Ten pounds fresh red tomatoes?"
Aya winced. "Yes, tomatoes."
"Why do you need tomatoes…?" Capell asked, stepping forward to cast her a skeptical look.
"Well…," Aya said, pausing, "I'm making a tomato cake."
Capell stared blankly at her for a long moment. Hearing her say it was far more disturbing than reading it. "A what?"
"Don't ask me, I never heard of it!" Aya retorted defensively. "Eugene told me to make a tomato cake."
"How do you make a tomato cake?!" Capell demanded, finding the idea of ruining a cake with tomatoes borderline sacrilegious.
"I don't know," Aya groaned, "That's why I need lots of supplies! Keep complaining and I'll send you around to try and fine me a recipe."
"Are you sure you didn't mishear or something? A tomato cake? Who would put tomatoes in a cake? That's just weird!"
"I told you, I haven't the faintest idea! I'm just following orders. Eugene has known Sigmund longer than the rest of the force combined, so how am I supposed to know his cake preference?"
"Who in their right mind would eat a tomato cake though? It sounds disgusting! Are you sure this isn't some joke Eugene is using you to carry out?"
"No way," Aya said firmly, "Why would he want to play a trick on Sigmund? He's much more mature and sophisticated than that. And don't question Lord Sigmund's sanity!"
"But a tomato cake?" Capell repeated for the umpteenth time. "Why not just say you forgot and make him a nice chocolate cake? Everybody likes chocolate. Especially if it's iced and has two layers so there's gooey icing in the middle."
"Some people are allergic to chocolate," Aya said dryly, deciding she wouldn't pick on his poor terminology. It was a battle for another day.
"I've never heard of someone allergic to chocolate…"
"And you never heard of Sigmund either, and he's the hero of the world."
Ow. Good point. "Well, neither of us heard of tomato cake. What about a banana cake? That's a fruit."
Aya glanced up at him warily. "A banana cake? That's just as weird! How do they get the bananas in there?"
"It isn't weird! Banana cakes with chocolate icing are the best cakes around. And besides, he probably doesn't even remember his birthday with everything that's going on. I don't see why you couldn't make a chocolate cake. He'd appreciate it either way and Rico and Rucha will probably end up hording most of it," Capell reasoned.
Aya frowned slightly, looking slightly crestfallen. "Come to think of it, I've never seen Lord Sigmund eat any sweets…"
"Exactly. You could make a nice, easy chocolate cake and be fine."
"But he'd have to remember his own birthday at some point. I mean, it's not the kind of thing a person completely forgets."
"Not necessarily. Especially if it means tomato cake…"
"Are you hinting I can't make a good cake?" Aya accused suddenly, hands on her hips.
"I'm sure your cakes are fine, but-" Capell began, holding his hands up in defense, though she cut him off.
"Good! Then you'll be my taste tester. I don't have a recipe, thus I'll have to wing it, so you'll have lots of my attempts to try."
Capell winced; the situation was going from bad to worse. Sigmund getting a tomato cake was saddening, but having to taste test them himself? That was disastrous. "Then…when do you have to start baking?"
"Immediately. His birthday is the 20th, and that's tomorrow."
"The 20th…?" Capell questioned, expression surprised.
"That's an exact month after mine," Capell answered simply.
"Then what kind of cake did you have last month?" Aya challenged dryly.
"An imaginary one."
"Oh…," she trailed off, her expression darkening as she frowned slightly. "Why didn't you celebrate it?"
"I certainly can't bake and cakes are expensive, why bother? Especially when there's no one to celebrate with."
Aya sighed loudly and looked away. "You can be just as cynical as Sigmund sometimes; refusing to do anything for a serious though boring reason."
Capell shrugged. "I didn't think turning seventeen was anything special."
Aya's expression grew distant for a moment before she looked slightly aghast. "Hey, wait a moment…"
"What?" he asked, slightly concerned.
"I don't believe it!" she exclaimed suddenly, throwing her hands in the air. "You're older than Lord Sigmund! That doesn't even sound right…"
"One month is kinda irrelevant…"
"I know, but still. He's a strong, level-headed hero and you act like a child half the time! And yet you're older! By an entire month no less…"
"Hey!" Capell interjected, "At least I don't act like a serious, old man. And I probably take better care of myself, too.
"Don't be so disrespectful! And you don't take care of yourself either, you're just not physically overextended because you're lazy," Aya scolded as she grabbed his sleeve and abruptly dragging him into the general store.
