DuGorge smiled as reports came in of successful attacks on shipments of ingredients passing across Tethe'alla. Eve disabled the system that allowed the Wonder Organization to keep track of food, preventing them from even realizing what was happening, then gave him access to the same communication network. Able to keep contact with his own agents over vast distances now, the strategies and tactics he developed to spread Dark Chef candy to all parts of the world worked that much more smoothly. Once the hundreds of candy shops around the world had spread a majority of their candies to the proper victims, the Dark Chef Alliance would move against the Wonder Organization headquarters in Hima. Assuming all went well, and he was sure it would, the Organization would collapse from lack of leadership and loss of forces, the Heroes of Union would be gone, the systems of government around the world would be destroyed and the agents planted to take control would have the surrounding nobles under their command.
Eve had reported to DuGorge that no sign of the Wonder Chef was found despite her father's frantic search for his communicator signal when it was discovered to be lost, and that the Council was pushing for the chef to be pulled from his position. Elated by how well things were going, DuGorge went back to working on the modified Wonder Recipes to use in the final battle. A majority of his lieutenants and agents were equipped with Exspheres, thanks to the Desians that escaped the Moria Dragon disaster. Ginger's attempt to thwart his plans had been foiled, but her location was of little consequence. Eve assured him that Ginger would be wherever her brother was traveling. The Wonder Chef's sister had been under the assumption that Ginger had interests in him and sought to encourage it.
Nothing mattered to DuGorge at the moment except his preparation for the day when he would finally defeat his long-time rival and take the Wonder Fork in hand, stepping up to become Wonder Chef himself and avenge his family tree. His obsession with the goal had led him to transforming his appearance into a mirror image of the blonde chef long ago, even though the age difference between Adam Voraci and Gluttonious DuGorge was a good eight years. Living in Tethe'alla all his life with full access to his family's fortune enabled him to maintain a youthful appearance with various lotions and potions bought from witches and mages. This same fortune was what funded the Dark Chef Alliance, the organization his ancestors founded to wreak vengeance against the Wonder Chef Family for sentencing them to exile.
There was also that personal matter he had against the Voraci Family itself, but that could be dealt with once he had the Wonder Fork back in his hands. He sighed briefly, shaking his head. If the little blonde punk had just stayed dead when he fell from the cliffs near the Ozette Ruins so long ago, all of this would have been over already. DuGorge smiled wider as he watched the cauldron bubble.
But then what fun would taking over be if he couldn't face Adam in a final, decisive battle to the death?
Edela Voraci breathed a sigh of relief as she watched the screen in the information center finally emit a single yellow blip, marking the return of her beloved son. She traced her fingertip over the light and smiled gently, then turned and left the room to tell her husband.
No matter what happened in the coming days, the Voracis could not afford to lose their son. DuGorge was up to something, and the power of the Wonder Chef was all that stood between them and destruction of the world's food supply. She clutched the pendant around her neck tightly and closed her eyes. The family she came from had kept her hidden and safe until the day news of the Wonder Chef passing through their village came. She was sent to meet with Estéfan, with all the knowledge she possessed on her destiny. The two met, fell in love, and were wed within the year. Edela knew the day she learned she was to be a mother that her role was fulfilled. Her child, her children, would carry the blood that was deemed lost, and all its strength, all its power, would be restored.
Edela would give birth to the new Family. The culmination of generations of folding bloodlines. The Voracis existed for that purpose, the same purpose the other Families existed to fulfill. Somewhere out there was a child of the Family, same as hers, a child with the uncanny ability to cook healthy food, a child with magical blood to protect the Ultimate Recipe that was ingrained in their minds; maybe more children. They may not be Wonder Chefs themselves, but then the boy that became First Wonder Chef had the power before the title. The title was meaningless, it was the Recipe and the blood that protected it that was important.
"He's returned to the screen, his signal was picked up just a bit ago." Edela whispered to Estéfan as she passed by him to the family's living quarters. "Have your parents and brother left for Alvanista?"
"Yes. You should make haste and join them. Eve and I shall stay behind to ensure your escape goes unnoticed. If the Council learns of your identity..." the elderly chef murmured back. Edela smiled and shook her head.
"No. I'll stay with you, dear husband. The Council can't harm me, even if they were to know me." she answered and smiled wider, "In fact, the knowledge may scare them; proof that Adam is far more powerful than they originally thought."
