Fierce glare met icy determination with vicious rivalry, though whatever diminutive measures either side would have partaken in was bottled behind sealed lips.
The scene: an ice-cream parlor, known throughout Airedale for its confectionery's silky texture and luxurious flavors. The conflict: disagreement between the savior of Shepard and his companion on the "best" flavor: mint-white-chocolate or orange sherbet. While this disagreement seemed trivial to most, between the feuding man and woman, it held monumental importance.
Red, the suitor for orange sherbet, proposed that the dispute could be settled in a contest of endurance: whoever could drink the shake of their flavor the fastest, and without succumbing to a brain-freeze, would be proclaimed the winner. Elh, the defender of the mint-white-chocolate's pride, accepted.
They had originally come to the parlor incognito - with glasses, hats, and a change of wardrobe - in a blind attempt to keep fans and news reporters out of their fur. It had almost worked, too.
The fault, to no-one's surprise, fell on Red, when he signed the check for their frozen confectioneries, instead of settling for a pseudonym, put down his name, and thus hell broke loose.
One of the customers happened to work for a local newspaper, and had jumped upon the couple immediately. The waitress had apparently watched Red in his various escapades in the Duel Ship, and was an avid fan. Other parlor patrons found this opportunity ripe for an autograph, and so the matter of leaving the building became a great hassle. The waitress, a young Calico, immediately left with a swish of her bottlebrush tail, and returned jovially with another round of their ice-cream. Winking at Red, she left to monitor them at a safe distance.
The basis of the disagreement lay - once more, to the befuddlement of none - on Red, who, upon asking, received a taste of Elh's choice. Upon querying, Red stated quite bluntly that
Red's beverage stood tall before him: a beautiful, culinary paragon of ambrosia, to his eyes. Flecks of navel oranges dotted the cream-colored blend of citrus ice cream and the freshest, sweetest milk one could obtain.
Elh also observed her shake with great attention and trepidation: a veritable slurry of the finest white chocolate and real mint blended into the purest vanilla ice cream, and crowned with a dainty mint leaf.
The entire parlor was wreathed in a vicious silence as Red and Elh glared at each other over the rims of their glasses. True, as it was, that this was a trivial and rather silly conflict, but the rush of rivalry and the buzz of sugar must plead their excuse.
Elh politely summoned the waitress to keep time.
The waitress checked her watch, and gives the affirmative.
The game began.
Chocolat, too, found it practical to enter Airedale in civilian attire. Her hand-picked assortment of denim jeans, loafers, gray tank-top, sunglasses and fedora, along with some earrings and a necklace, clearly placed her in the "vacationer" appearance, even if it gave off an air of mild-to-moderate affluence. She had just returned from the market to buy the week's comestibles while Red and Elh ran other errands, and was now en-route to the Asmodeus. Due to said public notice, they had rented a hangar at the west docks, which were generally lower maintenance. Perfect for dodging under the trained fan's eye.
Rounding the last corner to the ship garage, she was obliged to take pause, as an accumulating line of people blocked her path. The line lead into Airedale's famous ice-cream parlor, Huskie's, of whose renown Chocolat was no stranger to. Yes, it was indeed popular, but a line that blocked two streets for a building that barely covered the plot of land assigned was rather over-the-top.
Deciding to leave this conundrum on the backburner, Chocolat turned to find an alternate path to conquer, before she was stopped by an agonized wail. It was masculine, and strangely familiar. And it emanated from the ice cream shop. All things considered, it was a worrisome event.
She turned back to the source of the troubling noise, various violent and morose scenarios parading across her mind's eye, and found that the crowd had split upon the emergence of - none other than - Red, himself. Clutching the bridge of his snout in pain, he staggered into the middle of the crowd, stumbled, tripped, and finally fell to the sandstone. An undertone of concern rippled through the crowd as they stared at Red's inert body, a moist, glass cup hung limply in his claws.
The door swung open with a groan. The entire crowd unanimously glanced towards the disturbance, and gasped as one as Elh staggered, in like manner clutching her forehead. However, she was well on her feet, and had a victorious smile upon her countenance. In her hand was likewise clutching the husk of her mint-chocolate chip shake. She stormed over to the limp Red, nudged him with her foot, and laughed.
With immense effort, Red rolled on to his side to get a better glance at his oppressor. Still smiling gloatingly, she bent over him, and poked his chest as she ripped out her parting words in his ear:
"I won, Red. I won!"