Regulus: Afterword

Regulus was a short story series that I wrote mostly because I was facing a very strained moment in my personal life with my family. A lot of the concept and aesthetic I was going for was actually inspired by the indie horror game, “Dreaming Mary”.

When it came to the main concept of the story, I knew that I wanted it to take place in a secluded, Switzerland-inspired land, so that’s where I drew a lot of the influences for the landscape and setting. For the characters, I had already decided that the main character was going to be a young man who lived a sheltered life and did not know the difference between love and abuse. For the men in the family, I wanted there to be a theme of strong, lion-inspired names, hence why I opted for Leon for the father and Lionel for our main character. For the girls in the family, I went with Abertha for the mother, mostly because Abertha means to sacrifice in Welsh, and Lacey, which generally holds the meaning of being powerful, intelligent, and wonderful, which the sister who bears that name in the story is depicted as.

Lionel was going to be on a small adventure throughout the large property he lived on, trying to uncover these clues that Lacey so thoughtfully scattered throughout the mansion. That much, I knew was going to be the driving force of the story, was to find out what happened to her. I meant originally for the story to have a much more open ending, with there being no direct implications on whether or not Lacey lives or not, but I wound up writing in the mentioning that she survives, just to give the ending a less morbid note, and to leave the potential for a continuation (granted, I’m probably not going to write one, because I’m happy ending the story where it is right now).

Anywhoo, I hope you enjoyed reading Regulus, because it was a fun story to write and it was a radical departure from some of the much longer stories that I have been writing. Thank you for reading it and I hope you look forward to more stories in the near future!

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Regulus: Chapter 5

It was quiet. Not a single sound or light, with the sole exception being the small cracks of it slithering out from around the door. “Alright, here goes.” He sighed to himself, walking into the abyss. As he went further away from the light, he found his vision adjusting to the darkness, and he was able to make out the area he was in. It was a cavernous hallway, the ceiling and walls were occasionally embedded with pieces of uncut alexandrite. As he continued to wander into the darkness, he finally found a part of the hallway that was lined with several urns. Placing it down, the boy began to make his way back to the door. Only to find out, after the trek back, that the door had been locked. Banging on it, he was hoping his father would let him out. But he never did. It felt like ages of knocking the door, begging for it to be opened, but no response. Resigning to his fate, Lionel decided to go back to where the urns were. There was more past that area. If he was here, he might as well go as deep as he can inside of these catacombs. He normally was not allowed down here, so it was a rare opportunity to explore a new part of the estate. Wandering deeper and deeper into the the unknown, he readjusted his eyes to the darkness, allowing himself to better witness the depths of the basement. There was luckily just one linear path. And all he had to do was keeping delving deeper along it. He had no idea what was awaiting him on the other side. However, it would be better than the beatings and abuse that awaited him should he return to the house. At this point, it was all beginning to make sense to him, Lacey’s warnings. Anything would be better than living in these conditions. Even death, as his mother showed him.

Speak of the devil. There was a skeleton, sprawled on the floor before him. Somebody had actually died in these mines. At first, it was terrifying, but then Lionel remembered that he had just cremated his mother’s corpse and had to act as though nothing was wrong just a day ago. Or was it weeks ago? He had no concept of time in the darkness. He did not even remember how long he had been wandering in the catacombs for. However, he noticed something in the skeleton’s hand. It was a paper airplane. “No. This can’t be her.” He shuddered, pulling the airplane out of the corpse’s hand. It was hard to read, due to the cavern being only barely illuminated from the glow of the gemstones, but the boy could still make out what was written on that sheet of paper. “Lionel, in the darkest of places may just be your last hope. You might think that hope is lost, but you need to keep wandering on. They tried to lock me here, but they did not realize that they just set me free. I am free now. Free from this prison and free from them. Join me, Lionel. I will be waiting for you on the other side. Be brave, my little brother. -Lacey”. Taken aback, the boy tried his best to fight back the tears. That skeleton, it really must be her. She must have died here, locked up from their parents. But then he remembered what was written on that note. He could not stop here. He had to keep moving on. If he stayed here, his father would eventually find him and punish him in another twisted way. Either that or continue to leave him here to rot and die. Either way, he was not ready to succumb to such a fate. He needed to keep moving deeper into the darkness, and towards whatever hopes he still had for his freedom. If he gave up now, then he would have nothing left to live for. He had to keep living, for Lacey, and for his own freedom.

Wandering deeper into the depths of the catacombs, Lionel finally came to a dead end. It appeared to be a cave-in. Stones upon stones smothered any sight of the other side. “Oh no….” He sighed, leaning in to better inspect the rocks. He had not lost hope just yet. Even if he had to dig his way out, he would do it. Noticing that a roughly potato-sized rock, towards the top of the pile, was shifting to his touch, Lionel pulled it away, and darted back in caution. No avalanche. Much to his relief and slight disappointment. He was hoping that the rocks would give way to the exit. However, what come out of that hole was something else that he had sought after. Light. Not the glow of alexandrite. Natural sunlight. “Yes!” He gasped in relief, as the boy continued rummaging around for another loose rock to pull. He found it. Yanking another, then another, then another, Lionel smiled as more sunlight poured through as the hole grew larger. Wherever this cavern led to, he was determined to get away from Fangnis. “Finally!” He beamed. The hole was large enough for him to crawl through. Pulling himself out, he sighed in relief. It was a grassy green hill, much like the backyard of their estate. However, unlike his favorite viewpoint, this one was connected to a long slope of grass, leading downwards to a lot of smaller buildings. Buildings…. the town. He slowly realized, smiling. Lacey! She might have escaped after all. The boy realized. Turning around, he shuddered as he was faced with that cavernous mouth of darkness, tinged with a faint glow of alexandrite. Grabbing some rocks and dirt nearby, Lionel started to stuff that hole, trying his best to bury the darkness, the pain, the trauma behind him. He could not let him father believe for even a second that he escaped.

Satisfied with his handiwork, Lionel got up, and brushed the dirt off his hands. He managed to cover the entire hole with a combination of mud, rock, and sticks. There was no way that any light could slip through those cracks. Turning back around, he took a deep breath. This lifestyle that he was about to embark on, he had no idea what to expect. How long would his freedom and happiness last?  Shaking off all of his doubts, he started running down the hill. The village was drawing nearer. He could feel his heart beating out of his chest with anticipation. The hill, with Fangnis sitting on top of it, was vanishing into the distance. Putting a stop to his sprint, the boy finally made it to the base of the hill. “Oh, it’s rare that we have visitors to the village.” An elderly farmer looked at the panting boy. “What is your name, young man?” Pausing, Lionel took a second to catch his breath. “My name?” He didn’t want to state the name he was given. In the event his father ever catch wind of him being alive, he needed to be ready for that. He had to erase any trace of his old life. “Regulus.” He lied through his teeth. “I am a young traveler from a neighboring country in Regensberg, just passing by.” “Well, welcome to our fair village, young man. If you need a place to stay for the night, my wife and her sister own a hostel.” He offered. “Thank you, sir.” He smiled. “It’s not very often we get visitors. I think that the last time was years ago. A young lady, around the same age as you.” He noted, much to Regulus’s shock. “Do you remember what happened to her?” The boy asked, trying to mask his excitement. “She settled in the village for a few years, but left maybe a month of two ago. She said she wanted to explore the world.” He explained. This was Regulus’s only chance to reunite with Lacey. She was still alive. He had just overcome one of the hardest journeys of his life, escaping that hell, but another adventure was about to begin. He was going to reunite with his sister.

Regulus: Chapter 4

Walking into the foyer, Lionel gasped at the sight before him. Written in large, blood-red letters was the word “Ingrates”, across the balcony. And tied from the chandelier was a rope. But that was not was the boy was transfixed on. It was what was attached to it. His mother was dangling from the lamp, the rope tightly holding her by her neck. Visibly, there were several bruises that were blackening under her already purple skin. “Brat, you let dinner get cold.” His father approached him, slapping him in the face, knocking him off his feet. “I ate everything. Clean up this mess and go back to your room.” He grunted, storming back to the entrance of the house. Sighing to himself, Lionel went to grab a ladder. He needed to untie the rope from the chandelier, and also scrub the wall clean. Unsure of how to dispose of his mother’s body, Lionel decided that cremation would be the fastest way. Dragging the corpse to the fireplace, he carefully lifted it into the flames. “Goodnight, mom.” He whispered, walking away from her, one last time. As he continued to wipe the blood from the walls and floor, Lionel could not stop thinking about reading that note. However, he was still digesting the events of what was happening. His mother just killed herself, because she felt neglected by him. But was that really his fault? Shaking off any thoughts, he continued to mindlessly clean off any trace of what happened just now. After this, Lionel was going to read that note. He knew that if he did not prioritize what his father said, he would be in huge trouble. He did not want to even begin to know what terrors would await him should he defy his father.

