Chapter 1: What’s so Fishy about Snails?
An almost overwhelming heat lurks its every corner. As the blinding lights hung on the ceilings, various screams and shouts crowd the air, intermixed with the stinging perfume of different scents. This is the place you’ve come to know as home.
“Red, where’s my 45?!” Jean shouted from across the counter
With the ring of the bell, she placed an enormous plate of freshly sautéed chicken, dripping with a thick, opalescent, milky glaze. She sprinkled a small amount of crushed walnuts over the dish before handing it to him with a, “Table 45’s Walnut Chicken! Where’s his four bowls of rice, Ray!!”
“Coming!” He dashed to place the four bowls on Jean’s tray.
“The fried rice for 50 is coming Jean, let Gills take it for you.”
“Okay, Red.” He replied quickly with a nod before scurrying out of the kitchen
The smell of different dishes intermixing in the air never ceased to lift the corner of your lips a little, as the aroma tickles the insides of your nostrils. This hectic melting pot of the senses may seem like an inevitable recipe for stress, but for you, the smell of cloves and cinnamon combined with the hollers of different chefs brings none other than joy and relief; it’s almost therapeutic.
“Alright everyone, table 35 is our last call. Give it your all!” You shouted from the other end of the kitchen
“Yes chef!” Everyone replied in unison
After the last family of customers left the restaurant with smiles of satisfaction on their faces and the whole restaurant has been cleaned thoroughly after service, all the staff left with their goodnights, leaving only Red and you to close up for the night.
“It got hectic there for a bit, sis! You should give me more credit for handling it so well.” Red stretched her sore muscles, as she took off her coat.
“I trained you to handle it, if anyone should get any credit, it should be me!” You retorted with a teasing wink.
Red pouted with slight annoyance before pouncing on your back, making it extra difficult for you to take off your coat.
“Red, get off me!”
“Not until you say how much you wuv your lil’ sis!” She nuzzled her head on your neck
You grabbed her arms and lifted them off your shoulders, turned around to face her and pecked your forehead against hers.
“Oh how I wuv my lil’ sis!” You said with a huge grin, pressing endless smooches on her entire face.
“Arghh, stoppp! Your love is killing me!!!” She tried to push you away but to no avail
The mood was ruined by the phone vibrating in your pocket, causing you to release Red from your grip.
“Who is it?”
Your face cringed at the sight, “Ugh. It’s Kyle.” Taking a good look at the text he sent caused every part of your being to cringe. “He’s asking me out.”
“Isn’t that supposed to be a good thing?” Red queried with confusion
“I guess,” You complied, “But he’s just… too…” You started snapping your fingers, desperate for the right word.
“Lemme guess. Tasteless,” Red smugly answered
“I don’t say that word much but yeah-” your reply was cut short by Red’s hand flailing in the air.
“’Don’t say that word much’? You call all the guys I introduce you to ‘tasteless’!” She air quoted for emphasis
“Do I?” You were very oblivious to the fact apparently
“Alright. You remember Rob from a few months ago?” She said as she turned off the dining room lights.
“Rob… The shaggy hair with the rough stubble?” You tried to remind yourself
“Nooo, that’s Mike. Rob, the lawyer,” Red picked your bag up as she turned off the kitchen lights one by one.
“Ah… no wonder I don’t remember him,” You laughed heartily at the thought.
The date with that guy was almost as distasteful as an overcooked plate of green beans. It was filled with dry humor, boring banter and unpleasant compliments; basically an overall disaster. And now that you thought deeply about it, all the guys that Red had tried to hook you up with were all complete disasters. Most of them were either irritating men who underestimated your profession as a chef, or men who considered your passion as a mere quality for the perfect trophy wife. Cooking was much more than that for you. It was the very fire of passion that kept you going through the unfair trials of life. In addition to that, it was the only thing that you and your sister had in common; the desire for creation and to see people leave with a smile.
“You should probably go Rose, ” Red spoke, breaking your trance, as you two trudged up the stairs, “Who knows? Maybe this one would be different.”
“You always say that…” You mumbled a half-hearted reply, fishing out the keys of your apartment from your pocket.
It was almost fate when you found the place. Not only did the building seem to waft a comfortable vibe, but it also had a studio apartment on another floor to boot.
After completing your nightly routine, you slam your entire body on the mattress. Your mind wandered to the last thing your sister said, maybe this one would be different. To be honest, it wasn’t that you’re not in the least bit interested in the guy. It has just been awhile since you were in a relationship, and your last one didn’t really end as well as you expected. It left your heart raw and vulnerable, even if others don’t see you that way, including Red. Ever since then, you’ve been building walls over walls to hide the true nature of your heart. Everyone said it’s unhealthy to do so, but you had no choice. You waited the day for someone to be able to tear down these walls, this was most likely the reason you took up all the opportunities that Red had desperately given you.
With a deep sigh, you grabbed your phone and opened Kyle’s text.
*how you doin?
*Just closed the restaurant. In bed now, you replied him briefly.
*so have you decided? He was very straight to the point. You assume that he was referring to his request for a date so you quickly answered with, *Hmm.. what do you have in mind? You decided that you should probably at least give this guy a chance.
*howbout that italian restaurant on central? And… he blew it. Restaurants were never your top venue for a date, but… you were craving a bit of Italian lately.
*Okay, I assume we’re having dinner there? Italian for lunch is a tad too heavy for you.
*yeah, you fine with that? At least he was decisive and considerate.
*Of course, how was your day by the way?
*awful. Sheesh… *had to handle these two clients that were a real pain, if your memory serves you right, you remember Red telling you that he was a property broker.
*Oh, it must be a long story… It wouldn't be rude to cut it short right? Your eyes felt like they were about to close at any moment.
*dont worry i’ll tell you the details of it tomorrow at dinner. Well at least he caught your drift.
*Then I guess I’ll see you there
*yeah, can’t wait. goodnight Rose ^3^
The restaurant has been open since morning but customers are still flowing through the doors. Most of them were regulars coming in for lunch, so they were easy to handle, especially with Red’s determined lead. You, per usual, were beside Molly cooking up the orders until Red peeked in and called you.
“Someone’s here, asking for you.” You tilted your head at her almost timid nature, she’s never acted that way unless…
“Is he here?” Your eyes widened with anger, your heart suddenly sped up its pace.
“No no no no no no! It’s just… The Queen’s here.” She tried to calm you down
“Shit… I thought…” You shook your head to dismiss your worries, “Queen Toriel huh? Take me to her.” You resumed smiling.
Red took you to the dining room to see an enormous figure, covered from head to toe in white fur, sitting on her own in a booth. She was much bigger than you imagined, and with a turn of her head, you could see two little horns protruding from the top of her head and a pair of beading red eyes. Although her description may be more menacing than anything, she had an almost gentle motherly demeanor.
“Good afternoon, your majesty.” You bowed your head but she quickly stopped you with a paw on your shoulder, “Oh please! Call me Tori. You must be Chef Rose.”
“The one and only,” you smiled even wider and relaxed under her soft touch, “Red, go and help Molly please. I got this.”
“Yes, Ma’am!” She dashed to the kitchen as you took the seat in front of the queen.
“So, what brings you here Tori?” You cringed slightly at your sudden casualness.
“Well, you see… Are you well-versed in cooking snails, Rose?” She started nervously, which made you arch an eyebrow slightly.
“Hmm… depends on what kind of snails you’re talking about. I’ve worked with saltwater snails before, but not so much with escargot.” You leaned back on your seat as you explained nonchalantly
“Oh thank goodness!” Her voice almost made you jump, “You see, I thought that all snails tasted the same! So when I found some snails in the market near the bay, I thought I could make my usual pie with them. But, as it turns out, they made my pie incredibly… salty and fishy…” She looked so dejected that it almost hurts your heart looking at her in complete disdain. “I don’t know what to do with the rest of them…”
“Saltwater snails are pretty tricky to use because of their fishy odor and salty flavor.” Before you continued, an idea struck your head.
“Tori, what if I cook you a dish with these snails of yours? I’ll even show you how to cook it properly!” You offered with excitement.
You knew you had the perfect recipe somewhere in your head. Of course, first of all you need to get rid of the annoying fishy odor, but that should be easy with some lime and ginger-
“That’ll be lovely! I’ll call Undyne if she could pick up the crate from my house right now,” she lightened up as she took out her phone to call this ‘Undyne’
A few minutes after Tori called, someone came dashing through the doors yelling, “YOUR MAJESTY, I GOT YOUR SNAILS!” causing you to jump from your seat and most probably everyone else dining in the restaurant as well.
“Oh you must be Undyne-” Your hand was immediately snatched from your side and into her eager webbed hands. “Yeah punk! Name’s Undyne!” You flinched slightly at the remark, but you quickly ignored it. Judging from her entrance, you should’ve seen it coming. “Rose,” you gave her a sincere smile as she crushed your hand in hers.
Undyne was a very... strong woman, so it wasn’t a wonder that she was able to balance a crate of what you could assume was 20 kilograms of snails with one arm. Her bright scarlet ponytail was a huge contrast to her teal scales and also the eyepatch over her left eye. Before you could examine more of her features, her boots stomped wildly on the ground.
“You just gonna stare all day, punk?” She gritted her teeth at you
“Sorry, you’re just… so pretty.” You muttered absentmindedly and before you knew it, the scales on her cheeks glowed a dim red.
“J-just, NGAH! Where do I put these damn snails?!” She tried desperately to hide her flushed face behind the wooden crate.
You and Tori laughed at her unexpected embarrassment, then you proceeded to guide both of them upstairs to use the kitchen in your apartment.
As Undyne placed the crate against the wall, you walked over to the fridge to gather up the ingredients for your dish. You already have a recipe in mind, so you took out a red onion, a few cloves of garlic, ginger, chilli, lime and two pieces of star anise. Your head listed on as your hands also took out a bottle of Shaoxing wine, a carton of chicken stock and some brown sugar.
“This kitchen is very spacious for an apartment to have,” Tori made herself comfortable on one of the breakfast chairs across the stove.
“This is mostly where I experiment on new dishes,” You place all the ingredients on the counter, pulling out a cutting board and a pot from the cupboard behind you, “A chef without a personal kitchen is a miserable one after all.”
“Okay!” You readied your knife, as well as your wok and its spatula. “Since this is just a test batch, I’m going to use one and a half kilos of these snails.”
After gathering enough snails in a bowl, you gave them an attentive rinse and you grabbed your lime and sliced it in half.
“What is that for?” Undyne leaned forward from her seat
“This,” You squeezed the lime all over the snails, “is to get rid of the fishy smell.”
“You got a problem with fishy smells, punk?!” She seemed genuinely aggravated that you couldn’t help but raise your hand in an attempt to calm her down
“I didn’t mean it with any offense, seriously. Besides, this is not the kind of fishy smell you would like,” You hand over the bowl to her, “Here, take a whiff.”
“Blergh, the fuck is that?!” Undyne shoved the bowl back to your hands
“Language!” Tori scolded, which Undyne seemed to flinch at
“Told you so. Anyways,” you grab your knife and some of the ingredients onto the cutting board, “While they’re soaking, I’m going to chop up the onion, garlic, as well as a few slices of ginger. I’m also using three chilies for this recipe.”