"Bless you!" Michelle exclaimed when Sigmund sneezed. "You never sneeze," she said concernedly, scooting closer to him. "Sweetie, are you okay?"
"I'm fine," he replied flatly, inwardly thinking he should have moved away from her, but lacked the chance since she was bandaging his injured left arm.
After he sneezed a second time, Michelle dropped the roll of gauze and threw her arms around his neck in distress. "Are you sure you're okay?!"
"I'm fine," he repeated, gently pushing her away.
She sighed dramatically as she let go of him and grabbed the roll of gauze before more unraveled. "I guess someone is talking about you, then. You must have more admirers than we realize! Promise not to reply to any love letters you get from girls! Or from guys. Especially from guys. Because if you do, I'll dump you."
"In that case, I'll be sure to--" he stopped in mid sentence, wincing, as Michelle abruptly yanked on the roll of gauze, pulling it taught in a circulation-cutting-off jolt.
She smiled at him sweetly, expression the epitome of innocence. "We're you going to say something, sweetheart?"
He cast her a wry stare, anything but amused. "If someone is talking about me, it's probably the Order discussing ways to kill me," Sigmund reasoned calmly.
Michelle frowned, clearly displeased. "Sigmund, dear, you're so cynical."
She then noticed a dusty tangle in the gauze, almost definitely created by her antics and huffed as she stood up. "I have to go get more. I wouldn't even use this on Edward…," she gave it a second look then added quietly, "well, maybe I would."
She blew a The Liberator a kiss then spun on her heel and hurried out of the room. Sigmund sighed heavily, partly hoping Eugene already had another plot to leave her behind. Even Princess Aya of Fayel, inexperienced as she was, made a better healer.
Edward shook his head from where he sat, having his broken arm attended to across the room. "Veros grant you patience…"
Sigmund shook his head slightly in response. "At least she's trying to be less of a hindrance."
Edward's eyes widened in horror. "She used to be worse?"
It had been a good two hours since they left the castle. The sun was high in the sky illuminating the town's busy streets and the humidity was rising. Though the town was still on the Luce Plains, they were drawing closer to the Oradian Dunes and the southern area's characteristic heat.
Neither made lugging twenty-five pound bags of flour and sugar and several other bags of random ingredients pleasant. The Princess of Fayel only begrudgingly carried a bag of tomatoes as they made their way back to the castle. They were going to walk around the back to the kitchen's secondary entrance on the ground floor. Apparently Aya had informed the cooks of her plans. Or they had just been warned the creator of "Hell's Egg Sandwich" wanted to do some baking and cooperated out of fear.
It took several long minutes to reach the castle's kitchen's entrance. It was in the exact opposite side of the front entrance, leaving them to walk all the way around the building before reaching the plain single door. A female cook in an all white uniform waited for them and opened the door for them with a bow.
Another cook waited inside the equally plain hallway and explained to Aya how the ovens had to be let and where all the baking pans where stored. He warned that some were on high shelves, but she just smiled sweetly saying she'd make Capell climb to get them. The cook cast Capell a sympathetic look as he held the door to the kitchen open for them and wished them a good day.
The kitchen they'd cleared for Aya had a fairly normal design. They were large and spacious with counters on either side of the sink and oven. Every imaginably tool and appliance necessary for baking was present. The wooden cabinets that hung high over the surfaces were in pristine condition.
There was a door on the far left that lead into another of the castle's hallways and two tables on either side of it.
"The cooks here must be giants to reach those cupboards…," Aya muttered, placing her paper bag of tomatoes down on the counter. "Capell, put the bags down on the tables. But scoot them closer to the wall so the bags of flour and sugar are upright; I don't want to have to move them when I need supplies."
"Sure…," Capell mumbled, dropping the bags on the table with a loud thud before sliding them against the wall.
"What kind of cake do you think I should make?" Aya asked as she flung all the cabinet doors open to inspect the contents. "They have so many different types of pans…"
"What about those fancy ones with icing in the middle?"
"A double layer cake?" Aya asked as she knelt down to see what was in the cabinet beneath the sink. "That probably wouldn't be a bad idea…"
"How would you make one?"
"Well, the most professional way is to have two pans of the same size and depth and divide the batter between them. Baking one large cake then cutting it in half is a lot more time consuming and it doesn't look as nice."
"Right," Capell replied, not very interested in the baking process, "so it's decided? I can leave now?"
"Of course not," Aya replied as she pointed to the upper cabinets. "They're too high for me to reach and there aren't any step stools. You have to get two pans, six mixing bowls, and a cutting board down for me."
