Post Word Count: 1,989
Job Word Count: 1,989/14,000
Items Used IC/OOC: Item 1, Item 2
Active Spells: Spell 1 (Duration: x/x)
The day before
In the days before this lovely, sunny, late summer day, Magnolia had been full of bustling people. Bystanders often stopped by to see the large structures being built in one of the many large parks that dotted the city. Skyscraping logs were erected, booths and stages built, paths covered with wood shavings. Temporary fencing gave shape to paths and walls to the different sections. It was a sight to see. Several groups of kids had tried to wander in, only to be chased off by the event employees.
It was the time of the annual Manly Man Festival, where men came from around Fiore to do everything considered manly. Of course, this event was accepting of all. In modern times, anyone of any creed, age, or gender was allowed to participate in the contests. Just the previous year, many of the first place prizes had been claimed by women, and one even claimed by an ancient elf! There was a carnival section for kids, complete with rides and sweets. Despite its name, there was no exclusiveness at all. The event organizers simply kept the title because it had long-rooted history in Magnolia. People even protested when they tried to change it. The Manly Man Fest had been going on for exactly 99 years, and this year was its 100th celebration.
The organizers had gone all out with this year’s centennial celebration. More space was allocated for food, vendors, games, contests, and competitions. For weeks they had sent out fliers across Earthland to advertise the festivities. Event employees had been answering phones day and night in the weeks leading up to this. People were wondering if things would really be as grand as they had head. The answer they got was an enthusiastic ‘yes!’
At the entrance to the park, the head event organizer loitered around a security booth with his council. Dressed in a slick black suit with a crisp bowtie, he stood out among the others. His dark moustache was curled at the ends, one of which he now twiddled between his fingers.
“Hans, how is the interactive art exhibit coming?” he queried a nervous looking man to his left.
“T-they’re hanging the last paper and glass pieces, sir.” Hans was a short mouse of a man with wide eyes. He held a clipboard stacked full of papers in his twitchy hands. At his waist hung a myriad of walkie-talkies, all occasionally buzzing as different attendants called in to report completed projects.
“Excellent. And the main stage?”
“Er, well, they had to re-coat the floorboards this morning. The paint supplier had a drunken employee drop-” Hans replied, biting on the end of his pen before being cut off by his superior. He let out a whimper.
“Enough! I don’t want to hear of the failures. Only speak to me of those if there is not a solution yet!” The moustached man snapped. “Tell me of the successes!”
“Midi has sent a troupe of their best sumo wrestlers to perform,” piped up a woman from nearby. “They’ll also be teaching a class on the north side of the park after their debut. We’ve got their hotel and expenses covered, and an employee waiting for them at the entrance to the city as an escort.”
“Ooh! The final strength competition finished their preparations today. They’ve got a team trained and ready to set up each module as it comes. The fans will love this year’s competitions!” A man had stepped in from outside of the tent and relayed his sector’s successes.
“Security just radioed in,” interrupted a man sitting at a nearby table. He was a member of the security personnel. “All security and medical stations are prepared. Night guards will scout the perimeter all night and another sweep will be done at dawn and ten minutes before opening.”
“Excellent!” the head organizer crooned, revelling in the perfected organization of the event. “Things are going swimmingly.”
Just then, a young man burst into the tent. “The cooking competition needs some help carrying boxes to their area. Their movers quit on them.”
“HANS!” the organizer shouted with two claps of his hands. Hans jumped, then saluted the organizer with a shaky hand. “These people need assistance. Chop chop! Let’s go!” he ordered, exiting the tent at a march with the assistant following meekly behind.
“Thifs ith fanthathic!” Dagda exclaimed around his mouthful of steak, forgetting his manners. The flavors of butter and meat melded in his mouth, accentuated by the perfect amount of salt, pepper, and other spices he hadn’t tasted before. He had never tried anything like it. Hell, he’d never even considered combining steak and butter before! It was genius! Whoever came up with this deserved the highest of praise.
The titan closed his eyes in bliss as he took another bite. I could eat this for the rest of my life, he thought to himself. In the moment, it was the truth. Dagda had always loved meat. It was a mandatory part of his people’s diet. Living high in the mountains of Tetsukazu, there weren't many options for plants or fruits, save for the tough tubers that grew in the rocky lower slopes. The titan had always hated those damned things. They were nothing compared to the fresh, wild flavor of game he had caught himself. His taste for meat had grown with him as a young Marmor. Though he wasn’t the best chef, it was something he always enjoyed cooking.
This Earthland stake was simply divine though. After his arrival via wormhole, and upon integrating into Fiorean society, Dagda had tasted flavors and foods he had never even considered possible. Bakeries and candy shops held treats so sweet they made his teeth hurt. Other places such as pubs had things so salty he felt the need to chug several glasses of water afterwards. Those were just the extremes, though. He’d tasted things like pasta, onions, and even discovered the glory that was dark chocolate with orange. Now that was something to write home about.