While you were chopping, Undyne rose from the seat and pumped her fists in the air, “Instead of chopping them, why don’t we SMASH THEM TO BITS?!”
You chuckled at her enthusiasm but decided that you should give your uptight self a bit of fun, “Well because we want the flavors to seep into the snails as we sauté them. If we smash them, then the flavors will all be wasted on the cutting board instead.”
“Oh… Sorry, punk.” She looked so disappointed. You hit her shoulder a bit before comforting her with a hearty laugh and a grin, “Don’t worry about it!”
“What is that for, my child?” Tori asked as you grabbed your wok and filled it with a considerable amount of water
“Once the water is boiling, I’m going to blanch the snails."
“Blanch? Sauté? What is all this gibberish?!"
You strained the snails and immediately threw them into the boiling water, "Blanching is necessary for ingredients like these, so that they don't turn out undercooked in the stir fry later on."
You left them for two minutes before diving your sieve into the water and straining the snails once more, while also pouring the boiling water into the sink. As you grabbed a piece of paper towel to wipe the wok with, you gave the sieve full of snails to Undyne, "Would you mind holding on to this for a sec?"
"Sure, punk. Whatcha gonna do?"
"I'm going to fry the ingredients I chopped earlier with some oil," you said as you put the flames on high.
Once the oil was hot, you put in the garlic, onions, chilli and ginger before tossing them with one hand on the handle.
"Undyne, if you wouldn't mind," you beckoned her to dump the snails into the wok. And with that, you continued tossing the pan while occasionally stirring its contents. You then added a handful of brown sugar, the star anise and a pinch of salt into the pan.
"I would recommend you to stand back a little, it's going to get a bit hot in here," you warned your two audiences before pouring your Shaoxing wine and tossing the contents of the wok.
Fire shot up as the alcohol made contact with the flame of the stove, earning a few gasps and awes from Undyne and Toriel. The sight has always been a great spectacle to show visitors, you thought to yourself. After the fire died down, you poured some chicken stock and covered the pan.
Undyne and Tori returned to their seats with newfound caution, mostly for your well-being, but you assured them that you were used to it.
"So how long does it take to cook, my child?"
"Just a few minutes actually, the fire did most of the work already," you chirped.
After a few minutes, you opened the lid and the smell of ginger and star anise immediately overwhelmed the air around you.
"Voila!" You poured the dish into a bowl and slid it in front of your two customers.
"Okay, before you eat them, you should remove the operculum, which is this part here," you peeled it and threw it into the trash next to you. Undyne and Tori followed your lead and successfully removed them as well.
"Now, you can use a toothpick," you see them reaching into the shell with their claws, "... Or claws… to gently pull out the flesh from the shell."
"Another thing, before you eat them you should remove this part here," you pointed to the snail's excretion sac, "and then dip it in the sauce!" You then popped the little morsel into your mouth, tasting the gentle sweetness of the caramelized brown sugar and the tingly spiciness from the ginger and star anise. The heat from the chilli was mellowed out by the sugar and you could almost revel in the faint notes of lime as well, it all gives the dish a slight interesting kick that you couldn't help but smile at.
When you came back to reality, you could see Undyne grabbing one snail after another, picking them and shoving them inside her mouth like clockwork, "THESE TASTE GREAT, PUNK!"
"I agree! The recipe is so simple, but the result is tremendously delicious!" Tori complimented as she licked the dripping sauce on her claws.
Your smile grew wider as a memory appeared in your head, "I've been eating these since I was small, you should've seen me when I tried shoving an entire shell into my mouth!" You laughed awkwardly, "I think I lost a tooth because of it!"
"I guess you could say that you had a slow start," Toriel attempted to hold in her laughter
Undyne pounded a fist on the counter as she grunted, "Ughhhhh, Sans has been nothing but a plague to you your majesty!"
"Oh, I guess that didn't tickle your funny bone?" Toriel bursted with laughter this time
The moment her laughter died down, she turned to you and said, "Anyways, on the topic of Sans, you should really meet Grillby. He's a fellow food connoisseur such as yourself!"
"Grillby huh...” You would like to meet him someday...A guy who knows his way around the kitchen would make an interesting partner- Wait what were you thinking?
"Oi, human. Your face is entirely red!" When did she get so close to your face?!
"I-I wasn't thinking anything, I swear!"
"Do you have a crush on Grillbz?! You haven't even met the guy yet!" Undyne pinched your cheek teasingly
"No I don't!" You slapped her hand away from your face and quickly realized, what time was it? You looked at the clock and you could feel your heart skipped a beat.
You smoothed out the bottom of your dress and tidied your hair slightly after your run. It was close to six, you lost track of time with Toriel and Undyne. After sending them off with a tupperware full of snails, you hurriedly showered, did your makeup and grabbed one of Red’s cocktail dresses to put on, which ended up being an overly-short embarrassment on your body. But it should do, right?
As you entered the restaurant, your eyes scanned over the countless gazes directed at you before spotting a pair of waving arms.
“Rose!” Kyle called out from a booth.
You walked over to his table before sitting down in front of him. You immediately uttered an apology, “I’m so sorry for being late. I had a few important guests at the restaurant today.”
“Hey, no problem,” he leaned back in his seat comfortably
“Have you ordered?” You queried as you called the waiter.
“Just got myself a drink,” He picked up his drink and downed it.
“Yes, hello, hi!” You awkwardly greeted the waiter who didn’t look too enthusiastic by your presence, “I would like to have a Manhattan please. What do you have for specials?”
The waiter sighed and pulled out a chalkboard from behind the counter, reading from it “Today we have Gnocchi à la Carbonara and Spaghetti Arabiatta, if you want something lighter, we also have Bruschetta.”
Carbonara with gnocchi? Your nose cringed at the thought. You would prefer a more herby sauce with sage and butter, or a strong porcini and lemon drizzle to go with a heavy potato dish. And a bruschetta for a main dish? It’s an appetizer…
“Um. The gnocchi sounds fantastic, I’ll have that,” Kyle interrupted your train of thought all of a sudden.
You blinked a few times to get yourself back to reality and blabbered a quick apology before replying, “I’ll have the Arabiatta then, what do you recommend for the wine?”
“I dunno.. red?” The waiter answered reluctantly, “look, I can go ask the chef if you want.”
“Well, if there’s a decent Merlot, we’ll take that,” Kyle mentioned before you could have a say in it.
A Merlot with a carbonara?! Let alone an arrabiata. A relatively light bodied wine like that is fitting with a nice slice of lasagna, or a Bolognese.
“No, we can’t have that,” you interjected, “do you happen to have a nice Pinot Noir? It’ll be a perfect pairing with his carbonara and I would like to see how it would measure up with the arrabiata.”
You weren’t paying that much attention to Kyle, but you got a glimpse of him eyeing you with an expression that you could only describe as resentment.
“I’ll ask,” the waiter sighed, returning the chalkboard behind the counter before marching his way into the kitchen.
You turned your face back to Kyle and he immediately planted a hand over his face in exasperation. God, so much for being romantic.
“So…” You tried to think about something to say, “How was your day?”
“Terrible,” he quickly turned his face to look away from you as he grunted, “I did tell you that I had these two irritating clients the other day right? I couldn’t even stand the look of them.”
These clients must be a real pain in the ass for him to hate them this much.
“What happened? We can talk about it if you want.” You thought you might as well let him blow off some steam if you want this date to go decently well.
He reached for your hands that were placed on top of the table, and you flinched violently when he grabbed them and wrapped them around his.
“I’m glad you’re here,” he started, “I really needed to talk to someone about it.”
You were terribly uncomfortable with the situation, but you relented, even though you were a little disturbed by how tight his grip was. Fuck that. You were very perturbed by it and you were already wishing the date to end as soon as possible.
“Was it really that bad..?” You queried with reluctant curiosity
“Bad? Wouldn’t you consider a pair of walking skeletons horrendous?!” He exclaimed at the top of his lungs.
No. No no no no… Not a racist. Come on… You yanked your hand out of his grip, cringing at the thought that you have landed yourself another one of those despicable racists.
And to add to the fire, he fueled the thought with, “What? You don’t agree? You don’t agree that these creatures,” he hissed at the word, “don’t belong here?”
You just wanted him to shut his goddamn mouth. You wanted to finish this horror of a date and never see his fucking face ever again. At this point, you were silent, but like a ticking bomb, with him as an unqualified bomb diffuser ready to cut the wrong wire.
“Hey,” he leaned forward, “Speak of the devil. Or more like devils…”
You turned around in your booth to see a tall person with a long red coat, red rain boots, and beneath the orange beanie and thick scarf, was a slightly elongated skull of a human. You saw that he had bright white pupils seemingly floating within his empty sockets for eyes. Not to mention that there was a smaller one, more stout and thick-boned. He merely had a blue hoodie on and… basketball shorts? He had sneakers paired with socks that were obviously not made for his size, considering he was a skeleton. His more rounded skull had the same floating white orbs within its eye sockets, but he had a different smile; an almost relaxed one, unlike the taller skeleton who had a more enthusiastic, childish grin plastered on his face. But the one creature who you couldn’t help but stare at was a fiery being standing next to them. He was basically covered from top to bottom in black, but not in a gothic style. He had more of a, dare you say, Tom Ellis vibe to his look. Relaxed but fancy.
“God, there’s even a fire dude? They should kick him out of here before he burns down the place.”
Right. He’s still here. The thought of having to deal with the guy for the night makes you sick, you were thinking of cancelling this date. You grimaced at the word. You could pretend that Red called and there was an emergency at the restaurant, or make a run for it. No… that wouldn’t work idiot, why did you even think about that.
“You agree with me don’t you Rose?” Kyle’s eyes were pointed at you curiously.
You huffed a sigh and stood up from your seat. You decided that you were going to make this simple, and that blowing up is not a good solution.
“I can’t do this Kyle. I have to go, is this enough to cover it?” you placed a handful of cash on the table and slid it towards him.
Kyle surprised, of course, stood up as well and looked at you right in the eyes, “Wait what? Where are you going?”
“Home. Where there’s better company,” you gave him a sarcastic smile as you straightened your dress and put on your coat.
You suddenly felt a harsh grip on your arm, which you glared at him for.
“Look I understand if you don’t like monsters, we can continue this somewhere more private if you’d like?” He smirked at the remark.
This idiot. You laughed bitterly.
The waiter came along with your ordered drink and you decided to grab it and you threw it at him. He released his menacing grip on you and wiped his face, which was laced with disbelief and anger.
You bit your lip, placed your hands on your hips, exhaling in complete dejection.
“If you could tone down your ego a little bit, perhaps you would be as attractive as you think you are,” You started and there was no going back, “You know what? Sure, these monsters may look different but they’re still people who deserve some fucking respect. Get yourself imprisoned under a mountain for thousands of years and tell me you wouldn’t like some decent respect.”
You gave him a stern glare, “A little kid has better morals than you do. You should be ashamed,” you gritted your teeth before leaning forward, “And you should really learn that people have boundaries. Touch me one more time and I wouldn’t hesitate to shove that hand up where the sun doesn’t shine.”
You fixed your coat and walked towards the entrance, head held high. You could feel all eyes on you, including the ones from the group of monsters that came in earlier.
“Maybe that’s why you’re still single! Coz you’re a damn bitch that’s why!” Kyle managed to shout out one last remark before you stepped out of the door.
