PeteQ

Shitty Chef Anon

Mar 6th, 2016
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  1. >Twilights sits at your dining table, eagerly awaiting the dinner you promised her
  2. "It's a surprise, but you're going to love it!"
  3. >The mare grins, barely containing her excitement
  4. >"How much longer is it going to take? Oh, I can't wait!"
  5. >You wave a spatula at her
  6. "That would be telling! Besides..."
  7. >You grin
  8. "...the anticipation's half the fun!"
  9. >You are so unbelievably fucked. You've never cooked before in your life.
  10. >It always looked so easy, but you were quickly learning that there are a lot of things that can go wrong
  11. "Well, I'd better get back to it."
  12. >"Are you sure you don't need a little extra help in the kitchen?"
  13. >You shake your head, holding up a hand
  14. "Now, now, Twi. What does it say on my apron?"
  15. >She glances down at it
  16. >"Get cook'd?"
  17. >You check, and it does indeed say that
  18. >Huh, thought you were wearing one of the others.
  19. >While you may never have cooked before, you do own a large collection of novelty aprons and tea towels.
  20. >It's almost absurd really, you're not even sure where you got them all from
  21. >Twilight is still patiently waiting for an explanation
  22. "Yeah. Get cook'd."
  23. >You stand in awkward silence for a moment
  24. "Well, I'd better get back to... the kitchen."
  25. >Twilight nods
  26. >"That's right! You better not keep me waiting!"
  27.  
  28. >The kitchen is, in a word, fucked.
  29. >Every surface is either charred, coated in some kind of slime or covered in unwashed cooking utensils
  30. >A wooden chopping board actually caught on fire earlier, and you'd put it in the corner of the room thinking it would just go out on its own. It hadn't yet, but you were still hopeful. At least it hadn't set much else on fire.
  31. >On top of all that, you're pretty sure the amorphous blob of biological waste currently clogging the sink is on the cusp of gaining sentience.
  32. >Also you're out of eggs.
  33. >Well. This looks like a sticky situation for old Anon, but you've never shied away from a challenge.
  34. >Time to get serious.
  35. >You grab another apron from the stash hanging on the kitchen door
  36. >This one helpfully informs you that "Too Many Cucks Spoil the Broth"
  37. >While you don't really need another apron, good chefs wear aprons, so you expect that the more you put on, the better a chef you become
  38. >What's an easy meal to make? Some kind of pasta dish?
  39. >Yeah... that could work! Pasta's easy to make, you just boil some water and put the pasta in.
  40. >Pasta sauce, what's that, tomatoes? Probably got some onions in it too. Throw in some herbs and shit, and that's got to be the perfect meal.
  41. >You've got a good feeling about this, this is going to be great!
  42.  
  43. >The pasta was a disaster. Disaster pasta.
  44. >First off, there hadn't been any clean pans, and trying to wash one up only led to the sink overfilling.
  45. >You'd thought using dirty pans might be OK, heat should sterilize them, you guessed.
  46. >Long story short, you think the black gunk in the pan had... 'reacted' with the pasta, and caused it to kind of melt
  47. >Or maybe thirty minutes on full boil was too much for pasta, who are you, Gordon Ramsay?
  48. >The sauce had also gone... poorly. You'd tried an even mix of onion and tomato, but that had been too onion-y.
  49. >Onions tasted kind of sour, and cooking is all about matching opposite flavours, right?
  50. >So you'd added some maple syrup to cancel out the onions. Then that had been too sweet, so you'd added lemon.
  51. >It has tasted awful, so you'd tried to drown all the flavour out with salt, like how you'll later drown out all memories of this futile attempt at cooking with liquor.
  52. >Eventually, you had to admit defeat on the pasta front.
  53. >Worst of all, Twilight was still in the other room, patiently waiting for what you had really hyped up to be the perfect meal.
  54. >Well... better go buy yourself some more time.
  55.  
  56. "Twilight, hi."
  57. >She starts a bit when you say hello
  58. >While you were busy in the kitchen, she'd pulled a book from somewhere and was busy reading it
  59. >"Oh, Anon! Is the food almost ready?"
  60. >You nod
  61. "It's almost there, but there was one really important thing I forgot to ask..."
  62. >"Oh..."
  63. >Twilight shuts the book and straightens up in her seat
  64. >"What was it, Anon?"
  65. "Do you have any food intolerances? Or any allergies to anything?"
  66. >She ponders the questions
  67. >"Nope. I'm good."
  68. >Your heart sinks
  69. >Was it too much to hope that she was allergic to something you claim was in the imaginary meal you were-
  70. >"Well, actually... I am a little allergic to latex, but I can't imagine-"
  71. "Oh, no!"
  72. >You emphasise the no
  73. "What bad luck! I wish I'd asked sooner! Latex is actually... it's unsafe for you to eat this meal."
  74. >Twilight raises an eyebrow
  75. >"There's latex in the dinner you're cooking?"
  76. >You nod
  77. "Yeah, it's used as a bonding agent."
  78. >That sounds like something food should have in it, right?
  79. >"That doesn't sound like something food should have in it."
  80. >Shit
  81. "No offense, Twi, but you're not exactly Heston Blumenthal. There are a lot of complicated food ideas and terminology that I wouldn't expect you to get... like the flavour wheel. Ever heard of that?"
  82. >"No... is it like the colour wheel?"
  83. "Sure."
  84. >A moment of silence passes as Twilight thinks about that
  85. >"What's opposite umami on the wheel?"
  86. >The hell is umami?
  87. "Probably sour. Listen, I'm gonna go cook up another whole meal in record time. So you stay put, and enjoy your book."
  88. >Twilight nods
  89. >"Ok, Anon. But if cooking is too much hassle, we could always-"
  90. >You silence her with a wave and a shake of the head
  91. "Not at all Twilight. Cooking is... it's my passion."
  92. >She smiles at that.
  93. >"Then I can't wait to eat!"
  94. >It takes a while, but you've moved heaven and earth to create it.
  95. >The perfect meal.
  96. >Well, it's beans on toast.
  97. >Although calling it toast is generous, it's more like charcoal
  98. >Who knew making toast would be so hard.
  99. >At least the beans are hot.
  100. >Well, warm.
  101. >Ok. They're room temperature.
  102. >But still, of all the cold beans on burnt toast you've ever made, this is the best.
  103. >Twilight looks... unimpressed
  104. >"So... uh, does this have a fancy name? Like haute cuisine?"
  105. >You nod
  106. "It's called 'Little beans frolic on cooked bread: the meal'."
  107. >"Oh."
  108. >She eyes it suspiciously
  109. >"Is it supposed to be... burnt?"
  110. >You act offended
  111. "Twilight, do I come into your castle and tell you how to magic up... a magical sex slave or whatever it is you do?"
  112. >She nods
  113. >"Very regularly. And in great detail. Also, you're often drunk."
  114. >You nod
  115. "And how upsetting is it to have someone do that?"
  116. >"Well, it's not too bad until you start either throwing up, or acting out explicit sex scenes. Or both, while crying"
  117. >You nod
  118. "Right. Well that's how upset I am now you're questioning my art, Twilight. And that's what this is: art."
  119. >You give a flourish, holding a spatula high like it's a sword
  120. >"Well, ok."
  121. >She levitates a fork and knife, ready to begin her meal
  122. >You suddenly slap the fork out of the air, and it clatters to the ground
  123. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!"
  124. >She jumps at the outburst
  125. "You forgot to cleanse your palate. Don't want the taste to be ruined by your halitosis."
  126. >You gesture to her drinking vessel
  127. >She levitates it uncertainly
  128. >"Should I really be drinking out of this?"
  129. >You hadn't been able to find any clean glasses, and you weren't going anywhere near the sink to wash a dirty one, so you'd served her water in the empty tin the beans came in
  130. "It's fine, I rinsed it out."
  131. >You hadn't rinsed it out
  132. >"The edges are all jagged."
  133. "Of course, I had to get the beans out, didn't I? And it's not like you can just saw through a tin without leaving jagged metal edges, is it?"
  134. >"Wait, you sawed through the tin? Is that why you went to get your toolbox ten minutes ago?"
  135. >You nod
  136. >Tin openers are a lot less intuitive than they probably should be
  137. >Twilight eyes the metal rim
  138. >"This might cut my mouth, Anon."
  139. >You wave a hand dismissively
  140. "Pony mouths are notoriously hard-wearing. They're practically invincible."
  141. >"That's definitely not true."
  142. "Well, let's agree to disagree."
  143. >"But-"
  144. >Twilight gives an exasperated sigh. Giving up, she carefully sips some water from the tin
  145. >"I think there's metal filings in there"
  146. >You nod
  147. "Probably is. I just hope pony digestive tracks are as tough as pony mouths are. Now, eat up!"
  148. >She glances to the fork you slapped to the floor
  149. >"Can I have a new fork, at least?"
  150. >You throw your hands up
  151. "Really, Twilight? Really, /Princess/ Twilight? I invite you over, labour to make the best meal ever created, fashion you your own personal drinking equipment, and it's still not good enough for you?"
  152. >"It's unhygie-"
  153. "Well, sorry /your majesty/. Shame on me for not fetching the finest silverware after you deigned to grace my humble home with your presence."
  154. >Twilight rolls her eyes
  155. >"You know what, I'll just magic."
  156. >She mutters something under her breath
  157. >Perfect.
  158. >Now when she tastes the food and thinks it's shit, you can blame it on her being in a bad mood. The perfect out.
  159. >She eyes her dinner warily, obviously uncomfortable with eating what is so clearly bad food
  160. >The fact that she's even entertaining the idea of eating this drek says a lot about how far she'll go to support her friends. That or she's an idiot.
  161. >You watch in silence as she levitates a charred piece of bread to her mouth, chunks breaking off into a fine black powder as thick goops of beans spill over its edge
  162. >She swallows, nervously, like a girl who just finished giving head for the first time
  163. >The toast is floating in front of her uncertainly
  164. >With a final glance at you, she slowly brings her head forward to take a bite
  165. >You suppress a wince as Twilight bites down on the toast, her face scrunched up
  166. >No way!
  167. >You didn't really think she'd do it! The 'meal' looked like shit!
  168. >To be honest, you were going to tease her for a bit and just order pizza
  169. >But this is good too.
  170. >Twilight gives the mouthful of 'little beans frolic on cooked bread: the meal' a couple of chews, each one painful
  171. >You can hear the toast crunching dryly
  172. >Suddenly, Twilight stops, her whole body going rigid
  173. >Her magical aura disappears from the toast, and it drops down onto the bean-covered plate with a sad 'glop'
  174. "Twi? You ok?"
  175. >Her eyes lose focus, and her mouth hangs open
  176. >She stays still for a moment, rigid, then a shudder runs through her whole body
  177. >Shit. You may have just poisoned a princess!
  178. >You step forward, trying to work out what to do
  179. >Should you make her throw up? That doesn't sound like much fun, and you don't even think she swallowed anything
  180. >Was the taste alone this bad?
  181. >As the shudder ends, Twilight's whole body goes slack and she slumps back into her chair, her eyes shut
  182. "Twi?"
  183. >Uh-oh
  184. >You have money. Not much, but enough to start a new life in Mareico. You could grow a mustache, maybe join a Mariachi band...
  185. >Wait, what are you thinking?! You can't play guitar!
  186. "Twilight, I'm going to assume your still alive, in which case, please stay that way while I..."
  187. >What?
  188. >Call Fluttershy? Get an ambulance? Prepare dessert?
  189. >Twilight's eyes crack open, and she turns to look at you, a dopey smile crossing her face
  190. >"Anon... wow. That was... that was... wow."
  191. >Wait. What?
  192. "You say that like it's a good thing?"
  193. >It's not really question, but you still put a hopeful inflection on the end
  194. >She nods
  195. >"I think that's the best thing I've ever eaten, Anon... I'm sorry I ever doubted you."
  196. >Now, you're a top level bullshitter, always have been. And none of your bullshit detectors are going off right now
  197. >You think she actually did like your cold beans on burnt toast that much
  198. "Say that again?"
  199. >"I think it's the best thing I've eaten."
  200. >You stare at the shitty meal
  201. "One more time?"
  202. >"Anon, that meal was... it was amazing! What else do you want me to say?"
  203. "Say 'Hey Nonny you so fine, you so fine you blow my mind'."
  204. >Twi groans
  205. >"I'll say anything else."
  206. "Say 'I'm down for some butt-stuff'."
  207. >"Other than that."
  208. "Then say the thing about the dinner again."
  209. >"Look, Anon. When you were having that argument with Applejack about whether apples were fruits or a type or parasitic rodent, remember how you said that you couldn't believe she didn't believe you, that you were a world-famous chef and that you knew more about apples and parasitic rodents than anyone?"
  210. >Not really
  211. "Sure."
  212. >"Well, I thought you were lying."
  213. "I was. Apples really are fruits."
  214. >"About being a chef! I mean, you'd never cooked anything, or displayed any interest in cooking, or even really talked about it before..."
  215. >You nod
  216. "You know me, I like to keep my past a dark secret to draw the mares in."
  217. >"No you don't. You get drunk and tell everyone your sob stories, trying to get sympathy sex."
  218. >And it almost always works, too
  219. >Ponies, huh?
  220. "Right, so now we've established that I'm a world-class chef?"
  221. >"Yeah, I was saying that I didn't believe you, but after that... wow, Anon. I've had fantastic meals in every country you can imagine-"
  222. >One of the perks of being a princess, you guess
  223. >"- but that was the best thing I've ever tasted by orders of magnitude!"
  224. >You nod
  225. "Well, I did tell you."
  226. >She stares at the rest of the food, then languidly brings another bite to her mouth
  227. >With an involuntary moan, she swallows
  228. >What the hell?
  229. >Maybe something... magic-y happened
  230. "Mind if I have a bite?"
  231. >Twilight actually has to consider for a moment before nodding
  232. >You grab a crumbled bit of toast, and scoop up some beans
  233. >Sniffing it suspiciously, you take a bite.
  234. >You almost instantly spit it back out
  235. >Yup, tastes like arse
  236. "You can have the rest."
  237. >What the hell? Why is this awful beans on toast the greatest thing Twilight has ever eaten?
  238. >This definitely warrants some research.
  239. "I'm going to head back into the kitchen, got some clean up to do."
  240. >You turn to the kitchen door, which you notice has a small amount of smoke drifting under it.
  241. >"Wait!"
  242. "Yeah?"
  243. >"Can you cook like this for all of us? The girls deserve to try this, too."
  244. >You nod, grinning
  245. "Cook another perfect meal that will blow everyone's minds? Sure can do, Twi."
  246. >You shoot her a grin before entering the kitchen
  247. >The "Fire Corner" where you put everything that caught on fire is now threatening to spill out into the rest of the kitchen. Every single item of crockery and cookware you own has either been dirtied or outright destroyed, there's not a clean surface in the room and you think all the biological matter you tried to stuff down the sink really has gained sentience. There are goo tentacles waving out of the clogged sink, brandishing various kitchen utensils
  248. >You grab another apron from your supply.
  249. >This one cheerfully reminds you "Better a Chef than a Janitor"
  250. >You have no idea what that's supposed to mean.
  251. >Rolling up your sleeves, you head over to your new sink monster/housemate and glance at the towering pile of dirty dishes
  252. "You clean, I'll dry?"
  253.  
  254. ~
  255.  
  256. >"I must say, Anon, we're both very grateful for you having us."
  257. >You shake your head, holding a hand up modestly
  258. "It's always a pleasure to cook for a pair of lovely mares."
  259. >Rarity titters playfully, and Fluttershy manages a nervous smile
  260. >To be honest, you're more excited for the chance to experiment with your new found culinary power
  261. >You've been having a mild personal crisis over the whole cooking for Twilight thing. You are a bad cook. The food you cooked was as unappealing as it was unpalatable.
  262. >And yet she loved it. She thought it was the best meal ever. What had tasted to you like someone had put raw beans and ketchup on a charcoal briquette, Twilight had described it as the best meal she'd ever had.
  263. >You'd cooked for her again, since, making her a baked potato
  264. >It didn't even have beans or anything, just a plain, ordinary potato you put in the oven until it caught fire
  265. >You'd even served it to her still flaming
  266. >She thought it was better than the first meal
  267. >You even have the sneaky suspicion potatoes are poisonous to horses
  268. >How the hell are you doing this?
  269. >Well, time to experiment with other ponies. Maybe Twi was just a masochist.
  270. "How are the two of you doing?"
  271. >The question's worded for both, but it's aimed at Rarity.
  272. >You'll be lucky if you get more than a few words out of Fluttershy. She's still a bit quiet around you.
  273. >"Oh, it's been simply marvellous! We were originally planning on visiting the spa, but we thought 'it's such a lovely day, why not take a walk', so instead we took a stroll-"
  274. "Yeah, nice."
  275. >You were really just hoping for a "fine, thanks"
  276. "If you ladies are ready for your high tea, I'll bring it through."
  277. >They both nod eagerly
  278. >"After the way Twilight was talking about your cooking, I must admit I've been more than a little-"
  279. "I'll go grab it, then."
  280. >Don't want to let Rarity get carried away.
  281. >You slip into the kitchen
  282. >For the first time, you've actually planned the meal in advance.
  283. >High tea. Obviously tea, scones and some sandwiches
  284. >Just the thought of High Tea fills you with patriotic fervour and a desire to play croquet, watch cricket or politely queue for something.
  285. >The thought of the High Tea you have laid out for your guests fills you with the desire to throw it in the bin, vomit a little or give up on cooking for ever.
  286. >You thought you'd really try this time to produce some good food, and you'd made the effort.
  287. >Starting with the tea. Normal tea? No! You were going to create the optimum blend of spice and leaves to make the perfect tea!
  288. >You'd put a lot of thought into it, then opened your cupboard to find the only spice you actually had was "hot chilli powder". And it was out of date.
