Side Story: A Late Night in the Kitchen
Editors: Speedphoenix, Joker
“Come on, Lefi, you gotta do it! Today’s the holy day of love!” said Illuna in enthusiastic protest.
“What is this ‘holy day of love’ of which you speak?” replied the dragon girl. She was doing the usual: nothing.
“It’s a really special day everyone knows about!”
The holy day of love that Illuna had mentioned was one of the world’s most well celebrated holidays. It was a day on which none would work, a day that everyone spent with their families. It was a day where girls and women alike would give sweet gifts to the men in their lives. Sweet treats were fairly difficult to come across, and not everyone was able to get their hands on them. Those that couldn’t would instead opt to provide home-cooked meals that used ingredients a bit fancier than those typically employed. And then, they’d happily spend the whole day together. If one were to ask Yuki for a description of the day, he would likely call it the result of crossbreeding Christmas with Valentine’s Day.
“We should get everyone and work together to make Yuki a bunch of sweets while he’s out doing stuff around the castle! And then when he gets back, he can eat them all at once!”
“I presume that you wish for me to join you?”
“Yup yup! You totally should! Because the holy day of love is all about giving sweets to the people you love or really wanna thank! And I know you love Yuki lots too!”
“I-I do not!” Lefi responded to the accusation with panic, but she immediately realized what her loss of composure implicated, so she cleared her throat with a cough and continued on as if nothing had happened. “V-Very well. As you have taken it upon yourself to insist that I participate, I shall comply. You have gone so far, and I see no reason to refuse your invitation. I too shall try my hand at crafting a treat.”
Lefi, who hadn’t known about the holiday, thought to herself: If such a day as the holy day of love truly does exist, then I may as well produce for him a sweet for the sake of my own amusement. It is not as if I do not… The dragon cut her own thought off before she could finish it and looked at the little girl before her. She had emphasized that she was only joining in because Illuna had insisted, but the little girl didn’t mind. In fact, she was nodding at her sister figure with the biggest of smiles.
“Mhm! Let’s all do our best together!” she said.
Time passed. The sun, which had been high up in the sky when Illuna asked Lefi to join her, was already well below the horizon.
No one was awake. Lefi looked to her side and confirmed that both Yuki and Illuna, who had slept between her and the demon lord like a child between her parents, were fast asleep. After double checking, just to make sure, the supreme dragon finally snuck out of bed and made her way over to the room next door, the kitchen.
“I shall not fail again.” She hyped herself up as she secured her apron and tied it behind her back. All the tools she needed were before her. All the materials were ready. And most importantly, she was dressed for the job. It was time to get to work.
Her presence in the kitchen so late at night begged a series of questions that all began with the same word: why? Why was she up so late, why was she sneaking around, and why was she cooking of all things? The answer to all three of those queries stemmed from a series of failures.
Nothing that she had made during the day had ended up even remotely palatable. There had been nothing but catastrophe after catastrophe, failure after utter failure. None of her attempts succeeded, not even when Leila and Lyuu had pitched in to help. Everyone else’s attempts had eventually come to fruition. Even Illuna and Shii had managed to make something simple. But not Lefi.
She hadn’t wanted the demon lord to think her incapable, so rather than admitting to failure, she instead played a different hand. She told him that she saw no reason to bother making him anything and simply pretended not to have ever tried from the start. Lefi had ended up just sitting off to the side and watching as everyone else fed Yuki the fruits of their labour.
And thus, she’d gotten up in the middle of the night to redeem herself. The silver-haired maiden was, admittedly, of the lazier breed. She enjoyed slacking off. But she didn’t enjoy failure. She was the type of girl that really hated losing. And that was why she had decided to put in extra effort in order to get it right. The holy day of love had passed. But she wasn’t going to give up. Tomorrow, she thought. Tomorrow, I shall provide him with a treat so delectable his expression will contort in shock.
The titan that she was set to tackle tonight was the fearsome beast known as the cookie. Her world was one that didn’t have many sweets, but the cookie was widespread nonetheless. They were much more common than other types of confections, common enough for those invested in the art of the kitchen to know a recipe or two. And as Leila happened to be an excellent chef herself, she just so happened to have one on hand. The sheep-horned demon had even provided Lefi with a memo detailing everything she needed in order to tackle the behemoth of a task before her.
She was ready. Everything was in place. It was time.
The expression on the supreme dragon’s face was like that of a warrior about to face off with its greatest rival.
And yet, though she had been determined, she ultimately failed.
“Kh…” She scoffed as she wiped the dough that had splattered onto her face off with the back of her hand and heaved an unintentional sigh as she muttered under her breath. “It appears that it did not go as well as I had hoped. I suspected as much.”
The reason the dragon was incapable of cooking was in fact quite simple. She was too powerful. It wasn’t something that her appearance would betray. As far as looks went, Lefi was a gentle, adorable little maiden. She was so pretty and delicate that she put even the loveliest of flowers to shame. But that wasn’t what she truly was. She was a dragon. The supreme dragon. She was the one creature that every other living thing in this world feared.
She wasn’t capable of outputting anywhere near all her power in her newfound humanoid appearance, but still, her strength was many times beyond what the words “absolutely absurd” could even begin to describe. Even her delicate girl form housed within it a tremendous power.
A simple example could be derived by looking at Yuki and the tasks he performed on an everyday basis. One could say that, from an abstract point of view, the amount of strength he would use could be classified into three categories: low, medium, and high. The problem Lefi had was, for her, that both Yuki’s low and medium outputs fell within the far left end of her low bracket. Putting in even the slightest amount of strength provided Lefi with enough brute force to completely squash the trunk of a tree many times her width. While it might have sounded like something that would inconvenience her during her everyday life, it wasn’t. The dragon’s excellent sense of touch allowed her to adjust her strength accordingly when it came to almost every task. Almost being the keyword.