Passing out on his bed, Lionel tried his best to drift off to sleep. “Sweetie, be sure to eat your vegetables.” He was sitting in the dining room, his mother standing before him, insisting that he finish the food she prepared for him. Looking around the dining room table, he noticed that there were settings for not just the three of them. There was a fourth set of silverware and food. “Mom, who is the extra plate for?” He questioned, knowing full well that this was not real. His mother was dead. He did not care, however. An answer from even a phantom from his dreams would be appreciated at this point. “That’s for Lacey, sweetie. You should call her down.” She suggested. “Lacey?!”He called, uncertain of what to expect. “I’m coming down right now!” A voice called back to them, as footsteps could be heard. “Sweetheart, your dinner is getting cold! Your brother has been waiting for quite a while now! He’s almost done!” Their mother chanted. “Okay, okay, I get it! I’m busy!” She shouted back. “Somebody has to clean up the house, right? I’m in the middle of sweeping up the hallway.” She was in charge of cleaning? The boy had assumed that it was always his mother who did that. “Mom, who does the chores in the house?” His mother gave him a puzzled look, but still gave him an explanation. “Sweetie, I do the cooking, and your sister handles cleaning the house. Your father and I take turns teaching you guys. I handle the geology and history of Regensberg, and he teaches you guys economics, mathematics, and literature.” She started. “You’re still too young, sweetie. I know you want to help Lacey with shores, but maybe when you’re older.” She smiled softly at him, before slowly fading away. “Mom, I’m here!” Turning around, Lionel frowned as he was met with an empty room. He never got to confirm what his sister looked like. Was this a dream, or was it a memory?

Sadly, Lionel’s vision did not last long. “Get up, you ungrateful brat. Now that that bitch Abertha is dead, you’re in charge of cooking me my meals and cleaning the house.” His father glared at him. The boy groggily got up, only for his father to grab him by the arm and forcibly drag him down to the kitchen. Throwing the boy into the room, he slammed the door and stormed off. Getting up, and massaging his pulled arm, Lionel decided to read the note first, before he forgot. “While the mansion may seem like the perfect home, there are many faults and secrets. He does not like how I have been rebelling. I think he wants to keep me silent. I might not be able to see your smile, and hear your laughter for much longer, Lionel. Our family harbors many dark secrets. But I found a way out. Hopefully, you will too. -Lacey”. A way out? Dark secrets? He could not even begin to think about what else his family was keeping from him, or where he could possibly run away to. Lacey escaped. But there was no way. Not with their father guarding the only exit to the building. Unless she escaped the same way their mother did. Shuddering to himself, he put away the note. The last thing he wanted for his father to find it. But at the same time, he could not bring himself to discard or dispose of them just yet. These were the only remnants he still had of his sister. He had to hold onto them, in honor of her memory and her clues to his escape. “Is breakfast ready yet?” His father burped. “Uh, I’m getting it started!” Lionel called back, frantically. “Hurry up! Your mother would have had it ready before I was even awake!” He growled. The boy began to frantically put anything together with the limited cooking experience he had; he could only make toast and milk. He knew that he was going to get beat for this. This was going to be the beginning of his new hell.

Staggering back to his bedroom, trying to ignore the stinging pain from the bruises and cuts that covered his entire body, Lionel had just one goal: safely hiding those notes. He did not think about how his father had just slapped, punched, kicked, and hit him throughout the day, and forced him to clean the house, prepare his meals, and handle all of the chores that his mother used to do. He was forced to shoulder this burden, because she was no longer there to do so. He expected this to happen. Lionel had known since a young age that should his mother pass away, he would be the one who had to take over her duties. Hell, or Fangnis, would have frozen over before his father even volunteered a second of his time to doing a single chore in this house. Hiding the papers inside of the floorboards, the boy quickly placed the board back over the hole as he heard a booming sound echoing in the hallway. His father was coming back up. “Brat, where did you hide your mother’s body?” He glared at him. “I cremated her in the fireplace.” The boy confessed. “Put out that fire. And put the ashes in this.” He threw a large metal urn at Lionel, who caught it before it hit him squarely in the chest. “Once you get the ashes into this, call for me. I’ll tell you where to put it.” He snorted, walking off. “And you better do it within the hour. Or else.” He stared at the boy angrily. “I don’t like having my time wasted. I have crystals to sell.” After putting out the fire, Lionel sighed to himself as he got ready to be blackened by the soot. Collecting freshly extinguished ashes was no easy task, but Lionel had only an hour to collect up all of the contents of the fireplace, whether or not they were once his mother, and put them into the urn. Trying to use the lid to scoop up the charcoal and not burn himself was a smart idea on paper, except that the metal would still get hot from the heat and create first degree burns and blisters on the boy’s hands. It was inevitable that he was going to continue bearing scars and wounds from this experience. He just had to bear with it.

“Alright. Don’t fall, brat.” Going through a door and down a flight of dimly lit wooden stairs later, Lionel and his father finally arrived in the basement of the manor. The walk was unnerving. Lionel was careful not to spill the ashes or drop the urn, especially knowing that if he made another mess, that would be another excuse for his father to beat him. The boy was also unfamiliar with their basement. This was where they mined their alexandrite. However, the only people allowed down here were his parents. “These are the catacombs.” He was referring to a dusty wooden door, bound with a large iron padlock.“You’re going to go inside, and place the urn inside of here. If you try to steal any of the alexandrite in here, I will make sure that you join your mother, you little ingrate.” He growled, undoing the lock and opening the door. “Go inside, brat.” Almost immediately after pushing the boy inside, Leon slammed the door shut and clicked the lock. “I’ll let you out once you put the urn away.” He fibbed, walking back upstairs. He could stand to leave the boy down there. Until he was hungry again, that is. In the mean time, the twerp could just wait in there. He hated that the brat had the same look that she had. He did not need to be reminded of her. She was going to be a distant memory, and hopefully, he would be too soon enough. All of these thieves, benefiting from his fortune. The alexandrite was the only thing he needed. Nothing else mattered. He was not going to have anyone else betray him. If you think that stealing the alexandrite was a smart idea, then you belonged with it. His daughter, his first wife, his second wife, and now his son, they could all rot down there together. They were not worthy of living under his roof anymore.

Regulus: Chapter 3

“Good morning, sweetie.” His mom smiled kindly at him as she placed his breakfast down on the table. “I hope you had a wonderful sleep.” She turned around, pouring a glass of milk for the boy. “Since you woke up late, you won’t be able to have your hour of play time. Only just twenty minutes. After that, you will need to come to the library for your usual schooling. Is that understood?” She stated in a stern tone. The boy sheepishly nodded, not knowing what else to say. He did not want to further upset her, given how she was acting the day before. “Perfect.” She smiled as she walked off to clean the house. “Please wash your dishes before you come to the library. I will be waiting.” Her footsteps echoed through the room as she drifted further and further down the grand hall, making her way to the library. Quietly eating his breakfast, the boy shuddered at the thought of his father coming in. He was probably at his usual post, watching the bridge, since it was already later in the morning than usual. The boy was just relieved to be let back into the house, where he had warmth and shelter. Looking at the note again, he decided it would be best to hide it in his room. Fortunately, there were a couple loose floorboards where he would normally hide snacks, but he could stash the note away in there for safe keeping. Rinsing off and setting his dishes onto the drying rack, he quickly darted off to his room to do just that. There was no way that he would allow his parents to find these notes. Wherever Lacey currently is, she was safer there than here. It would be for the best that any details on her whereabouts stay hidden. At least until they could finally meet. Or reunite? He still doubted whether or not he had actually met this girl. He could not even recall what her face looked like, or what her voice sounded like.

Pressing his foot against the end of the wooden floorboard, Lionel managed to pry open a small gap. Quickly putting the letter away inside of the gap, he quietly closed the boards, trying not to draw any attention or noise to his actions, before running back down to the library from his bedroom. He needed to act like nothing was out of the ordinary, or else his parents might suspect something. Knowing his parents, if he were to let them on to believe that he knew something he was not supposed to, it would mean the fountains and the backyard, again. Walking into the library, he saw his mother, waiting to teach him the lessons for the day. “Sweetie, grab a chair. We’ll begin our history lessons shortly.” She nodded, gesturing the the table she was sitting at. “Okay, mom.” The boy nodded, still thinking about the contents of the note. There was definitely another note hidden somewhere in this library. After they finished another day’s worth of studies, Lionel continued to think about where the note could have been hidden. As his mother got up to leave, he decided to take a chance. “Mom, I was wondering if I could learn more about the history of Fangnis?” “Oh, of course, sweetie. All of those books are in the second floor of the library.” She pointed out. “Anything about Fangnis and how we took over the land, it would be up there. Happy studies, sweetie!” She smiled, walking out of the library. Little did she realize, Lionel’s mother had just given him the necessary hint to finding another note. Rummaging through the books in the second floor history section, he finally found something. A family photo album. Inside, towards the back, there were multiple pictures of a young girl, whose face was burnt off with cigarette ash. As Lionel began to close the book, another piece of folded paper slid out from inside of the cover, landing on the floor. It was a paper airplane.

“Pages and pages turn, and hopefully you are starting to see what monsters they really are. There is no love in this house. Dad was born into wealth. He keeps heaps of alexandrite in his bedroom. It was how he was able to buy this prison, far, far away from everyone else. He keeps us locked up here so that he can have his way with us. Only greed. You’ll need to learn to wipe the tears away. -Lacey”. Rereading the note, the boy was feeling confounded yet again. The last note, the hint was a bit more obvious. Pages, as in books. Here, she mentioned something about wiping away tears. Walking back to his room, paper in his pockets, Lionel continued to think about what the notes have said thus far. His whole life has been a lie. A facade. But he apparently did not know any better. His parents, they were allegedly monsters. It just dawned on the boy that perhaps the way they have been treating him, it was not normal after all. But how would he know? This was the only form of love he was ever exposed to. Slipping the note into his floor, the boy continued to think about where the next note could be. He was hoping to find Lacey soon. He wanted to meet her. His long lost older sister. He wanted to know who she was and where she had been this entire time. Drifting to sleep on his bed, the boy allowed the afternoon to slip into dusk, as he continued to think through where the next note could have been hidden. Tears. Maybe the garden? He had fallen and tripped a lot in there, so he would naturally cry as a child. Or perhaps the fountains? The water streaming from them, it resembled tears. Or maybe it would be his father’s bedroom? Since that was mentioned in the note already. She might have hidden the note in his alexandrite stash. Shaking his head, he would not know for certain, unless he tried each and every place. But he would never dare go into his father’s bedroom. Even his mother is prohibited from entering.