"I would feel most comfortable knowing you were safely away from here, but I trust your strength. If you feel you can withstand the events, you may remain." Estéfan relented and looked momentarily concerned, "There is the matter of Eve's strange behavior as of late, but it may just be the stress of all that is happening to us. If the situation here further deteriorates, I may have to send her to Alvanista as well. Adam is risking his life more and more the longer he remains connected to this place; I cannot allow my daughter to share his fate should things go wrong." Edela nodded and continued on, praying silently as she let her hand fall from her pendant.
No matter what happened to her now, Edela had already done her part in the great plan set forth by the First Wonder Chef. She gave birth to Adam, and Adam will save the world. Eru, and Kartha, would be proud of them all.
"Such a baby." Caleb muttered under his breath as he, Ginger and Pepper walked to the New Palmacosta Academy. After a brief talk with Martel over what had taken place in the Temple of Darkness, the group was transported by the power of the Goddess of Mana to the rebuilt city. Martel had made a request that they come to her meadow once the candle was delivered and Caleb agreed, rolling his eyes at the stunned look on Ginger's face.
"Your sister is the Goddess Martel?" she had shrieked, "How?"
"It's a long story." Caleb returned and then muttered the 'baby' remark as Wren finished resting himself and resumed his screams of defiance. Raine looked up in irritation from her books as they entered her room, then took on a startled expression at the scene before her.
"What is that creature? It's marvelous!" she cried, leaping up from her chair.
"I've come to return the blue candle, Ms. Sage. And that would be Peppermint FireBlossom, my mana beast companion. I raised her from an egg I found." Caleb sighed and set the candlestick down on the table, "Please try not to..."
"I must dissect it at once and investigate this wondrous new species!" Raine exclaimed happily, bouncing up and down on her feet as she stared up at Pepper's face. The mana beast blinked and shook her head.
"Nooo! I stay in one piece! You crazy lady!" she told the half-elf.
"I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't, Raine." Caleb sighed again, "And besides, Genis is conducting a study of mana beasts at the Yggdrasill Tree. Talk to him if you want information." Raine straightened and looked towards him.
"Ah, yes, speaking of which, I've heard from the young man on your shoulder that you've been archiving data from around the world. How goes it?" she asked. Caleb brightened. Ignoring the thrashing chef, he went into a conversation with the half-elf about his discoveries in the Summon Spirit Seals and gave her Salmendra's Proof as a gift. "Marvelous! An artifact of the ancient world! Thank you so much, Caleb!" Raine purred, eyes shining with curiosity.
"It's called Salmendra's Proof, or the Salamander Ring, whichever seems more appropriate. Wren translated the words for me. They're written in elven language and something called Old Runic." the doll pointed out. Raine frowned and looked up at him.
"Wren?" she echoed. Caleb pointed at the chef. "The Wonder Chef translated elven letters? That's not possible." she told him with a concerned look, "Only elves and half-elves can understand that language. He's human... isn't he?"
"His mother taught him to read and write elven language." Ginger offered.
"And yes! I'm human! Put me down!" Wren yelled. Raine shook her head.
"That's still strange. If the Wonder Chef is human, his mother cannot be an elf. Therefore, she must be a half-elf." she remarked, "But if that were true, then the Wonder Chef would still have magical blood and thus have the strange mana fusion that we fellow half-elves would be able to sense."
"My mother is not a half-elf!" Wren snapped, struggling fiercely. Raine folded her arms over her chest as she studied him carefully.
"Strange. His mana doesn't have the same properties as those of other half-elves, but it's not fully human either. The features of his face... they look almost elven, but not quite." she finally declared. Wren glared at her.
"I am a human. Nothing more, nothing less." he insisted. Caleb looked over his other shoulder in confusion.
"So Wren's not human?" he asked as Ginger leaned around to study Wren's face with the half-elf. Raine shook her head.
"I didn't say that." she corrected and reached out, tracing the blonde's cheek. "Look here. His cheekbones are sculpted like a human's, soft and rounded. But his jaw-line, here, comes to a slight point, like an elf's. It should be the profile of a half-elf, but then there's the shape of the ear." Raine pulled aside the strands of hair to reveal it. "See? Round, like any human's. But this hair, the texture and fineness is something that is inherited from a half-elf, not quite human, not quite elven."