  289. >A whole load of that had gone into a pot of water. Then you'd looked for the herb leaves.
  290. >Now, a lot of houses in Ponyville have little gardens or, failing that, window boxes were ponies grow their own herbs
  291. >All it had taken was a stroll down the high street in the early hours of the morning with a pair of scissors, and you had more herbs than you knew what to do with!
  292. >If they were herbs, that is. You know about as much about herbology as you do about cooking. You suspect about a quarter of the leaves you got were herbs, and the rest were leaves from shrubs or flowers.
  293. >You didn't have the means or time to separate the non-herbs from the herbs, so the whole lot just went in.
  294. >Once you were happy with your pot of water, chilli powder and random leaves, it was time to add the tea
  295. >It was at this point that you realised you didn't actually have any tea
  296. >You decided to just do without, in the end.
  297. >The shop was a good five minute walk, and who has time for that?
  298. >Still, you think the tea's passable
  299. >You scrutinise the tray of 'scones', rearranging them slightly. Presentation is everything.
  300. >You're proud of the scones.
  301. >A load of flour, some water, a little sugar and a load of raisins, mixed together and put in the oven until they started to smoulder
  302. >You're fairly certain you should buy a timer or something, rather than just cooking everything at full heat until it's burnt
  303. >They're underdone on the bottom to the extent they're still powdery. Maybe you need some kind of bonding agent next time, to hold it all together... latex?
  304. >Other than being black as night, and the fact that they're flat, lumpy messes, they look great
  305. >The sandwiches... well they could have gone worse, but as you glance to your kitchen's fire corner, you're not sure how
  306. >You're not an idiot, and you're very aware that you don't have to actually cook a sandwich.
  307. >BUT you'd still managed to start a small blaze. See, you didn't actually own a bread knife, and you'd only had a butter knife to cut your loaf.
  308. >It wasn't going too well, and then you remembered the phrase "like a hot knife through butter"
  309. >It wasn't how sharp the knife was that mattered, it was how /hot/ it was.
  310. >You'd taken the saying to its logical conclusion, and dropped the knife part altogether in favour of a plasma cutter you'd borrowed from Twi's lab.
  311. >While it had cut through the bread with minimal fuss, it had also burned the slices to a crisp. The heat had also caused a few flash fires to break out nearby, and so the fire corner had grown once again.
  312. >So the bread for the sandwiches wasn't the best, and you had no idea what to put in a sandwich for a pony.
  313. >In the end, you'd just gone outside and pulled up some grass to put between the slices. It had seemed like the safe thing to do.
  314. >Well that's enough exposition. With a final check, you'll be ready to serve High Tea.
  315. >You give the platter another quick glance. Teapot filled with chilli powder and random leaves? Check. Plate of crumbling, flat scones? Check. Plate of grass sandwiches, some clearly with clumps of mud inside? Check.
  316. >With a quick stop to slip another novelty apron over the four you're already wearing, you take the High Tea out to your esteemed guests.
  317. >They look abjectly horrified
  318. "High Tea is served, ladies."
  319. >You carefully set the serving platter down
  320. >They stare at it blankly, then share a glance
  321. >"Darling... this looks... it's, well, that is to say-"
  322. "Please, Rarity, don't flatter me! Just a small token of friendship."
  323. >She almost winces
  324. "I put hours into this, poured my /soul/ into if for you."
  325. >Her face falls as you lean in close to deliver the killing blow
  326. "It would /break/ me if this meal wasn't good enough for you."
  327. >She doesn't move for a moment
  328. >"It looks marvellous, Anon."
  329. >Her voice is flat
  330. >You beam at her
  331. "You really think so?"
  332. >Her whole body says 'no', as she leans away from the food slightly
  333. >"I really do."
  334. "Great. Then I'll pour you out a cup of tea?"
  335. >You set some teacups in front of the mares as they nod, and you pour out a frothy liquid.
  336. >It's brown, which is the right colour, you suppose
  337. >It smells. It smells hot and spicy. You're resisting the urge to cry, and that's just from pouring it.
  338. >See, this experiment will either go one of two of ways. Either they'll be like Twilight, and they'll love it. Or they won't.
  339. >You really don't know at this point which would be more entertaining.
  340. "Milk?"
  341. >"Just a splash, please"
  342. >Fluttershy finally speaks, albeit quietly
  343. >"Yes, please."
  344. >You hesitate
  345. "Oh. I was hoping you'd both say no, I don't actually have any milk. I have some butter, which is kind of like milk if that's-"
  346. >"No, no! I suppose we can do without milk."
  347. >The two of them stare at their tea
  348. "Well, why don't you have a sip to see if it's hot enough?"
  349. >The two mares lift their teacups, and stare at each other
  350. >It's like a game of chicken. Neither wants to be the first to drink, and you think they're both slightly suspicious that the other is playing a prank on them.
  351. >In the end, Fluttershy's the one who steels herself and takes the first sip...
  352. >Like Twilight before her, Fluttershy goes rigid
  353. >A single tear roles down her cheek
  354. >Rarity stares at her, uncertainly
  355. >"Is everything OK, Fluttershy?"
  356. >After another moment of silence, Fluttershy turns to face you, her eyes staring into the distance
  357. >It takes her a short while to summon up the strength to speak, and when she finally does, her voice is hoarse
  358. >"Thank you, Anon."
  359. >More tears roll down her cheek
  360. >"Thank you!"
  361. >She bursts into sobs as Rarity's head turns from Fluttershy to you and back again, a look of pure shock on her face
  362. "I think the tea's a success."
  363. >You really do. Much to your surprise.
  364. >If someone had served you tea like that back on Earth, you'd probably have had them arrested for attempted murder by poisoning.
  365. >Rarity gives her cup another suspicious look, before biting the bullet and taking a sip.
  366. >As she does, her eyes widen.
  367. >"Oh, my."
  368. >She takes another sip, and tears begin to roll down her cheeks
  369. >You guess that's the three table spoons of hot chilli powder
  370. >"It's... it's..."
  371. >She takes a moment to compose herself
  372. >"It's perfect."
  373. >You're almost disappointed. It would have been funnier to see them pretending to like such a clearly awful High Tea.
  374. >"It's like... sitting by the fire on a cold winter's day, in the embrace of the dragon you love..."
  375. >Uh...
  376. >"It's like a roaring flame of passion, it's pure love!"
  377. "Is it?"
  378. >You take the teapot and open the lid, staring in suspiciously
  379. >Just a load of random leaves. There are also a dozen or so ants floating in the broth.
  380. >Shit, must have been on the plants when you cut the leaves off
  381. >"And just what are these delightful crunchy bits? They add a whole new dimension of texture to the tea!"
  382. >You look at the ants
  383. "Uh... sugar?"
  384. >She nods
  385. >"Of course!"
  386. >She takes another long sip
  387. "Well, don't stop there, you two! What about the scones? Or the sandwiches?"
  388. >You watch eagerly as the two raise their hooves to select from the platter.
  389. >Rarity grabs a sandwich, and Fluttershy takes a scone
  390. >The two are still slightly hesitant, but you think their experience with the tea has opened their minds somewhat
  391. >Without much hesitation, Fluttershy bites into the scone
  392. >Well, the puddle of blackened goop you were calling a scone
  393. >Hey body goes rigid, her wings shooting out to her sides
  394. >Interesting. Twilight's wings hadn't done that
  395. >Her whole body shudders, and her head lolls back, a wide smile on her face
  396. >Rarity bites into her sandwich after only a moment's pause
  397. >The burnt bread crumples away, leaving a clump of grass, mud and all
  398. >She doesn't care though, she throws her head back, giving what you can only describe as a purr.
  399. >For all the world, it looks like they're having orgasms.
  400. >You hasn't wanted to say it, but it's true.
  401. >It makes you feel deeply uncomfortable
  402. "Having fun there, ladies?"
  403. >They continue eating, too busy to pay your question any mind
  404. >You watch in awe as the demure Fluttershy and the prim and proper Rarity go full savage, stuffing their faces with your disgusting fare
  405. >It looks like this experiment is a huge success
  406. >In between mouthfuls of food, they swallow gulps of tea, tears streaming down their faces.
  407. >It's almost scary, really.
  408. >That your cooking can effect ponies in such a profound way, it's almost humbling.
  409. >ALMOST humbling.
  410. "Guess you two love my cooking, huh? Would you say it was the best you've ever had?"
  411. >They both grunt their agreement
  412. "Would you say the High Tea was perfect?"
  413. >More nods and grunts
  414. "Would you say "boom-shakalaka, ding-dong-doof?"
  415. >The two hesitate, not sure what you just asked.
  416. >After a moment, they both just shrug, nod, then keep eating
  417. >You shrug
  418. "Enjoy your meal, then."
  419. >You make your getaway to the kitchen, to observe the rest from a distance
  420.  
  421. >You come back a little later, and find a very satisfied pair of ponies.
  422. >"Anon!"
  423. >Rarity seems happy to see you
  424. >"I wanted to thank you for preparing such a marvellous meal. I'm sorry to say, but I had my doubts when I first saw your offering, but my fears were quickly put to rest when-"
  425. "Yeah, sure. Thanks."
  426. >Rarity sure knows how to speak a lot without saying anything
  427. >Fluttershy chirps in, too
  428. >"Thanks, Anon. That was wonderful... but I did have one question..."
  429. >It's a testament to how good your food was that Fluttershy now feels comfortable enough to speak freely in front of you
  430. "Ask away."
  431. >She points a hoof to your apron
  432. >"What does that mean?"
  433. >You glance down at your apron. Sewed into the front are the words "War is Peace. Slavery is Freedom. Cooking is Strength."
  434. "That? To be honest, I think they were running out of relevant cooking quotes and puns. It's from the book-"
  435. >You sigh
  436. "It's from Neighteen-Eighty-Four."
  437. >So stupid. It's amazing how deep the shitty horse puns run in this world. Anything that can be rephrased to reference ponies or horses (and almost anything that can't) is.
  438. >Fluttershy nods
  439. >"Oh."
  440. >You nod back
  441. "Oh indeed."
  442. >The two mares sit in content silence, their appetites satisfied after their meals
  443. >You guess that right now they're in the comfortably-full, slightly sleepy phase you get after a good meal.
  444. >The time where you just want to curl up and doze off, to relax and recuperate.
  445. >You clap your hangs loudly, startling the two
  446. "Right. We're done here, get out of my house."
  447. >The pair stare at you
  448. >"Get-"
  449. "-Out. You've had your free meal, I'm all out of generosity and kindness for the day."
  450. >You wait to see if they get your joke
  451. >They don't
  452. "Seriously, I need to tidy up and then I have to take a dump. If you stay around, you have to help with both of those."
  453. >That puts some wind in their sales
  454. >"You're right, Anon, now would be the perfect time to leave. I've got a whole-"
  455. "Good."
  456. >Fluttershy mumbles something about animals.
  457. >You assume she does, at least. Almost everything she's ever said to you has been some excuse about how she has to go look after her animals.
  458. >It's her excuse for everything, like that time you asked her to help you cross-breed chimpanzees and goats. Or that time you asked her to help you start a coup. Or that time you asked her to check that weird lump you found on your balls.
  459. >Either way, the two are both in such a good mood that they seem unfazed by your rudeness
  460. >Instead, they repeatedly thank you as you shepherd them to your front door
  461. >You tune most of it out. This was an experiment and they were test subjects, after all.
  462. >It would invalidate the whole experiment if you listened to your subject's opinions. You guess. You were hardly a scientist. Also, you didn't care what they had to say.
  463. >Ponies are ok to spend time with, if it's in short bursts. They get on your nerves after a while
  464. "Ok, here we are, front door."
  465. >You hold it open for them and they both thank you one more time as they leave
  466. >It's at this point that Rarity says something that catches your attention
  467. >"You should enter a competition, Anon. You'd win the Great Equestrian Bake-Off hooves down!"
  468. >Ignoring the 'hooves down' bit, you think about what she said
  469. "I'd win? What's the prize?"
  470. >"It's a cash prize! And they publish a cook-book written by the winner!"
  471. "Cash?"
  472. >Cash money, ain't nothin' funny
  473. >You're unemployed, so it's literally nothing funny. In fact, it's often a source of stress and concern.
  474. >Usually, you have to commit fraud or embezzlement to make ends meet. Ponies are stupid so it's easy. And it's fun.
  475. >You'd probably do it even if you didn't need the money, actually.
  476. "So this competition, I go and cook and they give me a load of money?"
  477. >"Bake, Anon. Yes, it's a TV show, it's highly popular. I'm surprised you haven't heard of it."
  478. "It sounds really gay."
  479. >She ignores that
  480. >"Your baking is tested by a panel of experts. It's a round by round knockout, with the best baker in each round being given-"
  481. "Yeah, great. So I just cook any old shit, and they rate it and I potentially win money?"
  482. >"Bake. And yes."
  483. >Is there a difference between baking and cooking? You thought they were two different words for the same thing.
  484. "Hmmm. Sign me up!"
  485. >Rarity looks at you uncertainly
  486. >"I can't, you have to sign up yourself."
  487. "Then sign me up!"
  488. >"I would love to, Anon, but I can't-"
  489. "Never say never, Rarity!"
  490. >"I didn't say never, I said-"
  491. "So you'll do it for me?"
  492. >"No! I-"
  493. "Excellent Rarity, you're a real gem!"
  494. >With that, you slam the door on her
  495. >She'll probably sign you up. If not, you can do it tomorrow. It's not like you're busy or anything.
  496. >The Great Equestria Bake-Off, eh?
  497. >You shout through to the kitchen
  498. "Look sharp, Sid! You're washing, I'm drying."
  499. >There's a burbling squelch in reply
  500. >As you head back to the kitchen, the food-waste slime monster has already began scrubbing
  501. >This competition could be the next step in your experiment, you could see how real food critics react to your cooking.
  502. >Yeah.
  503. >This could be fun.
  504. >You high-five Sid
  505. "We've got a competition to prepare for, bud!"
  506.  
  507. ~
  508.  
  509. >You blink under the harsh studio lights
  510. >There are a dozen kitchen areas set up, each with a contestant familiarizing themselves with the layout
  511. >They're making minute adjustments to the layout of their pans, reorganizing their herbs and spices or even just opening and closing their ovens to get used to the new space they'll be working in for the next few hours
  512. >You're less frantic. In fact, you're leaning against the counter, scratching at your back with a spatula
  513. >These things are great. Multi purpose.
  514. >You watch idly as the host, Buttery Biscuit, moves between the cooking areas, followed by a camera
  515. >He finishes one interview and smiles at you as he walks over
  516. >"And here we have Anonymous, contestant number seventeen. How're you feeling, Anon?"
  517. >You shrug
  518. "Gassy. I've had a few beers to settle into my new kitchen."
  519. >You gesture at the half-dozen empty bottles littering your cooking surface
  520. >Biscuit's eyebrows raise
  521. >"That's a pretty bold move. So, Anon, why don't you tell us a bit about yourself."
  522. >You nod, and turn to face the camera
  523. "I'm Anon. I'm unemployed, and on disability benefits."
  524. >"Don't look at the camera, try to keep your eyes on me!"
  525. >He says it in a cheery way, not snappy or condescending
  526. "Oh, sure."
  527. >You continue to stare into the camera
  528. >Out of the corner of your eye, you see him pause uncertainly
  529. >"Well... you say you're disabled?"
  530. >You nod
  531. "Yeah. Crippled."
  532. >"You look well enough to me."
  533. "Humans normally have four legs, and twelve arms. And six bodies."
  534. >You hear the hesitation in his voice as he senses this interview is getting away from him slightly
  535. >"I'm... sorry to hear that."
  536. >You shrug
  537. "Nah, it's fine."
  538. >He stands in silence for a moment, his mouth working furiously
  539. >"How long have you been baking, Anon?"
  540. >You give a thoughtful hum
  541. "Well, I started cooking about a week ago."
  542. >"And baking?"
  543. "No."
  544. >Biscuit shuffles slightly
  545. >"No, what?"
  546. "No, I didn't start baking about a week ago."
  547. >He chuckles at what he thinks is world play
  548. >"Aha, I see what you did there! Been baking a long time, then?"
  549. >You wrinkle your brow in annoyance
  550. "No. I've never baked before."
  551. >Unless you bake scones. Then you've baked once before, three days ago.
  552. >"Well, you're going to need to pull something pretty amazing out of the bag, you've got some stiff competition"
  553. >You give a non-committal grunt
  554. >"What've you got planned for us today?"
  555. >You glance at the ingredients you brought along
  556. >Eggs, sugar, milk and a few bottles of beer
  557. "Dunno. Beer cake?"
  558. >Eggs, sugar and milk make a cake, right?
  559. >"Beer cake!? Well, I must say, I've never heard of a beer cake before and now I'm wondering why!"
  560. >He turns to face the camera
  561. >"It does sound like it would hit the spot after a long day!"
  562. >You stare at the camera, blankly
  563. >Biscuit grins at you as he continues on with his questions
  564. >"What do you think of the other contestants? Anyone getting you worried"
  565. "They're a bunch of cunts. Oh, sorry, can I swear?"
  566. >He shakes his head
  567. >"Sorry, this is a family show."
  568. "Oh. Well, in that case they're bad people who the little fillies and colts at home should stay away from."
  569. >You lean in real close to the camera
  570. "Paedophiles."
  571. >"Well!"
  572. >Biscuit quickly steps between you and the camera
  573. >"There's only a few more minutes before we begin, so we'll leave you to finish setting up."
  574. >You shrug as you open open another beer
  575. "Remember, kids, drinking is cool and you should-"
  576. >"ThanksAnonBye!"
  577. >With that, Biscuit practically drags the camera away
  578. >You shrug.
  579. >Now you think about it, there is a tiny bit of setup you need to do
  580. >You don't have enough room for a fire corner, but you do have a fire bucket.