You turned and looked at him dead in the eye, “I’m a chef. I don’t settle for scraps.”
Gotta set an example of a badass for the kids ~~
Chapter 3: True Love
Releasing this chapter a little early! I hope you guys will enjoy it!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It was cold that night. You could see that by the puff of white escaping your lips. You hugged your coat tight to your body, cursing to yourself for wearing such a short thin dress. As your body shivered, you couldn’t help but look up to the night sky. It was rare to see it like this, with bright little jewels scattered across its blanket of obsidian. It was so beautiful that it looked almost fake, like a painting. The only sound you could hear was the knocking of your heels on concrete and the soft ambience of people inside their homes, restaurants and shops. Not a lot of people around here enjoyed the cold as you did. It was a shame, the winter here had always been tremendously delightful. The pristine snow, littered with little divots from people’s snow boots, drowning all the unnecessary noises beneath it. It puts a smile on your face each time.
What you said at the restaurant wasn’t completely true, although most of it were though. The fact that Kyle was a jackass, as well as the fact that monsters didn’t have it fair after being imprisoned down there for centuries, but you couldn’t help but admit… that you are indeed… lonely. You reached out to all these men, not because you were looking for a quick fling, but because you desired that rush and overwhelming emotion people get from falling in love. And so far, there had been no spark like that. Excluding that rush of fascination you got from seeing that monster engulfed in fire.
Get it together man! You need to get it together. You pulled out your keys and unlocked the backdoor of your restaurant. After you closed the door and made sure you locked it back up, you took off your coat and went straight upstairs. Red already told you that she was going to a friend’s place earlier in the week. You took this opportunity to strip yourself from your body-constricting dress and grabbed your blue turtleneck and pajama pants, ridden with unicorn pusheens.
After giving yourself a relaxing hot shower, your peaceful apartment was disturbed by the loud rumble of your stomach. Right, you didn’t eat anything. You went to the kitchen and opened the fridge, scanning for things you can cook. Your eyes glinted with excitement when you caught sight of a nice cut of salmon sitting beside a tray of fresh asparagus. Your head spins from all the possible recipes you could do with these two incredible ingredients, until it finally stops at one. You turned the knob on your oven to preheat it, and you took out a baking tray from the drawer next to it. You made sure to tear yourself some parchment paper and lay it on top of the tray. For the asparagus, you were thinking of simply roasting them with some olive oil, salt, pepper and some sprigs of rosemary, you chopped some garlic to throw in with it as well. You put in some of the garlic in a plastic bag, together with the salmon, lemon juice, salt, pepper, a few sprigs of dill and a sprinkling of rosemary, before clipping it shut. You placed it in the fridge, as you took extra care of the asparagus, chopping the ends and peeling the tough fibers on the sides. With the asparagus placed neatly on the tray, you drizzled olive oil and sprinkled in the spices and herbs.
I should pan fry the salmon in a few minutes, to make a nice sauce with the fond. You said to yourself carefully, as you placed the asparagus in the oven and set the timer for 20 minutes.
Going to your little wooden shelf, you picked up a nice bottle of white wine. You then opened it and poured yourself a generous glass of it. You massaged the salmon within the bag gently, making sure that the herbs have infused their flavors into the fish. You put in some butter on a pan and took out the fish, draining it from its marinade. The loud sizzle of the pan was a good sign for you to place the fish, skin side down. After a few flips, the salmon was perfectly cooked and you immediately doused the pan with more lemon juice and a little bit of vegetable stock to deglaze the crusty surface. You added salt and pepper to taste, and like that the sauce and the salmon were done. You set the roasted asparagus on a plate, placed the salmon on top, and drizzled the lemony sauce over all of it. Making sure as well to grab some cherry tomatoes from the basket near the stove for garnish.
For a simple dish, it really did lift up your spirits. The wine complemented the fish very well, with it’s sweet note and the lemon’s light tingle on the tongue. The crisp asparagus and the juicy cherry tomatoes, paired together with the acidic sauce, it became almost like a spring salad with a gorgeous vinaigrette. You took a sip of the wine as you tasted all the elements together, it created this wonderful harmony of flavors. The recipe was so simple, yet so divine and elegant in the mouth.
This should be what love is like. The rush of emotions, the overwhelming sense of joy, and the sense of satisfaction, merging together to remind you of how you got here in the first place. You persevered through so many trials and tribulations to become who you are today. A chef. The person whose true love should be food.
“No matter what happens…” “Stay determined.”
Your eyes snapped open all of a sudden. Your room was completely dark, but unlike other people, you were never one to stay in bed too long. Force of habit.
The world had never gone easy on you. You had to keep your arms constantly in front of you, protecting yourself and your sister from all its relentless punches. It caused you to lose interest for sleep and pretty much anything relaxing, for you thought that it would weaken your barriers. You never let your guard down, except that one day, when you found out that your mother had passed. Why are you even thinking about this? Your bed would always remind you of that. Stop. Like an aching rash gnawing on your skin. Stop it. You shouldn’t have left her there. You are not real. Her death was almost like the sprouting of a newborn rose. A rose that was so horrendous and adorned with thorns, laced with poison. Nobody would get close to a rose like that. Not now, please. Not even a weed would try to approach a demon’s beloved creation.
You sat up on the bed and took a deep breath. Filling your lungs up with air and exhaling it with a shivering breath. You did this repeatedly until you could feel your heart slow down from its overwhelming pace. Everything is under control. You got this. You swallowed all that guilt that you felt just minutes ago and replaced them with newfound determination. This is one hell of a start for the day. You hopped off the bed and went immediately to the shower.
Going downstairs with this newfound energy burning within you, you got the brilliant idea to create a special menu for dinner. You pulled out your phone and contacted your butcher.
“Rosy Rox, how can I help you sweety?” The familiar voice answered as soon as you dialed.
“You sure are chirpy at 4 a.m,” Catty usually has a slight tone to her voice in the morning, especially when you call her exactly right when they opened.
“OMG! Bratty and I just finished the BEST SERIES EVA!!” Her voice was so loud that you had to distance your face away from the phone.
“What series was it?”
“It’s ummmmmmmm… what was it?” Classic Catty… “Hang on.”
You really distanced yourself from your phone this time and made sure to cover the speaker as well.
“BRATTY! WHAT WAS THE SERIES THAT WE WATCHED LAST NIGHT?!”
“IT WAS TOKYO MEW MEW!!!” From the sound of it, either Bratty wasn’t that far from her or her volume was even louder than Catty’s
“THANK YOU BRATTY!” She shouted once more before lowering her voice slightly to tell you, “It was Tokyo Mew Mew, Rosy”
“I see,” your ears were still trying to adjust, “Anyways, does Philippe have any particular cuts he’s willing to share? I would like to make something special for tonight.”
“I can get Philippe for you! Hang on!” You can hear her placing the phone down on a counter.
Catty, Bratty and Philippe has been working with you for almost six years now. They were the ones to help you set up actually. In the beginning, it was rough with the restaurant looking more like a nuclear testing site, with all its obscene graffiti on the walls, putrid smells of piss in every corner, and smashed glass scattered all over the floor.
When you first met Philippe, it was as disastrous as the restaurant. You worked a job at his father’s butchery and that’s when you two first met. Your relationship was filled with rivalry and hatred for each other, until his father passed and he had to take over the business. He was as fierce and passionate as you are, but not necessarily in cooking itself, he prefered the procurement of different kinds of meat and the practice of dry-aging and curing. You had to admit, he was selfish, but for a good reason. He knew what he was doing and he’s never afraid of showing what he can really do. He explores so many different kinds of cuisines. He experiments with numerous curing methods, and when he fails, he’s not afraid to admit it. When you worked with him, you had a lot of disputes and misunderstandings; he wasn’t as fluent in english as his father was. But little by little, you two bonded through food.
At the shop, you mostly worked on the front counter and he would take care of the back, where chefs would order their meat fresh for their restaurants. A part of him knew that if he let you work there with him, you would be tempted to leave the place. And you were, that’s why you reached out to Catty and Bratty. At first, they seemed like pretentious teenagers with an annoying beverly hills blonde accent, but the more you got to know them, you realized that they had a certain motivation that appealed to you as special. You told Philippe to let them work for a few months to see if they could handle the job. And they fit in like a glove almost immediately. Their accent turned into a charming dialect for the customers and their friendly disposition seemed to melt away people’s cold perception towards monsters.
Soon after, you left to build your dream restaurant and they were as supportive as always.
“Rosy! Sup, my girl! You doing fine?” Philippe answered cheerfully
“Hey Phil! I’m good, I’m good, how about you?” His voice always gave you the sweetest of smiles.
“As incredible as ever! What do you want sweetheart?”
He paused slightly, waiting for your response but as usual, you weren’t quick enough to say a thing before he buried you with a barrage of suggestions.
“You know what, don’t worry babe! I have this beautiful longganisa I want you to utilise, I cured it for four days, the garlic, the spices, it smells incredible! I also have a beautiful pork *poitrine and do you want me to bring some leftover bones as well?”
“**Bah bien sur, c’est con comme question…” he whispered under his breath, still not giving a chance for you to say anything in return.
“I will give you some more minced pork and chicken with your regular as well, I have tons of leftovers and I’m sure you can use it. I also have duck fat! Do you want?”
He actually paused for real this time, expecting you to answer with an enthusiastic ‘yes’.
“Phil, bring me what you have and we can discuss a recipe for tonight. Now make sure you bill me for all of it,” you emphasized that last sentence because he is as selfish as he is generous.
“No, no, no, no! It’s a gift, ma belle,” There he goes again, “ I will pack now and I’ll see you!”
You heard the back door bell ring as you were briefing your crew for the day, you figured it must be Philippe with your order. You opened the door and welcomed the man inside, wheeling in boxes over boxes of ingredients. The rest of the orders from the farmers market had already arrived as soon as your call with him ended earlier.
You hugged Philippe and he gave you a few kisses on your cheek, greeting you with a “Salut ma belle”
He picked up the box on the very top of the pile and ordered one of your prep-workers to wheel the rest into the pantry. He knew your kitchen like the back of his hand, making his way fluidly through the hustle and bustle of your busy kitchen staff. You two finally settled in a corner of the kitchen where no prep-work was being done.
He placed the box on the floor and opened it to reveal a long chain of sausages, “This is the longganisa I was talking about. I found the recipe when I was voyaging in the Philippines. There are many types but I really liked the sweet Pampanga one. Here smell it,” He pushed one of the sausages to your nose, forcing you to take a nice whiff, “It’s packed with garlic, brown sugar, and I also added some apple cider vinegar for a nice sour kick.”
You caught a sweet-savory scent from the brown sugar and what you figured was nutmeg. The garlic mostly masked the sausage’s smell, it was powerful yet enticing to the tongue. The vinegar was an interesting choice to put in a sausage; you definitely have never smelled anything like it.
“I smoked it with mesquite, and I also cured it with salt for four days. Let’s grill this one and taste, yeah?” He sliced one and placed on the grill behind him.