"Will you stop messing with my head?" Wren grumbled, "I'm not something to be examined like your other little relics and bric-a-brac." Ginger nodded slowly, matching Raine's pose.
"For a half-elf, you've got good eyes. I see it now. He does look a little strange." she murmured and smiled, "And kinda cute." Wren shot her a glare and she looked innocent. "What?" Raine nodded.
"Eyes. Yes, I almost forgot. His eyes are human in appearance, but his eye color shifts with his mood and lighting. That's indicative of elven blood." she added. Wren looked worried then, blinking at them.
"You really think so?" he asked and went quiet. Caleb set him down on his feet at last and stood back to study him as well. "Are you suggesting that I'm not human?" the chef finally asked, an expression of fear on his face. Raine blinked and sighed.
"Well, I'm not sure. Not without further research into your history and bloodline. You have many physical features from human blood, elven blood, and even half-elven blood. But then, I could be wrong. I don't have substantial evidence, just an idea based on observations." she remarked and smiled, "But for now, I can safely say that you must be human. And since you don't have an Exsphere or Cruxis Crystal, you are definitely not an angel, which is the only other race that could possibly have the strange mix of bloods you have, if they haven't been eliminated because of the draining of mana."
"So he is human?" Caleb asked, still confused.
"He's an idiot Wonder Boy. That's good enough for me." Ginger added cheerfully.
"Yes, yes. He's human. We'll leave it at that for now." Raine griped irritably.
"Good. I don't want to be anything but human." Wren declared and shot Caleb a look. "And I'm still not going to Derris-Kharlan." Caleb scowled as Raine took on renewed interest.
"Not this again!" the doll growled.
"You plan on going to Derris-Kharlan? Why?" the half-elf asked.
"The libraries in Mithos' castle. I want to archive the data from those libraries and see if I can piece together the history of the world before he destroyed it." Caleb told her and frowned at Wren, "But Wren refuses to go with me and Pepper. I can't leave him here on Symphonia; we have some troubles that concern him and I promised to keep him safe."
"Nothing wrong with going to that comet for the sake of research!" Raine agreed whole-heartedly, "You should be excited about the opportunity to discover lost arts and sciences from the ancient world! In fact, Caleb, would you mind if I joined you?" The doll looked surprised at the request and smiled brightly.
"Professor! I'd be glad to have a fellow scholar join us! I've collected much more information than I was able to tell you, but with all the time we can spend on Derris-Kharlan, I can fill you in." he agreed enthusiastically as Pepper sighed.
"We go to Martel soon?" she interrupted. Caleb frowned at her.
"It's not polite to interrupt, Pepper. Please apologize to Ms. Raine." he scolded.
"Sorry, but we go soon, yes?" the mana beast asked again. The doll nodded with a sigh as Raine collected her belongings. Wren scowled, looking around at the group.
"You're not listening to me! I'm not going!" he demanded, "I will not go anywhere near that comet!" Caleb shot him an angry look.
"I've put up with your screaming and tantrums enough already!" he snapped, "You are coming with us and that is final! I can't allow you to go wandering off and possibly get yourself killed by the You-Know-Who! I care too much about you as a friend to let anything happen to you!" Wren tried to make a run for the door but was grabbed by the arm just as he tensed for the motion. "I saw that. Wren, you are going to Derris-Kharlan with us and that is most definitely an order this time." Caleb growled. Wren struggled to get free, desperate to get away.
"No! No, I don't want to go! Let me go!" he cried, "I'm not going! You can't make me go to Welgaia!" Caleb blinked in confusion as Raine narrowed her gaze at the Wonder Chef.
"No one here mentioned that name." she hissed and the rest of the group looked at her in surprise. Wren paled suddenly, coming still as he stared at the half-elf. "No one mentioned that city to you, and only the Heroes of Union know of that name." Raine went on sharply, "Who told you about that city?"
"I..." Wren whispered, eyes wide with a desperate terror as he slowly shook his head. "No..." Caleb looked between him and Raine in confusion as Ginger grew worried for the chef's state of mind.
"What's Welgaia?" the doll asked. Raine kept her focus on Wren, who gave her a pleading expression.