A couple days had passed, but Lionel had been too preoccupied with his studies to think about where the note was. After another day of lessons, he decided to take a risk. “Mom, was I the only child you have ever had?” He looked at her, feigning innocence. “What do you mean, sweetie? Of course. You’re my one and only precious baby.” She smiled. “Are you sure? I feel like I have been having these dreams lately. I am recalling having an older sister.” He continued pressing, knowing that if she were to suspect that him knowing was because of anything beyond a dream, he would be in trouble. He was desperate to take that risk, if it meant getting more answers. “Oh, dear. You’re silly.” She started to sweat a little as her demeanor grew more frantic and erratic. “I have to go clean the house now. But please, you never bring up having a sister again. You do not have a sister. You do not have a brother. You are an only child.” She insisted, getting up and leaving in a hurry. Frowning to himself, Lionel sighed in disappointment. Doing that did not solve anything. If anything, the moment his mother tells his father about their exchange, he could probably expect to face another punishment. And most likely, it would be being held under the fountains again. The fountains. Thinking more about them, it would make sense that the note would be stashed there. He would often spend almost a fifth of his childhood being held under that water, sobbing as the numbing sensation took over. He had to wipe away his tears quite often in that area, which is why he tends to avoid playing there. It brought up bad memories that he tries very much so to blot out. It was a very strange way of coming to this conclusion, but Lionel smiled to himself. He was able to make some sense about where he needed to look next.

“Sweetie, dinner will be ready in 15 minutes!” Lionel’s mother chanted before withdrawing to the house. The boy was in the fountain area, trying to figure out where the note could have been hidden. Looking at the different fountains, and shuddering at the traumatic childhood events he was involved in with each of them, Lionel finally came across a statue of a mermaid with tears streaming from face, through her cupped fingers. He distinctly remembered the time he broke an alexandrite vase, and his dad forced him to undress and stand underneath this particular fountain for four hours in the dark. That sort of numbness enrobing his body as he heaved cold water, it was hard to forget about, no matter how much Lionel tried to erase that memory. He could never quite feel with his right pinkie again after that incident. But the thing about this particular fountain that did stand out was the fact that she had tears. The last airplane mentioned something about wiping away tears, and this matched that description. It was a convoluted method of deduction, but the boy had no other ideas on where else he could look at this time. Prying around the marble surface, he was trying to figure out where one would hide a paper note in a fountain without getting it wet. Towards the nape of the mermaid’s neck, he noticed something: a small compartment, where the switches to the valves were. Opening the door, he found what he was seeking: another paper airplane.

“Mom only married him for the money. She tried to love us, but she never even knew how to love herself or anybody else. She might seem like a selfless person, but she is a rose. Delicate at first, but full of thorns. She will do whatever she can to have the last laugh, as you will one day learn. I hope these letters continue to grow your curiosity, my dear brother. I intend to continue planting these seeds towards freedom with each and every letter. -Lacey”. Neatly folding up the letter, Lionel tucked the paper into his pockets. Thorns. He thought to himself. It seemed like a really obvious hint, compared to the previous one. Closing up the compartment door, and trying his best to cover all of his tracks, he quickly made his way to the rose garden. Walking around, peering through the shrubs, trying to avoid poking himself with the thorns, the boy was desperately looking for the letter. He felt like they were getting easier to find. With each one, he was getting closer to Lacey. “Lionel, dinner!” He could hear his mother call from the distance. “Lionel? Sweetie? Dinner!” She continued to shout, while the boy was too transfixed on finding the airplane. He chose to ignore her pleas. Finding the letter was his priority. He finally came to the clearing in the garden, where a wrought-iron gazebo, covered in roses stood. In the very center was a small marble bench. It had to be there. This is where the vast majority of the roses were. And to his relief, there it was, beneath the bench. An airplane, taped to the underside. Peeling the airplane out from beneath the white surface, he quickly unfolded the paper. But he could not read it right away. “I AM DONE WITH THIS! GOODBYE, LEON!” Hearing a bloodcurdling scream, he flinched. That was his mother’s voice. Stuffing the note into his pocket, Lionel quickly darted back to his house.

Regulus: Chapter 2

“Sweetie, don’t forget that you have to come back after an hour, okay?” Lionel’s mother warned him as the boy took off into the backyard once again. “I promise, mom!” He chirped, running through the fields excitedly. He loved spending time in the open, just enjoying the fresh air, and being away from responsibility. At the same time, he knew he had one major responsibility at this moment: coming back to the library within an hour. He recalled the last time he was late: Lionel had tripped while playing in the garden and twisted his ankle. That was still not a good enough reason to be late. His father was not pleased. That feeling of a cold stream of dirtied fountain water continuously pouring into his face, flooding his nostrils, drowning his eyes, as he could taste the flecks of metallic rust that lingered in the light-green liquid as it pushed through his lips. All senses of feeling went out the window as the water was numbing his entire body. He could not move either. His father’s hand made sure that he stayed directly in front of the spout, directly in front of the full force of the stream. Shuddering at that memory, and trying his best to forget about the incident, Lionel continued to play in garden, being careful not to trip over a hedge this time. He stared at the roses, and admired the delicate pink shade that tinged their petals. It was hard to believe that these were alive and breathing, just like him. They almost looked like jewels that sprouted up from the soil. The gradients of the roses, from white in the center, to pink in the edges, and the dark brown flecks, it reminded his of a rose quartz. In fact, that was why he thought roses were rocks to begin with. If rocks came from the ground, then wouldn’t all of these plants be rocks too? He wondered to himself, blissfully unaware of the world around him. Getting up, he decided it was time to head to the library. An hour of freedom does go by quickly, or at least it does in Fangnis.

It was later that day, and Lionel was subjected to another lunch of smoked trout. “Why aren’t you eating, brat?” His father snorted, chewing his meal loudly. “I can’t eat…” “Go on, sweetie. Eat up. You love your mother, don’t you?” His mom ushered, trying to avoid another argument. “Mom, I can’t eat crab. I’ll break out in hives.” The boy tried to start. “You ungrateful little brat! How dare you! I worked very hard to put food on your plate, and all you care about is yourself! You’re a selfish little brat!” She shrieked. “Now you’ve upset your mother, brat!” His father got up, almost pushing the entire table forward. In a quick motion, he grabbed his son’s arm and dragged him through the hallway and down another staircase into the basement. They reached a door, before his father paused for a moment. “No. Not today.” He stopped and turned around, pulling Lionel with him. Pushing open the door to the back of the house, his father threw the boy outside. “Augh!” He grunted, landing on his arms. “You’ll stay out here tonight. Don’t bother coming back in. You’re not going to get any more food for the rest of the day.” His father cackled, slamming the door shut. And with a preceding click, the door was shut. Locked tight. All of the windows began to close too. He was making sure that there was absolutely no way back inside of the house. Resigning to the fact that he could not get back in, Lionel decided it was better to just make the most of his time outside. He knew that he could take residence in the library when night fell, so he could use the daylight while it was still there to just enjoy the peace and solitude. Wandering over to the tree on the hill, he decided where he would spend his time.

Night was beginning to creep upon the horizon, and it was getting time for Lionel to walk into the library. He was really intrigued to see the every day lives of these villagers. People wandering around with these large, moving things with four legs, and carts filled with a variety of items. He still wondered what it would be like to be one of them. He asked his mother one time what a villager’s life was like, but she just told him that he needed to be grateful for what he had and that trying to swap lives is something a self-centered, unappreciative brat would do. He did not understand his mother’s idea of love. His father, Lionel already knew that the man despised him, for whatever reason. His mother, so long as he did what she said, she would be kind. But whenever he disagreed, she would become a shrieking monstrosity, spewing the most hurtful things a person could say to a heavily sheltered twelve year old boy. He expected that, however. The beatings, the lectures, the threats, they were normal. He knew that to appease their anger, he had to shed tears and act like he was hurt, whether he was or not, an entirely different story. Climbing along the tree, the young boy noticed something towards the base of the topmost branches: a small hollow. Was there always a hole in the tree? He never recalled noticing it in the daytime. Peering into the crack, he could see a faint, white object. It was a paper airplane. A little stained from the dirt and soil embedded in the bark, but still recognizable as a piece of neatly folded paper. “Huh. Who made this?” He wondered aloud, examining the toy. Unfolding the paper, Lionel noticed something scribbled inside of it.

“My dear brother, Lionel. You have not yet realized what a horrible world you have been born into. You may not realize it yet, but you are living a lie. You need to be brave and act like nothing is wrong, but deep down, realize the truth for yourself. Those people called your mother and father, they do not love you. Fangnis is a prison, and I will help you, one page at a time.