The sizzling of the sausage brought a tremendous scent that reminded you of summer barbecue, you guessed that that was the mesquite playing its part in the whole process. As the skin turned taut, the fat melting within its confines, the meat turned into a nice dark mauve. You could almost smell the brown sugar caramelizing within the casing, bringing a whole new atmosphere to the surrounding air. Suddenly, you could sense the apple cider vinegar cutting through that sweetness like a cutlass through foliage. The different smells definitely had its individual punches and kicks, giving the sausage its originality. The scents also contribute to a grand scheme of complexity that entices the tongue to salivate.
“Voila, let’s taste,” He took the sausage off from the grill and onto a tray. He sliced the sausage in two and handed one to you.
The sausage had a nice snap as soon as you bit into it. The fat had melded perfectly with the sweet ground pork. The saltiness from the curing process and the sourness of the vinegar created this sort of balance to counter the brown sugar and the garlic. It was, for you, a perfect sausage.
“I should try using different kinds of vinegar, and maybe another type of wood for the smoking…” Phil mumbled as he chewed.
“It’s delicious Phil,” you patted him on the shoulder, “Give yourself some credit for once.”
“What’s the point of being passionate in something when you stop learning, I am my worst critic after all!” He gave you a snarky grin after what you presumed was the wisest advice you ever heard coming from him.
After a lot of thought, you finally decided on what to do for tonight’s menu.
“I was thinking of pairing the sausage with a refreshing papaya salad as the appetizer. With the pork belly you brought, I’m going to make it the main dish. I will have it roasted and served with puréed squash and sautéed green beans.”
You thought that maybe it’ll be a good idea to recreate the flavors of a kalabasa ginataang; a Filipino vegetable dish to complement the sausage. You’ll have the pork belly spiced with sage, rosemary, salt and brown sugar, making it like a roasted porchetta on a bed of green beans that you will season with small dried shrimps and a squash purée infused with coconut milk.
“I want to make a few dumplings as the opening act before the main dish. Perhaps a cheung fan and a lo bak go as well.”
“You should finish with your famous ginkgo almond soup, that’ll cut through the fattiness of the pork dish,” Phil advised as he pulled out all of the other ingredients out of the box, placing it on top of the counter.
“A coconut lime sorbet could finish the dinner smoothly, cutting through all the complex and rich flavors with something refreshing?” You looked to the man beside you, asking for his validation once more.
He nodded and as soon as he finished arranging your ingredients, he made his way to the back door. While he was grabbing his jacket, you leaned on the wall, giving him an exasperated sigh.
“Phil, where’s the bill?” You knew what he was going to say, because he would always say the same thing.
“No need! It’s a gift!” He zipped his jacket up and slid his hands into his pockets.
“I’m not going to fight you this time, but you should come to dinner tonight, let me repay you somehow,” you gave him a gentle smile.
“I’ll see, okay? I’m curious on how it would all turn out… but my schedule is pretty full today. If I have time, I’ll definitely come.” He smirked at you
“Thank you, Phil.” You were grateful that he made the time to visit you, even with his busy schedule.
“Ciao, ma belle.”
* "poitrine" is a french equivalent of a pork belly
** the phrase meant "Well of course, that's a stupid question"
Quite a bit of french is used, as well as english vocabulary that sounds similar to that used in french. Just to add a little bit of authenticity to the text!
It was your turn to lead the kitchen. You lit up all the heat lamps hanging above the serving counters and grabbed the handkerchief left by Red, tying it on your bicep. The band made sure that everybody knew that you were in command. It wasn’t evident but it seemed like everybody turned a bit tense once you tied the cloth on your arm. Prep time was over and the lunchtime rush was coming. You instructed Raymond to be your sous chef for the day and Red to hang back for the dinner service. Before the hectic lunch service arrived, you stood in front of all your staff, ready to give a brief word.
“As usual, I expect perfection. I’m not going to tell you things twice during service.” You trailed your eyes to meet everyone’s gaze.
“Be efficient. No unnecessary noises.” It was to make it easier for everyone to hear what’s going on the kitchen. You didn’t like it when people banged their pots and pans on the counters; it inhibits the others from listening to the orders and cues while cooking.
“Everyone, I wish you the best of luck and,” You looked into everyone’s eyes one by one before saying, “Don’t disappoint me.”
You clapped your hands, and like a gunshot in a rally, everyone scurried to their posts.
You grabbed the first three orders and shouted, “I need two walnut chickens, one lemon chicken, two fish specials and three green beans!”
“Yes, chef!” Everyone replied in unison.
The moment the lunchtime rush ended, you could hear the sigh of relief coming from everyone. It was hectic, and mistakes were made but you all made it through. With customers coming in steadily, Red entered the kitchen.
“Hey sis? You mind answering this?” She handed you the phone.
“Of course,” you called Raymond to take charge and took the phone, “Hello?”
“I assume you are the chef of this establishment?” A deep voice replied from the other end. The voice seemed to be crackling, but not static-like, it resembled the sound you would hear from a burning campfire.
“Yes, this is she. May I know who I’m speaking with?” You asked politely.
“This is Grillby. Queen Toriel has spoken many things about you. In good light, of course.” Grillby? The name was definitely familiar, but your mind was entranced by that rough giggle of his at the end. It was a deep tenor that rumbled through your ears and into your soul, making you shiver involuntarily. The words articulated so carefully coming from his voice sent your heart swooning and singing.
“I see,” You tried to compose yourself, “Queen Toriel was a lovely guest after all when she came over yesterday,” Your cheeks blushed at the thought that she was rambling about you to some complete stranger. Not that you didn’t like the publicity.
“She tends to be a little talkative when she takes a liking to someone,” He laughed a little. There he goes again. You calmed your heart with a gulp in your throat.
“Anyways,” he cleared his throat, “I would like to make a reservation for tonight.”
“Oh!” You were surprised by the sudden change of conversation, “Of course! May I know how many people will be dining tonight?”
“Four, including myself,” he clarified, “We will be there approximately 7:30pm.”
“Of course, I will reserve a seat for you. You’re in luck, I’m going to serve up a special menu just for tonight.”
You were feeling this certain desire to impress this special guest. Pride and confidence swelled within your soul at the quick thought you had this morning to change up the dinner menu. Mostly thanks to Phil, of course.
“Consider myself charmed,” You could detect a smile coming from the other end of the call.
“I’ll see you tonight, Mr. Grillby.” You ended the conversation, excited that you’ll finally see how this man looks like. You feel like a highschool girl about to go on a date with her crush for the first time. There was this sense of childish glee that you couldn’t control, and weirdly enough, you never even met this guy but the thoughts that you had from hearing his voice through the phone created butterflies in your stomach.
Red was still waiting by the doorway for you to return the phone to her. She looked at you, an eyebrow lifted, “I knew it was Grillby.” she smirked at you.
That little bitch. She knew all along, she knew that you had taken a liking to the guy and she deliberately decided to put you under all that pressure. Despite being an accomplished chef who wouldn’t break a sweat at handling ten orders at once, finishing that little conversation felt like a bag of rice had been lifted from your back. It was a strange feeling, you had to admit. Stressing over a guy like this, it was entirely new to you.
Red finger gunned you as you stared daggers at her. She made her way out to the front desk, leaving you to lead the kitchen once more.
Nevertheless, you felt a sense of calm wash over you. It was almost relaxing to hear his voice after such a busy few hours. Every breath you took felt lighter and fresher, despite the hot steaming woks and the wave of heat coming from the ovens in the back. You shouted out the orders with a newfound energy, a determined one in the eyes of your staff.
The sun descended from its bed of clouds and your heart began to race. You couldn’t stop looking over to the dining room through the two circular windows on the doors. Red noticed this, and seeing how restless you were, she entered the kitchen and pulled you to the side.
“Nervous much?” She looked at you bewildered, “You were never one to be nervous about anything, let alone meeting a guy. This one must be special!” She let out a hearty laugh.
You only knew his name and his voice, but you already feel this overwhelming attraction towards the man. A part of you felt disgusted by the fact that your heart is already opening itself to a person, more so a stranger that you’ve never met in your life. For god sake, your soul was yearning to see the man behind that splendor of a voice. Get yourself together!
The moment you shook your mind back to reality, you saw him. The fiery figure you saw the other day at the Italian restaurant. Of course it would be him. You had had the pleasure to see him the moment you were with that asshole of a date. The dashing man engulfed in flames. This time he was dressed in a white shirt and pinstripe pants, and a vest to match as well. He gave his coat to one of your waiters and he caught a glance of you. He shot you a gentle smile, from what you assume it was through all that wave of flames, and that was when you felt a jolt of electricity run through your entire body. Was this what genuine admiration feels like?
“Earth to Rose?” Red waved her hand in front of your face, “And he broke her.”
Red stepped out of the kitchen and grabbed the menu beneath the front desk. She lifted her head high, as you taught her, and made her way up to the reserved table.
As the guests made themselves comfortable in the booth, Red flipped the glasses on the table, while simultaneously introducing herself with, “My name is Red, I will be your server for the day.”
“well, well, well, you must be Rose’s little sister, if memory serves me right.” One of the skeletons winked at his terrible pun, catching Red off guard.
She held back a chuckle and instead gave everyone at the table a menu, “Could I get you guys something to drink?”
“THE GREAT PAPYRUS WOULD LIKE A CUP OF APPLE JUICE, IF YOU PLEASE HUMAN!” The taller skeleton cried out loudly, causing Red to flinch at the sudden rise in volume. Did that skeleton just addressed himself in third person?
“Of course,” She composed herself before turning to Grillby, “And you sir?”
“I would like a nice glass of scotch if you please,” He voiced his order while handing Red back the menu.
“woah there Grillby, perhaps you should turn down a scotch. don’t wanna get too drunk before the main event.”
“SANS! YOU SHOULD CEASE YOUR BARAGE OF CHILDISH PUNS!” The taller skeleton cried out with an annoyed tone.
“aw, what’s wrong pap. having a hard time stomaching my jokes?” The smaller skeleton, whose name you now know is Sans, tapped the taller skeleton’s abdomen as he winked at everyone at the table.
Red’s professional demeanor immediately broke the moment the smaller skeleton finished his joke. She was snorting and laughing. Red was the worst when it came to bad jokes, and knowing that she probably met her match sent her to tears.
“That was awesome man…” She wiped off her tears and straightened her back.
“glad you assume me humerus,” he winked once more.
“Stop it you!” Red scolded teasingly, “How about you boneboy? What do you want?”
You could see that any sense of over-politeness in her speech had left Red and had been replaced by a certain friendly casualness.
“tibia honest,” He placed his hand under his chin, exposing his arm for emphasis, “i would like to have a shot of ketchup, but just for you… i’ll have what ol’Grillbz is having.” You noticed that the taller skeleton sitting next to him seemed to be glaring at him for this.
“Alright! And you little one?” Red addressed, who you presume had to be, the famous Frisk; the child who saved the entire monster race from the Underground. The child started moving their hands in sign language.
Red wasn’t really well versed in the language but she could catch the word “hot” in whatever they were saying.
“THE HUMAN FRISK WOULD LIKE A CUP OF HOT CHOCOLATE!” The taller skeleton made it much easier for Red, giving her a sense of relief.
“Thank you, The Great Papyrus?” Red wasn’t really sure on what to call him.
“I’M HONORED HUMAN THAT YOU CONSIDER ME THE GREAT PAPYRUS! BUT FOR THIS OCCASION, IT’S FRISK’S SPECIAL DAY OF THE YEAR! SO INSTEAD, YOU CAN CALL ME SIMPLY PAPYRUS!”