  581. >It's an actual fire bucket that you poured the sand out of. You balance it awkwardly on the edge of your counter so it's half hanging off
  582. >Perfect.
  583. >Now you're ready.
  584. >Biscuit's voice comes over a speaker system as he explains the rules
  585. >"This is the first knock-out round. Half of you will be going home today. The rest will go on to face twelve more gruelling challenges before being crowned the winner of the Great Equestrian Bake Off!"
  586. >The contestants all cheer loudly in excitement
  587. >You just take a swig of beer
  588. >Sounds like this might go on longer than you'd thought
  589. >Twelve more rounds?
  590. >It's a good thing they're offering a hefty prize
  591. >Biscuit continues
  592. >"This round is simple. You all have two hours to bake a cake which will be rated by the judges. The bottom rated bakers will be eliminated."
  593. >There are more cheers. You're not really sure what there is to be so excited about.
  594. >"And if you think this is a little dull, don't worry! The next rounds will be much more interesting!"
  595. >You seriously doubt it.
  596. >"So. Are you all ready to bake!"
  597. >There's another cheer
  598. >You give a half-hearted 'yeah'
  599. >"Then let's bake!"
  600. >The room erupts into a flurry of activity as scores of bakers throw themselves into their work
  601. >You take another sip on your beer as you watch the chaos unfold
  602. >Wow. Being a baker looks like hard work.
  603. >Unless you have bullshit cooking powers, of course
  604. >There's a big clock on the wall ticking away the minutes until all the cakes will be judged
  605. >You idly watch a few minutes tick by.
  606. >Whelp. Better get on with this cake, then.
  607.  
  608. >You think eggs, milk and sugar make a cake. You don't know in what proportions, though, so you just put in an equal amount of everything.
  609. >Including the key component, beer.
  610. >It all goes in a cooking bowl, and you mix it all up for a minute or two
  611. >Then you turn the oven on and slam the motherfucker in there
  612. >Job's a guddun. In an hour and a half, you'll feed whatever comes out of that oven to the judges. Either your weird cooking/baking luck will hold and you'll get through this round, or you'll make professional food critics vomit.
  613. >Either one is fine, as far as you're concerned.
  614.  
  615. >You check the clock
  616. >An hour and a half left
  617. >Fuck. This is boring.
  618. >You grab another beer
  619. >The station next to you has an earth pony mare frantically doing... something
  620. >Some kind of baking thing, you guess. There's a load of stuff in a bowl and she's using a whisk on it.
  621. >You wander over
  622. >She catches sight of you out of the corner of her eye
  623. >"Sorry, I'm too busy to chat!"
  624. >You nod
  625. "That's fine, I just wanted to ask a question."
  626. >She continues doing her... baking.
  627. >"Quickly, then."
  628. "What winks and fucks like a tiger?"
  629. >She stares at you in shock, whisk slowing down
  630. >You wink at her
  631. >She continues staring, aghast
  632. "Get it? I winked. So I also fuck like a tiger."
  633. >You sip on your beer
  634. "Anon."
  635. >"I... I'm Cinnamon Bun."
  636. "No kidding? I wouldn't mind tasting your buns some time. Wanna come over to my kitchen for a beer?"
  637. >After another moment of silence, she decides to just ignore you and get back to baking
  638. "Fine, more beer for me."
  639. >You stomp away, checking the clock when you get back to your kitchen
  640. >An hour and twenty-five minutes remaining.
  641. >You groan
  642. >There must be something to do around here to kill time.
  643. >The baking station to the other side of you has a stallion rushing around, also doing something that you suspect is baking
  644. >You saunter over
  645. "Hey, buddy. How's the baking going?"
  646. >He glances up, smiling at you
  647. >"Oh, hey! You're number seventeen, Anon was it?"
  648. >You nod
  649. "And you are?"
  650. >"I'm Hopscotch!"
  651. >You blink
  652. "Sorry, was that 'Hopscotch'?"
  653. >He nods
  654. >"Pleased to meet ya!"
  655. >You narrow your eyes at him
  656. "Is there such a thing as a Hopscotch cake?"
  657. >Now it's his turn to look confused
  658. >"I... I don't think so, no."
  659. "Oh, weird. Usually ponies names are just what they do."
  660. >He chuckles nervously
  661. >"Yeah..."
  662. "Like that fat, ugly mare over there."
  663. >You point at Cinnamon Bun
  664. "She's a baker, and her name is Cinnamon Bun."
  665. >He nods, slightly glumly
  666. "And you're a baker, but your name is-"
  667. >"I'm not actually a baker, Anon."
  668. >Huh?
  669. "What do you mean?"
  670. >"Well.. not professionally."
  671. "Oh. So you just bake for fun?"
  672. >He nods
  673. >"Yeah, I have plenty of time. My special somepony signed me up for this. I'm not even that bothered about it, to be honest. I think she just wanted to give me something to do."
  674. "Aw, shit."
  675. >You pass him your beer, which he gladly accepts, taking a drink
  676. "Don't get me started on mares, Ho-sco."
  677. >"Ho-sco?"
  678. "Fo sho. Why does she want you out of the house?"
  679. >"Well, I'm between jobs at the moment..."
  680. >You lean to the side to check out his arse picture
  681. >It's a hopscotch... track? Grid? Whatever that thing's called
  682. "So what's your special talent?"
  683. >He sighs
  684. >"Hopscotch."
  685. >You snicker
  686. >"Hey! We can't all have useful talents. Some of us are stuck doing hopscotch."
  687. "Wait. So your name is Hopscotch, and your special talent is literally just hopscotch?"
  688. >He nods, and takes another big swig, emptying the bottle
  689. "Damn, son. You wanna head back to mine? I've got more beers."
  690. >He glances back at his cooking station
  691. >"Sounds good, but I should get this cake in the oven."
  692. "Eh, fine. Just come over when you're free. I'm bored out of my mind."
  693. >He looks surprised
  694. >"You've already finished your cake?"
  695. "Yeah, sure."
  696. >"I'd better crack on then. I'll be over in half an hour?"
  697. "Sweet! See you in a bit, Hoppy-S"
  698. >You head back to your kitchen
  699. >Can't be much longer left, you spent a while chatting
  700. >An hour and twenty-two minutes.
  701. >Fuuuuuck.
  702. >Ugh.
  703. >You glance around your little kitchen. Maybe there's something in here that can keep you entertained for the next half-hour, until your bro-time with Hopscotch
  704. >He seems alright, but you're more interested in having someone to drink with. After all, it's only a drinking problem if you do it alone.
  705. >You pull open a random draw, and give a low whistle as you see what's inside
  706. >This should kill some time
  707. >You don't know why a kitchen would need a blowtorch, but this lame-ass baking show is about to get a whole lot more interesting.
  708.  
  709. >"Hello again, Anon, looks like things aren't going too well over here!"
  710. >You raise your head off the counter, happy for the distraction
  711. "Biscuit! Oh, man. I'm glad to see you. How have things been going?"
  712. >He grins
  713. >"Nice to have been missed! But Anon... what's going on over here?"
  714. >You glance around you workstation. Nothing seems out of the ordinary
  715. "What do you mean?"
  716. >He glances around
  717. >"Where to start? There's a dozen empty beer bottles, you have a bucket full of fire and it looks like your cake's burning."
  718. >You glance at the oven
  719. >There's black smoke coming out the top
  720. >You check the clock
  721. >An hour and twelve minutes left
  722. "Nah, it's got another hour in there, yet."
  723. >He glances through the little window in the oven
  724. >"It looks pretty burnt to me, but then maybe you've got a trick up your sleeve"
  725. >He winks at you, slyly.
  726. "No. No tricks. In an hour, I'm going to give that to the judges."
  727. >He nods sagely
  728. >"Suuure. Well, why don't you explain to the viewers at home what you've done so far?"
  729. "Uh..."
  730. >You've already pretty much forgot
  731. "Just put some eggs, beer and sugar in a bowl. Milk too."
  732. >"Oh, really Anon?"
  733. >You nod
  734. >"And then how long do you bake it for? And at what temperature?"
  735. >You glance at the oven
  736. "Full. For all the time."
  737. >"Full? This is an industrial grade oven, Anon, a little stronger than what you may be used to at home."
  738. >He turns back to the camera
  739. >"See, a good baker should always be able to adapt to new environments. What temperature would you bake this at home, Anon?"
  740. "I dunno. I've never really baked before."
  741. >His smile falters slightly
  742. "But whatever the hottest temperature on my oven is, I guess. Like, a thousand degrees? Celsius?"
  743. >You have no idea how hot an oven gets
  744. "Besides, shouldn't you always cook on full heat? Either, you want something cooked, and then the hotter the better, or you don't want it cooked so you leave it out of the oven."
  745. >Biscuit's mouth works silently
  746. >"I'm not so sure about that, Anon."
  747. >It makes sense. Ovens shouldn't have temperature controls, it should just be on/off
  748. "Well, I think you'll find the proof is in the pudding."
  749. >He grins at your joke
  750. >"We'll have to see. And Anon, what is going on with this bucket full of fire?!"
  751. >His tone is playful and energetic
  752. >Which is a surprise, since you're sure this burning bucket is a health and safety hazard
  753. "That's my fire bucket."
  754. >"Your fire bucket?"
  755. "My fire bucket."
  756. >He cocks his head
  757. >"Why do you have a fire bucket?"
  758. "Because there isn't room for a fire corner."
  759. >"A fire corner?!"
  760. >He's acting hammy, playing it up for the camera. Twat.
  761. "Yeah, a fire corner."
  762. >He shakes his head, grinning
  763. >"Tell us Anon, just what is a 'fire corner'?"
  764. "Well, you know when you're cooking or baking, and things catch on fire?"
  765. >He chuckles
  766. >"Not really."
  767. "Well, to a professional chef or baker, a fire corner is a place in the kitchen where they can put burning objects so they don't have to worry about them."
  768. >"Really, Anon? That sounds unsafe!"
  769. "Nah. It's fine."
  770. >It's probably a miracle that you and no one else has been hurt yet. So yeah, it's fine.
  771. >"So how did everything in there catch on fire?"
  772. "Oh, I was just playing around with the blowtorch, you know?"
  773. >"Oho, playing with fire is a bad idea, Anon!"
  774. "No, it's really fun. Playing with matches makes you cool, and all the big colts and fillies do it."
  775. >He laughs slightly nervously, trying to move the topic to something more child-friendly
  776. >"So you accidentally set a few things on fire, and popped them out of the way in that bucket?"
  777. "Uh..."
  778. >You'd actually been experimenting. You'd wanted to see how many of the items in your kitchen were flame proof
  779. >The answer was 'not many'
  780. "Sure. I accidentally set all that stuff on fire. On accident."
  781. >"Well, you ought to be more careful in the future. That's if there /is/ a future. As I'm sure you're aware, you face a lot of stiff competition from the other contestants."
  782. >You shrug
  783. "Maybe."
  784. >He speaks to the camera
  785. >"Well, seems like Anon's a real fiery baker! Let's go see what our next contestant, Cinnamon Bun has been-"
  786. "Ohhh, you don't want to talk to her."
  787. >Biscuit glances back to you
  788. "Yeah, she's got really bad tourettes. Watch this."
  789. >You lean over the counter, carefully avoiding your fire bucket, and shout over to your neighbour
  790. "Hey, Cinnamon Bun, would you mind coming over here to-"
  791. >"Piss off!"
  792. >You give Biscuit a sad smile
  793. "See? Definitely not family friendly, unless you want to teach the kids swear words."
  794. >"I'm sure we don't! Maybe we'll come back to her, if we've got time at the-"
  795. "I mean, even if you wanted to teach kids that, I'd be a much better teacher anyway. I know hundreds of words that would get a kid grounded. Or even arrested."
  796. >You bristle with pride
  797. >"Well... that's good to hear Anon, but I think we'll pass for now"
  798. >He heads off with his camera crew, and you sag
  799. >You're already getting bored again
  800. >What time is it?
  801. >A glance at the clock breaks your heart.
  802. >There's still an hour and seven minutes left
  803. >You crack open another beer. You're regretting entering this competition more with every passing moment.
  804. >Maybe you should take a quick nap?
  805. >You could build some sort of cocoon out of aprons and tea towels.
  806. >Yeah. A nap sounds like the perfect thing right now.
  807.  
  808. >Someone clears their throat
  809. >You jerk awake
  810. >Shit
  811. >How long were you asleep?
  812. >You look up to see severe mare standing over you
  813. "What's up, beautiful?"
  814. >Buttery Biscuit leans over you
  815. >"Oh, wow! Looks like Anon hasn't been making the most of his time! Why don't we move on to the next contestant and come back."
  816. >The mare gives a disapproving sound, then marches off to Cinnamon Bun's kitchen
  817. >Bun's standing behind her counter, a wide smile on her face. There's a beautifully iced cake in front of her.
  818. >Looks good.
  819. >The severe mare and a couple of stallions are talking to her. They must be the judges
  820. >Well. Better present your cake
  821. >You open the oven, and are instantly blasted by a cloud of smoke
  822. >With a dozen tea towels, you reach in and pull out the bowl
  823. >Inside sits your beer cake
  824. >It's just a black lump sitting in the bottom of the bowl
  825. >Hmmm.
  826. >It came out better than you were expecting
  827. >You try to scoop it out, but it's stuck fast
  828. >Turning the bowl upside down, you hit it on the bottom
  829. >Like you expected, the 'cake' drops out
  830. >Straight onto the floor
  831. "Shit."
  832. >You drop the bowl, which shatters
  833. "Uh..."
  834. >You glance over to the judges
  835. >They're still talking to Cinnamon.
  836. >You quickly bend down, and scoop your cake onto a plate.
  837. >Perfect. And it's probably hygienic, that cake is still smouldering. In fact, it looks like the kind of cake you'd give to Sauron on his birthday. If you hated him.
  838. >You put the plate on your counter
  839. >The blackened lump is still missing something, though...
  840. >You grab a bottle of beer, and splash some over the cake
  841. >Perfect. Now that's a beer cake to die for! Or perhaps, to die because of.
  842. >The judges are just about to take a bite of Cinnamon Bun's cake.
  843. >The mare's face is completely flat, showing no emotion as she puts a forkful of cake in her mouth, and chews it deliberately. The other two judges look like they've already had a taste
  844. >After a moment, she swallows, and gives an almost imperceptible nod.
  845. >"6."
  846. >The judges either side of her nod, agreeing with her.
  847. >"Above what I'd consider average. But not by much."
  848. >Her words are parroted by the other judges
  849. >"Yes, scarcely above average."
  850. >"Could have been better."
  851. >Cinnamon Bun looks shocked
  852. >"T-thank you! Thank you!"
  853. >Buttery Biscuit pipes in
  854. >"Wow, a 6 from our head judge, the highest she's given out so far! Now we need to head back and see what Anon has for us."
  855. >The three judges, Buttery Biscuit and the camerapony all arrive at your kitchen
  856. "Sup. Anyone want a brew?"
  857. >The mare glares at you as Buttery Biscuit prattles away at the camera
  858. >"It's not looking good for Anon, his cake is clearly overcooked. I wonder what Iron Liver will make of that."
  859. >Iron Liver?!
  860. "Your name is Iron Liver?!"
  861. >The stern mare nods
  862. >"It is. You are?"
  863. "Anon. Ma'am."
  864. >Ma'am just felt like the right thing to say
  865. >"Your cake does not look very good."
  866. >You glance down at the lump of black 'cake' sitting in a puddle of beer
  867. "What makes you say that?"
  868. >She looks down to the cake, then back up to you
  869. >"It's clearly burnt."
  870. "No it's not. That's what beer cake is like."
  871. >She sighs, and the other judges pick up on her mood
  872. >"It looks like the kind of thing a dragon might excrete! Zero points!"
  873. >"I think I'd rather wake up in a bath full of ice minus a kidney than even think about eating that! Zero points from me, too!"
  874. >Buttery Biscuit gives a pained noise
  875. >"It's not looking good for Anon, but the judge who really runs the show is-"
  876. >Iron Liver speaks right over him
  877. >"This... cake, and I hesitate to call it that, may be the most unappealing thing I've ever laid my eyes on."
  878. "Really? Worse than Cinnamon Bun over there?"
  879. >"Hey!" A voice calls, from the distance
  880. >Iron Liver picks up a fork
  881. >"However. It is my duty as a judge to at least sample it, no matter how... unpleasant that may be."
  882. >You shrug
  883. "Sure. I think you'll like it."
  884. >Her face is completely flat, you haven't seen her give even a hint of emotion
  885. >She brings the fork down to your cake, and fails to cut a bit off, the fork bouncing off
  886. >Shit, that cake is solid. Maybe you could find a way to mass produce it and sell it as heavy armour
  887. >Eventually, after a few attempts, she manages to chip some off.
  888. >She looks you in the eye as she brings the bite-sized chunk to her mouth, and pops it inside.
  889. >You hold your breath as she chews, waiting for her to pass judgement on your cake
  890. >Biscuit speaks in a low voice
  891. >"It all comes down to this. Will Anon make it through to the next round, or will he be sent home in shame? Even if he does scrape through here, will he be prepared for the real challenges, which begin from the next episode?"
  892. >She holds you gaze unflinchingly as she crunches down on your cake. It actually sounds very painful to eat.
  893. >Iron Liver swallows uncomfortably as Biscuit continues
  894. >"Cooking on a timer is one thing, but how would he fare in the blindfolded baking challenge? Or the challenge where the floor is literally lava, which you have to use to bake a cake? And what about the final challenge, where the last three contestants' cakes are fed to an angry dragon which literally /murders/ the losers?!"
  895. >Wait, what?!
  896. >For the first time, you kind of want to lose here. It was a mistake to come on this show.