-Always here for you, Lacey”. Putting the paper down, he was shaking. There was a lot of questions he had. He knew his father did not love him, that was a given. But his mother always spewed entire rants of being a loving, caring person. Perhaps love was not defined the same for them as it was with Lacey. Lacey. The name did sound vaguely familiar. He was her dear brother? So that made him her sister? He had a sister. There was another person in his family, who he was unaware of. Lacey. He thought to himself as he crawled down the tree carefully. Making his way to the library for the night, Lionel wondered exactly what she meant. Realize the truth? What truth? And how exactly was she planning to help him, when they have never met before? Questions continued to run through his head as he opened the dusty door, made his way inside, and crawled underneath a desk. He was going to sleep there, against the faded wool carpet, using the table to shade him from when the blinding sunlight will inevitably flood the room. Tomorrow was just another new day. He felt like he could not waste any time thinking about a weird note from a fictional person. What use was there, pondering over who this Lacey person even was? She claimed to be his sister, but if she really did love him, wouldn’t she have found a way to contact him directly? There was no way that she was telling the truth. The more he tried to think about other topics, the more transfixed he was about learning more of who Lacey was. What kind of person was she? Did she look like him? Why was she not in Fangnis? Did she leave? And how did she manage to get that note inside of the property? When did she write the note? How long was it waiting for him to discover it?

“You’re safe now.” The voice of a young woman reassured him. Lionel looked around. He was on a grassy hill, looking down at a bunch of small huts. A female teen, maybe around the age of 16, was holding his hand, trembling. She was definitely nervous. “We just have to go down this hill, and then we’ll be free.” She smiled at the boy. Her features were soft and gentle. Her eyes were round and green, like the grass they were standing on. Her hair was a sandy blonde, which contrasted to his paler hair. “Look up there. That’s where we came from.” She pointed towards the sky. There was a tall mountain that split through the clouds, just right behind them. “We came all this way. But we can’t be free. It’s not that easy.” She sighed to herself, as she looked at the dark hole behind them. The pit was surrounded by jet black rocks of varying sizes, some were boulders, others were mere pebbles. It had a very ominous feeling to it. “Come on, Lionel. We have to go home. Before they realize that we’ve been missing for this long.” She sighed, as she started to climb back inside. Hesitant to join her, the young boy finally resigned to his fate, and made one step forward. Before he could even place his right foot on the grass again, a large hand with sausage-like fingers shot up from the darkness, and grabbed the girl, covering her mouth. The stout arm attached to it was coiled around her neck, like a noose. Her screams completely muffled, she started to fight against the grip around her head as her hands were pinned together by another fat hand. She was quickly dragged into the darkness, as her covered shrieks and pleas were slowly silenced. Startled and horrified, Lionel fell backwards, and started tumbling down the hill. The entire world around him was spinning in one chaotic twister, as he felt himself come to a sudden stop.

“Ugh.” Lionel stirred as he sat up. His right shoulder felt a little numb, since he was sleeping on it against the worn out carpet. Rubbing the dust away from his teary eyes, the boy got on his feet, stretching out his limbs. He was still in the library, after being forced to take refuge there from yesterday. His stomach was grumbling. He had not eaten anything since a day ago. But he was used to it. Typically, breakfast would be the only meal that Lionel could enjoy in full. Before he could think about getting any food, the boy pulled out the folded up piece of paper from yesterday again. “One page at a time?” He read to himself aloud. Thinking about that ending line, he started to think about what might have pages. Books. He was in the library. But there were a ton of books. There was no way that he could go through each and every single one, just to see if there was another clue or note like this one. Walking along the shelves, he started to notice the different subjects each book had. While there were dustier books that entailed something called “Mathematics,” and another labeled “Literature”, he came across the history section, which he was somewhat familiar with. History. He thought to himself, recalling the contents of that note again. Come to think of it, he had learned a lot about Regenstuhl’s history, but that much about his own family’s. He never knew how his parents met, or how they came upon their wealth. Looking around, the boy was trying to find anything that hinted to their family. But he could not, to any avail. Deciding to retire back to the manor, as his punishment was finally over, he was hoping that he could perhaps get a clue or possibly even an answer from his mother. Keeping the note in his pocket, Lionel opened the door and walked back into the main structure that comprised Fangnis.

Regulus: Chapter 1

“Wake up, sweetie!” A scrawny, pale woman with thin, hay colored hair, dark green eyes, and a beak-like nose shook a small body laying in bed. “Good morning, mom.” The figure moved, getting up from the covers and letting out a hearty yawn. He had messy blonde hair, almost like a lion’s mane, and bright green eyes. “Lionel, dear. Get dressed for the day. I’ll be preparing breakfast shortly.” His mother stated before getting up and leaving his room. It was just another day. Nothing out of the ordinary. The boy got up, walking through the granite-covered, windowless room. He made his way to a smaller wooden dresser and grabbed his clothes for the day: a white button-up, a black tie, and dress pants. Pulling on his clothes, he let out another yawn as he stretched his arms. Pushing the oak door open, he walked down the dimly lit hallway, covered with ivory and marble. Ornate statues and crystal chandeliers garnished the large path which the boy made his way through. Eventually, he arrived at a corner, a white all next to where the spiral staircase leading down was. Each ivory step was embedded with diamonds, rubies, and other precious stones, finished with gold. He took a second to admire the chandelier, that was covered in the multicolored gemstones. Alexandrite, was it? It was a very sought-after mineral, according to his geology lessons with his mom. He never understood why he had to learn about these gemstones, but his father insisted that it was important. They purchased this property, and created this manor from the alexandrite his father had inherited. Their property, a large plot of land called the Fangnis. They were secluded from the rest of the world. Only a bridge connected the manor to a road, that spiraled down to the nearby village of Regensberg. Lionel often wondered what it was like to live with the villagers.

From a distance, Lionel could smell the waft of breakfast. Shredded potatoes, fried eggs, crispy bacon, just-melted gruyere cheese, and toasted croissants. Hearing his stomach rumble, He made his way down the steps, and through the manor’s inner atrium. Walking through one of the doors, he finally made it to a smaller room, garnished only with a small oven, a small stove, a pantry, and a wooden table with four chairs. “Breakfast is ready, sweetie.” His mom chimed loudly. Her voice echoed through the entire estate. “I can’t wait to eat!” Lionel beamed, crawling into his seat. “Well, you have to wait. Your father would not like it if you started without him.” She warned. Her hands tightly gripped his shoulder when she said that. “Okay, okay.” He nodded sheepishly, keeping his hands beneath the table. Footsteps boomed as they grew louder. The door to the kitchen bust open, and a large man with straw colored hair with a silvery-gray fringe and dull blue eyes entered. It was Lionel’s father. “I’m here. Where’s my food?” He growled, glaring at his flinching wife as he sat down across from his son. “Yes, dear. All of the food is here.” She turned back around, holding a tray of food. She placed it down in front of him. Greedily, he snatched up his food and starting inhaling everything. “Here, sweetie.” She placed the food down in front of him as well as Lionel began to eat. “She gave you too much.” His father looked at him, snatching away his potatoes and croissant. “You don’t need that much food. You’ll grow up to be a morbidly obese embarrassment.” He cackled, devouring the stolen provisions. “How is it dear?” His mom squeaked nervously. “It’s alright. Too much butter on the croissants though. Are you trying to kill me, lady?!” He barked at her, as she cowered. Getting up, the man stormed off.

“Remember, you have to come back to the library by no later than 9 o’clock, okay?” His mother looked at him. “Alright. Thanks, mom!” Lionel nodded, running out into the backyard of the mansion. More accurately, past the fountains and gardens, and to the outskirts of their land, where a single tree sitting on top of a large grassy hill overlooked all of Regensberg. Sitting at the base of the tree, he stared down at the cliff in front of his, and admiring the sight unfurling beneath the veil of clearing morning mist. From that point, you could see the faint outlines of buildings, and small specks that were presumably the townsfolk. Lionel has never been down to the village before. They almost never interacted with them. They hardly needed to. All of their produce was delivered in the morning, and picked up by his mother. Besides that, nobody else would ever bother to approach their estate. Lionel himself has never even met anyone outside of his parents. He does not remember a life outside of Fangnis. His earliest childhood memories were being in the fountain area, falling into the water. Seeing these different looking buildings, and the small figures frequenting them, it piqued his curiosity. But he did not know how he could even reach that village. The only way out of the property was through the front bridge, but his father would often sit there. He claimed it was to protect them from the outside. Lionel thought about trying to scale the cliffs, but he was a twelve year old boy. He was nowhere near physically capable of doing or handling that. “Lionel!” He could hear his mother calling out to him. “Coming!” He got up, and darted off. He could not keep her waiting. He has to attend to his daily five hours of education. The next stop for him was the library.

Off to the side of the gardens and fountains was a musty old building. Sitting about two stories tall, with dirty, cracked windows, covered with ivy, was the library. Compared to the mansion, it was evident that this building was not nearly as well-maintained. Opening the creaking wooden doors, Lionel made his way inside. There were thin rays of light from the windows, illuminating the dust-ridden interior. Book shelves lined the first floor, while a large wrought-iron ladder on wheels led up to the second floor. “Are you ready, sweetie?” His mother was seated at the furthest wall on the first floor, on a desk stacked with textbooks. “Yes.” He nodded, walking over. “So we’ll start where we left off on yesterday with history. We were reading about the establishment of alexandrite as a prime ore used in our land.” She started. Every day, they would spend two hours on the history of Regenstuhl, and three hours on geology. The reason why they focused so much on history and geology was because his father stressed its importance. He regulated all of the curriculum that his mother would teach, making sure to keep a strong focus on what made their family so wealthy to begin with. So far, between his history and geology classes, Lionel has learned about how they would farm alexandrite crystals from their property, and that was the reason why they were able to afford to build a mansion on such a faraway hill. Their ancestors just happened upon then land and since then, claimed it and farmed it for its riches. Alexandrite was the most valuable and sought-after mineral in the land, and was used to purify streams and create beautiful jewelry for royals in distant lands. For generations, their family has been selling these jewels and accumulating fortune. Even with the locals, they would barter for produce using the gemstone. However, the only person who would ever even knew how to harvest the gem was his father, and even then, he would only do it sparsely, just to keep it a secret from everyone else.