Capell sighed inwardly but obliged, pulling the requested items down from various shelves of the cabinets. He handed her a cake pan, but she scowled and pushed it back at him.
"That's far too deep," she said impatiently, "those two matching ones on the top shelf are for double layer cakes."
"I can't reach those," Capell objected, eyeing the forth and uppermost shelf.
"Kneel on the counter then," Aya retorted, crossing her arms stubbornly.
Capell scowled slightly as he climbed up on the edge of the counter surrounding the sink and stretched his arm up to the top shelf and groped around blindly for the pans she'd supposedly seen. "Are you sure they're up here?"
"Definitely," Aya said, backing away to see them. "They're leaning against the very back."
"Who the hell would store there?" Capell groaned, feeling his hand brush against something wooden as his fingers came in contact with the cool metal pan. "Ha! Found it!" he exclaimed, grabbing the rib of the pan and pulling it forward.
However, the item that was in front of the pan followed. Aya opened her mouth to warn him, but it was too late and the utensil was already rolling and falling off the edge. Gravity was merciless and luck wasn't with him, for the heavy wooden rolling pit hit Capell squarely on the head.
Aya winced as he cursed loudly, dropping the pan into the sink. "Are you alright?" she asked attentively, taking a step forward but not getting too close just in case anything else was going to fall out.
"Fine, other than a slight concussion…," Capell grumbled under his breath sarcastically.
"What was that?"
"Nothing. I'm fine," he replied as he pulled the other pan down more carefully and hopped off the counter.
"Thanks," Aya said as he handed the accursed pan to her.
"So you're good now? I can be dismissed?"
"Sure, but I'll need you back in an hour to try my first cake and batch of icing. I might need more tomatoes later, too. I don't know how many I'll need."
Capell winced slightly but didn't comment. "All right. See you later then."
"See you," Aya replied as she dumped the tomatoes out of their bag.
Capell walked toward the door he surmised lead back into one of the castle's main halls and placed his hand on the doorknob but stopped when Aya spoke.
"Capell?" she asked, turning around suddenly.
"Yes?" he asked warily, expecting another request.
"Thanks for helping," she said, her eyes meeting his as she smiled warmly. "It would have taken me hours to lug all that if it weren't for you. It's nice to be traveling with someone I can trust…to help with serious things and little things. I've always trusted Lord Sigmund, but he can't be bothered with things that don't have anything to do with the Force."
Capell returned the smile despite himself. "Anytime."
Aya started measuring and pouring ingredients into her mixing bowl, though her thoughts were straying from baking. Despite having to decide how she was going to add the tomatoes and how many she'd have to use, she was thinking of Lord Sigmund and Capell.
She'd always looked up to Sigmund. Even when she was fourteen, she was intrigued when she first overheard her parents discussing the rumor that someone who could sever the chains had appeared. The chains surrounding Fayel had been plaguing the country for five years before the hopeful news had spread. The first chain to be cut was in the Cobasna Timberlands near Halgita.
Everyone had been wary to believe their salvation could be brought by one person. There had been too many futile attempts to destroy the chains that only lead to the Order devastating the kingdoms that tried. It was simply impossible; no weapon, person, or force could sever them. They were protected too soundly by the power of the moon. But when more reports of chains being cut, all by the same young man from Halgita, public interested grew.
Almost at the same time his name became common knowledge, the rumor was proven true and he was given the prestigious title of Liberator. He was the first hero the land had seen since Casandra fell and any wars were abruptly ended by the Order of Chains.
Fayel didn't share the interest that other kingdoms began to express and her father, the emir, had mixed feelings when Sigmund and his three companions appeared in Fayel to liberate the chain in the Oradian Dunes. It was becoming a problem for Fayel because of the excess of hostile monsters, but he wouldn't support the Force. He had been even more upset when she snuck off to assist The Liberator in freeing Fayel and later asking to join the Force.
When she first set out with them, confident her thorough knowledge of the area would have to make a difference, she quickly saw otherwise. Even though she informed them of all the fastest or safest routes, where the oases were, or what the weaknesses of the common enemies were, she realized her help wasn't indelible. She'd felt slightly embarrassed she'd underestimated the ability of the Force, for they would have navigated the area easily without her help.
The Liberator was an extraordinary person on countless levels and had determination that far exceeded that of normal people. He hardly ever needed help, regardless if he was injured or not. He was focus on his goal of liberating the moon, and didn't let anything stand in his way; not even Leonid, the Dreadknight.