  897. >Iron Liver's face is still completely flat, no hint of emotion
  898. >You should have worked up to this. Or at least read the terms and conditions of being a contestant
  899. >"Maybe it would be for the best if he didn't make it-"
  900. >Biscuit falls silent as Iron Liver finally clears her throat, ready to pass down her judgement.
  901. >She says one word
  902. >"Yes."
  903. >Biscuit and the judges look shocked
  904. >Huh. Not what you were expecting. Yes/10 isn't usually a valid score
  905. >Unless your cake was so good it broke how numbers work
  906. >"You mean Anon has made it through to the next round? With that cake!?"
  907. >She shakes her head
  908. >"There is no next round. We have a winner here. There will be no more episodes."
  909. >Shit, you won?!
  910. >"That's it for this year?"
  911. >"That's it forever. We have found the greatest baker in Equestria. No other could compare."
  912. >Well. There you have it.
  913. >Nice to know your bullshit power is still working
  914. >It's flattering that, after baking a grand total of zero times before, you were able to create the best cake ever, apparently.
  915. >"But- but the show! What about the rest of the-"
  916. >Iron Liver stomps a hoof, firmly
  917. >"Damn the show! What we have witnessed here is more than mere entertainment, Biscuit. That cake transcends even art."
  918. >She points at your sad little cake
  919. >"What we have here, gentlecolts, is perfection."
  920. >You were worried for a second there, but for some reason you feel a little disappointed.
  921. >It feels a bit too much like cheating
  922. >The other judges are left speechless, stammering and stuttering
  923. >To his credit, Buttery Biscuit quickly recovers
  924. >"Well, that's a first! Never before have we had Iron Liver declare a winner in the first round! Anon, how does it feel to recognised as the greatest living baker in all of Equestria?"
  925. >You shrug
  926. "Fuckin' A. When do I get my money?"
  927.  
  928. ~
  929.  
  930. >This is it.
  931. >Showtime.
  932. >The grand opening of the hottest new eatery in Canterlot is just a few minutes away. You are the owner, head-chef and (if needed) bouncer.
  933. >Opening a restaurant for the high and mighty was the best way to capitalise on your new-found fame, after winning that baking show last week.
  934. >It was hard work getting everything set up so quick, and you're proud to say you did it without leaving a single corner uncut
  935. >You take a quick glance over a menu, the red cover embroidered with the name of the restaurant.
  936. >The "I dunno, I'll think of a name later. Can I not register a business without a name? Why are you writing all this down?"
  937. >It takes up the whole front cover of the menu. Most of the back, too
  938. >A bit of a waste, really, since the inside is just empty.
  939. >You never planned to have a set menu, or even one thought-out in advance. You'll just 'cook' up whatever you feel like on the night
  940. >You set it back down on the table, making your way to the kitchen
  941. >As you do, you admire the premises.
  942. >It's an old abandoned warehouse that you managed to buy for cheap from some trading company.
  943. >The roof's a bit leaky, but you don't mind. You're not going to be eating in here
  944. >Something squeaks and scurries out from under one of the tables.
  945. >Well, one of the picnic benches, complete with graffiti and authentic tramp smell.
  946. >The mouse, rat, stray dog or whatever it is disappears through a hole in one of the dingy corners. This place isn't that well lit, and it's not like you were going to fork out major money to renovate the place.
  947. >As you enter the back area, where you've had a kitchen fitted, you consider the menu
  948. >Time to decide what all these rich ponies are getting for their dinner.
  949. >Chilli and rice. With, uh, ice-cream for dessert. Oh, these people are posh so they'll want a starter too. How about...
  950. >You glance around the kitchen, looking for inspiration
  951. >The kitchen was the only place where you hadn't spared a single expense.
  952. >Most of the appliances were custom made with those pesky temperature settings replaced with a simple on/off switch
  953. >Every surface is shiny and chrome
  954. >Technically true, since there's chrome in stainless steel
  955. >Pots and pans hang over the counters, with a couple of big sinks set in place
  956. >You also had some huge fridges installed to store all the food you probably have
  957. >You say probably, since you delegated the shopping to your head-chef, Hopscotch.
  958. >The stallion is standing nervously by a counter
  959. >"The chef-de-feu still hasn't arrived, Anon."
  960. "Damn, not what I wanted to hear, Top Hop."
  961. >He's a pretty cool guy to hang with, but you mostly like keeping him around to stop your name-making-up skills from getting rusty
  962. >The Feu Chef is one of, if not the, most important chef in your kitchen.
  963. >Or she would be, if she was on time.
  964. "When did you say you hired her?"
  965. >"I met her on the-"
  966. >He's interrupted by the back door bursting open
  967. >Lo, thinketh thou of the devil and yea, he shall appear before ye.
  968. >Or something like that. No sooner were you cursing your new chef's lateness than she arrived, breathless
  969. >"I'm so sorry I'm late, I was-"
  970. >She freezes when she spots you
  971. >"ANON!?"
  972. >You nod
  973. "The one and only. You must be the new chef-de-feu."
  974. >She stares at you aghast, then turns, accusingly, to Hopscotch
  975. >"You never told me it was /his/ restaurant!"
  976. >You raise an eyebrow
  977. "Have we met?"
  978. >She sputters
  979. >"You don't recognise me?!"
  980. >You narrow your eyes
  981. "Were you the homeless mare I made dance for money earlier?"
  982. >"NO! It's me! Cinnamon Bun, the pony you cheated out of a victory!"
  983. >You cock your head
  984. "Cinnamon... Bun?"
  985. >She nods
  986. >You stare at her
  987. >Maybe it's that you've got a lot on your mind, but you're drawing a blank. Did you know her by a different name?
  988. "Cinnamon Bun. The Cinny-B. CB. Sinner Mom's Bum. Charlie Brown-"
  989. >She stomps a hoof
  990. >"From the competition!"
  991. >Oooh!
  992. "Oh! Sorry, I can't believe I didn't recognise you."
  993. >She nods, stiffly
  994. >Now it all makes sense, why you didn't recognise the name
  995. >And she looks different out from under the harsh studio lights
  996. "So Iron Liver is just a stage name, is it?"
  997. >Her mouth drops
  998. >"I was the mare next to you in the competition! The one you kept flirting with!"
  999. >You wave a hand dismissively
  1000. "I flirt with everyone, don't flatter yourself. But I /do/ remember you now."
  1001. >This was the bitch that wouldn't come drink with you
  1002. >"Oh, so kind of the great Anon to remember little old me!" Her words drip with sarcasm
  1003. "No problem."
  1004. >You hope "the great Anon" catches on
  1005. >"You ruined me!"
  1006. >That's not fair!
  1007. "What did I do?!"
  1008. >"I was going to make it big from that show! I could have won! If it wasn't for your cheating!"
  1009. "I never cheated!"
  1010. >She shakes her head
  1011. >"Well, now I'm stuck taking the lowest paying job I can find, just to make ends meet!"
  1012. "Ends meat does sound like the kind of ingredient we'd use here."
  1013. >She ignores your helpful interjection
  1014. >"And not only am I being paid less than a dishwasher, but I'm doing it for Anon, the one who cheated me out of my one chance at fulfilling my life's dream!"
  1015. "Who are... are you still talking to me? Because it's weird that you're referring to me in the third person-"
  1016. >You guess she isn't, because she keeps going
  1017. >"Mom was right! I should have stayed at home and just taken that job in the bakery, at least then-"
  1018. "Head chef Hopscotch!"
  1019. >He stands to attention as you point as Cinnamon Bun
  1020. "Deal with her."
  1021. >He steps over, patting her on the back comfortingly
  1022. >"There, there. I'm sure you'll be back on your feet in no time."
  1023. >You'd actually meant for him to slap her, but this works too, you guess.
  1024. >He manages to calm her down, getting her to take deep breaths
  1025. >When she finally calms down, she looks at you. She still clearly hates you, but she's put it aside for now
  1026. >"Well. I still have a job to do. Speaking of which, what does a chef-de-feu actually do?"
  1027. >You gasp
  1028. "You don't even know what a chef-de-feu does?!"
  1029. >She gives an exasperated sigh, and turns to Hopscotch
  1030. >"What does a chef-de-feu do?"
  1031. >He shrugs
  1032. >"I think Anon made it up."
  1033. >You nod
  1034. "I think I did, too. You job is pretty straight forward. All you have to do is tend the fire-corner."
  1035. >"The what?"
  1036. "The fire-corner."
  1037. >"What's that?"
  1038. "It's a corner with fire in it."
  1039. >She stares at you
  1040. >"What."
  1041. "Yeah. You know how it is when you're cooking and baking, and things just catch on fire. Or you get bored and set them on fire."
  1042. >Her expression is completely flat as you continue
  1043. "Rather than having lots of little fires to worry about, dotted all over the kitchen, you put all the fire in one place, then you don't have to worry about it."
  1044. >She doesn't say anything
  1045. "Pretty clever, huh? I've probably revolutionised cooking forever with that. And you're the key part. Without you, the whole kitchen grinds to a halt, then reaches flashpoint and bursts into flames."
  1046. >She raises an eyebrow at that
  1047. "In fact, the lives of all the patrons are in your hands."
  1048. >Doubly so since you chained up all the fire exits to keep the homeless out.
  1049. >She gives a sigh
  1050. >"I don't think this is a good idea."
  1051. >With that, you know she's caved
  1052. "It's a much better idea than the alternative."
  1053. >You ceremoniously cross the room, and take a novelty apron from a rack
  1054. "The job's so important, I had an apron specially made for it."
  1055. >You hand it to her, and she sighs as she slips it on, ignoring the theatrics.
  1056. "I'd like you to read it aloud, to remind us all of how very important you are."
  1057. >She almost retorts, but not quite. Instead, she reads her apron to you
  1058. >"He who fights with fires should look to it that he himself does not become a fire. . . when you gaze long into the fire corner the fire corner also gazes into you"
  1059. >You nod sagely, and Hopscotch gives a little clap
  1060. "Alright team! Everybody ready to cook?"
  1061. >Cinnamon Bun looks around uncertainly
  1062. >"Is it just us three?
  1063. "Well, yeah. There's a head chef, me, another head chef, Hopscotch, and you. The fire chef."
  1064. >"The chef-de-feu," Cinnamon corrects, haughtily, "besides, don't you need more people to run a kitchen?"
  1065. >You shrug
  1066. "Who am I? Jamie Oliver?"
  1067. >You employees stare at you blankly
  1068. "I'm not Jamie Oliver, I'm Anon, remember-"
  1069. >"How can you even have two head chefs? Doesn't that defeat the whole idea?"
  1070. >You roll your eyes
  1071. "Guess you've never heard of bicephaly."
  1072. >Hopscotch interjects
  1073. >"Don't worry if you haven't, I hadn't either until Anon offered me the job."
  1074. >Dammit
  1075. >He's being too nice
  1076. >In the cut-throat world of cooking, there can only be one second head chef.
  1077. "Well. The first guests should be coming in now, and we've got to start on the starters. Before we do, I just wanted to say that there's a prize for the one of you that impresses me the most."
  1078. >This is entirely for your own entertainment, but you don't even have to be subtle about it.
  1079. >As soon as you mention a prize, both ponies straighten up a bit, eyeing each other warily
  1080. "Yeah. It's an amazing prize. I mean, I'd rather win this than a Nobel prize, or whatever the pony equivalent is. Neighbell prize?"
  1081. >Neither of your workers respond, they're too busy staring it out
  1082. >You still have to decide what the starter will be
  1083. >Looking around the kitchen, your eyes stray onto a bag of hay that hasn't been put away
  1084. >Perfect. You know just what to make.
  1085. "Right. Well, we'll give it a couple of minutes, then get cooking."
  1086. >You rub your hands together gleefully
  1087. "This is going to a be a night none of us are going to forget..."
  1088. >You steal a peek through the kitchen door as fancy looking ponies are led to their grimy park benches by the homeless waiters you hired
  1089. "... no matter how much they want to!"
  1090. >You laugh manically
  1091. >Hopscotch and Cinnamon Bun look a bit startled
  1092. "Jesus, I'm joking. Lighten up, it's not like anyone's going to die tonight."
  1093. >They relax slightly as you point at Bun
  1094. "As long as she does her job, that is."
  1095. >Cinnamon gulps as you walk over to a steel counter, opening the cabinet
  1096. "I want you on point, Cinnamon. We never gave you an interview, so consider this a trial by fire."
  1097. >Hopscotch chuckles at that
  1098. >He stops chuckling when you pull a crossbow out
  1099. "You probably haven't noticed, Cinnamon, but I've left petrol-soaked rags out all over the kitchen."
  1100. >You also take out a small quiver of bolts for the weapon
  1101. "I've got flaming bolts here, so from time to time I'll just fire one off. Keep you on your toes, you know?"
  1102. >Cinnamon Bun looks pretty uncomfortable
  1103. >"But, I-I don't even have any toes!"
  1104. >You nod
  1105. "All the more reason to get good at staying on them."
  1106. >Now it's time to brief Hopscotch
  1107. "Your job, Hopscotch, is to stay out of the way while I do everything. Just, you know, make a few jokes and chat to me. Get me beers when I need them."
  1108. >He nods, a little disappointed
  1109. >"Oh, I thought I'd get the chance to cook."
  1110. "Sure, next time. This is opening night, so I need to make sure everything goes just right."
  1111. >He shuffles off to a corner, still smiling
  1112. "Any questions?"
  1113. >They both shake their heads
  1114. "Good. The starter is going to be hay."
  1115. >Cinnamon Bun groans
  1116. >"Just hay?"
  1117. >You ignore her
  1118. >When the hands of Anon touch food, it ceases being 'just' anything.
  1119. >Huh, maybe your weird cooking skill comes from direct hand-to-food contact. What would happen, you wonder, if you wore gloves? Or washed your hands before cooking?
  1120. >Experiments for another time.
  1121. >You heft the crossbow
  1122. "Let's make some hot cuisine! Hawt... houte cuisine!"
  1123. >Cinnamon and Hopscotch share a look
  1124. "Get it? Like, haute cuisine sounds a bit like 'hot cuisine', and it's going to be hot since I'm going to irresponsibly set a load of things on fire?"
  1125. >They both chuckle, nervously. Trying to stay on your good side
  1126. "Oh, forget it. You'll see what I mean soon."
  1127. >You fire a bolt across the room, and it hits a pile of rags which burst into flame
  1128. >Bun yelps and dashes off
  1129. "Time to cook!"
  1130.  
  1131. ~
  1132.  
  1133. >It takes you less than five minutes to prepare starters for all your guests
  1134. >Plate out, handful of hay on plate. Repeat. Times eighty.
  1135. >You hope none of your guests are allergic to hay
  1136. >As far as you know, fancy restaurants always name their meals, so you come up with a name while you work.
  1137. >With it in mind, you slip out the kitchen doors to the main eating area
  1138. "Lady ponies and gentleman ponies."
  1139. >Your guest all hush, excited to finally see the great Chef Anon
  1140. >Sweeping your eyes over the crowd, you take in their mood
  1141. >They look excited, but there's a hint of anxiety to it. They're probably just worried about the squalid, unhygienic conditions of your restaurant
  1142. "Welcome, all, to the 'I dunno, I'll think of a name later. Can I not register a business without a name? Why are you writing all this down?"
  1143. >There's a buzz through the crowd, and a few even try to start a round of applause
  1144. >Heh, maybe they thought they were in the wrong place. You can't blame them. This run down warehouse in the rough part of town, staffed entirely by the homeless, hardly seems like the place for a world class restaurant.
  1145. "And welcome, too, to the greatest meal of your lives!"
  1146. >The crowd does burst into applause here, the anxiety from before all but dried up
  1147. >Excellent.
  1148. >Let them build their expectations, only to have them dashed when they see the shitty starter. Then sucker punch them right in the brain-balls with a taste bomb.
  1149. "It is my honour... no, my privileged! No... my duty! No... it's my very reason for being on this planet! My divine task to inform you that your starter is about to be served."
  1150. >Some surprised faces at that. Obviously they were expecting to have to order
  1151. "For those of you concerned that you haven't had the chance to choose your meal, worry not! My tastes far exceed that of you peasants. It's better for all of us if I just feed you what I know is right."
  1152. >The crowd isn't quite sure how to react to that
  1153. >You plough on before they have a chance to think about it too much
  1154. "I am delighted to inform you all that your starter, named "Memories of a Tomorrow not yet Forgotten: the Meal" is served!"
  1155. >You bow your head, raising your arms into the air
  1156. >The crowd applauds again, and there are even a few cheers
  1157. >After a minute or so it dies down, and an uncomfortable silence settles on the room
  1158. >You turn you head slightly, and see a gaggle of homeless/waiters milling around, not sure what to do
  1159. >With a couple of gestures, you direct them to the kitchen, where they start to serve the first course
  1160. >They may have the best sense of dramatic timing, or be the best waiters. As you watch a homeless/waiter slam a plate down in front of an aristocrat and spit on the floor behind himself, you reflect that they may no have the best manners, either. Or the best smell. They may not be the best spoken, have the best handle on social interactions, be the most polite. Any yes, some of them had substance abuse problems, with a couple obviously drunk, even now.
  1161. >But all that was made up for by one simple fact: they were cheap. Cheap and easy to find. You'd sort of inherited them when you bought the warehouse anyway, and all you'd had to do was padlock the exits and inform them that only the ones that worked for you could stay here. Free labour. And they'd probably keep the rodent population in here down.
  1162. >You're not completely heartless, though. You've generously told them that they can get a 10% cut of any tips they earn.
  1163. >Silently, you watch them work, enjoying the looks of uncertainty on the faces of the rich and powerful
  1164. >It's almost the same for each one. The plate it 'set' down in front of them and they excitedly examine it.
  1165. >The excitement turns to puzzlement as they realise they've paid 200 bits for a plate of hay. There's not even a lot of it, it's a pretty small plate.