“Well, that’s it for your geology lessons, sweetie.” His mother closed the book, as they got up and left the library together. “You can go play now. Make sure to come back when the sun sets.” She warned him. “If you need me, I’ll be cleaning up the house.” “Thank you. mom!” Lionel waved as his mother left. It was now his free time until dinner time. “Where to today? Maybe the garden?” He muttered to himself, wandering off. Laying in the garden, he decided to soak in the foliage and flora. Besides the occasional bird, and his parents, plants were the only other living thing that Lionel was ever in contact with. He often wondered what other things, considered living, there were. He only ever heard about the idea of life when his mother accidentally mentioned it. She was not supposed to teach him about the idea of what was living and not, but that was before his father banned teaching him biology. There was no need for that, where they were. All he needed to know was that he needed food, water, and air to live. Nothing more, nothing less. Getting up, he wondered what make these fragile, verdant things alive. They do not move, they definitely do not seem to breathe, and what do plants eat anyways? From his point of view, nothing about plants being alive made sense. Then again, what did he really know about that? He only ever got one hour to life science. It did not matter, he supposed. He never really focused on living things. Just rocks. Rocks and history. Within Fangnis, nothing else mattered. Alexandrite was king.

“Dinner, sweetie!” His mother called. Lionel rushed back into the manor, and returned to the kitchen. The sun was setting, and the entire land was cast in a dusky hue. Purples and reds flooded the skies as the sun sank below the grassy, mountainous horizon. Dinner was smoked trout. It was the usual. Lionel had to be careful when eating them, because he was allergic to fish, but that did not matter to his parents. The alternative to not eating, he shuddered at the thought. “What’s wrong, sweetie? You haven’t touched your dinner.” His mother sounded as if he had just greatly offended her. “Eat the fish. It’s expensive, you brat.” His father snorted, inhaling his portion. “Your cooking is crap, wench. That’s why he’s not eating it!” He barked at his wife, who shrank in fear. “Eat up, dear. If you love your mother, you’ll do as she says.” She insisted frantically. Slowly, Lionel took a small bite out of the edge of a cake, trying his best to swallow it quickly. It did not matter how quickly or slowly he ate the crab though. The moment he consumed it, he could feel a warm numbing surrounding his arms as red spots started to form. Hives. “Good, good, dear. Keep eating. I want to see clean plates.” She smiled nervously. “He’s not eating it fast enough.” His father frowned, snatching up the two filets of fish off Lionel’s plate and proceeded to devour them. They would eat these almost every day for dinner, because they were his father’s favorite. It did not matter that he was allergic. He had learned to accept that for dinner, he would need to prepare not to eat. Going to sleep on an empty belly is hard, but breaking out in hives was worse, while the alternative when his father was in a bad mood, unspeakable. Leaving the dinner table, he readied himself for bed as his mother put away all of the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen.

New short story series: Regulus

Regulus is the story of a young man, Lionel, and his childhood in the fictional land of Regensberg. He lives with her mother, Abertha, and father, Leon, on their estate Fangnis, a large mansion that sits on a mountain that overlooks the neighboring village. He lives a simple life, learning about the history of his family, and how they came to wealth by harvesting and selling alexandrite crystals. However, not all is as it seems with this family. There are dark, horrendous secrets to be uncovered. Follow Lionel on his journey to uncover the truths to his family’s past, and the steps he takes to put that behind him.

Warrior Chef 2: Round 6

Amanda: @The mood is definitely somber today. @Marisa was a good friend, and a great person in general, so seeing her go home was hard. @I know Talia and I are both taking it really badly.

Talia: @I just need to try my best from here on out. @Every time I cook, I need to know that I’m trying my best for myself, and for my friends.

Victoria: Hi, everyone! So for today’s creativity challenge, we want to see what you guys can do with… chicken and waffles. The winner of this challenge will not receive immunity, but they will have a huge advantage going into the next elimination. You have just 30 minutes, and your time starts now!

Rose: @I don’t eat chicken and waffles. @That’s… not really my kind of food. @For my dish tonight, I’m preparing chicken liver pate with a celery-pepper slaw and an orange and tahini waffle. @I think that doing pate instead of fried chicken, it will be something more in my wheelhouse.

Vin: @For my dish tonight, I’m going to make a grilled chicken with waffle fritters and a curry infused barbecue sauce. @I’m taking a risk combining the curry with barbecue, but I think that the smokiness and sweetness will work well with the spices. @The waffle fritters, I’m going to deep fry cornmeal batter, then press it in a waffle iron to finish it.

Nate: @Right now, I’d say that Vin, Rose, and Amanda are the three strongest cooks here. @I want to knock them out, one by one. @I’m preparing a blanched partridge with scallion waffle and a sweetened soy syrup. @I’m going to blend dim sum with chicken and waffles, and that’s going to be my innovation.

Amanda: @Nate’s doing Chinese fusion, and I think that’s pretty cool. @I have to think back to my own French roots, and dig up something from there. @I love using garlic, and I decide to prepare a garlic and chicken liver mousse with a honey infused crepe and some crispy chicken skin to garnish. @I’m worried because I’m up against Rose, who is also making a pate type of thing, but I just have to make mine better.

Jo: @For my dish tonight, I’m going to prepare chicken stuffed waffles. @I’m making a farce and then I’m going to put that in the batter when I griddle it. @I’m serving that with a spicy mango-pineapple chutney, because I want there to be lots of flavors that will help the chicken taste like something.

Talia: @If I lose a chicken and waffle challenge, I’m going to be pissed. @This is my chance to show that I can make a winner out of this kind of dish. @I’m making waffle battered chicken skewers with a spicy maple-tomato relish. @I know that Vin is doing a waffle-fritter too, but mine is going to be better, because I’m using buttermilk in my batter, as well as beer, just to make it super light and crispy.

Victoria: Time’s up!

Amanda: @I can see that my dish is too simple. @I think that Rose’s dish, compared to mine, it’s gorgeous. @I’m really jealous of her concept right now.

Rose: @Amanda clearly tried to copy me and it failed. @She’s not going to ever beat me in this competition.

Victoria: Your judge is Warrior Chef house critic, Kierra Johnston!
Kierra: Hi, guys! I love seeing classics revamped and in food journalism, you’re always looking for innovative dishes. I’m looking forward to trying your new takes on such an iconic part of southern comfort food.

Kierra and Victoria taste the dishes.

Victoria: So Kierra, how did they do?

Kierra: Overall, nobody produced a bad dish. I thought that three of you were just slightly more creative. Rose, the pate was clever and delicious, and I thought the way you embraced that waffle, and used tahini and orange, it was brilliant. Talia, you battered the chicken in waffles, and I’ve never seen deep fried skewers like that before. Your relish was brilliant too. I just couldn’t get enough. Jo, the chutney, I could bottle that. The idea to stuff the farce into a waffle was hilarious, and I just loved that you really went for it in this challenge.

Jo: @Honestly, it felt more like she was laughing at my dish rather than laughing with it. @But I still have a one in three shot here.

Victoria: Kierra, who won?

Kierra: Three great dishes, but the best one definitely belonged to… Talia!

Victoria: Congratulations, Talia! For winning this, you will receive a huge advantage going into the elimination challenge!

Talia: @I almost won a challenge making chicken and waffles, so if I did not win this challenge, then I would be disappointed. @I got my redemption on this and getting that huge advantage in the next challenge rocks!

Victoria: So now for the elimination challenge! In teams of two, you will prepare a dish fit for royalty. Talia, this is where your advantage kicks in. You get to decide the pairs.

Talia: Crap. @Honestly, everyone here is really strong, and we have all won at least one challenge. @I have to think about the personalities, because from a cooking-skills perspective, we are all dead even. *to Victoria* Is this a double elimination?

Victoria: No, the weaker performer on the weakest team deemed by the judges will be sent home.

Talia: Oh okay then. For myself, I’m going to pick… Rose. @It was honestly between her or Amanda, but I think Rose has had more successes in team challenges, and it makes more sense.

Rose: Awesome. @Talia’s been really inconsistent this season. @She’s had highs and lows, and I don’t like the fact that I can’t fully trust my own partner.

Talia: Amanda, I will pair you with… Nate. @I think Nate’s a strong team player, and I want Amanda to stay in the competition. @By not putting me and Amanda on the same team, I am lowering the odds that one of us is going home.

Amanda: @I’m happy working with Nate, but slightly surprised that Talia did not want to work with me. @I’m sure she had a good reason for it.

Nate: @Amanda is strong, so am I. @I think we are going to be a great team. @Bring it on. @I’m already thinking about what kinds of royal dishes we can make.

Victoria: And that means, Vin and Jo, you two are together!

Talia: @Vin’s strong, Jo’s relatively strong, but I’m hoping Jo’s immaturity will sink their team and send Vin packing. @I want Vin out of the competition, because I think he’s probably the biggest threat.