His look-alike, however, was a completely different story. Capell was surprisingly handy with a sword but lacked an common sense in battle, geography, and…well…just about everything.
At first she though he was simply a year or so younger than Sigmund, but discovering he was actually a month older was mildly disturbing. Nevertheless, Sigmund kept his most loyal comrades at a distance. It was impossible to get close to him or know what he was thinking; he was completely unreachable. Even Eugene, who had known Sigmund since they were children, wasn't sure why he was so detached or what happened to him in his past to make him that way.
Capell, on the other hand, was more of a normal person. She'd overheard him admitting his real parents abandoned him, that his adoptive parents died when he was young, and that he hadn't had any friends as a child. Despite all those reasons that would justify a person isolating himself, he was consistently friendly and helpful.
For looking nearly identical, they weren't all that similar.
Rico and Rucha, inseparable as usual, bounced down the hall cheerfully in search of Capell. It didn't take long to find him, for Michelle and Eugene had made him go into town and restock their supplies. He'd just dropped them off in Eugene's room to be packed into the mage's ridiculously heavy backpack, and was returning to the ground floor to get some breakfast when they caught up to him.
He stopped when he heard their voices, as they'd called his name in perfect synchronicity. He greeted them tiredly as Rucha began speaking hurriedly and excitedly. "Aya told us she needs you to go see her!"
"But she didn't say where she'd be," Rico added, equally hyper. "It sounded very sneaky!"
"She gave us some candy and told us not to tell anyone we told you to!" Rucha exclaimed, continuing her brother's comment without missing a beat.
"The candy was really good though! It was chocolate! I think she got it from the cooks because it tasted like what they served with the ice cream last night!" Rico said, bouncing up and down slightly.
"Uh, thanks for telling me," Capell replied, unsure if he'd caught all their sugar-accelerated message. "I'll go find her."
"Can we come?" they chorused in unison.
Capell winced slightly, feeling like a babysitter again. "You probably don't want to, nothing interesting is going on."
"That sounds suspicious," Rico interjected, crossing his arms stubbornly, "you two are up to something!"
"Yeah!" Rucha chorused, also crossing her arms and pouting.
"It's nothing, really," Capell assured, though they didn't seem to hear him. Damn it, Aya. Why did you give them chocolate then send them after me? Rucha opened her mouth to continue her interrogation, but he suddenly had an idea. "Why don't you two go help Eugene go through his backpack? He might give you some money to go spend in town if you're good."
The twins exchanged looks.
"Did you see a candy store in this town?" Rico asked his sister mischievously.
"I did! A really big one, too! They had a big display of chocolate in the window!" Rucha replied eagerly.
They look up at Capell and grinned, a little evilly. "Thanks Capell!"
They dashed off down the hall, discussing various kinds sweets enthusiastically as they disappeared around the corner. Capell sighed heavily and started down the stairs to the kitchens. Even if it wasn't a secret, there's no way they'd like the sweets Aya's baking…
She's probably going to yell at me for being late. She must've finished the first cake a while ago. I wonder if it's going to be edible…vegetables aren't supposed to be in cakes.
It wasn't long before he reached the kitchens on the ground floor. However, he'd have preferred if the stairs were longer; the idea of tomato cake for breakfast would make any person queasy. He went to open the door but found it locked. He knocked impatiently, about to call through the door for her to unlock it, but it was flung open and a hand closed over his arm and dragged him inside. The smell of tomatoes instantly flooded his senses.
"Hey!" he objected as she locked the door behind him.
"Did anyone see you coming in?" Aya demanded suspiciously as she pulled an oven mitt off her hand and placed it on the table. She'd also tossed her jacket over the back of a chair and replaced it with a plain white apron. The apron reflected great struggle with tomatoes, in the form of many red splotches.
"I don't think so," he replied, though he hadn't actually bothered looking. "But did you have to give Rico and Rucha chocolate before sending them to find me?"
"Yes, they said I was being too sneaky and they'd tell Edward we were up to no good. They only agreed after I bribed them."
Capell frowned slightly. "Why Edward?"
"I think Rucha likes him," Aya replied simply, "he's really nice to little kids."
Capell stared at her for a moment, expression clearly perplexed. "That obsessive, pigheaded worshiper can be nice?"
Aya sighed heavily, shaking her head mournfully. "Apparently. It might be a step in the right direction for him, seeing as he's usually only nice to Lord Sigmund."