"Welgaia is the holy city on Derris-Kharlan, built by Mithos to serve as the base of operations for his World Prolongation Plan. We were up there several times during our quest, but we never told anyone the name of that place." she explained in a harsh voice, "It was the city where Mithos tried to substitute Colette's soul for Martel's and resurrect her. Wonder Chef, how did you know of that place?"
"I..." Wren murmured and shut his eyes tightly, shaking as tears streamed down his face, "I can't tell you!"
"Maybe Kratos told him." Caleb suddenly said, coming to his friend's defense. Wren opened his eyes, startled as the doll looked over at the half-elf. "Wren said that Kratos kept contact with him during your journey with Lloyd so he could show up at each major point in the quest and teach you all recipes. So maybe Kratos mentioned Welgaia to Wren?" he suggested. Wren's eyes widened and he nodded quickly. Raine frowned.
"Perhaps. But the last we saw him was in Meltokio while we were making preparations for what we thought was a final assault on Cruxis; he never appeared again after that, except to give us cooking titles in Altamira and that was long after we rescued Zelos from Mithos when the Tower of Salvation on Tethe'alla's side was destroyed. Where was the Wonder Chef during that span of time?" she pointed out.
"He was probably busy with something else. It's not all his fault. There are others who could have needed his help at the time. " Caleb protested and looked at his friend worriedly, "You really don't want to go with us, do you?"
"If I promise to stay with Martel while you're away, will you let me remain on Symphonia?" Wren asked softly. Caleb sighed and reluctantly agreed. "Thank you. You can let me go now. I won't run away. I'll teleport us to the Mana Tree." he added. The doll released him and returned the Wonder Fork. Ginger reached out and laid a hand on his shoulder, startling the blonde. "Ginger?" he murmured questioningly.
"It's okay. I'll stay with you." she told him and looked to the doll, "I promise that I'll take care of him for you. I owe you all that much for taking me in and forgiving me for what I did long ago."
"Then we'll part ways here. Sorry, Pepper, but we have to go to Derris-Kharlan now." Caleb remarked. Pepper whimpered and sighed. "We'll go after we're done up there." he promised and turned back to the two chefs, "Wren, you and Ginger go to Martel and let her know what's up. Stay there for the time I'm away so you can be safe. I'll use the Eternal Sword Pin to take Raine and Pepper with me to Derris-Kharlan." They agreed but Wren was silent, looking oddly pensive. He looked up at Caleb, studied him almost intensely, then looked around himself.
"Wait, I need some paper." he remarked and collected a sheet from the table, hesitating only a moment before hurriedly writing on it with a pencil, "Take this with you, Caleb. If you get in trouble, use it. It might make things easier for you and Raine." He folded the sheet, swallowed hard, then handed the paper to the redhead.
"Thanks, but don't worry about us. We'll be fine; between Pepper's powers, Raine's healing magic and my advantages being a magic-using doll, there's nothing on Derris-Kharlan that could possibly hurt us." Caleb assured him brightly. Wren shrugged slightly, hands tightened into fists out of nervousness.
"I know. But if anything goes wrong... you have a way out with that paper." he murmured, "Because you're my friend, and I don't want to... I don't want to lose any more friends. Not to Cruxis... or what's left of it." He smiled wanly. "Trust me. I just gave you an extra bit of power with that. I'm the Wonder Chef; I can do that." Caleb gave him a strange look, then shrugged it off.
"Okay, we're going now. Be careful, both of you." the doll told him, "We should be back in a week or so, depending on how many libraries are there, exactly." Wren looked slightly relieved and held up the Wonder Fork.
"You too, Caleb! See you soon! Bon appétit!" he declared in forced cheerfulness, and both he and Ginger vanished in a burst of smoke. Caleb smiled and placed his hand over the pin.
"Eternal Pin, please take me, Pepper and Raine to Mithos's castle on Derris-Kharlan." he murmured and the three friends shimmered into the air, disappearing and on their way to the giant comet of mana.
A/N: And with that, this fic is finally done. Had to get all the chapters posted to say so. It gets tricky from here on. Since Caleb and the Wonder Chef have split up for the duration, there are two parallel running stories that describe the events that take place for each of them, both of which were SUPPOSED to lead into the final story, Project: Wonder War. I'm still debating whether or not to pick it back up and complete it, considering so many other irons in the fire I've already got. Hoo boy.