“okay, simply papyrus,” Sans turned to him and replied with the widest grin you ever saw on a skeleton.
Papyrus just grunted and slouched his entire body in defeat, while everybody around him laughs at Sans’ snarky remark.
After finishing a string of laughter, Red grabbed everyone’s menus and said, “I’ll be back in a flash with your drinks.”
The moment Red left was when you could really take a good look at the group. The two skeletons, who were Sans and Papyrus, were complete opposites. Sans’ clothes were entirely off the entire group’s formal wear. He was wearing a t-shirt that had the design of a suit on it, a pair of basketball shorts and, instead of the fuzzy pink slippers you saw the other day at the Italian restaurant, he opted for a pair of worn sneakers. Papyrus, on the other hand, was wearing a very colorful shirt. It was orange and it had tiny blue bones printed on it. To match this very bright neon shirt, he wore a pair of red skinny jeans and a pair of dress shoes. Frisk was dressed formally as well, despite the pink tutu around their waist. The child was wearing a cute little suit and bowtie.
Looking at them all, smiling and generally being content with each other’s company, filled you with an overwhelming current of excitement. The moment you turned around to lead the kitchen once more, Red came in with the group’s expected order. Tonight’s menu, in addition with the other customers’ identical order.
You prepared your commands before turning to your staff, “Alright! Listen up everyone!”
“I need five appetizers,” You commanded Mia who was in charge of the grill.
“Jean! I need that pork ready for the oven as soon as the guests are done with their appetizers!”
“Chen! I need those dumplings ready when Red returns for the plates.”
With your determined lead, plates went in and out of the kitchen like clockwork. Expressions of content and satisfaction were distributed amongst your patrons, including your particular set of customers. Sans was happily chowing down on the appetizers, Papyrus no different, Frisk was having some difficulties with the longganisa but with a smile on their face. Grillby, on the other hand, had a pensive expression in his eyes. He took each bite with consideration and thought, but you could also see a slight twinge of a smile with every chew.
The night drew to a close and you exited the kitchen the moment your waiters came in with the last empty bowls of dessert. Your chest swelled with pride as you looked at each guest in the eye, and it was evident by the giant smirk on your face. You bowed and thanked all your guests for coming. They applauded in response and some even stood up as they did so, including Grillby. As your guests filed out the door, wishing their goodnights and thanks to Red and your other servers, you went over to Grillby and his group who were in the middle of putting on their coats and scarfs.
“I do hope tonight’s dinner was to your liking,” you addressed everyone at the table, although you were mostly focused on the tall fiery man to your left.
“HUMAN ROSE! IT WAS BEYOND MY INITIAL EXPECTATIONS! THIS MIGHT AS WELL BEAT MY SIGNATURE SPAGHETTI DISH!” Papyrus didn’t hold anything back that he shook the chandeliers above him with merely his voice.
Frisk tugged on your apron and signed the word “good,” assuming that was what they were saying with your limited understanding of sign language.
“kiddo here wants me to tell you that we all really enjoyed the dinner,” he gave you a warm smile before turning that said smile into a crooked grin, “judging by how much food there was, i guess you could say that you were putting some meat into my bones…”
“THE NIGHT WAS GOING SO WELL…” Papyrus planted a hand over his face and sighed loudly
You couldn’t help but laugh at the two of them, impressed by how they were getting along. Your thoughts were interrupted by a tap on your shoulder.
“I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed tonight’s course,” Grillby said calmly before starting back up, “But I would like to discuss a few things considering your dishes.”
You were taken aback by his remark, but you weren’t offended.. “Of course!” You stuttered.
“Would you like to come over to my bar tomorrow afternoon to discuss it? If you would like...” These words seemed to flow out of his lips fluidly, no hesitance in the slightest.
“That would be wonderful…” You absently took out your phone and jotted down his address and his phone number.
“Then I’ll see you tomorrow, Rose.” Grillby straightened his coat and lowered his head in a goodbye.
Sans, Papyrus and Frisk followed him out the door and you were left there in awe.
“Got yourself a date I see,” Red patted you on the back teasingly.
“I did, didn’t I?” You blinked, still in a daze.
I have so much in store for this fic, I just need to get my priorities straight when it comes to the ideas I have for this story :O
“Grillby’s…” Your eyes dawdled over the bubbly letters on top of the building.
“Simple, I guess that works,” Wow, I sounded like an asshole. You quickly shook off that ridiculous attitude and walked up to the front door.
You knocked on the door and waited patiently for a response. After a few minutes of waiting, you looked at the watch on your wrist.
“He said afternoon, maybe 12 is a bit early…”
Before any second thoughts could enter your mind, the door flung open. In front of you was Grillby, but unlike last night, he wasn’t formally dressed. Actually he wasn’t wearing nothing but a pair of black sleek pants and a tightly buckled belt. Your face involuntarily went red and hot, as red and hot as a lobster dipped in boiling water. Your gaze couldn’t help but glide over his bare chest, you never seen anything like it. His entire body glowed orange, his chest seemingly looked translucent but the opaque swirling yellow within gave you the opposite impression. There were distinct dents and divots across his torso, giving it the illusion of texture and firmness, yet with the color and opacity of his body, it seemed soft and glutinous at the same time. Before he could catch you eyeing on his body, you quickly turned away in embarrassment.
“Did I interrupt something?” You tried to keep your cool but failed with your obvious stuttering.
“No! Er…” Grillby looked unsure himself, “I didn’t want to keep you waiting so I ran down here as fast as I could.”
“That’s… very considerate of you,” You said as you tried to calm your trembling heart.
“Would you like to come in? You could have a drink while I get ready,” Grillby offered
“Of course!” A little bit too enthusiastic there… You marvelled at your incredible awkwardness.
Reevaluating how you handled that situation, you thought to yourself how he’s doing this. You went out with countless men before, and none of them ever made you squirm and tremble like what he does to you. You always had this confidence radiating from your soul, and yet, that aura has been completely submerged under a wave of awe and curiosity the moment you laid eyes on Grillby. You get clumsy, lost for words and… this sensation is unknown territory to you.
You cleared your head and took the time to admire the interior of the bar. It’s very rustic and cozy. The wooden boards that lined the floor were high quality and asymmetrically arranged, this applied to the wooden panels on the walls too. It gave the place an almost familiar lodge-like vibe to the entire dimly-lit bar. You noticed that there was also a jukebox next to the bar counter, and the wall behind it was lined with shelves of alcohol.
“Excuse me while I get dressed, help yourself to anything you like.” Grillby gestured to the selection of bottles he has on display behind the counter as he made his way upstairs to what you assumed was his apartment floor.
You gave him a nod and gandered at the variety of rums he had on display. It seemed that Grillby liked to infuse unique ingredients in rum. There was one with two halves of habanero chili in it, another with a few sprigs of lavender and thyme, and another one with an entire rind of an orange. You decided to indulge yourself in something simple and go for the one that has the orange rind in it. You grabbed yourself a glass and poured the rum. Sliding over onto a seat on the counter, you took a sip of the drink. The citrus oils that have been infused into the rum immediately penetrated through its already hefty rich flavor. The warmth of the alcohol danced on your tongue as it slid down your throat, leaving behind a pleasant burn.
Not too long after, you heard the sound of footsteps going down the stairs.
“Sorry,” He entered the bar with a distraught grin, “that wasn’t very polite of me to leave you here to cater for yourself.”
Grillby returned to his usual gentleman self with his stark white shirt and black bowtie. Despite his lack of facial features, he still looked dashing, you owe it all to his calm demeanor.
“It’s fine really, I really like with what you’ve done with the place,” You gave him a reassuring smile.
“Yes…” He returned your smile with one of his own, “I made sure that it looked exactly like how it was in Snowdin.”
“Ah, yes. I apologise. Snowdin was an area in The Underground where I used to live,” The two wispy bulbs of white on his face seemed to spark slightly but you weren’t sure, his eyes weren’t easy to notice amidst the glowing orange light emanating throughout his body.
“What was it like?” You took a sip of your drink
“Perhaps, I can show you,” He said teasingly.
You tilted your head as he put on his black apron. He grabbed a bottle of gin from the shelf and poured it into a cocktail shaker, together with blue curacao and what looked like to you some sort of fruit juice or extract. He mixed them together vigorously before placing it on top of the counter and taking out a highball glass. You figured that he was making a sort of blue gin, that is until he lined the rim of the glass with salt. Hang on a second.
“That salt, where did you get it from?” Your face twisted in confusion at the tiny clear blue crystals on the plate
Grillby simply giggled and poured the drink into the prepared glass.
“Not telling huh?” You smirked, “I guess I’ll just have to taste and see”
You took the offered glass from Grillby and didn’t even hesitate to take a sip. The crisp sting flavor from the gin was gently masked by the taste of grapefruit. It tasted almost like a greyhound, but there was a specific taste that you couldn’t wrap your head around. It was salty and sour at the same time. It left a cooling sensation on your tastebuds, almost as if you placed an ice cube on your tongue. The burn that came with the alcohol was smoothened by a refreshing feeling that coated your throat and thus send jolts of energy throughout your body. You never tasted anything remotely close to something like this.
“Grillby…? What the hell was that?” You were wide eyed, astounded by the amount of complexity he was able to put into this simple drink.
He grinned and took out a jar from underneath the counter, revealing more of the mysterious clear blue crystals.
“This is my personal creation,” He opened the jar and shook some of it onto your palm, “I procured ice from the northern side of Snowdin, melted it and applied the chemical procedures of salt making to it.”
You examined the clear crystals, holding one of them up against the light and seeing the thin sky-blue fractures within them. They were indeed much bigger than the common table salt, they resembled more like tinted rock candy at first glance.
“I call this drink the Melting Snow. Technically it’s a salty dog, but I don’t find that name very elegant,” Grillby chuckled at the thought that somebody named a drink that way, “I also thought that I had put enough of my own personal touch to the drink that I can give it a more appropriate name.”
“Melting Snow? That’s perfect,” You replied enthusiastically
It was really the exact sensation that you felt earlier, the cool tingle dancing on the tongue, the refreshing aftertaste and of course, the clear crisp flavor that lingered on your taste buds just after each sip.
As you were appreciating the drink before you, Grillby was wiping down the counters and cleaning the glasses from the dishwasher. You were both engulfed in comfortable silence, and you took this opportunity to examine his collection of liquor displayed against the wall. You noticed that there were a few jars tucked in a corner, they were filled with a cloudy brown substance and on top of it a few layers of these sheet-like sponges trapped underneath their tightly screwed lids.
“Are those kombuchas by any chance?” You broke the silence, gesturing to the jars.
“Why yes!” He replied, grabbing one of the jars and placing it on top of the counter, “I’ve been deeply invested in experimenting different preserving techniques…”
“I love kombuchas... I tried mixing them with miso once, it made for a fantastic glaze on pork,” You remembered the many times you experimented with dishes of your own that required some sort of fermentation.
His eyes sparked once more, gesturing you to wait. He made his way to the kitchen. From the cluttering noises you could hear, it seemed that he had been busy with something. He reappeared with another jar in his hands, with these sticks of white floating within a cloudy yellowish liquid.
“I’m pickling potatoes for the fries I’m serving tonight,” He had a massive white crack of a smile on his face as he walked over to you.