"That's mildly disturbing," he responded with a wince.
"No more disturbing than the color of a tomato cake," Aya replied, pointing to the steaming cake placed on a platter resting on the table. A knife on a small plate rested beside it.
Capell's wince turned into a look of horror. She was right; the cake was bright red. The sight made his stomach churn. "Did you…try any?"
"Of course not, it's still whole."
"Weren't you going to ice it first?" Capell asked warily, staring at the cake.
Aya put her hands on her hips and glared at him. "I'm not going to waste time and supplies on every trial cake. Now stop stalling and start taste testing!"
She lifted the knife and cut a rather large piece out of the cake and set it in front of the chair. Capell stared at it, inwardly wondering if he'd ever be able to get near another tomato without visualizing the hideous, crimson cake. It just didn't look right.
He sat down and examined the piece, frowning slightly. Is that a piece of skin…? he wondered as she handed him a fork. No, can't be…she had to remove the skins first. Nobody would be that stupid.
He cut a small piece of the tip off with the fork as Aya began to tap her foot impatiently. The cake's consistency looked pretty professional; light and fluffy, just as any cake should be. It was just the grotesque, unnatural color that made him wish to be in any other kitchen on the planet.
"Is this really safe to eat?" Capell asked, expression apprehensive.
"Capell!" Aya complained, clearly offended. "Just eat the damn cake!"
"It isn't ladylike to curse."
"Capell!" she repeated, only louder and angrier.
"Alright, alright!" he retorted, raising a hand in defense. He took a deep breath and cast the piece of cake one more foreboding look before eating the small piece. It tasted like an unripe tomato coated in old granulated sugar encapsulated in fluffy, cake-like mold. On top of the unpleasant taste, his teeth bit down on a small, hard unidentified item.
She stared at him expectantly, waiting for a reaction. After a short moment of chewing he began to choke. Her shoulders fell as he coughed up a seed.
"What the hell did you put in here?" he demanded, staring in appalled dismay at the seed. "It was hard and crunchy and big!"
"It's a seed," she replied, sitting down in the chair across from him disappointedly.
"Why didn't you take the seeds out?"
"I thought they'd get soft in the oven and kinda just be…a part of the cake."
"Seeds never get soft when baked. Haven't you ever had sunflower seeds? And what was that smooth, chewy stuff?"
"The skins didn't mix in either?"
Capell resisted the temptation to let his head hit the table. "Aya, this cake is a traumatic birthday memory waiting to happen. I'd want to forget my birthday if it meant coming within ten feet of this every year. A banana cake would be a much better choice."
She grabbed her oven mitt off the table and whacked him over the head with it. "Well, how was I supposed to know? I've never put fruit in a cake before!"
"Isn't the tomato a vegetable?" Capell asked, momentarily distracted.
"No, it's a fruit," Aya replied, her anger also briefly sidetracked.
"Are you sure?"
Aya rolled her eyes intolerantly. "Well, if you're such an expert on fruit cakes, how is this banana cake of yours' made?"
"Well, the skins are obviously removed first. And it's a lot sweeter."
"But the skins on tomatoes don't peel easily," Aya objected, picking a large strip of skin off the side of the cake. "And when you mash the tomatoes, they don't really mix in either."
"Boiling them first helps," Capell suggested offhandedly. "They get soft so you can peel the skins off really easily and pick the seeds out."
Aya glanced up, staring at him blankly. "How'd you know that?"
Capell returned the stare for a long moment. "Isn't it common knowledge?"
"I never heard that, and I was tutored in cooking for years," Aya replied, a little suspiciously. "How do you know so much about tomatoes?"
"Well, when I was little my adoptive mother grew tomatoes. She'd get so many she made sauce out of them every day that summer I was with them before they were killed. She made me pick them for her and then lecture me about how to prepare them."
"Every day?" she inquired doubtfully.
"Every single ninety-degree day in a sweltering kitchen," Capell affirmed.
"You…have a lot of tomato trauma," Aya said simply.
"Nothing worse than this," Capell retorted, sliding the plate with the slice of cake far away from him.
Aya whacked him with her oven mitt again. "Fine, then, Chef Capell," she said sardonically, "light a burner and get some water boiling. Would you like an apron before you start? I think there's still a nice flowery one hanging in the closet over there."
Capell cast her a dark look as he pulled his gloves off. "The sarcasm isn't necessary. Especially because you'd offend someone giving them a fruit cake with seeds in it."
"You're a fruitcake," Aya said, taking a small pile of tomatoes out of the bag and placing them on the counter.