  1166. >Puzzlement turns to indignant anger as they look around to see what the other ponies have, and how they're reacting. They must each think they're getting the shitty meal, or that there's been some kind of mistake
  1167. >They look around, and see some that everyone's being served the same thing. Then they notice that a few other patrons are digging in with reckless abandon
  1168. >Anger reverts to confusion, and they cautiously try a bite of the hay.
  1169. >After that... well. It varies.
  1170. >One mare begins sobbing as she slowly starts stuffing her mouth. A different stallion lets loose a guttural roar and crams the stuff down his throat.
  1171. >There's another stallion whose head lolls, his eyed rolled back. He starts chanting something in a stupid-sounding made up language
  1172. >You'd swear a couple of mares even orgasm as they eat
  1173. >Pretty funny stuff.
  1174. >Every single pony, though is having some sort of over the top reaction
  1175. >Every single pony, that is, apart from one
  1176. >"There's something floating in it!"
  1177. >"So?"
  1178. >A mare wearing a fancy dress, decked out with all sorts of jewellery, is complaining about her tap water to a rather annoyed waitress
  1179. >"This is unacceptable! I demand to speak to the manager."
  1180. >"He's busy."
  1181. >"This service is unacceptable!"
  1182. >"Not my problem."
  1183. >You step in
  1184. "Ladies! Please. Gutter Snipe, why don't you go see if anyone else needs water?"
  1185. >The waitress does so, grumbling under her breath
  1186. "Now, ma'am, what seems to be the problem?"
  1187. >The mare points to her water
  1188. >"There's something floating in my water!"
  1189. >You're surprised her problem is with the water itself, not the rusty can it's being served in. Maybe she thinks its part of the décor, like you're going for a distressed chic.
  1190. >Really, you just hope she's up to date on her tetanus shots.
  1191. "So there is."
  1192. >She's right. There's a big lump of rust floating on the top
  1193. >You pick it out of the water, and flick it away
  1194. "All better."
  1195. >"Not at all!"
  1196. >You suppress a sigh
  1197. "What's wrong now?"
  1198. >"It had something floating in it! It's unclean, and I demand you-"
  1199. >You hold up your hand, silencing her.
  1200. "That water is specially imported from Kilimanjaro in Africa. It melted from snow over 500 years ago. It's the purest water in the world."
  1201. >She frowns
  1202. >"It is?"
  1203. >You nod
  1204. "It certainly is, and it's completely safe to eat. I have a lot of confidence in my food. I would never give my customers something that would harm them."
  1205. >Her anger's mostly gone
  1206. >"Oh. Well, I suppose this will do."
  1207. >You nod as she takes a sip
  1208. >"This does taste very... metallic."
  1209. "Of course, Kilimanjaro is famed for its iron deposits. The water must have picked up the flavour some time over the last few hundred years."
  1210. >"Amazing."
  1211. >You point to her plate, drawing her attention to the hay
  1212. "Now. Let's continue the meal, shall we?"
  1213. >She doesn't seem impressed
  1214. >"Is this just hay?"
  1215. "Please. Just try it."
  1216. >Almost reluctantly, she takes a bite
  1217. >Her eyes widen, the pupils shrinking to pinpricks
  1218. >Eh, boring. You've seen all this before
  1219. >You wander back to the doors to the kitchen, with a last glance over your shoulder
  1220. >A few ponies are still eating, but most have finished, sitting around staring into space
  1221. >They shell-shocked. Or really high, completely disconnected from reality. They look like they can, like, taste colours, man.
  1222. >Again, you can't help but feel a little disappointed
  1223. >You were hoping that at least one of these eighty-odd ponies would have called you out on your meal.
  1224. >It would have been funny to see a few immune ponies unsure why everyone else loved the shitty food
  1225. >Everything you've cooked to date you've tasted, and it's all tasted as bad as its looked. Maybe pony tastebuds and human tastebuds work differently. That could be another avenue of experimentation, though you're not sure how.
  1226. >Maybe you should just ask Twilight to help you find the answer. She'd do it, no problem.
  1227. >That would feel like cheating, though.
  1228. >Your eyes are drawn back to the bitchy mare that complained about her water
  1229. >Maybe you could force a pony to not like your food...
  1230. >Maybe it wouldn't even be your food at all...
  1231. >An evil grin creeps onto your face as you slip back into the kitchen
  1232. >It's time to prepare the main course
  1233. "Cinnamon Bun?"
  1234. >The mare glances over at you, her face blackened from the frequent trips to and from the fire corner
  1235. >"What, Anon?"
  1236. >In response, you grab your grab your crossbow and fire another bolt
  1237. >It lands squarely in a pot of cooking oil, which ignites with a 'thwump'.
  1238. >She shouts in alarm and dashes off
  1239. "Hopscotch?"
  1240. >Your second-head-chef smiles
  1241. >"Yeah, Anon?"
  1242. "You're going to get the chance to cook after all... but only one meal."
  1243. >He grins
  1244. >"Awesome!"
  1245. >You nod
  1246. "You just have to exactly as I do..."
  1247. >"Sure can do! When do we start?"
  1248. "Right now."
  1249. >It's time to prepare the main
  1250. >79 ponies are going to have the most amazing meal of their lives.
  1251. >The single one that had the /gall/ to be served rain you collected straight from a leaky drainpipe is, instead, going to have one of the most confusing nights of her life.
  1252. "Ready?"
  1253. >Hop-Scoppy nods
  1254. "Steady?"
  1255. >He nods again
  1256. >You grin
  1257. "Cook."
  1258.  
  1259. >You improvise chilli and rice.
  1260. >Well, you improvise the chilli. Rice is rice.
  1261. >While the rice is on the boil, you cook.
  1262. >Not really knowing what's in chilli, you put tomatoes and onions in a blender until they're a sort of smoothie
  1263. >You slap a load of chilli powder in there too
  1264. >Chilli should be hot.
  1265. >Speaking of hot, you take a moment to check the fire corner
  1266. >Looking good. Roaring flames lick at the ceiling, with a slightly singed Cinnamon throwing the occasional extra burning kitchen appliance into it
  1267. >Cinnamon... wasn't that a type of spice? Maybe now would be a good time to experiment with taste.
  1268. >You examine your new spice rack
  1269. >What should you put in your chilli?
  1270. >Cinnamon, probably. All that saffron was expensive, so it must be really good. Put all that in.
  1271. >Other than those... you're not sure. You read over what you've got
  1272. "Paprika, cumin, ginger, nutmeg, turmeric, cayenne pepper, garam masala blend, curry powder, cajun seasoning..."
  1273. >So many to choose from. You were never good at making choices like this
  1274. >In the end, you just throw a load of everything in. More spices = more flavour = better meal, right?
  1275. >You do the same for the herbs, just toss the whole dang lot in there. Everything from garlic to fennel seeds, from sage to chives
  1276. >By the end, your chilli is more spice and herb than it is chilli.
  1277. >Perfect.
  1278. >The rice has been cooking for so long it's turned into a mush, and when you slather the chilli on top, it looks...
  1279. >Well, not appetizing, but it's definitely the least unappetizing thing you've cooked to date.
  1280. >It's not even burned! You're getting better for sure.
  1281. >With a grin, you check on how your head-chef is doing.
  1282. >To his credit, Hopscotch tried.
  1283. >He really did.
  1284. >But he barely used even a tenth of the herbs and spices you did.
  1285. >While his looks delicious, it doesn't look inedible, and it sticks out from the rest of the plates like a sore thumb
  1286. >You give him a frown
  1287. "I guess that'll do, Hop-scotchtape."
  1288. >"Oh... I really tried, Anon."
  1289. >He's a bit upset by your disapproval
  1290. "I know you did. But don't worry, you'll get better."
  1291. >You point at one of your plates of goop
  1292. "One day, you might even make something as good as this!"
  1293. >He grins
  1294. >"You really think so?"
  1295. >Resting a hand on his head, you smile at him. Like a father to his son. Like a master to his apprentice.
  1296. "I dunno. Sure, why not."
  1297. >He seems happy to hear that, at least
  1298. "Say, Hopscotch, how was your special mare after you told her you got a job?"
  1299. >He grins
  1300. >"She couldn't believe it! Literally! She thought I was lying."
  1301. "Yeah. To get a job as a head chef working for the greatest culinary genius the world has ever known? Not the kind of thing that happens every day. Was she pleased, though?"
  1302. >"Yeah! She was so impressed, she gave me a blowjob!"
  1303. >You blink
  1304. "Uh, sorry?"
  1305. >"She sucked me off. Awesome!"
  1306. >His demeanour hasn't changed at all
  1307. "She... sucked you off?"
  1308. >"Yep. You know, she fellated me. Gave me oral."
  1309. >He's still grinning, as though he were talking about how nice the weather had been recently. He continues.
  1310. >"She had a suck on my lollipop. Tounge-wressled my pony poker. Took my sperm to the swimming pool."
  1311. >You've not even sure that last one even means anything
  1312. >"She gave little-me a long kiss. Got intimate with my dingalate. Mouth-romanced my nether snake."
  1313. >Jesus, how many of these does he have?
  1314. >Even Cinnamon Bun's stopped tending her fire to listen
  1315. >"Suckled at my single teat. Masticated my masturbation-rod. Took a direct hit to the mouth from my semen cannon. Gave my penis a one way ticket to tooth-town."
  1316. >That last one doesn't even sound like a good thing!
  1317. >"She got low down and let me get messy with her mouth. Supped at the cup of life. She-"
  1318. >You hold up a hand
  1319. "Hopscotch, I'd love to stand here and listen to you go on, but I think the dinner's getting cold. I am interested in these, though. Could you write them all down while I'm watching the ponies eat?"
  1320. >He shrugs
  1321. >"Sure thing."
  1322. >He's a bit upset by your disapproval
  1323. "I know you did. But don't worry, you'll get better."
  1324. >You point at one of your plates of goop
  1325. "One day, you might even make something as good as this!"
  1326. >He grins
  1327. >"You really think so?"
  1328. >Resting a hand on his head, you smile at him. Like a father to his son. Like a master to his apprentice.
  1329. "I dunno. Sure, why not."
  1330. >He seems happy to hear that, at least
  1331. "Say, Hopscotch, how was your special mare after you told her you got a job?"
  1332. >He grins
  1333. >"She couldn't believe it! Literally! She thought I was lying."
  1334. "Yeah. To get a job as a head chef working for the greatest culinary genius the world has ever known? Not the kind of thing that happens every day. Was she pleased, though?"
  1335. >"Yeah! She was so impressed, she gave me a blowjob!"
  1336. >You blink
  1337. "Uh, sorry?"
  1338. >"She sucked me off. Awesome!"
  1339. >His demeanour hasn't changed at all
  1340. "She... sucked you off?"
  1341. >"Yep. You know, she fellated me. Gave me oral."
  1342. >He's still grinning, as though he were talking about how nice the weather had been recently. He continues.
  1343. >"She had a suck on my lollipop. Tounge-wressled my pony poker. Took my sperm to the swimming pool."
  1344. >You've not even sure that last one even means anything
  1345. >"She gave little-me a long kiss. Got intimate with my dingalate. Mouth-romanced my nether snake."
  1346. >Jesus, how many of these does he have?
  1347. >Even Cinnamon Bun's stopped tending her fire to listen
  1348. >"Suckled at my single teat. Masticated my masturbation-rod. Took a direct hit to the mouth from my semen cannon. Gave my penis a one way ticket to tooth-town."
  1349. >That last one doesn't even sound like a good thing!
  1350. >"She got low down and let me get messy with her mouth. Supped at the cup of life. She-"
  1351. >You hold up a hand
  1352. "Hopscotch, I'd love to stand here and listen to you go on, but I think the dinner's getting cold. I am interested in these, though. Could you write them all down while I'm watching the ponies eat?"
  1353. >He shrugs
  1354. >"Sure thing."
  1355. >Before you go, though, there's one last thing you want to know
  1356. "Hopscotch, baby. I love that you feel comfortable enough to share that with me and, uh, Cinnamon Bun, but don't you think you're going into a bit too much detail?"
  1357. >He looks mildly taken aback
  1358. >"You asked about it."
  1359. "I actually didn't."
  1360. >"Besides, I didn't go into too much detail. I didn't even tell you about how she rimmed me afterwards."
  1361. "She rimmed you after?!"
  1362. >He nods pleasantly
  1363. >"Yeah. You know, went ass-spelunking with her red velvet slug. Visited the back-country. Rummaged around in my bag of holding. Worshipped me at the temple of derrière. Slipped through the-"
  1364. "Yeah, write these down too. I really have to go."
  1365. >You've got the sneaky suspicion he's making all these up off the top of his head, which is impressive
  1366. >"And don't get me started on-"
  1367. "I /absolutely/ won't, but I'm sure Cinnamon wants to hear in great detail!"
  1368. >With that, you slip of the kitchen, suppressing a shudder
  1369. >That took a turn. Who'd have thought friendly little Hopscotch had it in him.
  1370. >Literally.
  1371. >Desperately trying to chase away all the mental images he's given you, you survey the room
  1372. >It's been a while since the first course, and your guests seem to have recovered
  1373. >They're chatting a bit, but most are still a bit dazed
  1374. >You clear your throat to get their attention
  1375. >Unfortunately, you clear it a bit too hard, and a big lump of phlegm flies out of your mouth, landing in a mare's fancy hair-do
  1376. >If she notices, she doesn't seem to mind
  1377. >You decide to ignore it, and continue forging the narrative
  1378. "Well guys. You did it. You survived the first course, and that makes you mighty!"
  1379. >There's a ripple of half-hearted applause
  1380. "But now's not the time to rest. Your next stop on this culinary crusade is fast approaching, and I'm not exaggerating when I say this: some of you /will not survive!/"
  1381. >A few gasps here and there, but most ponies seem resigned to their possible fate.
  1382. >You place the plate in front of her as delicately as a... delicate thing, delicately doing something delicate.
  1383. >Then you do the robot dance move, to make this meal even more special for her. You also speak in a robot voice
  1384. "I Hope This Is All Acceptable For You."
  1385. >She raises an eyebrow
  1386. >"This doesn't look like spaghetti bolognese"
  1387. >You nod jerkily, sticking with the robot voice
  1388. "Correct. It Is Not Spaghetti Bolognese. It Is 'Spaghetti Bolognese: The Meal'."
  1389. >You were hoping to get some confusion from her about your robot voice and the meal name. She ignores both, reverting to snobbery
  1390. >"I'm happy that I'm being treated specially. It's much more fitting for a mare of my station."
  1391. >You have no idea what her station is, but if you had to guess... Godalming.
  1392. >Dropping the robot voice, you bow low
  1393. "Naturally. Enjoy your meal, madame."
  1394. >You scuttle off to a corner to watch, barely containing your glee
  1395. >Around her, other patrons are digging in.
  1396. >It's... well, it's a wild, but it's pretty much the same chaos there was earlier, with the starter. Just a little more extreme
  1397. >A mare has her face in her plate and is eating it as fast as she can. Another mare is literally inhaling her meal. Literally!
  1398. >There are one or two minor scuffles breaking out where someone's finished early and is trying to get more food from another pony
  1399. >Luckily, you have a homeless/waiter on 'fight-break-up' duty. He steps in and separates the squabbles with a firm hoof, and an even firmer tire iron.
  1400. >Several patrons have just curled up into fetal positions, gibbering, after taking a single bite
  1401. >Huh. Looks like your food is so good, it transcends reality, making it some sort of eldritch foodstuff of the Gods.
  1402. >Maybe you should actually be concerned about some kind of cult forming.
  1403. >Eh, it's probably fine.
  1404. >Besides, it's not like demons are going to show up, asking for a group table.
  1405. >Amidst all the carnage, confusion and chaos, there's one mare who's remarkably underwhelmed.
  1406. >Bitchy McComplainsAboutFood, PhD
  1407. >She's about to take a bite, clearly anticipating the food that reverted her upper-class compatriots to a simpler state of savagery
  1408. >Raising a forkful of Hopscotch's chilli, she bites down on it, closing her eyes, ready to lose herself to the flavour
  1409. >She chews...
  1410. >And chews...
  1411. >And chews...
  1412. >And swallows.
  1413. >She opens an eye uncertainly, before taking another bite
  1414. >It's the same again. No amazing reaction, no mind-numbing flavour
  1415. >Opening both eyes, she grunts in frustration, and starts shovelling the food down her gullet, looking desperately for that elusive food-high
  1416. >A mare over the table from her collapses backward, writhing in pleasure as her whole body shakes, and all she did was take a sniff of her meal
  1417. >Bitchy groans in frustration, putting her fork down and looking around, trying to attract the attention of a waiter
  1418. >Before she can, you swoop in
  1419. "How's the grub, bub?"
  1420. >She frowns at your overly familiar tone
  1421. >"I think there's something wrong with it."
  1422. >You cock your head
  1423. "Surely not? What could the matter be?"
  1424. >"It's..."
  1425. >She hesitates
  1426. >"It's not good enough!"
  1427. "It's bad?"
  1428. >She shakes her head
  1429. >"No, it's good. It's just not good /enough/."
  1430. "Good enough for what?"
  1431. >She pauses, uncertainly, before waving a hoof around to the chaos of the rest of the room
  1432. >"Good enough for all /this/!"
  1433. >You look around the room
  1434. "I'm not sure, I thought it was fine."
  1435. >She glowers at you
  1436. >"I'm telling you, it's not good enough."
  1437. >Wow.
  1438. "Well... maybe your palate just isn't as refined as everyone else's?"
  1439. >She looks like you've slapped her
  1440. >"My palate is the very definition of refined! I demand you go into the kitchen and fix this!"
  1441. >You nod
  1442. "Your word is my command."
  1443. >Taking her plate, you stride through the room and into the kitchen. As soon as the doors swing shut behind you, you spit in her food.