Vin: @I’m stoked to be working with Jo, because he is consistently strong. @I don’t think there was really any strategic choices that Talia can make given how strong the six of our were, but I’m interested in seeing how this challenge will play out.

Jo: @I’m not quite sure what the logic was here, but I’m hoping that I’m going to win the challenge with Vin. @That’s be great!

Victoria: You have just 45 minutes, and your time starts now!

Rose: @I want to prepare breakfast in bed, and I want it to be purple to fit the idea of royalty. @I’m making ube infused Japanese hotcakes with birch syrup and a creme fraiche sorbet. @I’m going to nail this challenge because that’s what I always do.

Talia: @Rose’s idea is awesome and I’m going to help her execute the syrup and the creme fraiche sorbet. @I’m feeling good about our team and our concept. @I see the other dishes and I’m not too worried. @I think we’ll win this.

Vin: @It’s a dish fit for a king. @Jo and I only have 45 minutes, and that means we can’t do some sort of extravagant whole roasted animal. @We are going to prepare a roasted lamb rack with fondant parsnips, a mint-spring pea chutney, and a port jus.

Jo: @I’m going to handle frenching and cooking the rack while Vin does the chutney and the parsnips. @I think that our dish has the potential to really wow the judges, but I think it also comes down to what the judges taste from the other teams. @I think that this final six, it’s one of the strongest final sixes in Warrior Chef.

Amanda: @Nate’s Chinese and I’m French, and we both love cooking with duck. @So we are going to make a quick duck confit with a savory coconut flan, five-spice and orange butter, crispy duck breast, and duck fat vinaigrette with escarole.

Nate: @I’m handling the duck butchery and the butter sauce. @Amanda got the confit going ASAP and she’s working on the flan while I start rendering off the duck fat. @I’m feeling good about our dish.

Vin: @I see that Amanda and Nate are doing duck two ways, and I realize that we need to step up our game as well. @So I grab the pressure cooker. @I’m going to confit the lamb breasts and add that onto our plate.

Jo: @Vin’s adding a new component to our dish, and I’m worried we have a lot going on, but at the same time, I’m more focused on tasting everything just to make sure it all goes together. @I see that Talia and Rose are going with a breakfast theme, and it’s… not really what I’d do personally.

Rose: @I check the hotcakes, and they are fluffy. @I added in three egg whites, whipped stiff, and that did the trick. @Talia’s syrup tastes great, and I know that we are going to demolish the competition.
Jo: @I realize what our dish is missing. @So I run to the fridge, and I found them! @Black truffles. @I’m going to shave these over the parsnips to add more flavor. @I’m also making sure to hide them from Nate and Amanda, because I don’t want them to use any truffles on their plate.

Vin: @I see that Jo has a lot of truffles, and he’s hoarding them. *to Jo* Did you take all of them?

Jo: Yeah.

Vin: Okay, that’s not cool. *Grabs two of the five truffles* Nate, catch!

Nate: @Vin throws this black blob at me and I catch it. @It’s a truffle. @We don’t really need them in our dish, but it was a nice thing for him to do.

Vin: Talia, here!

Talia: @I don’t need truffles, because we are making a dessert, but that was nice of him to think of us.

Vin: *to Jo* I get the need to win, but you don’t screw over people like that.

Jo: @I feel like crap right now. @I don’t even know who I’m supposed to apologize to in this situation. @It’s just embarrassing.

Victoria: Time’s up!

Vin: @I’m feeling great about the dish, but I know Jo feels bad about the whole truffle-hogging situation. @It’s definitely awkward.

Victoria: Your judges are:

Aster Walker

Miriam Adjanti

Erwin Ko

Victoria: Let’s start with the dish by Rose and Talia!

-ube infused Japanese hotcakes with birch syrup and creme fraiche sorbet

Aster: The hotcakes were fluffy and I get that the purple color represented royalty. I felt that the sorbet in this case, it didn’t work with the dish. It was a cold sorbet on warm pancakes, and you get this mess on a plate.

Miriam: I agree about the sorbet. It just melted by the time it got to us, and with the syrup, it was too sweet and overall, this dish felt juvenile. It had the potential to be good, but it just veered off too much with the syrup and sorbet.

Victoria: And now we have Vin and Jo’s dish!

-roasted lamb rack, confit, truffled fondant parsnips, mint-spring pea chutney, port jus

Erwin: This… was phenomenal. The confit, I was impressed that they got the lamb shoulder so tender. The flavor of the rack was great and the parsnips and chutney and port all worked together so nicely.

Miriam: They thought through every component of the dish and I’m just in love the nuances. The mint chutney had spices in it that worked with the lamb, the truffle in the parsnip worked, and I’m surprised that it all worked together.

Victoria: And finally, we have Amanda and Nate’s dish!

-duck confit and breast, coconut flan, five spice-orange butter, vinaigrette, escarole

Aster: The duck confit was not as cooked as it should have been. But I loved the breast and the coconut flan a lot. The butter worked, but I wanted less oil on the plate. There was a lot of fat on the dish.

Erwin: I felt like there were hits and misses on the dish. I liked almost every component except for the confit. But the best thing on that dish was the escarole in the duck fat vinaigrette with crispy duck skin. That, I could eat every day for every meal. As a dish fit for royalty, they definitely plated an extravagant concept, just with mistakes throughout.

Victoria: So can we decide on which team won and which dish was on the bottom?

Erwin: Yes.

In walks Vin and Jo.
Victoria: Tonight… the two of you won the elimination challenge! Congratulations!

Vin: @I finally won another elimination challenge and it feels great! @Knowing that I could win something this far into the competition shows that I am a consistently strong cook. @This rocks!

Jo: @This is my third elimination win and fourth win overall. @I’m really proud of myself for getting this far in the competition, but I know that the finale is close.

Vin and Jo leave.

In walks Rose and Talia.

Victoria: Unfortunately, the two of you are on the bottom with the weakest dish, and one of you is going home tonight.

Talia: @This sucks so badly. @How did my advantage go to shit?

Miriam: Who prepared what?

Rose: I did the hotcakes.
Talia: I prepared the sorbet and the syrup.

Erwin: Well, that makes this easy. Victoria?
Victoria: Talia, please return to the kitchen and leave.

Talia: Alright. @I’m really pissed that I’m going home next @I expected to win the competition and it just didn’t play out that way for me. @I’m feeling angry and robbed. @I deserved to go much further in the competition.

Talia leaves.

Erwin: It was an obvious decision. Rose, you prepared beautiful pancakes. It just came down to Talia’s components hindering them.

Rose: Alright.

How it is: Chapter 23

“Hey, Val, do you have a moment?” Tarou noticed the Singaporean girl walking down the street and ran up to her. “Hi, Tarou. Actually, I needed to talk to you too.” She sighed. “Can we maybe go somewhere… more private?” The model suggested. “Yeah, that’s actually better for what I need to say too.” At that remark, Tarou could feel a creeping sense of discomfort boiling in his stomach. Was Valerie going to confess to him? Meanwhile, the pastry chef already could tell from the model’s facial expressions that Timmy did tell him; he most likely assumed that she was going to tell him about her feelings. But that could not be any further from what she was going to do in reality. After making their way into a nearby building, the two looked at each other. It was an intense silence. “So do you want to go first?” She gestured to him. “Nah, you look like you have something to say, and that you’ve thought about it for a while. Please tell me.” Tarou insisted. He wanted her to confess first so that he could at least hear her out. “So for a long time, I had a crush on you. Since high school, honestly. But after everything we have been through, I don’t have any romantic feelings for you anymore. So I just wanted to let you know that I still value you as a friend, but I feel like we are better off staying friends, and nothing more.” The model was dumbstruck. Save for the first sentence, that was not what he was expecting the pastry chef to say. “What did you have to say?” She looked at him expectantly. Truth be told, she was expecting him to reject her as well, so Valerie was relieved that they could meet a mutual agreement on this.

“Well, I was basically going to say that we should stay friends, and that Timmy told me about how you felt about me. But now I’m curious, what’s with the sudden change of heart?” “Well, I thought about it. A lot. And I even talked about it with chef, and she told me that I need to be blunt and think not about the emotional aspect of it, but rather, how this would affect us as friends. And the more I thought about it that way, the less I found myself attracted to you romantically.” She shrugged. “I see… well, I’m just glad we were able to sort out this awkwardness.” Tarou chuckled nervously. Despite everything, it still felt a little weird. “Look, Tarou, I think of you and Timmy as goofy brothers. You guys are two of my closest friends, and sometimes, that closeness can be a weakness for me. It makes the little things we do and say affect me on a much bigger scale.” She confessed. “But at the same time, it’s all in perspective. I feel like if you guys don’t see it that way, then I have no reason to either. We can be close without being so greatly affected by each other.” “Yeah, we can. And we will.” Tarou smiled in agreement. The two hugged it out and walked out. “So where were you heading?” “I was going to a study session.” Valerie sighed. Finals were coming up, and especially with all of the recent events, she needed to catch up on her studies. “Oh, don’t be late! Run! Run!” Tarou ushered her away. “Okay, I’m running!” She laughed, darting off.