Capell reached up and very carefully pulled the first pot in the cabinet over the stove out. It was a little on the small side, but they didn't have too many tomatoes to boil. He didn't want a repeat of what happened last time he removed something out blindly. He filled it three quarters of the way full of water and lit the burner with a match while Aya rinsed the tomatoes.
She set them on a cutting board and began hacking away at the top of them. Capell winced. "You're doing that wrong."
"Is there any right way? It's a pain to get the stem out no matter how you do it."
"Let me show you," he began, handing her a new tomato and rolling the first on to the counter. "You pull the leaves off then cut in a small, slanted circle so the part you cut out is cone-shaped," he explained, placing his hands over hers and guiding the cut. "Do that again to the bottom and it's ready to be boiled."
She blushed slightly, hardly paying attention to the short, simple explanation. He did the same with the bottom then pulled another knife out of the utensil drawer to do more himself.
"Uh, could you show me again?" Aya asked, sounding a little guilty.
"Weren't you paying attention?" he questioned dryly before showing her again. "…Fruitcake."
She elbowed him lightly and stuck her tongue out him. "Don't be a wise guy, it isn't becoming of you."
"I think it's even less becoming of a 'young lady,'" Capell replied with a laugh.
The Liberator leaned back against the wall of the balcony, rather dissatisfied. He and Eugene had made just about every strategy possible for their crossing of the Oradian Dunes and upcoming attack on Vesplume Tower, they'd restocked on supplies, and had an audience with the Lord of the town. Due to the injuries various members of the group had received due to an Order ambush in the Luce Plains, they had intended to stay three nights in the town.
However, there was absolutely nothing productive left to do. Just waiting and recovering; two things he would much rather skip and simply deal with while traveling. What is tomorrow's date? he wondered randomly, the 20th? Isn't something on the 20th…? Or rather, am I remembering something from my life or Volsung's?
All my memories are completely scrambled. The image of Volsung's…my…wife dying in my arms, over seventeen years ago, seems more vivid than the last chain I severed.
There were several chains near or in the Oradian Dunes, causing the creatures there to be very plentiful and powerful. Vesplume Tower was past the Oradian Mountains and there was a rumor Port Zala had recently been plagued by a new chain. Progressing with allies unable to fight would be too great of a risk.
Particularly because it was already difficult enough for him to look after the Princess of Fayel and Prince of Casandra. Neither were experienced in battle and frequently needed rescuing - especially the latter, who had never wielded a sword until getting mistaken for Sigmund himself.
Capell's existence is far more important to the future of Casandra once it's freed from Lenoid's rule than mine. No other kingdom will be willing to acknowledge an unblessed as a ruler, but support from Halgita is guaranteed. Svala will realize who he is. If I live to assist in rebuilding Casandra, as I am now, I'd only be able to help ridding the land of the Order's scum.
And they call me a hero. This is just atonement.
The Order never would have had enough power to enslave this world if they hadn't conquered Casandra. He tilted his head back to stare up to the sky dismally. And of course Casandra never would have been taken…if I hadn't foolishly forsaken my duty in my previous life.
Final Hikari: I estimate two or three chapters for this. -sweat drop- It's a short story though. It just hit twenty pages and I decided that was just a tad too big for a oneshot. XD That, and I want to be the first person in the Infinite Undiscovery section to post more than one thing… -glances around, paranoid-
Aya: Hmph. You may be able to write, but I'm sure you wouldn't be able to make a tomato cake of all things, either.
Final Hikari: I'd be willing to give it a try. It's only a few more years before I'm off to culinary school! But anyway, that's neither here nor there. -turns to readers- I started this quite a while back but then got held up with some editing and then by starting a Star Ocean: The Last Hope fan fiction. Yes, I buy and play everything Tri-Ace releases. XD I don't know if I worship them like a god like Edward worships Sigmund, but I am a bit obsessed…
Edward: …Excuse me?
Final Hikari: Your forth trait is "Sigmundite," I don't want to hear it. :p Anyway! I want to give a quick explanation for the unusually dark scene I ended this chapter with. This is shortly after Sigmund regains his memories but before they reach Sapran and he realizes he's no longer able to break the chains. Needless to say, he'd be in a rather dark frame of mind at this point in the game's timeline. I just wanted to include a scene in his POV that reflected this.
Aya: Because you're a sadist.
Final Hikari: Bingo! :D I'm an expert of angst.
Edward: And you're proud of this…?