Cooking happened to fall outside of this classification. It required a much finer degree of control than she was accustomed to. Making cookies contained a few steps that just happened to be things she found extremely difficult. One such example was cracking eggs. She would almost always completely crush the shell whenever she tried to split one open. Mixing the ingredients was just as bad. She would always stir with just a bit too much force and cause the bowl’s contents to end up all over the place. To make matters even worse, the sheer amount of strength she accidentally outputted would cause her tools to bend and distort in ways they were never designed to. And that wasn’t even the nail in the coffin.
The absolute worst part was that Lefi had quite literally never stepped foot in the kitchen with the intent to make something. She was over a thousand years old, but this afternoon marked the first time she had attempted to cook anything at all. Her lazy personality didn’t particularly help either, as it made her rather clumsy.
One could say that the world was a wide place. There were all sorts of people, and there was basically always guaranteed to be someone more ill-suited to something than any other given individual. As far as cooking was concerned, Lefi was that someone.
She tried again. And again. And again. She kept going until she finally managed to create something that could, to an extent, be called successful.
“Hah…” But again, she sighed upon seeing the fruits of her labour. “I would not be so hasty as to label this batch another failure. But yet, I must. They are far worse than anything I would willingly feed him.”
The cookies were misshapen, lumpy, and deformed. And the only conclusion she could come to upon trying one herself was that they were terrible. A part of her judgement stemmed from bias. Lefi’s palate had been spoiled by the sweet treats that Yuki presented her on a daily basis. She thought them to be out of this world, which was in fact exactly what they were. They had quite literally come from another. But because she knew just how good cookies could taste, she had recognized her own creations for just how horrible they were.
“I suppose I have little choice but to cease.” She wanted to keep practicing. The dragon wanted to knock the demon lord’s socks off. But she couldn’t. It literally wasn’t possible. There weren’t enough ingredients left for her to craft another batch. And even if there were, she wouldn’t be willing to try. She had wasted enough food already.
Her only choice was to just give up. The amazing cookies she had wanted to make were simply too far removed from reality for her to grasp.
So she sighed.
“Looks like you’re finally done.”
Hearing the familiar voice caused Lefi to spin around in a panic. Standing right there behind her was Yuki. He was leaning against the wall with a sleepy look on his face. He even yawned for added effect when she looked at him.
Lefi was shocked. She would have long noticed him under ordinary circumstances, but she had been too engrossed in the act of making sweets to pay enough attention to her surroundings to see that someone had snuck up behind her.
“H-how long have you been there!?” she stuttered.
“Honestly, around since you got out of bed.”
He has been observing me this entire time!? Her face instantly turned a deep shade of crimson. She had allowed him to watch her do something that she was awful, terrible at. He didn’t care much for her damaged pride though. He ignored her indignance, walked right up to the counter and popped one of the deformed cookies she had made into his mouth.
“I-I do not advise yo—”
“Yeah, I wouldn’t either. They’re god awful.” He gave her a straight-forward, honest response.
“I am aware,” she groaned. “You need not force yourself to consume them as I merely crafted them at leisure. Now hand them to me such that I may dispose of them posthaste.”
Lefi tried to speak in as normal a tone as she could, and she did manage it, but that didn’t mean she was feeling just fine. The truth was his response had caused her to feel a sharp pain, like she’d been stabbed through the chest.
However, despite her protests, Yuki didn’t comply with her demands.
“Naw, no need. I’m planning to eat them all.”
“What…?” She was stupefied. And when she raised her face to look at him she found him grinning at her.
“I heard from Illuna. You went through a bunch of trouble just to get these made for me,” he said with a cocky smirk. “And that’s why I’ll eat them all. Throwing them away is just a waste of effort and food. Especially since they’re so stuffed full of love.”
“Th-they are absolutely not!” Lefi immediately flared up at the demon lord, but he just laughed it off as he quickly consumed all the remaining cookies.
She tried to stop him over and over, but, even though he himself had told her that they were awful, he ended up eating them nonetheless. Once he was done, he plopped one of his hands on her head and smiled as carefree a smile as could be.
“They were delicious, Lefi. Thanks,” he said as he ran his fingers through her hair.
The expression on his face filled her chest with warmth. And she thought, I know the expression I bear, but I know that it is one I shan’t allow myself to show another.
“Even a child could see through such an unclever ruse,” she said. “And I wish not for you to treat me as you would one.”
Despite her protests, she made no attempts to shake his hand off her head. Instead, she chose to bury her face in his chest.
TL Note: As you might have expected, this was posted shortly after Valentine’s Day. Specifically in 2017.
Editor’s note (Joker): Hey, guys! Joker here. Aww, isn’t that sweet? Lefi and Yuki sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G! Lefi? Lefi, what are you doing? Lefi, put down the warhammer! NOOOO-! *there’s a loud crashing and crunching sound and the screen goes to black. After a few seconds, it comes back on, only this time, he’s sitting all bandaged up, voice muffled* Uh… sorry about that, folks. I, uh… retract my statement that I said about Yuki and Lefi. There are not ‘sitting in a tree’ and are most certainly not ‘K-I-S-S-I-N-G’. *to someone off screen* Is that okay? Please? It is? Oh, thank God… Uh, sorry about the confusion, folks. Just a minor disagreement. Nothing major. I’ll be fine… I hope… God, I still feel my ribs poking my spine… *winces* Uh, anyway, we got 6 letters today, so big thank you to Tonatsi, kx, Confusing thingy (@DanPamfiloiu), Hobbes, zekkendo, and Mischa. Remember, if you’ve got a question you’d like answered, leave it below with the hashtag #AskJoker, and I’ll reply. See y’all in the next chapter!