  1444. >You stir it in with her fork, then take it back to her
  1445. >She eyes it suspiciously
  1446. >"That was fast. A bit too fast."
  1447. >You shrug
  1448. "Please. I'm a professional. I can cook a meal in less time than it takes the average pony to write a full sci-fi trilogy."
  1449. >Technically true, but not particularly impressive
  1450. >"And this is going to be of a good enough quality?"
  1451. >You have no idea.
  1452. "It certainly is, on my honour as a man, a chef and a lover."
  1453. >Maybe it'll be fine, but you don't know how your food-powers work.
  1454. >She 'harumphs', then levitates her fork back to her mouth.
  1455. >This time, the difference is instantly noticeable.
  1456. >There's really no polite way to say this, but you're pretty sure she just orgasms outright, bodying going limp as she moans
  1457. >Seems like a reasonable time to leave
  1458. >As she's locked in the passionate throes of having just eaten some chilli, you slip away, back to the save haven of the kitchen
  1459. >Peeking back through the door, you see the room has descended past chaos, and straight into madness.
  1460. >Each pony seems to be locked up in their own little world, each one enacting their own little insanity in the post-dinner haze
  1461. >Kewl.
  1462. >You hope this was worth the price. Sure, two courses in and every pony was in absolute bliss, wrapped in culinary ecstasy. But the prices were HIGH. Absurdly high, in fact. Not that it had stopped you selling out with minutes of announcing your grand opening.
  1463. >Things were going well, and that was good.
  1464. >Just dessert left.
  1465. >At this point in the evening, what could really go wrong?"
  1466.  
  1467. ~
  1468.  
  1469.  
  1470. >Spinning around, you check on your staff
  1471. >Cinnamon is frantically throwing buckets of water into the fire corner, which is looking pretty fierce. It's borderline out of control
  1472. >Maybe you should stop setting things on fire...
  1473. >You chuckle a bit at that thought
  1474. >An artists needs his palette, a sculptor his chisel. You need a corner of the room to be on fire.
  1475. >In celebration of the importance of the fire corner, you shoot off another flaming crossbow bolt
  1476. >All the petrol-rags are burnt up, so you fire it into the sack of dry hay you were using for the starter
  1477. >It bursts into flames and you give a loud whoop
  1478. >Cinnamon Bun doesn't even break stride. She grabs the bag and hurls it into the corner while filling another bucket
  1479. >Looks like she's having fun.
  1480. >Hopscotch is standing there, smiling pleasantly as he watches Cinnamon rushing around
  1481. >He notices you watching
  1482. >"Oh, hi Anon! How was the meal?"
  1483. >You grin
  1484. "They liked it so much, most of our guests lost their higher brain functions from pleasure, reverting to simpler mind-state!"
  1485. >He gasps
  1486. >"Sweet! Did they like mine?!"
  1487. "Not as much, no."
  1488. >He frowns, hanging his head
  1489. >"Oh..."
  1490. >Poor guy. If only there was some way his natural talent for hopscotch could come in handy...
  1491. >You glance around the room
  1492. >Nothing comes to mind
  1493. "Well, you want to help with dessert?"
  1494. >He perks up instantly
  1495. >"Boy, do I ever!"
  1496. >Cracking. Dessert is going to be easy. You've already put far more effort into all this than you normally would.
  1497. "Get the tub of ice-cream from the freezer, then."
  1498. >His face falls again
  1499. >"The ice-cream? Oh no!"
  1500. >You suppress a sigh
  1501. "You didn't but ice-cream?"
  1502. >"I... I thought you wanted the ingredients for it, not just a tub!"
  1503. >Jesus, can Hopscotch do anything right?
  1504. >Uh, it's not worth getting annoyed over
  1505. "No problem. Go grab the ingredients, then."
  1506. >He hesitates
  1507. >"There's a slight problem, Anon..."
  1508. "Is there, Hoppy-Sloppy."
  1509. >You stare pointedly at him
  1510. >He has the sense to look bashful, at least
  1511. "What did you do this time?"
  1512. >"It wasn't me! It's just you were firing a lot of flaming bolts..."
  1513. "So what if I was?"
  1514. >He points to the fire corner
  1515. >"Most of the ingredients are in there!"
  1516. >You stare at the inferno
  1517. "In the fire?"
  1518. >He nods
  1519. >"The sugar, the eggs, even the milk!"
  1520. >What!?
  1521. "How did I set milk on fire?"
  1522. >He gives you a confused look
  1523. >"Don't you remember? You added petrol to it! Whack!"
  1524. "I added petrol to it?"
  1525. >"Yeah! Because it wouldn't burn!"
  1526. >You hum thoughtfully, rubbing at your chin
  1527. "This isn't ringing a bell."
  1528. >"You kept shouting 'burn you white devil' and pouring more petrol in"
  1529. >Maybe the smoke is getting to your head... you are taller than these ponies, after all, and smoke rises.
  1530. "I don't remember, but it does sound like the kind of thing I'd do."
  1531. >He nods
  1532. >"Yeah, you sort of lost it. What do you have against milk?"
  1533. >Nothing, really. Thinking back, you do remember getting annoyed at one point because the fire corner wasn't fiery enough
  1534. "I was bitten by a rapid milk when I was younger, I've never been comfortable around the stuff since."
  1535. >"Do you mean bitten by a rabid cow?"
  1536. >You wave a hand dismissively
  1537. "That too. But this just raises another question. What's the nearest shop that sells ice-cream, and can you get there and back in thirty minutes?"
  1538. >He thinks for a moment, but Cinnamon shouts over before he gets the chance to reply
  1539. >"We're in the middle of the industrial district! There's no shop for miles!"
  1540. >You shrug
  1541. "Ok, looks like me and you are making improvised ice-cream, SopHotch."
  1542. >"Awesome!"
  1543. >The two of you stand in silence for a moment
  1544. "How do you normally make ice-cream?"
  1545. >"Well, it's made with cream, milk, sugar, ice-"
  1546. >You snap your fingers
  1547. "Ice, of course!"
  1548. >Cinnamon snorts
  1549. >"The hint's in the title."
  1550. "Nah, loads of things have things they aren't in their title."
  1551. >"... what?"
  1552. "Like Mississippi mud cake. It's not made in Mississippi, it's not made from mud and it's technically not a cake. I think it's a type of croissant."
  1553. >You scratch your head
  1554. "Or maybe it's a type of bread."
  1555. >Your workers stare at you, nonplussed
  1556. "No, I'm thinking of pain au chocolat. That's a type of croissant. Mississippi mud cake is..."
  1557. >Shit. You've talked yourself into a corner here
  1558. "... it's really a type of pie."
  1559. >"What in the name of Celestia are you talking about!?"
  1560. >You raise an eyebrow at Cinnamon's outburst
  1561. "Don't you have a fire corner to tend?"
  1562. >She grumbles as she resumes her work
  1563. >Hopscotch is looking thoughtful
  1564. >"Wow... it's not a cake? Astounding!"
  1565. "What were we talking about, before the mud cake thing?"
  1566. >"We were, uh..."
  1567. "Ice cream!"
  1568. >He nods
  1569. >"Yeah, ice cream! Wicked!"
  1570. >He kicks at the floor
  1571. >"What about ice cream?"
  1572. "We were going to make some. And ice is the key ingredient. Hopscotch. Fetch the ice!"
  1573. >He frowns
  1574. >"You set it on fire."
  1575. >... really?
  1576. "How did I-"
  1577. >OH! You do remember this one!
  1578. >The freezers you bought went down to -80 Celsius.
  1579. >Makes sense, right? You want your ovens hot and your freezers cold. The hotter and colder the better, right?
  1580. >When you'd first had the big freezers installed, you'd put petrol in ice cubes trays to freeze it.
  1581. >You'd had this whole plan to amaze people by setting ice on fire, but you'd just completely forgot about it until earlier
  1582. >Cinnamon had been complaining about how dangerous the fire was, and you said you'd throw some ice on, to cool it down.
  1583. >She'd almost shat herself when the flames flared up even more, thoroughly duped by the great Anon!
  1584. >Still, you're now down one of the key components of ice cream
  1585. >Really, though, what even is ice? It's just cold water, right?
  1586. "MC Hip-Hopscotch. Fetch me a bucket of water."
  1587. >He snaps to attention, and dashes off, filling a bucket from the sink
  1588. >While he does, you think about what else you can do to make ice cream.
  1589. >All the sugar's gone. What else is like sugar?
  1590. >Salt. That's pretty similar, right?
  1591. >Not in taste, sure. But in texture and looks it's practically identical. And texture and look are the most important part of cooking, aren't they?
  1592. >Hopscotch puts the bucket in front of you and you direct him to get the salt
  1593. >You pour water out into glasses. When Hopscotch's dropped a bag of salt off, you start spooning a couple of tablespoons worth into each glass
  1594. >A few minutes later, you admire your handiwork
  1595. >Enough glasses of ice cream to feed your guests.
  1596. >Although now you think about it, what you've made is less ice cream, and more just salt-water.
  1597. >Eh, potato tomata.
  1598. "Excellent work, Hopscotch. Now, wait here while I go serve this."
  1599. >With a faint smile, you enter the eating area of the 'restaurant'
  1600. >The patrons look pretty much like they're on their last legs, so to speak
  1601. >A few are staring into space, mumbling under their breaths
  1602. >One or two are sketching abstract doodles with what you can only assume is leftover chilli
  1603. >Most of the rest are sprawled out in post-culinary bliss
  1604. >Cool. You never thought your cooking would be so good that it could break people if they had too much of it.
  1605. >You clear your throat
  1606. >Your guests groggily look over to you
  1607. >No preamble. You just cut straight to the point
  1608. "Shrek Forever After flavoured Ice Cream: The Meal"
  1609. >The homeless/waiters have learned well enough to recognise their cue, and they bring out the final course
  1610. >With no ceremony, they put the glasses of water in front of your patrons
  1611. >The patrons seem much more docile now, most of them too worn out to do much more than sip at the dessert
  1612. >You're pretty surprised. Something about their reactions seem a little... off.
  1613. >Sure, there's the usual rolling around in pleasure and moaning, but a lot of ponies are doing other things.
  1614. >Weird things.
  1615. >A few are forming loose circles, holding hooves, swaying from side to side. Some are chanting strange nonsense words, and even more are doodling weird shapes on the table.
  1616. >Hmmm.
  1617. >You hope they're not too fucked up. They still need to pay the bill, and you're damned if you're having eighty ponies washing the dishes to make up for it.
  1618. >Another few minutes of watching, and you decide nothing else interesting is going to happen here.
  1619. >You slip back into the kitchen
  1620. "Hey, guys, you won't believe what's going on in there! I think the food's induced some sort of mass hysteria, and-"
  1621. >Something seems... different
  1622. "Hey, Cinnamon? Were the flames in the fire corner always purple?"
  1623. >"Anon! It's getting out of control, I really think we should call for-"
  1624. >You silence her with a wave
  1625. "Nah, you got this, I believe in you."
  1626. >"I believe, too!" Hopscotch helpfully adds
  1627. >Maybe it's some spice or something that caught on fire, turning the flames purple
  1628. >Well, whatever it is, there's something more important you have to do right now
  1629. >You grab a tumbler, and pour yourself a whiskey
  1630. >The first night of you restaurant, and things have gone perfectly.
  1631. >They've gone near enough to being perfect, that is. You guests are happy. That's the most important thing.
  1632. >Well, the most important thing is that they pay, but that depends on their happiness
  1633. >"Oh, ancient runes! Awesome!"
  1634. >You glance up at Hopscotch's words
  1635. >Sure enough, strange, twisted runes are appearing in the air around the fire corner, a deep purple. They look more like tears in reality itself than something existing within it
  1636. >Cinnamon yelps, and throws another bucket of water into the inferno. It doesn't help.
  1637. >This is all getting rather odd. Maybe you should head home before something magic happens
  1638. >You haven't got time for that sort of thing.
  1639. >Eh, you'll finish your drink, then head off
  1640. >Cinnamon Bun seems a little worries
  1641. >"Listen, Anon, I think this is serious! We should go get the town guard! And probably the fire brigade too!"
  1642. >You shrug
  1643. "Sure, I'll get them on the way home. You really need to stay here to stop that getting any more out of hand."
  1644. >You point at the fire corner, which is casting the whole room in an eerie purple glow, angry runes swirling in the air.
  1645. "Now, I can't go do that until I enjoy this well-earned drink. So let me drink this, then I'll be off."
  1646. >With that, you raise the tumbler to your mouth
  1647. >At this point, you're sure not getting help is a bad idea, but damn it. You're Anon, and nothing gets between you and a well earned drink
  1648. >You ignore the ethereal chanting that seems to come from everywhere at once as the whiskey hits your lips
  1649. >The gut-churning feeling of being watched by millions of invisible eyes goes ignored as you sip your drink
  1650. >You give a loud 'mmm', even as the room begins to shudder, the very fabric of reality itself unravelling
  1651. >Without even thinking about stopping, you watch a black slit appear down the middle of the purple flames
  1652. >You swallow.
  1653. "Delicious."
  1654. >Long, purple fingers reach though the black slit, pulling it wider. Soon it's more of an oval, ten feet high and five feet wide, a portal to a void of pure nothing
  1655. >You gaze into it. It gazes back.
  1656. >A laughter fills the room. A laughter as rich and smoky as it is ominous.
  1657. >Hmm. Maybe you let the fire corner get a bit out of hand.
  1658. >You nonchalantly take another sip of your drink as /something/ pulls itself into reality...
  1659. >The fires flare up as the /thing/ pulls itself into this world, smoke obscuring the figure
  1660. >To be honest, you're a little disappointed with Cinnamon's performance as chef-de-feu
  1661. >You're pretty sure 'tending the fire corner' should include 'not letting the fire corner turn into a portal to hell'
  1662. >A vile wind whips up and the smoke clears, revealing the humanoid creature
  1663. >It stands a head taller than you, its whole body a deep purple.
  1664. >Nice figure. Full hourglass, with a nice rack. A loincloth hangs between its legs, covering a suspicious bulge.
  1665. >Its face is smooth, flawless. Eyes completely black. A pair of curling horns twist from its forehead.
  1666. >Wow. It's a full on sex demon, from the look of it
  1667. >You raise an eyebrow as it looms over the room
  1668. "Do you have a reservation?"
  1669. >The demon doesn't respond, it just stretches itself out, giving a deep, throaty laugh
  1670. >"You have done well, mortals... For your loyalty, you shall be rewarded!"
  1671. >Huh.
  1672. >You were expecting an introduction.
  1673. >"I will raise you up to near Godhood, and together we will warp this world into a place of pain and pleasure in equal measure!"
  1674. >That doesn't sound all that great. You've got plans for the weekend, and the world being warped would probable mess with them
  1675. >"The sky will fill with screams and moans, and all shall know-"
  1676. "Sorry, who are you exactly?"
  1677. >Interrupting feels rude, but you really want to know
  1678. >The demon blinks
  1679. >If it's annoyed that you interrupted, it doesn't show it
  1680. >"I am Charistisi, ruler of the Realm of Pleasure!"
  1681. >It moves toward you, hips swaying seductively
  1682. >"But surely you know that already..."
  1683. "Anon."
  1684. >"Anon... what a delightful name. Surely you knew that when you summoned me? I took you to be the cult leader."
  1685. >Charistisi's voice is throaty, almost a moan
  1686. "I don't know anything about a cult."
  1687. >It laughs
  1688. >"Oh, my! You really don't know anything about me, do you? How delicious. Then who was the one who summoned me?"
  1689. >It looks around the room, waiting for someone to step forward
  1690. >Cinnamon Bun is staring with her mouth agape, pupils shrunk down to pinpricks. Hopscotch isn't taking it much better. In fact, he's jumped behind you, peeking out nervously at the demon
  1691. >Something about what... damn, was it Charisi? Charisisti? You're no good with names you haven't heard before. Something about what they said sticks out
  1692. "Wait, you were summoned?"
  1693. >It raises an eyebrow, frowning slightly
  1694. >"That's right. The walls between this world and mine were weakened enough for me to pass through. Whoever is responsible is-"
  1695. "Yeah, yeah. Listen, I think this is all a big misunderstanding. No one meant to summon you. Sorry, but I'm the Head-Chef, and this is my kitchen. I'm going to have to ask you to go back to the... pleasuredome or wherever it is you came from."
  1696. >"The Realm of Pleasure!"
  1697. >You wave a hand vaguely
  1698. "Wherever. We're got quite enough pleasure and pain in this reality as is, thank you very much."
  1699. >Sure, this thing's scary. It could probably swap your face and butt or something. But this is /your/ motherfucking kitchen
  1700. >To your surprise, rather than getting angry Christi pouts
  1701. >"How unkind! You make me sound like some inter-dimensional travelling salesman..."
  1702. >It runs its hands sensuously over its body, sliding the around it pert tits
  1703. >"I'm so much more than that!"
  1704. >You roll your eyes
  1705. "Right, we get it. Daddy never paid you enough attention when you were growing up. If you want to hang around here for a bit, fine. But no warping the world into some twisted hell-scape, got it?"
  1706. >The demon shakes its head, giving a coy smile
  1707. >"Sorry, Head-Chef. Maybe you don't want me here, but someone does, and they wanted it badly enough that they summoned me."
  1708. >It turns to the room, spreading its arms
  1709. >"Who, then, is responsible for it? Who created so much pleasure that the very walls of reality were weakened? Who burned an offering of sugar and spice?"
  1710. >...
  1711. >Whoops.
  1712. >Looks like your cooking is so good that making a three course meal literally broke reality.
  1713. >Christ, you should learn to actually cook. If plain hay, 'chilli' and saltwater were enough to do it, imagine what would happen if you'd cooked a real meal
  1714. >Chrissisiti makes eye contact with Cinnamon Bun
  1715. >"Was it you, darling? No need to be shy!"