“I added a thin slice of a cabbage stem to aid in the pickling process and to serve as a flat surface where I can place the fermentation weights,” He brought the jar closer to your face, “I also put in crushed black peppercorns, cumin seeds, mustard seeds and cloves for additional flavor.”
“Are you going to be serving them with burgers?” You asked as you watched the ingredients float within its confines, “The fries will develop a unique flavor of their own, pairing them with simple beef burgers might be a bit lackluster.”
“You think so?” He sat down next to you, looking intrigued at what you were about to say
You nodded, “Since the fermentation process will give a more sour taste to the fries, I suggest that you serve something that would amplify this flavor profile.”
Grillby grabbed a glass and poured himself a nice serving of whiskey. He rested his arm against the counter, thinking deeply on what he should serve for tonight, “Perhaps something lightly sweet would compliment the sourness…” He thought.
“Just like the appetizer you served last night…” You could hear him mumble under his breath
“Actually I used a particular cured meat that my butcher made, it’s called a longganisa! It’s a sausage that comes from the Philippines,” Your eyes light up at the fact that he brought up last night’s course, “It has such an interesting flavor profile that I just had to theme my entire menu around it!”
“The sweet dressing on the papaya salad did tie the dish together, the textures also complimented one another,” He took a deep breath and sipped his drink, “The crunchiness of the young papaya, the crisp snap of the longganisa, and the sharp and spicy dressing worked together in harmony within the dish…”
Grillby looked up to the ceiling, almost as if he was re-tasting the dish once more, “I would like to serve something of that fashion…”
“Can I say that the roast pork was amazing as well?” He added, “Is it inspired by the italian dish porchetta by chance?” he asked, looking back at you with excitement
Astounded, you smiled, “Why yes it is!”
“That side of green beans were unusual as well…” He placed a finger on his chin, “If memory serves me right, you put in some shrimp and there was a hint of coconut in the mash.”
You were tremendously impressed by how much attention he paid to the flavors and ingredients within your dishes. Not only that, he also seemed interested and amazed by your cooking.
“Exactly! You have a superb tongue,” You leaned over, making sure that he heard the compliment.
“The dumplings were divine as well… The juicy meat and the broth that seemed to burst within the mouth… ” Grillby seemingly let out a breath of satisfaction, probably reflecting upon how good your dishes were. Well he sure looked like he was doing so...
You didn’t realize how close he was to you until now. The both of you were having such an amazing time, talking about food, enjoying both your drinks and each other’s company. It has been a while since you enjoyed being with someone this much.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the dinner last night,” He started, “It was different than anything I’ve ever experienced in this city.”
“The food that you served had so much thought and passion put into it,” He looked at you straight in the eye, “The variation of flavors and textures, the warm and welcoming waiters and waitresses, even the cozy yet elegant atmosphere of your restaurant… they all led me to picture, you.”
There was no point in hiding it, you were blushing. Your were flattered and surprised. Taken aback by such a compliment, you couldn’t help but say a shy ‘thank you’.
“Good food like that can only come from the best of chefs...”
You looked at him. His remark really made your heart ache slightly. Nobody has ever said that to you before. Your heart beat fastened as your pupils dilated, and the world around you seemed to slow down, to think that you finally found that rush that you were looking for...
He was close to you now, the warmth emanating from his body caused some beads of sweat to run down your neck. Your chest started to hurt slightly, but the pain was welcomed, the sensation was bizarre yet you yearned for more. It was as if Grillby was pulling you in with an unseen force.
The both of you inched closer to each other, your breath grew heavy as you placed a hand on top of the counter to steady yourself. Grillby placed his hand near yours, and before he did anything, he looked at you as if waiting for your permission. You nodded. The warmth was welcoming despite the sweat pooling down your chest and on the back of your neck. It felt like a warm cup of tea has been set on top of your palm. It was comforting how slow he was, it was a big change of pace from everything else in your life. You were out of breath and yet you felt like you finally have the opportunity to breathe, being with him was relieving, almost like a longing that has finally been filled.
Suddenly a heavy atmosphere wrapped around you, it was… strange… The corners of your vision turned dark and in a fraction of a second, there was a magenta-colored glow emanating from somewhere… somewhere close, but before you could do anything, Grillby seemingly jumped backwards, falling off of his chair.
The darkness faded almost immediately, but you were mostly distracted by the distraught man before you. He was panting and he looked… horrified.
“Grillby?” You got off your chair and stooped down to meet his gaze, “What happened? Are you okay?”
“R-Rose…” He placed a hand over his face, “Would it bother you if I ask for some time alone…?”
You were confused, but you nodded. You gathered your things and left without another word.
In a way, you understood. Perhaps things were going too fast, and you both needed some time to think before whatever this was progresses any further. But you couldn’t help but wonder, what in the hell happened back there ...?
You were going a bit too fast weren't you. Well, better luck next time ;)
Despite being thrown out onto the streets abruptly, you weren’t angry. You were most definitely disappointed but you understood him in a way; you didn’t feel rejected nor annoyed at how he reacted back at the bar. You shook the dark thoughts that you had swirling in your head and decided that you should go somewhere for lunch. You silently thanked your hungry stomach for driving those said thoughts away.
As you strolled on the sidewalk, you saw posters for a new cafe that just opened around the corner where Grillby’s bar was situated. It read “Muffet’s High Tea,” there were quite a few of them plastered among the crude graffiti and band posters up on the wooden billboard. After what happened, you thought it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to grab yourself a nice cup of tea and a couple slices of cake. Treating your sweet tooth to get rid of those inner demons who are trying to climb themselves out of the pit you call your heart… might be something you really need right now.
After a few minutes of looking around, you found the place. It was a very classy looking cafe, with it’s vintage-looking exposed-brick, hydrangea shrubs inside of wooden pots and a few hanging displays of multiple pastel-colored flowers. There was a ring of a bell when you entered through the door and you were immediately greeted by the few patrons that were dining inside. The interior of the place was very dainty and littered with pastels and purples of every kind.
Although, something that really perturbed you about the place is the amount of spiderwebs trailing on the corners of the walls. However, as you paid more attention to these said spiderwebs, you began to realize that it was as if it was woven carefully with its strict lines serving as a pathway almost. The webs lined the roofs, and above each table was a slightly invisible thread that connected the center of the seats with the gigantic web plastered right above them.
You decided to take one of the free seats, continuing to examine the comfortable environment around you. Suddenly your vision was interrupted by what looked like a menu, you looked up and saw a tiny spider who appears to be holding this menu as it hung on the thread. You immediately took it and thanked the spider as it climbed back up and left towards the kitchen. You opened it and your eyes were immediately intrigued by the many baked goods they had on their menu, but you were mostly interested in… their parfaits.
A delectable layered dessert like that really piqued your interest, because it’s also a great way to see how creative this cafe’s patissier is. A dessert that incorporates multiple layers of ingredients can easily become overwhelmingly sweet, bland with cheap flavors or even develop a weird taste on the tongue. A good parfait is when the layers of textures and flavors play together in harmony within the mouth, creating a certain childish glee within those who taste it.
As you were looking at the menu, a figure emerged from the kitchen doors. You turned your head to see a lady with purple skin and two gigantic jet black glass-like eyes below three other smaller ones. She was a spider monster. That explains the webs.
She approached you, whipping out a notepad and a pen from the pockets of her purple apron.
“My name is Muffet,” The owner? You thought, “I will be your ssserver for today. May I take your order?”
The first thing that grabbed your attention was the unique dialect she had. She seemed to have a slight wavy tone to the way she talks, as if she was singing the words instead of saying them.
“Yes,” You looked the menu over once more, “I would like the Summer Parfait please” You gave her the menu with a smile.
“I will get that for you as sssoon assss I can! Ahuhuhu~” She chirped, accentuating the hissing sound she makes with her tongue against her fangs.
Muffet went back to the kitchen with a skip in her step.
“Muffet has never looked this happy,” you heard a voice from behind you, “not since she first opened this place…”
You turned around to see a giant tortoise sitting on the seat near the window.
Judging from that raspy voice of his, he seemed to be an elderly monster. He was wearing safari attire by the looks of it, and underneath his cap was a wrinkle-ridden face. On top of his pair of eyes were two tufts of white hair, similar to the one on his chin.
“Nice to meet you Gerson,” You reached your hand out to shake his, “Everybody calls me Rose.”
“So you’re the famous Rose, Wa ha ha,” He took your hand and shook it vigorously, laughing as he did so.
“Famous?” The word is starting to annoy you a little bit, what’s with these people talking about you behind your back…
“The Queen has taken a liking to you girlie,” Gerson replied you with a slight tone to his voice.
You decided to be the adult in this situation and ignore his bitter attitude towards you. What’s his problem anyways?
“I have to say that this is a really nice place” You tried to drive the conversation somewhere, “It must’ve been hard for her…”
Gerson took a big sip of his tea and mumbled under his breath, “Oh, you have no idea…”
Before you could suspect anything from that eerie little remark, Muffet came through the kitchen doors, bringing a beautiful looking tall glass and within it the dessert that you’re dying to taste.
“Bon appetit, Ahuhuhu~” Muffet placed the chilled glass in front of you.
Your face scrunched up at the fact that it was… not what you ordered.
“Um. Muffet? This is not what I ordered...” You turned to her to pose the question
“Correct!” She boasted enthusiastically
She pulled a chair from the seat next to you with one of her hands and placed another under her chin as she sat down.
“I decided to make you the best parfait that I can make for you at thissss moment, Miss Rose… Ahuhuhuhu~”
You smirked at her display of pride. She was smiling, but yet bared her teeth in a slightly threatening way. You considered it an honor that she trusted your palette to judge her dish.
You nodded, grabbing the parfait up to the light to see it more in detail. The dessert had distinct layers which you considered impressive on her part, to make sure that each aspect isn’t contaminating one another during plating must’ve required a lot of attention and skill. The parfait before you had five discernible layers. The first layer is a white smooth meringue, judging from its sturdy texture and bruléed top, and it looked exactly like toasted marshmallows. The second layer is colored bright yellow followed by a paler yellow colored cream. Underneath that was a bed of what looked like cookies, and a vibrant red jelly layer at the very bottom of the glass verrine. The entire dessert is topped with a few slices of pineapple and a few peeled lychees.
You dipped your spoon into the glass and you first tasted the meringue together with the yellow substance underneath it. The sharp zing of sourness hit your taste buds almost immediately. That yellow substance was lemon curd, and as you guessed it, the white marshmallow-like topping was indeed meringue. You were taken aback by the sweetness of the creamy caramelized meringue, until the punch of powerful acidity from the lemon curd interrupted your senses. These were strong flavors she was putting into the dish, yet you could feel the sense of harmony coming from the comforting memory of a delicious lemon meringue pie.
You dipped your spoon into the next layer and tasted a rich coconut flavor. It was creme patissier; a thick, lightly sweetened custard that usually fills the insides of choux pastries. Traditionally, vanilla extract is used to flavor crème patissiers, but you have seen a lot of patissiers use more exotic flavors or even tea. The rich yet light umami flavor of coconut paired very well with the zesty lemon curd. As you chewed, you realize that there were a few shards of bitterness cutting through the smooth cream. You dug your spoon into the glass once more and saw that there was a thin layer of brown on top of the crème patissier. Of course! She added a thin sheet of melted sugar, just like what you would do with a crème brulée.