Dagda had managed to secure a spot as a judge of the cooking contest in this massive Manly Man Festival. He’d seen fliers plastered all around Magnolia in the months before. In the days leading up to it, the town he’d temporarily made his home base became a busy madhouse. There were more people in town, and now at this festival, than he had even seen in his life!
The judge spot hadn’t come easy, though. It was definitely luck of the draw, as the other judges were professionals. There was one spot open to be taken by the public via name drawing. It had happened the Saturday before in a cool afternoon in the park. A crowd gathered around a small stage to hear who was chosen as the guest judge. When his name had been called, Dagda let out a loud cheer that had scared others around him and gotten him some weird stares.
Those stares were now mirrored as the professional judges stared at the titan incredulously. He’d kind of wolfed down the whole steak in just minutes, while they had sawed off tiny bites to ‘accentuate the flavors’ or something like that. Realizing that he was the odd one out, Dadga shrugged his shoulders at them sheepishly. What did they expect when taking someone from the public to participate in the judging?
Looking up, the Marmor took a gander at who exactly had made this divine creation. A man around his age had stepped forward, separated from the other contestants by a few feet. Spiky silver hair topped his head, slightly messy but not unkempt. He was tall but some inches shorter than Dagda, who rose a head above the crowd even while seated in a chair. The most striking thing about him, much to the delight of some of those in the crowd, was his lack of shirt. Only an apron covered his torso but one could still see his abs peeking out from beneath.
Dagda raised an eyebrow as the announcer declared the end of the contest. Shirtless was an interesting way to cook, especially for a competition. However, it didn’t bother him like it did with a few of the other judges. They gave him piercing stares, trying to avoid looking at the muscles. When the judging was done, Dagda would have to try to catch that man on his way out. The titan desperately wanted to compliment his cooking. That steak was unlike anything else!
The judges retreated to a nearby small tent to deliberate on the winner. Dagda entered the tent last, having to duck quite low to make it through the flaps. They sat in a circle of chairs facing inwards. Awkwardly the titan situated himself on the small seat. The discussion went through each of the contestants, listing their successes and faults with their steaks. Some only garnered criticism, while others were rained in praise. Dagda pitched in first thing when the last man came up.
“That steak was just perfection,” the oversized man said with a contented sigh. Many of the other judges nodded and muttered their agreements. One other man, with a long, pointed nose and wide, thin glasses let out a ‘humph’ of disapproval. He was obviously an uppity professional with a holier-than-thou attitude. He sat with arms crossed.
“I did not think he was that great,” the man said in a snooty, nasally tone.
“Why is that?” Dagda asked calmly. Though the guy’s attitude was less than ideal, this had to be dealt with patience and level-headedness.
“His butter was mixed with bleu cheese, a disturbing pairing. Not to mention he was cooking dressed in nothing!” the nasty judge spat. One other person voiced their agreement, but quieted down when they realized that the other judges did not agree. Several sets of annoyed and incredulous eyes gazed at the uptight man.
“Is this not a cooking competition?” Dagda asked steadily. “We’re here to judge the food and its flavors. We’re here to judge the skills of the chefs. We’re here to judge everything from the tiniest amount of salt to the char on the sides of the steaks.” He had risen from his chair without realising it, looming over the shorter man. The other cowered in his chair, glaring up at the titan through his glasses.
“We are not here to judge the chefs’ appearances. What they are wearing does not matter as long as it’s publicly appropriate. Can a man not cook in the comfort of his own skin?” Dagda asked thunderously, without any malice. He was simply asking, after all. Other judges piped up and voiced their agreement. They were tired of this professional judge and his nasty attitudes.
“I suppose he can,” muttered the judge in disgusted defeat, averting his eyes. His arms crossed tighter over his chest.
“All in favor of contestant number nine, say aye!” another judge called out, only to be met with a chorus of positive responses from the rest. Only the snooty judge did not reply.
“It seems we have a winner then.” A grin lit up Dagda’s face. Somehow he felt a kinship to the winning contestant, though they had never met before nor spoken face to face. Perhaps it was a feeling falsely inflated by his enjoyment of the steak. Either way, once the winner was declared onstage and the commotion died down, the Marmor approached the spiky-haired chef.
“Sir, I’d just like to say what a wonderful job you did in that contest. I’ve never tasted anything like that steak!” He stuck out his hand to shake. “My name is Dagda. I just gotta know: what’s your secret? How do you cook like that?” There was an excitement on his face akin to that of a child in a candy store. So much could be learnt from this guy!