  1716. >Cinnamon just gives a little yelp and backs away
  1717. "I think it was me."
  1718. >That gets Chisitisiti's attention
  1719. >"You /think/ it was you?"
  1720. >You nod
  1721. >It snorts
  1722. >"You'd know if it was. You'd have to have organised for thousands to experience the greatest pleasure imaginable, and then you'd have to have made a sacrificial offering of the rarest spices and sweetest sugar."
  1723. >Thousands? You had about a hundred guests. Did that mean they were experiencing something more than the greatest pleasure imaginable?
  1724. >You glance past Chrissi to the fire corner. Your spice rack is in there. Well, fuck.
  1725. >You nod again
  1726. "Yeah. I kind of did that."
  1727. >For the first time, the demon seem annoyed
  1728. >"I'm getting tired of this, mortal. If no one will claim their reward, then I shall have to proceed."
  1729. >The demon snaps its fingers, and more figures begin to crawl through the portal. About the size of ponies, they're all shapes and sizes. As different from one another as they are, each of their faces are twisted with either agony or ecstasy
  1730. "Wait."
  1731. >This is quickly getting out of hand.
  1732. >Well, maybe not quickly, looking back there were probably quite a few warnings that something odd was happening
  1733. >Either way, you're sure of one thing. You restaurant needs publicity. If this demon twists the world into some kind of kinky sex dimension, then you're definitely not going to get any good reviews.
  1734. "How about a challenge? A little wager?"
  1735. >The demon rolls its eyes
  1736. >"What do you have that I could possibly want? This world is in the palm of my hand."
  1737. "I've got..."
  1738. >You glance around the kitchen
  1739. "I could cook you a meal?"
  1740. >Chrisisisisisisisiti laughs
  1741. >"The only thing I consume is the souls of those who revel in excess and avarice."
  1742. >It hesitates
  1743. >"I like soufflés too."
  1744. >Soufflés? Weren't they supposed to be one of the most difficult cakes to make? So delicate that even a knock could ruin one?
  1745. "Well. In that case, here's my offer."
  1746. >You take a deep breath
  1747. "I'll propose a challenge. The ruler of the Realm of Pleasure versus a Head-Chef. If you lose, you have to be my personal slave, and you can't fuck around with this world."
  1748. >Chrisisisisiti gives a hum
  1749. >"Your slave? That could be fun, I suppose..."
  1750. "It won't be. It'll mostly involve doing menial tasks to make life easier, like cleaning up or running errands. Also, I'll probably make you do demeaning stuff like dance around, or wear funny outfits."
  1751. >If anything, the promise of being forced to do demeaning things makes the demon more excited
  1752. >"And if I win?"
  1753. >Time to make the sale.
  1754. "I'm the greatest chef in Equestria. So good that I accidentally summoned you here. If you win, I'll be your personal chef. Infinite soufflés on demand. Or any other treat. Also, you get to do whatever you want to this world."
  1755. >It nods
  1756. "In case that wasn't obvious."
  1757. >A grin widens on Chisis' face
  1758. >"Very well. This might be... enjoyable."
  1759. >The way it stresses that word makes your skin crawl a bit
  1760. >"I, Charistisi, agree."
  1761. "Charistisi."
  1762. >You say it slowly, trying to make it stick in your mind
  1763. >"Hmm?"
  1764. "Charistisi..."
  1765. >Nah. You're not gonna remember that
  1766. "I'll just call you Chari."
  1767. >Chari shrugs
  1768. >"If you like. Now, what's this challenge? How are you going to compete against me?"
  1769. >Whoa! What?
  1770. "Compete against you? What gave you the idea I'd be going against you in the challenge?"
  1771. >For the first time, the demon's on the backfoot
  1772. >"You said you would!"
  1773. >You shake your head
  1774. "Nope. I said it would be the ruler of the Realm of Pleasure versus a head-chef. I didn't say which head-chef."
  1775. >Turning round, you give Hopscotch a pat on the head
  1776. "Your time to shine, Hops."
  1777. >Hopscotch doesn't look too happy with that. Neither does Chari.
  1778. >In fact, the demon rears back, the room darkening as it snaps at you
  1779. >"Him?! You tricked me!"
  1780. >You shrug
  1781. "A deal's a deal, bub."
  1782. >"BUB? I AM CHARISTISI, RULER OF-"
  1783. "Yeah, cool."
  1784. >You kneel down, resting a hand on Hopscotch's head
  1785. "Listen. Hopscotch is what you do. It's who you are. Now go beat an inter-dimensional demon at it."
  1786. >He still doesn't look convinced
  1787. "Prove to everyone that hopscotch is a useful skill."
  1788. >That does it. He narrows his eyes, giving a single nod
  1789. >"HOPSCOTCH? THE CHALLENGE IS TO BE HOPSCOTCH?"
  1790. "Jesus, Chari, calm down. Yes. It's hopscotch."
  1791. >It's funny, you said 'calm down', but if anything the demon does the opposite
  1792. >"HOPSCOTCH!? FINE!"
  1793. >It raises a hand and a hopscotch grid is burnt into the floor of the kitchen by writhing purple flames
  1794. >Shit, you hope that doesn't burn the floor. If it does, Chari's first job is totally going to be mopping it up
  1795. >Hopscotch calmly walks to the start of the grid as Chari calms down a little, a grin reappearing on its face
  1796. >"Well. Maybe I can play with the rules of the challenge too."
  1797. >With a snap of its fingers, two things happen
  1798. >First, the area around the hopscotch grid crumbles away, revealing a dizzy drop to a fire filled hell. The licking flames between squares flare up as well, growing to about two foot high
  1799. >Second, the demons that arrived through the portal, which had been kind of milling around until now, begin snarling and snapping, advancing toward you
  1800. >"There was nothing in our agreement about my minions not tearing you limb from limb!"
  1801. >You groan
  1802. >It's so obvious in hindsight. You can't believe you forgot the 'your minions can't attack me' clause. Rookie error.
  1803. >Well, looks like you're going to have to put down your whiskey, roll up your sleeves and show these kinky sex demons just how-
  1804. >Before you can do any of that, Cinnamon Bun combat rolls between you and the demons, raising the crossbow you were tormenting her with
  1805. >"If you think I'm letting you kill Anon before he pays me for this bullshit job, you've got another thing coming!"
  1806. >She fires a bolt with alarming accuracy, embedding it in the skull of one of the demons
  1807. >As the demon crumples to the ground, screeching, the rest charge Cinnamon, who dodges out of the way
  1808. >You take a sip of your whiskey. Looks like Cinnamon has this handled.
  1809. >Although, saying that, there are rather a lot of demons, and only one Cinnamon Bun. With a limited number of bolts.
  1810. >She's distracted a load of demons, but there are still a couple heading your way.
  1811. >Without looking away, you pat around on the counter behind you, hand landing on the handle of a meat cleaver.
  1812. >If you wait until they're just on you, maybe you-
  1813. >The door to the kitchen bursts open
  1814. >One of the homeless/waiters shouts through
  1815. >"Hey, Anon, the guests starting doing this weird orgy thing, and-"
  1816. >She tails off when she sees the portal to hell, the hopscotch competition of doom and the demon battle
  1817. >"-you busy?"
  1818. >You shrug
  1819. "A little. These demons just wanted to destroy our restaurant."
  1820. >A white lie, but it's mostly true
  1821. >"They what!? But we live here!"
  1822. >Ah, the benefits of having staff who live where they work.
  1823. >For a start, they're always here on time.
  1824. >The homeless mare whistles, and a dozen more of the homeless/waiters arrive, each one looking a little upset
  1825. >"These fuckers are gonna burn our house down! Whadda ya say to that, boys?"
  1826. >One stallion slaps a tire-iron against his hoof
  1827. >"I say to hell with them!"
  1828. >With that, he charges, yelling.
  1829. >The rest of the homeless/waiters pull out a variety of shivs, broken bottles and two-by-fours, letting loose an angry cry and charging into battle
  1830. >You let your hand slide off the cleaver handle
  1831. >Nah. This is all fine.
  1832. >Except... oh, shit!
  1833. >You cross the kitchen, open a counter and pull out the emergency phone.
  1834. >It was installed secretly, since you didn't want any of your employees racking up a massive phone bill for you.
  1835. >You hadn't wanted to use the phone earlier. It was supposed to be for emergencies only.
  1836. >Right now, this was an emergency.
  1837. >You dial a number
  1838. "Hello? Pony Party Pizza Place?"
  1839. >In all the excitement, you forgot to have any dinner of your own.
  1840. "Do you do delivery?"
  1841.  
  1842. ~
  1843.  
  1844. "Awesome, nice work Hopscotch!"
  1845. >He gives a happy wave after completing another hopscotch... round?
  1846. >You have no idea how the game works. Or even if it can be played competitively. You guess it can, because otherwise why would Hopscotch and Chari be playing?
  1847. >On the other side of the kitchen, Cinnamon Bun jumps from a counter, swinging a frying pan down onto a demon, which collapses from the impact
  1848. "Oh-ho! You go girl!"
  1849. >She gives you an annoyed glance before being tackled by another demon
  1850. >You stuff a slice of pizza into your mouth
  1851. >This is great. Entertainment while you eat.
  1852. >Sure, it's high-stakes. If this goes badly, the world may end.
  1853. >Though Twilight and the Elements of Harmony would probably save the day, so you can afford to be a bit more chill about this all
  1854. >You idly wonder which elements would be most effective against lust-demons.
  1855. >Kindness?
  1856. >You duck as a knife flies past your head, embedding itself in the wall
  1857. >Maybe loyalty. Like, instead of being promiscuous, the demons would be loyal or something?
  1858. >Eh, doesn't matter.
  1859. >You sip on your whiskey as a hulking earth pony hurls a demon into a group, bowling half a dozen over
  1860. >"Get fucked!"
  1861. >You chuckle, and he glances over
  1862. "Nice. I get it."
  1863. >"Huh?"
  1864. "Get fucked because they're pleasure demons?"
  1865. >He cocks his head
  1866. >"Oh, yeah."
  1867. >Looks like he didn't actually do that on purpose
  1868. >You wave a hand, pointing him back to the fight
  1869. "Don't let me distract you, please."
  1870. >The stallion just shrugs, diving back into the melee
  1871. >Cinnamon Bun is wrestling with a hulking monster. It looks like a Deathclaw, just with a pair of sizable breasts. Lust demons are stupid.
  1872. >Still, you don't fancy her chances. She clearly needs some encouragement
  1873. "Hey, Cinnamon! If you win, I'll let you clean my shoes!"
  1874. >Her face contorts in rage as she lets loose a very naughty word. Followed by several more, even naughtier words
  1875. >That seems to have put some wind in her sails, and she easily flips the monster, getting the upper hand
  1876. >Or should that be 'upper hoof'?
  1877. >You chuckle to yourself
  1878. >Heh, you should write that one down.
  1879. >With a final sip, you finish your whiskey
  1880. >To time move onto beer
  1881. >Turning away from the carnage, you rummage around in a cabinet, trying to grab a beer
  1882. >They're all the way at the back. You'd been worried the homeless/waiters would find them
  1883. >Shit, how far back are they? Most of your body is in the counter as you desperately search for your drinks
  1884. >Maybe the homeless ponies did find them after all...
  1885. >Your hand closes around one, right at the back
  1886. >Phew, for a moment there-
  1887. >There's a victorious roar from behind you
  1888. >Fuck!
  1889. >You might be missing something important
  1890. >"NO! IMPOSSIBLE!"
  1891. >SHIT!
  1892. >You pull out of the counter as the kitchen falls silent
  1893. "Did I miss it?! What did-"
  1894. >Chari is standing on a hopscotch square, one of its feet over a line
  1895. >Hopscotch has a smug grin on his face
  1896. "Is... does that mean Chari loses? I don't know the rules-"
  1897. >Chari lets loose a roar, and the rest of the mini-demons flinch away, fleeing back from the portal
  1898. "Someone tell me what I missed-"
  1899. >They run past Cinnamon Bun, who's holding the severed head of the deathclaw-demon in one hoof, a bloody cleaver in the other. She's standing with one hoof on the mangled body of the demon, breathing heavily.
  1900. >There's a claw swipe cut down her face, over one eye
  1901. >Wow. That's going to make an awesome scar.
  1902. "Is it over? We won?"
  1903. >Charisi hangs its head
  1904. >"I am your slave, Anon."
  1905. "Aww..."
  1906. >Truth be told, you're a little disappointed. You missed be the best bit of the evening.
  1907. >Hopscotch looks beside himself with glee
  1908. >"I did it, Anon! I really did it! I am good for something, after all!"
  1909. >He's practically jumping around
  1910. "Yeah, well done, Hops."
  1911. >At your words, he slows down
  1912. >He comes to a dead stand still, giving you a weird look, his eyes moist
  1913. >"A-are you proud of me, Anon?"
  1914. >Well, this is getting weird.
  1915. >Still, there are a dozen smelly homeless/waiters standing around. You have an audience, and old Anon never misses a chance to be overly dramatic
  1916. >Kneeling down, you bring yourself level with Hopscotch, resting a hand on his head
  1917. >Giving him your best fatherly look, you smile, proudly
  1918. "Hopscotch... I've always been proud of you."
  1919. >A single tear rolls down his cheek as the two of you hold that pose for a moment
  1920. >Then, he hugs you, tight
  1921. >Your audience 'awws', a couple even give loud sniffs
  1922. >Hehe, perfect. You love giving a show
  1923. >Hopscotch leans in to you, whispering in your ear
  1924. >"D-do you love me, daddy?"
  1925. >...
  1926. >You stand, dropping him
  1927. "I think that's enough of that."
  1928. >He quickly dries his eyes, still smiling
  1929. >"I love you too."
  1930. >Uh...
  1931. >Where was that beer? Alcohol may not be the best coping mechanism for this weirdness, but damn if it isn't an effective one
  1932. >As you're glancing around, you notice Cinnamon squinting at you from her good eye. She walks toward you, face pulled into a tight grimace
  1933. >"Anon. I hate you."
  1934. >You eye the cleaver she's still holding nervously
  1935. >"You stole victory from me, insulted me and gave me a ridiculous job, taunting me with your superiority. But you've taught me something important."
  1936. >She stops a few feet away from you
  1937. >"If you want to grow as a person, you need to be around people you hate. People you want to become better than."
  1938. >You raise an eyebrow
  1939. "Really?"
  1940. >She continues, her voice low
  1941. >"I've grown more in this last hour surrounded by demons and you than I have in the last five years, surrounded by my caring family and loving friends."
  1942. >She reaches up, grabbing her long mane with one hoof. She slices it off with the cleaver, leaving it cropped short
  1943. >"When I was fighting that monster, I thought about my parents. About my bothers and sisters. About my friends."
  1944. "Yeah, should probably have concentrated on fighting that big bastard instead."
  1945. >She ignores you, continuing
  1946. >"My love for them was worthless in the face of such a beast. You know what made me succeed?"
  1947. "The meat cleaver?"
  1948. >She shakes her head
  1949. >"My hatred for you. It gave me strength where love failed."
  1950. >You shake your slowly
  1951. "And people say love's the strongest force, huh?"
  1952. >Her eyes narrow when you say 'strongest'
  1953. >"I want to be strong. Fuck being a baker, I want to hunt demons. To crush their skull under my hooves, to see them driven from me. I want to hear the lamentation of their women-folk."
  1954. >This sounds terribly unoriginal
  1955. "Well, I'm glad you've found something you like."
  1956. >"I'm not ready yet, though, Anon."
  1957. >You shrug
  1958. "No worries. Practice makes perfect, they say."
  1959. >She lays her bloody cleaver on the ground at your feet, bowing low
  1960. >"Teach me, Anon. Teach me to channel my hate."
  1961. >You shrug
  1962. "Sure."
  1963. >"I want to serve as your chef-de-feu"
  1964. >You nod
  1965. "Good. You know, you were actually doing a pretty good of watching the old fire-corner."
  1966. >You point a thumb at the fire corner. Actually, now you look, it's more of a fire-wall than a corner
  1967. >The homeless/waiters seem to have noticed. They've all fled
  1968. >Shit
  1969. "Ok, scratch that. You've let it get completely out of hand. You're not even capable of literally putting fire in a corner."
  1970. >You shake your head as half the kitchen blazes merrily
  1971. "Mediocre. Hopscotch definitely wins the competition for best staff member."
  1972. >He gives a little fist pump
  1973. >Well. The fire's getting out of control. Time to leave.
  1974. "Chari! Carry me out the front door."
  1975. >It sighs
  1976. >"Yes master."
  1977. >As Chari kneels, you climb onto its shoulders
  1978. >It stands, and leads walks out the main kitchen door
  1979. >The commotion has roused all your guests from their pleasure-comas, and most are looking around in alarm
  1980. >Well, most are looking at you in alarm.
  1981. >After all, you just rode a demon out of a burning kitchen, trailed by a scary looking Cinnamon Bun and a rather happy Hopscotch
  1982. >To be honest, you were probably slightly more scared of Hopscotch than Cinnamon Bun after the whole "daddy" thing
  1983. "Guests!"
  1984. >All the ponies that hadn't noticed you do now. Behind you, smoke billows under the kitchen doors
  1985. "I'd like to thank you all for visiting the 'I dunno, I'll think of a name later. Can I not register a business without a name? Why are you writing all this down?'."
  1986. >They seem worried by the fire, but you're holding their attention
  1987. "I hope you all had a pleasant meal."
  1988. >There are more than a few satisfied responses from the crowd
  1989. "A round of applause for the chef?"
  1990. >You get a standing ovation. It says a lot that, even when the building they're in is burning down, your cooking was good enough for a round of applause and cheers.
  1991. >With a smile, you wave
  1992. "You're too kind, you really are."