You continued and dug through the hard cookie-like layer. You smelled a slight aroma of coffee, accompanied with the sharp smell of berries. The red coulis pooled on top of the cookie, together with a bit of the two creams, lemon curd and a few shards of bruléed sugar on top of your spoon. You popped it into your mouth and tasted all the elements together. The cookie was actually biscotti, coffee flavored biscotti. The rough texture made it a very suitable base for the entire dish. The sweet bitterness of the coffee enriches the sourness of the berry coulis, as well as the umami and sweetness of the coconut cream and meringue.
After tasting the parfait, you realize that each layer had its flaws. The creme patissier was too sweet, the lemon curd had a gritty texture, the biscotti was slightly overdone… However, as a whole, the parfait was perfect.
You looked up at Muffet and gave her a nod of approval.
“You are one sly chef, aren’t you?” You commented
“What do you mean?” She knew her actions but despite that, she decided to taunt you.
“The lemon was unripe, making the skin tough, yet you still decided to use it’s zest. The coconut cream was overly sweet and the coffee biscotti was slightly burnt, yet you decided to use them both in this dish accompanied with the berry coulis and the meringue,” You described, “Pairing the sliced pineapples to numb the tongue and complimenting the bitterness of the biscotti with the faux creme brulee and the berry coulis, that is a gutsy move.”
“A move that no ordinary chef would make,” Muffet finished your sentence
“I’m not here to impresss you Rosssseeee,” She hissed, “I don’t like enemiesss entering my territory.”
“I assure you that I’m not here to scout out any competitors,” You tried to calm her down but keeping your tone raised and confident.
You were reminded once more of why you were here in the first place.
“Truthfully, I was here to cheer myself up.”
Muffet’s eyes softened and her shoulders relaxed. She looked almost defeated and regretful of her actions.
“I’m sssorry…” Muffet apologized, refusing eye contact.
You held the verrine in front of you and took one last spoonful and sighed a breath of relief.
“There’s nothing to be sorry about,” Your eyes were fixed at Muffet, “It was a masterpiece of a dessert.”
You smiled and fortunately, Muffet smiled back.
You took out your wallet and paid for the parfait, giving her a good tip as well. You stood up and put on your jacket before heading towards the door. You turned to look at Muffet and Gerson.
Making sure they would hear you, you said, “Come by to my restaurant when you have the time, I’ll make sure to serve you both a lovely dish, as lovely as what you presented to me this afternoon.”
“Have a nicccee day…” Muffet greeted timidly as you walked out of the parlor.
It took me ages to finish this chapter. I keep getting distracted with the chapters that are to come... ;)
Chapter 7: (Itsa me, the author)
The voting is over!
1. Indian cuisine (2 votes!)
2. Lebanese cuisine (sadly no votes... my boyfriend really wanted this one)
3. French cuisine (3 votes!)
4. Korean cuisine (4 votes!)
5. Thai cuisine (3 votes!)
Thank you everyone for voting! The winner is Korean!
If you didn't have the chance to vote, don't worry, there will be more polls like this in the future! Chapter will be up next week, stay tuned!
The night was approaching and after that curious little encounter with Muffet, you figured it was time to go back to the restaurant. Cooking food and serving guests are probably the best way to distract your mind even further. You couldn’t believe that the thing with Grillby was still bothering you to such an extent.
On the way there, your eyes caught sight of a set of familiar gleaming blue scales. It was Undyne, but she wasn’t alone. Next to her was a shorter monster, she had the features of a lizard, judging from the protruding spikes on top of her head and the giant tail trailing on the pavement beneath her. Her scales gleamed yellow under the early sunset, she had a pair of glasses on and a blue turtleneck underneath what looked like a white lab coat. Now that you noticed, Undyne was wearing a yellow shirt under her black trenchcoat. Your cheeks blushed at the thought that they were wearing matching clothes together…
You walked up behind them, still keeping your distance from Undyne, just in case, “Lovely seeing you here Undyne.”
Undyne swerved her entire body and reached out her hand to catch whoever was behind her, as you expected, yet you still held both of your hands up in the air.
“It’s Rose,” You tried to calm her down, “from the other day…”
“Damn, I would’ve given you a good beating or two if you were any closer…” Undyne looked flustered as she placed both of her hands in her coat pockets, as if she were sheathing her weapons.
“I knew,” You gave her a nod of reassurance, “that’s why I kept my distance.”
You figured that after all those years being the captain of the Royal Guard would make her extra vigilant. Perhaps after the things that she has been through, she might have developed an involuntary reflex to this sort of situation. It pained your heart to see her go through what you know is exactly like PTSD.
However, Undyne’s face immediately lit up as she took one of her hands out of her pocket and held the monster next to her by the shoulder.
“Rose, let me introduce to you,” Her expression softened as she addressed the shy yellow monster, “my fi… my f-fianch… finance…, Ah whatever!” She cleared her throat, “My wife! Alphys!”
The yellow monster that you know now is Alphys bowed her head to greet you.
“H-hi, I’m Alphys. It’s nice t-to meet you!”
You could see that Alphys stutters a lot, but you have a gut feeling that it must’ve been way worse than how it is now. Perhaps Undyne is the one to thank for that, it was almost as if they were completing each other. You can’t help but giggle at their involuntary display of wholesomeness.
“You two are the cutest couple I’ve ever met,” you smiled at the both of them, “So where are you guys heading to?”
“Your restaurant punk!” Undyne exclaimed, “After that dish you served Toriel and I, I can’t help but want to bring Alphys over to taste what you have in store in that restaurant of yers!”
“Oh!” This could be a great opportunity, you thought, “I’ll be sure to make you something special!”
The weather outside was unbearably cold, making your restaurant a safe haven for some passersby. Alphys and Undyne followed behind you, as your staff greeted you whilst serving your other guests. Red also came over from behind the kitchen doors.
“Welcome back! We were just finishing dinner service,” Red came closer to you and whispered, “You can tell me everything that happened between you and Grillby right after…” She nudged your side teasingly.
In response, you gave her a glare; a glare that only the both of you knew. She nodded in understanding and gave you a pat on the back. You shoved her away and directed your attention back to Undyne and Alphys who made their way to sit in one of the booths.
“S-sh-should we look at the menu?” Alphys asked Undyne
“No need!” Undyne rejected the two menus that were handed to them
“Punk, you better give us some good food as you promised!” Undyne stared you down with a spiky grin on her face. What’s with these people trying to challenge you into things…
“Don’t you two worry about a thing, sit back and get something to drink”
You thought of a dish to make, you came up with a dish that would impress your guests without a doubt, but you decided to scrap the idea completely. A dish shouldn’t have to be complicated nor extravagant to be delicious and you figured that you should show that to your two special guests.
You grabbed your white coat and started getting to work in the corner of the kitchen you have reserved for yourself. From the pantry, you took out a jar of dried anchovies, dried shiitake mushrooms, two sheets of kombu, onions, a few cloves of garlic, an egg, a few spoonfuls of gochugaru* into a prepared bowl, kimchi and a few other vegetables. You also made sure to grab soft tofu and a nice small cut of sirloin from the cold section of the pantry. Putting everything on the counter, you grabbed a regular pot and a more shallow clay pot from the cupboard on top of the stove and a wooden spoon.
First you chopped the scallions and onion, you also peeled the garlic cloves to put into your broth. You filled the bigger pot with water, adding in the prepared ingredients along with a handful of dried anchovies, the sheets of kombu and some dried shiitake mushrooms. You left it to all boil together while you tackle the rest of the ingredients.
You diced spring onions, leeks, the kimchi and the remaining onion, putting them to the side. You then carefully released the soft tofu from its tight confines and placed it on the cutting board, slicing it into clean squares.
As the broth on the stove started to boil vigorously, you prepared the clay pot by putting in a good glug of sesame oil. With the wooden spoon, you added the gochugaru and swirled it around together with the oil to form a red paste. The mild tingling of spice wafted through the air, stinging the corners of your eyes and the inner rim of your nostrils. You dropped in the chopped vegetables and sautéed them, incorporating them with the thick paste; this mellowed the spiciness of the course red powder that you mixed with the sesame oil earlier. You then added soy sauce into the mix to season the vegetables even further.
Once the broth next to you has turned into a beautiful clear golden color, you strained it with a chinois and poured it into the awaiting clay pot, not forgetting to fish out the plumped up mushrooms. After giving it a few stirs, you let it simmer calmly on a low fire. While the soup is bubbling gently, you turned around to care for the semi-frozen sirloin that you kept just for this kind of occasion. You took out a sharp knife and started slicing the beef into thin slices. To preserve its structure, you laid it all out on a plate, letting the beautifully marbled fat shine before your eyes.
You returned to the pot with the chopped pieces of tofu and gently placed it on one side of the stew, letting it soak up the crimson streams of spice within the soup. It was fascinating to see how the stains of red trailed up the creamy white color of the tofu, almost like blood veins creeping up on a bed of snow. You then cracked the egg in the middle of pot, followed by the slices of the beef on the sides and garnishing the entire dish with the shiitake mushrooms and a few more chopped spring onions.
You placed the pot with its lid on, the plate with the remaining slices of beef and two bowls of rice on a serving tray. You then brought it out for your guests.
Undyne looked remarkably calm, but your gut got this feeling that she was trying to put up an act, as can be seen by the excited reptile next to her. You gently placed the dish in front of them, as well as the plate of sliced sirloin and the bowls of rice. You gave them each a steel spoon and a pair of chopsticks.
“Oh my god! This looks like the ramen Undyne ordered for me a few weeks ago!” Alphys exclaimed with newfound enthusiasm, before retreating back to her timid nature.
“I-I mean… It didn’t l-look this good…” There was a crooked smile on her face.
“Don’t worry about it Alphys,” you reassured her, “There’s nothing to be ashamed of from eating other people’s food!” You laughed to console her.
“This dish is called Sundubu-Jjigae! A heartwarming Korean stew meant to be enjoyed on cold weathers,” You lifted the lid, revealing the masterpiece you cooked up.
Both of your guests marveled at the vibrant red color of the soup, Undyne’s eyes leaped from one ingredient to another floating upon the streams of orange and crimson. The smell of the sourness coming from the kimchi and the fragrance of the freshly chopped spring onions on top of the gelatinous egg brought a certain amount of complexity to the otherwise overpowering scent of the gochugaru. Undyne’s eyes were mostly attracted to the sizzling pieces of beef splotched with the contrasting colors of pink and brownish grey.
“I suggest you try the broth first,” you gestured them to pick up their spoons and taste.
Alphys didn’t hesitate for even a second, she picked up her spoon and dived right into the stew. She blew on the simmering soup and took a sip. Her eyes immediately lit up, “It’s spicy and it’s so flavorful! I love it!” she cried out.
Alphys suddenly looked concern as she turned to Undyne, who looked worryingly pensive.
“U-Undyne? Are you okay?”
Suddenly, everything clicked for you. Undyne might not be able to handle spice. The snails that you made last time for her and Toriel were nothing compared to this stew in terms of spiciness. Your eyes widened in worry but as soon as she swallowed the soup, she let out a sigh of relief.