“How did it go?” It was just a couple hours later, and Tarou was meeting up with Timmy for lunch. “It went well. We talked it out, and she was the one who told me that she was not interested in being in a relationship anymore.” He pointed out, much to the surprise of Timmy. “Wait, really?” He could not believe what he was hearing. “Yeah. She admitted she had feelings, but after thinking it over, she decided against acting on them because she did not want to affect our friendship.” Timmy had to give Valerie a lot of credit for that sort of maturity. Yeah, that was the reason why he fell for her to begin with, and hearing that made it harder for him to accept that they could not be together, but he had to respect their friendship before trying to compromise anything any further on his part. “You! You little motherfucker! How dare you bully our precious Tarou!” The two boys were startled to see an enraged Enya, Melissa, and Sarah storm up to their table. “You saw what I did to that table! And I can do much worse, you little bitch-”

“So it’s okay not to hate him anymore?” Melissa, frowning, sighed. She was hoping to snap somebody’s neck today. “Wait, I thought you said that you told all of your friends!” Timmy glared at Tarou. “Oh, I meant as in the people I was on board with.” He looked back at his friend before pulling him into a close huddle. “Plus, would you really consider those three my friends? They’re terrifying!” He noted in a hushed whisper before turning around to look at the disgruntled Melissa, who was being comforted by Enya and Sarah. “It’s okay, we can go to the gym and rent a punching bag.” Sarah suggested. Tarou smirked. “Yeah, so the two of us made up. The three of you are more than welcomed to sit and eat with us though.” The model offered. “Well, let me think about it…. fuck yeah, we’re sitting with you!” Enya laughed, as the three grabbed chairs and placed their bags down. It felt a bit weird for Timmy at first, being so close to people who previously wanted to slaughter him. “So, Tarou, what are your plans for the summer?” Enya looked at him, eagerly. “I’m going to be modeling in Japan.” He smiled. “OMG! I’m going back to Korea for the summer! You better visit me! I mean, either way, I’m definitely going to visit you!” She squealed excitedly. “Wait, no fair! We’re both going to visit you too, Tarou!” Sarah and Melissa chimed in. Timmy tried not to laugh as Tarou fought to hide his horrified expression. “Uh…. sure?” He shrugged. “Yay!” They all cheered.

“You really need to tell them that you’re not into any of them, or else they’ll continue to pester you.” Timmy frowned. “Yeah, but Mel scares the shit out of me. She broke a table in half with her foot. That’s just one foot. Imagine what she can do with two and two hands. I doubt my spine would even be in two pieces after I reject her feelings.” He shuddered. Sadly, Tarou had a point. “Well, I’m sure it will work itself out. Maybe?” “Honestly, I’ve just come to live with it. It’s not the worst thing, having your own fan club. Honestly, it’s funny.” He chuckled, trying to ignore the awkward moments where the three girls would make him greatly uncomfortable with their remarks and advances. “Well, whatever floats your boat, I guess.” Timmy shrugged. The two laughed as they finally walked back to their dorm. Finals were coming up, and it felt like this semester went by too quickly. But at least they were able to finish the year with their friendship still intact. “It’s really been a crazy first year. Hopefully, it’ll get better next year, right?” Timmy chuckled. “Better as in easier, or less drama?” Tarou snorted. “Hopefully both.” The computer engineer groaned. “At least your major will get you a high-paying job.” The model pointed out. “Well, if you become a supermodel, then same applies for you too, you know?” The Taiwanese boy smirked. “Let’s see how this first international gig goes, okay? I’m not going to rush into any conclusions, especially when modeling is just a side hobby to make money.” The Japanese male laughed. Although truth be told, he was excited to be going to Japan for the summer. This was going to be a whole new adventure for him.

Warrior Chef 2: Round 2

Marisa: @Walking into the kitchen, I feel nervous. @I almost got sent home in the last round, and if I don’t prove myself tonight, then I’m definitely a goner in this round. @I don’t think I’d have enough confidence in myself to keep pushing forward.

Nate: @At this point, I think nobody sees me as real competition. @I want to show everyone that I am a great cook!

Victoria: Welcome back! So for this creativity challenge, we want to see what you guys can do with figs! You have just 30 minutes, time starts now!

Rose: @At this point, there’s ten people left. @I want immunity, because I refuse to go home in 10th place. @I’m making a fig and almond tart with honey-feta ice cream. @In 30 minutes, that’s a huge risk, but I want to take it and prove that I am a talented cook.

Vin: @At this point, Rose is my biggest competition, but I still love her. @She’s bae. @For my dish, I’m going to prepare a fig relish to go on my flounder filet and then an almond puree. @I think that the nut puree with the fish and the fig relish, it will be a sure-fire winner. @I want more immunity.

Jo: @I don’t work with figs often. @I taste it, and it’s starchy and sweet, but also really mushy. @I’m going to make a fig vinegar to go with a seared chicken thigh and some crispy rice. @I hope it works!

Duke: @I’ve never used figs before. @I decide to puree them, and make a fig puree to go with a seared lamb chop and some red wine gastrique. @I think those flavors work, but I’m not positive.

Enrique: @I’m going to make a fig and snapper ceviche with fried tortillas. @I’m going to incorporate the figs into the Mexican ceviche because I think they can stand up to some spice and acidity.

Marisa: @I love figs. @I know that I can make a fig and mascarpone ice cream with fig cake and bruleed figs. @I learned how to make this fig cake from my grandma, so I know that it’s going to be a great dessert. @I want to win this for her, and to show everyone that I am not some weak cook who is going to be picked off in a later round.

Nate: @I’m not too comfortable using figs. @I decide to stuff them with brie cheese and then tempura fry them. @I’m going to make a honey-brown butter vinaigrette to go with them. @I want the figs to be the star of this, so I hope I did that.

Amanda: @Everyone is pairing the figs with cheese, so I know that I can’t do that. @I’m making roasted figs with a sabayon and balsamic caramel. @I’m hoping that I can win this challenge doing a relatively simple dessert, but doing everything well. @Winning the first elimination challenge felt great, but I need to keep this momentum going!

Talia: @I’m going to make a fig terrine with goat milk ice cream and walnut crumble. @I’m going to use the liquid nitrogen to set the terrine faster. @I think that it will be a great dessert. @I would love immunity again, but we have to see how everyone else will stack up with me.

Trisha: @I’m doing a fig mille feuille with whipped goat cheese and a honey-lavender syrup. @I’m trying to keep the flavors simple, but focus on flavors that pair well with the fig and introduce some textures that will give it a bit of help there.

Victoria: Time’s up!

Vin: @I’m feeling good that I went savory with my dish, but a lot of people went with desserts. @I might be able to really stand out tonight.

Victoria: Your judge is Warrior Chef house critic and fruit expert, Chloe Lula!

Chloe: Hi, guys! Figs are delicious and they have a lot of potential in any application. I can’t wait to see how inventive you were with them!

Marisa: @Chloe is a really kindhearted judge. @In the preliminary rounds, she gave me a 9/10 for my signature dish. @I really want to impress her tonight.

Chloe and Victoria taste the dishes.

Victoria: So Chloe, who failed to impress you?

Chloe: Jo, the figs were just lost in that vinegar mixture you prepared it with. Duke, the fig puree was a bit too soggy. And Enrique. Using the figs in a ceviche, they wound up too heavy. They harmed the dish more than they helped it.

Duke: @Being on the bottom with Jo and Enrique sucks. @I know that I’m a much better cook than they are.

Victoria: Chloe, who impressed you?

Chloe: I had four favorites. Rose, the tart was delicious and pairing it with the feta cheese ice cream was brilliant. Marisa, you also made a delicious fig flavored ice cream, and your cake and the bruleed figs were great! Nate, the tempura fried and brie-stuffed figs were a delight. And Vin. The fig relish and nut puree worked beautifully with the flounder.

Nate: @Right now, I have a 1 in 4 shot at immunity. @My heart is pounding out of my chest. @I really want this.

Chloe: But my favorite dish belonged to… Marisa! Your cake was a beautiful recipe.

Victoria: Congratulations, Marisa! You won immunity going into the elimination challenge! Well done!

Marisa: Thank you. @I won immunity! @I’m so excited knowing that I’m entering the elimination challenge and I can’t possibly go home! @It’s such a relief.

Vin: @Personally, I’m shocked that Marisa won the creativity challenge, because I thought Rose had it.

Victoria: So now for the elimination challenge! Everyone, please help me welcome a very special guest!
In walks Warrior Chef winner, Vanilla Cuylenberg!

Vanilla: Hi, guys!
Amanda: Oh my god! @I’m looking at the previous Warrior Chef winner! @I’m so shocked right now.
Talia: @Vanilla won her season because she had the Redemption Rounds. @In our season, we were told we didn’t get that. @I personally don’t see her as a pure winner because she returned to the competition on a technicality.

Victoria: So for this elimination challenge, you’ll be cooking in pairs. Marisa, for winning the last challenge, you get to choose who you want to be partnered with!

Marisa: I’d like to work with Jo! @I choose Jo because he seems to be a bit of a wildcard. @I can’t tell if he is a strong cook or a weak cook, but I have immunity, and I’m going to use this chance to really scout out my competition.

Jo: @I don’t get why she chose me, but I’m really worried. @If we are on the bottom, she has immunity, so I’m definitely going home if our dish is the worst.

Victoria: Everyone else, please draw knives!

Vin – 1

Rose – 1

Amanda – 2

Talia – 2

Enrique – 3

Trisha – 3

Nate – 4

Duke – 4z
Talia: @I’m stoked to be paired with Amanda. @We’ve got this.

Vin: @Rose and I have been on top together a lot now. @If we don’t win this challenge, hell probably will freeze over.