  1993. >The applause dies down
  1994. "You know, two weeks ago I cooked my first meal in Equestria. Back then I'd never imagined that by now, just a fortnight later, I'd be sitting on a demon in a burning restaurant, addressing pony nobility."
  1995. >You get a few concerned looks when you mention the fire.
  1996. "Thank you all. You've really made my dream possible."
  1997. >What dream, exactly, you're fulfilling is anyone's guess. Though, to be honest, this kind of situation is pretty dreamlike
  1998. "It's amazing, it really is. A part of me still thinks all of this is unbelievable, like it's a prank or a dream or something..."
  1999. >You trail off, giving a short pause.
  2000. "Thank you all. Now, feel free to stick around as long as you want, but bear in mind the building is on fire. So, you know, don't stick around too long."
  2001. >You point to the fire exits either end of the warehouse
  2002. "The fire escapes are located here-"
  2003. >The ponies take that as a cue, and start to rush toward the exits
  2004. "- unfortunately, they're chained shut. So don't use them."
  2005. >They all stop mid rush
  2006. "Exit through the front entrance in an orderly fashion. And, ladies?"
  2007. >The handful of mares that aren't fleeing stare up at you
  2008. >You wink
  2009. "Have a lovely evening."
  2010. >A couple swoon
  2011. "Onward, Chari. To freedom!"
  2012. >The demon groans, then plods to the exit, between scores of screaming ponies.
  2013.  
  2014. ~
  2015.  
  2016. >You stand outside in the cold air, watching your restaurant burn down
  2017. >All things considered, it was a pretty good opening night. One they'll talk about, at least.
  2018. >Crews of pegasi douse the flames with clouds, but it's too little, too late.
  2019. >You'd sent Hopscotch and Cinnamon home.
  2020. >As you admire the flames, a voice calls out to you
  2021. >"Anon! Thank goodness you're not hurt!"
  2022. >You begin to turn, but you're tackled into a hug from behind
  2023. >It's Twilight.
  2024. "Hey, Twi, how's it going?"
  2025. >"Forget about me, Anon! Are you OK? Your restaurant, it's burning! And we detected a massive surge in magical energy coming from-"
  2026. >You shush the horse
  2027. "Don't worry about it."
  2028. >There's a rumble as the warehouse-restaurant collapses in on itself
  2029. >"Did everyone make it out?"
  2030. >You nod
  2031. "I sent Chari in to get all the ponies out. Everyone's accounted for."
  2032. >"Chari?"
  2033. "Yeah. Some demon or something."
  2034. >Maybe it's your casual tone, but Twilight doesn't ask any follow up questions
  2035. >The two of you stand in silence for a while, feeling the heat from the blaze.
  2036. >"I was going to congratulate you on your restaurant, but it's all gone..."
  2037. >You shrug
  2038. "No biggie."
  2039. >"But Anon, what about your money! Didn't you-"
  2040. "Twilight. What does my apron say?"
  2041. >She glances down to your apron
  2042. >"All According To Plan."
  2043. >You nod
  2044. >Well, none of this was your exact plan. "All According To Plan" is a great motto, since it makes you look like some kind of tactical genius. Really it'd be equally relevant after any positive outcome.
  2045. "Exactly."
  2046. >You reach into a pocket, pulling out a small scroll which you pass to Twilight.
  2047. >She skims it
  2048. >"Insurance... in the event of a fire... total destruction of property... sum to paid no less than..."
  2049. >She pales
  2050. >"There's a lot of zeroes after that one, Anon"
  2051. >You nod
  2052. "All the zeroes."
  2053. >There are a lot of things you can do with that money
  2054. "I never wanted to do this long-term. Maybe a bit longer, then it's on to something else."
  2055. >"With that much money, you could move onto anything else."
  2056. >It's weird that the insurance company were willing to pay out that much to someone who had, on TV, bragged about how he burned a load of kitchen utensils and put them in a bucket 'for safety'
  2057. >Eh, whatever.
  2058. >You sigh
  2059. "It'll get boring fast, the cooking."
  2060. >Twilight gives you a sad grin
  2061. >"I can imagine."
  2062. "Sure, messing around with it will be fun... but it'll get old quick. And I don't get any real satisfaction from it. I'll never have any incentive to get really good or even just improve. Why would I? I'm already /too/ good. It's fun, but not something I'd want to do full time."
  2063. >She nods sympathetically
  2064. >You'd come clean to her, told her about how you've never cooked before.
  2065. >There's another rumble as part of the burning structure shifts, spitting glowing embers into the sky
  2066. "Still, I wonder why. Why I'm so good at it. Maybe I'll never know. I think I'm fine with that."
  2067. >You're OK with it. Maybe in this world, some thing just happen for no good reason at all.
  2068. >Twilight frowns
  2069. >"I did look into it, Anon. I know why your cooking is so... perfect. But I think, maybe, you're at peace with not-"
  2070. >You spin on the spot, grabbing Twilight
  2071. "Tell me the secret! Not knowing is driving me crazy!"
  2072. >You're not OK with not knowing. Maybe in this world, some things just happen for no good reason, but that sounds like a bullshit cop-out and you want to know the truth, damn it!
  2073. >"Are you sure, A-"
  2074. >You shake Twilight
  2075. "What's the secret formula to my success!"
  2076. >She pulls away, rolling her eyes at your theatrics
  2077. >"You're not going to like it."
  2078. "I don't like you not telling me."
  2079. >She sighs
  2080. >"It's a racial thing."
  2081. >You narrow your eyes
  2082. "You not telling me is a racist thing? You're racist?"
  2083. >Twilight gives you a deadpan look
  2084. >"You're a human. This is what humans do."
  2085. >You blink
  2086. "We cook well?"
  2087. >She shakes her head
  2088. >"You know how Earth ponies make good farmers, pegasi make good fliers and unicorns make good nobility, artists, philosophers and inventors?"
  2089. >You nod, though you suspect you know which race got the better end of that deal
  2090. >"Well. Humans are, generally, better at making things."
  2091. >...
  2092. >What.
  2093. >What?
  2094. >What!?
  2095. "What kind of weak-ass bullshit is that?! I'm good at cooking because I'm a human?!"
  2096. >She nods
  2097. >"Humans are, apparently, great craftspeople. It's not just cooking. Carpentry, alchemy, pottery... anything you try that involves making something-"
  2098. >This doesn't make any sense! You know for a fact your cooking was bad. Everyone who say it first thought it looked gross. Besides, you'd tried it yourself and it was the kind of food you'd expect to pull out of a bin.
  2099. >And not even a high-class bin, a really shitty-dumpster-on-Skid-Row tier meal
  2100. "Then why didn't I think it was great?"
  2101. >"Humans are immune to most magic, including their own."
  2102. >Well, fuck
  2103. "So, whatever I try I'll excel at and everyone will think I'm amazing, but it'll always be shit to me."
  2104. >She nods
  2105. >"Unless you put in the work to become really good, then yes."
  2106. >You hang your head
  2107. >"I'm sorry, Anon."
  2108. >Looks like you're cursed to never find true satisfaction in anything.
  2109. >Instead, you'll excel at anything you try, easily earning a fortune from any half-assed endeavour while the ponies worship the very ground you walk on
  2110. >You stand up a bit straighter as you keep thinking
  2111. >You'll be forced to live a life of easy luxury, never wanting for anything. Any time, anywhere, you'll be able to create something perfectly suited to its intended function.
  2112. >A faint grin appears on your face
  2113. >A sex-demon slave to serve your every whim as you breeze through life, no unfortunate ever touching you.
  2114. >And with a 'power' so loosely defined, you'll be able to find some ridiculous loophole to exploit, some angle to work with
  2115. "I'll never struggle for the rest of my life..."
  2116. >You smile broadly at Twilight
  2117. "On second thought... I can live with that."
  2118.  
  2119. ~
  2120.  
  2121. >The wind howls around the lodge. This high in the mountains, there's not a lot for its patrons to do other than drink and share stories.
  2122. >A moulting griffon has the floor, trying to outdo the others.
  2123. >"...well that's nothing. I heard from a friend of mine down south about some pony they called "Fury". Word is, she took down a whole griffon raiding squad with her bare hooves. Forty something, a fair warband."
  2124. >It doesn't have a name, the lodge. It's not the kind of place you walk into by accident. No, it's the kind of place you go when you want to lay low for a while.
  2125. >Around the smoky bar are gathered the very worst society has to offer. Mercenaries, killers, thugs and thieves, the least of them with a half-dozen kills to their name.
  2126. >The kind of stories they share don't exactly make for the best bedtime stories
  2127. >A bulky Minotaur laughs
  2128. >"Griffons? Pathetic!"
  2129. >That gets a few derisive leers
  2130. >"Ever been to the Wild Desert? Seen a Sand Worm?"
  2131. >He gets a couple of nods, but most patrons shake their heads
  2132. >"Big as a building, and angrier than a... than a minotaur."
  2133. >The big guy doesn't exactly have a way with words
  2134. >"I heard there was one the locals called "The Eater of Worlds". It would just come out of nowhere and eat a whole fucking town."
  2135. >He takes a swig of beer, or of what passes for it this far away from civilization
  2136. >"So the local king sends out his army to kill the damn thing, his best warlocks, best soldiers... you name it. Anyway, they finally see this great big worm, the Eater of Worlds, they get ready to kill it, but guess what?"
  2137. >He gets a few shrugs
  2138. >"Someone'd beaten them to it. It's lying there, dead. And they see this figure standing on it, holding a meat cleaver. They rush to congratulate whoever killed the thing, but by the time they get there, it's gone. Headed into the deepest part of the desert. No water there, no food. No living thing could survive. Never saw it again."
  2139. >The room's quiet, everyone listening in
  2140. >"They called it the 'Butcher of the Sands'."
  2141. >No one speaks for a while, too busy enjoying their drinks
  2142. >Finally, someone speaks up
  2143. >"Ever hear about 'One Eye'?"
  2144. >There are nods, but a few people mutter that they haven't
  2145. >The old stallion nods
  2146. >"Reckon you can't beat old One Eye."
  2147. >The grizzled old pony takes a swig of beer, a well-worn sword hanging at his side
  2148. >"Couple of months back, there was this summoner out west. Good one, too. Managed to summon some serious shit."
  2149. >He shakes his head
  2150. >"Big, ugly demons. Lots of 'em, too. I was part of a group that dealt with... well, whatever we'd get paid to do. The easier the better!"
  2151. >He gets a few laughs from the other mercenaries.
  2152. >Why risk fighting an army when you could get a pretty penny torching villages and putting civilians to the sword?
  2153. >"Well, the price was big, big enough that we fancied our chances. The summoner was sending his demons out to raid the nearby towns. We headed to one, but when we got there..."
  2154. >He shakes his head, slow
  2155. >"They'd already attacked. But something had /attacked them back/."
  2156. >There are a few murmurs
  2157. >"Most of them were dead, cut to pieces. Torn apart."
  2158. >He looks around the room, holding his audience's gaze
  2159. >Apart from one bundled figure by the bar, he has their undivided attention
  2160. >"/Most/. See, there were a few still alive. We found one, in the rafters of a barn, hiding."
  2161. >He stresses the word.
  2162. >"/Hiding/. I damn near shit myself when it spoke. Just kept begging us to keep 'One Eye' away from it. That demon alone could have killed my whole group, but it didn't. Too scared."
  2163. >His eyes drop down to his drink
  2164. >"Whatever it was up against, this 'One Eye' was too much even for an army of demons. It didn't even fight when we put it out of its misery. It practically thanked us."
  2165. >He shudders at the memory
  2166. >"We tracked them back to the summoner's tower, but when we got there it was already burning."
  2167. >Hushed whispers run through his audience
  2168. >"Never heard of One Eye since. They never claimed the huge bounty, and none of the demons we found gave us anything to go on."
  2169. >A few of the misfits are shaking their heads disbelievingly
  2170. >"Now, I'm not a praying stallion, but I pray every night that wherever One Eye is, it's far away from me."
  2171. >With that, the stallion finishes his drink
  2172. >The room's as cold as its patrons are silent, the only noise is the howling wind battering around the wooden building
  2173. >The Minotaur who spoke earlier frowns deeply, eyeing the only patron who wasn't listening with rapt attention
  2174. >He points at the figure
  2175. >"You! This is Captain Killjoy, and when someone like him tells a story, you better damn well listen!"
  2176. >The figure cocks its head, but doesn't look round
  2177. >The Captain holds up a hoof
  2178. >"Let them drink in peace, Steel."
  2179. >"Fuck that!"
  2180. >The Minotaur stands, raising its voice
  2181. >"Our stories not good enough for you?"
  2182. >For the first time the figure speaks, her voice low and rough
  2183. >"Heard 'em before."
  2184. >"Oh, you have, have you?"
  2185. >The Minotaur turns to his friends, speaking sarcastically
  2186. >"Well, maybe little miss 'heard-'em-before' can tell us a good story."
  2187. >He fingers the axe swinging at his hip
  2188. >"And it better be a good one."
  2189. >"I don't tell stories."
  2190. >The figure turns around, wrapped tightly in thick furs
  2191. >"Oh, you don't?"
  2192. >Everyone subtly moves, their weapons a little closer to hand
  2193. >"No. I don't tell stories."
  2194. >The figure flicks her cloak back.
  2195. >"I /make/ them."
  2196. >Three scars run over her left eye, leaving it screwed mostly shut. A worn meat cleaver dangles at her hip. her coat is matted, broken regularly by scars.
  2197. >For a moment, there's silence. Then every person in the building rises at once. Half try to go for their weapons. Half try to go for the door.
  2198. >None of them are quite quick enough.
  2199.  
  2200. >Cinnamon Bun wipes the blood from her cleaver, whistling as she does.
  2201. >This is so much more fun that cooking or baking ever was.
  2202. >Speaking of, she wonders how Hopscotch is getting on...
  2203.  
  2204. ~
  2205.  
  2206. >"... I had a few beers with him after that, and we were good as brothers. That's why he invited me to work at his first restaurant."
  2207. >Hopscotch beams proudly to his interviewer, who moves the microphone back to her mouth.
  2208. >"And what happened with the first restaurant? Even today, things are a bit... unclear."
  2209. >He shakes his head, holding up a hoof
  2210. >"Sorry! That's not my story to tell. If you ever do find Anon, I'm sure he'd tell it better anyway. Cool!"
  2211. >The mare nods. For half a year people had been asking Hopscotch about the fire, but he'd always kept his lips shut.
  2212. >"So, after the first one, Anon opened a second restaurant, the "Eh, names don't matter anyway". Again, you were Head-Chef."
  2213. >Hopscotch gives an excited little nod
  2214. >"I sure was! I think... well, it's funny. Anon was the best chef, but he did a lot less cooking. He left me to do more and more. He spent more time running things. And training Cinnamon Bun, of course."
  2215. >"Do you think he was upset about the loss of his first restaurant?"
  2216. >Hopscotch shakes his head
  2217. >"No way! He made a lot of money from that fire. A /lot/ of money."
  2218. >The mare nods
  2219. >"And he made even more from the second restaurant. You benefited a lot too. Do you think you would be a world-class chef without Anon's guidance?">
  2220. >Hopscotch shakes his
  2221. >"He was like a father to me. Without him, I wouldn't be the success I am now."
  2222. >For the first time, Hopscotch's face falls
  2223. >"I... I miss him."
  2224. >The mare pauses for a moment, Hopscotch staring wistfully into the distance
  2225. >"He's certainly left a legacy. The man who came out of nowhere, changed the world in a month then just disappeared. Five months on, and you, his student, are a successful chef in your own right. It's no surprise you miss him."
  2226. >Hopscotch nods, but doesn't say anything.
  2227. >"Any idea where he might be?"
  2228. >He stays silent for a long time. When Hopscotch finally speaks, it's quiet, thoughtful.
  2229. >"No. But I'm sure, wherever he is, he's having a damn good time."
  2230.  
  2231. ~
  2232.  
  2233. >You sputter out the blue liquid
  2234. "What the hell, Chari! I said I wanted it to be perfect."
  2235. >The sex-demon bows low
  2236. >"My apologies, master. I'll take it back and make another."
  2237. >You shake your head
  2238. "Leave it. It's great. It's just not /perfect/."
  2239. >It's definitely a SHE now. You had her change her form to match your tastes. No more suspicious downstairs bulge.
  2240. >She likes it when you treat her like this. She likes it a /lot/.
  2241. >Guess too much time as the ruler of the Realm of Pleasure had her missing being on the bottom for a change.
  2242. >After all, change is the spice of life.
  2243. >You sip on your cocktail, lounging on the sunchair.
  2244. >Gentle, warm rays of sun peek through the palm trees, keeping you cool without being too warm
  2245. >The azure ocean sparkles like a precious gem, and the white beach that rushes to meet it stretches into the distance
  2246. >An assortment of beautiful females of all races splash in the water, their distant fun mingling with the calls of the sea birds, and the booming crash of the tide
  2247. >Maybe later you'll take a ride in your helicopter. It's really just a crate with some spinning planks on top, but apparently that's enough for flight.
  2248. >If you're a human, at least.
  2249. >Yeah. A ride in your helicopter, then a meal cooked by some real world-class chefs.
  2250. >You take another sip of your cocktail. Tasty.
  2251. >With a contented sigh, you squint into the perfect, blue
  2252. >Life is good.
  2253. >More importantly, you've got a feeling it always will be.
  2254. >Idly, you wonder how Cinnamon Bun and Hopscotch are getting on. You should organise a reunion or something.
  2255. >After a few minutes, you hear Chari coming back. She puts another glass on a table beside you.
  2256. >You take a sip.
  2257. >This time, it is perfect.
  2258. >Without even having to say anything, you sex-demon begins massaging you calves
  2259. >She's good.
  2260. "Higher. Higher."
  2261. >You give a content sigh as she works
  2262. "More mouth..."
  2263. >You lean back into your chair, hands behind your head
  2264. "Perfect."
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