“ITS DELICIOUS!” Undyne cried out at the top of her lungs, startling some of the remaining guests who were dining next to them.
“Are you sure, Undyne?” You asked with newfound caution.
“You think I’m weak punks?!” She glared at you and Alphys, “I can eat whatever I want!”
Alphys looked genuinely surprised and you smiled at the fact that she could actually enjoy the dish you had presented them. Perhaps she had trained her tongue to handle spice to enjoy the kind of foods that Alphys likes? It wouldn’t surprise you to be honest.
Undyne proceeded to grab a slice of beef and put it into her mouth, slurping the soaked up juices of the broth with it. She chewed with vigor, shoveling in a mouthful of rice with her chopsticks as she went in for the tofu with her spoon, followed by the vegetables and kimchi…
“S-slow down Undyne! There won’t be anything left for me if you keep eating at that pace!”
“I can’t stwop myshelf Alphysh! It’s choo good!!!” Undyne responded with her mouth full, chomping on the ever so crunchy vegetables and pieces of meat.
You decided to leave the couple alone to enjoy their food, while you partake in helping the servers finish off some orders.
There was a particular set of guests that you couldn’t help but pay attention to. The mother looked like she was scolding one of your waitresses, the father looked like he didn’t really want to be there in the first place and the children looked sad and bored. You walked up to their table, which consisted of an untouched plate of walnut chicken and green beans and a few bowls of rice.
“What seems to be the problem here?” You approached your waitress and directed your attention to the disgruntled woman.
“Look, when I ordered walnut chicken, I didn’t expect chicken nuggets drizzled in god knows what.” The volume of her unpleasant response caused you to flinch.
“I tried to order something decent from this restaurant, and what I get are plates of utter disappointment!” She blabbered, spitting everywhere in her fit of rage.
“Why can’t you guys be a normal restaurant and serve some burgers or something?! People here don’t like these kinds of foods, just so you know,” She stood up and said that last phrase with the very tone that you hate in people, arrogance; the kind that is supported by no sort of talent nor knowledge.
She sat back down and crossed her arms, “I want the manager of this establishment and a refund.”
The smirk that she gave you in the end boiled the anger within you. Fortunately, you were still able to calmly tell your waitress to step back and let you handle the situation.
“I’m sincerely sorry if the food here doesn’t please you, Ma’am,” You forced a smile, “But it’s not my fault that you have the tastebuds of a shitty person.”
Her mouth gaped open in disbelief, “H-how dare you!-“
“Oh I’m sorry,” you cut her off, “I mean you have the mouth of a shitty person, because everything that comes out of it are nothing but insults and unnecessary opinions.”
She tried to challenge you, lifting her head up as she said, “Guess you never gotten any kind of criticism in a while…”
The simmering blood rushing through your veins sent jolts throughout your entire body making the hairs on its surface stand erect; almost like an enraged cat.
“Well, you know what,” You slammed your hands on the table and gritted your teeth as you replied, “You can shove that horseshit you call criticism back up your ass!”
You were literally exploding in rage at this very moment, but you still managed to take the plate of walnut chicken and green beans and handed them to your waitress.
“Oh wait,” you turned around, “or has all that fat from the chicken nuggets and half-assed burgers you have eaten all your life made its way up your stomach to clog your already narrow mind?”
“You better call me the manager or I will call the cops for harassment!” She cried out in desperation.
“I am THE manager,” you emphasized, “And just so you know, the cops are one of my many regulars…” You grinned with satisfaction
“This is my restaurant, and I cook what I want, so if you don't like it, then leave," You retorted
"If you leave now, I promise I won’t charge you for the amount of time you wasted from me and my staff,” You leaned back and withheld all the remaining anger pent up in your body.
The woman and her family quickly left the restaurant without another word, but she still managed to give a sour glare before she could step out of the door.
Red came over to you from the behind the bar and gave you a pat on the back. You never really thought about it, but her touch really does soothe you at times when you really needed it. You gave her a smile of gratitude, and she returned it with one of her own.
Most of the customers were leaving at this time of night, the ones who stayed were Undyne and Alphys.
“How was the Sundubu Jjigae?” You queried them while you cleaned up the empty pot and bowls.
“I-It was amazing!” Alphys exclaimed as she was wiping down her glasses
“Alphys really enjoyed it that some droplets from the soup splattered onto her face!” Undyne laughed heartily.
“Undynee… don’t tell her…” Her cheeks flushed red as she murmured.
“Don’t worry Alphys, I consider it a compliment!” Your enthusiasm triumphed Alphys’ need to stay embarrassed.
Your cooks and servers were saying their goodbyes as you and Red continued chatting with the adorable couple. You learned that Alphys is working on a nursing degree at the moment, as well as a few side projects with an associate of hers who majors in robotics.
After everyone was gone, you figured that it was about time to send the couple home. But all of a sudden, your chest felt heavy. It was as if you were going down the high slope of a rollercoaster. You steadied yourself on one of the tables near the door.
Out of a blink of an eye, you noticed a bluish light coming from outside, gleaming softly as it traveled towards the door.
You followed it, not knowing what it could possibly be.
*Gochugaru is grounded red pepper flakes that is a staple ingredient in Korean cuisine!
I hope this chapter is satisfactory after the one week hiatus! Next week is a big one.
The moment you reached the doors, the figure was leaning against the glass, causing the hinges to twist.
You slammed your knees on the floor to shield its fall and the moment you realized that the blue figure was in fact the person you knew to be gleaming vibrant orange, you cried out in shock, “Grillby?!”
He laid lifeless within your arms, he no longer had flames dancing on top of his head and his body was glazed over by a sickly grey-bluish color, like one you would see on a nasty bruise. There wasn’t a hint of expression on his face. It was blank, as if somebody had erased his facial features entirely.
“Oh god…” Red panicked, her hands covering her face.
Undyne and Alphys, stood up from where they were, frozen for a mere second. They had a dark, concerning look on their face and after a moment, their fists tightened, as if they knew who was responsible for this horrid scene.
“Rose?” Alphys broke the eerie silence, “Do you have a bed or a sofa I can use?” She was no longer stuttering.
“Yes!” You immediately stood up and tried to lift Grillby’s heavy body over your shoulders. You noticed that there were a few dustings of white falling on the floor like snow, but lighter as it was getting carried by the gust of wind coming from the opened entrance door.
Undyne wasted no time, picking up Grillby’s limp body off your shoulders and onto hers, following you up the stairs without breaking a sweat.
She carefully placed him on your bed and Alphys immediately went to work. She opened her bag and took out a pair of gloves, a couple small vials and syringes. She put on the gloves and took a deep breath as she prepared the injections.
“I suggest you all leave… The atmosphere around a fallen monster might be a bit overwhelming for h-humans.” She explained carefully
Undyne nodded as she ushered you and Red out of the room and down the stairs.
Your mind was swirling with grief, shock and fear. What was going to happen to him?… What happened to him?… Questions were crowding your head, filling up your lungs and tugging at your soul. Pain crawled all over your body as you had to wait in the agony of uncertainty. You looked at Undyne who was seated on one of the counters, a palm on her face with a fist planted on the countertop. The pupils in her eyes that she hid under her palm were beaming red and her skin underneath her thin shirt flared bright blue.
You decided to work up the courage to sit next to her.
“What is happening to him…?” You asked, trying to stifle a sob
“He’s falling,” Undyne answered, and from the tone of her voice, you knew whatever this unfamiliar term is, it wasn’t good news.
“I knew those damn bastards would be back!” Undyne slammed her fists on the counter, shaking even the ground beneath it slightly, “I should’ve known…” You could see that Undyne was doing her very best not to explode at that moment, controlling every angry cell in her body not to trash everything she sees.
“Who are you talking about?” There were people who wanted to hurt Grillby. You began to understand why they had that expression of hatred earlier.
Undyne swallowed a heavy gulp and said, “A few months ago, a few rioters gathered in front of his bar. They threatened him that they would burn it down if he didn’t comply to their demands.”
You looked at her tentatively, watching her shift within her seat. She let out a pained laugh.
“Back then I laughed at the mere thought that they would use fire against a fire elemental. Those stupid punks. But I knew this was coming… Once a human is determined to do something, they will do whatever it takes to get it done. I should’ve known, I should’ve protected him, it was my duty as a royal guard, it was my-”
You immediately silenced her with a hand on her shoulder.
“It’s not your fault. You didn’t inflict this on him.” You looked at her with a stern look on your eye.
“And stop saying that you should’ve known what was going to happen, because you couldn’t have,” your hand tightened on her shoulders
“What did you say?!” Undyne flared with anger as she stood up from her seat, bringing you with her by the collar on your shirt.
You winced at the sudden violent reaction but your eyes stayed determined, “I’m telling you to stop blaming yourself for this,” you cried out in frustration.
“Don’t tell me what to do punk! It was MY job to protect all the monsters of the Underground from harm, and I failed to do so.” She bared her fangs, as if threatening you to surrender.
She was directing all the anger that had been cooped up within her soul onto you, you knew this feeling before.
“It’s funny how you sounded just like my father back then.” A sigh left your lips as you grabbed the hands holding your collar and shoving them aside.
Undyne’s expression softened as she sat back down.
“The moment you let those thoughts overcome you, that’s where it ends for you. Just like it did for my father.”
“What happened to him?”
Undyne was trying to get her mind off of her own thoughts, even though it was a slightly unorthodox way of doing it.
“He was a veteran.” You started, “He saw something that he wasn’t supposed to see during his time in the battlefield.”
“It ate him up from the inside, until one day he couldn’t take it anymore and took his own life.”
You could see that Undyne was starting to feel uncomfortable with the fact that she had to make you bring all this up.
“I-I’m sorry Rose, I didn’t mean to-”
“It’s okay,” you swiped off a tear that dared to slip out of your eyes, “I’m telling you this so that you don’t do the same thing he did.” You refused to look at her, as you bit your lips, trying your best to stay calm and collected. It was proving to be agonizing as you had to shove all your will to sob and mourn for what was probably inevitable at this point. “No matter what happens,” Your voice cracked, “... don’t blame yourself…” You tried desperately to hold your tears, “...okay?”
After hours of waiting, Alphys finally walked downstairs, taking off her gloves and throwing it into the trash bin next to the bar.
You immediately went up to her, “How is he?” Your voice was strained and rough. You didn’t care however, trying to keep your cool in front of your little sister was taking a toll on your being.
Alphys had a pensive look plastered on her face, but otherwise she looked calm and relieved.
“He’s g-going to be fine,” She fixed her glasses, stuttering as she continues, “G-Grillby has one of the most HP out of all of us, i-if something like that h-h-happened to someone else, they wouldn’t s-survive it.”
It was relieving to hear that Grillby survived this entire ordeal, but a certain thought knocked at the back of your head regarding what Alphys said. If something like that happened to someone else?
You shook it off and asked Alphys, “Can I see him?”
You wanted to see if he was back to his vibrant-colored form to get rid of that haunting image you had of him out of your head.
Alphys nodded as she gestured to follow her up the stairs.
The atmosphere in your room was heavy, as if it was covered in an invisible layer of smoke. You coughed at the weight resting on top of your heart and lungs, it was difficult to breathe that you had to stable yourself against the doorway.
“A-Are y-you okay?” Alphys turned to you
“I’m fine,” You replied, determined to move forward.