Victoria: In pairs, you’ll be cooking a dish based on one of five ingredients Vanilla has brought for you guys! Vanilla?

Vanilla: So we have corn, peaches, lamb, apples, and scallops. These are all ingredients that served me well in the Warrior Chef competition when I won, so hopefully, you guys can do them justice.

Victoria: Marisa, please select which ingredient you and Jo will be using.

Marisa: *to Jo* What do you feel comfortable doing? @I want Jo to be the one spearheading this dish because I have immunity. @I want him to be in 100% control of what he wants to make and I will try my best to help him.

Jo: Let’s go with the lamb. @It’s probably the best ingredient on the table and it’s the one I feel more comfortable making a dish out of.

Vin: @I’m annoyed Jo took the lamb, because that’s what we wanted.
Rose: @Vin and I look at each other, and we know we can nail a dish using the scallops. We’re choosing the diver sea scallops.

Amanda: Talia and I want the apples.
Talia: @We can definitely make a delicious apple dessert, so this is going to be a really easy challenge for us.

Enrique: *to Trisha* We need to do the corn.
Trisha: Okay. @I’m not comfortable using the corn, because I have no idea how to make it to focus on the dish. @But Enrique is confident, and I feel he is a weaker cook, so I want him to be in his comfort zone.

Nate: Crap. @Duke and I are stuck with the peaches.
Duke: @I don’t feel comfortable about this. @Nate and I both cook Asian. @Peaches have so little to do with either of our repertoires.

Victoria: You have just 1 hour to prepare a dish featuring one of Vanilla’s favorite ingredients! Vanilla, want to do the honors?

Vanilla: Gladly! And your time starts… now!

Marisa: @So Jo wants to prepare a garlic rubbed lamb belly with fuyu persimmon puree and anise-lamb jus. @I have no clue how to do any of it, so I’m just going to follow his instructions with each component.

Jo: @For the jus, we are going to roast the bones with the spices, and then reduce them with water. @The puree, poaching the persimmons in milk. @The lamb belly, we have that in the oven, roasting and rendering.

Vin: @So we have scallops, but we can’t just do a seared scallop. @That’s so boring. @We decide to prepare confit scallops with toasted curry spices, as well as milk-fried scallop roe, and a yogurt-lemon puree.

Rose: @Vin and I are going to combine our two cuisines through Indian-Middle Eastern food. @The two of us won our first challenges, were on top of the last three challenges, and we want to keep staying on top, because that’ll show everyone how good we are.

Amanda: @Vin and Rose are terrifyingly talented cooks. @But Talia and I are strong too, and we are going to prove ourselves. @We have apples and that’s going to be a really easy one for us.

Talia: @We are preparing tarte tatin cobbler with caramel-apple gelato. @We are going to caramelize the apples in the pan, and then pour a vanilla-semolina batter over that and bake it in the pan. @This is going to be great!

Enrique: *to Trisha* We got this, baby!~ @We are making a corn tamale with corn salsa and some lime-grilled shrimp. @I’m going to prepare the tamale, and then I’m leaving Trisha to do the shrimp and salsa.
Trisha: @I’m really nervous to be cooking this because I don’t know Latin food, and he’s making me do the salsa. @The shrimp, I can handle, but the salsa, I’m not quite sure what goes into it.

Nate: *to Duke* Okay, what the hell are we doing?

Duke: Hmmm… @The first thing that comes to mind is peach cobbler. @But we don’t even know how to make a cobbler.

Nate: @I know how to make crepes, so we finally decide on a malt crepe with caramelized peaches, vanilla whipped cream, and fresh peach fruit salad with honey and lemon. @I just hope that this works, or else it’s my ass on the line.

Duke: @We are relying on Nate to handle the crepe itself, or else we just have caramelized and raw peaches with some cream.

Trisha: @I feel like Nate and Duke are also struggling with their dishes, so it might be between the four of us for who is going home tonight. @I’m frustrated because I didn’t want to go into this competition as a weak link.

Talia: @The cobbler, I take it out of the oven, and it looks like it’s going to kick some ass. @Amanda gets the gelato out of the ice cream machine and it looks great as well. @I get a hotel pan ready and pour liquid nitrogen over the cobbler to bring it down to room temp right away. @If I serve the cobbler hot, then the gelato will just melt.

Rose: @I taste the confit scallops, and they are wonderful. @I never confit a scallop before, but the buttery flavor was there and it’s awesome. @Vin and I, we work so well together. @We are kicking ass.

Victoria: Time’s up!

Jo: @The dish looks good, but I see what the other teams have put up. @We might be in trouble tonight.

Victoria: Your judges are:

Vanilla Cuylenberg

Aster Walker

Erwin Ko

Victoria: Let’s start with Jo and Marisa’s dish!

-garlic lamb belly, fuyu persimmon puree, anise-lamb jus

Erwin: The belly was rendered nicely and I liked the puree a lot. My biggest issue was that jus. The anise was too strong.

Vanilla: The star of the dish was supposed to be the lamb, but I felt that the persimmon became the center of the plate. I liked it overall, but it didn’t feel like a lamb dish.

Victoria: Next is Vin and Rose’s dish!

-confit scallops, toasted curry, milk-fried scallop roe, yogurt-lemon puree

Vanilla: I was nervous that giving them scallops might result in a seared scallop. I was pleasantly surprised that they went this route.

Aster: The confit scallops were unusual but brilliant. The curry spices added a nice smokiness, the fried roe had such a beautiful texture to them. The puree was lovely.

Victoria: And now we have Amanda and Talia’s apple dessert.

-tarte tatin cobbler with caramel-apple gelato

Erwin: The cake component was baked nicely and the caramelization on the apples were well done. Overall, they embraced apples.

Vanilla: The apples came through and really transformed this dish into what it was. I was very happy with what they served me.

Victoria: And this is Enrique and Trisha’s corn dish!

-corn tamale, corn salsa, and lime grilled shrimp

Vanilla: I really loved the inventiveness, using the corn three ways in the salsa, the husk for the wrapper, and the corn meal for the filling.
Erwin: The shrimp were cooked nicely. But the actual tamale was a bit dry. It was just hard to eat the dish, because there was a lack of moisture, even from that salsa.

Victoria: And finally, we have Nate and Duke’s dessert!
-malt crepe, caramelized peaches, chantilly, honey peach salad

Aster: The crepe was prepared nicely and I liked the caramelized peaches. The salad was creative, but the peach was lost in it.

Erwin: It wasn’t a bad dessert, but it was way too simple for something prepared by two people in an hour. I felt like they were playing it safe, because they were banking on another team failing.

Victoria: So can we decide on our winning and losing teams?

Vanilla: We can!~

In walks Rose, Vin, Amanda, and Talia.

Victoria: Tonight, the four of you did Vanilla’s ingredients justice, and two of you will win this elimination challenge!

Rose: Knew it. @If we don’t win, then I’ll be shocked.

Talia: @I hope we win. @Vin and Rose have been strong so far, but their streak ends here. @This win has our name on it.

Victoria: Vanilla, please announce the winner!

Vanilla: Tonight, you both delivered in different ways. That apple dessert showed apples in their finest, whereas the scallop dish taught me something new. For that reason, the winning dish was… Rose and Vin’s confit scallops.

Victoria: Congratulations, Rose and Vin! You both won the elimination challenge!
Vin: Yes! @I called it. @Rose and I won!

Rose: Thank you. @Winning the challenge feels great! @I honestly think that the finale is going to be Vin and I.

Amanda: @We didn’t win, but I’m glad that I was still on top of this challenge. @It feels good to be recognized for your hard work.

The top four leave.

In walks Enrique, Trisha, Nate, and Duke.

Victoria: Unfortunately, one of you is going home tonight.

Aster: Who prepared what on each of your dishes?

Enrique: So Trisha did the salsa and the shrimp. I prepared the tamale.

Nate: I handled the crepe and the salad. Duke caramelized the peaches and prepared the whipped cream.

Erwin: Trisha and Enrique, we felt the dish was dry. The salsa didn’t do much for the dish to help with that. The tamale sort of scratched the back of your throat. But you guys did cook the shrimp well.

Trisha: @Hearing that makes me feel a little less scared. @I cooked the shrimp and the judges liked it!

Aster: Nate and Duke, we liked every component except for the salad because that was muddled from all of the other fruit. Your dessert in general, it was really safe.

Nate: You see, the issue we had was that neither of us really ever cooked with peaches, or had substantial pastry experience.

Vanilla: Unfortunately, a Warrior Chef should be well-versed in all kinds of aspects of cooking. Saying that you only do savory is not a good excuse.

Duke: @Crap. @Vanilla saying that, it’s an eye-opener. @I need to brush up on my pastry skills if I do stay.

Victoria: Unfortunately, one of you is going home tonight. The judges have talked it over, and tonight… Trisha, you are safe.

Trisha: @Hearing that I am safe is a huge relief. @But out of the three boys, I don’t want to see any of them go home. @They’re all really nice people. @I’m going to miss whoever gets sent home.

Victoria: Nate, Duke, and Enrique, between the three of you, the person going home is….. Enrique. Please return to the kitchen and leave.

Enrique: Okay. Thank you for this. @I’m feeling like shit because I’m the one going home. @I really wanted to prove to the other cooks that I knew what I was doing and I’m going home on something I normally know what to do. @Them getting rid of the Redemption Rounds is frustrating for me, because I know I could have cooked my way back into the main competition. @It sucks!